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Behind The Mask

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Chapter 1 – Eyes Closed

 

'Would've gave it all for you, cared for you.

So tell me where I went wrong

Would've gave it all for you, cared for you,

Would've trade it all for you, there for you

So tell me how to move on.'

31st August 2016

On the last day of the summer holiday - sheltered in a booth within the Leaky Cauldron - five friends sat together, reflecting on their summers. Each one was smiling as they all sipped their butterbeers and ate freshly made burgers.

They sat together in the same way that they had done since the day before their second year began, though three of them had been sitting in the same places for much longer than that. Yet, there was no bitterness about that as they had now made it into their annual tradition, a ritual before the start of a new year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

On the far side, seated in the corner, was a red-headed Gryffindor boy called Archie Andrews.

As always, he was wearing his crimson and gold Gryffindor jacket, an accessory that he never went without. To complement that, he was in faded jeans and a white t-shirt. The tight shirt emphasised his bulging muscles, while also highlighting his dark, chocolaty-brown eyes. They sparkled in the dim light, which also outlined his broad shoulders and the fact that he was quite tall at five-foot-eleven-meaning that, like the other two boys seated in the booth, he was much taller than the girls of their small group.

To his right, one of those girls sat frowning slightly at her butterbeer. Noticing Archie’s gaze on her, smiled widely at him as her dark brown eyes glistening in the candlelight.

She was a Ravenclaw by the name of Veronica Lodge, and she was arguably one of the most beautiful girls in the year. Her caramel skin and stunning dark features a product of her Latina heritage; as was her bilingual aptitude, able to speak both Spanish and English, fluently. Her raven waves were gleaming in the light - perfectly styled, as always. The dress she wore was purchased from one of the most expensive designer boutiques in the wizarding world. Everything about her was a poised, dark perfection, but she did not have the innocent gleam in her image.

Sat on a chair at the end of the table, another Gryffindor boy smiled at the group.

Kevin Keller was a smartly dressed brunette with light green eyes that seemed to pick upon every little detail about his friends. Like Archie, he was very tall, around six-foot-one, but his height was less intimidating as he had a friendlier persona than Archie. He was the only member of the group who was completely open about himself, he had come out as gay last year, which was their fourth year, all of them had supported him, wholeheartedly.

Next to Kevin was a Slytherin boy, who was typing away at a vintage typewriter as he listened to the group talking.

Jughead Jones was around six-foot but often looked slightly smaller than Archie as he slouched more and had a slimmer build, even though he did have tightly corded muscle, he was leaner than the other two boys. This difference was also marked out by his messy, slightly-wavy raven hair that was predominantly hidden under a dark grey crown-shaped beanie. His piercing blue eyes, which were far off – absorbed in his writing, were frosty unlike others' bright gazes, yet his slightly dazed demeanour was due to him attempting to think of someone or something to write about - apart from the girl beside him.

She was the only thing in his life that he wasn't sarcastic or sardonic about; the only person that brought out his soft side. Among any other group, he was as harsh and dark as most Slytherins, which often struck fear into the hearts of others, who only saw him when he was angry.

Like Jughead and Archie, Betty Cooper, a Hufflepuff, had been coming to the Leaky Cauldron for years and from a very young age, she had been Jughead's secret muse. She was his goddess; golden blonde hair - which was always in a tight, high ponytail that curled slightly - while her eyes were a pure jade green. Whenever Jughead looked away, her eyes shifted to linger on his face while he wasn't looking. That was until he would catch her, causing a rosy blush to stain her cheeks as she glanced away. She was undoubtedly the shy one of the group, and she often found herself blushing much more frequently than her other friends, which had always been something that they all found endearing.

She leant against Jughead as Veronica broached a taboo subject, their OWL’s, which they would be taking that year.

"So, is everyone else worried about their OWL’s? I know that I am and that my entire house is just going to be panicking all year about them." Veronica told them, with a frightened gleam in her eyes. She looked at them all as they rolled their eyes at her.

"Oh, calm down, Ronnie. You'll be fine. I won't be. I'm alright at practical magic, but I know that exam is weighted more on theory. I'm nowhere near as intelligent as you, let alone Betty and Jughead." Archie admitted. Jughead looked up from his typewriter, rolling his eyes as Betty had the good grace to blush.

Kevin tutted at Betty's blush as he stared at her carefully. "Don't just blush, Betty. We all know that you're going to get ‘Outstanding’ in everything and as for you, Jughead, you'd have to deliberately flunk an exam to not get an ‘Outstanding’ on it." The beanie clad boy rolled his eyes, again, this time at Kevin as Betty glanced down at her hands. Jughead looked over at her, a small smile appeared on his lips when she looked up at him.

"Well, did you hear that, Betts? We shouldn't worry about the OWL’s. To be fair, your mother is a hell of a lot scarier than a bunch of exams, so you should be used to working under pressure… I think half our world is terrified of her." Betty let out a small sigh as Jughead threw his arm around her, which he often did, pulling her in closer to him as Archie's eyes narrowed fractionally.

"Stop being cute, you two. Just because you are the epitome of friendship goals, doesn't mean that you need to rub it into our wounds, for we are mere mortals." Veronica scolded lightly, smirking at the two of them. They were both incredibly aware of their own feelings for one another, they just hadn't confessed them yet.

Sensing a slight awkwardness among the two, Kevin spoke up, directing his questions to Jughead instead of Betty, who was still blushing. "Now, anyway, Jughead, what do you reckon you'll get in your OWL’s? I mean what are you aspiring to get?" Kevin chose not to talk about epic romances or tease the two, he knew better than that.

An appreciative smile graced Jughead's lips as he turned to look at the other boy. "Well, according to Veronica, I'd have to deliberately flunk something to not get an ‘Outstanding’, so I'm only planning on flunking divination." Betty rolled her eyes at that, she knew that Jughead was serious about it.

"Juggie! You can't just flunk something, that could impact your life!" Her indignation was clear, but Jughead merely chuckled at her as he angled his body so that he could look at her again. "It isn't a joke, Jug! Your OWL’s are essential in life, and I don't want you to regret it." Her lip jutted out as she looked at him carefully, her bright green gaze piercing his soul as she stared at him, waiting for him to respond.

"Calm down, Betts. I won't do that, but in all honesty, when will I ever need divination? Unless I suddenly discover that I have the 'inner eye', I'll never be able to fully appreciate the subject. However, don't worry, I won't flunk the exam…too badly." Betty sighed, knowing that there was no way that he would relent as he genuinely did hate divination. Betty conceded that she had won a small victory.

"Okay, okay, I understand, Juggie. Just please don't deliberately fail. At least get a pass, if you can." Betty's tone showed her acceptance that Jughead would do what he wanted and she gave in as there was no point arguing. "Anyway, stop moving. Your arm was in a comfortable position, but now it's not." He chuckled and adjusted his arm so that it was more comfortable for her to lean against him as the others observed them. There was a familiarity about the way that they interacted that no one could explain.

It was as if they were meant to be one.

"So, Jughead's going to do something to his divination exam; and Betty's going to get all ‘Outstanding’s in her OWL’s; what are you going to get Kevin? Or, what do you hope you'll get?" Veronica asked Kevin as Archie stared darkly down at his butterbeer, refusing to look at the delighted faces of Jughead and Betty, her eyes fluttering as they listened to the others.

"Well, I hope that I can get an Outstanding at least, but I would be overjoyed with ‘Exceeds Expectations’. What about you, Archie?" They all turned to look at the redhead, who was yet again refusing to look at the Hufflepuff and Slytherin opposite him as if he couldn't stand the sight of them together.

"I don't really care what I get. I just want to get to the sixth year so that I can find out my soulmate. That's all that I care about right now because, well, I don't need OWL’s to get a position on a Quidditch team. I will be perfectly content with whatever I get." He looked over at Betty as he added: "After all, soulmates are the only parts of high school that stay with you."

That statement caused a shift in their mood from apprehensive about the OWLs to them all wondering why Archie had said that until Betty finally asked: "Do you all promise that we'll still be best friends this time next year and regardless of who our soulmates turn out to be?" Her eyes lingered on each person as she waited for their answers before they all nodded.

“We promise.” They chorused, utterly unaware that their lives were about to shift entirely and that their promise would be broken.

Not just broken, shattered into a million pieces.

 

31st August 2017

Only Archie Andrews, Veronica Lodge, Kevin Keller and Betty Cooper were sat down together in a small booth in the Leaky Cauldron. The first three were talking and laughing merrily, but Betty's mood was dark and broken due to the absence of her favourite beanie-wearing boy.

He was on a different table now, across the room with his friends from Slytherin and the gang that he now belonged to, the Southside Serpents. His leather jacket was now as much of a prominent feature as his beanie, and he was colder than ever.

"Hey, Betty, are you alright?" Archie asked as his smile faltered, noticing her broken expression as she looked down at her hands, which were now littered with small crescent-shaped marks from her digging her nails into her palms. None of her friends knew about this habit of hers, and she wasn't going to tell any of them either, she couldn't bare to see the shame and pity in their eyes.

She let out a shaky breath and looked up at Archie, who looked at her in concern. "I'm fine, don't worry, Arch. Just thinking about school tomorrow, that's all." She forced a smile, which they all believed.

Her eyes flickered over to the Serpent table, where Jughead was also faking a smile, but Betty couldn't tell that from this distance. As she stared, Jughead's gaze lifted to meet hers, but she looked away from him as the others observed.

Archie nodded at that, as did Kevin, but Veronica scowled at Betty's blatant lie. "Oh, so it's not because Jughead's sat with Sweet Pea, Fangs, Toni, Joaquin and other Serpents as their Prince and leader? Instead of being sat with us, discussing the disappearance and supposed drowning of Jason Blossom?" Betty blanched at that as Jughead stole a look at her, seeing her look down in embarrassment before he was brought back into his own conversation. Veronica's tone softened, "You can talk to us, B. I know that he hurt you more than he hurt the rest of us, but trust me, we're here for you. Isn't that right, guys?"

"Yeah, Betty, you have us. Just because he doesn't talk to you anymore, doesn't mean that you have to be distraught. He made his decision, and although it still hurts, you'll get over it and him as he wallows in defeat." Archie told her, unaware that someone was listening to their conversation. Or at least a small magical bugging device, belonging to Toni Topaz, was listening to them talk and relaying it back to the Serpents.

"Archiekins, that might not be the best way to help Betty calm down." Veronica chided him while glancing over at Betty's shattered gaze, both unaware of the cold blue gaze trained on the blonde as Veronica continued talking. "But B, you know that we have your back, and we will keep your promise about our soulmates."

The mention of that caused Betty's eyes to grow tearful as she thought on that promise - and all the other promises - that Jughead had broken. For a moment, she was no longer in the Leaky Cauldron, her mind had taken her back in time. She was brought back to her first year when Jughead had comforted her and made the most poignant promise that he had broken.

Two first years sat by the Black Lake, in the grounds of Hogwarts, in silence. The older of the two had his arm around the girl beside him as she sobbed silently while thinking of the harsh words from her mother's letter.

Her long blonde waves were no longer restrained by a tight high ponytail, and her jade green eyes were rimmed with red from tears. She was clinging to the boy beside her as he held her tightly to him as if he never wanted to let go of her. To be honest, he really didn't want to let her go, not ever.

No sound came from him as she sobbed – he just kept holding onto her, reminding her that he was here for her as she broke down. He didn't even move to adjust his ever-present crown shaped beanie or shift the stray strand of raven hair out of his blue eyes. He just held onto her as she broke.

He knew that his words wouldn't help now after all the damage had been done by the medium of words, to begin with. Her other friends just wouldn't understand, so he stayed there silent for her. He had always been the one that was there for her, and he wasn't going to stop being there for her until she told him otherwise.

Only when the sobbing subsided did he speak. "Alice is wrong about you, Betts. She's so wrong about you." He murmured causing Betty to look up at him as she let out a small hiccup while her eyes implored him to keep on talking. "She doesn't understand you, and she expects too much from you. Who cares if you're in Hufflepuff? I certainly don't, and I'm a Slytherin. We're meant to be judgemental, but I still think that you're amazing. You don't have to be perfect, you just need to be you. So, don't listen to her stupid white noise and don't let go."

Even at the age of eleven, Jughead knew what to say to make Betty feel better even if it was only a fractional change in her emotions. He had known her hopes and fears from a mere glance and unlike Archie, who would have just shrugged and who wouldn't have comforted her; or Veronica, who was too eloquent for her own good; or even Kevin, who just didn't understand; Jughead knew what it was like. He had seen his family fall apart and had watched his mother take his sister away from him and he knew that Betty's family was almost as fucked up as his own.

"But why is she like this, Juggie?" He sighed at that while biting back the small smile that always graced his lips at that nickname. He honestly didn't understand Alice Cooper, who was the editor of the Daily Prophet and had grown to despise her and the nagging letters that she sent to Betty, but at this moment, he didn't know what to tell Betty. He couldn't just go off on a rant about how cruel her mother was even though he wanted to, but at the same time, he couldn't excuse her actions towards her youngest child. There was no way that he could honestly deal with the situation, but that didn't mean that he wasn't going to try.

He glanced down at her again as he mulled over his words and chewed the inside of his cheek, thinking about whether he was going to do more or less damage.

"Well, if I ever get the ability to read her mind, I'll tell you why, but from what I can guess, I think she just wants the best for you. She's terrified that something will happen to you and that you'll crash and burn, but she doesn't know how to address it. She thinks that being stern and cold will do it, but we both know that it in this she is wrong."

Betty nodded at that and Jughead chose to take that as a good sign, but then again, he knew that he had always been bad at reading other people. "You're probably right, Juggie. You usually are right about everything, anyway." Jughead smiled at that and was surprised when it was returned by the blonde in his arms. It was the first time that he'd seen her smile all day since she'd received the letter from her mother in the morning. She then grew serious though as she asked: "Will you promise me something, Juggie and will you swear to keep it?" Her tone was deadly serious and determined, but her voice shook. He could see the fear in her eyes as she asked him.

"Of course, Betts. Whatever it is, just name it, and I will promise you that I will always keep it." He spoke with

a fierce certainty that shocked Betty, but at the same time it made her smile and caused her to move so that they were eye level now. They were around the same height so they could sit like this and look directly at one another without one having to look up.

"Promise me that you'll never let me go through this alone. Promise that no matter what happens, you'll be there for me and I promise that I'll be here in the same way for you, Juggie." Her soft voice and her bright eyes were impossible to deny, and Jughead knew that he wouldn't want it any other way.

She was his best friend, and they had known each other long before they had started Hogwarts and although their parents despised one another, Jughead and Betty always found themselves falling back onto one another when they needed support or a friend. Neither could deny the other anything, and they knew that this promise was just the same as all their others, or at least they presumed that it was. They had no idea of the events that would occur to break it.

"I promise you, Betts."

Betty was snapped out of the memory and paled visibly as Kevin wrapped an arm around her shoulders, but it didn't feel right to her. It wasn't Jughead's arm around her; it wasn't Jughead comforting her. She didn't know what it was about the Slytherin boy, but it was as if his soul had touched her. "Anyway, let's get off the conversation of disgruntled Serpents, broken promises and instead talk about our dream soulmates." Kevin's suggestion was plausible causing Betty to shrug, and she sat back to just listen to them, hoping not to be involved in the conversation.

"Well, mine will hopefully be strong, sensual and sexy as hell. I want a muscular man and great conversations as well as a loving partner. I want someone who will love every part of me regardless of what I am like and will accept me wholly for who I am. I want to feel like a queen, and even if we argue, I want us to be able to work through it and get back on the right track. I also want my mark to be beautiful and have something to do with either of us." Veronica told them with a dazed look on her serene face as she thought of the qualities of her hopeful soulmate. For a moment, she didn't speak. However, she finally snapped out of her dreamlike state before she asked: "What about you, Kev?"

Kevin smirked as he thought of the man that he was hoping to have his soul tied to for the rest of his life. "Dark, handsome with a dangerous streak. That's what I would like. Yet, I also want someone who will protect me and help me through everything. I want a bad boy who will be nothing but good to me. I want him to make me feel like I'm the only guy in the world. I want happiness though, and if he isn't like that and loves me all the same, I'll be happy." Kevin's eyes glazed over dreamily while he thought of the endless possibilities of who he might be paired with as Archie spoke up.

"Well, Kev, I want an innocent, caring girl, who will always come back to me and who will always believe me. I want a kind lover, who will always be there for me. My dreams have always had blonde hair, a beautiful innocence and a ‘perfect’ aura. I want to be the only person she'll ever want, need and love." Archie told them. He stared directly at Betty as he spoke, but she refused to meet his gaze. "What about you, Betty? What's your dream for your soulmate?" He leant forward as he added: “…do you have a name for this person?" They all watched as Betty paled at the question.

Yet, it was her answer that shocked everyone, including those secretly listening in to their conversation. It caused Veronica and Kevin to gasp in shock as Archie scowled in anger at the response. It made all of the Serpents -apart from Jughead- widen their eyes in shock, he felt his heart rate increase rapidly as his brows raised in curious shock. His eyes never left Betty's face as she spoke and the others all found themselves staring, as Betty admitted something that they had never expected. She confessed something for the first time that she had denied to her heart, and now she finally accepted that it was true.

"There is only one person that I have ever imagined as my soulmate." Betty gulped at the swirling storm inside her before she finally said. "Jughead Jones." And with that, Betty unintentionally sparked a series of events that would not only lead to an investigation into Jason Blossom's 'drowning', but would also a divide among her peers while simultaneously ending a rift.

She was about to find herself plunged into something that she couldn't stop, even if she wanted to. Betty knew that whatever happened, nothing would be the same ever again.

But would she be able to survive these events?

Chapter Text

Chapter 2 – Photograph

'And if you hurt me

That's okay, baby, only words bleed

Inside these pages you just hold me

And I won't ever let you go.'

'Our story is about a community; a relatively small community and the people of that community. From a distance, it presents itself like so many other communities all over the world – safe, decent, innocent. Get closer though, and you start seeing the shadows underneath. The community is the Wizarding World of the British Isles.

Our story begins, I guess, with what the Blossom twins did on the last weekend before the end of the school year at Hogwarts. On the fourth of July, just after dawn, Jason and Cheryl Blossom made their way to the Black Lake for an early morning boat ride. The next thing we know happened for sure, is that Dilton Doiley, who was leading Ravenclaw First years for their last nature trip of the year, came upon Cheryl, by the lake's edge. The Aurors dragged the Black Lake for Jason's body, but never found it.

So, a week later, the Blossom family buried an empty casket, and Jason's death was ruled an accident as the story that Cheryl told, made the rounds. That Cheryl dropped a glove in the water and Jason reached down to get it and accidentally tipped the boat and panicked and drowned. As for us, we were still talking about the July fourth tragedy when we all began our sixth year where we knew our futures would be set in stone.'

Betty couldn't sleep. Her fear for the next day was consuming her mind. She thought of how angry Archie would be; how shocked Veronica would act; and how disappointed Kevin would be with her.

Betty had merely told them the truth, and they had hated it. They had promised not to fall out over soulmates, and yet here she was now, unsure if they would still be cold towards her in the morning.

Sighing lightly, she pushed herself off the uncomfortable bed in the Leaky Cauldron and made her way over to her trunk.

An old, slightly tarnished, photo album lay there amongst her neatly folded clothes. It was made of brown leather and in the very centre - in an elegant script - were the initials EC, intertwined with one another. She picked it up gently, flipping the cover over to read the inscription that had been written inside.

'Sometimes the happy memories hurt the most – Jug.'

A broken smile graced her lips as she traced her fingers over the words, that had turned out to be foreshadowing her feelings now. After a moment, she turned the first page. The picture was of the old group of five on the last day of their first year that Hagrid had taken for them. She saw the two Gryffindor boys beaming at one another, each with their arm around the Ravenclaw girl while a Hufflepuff and Slytherin stood beside each other.

All of them were smiling up at her with twelve-year-old innocence in their eyes. She smiled back as she noticed that Jughead's arm was slung over her shoulders, which she had undoubtedly missed as did she crave the optimism of Jughead's caption that she had lost.

'We did it!'

Nodding at that, she flipped through a few pictures until she came across one that she had forgotten about.

It was a picture of her and Jughead in their fifth year before everything had happened. It was New Years, they had kissed, mainly due to the fire whiskey they'd consumed. Kevin had captured it on a muggle camera and given it to the two of them the day after. Both their eyes were screwed shut, and they were smiling against each other's lips.

Upon seeing the picture, a single tear fell from Betty's eyes. She had forgotten the existence of the photograph, but she had never forgotten that kiss; she didn't think that she could.

She couldn't stop herself from letting out a small sob. "I miss you, Juggie." Her soft whisper seemed to echo around the room as her tears fell slowly from her glassy jade eyes.

Unbeknownst to Betty, however, in the room next door, Jughead Jones was staring at the same picture as he leant against the same wall that Betty was now slumped against. His gaze was as broken as his heart as he traced a single finger over Betty's face. He could remember every single detail about that night, and then a week later, Archie had told him that Betty never wanted to see him again. He had argued and fought with his best friend until Archie had said to him that he'd just hurt Betty even more. At that Jughead had succumbed to his own self-loathing and had let Betty be whisked out of his life.

And he hated that.

"By Merlin, Betts, I miss you." He murmured as he stared at her, frozen in time, a vision of joy on her face as she smiled against his lips. Never had he felt as broken as he did in that moment staring at that photograph- the only physical reminder of that night. He sighed as he looked down at the picture in his hands and as a wave of despair and heartbreak overcame him, he muttered one last thing before the darkness of exhaustion consumed him. "I will win you back, Betts."

….

When morning rose for all the Hogwarts students, they awoke groggily, hoping that they'd get some rest on the train. One of the first awake was Betty, who found herself sitting at the same booth on her own, battling with the cramp in her back and neck due to sleeping against the wall. She was ignoring it though as she read the morning Prophet in annoyance. Her mother was yet again sensationalising Jason Blossom's disappearance, but then again, when didn't Alice Cooper sensationalise something?

Teen Still Missing

Jason Blossom, 17, is still missing. The authorities have yet to decipher the events that led to his disappearance. His sister, Cheryl Blossom, who was the last person to see him, claims that he drowned in the Black Lake at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry back on the July 4th. However, his body was never recovered. This has indicated that Jason's disappearance was not just an accident. This leaves us with unanswered questions; why hasn't his body been found if it were just an accident? Why did the Blossoms feel the need to bury an empty casket when his body has yet to be found?

What happened to this star Slytherin Quidditch player? What happened on the 4th of July and why has no evidence been discovered? It also begs to question whether Hogwarts is safe for our children anymore. After all, they have done nothing to assist in the search for Jason and many parents- myself included-are being to wonder whether our children are truly safe at the school of magic when Headmistress Professor McGonagall has refused to make a comment on the subject. Then again, many Headmasters of Hogwarts often do not wish to reveal what happens behind the closed doors of their school.

However, if anyone has any information on Jason Blossom, no matter how insignificant, the Aurors urge you to come forward. They are apparently out of their depth, again. We all need to find out what happened to Jason Blossom, even though he may not have been the kindest young man, his life was cut so tragically short. So, please, anyone with information, come forward and help us end this most horrid chapter of our lives. We here at the Prophet will keep you all updated on any developments.

Alice Cooper, Crime Correspondent.

Betty rolled her eyes again at her mother's tone and at the way that she had written the article, but she knew that there was nothing to do to stop Alice Cooper. That was something that she'd grown to accept, no matter how much she detested it. Her mother was indeed formidable, and Betty knew that she would be foolish to think otherwise.

"B?" Betty turned her head to see Veronica, who was staring straight at her. "Can I sit, please?" The blonde nodded as Veronica graciously sat down and then she grabbed one of Betty's hands. "I'm so sorry about last night, I just wasn't expecting it. I know that I judged too quickly and it was stupid and cruel of me. I will never do it again. I understand that you truly do hold Jughead close to your heart and I will support you in whatever you do. I think I just needed some time to comprehend everything."

She offered Betty an anxious smile, and Betty knew that Veronica was the only one out of the other three who would support her through this. Yes, Kevin would be there, but his comments were often uncalled for, and Betty didn't need that. As for Archie, there was no hope there, and Betty wasn't about to waste her breath with him just yet. "I understand V, and I'm happy that you'll be here for me. I just wish that I could say the same for the others, but I know that is too much to hope for."

Veronica sighed as a familiar Slytherin breezed past them, and they both caught sight of someone who apparently hadn't slept. "Damn, Jughead looks as if he hasn't slept at all," Veronica commented as she looked over at the Slytherin boy as he slid into a booth silently and closed his eyes as his friends attempted to engage in conversation with him. "Hmm, something doesn't feel right here, B. I don't think we've been told everything about that fight between Archie and Jughead. Maybe we didn't get the entire truth from either of them because something doesn't feel right."

Betty's eyebrows quirked upwards in surprise as Veronica stared, a spark of hope in her gaze, as her mind began to whirl with possibilities. Yet, something quickly changed inside Betty's gaze as she spoke. "But Archie wouldn't lie to us, he's never lied to us. He isn't malicious in any way nor is Juggie, or at least he wasn't." Veronica's eyes softened at Betty's innocent rambling as she attempted to comprehend everything that she'd been told. Veronica knew that her friend saw the best in everyone and that quality had left her hurt and heartbroken due to two wizards who were apparently fighting over the blonde. They had always had been fighting over her ever since they first met.

"Oh, B, darling, did you not hear Archie last night? He was describing you as his perfect soulmate, and it is clear that he wants you. Did you never notice that Jughead and Archie started to disagree after the first Quidditch match in the first year?" Betty shook her head, and Veronica sighed at that as she realised just how oblivious Betty was when it came to the two boys. "B, Archie was annoyed at Jughead because you showed more interest in him after he won and you kissed him on the cheek. Then when we were in the fifth year, we all saw how much you were enamoured by Jughead, Archie must have gotten jealous, and something must have transpired between the two of them."

Betty stayed silent for a moment as she mulled over what Veronica had said as her eyes caught the blue gaze of Jughead's. They stared at one another with broken and hurt eyes as they both knew that something about this situation wasn't right, but they still turned away from one another. Betty sighed as Veronica watched her, gaze filled with sorrow, as they fell into an uneasy silence.

Jughead, on the other hand, felt someone place a hand on his shoulder where his Serpent tattoo was, and he turned to look at Toni Topaz. "You heard her last night, Jones, you're her dream man. You now know that Andrews lied to both of you." He raised an eyebrow at that as he leant back and the others exchanged a glance and Toni added: "Plus, she's miserable without you. I think she needs you almost as much as you need her, so go and get her back, heal her broken heart."

Sweet Pea, Joaquin and Fangs exchanged a glance with one another as they looked at their leader closely. "Yeah, Jones, you owe it to her and to yourself to fix your hearts. She carries yours around with her and unbeknown to her, hers is in your pocket." Sweet Pea told him, and Jughead raised his eyes to his friend, who had never been very empathetic, and a small simper graced his lips as he stared gratefully at his friend.

Sweet Pea had been the hardest to convince about Betty after what had happened with Archie and the argument. He had known that Jughead and Betty had kissed just before it and he had found himself hating the girl for hurting his friend. Yet, Sweet Pea had seen her crying in the library about two weeks afterwards with a battered album, staring at a picture of her and Jughead on their first Hogsmeade visit. Seeing her falling apart because of this argument had changed his mind about her, and now as he glanced over at the Hufflepuff, he knew that Jughead really did have her heart in his keeping.

"Sweets is right, Jug," Joaquin muttered as the two girls opposite them stood up. They watched as Betty clutched something that had been lying beside her. All of the Serpents felt their eyes widened as they recognised what she was holding tightly to her chest, Jughead felt his heart skip a beat at the sight. "Wait, isn't that the album you made her?"

Jughead, who was still staring, didn't hear him as he stared at the woman who held his heart under lock and key. She moved as effortlessly as ever, or at least to the untrained eye, she did. However, this was Jughead staring, and he saw that the weight of the world, ever present, was still firmly perched on her shoulders and causing her to seem even more tired than usual. She needed help, but he had no right to offer it anymore.

"JONES!" Fangs yelled at him causing his eyes to shift back to his friends. "You're hopeless." He muttered as they all moved to stand up. They had a train to catch, after all.

King's Cross Station was as packed as is always was. Muggles scurried around, desperately searching for their platforms and trying to catch their trains. They weaved in and out as wizards and witches leisurely made their way towards Platform Nine and Three Quarters. Parents held onto their children as groups of friends walked together. Many of these students gave the Serpents a wide birth as they headed to the barrier. One by one, students and parents passed through the wall and made their way onto the platform.

Betty and Veronica both leant against the barrier pretending to be in a heated conversation before they melted through it and entered their favourite part of the station. The Hogwarts Express gleamed scarlet even though the rain was mercilessly pounding the streets and roofs of London and the girls quickly handed over their trunks before going to grab a compartment.

Sitting down with a sigh, Veronica glanced over at Betty again. "You need to find a distraction, B and soon. Until we figure this out, you need to find something that will stop this from tearing you apart."

Betty glanced away as she tightened her ponytail before responding. "What am I supposed to do, V? Pretend like the world's okay when it's not. Everything since the argument has gone wrong. I mean look at-" She stopped herself halfway as the door to the compartment opened, and both girls turned to look up at a Slytherin boy in a beanie.

Betty's eyes went wide as Jughead stared at her in adoration and then glanced away before speaking to Veronica. "Can I sit here?" His low voice was timid and quiet as his nerves got the better of him. He immediately regretted allowing the other Serpents who persuaded him into doing this.

Veronica opened her mouth, but it was Betty who spoke first. She stared up at him as she did and at that moment, Betty realised that she was unable to deny him. "Sure." Her voice was a diffident whisper, and Veronica's head moved back and forth as she watched the two awkwardly interact.

"Thanks, Betts." Her old nickname fell from his lips like a prayer, and after not hearing it in so long, she felt her heart rate increase as he moved to sit on the same side as Veronica, who silently observed. After a few moments, he cleared his throat and looked over at Betty. "I saw the article in the Prophet. Are you alright with what your mum's publishing?"

Both girls stared at him for a moment before Betty fell back into the almost second nature habit of talking to Jughead. "She's sensationalising it. She's obsessed with it, especially seeing as Polly got dragged down with all the ghoulishness and is now seriously ill, but she's taking it too far, Juggie."

Veronica smirked at that as she reflected how they still used their old nicknames for one and as a pink-haired Serpent passed the window. Toni winked at the raven-haired princess and then passed on as Jughead responded. "I gathered that from the tone of her articles, she's making it sound as if the Chamber of Secrets has been opened again."

"Oh god, I remember reading those articles, and they're not half as bad as Alice Cooper's," Veronica told them as they both turned to look at her. "No offence, B, but your mother is crazy." She shrugged in response as the train pulled away from the station and the three of them sat back for a moment, reflecting and thinking. In the back of her mind, Betty conceded that Veronica was right. Then again, Veronica was usually right, and everyone in the wizarding world knew that Alice Cooper was crazy.

"Well, duh, she's a parent. They're all crazy. Actually, we're all crazy." Jughead stated, noting Betty's expression and he offered her a brilliant smile that she had undoubtedly missed. She caught the brightly burning fire in his eyes, it added a dangerous gleam to them, one she'd never seen before and the mere sight of it caused her to bite down on her lip.

Jughead smirked at that as he sat back, his whole demeanour oozing confidence now that he'd seen how much he could affect Betty. He relaxed then as his eyes scanned over her body, taking in everything he had missed, but sensing this, Veronica decided to interrupt their lingering stare and the tension between them. "Wise words, Jones. Anyone might think that you're actually smarter than you look." Veronica quipped as Betty rolled her eyes at her friend.

"I'm smarter than you, Lodge. That's for certain." He responded, not missing a beat as he fixed her with a dark steely gaze as he turned to look at her with his well-practised smirk. "After all, I did get Outstanding in everything apart from the one exam I flunked which I still managed to get an Exceeds Expectations in." A smug smirk graced his lips as he folded his arms across his chest, allowing the lean muscles of his arms to strain perfectly against his crisp white shirt.

"Humph." Veronica huffed dramatically, she looked at him before turning to look at Betty, who was staring at Jughead in surprise. Betty could remember what it felt like to be in his arms, but since she had been this close to him, he had developed more. "Betty, please tell me that you beat him in your OWLs. I want to wipe that smirk off his face."

The blonde glanced over at Jughead, who was staring at her as he spoke coolly. "Of course she did. Otherwise, Alice would have disembowelled her slowly and painfully. Let me guess, Outstanding in everything?" It wasn't really a question as Jughead knew that Betty had done well. She couldn't have failed as she was genuinely one of the smartest people in their year.

"How do you do that? How do you always know what I get in every exam I take?" Jughead's smirk only got wider as he looked over at the blonde and leant forward to look her directly in the eyes as he did so.

"Because you're Betty Cooper, everyone knows that you'll never do a test or exam without preparing for every question that could possibly be asked. I saw you at the library for about three months beforehand, so statistically, you should have done well." Betty smiled at him as added: "Plus, Betts, I know you, and I know how intelligent you are."

Betty blushed at that as Jughead observed her. Veronica noted how his eyes never left Betty's. Frosty blue and jade green seemed to be locked with one another, and there was nothing Veronica could do to stop it. "You're exaggerating, Juggie. I am not that intelligent."

Within half a second, Jughead's gaze had turned dark as his eyes narrowed and he moved to tilt Betty's lowered head up. "You are intelligent, Betts and never think otherwise, do you understand?" He felt as if he was repeating the same thing that he had been saying for years, and he expected Betty to battle with him as she always did, but not this time. She didn't know what it was, but yet again, she found herself unable to say no or argue with him over this matter.

"I understand." And at that moment, as her eyes met Jughead's and they stared at one another, an old memory came forth for both of them. A memory of two children telling each other that they understood why the other was acting in a certain way. It had been the first time that Jughead had removed his beanie around Betty and the first time that she had admitted to her habit of digging her nails into her palms. Those two words meant more than anyone else could possibly imagine.

"Good." He simpered and nodded slightly before settling back in his seat and removing his hand from Betty's face as they all fell into an uneasy silence. Neither knew what to say to the other, and they were unable to think of a conversation starter. After a few moments, however, Veronica broke the frosty silence.

"So, is Slytherin ready to be beaten by Ravenclaw in Quidditch?" Jughead, who happened to be the Slytherin seeker, sat up straight as he angled himself so that he could look at the raven-hair princess.

"Yes, because Ravenclaw has won every Quidditch cup since we started Hogwarts. Oh, wait, no that was Slytherin." He chuckled lightly, "Do you really think that you can beat us, Lodge?" His eyebrows were raised in a playful challenge as he smirked at the girl next to him.

"Well, we have more decorum, and we're going to win this year, isn't that right, B?" Betty looked over at her friend, who was imploring her to agree, but Betty knew that Veronica was wrong.

"Sorry, V, but Slytherin will probably win again, and Ravenclaw will come in second as usual and then Gryffindor with Hufflepuff coming last. Juggie is the best seeker in the school, and with the rest of his team they are unbeatable." She kept her tone respectful and calm, but she knew that Veronica wouldn't be too happy about it, but something inside the Ravenclaw seemed to change.

As Jughead smiled gratefully at Betty, Veronica noted that the blonde seemed to radiate joy. At that, Veronica knew not to say anything harsh to her friend. "Humph. Just be glad that you're my best friend and I will let this slide."

Rolling his eyes, Jughead turned to look at Betty, and she was met with a bright light in his blue gaze. "Thank you, Betts. Hopefully, Hufflepuff will beat both Ravenclaw and Gryffindor. Especially the latter." The two girls noted the bitterness in Jughead's tone but chose not to question him about it as it was apparently not something he wished to discuss.

"Maybe." Betty murmured before tightening her famous ponytail and then she asked: "So how was your summer? Did you get to see JB again?" Jughead nodded at that.

"Yeah, Mum allowed me to see her for two weeks before I went back to the Jones Manor. She's doing well and is so excited to be starting Hogwarts next year. She's determined to be in Slytherin, and I may have threatened to disown her if she ended up in Gryffindor." Jughead's family were an old Slytherin Pure Bloodline, and their ancestral home had been passed down the generations. It was now a focal point for the Serpents, but there was a private wing for the family, which was Jughead's favourite place. "Apart from seeing JB though, it was pretty standard. I met up with the Serpents a couple of times and mostly stayed in the library at home, working on my novel. The typewriter never had so much attention, maybe when it is finished… you'd like to read it?"

Betty stared at the usually cocky Serpent, who had turned into a shy little boy before her very eyes and she couldn't help but smile at the sight. "Of course, I'd love to read it Juggie. I know that it will be amazing. What are you writing about?"

"Jason Blossom's disappearance. There's something not quite right about it. I mean he was a perfectly good swimmer and the Black Lake has been searched countless times, but he's not there. It doesn't feel right, and I was going to start investigating when I got back to Hogwarts because Sheriff Clueless isn't going to find anything anytime soon." Betty nodded in response to that because Sheriff Keller, the Head Auror for the Hogwarts and Hogsmeade area, was an incompetent idiot.

"Well, I hope that you can get to the bottom of this before someone else gets hurt." Jughead nodded at that.

They all moved away from the topic of deceased Slytherins and talked about their new year. They wondered aloud about how the soulmate programme worked and what would happen. They laughed, smiled - and in Betty's case blushed - all the way to Hogwarts, momentarily forgetting their troubles and the tension between one another.

However, arriving at Hogsmeade Station, their spell was broken. The two girls went their separate ways from Jughead, who went to find his Serpents. Veronica looped her arm with Betty's as they headed over to the horseless carriages. They rode the short journey in silence and went to their separate tables to await the Sorting Ceremony. As always, the Great Hall was full of chatter and joy, which wasn't unusual. Everyone was glad to be back at the castle as it was a second home to them all.

All of a sudden silence descended.

Professor Flitwick marched in followed by forty new first years, who were looking around nervously, not knowing what to expect. Betty smiled at them all, and they smiled back at her as no one could ever deny Betty Cooper a brilliant smile. She had that air of kindness to her that made all the first years calm down and breathe more easily.

Once they were at the front of the teachers' table, they all stilled as the Sorting Hat looked at the entire room. The hat had always made students of all ages feel slightly uneasy as it had read all their minds in the past. They had each felt its unnerving presence, and now it was the turn of these first years. Yet, before it delved into their minds, it started to sing to them all.

'Oh, you may not think I'm pretty,

But don't judge on what you see,

I'll eat myself if you can find

A smarter hat than me.

You can keep your bowlers black,

Your top hats sleek and tall,

For I'm the Hogwarts Sorting Hat

And I can cap them all.

There's nothing hidden in your head

The Sorting Hat can't see,

So try me on and I will tell you

Where you ought to be.

You might belong in Gryffindor,

Where dwell the brave at heart,

Their daring, nerve and chivalry,

Set Gryffindors apart;

You might belong in Hufflepuff

Where they are just and loyal,

Those patient Hufflepuffs are true,

And unafraid of toil;

Or yet, in wise old Ravenclaw,

If you've a ready mind,

Where those of wit and learning,

Will always meet their kind;

Or perhaps in Slytherin,

You'll make your real friends,

Those cunning folk use any means,

To achieve their ends.

So put me on! Don't be afraid!

And don't get in a flap!

You're in safe hands (though I have none)

For I'm a Thinking Cap!"

Applause rang out through the Great Hall as the song ended and the first years seemed to ease slightly as they all made their way to the Hat. Betty could still remember what she had been told all those years ago. The gruff voice had pierced her mind and had stayed with her after all of these years.

"Ah! A Cooper!" He had murmured as she sat down. Her ponytail was already in place, and though she wouldn't admit it, she was mildly terrified. She had no idea what to expect. "Your mother was a Slytherin and your father a Gryffindor, but their souls were bound together in the end, and your sister ended up a Ravenclaw, so where do I put you?"

"I don't know. I would prefer not to be in Slytherin or Gryffindor though if that is alright." She thought as the Hat deliberated slowly as he attempted to make a decision.

"That's fine my dear, you wouldn't be in either. You're too good for that. Now your mind is perfect for a Ravenclaw, but your heart is too kind for that. I think I know where to put you. You shall be in HUFFLEPUFF!" The last word was announced to the rest of the school and Betty swiftly discarded the Hat, handing it back to Professor Flitwick before rushing to her house table.

Snapping out of the memory, Betty began clapping for every student, which all Hufflepuffs did as they showed no animosity to any house. Every so often, she'd catch Jughead smiling, usually at a new Slytherin, but she never picked up on the lingering looks sent her way. She never had been able to see those looks, and for the time being, Jughead was glad about that.

He didn't want her to know, just yet.

As the Sorting Ceremony was over, Professor McGonagall rose from her seat to look at all of her students, both new and old. "To our newcomers, welcome to Hogwarts and to those returning, welcome back! For now, all I have to say is, tuck in!" At that, the empty plates on all the tables were filled with mountains of deliciously prepared food.

Instantaneously, the students began tucking into their food, and many of them felt their anxieties ebb away. Laughter and chatter filled the great hall as did both the main course and the desert. They all settled back into, or for the first time settled into, life at Hogwarts. Yet, there was a sombre air to the hall as there was one very prominent Slytherin missing and all of the students, as well as the teachers, all knew that Jason Blossom was almost certainly not coming back.

Though Cheryl Blossom was convinced otherwise.

As the chatter and laughter lulled, Professor McGonagall stood up again, and silence descended instantly. Eyes shifted to the Headmistress as she looked around the room. "Now that our appetites have been sated, there are a few notices that I must inform you about. Firstly, the first years should know that the forest is forbidden to all students, and it would appear that some of the older students also need informing of that." She paused, and her gaze lingered on some of the Gryffindors, who merely shrugged at her as she shook her head.

"As well as that, you all should know that magic is not to be cast at someone in the corridors, regardless of the situation. Anyone caught doing this will be punished." Many of the students nodded at that, knowing that a week's worth of detentions would be given. "But, the most important matter to be discussed is the disappearance of Jason Blossom." At that, mutters and murmurs broke out, all of the students felt as if they were all asking the same question: 'what happened to Jason Blossom?'

"Enough!" An uneasy silence settled over the hall as she continued: "Now, as I was about to say, if any of you have any information, no matter how insignificant you may think it is, I urge you to come forward. Jason was one of our brightest, and we do sincerely hope that he is just missing and that we will find him again. Yet, we must all remain realistic, and I merely hope that we can at least discover what happened to him."

Many eyes drifted over to Slytherin, where Cheryl sat, her bright red lips drawing everyone in and preventing her from hiding from anyone's gaze. Betty, however, felt her eyes move to the group beside the redhead to where the Serpents were. The group were glowering at the redheaded princess, none of them trying to conceal their anger. There was no love lost between the group and the Blossom family, though the group of teens wouldn't wish either of the twins dead.

Yet, Betty's gaze lingered on Jughead, who she noted was scribbling notes down on his old notepad, evidently for his novel. His eyes were trained on Cheryl for a moment and then shifted to McGonagall before he glanced down at his messy notes. They were legible enough for him, but nobody else could read the script.

'Cheryl knows something?'

'Guilty looking Professor Grundy?'

'Archie Andrews equally as guilty looking?'

His mind swirled with questions as Professor McGonagall spoke up again. "However, we do promise to keep you safe, and we assure all of you that no harm shall come to any of you. Now, off to bed." Grumbling and muttering erupted as they all got up to leave the Hall, though there was the lingering feeling that something had been left unsaid.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 3 – Mad World

 

'And I find it kinda funny

I find it kinda sad

The dreams in which I'm dying

Are the best I've ever had.'

 

“Wake up, Jones!” Sweet Pea called out as he sat on his bed, noting that his friend hadn’t moved yet. When he got no response, he moved over to the bed that Jughead slept in. “Jones, you up?” He called out again before sighing and moving aside the curtain of Jughead’s fourposter bed. It had clearly been slept in, but Jughead wasn’t there. However, more disconcerting was the fact that Jughead’s ever-present beanie was still there as was his wand. “Jones?”

“Yes, Sweet Pea?” The other boy hissed from beside him, causing him to jump in fright before turning to see his evidently coffee deprived friend; Jughead looked shattered. Sweet Pea had the feeling that, yet again, he’d only gotten two or three hours sleep last night. In all honesty, Jughead hadn’t slept well since the argument and the break up of his friendship with Betty, and it was definitely showing.

“Thought you were still sleepin’, just needed to get you up.” Jughead nodded as he moved to grab his beanie and his wand. He’d get his jacket on the way out, but before he could head that way, Sweet Pea grabbed his arm. “Are you alright, man? You were in good spirits yesterday when you came back to us, after spending time with Betty, but you disappeared after tea. Then you came back scowling, so what happened?”

Jughead sighed but didn’t say anything as he slipped his wand into its holster and grabbed his jacket, which fit him perfectly. Like his father, he had the symbol of the gang on his back instead of the symbol of the juniors, and it had led to them all respecting him. He had earned his place like them, and they knew that they should show deference to him. He had done a lot more than they had for the Serpents so if he chose not to disclose something, they never pushed.

“It doesn’t matter, Sweet Pea. Something came up, and it just pissed me off, just leave it at that, okay?” Jughead finally muttered as he fixed his beanie and looked up at his best friend, who had about three inches on him. “Don’t worry about me, Sweets, I’ve been dealing with this shit for years, I’ll be fine.”

Sweet Pea sighed, knowing that he wouldn’t get anymore information from Jughead, and then backed up so Jughead could leave first. “Whatever you say, Jug, but you do know that we’re here for you, right?” The beanie-wearing boy halted to look over at Sweet Pea, who was observing him carefully as the ghost of a smile graced his lips.

“I know, Sweets. Trust me, I do.” With that, both boys left the Slytherin dormitory and headed to the Great Hall. They were joined by the other Serpents as soon as they entered the common room and each of the others noted Jughead’s lack of sleep, but a quick shake of the head from Sweet Pea shut them up. The group of five ascended the stairs leading from the dungeons and to the main school building, when a familiar ponytail came into view.

As always, Jughead stopped in his tracks as he admired Betty in her Hufflepuff robes. She was frowning slightly and was walking alone, but still, he couldn’t help but smile a little. That was until she felt his eyes on her and turned. Her eyes widened for a fraction of a second before she smiled and stopped walking, waiting for them to catch up with her. The Serpents were all shocked by her actions until they saw the glimmer of pain in her eyes as Jughead neared her.

They could not overhear her as she spoke in a diffident whisper to Jughead. “Look, Juggie, I really did enjoy your company yesterday, but until you tell me what on earth is going on, I can’t keep getting my hopes up. I want everything to go back to how it was, but I also need time to figure everything out.”

He nodded as he hung his head and resisted the urge to reach out to her as he murmured his reply. “I understand, Betts, take as much time as you need, you deserve that at least.” She smiled and was about to speak when he added: “But, I also know that you’re as miserable as I am at the moment, so trust me, I know what you’re experiencing.” She nodded at that as her gaze grew sorrowful.

“I am sorry, Juggie.” Her soft voice was full of guilt and pain. “I really am sorry, but for now...” He nodded glumly and sighed.

“I know, Betts and for what its worth, I’m sorry too. I’m sorry you got caught up in this mess, but it won’t be forever.” She nodded, but before she could move away, he gently pushed a piece of hair out of her eyes and behind her ear. Since his hand did not touch hers, neither would be able to tell whether their souls were linked, but it still sent shivers down Betty’s spine.

“I understand what you need to do, Betts.” She smiled, and he backed up so she could walk off as his friends moved to his side. Once she was out of earshot, however, his anger from earlier came flooding back though it was now directed away from Reggie Mantle, who had initially been the one who had pissed him off, and was instead aimed at the one person who had made his life a living hell.

Archie Andrews.

Images of the smirking redhead filled his mind, but he pushed it aside as Toni walked up to him and placed a hand on his shoulder. “Calm, Jones. Whatever happens now, you should at least know that she still likes you.”

Jughead stared at her in disbelief but didn’t say anything as the others swept him up as they made their way to breakfast. All of the Serpents, especially Jughead, had notorious appetites and none of them were going to waste time getting to breakfast.

So, together they all walked into the Great Hall, secretly hating all the stares that they received, but merely shrugging it off as they headed over to Slytherin table. As they reached it, Professor Slughorn turned around to them and gave them a small smile. “Ahh, Jones, O’Hare, Topaz, Fogarty and DeSantos, I have your timetables.” They all glanced over at their head of house, Sweet Pea grimacing at the use of his surname. He handed each one theirs before turning back to Jughead and adding: “Oh, and Jones, I was incredibly impressed by your result in Potions, you didn’t lose a single mark.”

The boy in question stared at him in disbelief and then a small smirk graced his lips as he responded. “Well, professor, I had a point to prove about us Slytherins.”

“I’m glad, Jones and you should know that Professor Flitwick was rather annoyed that you weren’t a Ravenclaw. He hated that the two brightest students in the year don’t belong to his house, but congratulations all the same.” Professor Slughorn beamed at the beanie-clad student, whose eyes had widened in surprise. However, he didn’t need to ask who the other student was because everyone knew that Betty was the other person that Slughorn was referring to.

“Well, Slytherin was right for me and not Ravenclaw – too many high expectations.” Slughorn nodded at that and then moved on as the Serpents made their way to their seats, looking over their timetables.

“Free period first thing and then double Care of Magical Creatures,” Toni informed them as she looked at her timetable with interest. She was a great animal lover and wanted to work with them when she was older, however now she was the only Serpent who took the subject.

“Well, at least you’ve got a good morning, Topaz. After my free, I’ve got double History of Magic with Binns.” Joaquin groaned, though they all knew that he did actually enjoy the subject.

“Can’t say that I’m not glad to see the back of Binns.” Sweet Pea mused as he glanced back at his timetable. “I’ve just got free’s this morning. Then Potions and Defence Against the Dark Arts with you lot.” He made a face at that causing all of the others to give him their middle fingers, but he brushed it off. “What ‘bout you, Fangs?”

The quietest Serpent let his eyes shift from the parchment in his hand to his best friend’s face as they waited for his answer. “Same as you Sweets. Let’s hope that we don’t have any Gryffindors in the mixed classes.” The general consensus among the Serpents was that if a class had anyone from their rival house in it, then it was going to be a living hell. Apart from Slughorn and Castleroy, the head of Hufflepuff and the Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, all their teachers favoured anyone from the red house over them.

“Well, at least every subject apart the main five will just be with Hufflepuff, so we’ll be fine with those.” The others all nodded at Toni’s words before glancing over at Jughead, who was still staring at his parchment. The look on his face told them everything they needed to know, and Toni gently rested a hand on his shoulder at the sight of his mournful expression. “Let me guess, double Ancient Runes?”

The glance he exchanged with her told her everything that she needed to know. “Yeah, which means that Betty and I will be locked in a room together with Weatherbee.”  

Yet, due to having not heard Betty earlier, Sweet Pea asked: “But isn’t that a good thing?”

Sighing heavily, Jughead rubbed his eyes before responding steadily. “Last year it would have been, but she wants space and time to figure things out. She also wants me to explain what’s going on, which doesn’t make sense because of what Archie told me last year, but then again, maybe I shouldn’t have taken his words as seriously as I did.”

Sweet Pea nodded at that, finally understanding his friend’s plight and recognising the pain in Jughead’s eyes, he quickly changed the subject. “Anyway, enough about lessons, I’m starved, and there is no way that I’ve had anything remotely like Hogwarts food since we broke up.” With that, they all chuckled before digging into their food. Jughead, however, found himself feeling grateful to his fellow Serpent for understanding and changing the subject and nodded at him in thanks.

While tucking into mountains of food, they all spoke idly about the summer and the owls arrived in a flurry of feathers. All over the Great Hall, students received their post, and Jughead soon found a Daily Prophet in his lap. “Since when did you get the Prophet?” Sweet Pea asked as he swallowed a mouthful of toast.

“I don’t.” Jughead stared curiously down at the paper before seeing that something had been circled and a small note had been written beneath it. ‘You need to look at this.’  Being able to recognise the handwriting anywhere, Jughead stared at it for a moment, now confused at Betty’s actions towards him. Yet, he soon realised that she was only sending it to him because it was something she viewed as important. He sighed: “Merlin’s beard, Betts.” At that, he spread out the newspaper so that he could read it more carefully to see what Alice Cooper was ranting about this time.

“Jug? What happened?” Toni asked as they all peered over at the paper, trying to read the tiny print from an awkward angle, but she was unable to read it correctly. She huffed as she gave up and folded her arms expectantly.

“Maybe you should let him read it first, Topaz,” Joaquin told her as he placed a hand on her shoulder. The pink-haired girl looked back at her friend who was also observing Jughead. “He’ll tell us when he knows everything, just be patient.” As ever, Joaquin was the voice of reason among the often hot-headed group.

Sweet Pea also noted Toni’s expression, and he set his knife and fork down before addressing her and alerting Jughead to their curiosity. “We all wanna know, Toni, but you gotta wait for the Boss.” She conceded the point as Jughead sent her a small smile before his brooding scowl reappeared and he started reading out loud.

“Recently, it has come to the attention of Auror Keller that Jason Blossom was in a serious of heated discussions with Forsythe Pendleton Jones the II.” Jughead grimaced at the use of his father’s full name, which he shared with him, and then continued. “This begs the question whether the Southside Serpents, the notorious wizard gang, were involved with the disappearance of Jason Blossom.”

The others rolled their eyes at that until Jughead carried on. “Or perhaps, Forsythe Pendleton Jones the III, the heir to the Serpent throne, and one of the Slytherin students, got tired of Jason and decided to end the redhead’s life. After all, this Jones has a past record with misdemeanours while also being known for hating Jason Blossom.” His friends stilled at that as he glanced over at Betty, who was scribbling a letter furiously before attaching it to her owl, Karamel, who flew off as soon as it was tied to her leg.

“What the fuck! Why on earth has Alice Cooper written that?” Sweet Pea asked in disbelief as the others stared at Jughead. “I thought that she liked you. She always preferred you over Andrews, so why the fuck did she write that?” His indignation rang out through his tone as he looked at Jughead.

“Because he broke Betty’s heart.” Fangs informed them as Jughead glanced down at the paper, noticing that there was something else written in the margin.

‘I’m sorry, Juggie.’

“Not entirely.” Joaquin mused as he watched Jughead’s small smile form as he ran his finger over the final word. “She still likes him and to be fair, Jughead’s heart was shattered at the same time.”

The leader of the group lifted his head up to glower at Joaquin, but there was no genuine anger behind it. “Fuck off, DeSantos.”

Toni twirled a piece of her pink hair around her finger as she spoke to Jughead. “Calm down, Boss. Trust me, soon enough, Betty and you will be back together or will be back to doing whatever you were doing before the fight.” She pursed her lips for a moment and then looked at the others. “Do any of you know what was happening between them?”

“Our guess is as good as yours, Topaz.” Sweet Pea mumbled as Jughead moved to get up. “Where are you going? Don’t you have time before your lesson?”

Jughead rolled his eyes as he shook his head. “No, I have to get to the joyful lesson of double Ancient Runes with Professor Weatherbee. If I don’t make it out alive, please attend my funeral. I expect a good eulogy, and I want all of you to cry.” They all chuckled at that as Jughead smirked over at them.

“Sure thing, Boss, now go and enjoy being smarter than us.” He nodded at that as he swung his bag over his shoulder and was about to head off before Jughead caught sight of Betty walking to the doors and then he turned back.

“Oh, I will do. Now try to keep everyone under control, Toni, and if you can’t do that, at least attempt to stop Sweet Pea from doing something stupid.” Toni’s eyebrows raised as Sweet Pea gave Jughead the middle finger.

“How am I supposed to do that?” She asked incredulously, but Jughead merely shrugged as he walked off. “Thanks for nothing, Jones!” She called out as he walked away, but he didn’t turn back to respond to her. He carried on, heading towards the grand doors, as a dark brown gaze followed him.

Archie Andrews quickly rose as he clutched his muggle studies books and then promptly left the Great Hall, only to find Jughead and Betty talking. “Betts, thank you for sending me the article, but I think I can handle Alice Cooper’s harsh words.” She nodded at that as they headed up the stairs together.

“I know that Juggie, but you needed to know about it and still, I’m sorry.” Jughead sighed at that as Betty looked down at her hands again. “Anyway, I need to go and pick up something from the Blue and Gold. I’ll see you in Ancient Runes.” Jughead hung his head dejectedly at that, but he knew that it was probably for the best. After all, he had hurt her, and he knew that although she was smiling and being friendly, he still hadn’t healed that wound.

“Okay, Betts. I’ll see you in class.” She sighed quietly and headed up the stairs as he watched her go, his eyes never leaving her retreating figure. Her blonde ponytail swayed slightly as she walked away from him, but before anything else could be said and done, she disappeared down a first-floor corridor, and he grumpily made his way to the fourth floor.

Still completely unaware of Archie watching him.

He did not feel the fury radiating off of the redhead, who was no longer prepared to put up with Jughead. Archie had thought that by telling Jughead and Betty those two separate lies that he’d be able to keep them apart, but now all of that seemed to be falling apart. It was at that moment that he realised that he needed to make a move on Betty before Jughead snuck back into her life.

So, instead of heading to his classroom on the fifth floor, he only went as far as the first. Archie knew the route to the Blue and Gold from the countless times that he had been there with Betty... and Jughead. Yet, even he’d been there numerous times, he didn’t know of the three rooms hidden behind the office.

Only Betty knew of those.

Knock! Knock! Knock! His knuckles rapped smartly on the frosted glass only for Betty to open it a few seconds later. Her eyes widened in surprise as she looked quizzically at Archie, who hadn’t said a word to her since he had left the booth early at the Leaky Cauldron. Her eyes took in the redhead’s expression, and she saw that there was no remorse in his gaze.

“Betty, we need to talk,” Archie stated as he looked at Betty.

“Not now, Arch, I need to get to Ancient Runes before Weatherbee kills me.” He stared at her as she moved to walk past him. Yet, before she could get past, he grabbed her wrist in a bruising grip. Hissing in pain, Betty looked down at where Archie had seized her. It was her left wrist, the place where her soulmark would appear.

“Yes, now, Betty, and you will listen to me.” She glowered up at him as she attempted to wrench her wrist from his grasp. Both of them looked down, only to see that her wrist was bruised and that there was no defining soulmark on her skin.

“No, I won’t.” She snapped as she cradled her bruised wrist to her body before turning away from Archie, but before Betty had gotten out of sight, she spun on her heel. Her jade eyes were filled with a burning green fire that could have frightened Alice Cooper. It burned in her eyes as she spoke, her voice dripping with fury. “And you have no right to command me to do anything ever again and nor do you have the right to seize me like that, Andrews.”

With that, she wheeled around on her heel before heading off to Ancient Runes. Archie watched her leave with a mixture of remorse and shock. His guilt had sparked from seeing her cradle her wrist to her body, but his alarm was caused by the volatile way that she’d reacted. More importantly, he couldn’t comprehend that Betty wasn’t his soulmate.

“Fuck!” He yelled, thinking that no one was there, but a couple of first years found themselves scurrying into the shadows at his reaction. Huffing and puffing angrily, he turned away from the Blue and Gold before stalking off to muggle studies with Professor Grundy.

He’d elevate his anger there.

Betty, on the other hand, was seething with rage as she neared her classroom. Her indignation at Archie’s actions was consuming her, and she knew that for now, she couldn’t be anywhere in his vicinity.

Upon nearing her class, Betty saw that only the beanie-clad boy was waiting there. Instantly, she realised that it would just be the two of them studying this class. In the sixth year, classes were divided into two groups, Gryffindor and Ravenclaw as the first, and Hufflepuff and Slytherin for the second group.

Sighing quietly, Betty inadvertently alerted Jughead to her presence causing him to glance up from his textbook, which he had been studying with interest. His observant eyes - that never missed anything - zoomed in on her wrist, still gingerly cradled to her chest. “Who did that to your wrist, Betts?”

Betty’s eyes snapped up to see his furrowed brow and his angered expression. Shock masked her face as she saw flashes of concern in their blue depths. “It’s nothing.”

Pure anger was born from concern as Jughead stuffed his book into his bag. He hated that she wasn’t telling him what had happened to her. Pushing himself off of the wall he’d been leaning against, he began to stalk towards her. Instinctively, Betty took a few steps back as the Serpent Prince neared her, but soon her back collided with the solid stone wall of the corridor as he spoke up. “It is not just ‘nothing’, Betts. Now tell me what happened and who did this to you!”

The order fell from his lips almost naturally due to his role among the Serpents, and the mere action caused shivers to run down Betty’s spine. Yet, she was too stubborn to just give in and even though Jughead had caged her body against the wall while staring down at her, she held her ground. “Why? So you can hex?”

“If I need to, then yes!” He growled, evidently livid at her refusal to cooperate.

“I fight my own battles alone, Forsythe.” Her temper was rising rapidly. It had been sparked by Archie, but now Jughead’s insistence to help her after not speaking to her for several months infuriated her.

“I’m trying to help you, Elizabeth. For Merlin’s sake, I want to help you. I promised to help you through everything.” He ground out causing her to scoff in annoyance.

“Yeah, right, Forsythe, you say that now, but where the fuck have you been for the past eight months?” Her voice was trembling with pain as she glowered up at him, her intense, fiery jade eyes meeting his icy blue gaze.

“I’ve been here, watching you; protecting you whenever the Gryffindors like Clayton tried to hurt you. You may have never seen it, but I was there for you. I’ve always been there for you, right from the beginning. Now, tell me who hurt you.” Although his words shocked her, the demand, that fell so effortlessly from his lips, infuriated Betty even more. She was both touched and only angered even more by Jughead’s actions.

“I don’t care anymore. You don’t get to demand anything from me. You may have done all of those things, but when I needed you most; when I was crying in my room wondering what had happened; when I needed you most; you weren’t there. You were off with your Serpents. So we rekindled some form of acquaintance yesterday, but you have no right to order me about, Forsythe.” Betty had enough of people telling her what to do, she’d had enough of her mother doing it, and she didn’t need either Jughead or Archie doing the same.

“Betts, just tell me.” He sounded exasperated as his eyes drifted down her face while she stared up at him, her eyes taking in his face again. They stared at one another in annoyance as well as exasperation, yet before they could say anything, they heard footsteps approaching them.

Upon hearing the sound, Jughead moved away from Betty just before Professor Weatherbee rounded the corner. His eyes scanned the two of them, and he looked around to see that no one else was coming to the lesson. “Okay then, it appears that I only have the two of you, so this should be fairly pleasant.” He smiled at his two students, but both knew that it was forced.

It was going to be a long first lesson.

Settling down at the front of the classroom, Betty and Jughead opened their identical textbooks while Weatherbee pulled out his own copy. He placed it on the desk and then looked over at a pile of documents, flicking through them in the hope of finding what he needed. The young witch and wizard before him watched in annoyance, he was notoriously unorganised and they really weren’t in the mood for this. Both were seething from their argument, though the beanie-clad boy was mellowing somewhat.

Weatherbee checked his drawers and desk over and over again, evidently unable to find his materials of worksheets as Jughead and Betty watched from their separate table. Both of them were refusing to look at one another as they waited for their disorganised professor. 

“Merlin’s beard!” Both students raised their eyebrows at him as he turned to look at them. ”I swear that I had everything in here earlier. I’ll have to go to the staff room.” He straightened up before glancing over at Betty. “Make sure that he doesn’t get into any trouble.”

With that, he briskly strolled out of the classroom as Betty rubbed at her battered wrist. She could feel Jughead’s gaze on her, but she refused to meet it. Fury was still consuming her, and she couldn't bring herself to look at him. 

Sighing in defeat, Jughead broke the tense silence. ”I'm sorry.” 

Betty’s head snapped up, and she moved to the side so that she could stare at him. ”I beg your pardon.” The manners that Alice Cooper had drilled into her prevented her from asking ’what?’, and even though he was expecting that answer, Jughead couldn't help but frown.

”I'm sorry, Betts. I'm sorry that you got hurt and that I got annoyed at you for not telling me. I'm sorry that you can't trust me enough to tell me what happened, but I'd never do anything to intentionally hurt you.” The ice blue of his eyes was melting as he looked at her mournfully.

Yet, all Betty did was scoff at that in annoyance. ”You've been hurting me for the past eight months.” She snapped, fury and pain-that potent cocktail of emotions, bubbling up inside her.

”Don't act like you're the only one who has been in pain.” Jughead’s tone grew quieter as he felt his heart break even more. ”It was hell for me too.”

That one statement caused Betty to blanch as she stared at him. ”Why didn't you do anything? Why didn't you come and find me? Why did you tell Archie that you didn’t want anything to do with me?”

Jughead’s eyes widened as he stared at Betty in disbelief. ”I didn't tell Archie that. I’ve never wanted to be away from you, Betts.”

Betty felt her heart sink as she realised that Archie really had been lying to her all along. She’d thought that there was a possibility, but she’d hoped otherwise. She had wanted to be proved wrong. Yet, now Archie not only hurt her physically, but he’d been the force that had kept Jughead from her and out of her life. ”They, why did you stay away from me?”

”Because, he was right.” Their eyes met, and it was Betty’s turn to stare in disbelief. ”He may have been lying about you not wanting to see me, but he was right about me, Betts. I'm not good for you. I'll hurt you in the long run, just like he said. I've already hurt you.”

The ache of her already shattered heart only intensified at that as she shifted her gaze to her wrist. ”You've never done anything like this to me.” At that, his gaze shifted to the tender skin of her wrist. 

”Betts...” He started to say as she finally met his gaze again.

”Archie did this to me.” The words had barely left her mouth when Weatherbee walked in again, preventing Jughead from being able to respond.

When the hour and a half was over, Betty had packed up quickly muttering something about the Blue and Gold. Jughead, like her, had a free period but had nowhere to go. Sighing, he decided that the library would be busy with everyone else in his year. Upon realising that, he began to make his way towards the Slytherin common room. Knowing that there would probably be no one else there, he took his time, minding his own business. Yet, by blocking everything out, he didn’t notice the redhead, who was now following him.

All of a sudden, there was a burst of red light before Jughead felt a searing pain in his left shoulder. Wheeling around sharply, he slipped his wand into his hand as he turned around to face Archie Andrews. Their eyes met, and Jughead’s eyes widened at the sight of his old friend.

“Andrews?” Jughead asked in disbelief as he saw his former friend glowering at him in hatred. A dark gleam shone in Archie's eyes as he neared the stunned Slytherin, but anger quickly clouded them.

The cruel, powerful emotions that were flooding Archie caused him to raise his wand in hatred against his enemy. “You turned her against me! You made her hate me! You stopped her from being mine!” Archie yelled, not needing to explain who ‘her’ was, as Jughead knew full well that it was Betty. Only Betty could bring out this sort of reaction in the teenage wizard.

“I haven’t done anything, Andrews. You were the one who lied to her, hell you lied to both of us and you were the one who hurt her. You’ve been slowly suffocating her. I’ve seen it time and time again. You don’t even notice when she fakes a smile or when she is in pain. I haven’t even been next to Betty, and I can still tell.” Jughead’s brain may have been overriding all his emotions with anger, but whereas Archie’s temper was explosive, his was a consuming darkness that would soon consume him entirely. Yet, for now, he kept a reasonably stable control over it.

Though that wouldn’t last long.

“Shut up, Jones. I do notice. Betty is my soulmate –” He was cut off by Jughead scoffing at him, and his eyes darkened.

“Betty’s not your soulmate, Andrews. She'll never be, because fate wouldn’t be so cruel to place an angel like Betty Cooper with someone like you. It’ll never allow her to be paired with someone who would physically hurt her.” Jughead’s tone was level and measured, but his entire body was shaking with fury as he fought back the urge to hit Archie with a powerful hex.

“She is my soulmate, and if there is a minute possibility that she isn’t, then she won’t be yours either. Why would an ‘angel’ as you called her, be the soulmate of a demon like you?” Archie’s lips twisted into a cruel, cynical smirk that of which Jughead found grotesque.

“I never said that I was, but I can assure you that Betty doesn’t want you to be her soulmate. I am sorry to inform you that her wrist is only marked in the bruises that you gave her.” That was the final straw for Archie, who snapped.

Without hesitation, he raised his wand again and cried: “Petrificus Totalus!”

“Protego!” Jughead responded as he blocked the hex with ease. He was a significantly better dueller than Archie, who had never picked it up as quickly as Jughead. “Stop this, Archie! This isn’t you, and you know that this will not solve anything.”

“It might not, but I would have the desire to see the mighty Serpent Prince walk on his knees!” It was at that moment that Jughead realised how lost his former friend was and that he had somehow entered a mad world.

Yet, as Archie continued to cast at him, Jughead pushed the thought aside as the light from their spells stained the walls for a moment. Both of their faces were masked with anger and despair as their instincts took over. In the deserted corridor, no one saw the signs of the two boys duelling and no one would know the agony that had consumed the two friends.

And all because of their love for Betty Cooper.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 4 - Madness

 

'Feel the fury closing in

All resistance wearing thin

Nowhere to run from all of this havoc

Nowhere to hide from all of this madness.'

 

By the time Friday dawned, all of the sixth years were exhausted. They’d not settled back into getting up so early and nor had they been expecting the amount of work that NEWT students were required to do. Their OWL’s seemed like a walk in the park compared to this, all of them found themselves dreading any tests in their separate subjects. Each found themselves locked up in the library attempting to make some headway on their mountain of homework that just seemed to be growing at a disproportionate rate. Everyone was beginning to feel themselves break under the strain of the new workload.

Even Betty was struggling to keep up.

Sitting on her bed in the private rooms for the editor of the Blue and Gold, Betty tried to calm herself down and prepare for the day ahead. The room she was in was relatively dull with bare, dusty blue walls and a few pieces of furniture. A sizeable king-sized bed was in the centre of the far wall with two bedside tables on either side and a wardrobe on the right wall. It didn’t appear very homely, but Betty found it comforting. There was no division here, and no one else knew about this place, it was her sanctuary now, which she was now incredibly grateful for.

Yet, even the walls of her secret room couldn’t block out her thoughts. These were the ones causing her to lose sleep and causing her to find the start of her sixth year even harder than it needed to be. It also had led to her slipping into old habits. So, that was why she sat on her bed clutching onto the sea green blanket that was over her cream duvet. By doing this, she stopped herself from digging her nails into the thin skin of her palms while she fought back her torrent of emotions plaguing her. Her mind was a mess, and there was only one person that she could genuinely blame for her tormented soul. 

Jughead.

Piercing blue eyes invaded her thoughts and often when she glanced up from her work, she’d find them fixated on her. She had forgotten just how hard it was to be around Jughead for her and now she felt herself craving to look at him. Yet, every time she did so, it hurt her already broken heart. Therefore, she had been fighting the urge to talk to him.

All of a sudden, she was snapped out of her thoughts as something started tapping on her window. Turning her head, she noticed Karamel looking at her, holding the Daily Prophet in her beak as she had missed Betty at breakfast, due to the fact that Hufflepuff had eaten early and come upstairs again.

Standing up slowly, Betty made her way over to the window and allowed the owl to hop inside before she removed the newspaper from its beak. Stroking the feathers lightly with one hand, she unfolded the paper, only to be greeted by a letter from her mother. A soft sigh left her lips as she opened it carefully. Her hand shook slightly as she did so and she found herself fighting back fear as she began to read.

Elizabeth,

Your letter has had me pondering many different theories since I received it on Monday. I do realise that Forsythe, or Jug-head as he insists on being called, was once a friend of yours, but need I remind you that he broke your heart? You may have been able to look past this, but I cannot. He hurt you and I will not allow him to get away with that.

Besides, you know, as well as I, that he has a muggle criminal record for setting fire to the primary school that the two of you attended before Hogwarts. He has a past with crime, and his father runs a gang for Merlin’s sake! I am merely reporting what my readers wish to hear and until we find out who killed Jason Blossom, I shall continue to write about those who may have links.

Now, I want you to focus on your lessons and studies this year. I know that you’ll find the perfect soulmate as well, who will make our family incredibly proud, but no slacking, Elizabeth. I mean it. You can deal with the affairs of the heart after you have completed your studies. Now, I must remind you to take your calming draught and not to stay up too late.

Yours Sincerely

Alice Cooper.

Betty sighed at that. Her mother wrote more like a disappointed teacher than a caring parent, and she knew that it was her vendetta against the Jones Family which was driving her now. Betty also despised how her mother could chide her so much when she wasn’t even within a one-hundred-mile radius of her. She was, in fact, around five hundred and fifty miles from her in London, but nothing as trivial of distance would stop Alice Cooper.

With a heavy a sigh Betty set down the letter, deciding that she’d deal with it later. She took one last sweeping look around the room before quickly leaving.

The day from that moment onwards dragged on and on without any real purpose. Veronica sat with her during the classes that they shared, seeing as both were studying the Main Five, and she just tried to ignore both Archie and Jughead, though the latter respectfully kept his distance.

Everything was going fine, until potions.

Sitting in the back of the cramped dudgeon, Betty barely looked up from the notes that she was furiously turning into some semblance of an essay. All of the students sat in silence trying to write about calming draughts seeing as several second years had destroyed the store cupboard meaning that the essential ingredients were all lacking. Slughorn, therefore, decided that essay writing would help his sixth-year students.

Many of them were silently disagreeing, hating the tight, stuffy and dingy conditions of their classroom. Yet, all of them were listening to music as they wrote from their specially made iPods that the Ministry had issued to all Hogwarts students during their first year. They worked like any muggle iPod, but wouldn’t be affected by magic. Though, they had all determined that giving students fully functioning phones might not turn out well, so, for now, they were content with the music filling their ears.

The creaking of the heavy door broke all of the students from their lethargic writing as Professor McGonagall walked inside. No one moved as she walked over to Slughorn’s desk as everyone tuned into their conversation. “Any word from the ministry?” Her tone was frantic, and all of them could tell that she was terrified.

“No, Minerva. Nothing has been found yet. I fear for the worst.” Slughorn glanced down at his hands, which although they were folded in his lap, were shaking erratically. The sixth-years couldn’t see their teacher trembling in fear and distress, but they saw the pain in his eyes, sparking an onslaught of questions in their minds.

“We must not think like that, Horace!” McGonagall snapped at him, though all could tell that she was only acting out due to stress and her own personal distress. “However, Minister McCoy and Auror Keller want to speak to us both – now.”

Slughorn broke out of his lazy stupor and was up in an instance. “Right, I shall be out there in a moment, Minerva.” McGonagall nodded at that and left quickly in a flurry of emerald green, as the Potions master turned to look at his students. His eyes found that the beanie-clad boy at the back of the room was still working and he cleared his throat to gain his attention. Jughead’s head shot up as Slughorn addressed him. “Mr Jones, I shall be leaving you in charge of the class.”

“Right, Sir.” With a nod of his head to Jughead, Slughorn left the room as everyone turned to stare at Jughead in curiosity. “Don’t look at me, just do your essays.” He may not have been the most hardworking student, but he loathed the mere thought of letting Professor Slughorn down, so he carried on with his essay. The Serpents followed suit along with students like Betty and Veronica, who were on the opposite table, sharing headphones.

Reggie Mantle, on the other hand, had other ideas. “Shut up, Jones! Just because you’re the teacher’s pet, doesn’t mean that we need to listen to you.” His piggy little eyes bore into Jughead’s icy gaze before he moved to another target. They settled on a ponytail wearing blonde at the back. “Hey, Cooper! Stop writing, I need to talk to you.”

Sending Reggie a withering look, that could have rivalled one of Alice Cooper’s, Betty ignored him as she attempted to finish her essay. The other Gryffindor jocks, however, were having none of it and Chuck Clayton began yelling at her. “Oi, Cooper! Reggie is talking to you.”

Betty set down her eagle feather quill as she sighed and looked up at them all. Everyone turned to watch her as she straightened up a little and pulled out her earphone. “Oh, is he? I hadn’t noticed. After all, it’s not like he was yelling at me from across the classroom.” She paused dramatically and then gasped in fake surprise as she placed a hand over her heart as if she had just realised something. “Oh wait, he was. So, take a hint, Reginald, I don’t care. Nothing you could say, could interest me in the slightest, so can I get back to writing my essay?”

Veronica smirked at Betty’s reaction as the entire class stared at the Hufflepuff in shock. Most just sat there in silence until Reggie spoke up again. “Enough with the ‘I am strong and sassy’ bullshit, Cooper. All I need to ask is why are you ignoring your soulmate?”

Mutters and murmurs broke up after that left Reggie’s mouth as Betty’s face became masked in confusion. “I beg your pardon, but I wasn’t aware that I had found my soulmate.”

Archie scoffed at that causing an icy silence to descend over everyone as chocolate eyes met jade in a fixed glower. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that Archie had claimed that Betty was his soulmate, yet they knew Betty well enough to see that it wasn’t right. Not that he believed that.

Reggie was the one to break the silence as he turned away from his friend to glower at Betty as well. “Don’t deny the truth, Betty. You belong with, Andrews. After all, you are the perfect girl next door, and he is the boy next door.” Most people, Gryffindors, Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws, except Betty, Veronica and Kevin, nodded as something changed in Betty’s gaze. Jughead was the only one who noticed the subtle shift in Betty’s gaze and upon seeing it, he spoke up again.

“Mantle, could your ideas be anymore boring. No one wants the ‘perfect’ couple anymore. We’ve been there done that.” Jughead’s lazy drawl was followed by a few mumbled words of agreement and a few appreciative smiles from the three in the corner, but most rolled their eyes. Despite that, he continued. “Also, I think you’ll find that Archie tried to see if he was Betty’s soulmate and well you can check for yourself if they marked.” His tone was indicative of the absence of any form of soulmark on either’s wrist. The two Gryffindors beside Archie moved to glance down at his left wrist, which was completely bare. Betty’s wrist was also void of any soulmark, but hers was still bruised.

 “Stop acting like you two have bonded, Jones. And, although you may not want a perfect couple doesn’t mean that Betty wants the same as you, Jones. Anyway, how would you know? You’ve barely spoken to her for months.” Archie snapped in an attempt to gain the upper hand against Jughead.

A single scoff from Veronica, however, brought the attention away from the away from the two boys as she chose to let opinions known. “Oh Archie, you may be like that, but don’t assume that you know Betty’s heart. Besides, you have no right to act all high and mighty about it, your lies broke many hearts.” The arguing back and forth caused Betty to dig her nails into her palms while everyone glowered at one another. The sting left behind caused her mind to clear as she continued to watch them all around her.

While Betty was trying to distract herself, Archie blanched before gulping as he noted Betty’s stony gaze, which was still glazed over. “Betty, you don’t believe that, do you?”

Despite the imploring chocolate stare, Betty felt her heart turn cold towards him. “I don’t know what to believe anymore. Too many have lied to me for me to honestly say that I know.”

Jughead and Archie both looked down at that; both ashamed of what they had done and the lies that they had told. Serpents glanced over at Jughead’s pitiful gaze as he refused to look at Betty again. Though as always, Archie chose to steal the limelight. “ Betty, you know that I haven’t hurt you as much as Jones. I would never hurt you like he has.”

The beanie-clad boy didn’t even get the chance to argue before Betty was utterly consumed by rage at Archie. Unleashing it all, Betty began to rant at him as everyone sat there, watching her in shock. “Enough Archie! You know that you have no right to say that. You abandoned me in the Forbidden Forest because you said that I needed to learn to ‘face my fears.’ You told my mother that I failed one exam as a joke, when you know that she doesn’t accept anything other than perfection. You’ve left me when I’ve needed you the most, and you left me because some girl showed some interest in you for a moment. In fact, you've spent months ignoring me, especially during this summer.”

She paused for a moment to catch her breath before carrying on. “Then you tell us that I am your ‘perfect’ soulmate, even after you didn’t speak to me for months on end. And, I know that you didn’t exactly say my name, but you made your meaning very clear. You confused us all, and in all honesty, you’ve got it all very wrong.”

Betty paused once more, turning to look at Jughead for the briefest of moments before she continued talking. “Yet, the worst must be your lies to Jughead and me last year. You caused a rift between two best friends for your own selfish gain and frankly, Archie, I don’t want to have to deal with that anymore. And besides, I prefer not having bruised wrists.” She rose as she said that, stuffing her essay into her bag along with her textbook and quill as the bell rang.

Most of the students jumped in shock as Betty quickly left the room; she was no longer able to bare being in there. Without looking back, she quickly crossed to the spiral staircase leading to the viaduct entrance hall, where she was met with three paths. She could go up the next set of stairs; across the viaduct itself, or go through the passageway on the other side.

Almost instinctively, she took the viaduct route, and she walked briskly to double doors before exiting quickly. Immediately, she felt her constricted throat relax as she gulped the fresh air before she made her way towards the entrance courtyard.  A bitter chill filled her, but she ignored it, assuming that it was merely a gust of wind, even though, for once, there was none.

As she walked away, many other students still felt their own rage bubbling inside of them, and it was threatening to explode.

In the ghoulish green glow of the Slytherin common room, the young Serpent Prince paced up and down in front of the fireplace. His four closest friends watched on as his anger only festered further inside of him. They stayed silent, clinging to the arms of the green leather sofas. They all watched with baited breath when Jughead finally spoke up.

“This is all fucked up. When I chose to believe Andrews, I honestly thought that he’d be the better person for Betty. He’d be the lesser of two evils and certainly better than I would be for her, but yet again, he proves me wrong. Fuck!” The others knew that he was merely voicing his thoughts, but still, they had questions, though chose not to ask them as he carried on. “I left her with a monster. I left her with someone who’ll never truly love her. Fuck!”

Shooting to her feet, Toni moved to rest a hand on his shoulder causing him to glance down at the slight pink haired girl. “Calm down, Jug. Hindsight is valuable, but it is also a cruel bitch. You thought that you were protecting Betty and trust me, she won’t hate you for it. She might be annoyed, but she’ll understand your reasoning.” She paused as Jughead sighed, before carrying on trying to reason with him. “As for Andrews? He was your best friend and still to this day, you believe him because you’ve known him since you were a baby. You may hate to admit it to yourself, but you have just as much history with him as you do with Betty.”

Jughead loathed to admit that she was right, but he eventually conceded her point. “I know, Toni, but still it hurts. I still let her get hurt, and that is the worst part.”

The others watched amazed as their usually confident leader shattered before them. It had been many months since they’d seen Jughead’s mask break, and it still chilled them to the bone when they saw it. They saw the boy that had lost everything: he’d lost his mother; his sister; his father; his oldest friends; and most importantly, he’d lost Betty. For the first time, they realised just how critical she was to him.

“Jug, look at me.” Toni murmured, her almond eyes seeking his icy gaze. Eventually, he met her eyes as she waited patiently for him. “You have not lost Betty, and you won’t lose her. She isn’t missing like Jason Blossom is, and no one would harm her intentionally. She also doesn’t hate you like some of those muggle girls that you fooled around with during summer. And, crucially, she hasn’t found her soulmate yet. You have time to make things better.”

Jughead looked away from Toni as the others rose to stand around him. Sweet Pea placed a hand on his other shoulder, causing him to turn and look up at the tallest member of the gang, who was staring at him with a sympathetic gaze. “Betty still cares, Jug. She just defended you, and yes, she’s hurting because of your actions, but you haven’t hurt her like Andrews did. You also have been trying to mend everything, which she’ll understand and will welcome. Also, when have you ever physically harmed her?”

Images of Betty’s bruised left wrist invaded all of their minds as they all recalled what Betty had said in passing about the incident. The Serpents had all grown to respect her due to Jughead’s love for her, but at the same time, they were all envious of his devotion. They’d never receive that, but none of them wished to see her hurt.

“Andrews fucked up really badly in her eyes, Jug, and you just need to build up your friendship with Betty again.” Fangs rounded off as Jughead finally listened to his friends.

“Okay, okay, right, I understand.” He murmured after a moment or two as Toni beamed up at him.

“Good.” Joaquin brought their attention to himself as he asked: “Now what are we going to do about the Gryffindor gits?” With that, the five Serpents began to put their heads together as they started to formulate a plan.

Meanwhile, by the Black Lake, Betty stared at the dark depths where Jason Blossom had ‘drowned’. She’d always found solace here, and her friends knew that it was no surprise that Veronica soon arrived. In her school bag was food for Betty, who she knew would be skipping the feast again. She always did that when she was upset, and Veronica often worried about her as she knew that Alice Cooper’s expectations were often detrimental to Betty’s health.

“You can’t stay here forever, B. Someday you’ll have to return to the land of the living, but in case you do try, I come baring sustenance.” Betty’s head snapped to the side as Veronica neared her. She smiled sadly as the raven-haired girl sat down beside her and opened her mouth to speak, but Veronica cut her off before the first word could leave her lips. “Eat first, then talk.”

Accepting the food, Betty started to eat as Veronica observed her. There had been a couple of times where Veronica had missed the signs that Betty wasn’t looking after herself and she was determined never to allow that to happen again. It was also an unspoken rule that if one of them were distraught, then the other would give some time to cool off before bringing food and then and only then would they discuss what had happened.

By the time that Betty had finished the sandwiches that Veronica had brought, the cold sun had begun to dip behind the mountains surrounding the school. It bathed the West side of Hogwarts in a sanguine glow as Veronica finally spoke up again. “So, B, I know that you probably don’t want to talk about this, but what are you going to do now?”

A sigh left Betty’s lips as she glanced back at her best friend. “I don’t have a clue, V. I know that I need to talk to both of the boys, but right now, I don’t even want to be near Archie, let alone talk to him. As for Juggie, I’m utterly clueless on how to act around him. Part of me wants to yell, and part of me wants to just hold him tight and never let go. I honestly don’t know what I’m supposed to do.”

The unknown: Betty’s biggest fear – with the expectation of falling in love. Not knowing something would tear her apart and Veronica would do anything in her power to stop that from happening. “Hey, hey, B, we’ll figure this out, I promise you. We’ll do this, together.” She insisted as she gently ran her hand over Betty’s forearm.

Betty sighed again as something came towards them, not quite visible just yet, below the glassy surface of the lake. For a time, they just sat there, blissfully unaware of what they were about to find.

Yet, not too far away from them, at the edge of the Forbidden Forest, Archie Andrews and Sweet Pea were duelling. The latter had been caught unaware by the Gryffindor boy, and a single action of the redhead had turned an argument into this duel.

“Stupefy!” A flash of red narrowly missed Archie as he glowered at his opponent with his eyes burning with hatred.

“Locomotor mortis!” Archie cried as Sweet Pea just managed to avoid the spell, which hit a tree directly behind where he’d been standing. Without hesitation, Archie yelled: “Sectumsempra!” It was one of the cruellest spells that could be used in a duel, and Sweet Pea was so horrified that Archie would conjure a dark curse, he just froze as it sped towards him. His eyes closed as it neared him and he waited for the burning pain.

But it never came.

His eyes snapped open to see Toni’s shield charm as the other Serpents rushed to his side, but following them were several of Archie’s fellow Gryffindors. Facing off, the rival groups of students sent spells flying at one another without remorse. Reds and golds, greens and blues, silvers and purples went speeding through the air at their opponents while shield spells were cast in response.

Fury masked all their faces as they duelled. Some spells rebounded off of the trees behind them; others hit their intended targets, stunning them or stopping them in their tracks until one of their friends cast the counter curse. A relentless onslaught of the reasonably evenly matched wizards and witch meant that neither side could make a decisive gain.

It was practically a duel of attrition.

Back and forth spells went flying until the air was thick with: ‘expelliarmus,’ and ‘petrificus totalus.’ Over and over again, ‘locomotor mortis,’ and ‘stupefy’ were cried out and directed at a rival, who had to make a split second decision to either block the spell or duck for safety.

Almost nothing would stop them.

Almost.

All of a sudden, something caught their eyes causing them to all lower their wands slowly as it neared them. They were transfixed as they stared at the shape; a blinding silver form came rushing towards them. For a moment, no one knew what it was until Jughead muttered: “It’s a Patronus.” He spoke quietly, but the silence around them meant that it echoed all around causing them all to stare at him.

None of them recognised it – a giant owl. They stood there in confusion until it spoke, revealing the person who had cast it. “Juggie, come to the Black Lake, immediately! Jason’s body! Send help!” Betty’s voice rang out in fear and shook as she spoke alerting them all to the fact that she was trying not to cry. As soon as the message was over, the form disappeared into a silver mist, and then Jughead acted.

“Expecto patronum!” His voice shook slightly as he conjured up memories of Betty’s kiss. A mere moment later, the form of a lynx burst forth causing Jughead to let out a small sigh before speaking to it. “Find Professor McGonagall and inform her that Jason Blossom’s body has been found by the Black Lake.”

The moment the Patronus left, Jughead turned away from all of them and started to run towards the Black Lake. The two groups watched him go silently before quickly taking off after him. It was clear that he needed to find Betty... and Veronica before the teachers arrived to see Jason’s body.

Reaching Betty, Jughead gently placed a hand on her right shoulder, alerting her to his presence as he kept in mind to avoid her left wrist. He didn’t want to risk more heartbreak by allowing their souls to meet. If their left wrists did touch, then everything would change, and right now, neither of them needed that.

“Betts, look at me, please.” Glassy green eyes met icy blue as she turned to look up at him. The tears that she’d been holding back suddenly came forth and cascaded over her cheeks as she moved to cry on Jughead’s right side. He wrapped his right arm around her waist before placing the left behind her head as she cried into him. Then, as she moved, he caught a glimpse of the body, and upon seeing it, he understood why Betty had reacted so violently.

Jason’s corpse lay on the bank dressed in the white outfit that he’d worn on the day he’d disappeared. However, it was no longer pristine and was now crimson with his blood. His entire body was soaked in his rich red blood, and his eyes were wide open in fear. It was clear that he had been tortured using both ‘sectumsempra’ and the cruciatus curse, which was an unforgivable curse. Then, he must have finally received that bitter mercy of the killing curse, which would have instantly ended his misery.

‘By morning, everyone would be talking, owling and sending messages. We’d all be feeling it: that the world around had changed, maybe forever. That our community wasn’t the same as before. That it was a community of shadows and secrets. On Monday the autopsy on Jason’s body would take place. And on the next Tuesday, halfway through the fifth period, the first arrest would be made.’

Chapter Text

Chapter 5 – Losing Your Memory

 

'The damage is done

The police are coming too slow now

I would have died

I would have loved you all my life.'

                                                                                                     

‘I think many of us, maybe even the entire community, had been hoping against hope that somehow Jason Blossom hadn’t drowned on July Fourth. That we’d be in Hogwarts on Saturday morning and there Jason would be. Or that we’d see him and Cheryl at a booth in Pop’s. But that was before the undeniable, irrevocable fact of his bloated, waterlogged body. A corpse with all the signs of magical torture inflicted upon it and terrible secrets that could only be revealed by the cold, steel blade of coroner’s autopsy scalpel, or the tell-tale beating of a guilty heart.’

By the time that the teachers arrived on the scene, Betty could cry no more, but she still hadn’t let go of Jughead yet. They avoided each other’s left arms still, yet the closeness, which had been prevented for so long, now filled them both with a sense of hope as well as the comfort that they craved. Though, their silent bubble of peace was shattered as soon as all the other students and teachers came rushing from the Great Hall towards the Black Lake.

“By Merlin!” Many cried out at the sight of Jason’s body.

“No, no, no!” More wailed as some sunk to their knees.

“Poor Jason!” Several mumbled, but no one’s reaction was as heartbreaking as Cheryl’s, whose red lips quivered as she rushed to Jason’s side.

“Jason! Jay-Jay! No! You were meant to come back! You weren’t meant to leave me! Come back! Jay-Jay!” She sobbed erratically as Professor Slughorn moved over to her and gently held onto her as she cried. Everyone watched in fear as the strongest person in the school break down completely. Despair filled everyone as Cheryl’s tears cascaded down her cheeks and her whole body shook with pain.

“Mr Jones? Miss Cooper?” Professor McGonagall called out to them quietly causing both to turn around to face her as she stared at them carefully. “Can you two please return to the castle with Professor Castleroy?” The Head of Hufflepuff and the Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher stepped forward, his grey-green eyes fixated on the pair, noting just how close the pair stood together. He ran his hands through the masses of dark curls of hair as he, like everyone else, realised that maybe there was hope for the two.

“Come on, then.” The two students followed their other professor towards the sanctity of the castle. Walking in step with one another, Jughead and Betty looked like they had done before the argument. Eyes, mainly from those standing at the back of the crowd, lingered on them as they made their way back inside until their retreating forms vanished from view.

As soon as they entered the Entrance Hall, Castleroy turned around to look at them, his eyes scanning both of their faces as they both stared at him in confusion. There usually smiling professor was staring at them with an expression of agony. “Right, both of you need to tell me what happened tonight, and then, Mr Jones, I need you to escort Miss Cooper to the Hospital Wing to have a Calming Draught. Then I suggest the two of you get some rest, but first, I need to know what happened.”

Jughead nodded at that and Betty sighed before chewing on her bottom lip, and then in a small voice, she spoke up. “Well, Professor Castleroy, there was a disagreement between our potions class about our soulmates, which affected me greatly, so I decided to head to the Black Lake after class. About half an hour later, Veronica Lodge came to find me, and we stayed by the lake for awhile, about an hour or two. I’m not too sure about that.” She paused, gulping and then glanced over at Jughead, who gave her a reassuring nod. At that, Betty swallowed her fear and her pain before carrying on. “Erm, all of a sudden, there was a disturbance in the water. The two of us got up and moved back from the lake’s edge. It was as if the lake was trying to get rid of something and slowly, Jason’s body was washed ashore.”

Her eyes moved back to Jughead, as she then carried on. “For a moment neither of us knew what to do, and Veronica started crying. It took awhile but I conjured my Patronus, and I sent for Jughead because he’d be able to get back to everyone. I also knew that he’d come here as soon as he had sent his own Patronus to Professor McGonagall, then he’d come to find me.” Jughead’s eyes widened again as he stared at the girl beside him.

“Thank you, Miss Cooper and now, Mr Jones, I need to know what was happening with you before you came to Miss Cooper. I do believe that there was a duel between Mr O’Hare and Mr Andrews, did you have anything to do with that?” Jughead gulped at that and avoided Betty’s gaze before he looked over at Castleroy, who was waiting somewhat impatiently.

“I was involved with the duel, Sir, due to the laws I live by. ‘No Serpent stands alone’, and Archie Andrews was duelling with Sweet Pea while his friends rushed to hurt mine. Betty’s Patronus broke it up before anyone got too badly hurt.” Jughead informed Castleroy and Betty stared at him in surprise as the teacher tried to think of a response to Jughead.

“Why didn’t you get a teacher, Mr Jones? Why did you continue to duel?” Castleroy questioned, not understanding the Serpent Prince’s actions.

“Because I live by a law that dictates that I must not show cowardice and that no Serpent should ever stand alone. As the Serpent Prince and the leader of the Junior Serpents, I cannot forsake my laws and I will not forsake them for anyone.” There was a prideful note in his tone, and he had straightened up as he looked down slightly at Castleroy, who was four inches shorter than him. Castleroy shrunk back as Jughead spoke, finally understanding the fierce sense of duty that Jughead had to his gang.

“Very well, Mr Jones. At least you stuck to your values.” Castleroy’s tone shook slightly as he spoke. However, after he cleared his throat, he spoke more confidently, but mainly addressed Betty. “Anyway, I must leave you two and assist Professor McGonagall, and I do believe that Madam Pomfrey will want to see you both. Now, can I trust that you two will go and see her?”

“Yes, Sir,” Betty replied before Castleroy nodded and walked off while the two sixteen-year-olds watched him leave. When he had vanished, Betty turned to look at Jughead, who eventually looked down at her. “You don’t need to escort me to the hospital wing if you don’t want to do so. I understand if you don’t and I can tell Castleroy that you did go with me.”

Jughead stared at Betty, mulling over everything she’d just said before he turned it around on her. “Do you want me to leave now?”

“No!” She blushed at how quickly she responded and how loudly she spoke as Jughead’s lips quirked into a smirk. Her blush only worsened at that, but she continued to speak. “No, it wasn’t like that. I didn’t mean it like that. I just wasn’t too sure if you wanted to come along with me. I presumed that you’d want to get back to the Serpents.”

Jughead’s gaze softened as he looked at Betty and heard how she trailed off, her voice turning into a diffident whisper. He moved forward so that their bodies almost touched as he murmured his response. “Betts, I want to go with you.” Their eyes met as she dug her teeth into her bottom lip, which Jughead recognised as one of her most regular nervous habits. “Besides, I want to talk to you.”

A shiver went down Betty’s spine at Jughead’s low tone and the rough, raw need in his eyes. He didn’t just want to talk; he needed to. Gulping, she nodded, not truly knowing how to respond to him. Yet again, the smirk graced Jughead’s lips again as he slowly began to guide Betty towards the Grand Staircase. “So, what do you want to talk about?”

“You, firstly.” His usually snarky tone, which he’d used with Castleroy, had vanished by now, and yet, the roughness of his voice caused Betty to feel something stirring inside of her. Not that she knew what it was.

“Me? What about me?” Green eyes searched blue as they began to ascend the staircase.

“Well, foremost, I want to know if you’re okay. Not just with everything that has just happened, but with me as well.” Jughead felt his heart stop as Betty halted on the stair above him before she turned around to look at him.“For starters, we didn’t talk for eight months, though admittedly that was because we were both lied to by Archie the Ginger Judas. But, also, I want to know how you feel about me being a Serpent and leading the Junior Serpents.” He’d stopped when she had, one stair below her, so there was no need for Betty to look up to meet his eyes. For a moment, they stared in silence before Betty tightened her ponytail and spoke up.

“I’m upset about the argument, Juggie, but I’m getting over it. Besides, Archie hurt me more than you ever did and probably more than you’ll ever hurt me. As for the Serpents, I know that you’re happy and that you’ll be safe because you all protect one another.” Betty spoke both lightly and softly as her gaze mellowed. “You are who you are, Jughead, and a leather jacket or being in a gang - or even leading said gang - doesn’t change that.”

He was stunned into silence as he looked at Betty in shook and surprise before a gentle smile that for once wasn’t forced or faked graced his lips. His eyes were fixated on hers as he asked in a quiet voice: “Do you mean that?”

“Of course I do. I know you, remember?” Betty returned the smile as she moved to brush aside a single black eyelash that had fallen onto his cheekbone. Her gentle touch, although featherlike, sent shock waves through Jughead’s entire body and he leaned ever so slightly into her touch as a soft smile in return graced her lips.

“Yeah, I do remember that, Betts.” She nodded at that as she moved her hands from his cheek to tuck one extra flyaway piece of hair under his beanie. The subtle, tender movement wasn’t lost on Jughead, who felt himself thinking back to years gone by.

“Good.” For a moment, she just kept her fingers trailing over the skin by his temple. “Should we go to the hospital wing?” He nodded at that as she moved back slightly so that they could walk side by side.

Having three more staircases to travel up, as well as several corridors to walk down, they had plenty of time to talk before they’d arrive. “So, can I know why you sent a Patronus to me instead of, erm, I don’t know, maybe Kevin?”

Betty glanced over at him, she sighed quietly before tightening her ponytail. “Whenever I’ve been in danger or in trouble, you’ve always been the one who helped me the most.” Jughead turned to look at her as she looked away from him. “When we stopped talking, I lost that control. I was unmoored, and although Veronica tried to help, she wasn’t like you. She didn’t understand me as you did and when I saw Jason’s body, I reacted on instinct. Through everything and despite it all, when I saw that body, you were the only person I needed to be there with me.”

Jughead felt his heart swell at that as he smiled shyly at Betty’s words, not that she saw it because she wasn’t looking at him. “You’ve always been the person that I came to during my hellish times, and you’ve saved me from all the evils that I faced growing up.” Betty turned to look at Jughead again. “So, thank you for trusting me enough to tell me when something caused you that much fear.”

The young woman angled her body slightly as she unconsciously ran her hand over her left wrist. “We may not have spoken for months, Jughead, but you have been trying to reconnect with me as well as the fact that I have realised that you never have broken a promise to me.” The look that Betty received as she met Jughead’s gaze caused her heart to skip a beat.

“I don’t think that I’d ever intentionally break a promise to you, Betts.” She nodded as they carried on walking towards their destination. For the rest of their journey, they walked in a comfortable silence. They were close enough to have easily been able to hold hands, but the force between them prevented them from doing so.

As soon as they entered the small school infirmary, Jughead and Betty were met with the sight of rows upon rows of beds, which were completely empty. Yet, busy at the end of the room was Madam Pomfrey, who turned around to see the two students walking into the room. Her eyebrows shot up as she looked at the two of them. “Ahh, Miss Cooper, Mr Jones, can you come over here please?”

Knowing not to disagree, Betty and Jughead moved over to the matron, who indicated for them both to sit on the bed beside her. Both did as instructed and she busied herself with fetching the two potions that she needed to give to Betty. Madam Pomfrey knew that Jughead would not take any tonic for his nerves or for sleep, but he would ensure that Betty took hers. The older woman knew that for sure, and she decided that the only way that she’d manage to get Betty to take the liquids would be by giving them to Jughead.

Walking back into the main room, Madam Pomfrey registered the slight awkwardness in their seated positions. They were so close and yet, so far from genuinely comfortable. “Mr Jones, I would like you to ensure that Miss Cooper takes both of these before she falls asleep. Can you do that for me?”

Betty rolled her eyes at that while Jughead looked back at Madam Pomfrey. “I will do, Madam. I assume that you're not going to give me anything either, are you?” She shook her head at him as he glanced over at Betty, who was staring at the two phials in Madam Pomfrey’s hands.

“No, you will not be having any tonics, Mr Jones. Anyway, Miss Cooper, there is a calming draught and a sleeping solution. It will give you either dreamless sleep or one of your most peaceful or happiest memories, so you’ll sleep well tonight.” Betty stared at her in surprise and the desire to finally get some sleep.

“Thank you.” Madam Pomfrey nodded at that before handing the phials to Jughead as the two students stood up and her eyes flickered down to their left wrists, both tantalising bare of soulmarks. She sighed as she then bid them goodnight.

As soon as they left, Jughead turned to Betty again. “Are you actually going to take them?” She paused for a moment before continuing to walk with Jughead trailing behind her.

“Yes. I need some sleep for once.” Jughead’s eyebrows raised in surprise as he caught up with Betty, who then confessed: “I haven’t slept well in months. I just want to get a decent night’s sleep for once. I want a night without restless dreams.” Jughead nodded at that as he understood Betty’s plight all too well. The dark circles under his eyes were not a fashion statement, but a permanent reminder that he wasn’t sleeping well either.

“I understand that Betts, I do, so let’s get you back to the Hufflepuff dorms.” Betty froze and then wheeled around to look at Jughead.

“I don’t sleep in the Hufflepuff dorms. I haven’t since the third year. I was sick of all the girls commenting when I got a nightmare. I know that most of the time they're lovely, but sometimes they would make comments that just drove me insane.” Betty didn’t understand why but telling Jughead the secret that she’d kept for years felt as if she was lifting the weight of the worlds off her shoulders.

“Well, where are you sleeping?” Betty didn’t answer and merely led Jughead away from the fourth floor and towards the first floor. They passed countless portraits and ghosts, who all watched in interest as they all knew what had happened. Yet, as they watched, they all wondered when the two would finally try to find out whether or not they were soulmates. None of them commented on it though as they watched the pair walk through the winding staircases and the seemingly never-ending corridors.

However, until they rounded the final corner, Jughead had had no idea where they were headed to. Then, he recognised the familiar single door on the far left-hand side of the corridor. “The Blue and Gold?” He asked as she opened the door and led him inside. It had been eight months since Jughead had set foot in here, but it had changed very little since the last time he was here.

The bookshelves were still lined with both files and archives of the Blue and Gold. As well as that, there were multiple books on the shelves that had to belong to Betty, and there were also photographs that had to belong to her as well. There were pictures of Kevin, Veronica and Betty with no mention of either Jughead or Archie, though Jughead understood why.

Despite the urge to look around, Jughead followed Betty towards a door that he’d always assumed was a store cupboard.  Stepping through the door, Jughead felt as though he’d been transported to some other world and time. Looking around the room, he saw the small armchairs and the coffee table by the fireplace with more pictures surrounding it. The walls were cream while the furniture was decorated with pale blue and gold.

Yet again, Jughead did not have time to look around as he was yet again led into another door, to Betty’s room. “This is where I have been staying.” Betty murmured as she turned to look at Jughead, who stared at her in disbelief as he stared at her. His eyes searched the room before he shifted his gaze back to Betty, who was waiting for him to speak.

“Does anyone else know about this place?” There was no doubt that Jughead craved to hear that he was the only person that Betty had brought to this room. A small smile flickered at Betty’s lips as he asked that.

“Only you, Juggie.” He nodded and then set down the two phials on her bedside table. Jughead didn’t know now what to do with himself and Betty could see his awkwardness. “Erm, do you mind if I get changed for bed?”

“Sure.” With that, Betty grabbed the pyjamas under her pillow and then disappeared into the ensuite as Jughead looked around. His eyes fell upon the open photo album, which was turned to one of Jughead’s favourite pictures of Betty. He’d taken it at the Christmas party over a year before their fated kiss. Betty was dressed in a pure white dress with a lace bodice. She’d looked like an angel and Jughead had fallen in love with her image that day. Yet, he had preferred that he’d caught Betty off guard for once. She was looking out over the front garden of the Jones Manor, smiling serenely.

‘They say that true beauty is reflected in a woman’s soul, and by Merlin, Betts, your soul is beyond compare.’

“That’s my favourite of the captions you wrote,” Betty informed him as he turned around to see her walking out of the bathroom. Her blonde curls fell to her shoulders, finally free from the tight ponytail that she always wore.

“I was merely telling the truth and to be one hundred percent honest, you and your soul has only become more captivating.” Betty blushed scarlet at Jughead’s words as he spoke without any doubt in his tone. As he spoke, his eyes also trailed over Betty as she stood before him, trying to string together a coherent sentence.

“Th-thank you, J-Juggie.” She stuttered eventually as his crystalline eyes continued to bore into her as she took one short step backwards. “Erm, I suppose that I should take the tonics, shouldn’t I?”

“That’s probably a good idea.” Betty nodded and began to turn towards the two phials. As she drank them, Jughead cleared his throat causing her to look back at him. “I should probably head back to the Slytherin dorm.” He moved to head to the door but cast one look at Betty, who shook her head at him causing him to halt in his tracks.

Despite her mind being foggy due to fast-acting potions, Betty still knew what she wanted. “Stay with me, please. At least until I fall asleep.” Jughead felt his heart tear. He didn’t know what to do. Earlier that week she’d told him that she needed time, but he didn’t want to deny her. “Don’t want to be alone tonight.”

That was all it took.

Jughead moved over to the other side of the bed as Betty slipped under the covers. After removing his jacket and shoes, Jughead moved to lie on top of the duvet in his shirt and jeans as Betty smiled. They lay facing each other with a gap in between them until they reached out for one another with their right hand. Their fingertips brushed as both of their eyes fluttered shut.

“Juggie?” A thirteen-year-old Betty asked as her best friend continued to pour over the book he was reading. “Jughead?” His head snapped up as he looked over at the girl lying on his bed in the Slytherin Dormitory. He set his book down as he leant against one of the posts of his bed.

“Yes, Betty?” He moved to meet her gaze as she smiled over at him from where she lay on the rather large bed in the Slytherin dorm. It was similar to hers: a thick, dark oak, four poster bed, but it had green and silver drapings as well as a green duvet and silver comforter. That was opposed to her yellow and black drapings and the yellow duvet cover with the black bedding in the Hufflepuff dormitories.

“Everyone in Transfiguration was talking about soulmates, and honestly, I still don’t understand any part of it.” Jughead moved off of the part of the bed where he was perched and moved to sit next to her before she rested her head on his lap. Tangling his fingers in Betty’s ponytail, he slowly released her hair from the tight bobble. The golden curls spilt out over his lap as a small smile flickered on Betty’s pale pink lips.

“Do you at least know what a soulmate is?” Jughead asked as he continued to play with her curls and look down at her as she mulled over his question.

With a shake of the head, she replied: “I know that our parents are soulmates, but I don’t know what it means.” Jughead nodded at that, having expected that answer. Alice Cooper wasn’t really one of the parents that would explain love and soulmates to her daughters. She’d most likely assume that they’d distract Betty... and Polly.

“It’s a, well, it’s like a best friend but more. It’s the one person in the world who knows you better than anyone else. It’s someone who makes you a better person. Actually, they don’t make you a better person, you do that yourself because they inspire you.” Jughead’s gaze shifted down to her eyes, which shone with understanding as he gently caressed her cheek. His soft fingers tracing over her skin as he carried on. “A soulmate is someone who you can carry with you forever. It’s the one person who knew you and accepted you and believed in you before anyone else did, or when no one else would. And no matter what happens you will always love them. Nothing can ever change that.”

Betty suddenly found herself being reminded of the fact that Jughead’s parents hadn’t been like that and she couldn’t stop herself from pointing out that fact, all be it subtly. “But some soulmates spilt up, Juggie.”

Catching Betty’s hidden meaning, Jughead sighed quietly, but he didn’t snap at her as he explained the bitter truth that he knew all too well. “Sometimes the system doesn’t work properly. With Mum and Mary Andrews, they do love our fathers, but they were destined to be with muggles although the system told them that they were meant to be with Dad or Fred.”

The reasoning that Jughead explained made sense to Betty, but she could help feel sorry for Jughead. He’d be through so much in his short life, and yet all she could manage to say was: “Oh, I didn’t realise that.”

“Well, sometimes love just isn’t enough. Soulmates are romanticised somewhat, and many can grow apart, but they often come back together.” He understood why it was difficult for Betty to fully comprehend and he certainly wouldn’t hold it against her. She hadn’t been through what he’d been through, but she was trying to understand.

“But how do you find out who your soulmate is?” Betty’s brow furrowed as she questioned him as if she was trying to predict his answer.

“When you enter the sixth year, the magic that surrounds the castle sort of meets your soul. Each person has a different experience, but there will be one other who had the same experience as you and that person is your soulmate. Though, to find out who they are, you need to touch their left hand with yours because that is the point at which the soul is strongest.”  Upon seeing Betty’s confused look, Jughead decided to elaborate. “The vein that goes between your ring finger and your heart has a weakness at the wrist and will allow the other soul to connect with yours. That’s only if they’re meant to be yours though.”

He trailed his fingers absentmindedly over the skin on Betty’s left wrist causing shockwaves to travel down her spine. She was silent for a moment before several questions came to mind. “Really? Is it different for everyone? And what about the little marks on their skin?”

“Calm down, Betts and one question at a time, please.”  Jughead chuckled at her eagerness to know more and simpered at Betty. “Anyway, that’s what happens. I presume that it is different for everyone and that we all have something unique to experience when it happens to us.”

“And the marks?” Betty’s eyes had grown wider with wonder. She’d seen her parents’ soulmarks, but she didn’t know much about them.

“The soulmarks?” The beanie-clad boy asked with a small, toothy grin.

“Yes, those, Juggie.” She beamed as she looked up at him. This was her favourite expression of Jughead’s, and she had the urge to one day capture it on his old camera. She reached up to trace it as Jughead took several deep breaths before answering.

“Well, they definitely are different for everyone. I mean my parents have a small snake as theirs; yours have a quill; Mr and Mrs Andrews have a broomstick. They just depend on the people involved and often, if one person seems to have a more turbulent soul, then the mark often mirrors that.” He wasn’t too sure about that, but the people he knew often favoured that pattern. His father was a Southside Serpent and had been all his life hence the snake. Alice was the driving force of the Coopers and her life revolved around writing. Fred Andrews was a fantastic Quidditch player meaning that the soulmark favoured his side.

Betty nodded in understanding before asking the one question that Jughead had been dreading, but he’d still answer truthfully. “Oh, right. Do you know who you want to have as your soulmate?”

“You.”

Shock and confusion masked Betty’s serene expression as she bolted up and turned to look at Jughead in surprise. “Me? Why me?”

“Because, Betts, you’re my best friend and you know me better than anyone else. You’re also stunningly beautiful and caring. You’d be perfect.” Betty’s expression grew sour, and she pursed her lips at that causing Jughead to quickly make amends and carry on talking. “I didn’t mean it in an Alice Cooper way, but you’d be perfect for me, and besides, you’re the only person that I can honestly see in my future.”

“I’d like that, Juggie. I’d like to be your soulmate.” Betty beamed at him as she moved to nestle into his side again, secretly thrilled at what he had just admitted.

Jughead’s heart was racing at that, and he wrapped his arm tightly around Betty as she spoke, pulling her even closer to him. “Then hopefully we will be.”

“What do you reckon our soulmark will be?” Her eyes met his as he gulped at that, but then something flashed into mind. Something that would be perfect for the two of them.

“A crown.”

“A crown?” Betty asked incredulously as she plucked his beanie off of his head and held it gently in her hands as his messy locks flew everywhere. “Like this one?”

“Yep.” He smirked and then his expression grew serious before he explained himself. “I’ve got a more turbulent side to me than you. Although you feel as though you have to fight everything inside of you because of everything your mum forces you to be like, you haven’t quite inherited the streak that I have. Plus, I’d be the King of your heart, and you’d be the Queen of mine.”

“I like the crown idea,” Betty confessed quietly, leaning into him again.

“Good, so do I.” Jughead leant his head against her as she let out a small yawn as he rubbed her shoulder lightly. When Betty yawned again, he asked: “Are you tired?”

“A bit.” She murmured sheepishly, not wanting to admit that she hadn’t slept properly for a few days. She also didn’t want to end her time with Jughead, but by the same token, she didn’t want to lie to him. Jughead could easily see Betty’s inner turmoil and sighed quietly before making up his own mind.

“Get some sleep, Betts. I’ll still be here when you wake up.” At that moment, he promised himself that one day he wouldn’t need to say it and that she’d know that he’d always be there when she woke up. Yet, for now, he was content with just saying it.

“Promise?” Betty’s voice was a mere shadow of a whisper, and yet Jughead could hear her fear. He had always been able to tell when she was afraid and he hated how in this case it was because of him, but he wasn’t about to leave her waiting for an answer.

“I promise.”

At that Betty slipped under his covers and he watched her before moving to pick up his discarded book. For a few minutes, he read silently as Betty attempted to fall asleep. Her back was to him, and she suddenly felt incredibly vulnerable. “Juggie?”

“Hmm, yes, Betts?” He glanced over at her as she twisted to look over at him. Blue eyes met green, and he immediately set his book down on his bedside table beside both of their wands. His beanie soon followed as she rolled over to look at him more easily.

“Will you hold me, please?” Her soft voice was haunting, and for the first time, Betty felt nervous asking Jughead to do this. They’d done this countless times, but right now, after discussing soulmates, she was almost too afraid that she’d be overstepping. Especially after Jughead’s own confession and how that had made her feel.

Yet, he only smiled kindly and moved to get under the covers next to her. Neither cared that they were still in uniform and that Jughead’s friends from Slytherin may find them. All they both needed at that moment was each other ... and sleep. “Of course.” He murmured into her neck as she rolled over and he looped his arms around her waist as he had done a thousand times before, whenever they’d had sleepovers with the others. He pulled Betty close to his chest as her hands moved to rest on his and both felt their eyes flicker shut as Jughead murmured: “I’ll always be here beside you when you wake up.”

Three years later, Betty did wake up again, in the early hours of the morning, to find that Jughead was laying beside her with her right hand gently clasped in his. Even in the disorientated dizziness of the aftereffects of the potions she’d taken, Betty couldn’t help but feel her heart hammer with joy. She’d asked Jughead to stay, and he had done that. Even after all this time and all of these arguments and broken promises, he had done as he had promised that night.

He’d stayed.

Chapter Text

Chapter 6 – Running Low

'And maybe I will never feel

You gave me something so real

I'm running low

I'm sorry, but I have to go.'

 

When Jughead awoke, he felt something weighing down on his right hand. Peeling his eyes open, Jughead looked over to see Betty asleep beside him. Her golden curls were spread out over her pillow while a small smile graced her lips. Betty looked like a sleeping angel, and Jughead suddenly realised that he was in too deep. He looked at her again and then it was confirmed in his mind.

He was in far too deep.

Yet, for once, he didn’t want to get out of this. However, he knew that for now, he’d have to do so. Betty needed to figure everything out and, right now, he had other issues that he had to deal with. One of them being Archie Andrews. He also had work to do for the Serpents and for himself, but in this one moment, he pushed that aside.

Trailing his eyes over Betty’s small body, Jughead could see how she had changed since the last time he was this close to her. She was thinner for starters. He was confident that she hadn’t been eating well and he presumed that it was either due to her mother or to her own anxieties and he knew that he needed to help her when she let him in.

Yet, that wasn’t the only part that had changed about her. Beneath her eyes were dark bags, no longer concealed by makeup. Her lips were chapped and her nails sharp. Jughead could feel the scars on the soft palms from where she had dug her fingers into the flesh. He knew that in the past Betty had done it and he felt his heart break when he realised that she hadn’t stopped either.

“Hmm, Juggie?” Betty slowly woke up and opened her eyes as he retracted his hand from hers and then she realised what was about to happen. “You can’t stay can you?”

“I’m sorry, Betts. I need to deal with everything before we can figure this out.” Betty nodded and moved away from him until he reached out to trail his fingers over her face. “Don’t skip any meals today, please- not because of me at least - and please cut your nails.” She blinked rapidly as he bent down and pressed a feather like kiss to her forehead.

“Do you need to go?” Her voice shook slightly as she spoke and Jughead couldn’t help but feel his heart shatter in two. The vulnerable gleam in her eyes and her trembling voice echoed in his mind as he moved from the bed.

“Yes, for now at least, Betts. I need to figure everything out, I need to work out what is going on in my life. I can’t, and I won’t, let you get caught up in it, I won't risk you being hurt. In a few days, or maybe a week, I’ll have figured it out. I’ll be here for you to decide what happens next, but for now… I have to go.” Jughead’s tone was soft and broken, but his stance was firm, he knew that she would only consume his mind.

Betty sat up and looked at him carefully, he fixed his beanie on his head, and he started moving closer to the door when Betty finally spoke up. “I understand, Jug.”

Jughead turned around and slowly straightened his crumpled clothes as he gave her a small, apologetic smile. Then, his smile fell, and he apologised. “I’m sorry, Betts. I really am.” He didn’t elaborate, but Betty didn’t mind as she knew that there was no particular thing he was apologising for. It only mattered that he was apologising to her.

“I know.” There was no bitterness in her voice, Jughead felt a twinge of hope at that. Though he knew that if he clung to that, he'd risk being hurt; or he could hurt her, which in his opinion was even worse.

“I should probably go.” He murmured as he turned towards the door.

“Right.” Betty had no idea how to respond. Still half asleep and still groggy from the potions she’d been taking, she couldn’t think straight. Now that he was leaving, Betty felt as if she should have said more, but she didn’t know what to say.

“Well, I’ll see you later.” Jughead sighed dejectedly and then turned to walk to the door again, but threw one last glance over his shoulder. That longing gaze did something to Betty, who moved from the bed and quickly made her way to the end of it.

“Jug, wait.” She called out in desperation, and he immediately spun around. They stared at each other captivated by the look in each other’s eyes. So many unspoken words attempted to fall from both their lips, yet neither knew how to express them.

“Yes, Betts?” Jughead murmured softly, taking a step towards her while never moving his eyes from hers. They stared at one another for a long moment before Betty spoke in a small voice.

“I’m sorry too, Jughead. I put you through so much as well.” There was a sense of relief that flooded Betty as she finally managed to apologise for her own actions. Though Jughead found himself shaking his head as he took another step towards her.

“I hurt you too, Betts and in all honesty, I probably deserved it.” It was Betty’s turn to shake her head, and Jughead’s eyes mellowed at the sight.

“You didn’t - you don’t deserve it.” Her lip quivered slightly as she silently chastised and berated herself all while staring at him.

“I do, but thanks for saying it.” Yet again, Jughead couldn’t shake his own self-loathing, and even though Betty had told him not to think like that, there was a voice in the back of his mind speaking even louder.

However, even that wasn’t as powerful as Jughead thought because the mere fact that Betty reached out to rest her hand on his cheek caused the voice to be silenced. She gently rubbed her thumb across his cheekbone as she shook her head at him. “Juggie, please don’t say that.”

A small sigh left his lips as he knew that in the end, he couldn’t deny her anything at all. Just before he promised not to, something came to the forefront of his mind that he was more concerned about and he quickly made his offer. “I won’t if you promise you’ll eat properly.”

“How do you know about that?” Betty asked frantically, about to retract her right hand when Jughead leant into it and she couldn’t bring herself to do so. Yet, her eyes implored him to divulge more, and he complied.

“I know you and your body better than you think.” He murmured as his eyes trailed over her figure as he watched the shockwaves travel through her. Then, when his eyes met hers again, he carried on. “But that’s beside the point, I just need to know if you’ll promise to eat.”

“I promise.” A ghost of a smile graced his lips at that and Betty returned it as he took a step back and then instantly found himself missing the feeling. Jughead sighed quietly again and then, with another shaky exhale agreed to the terms.

“Then I’ll try to hate myself less.” A nod from Betty was enough, and then he moved away, finally reaching the door. Though before he could walk through it, he turned to look at her again. “I’ll see you later, Betts.”

“See you soon, Juggie.” With that, Jughead vanished from her sight and Betty slumped to the floor as she let her emotions consume her. The swirling hurricane inside could not be contained, she knew that at some point it would cause her to explode. Though, somehow, she’d have to fight it.

...

By the time Monday rolled around, Betty hadn’t heard or seen Jughead since he’d left her room on Saturday morning. So now that they were in the same class, she sat sneaking glances at him as they read their Defence Against the Dark Arts textbook. Studying Patronses was one of the most challenging pieces of magic that they’d ever do, but both Betty and Jughead had mastered it in the fourth year.

“Right, everyone, I want you all to finish what you’re reading and help push the desks and chairs to the sides. When that’s done, gather in a circle.” Every student rose to their feet and did just that so that a few moments later there was a significant area in the centre of the room for them all to stand in.

“Gather round, gather round,” Castleroy instructed and without much hesitation or grumbling, the students complied. Once he was satisfied with them all, he clasped his hands together and looked at them all. “I know that this homework was not easy, and this whole branch of magic is difficult, but I want to see how many of you can produce some semblance of a Patronus. I am not expecting any corporeal Patronuses though so you can relax when it comes to that.”

From then on he started going around the group and watched as every student failed miserably to produce any form. Some of them managed some silver mist, but even if they didn’t get even that, he smiled and moved onto the next person. In fact, it wasn’t until he reached Betty that his smile faded and he grew more serious. Expectation filled his gaze as he as he said: “Your turn, Miss Cooper.”

Betty took a deep breath before picturing her happiest memory: meeting Jughead when she was four years old. A surge of power flooded her as her eyes flew open. “Expecto Patronum!” Her voice reverberated around the room as an owl soared from the tip of the wand in her hand. Eyes widened in shock as the bird flew around the room. It circled around the group leisurely before seemingly recognising someone in the room. To everyone’s surprise, even Betty’s, the owl soon perched on Jughead’s shoulder before Betty quickly cut off the spell.

“Very well done, Miss Cooper.” Castleroy beamed with pride at her before he carried on accessing the students. None of them, not even the most accomplished wizards and witches of their age could perform the charm efficiently.

Not until Jughead had a go at least.

“Mr Jones, could you have a go now?” Castleroy eyed the boy uneasily as Jughead shrugged and then took a step forward just liked everyone else had done.

“Expecto Patronum!” All he thought about was Betty’s soft ‘stay’ as he conjured up his own Patronus. The silver mist dissolved to produce a lynx, which prowled around the circle, glowering at the Gryffindors; bowing its head respectfully at Slytherins; looking indifferent at Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws. Until it reached Betty, it looked terrifying, and many backed up, yet as soon as it neared her, its expression changed. The lynx mellowed immediately and purred at her as it moved to nudge her hand.

Everyone watched transfixed as a small content smile slipped onto Castleroy’s lips as Jughead finally cut the spell. As soon as he did, Betty’s eyes met Jughead’s while a silent battle waged inside of both of them.  Neither knew what all this meant, and neither knew how to react.

“Thank you, Mr Jones. Now, I’m afraid that all of you, except Mr Jones and Miss Cooper, will have to practice the charm again before the next lesson.” Castleroy informed them all of them causing everyone to groan as they all moved to their bags as the bell went for lunch.

Everyone rushed out, and Betty found herself fighting to reach Jughead. “Juggie! Jug! Jughead! Jughead Jones!” He didn’t seem to hear her, and when everyone parted for her to reach him, he didn’t seem to be paying attention to her. The Serpents stared at him in shock as Betty huffed in annoyance as she realised that Jughead probably wouldn’t listen to her if she used his preferred nickname. Giving up, she called out: “Forsythe Pendleton Jones the III!”

At that, Jughead finally turned around to look at Betty in exasperation while their eyes met. The two of them stared at one another while everyone in the hallway watched the pair. “Yes, Elizabeth?”

“I need you to talk to you, could you please not ignore me?” Betty was staring at him in confusion, and Jughead knew that she just wanted answers about everything that had just transpired. However, he did not have the answers right now.

“I can’t talk now, Betts, so maybe later?” With that and without waiting for an answer, he swiftly turned on his heel, only to collide with an incredibly angry redheaded witch. There was no mistaking that whatever she was holding in her hands had not pleased her.

“Out of my way, Snake!” Cheryl Blossom commanded shoving Jughead into Toni and Sweet Pea as she charged through the crowd of sixth years, holding the copy of the Daily Prophet, which had been printed late for once. Betty and the rest of her year gasped as they saw that Jason’s autopsy had been published for all the world to see. “Explain, Cooper!”

The hiss permeated the corridor as Cheryl moved closer to Betty. “You think I had something to do with this? Really Cheryl, how stupid can you get? I have absolutely nothing to do with this! I cannot control my mother!”

Everyone turned to look at Betty incredulously, it was the first time she’d fought back when Cheryl had accused her of something. Green eyes glowed with burning fire that only a few people had ever seen in Betty’s gaze as she straightened up. The two girls faced off one another as they stood at either end of the small crowd gathering.

They glowered at one another as they both straightened up. Betty Cooper, the perfect girl next door, seemed to have vanished and was instead replaced with someone to be feared and someone who was not to be crossed. Gone was Betty’s usual soft expression and many backed up as those piercing eyes darkened to a deep shade of emerald. They glistened with anger, and Betty looked absolutely furious with her adversary. Many students watched her as she seethed with rage, though the others stared at Cheryl, who was also radiating fury.

Cheryl Blossom was undoubtedly a storm of chaos, yet there was a flash of fear in her vibrant brown eyes. She stood with her hands on her hips, her long red waves fell effortlessly as she shook with apoplectic rage. At that moment, Cheryl was the epitome of deadly beauty. There was no wonder why people feared her, but Betty stood her ground as she narrowed her eyes and Cheryl tightened the green and silver tie at her slender throat.

“DO NOT SPEAK TO ME LIKE THAT!” Cheryl growled, completely unaware that the Serpent leader and his friends had rounded behind her to glower at her. She did not see the fury in their eyes as she took a step towards Betty. “Do not speak to me like that, Cooper! I am stronger than you are and unlike you and your slut sister, I will not be defeated so easily! You’re pathetic and stupid, and I will destroy you and your family one by one if I have to, you had no right to address me like that, and your mother has no right to write and produce my brother’s autopsy!”

Betty dug her nails into her palms as she squared her shoulders and straightened up to look up at Cheryl, who was glowering at her. The sharp sting relieved some of Betty’s tension as she took one shaky step forward. “I am not pathetic, Cheryl and I will not be defeated by the likes of you or your family. I’m sorry for Jason’s death, he certainly didn’t deserve it, but stop going on a warpath. You cannot outsmart me, Blossom. Though I’d like to see, you try.”

Cheryl’s eyes turned black with fury as she moved towards Betty. Eyes narrowed as she glowered and slowly drew her wand. “Maybe you need to be taught a lesson, Cooper! You insolent little-” She was cut off by a low snarl.

“Enough, Blossom!” To everyone’s surprise, Toni stepped out before any of the boys could and before either Veronica or Kevin. “Disrespect Betty and you disrespect us. Plus drawing your wand during a verbal challenge, seriously? How pathetic are you? Cooper isn’t going to hurt you, but if you hurt her, we will. You may be hot and rather impressive, but we protect our own.”

Betty stared at Toni in complete and utter shock. The two girls had been friends during their second, third and fourth year, but they’d never been that close and had lost touch. Yet, here Toni was defending Betty against the girl that she’d always liked.

“Fine! Have it your way, Queen of the Buskers, but this isn’t over, Cooper!” Cheryl snapped before she barged past Betty, disappearing into the corridor. She had ensured that her shoulder had collided with the blonde’s but Betty thought nothing of it. She had been expecting worse.

“You okay, Coop?” Toni asked walking towards Betty with a concerned glimmer in her eyes. She reached out for Betty’s hand, something that she had always done after Betty had been in a fight, and rubbed the back of it slowly. The action dispersed the blonde’s anger, and she smiled.

“I’m alright, don’t worry, Toni.” The two girls smiled at one another before they took a step back and Betty whispered: “Thank you, Toni.” There was a small flickering smile on both of their lips as they looked at one another. They seemed out of place together: the perfect girl from Hufflepuff and the rebel flannel wearing girl from Slytherin, they weren’t meant to be friends.

“I meant what I said, Betty.” Toni informed her as she looked at Betty carefully, her eyes wracking over the blonde’s face before adding: “But please, loosen your ponytail.” Everyone gasped, all expecting Betty to turn angry.

However, a small light laugh fell from Betty’s lips as she looked at Toni and pouted. “Now, now, Topaz, my ponytail is iconic and beyond reproach.” The two of them broke out into laughter as they remembered the many years that they had spent together. It was a long-standing joke between the two girls, and they’d often brought it up.

Well, that had been when they had been friends.

Toni’s eyebrows had quirked upwards at this small memory, and she simpered serenely. “Well, that is obvious, Cooper.” The simper was instantly replaced with a smirk before she quickly added: “Now if you don’t mind, I have four teenage boys to feed. You know what they’re like when they haven’t eaten.”

Betty shuddered dramatically as a small smile played on her lips. “Don’t remind me, Toni.” The two of them shared another smile before they both nodded and turned away from one another, walking off. One headed towards the Great Hall; the other walked towards the offices of the Blue and Gold. Everyone watched on as they both walked away, but as soon as they had disappeared from sight, they all decided that it was time to leave the cramped corridor.

...

The events of the morning were no longer prominent in the minds when many of the sixth years gathered in the library during their free period. The Serpents were all gathered together on one side of the room with the Gryffindors on the other side of the room. Betty was scribbling down notes while Kevin sat beside her. Veronica was perched on a seat beside Chuck, who was whispering quietly to her as she giggled.

For a time, everyone ignored each other, until Reggie Mantle started talking obnoxiously loudly causing everyone to glance at him. “And Sheriff Keller's grilling me, Mantle the Magnificent." He puffed his chest out, Betty and Jughead rolled their eyes at the exact same moment, not that either registered that fact. Reggie knew how to make a scene, it was clear that right now he just wanted everyone’s attention to be on him, even if some of those watching were Serpents because he continued in the same tone. "Cause I'd want Blossom dead when he was like the only good Slytherin we had. He was actually pretty decent, and he didn’t deserve that sort of death.”

Betty stared at Reggie in surprise as for a moment as he genuinely sounded apologetic and empathetic, but that changed very quickly. "And speaking of offensive tight-ends, I should have sent the cops to you, Cooper." Betty turned very pale as the vivid memory of what she had seen filled her already tortured mind. She shook slightly as Reggie rounded on her. He had not forgotten her lack of respect from Friday’s Potions lesson, and he wasn’t going to give her a free pass now. 

"Because here's another unsolved mystery. What exactly where you and Veronica doing at the river, huh? Or does being best friends with the Sheriff's son get you a free pass? Keller?" Reggie turned to look at Kevin before his eyes shifted to Veronica. “Or did your daddy darling pay off Keller so that no one would find out what happened between the two of you?”

Veronica looked murderous whereas Betty looked down at her clenched hands. Noting her tense posture, Kevin placed a hand on Betty’s shoulder in an attempt to reassure her. "Reggie's just a blow head, Betty. Ignore him, he’s wrong anyway." Betty nodded slowly at that excepting that Kevin was right, but she also felt anger bubble inside of her.

"I don't care what he says, Kev." Betty murmured as she folded up her work and moved to glower at the Gryffindor. Her scowl was enough to cause him to turn away from her. Her inner Alice Cooper terrified everyone, and Reggie knew not to push Betty when she made that face at him.

However, he did have another point to make, and he wasn’t going to stop until he "I mean, let's think about it. If a kid at Hogwarts killed Jason, it's not gonna be a Gryffindor, right?" Reggie threw the quaffle, which he had been holding and messing about with since he’d come in, across the room. He angled his body slightly as Archie spoke up.

“Course not, Reg. We’d never do anything without chivalry. We’d never kill anyone, ‘specially not Blossom.” Betty rolled her eyes at the redhead’s comments, finding them utterly unnecessary like everyone else. No one really cared about what the Gryffindors had to say, especially not the Serpents.

Not yet, at least.

Yet, then Reggie made a fatal mistake. He sat up straight and looked over to were Jughead stood listening to the conversations. The beanie-clad boy wore an expression of utter boredom and had his arms firmly crossed over his chest as he watched on. There was a dark gleam in his frozen gaze. However, that threatened to burn Reggie if he said something else about Betty. He didn’t expect the Gryffindor to suddenly accuse him.

"Now let's be honest. Isn't it always some spooky, scrawny, pathetic internet troll, too busy writing his manifestos to get laid?" Reggie questioned causing all the Gryffindors to nod in agreement as the Serpents moved to stand beside their leader with their arms folded in frustration and fury. They certainly didn’t take too kindly to having their leader insulted, especially not by the likes of Reggie Mantle. Yet, unseen by everyone else, Kevin, Veronica and Betty narrowed their eyes. The former two still clung to the loyalty and friendship that they’d shared once with Jughead whereas there was something deeper inside of Betty causing her to feel a rush of outrage.

However, before Reggie could finish his thought, Archie decided it would be better if he chipped in. His eyes pierced Jughead’s soul as the Slytherin straightened. Chocolate brown met icy blue as Archie’s cruel, callous smirk only widened as Jughead’s scowl grew darker. "Some smug, moody, serial killer fanboy freak like Jughead."

Every single person turned to look at Jughead as his friends moved to step towards those criticising him. With a single movement, merely holding his right hand up, he stopped them from moving as he raised his eyes in challenge. Betty recognised that look all too well as did Archie, but where she shrunk back, Archie only pressed on, not taking the hint.

Slowly rising, he took two steps towards the Serpents as Betty also, silently rose to her feet, not that anyone noticed her movement. Archie’s voice commanded the attention of all there. "What was it like, Suicide Squad? When you killed Jason? You didn't do stuff to the body, did you? Like after?"

Jughead rolled his eyes dramatically as his friend’s cast worried glances back at him. He straightened up and unfolded his arms. "It's called necrophilia, Archie." He raised his eyebrows paused and then in mock interest asked: "Can you spell it?"

Archie was consumed with rage at that, and he leapt over a chair to rush at Jughead. His eyes glowed with hatred and anger as he faced the Serpent Prince. As he moved, he yelled: “Come here you little-”

Yet, before he could finish, he felt two firm hands on his chest pushing him back and was cut off by Betty’s command. “Shut the hell up, Archie.” Jade green flames met a fearful gaze as he backed up slightly, but his friends came to back him up. Betty, however, stood her ground, acting like no man’s land between the Prince of Gryffindor and the Prince of Slytherin while their friends came to back them up.

Veronica rose slowly at that, holding her hand out as everyone watched in fear. “Guys.” She warned as she watched Betty, who folded her arms in front her chest, unknowingly drawing the boys’ gazes downwards until Jughead cleared his throat. He didn’t care if they hurt him, but he wasn’t going to allow them to disrespect Betty.

Reggie, on the other hand, had other ideas and broke rank to stand next to Archie. He made sure that he got into Betty’s personal space, causing her to take a step back so that her back almost collided with Jughead’s chest. “What do you care, Cooper?”

Betty felt herself still as she had no real reason for getting involved with this, but she wasn’t going to allow it to continue. “Nothing, just leave him alone.” Her eyes were narrowed in anger as Jughead moved to stand to her right, never once removing his eyes from Archie’s who was glowering at his ex-best friend.

“Holy crap!” Reggie exclaimed as he looked at the two as they glanced at one another, searching for some form of comfort. “Did you and Donnie Darko kill him together? Was it some pervy ritual that he wanted to perform before he deflowered you?”

Betty’s eyes widened as Jughead felt himself choke on the breath that he’d just taken and he acted instinctively. He pushed Reggie back with as much force as he could muster as Toni grabbed Betty and pulled her out of the mess of limbs as the boys launched into a full-fledged fight. Fists went flying, and several of the boys fell to the floor as everyone around them watched, frozen to the spot.

Grunts and groans fell from their mouths as they attempted to gain the upper hand. It soon became clear that the Serpents were better fighters, but they were also outnumbered, which meant that neither side was winning. They all stood their ground as they threw countless punches at one another. Occasionally they shoved at an opponent’s shoulders, but they were mainly a flash of flying fists that couldn’t be stopped.

Over and over again, they sustained and threw punches as people called out for them to all stop fighting. Betty found herself becoming more and more overwhelmed at the sight and began to sway slightly. Her nails dug into the skin of her palms as she watched them and Betty realised that she needed to act.

Without another moment's hesitation, she grabbed her wand and aimed it at the group of boys, who hadn’t noticed her moving. “Immobulus!” Her voice rang out throughout the room as the spell hit the group. They were all frozen in whatever stance they were about to move out of, and everyone took in their expressions and their injuries. 

All of the Serpents looked almost relieved at Betty’s decision to step in, but the Gryffindors looked murderous. However, they couldn’t actually voice their opinions due to being frozen, and frankly, Betty was grateful for that. She sighed before stepping forward and addressing them. “I will do the counter hex in a moment, but when I do, you will all leave and go your separate ways until you can be civil.”

Jughead’s eyes shifted to the ground at that as Betty quickly performed the counter curse causing all of them to fall back. As soon as they were able to move, Betty turned around and walked off. Jughead attempted to follow her, but Toni grabbed his arm pulling him back causing him to turn and look back at her. The two Serpents stared at one another as Toni finally spoke up. “Give her time, Jughead. You both need to figure this out because right now you’re both just hurting each other with constant back and forth talking and then leaving.”

The others gathered around Jughead, who hung his head low as he conceded Toni’s point. “But why does it hurt so much? Why does it hurt being apart? Why is it so confusing and conflicting for us both?” Toni rested a hand on his shoulder causing him to glance at her as she uttered something that both made his heart break and comforted him at the same time. It allowed everything to sink in and allowed him to understand.

“Because it’s real.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 7 – Up In Flames

 

'When it all goes up in flames

We'll be the last ones standing

We'll be the last ones

We'll be the last ones standing.'

 

“Why are we doing this again?” Veronica asked as she sat down with Kevin and Betty on the stands of the Quidditch pitch. All four teams were running their tryouts, and the three friends had decided to watch them all tryout. Well, Betty had just been told that she was coming along with them and was more focused on the book that she was reading. She hadn’t looked at any of the teams as they talked to their houses individually.

“Because I want to see all our attractive new Quidditch players,” Kevin informed Veronica as his eyes raked over all the boys there. As always, the pitch was mainly dominated by the male students of Hogwarts, but the most reliable players on most of the teams were girls. Apart from Gryffindor, all the houses had three girls in their ranks, and they were - in every way -equal to their male counterparts.

“You do realise that most aren’t Gryffindors, right?” Veronica asked with raised eyebrows as Kevin’s gaze shifted to Joaquin DeSantos. He was practically drooling as he stared at the Slytherin chaser who was addressing his team.

Kevin soon shifted his eyes to look at Veronica, who was waiting - somewhat impatiently - for him to respond to her. With a sigh, he ran a hand through his hair, looking down at those gathered. “That’s beside the point, Blue Jasmine. They’re all too good to miss.”

“Why do I have the feeling that you want one of them to pull up their robes to wipe their foreheads?” Veronica asked with a smirk, enjoying teasing her friend, who was utterly unashamed about how he felt about ogling those on the pitch.

“Of course I want that. Especially if it’s one of the Serpents. I want to see their tattoos.” Kevin confessed as he stared down at the gathering groups. They had only ever seen Sweet Pea’s tattoo and had caught glimpses of the one on Joaquin’s right wrist.

“Same,” Veronica muttered, her eyes glazing over as she thought about it. She’d never been interested in dating a Serpent, but she did find their tattoos - like everyone else did - to be mesmerising.

Kevin nodded in agreement. He was watching their expressions when he caught Betty sneak a glance at Jughead before looking back at her page. At that, he decided to test a theory.He was too curious to miss this opportunity. Therefore, he angled himself to look at both girls before saying: “I’ve only ever seen, Sweet Pea’s tattoo.”

“They’re all exactly the same, except for Jughead’s.” Betty murmured as she turned the page of her book, not bothering to look at her friends. She was too engrossed with what she was reading, but she had felt the need to add that. She felt that if her friends wanted to know about it, they might as well know the truth.

“Oh, you’ve finally decided to join the landing of the living,” Veronica spoke to her friend in mock annoyance, that was until she registered what Betty had just said. “Wait! What do you mean they’re exactly the same apart from Jughead’s?!”

Betty sighed before sliding her bookmark into the book and allowing it to snap shut before she answered slowly. “They’re always that double headed snake. It is the symbol of the gang, but Jug chose to have his snake wearing a crown. He was planning it just before the argument.One day while I was by the lake in the morning, I saw him swimming and caught sight of it.”

“And you’re only just now telling us this?” Kevin asked her incredulously as she moved to glance over at the gathered group of Quidditch players. Her eyes found Jughead after a moment. He wasn’t wearing his beanie, meaning that it was a lot harder to recognise him from this distance, but the large ‘JONES’ on his back was rather helpful.

“Calm down, Kev. It’s not that serious.” Betty informed him as she started messing with her ponytail absentmindedly. It was a nervous habit of hers that most missed, and she was content keeping it like that. She hoped that Kevin would drop the subject.

“Yes, it is!” Kevinretortedand Betty let out an exasperated sigh. The two friends’ eyes met as they both had a silent battle; Betty shaking her head furiously and Kevin nodding with equal vigour.

“V, back me up please?” The blonde implored her best friend, but the Ravenclaw’s interest had peaked, and she was as curious as Kevin was now. There was one thing that Veronica and Kevin loved more than anything – gossip – and they hadn’t had the chance to talk about this in almost a year.

Veronica shook her head at Betty in disbelief as Betty waited for her answer. She wasn’t going to be receiving the one that she wanted though as Veronica quickly replied. “Sorry, B, but Kevin is right – this is fucking important. Why didn’t you tell us?”

“I was distracted, now please go back to drooling over the Quidditch players. I would quite like to finish my book.” Betty told them as she ran a finger over the spine of Wolf Hall, which she’d found at the bottom of her trunk earlier that day and was slowly rediscovering.

“So be it, B, but we’re talking about this after.” Veronica insisted, turning back to the pitch. There was a mischievous smile playing on her lips as Betty’s heart sunk in displeasure. 

“Do I have a choice?” Betty groaned, hating the idea instantly. This was not her idea of a fun conversation, and she knew that Veronica would just keep going on and on about it until they finally did speak on the matter.

“No,” Veronica smirked, not bothering to look back at the blonde while Betty sighed quietly and tightened her ponytail in reflex to her awkwardness at the situation. This was more Veronica’s thing than hers, and she wasn’t entirely sure that she wanted to discuss it at all.

“None at all.” Kevin helpfully supplied causing Betty to groan again because she instantly realised that Kevin would be there with them as they discussed this and that would only make it worse for her. She did adore her best friends, but they had the tendency to blow things out of proportion – especially when it came to her and Jughead, which she knew from years gone by and she wasn’t too sure how badly this would go for her.

“Oh great. That’s fantastic, I can’t wait.” Her voice dripped with sarcasm, The other two turned to look at one another, both finding themselves being reminded of Jughead - who was probably the most sarcastic person they’d ever met.

“You can definitely tell that Jughead was your best friend. I mean all you’d need now to become him would be that leather jacket and a weird crown shaped beanie.” Kevin’s tone was meant to be light, and he meant no harm by it, but Betty’s face fell at the word ‘was’. Veronica saw all the warning signs.

“Kev!” She scolded as she watched Betty take in a deep breath before composing herself slowly as she glanced down at the Quidditch pitch. Gryffindor were now the only ones training, but as Betty looked across, she saw the familiar dark green and silver of Slytherin. What she didn’t see were the ice blue eyes trained on their little group.

“It’s okay, V… and Kevin.Frankly, he’s not the only sarcastic person that I talk to or… that I used to talk to.” She insisted after a few moments of staring at the Slytherins, shifting her gaze to a concerned Veronica and a slightly mortified Kevin. Yet, after she finished saying that, Kevin found himself relaxing before he decided to speak on the matter again.

“He’s the most sarcastic though. He’s also occasionally morbid.” He informed her as their eyes met, but instead of meeting a sorrowful scowl, he saw a small smile. Betty was clearly thinking back to their younger days.

Her reminiscent smile didn’t fade as she nodded. “True, very true.” Betty murmured as she thought back to some of the darker statements that had left Jughead’s lips since she’d met him twelve years previously. Most of them had often occurred after a fight with his parents or when he had seen his mother again.

“Though I suppose his physical appearance drowns that out because most people just stare at him instead of listening.” Kevin followed her line of sight to where the Slytherins were all sitting, and he found himself staring again.

“I hate when people do that.” Betty agreed with a sigh as she tightened her ponytail and look away before realising something. It caused her to shudder as she turned back to Kevin. “Wait, Kev, please tell me that you’re not hoping to see Jughead lifts up his robes to wipe his brow.”

“I must not tell lies, Cooper.” He quipped at her, causing her to roll her eyes at him as he offered her a smirk, which only made her shake her head at him. At least he was being honest, whereas she was attempting to suppress her own desires.

“You disgust me.” Betty declared as she wrinkled her nose at Kevin’s lewd thoughts that he was making clear to her. She wasn’t too keen on having him them about Jughead, but it was also an opportunity to stop her from having her own.

“Well, not all of us have had the pleasure of witnessing Jughead topless, so indulge me.” Kevin insisted as he turned to look at her again, their green eyes meeting for a moment. Betty glanced away first as Kevin’s eyes were attempting to implore her.

“I’d rather not,” Betty whispered as she looked down at her hands, trying to prevent the imagines invading her mind at that current moment. They were not the sort of thoughts that ‘perfect Betty Cooper’ should have to push aside. She wasn’t meant to think like that.

“I’m with Kevin on this.” Veronica supplied helpfully as she looked over at the Slytherins with a smirk playing on her lips, taking in the sight of Jughead, who was apparently talking to Toni about something they both found important.

“Not you too, V.” Betty groaned as she placed her head in her hands. The other two chuckled at her reaction and Betty only blushed in response.

“What? Jughead’s attractive. He’s not really my type, but I have a healthy appreciation of his body.” She informed her horrified best friend, who was trying to block out the barrage of unwanted imagines invading her mind. She didn’t need nor want to hear about Veronica’s ‘healthy appreciation’ of Jughead’s body.

“See, Veronica get’s it.” Kevin chipped in, delighting on finally being able to tease his best friend about Jughead again. It had been too long since Betty had been remotely comfortable with it and he was not going to pass up the opportunity.

“I give up!” Betty exclaimed, suddenly feeling the urge to throw her arms up in the air in annoyance and storm off. She had forgotten that her friends could act like this, but part of her had missed this, so despite her obvious frustration, she wasn’t going to do something drastic to stop it.

After a moment, Kevin turned to glance over at Betty, who was still staring out blankly, before asking: “Have you seen him topless?”

“I’m not answering that.” She snapped as she looked back at them before running a hand over her collar, which she rubbed gently. She was shaking her head in disbelief as she sighed quietly while Kevin jutted his bottom lip out.

“Come on, please, Betty.” He begged as Veronica leant over to look at the other two. She’d been sat on the row above the other two when they had all sat down earlier.

“She legit just told you that she saw his tattoo when he was swimming, so she’s definitely seen him topless.” Veronica pointed out as she looked over at Betty, whose eyes had glazed over slightly as she stared into nothingness. “Oh, by Merlin, are you thinking of him topless? You are, aren’t you?”

“Why do you get to do that when I can’t? That’s not fair!” Kevin protested as Betty snapped out of her daydream. She’d in fact been wondering about when things with Jughead would be less awkward, but she still blushed at the suggestion.

“Shut up, Kev. And Veronica, stop enjoying this so much because you’re wrong.” Betty insisted as she turned as crimson as the team currently flying around the stadium. “So please stop enjoying this.”

“Never!” Veronica smirked at her friend as Kevin nodded in agreement. They were not about to leave this alone anytime soon, and they just wanted to act like normal teenagers for once. Well, as normal as two witches and a wizard could be.

“Oh, just go back to staring at the Gryffindor boys.” Betty murmured, rolling her eyes at them in exasperation. A small smile, however, flickered at her lips as she realised that maybe there was something compelling about being ‘normal’. Not that she’d ever admit that to anyone other than herself. She’d spent too much time being perfect to ever fit into that category.

While they bickered back and forth, Gryffindor finished their tryouts and Slytherin walked onto the pitch and divided into the teams of those trying out and the original team. There were only two students on the Slytherin team that weren’t Serpents – two girls called Poppy and Kayla. Poppy was beautiful blonde with a passion for getting into trouble as well as one of the best beaters in the school. She was incredibly nimble and swift when she wanted to be, however, also deadly when necessary.

Kayla, on the other hand, was a daring brunette, who never let anyone get the better of her. She was intelligent, quiet and bewitching. It was no secret that she and Sweet Pea, her fellow chaser, shared many looks and moments, but both were still tentative about testing to see if they were soulmates. That could wait, and for now, they were content with just standing shoulder to shoulder, or at least they would, but Sweet Pea was essentially a giant compared to everyone.

“Okay, listen up, Slytherins!” Joaquin yelled at them all causing them all to turn to look at him as he stood in the centre of the group. He was eying up everyone trying out as he knew that his team was perfect already, but he wasn’t going to stop this from happening. “Now, as you see, we do have a fully formed Quidditch team, but as the rules dictate, these tryouts must take place. Therefore, anyone has the chance of playing for us this year. However, I want nice, clean tryouts, meaning that we will all respect one another and if you don’t get a position, then you will accept that and cheer on Slytherin, no matter what, understand?”

“Yes.” Their chorused reply rang through the pitch as Joaquin nodded, noting how his fellow Serpents were nodding in encouragement. He had never done this before, and his hands shook ever so slightly as he looked around.

“Good, now, let’s get started.” With that, everyone clambered onto their brooms and kicked off, except for Joaquin, who released the bludgers and snitch before throwing the quaffle and beginning the game.

Immediately, Kayla rushed for the ball, clasping it in her hands as she sped off towards the goal while the others were left watching in surprise. Sweet Pea rushed to fly beside her, and she quickly passed it to him as their opponents moved to follow them. Joaquin fanned out to the right while Kayla went left and they sped towards the goal. One last pass was sent to Kayla who threw the ball through the left hoop while the keeper missed the chance to stop her.

Over and over again, the three passed the quaffle between themselves as the others desperately attempted to catch up. Though, even if they managed to get the quaffle, they were never able to get past Toni, who was the best keeper in the school. It was clear that the other group were getting irritated, but they were not able to get anywhere. Yet, while the chasers were dominating the main pitch, Jughead was circling far above, scouring the pitch for a glimmer of gold.

He flew around as the other seeker shadowed him, attempting to find the snitch, but when it caught Jughead’s gaze, and he darted off to catch it, his opponent was too slow. Jughead flew as fast as he could, ducking bludgers and swerving with the snitch, everyone in the stands watching him. He blurred past Betty, reaching out to grasp the snitch tightly in his hand, Betty beamed at his fleeting figure.

Jughead straightened up holding the snitch high so that everyone could see he’d caught it, causing the game to come to an end. The spectators all began clapping - several stood up, including the trio - because many seekers could never catch the snitch. It was also mainly out of respect, many watching were terrified of the Serpent Prince.

...

After the Quidditch try-outs were over, Betty was making her way through the Entrance Hall when she bumped into someone. Stumbling backwards, she saw that it was Archie who she’d collided with. This was the first time she'd seen him, up close, since the library. Now, in an abandoned area of the school, Betty was forced with the prospect of having to confront him.

“Betty.” Archie addressed her with a stern expression. He stared into her jade green eyes, his own darkening in anger. He did not take too kindly to being ignored by anyone, especially not Betty. His anger had turned to fury when he’d seen how she had interacted with his rival and then how she'd watched Jughead earlier in try-outs. He hated that he wasn’t the centre of her attention and now he was determined to change that.

“Archie?” Betty asked with a sigh, obviously not in the mood to talk to the redhead, but she conceded that he would have sought her out at some point and there was no time like the present. Yet, that didn’t stop the fact that she wasn’t pleased to see him and she had to bite back a groan before listening to his reply.

“We need to talk,” Archie informed her, wearing a tight-lipped expression that she’d never seen on him before. He was more than just irritated like she’d assumed – he was pissed with her, and she’d have to deal with that now.

His tensed jaw and the expression he wore informed her that she’d have no say in the conversation if he were to have his way, but she wasn’t about to be walked all over. After all, Betty was just as angry as he was, though she had a legitimate excuse. “Do we? You see last time we did, I ended up with a bruised left wrist, though your ego was bruised even more so.”

“Shut up, Betty. My ego was not bruised by you, and besides, that’s not the problem here.” Archie all but growled at her as he took another step towards her. Betty instinctively took a step back as he towered over her. She found herself wishing that she could be more intimidating towards him, but alas, she was not.

However, she wasn’t as frightened of him as he would have liked. Archie was nowhere near as terrifying as Alice Cooper and Betty reminded herself of that she snapped back at him in the same tone as he’d just used with her.“Then explain, Archie, because I really don’t understand what your problem could be.”

“Wow, Betty, can’t you see that this problem is not just mine but yours as well?” Archie asked incredulously as he neared her again, each menacing footstep echoing on the cold stone floor of the Entrance Hall, reverberating around the room and sending shivers of fear through Betty at the mere sound of it. The look in Archie’s gaze and the anger in his voice were not precisely something Betty wished to see or hear. It cut her deep that one of her oldest friends would act like this towards her, but she straightened up and attempted to channel her inner Alice Cooper.

“How the hell is whatever you’re pissed about going to affect me?” Betty questioned, placing her hands on her hips and eying him carefully as she did so. There was a distinct glimmer of frustration in her eyes and anyone, except Archie, would be able to see that she did not want to have this conversation.

It was evident in Archie’s gaze that Betty’s answer was displeasing to him. He took another ominous step towards her. “Because Betty, you were meant to be mine and now you’re just slumming it with Jughead. Need I remind you that he hurt you more than anyone else. He is leading a bloody gang for fuck's sake, Betty. He is cruel and cold as well as-”

“As well as what Archie? Because frankly everything you have just said, apart from the gang thing, sums you up completely. So go on, what else do you believe Jughead is?” Betty asked furiously as she looked up at the one person who she’d assumed would never hurt her. If you had told her three weeks ago that Archie would have turned out like this, Betty wouldn’t have believed you. But here and now, she could see his true colours.

“He’s a dick, and he doesn’t deserve you,” Archie claimed, glanced down at Betty, his eyes trailing over her figure. He took in both her aggravated stance, bitter expression and every little detail of her curving figure.

“And nor do you.” Betty snapped back angrily, noticing his trailing eyes and darkening expression, she took another step back. Out of disgust, not intimidation, and that was clear in her expression.

“Seriously Betty, I don’t deserve you? I am fucking perfect for you.” Archie informed her with a smirk. He had always believed that Betty was meant to be his. He had presumed that whatever had happened with her and Jughead was just a phase and that in the end, she’d be his.

“No, you’re not.” Betty snapped, her own temper beginning to rise. She was not in the mood for this or Archie’sidiotic pretences. She knew that he’d never be right for her and right now, Betty was merely infuriated by his presence. Yet that was nothing compared to what he was about to make her feel.

“Yes, I am. I’m the ‘boy next door’, you’re the perfect ‘girl next door’. I’m the star chaser of the Gryffindor Quidditch team, and you’re the editor of the Blue and Gold. We’re both perfect opposites and just the same. I’m a little rough around the edges, and I’ve explored my life a bit more whereas you’re perfect and innocent –so, you wouldn’t need to go through that. I’m experienced, so you don’t need to be. You know that I’m right for you.” Archie’s tone caused Betty’s veins to fill with apoplectic rage as she glowered at him. Her jade green eyes were ablaze while her lips were pressed together in a thin line that even McGonagall would have been envious of if she had witnessed it.

“Do you seriously believe that?” Betty asked, her voice chilling Archie’s blood more than her fiery eyes. He gulped at that and took a small step back, but in her rage, Betty didn’t notice as she was too fixated on her anger. She felt herself almost being consumed with it as if it burned her from the inside out and the feeling to release it all on Archie was becoming overwhelming.

“You know it’s right!” Archie argued furiously as slowly a crowd of their year and the seventh year began to gather around. Everyone watching knew the two people there, and they were all alarmed to see little, ‘perfect’ Betty Cooper fighting back.

“What the HELL!” Betty almost screamed at Archie in disbelief as he stared at her blankly, not truly registering the source of her rage. He could never understand it, and in a lapse of self-control, Betty rained it on him. “I am not perfect! I am not meant to belong to someone who thinks that I am supposed to be exactly what my mother wants me to be. If that really is the way you view me, then you don’t truly know me at all. Both the absence of a mark on my wrist and the lack of any positive feelings in my heart, is telling me that I will never belong to you. I am my own person, and I am not perfect, regardless of who you think I am.”

“Betts-” Archie started to say, and for Betty, it was the final straw. No one was allowed to call her that with the exception of Jughead. It felt as if it was the ultimate betrayal on Archie’s behalf because never in the past twelve years had he broken that unspoken rule that only Jughead called Betty, Betts. It was stupid to most, but Betty’s broken heart would not allow it, and she was not going to let Archie use that against her, especially not in this moment.

Do not call me that. You don’t have the right to call me that.” Betty snapped at him as the crowd grew and each house separated. The majority of Slytherin and Hufflepuff moved behind Betty while Ravenclaw and Gryffindor tended to side with Archie as the two glowered at one another.

Archie’s attempt to smooth things over soon vanished as he realised that he would get nowhere with it. Instead, he turned to rage, as that could strike fear into the hearts of grown men. An angry Andrews was not something to take lightly. Then again, nor was an equally pissed off Cooper, which Betty was slowly becoming as he responded snarkily. “Oh yes, because only your precious little Juggie gets to call you that.”

“That would be correct, Andrews.” Everyone turned to the entrance towards the dudgeons were Jughead was slowly ascending the stairs. It was evident from his scowl that he’d heard everything, not just the last part. Jughead looked as if wanted murder Archie, though when his eyes quickly flitted to Betty, his expression became entirely unreadable for everyone.

“Oh look, here comes Jones. Here to save your-” Archie started as Jughead made his way towards them both, but at that, his eyes darkenedandArchie fell silent. The Serpent looked more than murderous now. He straightened up as he took several deliberated and calculated strides towards the redhead. Each step made Jughead’s leather rustle as he moved to stand beside Betty.

“Finish that sentence, and I will end you, Andrews.” He growled as he faced the redhead and the entire group around them found themselves taking a step back. The old best friends were now locked in much more than just a simple argument. The three of them were a complete contrast to one another now, and no one could recognise the three old friends anymore.

“Juggie, it’s fine. He’s not worth it.” Betty placed a hand on his right shoulder, directly over his tattoo, instantly calming the Serpents rage.

However, Archie was about to be the spark for much more rage, which wasn’t surprising to the crowd, but it only caused Jughead’s ice blue eyes to turn as cold as the weather they resembled. It was the first time that many had witnessed this reaction from the Serpent Prince, and it was all because of Archie saying: “Shut up, Betty. This is between us – Jones and I. Your input is not important.”

Jughead tensed, and his jaw tightened, but before he could even think of a response, Betty scoffed. Diverting their attention back to her, the boys stared as she folded her arms and stared at Archie. “No, apparently it’s between the three of us.” She snapped as she glowered at the red-haired boy towering over her.

“Well, now the boys are talking, and you’re irrelevant.” Archie countered, his eyes ablaze as he rounded on her this time, momentarily forgetting that Jughead was there. He didn’t see the rage coming from the beanie-clad boy, but everyone else did. He didn’t see the look of pure hatred in Jughead’s eyes, but everyone else caught it. He didn’t realise that he’d gone too far, but everyone else did and it was no surprise when Jughead unleashed his fury.

“What the fuck, Archie! You talk about Betty being your soulmate, and then you treat her like this. You are pathetic, and you're not – and never would be - worthy of her!” Jughead yelled at him, his anger bubbling up inside of him, consuming him as he stared down his opponent. The two boys locked eyes as they both straightened up and for many, it was a shock to see that Jughead was in fact around an inch taller than Archie. He was usually slouched so much that they couldn’t see that.

“And you think that you deserve her?” Archie asked with a snide smirk as he took a step towards Jughead and Betty. The former was about to take a step towards Archie, but a small shake of the head from the girl beside him halted that action.

“No, I don’t. No one ever will, but at least I fucking try.” Jughead retorted, completely believing his words. Archie’s smirk widened, and he took another step so that they could feel his breath on their faces. Betty wanted to step back, but her anger had rooted her in place.

“See?! You don’t deserve her either! You don’t get to say that I’m not worthy of her. I am not less worthy than you, and I am more deserving than you’ll ever be.” The redhead gloated, who’s head bowed in shame. Yet, while Jughead was filled with the anxiety and embarrassment, Betty felt the fury consume her entire being.

“ENOUGH!” Betty all but screamed, alarming everyone around, especially the two boys. They had never seen her this angry. “Archie shut the hell up.” She spat before turning to Jughead.“As for you Juggie, you do deserve me. So please, stop this unnecessary self-loathing… like you promised.”

“Okay, sorry Betts.” Jughead murmured as he angled his body towards hers for a moment as guilt flooded him. He despised hurting or annoying her, he supposed that after everything that had happened, she had the right to be annoyed with him.

“Don’t apologise, Juggie,” Betty whispered, her eyes softening. She looked at him, and he nodded, a small smile to flickered on her lips for a moment. The pair seemed to be lost in one another’s gazes, but not for long as Archie decided to destroy their moment.

“For fuck's sake! Enough of this, Elizabeth!” Archie snapped at her causing everyone’s attention to land firmly on him. He never called Betty that. They all knew how much she despised it and even her teachers didn’t to call her that. Jughead also refrained from it as he empathised with the feeling of hating a first name. Jughead would only ever use Betty’s first name if she had used his and they scarcely ever dared do that. Yet, in his rage, Archie forgot all about that.

“Do not call me Elizabeth!” Betty seethed, her voice rising to shout as she fought back the urge to take a step forward to intimidate Archie. Even in her rage-fueled haze, she could see that he wouldn’t back down just yet.

“I will do what I want.” Archie snapped childishly, looking down at her in an attempt to make her back down. Yet, he had forgotten again that Betty was never one to let someone else walk all over her.

“And that includes destroying friendships,” Bettycountered. She moved her hands to her hips, glowering. The pair stared at one another as Jughead gently placed a hand on Betty’s shoulder, causing some of the tension to leave the blonde.

“He also quite enjoys being a misogynist,” Jughead added as Archie opened his mouth to speak, but the beanie-clad boy was having none of it. He had to make that point as he knew that Archie could have no intelligent response to it.

“That’s not true.” Archie denied a confused furrow to his brow.A smirk graced Jughead’s lips at that. Betty shook her head ever so slightly, but neither boy caught the subtle movement.

“You’re only saying that because you don’t know what a misogynist is.” Jughead pointed out, his smirk widening as Betty glanced up at him. She couldn’t draw his attention away, and she could see the telltale signs that Archie was getting more and more frustrated. That in itself could only lead to one thing – violence and Betty was mindful to avoid that again.

“I deny that,” Archie replied as he looked at Jughead, his eyes burning brighter than ever as he glowered at the Slytherin boy. In that moment, they were the classic example of the old hatred between the great houses and everyone around them could see that.

“Of course. You have no idea, and your ego is too huge for you to even admit it.” Jughead goaded, evidently enjoying getting his own back on Archie. It had taken far too long in his opinion to finally come to this point, but two words from Betty stopped him immediately.

“Juggie, stop.” She murmured and instantly he shut his mouth as Betty turned to Archie. “But, Archie, he is right, so stop getting so defensive and stop acting like you’re better than us.” Betty snapped finally, both boys to look back at her before the actions of one caused everything to change.

Archie didn’t respond to the blonde. At least not in the way that she’d hoped. Instead, he pushed her back causing her to trip over her feet as the crowd that gathered stared at Archie in shock. The Serpents were shooting venomous daggers at the Gryffindor. Time slowed as Jughead moved to catch Betty. He grabbed Betty’s left wrist with his left hand as Archie launched himself towards them, but the beanie-clad boy pulled Betty out of the way. Archie collapsed to the floor as Betty turned towards Jughead.

The pair moved away, their eyes met as pulses of electricity flooded them. The crowd watched in amazement as they tried to release each other’s wrists, but were unable to do so. Both of their chests rose and fell rapidly as they stared at one another and the sensation cascaded through their bodies. Jughead’s mouth parted in shock as Betty’s jade eyes widened even further as they realised just what was happening.

As the feeling faded and they slowly removed their hands from one another’s and looked down to their left wrist.There, they saw the black soulmark. Situated in the very centre of their wrists, it seemed to harp back to younger times. Reflecting the volatile nature of one, it was perfect for the two of them. Betty gasped as she saw what it was, while Jughead let out a shaky breath. For their soulmark was the perfect shape for them and had been predicted so many years before hand.

It was a crown.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 8 –  Runaways

 

'There'll be no one left, but us

Just like runaways

They will have to find

Some other hearts to break,’

 

All the breath seemed to have left both Jughead and Betty as the stared up at one another, the crowd froze. Several students could see the telltale signs of their soulmarks, but they all held their breath. Jughead couldn’t help himself as he trailed his fingers over the small crown on Betty’s wrist as she observed him. His rough fingers dexterously traced the soft skin, over and over again, as Betty watched carefully.

It was perfectly formed, and there was absolutely no mistaking what it was, and the reality seemed to be sinking in slowly. The little crown matched the one that Jughead often drew when he signed his notes to her when they were younger. It matched the crowns littering her diaries from as far back as the second year. Most importantly, it matched Jughead’s beanie, which was as much a part of him as the new mark on his skin.

The crowd exchanged looks with one another as Archie rose to his feet, but was pulled back by one of his goons. Everyone was entranced by the mere sight of it, and no was about to stop the couple from basking in the light of what had just happened to them. In fact, they were all captivated by it or at least could see that everyone else was fascinated and held their tongues for now.

The light from the windows around them cast a reddish glow onto their skin, though the pair seemed to emit their own light. A lazy grin crept across Jughead’s lips as he looked down at it and for the first time since his mother and sister had left, his heart felt full. Betty, on the other hand, found herself staring at it in disbelief, but at the same time, she couldn’t help but feel content with it. She could only think of one thing.

That Jughead had been right all along.

It was Jughead who made the first sound after a few moments of staring down at Betty’s wrist and tracing the mark several times. He let out a slow, shaky breath before he raised his head and whispered: “Betts?”

“You were right.” Betty murmured, moving to look up at him. Her bright eyes meeting his as he smiled down at her. The two of them were both attempting to find the right words to say to one another as they admired the three-pointed crown on their wrists, occasionally glancing up at one another.

 “It’s been known to happen,” Jughead muttered, his gaze fixated on the crown on Betty’s wrist. He refused to look at his own, too enamoured at the sight of her creamy skin with the symbol of their combined souls decorating it. It stood out so clearly against the fragile, delicate skin that it was near impossible not to look at it.

“You were right about the crown as well.” Betty pointed out as she let her eyes flicker up to Jughead’s eyes and then she took in the crown-shaped beanie on his head. “A crown for both of us, I suppose and you seemed to know all along - or at least you hoped all along - for it to be like that.” Her soft voice and her surprise caused a small, flickering smile to appear on Jughead’s lips as he held onto her wrist.

“I never thought that would actually end up being reality. I never assumed that I’d be right. I hoped, but I never dared to believe that it would be a reality.” Jughead murmured, his gaze remaining on the black mark until he sensed Betty’s eyes on him and looked up at her. The two of them allowed their gazes to meet slowly.

“Well, it is.” Betty breathed outwith a smile. “It is our reality.” She informed him as her smile widened, causing Jughead to offer her that goofy grin she’d always loved. Her delicate hand shifted to his left wrist, her fingers gently tracing the mark. Both were bewitched by it so much so, that neither could genuinely believe it.

“I’m still trying to get my head around it.” Jughead declared. His voice was a shadow of a whisper, but Betty heard it loud and clear as she moved her eyes to his, which were still focused on her.

“Same. Are you… happy about it, though?” Betty asked diffidently, her voice shaky as she did so, alerting Jughead to her fear. He cocked his head to the side at that and then gave her a look of such sincerity that Betty knew his answer before he spoke.

“Happy? Betts, this is the best thing that has happened to me since I met you. Which was, up until a few moments ago, the best thing to happen to me.” Jughead confessed to her, without a shadow of doubt in his voice. He honestly did mean that, and he wasn’t ashamed of that fact.

Betty, however, found it hard to believe that and a blush crept up her neck as she softly whispered, “You don’t mean that, Juggie.” Looking down as she spoke

Letting out a soft sigh, Jughead moved his right hand from his side to cup her face and gently lifted it back up so that their gazes met again. “Yes, I do, Betts.” Jughead asserted, his thumb running across the soft skin of her cheek. “And you should know by now that I’m a shit liar, especially when it comes to you.”

Before Betty could speak Archie, Reggie and Chuck began to make their way towards the pair, their eyes glowing with anger. Betty turned at the sound of them advancing as Jughead dropped both his hands. In that one, singular action, the entire crowd saw their soulmarks causing a general gasp to go around those who hadn’t caught sight of it earlier.

“WHAT THE FUCK!” Archie growled as Betty moved closer to Jughead, who wrapped an arm carefully around her waist. Pulling her in close to him, Jughead watched her as she tensed slightly before leaning into him and allowing a rush of relief flood through her.

“Oh, great the Serpent scum has claimed Betty Cooper,” Chuck announced causing Jughead and the rest of the Serpents to clench their fists in anger. Betty also found herself fighting back her rage as she moved to clutch onto Jughead for comfort.

“Planning on turning her into your slut or a slut for all the Serpents? ‘Cause if you are, we want a share.” Reggie sneered as he allowed his eyes to trail over Betty’s body which made anyone with any common decency feel disgusted. It certainly caused an explosive reaction from Jughead, who looked murderously at Reggie.

“Take that back Mantle, before I make you rue the day you were born!” Jughead roared, attempting to take a step towards Reggie, but Betty held onto to him so tightly that he couldn’t move away from her.

“I don’t think I will,” Reggie smirked at him while the other two Gryffindors flanked him. The Serpents, along with Kayla, broke rank of the crowd to stand behind Jughead and Betty. The larger group certainly didn’t look as if they were going to let this slide and many of the others watching took several steps back. None of them wanted to be involved when the Serpents finally snapped, which was bound to happen.

Yet, as Jughead moved to step nearer to the Gryffindors, he found himself being held back by his soulmate, who was staring at him while shaking her head. “Jug, don’t.” Betty murmured to him causing him to wheel around and stare at her.

“Betts,did you not hear what he said about you?” Jughead asked incredulously, not able to understand why she was stopping him, though he would not act without her consent. He’d done that too many times in the past, and he’d made a vow to never hurt her again. If that meant not hurting someone for her, then he’d bite his tongue. That didn’t mean that he didn’t want to know why.

“I heard him, but I know that he’s wrong,” Betty informed him before dropping her voice to a whisper that only he heard. “And I don’t want you to get hurt.” His gaze softened at that, and he opened his mouth to speak but was cut off as a familiar pink haired girl spoke up.

“He may be wrong, Betty, but it doesn’t mean he can say shit like that,” Toni informed her friend, turning to send a deathly glare at the Gryffindor, crossing her arms over her chest. Her leather jacket seemed to stand out even more as she did that, as if emphasising how deadly she could be.

“Fuck off, Topaz!” Reggie growled at the young Serpent, who merely gave him her middle finger as she returned his glower. As Reggie’s friends came to flank him properly, the Serpents moved so that they were in a protective stance behind the girls, making it very clear that they would attack if they needed to do so.

“Leave her out of this, Reggie.” Betty countered as Toni glanced over at her, giving her a grateful smile. Betty nodded at that as she crossed her arms over her chest and allowed her eyes to narrow at the boys in front of her.

“Why should he?” Archie questioned, taking a step towards them. Betty felt stronger now she knew that she had the support of those around her and she held her ground. Her eyes rose to meet Archie’s as he stared down at her in annoyance.

“Seriously, Archie shut the hell up and don’t get involved.” Betty snapped back while she rested back on Jughead’s arm. It stayed in its protective place on her waist which caused her to relax as he tightened his grip ever so slightly, as if he was saying, ‘I’m right here, Betts and I won’t let anything happen.’

“Don’t tell me what to do!” Archie countered, his voice rising in volume as he took another calculated step towards them as Betty dropped her hands. One of them snuck around Jughead’s waist, bringing him closer to her as she sought more of his comforting presence. She was not the only one of the group to do that. Toni stepped slightly closer to Fangs and Joaquin while Sweet Pea moved closer to Kayla. Each was using the other’s presence to calm themselves down and to give them a safety net if something went wrong.

“Don’t you dare speak to Betty like that.” Jughead’s eyes were ablaze with fury as Betty ran a comforting hand over the back of his hand, warning him not to act too rashly. He gulped back his anger as his eyes narrowed into fiery blue slits that resembled a snake’s eyes.

“I’ll do as I please and you know what, Betty? Reggie’s right.” Archie sneered at her as rage burned in her eyes and she desperately fought back the pain that was attempting to flood her veins. She dropped her hand from where it rested on Jughead’s and clenched it into a fist causing her nails to dig into her flesh.

“That I am,” Reggie answered smugly as he puffed his chest out in a bid to make himself seem more impressive but everyone watching merely scoffed. No one could genuinely feel impressed by the likes of Reggie, and due to that, no one could take him seriously. Only the other goons in his friendship group ever thought that what he had to say was correct.

“Of course he is, but she’ll still get into bed with a snake all the same. Shame for you though, Cooper, lions will satisfy a woman much better than a snake can.” Chuck sneered, adding more salt to the wounds that were being inflicted into Betty’s mind. She made those wounds a reality, clenching her fist tighter.

“You’re disgusting,” Toni stated with a grimace, turning a slight shade of green at the mere thought of it. The idea made most of the girls there turn away, and most of them felt sick to their stomachs while the boys just rolled their eyes at the trio in the centre.

“And completely incorrect,” Kayla added after a moment when she no longer had the hideous image swirling around her mind. Her eyes narrowed behind her glasses as she leant back slightly into Sweet Pea as he stared down those opposing them.

“Toni, Kayla, don’t get involved in this. You both know that we’re right. Toni just wants to act all high and mighty before she gets a share and I presume that Kayla’s a little jealous.” Chuck spat at her acting like a spark leaping towards fuel. One more false move and he’d set off all the Serpents, yet for the moment, it was Sweet Pea who acted.

“Don’t say another word about her.” Sweet Pea ground out, attempting to take a step towards them only to be held back by both Kayla and Fangs. He glanced down at his best friend, who merely shrugged before Kayla brought his attention back to her.

“Sweets, don’t. It’s fine.” Kayla muttered, hoping that he wouldn’t do anything rash, though she never knew with Sweet Pea. Then again, that had always been one of the many things that she’d admired about him.

“Kayla, he has no right to say shit about you.” Sweet Pea pointed out as a battle was fought in his eyes between following his instincts and listening to her. Like most of the Serpents, he struggled with this side, but he knew that he had to relent... for now at least.

“He shouldn’t be saying shit about anyone,” Kayla informed him as he sighed quietly, alerting her to the fact that he would relent.

“Oh, would you two shut it?” Archie suddenly snapped, breaking the two from their bubble that they hadn’t realised they’d created. He drew everyone’s attention back to him before he rounded on Betty again. “Anyway, Betty’s soul will now forever be damned being tied to a filthy little snake.”

“Better a Serpent than an arrogant arsehole.” Betty finally exclaimed in anger causing everyone’s eyes to widen in shock. This was not the side of Betty that they were used to and many were debating whether they liked it or not. Yet, it was only when she saw the smirk on Jughead’s lips and the look of adoration that he gave her that Betty decided that she should be confident in this side of herself, regardless of what anyone else might say or think of her. After all, she was right.

“Damn, Cooper, I didn’t think you knew what that word was.” Reggie looked at her in shock as even he couldn’t believe it and it often took a lot more than that to shock Reggie Mantle.

“Shut up, Reggie,” Jughead ordered as he watched the Gryffindor open his mouth again. He had no idea what else he might say, but in all honesty, he didn’t want to know. He was sick of this already, and he hated that he was having to force his anger down when all he wanted to do was unleash it and take Betty away from here.

“Stop ordering people around, Jones,” Chuck commanded, proving to be nothing more than a hypocrite and it only caused Jughead to roll his eyes. He was used to the Gryffindors acting like this towards him; he was used to the double standards that they had for themselves.

“Now where would that get me? I’m the leader of a gang, directing people is kind of in the job description.” He said with a sarcastic wit. Betty shook her head at him, but at the same time, a small smile was playing on her lips. Jughead caught it and smirked down at her. Toni let out a loud, exasperated sigh causing everyone to turn their attention to her.

Placing both her hands on her hips, she stared at Jughead as she cocked her head to the side. “Don’t be a smartarse.” Her interruption confused everyone as they all turned to look at the Serpent. She only smirked in response as she knew precisely what she was doing as she was taking away the fuel from the Gryffindors fire. If they had no attention, then they’d stop, and Toni just wanted them to shut the hell up.

“You’re meant to be on my side!” Jughead argued, not quite understanding the situation, but allowing it anyway to work out as Toni planned. However, she had not expected to hear him so outraged.

Toni rolled her eyes at his outraged tone, finding it somewhat annoying, but she also found the look on his face rather amusing. It was almost impossible to keep a straight face as she started talking. “Oh, I am, and I want to hurt them all right now-” Toni began to speak, but as always, Jughead’s impatience got the better of him, and he replied.

“Good.” Jughead nodded at her in approval, though he was still waiting for the ‘but’ that everyone knew was coming. He instinctively gripped onto Betty before he realised that, even though their separation had led to him developing other methods to calm down, her being there was still the best thing for him.

“Toni,” Betty warned beside him as Jughead glanced down at her. Like him, Betty had cottoned on to what Toni was doing, and she wasn’t too sure if she was going to like where this was going.

“Loosen the ponytail, Cooper, and Jones, you have horrible timing when it comes to being a smartarse is all I’m saying.” The pink-haired girl pointed out helpfully causing Betty to allow herself a small sigh of relief before relaxing into Jughead’s arm again.

“Thanks, Topaz.” Jughead simpered at her, grateful that she hadn’t actually been horrible about it. There was something about the smile that he received, though that caused him to raise his eyebrows at her. She had actually meant what she had said, but he needn’t know that she was also using it as a ploy to stop the Gryffindors.

Not that they’d lie low for long.

“You’re welcome.” Toni beamed at the pair as they both relaxed into one another. For a moment they all felt as if it was over. That was until the trio opposing them all scoffed causing Toni to round on them. Her eyes were suddenly alight with annoyance as she dropped her tone as she hissed her threat. “Now if you dare speak to our boss or his girl like that ever again, I will kick your ass, and then I’ll let the others have at you, understand?”

“You know, you’re not very threatening, little miss five foot two.” Archie laughed menacingly, underestimating Toni like everyone else always did. Over the years, her height had often been the subject of many jokes, but what most didn’t know was that she was one of the most accomplished duellers in the school. That and she loved to get even.

“Yeah, no one that small could be a threat.” Reggie joined in with the malicious laughter causing Toni to roll her eyes while the other Serpents began to seethe with rage. Kayla, also found herself fighting back anger as she glowered at them from beside Sweet Pea.

“You’re too small to be scary,” Chuck added to the comments, continuing their attempt to belittle Toni and break her down. However, he was more cautious and did not join in with the laughter, seeing the anger in her eyes.

“Your heads are all too far up your asses to realise that you don’t need to be tall to be deadly, especially in this world. I am much more dangerous than you think and I can assure you that you will regret-” Toni was yet again cut off, this time it only made her feel much more angry.

“How about you shut up little girl and let the adults talk?” Archie snapped at her arrogantly, not expecting the response he received from the other Serpents. He should have never said that to her, and they were all thinking the same thing: ‘No Serpent stands alone.’

“Watch it, Andrews!” A Serpent hissed, backed by other like comments from the gang. Toni looked back at them gratefully, giving them a small smile. They each returned it, and her eyes brightened with gratitude as they gave her a slight nod, until their attention was brought back by more unsavoury characters.

“Aww, look at that. They have to defend their little-” Chuck cackled, feeling a little more secure in himself after the display of softness. He assumed that they were using the reputation of the older Serpents and his fear now melted away, but not for long.

“Continue talking Chuck and us girls will show you what we can really do.” Kayla’s threat was evident as she and Betty moved closer to Toni. The trio of girls looked as if they couldn’t hurt a fly, but behind their delicate features, they were just as deadly as the snake depicted on Toni’s back.

“You act like we should be afraid.” Archie chuckled, the sound sending shivers through Betty’s spine, she couldn’t think of a more hideous noise. It was the sort of sound that she never wished to hear ever again and at that moment, her strong stance wavered until she felt the gentle brush of Jughead’s fingers against her. His reminder that he was there for her was enough to keep her from backing down. She didn’t look at him though, her eyes were drawn back to Toni.

The pink-haired girl seemed utterly unfazed by everything as she sized up each of the Gryffindors, her eyes taking in every detail. Her lips quirked upwards into a smirk as she noted the slight shake of all of their heads before it morphed into a look of hatred. “You’re an idiot if you’re not scared.”

“Toni, he is an idiot.” Joaquin, who’d been silent up to this point, informed her with a sneer directed at the group opposite. His eyes were mainly focused upon Archie though, who he had always distrusted and despised.

“That is a fair point.” Toni agreed, causing the other Serpent to look back at her with a shared smirk as he nodded in response.

“Fuck off.” Archie finally snapped back before he looked over at Betty, remembering the real reason he’d been arguing with Serpents. “And, Betty, if you think that I’m going to let you be ruined by this snake, then you’re very much mistaken.” Archie attempted to capture Betty’s gaze, but she merely looked away from him. Her eyes met Jughead’s instead, and she saw what Archie was trying to get her to give up... again.

“Stop changing your tune, Archie. One moment you hate us and the next you want to protect me from Jughead. It’s pathetic and stupid. You need to accept that I am Jughead’s soulmate and he is mine. So stop, just stop, trying to be something that you’re not.” Betty rounded on him as she felt Jughead’s hand seek hers for comfort.

“Betty...” Archie started, but he was only met by a fury of her allies.

“Enough, Andrews. Why don’t you try actually listening instead of just running your mouth.” Kayla all but growled at him while Sweet Pea rested a gentle hand on her shoulder, soothing her rage. Sweet Pea shook his head at her, warning her not to do anything rash and she gave one small nod as her friend took over.

“It’s pretty clear my girl, just wants you to leave her alone.” Toni hissed with malice, glancing over at Betty, who simpered in response, the pink haired girl beaming back at her. Jughead cocked an eyebrow as was about to argue when Fangs stepped in.

“I think she might be Jughead’s girl, Toni.” Fangs supplied helpfully causing Jughead to smile down at Betty while Toni rolled her eyes at that.

“Well, I’m still the only one who can tell her to loosen her ponytail,” Toni stated in a last-ditch attempt, causing all the others to chuckle at her.

“Is that all you’ve got?” Sweet Pea asked incredulously, having not expected to hear her say that and he found himself almost weeping with laughter at her expression. Toni was not too grateful for that, but she was used to it by now.

“Shut up, Sweets.” Toni snapped playfully causing her friend to hold his hands up in mock surrender as he continued laughing at his friend. “Kayla, tell your boyfriend to shut up.” Both Kayla and Sweet Pea went still and silent as they looked at one another while their friends rolled their eyes and shook their heads at them, Toni muttering “well, that worked.” to herself.

“You’re all crazy,” Chuck informed them, diverting all attention back to the Gryffindors, who in all honesty, had been mostly forgotten about. Seven heads all snapped to face them as the crowd angled themselves towards them.

“The best people are.” Kayla smiled as she and Jughead responded at the same time.

“Are you just getting that?” Jughead cocked his head to the side in wonder, genuinely curious about the answer to that question. He stared at them with arched eyebrows, waiting for an answer, but he didn’t receive the one he wanted.

“Just get lost.” Reggie snapped back in response. Jughead to turn to Betty as the other Serpents argued with the Gryffindor.

 “That’s an idea. Do you want to get out of here?” Jughead murmured to Betty, who looked as fed up as he felt at this point. She raised her head so that she could look at him directly before a small sweet smile graced her lips.

“Definitely. Blue and Gold?” Betty whispered back as her hand sought his before they entwined their fingers together. A small smile graced both of their lips as they stared at one another before Jughead nodded.

“That’ll do.” He replied, and while everyone else was distracted, they moved away from the group and the crowd. Some people turned to watch them leave, but it wasn’t until they had vanished up the staircase the Archie noted they’d gone.

“Wait! Where are they running off to?” Archie questioned loudly causing Betty to spare one last look at him before she led Jughead away. Eyes followed them, but as soon as they were out of sight, Archie turned back with raised eyebrows. “Well?”

“Like we know.” Toni murmured causing the others to groan at how unhelpful she was being before they turned around and walked off.

When they had gone, along with the spectators, Toni turned to others before adding: “I think that we all need to realise that it’s going to be like this from now on. Them leaving to go and be with one another.”

“Oh, great! We’re back to this. Next thing we’ll know, we’ll have to be begging Betty for permission to see Jughead.” Sweet Pea muttered as he ran a hand through his hair, effectively ruffling it up and causing it to stick out at several angles before he smoothed it over, the ever present curl settling back on his forehead.

“Seriously?” Kayla asked in confusion causing Sweet Pea to chuckle softly at her. She’d been friends with Toni for years but had only started talking to the Serpents after the argument and wasn't aware of what had gone on before.

“Nah, but we may be adding a new member to our group.” Sweet Pea informed her and she nodded in understanding, letting out a small sigh and leaning into him. A small smile graced his lips as Fangs took their attention.

“He best not fuck it up.” He murmured, but all of them heard him as he moved to look over at the corridor entrance that Betty and Jughead had disappeared down. Like the others, Fangs had hung out with Betty in the past and had genuinely taken a liking to her. Also, like Jughead, he knew what it was like to have to stay away from the girl he liked. Though, he had been forced to stay away because of the divisions between their two houses. Coincidently, that house happened to be Gryffindor – the root of all the Serpents’ problems.

“He’ll fuck it up now, but he’ll make amends before they become stronger together,” Joaquin told his friend with a sigh, he also looked over at the staircase.

“How do you know that?” Sweet Pea asked, clearly perplexed as he glanced down at Kayla, who was just as confused as him. She shrugged as Toni spoke up, looking somewhat forlorn.

“It’s Jughead. He’ll fuck it up somehow.” The pink-haired Serpent huffed in annoyance, Fangs nodded in agreement, though his eyes were stormy. None of them liked to admit how bad Jughead was when it came to letting people in, but they all knew that out of everyone, Betty had the most experience with it.

“And it’s him interacting with Betty. So far he’s made a mess of it. He’ll do something incredibly stupid, then realise his error before writing a letter apologising, and then Betty will forgive him. It’s sort of what they do. It’s happened before.” Joaquin concluded before turning back to Sweet Pea and Kayla, who understood what they meant now.

“Fair point.” Sweet Pea agreed as he glanced down and they all descended into an awkward silence. They all shuffled their feet and exchanged glances, not quite knowing what would happen next.

“Did we seriously just let them walk off, though?” Toni asked suddenly as the thought sprung to mind, the entire group to turn and look at her. The boys all shrugged, not knowing how to respond.

“They weren’t walking off, they’re running away from everyone so that they can talk about all the shit that’s happened recently.” Kayla supplied helpfully, but she apparently hadn’t given Toni the answer that she wanted to hear.

She huffed in response before folding her arms and looking down at her feet before opening her mouth again. “Okay, are we seriously just-” Toni started, but was cut off quickly by Fangs.

“Yes, Topaz, now just shut up and enjoy the fact that we will have a less broody Jughead from now on.” Fangs snapped at her.There was no malice behind it, and as soon as he finished his sentence, the others beamed. As much as they cared for their friend, he did spend too much time brooding.

“I’m cool with it.” Toni murmured.

“Thought you might say that.” Fangs replied casually. With that, they all began to head down the stairs towards the safety of the Slytherin common room.

Chapter Text

Chapter 9 – Is There Somewhere

 

'I'm trying not to let it show,

That I don't want to let this go.

Is there somewhere you can meet me?'

 

Jughead and Betty entered the Blue and Gold in silence, still entranced by everything and still marvelling over what had transpired between the two of them. With their hands still entwined, they entered the bedroom and then looked at one another, taking in every detail. They saw everything. Every fearful glimmer; every shimmer of confusion; every spark of rage; every hint of sorrow; and every gleam of hope, they both saw it in each other’s eyes.

Neither of them said a word as they kicked off their shoes, (Jughead also removed his jacket) and lay down on the bed as if nothing had changed between them. For a while, they just lay there, not talking, basking in what had happened until Jughead broke the silence. “So, erm, I suppose we should talk about everything that happened since we stopped talking.”

“That’s probably a good idea.” Betty nodded in reply before she turned her head so that she could look at him, only to find that he’d already turned on his side. Copying his actions, Betty moved to face him as he captured her left hand in his before holding it gently.

“So do you want to go first? Or should I?” Jughead asked in a shy whisper, his eyes sharing hers desperately while his chest heaved up and down unsteadily. Betty recognised the sign all too well that he was nervous about this and she decided to ease that.

“I’ll start.” Betty gave him a small smile before asking: “But could you take off your beanie?” He stared at her in surprise as she moved to remove her tight ponytail. The action itself was her efficiently removing her safety blanket. She was ridding herself of what everyone thought made her Betty Cooper so that he could see every part of her.

“Okay.” Jughead slowly reached up with his free hand to take off the crown, and he carefully placed it in her right hand. His eyes brightened slightly as she cradled it tenderly in her hand as he watched her.

“Well, I guess I should start with what Archie told me,” Betty muttered after a moment, feeling too scared to talk any louder than she was doing. Jughead didn’t mind it though as in the dim light of the lamps, that had turned on when they entered the room, talking too loud would have ruined the intimacy of their moment.

“Whatever you think is best, Betts.” He simpered at her before he began tracing circles on the back of her hand. For a moment, Betty was distracted by Jughead’s movements, and it took her a few seconds to compose herself before she spoke up.

“Erm, I guess that it started after the party. Archie got quite angry with both of us, remember?” She looked at him as he nodded slowly and she carried on. “Well, when you weren’t around, he started talking about how well you were fitting in with the other Serpents. He kept on going on and on about how you were just playing with my emotions and that you were going to leave me as soon as you joined.” She grimaced at the memory as Jughead watched her, noticing the pain in her eyes.

“He said that?” He asked in disbelief as he stared at him in an attempt to comprehend what he had just heard. He hadn’t quite expected that, but now that he heard Betty’s trembling confession, he realised just how far Archie had been prepared to go.

“Yeah, he did.” Betty clutched his hand tighter as she thought back the memories from that time that had tortured her for so long. Her eyes shut for a moment while he moved fractionally closer to her.

“Merlin’s beard.” Jughead’s voice brought her back to reality as he realised that he was meant to be listening to her talk. “I’m sorry, carry on.” Betty’s eyes flew open as a small smile graced her lips, and she saw how attentively he was gazing at her.

“It’s alright.” Betty’s soft voice was the only thing in the room that Jughead was focusing on as she started to talk again. “Anyway, at first, I just brushed him off, but it was all I’d hear, and it slowly got to me, and then I saw you planning your tattoo. You looked ecstatic, and I felt myself slowly succumbing to everything I was hearing.” She looked down at the joined hands in shame as she admitted that to him.

“Betts...” Jughead started, but he was cut off by the look that Betty gave him, and he waited for her to finish.

“I know that I was wrong too, but when Archie ranted about what you had ‘said’ about me and not wanting to see me, I believed him. It was stupid, and I regret listening to him, but it all sounded so plausible in my mind because... because...” Betty trailed off, not able to find the right words, but she had forgotten that she was talking to the one person that knew her the best.

“Because even after all this time when things fall apart, you still blame yourself even if it isn’t your fault. You think you’re the cause of all the imperfections around you because of the psychological pressure that you’re put under every day. If something goes wrong or you get hurt, you blame yourself as you can never see that you actually aren’t the cause.” Jughead concluded for her causing Betty to glance up at him again as her eyes had moved from his when she had trailed off.

“Juggie, I didn’t help either,” Betty confessed, still trying to find something to blame on herself and at that, Jughead realised that he couldn’t get her to stop blaming herself. She’d never been good at being able to see that she wasn’t always at fault

“Nor did I.” He replied as he moved his hand from hers to gently rub at her shoulder in order to ease her tension. Betty shivered before lightly relaxing into it, and she let out a soft sigh which was then followed by another shaky breath before speaking.

“What do you mean by that?” Betty moved closer to Jughead, who gently brought her into his arms as he brushed a curl from her eyes and behind her ears. His eyes never left hers as he pondered how to answer her question.

“I believed what Archie told me as well. You’re not the only one to blame if that’s how you’re thinking.” Jughead informed her, causing her to finally wonder what had happened during that confrontation, which she had come to know was fuelled by lies. She knew that whatever had happened, it wasn’t just a simple exchange.

“What did he say to you?” Betty asked cautiously, noting that Jughead tensed at the question and this time it was Jughead who was fighting back his own demons. His eyes closed and then opened in rapid succession before he managed to fight back what was attempting to invade his mind.

“For starters, he told me that you didn’t want to see me again. He told me that I was destroying you by becoming a Serpent and that you’d been agonising over it for weeks. He told me that you’d seen me falling off of the deep end and that you couldn’t face what was happening with me and the Serpents.” Jughead started, causing Betty to gasp in shock, having had no idea that Archie could have been treacherous to both of them. 

She shifted forward as he sighed quietly and moved to run his fingers through her hair, calming himself at the sensation. Betty’s eyes widened at that, recognising the signs of his stress and she gently breathed out: “Jug...”

“Wait there’s more.” Jughead cut her off with a grave tone and expression which sent shivers through her spine. The look in his eyes spoke of the grief that ‘more’ had caused him and Betty still couldn’t believe that there was more to it.

“More?!” Betty exclaimed quietly, sitting up in shock causing Jughead to groan as her arm was wrenched up. He slowly followed her actions before directing her gaze back at him by gently turning her head to face him.

“Yeah. When I told him that you’d been fine with me, he explained that you merely had a hero complex and that you’d been trying to save me. By this time, the other Serpents had found us and came to stand behind me when he told me that I would never be good for you. Archie may have been lying and not getting away with it beforehand, but at that point, Betty, I believed him. I have never been good for you, and everyone has made that clear that I’m not.” Jughead’s voice was as broken as the gaze in his eyes and Betty’s heart broke at the sight and sound of it, but she could only think one thing.

“I disagree, Juggie.” Betty’s whisper caused Jughead to gulp as they both stared at each other, jade eyes meeting ice blue. Yet, as Betty mulled over Jughead’s words, he gave her the burst of hope that she hadn’t realised that she wanted.

“And that is why I am going to spend the rest of my life proving that I deserve that faith that you have in me.” Jughead’s sincere tone and the look in his eyes expressed more than the mere mortal communication of his words.

“Jughead, you have nothing to prove.” Betty’s diffident whisper caused him to smile shyly before he waited for her to continue. “Are we going to discuss what happened next?”

“If you want to.” Jughead wasn’t too keen on it because of his own reaction to everything, but he knew that they needed to let this be out in the open. They had so much that they’d both been keeping concealed and they knew that it would best if they confessed to them. After all, too much had happened to keep it behind closed doors as they would affect their entire relationship, which neither was going to allow.

“It was hell in all honesty. I had Mum continually sending me her horrible letters and I couldn’t tell the others about it. Veronica and Kevin tried to help, but they just didn’t know what to say while Archie either made snide comments or making stupid jokes at your expense and it all built up. It was horrendous.” Betty refused to meet his eyes as she began to play with her fingers, which rested in her lap. Jughead caught the familiar sign and gently captured them in his hands before entwined his fingers with hers. Betty took a shaky breath at that but smiled in gratitude before carrying on. “And then, one day, I was in the library, and I saw you surrounded by the Serpents, and you looked so happy – happier than I had seen you in so long and I realised that maybe I’d been the one stopping you from being happy.”

“Betty, look at me. You need to listen to me, okay?” Jughead brought one hand up to her cheek, tilting it so that she would look at him as she nodded slowly.

“Okay.” He smiled at that while brought his hand down to entwine it with hers again, and as he did that, he started to talk to her.

“I was not happier. I was happy, yes, but not happier. The Serpents are my chosen family, and I do find myself enjoying their company. After everything, I needed to find that.” He gulped again, before letting out a shaky breath and revealing everything he’d kept hidden for so long. “But, Betts, you are the sole thing in my life that could both simultaneously destroy me and build me up. Nothing in this world could heal the hole left in me when I thought that you hated me, Betts. So, yes, I allowed myself to have some happiness, but it wasn’t the same. It wasn’t you there. You weren’t there to enjoy it with me. That crushed me.”

“Jughead you don’t mean that.” Betty attempted to argue weakly, but one look from Jughead stopped her from saying any more on the subject.

“Yes, I do,” Jughead confessed quietly as he met her gaze before he let out an uneven breath, signifying to her that there was more that he needed to say. “Betts, I have always felt like that, but there’s more that you need to know.”

“Go on.” Betty probed and waited patiently as Jughead ran a hand through his raven hair, causing it to stick out at several angles as he observed and gaged Betty’s reaction.

“During the summer, I sort of fell off the wagon. I didn’t start drinking or anything like that, but on occasions, I’d wake up with blank patches in my memory. I would attend muggle parties and...” He trailed off, unable to finish what he needed to say.

“And you’d spend time with the girls?” Betty supplied, understanding what he was trying to tell her and a small soft sigh left his lips as she did so. His usually bright eyes dulled with shame as for once, he had the sense not to be proud of what he had done, and in reality, he hadn’t been proud of it when he had done it in the first place.

“Yes. I’m not proud of it, but I did it to forget.” Jughead confessed watching their hands as he waited for Betty to retract hers from his. Yet, she gripped onto him tighter, and this time it was Betty who rubbed circles on the back of his hands.

“To forget what?” Her soft whisper was fuelled by curiosity and Jughead could detect no malice nor anger in either her eyes or her tone. Instead, she was just all her journalist instincts to take over and to allow her to work out how Jughead was going to move on from this point with her.

“Everything. I used it to erase everything from my mind, but mainly I did it to try to stop myself from thinking about you. To forget all the pain and to try and prevent myself from just thinking about everything to do with you. You consumed my thoughts, and I needed to distract myself even if it was for a few hours. Otherwise, all I thought about was your smile; your laughter; your tears; your everything. It was destroying me, and I know that I shouldn’t have done it, but I needed an escape. I can understand if you’re mad though.” Jughead’s voice was fearful, and once again, he refused to meet Betty’s gaze as she retracted one hand from his, yet it was only because of the need to rest it on his cheek.

“I’m not mad at that, Jug,” Betty informed him with a small smile as her thumb traced over his cheekbone. He shivered at the contact while allowing his negative thoughts to get the better of him.

“You have every right to be,” Jughead muttered as he unknowingly leant into her hand. Betty shook her head slowly at him as she moved ever closer to him. In response to this, she received a raised eyebrow, but she ignored it completely.

“Jughead, it’s not like you cheated on me or anything like that. You are allowed to have a stress relief, but I’d rather that you didn’t have that as an outlet now.” Betty continued to soothe his nerves as he mulled over her words.

“Betts, you do realise that out of everyone in the world, you’re the only one that I want to sleep with, right? And that I’ve only ever dreamed of you?” Jughead’s reply caused her cheeks to flush scarlet, and she glanced down at her hand.

“Erm, right, can we talk about something else?” Betty mumbled quietly while Jughead’s eyes widened, realising why she was acting like this. He had been confused at her blush, but it all made sense to him at this point, and as it became apparent, his eyes widened to the size of dinner plates. One look at him in that moment and a person would have assumed that he’d been hit with a swelling solution.

“Shit, Betts, I didn’t realise. Now I feel like a dick for not waiting.” Jughead’s eyes held the bitter annoyance that she knew was directed back at himself. He had been too rash, and now it was coming back to torment him.

“Juggie, don’t fret over it.” Betty insisted as she moved her hand from his face to rub his shoulder gently, where his Serpent tattoo happened to be. Shock waves flooded his senses as he shook his head at her.

“I’m so sorry, Betts. I should have thought about the possibilities, and I should have waited. I’m a selfish idiot. I’m sorry, Betts. Merlin, I’m such a fucking idiot.” Jughead started rambling as his free hand raked through his hair relentlessly and he pulled at it in annoyance.

“Jughead!” Betty’s voice was louder than it had been all day and he was snapped out of his thoughts as she directed his gaze at her again. “I don’t mind, honestly. It’s in the past I have nothing against it. I have no control over your life, and neither of us has a time turner to change what happened before we marked, so stop beating yourself up about it.”

Jughead’s face contorted at that and he looked as if he was finding it difficult to accept Betty’s statement. In the dim light, his features were marred slightly as his guilt masked his face and his eyes almost left Betty’s, but for once even he couldn’t pull his gaze from hers. It was this small fact that caused him to break the silence between them. “I’m still-” Jughead started as Betty grabbed his free hand before cutting him off quickly.

“Apologise one more time, and I’ll make you leave.” Betty snapped before Jughead opened his mouth again. However, he thought better of it and shut his mouth again. “Thank you.” Betty smiled at that until she noted Jughead’s forlorn expression.

“I should probably go anyway. It is late, and you need some sleep, Betts.” Jughead moved to get up when Betty captured his hand, making him turn towards her. Their eyes locked on one another.

“Or you could go to the Slytherin dorm, get a few clothes and some pyjamas and come back here,” Betty suggested, hoping that he’d stay and the small satisfied smirk she received informed her that he did want that.

“Are you asking me to stay again?” Jughead questioned, his smirk broadening as Betty bit her lip and then nodded slowly at him.

“I’ve not slept well since the night that Madam Pomfrey gave me those two draughts and you stayed for the first time. I tried getting the tonics again, but it wasn’t the same. But if you don’t want to stay, you don’t have to.” Betty’s eyes were silently pleading for him to stay with her and he wasn’t going to refuse her anything.

“I’ll go and collect my stuff, but can I have my beanie back?” Jughead nodded at the woollen hat beside her, which she’d dropped at one point. Betty gently and tenderly picked it up, treating it with the utmost respect, which caused Jughead’s heart to race in adoration.

“Here.” Betty passed the object to him, and he beamed at her as he carefully fixed it to his head carefully and then he glanced down at her.

“Thanks, Betty.” His smile was beyond bright, and the light that had faded earlier from his irises had now returned to his eyes. His smile was then matched by the one he received from Betty, and he found himself wanting to capture it on his camera.

“No, thank you, Jughead.” Betty interrupted his thoughts as she moved off of the bed and then came to stand by his side as he put on his boots and then his leather jacket. She’d never tell anyone, but Betty could barely resist Jughead when he was in that jacket.

“Don’t worry about it, Betts. I’ll be back in about ten minutes.” Jughead murmured as he straightened up and with a kiss to her forehead, he disappeared from her sight. As he ran off to collect clothing, Betty readied herself for bed and for the first time, she glanced down at her own wrist.

She’d only looked at Jughead’s mark, but now she found herself entranced by the soulmark when she noticed something in the very centre of the crown. If she hadn’t been studying it, she’d have missed it, but inside the crown was a small ‘FPJ III’. Each letter was elegantly entwined with one another, and a small smile graced her lips.

“I see you’ve also noticed the initials,” Jughead stated as he entered the room, seeing Betty staring at the mark again. “I feel as if it is saying that I am now the property Elizabeth Octavia Cooper.” He smiled at her before dropping his bag to the ground with a thump and adding: “Not that I mind. Oh, and Betts, I like what you’re wearing.”

Betty opened her mouth to speak but was cut off by Jughead crouching down to grab his nightwear before he disappeared into the bathroom. A small sigh left her lips as she glanced down at what she was wearing – an old, black t-shirt of Jughead’s, which wouldn’t fit him now and white pyjama bottoms with small black flowers decorating them.

When Jughead re-emerged, Betty took in his appearance before asking: “Do you ever not wear plaid?” Jughead chuckled in response before slipping under the covers with her, and then they both turned out their respective lights. For a moment they just turned on their side, not touching when Jughead spoke up.

“Betts?”

“Hmm?”

“Can I hold you?” Betty didn’t respond to that before she slipped into his embrace and lay her head on his chest. Jughead’s arm wrapped around Betty’s body, pulling her into him as he rolled slightly to lay on his back. She used his chest as a pillow while one of his hands tangled in her hair. The slow breathing and the sensation of being close to each other lulled them both to sleep.

...

Sunlight flooded the room from the gap in the muslin curtains, waking Jughead from his slumber. For a moment, he felt disorientated, not recognising his surroundings until he felt Betty move beside him. Her head remained buried in his chest as she moved to grip onto him more tightly. In response, Jughead pulled her closer to him and brought one hand up to tangle in her soft curls, brushing out the knots with his dexterous fingers.

“Hmm, that tickles,” Betty mumbled while opening her bright green eyes and offering Jughead a lazy, yet dazzling smile. It was these unguarded smiles that were Jughead’s favourite, and he found himself returning it.

“Morning to you, sleepyhead.” Jughead continued to run his finger through her hair as she grew accustomed to the light before allowing herself to look up at Jughead with squinting. The sunlight made the olive undertones in his skin stand out more easily, and the dark circles under his eyes seemed to have lessened in intensity.

“I’ve missed this.” Betty murmured as she began to trace shapes over his t-shirt, which matched hers. Jughead shuddered at the sensation, but a smirk graced his lips at her actions. He stared at her as she focused on her actions.

“So have I, Betts.” Jughead finally admitted as her hand wandered over to his right shoulder making Jughead’s breath catch in his throat. Betty stared up at him in confusion as she moved up the material to see his tattoo. Her delicate fingers traced the design as she hummed quietly before realising something.

“You never told me what happened during your initiation,” Betty whispered after a moment as she propped herself up on her elbow, in order to look at him more easily. Jughead met her gaze with his own cautious stare.

“Are you sure that you want to know about that?” He wasn’t too keen on her knowing, but he conceded that she should know about it. After all, they’d spoken about everything else, and she had been close to him when he was considering joining the gang.

“I’m certain.” Betty insisted as she swept the curl that always fell into his eyes away. Her fingers then carded through his hair as he watched her, noting that she was using this as a distraction to get him to tell her. He sighed loudly before he gently grasped her wrist before placing it over his heart. Betty’s smile alerted him to the fact that she knew he’d tell her.

“Erm, well, this is only what the boys do, by the way, and this is the only thing about the Serpents that I can tell you seeing as it’s common knowledge.” Jughead sighed dramatically before he rolled over to face her more easily while Betty settled down against her pillow.

“Jug, can you just tell me, please?” Betty pleaded before jutting her bottom lip causing him to give into her.

“First, I had to take care of the gang’s dog – Hot Dog, which I did over the holiday. He’s a devil sometimes, but it’s the first trial. Often, we all call it ‘taking care of the beast,’ or at least Sweet Pea calls it that.” Jughead chuckled at the memory of Sweet Pea informing him of that task. They’d been friends long before Jughead had actually joined the Serpents, but when he started the trails, their friendship had only strengthened.

“I remember Hot Dog. He’s was always following you around when we were at yours that holiday.” Betty murmured, thinking of the old English sheepdog who had been present at Christmas last year when Betty had visited. She’d also been re-introduced to the Serpents at the time, and she could remember they’re compassion for the dog.

“He used to sleep on my bed, and Dad kept on going on about how fitting it was that Forsythe the Third was looking after Hot Dog the Third.” Jughead smiled at the memory, as his mind filled with images of the dog came forth. He missed Hot Dog, but he knew that he was in the safe hands of one of the other Serpents.

“Hot Dog the Third? Merlin, you all need to find better names.” Betty mumbled at that as she clasped the hand resting on her hip. A small grin graced Jughead’s lips at the action before he grew more serious.

“You think I don’t know that?” Jughead asked causing a giggle to leave Betty’s lips. “Anyway, that’s the first trial. Then I had to learn and recite all the Serpent Laws.” He could remember the endless hours with Sweet Pea and Toni, reciting each law until they merely said a number and he’d know what they’d be referring to.

“Which are?” Betty prompted, wanting to know more about her soulmates gang in a bid to understand what she would have to accept. Also, she figured that if she knew, she’d be able to know why he’d have to do certain tasks for the Serpents.

“Fuck, Betts, how much do you want to know?” Jughead asked, surprised at her curiosity, though he remembered that she often probed him for answers. She’d always been naturally inquisitive, even during their youth and he accepted that he should have realised that she’d want to know as much as she could about the Serpents.

“Everything,” Betty confirmed Jughead’s suspicions, and he sighed before playing with a single strand of her hair, which he focused on as he spoke.

“Okay, fine. First and foremost, a Serpent never shows cowardice, and no Serpent stands alone. These are often entwined with one another. Secondly, if a Serpent is imprisoned or killed, their family is taken care of, and that will include their soulmate or the soulmate of their children. So, say something was to happen to me, then they’d look after you.” Jughead informed her and watched as she shivered at his final sentence.

“Please don’t make me think about that.” Betty’s jade eyes lost their light at Jughead’s statement, and Jughead instantly regretted saying that to her. He brought her in closer to him causing her to relax slightly.

“Sorry, Betts. That wasn’t my intention. Do you want me to tell you the rest?” Jughead knew better than to try and get off of the topic and he wanted to keep Betty from thinking about that possible scenario.  

“Yes, go on.” Betty urged, grateful that he wasn’t attempting to hide anything from her. A soft sigh left his lips at that while Betty treated him with a gentle smile.

“Thirdly, only a Serpent can know Serpent business – so if I have to do something for the gang, then you can’t ask about it unless you were to join. Saying that, the Juniors and I don’t tend to get involved with that.” Jughead could see the flash of irritation in her gaze at that as he shook his head and rolled his eyes. He knew that later on, Betty may become more agitated by that rule, but he wasn’t going to break his laws.

“Do you want me to join?” Betty asked suddenly, breaking him out of him out of his thought process and causing him to raise his eyebrows at her as he cocked his head to the side. He hadn’t honestly thought of that and Betty’s question had his mind reeling.

“That’s a question for another time, Betts.” Jughead attempted to fight back his imagination as he knew all too well what girls had to do to become a Serpent. “Anyway, shall I continue?” He asked to distract himself before his body reacted to those thoughts. At Betty’s nod, he carried on, all the while he traced circles onto her shoulder. “The fourth law states that no Serpent is left for dead. Fifth, a Serpent never betrays his own and sixth, in unity, there’s strength. There are also two unofficial rules that a Serpent cannot hurt one of their own and that a Serpent never shed its skin.”

“And you live by all of these?” Betty asked in awe as well as shock. She knew how dedicated Jughead was to the Serpents, but she had never expected that he’d have to live by all of those rules.

“I have to. I’m the leader of the Juniors after all.” Jughead mumbled as he added mentally: ‘And my dad happens to run the gang, but I don’t want you to know that just yet.’ His eyes trailed over Betty’s face as he waited for her to react and to ask for more information on the Serpents and she didn’t wait long to do just that.

“Is there more to the initiation?” The tentative whisper shocked Jughead, but he knew that Betty was still mulling over everything else he’d told her.

Chapter Text

Chapter 10 – Naked

'I'm not going to wait until you're done

Pretending you don't need anyone

I'm standing here naked

I'm standing here naked

I'm not going to try 'til you decide

You're ready to swallow all your pride

I'm standing here naked.'

 

As soon as Betty and Jughead had left the sanctuary of the Blue and Gold, they felt the eyes of the other students upon them. Wherever they went and whatever they did, the others would all watch intensely to the point where both of them were fed up with it. Neither wanted to be the centre of attention, and now it seemed like all chances of hiding in the shadows had been ripped from them when Sheriff Keller and Cheryl Blossom took the spotlight.

On Sunday morning, the day before the Quidditch Match where Hufflepuff and Slytherin would face Ravenclaw and Gryffindor, the two of them addressed the entire school. Keller was dressed in black Aurors robes looking incredibly solemn whereas Cheryl was as always in scarlet and the sight was one that confused all the students as they entered. Each was sent to their tables, and unlike on most days, they could not sit with another house.

Yet, before either was allowed to speak, Professor McGonagall wearily took the lectern to address her school. “There have been many inquiries about the upcoming Quidditch game, so let me first state clearly, that it is happening as scheduled. Now on a less felicitous note, I ask you to all give your attention to Head Auror Sheriff Keller.” 

When McGonagall stepped away, Keller moved towards the lectern looking more sombre than ever. His eyes, which usually held some light in them, were as dark and misty as the depths of the Black Lake. He cleared his throat awkwardly before addressing those before him. “Most of you already know the details, but your classmate’s, Jason Blossom, body was found late Saturday night last week. So, as of that weekend, Jason’s death is now being treated as a homicide. It is an open and ongoing investigation.”

He looked as if he was about to say more when Cheryl moved the microphone and began to speak directly to everyone there. “May I interject? Neither I nor my parents will rest until Jason’s death is avenged, and his cold-hearted killer is walking through the gates of Azkaban Prison. I for one have my suspicions, hashtag Hogwarts Strong.” She took a step back while Sheriff Keller stared at her in disbelief.

He let out a huff of breath before speaking again. “If you know anything that could help us find and apprehend Jason’s killer or anything about what happened on to him on July fourth, I strongly urge you to come forward immediately to me or Professor McGonagall. A death like this wounds us all. Let’s not let Jason down.”

Everyone was glancing at one another in suspicion, and Jughead managed to catch a glimpse of Archie staring at Professor Grundy in horror. When all of them were dismissed, Jughead turned to Sweet Pea and quickly muttered: “I need to go and sort something about all of this. You get the team together and keep all the Serpents in check, okay?” They all stared at him as he waited for his friend’s reply.

“I will do, Jug, but what’s going on.” Sweet Pea’s eyes were as frantic as Jughead felt, but he merely tapped the side of his head and grab his things before walking off. “He’s off to save the world again, I guess.” The tallest Serpent mumbled as they all watched Jughead’s figure retreating and the way that he didn’t wait for Betty.

“And he’s not taking Betty, interesting.” Toni murmured before she stood up grabbing her bag and turning to the others. “And seeing as the Hufflepuff Keeper is playing tomorrow, you lot don’t need me, so I’m going to go and talk to Betty. Don’t wait up for me.” With that, she disappeared in a flash of pink hair. By the doors, she looped arms with Betty and Veronica before nodding at Kevin and guiding them away.

“And then there were three.” Joaquin murmured as he took a sip of the coffee in front of him while Fangs and Sweet Pea rolled their eyes. Sweet Pea glanced further down their table to see Kayla sitting with her group of friends. She felt his eyes on her and looked up before giving him a small wave which he returned. As soon as a smile graced her lips, her friends pulled her back into their conversation, and Sweet Pea let out a sigh of frustration.

While Sweet Pea was sighing, Toni, Kevin and Veronica had all but dragged her into an empty classroom on the first floor. After locking the door, the three of them hopped onto the teacher's desk while Betty settled at one of the standard tables. The three exchanged a knowing glance as Betty asked: “So, erm, why did you drag me in here?”

“Because, B, we want you to tell us everything that happened last night.” Veronica’s fingers drilled against the table as she tried to contain her excitement. She was over the moon about what had happened last night. Though, she wanted more details about it, just like everyone else.

“Weren’t you watching?” Betty asked, folding her arms in front of her chest as she bounced her leg nervously, unsure of what Veronica or Kevin might say. As for Toni, she knew that the pink haired Serpent would keep quiet about the whole thing and was there for both Betty and Jughead.

“No, Kev and I were helping Professor Flitwick, and we missed everything that happened in the Entrance Hall,” Veronica informed her friend with a smile. Most would have smiled in reply, but Betty saw the overwhelming curiosity in her friend’s eyes and was enjoying having the slight upper hand over Veronica. She had the information that the raven-haired girl craved after all.

“And we also want to hear it directly from you.” Kevin chipped in, cocking his head to the side and pouted at Betty, exploiting her weakness. A sigh escaped the blonde’s lips as she turned to look at Toni as if asking her to divulge why she was here.

“That and I want to see your mark. We never got to see it probably last night.” Toni replied, nodding at Betty’s left wrist causing the blonde’s eyes to widened before she pushed up the sleeve of her sweater. The crown appeared much brighter than it had been last night. The daylight caused Betty’s pale skin to look creamier than usual, and it contrasted with the onyx colour of the mark. The initials inside were also much more apparent in this light and the three staring at Betty’s wrist in surprise.

“Wow. I wasn’t expecting it to look like that.” Kevin hopped off the desk first and grabbed Betty’s wrist while the other two followed him to look carefully at the crown. They all traced it once as Betty stared at them in shock.

“It’s beautiful, B.” Veronica smiled at her, in awe of the soulmark on her best friend’s skin. Betty beamed back at Veronica while Toni examined the mark even more and Betty waited for the pink-haired girl to speak.

“Wait, does it say FPJ III on the inside?” Toni asked suddenly as she noticed the beautiful calligraphy inside the central design. She’d heard of this type of soulmark, but she had never seen it in the flesh before.

“Yeah, it does. Jughead’s has EOC inside of it.” Betty smiled, not understanding what Toni was referring to. After all, her knowledge of soulmates was limited to what Jughead had told her as her parents never discussed them and nor did the professors.

“That’s unusual. Most don’t have that inside. I think that there is something more just having your souls meet.” Toni informed her as she glanced back at Betty, surprised that the blonde didn’t know about this side of the soulmate programme. 

“Are you sure about that, Toni?” Betty asked unsure of what her friend was alluding to while she rolled her sweater down to cover the mark as she sat back in her seat. The other three exchanged a look before Veronica spoke up.

“I’ve heard of that as well. It usually means that there is a much stronger bond than more. I think that whatever happens, the two of you will emerge stronger.” She simpered at Betty, who’s eyes widened while she traced the mark over her cotton jumper.

“Are you certain that it isn’t just a normal soulmark?” Betty asked in confusion because as much as she’d like that to be true, she wasn’t about to get her hopes up. She was terrified of this suspicion may be wrong. That, and she was content with just being Jughead’s soulmate.

“Betty, Betty, Betty, embrace the fact that you and beanie boy are destined to be together, and hopefully you’ll never have too much trouble with one another.” Kevin snapped her out of her thoughts as he placed a hand on her shoulder. He’d never admit that he was slightly jealous of this revelation, but he then decided that if anyone deserved it, it would have to be Betty.

“Hopefully, but that’s not guaranteed.” Betty’s smile faded as she admitted that and she reached up to tighten her ponytail. Toni narrowed her eyes at the movement but made no comment on that as she added her part.

“Oh, we know. Trust me. When you left last night, we all decided that something will happen and then there’ll be an eloquent letter by Forsythe, and then you’ll make up again.” There was a small smile playing on her lips as she thought of the conversation last night.

“That’s convincing.” Betty murmured in annoyance as she leant back and glanced at the door, only to see a figure walking past the door, yet they vanished before Betty could get a good look at them. Her eyebrows raised in curiosity because she could have sworn that she saw a familiar leather jacket, but she wasn’t too sure, and she had no idea who had past the door.

“Talking about last night, what did you and Jughead talk about last night?” Veronica asked, snapping Betty out of her thoughts and she turned her head to look back at Veronica. Widened jade eyes met ebony as the other two leant forward.

“And more importantly, did you kiss?” Kevin asked excitedly, desperate to know more about what happened between his friend and Jughead. Yet, he had the feeling that he wouldn’t hear what he wanted to discover.

“Is that really the most important thing?” Betty asked incredulously as she stared at the Gryffindor boy in front of her. Cocking her head to the side, she allowed her eyes to narrow while she waited for her reply.

“Yes!” The other all but yelled at her. All of them craved the answer to that question as they knew that if Kevin hadn’t asked that, then they wouldn’t have gotten that information. Betty wouldn’t allude to it without prompt, but she merely shook her head at them.

“For Merlin’s sake. No, we didn’t kiss. We just talked before falling asleep.” Betty stated with a small sigh as she tightened her ponytail again.“We spoke about what happened with Archie last year. It was horrible to hear it, and it was even worse to realise that the person we thought as our best friend would do that to us. We spoke about what was said to us and then vaguely glanced at what happened afterwards. Jughead confessed to...” Betty trailed off, finding it uncomfortable to admit causing Veronica and Kevin to exchange a confused glance while Toni nodded in understanding.

“To sleeping with several muggles over the summer?” Betty’s small nod confirmed that and Toni had to admit that she was proud of Jughead for not keeping that secret from Betty. “We know. He fell off the wagon completely until one day, Jughead saw one of the muggles who had been trying to sleep with him. She looked like you, and he ended up running off. It shocked him, and he refused to sleep with anyone until he found his soulmate.”

“He didn’t go into that detail. In fact, he could barely tell me.” Betty admitted, uncertain about how she felt about Toni knowing that. Yet, she conceded that as one of Jughead’s closest friends, Toni would have been informed when he ‘fell off the wagon,’ as they had both put it.

“At least he did tell you,” Veronica informed her in an attempt to ease the uncertainty coursing through Betty. The blonde nodded at that as Veronica did have a point and Jughead had definitely struggled to speak the night before, which was an uncommon occurrence.

“And now we know that he knows what he’s doing now when you two have your first time together,” Kevin added not so helpfully causing Betty to choke on the breath that she’d just taken.

“Was that really necessary, Kev?” Betty asked after she’d swallowed that particularly difficult breath of air. Her eyes had widened, and she looked at him in shock. She’d never been too fond of the references that Kevin made subtly let alone when there was no mistaking what he was talking about.

“Yes.” He smirked at her, but then his eyes turned from smug to serious as he noted Betty’s expression as well as her tone. There was something else, and that was something that they needed to get into. “But, there’s more, isn’t there?”

“This morning we spoke about him joining the Serpents, and he explained the process of initiation as well as all the laws.” Betty murmured, shivering involuntarily at the memory of the process of joining the Serpents. It haunted Jughead and just hearing about it had made Betty sick to her stomach. Well, at least one part had made her feel like that.

“I bet you loved hearing about the Gauntlet,” Toni asked, sensing Betty’s distress. She suspected that Jughead hadn’t mentioned the female initiation and when Betty nodded, that was confirmed for her. Toni was grateful that Jughead hadn’t gone into that as for most of the Junior Serpents as well as some of the Seniors disagreed with misogynistic dance.

“The Gauntlet?” Veronica asked, almost horrified by the expressions on both of the other girls while Kevin looked downcast. Sheriff Keller had no secrets that he did not share with Kevin and his son knew all too well what both of the initiations were. The thought of Jughead, the boy who been through so much pain, going through that made Kevin feel a little light-headed.

“You don’t want to know,” Toni informed Veronica with a dark look in her gaze. There was no doubting that Toni new the horrors of the Gauntlet better than anyone else. After all, she’d witnessed the Gauntlets of Jughead, Fangs, Sweet Pea and Joaquin and they were not pretty at all.

“You really don’t,” Betty added as she recalled the look in her soulmate’s eyes this morning when he’d spoken about it.

Yet, while the four spoke about more topics than just the Serpents, Jughead was stalking the corridors of Hogwarts, following Archie and Grundy. They made their way towards Grundy’s personal quarters, which perplexed Jughead, but he made no noise as he moved silently beneath his invisibility cloak, which he’d put on after passing the classroom. His light steps were barely audible, especially not when Archie always made so much noise.

Entering her office, he slid inside before she locked and bolted the door and pulled a curtain over the door. Scurrying into the corner, Jughead watched as Archie faced his Muggle Studies teacher, looking sheepish. “We should have told someone what we heard.” The redhead told the woman before him.

“And do what? Explain why you and I were at the Black Lake at six o’clock in the morning? You know that it would just lead to more trouble and wouldn’t help either of us, Archie.” She murmured, running a hand through her mousey brown hair as she inelegantly sat down at her desk. “Besides, you read the autopsy, Jason didn’t die until the 11th, so what we were doing at the Black Lake or the spells we saw would be irrelevant anyway.”

Jughead knew precisely what that meant, and he felt horrified at the idea of Archie, his oldest friend, sleeping with his teacher. He wanted to throw up, and he wanted to hex or hit something, but he knew better than to make a sound. So, he just sat there in disgust watching what happened next.

“I still feel guilty though,” Archie admitted causing Jughead to think: Good, you should. Though, his ex-best friend was about to dig himself a deeper hole. “And then with everything that happened with Betty, I just feel like I’m fucking up everything. I mean she ended up with him. Of all the people she had to end up with it had to be Jughead fucking Jones. He’ll only hurt and abuse her.” There was nothing in this world that could control Jughead’s rage at that apart from the desire not to be discovered. Though even that was beginning to lose its appeal.

“Archie, I know this is difficult, but trust me, I’ve learnt the hard way that having a soulmate does not guarantee happiness. As for Mr Jones abusing her, he is a snake after all. They abuse each other for fun, so I wouldn’t be surprised.” She leant forward and took Archie’s hand in hers, causing him to glance at her as she guided him to sit in the seat opposite her. “As for now, you are welcome to come to me for whatever you need. I know that I’ll never be Elizabeth Cooper, but I will be here for you.”

Disgusting, vile and wrong. Yep, Archie’s definitely made some bad decisions. Jughead thought to himself as he watched the teacher gently rub at Archie’s palm. There was an intimacy to the action that Jughead had to avert his eyes away from it while he sat there with a bitter taste in his mouth.

“I know that Geraldine, and I am truly grateful for that. You have been a lifesaver these past few months, and I am grateful for it. I just wish that it had worked out in my favour.” Archie confessed, even though he knew that he was merely using her as a distraction. Grundy herself didn’t see it like that, but Archie knew the truth.

“As for the Betty issue, I can assure you that being someone’s soulmate does not mean that love will follow. I know that you believe that Jones loves her, but she may not love him. Think about it, Archie. She willing left him when you pushed her towards seeing the truth.” Grundy started, smiling at Archie as if she could convince him of whatever twisted idea was in her head.

Bitch! You’re a filthy, manipulative, paedophile and you’re still a bitch as well! Shut the fuck up! Jughead thought, clenching his hands into fists as his eyes burnt holes into the back of her skull. He wanted to hurt her, but he refrained from acting out.

“Geraldine...” Archie started, but Grundy placed a finger on his lips as she carried on.

“I know that she took him back and that she now has rejected you stupidly, but you just need to wait in the wings. I can’t believe that she’s not your soulmate, but you just need to wait until Jones fucks it up. Betty will fall to you when it happens, and you can be there for her. She’ll be reminded of all the kind words and good that you have showered on her, and she’ll realise that although her soul is tied to another that you’re meant to be with her. After all, you’re the boy next door. Yes, you’ve experimented, but no one cares about that. Betty, however, is pure and perfect, and I can assure you that she is waiting for you.” Grundy assured and advised Archie while Jughead was consumed with rage and wanted to cause some series damage.

Archie grinned at that as he slowly stood up and began to pace up and down. His mind was spinning, and he turned to look at Grundy. “So, for now, I just wait until Jughead fucks up and I do what?”

“Well, that’s why I’m here. To be a distraction.” That was enough for Archie, who swiftly guided Grundy from the central office and towards the bedroom. At that, Jughead quickly made for the exit, not wanting to hear what was about to take place.

For the rest of the day, he hid from the world before turning towards the Blue and Gold. He knew that Betty would be there and although he was angry and likely to lash out, he couldn’t allow Betty to go without sleep again. That and he’d slept a lot better than when he’d been away from her. 

Upon entering the secret room behind the Blue and Gold, he saw Betty by the window staring out over the grounds. She looked pensive and over so slightly broken. “Penny for your thoughts?” He asked quietly as he neared her causing her head to snap to the side and she took in his appearance. There was a glint of anger in his eyes from earlier, but she could tell that it wasn’t directed at her.

“I spoke to Veronica, Kevin and Toni.” Betty's voice was soft and scared as she moved off of the window sill. She stood in front of him with a terrified gleam in her eyes that Jughead just couldn’t decipher.

“Right...” He spoke slowly, taking several calculated steps towards her, his eyes searching her face, desperate to understand. He had no idea what had happened, but he had the sneaking suspicion, that he wouldn’t like the answer.

“And we spoke about all sorts though mainly about last night and this morning.” Betty started as she ran a hand through her hair, which was already free from her ponytail. Upon recognising this moment of weakness, Jughead carefully removed his beanie as he took another step towards her.

“Okay...” Jughead trailed off, having no idea where this could lead to as Betty looked down at her clenched palms. She released them slowly as she stared into those bright eyes that seemed to have lost some of their light.

“And while we were talking, I swear that I saw someone pass the door and thinking back to it, I recognised your jacket, so what were you doing?” Betty asked, her voice still small. She wasn’t familiar with the boy across from her, and she knew that for this to work, she’d have to be able to understand his actions.

“Betts...” Jughead started to speak, but the words got lodged in his throat as he looked at her downcast expression. The two of them just stared at one another as Jughead swallowed slowly while waiting for the impending doom that was coming.

“I just want to know what happens in your life again,” Betty confessed as she stood there, almost fearful of Jughead’s reaction, but where she expected anger, only pain followed. His eyes didn’t turn into the colour of a sea during a storm, but the shade of blue that they turned caused her heart to clench.

“Betty, you don’t want to know about this,” Jughead informed her, his voice small and his gaze utterly broken. He was attempting to push back his rage that he hadn’t managed to shake from earlier and he tried to stop himself from lashing out.

“But, Jug.” Betty hated his secretive nature, and she hated how he wouldn’t let her in, but more importantly, she hated the broken look in his eyes. The last time she’d seen that look, Jughead had then fallen into an apoplectic rage.

“Don’t Betty, please, not this. You’re going to hate every part of this when you hear it.” Jughead countered, trying to control the anger that was attempting to consume him.

“I couldn’t hate you.” Betty reminded him as he took another step towards her while she rested against the window sill, pressing her hands against the cold stone behind her. Jughead’s eyes captured hers as he took the final step towards her.

“And yet you hate one of the things I hold dearest.” His voice as a shadow of a whisper, but it was full of fury, agony and the slightest tremor of fear. Fear – fear of himself as well as what could happen between the two of them.

Betty, however, was experiencing a tidal wave of guilt, shame and terror. She knew what he was referring to and could remember his hatred of what she tried to hide from the rest of the world, especially herself. “Jughead, I know where you’re going with this.”

“Yes, so do I, Betty,” Jughead replied in irritation as he ran a hand through his hair causing several pieces to stick out on end. The curl, however, stayed in place as Betty fought the urge to smooth out and tame his unruly hair.

“That’s different.” She insisted as she played with her own hair absentmindedly. Jughead watched her as she did that and caught the scars and wounds from where she’d dug her nails into the delicate skin. His eyes narrowed at the sight of her pain, and he gulped at the memories invading his mind as the anger overtook his thought process.

“Not really. You see, you ask me to stop hating myself when in actual fact you do the same thing in regards to you. You tell me that I shouldn’t let myself get hurt or you feel yourself becoming disgusted at the idea of the Gauntlet when you spend half the time digging your nails into your palms. You think that I don’t notice, but I do.” He wanted to yell; he wanted to scream; he wanted to do something, but he had no idea what to do. He needed to help Betty, but she would never allow him to do that until it got infinitely worse.

“Jughead, don’t.” Betty’s eyes watered slightly as she did not want to think of this and nor did she enjoy the fact that Jughead knew about that habit. Yet, with him there, watching and observing her every move, she couldn’t dig her nails in. He’d see it, and she refused to be weak in front of him.

“Why, Betty? Why not? Because I know both sides of you? Because I’ve seen it all before when we were younger?” Jughead asked, raking his hands through his raven locks while he moved towards her. His face was contorted in pain – a pain that Betty had not witnessed in years; not since Gladys Jones had taken Jellybean from Jughead.

Yet, despite seeing this, Betty’s own anger and fear took over, and she snapped back. “Because it terrifies me and it should terrify you!” Tears spilt from her eyes, but she barely noticed as they cascaded down her cheeks.

However, for Jughead, it had been what he needed to calm down. The sight of her angry tears triggered Jughead’s shift in emotions as he couldn’t put himself over her. He reached out and gently wiped away the tears one by one. Betty hiccuped as her torrent of emotions flooded her every nerve and Jughead murmured: “You could never scare me.”

“I should.” Betty’s soft whisper terrified Jughead as he realised that she was more scared of herself than she was of him. In many ways, Jughead would have preferred for her to be petrified of him rather than herself, but he had no power to change how she felt.

Though that didn’t mean that he wasn’t going to try.

“Betty out of the two of us, you should be scared of me.” Jughead started to say, trying to work out how he was going to take this. He allowed his instincts to take over and attempted to navigate this when Betty spoke up.

“Maybe I am, but you don’t care!” Her voice shook with pain and anger. She had no control over it, and she was allowing it to consume her as she looked up at him. Yet, deep inside of her, she knew that she was lying.

“I don’t care? Betts, all I do is care about you.” Jughead couldn’t see how she could feel this way and his entire body froze at the mere suggestion. It hurt him more than most of the insults that he’d ever received. It even hurt him more than when Archie had lied to him. The raw shock caused his throat to constrict as the self-loathing attempted to engulf him in a tight embrace.

“You won’t soon enough. Everything changed. I can’t control it!” Betty wailed as she finally confessed the one thing that she’d tried to ignore; that she’d tried to deny to herself and yet now she was confessing it to Jughead. Jughead – it was always him. He was always the one who could get her to admit to all of this darkness.

“Then don’t,” Jughead ordered, his voice both stern but not harsh. He was instructing her, no commanding her, but he wasn’t doing it selfishly, which shocked her. He was acting as if it wasn’t for his benefit, yet in her fury and fear, she continued to push back.

“I’ll hurt you. Hell, you’ll probably want to hurt me, and I’ll probably want that.” Betty argued, her face now streaked with tears as she looked into those crystalline depths. Jughead’s eyes reflected her lost expression as both of them had no idea what to do next, and it was tearing them apart from the inside out.

“Betty, don’t start this again. Not now.” Jughead instructed, too exhausted from all of these turbulent events to be able to handle this with the restraint and decorum that it required. He couldn’t let Betty down, but he couldn’t do this with both of them emotionally frustrated and drained.

“Still after all this time you hate it.” Betty snapped, her tormented soul getting the better of her as Jughead felt himself grow more and more frustrated. He didn’t hate it, this ‘darkness’, or ‘dark Betty’ as she’d called it in the third year, but he was afraid of how it made her feel.

“Enough, Betty. Enough of all of this. Go to bed and sleep this off.” Jughead finally commanded before stalking off into the bathroom, where he’d left his nightclothes this morning so that he could get changed more easily.

Betty watched him turn his back but knew that he wouldn’t be leaving her again, which was enough to calm her ever so slightly. She sighed quietly, frustrated at herself before climbing under the covers and turning out the light beside her. Closing her eyes, she attempted to sleep and ignored Jughead as he came to the other side of the bed.

After around half an hour of frustration, Betty heard the sound of Jughead trying to control his breathing. It wasn’t a panic attack, she knew that for sure. It was his way of coping with the pain and to fight back the tears that wished to be shed. Yet, before she could say or do anything, he seemed to have calmed down. He’d always been able to do that, have a lapse of control and then reboot and Betty would be lying if she said that she wasn’t entirely jealous of that.

Despite that, it alerted Betty to the idea that Jughead was hurting too and that fact causing a lump in her throat that she could not get rid of. With a tremulous whisper, she spoke into the dark room. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have ranted at you or said that you didn’t care. I just don’t want to hurt you.”

“I’m not going to get hurt, Betty.” Jughead’s soft whisper held no malice nor anger anymore as he rolled over to face her. Betty herself couldn’t bare to look at him in the fear that she’d completely break down.

“You’re already hurt, Jughead.” She mumbled as Jughead wrapped his arms around her waist, pulling her into him. He wasn’t going to force her to look at him, but he knew that Betty needed the comfort of someone holding her.

“And I’m still keeping secrets, which in turn is making you feel the same pain.” He admitted, needing her to know that she wasn’t the only one who had made a mistake since they’d entered the room.

“You’ll explain, but not tonight.” Betty murmured, too tired to argue, but she knew that he’d make it up to her. After all, beneath the bed was a box full of letters that he’d written over the years from whenever they’d fallen out. Under the bed in the Slytherin dorm, Jughead had a similar box, and both knew that one of them would be writing a letter to the other.

For about ten minutes, they stayed silent when Jughead spoke up quietly: “Betts?” His voice was barely even a diffident whisper, and it sent a shiver through her spine. She despised that she’d made him feel so small and she pulled away from him slightly.

“Yes?” She asked, her tone just as quiet as his voice had been as she moved away before bowing her head slightly.

“Come ‘ere.” Jughead’s soft order was undeniable, and Betty rolled over to face him before she was suddenly engulfed in his arms. She was pulled against his chest as she dug her head into his neck while one of his hands tangled in her hair. As he did that, he murmured: “I’m sorry too.”

“You didn’t mean it,” Betty mumbled, feeling just as guilty as Jughead did, but both knew that neither would hold it against the other.

“I know that, but still, I shouldn’t have acted like that.” He murmured before skimming his lips across her forehead. The gesture itself held a promise of change as well as the promise not to leave. “And, I promise that we’ll get through all of this and we’ll always get through the hardships and arguments.”

“Always?” Betty asked, her eyes meeting Jughead’s and watching as his eyes turned from guilt-ridden to sincere. There was also a small flicker of hope in his bright gaze before he pulled her closer and placed his lips beside her ear. His answer sent both shockwaves and comfort through her body. And he only muttered one word.

“Always.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 11 – Dirty Laundry

Dirty laundry is piling in her room

She's got her secrets

Yeah, I got mine too.

I don't care about what you did

Only care about what we do

Dirty laundry looks good on you.’

 

“You managed to fuck it up in less than twenty-four hours!” Toni exclaimed as she saw Jughead sitting at lunch, writing a letter on a piece of parchment. The other Serpents around him stared in shock as Toni glowered down at him. “Jughead, what the fuck did you do? Because it’s pretty clear that something happened.”

Jughead glanced up from his writing to meet her angry gaze as she stood there with her hands on her hips looking murderous. With a heavy sigh, Jughead signed what he had written and then turned to look at Toni. “We had an argument, Toni. A lot of people have them. We said some shit and then promised to make it up last night. And before you ask, no, I’m not telling you what happened.”

With that, he turned back and allowed his mind to travel back to last night. Neither of them had spoken about it in the morning, but then again, they’d barely talked this morning. “Hmm, well, I still think you’re an idiot Jones.” Toni snapped at him as she sat down beside him.

“Well, duh, he’s friends with you.” Joaquin teased with a smile, noticing how Jughead was re-reading his letter for Betty. He raised his eyebrows and then asked: “Do you seriously write a letter each time you have an argument? What if it’s Betty’s fault?”

Jughead glanced up and was about to answer when Toni spoke up. “To quote Rose Hathaway, ‘it is never the girl's fault, even when it is the girl's fault.’” She smiled over at Joaquin before looking at Jughead before adding: “But seriously, you’re writing a letter?”

The beanie-clad boy rolled his eyes at Toni before he replied to her. “I’m a writer and so is she. I can’t convey how I feel when I speak, or at least I struggle with it. When I’m writing, however, I can express so much more. And also, Betty’s written her fair share of letters, but this time it’s because of me, so I’m apologising. I snapped first, and she countered, which always happens when I get angry.”

Toni rolled her eyes while Joaquin nodded at that before smiling. “Well, at least you two have a system worked out,” Joaquin told Jughead as Fangs nodded before something else caught their eyes and Joaquin spoke up again. “Hey, Sweet Pea, you alright?” Joaquin looked over at their approaching friend, who moved to sit down beside him.

“I suppose so. I’ve just finished sorting everything with Hufflepuff for the match.  It’ll be you, me, Jug and Fangs with Elizabeth Ashton as the other chaser, Midge Klump as the keeper and Amber Lynch as the other beater.”  Sweet Pea informed them as they all picked at the food in front of them. Even Jughead was listening to him, but only because he was playing tonight with the rest of them.

“Who’s in the Gryffindor-Ravenclaw team? Who are we up against?” Jughead asked after a few moments because unlike any other game, this had only just been sorted and there was no time to plan for it. As well as that, the teams had only just been finalised, meaning that none of them had found out who they were up against.

Apart from Sweet Pea.

“Andrews, Clayton and St. Clair from Gryffindor as well as Patel, Smith, Spellman and Jacob Walker from Ravenclaw. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was an argument between him and Matilda when that was revealed.” Sweet Pea mused the final part causing the others to wonder the same thing for a moment.

“Are you all ready for this game?” Toni asked as Jughead sighed quietly. They all turned around to look at him as he stood up slowly. Rubbing his eyes, he caught sight of someone leaving before he turned back to look at them.

“We’ll be fine, Toni, don’t worry about it. Admittedly, we’d be better with you, Kayla and Poppy with us, but we’ll do what we need to do.” He smiled at her, comforting her nerves slightly before he then added: “Anyway, I need to go and fix some everything because apparently, I’ve fucked it up in less than twenty-four hours.” He smiled at her before he walked away from the Slytherin table and heading out of the Great Hall.

Moving quickly, Jughead followed Betty up the staircase, catching up with her just as she reached the first floor. “Betts?” Betty turned around and smiled at him, though there was still a flicker of sadness in her eyes.

“Hey, Jug.” Her soft tone held no anger as she looked up at him before adding: “Is everything alright?” He nodded as he took a step towards her.

“Erm, I wanted to give you this.” He handed her the letter carefully before removing his beanie and handing it over just like his letter. “And I was hoping that you’d look after this during the match.”

Betty’s heart hammered erratically at that as she gently accepted the woollen beanie carefully before she glanced up at Jughead again. “Of course I’ll look after it, Jughead, and I’ll be in the stands at six to watch you play.” He smiled and was about to speak when Betty leaned up and pressed a gentle kiss to his cheek. “Good luck, Juggie.”

“T-thanks, Betts.” He stuttered as she turned around and headed to the Blue and Gold. As her ponytail disappeared from sight, Jughead raised his hand to his cheek to feel the spot where Betty’s lips had touched his cheek. He smiled at the feeling still flooding his senses before he turned his back and headed towards the dungeons again to hide from everyone until the game as he had just handed over his safety blanket. He was able to fly around without it, but he wasn’t comfortable walking around that much without it.

Yet, while Jughead made his way downwards, Betty carried on her journey to the Blue and Gold, where she locked the door. After that, she sat down at the desk where she gently unfolded the letter, noting that Jughead, for once, hadn’t written in his usual scrawl. Elegant calligraphy met her gaze causing a small smile to grace her lips when Betty realised that Jughead was attempting to redeem himself. He only ever wrote like this when he wanted her to forgive him, though this time, she was more angry with herself than anything else.

Betty,

Last night probably witnessed one of the most appalling reactions from me that I think I have ever experienced. I was angry when I entered, and I let that consume me when I should have given myself time to calm down. Instead, I took it out on you, and I know that you feel as if your reaction was wrong, but Betts, I knew that I was getting myself into and I shouldn’t have allowed it. For that, I am genuinely sorry, Betts and I hope that you understand that. I really am sorry for my reaction.

As well as that, I was keeping a secret, and I was letting that knowledge fester inside of me. I told you that I would explain and I will here. However, for the safety of Archie, who this is about, and due to the loyalty that I cannot seem to shake, I cannot name all of those in this tale.  I want to tell you it all, but as many of the Serpents have pointed out, I cannot, even now after everything, truly betray him, which makes me incredibly angry with myself.

I’m rambling, aren’t I? Anyway, after the meeting about Jason’s death, I noticed Archie exchanging glances with the other person in this. After I saw them in the corridor, I grabbed my invisibility cloak, and I followed them out of the hall as they made their way to a private room, which for a moment reminded me a lot of when you showed me the Blue and Gold. Following them inside, I listened to their conversation and found out that Archie had been sleeping with this witch while claiming that you should be his soulmate. Yet, at the same time that I’m disgusted that he is using her, I feel as though she is using him and when I can expose her, you’ll be the first I’ll tell, I promise you that, Betts.

Besides, there’s more. When we entered the room, the two of them spoke about the day that Jason died and how that they were there when he ‘drowned’, but the witch in this refused to allow Archie to go to the Aurors, she’s terrified, I think.

Yet, that wasn’t the worst part for me. You see, Betts, they started talking about you and me, though predominantly you. He was ranting about us becoming soulmates and that I’d only hurt and abuse you. And, as much as I would like to deny it, I have already hurt you, and I cannot deny that, and it pains me to think of it. However, I can assure you that I will never abuse you in any way, shape or form. I’d rather die than do that to you.

There is more to this, however,  seeing as Archie may be waiting in the wings for when I fuck things up completely to take your heart. He is going to be there, watching my every move and seeing as I've already hurt you now, I am terrified that I’ll push you towards him. My mistakes are very much in the present, and I really don’t want to lose you.

Furthermore, this next part involves you. Last night, you told me that I hate the side of you that you cannot control and I am incredibly sorry that you feel that way. Yet, you are wrong. I don’t hate it at all because it is much a part of you as your incredible mind or your bright jade eyes. I couldn’t hate any part of you, Betts and I hate the way that you could feel that way and more so that I could have led you to believe that.

Yes, I am not wholly comfortable with it, but I will never hate that side of you. I will never hate any part of you, Betty. You are my best friend, my muse and my soulmate and because of that and because I care for you, I will not allow you to go through this alone. You will always have me here for you, no matter what. I will never stop caring for you, Betty. I will not allow you to face this on your own and I will do anything I can to help you with what you are going through.

So, I’m sorry for being a dick, and I’m sorry for fucking up already. I’m not perfect and nor are you, which means we’ll fight and argue, but you should know that I never want to hurt you. I can understand if you’re annoyed at me. However, I hope that now that I’ve explained this that you’ll understand that I never meant to hurt you.

Yours, Jughead.

Betty read and re-read the letter several times before smiling and understanding that both of them had made some mistakes. She was grateful that Jughead wasn’t keeping secrets and now she could finally feel the constriction on her heart lessening. Her eye slowly moved from the letter though to look at the beanie beside it, and she suddenly had an idea.

...

Quidditch – the magical world’s equivalent of football. There wasn’t a single person at school who wasn’t at the Quidditch match that evening, even though the rain was falling intermediately. Each person stood with their house scarf around their necks, but they didn’t just stand with their houses. Slytherins and Hufflepuffs intermixed while Ravenclaws and Gryffindors stood side by side.

In the front row of the Slytherin-Hufflepuff crowd, Betty, Toni and Kayla stood together watching as the field as Minister McCoy addressed them all. “It is heartening to see so many of you here, even in weather like this. But a lack of heart and school spirit has never been the Hogwarts way. Tonights Quidditch match isn’t like any other we’ve had in the past, and we shouldn’t pretend that it is, which is why I would like to dedicate this evening to the memory of one of brightest: Jason Blossom. We’re with him tonight. Now please, join me in welcoming our joint Quidditch teams.”

A great uproar was made as Cheryl Blossom announced the teams for the entire school. “First for Slytherin and Hufflepuff, there is Ashton, O’Hare, DeSantos, Klump, Fogarty, Lynch and Jones.” The team of green and yellow all soared out above of the students gathered there to assume their positions for the match to start. Clapping and cheering filled the stands as Hufflepuff and Slytherin cheered on their combined team.

Both Kayla and Toni, as well as Poppy, who was elsewhere in the crowd, wished that they could be up there with the boys, but they were content with watching. After all, they needed to spot any faults and inform the boys later on. As well as that, Kayla and Toni were also there for Betty, who was about to watch her soulmate and the boy who wanted to be her soulmate face off for the first time since their argument.

Yet, their attention was all brought back to Cheryl as she carried on talking. “And for Gryffindor and Ravenclaw, there is Andrews, Mantle, Patel, Smith, Spellman, Walker and St. Clair.” The rush of red and blue sent the stands opposite into a flurry of excitement as Madam Hooch made her way to the centre of the field.

“Now, I want a nice clean game, from all of you. You shall begin on the sound of my whistle.” In that instant, she threw up the quaffle and blew her whistle, starting the game. Sweet Pea immediately grabbed the quaffle before soaring towards the opposing goals. Joaquin and Elizabeth flew with him as the other chasers followed in pursuit.

“And O’Hare starts off strong, passing to DeSantos. DeSantos then passing to Ashton, back to O’Hare, who is making his way to the goal. And...” Kevin’s voice rang out clear as he performed the commentary on the game. “And O’Hare scores! That’s ten points to Slytherin-Hufflepuff!” A general clammer of applause rang out for Slytherin and Hufflepuff, and Kayla beamed up at her teammates.

Yet, the quaffle was quickly snatched up by Archie, who turned in the opposite direction. Sweet Pea hurtled after him, but the Gryffindor and Ravenclaw players stayed close to one another. A well-timed bludger sent their way from Fangs, halted the advance and caused Archie to drop the Quaffle, only for Joaquin to catch it quickly.

Turning sharply, he darted back towards the opposing goals. He and Sweet Pea looked like two streaks of emerald with a burst sunshine from Elizabeth’s robes as they made their way towards the goals. The three of them passed the quaffle several times before Elizabeth scored the next goal. “And Ashton scores! That’s another ten points to Slytherin-Hufflepuff!” Kevin’s voice was barely audible over the screams of delight from the crowd.

“O’Hare gets the quaffle again and circles back – passes to DeSantos – DeSantos to Ashton – back to DeSantos. DeSantos shoots and – He SCORES! What an excellent performance from such an attractive player. Not just a pretty face and that’s another ten points to Slytherin-Hufflepuff!” Kevin’s commentary caused laughter to pour forth from the stands as Joaquin blew him a kiss before the quaffle was thrown again.

“And Andrews takes the Quaffle – he’s flying down the pitch – ducks a bludger from Fogarty – passes to Mantle – and Mantle is surrounded by O’Hare and DeSantos with Ashton waiting to catch the quaffle.” Kevin fell silent like the crowd as a streak of green went past them, but instead of chasing the snitch, Jughead was escaping a bludger. The action apparently confused Reggie, before the bludger went his way and he dropped the quaffle causing Elizabeth to grab it and throw it to Sweet Pea.

“Wow that was some amazing flying from Jones and brilliant strategy from Ashton – O’Hare now making his way down the pitch – passes back to Ashton – from Ashton to DeSantos – to O’Hare and him SCORES! Another ten points to Slytherin-Hufflepuff leaving them at forty points to Gryffindor-Ravenclaw’s zero points!” Kevin’s voice boomed around the stadium bringing delight to the side that Betty, Toni and Kayla where on.

The three girls watched with baited breath while Betty clung to the grey, crown-shaped beanie resting upon her head. The three girls stared up at the game as the entire crowd watched in anticipation. Their team was winning, but they knew that the game could be changed if the Gryffindor seeker caught the snitch before Jughead.

Circling high above the pitch and the stands, Jughead kept his eyes peeled for any sign of snitch while Nick St. Clair watched Jughead. The Slytherin was the superior seeker, everyone knew that, and with his team already winning, all hope rested on Nick, but not for long. For as the chasers kept on scoring with only four goals to Gryffindor-Ravenclaw, Jughead noticed the flying golden ball flitting behind his goal posts.

Taking off immediately, he didn’t care that Nick was following him closely. Nick wasn’t as skilled and couldn’t keep up as Jughead soared after the snitch without a second’s hesitation. An emerald blear captured the eyes of all of the spectators as Jughead sped off another the snitch without another thought on his mind. Silence descended from all as the other players continued to play for more points.

No one was paying attention to them.

All focus was fixated upon Jughead, who stretched out his right arm to grab the snitch when a bludger from Sabrina Spellman collided with his wrist. An intake of breath from the entire crowd ignited a sense of fury in Jughead as his limp wrist fell to the side. The pain flooded his senses, but he ignored it only to find that he had lost the snitch.

“That must have hurt. Jones’ right arm is out of attention, but don’t think that he’s going to be defeated. Anyway, the score is now forty points to Gryffindor-Ravenclaw to one hundred and thirty to Slytherin-Hufflepuff.” Kevin’s voice rang out again as Betty’s eyes found Jughead’s who was hovering around them. For a moment he stared at her before he saw the gold flickering by her head.

Without hesitation, Jughead dived for the snitch, soaring after it as his right arm remained cradled at side. He followed it carefully, weaving in and out of other players. With each second, he got closer and closer to the snitch until finally he reached out with his left hand and clasped it tightly in his hand as he held onto the broom with legs before raising his hand high.

“AND HE’S DONE IT! JONES HAS CAUGHT THE SNITCH!” Kevin’s voice rang out to the delight of the crowd below as Jughead made the wonky descent to the ground. “AND SLYTHERIN-HUFFLEPUFF WINS WITH TWO HUNDRED AND EIGHTY POINTS TO FORTY!”

The crowd burst into cheers and applause as several students, including Betty, made their way down to pitch. They all rushed to the players, yet when everyone saw Betty, they all parted as she ran towards Jughead. Without a second’s hesitation, she launched herself at Jughead. He grunted in pain, but that was soon cut off by an entirely different sensation.

Jughead’s lips were met with Betty’s just as he was about to speak and despite the pain in his right wrist, he wrapped his arms tightly around Betty. Their lips moved together as Betty’s hands moved to tangle in his hair before eventually pulling away for breath. At that, Jughead mumbled against her lips: “Betts.”

She pulled away slightly as he winced and let his wrist fall to the side. Quickly, she brought out her wand and performed the non-verbal spell, which mended his broken wrist in an instant before looking up at Jughead. He stared at her again, before pulling at her waist and bringing her lips back to his.

“WOAH! THAT’S MY BEST FRIEND! FINALLY YOU TWO! IT TOOK YOU LONG ENOUGH!” Kevin practically shouted down the microphone causing Jughead and Betty to smile against each other’s lips before pulling away again. Then they allowed their foreheads to rest next to one another.

“I read the letter, Jug and I’m sorry for everything. Thank you so much for trusting me and believing in me. I’m sorry for judging you and thank you so much for telling me the truth. And I forgive you for everything.” Her diffident whisper was only audible to him as he clutched onto her before letting out a shaky breath.

“Thank you, thank you, Betts.” He wanted to say more, but the crowd was guided off of the pitch by Minister McCoy’s officials. Though this time, Betty and Jughead clung onto one another as they headed back to their seats.

Minister McCoy looked around the stands with a broad smile before she spoke up again. “And that was a brilliant performance from the students. Congratulations to the Slytherin-Hufflepuff team. The Slytherins were certainly honouring Jason’s memory tonight. Now, I would like to welcome to the stage, my daughter Josie and her Pussycats, along with Cheryl Blossom to sing for Jason.”

The four girls were met with applause as they made it to the stage that had been set up and their instruments were revealed before they all grabbed their microphones. Their voices rang out through the stadium as Jughead moved to wrap his arms around Betty’s waist causing her to lean against him as they listened carefully.

“Hey! Shawty you're my candy girl, the kind with the swirls Oh so good, baby out of this world Look so sweet, fell in love with your curves Every time you speak conversation like syrup S-U-G-A-R, you ain't her Oh, honey honey, put money on that girl Let's keep it in the circle, you everything I deserve Baby want your sugar, I'm ready to get served Sugar! Oh, honey honey You are my candy girl, and you got me wanting you Honey! Oh, sugar sugar You are my candy girl, and you got me wanting you I saw this girl, I wanna know her name She got this body, it's driving me insane 'Cus I need a candy girl Her kisses rock my world Long legs, brown eyes Ain't nobody look, fancy girl, Sugar! Oh, honey honey You are my candy girl, and you got me wanting you Honey! Oh, sugar sugar You are my candy girl, and you got me wanting you Say momma won't you do me that favour I really wanna taste ya 36, 24, 36 flavours Been around the globe in a laid back nature Always on my mind shawty be my life saviour Sweet little thang, body insane She's working that thang Brown sugar be the name Candy girl, come get rid of my pain I think about you all the time Shawty you should be my dame Sugar! Oh, honey honey You are my candy girl, and you got me wanting you Honey! Oh, sugar sugar You are my candy girl, and you got me wanting you.”

The entire crowd erupted in applause until all of a sudden, Cheryl’s face morphed into one of pain, shock and horror. She stared at something in the crowd, turning as white as a sheet before something snapped inside of her. Then, without warning, she ran off as fast as she could as the crowd watched her leave in shock. People leant over the rails to watch her disappear in a flash of fiery red hair.

Teachers and prefects tried to gain control of the crowd, but no one was listening to them as they all followed Cheryl. Though none of them could catch up to her as she ran back to the castle. Jughead and Betty hung at the back of the body of students before they were all finally dismissed with a wave of the hand.

“C’mon Betts, time to go.” Jughead murmured as he made his way through the group with his arm securely around Betty. Those around them moved out of the way for them, and even the teachers noted how they parted. For just visible were the two black crowns of their soulmarks, and it was evident that no one in their year at least knew what to do regarding them or their new status as soulmates.

“Jug, where are we going?” Betty asked as he guided her back to the castle, but didn’t move towards the staircase that they took to get to the Blue and Gold. Instead, he was leading her down towards the dungeons.

“I need to collect some things from the Slytherin dorms, but I don’t want to let you out of my sight after that, so you’re coming with me.” He informed her as she leant against him. A wave of exhaustion hit her at that, and soon Jughead was the only thing holding her upright.

Jughead guided her through the winding corridors towards a solid brick wall where he stopped and looked at the wall. It was a slightly different colour from the rest of the walls and Betty suddenly realised that this was the entrance to the Slytherin common room. Every other time she’d been here, she’d been fully awake and now she barely even recognised it.

“Pureblood.” Jughead murmured, personally hating the password. He was himself a pureblood, but he despised how pretentious many like him could be about their blood status. Betty, on the other hand, was the half-blood daughter of a pureblood, Alice Cooper nee Smith, and Harold Cooper, who had always claimed to be a muggle-born and no one thought otherwise.

The wall seemed to melt away before Jughead guided Betty inside. Her eyes adjusted the green gloom as Jughead led her towards the boys’ dorms. Unlike the girls’ dorms, there were no spells on the staircases because the school founders trusted the girls to not sneak up here, unlike the boys. That meant that it was simple for Jughead to lead her to the sixth years’ room where she made her way to the same bed that he’d always occupied since their first day at Hogwarts.

Jughead began busying himself finding clothes to change into when he caught sight of Betty, passed out on his bed. Walking over to her, he gently shook her shoulder causing her to open her eyes a fraction. “Are you too tired to go back to the Blue and Gold?” She nodded once causing him to sigh slightly as her eyes closed again. “Would you like something more comfortable to sleep in?” She nodded again before forcing herself to sit up.

Jughead dug around in his trunk again before grabbing one of his t-shirts, and she got off the bed before he could give her anything else. Betty quickly walked into the bathroom that was across the room and Jughead made quick work of changing into his own nightwear before he walked over to the bathroom and knocked on the door. “Betts, can I come in, please?” The door opened to reveal a smiling, but sleepy Betty, who nodded before walking back over to Jughead’s bed.

As she moved, Jughead realised that Betty was still wearing his beanie and when he reentered the room, he saw her under the covers with it still resting on her blonde waves. Walking over slowly towards her, he removed the beanie from her head before slipping under the covers so that they were spooning. His left arm was firmly under her body while his right rested over her to bring her ever closer.

Several hours later, Sweet Pea, Joaquin and Fangs entered the room in a lethargic stupor and were met with a sight that they’d never expected to see. None of them had ever seen Jughead looking so peaceful, even in his sleep and they certainly hadn’t seen Betty here before. Usually, when they were younger, Jughead would have drawn the curtains, yet the exhaustion of the looming fight as well as the build-up of sleepless nights had caused them to collide with a brick wall of lethargy.

“Well, that isn’t something you see every day.” Sweet Pea murmured as he looked down at the pair before glancing back at his other two friends.

“I don’t think that Jughead’s ever looked that peaceful,” Joaquin commented as they stood there staring at their two friends when Betty suddenly rolled over. She buried her face in Jughead’s neck while clasping onto his shirt and interweaving their legs.

“At least they’re just sleeping.” Fangs pointed out while inspecting the couple. He’d never seen anyone hold onto someone else so tightly and it was clear that there was something more there than just a connection.

“It’s like they’re both each one half of one being and that they cannot be whole without the other.” Sweet Pea murmured after a moment while noticing how every so often, Jughead would pull Betty even closer to him before relaxing his grip fractionally.

“Well, at least they’re happy.” Fangs muttered before moving towards his bed. “Night guys.” He grabbed his nightclothes and moved to the bathroom quickly.

“Night Fangs. Night Sweets.” Joaquin replied before pulling his curtains and leaving Sweet Pea standing in the centre of the room still.

“Night.” With that, all three fell silent and soon everyone in the room was fast asleep. The room was quiet except the sound of breathing or light snoring coming from the boys.

...

The fifth period had started out like most others. Most of the students were in the library analysing texts together for various classes when Sheriff Keller and Professor Weatherbee walked inside. All watched in wonder as Cheryl rose from her seat before turning to look at them while the other students turned to stare at her.

“You’re here for me aren’t you? Because of the autopsy?” Cheryl looked up at the two of them in fear as she gulped. All of them could see her shaking as she stared at the two men in front of her and it was clear that this wasn’t going to end well for her.

“We don’t need to do this in front of your classmates, Cheryl.” Professor Weatherbee eyed her cautiously, not trusting the young woman before him as she stared at him with glassy eyes as if her crimes were too nefarious to mention. As well as that, there was apparently something weighing on her mind that all the students presumed to be what the Sheriff had uncovered.

“It’s alright Professor Weatherbee. They’ll find out soon enough.” Cheryl admitted causing the two adults to exchange a glance as she held out her hands with the wrists together. Eyes widened all around her as everyone began to wonder what had actually happened the day that Jason had disappeared.

“No, that won’t be necessary.” Sheriff Keller assured her with the wave of a hand, causing most of the students to relax. That was a sure sign that they didn’t think that Cheryl definitely did murder Jason, but they didn’t look as if they were overjoyed to see her. In fact, there was a burning anger in Sheriff Keller’s eyes.

“Wait, Cheryl? Find out what?” Veronica suddenly asked as she looked up at the redheaded girl beside her. Cheryl turned her head slightly to look at her for a moment before turning back to the men at the doorway. Then she uttered three words that simultaneously shocked and confused all of those around her.

“That I’m guilty.”

As shocking as those three words were, they were nothing compared to the secrets that Jason’s body had given up during its autopsy. That Jason didn’t die on July 4th as we believed, but over a week later. Even Mrs Cooper’s report had missed that detail out, and we were about to discover that this wasn’t as simple as we once thought.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 12 – Everything Has Changed

‘And all I feel in my stomach

Is butterflies

The beautiful kind,

Making up for lost time.’

 

Guilt. Innocence. Good. Evil. Life. Death. As the shadows around Hogwarts deepened, the lines that separated these polar opposites blurred and distorted. ‘I’m guilty’, Cheryl said in the library, but of what?

The library fell silent as the two men at the doorway crossed over to the red-haired witch, who they took firmly by the arm, but they were not too harsh with her. From there, they guided her from the room as the other students watched transfixed. Sheriff Keller and Professor Weatherbee slowly led Cheryl through the halls of the school until they reached Weatherbee’s office. Countless students stared as they passed them in the corridors while other teachers frowned, having not expected to see the Slytherin girl being led away by the Sheriff.

As soon as Cheryl was sat down, she took a large gulp of air before divulging what she had meant earlier. “To clarify, I didn’t mean I was guilty of killing Jason. I loved him more than I do myself. But, I am guilty of lying about what happened on July 4th.” Cheryl confessed quietly causing both men to exchange a glance before looking back at her.

Sheriff Keller, who was perched on the edge of the table addressed her first. “The autopsy puts his death about July 11th. So, when was the last time you saw your brother?” His eyes seemed to be piercing her very soul as he scrutinised the young woman before him. 

“It was July 4th.” Cheryl admitted before even more quietly, she murmured: “I don’t know what happened the week after that.” There was no mistaking that she was hurting and the two men both felt a twinge of sympathy, but both ignored it.

“Cheryl, in your own words, what happened at the Black Lake?” Sheriff Keller asked sternly, his gaze never leaving Cheryl’s. If she had been a weaker person mentally, she would have been squirming, but she refused to give into that.

“The plan was bananas, even for me. Jason wanted to leave Hogwarts and our parents and never come back. He asked for my help to stage a tragic accident so that our mum and dad wouldn’t come after him.” Cheryl divulged, feeling her own fear rising as it mingled with the pain that she was already experiencing. Yet, despite it, she pushed on with the story. “Our story would be that we went for an early morning boat ride and the boat tipped and capsized, and Jason drowned. In fact, we made it to the other side dry as a bone. He said goodbye on the Hogsmeade side of the Black Lake. He promised he’d call me as soon as he was in a place where he couldn’t be reached or pulled back by our parents. One month at the most. Every day, I waited for him to call, for an owl.”

“Did you tell anyone about the plan? Any way that you can corroborate?” Cheryl shook her head at Sheriff Keller, tears filling her already glassy eyes.“You have no idea why your brother wanted to run away? Fake his own death? Doesn’t that seem cruel?” Sheriff Keller asked, probing deeper and trying to get a reaction out of the young witch.

“No, he wasn’t. Jason wasn’t cruel.” Cheryl all but snapped. She couldn’t stand the idea that someone would think that of her brother. She would never believe that Jason could possibly be cruel.

“So maybe this is all just a web of lies you’re spinning to cover your own tracks.” Sheriff Keller proposed the idea to himself and Weatherbee, causing Cheryl even more distress than she was already experiencing.

“I didn’t kill Jason!” Cheryl cried out, feeling horrified at the idea before she added: “There were several spells cast that morning. We heard spell fire on July 4th. Maybe whoever killed Jason took a shot at him and missed that morning.”

“You heard spellfire, and you’re just telling us this now?” Sheriff Keller asked perplexed at her actions. Disbelief rang through his tone and Weatherbee looked at Cheryl with a disapproving and slightly disgusted expression.

“I was upset. My brother was murdered!” Cheryl cried, her fear overtaking her thought process as she had no idea why they were continuing to ask her so many questions. She knew that she hadn’t killed Jason, though her actions had led to him dying.

“So upset that you sang at a Quidditch Match yesterday?” Sheriff Keller scoffed when the door flew open revealing Penelope and Clifford Blossom, who stormed inside. There was no mistaking the anger in their eyes.

“What the hell is going on here?” Clifford demanded as he moved over to his while Penelope grasped Cheryl’s shoulders, bending down to her level. Meanwhile, Sheriff Keller and Professor Weatherbee exchanged a fearful glance.

“Mummy.” Cheryl gasped in surprise, looking at the woman to her side in shock, fear and relief as she realised that the interrogation was over. Though, she knew that she’d be having a worse one from her parents when they took her back to Thornhill.

“Don’t say another word, Cheryl,” Penelope instructed her daughter before pulling her up. “Get up.” She all but growled before she dragged her into the corridor. All of the students were just finishing their classes meaning that they all saw what was happening. They also all heard Penelope ask: “Why didn’t you owl us?”

“Because she’s a liar Penelope.” Clifford pointed out to his wife as Cheryl’s tears finally fell at the harsh tone that her father was using with her. She stayed silent as everyone she knew watched her leave in shame.

“When we get home, you tell us everything.” Penelope snapped before leading her away from the school.

...

“So, is she a suspect now?” Veronica asked Kevin as they sat in the library with Betty. Veronica’s eyes were fixated on the Sheriff’s son as she tried to gain some answers.

“My dad says we all are, including me,” Kevin informed the two girls that he was with as they both raised their eyebrows at him. Kevin then had another brainwave and leant forward before asking: “Guys, should we maybe re-binge ‘Making a Murderer’ on Netflix tonight?”

“Sorry, can’t I’m working late on the paper,” Betty admitted, causing Kevin to sigh, but he knew that Betty was too committed to the paper than to just give it up for to watch a show that she ’d already seen. As well as that, she was trying to work out how she was going to persuade Jughead to join the Blue and Gold.

“Count me out too. I have got a date tonight.” Veronica admitted with a coy smirk causing the other two to turn and stare at her. Neither of them had been expecting that as Veronica had sworn off dating by the end of last year.

“You do?” Betty asked sceptically, wondering whether Veronica was only messing around with them, but when the raven-haired girl nodded, Betty sat back with a smile. At least Veronica was now able to have some relief and enjoy herself.

“Which Hogwarts hottie made the cut?” Kevin asked with interest. Veronica wasn’t one to do things by halves, and he knew that it would have to be a very prominent figure in school life to grab Veronica’s attention.

“Hey, VeeLo, I’ll swing by the Ravenclaw common room to pick you up at eight.” Chuck Clayton suddenly informed her as he breezed past the group to make his way to the exit. His eyes stayed focused on Veronica, and there was a hungry gleam in his eyes as he trailed them over Veronica’s body.

“I’ll be waiting,” Veronica replied with a small smile as she held back her excitement. Kevin’s jaw had hit the floor at this point, and Betty was watching it all with a twinge of doubt and disgust because she could remember Chuck’s reputation.

“Cool,” Chuck mumbled before walking off with his followers trailing behind him. Betty watched them leave for a moment before turning back to Veronica, who was beaming. The two girls definitely had a different outlook on the situation.

“Chuck Clayton?” Betty asked in disbelief. Her jade eyes were as wide as dinner plates as she stared at her best friend in disbelief. She couldn’t quite comprehend why Veronica had agreed to this date.

“You’re going on a date with Chuck Clayton?” Kevin’s reaction was more of what Veronica had been hoping for. He was ecstatic for her as he had no qualms with the Quidditch player. Then again, Kevin didn’t care about anyone’s reputation.

“V, have you forgotten that he’s kind of a player?” Betty reminded her friend, who merely shrugged at her causing her to roll her eyes as she fidgeted in her seat. Betty didn’t like this at all, not one bit.

“Who cares? He’s the hottest of hot! And he’s the Deputy Quidditch Coach’s son. Here that’s like dating a Potter!” Kevin pointed out causing Veronica to smirk and efficiently ending all discussion on the matter.

...

“If print journalism is dead, what am I doing here? Except for seeing my beautiful soulmate, of course, though that’s kind of just taken as read.” Jughead’s voice rang through the Blue and Gold’s central office causing Betty to look up at him with a smile.

“‘The Blue and Gold’ isn’t dead, Juggie. I’ve been running it for years. You’re writing your novel, right? About Jason Blossom’s murder?” Betty knew that he was, but she wanted to hear him admit it again. Also, she hadn’t heard much about it yet either.

“I am.” Jughead finally stated as he picked up a magnifying glass and pointing it directly at her before adding: “Hogwarts very own ‘In Cold Blood.’” He took several calculated steps towards her as his eyes taking in every little detail of her appearance.

“Which started out as a series of articles. I’m hoping that you’ll come write for the Blue and Gold.” Betty took another step towards him and reached out for his hand, causing a smile to flicker at his lips. He knew that he would join, but he wanted to see how much she wanted him to join.

“I don’t think the school paper is the right fit for my voice.” Jughead murmured, which was also entirely accurate. Not everyone was into the sardonic and sarcastic tone that he used half the time, though Betty personally didn’t mind it.

“Juggie, Jason’s death changed Hogwarts. People don’t want to admit that, but it’s true. We all feel it. Nothing this bad was ever supposed to happen here again, but it did, and I want to know why.” Betty informed him, and Jughead’s eyes widened at that. He hadn’t expected that to be one of her reasonings, and now he was just as intrigued by it as she was.

“Would I get complete freedom?” Jughead probed, not caring whether he would get it all not as he was already set on the idea of working for the Blue and Gold. There was something about this case that he couldn’t help but feel drawn to.

“I’ll help and edit and suggest, but it’s your story, your voice,” Betty mumbled, knowing full well that it wasn’t the complete freedom that he wanted for the Blue and Gold. Yet, she hoped that he would give in and work with her.

“Doesn’t sound like complete freedom, but I’m in,” Jughead informed her with a small smile as he watched the words sink in. Shock morphed into joy as she wrapped her arms around him tightly.

“Thank you,” Betty muttered into his shirt, but Jughead heard her as he held onto her for a moment before an idea came into his mind.

“On one condition though,” Jughead stated causing her to pull away suddenly, and he watched her joyous expression turn cold when he smirked at her.

“Which is?” Betty asked, her eyebrow raising slightly as she looked at him in annoyance. She’d really been hoping that he’d just say yes and that would be the end of it.

“You go out with me, tonight,” Jughead stated causally watching again as the smile came back to her lips before morphing into a broad grin.

“Okay, yes, definitely,” Betty mumbled, not knowing what to do now. Jughead may be her soulmate, but she’d never been on a date before, and she didn’t know what she was meant to do now. Jughead sensed this and reached out to her.

“Come ‘ere.” Jughead murmured before pressing his lips to hers in a short, sweet kiss that took Betty’s breath away. When he pulled away, he murmured: “I’ll meet you here at seven tonight, okay?”

“Okay.” With that, Jughead pressed a kiss to Betty’s temple before turning around and walking out of the Blue and Gold.

...

By the time seven had rolled by, Jughead and Betty were on their way to Pop’s. The two of them were allowed into Hogsmeade at any time due to being in the sixth year and many others in their year and the year above were around the small village. They were sheltered from the gentle rain in the neon lights of Pop’s Chock’lit Shoppe.

“So, should I ask about the inspiration for asking me to join the Blue and Gold or did you just want to spend more time with me?” Jughead asked with a smirk as he looked at his soulmate carefully. His bright blue eyes had darkened slightly in the neon light, but there was no hiding the glimmer in his eyes.

“Oh, don’t get cocky, Jones, it doesn’t suit you,” Betty stated with a smile while blushing slightly under his intense gaze. She glanced down ever so slightly as Jughead moved to take her hand off of the table.

“Really, Cooper?” Jughead’s smirk widened as Betty finally met his gaze again, her blush darkening as he stared at her again. Yet, her simper never wained as she met his eyes and shook her head at him slightly.

“You’re impossible, but to answer your question, I asked you because I know that you’re an observer. You see the world from a detached perspective, and you rarely miss a thing.” Betty explained to him while Jughead listened intently to her.

“Oh, right.” Jughead murmured, not too sure whether he should be pleased with that answer or not and he began to retract his hand slightly. Yet, he found that Betty wouldn’t allow him to do that as her fingers entwined with his. Jughead smiled down at that before meeting his favourite jade gaze.

“That, and I want to make up for lost time.” Betty’s voice was small and barely audible, but Jughead heard every word, and his heart swelled at them. Yet, he saw the pain in her eyes and expression as she spoke.

“Betts...” Jughead started to say, but he was quickly cut off by the girl in front of him.

“I missed it all, Juggie. I miss the random conversations about nothing and the film encyclopedia in your head. I missed having you close and talking about writing. I missed the way that you could understand how I was feeling just with one look. I missed having someone who knew me better than I knew myself and I want to get back to that.” Betty explained to him. His eyes widened as he stared at her. He hadn’t been expecting to hear that from her, but now that he had, he felt his heart race though he knew that everything was going to change.

“It’ll never be completely like that,” Jughead informed her, with a dark, broken gleam to his usually icy blue gaze. The agony behind his gaze, dulled and darkened the colouring of his gaze more than the neon lights had and Betty recognised.

“I know that you being a Serpent and the soulmate thing will have changed it a bit,” Betty mumbled, accepting that fate, but she soon found that Jughead shaking his head at her. The look in his eyes gave her the smallest ray of hope.

“No, I didn’t mean like that. I meant that I’m not going to be able to stop myself from kissing you as often as possible. There will be slight differences because we’re soulmates, yes, Betts, but I promise you that most of those things won’t change.” Jughead pointed out because he wasn’t going to let her be affected by his roll in the Serpents.

“I won’t complain about those changes,” Betty mumbled before she was brought back to what she’d originally been talking about. She still felt guilty and wasn’t about to let herself off very easily. “But still, I feel like I need to make up for what we missed.”

“You don’t need to, Betts.” Jughead sighed quietly as he looked at her carefully. Betty found that she couldn’t look away from him as his eyes.

“But...” She started to say weakly.

“Betty, don’t. Don’t let that get to you, please.” Jughead all but begged her with both his tone and gaze. Betty gulped at that, and she instantly knew that she couldn’t carry on because, in the end, she wasn’t really the one to blame.

“Okay.” Betty gave in, and Jughead smiled gratefully at her.

He nodded before they both fell into an uneasy silence. Neither quite knew what to say until Jughead caught sight of an advertisement for a Quidditch match, sparking an idea for a topic of conversation. “So, erm, I forgot to ask whether or not you enjoyed the game. Did you like it?”

“I always enjoy your Quidditch matches, but I didn’t like that you got hurt,” Betty confessed as she glanced down at Jughead’s right wrist, which she then traced her fingers over gently. Jughead’s breath caught in his throat as he felt her tender touch while is gaze softened somewhat.

“Getting hurt is often part of the game. People go to watch people get hurt.” Jughead pointed out ruefully as he watched Betty’s fingers absentmindedly tracing patterns over his skin. He smiled down at her dexterous movements as he felt her draw a crown onto his skin.

“You just said that like it is a good thing.” Betty murmured, distinctly unimpressed with Jughead’s acceptance of the likelihood that he may get hurt during a Quidditch match. Betty knew that it must have been something that all of his team had been taught to accept, but she didn’t like that mentality at all.

“Well, I suppose that it keeps it interesting.” Jughead shrugged, watching as Betty rolled her eyes at him. Yet, there was something about this conversation that felt normal. When they were younger, they’d always loved talking about Quidditch, and it had been something they’d bonded over when they’d first met. While Jughead’s parents were arguing, he and Betty would just talk about the game to distract the beanie-clad boy from his inner turmoil or family struggles.

“Having two teams mixing to make one keeps it interesting, Jug. I would much rather they kept doing that than letting the players get so badly hurt.” Betty pointed out as she continued to argue, but she knew that there was nothing she could do to change the game.

“Betty, I’m used to it by now. Don’t worry.” Jughead attempted to reassure her, but she didn’t feel any better about the situation.

“Juggie, you’re my soulmate, my best friend-” Betty started before being cut off quickly by Jughead.

“And hopefully your boyfriend,” Jughead added causing Betty’s eyes widened as her heartbeat increased rapidly. She’d never expected to hear Jughead ask her that or imply it and she couldn’t help but smile in response.

“Is that your way of asking me to be your girlfriend?” Betty asked, smiling at Jughead while trying to ignore the fact that her cheeks were now scarlet. The intensity of Jughead’s gaze and the revelation that he wanted the same thing as she did. Her heart began to race especially as Jughead’s cheeks became dusted with a pink glow.

“Yes,” Jughead mumbled, his confidence waning by each moment as Betty hadn’t actually said ‘yes’ to him yet.

“Give me a moment, I need to think about it,” Betty informed him making Jughead’s face fall as he glanced down.

“Oh, right, of course.” Jughead’s whisper was almost inaudible, and Betty realised that he believed that she honestly had to think about it.

“I’m only joking, Jug. Of course, I’d like to be your girlfriend.” Betty insisted as she grabbed his other free hand causing their eyes to meet as she spoke. Her words seemed to swirl around Jughead’s mind for a moment before a broad grin.

“Oh, phew. Great, thank you.” Jughead murmured as he began to move his hand further down Betty’s left wrist. His fingers automatically traced over the soulmark on her wrist causing Betty to shiver slightly before she spoke.

“You’re getting a bit flustered there.” Betty pointed out with a smile as she gently squeezed his left hand before remembering what she’d been trying to talk about. “Anyway, as I was saying, you’re my soulmate, best friend and boyfriend and I don’t want to see you getting hurt. In fact, I despise seeing you getting badly injured, Juggie.”

Jughead stared at her as she spoke before sighing lightly. Their eyes met, and Betty felt a rush of fear as Jughead spoke. “Betts, I’m in a gang. I’m likely to get hurt on a regular basis. I know that isn’t very encouraging, but I’m used to it, and I’m careful.” It didn’t do much in the ease Betty’s nerves, but she conceded that it was probably going to be the only answer that she’d get for now and she’d have to be content with that.

“Well, at least you’re trying to keep safe.” Betty sighed as Pop slowly made his way over to the two of them. He stared at the couple for a moment before moving over to them with the food he placed the food and milkshakes in front of them. Betty turned to look at him before simpering and saying: “Thanks, Pop.”

“No problem, Miss Betty. It’s good to see my two favourite customers back in their old booth again.” Pop beamed at the young witch, who he’d always found her to be one of the most compassionate people that he knew.

“It is, isn’t it? It feels great. Like the universe is back on track.” Jughead smiled up at him while he squeezed Betty’s hand gently. His eyes shone with a light that neither of the other two had seen in around eight months, and Pop found his heart swelling with joy at the sight of it.

“Definitely. Now enjoy your burgers and shakes.” Pop instructed the two of them as he smiled happily. He had undoubtedly missed seeing that smile on Jughead’s lips, and it had been too long since Betty’s eyes had shone in the way that they did in that moment.

“Will do. Thanks, Pop.” Jughead called after him as the older man retreated. Then, he tucked into his burger while Betty pondered what Jughead had said.

“‘The universe is back on track’?” Betty asked with a teasing smile before she had several bites of her food. He shook his head at her as a breath of laughter escaped him as he caught her expression.

“I’ve missed you, Betts. I won’t lie about that, and I have certainly missed this.” Jughead informed her suddenly growing very serious as he spoke and his eyes captured Betty’s as she listened intently to him.

“Same,” Betty informed him, and Jughead could tell that she was struggling to find the right words.

“Oh, hello. I thought that you had paper obligations.” A voice invaded their peaceful isolation from everyone else making the pair turn to see Veronica standing on Betty’s side of the booth. She quickly slid in beside her best friend before wrapping an arm around the blonde.

“Hey, B. And this is a paper obligation – kind of,” Betty informed her best friend as she glanced down at the food in front of her.

“It is?” Jughead asked with a raised eyebrow while Veronica chuckled at Betty’s soulmate as well as her weak defence over what she had told the Ravenclaw mere hours ago. Betty’s cheeks had turned crimson again, and both could tell how embarrassed she was over the situation.

“Well, yes. You said that you wouldn’t join unless I went out with you tonight.” Betty reminded the boy opposite her, who merely chuckled at her. “What?” She asked incredulously as his laughter only increased.

Once he’s stopped laughing, Jughead grew serious again and replied: “You know that I would have joined anyway, right?”

“Seriously?” Betty asked him, her voice rising in pitch as she hadn’t expected him to admit to that and she sat there stunned as Jughead nodded in response.

“Of course he would have, B. He cannot resist you,” Veronica informed her best friend, in disbelief that Betty hadn’t realised that Jughead would probably do anything and everything for his soulmate.

“V...” Betty started as she denied herself from pondering what else Jughead would do for her. It wasn’t in Betty’s nature to believe that anyone would willingly do anything for her unless she pretended to be that perfect girl. Jughead, however, knew all her sides, and she wouldn’t have been surprised even though he had just asked to be his girlfriend.

“She’s not lying.” Jughead pointed out with a small smile while he gently and reassuringly squeezed Betty’s hand. A wave of calm rushed through the young witch at the sensation before she turned to look at Veronica again.

“Thank you, Jones.” Veronica nodded in Jughead’s direction and received a curt nod in return from the boy opposite as Betty looked back at her friend. She had been more critical of her clothing this evening. Her dark dress clung to every curve in all the best ways while her classic pearls were around her neck. Her makeup was also darker and stronger than usual.

Noting these particular details, Betty pursed her lips at her friend before asking: “Anyway, how’s the date with the player?” She spoke in a light tone as she deflected the topic away from herself while also trying to find out how Veronica’s evening was going.

“Nice topic change,” Jughead commented with a small smirk though he wasn’t entirely too sure what Betty was talking about it. He watched as the two girls stared at each other.

“Oh shush, you.” Betty had murmured when he had spoken up before turning back to Veronica, who sighed dramatically at the blonde.

“It’s going well. And he’s not that much of a player.” Veronica insisted, her eyes narrowing at her best friend, who merely rolled her eyes in response. Veronica could see that Betty wasn't going to concede that Chuck could be a decent person.

“I feel completely out of the loop,” Jughead stated, looking between the two girls, who hadn’t explained anything to him. Both girls turned back to him while he raised his eyebrows. “Who are we talking about?” Jughead finally asked causing Betty to grimace while Veronica smiled happily at the thought.

“Chuck Clayton,” Betty informed Jughead with a tone of disgust which her soulmate mirrored upon hearing about his former friend’s date. Jughead was no longer sure what he was to Veronica, but he knew that he wanted to protect her from someone like Chuck. He’d been close to her for four and a half years, and he wasn’t about to throw that all away.

“Wow, Veronica! Could you have chosen a worse person? Even Andrews would have been better than Clayton, and I currently think that he’s one of the worse people at Hogwarts at the moment.” Jughead pointed out to her as he tried to comprehend what had caused Veronica’s lapse of sanity because he had no idea why she’d agree to go out with Chuck.

“Oh, shut up, Jones.” Veronica snapped, not enjoying the negativity surrounding her date when she knew that everyone had warned her about it. She knew of Chuck’s reputation, everyone did, but she was enjoying his company, and she’d hoped that Betty could understand that.

“He has a point,” Betty informed her best friend with a sad smile while Veronica sighed angrily at the other two. She found herself playing with her pearls as she turned back to look at both of them.

“Don’t you two have some kissing to do?” Veronica asked them in annoyance, but instead of getting a simple response, she was greeted with a blush from Betty and the sight of Jughead paling. It wasn’t as if the boy didn’t want to kiss Betty but he wasn’t too keen on Veronica commenting on it. Though, he did like the blush on Betty’s cheeks.

“Erm...” Betty mumbled, not quite knowing what to say to her best friend while her boyfriend watched her cheeks turn a darker scarlet. Yet, Jughead could see that Betty wasn’t too comfortable with the conversation and nor did she look too pleased with who was asking her. It wasn’t Veronica’s fault, but the raven-haired girl tended to be dramatic about everything which wasn’t what Betty needed at the moment.

“Yes, we do. Now leave so that we can get on with that.” Jughead’s snarky tone alarmed Veronica, but she wasn’t going to let that show. Her face became a mask to her emotions as she glowered at the Slytherin boy.

“Rude,” Veronica stated unimpressed as folded her arms before noting how Jughead gripped onto Betty’s hand.

“So what?” The Serpent asked in annoyance while he exchanged a look with Betty, who was rolling her eyes at the other two.

“Shut it, Jones.” Veronica snapped, finding that she was struggling to forgive him as quickly as Betty had. He’d hurt Betty several times since the start of the year, and despite their long friendship, she was also finding it difficult to stomach his snark.

“Nice to speak to you too, Veronica.” Jughead was experiencing a similar difficulty with the Ravenclaw, and couldn’t control his snark around her.

“Oh shush you.” Veronica rolled her eyes and was about to say more when the Hufflepuff girl cut in.

“Erm, V, Chuck’s back.” Betty pointed out to the raven-haired girl causing all eyes to shift over to Veronica’s table which she’d left to talk to them.

“Oh right, see you two later.” Veronica waved before getting up and walking back to Chuck, who grinned at her as she sauntered back over to him. The sight of them together caused Betty to feel both disgusted and worried. She didn’t like the look in Chuck’s eyes as he stared at Veronica.

“Well, that was strange.” Jughead’s voice snapped Betty out of her thoughts, and she immediately shook her head at the boy in front of her.

“Don’t be rude, Juggie.” Betty pointed a fry at Jughead as she spoke while he sat back and smirked at her. His eyes caught hers while he smirked back at her before replying.

“Only if you make me.” Jughead’s tone had dropped immensely which caused Betty to gulp before she slowly stood up and made her way around to him. Jughead’s eyes widened as did his smirk as Betty made to sit down beside him. “I can still talk you know.” He pointed out with as Betty sat down beside him. Her fingers trailed over his arm before she guided it up to his cheek while doing the same with her other hand.

Directing Jughead’s face towards her, Betty murmured: “Shut up.” Jughead opened his mouth when Betty’s lips met his, and he stared at her in shock. Frozen for a moment, Jughead took several moments before his eyes fluttered closed and he then wrapped his arms around Betty.

All around the pair, other customers turned to the see the Serpent Prince holding onto the girl that everyone affectionately referred to as the Northside Princess. No one could believe their eyes at the sight of Jughead and Betty holding onto one another as their lips moved in sync. It was only Pop who could remember how close the pair had always been and he’d always assumed that they’d end up together. Yet, he’d never expected such a passionate embrace between the two.

Pulling away ever so slightly, Betty smiled up at Jughead before muttering against his lip. “Well, that got you to stop talking.” Jughead shook his head at her but didn’t say a word as he pulled her to his side and sat there with a smile plastered on his lips. All he could think about was how he could get used to this, and as he glanced down at Betty, he decided that he definitely could get used to it.

Chapter Text

Chapter 13 – Control

‘And I tried to hold these secrets inside me

My mind's like a deadly disease

I'm bigger than my body

I'm colder than this home

I 'm meaner than my demons

I 'm bigger than these bones

And all the kids cried out,

"Please stop, you're scaring me."

I can't help this awful energy

Goddamn right, you should be scared of me

Who is in control?’

 

Archie Andrews was unsure of many different aspects of his life when he went to Professor Weatherbee’s office. He knew that he had made several terrible mistakes and he had realised that he needed to start making everything right. Therefore, that was why he had sat down in front of Sheriff Keller even if Professor Grundy had told him not to come here. 

“I think I know something that can help with the Blossom investigation,” Archie informed them while wiping his hands on his jeans. The room around him felt stiflingly hot, but he assumed that he may have been accrediting that due to his own nerves. With a small gulp, he fought back his fear before carrying on.“People are saying that Cheryl heard spellfire.”

Archie was met with a small nod as Keller folded his arms over his chest. He had known Archie for many years, but he was unsure of the young man in front of him. “That’s what she’s claiming, yes.”

“Well, I heard it too,” Archie admitted causing Sheriff Keller’s eyebrows to shoot up in shock. Yet, it was the fear in Archie’s voice that confused him the most. He wasn’t given much time to ponder this due to Archie speaking again. “I was there that morning. I didn’t say anything because at first like everyone, I thought that Jason had drowned, but then when the autopsy came out and said he died later...”

Archie trailed off slowly, shuddering at the memory of seeing Jason’s body. He’d never been close to the other redhead, but he couldn’t remove the image of the corpse that he’d seen on the banks of the Black Lake. It had terrified Archie and the idea that Professor Grundy wanted to prevent him from helping with the investigation. 

“What were you doing down by the Lake so early on July 4th?” Sheriff Keller demanded to know as he glowered down at Archie. The young man before him shook slightly under the harsh gaze, but he refused to look away.

“I was working on some songs. I, er, write songs.” Archie confessed shocking Professor Weatherbee, who had stayed silent throughout, and the older man sat up slightly. Archie had flushed at this statement, but that was entirely ignored by Keller.

“See who fired the spells?” Keller pressed, hoping that Archie could be somewhat helpful, though he had just proved that Cheryl hadn’t been lying to the Aurors. That did allow him to relax his efforts towards that angle of the investigation because he wasn’t allowed to Veritaserum on anyone below the age of twenty-one. It meant that even suspects who were up to four years above the age deemed to be adulthood in the wizarding world couldn’t have this used against them.

“No, sir,” Archie confessed, knowing that he wasn't as helpful as he could have been in Keller’s eyes. However, he hadn’t seen anything, and he wanted to keep his lying to a minimum if he could help it.

“Were you alone?” Sheriff Keller asked, waiting to see whether there was someone else who he could ask about the murder mystery. By now, he was desperate to know something more; anything would have made him feel somewhat more confident about this case.

Yet, Archie was let him down by saying: “Yes, I was alone, sir.” And with that, all hope drained from Sheriff though he was grateful that Archie had come forward.

If only he had known that Archie was lying.

...

Jughead Jones awoke to the feeling of someone pressing light trailing kisses to his face, in particular, his nose. A small sleepy smile graced his lips as his eyes opened to see Betty simpering down at him. She was dressed for the day, and Jughead knew that he probably had very little time to get dressed before he needed to eat breakfast before classes started yet his first period was free, so that was alright.

“Morning,” Jughead mumbled as he sat up. Rubbing away the sleep in his eyes, Jughead stared at his girlfriend as she gently ran her fingers through his hair.

“Morning. Do you want to go down for coffee and breakfast?” Betty murmured as Jughead pulled her closer to him so that Betty was all but sat on his lap by this point.

“Do you ever have to ask me that?” Jughead asked incredulously as he trailed his fingers down to her soulmark. Betty shivered at the sensation, but there was no fear because of it. Instead, she only felt the pulse of attraction and desire that flooded through her at the mere touch of Jughead’s fingers against the mark.

After a few moments of revelling in the feeling, Betty responded in a hushed tone. Both still found this room too intimate for them to speak loudly. “Of course you’d say that. Anyway, I need you to do me a favour.”

“What do you need?” Jughead asked, suddenly alert and ready to spring into action. Betty giggled slightly at the change in Jughead’s posture. Yet, that soon morphed away into seriousness and Betty sighed quietly before informing Jughead of what was needed from him.

“There were several people at the Black Lake that day, but there is one that no one is talking about.” Betty started, yet before she could carry on, Jughead butted in.

“Dilton Doiley and his scouts.” He stated, a small grin gracing his lips as he rubbed his nose.

“Precisely. Feel up to investigating?” Betty asked, her eyes lighting up with joy at the fact that her boyfriend was on the same wavelength as her. When they were younger, they had always been able to understand what the other was alluding to, and both were surprised to see that it had lasted all of these years.

“Definitely.” Jughead returned the grin as he pulled Betty even closer to him. Yet, as he did that, his stomach growled loudly. Betty glanced down at him as he shrugged and asked: “Now, can we have breakfast and coffee?” His soulmate rolled her eyes dramatically at him – a trait she’d picked up from him. “What? They’re just my priorities.”

“And don’t I know it.” Betty murmured, her voice dropping and becoming more broken at that. It shocked Jughead more than anything else, and he gently held her to him.

“You’re high up on the list too. In fact, you’re my number one priority, Betts. Higher than even the Serpents. I’m just hungry at the moment.” Jughead admitted as he gently raised his hand to caress Betty’s cheek gently. “You’ll always be number one priority.”

...

“So, how did it go with Chuck?” Kevin asked Veronica, who was taking several books out of her locker and handing them to Betty to hold while she tried to find her textbook. The lockers were a relatively new thing at Hogwarts and only the fifth years and over had them.

Veronica turned around, her textbook clasped in her hand with a shake of the head. She was grimacing slightly at the memory of last night. “Chuck has muscles for days, but his conversation is not the stuff of Oscar Wilde or even Diablo Cody.” Veronica wanted to be able to discuss everything and anything, but the boys interested in her were not too intellectually adept.

“Hey, Veronica, how was the sticky maple you had last night?” Ginger’s gloating voice rang through their ears causing the group of three to turn around to see her and Tina smirking as they walked past them.

“The what now?” Veronica asked incredulously. Like most Ravenclaws, as well as the Slytherins who didn’t get involved with playing girls, she had no idea what that meant. She didn’t notice the look that Betty and Kevin exchanged at that statement.

“The sticky maple Chuck gave you. How was it?” Tina probed, her sneer widening. Walking smugly past Veronica, the two girls acted as if they were suddenly better than the Ravenclaw, and Veronica was having none of it.

“We had a brownie sundae if that’s what you hyenas mean.” Was her only response before she turned back to her best friends. All of a sudden, Kevin’s iPod made a trilling sound, and he immediately fished it out. After all, he was a sucker for any sort of gossip.

“Oh, my Merlin!” Kevin exclaimed loudly, his hand flying up to his mouth in shock. Betty glanced over at his screen, and her eyes widened in shock as well as disgust at the picture there. It made her feel sick that anyone could do that to Veronica, or any other girl for that matter.

“What?” Veronica demanded before snatching the iPod from Kevin’s weak grip. Spinning around, she scrutinised the image. Her blood boiled instantly at the sight of the photograph, which was of her and Chuck with what appeared to be maple syrup trailing down her face.  “What the hell is a sticky maple?”

“It’s kind of what it sounds like. It’s Hogwarts thing, in particular, a Gryffindor thing. I presume that it doesn’t often reach the ears of Ravenclaws.” Kevin explained, grimacing that it was his house that had instigated it, but there was nothing he could do to stop it.

“No, Kevin, it’s a slut-shaming thing. I’m, I’m neither a slut and nor I am going to be shamed by someone named excuse me, Chuck Clayton.”  Veronica snapped, not because she intended to hurt her friend, but because her anger was all but consumed her. “Did he really think that he can get away with this – does he not know who I am?” Veronica exclaimed, her temper rising with each passing moment. “I will cut the brakes on his souped-up phallic symbol!”

“Or, we could go to one of the Professors, maybe Weatherbee?” Betty suggested, not liking the idea of breaking the rules to just get back at Chuck. She despised what had happened, but she had no idea what Veronica might be planning.

“About the Deputy Quidditch Coach’s son? Who is captain of the Gryffindor team? And, Hogwarts’ resident golden boy?” Veronica snapped, her rage getting the better of her, but Betty understood why that was happening and in all honesty, if it had happened to her, she would have felt the same.

“And or I can expose him in the pages of the Blue and Gold. Yeah, I can do that.” Betty suggested, again, trying to once again go for a less risky route to take down Chuck.

“No! Spoken like a true good girl, who always follows the rules. Well, I don’t follow the rules. I make them, and when necessary, I break them. You want to help me revenge on Chuck, Betty, awesome, but you better be willing to go full dark no stars.” Veronica pushed Kevin out of the side, and Betty quickly followed the raven-haired girl as she stormed off towards the Quidditch pitch. “What do you say in and out?”

They soon found themselves inside the changing rooms where many of the Gryffindors were getting changed after their duelling practice or after Quidditch practice. “Move,” Veronica ordered as she barged into the crowd. Betty clung to Veronica’s trail as the Ravenclaw loudly yelled at a fourth year: “Excuse me.”

“Veronica? Betty?! What are you guys doing here?” Archie, who had just a towel around his waist, asked as soon as he saw them in the boys changing rooms. His eyes had widened at the sight of them, and then they flickered down to Betty’s left wrist; her soulmark drew his eyes in, and they narrowed ever so slightly at it.

“Don’t worry about it,” Veronica told him, in no mood to talk to Archie while Betty refused to look at him. The former of girls tried to push past him, her hand shooting out for Betty’s hand to drag her along with her.

“No.” Archie shook his head at them, but Veronica merely glowered at him. The action itself frightened Archie so much that he backed up slightly.

“I mean it, Andrews. Hit the showers and stay out of my way.” Veronica roughly pushed him to the side while Betty scurried around after the Ravenclaw. Veronica was on the warpath, and there was no stopping her. She was a heat-seeking missile out for Chuck’s blood, and everyone in the cramped changing room could see. As soon as she was near enough to Chuck, she cleared her throat and watched as he turned to face her. Her death glare would have intimidated most, but Chuck felt superior to her in every single way.

 “B and V, menage right on, ladies,” Chuck smirked down at the two of them and was greeted by the sight of both girls grimacing at him. That only widened his smirk because he knew that he managed to get a rise out not one but both girls, who flushed with anger.

“This is disgusting. Take it down.” Veronica brandished her own iPod with the picture displayed to him. All around them, the other boys circled, sniggering at the photograph that had ignited Veronica’s fury.

“Oh, oh, why are you so wound up? It’s a badge of honour, and you’re not exactly virgin territory after your closet date with Andrews last year.” Chuck pointed out reminding all around them about how Veronica and Archie had once had a risque seven minutes in heaven last year.

“Okay, that’s beyond irrelevant, Chuck.” Betty leapt to her best friend’s defence while her own anger consumed her. There was no way that she was going to allow him to get away with this especially as she had the feeling that it wasn’t just Veronica he’d attacked. “You’re not allowed to go around humiliating girls for any reason, under any circumstances, jerk.”

“Look, I get you’re not a closet kind of girl, but hey if you want to ride the Chuckwagon that can be arranged.” Chuck goaded, his eyes trailing dramatically over Betty’s figure. She suddenly felt incredibly self-conscious in her dark grey skirt, tight white blouse and her jumper, which had shrunk slightly as well as her knee-high socks. Yet, clear for all to see was the black crown on her left wrist.

“Ew! NO! I have a boyfriend and a soulmate.” Betty exclaimed, repulsed by the mere mention of what he was alluding to while she brandished her left wrist at him. Yet, Chuck’s words had rendered Betty too disgusted to speak.

“Let’s make this simple so that your preppy murderer half brain can grasp it.” Veronica took over, glowering at the boy in front of her. “Take this the hell down.” She demanded, her tone leaving no room for negotiation, but Chuck wasn’t going to allow Veronica to ruin his game.

“Oh, that high tone, bitch attitude may work on the betas in Ravenclaw, but you’re in Lion territory,” Chuck informed her while the boys around him growled suddenly at the girls causing them to jump back ever so slightly. Chuck then barged his way past both before stopping right beside Veronica and whispering menacingly: “But please, fight back. You’ll only make it harder on yourself.” With that, he left with Veronica still fuming and festering with rage, and she was now determined to get her revenge.

...

“And in that moment, you’re dead. All of you are dead.” Dilton Doiley’s voice rang out through the clearing by the Black Lake. It was easy for Jughead to find him and now he watched from the sidelines as the scout terrified all of those he was in charge of. The Serpent Prince rolled his eyes at him as he slowly moved closer to the Ravenclaw. His hands were firmly in his pockets, and he was already bored of Doiley’s voice.

“At ease, Doiley,” Jughead commanded, his voice, stronger, deeper and less forgiving than Dilton’s and it terrified the younger students. Their heads all snapped to the side as Dilton turned to look at the Serpent glowering down at him. Even slouched, Jughead was much taller than the scout. “I’m writing an article for the Blue and Gold, and I was hoping that you can help.”

“Dismissed!” Dilton yelled at his scouts as he mulled over everything that Jughead had just informed him, but when he noted his scouts leaving he commanded: “But stay close.” He did not want to have to round up all the others later when Jughead had left.

“Cheryl and Andrews both say that they heard spellfire the morning of  July 4th, but they don’t know who fired.” Jughead pointed out, noticing that there was one scout who looked over at him as if he wanted to say something but was too afraid to do so. Jughead decided that he’d follow that route later.

“Sheriff Keller already asked me about this and like I told him, my scouts and I, we didn’t hear anything weird,” Dilton informed him with a sneer. The look in his eyes, as well as the tone, angered Jughead, and the Slytherin straightened up to tower over Dilton; his eyes blazed as he moved.

“Well, did you see anything weird?” Jughead demanded to know, his face contorting with rage at the lack of response from the boy opposite him. Jughead wanted to know more, and he was going to find out no matter what it took.

“A white-winged hippogriff, a long-eared owl. Oh, and Cheryl, sitting by the Black Lake, soaking wet.” Dilton’s tone was capable of smirking when he knew that he shouldn’t smirk while Jughead scowled back at him. He may have not liked Cheryl, but Jughead despised hearing someone speaking so crassly about any girl. With one last glower, Jughead turned on his heel and stalked off, determined to find out more.

...

“This story is bigger than we thought. I started asking around to see if what happened to you happened to anyone else. If anyone would go on record.” Betty informed Veronica as she walked into the library as she looked around at the other girls. Her eyes urged someone to go on record, and it was Betty’s fellow Hufflepuff who agreed.

“I will. One hundred per cent.” Ethel Muggs replied, nodding slightly and looking up at Betty, who smiled gratefully at the other girl in her house. They shared a nod before Betty looked back at Veronica, who still had no idea what was going on.

“Okay, Ethel. It’s five guys in Gryffindor from our year and the year above. Chuck and his posse. Ethel was just about to tell us.” Betty addressed the group of girls there, letting them all know who had been the route of all their humiliation and anger.

“One day last year, Chuck and I talked in the library for ten minutes. I helped him with Transfiguration problem, and nothing happened. But the next day he started telling people that I had let him do stuff to me, like sex stuff. And then he or one of his goons wrote ‘sloppy seconds’ on my locker.” Ethel confessed, her voice shaking as she spoke and all around them felt their hearts go out to the poor girl in front of them.

That was until someone from the shadows spoke up.

“Yes, yes, we’ve all heard your tragic origin story.” Cheryl’s cruel, sarcastic voice filled their ears as she stepped slowly towards them. Most of the girls turned to look at Cheryl with a slight respectful bow of their heads, yet Betty ignored her.

“I’m so sorry, Ethel. That’s horrible.” Betty spoke softly and without pity while placing her hand on Ethel’s shoulder. There was no cruelness in Betty’s gaze and nor was she just acting kindly because she needed to and for that, Ethel was grateful.

“Not as horrible as being a suspect in your own brother’s torture-murder case, but we all have our crosses. In the meantime, my handmaidens, I need you in five minutes, sluts, so...” Cheryl nodded her head expecting her followers to go to her side, but she was stopped by Ethel, who was glowering her.

“They’re ruining our lives, and to them, it’s just a game. They keep score, and...” Ethel wasn’t allowed to finish her sentence as Veronica caught onto what she was saying.

“Wait. What do you mean, keep score?” She asked, her eyes alight with fear. She hated that she and many other girls may have been reduced to nothing more than pawns in a game.

“Each conquest earns them points. They keep track in some secret playbook.” Ethel informed them, her voice trembling with terror and rage. It seemed to pass through most of the group, igniting the fury inside of them.

“Okay, we have to talk to a teacher.” Betty insisted, fighting back against the darker side of her being which was begging her to do something much more drastic. Yet, she had to force it down again as she listened to the others.

“I already tried. Weatherbee said that he didn’t find anything.” Ethel muttered miserably hating that the Professor had been so unhelpful. It infuriated those around them as Cheryl scoffed at Ethel.

“Okay then, we need undeniable proof.” Betty pointed out, her hands shaking slightly until she dug her nails into her palms to stem her pain and frustration.

“Proof of what, Nancy Drew? That boys will be boys? And that playbook reeks of suburban legend.” Cheryl snapped incredulously spreading anger, frustration and hopelessness among the other girls.

“How would you know, Cheryl?” Veronica demanded to know, her eyes alight with fire and her whole being buzzing with annoyance. She was being to feel the biting hate that she always felt towards the entitled nature that Cheryl portrayed bubble up inside of her.

“Because, Freda Shallow, before he died, my brother was close friends with Chuck, and Jason never mentioned it, and he never would have allowed it.” Cheryl scoffed at the mere thought of her beloved brother allowing something like that.

“Okay, well, I never really knew your brother, but I’m not lying about what happened to me, and Ethel’s not lying. And proof or no proof, book or no book, I am going scorched earth on these privileged despicable miscreants. You want to get caught in that backdraft, Cheryl? Call me or any of these beautiful, young, strong, intelligent women, slut one more time.” Veronica wanted to yell at her, but she settled for the calculated and cold tone that evidently terrified Cheryl, who gulped at Veronica, who merely smirked. She was going to get her revenge one way or another, no matter what the Blossom girl said or wanted.

...

“What the hell, man?” The scout who had been staring at Jughead asked as the Serpent stole the cherry off of the top of the sundae that the scout had just received. His hands flew up in surrender before he sat back and Jughead took the ice cream.

“I saw the way you looked at me during grizzly training.” Jughead’s tone was rough and intimidating for the scout, and he watched him in silence as the older boy ate the delicious sundae. “You’re hiding something.” Jughead finally stated.

“It’s scoutmaster Doiley. He’s lying.” The scout immediately told him without any trace of hesitation. He was not as afraid of Dilton as he was of Jughead and seeing as the Serpent Prince was clad in his jacket, the scout felt that trembling fear rise. He knew that Jughead was both merciful to those who helped him and he was rumoured to be ruthless when mislead.

“About what?” Jughead demanded to know while enjoying the ice cream that was quickly disappearing as he ate.

“The spellfire. It was him. He was teaching us new spells.” The scout shakily told him, and Jughead froze before his face contorted in rage. He now found his hatred for Dilton increasing tenfold. He was misleading not only Jughead and Betty’s case but the entire investigation of the murder of Jason Blossom.

“Dilton Doiley cast the spellfire on July 4th?” Jughead asked, his voice morphing into the sound of outrage and disgust.

“He’s a hardcore survivalist. He says that if we don’t protect ourselves, then no one will.” The scout admitted, and with one last spoonful of ice cream and a scowl, Jughead nodded before starting to form his shakedown of an evil adventure scout. He was going to find out more, and he wasn’t going to let Dilton get away with this.

...

“Ethel?” Betty asked as she saw the other girl entering the central office of the Blue and Gold. The two Hufflepuffs smiled out one another as Ethel moved to show her who was by her side.

“Betty, you know Trev Brown right? Valerie’s brother?” Ethel asked, waving a hand at the boy beside her, who waved at the blonde girl who had been writing at her desk.

“Hey, what’s up?” Trev smiled at Betty, trembling slightly as his eyes caught sight of the black crown. Like most in the school, he was terrified of Jughead’s reputation.

“Hey.” Betty smiled in response before waiting to find out more from the two others.

“He used to be friends with Chuck,” Ethel informed her, grimacing at the name of the other boy’s name, but she knew that Trev could help her.

“But, I stopped when I saw Chuck’s playbook, and I may know where it is,” Trev stated, adamant that he’d never be friends with Chuck again. In fact, he hated most of the Gryffindors who were in his year and the year above.

...

“Boys behaving badly, what else is new? Suben Belle, Glen Rich, the Deputy Coach’s son being the ringleader? I mean just how depraved is that house.” Veronica murmured once she’d been rounded up to help them and she, Betty, Ethel and Kevin made their way silently towards the Gryffindor changing rooms. Each of them had their wands out, the light illuminating the surrounds from the tips.

“Colour me impressed.” Cheryl’s voice pierced the air. Wheeling around the group saw met Cheryl’s gaze as their hands came to rest over their hearts. Kevin, Veronica and Betty froze as Ethel darted into the changing room unnoticed. “A B and D with B and V. What would your Holy Roller Mother say about this, Betty?”

“What are you doing here, Cheryl?” Betty demanded, her tone exasperated and weary. She wanted this to be over with, and Cheryl would inevitably drag everything out.

“And where you get those thigh high boots, they’re amazing!” Kevin informed the redhead, admiring the piece of fashion that Cheryl so casually wore for the sleuthing mission. They weren’t practical, but they suited her entirely.

 “Trev told Valerie, who told Josie, who told Ginger, who told Tina who told me and I thought that I would help out,” Cheryl informed them as she strutted towards them, her heels clicking loudly with each step. Her eyes were alive with determination, and it was evident that she wanted to put this all to rest.

“Help or derail our investigation?” Betty demanded to know, not trusting Cheryl’s intentions at all. Then again, Betty had never trusted Cheryl, so it wasn't much of a surprise to anyone there.

“Get over yourself, Betty.” Cheryl snapped back at her, shining her light into Betty’s eyes. The blonde blinked rapidly but was saved from replying by Ethel, who called out to them. 

“Hey guys, get in here.” The other Hufflepuff shouted to them, and the others all turned to see Ethel holding onto a battered book in her hands. “Trev was right. They didn’t even bother to hide it.” She began flicking through the pages to find the most recent entries.

Veronica moved to Ethel and quickly found her name before grimacing at what she read there. “Rich girl? Is that what I’m reduced to? Nine points?” Veronica’s voice shook, and her eyes glistened with pain.

“Better than the big girl, seven point five.” Ethel pointed out, her eyes directed at the messy scrawl with her name by it. Her eyes narrowed at the sight of it before they all heard a sharp gasp.

“Polly’s in this book,” Betty stated, her voice more broken than any of the others. The pain that came with thinking of Polly all but overwhelmed Betty especially when she saw the several entries with that name.

“Next to Jason’s name,” Cheryl states, her voice shaking and her heartbreaking at the painful secret that Jason had kept from her. It was both damaging to his memory and the painful, bitter truth that she’d never expected to find.

“I’m so sorry, Betty.” Veronica placed a hand on Betty’s shoulder, attempting to sooth her best friend’s pain, but it did nothing.

“This isn’t... Jason would never.” Cheryl protested, refusing to believe it at all. She would rather deny the truth than accept something so painful.

“It’s right there, Cheryl.” Betty cried, her voice breaking. “Your brother hurt my sister. This is what guys like Jason and Chuck think about women. That we’re objects for them to abuse and when they’re done with us, they shame us into silence. They have zero remorse for the lives they destroy.” Betty’s fury consumed her, and this time she couldn't stop the darkness in her mind changing her course of action.

“Maybe I don’t know Jason,” Cheryl mumbled, killing her spell and walking away from the book while the other girls looked away from her.

“I’ll take a picture and show it to Weatherbee. It’ll be the perfect cover for your expose, Betty.” Veronica snapped several pictures of all the pages that they found to be relevant. The Ravenclaw would settle with just that, but Betty wouldn't.

Betty couldn't. 

“Yeah, but no, because girls deserve justice. Don’t you think, Cheryl?” Betty stared at the Slytherin girl before turning to her best friend. ”You want vengeance, you want to go full dark no stars, Veronica, and I’m with you, and I have a plan.”

...

“You’re expecting me, Veronica, but where’s your partner in crime.” Chuck had been invited to the perfects bathroom by Veronica with the promise that Betty would also be there. It was clear that he wanted both and they were going to play on that.

“She’ll be here soon, so come on in.” Veronica allowed him inside before stalking over to the large swimming pool size bath. She was dressed in a revealing one-piece swimsuit and her usual black heels.

“Nice.” Chuck admired the young woman’s figure which she proudly displayed when she walked towards the pool.

“Isn’t it. It gets very, very hot.” Veronica tilted her head towards him as she descended the steps into the water, not appearing to care about her heels at all. “Come on. Let’s get wet.”

Chuck was about to follow when the side door opened to reveal Betty. Yet, she didn't look like herself at all. Dressed in a lacy black and dusty rose bra, tiny mini skirt, black wig and scarlet lipstick with a black choker, she looked fierce and daring as well as beyond redemption. ”Betty couldn’t make it, so she sent me instead.” Betty’s tone was deeper than usual, and every movement was sensual. 

“What is that?” Veronica asked once they'd gotten Chuck into the hot tub. Betty was pouring a small packet of powder into the drink.

“Muscle Relaxer. Mix it with booze, and it lowers your inhibitions. Hello, truth serum because I didn't have time to brew Veritaserum.” Betty spoke without remorse, and her eyes showed no sign of yielding. 

“Maybe we should slow it down a little,” Veronica suggested, suddenly uneasy at the entire plan. She had no idea what Betty was up to, but she wasn't too sure she liked it.

“It’s fine.” Betty insisted, her eyes blazing. Turning back to Chuck, she glowered at him. ”Right, Chuck? You don’t want to slow down, do you?”

“Oh, I’m too fast, too furious baby,” Chuck smirked, rotating his hips and looking at the two girls. Veronica was uneasy, but Betty took it in her stride. 

“Good. Good boy, Chuck.” Betty smirked, noting that her plan was working.

...

“Hello, Dilton,” Jughead called as soon as he saw the scout loitering around the Great Hall. The Serpent towered over him, his eyes ablaze with anger. “I talked to one of your scouts. I know you cast those spells, which makes you both a liar and a public menace.”

“So what if I did? I was doing the adventure scouts a favour. Somebody has to teach them how to stand their ground, the way this town is going.” Dilton wasn't ashamed of his actions, but he was terrified of what Jughead may do to him.

“Save it for your statement, which you can make to Sheriff Keller or to me. I suggest the latter.” Jughead was in no mood for the whinging of one Dilton Doiley. Yet, just before he left, he turned to face the scout. “Blue and Gold offices, tomorrow.” Now he had to head to the Prefects bathroom because Veronica had sent him a message saying that she and Betty may need back up.

...

“What? What the hell?” Chuck asked as he woke up, handcuffed to the pool as the temperature rose. Behind him, Betty was pointing her wand at the thermostat, increasing the temperature slowly.

“Start recording,” Betty instructed Veronica, who did as she was asked immediately. There was something about Betty’s tone that left no room for negotiation.

“Guys, it's really hot in here,” Chuck complained, not understanding what was happening to him and not realising that it was only going to get worse for him.

“And getting hotter by the minute,” Betty stated her anger rising with the temperature - steadily, but ready to cause deadly side-effects. She wasn't scared anymore and only felt more powerful. “Time to squeal pig. Tell the truth about what happened between you and Veronica.”

“We had a good time. She had a good time.” Chuck smirked slightly, fighting against the truth serum, but finding it challenging to formulate another response. 

“The truth, Chuck, or so help me, I will boil you alive.” Betty’s fury bubbled like the water that was scalding Chuck’s skin. 

“What, we made out.” Chuck pointed out, which even Veronica would concede was true. Yet, now after everything, she was disgusted that she’d done just that.

“And then?” Betty pressed, turning up the heat fractionally, causing Chuck to squirm. He was not enjoying this at all, but out of fear, he began to talk.

“And then I took her back to the Ravenclaw common room, and I didn’t give her a sticky maple,” Chuck explained, gasping as the liquid fire consumed his body. He was sweating now and felt utterly helpless.

“That is all you had to say, you ass.” Veronica finished the recording with a triumphant smirk before uploading it. ”And now everyone will know.”

“You like shaming people, Chuck.” Betty carried on, not hearing the creak of a door nearby. Her mind was focused solely on getting justice.

“Woah, hey,” Chuck exclaimed as Betty’s foot came to push his head down. His alarm rose as he fought to keep his head over the water.

“You like dehumanising them.” Betty carried on, her eyes ablaze and her mind was blank apart from the drive to get rid of this evil. She wanted vengeance for all those girls.

She wanted vengeance for Polly.

“Okay.” Chuck was still fighting against Betty, but she had the advantage against him. He was struggling and had to submit to her questioning now.

“Prissy prude by day, freak in the sheets by night?” Betty asked, remembering the slander that had been thrown at Polly. The phrases and statements that had haunted her sister caused the apoplectic rage that stirred up inside of Betty. 

“No.” Chuck gasped, as he was allowed to breathe. Betty wouldn't harm him too severely, so she relented somewhat as he took in several gulps of air.

“Apologise!” Betty commanded. Her voice never wavered, and her anger only rose with the rising steam and water.

“Calm down.” Veronica tried to stop her friend from doubt anything too drastic, but she was unsure that she could do anything.

“Say you’re sorry.” Betty's tone was stern and terrifying. It sent shockwaves through all those there, and there was no way that it could be argued with.

“Okay, okay. I’m sorry. I’m sorry for all of it.” Chuck confessed his fear driving his apology.

“Good job, pig. Now time for your reward.” Betty picked up a tub of maple syrup that was beside her. She flipped the lid open and began to pour it all over Chuck’s head. “A sticky maple of your own.”

“Wait, what?” Chuck exclaimed, feeling the sugary sweet liquid cascading down his skin. Veronica was at a paradox. For one it fitted that he had to suffer from the real humiliation of a sticky maple. But, more frighteningly for her, she didn't recognise the girl opposite her.

“Apologise for ruining Polly,” Betty demanded, her breathing erratic. Her anger was all-consuming. 

“What the hell!” Chuck yelled, not understanding what on earth was happening. He fears rose as he looked at Betty’s face contorting and morphing in rage.

“Do it, Jason!” Betty commanded, her mind somewhere far away from her reality. 

“Oh, Merlin,” Chuck exclaimed.

“Say you’re sorry for destroying me! Apologise for what you did to me!” Betty was no longer there. Something out of her control had taken over her and only one person there could help her.

“Look, I’m not Jason. I’m not Jason!” Chuck screamed at her, his eyes widening.

“Betty! That is enough. Stop! It’s over. We did it, you did it.” Veronica commanded, snapping Betty out of whatever trance she was in.

“You are crazy. Oh, Merlin, you’re crazy as hell.” Chuck exclaimed while his eyes writhed in their sockets. Fear consumed him, and he just wanted to get away.

“Betty,” Veronica stated, hoping, praying that her friend was calm now.

“I’m fine.” Betty murmured before straightening up. “We’re done here.” With that, she turned sharply on her heel and vanished from sight to remove all of the makeup, the wig and to get back to the Blue and Gold before Jughead got there.

Unknown to the girls, however, Jughead had witnessed the entire episode, and he quickly disappeared again to find Betty when she finally arrived at the Blue and Gold.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 14 – Dark Side

‘Everybody's got a dark side

Do you love me?

Can you love mine?

Nobody's a picture perfect

But we're worth it

You know that we're worth it

Will you love me?

Even with my dark side?’

 

The moment Betty entered her room, she was met by Jughead’s icy blue gaze, and she could immediately tell that something was wrong. There was a deep pain in Jughead’s gaze, but she missed the glimmer of light inside them. She only saw the darkness, and she shook slightly as Jughead moved off of the bed, and she noticed something glinting in his hand.

“You know that if a Serpent breaks the laws so badly that they have to be kicked out, then someone has to burn their jacket and remove their tattoo,” Jughead informed her as he took several steps towards her, twirling a small switchblade around. His eyes never left his girlfriend’s as he added: “I’m the one who has to remove the tattoo.”

The simplicity of that statement, as well as the meaning behind it, shook Betty. Shivers flooded her spine as Jughead advanced towards her. She shook her head at him over and over again, her eyes wide with fear because in that light Jughead looked as fierce and as intimidating as everyone portrayed him. Half his face was shrouded darkness, and Betty gulped as his fingers trailed up to her arm.

“I have a dark side to me, Betts. One that I can control, and yet I let it consume me.” Jughead’s voice dropped to a whisper as he handed her the blade. She gently accepted in before pressing the blade back into its holster. “So, I know, I know, what it is like to not be able to control your actions.”

Betty’s brow furrowed, she had no idea what Jughead meant by that. “I don’t understand.” Her eyes were as wide as dinner plates by now, and she just didn’t know where this was going.

“I saw you, Betty. I saw what you did to Chuck less than an hour ago. I saw the lengths you would go to for justice, and I saw it consume you.” Jughead watched Betty’s lips quiver as she feared that Jughead would push her away in disgust. “I don’t care. I don’t care that you did that. I don’t care what else you might have done earlier. Betty, I only care about whether or not you are alright. I’ve seen you snap before and I’ve seen you act out before so I know about it. I know that I’ve acted up in the past, but I am here for you now. I just need you to explain to me what happened. What made you snap?”

Jughead watched as Betty’s eyes softened in relief as he led her over to the bed where they sat down together. Their finger intertwined as Jughead ran a hand through his hair as Betty spoke with a shaky voice. “It was Polly.” Her boyfriend stared at her in shock as Betty carried on. “It wasn’t the start, but that’s what caused me to snap. It consumed me, Jughead and I have never felt so much rage in all my life. It was all I could think about, and my mind went blank. I remember what started it, but part of my memory is fractured.”

The Serpent nodded in understanding, remembering the other times when this had happened to Betty, and he mulled over what to do. “Okay, so tell me what happened from the beginning and then we’ll try to piece everything back together, alright?” Betty nodded at that as she knew that it had always helped her in the past.

“It started this morning with Veronica and Kevin. We were talking about Veronica’s date, and then Tina and Ginger walked past. They made a snide comment about Veronica getting a sticky maple.” Betty shuddered at that only to see her boyfriend staring at her in confusion.

“What the fuck is a sticky maple and is that why you covered Chuck in maple syrup?” Jughead’s tone was incredulous as he tried to work out everything that had happened. He had never heard of anything like that before, and he had wondered why Betty had had the bottle of maple syrup.

“It’s mainly a Gryffindor thing. It involves taking a picture of a girl and putting a filter on it with making it look like the girl has maple syrup running down her face. It alludes to them having had sex and her allowing the boy to erm...” Betty trailed off disgusted at what it actually meant, and upon seeing Betty’s expression, Jughead took an educated guess.

“Well, it doesn’t surprise me that Gryffindor would come up with something so crude and for fuck's sake who does that to girls? If you’re going to be even remotely adventurous during sex, keep it to yourself because if you need to do something like that, you’re clearly just a desperate virgin who just wants attention. It’s fucked up, degrading and stupid.” Jughead stated, his anger bubbled and festered inside of him as he insulted his rivals, and Betty was grateful that her boyfriend agreed with her.

“It is vile, Juggie and he did just that to Veronica,” Betty confessed to him, and Jughead paled at that. Veronica had always been a good friend of his and seeing as she was Betty’s best friend, he understood why Betty would fight against the injustice served to Veronica. “It was horrendous, and she was fuming so she dragged me into the Gryffindor changing room-”

“Wait! What?! You went into the changing room with her?!” He did not like the sound of that one bit. He hated the idea that Betty had been in there with only Veronica by her side. If he had still been friends with Archie then maybe he’d have felt better, but he wasn’t so he didn’t.

“Yes, I did, but I was fine. Only Chuck acted like a dick, but they didn’t touch me. Maybe because of the fact I was displaying my soulmark, but they left me alone. Yet, that achieved absolutely nothing. It was so frustrating, Jug.” Betty hated that it couldn’t have just ended there.

“Okay, so Chuck was a dick, but how did it progress?” Jughead pressed her, knowing that as soon as they finished delving into what happened, they could forget about it and relax. He knew that Betty needed it and he was determined to help her.

“Well, I started asking around to see if it had happened to anyone else. There were several girls, including Ethel Muggs. We heard her story, and since it’s hers to tell, I won’t go into it, but we then found out that they kept score in some playbook.” Jughead grimaced at that, feeling sick at the mere mention of it and then mulling over what Betty said, he felt fury fester in his insides.

“That is even more fucked up than I thought. I guess that you then found the book with the girls and found Polly’s name it.” Betty nodded before Jughead carried on. “Next to Jason’s name?” He remembered hearing Betty screaming it at Chuck and then he continued probing. “So you and Veronica then lured him back to the Prefects bathroom were you two handcuffed him and then threatened to boil him alive.” Betty nodded again. “Well, you didn’t kill him, which is a good thing and frankly I don’t care what happens to Chuck Clayton. He’s a dick, an idiot and frankly can go to hell, for all I care. Though right now, I just want to know if you’re okay?”

Betty shrugged unsure of herself. “I don’t feel out of control anymore, but I still feel shaky.” A sigh left Jughead’s lips as he then moved to press a kiss to Betty’s forehead.

“Go, take a shower, I know that it will help you. I’ll be in here writing the draft for the article on Dilton Doiley, and when you’re done, you can write your expose.” Betty slowly rose, but Jughead pulled her back to him. “And I just wanted to say that although you looked as sexy as sin, I prefer you like this, though the Betty I saw an hour ago might become a recurring dream.” Betty chuckled at him before walking to the bathroom, and Jughead turned towards the desk where his typewriter sat.

When he was halfway through consolidating his findings, he felt Betty’s arm wrapping around his shoulders. “So, you managed to shake down an evil adventure scout then?” She asked, her tone lighter than it had been all night, telling Jughead that she was feeling better now.

“Yes, it turns out that he was the one casting the spells and we have to take his statement tomorrow, which will be fun.” His tone dripped with sarcasm, and he rolled his eyes before leaning back into Betty’s embrace. “Though, I can’t think of anything more to write about it. Are you going to be writing now?”

“Yes, I should get started.” Jughead nodded at Betty before raising slowly and turning around to face the other part of his soul. Their shimmering gazes met, and Jughead pulled Betty into his arms, bowing Betty’s back as his lips met hers. Their lips moved hungrily against one another while they clung to each other tightly gripping the other’s body.

When Jughead moved away, he smiled down at her before muttering: “I should have done that earlier, but hopefully your head will be clear now and I’ll be here if you need me.” Betty, who was still slightly dazed by the kiss, nodded before seating herself at Jughead’s typewriter. They shared it for everything, they had done for a long time and now wasn’t any different.

Betty’s fingers flew across the keys, her words spilling forth as her mind attempted to drive all her horror from the evening into her words. With each word, the fury was alleviated ever so slightly and by the time she reached her final paragraph, she was all but relaxed. Yet, while she was drawing up her conclusion, she felt something nudge her hand.

Pausing, Betty glanced down to see the shimmering silver lynx of Jughead’s Patronus. It looked up at her with wide, adoring eyes which mirrored that of the young man sat on the bed looking at her. Jughead watched as Betty ran her hand over the silvery, shimmering fur. Although Patronuses weren’t physical beings in the sense that they were not real animals, they could still be felt and still interacted. Yet, more importantly, the person who cast the Patronus would be able to sense the feeling of Betty’s gentle fingers against his back in the same way that the lynx felt it.

A small noise escaped Jughead and Betty turned to see Jughead’s eyes upon her, and she slowly rose from her seat. She’d write the summary in the morning before publishing it for all to read and to see. Betty padded over to Jughead, pulling out her wand and muttering: “Expecto Patronum.” Her owl soon joined Jughead’s lynx as Betty settled beside her boyfriend, who was resting against the headboard.

Betty dug her head into Jughead’s neck, her damp hair tickling the bare skin of his neck. The owl and the lynx before them accessed on another with interest, scrutinising everything about the other deciding that they were happy with the other. In silence, Jughead and Betty watched as the much larger lynx curled up at the foot of the bed before owl the owl to settle down beside it.

“You know they say that your Patronus reflects your soul?” Jughead asked, glancing down at his soulmate, who looked up at him through her long lashes. Jade eyes melted ice, and Jughead quickly found himself ensnared in Betty’s gaze. Yet, the familiar ice blue seemed to be changing as was the jade of Betty’s gaze. Blue hues were slowly becoming evident in her gaze, but not too much that her gaze was changed, and for Jughead, ice blue was slowly becoming a frosty cyan.

“No, I didn’t, but it explains what helps what happened in Castleroy’s class,” Betty mumbled as her owl moved to bury its head in the lynx’s neck just like Betty was doing with Jughead. The older of the two soulmates noticed this and a small smile spread across his lips. “They knew before we did.”

The young Serpent stared down at his soulmate noticing how Betty’s gaze was transfixed on the shimmering silver animals. “We knew.” Jughead insisted because they had known, but they'd been too fearful to admit that. “We knew that we wanted to be together and that we had a deep connection from long before we knew of soulmates. We knew that being with someone else would be wrong for us, but we were too scared to admit that to ourselves. Yet, our subconsciouses were letting us know.”

Silence followed Jughead’s words and his heart sunk at that until Betty nodded slowly in agreement. Her eyes met Jughead’s, and she pulled him closer to her. “Maybe we were too scared to believe back then, but we’re here together. We just needed a little push.” The irony of that was not lost on Jughead as he thought of how their soulmark had been revealed to them.

“Definitely, but at least all things have worked out for the two of us,” Jughead stated, his grip tightening on Betty’s waist while his eyes never leaving her face. “We have each other now, but I have no idea what to do about Archie.”

Betty glanced up at him in shock, having no idea what was now going on in Jughead’s mind because she couldn’t think of how had moved onto Archie. “What do you mean, what about to do about Archie?” She was merely given a heavy sigh which confused and frightened her somewhat. “Juggie?” Betty shifted to look up at Jughead, who glanced away for a moment before meeting her gaze.

“Part of me wants to hex him to hell and back for everything he has done to the two of us. I’m annoyed and angry at him for all of it. He has hurt us both and has royally fucked up everything for our friendship.” Jughead took a deep breath in an attempt to calm himself while trying not to let everything in his mind from overwhelming him. “But for years he’s been one of my closest friends, and I don’t want to lose him because of this. I’m at a crossroad when it comes to him. It hurts that it has come to this, Betts. I want to make things right, but I also want to make him pay for everything he has done.”

Betty glanced up at him unable to formulate a response to him. After a few moments, she finally murmured: “I have no idea what to do in all honesty, but we will get through this together. I promise you.”

Jughead’s heart leapt at Betty’s mumble, and he moved to guide her head so that she met his gaze again. “I know, I know that.” With that, he pressed his lips to hers. Soft, slow and sweet, it conveyed everything that Jughead wanted to say without him needing to say it. He couldn’t quite get out that he needed her and this one kiss managed to inform Betty of that.

So, when she pulled away, Betty knew what Jughead meant, and as she closed her eyes while resting on him, she understood. Jughead watched her as her chest rose up and down while her eyes fluttered shut. The moment her eyes didn’t open again, the owl shimmered even more brilliantly before vanishing. The lynx rose its head and looked back at Jughead, who quickly cut his own spell, unaware of how the spells had lasted for so long.

With a sigh, Jughead lifted Betty up and gently held her in one arm as he tucked her under the covers. He then took her wand from her hand and placed it on her bedside table while Jughead then moved around, preparing himself for bed. He worked quickly and was soon beside Betty, who he held tightly to him, his arms around her waist.

...

Betty woke up feeling slightly disorientated as she held onto Jughead’s hands. Blinking rapidly, the previous night’s advents came flooding back to her and with that fresh in her mind, she slipped from Jughead’s grip. He groaned in his sleep but didn’t wake while rolling back slightly before returning to his original position. His hand gripped the duvet where Betty had been sleeping as if through that action he was still holding onto his girl.

For a moment, Betty just admired the sight of her boyfriend peacefully resting. His brilliantly bright eyes were still shut with the raven coloured eyelashes resting on the smooth skin of his cheek. Jughead wasn’t restless either, which was a surprise to Betty because when they were younger, he always had been. It was as if both soulmates found that the other’s presence soothed them enough to allow them to sleep. There was nothing that Betty at that moment wouldn’t have given to ensure that it stayed like that.

Betty eventually moved away to finish her article, and she became lost in her writing. She poured out her soul into every finishing word, trying to stop the evil that had consumed her last night, leave her body. Her jade eyes were transfixed on every single word she wrote, and she became oblivious to the world around her.

Betty didn’t see Jughead slowly wake up. He rose slowly, desperately trying to find his soulmate until he saw her bent over the typewriter. A flickering smile graced his lips, and Jughead pushed himself out of bed in order to walk over to Betty. The fingers of the girl in question flew across the keys as she finished up her article when a pair of strong arms encircled her waist.

“You’re upset or overwhelmed, which is it?” Jughead mumbled into Betty’s ear as he held tightly onto his soulmate. Betty felt Jughead’s breath tickling her ear, and she focused on that, her eyes closing at the sensation. Any ounce of concentration left Betty, and her lips turned upwards into a small smile.

“Overwhelmed, but I’ll be okay.” Betty finally murmured in response before she wrote her final sentence. Jughead silently read the article as Betty typed away and he could feel the anger that had coursed through Betty when she’d been writing that.

“Are you sure, Betts?” Jughead pressed, his fear for his girlfriend’s well-being rising. He hated that in this he couldn’t truly help her. He couldn’t delve into her mind and make her feel better, and it was destroying Jughead as much as it was destroying Betty.

“I promise you that I’ll be alright, Juggie. I just need to publish this article and finish this chapter, and then I can move on. I’ll be fine though.” Betty insisted, leaning back against Jughead’s chest and she placed her hands over Jughead’s.

“Do you promise?” Jughead asked seriously, spinning the chair around and crouching down in front of Betty. His hands grasped hers in their tight embrace as his eyes searched Betty’s. They stared at each other for a long moment before Betty nodded.

“I promise.” Her voice was the mere shadow of a whisper, but that didn’t matter. Her promise had been made, and Jughead knew that she wouldn’t break it.

...

By the time that lunch had arrived, the majority of piles of Betty’s article: The Book of Shame, had been taken and read. It was spreading around Hogwarts, and Betty was carefully sifting through the last pile. While Betty worked, Veronica approached her in the library and smiled. In her hand was her copy of the article, which she brandished when she reached Betty.  “Quite the expose. Whenever did you find the time to write it.”

“Oh, I stayed up last night. I couldn’t sleep for a long time after.” Betty confessed once she had turned around to look at Veronica. She thought better than to tell Veronica that she had spent the night with Jughead because she was sure that Veronica would blow everything out of proportion. As well as that, Veronica didn’t need to know how Betty had been consoled and nor did she need to know that Betty did not regret what she had done.

“Me neither,” Veronica admitted to her best friend before deciding that now it was time to discuss what had happened last night. Seeing her best friend like that had terrified Veronica and she wanted more than anything to make sure that Betty was alright. “Betty you came through for me in a way that no else ever has before, but can we talk about what happened.”

“What do you mean?” Betty asked, tightening her ponytail before searching the room for a sign of Jughead, who was hovering nearby. Their eyes connected and Betty watched her boyfriend edge nearer to the two girls. Jughead’s eyes fixated on them, and his ears were open to listen out to hear if something was said that could offend Betty.

“The wig and everything.” Veronica all but whispered to Betty. Her eyes darted around the room, missing Jughead, who was in her blind spot. It was only then that Veronica asked: “How far were you going to take it?”

“Chuck deserved it.” Betty insisted, her voice a harsh hiss as she turned away from Veronica and continued to sort through all the stacks and then when that was all done, she had nothing to distract herself with. Her eyes met Veronica’s, and she saw the glimmer of fear in the Ravenclaw’s eyes, but Betty chose to ignore it. She then shifted her gaze to look over at Jughead, who edged closer again.

“You called him Jason.” Veronica pointed out, and at that, both soulmates grimaced at the memory, and they both glanced down. Yet, Betty began to shift her mind and tried to convince herself that Veronica was wrong.

“Know what, I didn’t do that.” Betty insisted before beginning to walk away from Veronica, who followed after her, hot on her heels, with Jughead trailing after them. The two girls walked side by side as Veronica continued to speak.

“Yeah, girl, you did. You called yourself Polly. It was like Dr Jekell Miss Hyde. You became another person.” Betty shivered at Veronica’s tone and voice, but she conceded that her friend was right, not that she would admit that. She wasn’t going to talk any more about the night before if she could help it.

“Okay, I mean, I remember saying Chuck should apologise for Polly, but not because I thought he was Jason.” Betty murmured, and she looked away from Veronica, still making her way through the winding corridors.

“Why then?” Veronica asked, not hearing the heavy sigh that Jughead let out at the Ravenclaw’s words. She did not see the look on the Serpent’s face due to her soul attention on Betty, and she didn’t release that their conversation was being observed. Betty, on the other hand, glanced back several times to meet Jughead’s gaze and found that every time she did, she felt her fear leave her body.

“Because I’m sick of guys like Chuck and Jason doing horrible things to girls like me, you and Polly. Okay?” Betty all but snapped at Veronica, hating that her best friend couldn’t see that this conversation was doing nothing but hurting her already plagued mind. Betty then turned on her heel leaving Veronica watching her best friend, who quickly made her way to Jughead.

Veronica’s eyes narrowed slightly at the sight of the couple. Never had she seen the two interact like this before and seeing it humbled her heart. Betty leant against Jughead, who wrapped an arm around Betty’s waist and they slowly made their way towards the Blue and Gold. Veronica noted how neither spoke, only held onto one another while others stared at them. It was as if they didn’t need any words, which was strange for two passionate writers; they just needed each other’s presence – that was enough.

...

Good and evil. Light and dark. Betty and Veronica. Two sides of the same Janus coin. Given Betty’s article, Weatherbee needed a sacrificial lamb; needed to make an example of someone. So after Hermione Lodge negotiated a lesser sentence for our two avenging angels, Coach Clayton to save his job, to save the school’s reputation, was forced to cut his own beloved son and his goon squad from the team. An action that though none of us knew it at the time, would have terrible consequences in the weeks to come.’

By the next’s day’s end, Chuck and his gang of five were forced to face the reality of the actions and many of the students, in particular, the girls, all stood to watch them leave. They’d all been suspended thanks to Betty and Veronica, and most of them had to admit that revenge was sweet for them all. Chuck glowered at Betty when he passed her, but before he could say anything, he caught sight of all the Serpents from the youngest in their fourth year to the seventh years and finally Jughead. The look on their faces all told him that if he spoke a single word to the girlfriend and soulmate of their Prince, then there’d be hell to pay. At that, he walked off followed by his gang of followers.

“Thanks, Betty. Thanks, Veronica.” Ethel smiled at them, and for once both of the other girls conceded that maybe they had done the right thing. Both often had problems admitting that they had managed to do something helpful – especially Betty. The small thanks from Ethel made both of their hearts swell, and they beamed back at the other girl.

Yet, soon Betty’s face became more serious.“Thank you, Ethel, for going on the record. It made all of the difference with Weatherbee.” Betty pointed out, remembering that without Ethel’s statement, Weatherbee had been prepared to dismiss the entire thing. It had saved the cause and offered the justice that all the girls deserved and they all got to taste the sweet flavour of revenge.

“You are the bravest of them all, Ethel Muggs,” Veronica added, reaching over to place a hand on Ethel’s shoulder and she offered her a broad smile, which was returned tenfold. There was a shining, burning hope behind Ethel’s eyes now.

“Hashtag justice for Ethel,” Cheryl added without any malice. She had conceded that she had been wrong and was prepared to admit that. Though now she just wanted to destroy the evidence.

‘But one thing was certain, Betty and Veronica, forever, B and V, had been forged again. They’d walked through the fire and survived.’

Betty slowly made her way over to one of the bins at the side of the castle with the Book of Shame in her arms. Without much consideration, she tossed it inside and drew her wand when Cheryl arrived to stand beside her.

“Incendia!” They both cried and with that, the book was engulfed in flames which were eager to consume every cruel word or shameful secret. Both girls stood there watching the fire tore apart the book in silence; both wanted it to remove the painful memories that it had brought.

After a while, Cheryl turned to look at Betty and let out a small sniff. “Whoever killed Jason, hurt him. But, maybe Jason hurt people too. If he hurt Polly, I’m sorry.” Cheryl spoke finally causing Betty to turn and look at the other girl. A small nod of the head later and both put it all to rest as the book was reduced to nothing but ashes.

...

We crave absolutes, they comfort us. But life is infinitely more complex than that.’

Jughead and Betty brought Dilton Doiley into the Blue and Gold just after the boys had all been forced to leave the school. He sat shaking in front of them and kept his eyes wearily on Jughead, who he knew that he had angered earlier. To make a point, Jughead was wearing his Serpent jacket and his typical scowl, which scared the life out of Dilton. Betty, by contrast, wasn't intimidating to Dilton but every time his eyes strayed towards her, Jughead let out a hiss.

 

”If you publish a story saying that I fired those spells, my life will be ruined. I’ll be banished from the Ravenclaw scouts and charged with a misdemeanour. So what if I have a better story?” Dilton Doiley’s eyes were imploring them to listen to him; to give him a chance to explain; to give him a means to escape his fate. “If I tell you what I know, promise me the spellfire stays between us.” 

“You have our word as journalists,” Betty informed him, moving to perch on top of the desk, right beside Jughead. Her sleeve rode up ever so slightly, revealing the black crown on her wrist, which she would proudly display to everyone. Beside her, Jughead smirked at the sight while Dilton gulped, knowing that he wouldn't get that much sympathy from Betty. She wasn't one to go against her soulmate’s wishes.

“I saw something at the Black Lake. Something that nobody else saw. Professor Grundy’s cloak by the lake’s edge. She was there.” Dilton stated, shaking as he spoke and the two soulmates exchanged a glance. Betty began to put two and two together before realising that Jughead knew and at that, her fears increased. 

This was more serious than either imagined.

 ‘Despite all of our troubles, both old and recent, I would have done anything to protect Archie against this. But, Dilton Doiley had just opened Pandora’s box, and now there was nothing I or anyone could do to save him.’

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 15 – Good Times

‘I never want to leave this sunset town

But one day the time may come

And I'll take you at your word and carry on

I'll hate the goodbye

But I won't forget the good times

I won't forget the good times

 

‘It’s been over a week since the discovery of Jason Blossom’s body. But, his death is not the first nor would it be the last casualty that the community of Hogwarts and Hogsmeade and to a broader extent the wizarding world, would suffer. The Twilight Drive-In where I work, like my home away from home, a piece of our history is closing for good. Just when we needed a place to escape to the most.

With Sheriff Keller knocking on every door and neighbour suspecting neighbour, Hogsmeade every day that passes is becoming more like Salem during the Witch Trials. And meanwhile, the girl next door, our friendly neighbourhood Hitchcock Blonde, Betty Cooper, was wrestling with the knowledge that her former best friend, who she wanted to make amends with, Archie Andrews, was caught up in a forbidden romance.’

‘Dear Diary,

Sheriff Keller doesn’t know what I know. That Hogwarts’ muggle studies teacher, Professor Geraldine Grundy was at the Black Lake the morning Jason Blossom went missing. And that since Archie was also there, they could have been there together.’

Jughead found that early mornings, like this one, were his favourite time of the week. The weak Saturday sunlight poured in through a gap in the curtains, illuminating their skin. All was silent apart from the subtle sounds of their breathing.

As always, he had woken up first, and he lay on his back with Betty’s head resting on his chest as if he were a pillow. His fingers tangled in Betty’s curls and he smiled down at her when she finally woke up.

”G’ morning.” Betty murmured before Jughead tilted his head downwards to meet Betty’s. Their lips met for a short simple kiss of greeting. 

Pulling away, Jughead smiled against Betty’s lips before muttering: ”Morning.” Betty then settled back against him when Jughead decided that they needed to talk about what they had just found out from Dilton Doiley of all people. ”I don't presume that you want to talk about this, but how are we going to deal with the Archie-Grundy affair?” 

The sigh that left Betty’s lips did nothing to calm Jughead’s nerves around the situation. ”We need to talk to Archie and reason with him, but I'm still not too keen on doing that. I just want everything to go back to how it should be. I want us all to be friends again.” Betty mumbled into Jughead’s t-shirt. Sensing Betty’s distress, Jughead ran his fingers through the golden strands of Betty's hair.

”I can talk to him, Betts. You don't need to do it, but that may not go too well.” Jughead had just pointed out when they heard a tap on the window. Tap! Tap! Tap!

Groaning in annoyance, Jughead untangled himself from Betty and moved towards the window. Outside a small owl waited expectantly to be let in. As soon as Jughead opened the window, it held out its leg allowing the wizard to see that it had a letter for him. 

Jughead removed the letter carefully before the owl flew off. Unravelling it slowly, Jughead stayed where he was to read the contents.

‘Jug,

I've been a liar. I've been an idiot. I've hurt you and Betty, and I shouldn't have. Having realised this, I have decided that if you would be kind enough, I would like to talk to you - in private. I'm making too many mistakes, and I would like to make up for them by talking to you. If you would meet me, I will be by the Whomping Willow at one today. I hope to see you there.

Archie.’

”Jug? What is it?” Betty asked, sitting up so that their eyes met and a heavy sigh left Jughead’s lips. He slowly made his way over to Betty before stopping just by his side of the bed.

”Archie wants to talk to me today by the Willow after lunch. I think he wants to make amends.” Jughead informed his girlfriend, who opened her mouth to reply when Jughead added: ”He wants to meet in private.”

Betty froze.

Jughead watched her as a vivid display of emotions filled Betty’s eyes: pain, anger, confusion, relief and fear. Pain at the thought of what could happen. Anger at Archie’s audacity to ask Jughead for a chance to talk to him. Confusion - why now, after everything that had happened? Relief at the chance that it was hopefully going to resolve itself. 

And fear.

Fear that it would all go horribly wrong.

“Betty? Are you alright?” Jughead moved closer to the clearly distressed girl on the bed and there, he reached out for Betty’s hand. As soon as Jughead’s hand touched Betty’s, a rush of calm overridden her senses, and she allowed herself to relax ever so slightly. Her eyes fluttered shut for a moment, and she tried to focus solely on the comforting presence of Jughead. He waited silently for Betty to calm down before expecting an answer.

“I’m scared, Juggie,” Betty spoke so quietly that Jughead strained to hear it and he stared at her in shock as soon as her words registered in Jughead’s mind. “I’m scared that we’ll all get hurt again whether it's you, me, the Serpents, Veronica, Kevin or even Archie. I just want it to be over, but what if it doesn’t end – not ever?”

Jughead hadn’t been expecting that, and at that, he grew fearful. Yet, he found it easier to shake off the worry. “We have to try, Betts.” Betty sighed at Jughead’s response before conceding to his point.

“Just promise me that you’ll be careful and that if he says anything to you that you won’t let it get to you. I know that you have a tendency to believe that you are awful, but you’re not. You have been worn down by Archie several times, and I don’t want you to fall back into that spiral of self-hatred.” Betty’s eyes were imploring Jughead, and he carefully clambered into bed beside his soulmate. Cupping Betty’s cheeks with both hands, Jughead stared at his girlfriend in shock.

“Betty sometimes, I can’t – I can’t ignore what I think or feel about myself.” Jughead started, not ready to discuss this with her yet. He knew that Betty had revealed her inner demons to him, but part of him couldn’t bare it.

Yet, while Jughead felt his mind tear itself apart, Betty placed her hands on Jughead’s cheeks so that now that both of them were holding onto one another. “Jughead, I know its difficult and I know that it is virtually impossible to explain – trust me I do know.” Jughead stared at Betty, unable to form any coherent speech and soon he wasn’t able to. Betty had carried on speaking again.

“But, Jughead, I also know that you are the bravest, kindest and most loving person that I have ever met. You’ve had to harden your heart because you have been forced to do so and I know that you wear a mask, just like I do. It is hard for you to let people in and I know that you’re afraid because of everything, but Jughead you are not unlovable, and you are not evil. You are not cruel or spiteful. You have to know that.” Jughead was stunned into silence at Betty’s words, his eyes grew wide, and he shook his head wildly at Betty.

Their eyes connected and Jughead stared at his girlfriend in shock, not believing a single thing that Betty had just said. “Betts, I’m not any of that. I’m not brave, kind or loving. I am an erratic mess. I’m crazy, cruel and I have done so many things that I’m not proud of.”

Betty’s heart sunk at the confession and Jughead refused to look at her because of the pain-ridden look in her eyes. Yet, Betty was having none of that. “Jughead, look at me.” Her soft command was not refused, and their eyes met, and Betty gave him a small smile. “If I remember correctly, we’re all crazy – you know that. And besides, it's not like you tried to boil someone alive in the Prefects Bathroom because you snapped. I can’t control what I sometimes do, and you are the same, but that doesn’t mean that you’re a terrible person. You’re amazing and fuck anyone who says otherwise. I’m the only person that you should be listening to, so I am telling you that you’re amazing. If you say otherwise I will write down a list of reasons why you are, understand?”

Jughead stared blankly at Betty, before murmuring: “I understand.” He had barely gotten the words out when Betty’s lips had met his, and with that, for once, Jughead accepted that maybe he wasn’t as bad as he thought.

But, that was all because of Betty.

...

By the time that Jughead made his way to the Whomping Willow, the sky had turned a dark grey colour, and it seemed to be at war with any glimmer of light that tried to escape it. Shivering as he walked, Jughead made his way towards Archie tentatively, and with every movement, he felt himself shrinking into his leather jacket. In the cold chill, the thin jacket was all but useless, yet now it was as much a safety blanket as his ever-present beanie.

Beside the old tree, which no longer attacked anyone who neared it, Archie waited, sitting on one of the two stones in front of it. His eyes widened in shock at the sight of Jughead nearing him and his head shot up as he stood up when he saw Jughead. Both boys stared at one another for a long moment, and to anyone from the outside, this meeting would have been something out of a belladonna induced dream. After all, how many times did someone in a Serpent jacket associate with someone in a Gryffindor jacket?

“Jughead, I didn’t think you’d come,” Archie stated, running a hand through his hair and looking incredibly sheepish before he indicated for Jughead to sit down. The second boy did so, and he sat opposite his old friend, his eyes trained on Archie who copied his action.

“Nor did I, in all honesty. I mulled it over several times.” Jughead confessed. He had been torn over what to do, but he later decided that it was better to find out what Archie wanted to say to him. He still had his wand bound tightly in its holster, and he was watching for any signs of violence.

“That’s understandable. I have been a dick recently.” Archie informed him, feeling incredibly guilty for what he had done to both Jughead and Betty – his oldest friends. Regret filled him, and he could scarcely look at Jughead without feeling his stomach turning into a pit of sorrow.

“I’m not going to deny that.” Jughead pointedly said to him, not quite willing to forgive Archie yet. He was going to wait for an explanation before that happened. He needed to know more, and until he did, he wouldn’t allow Archie to walk away from this.

“I shouldn’t have lied,” Archie added, his gaze fixed on Jughead’s although he wanted to look away from the frosted turquoise. Yet, he noted how Jughead’s gaze had changed since he’d last spoken to him. He could see the green in Jughead’s gaze, and the change was as unnerving as Jughead’s expression.

“That you certainly shouldn’t have done.” Jughead snapped, sounding like a scolding parent. The sound sent shivers down Archie’s spine, but he quickly shook it off and glanced away for a moment, not able to handle the intense gaze that he was met with. However, his gaze did return to Jughead’s after a moment, knowing that he had to see this through and earn Jughead’s trust again.

“I also shouldn’t have spoken to Betty like that either. I was entirely out of line, and I do realise that I was wrong stupid and cruel. I was a misogynist, and yes, I did have to look that up.” A frown graced Archie’s lips at that, and a smirk snuck its way onto Jughead’s. There was no sympathy that Jughead felt he needed to give for Archie not knowing that.

“At least you’ll admit that. I can respect you for that.” Jughead informed the boy opposite him, feeling a twinge of happiness that Archie had bothered to learn from his mistakes and had done everything he could do to get back into Jughead’s good graces. For that, Jughead smiled over at Archie, sending a rush of relief through the redhead’s body.

“And I shouldn’t have accused you of killing Jason Blossom, I know you didn’t. I know that you wouldn’t. I shouldn’t have said that either.” Archie finally apologised to his friend. He knew he was wrong when he had said it, and the pain that had flashed in Jughead’s eyes at the suggestion had haunted Archie ever since. Jughead wouldn’t have admitted it to anyone, but it had also done more than hurt him. It had demoralised him because his oldest friend, aside from Betty, had accused him of murder, so for that to be rescinded, a sense of relief and calm filled his entire being. 

“Thank you for admitting that.” Jughead smiled at Archie, a grateful gleam shimmering in the depths of his eyes. The two boys glanced down nervously before Archie cleared his throat again.

“And I shouldn’t have conspired to win Betty. I know that you followed me and saw me with Grundy. I heard the footsteps, and I saw the looks that you were giving the two of us afterwards.” Archie confessed, his eyes scanning Jughead’s features, waiting for the anger to appear, but it never came.

“Are you going to promise that you’ll never carry out those plans?” Jughead asked, his eyes holding a clear warning that Archie knew he’d do well to avoid. The feeling of fear was only amplified when the chilling wind rushed around then bringing a torrent of darkness.

“I promise, I won’t. I saw the two of you after the Quidditch match, and it was so clear of how much you both care for one another.” Archie murmured, fighting back the fear rising inside of him. He refused to let his eyes leave Jughead’s gaze again.

“Then I can forgive you for that, but Betty may be less forgiving. She didn’t take too lightly to what you said to us both.” Jughead pointed out, running his finger over the leather on his left wrist directly above his soulmark.

“I know that, but at least now I’ll admit it to you.” Archie pointed out seeing as for once, he had come down from his high horse to make amends. It was incredibly rare for him to do that and Jughead realised that Archie was serious about this for once.

“Fair point. Though I would like you to explain your reasoning for everything.” Jughead nodded at Archie. There was a coldness in his tone despite the signs of forgiveness – he’d forgive Archie, but he was likely to forget.

Archie could hear that in his tone and quickly asked: “If I tell you everything, will you put aside what has happened and allow me to make amends?” He had realised that it was possibly the only way that he could change everything between him and Jughead.

“It depends on what I hear.” Jughead’s pointed tone was yet there was a glimmer of acceptance to it. He was willing to let Archie muscle his way back into his life, but only if he explained his reasons for lying to both him and Betty.

“Well, I suppose that you get to demand that,” Archie mumbled, and a small sigh left his lips. “I lied to both you and Betty because I was jealous of you both. I hated that you two seemed to be able to connect with one another and that you were always together. I was jealous because I thought that Betty belonged with me when she didn’t. As well as that, I’ve liked her since we were ten. I know that you’ve liked her for much longer, but I couldn’t stop myself. Betty was and is such a shining jewel in this world.”

“You’re not wrong about that.” Jughead conceded to his point about Betty, after all, she was both his girlfriend and his soulmate. He wasn’t going to deny what Archie had said seeing as he had said the same in years gone by – often to Archie. Though hearing this statement gave Jughead’s spark-ridden anger fuel and he had to fight back his anger.

“That’d be a first – me not being wrong.” Archie chuckled, and soon Jughead joined it, but it was short and not embedded with joy. “So, anyway, I figured that if you both heard that if neither of you wanted to see the other, then you’d stop talking. This would then allow me to swoop in and get Betty to fall for me. She never did evidently, but I hoped and hoped.”

“Right.” Jughead murmured, his eyes darkening at the sound of that and Archie glanced away from him for a moment.

“I was a selfish arse, I know that.” Archie’s whisper was barely audible, and Jughead strained to hear it. The latter wanted to ask Archie to say that again, but he fought back the urge to do so.

“Again, I’m not going to deny that.” Jughead pointed out, making sure that Archie was aware that he wasn’t going to pass up the chance to scold him for what he’d done.

“As for how I’ve treated Betty? I was cruel, vile and downright evil in all respects and I know that I was wrong. I should have stopped myself, but I let my anger get the better of me. I need to apologise to Betty for that when she allows me to talk to her again.” Archie’s forlorn expression grew because Betty’s forgiveness may be none existent.

“She’ll forgive you if I do.” Jughead gave him a tight-lipped smile that would never reach his eyes. In fact, none of his smiles had reached his eyes, not that Archie had noticed that, but then again, he could never tell with Jughead.

“I know. I know she will.” Archie sighed heavily, rubbing his eyes before he glancing back over at Jughead again. “But there is more you want to know, right? Honestly, most things mainly stemmed from how I felt about you joining the Serpents.”

“What?!” Jughead exclaimed, his eyes widening as he stared over at Archie. He hadn’t been expecting that, and he felt his throat constrict at that suggestion – had he kick-started everything?

“Firstly, I was shocked and confused. You’ve never been a conformist, and now you were joining a gang, it really didn’t settle well.” Archie pointed out, and even Jughead could concede his point, but Archie didn’t need to know his reasoning.

“Fair point.” Jughead murmured, fixing his beanie slightly and glancing away for what felt like the first time in years. His eyes landed on the very lake where Jason’s body had been discovered by Betty and Veronica.

 “And, secondly, you have no idea how appealing that made you to Betty. The first time you wore the jacket, she gushed over how you looked. When you dedicated yourself to complete all of the trials and then when you asked her to help design your tattoo, she was so proud of you. It was infuriating.” Archie’s voice became the shadow of a growl at which Jughead straightened up, sensing the jealousy, yet he chose to keep his head and spoke calmly.

For a moment, Jughead was silent, not quite able to comprehend what Archie had just said to him. “She always acted cautiously about it,” Jughead stated, remembering how Betty had initially reacted to him becoming a Serpent, but Archie shook his head at Jughead. The beanie-clad boy remained looking perplexed until Archie finally spoke up about it.

“She was torn about it. She didn’t want you to get hurt, and she aimed to make sure that you’d be alright. She was fearful, but she supported you and secretly, or at least away from your ears, she spoke of how she loved what was happening. She got a bit more fearful as you continued to go through the process, but she still supported you.” Archie mumbled, remembering all to vividly what Betty had been like when Jughead hadn't been around. Veronica and Kevin had encouraged it, and Betty would be shy about talking, but it was all too clear to be missed - even by Archie. “And seeing that made me feel as if I needed to act, especially after she told me about the kiss, which I hadn’t known about. The next day I then lied to you both.”

“Well, thank you for telling me that.” Jughead offered Archie another smile, though this time, Archie could see the pain inside of Jughead's eyes. It was almost heartbreaking to witness because it was evident that Jughead was struggling to win his internal battle.

“Look, Jug, I’m an idiot, a dick and not worthy to be friends with any of you. I will do anything I can do to try to get back into your good books,” Archie informed him, fervently believing that he could and would do anything to be friends with Jughead again. After all, he had missed being with the sarcastic Serpent... and he missed Betty.

“I want us to be friends as well, Arch,” Jughead confessed, his face serious and for once not obscured by his mask of indifference, which was a rare occurrence, that even Archie was surprised to see.

“I’m glad.” Archie murmured, genuinely believing that this would all be over soon and he could have both of his old friends back... and Kevin and Veronica, who would talk to him if Betty and Jughead did. Yet, as he pondered it, he found himself remembering that he had more to say to Jughead. “And, I should tell you that I told Weatherbee about what I saw at the Black Lake. And in all honesty, I didn’t mean any of the crap I said to you.” He paused for a moment meeting Jughead's gaze and then he sighed: “Sorry.”

“It’s cool.” Jughead nodded at him and then Archie made to near him. Jughead froze, his eyes widening and he shook his head at Archie. “We’re not going to hug in front of this whole school. So why don’t we both just do that bro thing where we nod like douches and mutually suppress our emotions?”

“Yeah, but as friends, right?” Archie asked hopefully, his eyes glimmering as if everything had been resolved now. Though, despite Archie’s optimism, Jughead was still unsure.

“To be discussed, over many burgers and many days.” Jughead finally decided and with that settlement. It was enough for now, and maybe it would all be over soon.

...

Sheltering from the wind and rain, Jughead, Betty, Veronica and Kevin sat at Pop’s. For the last hour, Jughead had dominated the conversation as his anger steadily rose. “The Drive-In closing is just one more nail in the coffin that is Hogsmeade. No, forget Hogsmeade, the coffin of our community. As the Godfather of Indie cinema, Quentin Tarantino likes to say-” Jughead ranted, his anger bubbling inside of him when Kevin cut him off.

“Please, god, no more Quentin Tarantino references.” He pleaded, his eyes imploring Jughead to shut up. Sensing he boyfriend’s distress, Betty placed a hand on Jughead’s thigh, calming the Serpent before he spoke.

“What? I’m pissed and not just about losing my job. The Twilight Drive-In should mean something to us. People should be trying to save it.” Jughead was infuriated by the loss of his most beloved place in Hogsmeade, and he was determined to save it.

“In this age of Netflix and VOD, do people really want to watch a movie in a car? I know that lots of wizards have them now, but is really that important? I mean, who even goes there?” Veronica tried to calm him, but the answer she received only caused more anger.

“People who want to buy crack,” Kevin informed her before Jughead had the chance to protest. The beanie-clad boy looked as if he wanted to lash out at Kevin. Seeing this, Betty gently squeezed his thigh; a rush of relief flooded the boy's senses, and Betty offered him a small smile before he turned back to Kevin.

“And cinephiles and car enthusiasts, right Betts?” Jughead couldn't resist looking at his girlfriend again, and he knew that Betty loved the Drive-In almost as much as he did. They'd been there so many times together, and it held more significance than the others could imagine.

“Totally, the Drive-In is amazing.” Betty smiled over at Jughead, who instantly relaxed before a lazy, but grateful grin spread across his lips.

“Thank you.” With that, he pressed his lips to Betty’s for a short peck and then he rested his forehead against Betty’s for a moment. Then he turned back to the other two. ”Anyway; it’s closing because the town owns it but didn’t invest in it. So when an anonymous buyer made Minister McCoy and offer she couldn’t refuse-” Jughead was yet again cut off.

“An anonymous buyer? What do they have to hide? No one cares.” Veronica informed him, not realising how important this was for Jughead until she received a dark glower from Betty, silencing her instantly.

“I do!” Jughead was all but shouting at them, his eyes ablaze, and his fury consumed him until he felt Betty’s wandering fingers trace his soulmark. Closing his eyes for a moment, he revelled in the sensation before opening them and more calming stating: “Also, you guys should all come to closing night. I’m thinking American Graffiti, or is that too obvious?”

“I vote for anything starring Audrey Hepburn or Cate Blancett.” Veronica gushed, loving the two actresses who she thought should be shown for the last show. She adored both of them and knew that Jughead had a thing for Cate Blancett, primarily since she was a blonde.

“Or the talented Mr Ripley. Betty your choices?” Kevin turned to look from Veronica to Betty, who stared at him for a moment, mulling over her choices before one came to mind.

“Um maybe, Rebel Without a Cause?” Betty turned to grin over at her boyfriend, who moved to pull her closer. They stared at each other dreamily when someone broke the silence.

“Is he still ranting about the damn Drive-In?” Sweet Pea asked, walking towards the group with the Serpents following him and Kayla was leaning into his right side as they walked together towards the table. “He spent an hour or two moaning about it earlier with us.” He added as he slid into the booth beside Betty, who moved closer to Jughead. Due to the cramped conditions, the beanie-clad boy pulled his girlfriend onto his lap to allow everyone else to sit down.

“He won't shut up about it! I think I've learnt all of Quentin Tarantino’s films, quotes and life.” Kevin complained, evidently exasperated at Jughead while the others hummed in agreement.

“Oh, fuck off!” Jughead hissed, still angry about everything.

“Juggie!” Betty exclaimed turning to face him before she pressed a kiss to his jaw. Shockwaves flooded Jughead's system as Betty murmured: ”Calm down, and later you vent to me about it because I'll listen.” Jughead nodded gratefully before digging his head into the place where Betty’s neck met her shoulder.

“Stop being cute!” Veronica huffed, rolling her eyes at the couple who just ignored her as they leant into one another. Jughead’s hands rested on the exposed skin of her stomach where her jumper had ridden up, and he held onto her tightly. Betty grasped Jughead’s hands and revelled in the sensation of Jughead’s lips upon her skin.

“Leave ‘em be, Veronica. We all want a less broody Jughead and Betty is the only person who can get him to be like that.” Toni pointed out, and Jughead flipped her off in response before he then started pressing his lips back to Betty’s skin. Pulling Betty back towards him, he gently sucked at her skin until there was a bright mark there, not that anyone else noticed.

“Anyone else feeling tragically single?” Joaquin asked, staring at the others who all nodded at him in agreement. All of them had been envious of how Jughead and Betty were interacting, but out of all of them, they were the most deserving of such a relationship. Yet, as the others mulled over it, Joaquin spotted someone advancing towards their booth. Joaquin nodded towards the other person and informed the group solemnly: “Andrews is heading our way.”

The sleepy calm that had hung over the group dissipated instantly, and all the group turned to see that Archie was making his way towards them. “By Merlin, if he tries to-” Toni fell silent at the look Jughead gave her, and the tense silence fell again.

When Archie finally reached their table, Jughead turned back to look at the redhead. “Do you want to join? We’re talking about the Drive-In.”  Archie smiled over at Jughead, who nodded and nudged Sweet Pea. “Up, up, Sweets. We’ve buried some hatchet, and I’m owed burgers, which you’ll never buy me so, budge.”

Wearily, everyone watched Archie sit down beside Jughead, and everyone eyed him cautiously when he turned to Jughead. “So, what’s happening at the Drive-In?” Archie glanced around at all of them, staring at them all, waiting for a response when a groan sprung from several lips. It effectively silenced Jughead and Archie only felt more and more confusion.

“Oh, Merlin, Andrews, don’t get him started,” Joaquin mumbled, glowering slightly, but keeping his choice words to himself. All of them knew that Archie and Jughead had spoken, but none of them had heard the outcome of that talk.

“He’s been ranting all about how it’s closing, and he’s not let anyone else talk about anything else,” Kevin informed Archie, not feeling as tense around him as the others did and he also could see that Archie was making an effort. For that, Kevin could respect him, but he wasn’t too sure how he would interact with the Serpents in the upcoming days, weeks and months.

“All because of an anonymous buyer,” Veronica grumbled, still annoyed at Jughead for just ranting and ranting at them all. As well as that, she wasn't too sure if she was too keen on Archie being there; not after everything that had happened recently. Yet she did concede that the two boys had made up which would put all the pain and hatred to bed.

“And he still hasn’t worked out who is knocking down the Drive-In,” Toni added with a heavy sigh. She did feel sorry for Jughead because of the fall out of the argument, and she wasn’t too sure if she could personally forgive Archie. She also knew how significant that the Drive-In had been after that as well.

When it had first happened, Jughead would hide in the projector booth, and she could still remember the first time that she’d witnessed her fellow Serpent crying. It had made her realise just how important this place was to Jughead and she and the other Serpents were determined to support him through this even if they didn’t love it as much.

“Merlin, I think my dad is, sorry, Jug,” Archie admitted after a few moments of silence, looking sheepishly over at Jughead. All of them, apart from the couple, noticed how Archie’s jaw clenched slightly at the sight of Betty on Jughead’s lap or how he held her so protectively and possessively.

“Oh for fuck’s sake! I can’t launch an attack on Fred! I actually like him!” Jughead exclaimed in fury, knowing that Fred Andrews was probably the only compassionate and genuinely caring people in Hogsmeade and Jughead would loathe doing anything that would hurt him.

“Well, that’s a change. You hate most adults.” Fangs pointed out; his eyes narrowed in confusion, and he cocked his head to the side to look at Jughead more clearly. Fangs didn't like being left out of the loop and nor did the other Serpents. They hadn't known this about Fred Andrews, and it still shocked them to see him defend an adult - especially with his fractured relationship with his own parents.

“Thanks for that Fogarty,” Jughead grumbled before resting his head on Betty’s shoulder, still looking out over at his friends, who were watching him cautiously. All we're waiting for everything to blow up between Jughead and Archie, but surprisingly they seemed more cordial than ever, though it was clear that they were not too comfortable with one another.

“He has a point. You’re usually a dick about most parents.” Sweet Pea pointed out, remembering all the insults that Jughead had said about other parents. He knew that Jughead’s parents had caused the beanie-clad boy more harm than good, but he’d expected Jughead to hate adults in the way that he did.

“Sweets!” Kayla snapped, her eyes flashing with a warning and the tallest of the group knew to heed it. Though, he wasn't one to do that instantly.

“What?! It’s true.” Sweet Pea exclaimed but was quickly shut down by the stares he received from the others, and he shut his mouth quickly. With that, Jughead relaxed slightly knowing that Sweet Pea wouldn’t let any ill-advised words escape his mouth anytime soon.

“What do you think, Betty?” Joaquin suddenly turned to the blonde girl, who for most of the discussion had remained silent. Her bright eyes had been closed up until that point, and they snapped open at Joaquin's question only to find that everyone was now staring at her. Moving closer to Jughead, she stared at them all, mulling over what to say.

“All parents are crazy, let’s leave it like that,” Betty informed them, not wanting to get involved with the argument. In fact, all she wanted was to curl up in the Blue and Gold with a good book and Jughead.

“Always the diplomat,” Veronica commented, rolling her eyes at Betty, but there was no harshness behind the action. It did, however, earn Veronica a glare from Jughead, but she brushed it off with ease and ignored it as she had always done.

“Of course she is, she’s an angel,” Toni added, staring over at Betty almost dreamily. A small smile graced both girls lips. The others, Archie in particular, watched the exchange in confusion, having forgotten just how close the two girls had been and they were transfixed at how they seemed to put everything behind them to be friends again.

“Love you too, Toni.” Betty murmured at her before glancing outside for a moment until Toni responded and then she gave the pink-haired girl her undivided attention.

“You know babe that if Jughead ever displeases you, I’ll wait for you.” Toni winked at Betty before she caught Jughead’s gaze and noticed the small change in his eyes. Over the course of the past few days, they'd all seen the slightly different pigments in their friends’ eyes. “Toni,” Jughead warned, his eyes ablaze and it was evident that he was attempting to defeat the fire raging inside of him. Beside him, Betty gently ran her fingers over Jughead's soulmark inducing a feeling of calm over the boy who let a slow breath.

“Oh, calm your tits, Jug, Betty won’t leave you,” Archie informed him, everyone missing the bitter tone he used and then they all turned on mass to look over at the couple.

“Thanks, Arch.” Jughead murmured, holding on Betty more tightly than usual, his eyes watching the others intently before their gaze was shifted again.

“Yes! Yes! Yes! The bromance is returning and now I can-” Kevin started, but the look that Betty sent him sent shivers of fear through him that silenced him instantaneously.

“Finish that statement about your impure thoughts about my boyfriend, and I’ll hex you, Kev. Jughead is mine back off.” Betty snapped at the boy before her, eyes narrowing at him as she did so. Everything about her demeanour had changed. Gone was the sleepy smile and the joyful spark in her eyes - it had been replaced with something colder.

“You’re almost as cranky as Jug usually is.” Veronica pointed out; her eyes widened at Betty's response, and she found herself unable to think of anything else to say. She’d never seen Betty like this, and it terrified her in all honesty.

“And she’s damn possessive,” Toni said what no one else would, but they all knew that she was more impressed than anything. She had no idea what else to say either though as she'd never witnessed Betty like this.

“He has my initials on his wrist, and it’s not you that’s the problem.” Betty snapped, her eyes caught on something outside. Despite the heavy rain, Betty could see the figure outside as clear as day, and she felt a pit in her stomach when the person turned towards her.

“I don’t mind. I like it, Betts, but what’s the problem?” Jughead asked, suddenly concerned at the look in Betty’s eyes and he turned her in his lap so that their eyes could meet. They stared at one another for a long moment as Jughead brought one hand up to her cheek.

“Look outside,” Betty mumbled finally, and Jughead did as directed, and so did the others. Most of them had no idea what Betty had been staring at, but as soon as Jughead spotted the figure, he understood the shift in Betty’s mood.

“Oh, fuck, is that your mum?” Jughead asked in fear, knowing that Alice would not approve of their relationship. The others turned to one another as Betty replied solemnly.

“Yep – Alice Cooper has come to Hogsmeade and hell hath no fury like my mother, so ‘oh fuck’ indeed,” Betty stated, and the mood inside Pop’s shifted to one of utter fear as if a dark storm had descended.

And the name of that storm was Alice Cooper.

Chapter Text

Chapter 16 – I Know What You Did Last Summer

‘I know what you did last summer

Just lie to me there's no other

I know what you did last summer

Tell me where you've been.’

 

“Archie, sit down, we need to talk to you,” Betty informed him, sitting opposite him at the Gryffindor table with Veronica by her side. The two girls stared at Archie, who had just stood up to leave, but sat down when he saw the look in their eyes. It was the first time that Betty had spoken to him since the argument, seeing as she had ignored him all of the previous night. She’d been more content with burying her head in Jughead’s neck instead of looking at or talking to Archie.

“Erm, okay,” Archie mumbled, not taking his eyes off of Betty, who was staring stonily at him. It was clear that she wasn’t too pleased with him, and he gulped nervously at the sight of Betty looking so angry.

“Thank you.” Veronica offered him a fake smile, full of warning with undertones of anger. She had found out all that Betty knew about Archie’s affair with Grundy and wasn’t pleased, to say the least.

“If this is about everything I’ve done, I am sorry, and I-” Archie started stuttering his eyes darting between the two young women before him, who silenced him with a single look. It was evident to Archie that he had angered both girls, yet he had no idea why they were so furious.

After all, he’d apologised already.

“Quit grovelling, Archiekins, it’s not about that.” Veronica all but snapped at him sending shivers down Archie’s spine. The light that was usually in Veronica’s eyes had faded, and when Archie glanced over at Betty, he found himself turning away, unable to cope with the subtle change in her eyes that only her closest friends noticed.

“Oh, right, phew.” Archie attempted to calm himself down, but he should have known that the girls weren’t angry over nothing. In front of him, the girl exchanged a glance that Archie knew all too well. They always gave each other that look when they were about to tell him off, and instinctively he gulped at them.

“I wouldn’t get too comfortable, Archie. We need talk about you and Professor Grundy.” Betty stated, without a glimmer of sympathy in her eyes. The withering look she sent him was blood-chilling, and both of her companions stared at her in shock.

“What?! What do you mean? Nothing is happening between her and me apart from my muggle studies classes.” Archie protested when he had recovered his wits. His eyes darted over to Veronica, but she offered him no safe refuge or support.

“Oh, Archiekins.” Veronica’s condescending tone rang in his ears, and the sound of that added to Betty’s stare terrified him more than anything he’d ever faced. He desperately searched the hall for any support, but none came.

Turning back, Archie feigned ignorance, hoping it would save him from whatever fury Betty and Veronica may unleash upon him.“I’m confused.” A trembling, unconvincing voice finally muttered.

“No you’re not, so please don’t insult our intelligence. We know that you are sleeping with her and we’re worried about it because she was the one stopping you from seeing Keller.” Betty all but snapped, her eyes glowing and her mouth was pressed into a thin line of annoyance.

“How would you know that?” Archie demanded, indignantly, not knowing how she could have possibly worked it out until he noticed someone leaving the hall. A beanie that couldn’t be mistaken anywhere disappeared through the doors and at that, Archie remembered how close Betty and Jughead were. It became evident to him that Jughead must have told Betty.

“Archie, Jughead tells me pretty much everything. Plus, I’m not stupid, and it was pretty easy to figure out when we heard our latest piece of evidence.” Betty informed him, looking incredibly frustrated with him and Archie had no idea what to do to placate her.

“Betty, erm, I-” Archie started, but found himself unable to find the words, he had no excuse after all. There was nothing he could use to explain why he had acted the way he had.

“Archiekins, I wouldn’t try to appeal to her good side, she’s still pissed off at you,” Veronica informed him with a fake smile before her face morphed into a much more severe expression and turned to Betty.

“Thanks, V.” Her best friend’s tone dripped with sarcasm, and her eyes narrowed at Veronica, but it was clear that she wasn’t concerned at Betty’s expression. They both exchanged fake smiles until Veronica couldn’t control her mouth and spoke her mind.

“Your boyfriend’s rubbing off on you again. You have no idea how much you sounded like Jughead just then.” Betty rolled her eyes at Veronica before turning back to Archie, who looked at them in fear.

“Wait, you and Jughead are actually dating now?” Archie asked incredulously, not quite expecting it. He had known that the pair had been growing closer, but he hadn’t been expecting to hear that they were dating.

“Yes, we are.” Betty smiled at the mention of Jughead, her eyes glazing slightly. She wanted to be off with her boyfriend, investigating Jason Blossom’s murder instead of talking about Grundy, who she personally disliked.

“Oh, right,” Archie mumbled, running a hand through his hair and he glanced away from Betty. A glimmer of pain flashed in his eyes, and neither of the girls missed it.

“Archiekins you never stood a chance.” Veronica sighed, knowing that despite all of Archie’s pretences, he couldn’t get over Betty so easily.

“I know that now,” Archie grumbled, again refusing to meet Betty’s gaze, knowing that it would only hurt him even more.

“Anyway, back to the matter at hand, you and Professor Grundy, when did it start?” Betty asked, not wanting to discuss her relationship with Archie and she also wanted to find out what was happening with Professor Grundy. After all, it could lead her to another lead in Jason’s case, which would mean that she’d be able to avoid her mother while she was at Hogwarts.

“Well, erm, do we need to talk about this?” Archie asked, his eyes darting between the two girls, but he knew that he’d have to relent at some point.

“Stop deflecting and answer the damn question, Archie. I am not in the mood. Jughead may have forgiven you, but I haven’t yet.” Betty snapped at Archie, sending shivers down his spine and he scooted back in his seat slightly.

“I wouldn’t cross her, she’s terrifying when she’s angry. She also has a gang backing her, remember?” Veronica pointed out, a smirk gracing her lips and her eyes glinted in enjoyment at the sight of Archie looking entirely and utterly terrified at Betty’s expression and at the mention of the Serpents.

“Seriously, Veronica?” Archie asked, trying to diffuse his fear.

“Deadly, now answer the damn question.” Veronica huffed, giving up on Archie’s lack of cooperation. Also, she could see Alice Cooper out of the corner of her eye, and she knew that if she spotted Betty, then both girls would have to face her wrath. Namely, because Veronica had been hiding Betty from Alice and the blonde had been avoiding her mother.

“Fine, fine.” Archie held his hands up in mock surrender before sighing heavily. “Erm, well it started during the Easter holidays. I was revising with her and one day we started talking, and then we kissed, and it went on from there.” Betty grimaced, not too sure she wanted to hear any more about this relationship.

“Well, that was boring,” Veronica mumbled, picking at her cuticles before glancing over to where Alice was talking Professor McGonagall.

“Sorry that it didn’t grip your imagination,” Archie grumbled, not noticing Alice and trying to avoid the bitter expression on Betty’s face.

“Anyway, why her? Why Grundy?” Betty asked, dying to know why out of everyone at Hogwarts, Archie would sleep with Grundy. It made absolutely no sense to her at all.

“Because she showed so much adoration and affection for me, unlike the two of you.” Archie snapped, his anger overcoming his calm attitude, his eyes darting back to Betty more often than they had done during their entire confrontation.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Veronica demanded while Betty glowered at Archie finding herself fighting back her own rage. Neither of the two girls was too impressed with Archie’s reaction.

“Both of you never noticed when I was getting upset. You just looked yourselves up in the library.” Archie snapped, his eyes alive with anger, fury and pain. The three of them all locked eyes and all the emotions that they individually felt mixed into a tornado of pain.

“Never noticed? Archie, you were the reason  I was suffering and then we had our OWL exams to study for.” Betty reminded him, her voice full of anger and her eyes narrowed at Archie. Yet again, Archie noted the subtle change in them and felt as if both Jughead and Betty were now glowering at him. He glanced over, behind Betty to see that Jughead was not looking at him – he wasn’t even at the Slytherin table, but he still felt as if the Serpent was watching him.

After a shake of the head to clear his thoughts, Archie asked incredulously: “Are you still pissed at me for that?” He still couldn’t see what else he had to do to win Betty’s forgiveness, and it was infuriating to him.

“You know, what, Archie? Screw you. I’m going to get to the bottom of this whether you like it or not.” Betty snapped, standing up, grabbing her bag and then storming off, her blonde ponytail swinging wildly as she walked away.

“You shouldn’t have pissed her off.” Veronica pointed out, her exasperated tone doing nothing to calm Archie’s nerves. With that, she stood up to follow Betty out of the Great Hall.

...

“Betty, Veronica, what are you two doing?” Toni asked the moment she spotted the two girls, who she’d followed after their transfiguration lesson. The two girls had spent the entire lesson mumbling under their breath, and she couldn’t help but feel curious about what they were up to.

“Toni! Where did you come from?” Veronica asked once she had overcome being startled by the pink haired girl. Betty, on the other hand, stood there, watching Toni without worry because she knew that no matter what she heard, Toni would help them.

“I saw you two leave the Great Hall earlier looking stressed. Then I saw you in Transfiguration, so when you two left, I followed you.” Toni confessed to them, her dark brown eyes flitting between the two other girls and she could feel the weight of whatever they were doing on her shoulders now. Before she even found out, Toni knew that this was of vital importance to them.

“Right. Well erm, we believe that Professor Grundy has something to do with the bad goings on here recently and we’re investigating her office.” Betty informed Toni, not wholly wanting to expose Archie. She didn’t need the Serpents finding out – not for some selfish reason, but because she knew that Jughead was trying to gain their respect and faith in Archie. Betty wasn’t going to let that hatred return if she could help it. Though, she had a feeling that Toni would find out about Archie’s involvement soon enough.

“Okay, I’m helping.” Toni smiled at them before adding: “And I won’t tell the others about what happens.” Those few words calmed Betty’s rapidly beating heart and the added support from Toni made her feel less apprehensive about what they were about to do.

“Why?” Veronica asked more sceptical of Toni than she’d admit to anyone. She’d never been too comfortable with Jughead’s friends and especially after the months apart between her and Jughead had only left Veronica more suspicious. Yet, deep down, she knew that all of the Serpents were decent people.

“Because I’m curious and because Jughead would have me hanged, drawn and quartered if anything were to happen to Betty. Like, no joke, he seriously would. He’s actually really scary when he wants to be.” Toni admitted shivering slightly at the memory of seeing Jughead at his most terrifying.

“He is?” Betty’s eyes widened, and her eyebrows shot up. Never had she assumed that Jughead could be considered terrifying by anyone. Her hands flew up to her ponytail while her eyes darted around the hallway, ensuring that Professor Grundy wasn’t walking towards them.

“Yeah, he is, but don’t worry about it,” Toni reassured Betty, placing a hand on the blonde’s shoulder soothing Betty slight fear.

“Okay, anyway, shall we go in.?” Veronica asked before silently opening the door and then  after ushering the others in, she turned to face them both before adding: “Oh, by the way, I think I might be scared of your boyfriend now.”

Betty rolled her eyes at the Ravenclaw noting that she was primarily trying to distract herself from her own fear. “He’s harmless. He’s friends with both of you and would never harm either of you.” Betty pointed out, rolling her eyes and then looking around the cramped office, hoping not to get caught.

“Only because that would hurt you.” Toni reminded her, riffling through Grundy’s notes and papers to find something on Grundy. The rustling of paper almost masked Toni’s voice, however, and Veronica, who was on the other side of the room barely heard her.

“I’m going to ignore that, Topaz.” Betty rolled her eyes before she wandered over to the small bookcase to find something to use against Grundy.

“Loosen your ponytail, Cooper,” Toni replied snarkily, her eyes narrowing slightly. Yet, before another word was said, her eyes scrutinised some of the letters on Grundy’s desk, but they held no significance.

“Love you too.” Betty smiled, turning back to Toni, who handed over half the papers that she had been sorting through. Betty quickly began trying to find something that she could use against the Muggle Studies teacher.

“Love you more.” Toni beamed back over at Betty, momentarily forgetting that Veronica was also in the room with them.

“Hey, what about me?” Veronica huffed, her eyes narrowing at the other two, feeling neglected and annoyed at their lack of attention towards her. Veronica was not one who liked being out of the limelight, no matter how hard she pretended not to enjoy it.

“We love you too, V.” Betty turned to look at her best friend, her bright eyes showing no hatred or annoyance at Veronica’s need for attention. She was used to others craving for her devotion, after all, she’d been so close to Archie for years.

“Thank you,” Veronica muttered, turning back to the other girls, her eyes sweeping the room to see if she could find any glimmer of something useful.

“Guys, I think I’ve found something.” Toni suddenly spoke up, her trembling fingers holding onto a card that she had just found in her pile of documents. There was no explanation for what she had just read, and she knew that this would perfect.

“What is that?” Veronica asked, her eyes widening and she quickly made her way to Toni’s right-hand side while Betty went to the left.

“It’s a Ministry ID card for Jennifer Gibson?” Betty sounded uncertain, but she knew that this was the evidence that she needed to persuade Archie that Grundy was terrible for him. It was all she had needed, and she realised that she needed Toni’s help because otherwise they probably wouldn’t have found it.

“Professor Grundy is not who she says she is,” Veronica stated, taking the card and scrutinising it. She’d seen her fair share of fake Ministry ID cards, and she could tell that this wasn’t a fake. With that, she was firmly swayed to Betty’s side of the matter, and she was determined to stop Grundy from controlling Archie for any longer.

“And she is currently sexually manipulating Archie, oh great.” Betty sighed, forgetting that she hadn’t told Toni that Archie was involved in this, but now she had let the pink-haired Serpent know about Archie’s involvement.

“You’re still friends with Archie?” Toni asked, cocking her head to the side, not having expected to hear that. She’d had had that there must have been something eating away at Betty, but she hadn’t been expecting that.

“I’m at a crossroads with him” Betty pointed out, sounding like Jughead when he’d spoken to both her and the Serpents separately.

“Understandable, B.” Veronica placed a hand on Betty’s shoulder. After all, she had witnessed everything fall apart with Betty’s relationships with two of the most important boys in her life, apart from with Kevin, who still cared for her immensely.

“Well, we should confront him and hopefully get him to not be a pain in the arse for us all.” Toni was almost certain that it wouldn’t be as simple as that, but they had to try.

...

“Seriously? Again?” Archie asked the moment the three girls sat down in front of him at the end of lunch. They knew that he had a free period like them afterwards, so it didn’t matter how long it took.

“Shut up, Andrews and fucking listen or so help me, Merlin, I will-” Toni started, her eyes narrowing in disgust. She did not like the Gryffindor boy much at all and was not in the mood to deal with Archie acting like a little bitch.

“Toni, it’s okay.” Betty cut her off quickly, not wanting Toni to get into any trouble or to give Archie an excuse to lash out.

“No it isn’t, but I’ll shut up for you.” Toni ground out her eyes never leaving Archie’s face, watching for any sign of malice that may cross Archie’s features.

“Thank you,” Betty mumbled to Toni, allowing her eyes to move from Archie to the smaller girl for a moment. Then she slowly turned to look at the red-haired boy across them. “Now, Archie, we did some investigating and Professor Grundy is actually called Jennifer Gibson. She’s not who she says she is and we’re worried.”

“We think she might be hurting you or at least blinding you from the truth. You need to be careful.” Veronica spoke quietly, softly and there was no cruelty in her tone for once. It shocked Archie, but it also infuriated him.

“Guys, I know who she is. She’s escaped a brutal relationship with her soulmate, and she told me everything. I know who I am with.” Archie snapped, his face turning red in anger and his eyes narrowing. He could understand why the girls couldn’t see that he knew who he was with.

“Are you sure about that?” Betty asked, her voice softer than it had been throughout the entire day and Archie didn’t trust that one bit. In fact, he was so unnerved by that he abruptly stood up.

“You know what? Screw this!” Archie echoed Betty’s previous words before turning around and storming off out of the Great Hall. The three watched him leave with varying degrees of annoyance and frustration.

“Well, good to see he took the high ground.” Toni’s voice dripped with sarcasm, and she rolled her eyes dramatically.

“I did that a few hours ago,” Betty mumbled, realising that she may have not have been too mature earlier when she’d walked off. Regret flooded her system, and she placed her head in her hands because she realised that she’d probably just failed in her mission to save Archie from Grundy.

“Then fuck him for not thinking of something else.” Toni placed a hand on Betty’s shoulder, smiling as she did. Betty filled with relief, and a small smile graced her lips.

“I like you, Toni.” Veronica leant forward to beam at Toni, who grinned in response, a slight blush staining her cheeks. Toni may not have been crushing on Veronica, but she couldn’t deny that hearing that from someone as beautiful as Veronica filled her with nerves.

“You’re not bad yourself, Veronica,” Toni mumbled before turning away and leaving due to Fangs signalling for her to come over to him and the Serpents. With that, Betty and Veronica also parted ways and left the Great Hall.

...

“Betts?” Jughead called out as he walked through the seventh-floor corridor near the room of requirement. He knew that there was a window seat that Betty always went to when she really didn’t want to be found. The moment he approached the window, Betty looked over at Jughead, who smiled over at her.

“Jug, how did you find me?” Betty stared at him, her eyebrows raising in surprise, not understanding how Jughead had found her, or knew she was here. Yet, as she sat there in confusion, Jughead slowly made his way over to her.

“Toni mentioned that you were upset and you weren’t in the Blue and Gold so I assumed that you’d be up here, so I came here to find you,” Jughead informed her before he sat beside Betty and wrapped his arms around her waist.

“Oh right, I hadn’t realised that I was that predictable,” Betty mumbled, relaxing into Jughead’s embrace allowing all her tension to leave her body.

“You’re not predictable, Betts. I just know you better than anyone else.” Jughead reassured her before pressing kisses to Betty’s forehead. “If we were in the opposite situation, you’d know where to find me.”

Betty tilted her head to look back up at Jughead, a smile playing on her lips. “You’d be at the Black Lake swimming or at the Quidditch Pitch or in the restricted section of the library. It depends on what has happened or the weather.”

“See what I mean?” Jughead beamed down at her, pulling Betty up slightly so that they were looking at each other without Betty having to twist awkwardly.

“Yes, yes, I do, Juggie.” Betty murmured, bringing a hand up to trace Jughead’s jaw. She shivered slightly and moved closer to Jughead.

“Do you want to talk about what happened earlier? Toni refused to tell me.” Jughead sighed, wishing that Toni could have been more cooperative and could have just told him what had happened.

“Well, Veronica and I went to talk to Archie during breakfast while you were with the Serpents. I told Veronica what had happened with Professor Grundy, so we decided to confront Archie about it.” Betty informed him, instantly setting off alarm bells in Jughead’s mind and he let out an exasperated sigh.

“I’m not going to like this much am I?” Jughead asked, cocking his head to the side, his smile faded and his eyes narrowed slightly.

“Probably not.” Betty shrugged, rolling her eyes at Jughead’s tone before recounting what happened. “Anyway, we confronted Archie, and he got incredibly defensive about everything we said. He basically told us that he only slept with Grundy because Veronica and I were ignoring him.”

“Hmmm.” Jughead made no comment, but he wasn’t pleased by what Veronica and Betty had done, but he had a feeling that there was worse to come.

“So, I left and then, Veronica, Toni and I broke into Professor Grundy’s room,” Betty confessed her eyes leaving Jughead’s and settling on his tie. She directed all her speech to the green and silver material, feeling too embarrassed to look Jughead in the eye.

“What?!” Jughead exclaimed in shock before he tilted Betty’s head up so that she had to look at him directly. The confusion and shock in his eyes, however, was masked by the glimmer of awe that seemed to be shining the brighter than everything else.

“Wait, there’s a bit more. Grundy isn’t actually called Geraldine Grundy. She’s someone called Jennifer Gibson, and I figured that she may have using Archie, but apparently, she was fleeing her soulmate.” Betty informed him, feeling ever so slightly sympathetic for Professor Grundy until she reminded herself what Grundy was doing to Archie.

“It would explain the name change, I suppose.” Jughead’s mind no longer dwelled on Grundy, but on his mother, who’d changed her name back to Stone when she’d left his dad. However, he knew that despite the pain that Grundy had felt, she was also sexually manipulating Archie. 

“We spoke to Archie again, but he stormed off on us. I don’t think that I can blame him though because he has been hurt.” Betty turned to glance out of the window, only to have her mood darken at the sight of the rain saturating the ground.

“He’s hurt, yes. But so were we, Betts.” Jughead’s voice pulled her back to reality, and Betty couldn’t help but be reminded of the pain of the last few months.

“I just want this to all be over,” Betty confessed to him, her eyes glassy with exhaustion from all of this fighting.

“It will be soon, I promise,” Jughead reassured her, running his hand over her arm, sending shivers down her spine that both relaxed her and left her breathless. Betty had no idea how Jughead could do that, but it was soon overshadowed by the sound of pounding footsteps.

“Jughead! Betty!” Sweet Pea called out the moment he saw them, his eyes widening a fraction at the apparent intimacy of their moment. Both, however, shot apart and then got to their feet to face the Serpents in front of them.

“Guys?” Jughead’s eyes widened, and his voice was incredulous. His body shook slightly until an arm snaked around his waist, calming him instantly. 

“We have a problem,” Joaquin stated, averting his eyes from their action, feeling uncomfortable watching it.

“Alice Cooper is coming this way, and she looks angry,” Toni informed them, her eyes full of fear at the thought and she wasn’t even the person that Alice was angry at. In fact, she was petrified for both Jughead and Betty.

“What?” Betty asked, not quite believing that she’d heard Toni correctly.

“We think she’s found out about the two of you dating.” Fangs added, confirming what had just been said and both Jughead and Betty blanched in fear.

“Merlin, we’re doomed,” Jughead muttered moving away from Betty to lean against the wall, pressing his forehead against the cold, smooth stones. His eyes were screwed shut, and his breathing was laboured due to the fear.

“No, no we’re not,” Betty stated, walking over to Jughead and placing a hand on his shoulder blade. “I’m not going to let her break us apart.”

“Betts...” Jughead refused to look back at Betty, he just kept his face to the wall and attempted to steady his breathing.

“What is on your left wrist, Jughead?” Betty asked, turning Jughead around to face her and she carefully took Jughead’s left wrist, rotating it so that they could both see the soulmark.

“A black crown with your initials inside of it,” Jughead stated, a glimmer of adoration shining through his eyes. The pride in his gaze shone brighter than the adoration, however, because honestly, Jughead had never wanted anything more than he’d wanted to be soulmates with Betty.

“And mine is the same with your initials. We are bound together as one, and she will never be able to tear us apart.” Betty reminded him, her eyes brimming with the same light that was in Jughead’s.

“She’s right, Jug. We won’t allow that.” Sweet Pea moved towards them with the other three hot on his heels. Jughead recognised the look on Sweet Pea’s face, and at that moment, Jughead suddenly realised that he wasn’t going to face this without his friends. Up to that point, he’d been willing to dismiss that they’d help, but now he knew that they’d stand with him, even against Alice Cooper.

“We love Betty too much,” Toni added to eye rolls from the boys and Betty blew a kiss to her pink-haired friend.

“And we care about your feelings as well,” Joaquin stated a few moments later, realising that they couldn’t really leave Jughead out.

“Thanks, guys, but you don’t need to do this for me.” Jughead reminded them, knowing that he should never expect absolute loyalty all the time from his friends.

“In unity there’s strength, and you are our leader.” Fangs had barely spoken when they all heard thundering footsteps that could have only belonged to Alice Cooper.

“Elizabeth Octavia Cooper!” Alice screamed the moment she saw her youngest daughter. Fear flooded Betty’s veins, and her breathing became heavier and heavier. On instinct, Jughead grabbed Betty’s hand, lacing his fingers with hers.

“Mum,” Betty stated, squeezing Jughead’s hand tightly, pulling him closer to her. Leaning into Jughead’s body, Betty felt some of her stress leave, but the look on Alice’s face was too terrifying to ignore.

“You’ve been avoiding me, Elizabeth, and I am not happy about it at all.” Alice stood there before them, her hands firmly placed on her hips in anger. Her green eyes, which Betty shared, were narrowed in fury at her daughter before moving over to Jughead, who she glowered at even more.

“Mum, calm down. I’ve just been working, and so have you. We’ve all been working.” Betty stated, trying to keep her calm and she attempted to ignore the feeling of being inadequate when it came to her mother’s expectations.

“Working, Elizabeth? You mean asides from when you’re fooling around with this miscreant, who broke your heart last year.” Alice scolded before her eyes flickered over to Jughead, and her eyes narrowed even more. “Don’t think I have forgotten what you did to her, Forsythe Pendleton Jones the Third.”

“Always a pleasure, Mrs Cooper.” Jughead’s tone dripped with sarcasm, but he still shook slightly under the look that he was receiving from his girlfriend’s mother.

“Be quiet you.” Alice snapped, turning back to Betty before she turned back to Jughead, only to snap at him again. “So, now that I’m here, I wanted to know how you’ve managed to snake your way into my daughter’s good books again.”

“Mum, please, calm down,” Betty spoke calmly, though she still trembled in fear at the look of ire in Alice’s eyes.

“I will not calm down, Elizabeth. He broke your heart and is nothing but a filthy criminal and has impure heritage.” Alice glowered at Jughead, who instead of feeling terrified rolled his eyes in annoyance at Alice’s statement.

“Last I checked, I’m still a pureblood, and you know that Alice, but neither of us really care about that. What do you really want to know?” Jughead cocked his head to the side, straightening his jacket while the Serpents moved to stand around the couple with Joaquin and Toni by Betty and Fangs and Sweet Pea on Jughead’s side.

“I want to know why my daughter would feel the need to kiss you after that stupid Quidditch game in honour of the wretched Jason Blossom.” Alice clenched her fists in rage before setting her hands on her hips.

“Why shouldn’t I kiss my boyfriend?” Betty questioned incredulously, waving her hands in distress.

“Boyfriend?! Why on earth-” Alice stopped, noticing Betty’s left wrist, her eyes widening in shock when she realised what she had just seen. “Elizabeth, what is that on your left wrist?! Tell me instantly.”

“It’s my soulmark,” Betty stated, glancing over at Jughead, who smiled at her, moving to wrap his arm around her waist.

“SOULMARK?!” Alice screamed. The six teens winced in horror because there was nothing as terrifying as an angry Alice Cooper.

“Yes, my soulmark that cements the fact Jughead is my soulmate, and you cannot change that, no matter what you want.” Betty’s eyes narrowed in response as she realised that Alice would never back down, but after everything, Betty couldn’t care less about that. She was going to be with Jughead regardless of what her mother said to her. 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 17 – It’s Time

‘It's time to begin, isn't it?

I get a little bit bigger, but then I'll admit

I'm just the same as I was

Now don't you understand

That I'm never changing who I am.’

The silence that followed Betty’s outburst was more deafening than any scream or shout that any person could release. Alice stood there in shock: her eyes wide, her mouth open and her mind racing. Nothing she’d ever heard had affected her in such a way, and she almost refused to believe it. Though, when she caught sight of the identical mark on Jughead’s wrist, Alice was forced to accept it.

For what felt like an eternity, Alice stood there staring at the pair, until the sound of laughter broke the silence. Automatically, everyone turned in the direction of the sound, only to catch sight of something none of them wished to see. A grimace spread across everyone’s lips, and Betty turned away in disgust before all hell broke loose.

“Stop!” Alice’s eyes were ablaze with anger, confusion and shock. Her hands found her hips before she narrowed her gaze and stepped forward, towards the couple. The Serpents and Betty moved to the side quickly to avoid the fury of both of the adults.  “What is going on here?!”

“I hardly think that this is any concern of yours, Mrs Cooper.” Professor Grundy snapped, walking towards Alice, her eyes boring into the blonde’s and neither noticed the tense look the students all exchanged behind them.

“Oh, really? Because I’m certain that it is in the best interests of Archie Andrews if you tell us, Professor.” Alice’s tone left no doubt that she was both disgusted and furious. In fact, the mere sound of it reverberating around was enough to make the students take two steps back. Toni grasped Betty’s hand the moment she witnessed Betty flinch, and she had a feeling that Betty had had that tone directed at her in the past.

“Mrs Cooper, do you really require an audience for this?” Grundy’s nerve seemed to be slipping, and like a hound sensing blood, Alice picked up on that instantly.

“I do believe that witnesses are often vital.” Alice kept her expression guarded, but everyone could hear her smirking internally. She loved this, and Betty was fearful of what might happen next if her mother got her way.

“Witnesses for what? Nothing has happened.” Grundy looked anxiously over at Archie, her eyes imploring him to say something, but words lodged themselves in his throat. He was terrified of Alice – he always had been, and no matter what he felt for Grundy, he was far too scared to say something else.

“Oh, really? Because I do believe that Archie is currently wearing your lipstick.” Alice gestured to Archie’s lips, which were stained in the same shade of pink that Grundy was wearing. To add to that, Grundy’s lipstick was badly smudged, making it evident that they had been kissing earlier.

“I beg your pardon, but what exactly are you trying to insinuate, Mrs Cooper?” Grundy asked, her chest rising up and down rapidly, her eyes wide behind her large glasses. Her voice had shaken when she had spoken, but no one commented on it because her glower silenced all, bar Alice.

“Nothing other than the fact that you are evidently in a relationship with one of your students, who may I point out is a minor.” Alice pointed over at Archie, who hung his head sheepishly, avoiding the gazes of everyone else. The weight of everyone’s eyes upon him was almost too much for him to bare.

“I don’t understand. That’s not what’s happening.” Grundy protested, but no one believed her and almost instantly they all rolled their eyes at her. The younger adult noted their change in demeanour and was about to disagree when she was cut off.

“Professor Grundy, we already know about the affair.” Betty sighed, allowing Toni to lean against her while Jughead placed a hand on the small of her back. Joaquin, Sweet Pea and Fangs grouped around the other three in a display of unity.

“WHAT?! You knew, Elizabeth?!” Alice suddenly rounded on her daughter, not believing what she had just heard. She couldn’t believe that Betty would keep something like this from her and it was certainly something that she wasn’t going to let go.

“We all did, Mrs Cooper,” Toni informed her, trying to direct some of Alice’s anger away from her daughter and towards the others.

For a moment, jade eyes lingered on Toni, a disapproving light to them, but soon they tore themselves away from the young woman. “Why didn’t you tell me?” Alice completely ignored Toni, deciding that she didn’t want to listen to the young Serpent.

“Mum, we were trying to protect Archie.” Betty pointed out, moving towards her mother, knowing that it was best for them all if she diffused the anger from her mother. Yet, she soon realised that no one was going to allow her to do that.

Firstly, both Jughead and Toni grabbed Betty’s hands, pulling her back, removing her from being in the blast zone of the volcano that was Alice Cooper. Jughead’s fingers brushed against the little black crown on Betty’s wrist, silently telling her to tread lightly.

The second part was Archie’s reaction.

“Betty, don’t.” Archie’s exasperated sigh reminded all that he was still there. Though, his expression of annoyance only made the Serpents, who were still uneasy around him, feel as exasperated as Archie had sounded. Jughead and Betty, on the other hand, however, knew that it was merely Archie’s first line of defence when he was backed into a corner.

Though, that didn’t mean that it didn’t hurt.

Betty couldn’t fight back her growing feeling of anxiety about everything and her mild fury was attempting to control her. Channelling that feeling though, Betty directed her speech towards Archie. “Don’t what, Archie? It’s the truth. None of us is particularly happy about it, and we tried to warn you, but you didn’t listen.”

“They knew?!” Grundy all but screamed, her once beautiful face contorting in rage. Rounding on Archie, she glowered at the redhead, her eyes ablaze. Betrayal flooded her body at the confession, and she could barely contain her anger.

“Unfortunately,” Archie grumbled, hoping to maintain Grundy’s favour, but by doing that, he once again alienated himself from the others in the hallway. That was not something that the proud Serpents could take lightly, and they were sure to let Archie know that.

“Back down, Andrews. We’ve protected you enough.” Sweet Pea pointed out, his eyes ablaze with frustration. Archie refused to meet his gaze, and at that, the taller of the two began to take several steps towards Archie.

“Back down, Sweets,” Jughead commanded, pulling Sweet Pea back.

“But, he shouldn’t be talking to us like that.” Sweet Pea reminded the smaller boy, shaking off Jughead. The two boys stared at each other, and it was evident that Sweet Pea wanted to say something more, but Jughead beat him to it.

“Back down, Sweet Pea, that is an order.” Jughead’s order left no room for argument and then when Sweet Pea had taken several more steps back, Jughead turned back to Archie. The two boys stared at one another for a moment before Jughead finally addressed  Archie. “Now, Archie, we have defended you and offered you advice while attempting to protect you from her.”

“She’s done nothing, Jughead!” Archie yelled, anger consuming him. He’d hoped that Jughead would have his back when it came to this. Then again, he should’ve realised that Jughead would never allow him to continue this affair with Grundy.

“Enough! I think that we all already know what is going on here and I think that the best thing would be for everyone in the wizarding world to know about this.” Alice took control masterfully, and there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that if she didn’t get the outcome that she wanted, there’d be hell to pay.

They were all sure of that.

However, not all were content with it.

“WHAT?! NO!” Archie yelled. Pain, frustration and anger rang through his tone. They swirled around hopelessly in his dark brown eyes.

“No, Mum. You can’t.” Betty protested, her eyes wide and she realised in that moment that couldn’t allow Archie to suffer because of this. Yes, he’d hurt her, but he was hurting as well, and it wasn’t in Betty’s nature to allow that to continue.

“Elizabeth, do not start this,” Alice ordered her daughter, her voice a lazy drawl. Expecting Betty to comply, she turned back to Professor Grundy and Archie, until Betty broke the tense silence that had followed.

“Why not? Archie is one of my friends. He may not have been a great friend at the moment, but he is my friend, and we’re not going to let this get out.” Betty pointed out. Her eyes, so like her mother’s, held none of the cruelty that seemed to be a part of Alice’s eyes. There were desperation and hope in her gaze, and she was not about to give up.

“Elizabeth, this is our responsibility to report.” Alice reminded Betty, her tone harsh and her jaw set. Betty automatically crossed her arms and took a step towards her mother.

“Fine, then, I’ll just say that I made it all up for a story. I’ll tell everyone that I was lying because I was upset at Archie and it’ll confirm everything.” Betty spoke calmly, shocking everyone there while singlehandedly delivering the only line that had confused Alice so far.

“What do you mean, ‘confirm everything’?” Alice cocked her head to the side, questioning everything that her daughter had just said to her. There was no way that she was going to believe that Betty would ruin her reputation so easily.

“It will confirm everyone’s belief about us. Crazy runs in the family. I’ll tell everyone that I fell off the wagon just like Polly. I’ll tell everyone that we are all just crazy and that we live behind a facade of lies and deceit.” Betty took a calculated step forward with each word until she was right in front of her mother. “I’ll prove that I’m not sane and then everyone will never believe you. After all, like mother like daughter, right?”

Betty cocked her head to the side, eying Alice, daring her to deny it. Both women knew that they were hardly as perfect as they presented themselves, but still, Alice would never admit that to anyone. Yet, seeing Betty preparing herself to say that to the world terrified her more than she’d ever admit. Though, thankfully for Alice, she wasn’t the only one who wanted to stop Betty from doing that.

“Betts, don’t say that.” Jughead’s voice resonated through the hallway, bringing Betty back to him and she turned to face her boyfriend. Cyan met jade, and they stared at each other for what felt like an eternity, both unable to find the right words.

“You wouldn’t.” Alice suddenly spoke, her mouth agape and her eyes wide. Betty spun round to face her mother, her heart set on what she was prepared to do to win this.

“I would.” Betty’s answer and her determination triggered something inside of Professor Grundy, who realised just how far Betty was prepared to go to save Archie. For that, the young teacher realised that she had to act.

“I’ll quit. I’ll pack my bags and be gone by the morning.” Grundy quickly suggested, looking away from the sight of Archie’s heartbroken gaze and praying that Alice Cooper would find it in her heart to allow it.

“Very well. Leave.” Alice instructed and without a second’s hesitation, Grundy turned on her heel and fled the scene instantly. When she was out of sight, and her footsteps could no longer be heard, Alice turned back to Betty. “Did you really mean that Elizabeth?”

“Every word,” Betty replied, allowing the rush of relief that followed to consume her being. It was finally over, and that was all that mattered. That was all she cared about. Yet, upon realising the finality of it, Betty remembered what else was drawing its final breath and she turned to the others. “Come on, guys, we need to get the Drive-In.”

With that, all of them left Alice alone in the corridor, staring after them. The Serpents had begrudgingly swept Archie up with them, and although they were not too delighted by his presence, they knew that he’d need it. They only hoped that he wouldn’t be too much of a dick to anyone. Then again, they’d be bringing Veronica and Kevin to ease the conversation and to ensure that Archie stayed in line.

And, finally, Betty and Jughead both realised that maybe the universe was back on track.

‘Dear Diary

Love and friendship make you do crazy things, and maybe some of what I did was wrong, but maybe, maybe I was right about some things too. Maybe Professor Grundy was dangerous in some way.’

...

The Drive-In was stiff with people when the group arrived, and Jughead had quickly taken off to man the projection booth, with Betty, naturally. The rest of the group was left sat on three trucks watching as Rebel Without A Cause began to play. They’d all seen the film countless times and practically knew it word for word, but it still brought a sense of happiness and familiarity to them to see it, albeit again.

“So, does anyone want to fill Kevin and I in on what happened with Grundy?” Veronica suddenly asked after the first scene. It had been playing on her mind since she’d heard that Grundy had left, but no one had explained anything to her.

“Alice Cooper found out, yelled a bit and we yelled back in turn. Betty said something to make her mum back down, and she did eventually. Then Grundy agreed to leave.” Toni answered, never taking her eyes off of the screen until she stole some of Fangs’ popcorn.

“Well, at least that’s over,” Kevin mumbled, too entranced by James Dean to really care about it too much. The only person he thought was more attractive was Joaquin, so he had to resist the urge to turn and stare at him.

“I suppose it was for the best.” Archie sighed from where he sat beside Veronica, his eyes firmly on his lap. He couldn’t help but let his mind wander back to quiet moments of tenderness that he’d had with Geraldine, but he knew in his heart that it was for the best.

“Look, Andrews, I’m not your number one fan, but if it helps, I’m sorry man for how I acted, and I’m sorry that you lost Grundy.” Sweet Pea angled his body towards Archie, finally breaking everyone’s gazes from the screen as they turned to look at him.

“Thanks, O’Hare, and I’m sorry too for being a dick. We alright now?” Archie turned to look back at Sweet Pea, who nodded at him.

“We’re alright.” Sweet Pea gave Archie a small smile that for once wasn’t fake at all.

“Thanks.” Archie returned the smile before both turned back to the screen.

“Does this mean that we can finally all hang out without a massive cloud of tension hanging over us?” Kayla asked suddenly from her place beside Sweet Pea. All eyes turned to the young Slytherin, who was nestled into Sweet Pea’s side, her head on his shoulder.

“I think it does, Kayla.” Fangs answered with a small smile, his eyes full of relief, which Kayla’s eyes echoed. Both hated the anger and tension between the group and were finally they could relax and get to enjoy just spending time with their friends without wondering whether a fight would break out.

“Finally.” Kayla sighed, moving closer to Sweet Pea’s chest, drawing his eyes down to look at her. The Serpent shook his head at the young witch beside him but made no comment on it.

“I know, right?” Fangs’ voice was filled with delight, and his eyes scanned all of the others with them. He first looked to the right towards Kayla, Sweet Pea, Veronica, Kevin and Archie before turning and glancing over at Toni and Joaquin.

“Hey, guys, seriously?” Joaquin asked, rolling his eyes in a truly Jughead worthy way. His exasperation was apparent to everyone around him.

“Wow, you’re grumpy this evening.” Toni quipped from his right-hand side, her eyebrows furrowing and she cocked her head to the side in confusion.

“If you want to feel better, I can help.” Kevin practically yelled at Joaquin, who allowed himself a small smile at that before his face morphed back to his former serious expression.

“I may take you up on that one day,” Joaquin informed Kevin, but he avoided any eye contact with the Gryffindor. Rubbing at his temples mercilessly, Joaquin glanced down, trying to distract his brain from the onslaught thoughts.

“Are you going to tell us what’s wrong?” Sweet Pea suddenly asked, turning towards Joaquin, his voice full of concern. There were very few people who could manage to get that tone from Sweet Pea, and Joaquin happened to be one of them.

“Yeah, come on Joaquin, we won’t judge. I mean I can’t judge you anyway.” Archie pointed out, much to the delight of the others around him. They were all grateful that Archie would finally admit that he was in the wrong.

“He can’t actually.” Veronica agreed, offering Joaquin a tentative smile, which he did not return because he was no longer looking at any of them. He’d twisted in his seat to face the projection booth where Jughead and Betty sat together, watching the movie.

“It was just watching Betty being that willing to destroy her reputation, it just really got to me,” Joaquin confessed quietly, letting out a heavy sigh before facing the others again.

“What do you mean?” Veronica asked, her tone sharp and tense.

“What did Betty do?” Kevin demanded to know, utterly terrified by the vagueness of Joaquin’s answer.

“She threatened to tell the entire Wizarding World that she and her family are crazy.” Toni finally informed them after she and the other Serpents had exchanged several thousand tense looks. They all knew that one of them would have to tell Veronica and Kevin, but only Toni had been willing to say it.

“Seriously?” Veronica asked in disbelief. Her voice was low, and her eyes and mind distracted as memories of that night returned to her mind.

“Yep. It was really quite confusing actually.” Sweet Pea admitted, his mind flitting back to the earlier confrontation. He’d never seen or heard Betty say anything like that before, and he had to admit that it did terrify him.

“I think she was just trying to prove that she’d do anything for the people she cares about regardless of the outcome,” Kayla suggested, bringing forth more questions to everyone’s mind.

“How?” Joaquin asked, tilting his head to the side while running his hand over his wand holster over and over again.

“It’s a bit like the Gauntlet, isn’t it? Proving that you’d bleed for anyone in the gang?” Veronica wasn’t too sure about it, but she had a strong inkling that that was how Betty had seen it in her mind.

“No, it wasn’t like that at all.” Toni protested, shuddering at the mention of the Gauntlet.

“It was as if she wanted to prove that she wasn’t perfect.” Sweet Pea added, trying not to think of little Betty Cooper running the Gauntlet. Then again, the alternative for women was worse – all of the Junior Serpents would agree with that.

“All I really know was that it scared Jug. He looked terrified when she said it.” Fangs reminded them all, shivering at the memory of Jughead’s expression. It was something that he could not unsee, and he really wished he could.

“It’s confusing and terrifying.” Joaquin agreed, shivering slightly at his own memories.

“Agreed,” Archie mumbled, closing his eyes and leaning back against the truck, trying to forget.

“No, it isn’t.” Veronica suddenly spoke up, grabbing everyone’s attention. They turned to look at her as if she had just lost her mind. No one could quite decipher what she had meant by that at all.

“What do you mean?” Kevin finally asked when no one else did, his eyes focused solely on Veronica, who in turn looked away from his intense gaze.

“It’s not confusing. Betty’s always had issues with her mother. She knows Alice’s weaknesses and would do anything to protect her friends. So, yes it would have been terrifying to witness, but not confusing when you realise that she’d only do it to protect you. She really doesn’t care about what everyone thinks about her.” Veronica informed them all, her mind filled with images of what Betty had been prepared to do to Chuck to get justice for her and Polly.

“Oh, well that makes sense,” Joaquin mumbled, feeling less confused and conflicted than before, but he wasn’t entirely right. He knew that he’d need some more time to process everything, but for now, he’d ignore it.

“Thanks for clearing that up, Veronica.” Toni leant forward to beam over at Veronica in gratitude.

“You’re welcome, Toni.” Veronica simpered in return before her eyes found the screen again and she glanced back at the others. “Now should we get back to watching the movie?”

“Hell yes.” All of them agreed, finally managing to settle back into watching Rebel Without A Cause.

...

Meanwhile, inside the small projection booth, Jughead held onto Betty tightly, his hand absentmindedly tangling with her hair. The sound of the soft breathing and the film itself was all that had been heard for the past half hour with the occasional addition of them eating popcorn at random intervals.

“Betts?” Jughead asked cautiously, glancing down at his girlfriend, who was still focused entirely on the film they were watching. Yet, at the sound of Jughead’s voice, Betty lifted her head up slightly and tilted it to look over at him with a small smile.

“Hmm, yes, Jug?” Betty mumbled, repositioning herself so that her head was resting on his shoulder more comfortably. Jughead’s arm tightened around Betty’s waist, pulling her into him even more.

“Can we talk about earlier?” Jughead’s voice was little more than a whisper, and in the momentary pause between the question and the answer, Jughead held his breath. He had no idea how Betty was going to react, and he only hoped that she wouldn’t get upset with him.

“Do you want to?” Betty questioned, toying with the lapels of Jughead’s jacket. Their eyes met for the first time since the movie had started and Betty knew that she could not escape this conversation.

“Yes,” Jughead replied, his eyes locked firmly with Betty’s. She then moved to sit up and face him, placing a tentative hand on his shoulder.

“Okay, then,” Betty mumbled, fighting back her fears and reminding herself that this was Jughead and she could tell him anything and everything. “I was scared that she’d do something that would hurt Archie. I didn’t want that because I still feel guilty every time I look at him.” 

“Why do you feel guilty?” Jughead probed, adjusting Betty so that she was more comfortable on his lap before he pulled her closer to him.

“Because he looked so betrayed when we questioned him about it and part of me, I suppose still feels terrible that he wanted me so much. I want to make him feel better, and part of me thought that by following my heart I’d just hurt him. I guess I did that anyway though.” Betty confessed, tearing her eyes away from Jughead’s, unable to look at him anymore for the fear that all she’d see would be disappointment.

“Betty, look at me.” Jughead’s soft command was just enough to make Betty stare up at him again.  “Thank you.” He murmured, tucking a piece of hair behind Betty’s ear before ridding himself of his beanie, which he placed awkwardly on Betty’s head. “Betts, there is nothing for you to feel guilty about. You were not meant to be with Archie, you were meant to be with me – I’m still getting my head around that. But, anyway, we all knew that Grundy was dangerous for Archie, and you did the right thing warning him, but why did you say those things about yourself?”

“That’s what everyone thinks about us, and sometimes, I have to agree with them.” Betty confided in him all while fixing the beanie to her head, a wave of comfort flowing through her body.

“Well, please don’t, you’re amazing, Betts. You’re beautiful, kind, intelligent and strong, so please, don’t say things like that about yourself.” Jughead’s eyes glistened with pain and desperation. They pleaded with Betty to listen to him and to understand his side to this.

“Jug...” Betty started, but she was unable to find the right words to say. She could barely string together a sentence in her mind let alone a fully formed answer.

“I’m not lying, Betts. I know you’re slightly crazy, but hell, we all are. Don’t assume that it makes you a bad person.” Jughead cut off her train of thought, and managed to both shock her and lift her spirits instantly.

“You believe that?” Betty asked in disbelief, her eyes wide and her heart hammering in her chest erratically.

“I do.” He mumbled, pressing his lips to hers for a short peck before pulling away and then allowing his eyes to flicker to the screen. “Now, shush, it’s getting interesting,” Jughead informed her shifting their bodies so that they could see the film better.

“You say that as if you haven’t seen it a million times before,” Betty mumbled to him, a small smile flickering at her lips.

“Well, I’ve never watched it with my girlfriend before.” Jughead pointed out, a heart-warming smile on his own lips. They stared at one another for a moment before Betty sighed and turned back to the movie.

“Fine, you got me there.” Betty conceded before they both fell into a relaxed and comfortable silence.

...

Archie, Veronica and Kevin disappeared as soon as the film was over, stating that they wanted to get a good night’s rest before the memorial in the morning, leaving the Slytherins alone. They stayed looking around the sanctuary for young Serpents, suddenly realising that this would be the last time that they ever stood in these grounds. They each paled at the thought and watched every other spectator drive out of the Drive-In, apart from the older Serpents. They remained there; each was stony-faced and broken.

“I can’t believe that this is it.” Toni murmured, her eyes glassy and her expression of pure shock that this was well and truly the end of the Drive-In. She’d always assumed that Jughead would’ve been able to save it, but evidently, even he’d been defeated.

“It doesn’t feel right.” Fangs nodded, messing up his usually perfect hair by running his hand through it relentlessly. His eyes remained fixed on the screen in front of him, a sigh leaving his lips.

“Why did it have to be taken from us?” Sweet Pea asked, taking several shuddering breaths in an attempt to calm his swirling emotions. Looking around, he tried to memorise every tiny detail of the Drive-In.

“That’s what we’d all like to know, Sweets.” Joaquin placed a hand on Sweet Pea’s shoulder, rubbing it slowly, hoping to ease some of Sweet Pea’s pain and anger, but the taller boy merely shrugged him off. Joaquin watched him move away from everyone before rubbing his eyes.

“It’s not fair though,” Kayla muttered, taking over from Joaquin and gently grabbing Sweet Pea’s right hand.

“Aye, you’re right about that one, Kayla.” Sweet Pea sighed, the Irish lilt to his accent becoming more pronounced. He refused to look at anyone until he heard Toni sniffle and he quickly turned to face her. “What is it Topaz?”

“You only ever use that tone when you’re upset,” Toni informed him, brushing away tears that wanted to fall.

“And?” Sweet Pea asked, not knowing what else to say.

“It just made me realise that it really is the end,” Toni mumbled, refusing to look at anyone else in the group.

“Oh, Toni, come ‘ere.” Kayla murmured, releasing Sweet Pea’s hand and taking Toni into her arms, holding her tightly. Toni clung to Kayla, realising that the place that she’d been coming to since she was no older than three was about to be destroyed.

“We should have listened to Jones when he said this place was in danger.” Fangs stated, regretting that they hadn’t bothered to help Jughead campaign for the Drive-In.

“Why didn’t we?” Joaquin asked, shaking his head at their previous mistakes in not helping Jughead fight those who were planning to destroy the Drive-In.

“Because we were blinded by our other problems.” Sweet Pea pointed out, sighing and watching the girls holding onto one another. They both ignored the boys and Kayla gently soothed Toni; neither of the groups paid attention to the man ambling towards them.

“We always are.” Fangs reminded them, sighing loudly.

“It still doesn’t make it any better.” Toni murmured, detaching herself from Kayla and wrapping her arms around herself.

“We know, Toni, but we’ll find another place.” Kayla tried to console her, accidentally triggering the boys to sigh in unison.

“Where?” Fangs asked, glancing around, but still missing the other people there.

“We can’t go to the Wyrm because that’s the adults’ territory and we only go there when we’re needed.” Sweet Pea informed them, knowing that the Whyte Wyrm would be the first suggestion.

“Serpent’s Creek’s a no go, either,” Joaquin added, shaking his head at that idea.

“Yeah, ‘cause we’re not four to eleven anymore.” Toni reminded them. Serpent’s Creek was a primary school for the underprivileged of Hogsmeade. All of them, even Kayla had attended Serpent's Creek, but she’d been in a separate class to the others there.

“There’s Jones Manor, but I doubt Jug’s gonna want us there all the time.” Joaquin pointed out, knowing that they had no right to ask Jughead to house them in his home.

“Plus, I think he wants that for him and Betty.” Fangs added, recalling that whenever a Jones found their soulmate, they were automatically inheritors of the manor. He also knew that Jughead was a private person, who would want a place just for himself and Betty.

“Jones Manor?” Kayla asked, who had no idea what anyone was on about anymore. She’d never heard of such a place, and she looked between each of the others there.

“Jughead’s family’s ancestral home,” Toni informed her, only adding to Kayla’s confusion.

“But I thought FP lived in a trailer.” Kayla’s thoughts began to swirl around her mind at each new revelation.

“He does, but technically, his home is Jones Manor.” Fangs informed her, knowing that FP had only moved out due to his fractured relationship with Jughead.

“Talking of FP, here he comes.” Joaquin nodded towards a tall man walking towards them. With dark brown eyes that his daughter shared, raven hair, which was speckled with grey and beard that matched. “Boss.”

“Boys, Toni, Kayla, I thought you’d have left by now.” FP stopped just in front of the group, nodding at each of the young adults gathered in front of him.

“We’re just waiting for Jug, sir.” Fangs informed him, dropping his gaze in respect and always Fangs, never addressed FP by anything other than ‘sir’.

“Jug’s here?” FP asked, surprise evident in his tone. Glancing between each and every one of the group, FP couldn’t help but feel consumed with guilt when he realised that he didn’t really know his son anymore.

“Yeah, he was operating the projector.” Toni waving over at the projection booth, which Jughead and Betty had spent the evening inside.

“He’s still doing that?” FP asked, cocking his head to the side. He hadn’t known that Jughead had kept on coming back here.

“Yeah, he loves it.” Sweet Pea muttered, his mind was at a paradox; firstly, FP was his leader and he respected him, but secondly, he disapproved of how he had just let Jughead down, time and time again.

“I had no idea.” FP muttered, but he was loud enough for everyone around to hear him. He was even loud enough for those outside of the group to hear him.

“You wouldn’t.” Jughead’s voice filled the air around them and all wheeled around to face him and Betty. Jughead’s face was half in shadow and had straightened up so that the two Jones men were now the same height as one another. Both stared at each other, though FP’s eyes glowed with guilt, whereas Jughead stared stonily at his father.

“Jughead.” FP greeted, a small smile on his lips, but he wasn’t met with the same joy from his son, who merely glowered back at him.

“Dad.” Jughead nodded at him, clutching onto Betty’s hand tightly, trying not to let his anger consume him. FP noticed Jughead’s reaction and his eyes moved onto Betty, his eyes widening in shock at the sight of the young woman before him.

“Wait! Betty? What are you doing here? You gonna break my boy’s heart again?” FP all but shouted, and the other Serpents who had been keeping their distance neared slightly, until they heard Jughead’s reaction.

“Dad, fuck off. You’ve barely been around. You don’t get to suddenly act like a parent.” Jughead growled, his eyes glowing with fury at his father’s audacity. Knowing better than to wait for FP’s reaction, Jughead turned to the other Junior Serpents. "You coming guys?”

“Erm...” All of them looked between the Serpent King and the Serpent Prince. None of them knew who they were meant to obey, apart from Betty, who stayed by Jughead’s side.

“Just go. He is your leader after all.” FP instructed, waving his hand for them to leave. Jughead nodded at the others who made their way ahead of  Jughead and Betty. The former glowered over at FP for a moment longer before Betty pulled him away from his father and they followed the others towards the exit.

“Jug, you alright?” Sweet Pea asked once they were clear of the Drive in and all that had been gather there. Jughead had moved ahead of the group, his arm linked with Betty’s, but he felt a million miles away.

“Fine.” Jughead spoke curtly, not looking back, about to continue walking when Betty stopped, halting Jughead in his advance, eliciting a grunt from raven-haired boy beside her. He turned to face her and soon the others joined the two of them to look at Jughead.

“Jug, you’re not.” Betty stated, her eyes narrowing in anger and she folded her arms in front of her, staring at her boyfriend.

“Betts, don’t please. I’m honestly fine.” Jughead insisted, ignoring all of the others, and focusing solely on Betty.

“Yep, he is.” Fangs agreed, much to everyone’s surprise, and much to Jughead’s gratitude.

“Thank you, Fangs.” Jughead smiled over at him, but it never reached his eyes, which none of them noted it.

“Yeah, definitely fucked up, insecure, neurotic and emotional.” Fangs finished his sentence, much to the displeasure of Jughead.

“Should’ve known you’d say that.” Jughead murmured, rolling his eyes, but instead of exclaiming in fury, he focused on the look in all of his friends’ eyes. It was a look he recognised from Betty, and upon witnessing it in her eyes, Jughead knew better than to

“You really should’ve.” Sweet Pea mumbled, only for everyone to turn and look at him in annoyance.

“Give it a rest, Sweet Pea.” Joaquin instructed before trying to think of what to say to Jughead. It was evident that Sweet Pea’s usual commentary, which on most days everyone accepted, just now it wasn’t the time for it.

“Okay, let’s just deal with this later. We’re all feeling awful, and we need sleep before the memorial.” Toni murmured, in an attempt to ease the tension between the group.

“Toni’s right.” Betty agreed while Kayla nodded, also agreeing with the other girls. All of the boys exchanged a glance between one another, but instantly knew that the witches were right.

“Fine, we’ll just head back, but I don’t think we’re going to find the next few months easy at all, for any of us.” It was Jughead who spoke first, his eyes fixed solely on the castle in the distance.

“That’s because our world’s changed again.” Toni murmured before all headed back towards the castle, a sense of dread eating away at the back of their minds, though all of them pushed it aside for now.

 ‘Tomorrow morning, when we wake up, the world will yet again be changed.’                         

Chapter Text

Chapter 18 – Lay Me Down

Can I lay by your side?

Next to you, you

And make sure you're alright

I'll take care of you

I don't want to be here if

I can't be with you tonight.’

 

Morning came far too early for many at Hogwarts, and the once joy-filled school had become silent with mourning. There were no signs of any colours, except for black and the occasional glimmer of jewellery or the red roses and white lilies on Jason’s coffin. Every student was sat in the Great Hall in their year group, with many more witches and wizards sat beside or behind them. No one dared speak, after all, the dead could not speak anymore. No one dared cry, after all, Jason could not cry anymore. No one dared move, after all, no one wanted to face the anger of the Blossom family.

At the side of the room, the group of ten students sat together waiting for the ceremony to start. The girls were all in black dresses of varying lengths and designs with Veronica’s being the most expensive. They’d each dressed demurely with their hair pinned back smartly, especially Toni’s, which was not its usual braids and instead in an elegant bun.

The boys were all in smart black suits, though many of the Serpents found that they did not fit them very well. Out of respect, none of them wore their jackets and instead had a small serpent cufflink to remind them of where their loyalty lay. In many ways, it also symbolised the loss of their house, because although they weren’t too keen on Jason, he had been as much of a Slytherin as any of them.

The creaking of doors alerted everyone to the arrival of the distinguished guests, and they all rose as one. Professor McGonagall and Minister McCoy led the procession of Jason’s relatives, and all noticed that Cheryl Blossom was missing from this group. Eyes widened, but no one dared speak a word, and they watched with bated breath when the doors flew open once more.

Everyone turned once more and froze.

Cheryl Blossom – the avenging angel of Jason, walked slowly down the aisle, dressed in the purest white. Many recognised it to be the dress she wore on the 4th July, and the significance was not lost on any of them. Nor was the blood red lipstick – her trademark colour, and the shade of the blood that had stained Jason’s body. She glided like a ghost towards the lectern, and all eyes stayed glued to her as she took her place above them all.

“Thank you all for coming, if you’d kindly take your seats, I’d like to start the memorial with a few words about Jason.” Cheryl removed her gloves slowly as she spoke – the same gloves that had supposedly been dropped in the Black Lake the day Jason went missing. “The last time that I saw Jason, I was wearing this dress. I know it’s impossible, but I swear when I put it on, it was like he was in the room with me.”

Cheryl turned slowly to face the picture of Jason to her right and smiled at the portrait, which smiled back at her. Then, she turned back to the crowd and with a small sigh continued. “Even though we were twins, I used to demand I have my own birthday party, until one year, out of the blue, Jason convinced me that we had to combine them into one. It wasn’t until years later that I found out why.”

She paused, glancing at the members of the crowd in her year and in the year below. Her eyes lingered on the group of ten, spotting the only person that her next statement did not apply to at all. “Because no one wanted to come to mine, and Jason didn’t want me to know. He protected me every single day. I wish that day at the lake, I had protected him.” Her voice shook, and tears were visible in her glassy gaze.

A sob tore itself from her trembling lips, and she quickly turned to the coffin. “I’m so sorry, JJ. We failed you, all of us.” She sobbed onto the wood as Toni stood up. Eyes flitted to the smaller girl, who all but ran to Cheryl to engulf her in her arms. Cheryl clung to Toni, holding her tightly to her as Penelope took over at the lectern. The pink haired girl held tightly onto Cheryl, allowing the other girl to dig her head into her neck. Eyes widened at them, and most of the crowd barely heard Penelope.

“I think we’ll adjourn outside for a light supper.” Everyone rose to follow her, but Jughead quickly grabbed Betty’s hand, leading her away from everyone else. He clutched onto Betty’s hand, guiding her through the crowd before managing to smuggle the two of them out of the Great Hall.

“Jug, what is it?” Betty asked as soon as they were away from everyone else. Her eyes searched her boyfriend’s face, desperately trying to read what Jughead was thinking.

“I was just thinking, what if there was a way to figure out what Jason was doing?” Jughead asked, his eyes alight with curiosity and Betty could see the flicker of determination in his gaze. It was something that she rarely ever saw, but when she did, Betty knew that there was no stopping him.

“How could we do that?” Betty asked, cocking her head to the side, her interest growing with the smile on Jughead’s lips. He was delighted that Betty wanted to help him with this because when he missed something, she usually picked it up. Also, he’d never pass up on the chance to spend time with Betty.

“Betty, he was Head Boy – he had his own room, near the Slytherin common room, we can look in there.” Jughead reminded her, knowing from personal experience that if he wanted to find something about someone, then looking at the places where people hid their secrets were best places to start. Jughead knew that if they found anything in the bedroom, then they could find out why Jason wanted to run away.

“What do you expect to find?” Betty asked, wanting to know what she should expect to find when they went sleuthing together. Then again, the mystery was one of the most enjoyable parts of investigating with Jughead. 

“I have no idea, but it might help. We’ll spend fifteen minutes there, max and then go outside, so no one notices we’re missing, okay?” Jughead’s eyes scanned Betty’s face to ensure that it was alright with her. In the past, he’d dove in too deep before, not checking she was okay when they were investigating, long before they were dating, and he wasn’t going to make the same mistake again if he could help it. He loathed to hurt her ever again, and he knew that for this investigation to go well, then both of them needed to be confident with what was happening.

“Okay.” Betty nodded in agreement, squeezing Jughead’s hand in encouragement before her eyes, which had been focused on his eyes, flickered down to Jughead’s lips. She pecked them gently before pulling back and adding: “Let’s do this.”

“That’s my girl.” Jughead grinned down at her before guiding her downs.

...

“Alohomora.” Jughead murmured, unlocking the door and stashing his wand away before pushing on the solid oak. The door to the Head Boy’s room creaked loudly as Jughead opened it, and Betty cautiously looked over at him, her eyes wide. Both chose to ignore it and stepped inside, looking around the dark green room. Everything was untouched and slightly dusty from neglect.

“Is it me or did the temperature just drop like a dozen horror movies?” Betty asked, shivering the moment she entered the room. Jughead beside her also shivered and pulled Betty into him, glancing around the room.

“Just the icy chill of the dead.” Jughead murmured when Betty had nudged him looking for a response. The couple exchanged a glance before sweeping their eyes across the room looking for anything that leapt out at them.

“Where does a teenage boy hide things?” Betty asked suddenly aware that she had a teenage boy beside her, who might be able to help. Then again, Jughead was hardly like most adolescent boys so it could have been a long shot to ask him.

“Under the mattress? Maybe in the drawers? Behind the headboard? In the closest?” Jughead suggested, guiding Betty towards the right-hand side of the bed towards Jason’s chest of drawers and bookshelf. Betty went to the former and Jughead went towards the latter. They quickly began to rifle through the documents, unaware of the figure behind them.

 “Hello.” Nana Rose, the matriarch of the Blossom family, spoke from the shadows. Turning sharply, Betty and Jughead faced the old woman who wheeled her way towards them. Jughead moved behind Betty, placing a hand between her shoulder blades and another on Betty’s hip.

 “I’m so sorry, we were just leaving.” Betty’s tone trembled, and she leant back into Jughead’s body, seeking the comfort that she’d always found at his touch. It did ease her fear somewhat, and she tried to focus on that feeling more than on her own fear.

“Oh, it’s you. How lovely to see you again.” Nana Rose crooned, dragging out every word, sending shockwaves through the bodies of the teenagers. “Come closer. I want to get a good look at you.”

“The horror. The horror.” Jughead muttered into Betty’s ear, his own fear flooding through because he did not like the look of the old witch at all.

“Come closer, Polly dear.” Nana Rose beaconed for Betty to near her and with a small push from Jughead, she did just that. Betty stepped towards Nana Rose, anxiety filled her body, but she was comforted by the sound of Jughead’s footsteps. He moved to stand beside her as she sat down gracefully as possible at the edge of the bed.

“I-it’s nice to see you again too.” Betty’s voice shook as she spoke, but she attempted to keep her calm. “Sorry, it had to be under such terrible circumstances.”

“Well, of course, you’re not wearing it. Oh, bless.” Nana Rose cooed, grabbing Betty’s left hand to examine it. Her old wrinkled hands clasped Betty’s unblemished hands in hers and Nana Rose stared deep into Betty’s eyes.

“Wearing what?” Betty asked incredulously, not knowing what Nana Rose was referring to and she looked back at Jughead, who shrugged. He had no idea what the older woman was referring to either, and he trusted that Betty could get Nana Rose to divulge what she knew and he’d be there to stop anything from happening.

“The ring, Polly.” Nana Rose crooned, her eyes widened slightly, the blind eye unnerving Betty more than her tone did. “That ring has been in the Blossom family for generations. You keep it close to your heart always, but don’t tell Penelope I gave it to you or she’ll liking come and snip it off your finger.”

“I won’t. I promise.” Betty insisted, her mind turning, slowly piecing together what Nana Rose meant. Jughead was beginning to think along the same lines, but he dared not voice his thoughts to either of the women in the room.

“Such a shame. Your wedding was the last thing I was living for. I lost a grandson, but you, you’ve lost the love of your young life. Poor child.” Nana Rose patted Betty’s hand and cooed at her, only to reduce the younger woman into a state of horror.

“Excuse me. I have to – I can’t.” Betty found it hard to breathe and stood up immediately. She took one look at Jughead before scurrying out of the room. Jughead followed instinctively, catching up with Betty before she reached the stairs. He caught her wrist, spinning Betty around and pulling her into him.

Betty’s head collided with Jughead’s chest, and she clung to him, her fear and confusion, overwhelming her. Jughead didn’t know what had dawned on Betty, but for a moment, he didn’t ask and instead held Betty tightly to him. His lips skimmed Betty’s forehead, and he pressed them to her temples and then to the crown of her head, waiting for the shaking to stop.

“Betts? Betts, look at me.” Jughead spoke softly, guiding Betty’s head upwards so that she could look into Jughead’s eyes. Only then could Jughead see the genuine pain in her eyes before he received the stuttering answer.

“T-they were g-going t-to g-get married?” Betty’s words sounded like a question, but Jughead understood why she had posed it like that. He knew that the revelation of Polly’s impending marriage that had been stopped so violently had left him torn. He had no idea what to make of it, and he recognised the swirling torrent of emotions that were building up inside of Betty.

“I’m sorry that you had to find out like that.” Jughead murmured, caressing Betty’s cheek with his hand gently tracing her cheekbone over and over. His other arm remained wrapped around her waist, holding Betty to him, hoping to offer her some form of comfort.

“Poor Polly.” Betty sniffed, attempting to calm herself, focusing on the sensation of Jughead’s soft movements, but she couldn’t fight back all her thoughts. Her mind kept on wandering back to her sister, who she hadn’t seen since before the summer holidays.

“I’m so sorry, Betts, for you and her,” Jughead muttered, running his hand up and down her spine, slowly soothing the pain, but Betty couldn’t fight off the thoughts invading her mind.

“I think my parents have been lying to me, Jug,” Betty stated the moment that she realised that the last time she’d seen Polly was the 4th July. It couldn’t have been a coincidence and Betty had a feeling that if Polly went missing on that very same day, maybe, just maybe, she was going to run away with Jason. That was something her parents wouldn’t have been able to stomach that at all.

“Betty, where are you going with this?” Jughead questioned, for once not on the same wavelength as Betty and it was both baffling and intriguing. He cocked his head to the side, raising an eyebrow at the girl in front of him.

“You know the murder board that Kevin set up in the Blue and Gold?” Betty asked, knowing that this was the only way that they’d be able to find the murderer – if they considered all the possibilities.

“Yes...” Jughead spoke uncertainly, still not understanding, but he was beginning to see what she was alluding to.

“I think we need to add two more names to it,” Betty stated, almost convinced that her parents may have had something to do with the murder.

...

“Toni, are you alright?” Veronica asked, sitting down beside her while looking out over the Black Lake. Toni had been absentmindedly staring out over the smooth surface water, not talking to anyone until Veronica came along.

However, when Veronica did sit down beside her, Toni turned to face the other girl, trying to smile at her. “I’m fine, Veronica, don’t worry.” Toni insisted, a small sigh leaving her lips after she spoke. She turned away slightly, playing with a stray lock of her hair. It was the same lock that Cheryl had dislodged earlier after everyone had left the hall.

“I saw what you did with Cheryl, and I’m glad that she had you. She needed it.” Veronica stated, capturing Toni’s attention, and smiling at the pink haired girl before looking back over the water.

“I’ve always liked her,” Toni confessed after a few moments, not checking to see if Veronica was staring at her; she knew was gawking in surprise. Many ignored it or brushed it off, but Toni had always had an interest in Cheryl Blossom. 

“You have?” Veronica questioned, her eyes widening in disbelief. She knew that Toni was bisexual, but she hadn’t known about her feelings for Cheryl.

“I’ve had some relationships with boys, but honestly, Ronnie, I’m more into girls, and ever since I started Hogwarts, I’ve been bewitched by Cheryl Blossom.” Toni murmured, closing her eyes and allowing herself to think of the only person in the Wizarding World who’d made her feel that way.

“I didn’t know that, but I’ve seen you stand up to her for Betty.” Veronica snapped Toni out of her thoughts, but Toni conceded that the Ravenclaw had a point. She had never allowed the redhead to hurt Betty and on several occasions had stood up to her, but it didn’t mean that she didn’t like Cheryl.

“Betty’s an amazing person especially to me and the other Serpents. We started being friends during the second year thanks to Jughead, and we always got on well. We didn’t talk for eight months, but I kept an eye on her, and she’s always stood up for me. So, although I like Cheryl, I couldn’t let her hurt Betty. She was in the wrong, and I wanted to protect Betty from Cheryl’s anger.” Toni informed her, knowing that Veronica would murder anyone who let her best friend get hurt. Then again, Toni would be the same.

“I respect that, Toni, and thank you for being there for Betty.” Veronica smiled over at Toni gratefully. Her eyes glimmered in gratitude and Toni could tell that Veronica meant every word she’d said.

“You don’t need to thank me, Ronnie. We all love Betty Cooper, and I can assure you that none of the Serpents will ever harm her if you’re wondering.” Toni assured her, knowing that the group of friends were against harming anyone, especially someone who’d shown them such support and kindness.

“That’s a relief, and still thank you.” Veronica smiled over at Toni, grateful that she was the only person looking out for Betty and that someone was willing to stand up to the person they liked for the blonde. Although she knew that Jughead would never allow any harm to come to Betty, Veronica trusted Toni to do the same.

“You’re welcome.” Toni leant back, staring up at the sky for a moment as they both fell silent as the wind disturbs the lake. The trees bowed beneath its power and swayed helplessly while the people around them shivered, but as there was no rain, no one made a move to head inside.

“Guys, is everything alright?” Kayla’s voice broke the uneasy silence, bringing them back to reality and both turned to face the other Slytherin. There was a look of exhaustion on her face, and both knew that like most sixth years, Kayla was dealing with the new and increased workload. It was taking its toll on her in the same way that it was taking a toll on everyone else.

“Yeah, everything’s fine Kayla, don’t worry,” Veronica assured her, a convincing smile on her lips. She’d grown to like the Slytherin chaser, though this was the first time that she’d seen her without Fangs and Sweet Pea, who were her best friends.

“That’s good.” Kayla hummed, genuinely happy for the girls, and was about to make a move to join the boys when Toni turns around.

“Do you want to join us?” Toni asked, indicating to the place beside her for Kayla to sit down. It was evident immediately to Veronica that the two girls were close judging by the look on Toni’s face.

“That would be nice.” Kayla murmured, her eyes on Veronica, unsure of what she might think.

“Sit down then.” Veronica nodded, and Kayla soon took a place beside Toni before both of the other girls turned to her.

“So, now that we’ve finished talking about Cheryl and I, I have to ask about you and Sweet Pea, because what’s happening between you?” Toni asked, knowing that if she asked Sweet Pea, he’d just deflect the question. She wanted answers, and she knew that Kayla trusted her enough to talk about it and wasn’t about to be as immature as Sweet Pea often was.

“Honestly, I don’t know. We’re hanging out, mainly with Fangs as well, but we haven’t tried to see if we’re soulmates.” Kayla informed her with a sigh, hating that nothing could be done about emotions in the sixth year because of the soulmate system. It overcomplicated everything for many members of their year, and they all despised that they couldn’t full in love unless with their soulmate, but many had no idea who their soulmates were.

Jughead and Betty were some of the lucky ones.

“But, you do like him though?” Veronica questioned, unsure if the other Slytherin was actually into the tall Serpent. She’d seen them interact, but then again, Kayla was just as close to Fangs as she was to Sweet Pea.

“Yes, I do, but sometimes he infuriates me,” Kayla confessed, smiling at the thought because despite him being an arse sometimes, Sweet Pea was actually a good guy, who respected those around him.

“That’s understandable – Sweet Pea can be a hot-headed idiot, but then again, he’s my brother, and I’m used to him acting like that.” Toni smiled at the thought. The Serpents had undoubtedly become her family, and the boys in their year had been part of her family since the first year.

“He’s your brother?” Veronica questioned Toni, unaware of the deep-rooted loyalty and connection between the group. Then again, she’d never really understood the Serpents, not that many did.

“All the Serpents are. We’re a family, Ronnie. Fangs, Joaquin and Sweet Pea, are all my brothers whereas Jughead, I think is just our despairing dad who spends most of his time protecting us from everyone else.” Toni confided in them, smirking at the memories of Jughead’s actions towards them. At the same time though, she was grateful for it.

“I can see Jughead acting like that,” Kayla confessed, smiling at the thought. Though, since she wasn’t a Serpent, she’d never witnessed it firsthand.

“That actually surprises me,” Veronica informed them, tilting her head as she attempted to think of a time when Jughead might have needed to have act like that.

“Why?” Toni turned to Veronica, cocking her head to the side, not expecting Veronica to be so unaware of Jughead’s nature. Her eyes narrowing in mild disbelief.

“Because he hasn’t been a Serpent all that long. You’ve all been Serpents since you were fourteen and you could join, but he hasn’t been a member for even one year yet.” Veronica pointed out, not expecting Jughead to have been able to ingrate himself into the gang so quickly or easily.

Toni rolled her eyes in response, realising that Veronica had no idea of how the Serpents worked, but she wasn’t going to let Veronica remain so ignorant. “He may not have been a Serpent for long, but he’s our legacy. We all knew that Jughead would one day join. And, anyway, we’ve always gotten along, despite him not being a Serpent. He wanted to join when we did, but the leader wouldn’t allow him to join until he was sixteen.”

“Why?” Kayla asked, during Toni’s attention back to her while Veronica waited for the answer as well, curious to know what could have stopped the leader from allowing Jughead to join.

“It’s not my place to say.” Toni shook her head at them, knowing that Jughead didn’t want anyone knowing about his dad yet. Everyone just assumed that Jughead being voted their leader, which had actually happened, was why he was known as the Serpent Prince.

“Interesting, very interesting.” Veronica murmured, her mind racing at the thought of what Toni was hiding for Jughead.

“Agreed,” Toni smirked, not allowing any secrets to be passing her lips. She’d sworn to be loyal, and she was going to keep that vow, even if the other girls may not like it.

“What’s interesting?” Betty’s voice floated through the group, alerting them to her presence, and they all turned to face the blonde. They all noted that Betty looked much more forlorn than earlier, but made no comment on it.

“Oh, hi B, erm, we were just talking about family and the Serpents,” Veronica informed her, not quite looking at her, instead of finding herself staring at the golden pin on Betty’s cardigan. It was the badger of Hufflepuff, and she found it easier to speak to that than to her best friend. After all, she wasn’t too sure how Betty may react to them talking about Jughead.

“And my boyfriend judging by the way you’re not meeting my gaze, V. I don’t mind, don’t worry about it.” Betty smiled, feeling no jealousy or anger. She knew that Jughead was friends with all of the other three girls and she had no concerns about it. Her smiled reassured them as she asked: “Can I sit?”

“Sure, come here, Betty.” Toni indicated to the place in between her and Veronica, where the other girl graciously sat down. With a sigh, she realised that there was one part of the conversation that Betty would be interested in and quickly added: “Oh, by the way, your boyfriend has officially been named the father of the Junior Serpents.”

“Right... erm, why?” Betty questioned, looking between the other girls, her eyebrows raised in surprise, questions swirling in her mind. Her eyes flitted between all of them, her curiosity peaking with each passing second.

“Because Jughead is Daddy,” Veronica smirked, knowing that it would only make Betty shake her head and roll her eyes, which was precisely what she did. Betty was always easy to predict when it came to her reactions to something Veronica had said.

“Why did I open my mouth?” Betty asked in exasperation, turning to the other two, who both noticed the glimmer in her eyes. The eye roll they witnessed, however, sent waves of déjà vu through their minds.

“We don’t know.” Kayla pointed out, a good-natured smile gracing her lips until she saw the flicker of pain in Betty’s eyes. The smile slipped from her lips, and concern marred her beautiful features. “Wait, Betty, are you alright?”

“I’ll be fine, don’t worry about it, Kayla.” Betty attempted to reassure her, looking away from the Slytherin girl, not wanting to reveal what was actually distressing her. She knew that she shouldn’t dwell on it and if she didn’t think about it, then it wouldn’t be able to distress her as much.

“No, B, you do not get to brush aside everything. What’s happened?” Veronica wasn’t going allow Betty to suffer in silence, and nor were Toni and Kayla. The moment that Veronica spoke up, Betty realised that there wasn’t a chance in hell of Veronica dropping this. She wasn’t about to let her friend deal with this alone, and Betty knew that if she resisted, then she’d merely be fighting a losing battle.

Giving up on her original plan, Betty turned her gaze to the Black Lake, the apparent source of all her problems. Sweeping aside a lock of hair that kept on falling into her eyes, Betty finally spoke up. “Erm, Jughead and I did some sleuthing, and we sort of found out something about Jason and Polly, and I’m worried that Polly ‘becoming ill’ may be my parents trying to cover up the murder.”

“Oh, so you believe your parents may be involved in Jason’s death?” Toni asked, wanting to clarify if that was really what Betty had meant. Her eyes widened at the mere thought of the perfect Cooper couple possibly being involved in a murder, especially one they were already sensationalising.

“Yes, I do.” Betty’s voice was a mere shadow of a whisper, her mind too plagued and her fear too immense for her to speak up. She didn’t want to think about it, but too many things had been too well connected for them not to be a suspect.

“Betty, I’m sure that it is just coincidence.” Veronica aimed to convince Betty. Otherwise, even she was disbelieving. Having met the Cooper adults many a time, she knew all too well how vindictive they could be, though she didn’t believe that they could have murdered anyone.

Though, that didn’t mean that they weren’t involved.

“Why do you believe that?” Kayla asked, trying to comprehend what exactly was going through Betty’s mind. In fact, all three girls were attempting to work out which gears were turning inside the Hufflepuff girl’s head. None of them could decipher anything, but they were going to help, no matter what, even if they didn’t fully understand.

“Because I haven’t seen my sister since July – the 4th July to be honest,” Betty confessed, and there was nothing that could have sent more shockwaves through the other girls. They all knew that date all too well.

“Oh, by Merlin’s grace, fuck, that’s bad,” Toni muttered, having not expected to hear anything like that. She’d assumed that it would have been a tenuous connection that only Betty could have seen, but the revelation of the last time that Betty had seen Polly was almost too cataclysmic for her to comprehend.

“Definitely,” Betty informed her, running a hand over the holster on her wrist. Her eyes fluttered shut, and she tried to focus on calming down. She did not need her emotions to get the better of her, and she was not about to allow anyone to witness that.

“Oh, B, is there anything we can do?” Veronica asked, imploring her friend to let them help, though she was almost sure that even that would involve an argument. Betty never usually allowed herself to be helped without a fight.

“We want to help. We might even be able to persuade Sweet Pea and Fangs to do some digging for you.” Kayla offered, not wanting Betty to think that she was alone. She knew that all of the Serpents would help, no matter what and she watched as Betty smiled in gratitude at that.

“Please tell me you’re alluding to investigating and not grave digging.” Veronica suddenly spoke up, unsure of Kayla’s meaning.

“I don’t need Sweet Pea to dig a grave, Veronica. I’m a witch, and I can do it by magic, but I was alluding to sleuthing. The boys and Toni have one ear in the ‘underworld’ as everyone sees it and could help if they were to look around using the Serpents.” Kayla pointed out, her gaze hardening for a moment, not enjoying the lack of faith from Veronica, but she knew that she was dealing with a Lodge and that she should get used to it.

Many of the Slytherins took Veronica with a pinch of salt, and Kayla made it evident that although she didn’t dislike the other girl, she didn’t appreciate Veronica’s assumptions. Even Toni felt that way, though none of them voiced it, but instead, they backed each other up.

“Kayla’s right.” Toni nodded over at the brunette beside her, giving her a reassuring smile. They both knew that the ‘underground’ of the Wizarding World could be assessed by the Serpents and it would be of an advantage to any murder case.

“Thank you.” Kayla offered a smile to Toni before facing the other girls. They observed the others, waiting for a response. Both eyed Veronica more than they looked at Betty, but neither of the other two noticed that.

“Thanks, Kayla, but honestly, Jug and I are going to work on the lead with my parents. If that fails, then I may take you up on that though.” Betty informed them, realising that for once, she shouldn’t just rely on herself and Jughead.

“It’s always an option.” Kayla reminded her and Betty felt a rush of gratitude to the Slytherin girl, who was smiling over at her.

“I don’t mind helping out in that respect,” Toni added, wanting to ensure that Betty knew that she had all of their support. And besides, she was also incredibly interested in the outcome as well.

“I know that Toni and I really appreciate it. Same to you, Kayla.” Betty nodded at the other two, not expecting anything to be said by Veronica as she knew the Ravenclaw would be there for her through thick and thin.

She always was.

“We won’t let you go through this alone, B, I promise.” Veronica suddenly added, surprising Betty, and placing a hand on her shoulder. Betty simpered in response, grateful for her best friend’s support.

“I know, V, and I just hope that this will be over soon,” Betty mumbled, voicing what they all wished for because none of them wanted to live with this case casting a shadow over them for much longer.

“Hopefully,” Toni muttered before all of them fell into a comfortable silence, watching the Black Lake. Every so often, the surface was disturbed by something beneath it, possibly the Giant Squid, but it soon the ripples stopped, and calm and order were restored. It instilled a sense of peace over the four girls, who watched it closely.

But that wouldn’t last for long.

Chapter Text

Chapter 19 – A Little Too Much

She would always tell herself she could do this

She would use no help it would be just fine

But when it got hard, she would lose her focus

So take my hand, and we'll be alright.’

 

Jughead lay in the bedroom of the Blue and Gold, tangling his fingers in Betty’s hair, soothing her to sleep. Moonlight filtered through a crack in the curtains providing the only light in the room and only the sound of soft breathing could be heard. Jughead had long assumed that his girlfriend had drifted off hours ago while his insomnia crept up on him again. It had lessened in the past few weeks, but it hadn’t faded entirely. Though, he would concede that at least Betty was sleeping.

Yet, despite what Jughead had convinced himself, Betty could not find herself drifting any closer to unconsciousness. Her mind was fraught with worry, and nothing could calm her insistent thoughts – not even Jughead’s presence could do so. The gears in her mind just wouldn’t stop turning, and Betty knew that she needed some advice and comfort. For hours she’d stayed there teetering over the edge of insanity.

“Jug?” Betty finally asked, tilting her head upwards, so that they could look at each other more easily. She guided his head down so that he could look at her much more easily before she took his empty hand in hers.

“Hmm,” Jughead mumbled, snapping out of his stupor and his glazed cyan eyes focusing on Betty after a few moments. The lazy smile that had been on his lips quickly turned into a much more severe expression of worry.

“If anything ever happened to you, would you tell Jellybean?” Betty asked, watching Jughead’s expression closely for any sign of change, yet Jughead’s face remained masked. The only difference was a slight furrow in his brow, but from where Betty lay, it was near impossible to see.

“Betts? I don’t understand.” Jughead murmured, confusion laced in his tone at Betty’s unusual question. In fact, Betty never really asked about Jughead’s relationship with Jellybean because of the messy divorce. She’d ask him if he’d seen his little sister, but this loaded question weighed heavily between them.

“Would you by any means possible try to talk to her?” Betty probed, desperately waiting for the answer that she’d receive. Jughead noted the imploring look in Betty’s eyes, and he felt obliged to answer truthfully. 

“Yes, of course, I would. I’m her older brother. I’d do anything for her.” Jughead stated, knowing that he would do just about anything for Jellybean and that he’d never leave her in the dark about what was happening to him. Though, he had no idea why Betty may have wanted to know about that.

“Do you think that Polly would do the same for me?” Betty asked, her voice meek and suddenly Jughead realised just why Betty had wanted to know about him and Jellybean. Jughead didn’t quite know how to answer it, but he had a feeling that Polly was close enough to Betty to do the same.

“Betty, of course, she would. She’s your older sister, and take it from an older sibling, we’d do anything for our younger siblings. Trust me, you’re our top priority, no matter what and even if we don’t act like it, we all would do pretty much anything for you. I promise you that Polly feels the same as I do about it.” Jughead reassured Betty, once again moving his finger through her hair. They glided through the curls, flooding Betty with a slight sense of calm. For a moment, she focused solely on the sensation, but the voice in the back of her mind brought her back to what she needed to ask.

“Then why don’t I know what’s happening to her?” Betty asked, her voice trembling and her eyes watering ever so slightly, but she barely noticed it. All she needed was to be reassured, and the raven-haired boy was determined to do just that.

“Betty, I know you don’t want to hear me say this, but I don’t think that Polly is able to contact you. Whatever has happened, it is stopping her from contacting you.” Jughead watched Betty soak in every word he said; she hung of each syllable hoping for anything that would explain the lack of communication between herself and Polly.

“My parents keep on telling me she’s sick,” Betty mumbled, unsure of whatever or not she’d told Jughead about it, but Jughead didn’t seem to mind. All he focused on was trying to help Betty with this, not that he really knew what to do.

“Maybe she is.” Jughead murmured, but he didn’t believe that because if Polly were then, Alice and Hal wouldn’t deny Betty the chance to see her. Even they weren’t that cruel, and that was a clear sign to Jughead that Polly’s condition was not due to illness.

“Do you believe that?” Betty asked, her eyes narrowing at Jughead in disbelief. It was unlike him to merely accept the only given reason. He’d never accepted obvious facts without finding definite proof for it.

“No. I believe that whatever liaison that Polly had with Jason Blossom escalated to the point that your parents could no longer bare it.” Jughead stated, knowing that the Coopers’ explanation almost certainly wasn’t right. Then again, he’d never trusted Alice and Hal to tell Betty the truth about any of their dealings.

Betty thought on that for a moment, her mind running wild with fear and confusion.“Do you think she’s hurt?” Betty asked and at that Jughead found himself shaking his head at the mere thought of that.

“Your parents will never do anything to harm Polly. I may not like either Hal or Alice, but they love their daughters to a fault. They love you and Polly, though it may lead them to act rashly which may, in turn, lead to yours and Polly’s discontent.” Jughead spoke quietly, knowing that there was no way that the Coopers would allow their daughters to get hurt.

“Why would they stop Polly and I from talking?” Betty asked, her bright green eyes shining with tears that had been wanting to fall for the majority of the conversation. Jughead felt his heart break at the sight, but he knew that Betty deserved the truth.

“Because they believe Polly is a bad influence on you.” Jughead grimaced at the look on Betty’s face when he finally admitted that. He had heard Alice and Hal muttering about it on many separate occasions.

“What?!” Betty sat up instantly, her eyes widening and she turned back to look at Jughead, who rose up beside her. Cupping Betty’s cheek in his hands, he kept her focus on him, their eyes met, and Jughead gently turned Betty towards him.

“Betts, Polly is the type of girl who will go out partying all night, who will engage in relationships with people your parents do not approve of. And most importantly, she doesn’t play the role of a perfect daughter,” Jughead informed her, treading carefully, not wanting to offend Betty at all, but at the same time, he knew that it was the truth. Betty was so fearful of her mother that she did act like that, then again, most people would.

“And I do?” Betty asked, her eyebrow rising at Jughead. The boy before her sighed quietly before shifting towards Betty and placing a hand on her cheek.

“Yes, you do. You devote yourself to your studies. You are kind and demure in every sense. You are as strong as your mother, and you continue the family tradition of writing. You do everything you can to ensure that you live up to your parents’ expectations and in many ways, you appear to everyone as perfect. Polly refused to do that, which sets you apart.” Jughead murmured, never breaking eye contact and hoping that Betty wouldn’t take offence by anything he’d just said to her.

“What does that mean?” Betty asked, noting that Jughead was right in many ways, but she didn’t quite understand his last comment.

“Betts, the both of you are so different that it troubles your parents. They cannot control either of you by the same means.” Jughead mumbled, knowing full well how different the Cooper girls were to one another, no matter what Betty believed.

“Do you think that’s why they’d stop us from talking?” Betty asked, her voice meek and her eyes wide. Jughead gulped slowly, realising that Betty did actually want his opinion on this even if he was wrong.

“One of the reasons, yes,” Jughead mumbled, hoping that it would suffice for Betty.

“One of the reasons?” Betty asked, sitting up straighter now and making Jughead instantly regret all the words that had left his mouth.

“Whatever happened to Polly frightened them, Betts, and judging by your mother’s reaction to us being soulmates, I think they’re fearful of what may happen with us,” Jughead informed her, carding his fingers through Betty’s golden curls again.

“What do you mean by that?” Betty asked, her eyes narrowing in confusion and she cocked her head to the side.

“Betty, there is no denying that you’re beautiful,” Jughead informed her, a smile ghosting his lips.

“Jughead.”

“And there are some days when I can barely keep my hands off of you,” Jughead mumbled, running his hands through Betty’s hair and then down her arms until he reached Betty’s hands.

“Jug...” Betty breath caught in her throat at the look in Jughead’s eyes.

“And your parents are probably afraid that I won’t be able to resist you.” Jughead finished, watching the wheels turn in Betty’s mind. Her brow furrowed at every little piece of information until it all finally fell into place.

“What?! You think my parents are afraid that we’ll have sex?” Betty asked incredulously, not quite getting the gist of what Jughead was thinking.

“No.” Jughead shook his head but kept his gaze on her, and at that, Betty finally realised his meaning.

“Oh. You think they’re afraid that I’m going to get pregnant.” Betty mumbled, not daring to raise her voice any higher. It was a hard thing for her to swallow and judging by the look on Jughead’s face, Betty could tell that wasn’t all too pleased either.

“Yes, with a juvenile delinquent’s baby.” Jughead nodded, for the first time looking away from Betty’s eyes and down at their hands.

“Firstly, when we do, we’ll be safe. We’re not idiots.” Betty assured him, her cheeks flushing when Jughead looked back at her.

“Well, I think if Archie can manage to be safe, then we definitely can.” Jughead attempted to diffuse the tension, a goofy grin gracing his lips. Several small giggles escaped Betty at that, but she tried to ignore it.

“Anyway, secondly and more importantly, you’re not a juvenile delinquent,” Betty stated when all the laughter had subsided. Her expression had grown serious, and Jughead was forced to bow his head under the weight of her eyes. Then, all of a sudden, Betty asked: “How did we get onto this again?”

“We were talking about the differences between you and Polly and your parents’ attempts to control the two of you.” Jughead supplied, his hand coming to tangle in Betty’s hair again while he mulled over what they should do next.

“Thanks.” Betty murmured with a sigh before they both lapsed into silence for a moment that felt like forever.

“No problem, but Betts, I think we need to talk to Polly.” Jughead finally muttered, glancing back at Betty and allowing a heavy sigh to leave his lips.

“How? I haven’t seen her in months.” Betty reminded him, rubbing her eyes slowly, unable to think about the last time she’d seen Polly. It hurt too much to think about it, and it was only when Jughead spoke that Betty snapped out of her thoughts.

“How long exactly?” Jughead asked, his eyes searching Betty’s before he moved towards her, gently brushing aside a lock of Betty’s blonde hair from her eyes. Betty felt as if Jughead was now staring into the depths of her soul and she was unable to deny him any answers.

“The 4th July was the last time I saw her.” Betty finally confessed, still feeling compelled to tell him everything, though she was trembling at the idea of Jughead’s possible reaction.

“That’ll be a coincidence because no matter what, your parents are not cut out to be killers, at all. Yet, I think we need to find out where they’re keeping Polly and talk to her directly because she will know better than anyone else, what Jason’s plan was.” Jughead spoke softly, tangling his fingers in Betty’s soft locks, his eyes sincere and bright. He watched Betty’s eyes glaze over fractionally as she thought.

“You think so?” Betty asked, cocking her head to the side and stared at Jughead in desperation, needing his answer. It was a look that both frightened and enticed Jughead, but he made no comment on it.

“I know so” Jughead assured her, grasping Betty’s hand tightly in his and squeezing it. Betty glanced down at their joined hands, the faintest glimmer of a smile gracing her lips for a fraction of a second, but Jughead managed to catch it.

“So how do we get to her?” Betty asked, knowing that she couldn’t succeed without Jughead by her side. They were much stronger together, and she knew that if their roles were reversed, then Jughead would feel the same.

“We have to go to your parents’ house in Hogsmeade and create a diversion for you to take pictures of the address on their letters.” Jughead eventually stated, finally managing to come up with a decent plan. He met Betty’s gaze, and the look she gave him was all he needed; Betty trusted that his idea would work.

“How do we stage a diversion?” Betty probed, needing to know every detail so that this could work without fail and they could save Polly from wherever she was. Besides, despite being soulmates, Betty didn’t know everything that Jughead was thinking in the same way that he didn’t know everything she was thinking about.

“I’ll ask to go to the bathroom, and we both know that your mother will insist on taking me instead of you. She doesn’t trust me at all, I don’t think she ever did.” Jughead looked down for a moment, knowing that it was going to be an uphill battle getting Mrs Cooper to accept him as Betty’s boyfriend and soulmate. Then again, he had always known that Mrs Cooper would hate him because of his dad and whatever happened between the two of them.

“She preferred you to Archie. Anyway, what about my dad?” Betty mumbled, unsure whether Jughead had planned for Hal being there or if he was just hoping that he wouldn’t be. If it were the latter, then they’d need to reassess the plan.

“Your dad won’t be there,” Jughead stated firmly, suddenly realising that Betty must have forgotten that her dad always went away this time of year. Then again, taking a glance at Betty he remembered that like everyone else, she’d had so much on her mind as of late and it was no wonder she’d forgotten about it.

“How could you know that?” Betty cocked her head to the side and eyed Jughead carefully, not too sure how he would know something like that. Jughead mirrored her action; a smirk found its way onto his lips when Betty rolled her eyes at him.

“Because your father’s at his annual male journalists retreat, remember?” Jughead reminded her, prompting her to feel a rush of guilt that she’d forgotten something like that. She stared at Jughead in disbelief and felt the overwhelming regret creep through her until Jughead squeezed her hand, bringing her back to him. Their eyes met, and Betty felt a rush of calm for a moment before she spoke.

“Oh, Merlin, he is,” Betty mumbled and then she found herself looking back at her boyfriend perplexed. She couldn’t work out how Jughead had done it, and she was determined to find out how. “How the fuck did you remember that and I didn’t?”

“I knew because he does it every year and I try to remember everything about your family, so they aren’t tempted to kill me,” Jughead stated calmly, though he shook at the thought of angering any of the Coopers, including Betty. They may all put on an act of perfection, but they were more terrifying than Jason Blossom’s murderer in Jughead’s opinion.

“I won’t let them kill you,” Betty assured him, a smile playing on her lips at the look in Jughead’s eyes and she could resist pulling him closer to her. Nestling her head in Jughead’s neck, Betty felt a wave of exhaustion cascade through her, and she couldn’t help but stifle a yawn.

“I know that,” Jughead mumbled, grateful to Betty and for the fact that she wouldn’t let anything happen to him. He knew that he’d do the same for Betty, but hearing her say that meant more than he could ever express. Yet, before he could even attempt it, Jughead caught Betty stifling another yawn, and he knew better than to keep her up.“Sleepy?”

“A bit,” Betty confessed. She knew better than to lie to Jughead because he could always detect her lies and she didn’t want to attempt to deceive Jughead. Closing her eyes, Betty felt herself being pulled down with Jughead as he lied down on the bed again.

“Well, come on, let’s get some sleep and stop you from fretting about this.” Jughead pulled Betty closer to him and moved her upwards slightly. Betty stared at Jughead after she had been moved and before she could ask, her lips had been caught in a sweet, tender kiss. Jughead’s hands rested on Betty’s hip while hers lay on his chest and all either could focus on was one another.

“Night, Juggie,” Betty muttered once she’d pulled away from Jughead’s lips and had settled back on Jughead’s shoulder. Her eyes fluttered closed, and she breathed in the familiar scent that always lingered on Jughead’s skin. Betty would never be able to describe it, but it always made her think of home and safety.

“Night, Betts,” Jughead mumbled, closing his eyes and he attempted to fall into unconsciousness, though that was near impossible. The way he was lying just didn’t provide any comfort to him and nor did it allow Betty to sleep either.

“Jug?” Betty asked suddenly, her voice breaking the silence that seemed to weigh down on the two of them. It was the sort of silence that suffocated them, and Jughead was grateful that Betty had spoken up.

“Hmm?” Jughead asked, shifting over to look at Betty, his eyes widening slightly in fear. He had no idea what could have happened now, and he hoped that nothing terrible had occurred. All he wanted was for Betty to be alright and he’d do everything he could do to stop anything from affecting or hurting Betty ever again.

“Can you let go of me for a moment?” Betty asked, her voice small and there was nothing that could compare to the rejection that Jughead felt in that moment. He remained silent for a moment, unmoving before finally conceding that he should do that for her.

“Okay...” Jughead muttered, releasing Betty slowly and he waited with baited breath to see what was going to happen next. His heart rate accelerated as Betty moved away from him, and he felt his heart slowly break at that.

“Thank you,” Betty mumbled before she turned away from Jughead, much to his displeasure until Betty grabbed his hand. Pulling Jughead towards her, Betty wrapped herself up in Jughead’s arms and closed her eyes.

“Oh, I understand now.” Jughead murmured, feeling the clench on his heart release and he buried his head in Betty’s neck. He breathed in and was instantly hit by the smell mint that must have been from Betty’s shampoo. It was so familiar to him that he could help but smile against Betty’s skin.

“I thought you might,” Betty muttered, and Jughead could practically hear the smile in Jughead’s tone, and he couldn’t resist pulling Betty closer to him. He held onto her as tightly as possible, allowing his eyes to flutter shut against Betty’s neck.

“Night Betts,” Jughead mumbled, fully prepared to let unconscious and just before sleep consumed both of them, he heard a soft whisper. A smile graced his lips at the sound, and he tightened his grip on Betty at the sound.

“Night Juggie.”

...

Jughead woke to the sensation of Betty thrashing beside him violently as the demons in her sleep attempted to control her. Sitting up instantly, he rolled Betty onto her back while she kicked out and thrashed, her body convulsing at whatever was upsetting her. Betty’s eyes rived beneath her eyelids as a terrified scream left her lips, and all that Jughead could hear was that scream: “NOOOO!”

“Betts! BETTS!” Jughead yelled, shaking Betty in an attempt to wake her and he tried to fight back the rising fear bubbling up inside his body. Betty fought against him for a moment as he called her name again and again until her bright eyes flew open.

Her eyes desperately searched the room until they finally locked on Jughead’s terrified face and her breath came out in a sharp gasp. “J-Juggie?” Betty sobbed, reaching out for Jughead, who engulfed her in his arms.

“Shush, shush. It was just a dream.” Jughead sat them up, pulling Betty onto his lap where she clung to him in a way very reminiscent of a koala. Rubbing Betty’s back, Jughead rocked them slightly back and forth all while holding tightly to Betty. Jughead refused to let go of her hand pressed his lips to Betty’s cheeks, kissing away all of the tears that he saw. The simple action took Betty’s breath away at the tenderness, and along with everything else, it helped calm her down somewhat.

“It was?” Betty asked once her breath came back, but there were still tears trailing down her cheeks, and her breath occasionally came out as sharp, harsh sobs. She tangled her hands in her boyfriend’s hair, taking comfort from the familiar feeling and she stared at him, wide-eyed as he breathed out nothing but support.

“Yes, it was,” Jughead assured her, smoothing down her hair and holding onto Betty tightly. She rested their foreheads together while Jughead continued speaking: “Just breath and remember that I’m here with you. It’ll be alright, I promise. You’re safe, you’re with me, and nothing can hurt you.” At that, Betty let out a terrified, strangled cry at that. It chilled Jughead’s blood, and he stared at Betty in fear, praying that whatever demons she was fighting with wouldn’t reduce her to digging her nails into her palms. He wanted to address that, but right now, Betty’s breathing was becoming more and more laboured.

Her body shook with each breath, and the next was taken in at an alarming pace. Jughead felt almost helpless at the sight, but he quickly grabbed Betty’s hand and placed it on her chest.“Oh, Betts, focus on me and my breathing. Here, in and out. In and out.” Jughead breathed slowly and soon, Betty managed to find the same rhythm as him. Even after her panic had died down, Jughead kept at that pace before speaking again. “It’s alright, I’m here with you, and you’re safe. It’ll all be alright. I’m not going anywhere, and everything is going to be alright.”

“It was horrible.” Betty finally informed him, her voice a trembling, diffident whisper and it broke Jughead’s heart. Yet, he pushed that aside to focus solely on Betty; she was all that mattered at the moment.

“I know, I know,” Jughead mumbled, understanding that whatever Betty had seen would’ve been heart-stopping and terrifying to elicit such a reaction from Betty. Jughead continued to sooth Betty, and he added: “But, it wasn’t real. Your mind plays tricks on you, and you know that. Yes, it’s terrifying, but it’s not real, and I promise you that everything will be alright.”

“I’m so scared, Juggie,” Betty muttered, still rocking with Jughead and she clutched onto Jughead for dear life. Jughead could feel Betty’s nails digging into his skin, but despite the pain spreading through him from where they came into with his shirt.

“Why?” Jughead probed, trying to get to the source of all of Betty’s pain. He knew that it would be the best way to help to calm Betty down and despite his best efforts to ignore it, he wanted to know what Betty had dreamt about.

“I was by the Black Lake with Veronica when we found Jason’s body. That itself was horrible enough, but as I got closer everything about the body changed. It wasn’t Jason I saw anymore, Juggie, I saw you, lying there by the Black Lake, just like Jason.” Betty explained, her eyes watering and despite that, she met Jughead’s gaze and brushed them aside. Then she forced herself to add: “It felt so real and I’m terrified that I’m going to lose you. I wouldn’t be able to survive it at all.” She dropped her gaze from Jughead wiping her eyes quickly, not wanting to appear any weaker than she already felt.

“Betts, look at me, please,” Jughead ordered softly, and Betty found herself unable to resist Jughead and she brought her head back up. Their eyes connected and Jughead pulled Betty even closer to him. “I am right here. I am alive and safe with you. There is nothing here that is going to take me away from you. I will never leave you, I promise you that I am here and I am not going anywhere. Do you believe me?” Jughead’s eyes begged Betty to answer him; they implored her to believe him, to trust him, and only when he got her reply did he let out a breath of relief.

“Yes,” Betty muttered, and she gave Jughead the smallest of smiles, but that was enough to help Jughead relax. He returned it, a glimmer of hope shimmering in his eyes at that and Betty’s bright jade orbs soon reflected it.

“Good, now come here,” Jughead mumbled before connecting their lips. Betty gasped slightly at the sudden movement but returned the kiss with the same adoration. Winding her fingers into the raven locks of her boyfriend, Betty pulled him ever closer, finding comfort in being as connected as possible to Jughead.

“I’m sorry,” Betty mumbled once they’d pulled away. Her forehead rested against Jughead’s, and she gripped onto his hair. Jughead welcomed the pain it brought, but he made no comment and instead shook his head at Betty.

“Don’t apologise, Betts, it’s not your fault,” Jughead whispered, his eyes seeking Betty’s and he shook his head over and over again. He never usually acted like that and Betty found herself both believing him and wanting to disagree. She was at a crossroad at what to do.

“But-” Betty started but Jughead quickly placed a finger on her lips, silencing her effectively and she knew better than to argue at this point.

“No buts, it isn’t your fault.” Jughead insisted, his voice firm and his mind was confident that Betty had nothing to apologise for. After all, she couldn’t control when she got a nightmare, and he wasn’t the sort of person, who’d condemn anyone for something they couldn’t control.

“It isn’t?” Betty asked, uncertainly, cocking her head to the side and staring at Jughead, looking for any sign that he was deceiving her. Yet, as always, there were no telltale scenes of deception from Jughead; he’d never lied to her and he never would.

“No, now try to get some sleep, we both need it. I’ll be right here if you need it.” Jughead insisted, helping Betty lie down before he proceeded to wrap his arms around her waist and pulled her into his chest. Both let out low, contented sighs at that and Betty found her eyes fluttering slowly.

“Thank you, Juggie,” Betty mumbled, her left hand slowly trailing to hold onto Jughead’s left wrist, just over his soulmark. Jughead’s breath caught in his throat at that, and he found himself unable to stop smiling at the sensation.

“You don’t need to thank me, Betts,” Jughead mumbled, once his erratic heart rate had calmed down somewhat. He was about to nuzzle his face in Betty’s neck, but he added: “Now, get some sleep.” Then he did just that.

“Okay.” Betty was evidently on the edge of unconsciousness, and she slipped into the dark warmth of sleep before she heard the next few words tumble from Jughead’s mouth. Yet, he didn’t mind that Betty had let sleep claim her because he was only moments from sleep himself and he knew that Betty needed it more than ever. Jughead wasn’t going to be the one who stopped her from sleeping. Though, he was confident that he caught Betty smile at the sound of his voice when those three words slipped from his lips before sleep took him.

“Sweet dreams, Betts.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 20 – Six Feet Under The Stars

‘Meet me on Thames Street

I'll take you out though I'm hardly worth your time

In the cold, you look so fierce, but I'm warm enough

Because the tension's like a fire.’

 

‘As kids, we’re afraid of everything: the dark; the bogeyman under the bed; and we pray for morning; for those monsters to go away. Though, they never do, not really. Just ask Jason Blossom.’

“Elizabeth,” Alice called out in the middle of the Entrance Hall when she spotted her daughter walking out of the Great Hall, hand in hand with Jughead. Betty turned to Jughead, pressed a kiss to his cheek before scurrying over to her mother, hoping this would be over quickly and she could go back to the Blue and Gold with Jughead. They needed to prepare for their plan before they took on Alice Cooper.

“Yes, Mum?” Betty asked, sweeping a lock of hair out of her eyes and placing it behind her ear while she met her mother’s gaze. The two Coopers stared at each other intently; Alice’s gaze was scrutinising and picked up all of Betty’s flaws while Betty’s was distrusting.

“You’re staying with me this weekend,” Alice informed her with a stern tone that left no room for argument. Alice wanted Betty as far away as possible from Jughead in the hope that it may help Betty from becoming too attached to her boyfriend. She would not tolerate Betty being distracted.

“Oh, alright,” Betty mumbled, looking distinctly unhappy at the prospect of being trapped at home with her mother. There were a million other things that Betty would prefer over that, and she felt her heart sink. Betty was about to move away from her mother for a chance to speak to Jughead when Alice grabbed her wrist.

“Elizabeth.” Alice reproached her daughter, but her next words died in her throat when she saw Betty’s expression. Her eyes widened fractionally, and she relaxed her grip somewhat on Betty’s wrist.

“Just let me go and tell Jug.” Betty all but wrenched her arm from Alice’s grip, daring the older woman to stop her. The fierce gaze that Alice was fixed with reminded her so much of Polly and she found herself nodding.

“Very well.” Alice sniffed, but let Betty go off to her boyfriend, who had been watching the two converse with curiosity and concern. Jughead didn’t trust Alice at all with Betty, and when he had seen her grab Betty, it had taken him all his willpower not to go over there.

“Juggie?” Betty called out, tentatively breaking Jughead out of his reverie and she soon found her eyes locking onto his. Jughead couldn’t help himself from smiling at Betty; his eyes shimmered at the sight of his soulmate until Betty moved into his arms, resting her head onto his chest. Her eyes fluttered shut as she breathed in the scent of broomstick polish, leather and coffee that had become so familiar to her.

“Betts, what’s wrong?” Jughead asked immediately, his eyes sweeping over Betty’s face and he held onto her tightly, his arms securing themselves around Betty’s waist. He breathed in the familiar scent of roses, parchment and vanilla that seemed to cling to Betty.

“Mum wants me to stay with her tonight, so I won’t be at the Blue and Gold tonight,” Betty mumbled, holding onto Jughead, enjoying the warmth that was spreading through her. For a brief moment, she focused solely on that, soaking in the feeling of being in Jughead’s arms.

Jughead, on the other hand, was reeling from this information. He had no idea how he was supposed to get through the night, but a sudden thought came to mind, and he couldn’t ignore it. “Oh, right, we could use this for our plan.”

“I can say I invited you for breakfast and she’ll have to let you in.” Betty was as always, on the same wavelength and neither could hide their smiles at that realisation. The flicker of hope in both of their eyes at that was caught by the other, and neither bothered to hide their smiles.

“Of course she will.” Jughead nodded in agreement, accepting that it was a good idea. His eyes flickered over to Alice, who was watching them, and a spark of anger flooded him instantly. He let his eyes move back to Betty, and he smiled down at her before adding: “Now come ‘ere, Betts.” Before Betty could react, Jughead had pulled her in a bruising passionate kiss. Everyone in the vicinity couldn’t tear their eyes from them; not even Alice could look away, much to her dismay.

Betty let out a whimper against Jughead’s lips as he tongue skimmed across her lower lip, but before he could deepen the kiss, Alice cleared her throat. Breathless, Betty pulled away, her eyes sparkling and she mumbled. “See you tomorrow.”

“See you later, Betts.” Jughead smiled down at her and pressed a kiss to her forehead before finally releasing Betty. She slowly walked away from him, and Alice quickly swept her up into her arms again while keeping eye contact with Jughead. The smirk that appeared on his lips was a mirror image of FP’s, and Alice gulped at the sight of it before quickly turning away.

“Everything sorted?” Alice demanded, she was livid judging by her tone and expression, but for the first time, Betty didn’t care. She was far too dazed from that kiss to give a damn about anything Alice could say about her.

“Yes,” Betty mumbled, silently cursing her mother for ruining what would have been a perfect night, but at least the plan was in operation. Though, they would have figured out how to get inside the Cooper household some other way. It didn’t mean that she liked the change in the plan though and she was prepared to give her mother hell for it.

“Elizabeth, I don’t approve.” Alice snapped at her, her tone indicative that she would never approve of anything that Betty did with Jughead. Betty rolled her eyes at her mother and shook her head slowly before turning back to her. The two women locked eyes with one another and then Betty smiled sarcastically. Her smile could have rivalled one of Jughead’s best ones.

“You don’t need to because it won’t change anything,” Betty informed her, straightening up and looking her mother in the eyes. Alice gulped at Betty’s new stance, but before she could say anything, Betty turned and began to walk away towards Hogsmeade. Alice watched dumbstruck before she finally snapped out of her trance and followed Betty home.

...

Jughead couldn’t sleep.

He’d tossed and turned, but without avail. All he could think about was how lonely he was. The walls of the Blue and Gold seemed to be caving in, and he knew that sleep would continue to escape him until he got to Betty’s side. Forcing himself out of bed, he quickly changed and grabbed his Serpent jacket before slipping out of the castle. The walk to Hogsmeade was no longer than ten minutes, and he was soon outside of Betty’s house. Dark cerulean eyes narrowed at the white picket fence, but he ignored it.

Noticing a ladder outside of one of the windows, Polly’s to be exact, Jughead quickly took out his wand and muttered: “Wingardium Leviosa.” Soon, the ladder had silently fallen into place against Betty’s open window. It was as if she’d been expecting him to arrive here, but Jughead didn’t dwell on it for too long.

Hurrying up the ladder, Jughead quickly made it to the top and swiftly slipped inside Betty’s prison cell. It was all but pitch black inside the room, and Betty was writhing around in her sleep, apparently not able to find comfort at all. She had curled up into a foetal position, and she clung to the duvet.

Yet, as Jughead approached, Betty woke up in a cold sweat and sat up instantly. Her back was towards Jughead, and she sighed heavily until she heard Jughead soft breathing. Turning around instinctively, she grabbed her wand and held it up.

“Betts, it’s me,” Jughead whispered, holding his hands up in surrender and he watched as the fear left Betty’s eyes. Her shoulders relaxed, her gaze softened, and a smile found its way onto her lips.

“Juggie what are you doing here?” Betty asked, moving to sit on the edge of the bed, beckoning for Jughead to step in between her legs. Jughead did just that and cupped Betty’s cheeks, his rough, calloused hands as ever, surprisingly gentle against her skin.

“If you think I’m sleeping without you ever again, then you are very much mistaken.” Jughead’s low tone, Betty shivered at the sound of it. Jughead then quickly claimed Betty’s lips, holding tightly onto Betty’s. He clung to her as if she was the source of life and Betty recuperated it in every way possible.

“What about Mum?” Betty asked him, fear flood her at the prospect that her mother might find Jughead in bed with her. She didn’t want to be torn away from Jughead and forbidden to see him like Polly had been with Jason, but they hadn’t been soulmates. Though, the thought of it still utterly terrified Betty.

“I’ll sneak out at dawn and come back at about nine-ish, okay?” Jughead assured her, having already gone over the plan while he walked over to Betty’s house. He had muttered it to himself while he’d clambered up the ladder and when he’d ducked through it.

“Okay, but Jug, you have to wear the jacket.” Betty insisted, waving her hand at Jughead’s Serpent jacket that clung to him like a second skin. It had become part of him from the moment he put it on just less than a year ago, and Betty loved how Jughead looked in it.

“My Serpent one?” Jughead asked, perplexed at the idea because he’d assumed that Betty would have wanted him to wear his Sherpa jacket. He had been planning to were the denim, sheepskin jacket, but evidently, that wasn’t what Betty wanted and if she wanted him to wear his skin, he would.

“Yes, that one,” Betty mumbled, running her hands over Jughead’s jacket, her fingers catching on the zip and she smiled up at Jughead. The beanie clad boy found his breath catching in his throat, and if a light had been on, Betty would have seen Jughead’s eyes turn pitch black.

“Anything for you, Betts,” Jughead mumbled, cupping Betty’s cheeks and pulling her upwards until she was standing. Clad only in her thin pyjamas, Betty shivered in front of Jughead until she was consumed by fire in Jughead’s kiss. The kiss was even more passionate than it had been earlier and Betty felt it burn through her. The feeling of Jughead’s tongue running over her lips made her gasp against him, allowing him entrance. His tongue gently explored Betty’s mouth, and he pulled Betty ever closer to him.

Pulling away, Betty gasped for breath, her forehead resting against Jughead’s and they smiled at one another. Though Jughead knew that they were both shattered from their attempts at sleep and they’d have to wake up early. “Now, we should probably get some sleep.”

“Okay, night Jughead,” Betty mumbled, moving back away from Jughead before she watched him remove his jacket, beanie and boots. Then he clambered in beside Betty, looping his arms around her waist and pulling her closer to him.

“Night, Betty,” Jughead muttered, pressing a kiss to Betty’s neck as he spooned her and both of them slipped into sleep.

...

Betty was exhausted when Alice had walked into the room, but she disguised it well, giving away nothing about having had Jughead in her bed the night before. The Serpent had left at dawn as he had promised and he had agreed to be back at nine. He’d kissed Betty once more, and then he’d vanished from her room.

“Oh, mum, I forgot to mention, I invited Jughead over for breakfast,” Betty informed her mother, who was busying herself around Betty’s room. Yet, upon hearing what Betty had just said, Alice froze, but she knew that there was no arguing with Betty.

“Hmm.” Alice hummed before she exited the room quickly and Betty quickly closed her book, which she’d been staring at. Nothing had been going in any way, and she knew that it would do nothing to quell her fear about whether the plan would work or not.

...

“So, Jug-Head.  I suppose we have you to thank for Betty’s ongoing obsession with this Jason Blossom ghoulishness.” Alice had started at Jughead disapprovingly when he’d knocked at the door at precisely nine o’clock, and now she glowered at him while staring her coffee over and over again. Her voice was curt and clipped while she insisted on mispronouncing Jughead’s name.

Jughead swallowed his piece of pancake uneasily and was about to answer when Betty jumped in and did so for him. “Actually, Mum, I was the one who asked Jughead to help me write it for the Blue and Gold.” Betty’s eyes glowed with anger until Jughead quickly grabbed Betty’s hand beneath the table, soothing Betty’s anger.

“Relax Betty, I’m making conversation.” Alice tutted at Betty for interjecting, but she quickly fell silent under her daughters gaze. After that, Betty promptly glanced over at Jughead, who perceived her look to be the signal to act.

“Do you guys have a bathroom I could use?” Jughead glanced between the two women, and he tried to distract Alice from glowering at Betty. It did do that, and Alice soon fixed her gaze upon him, her glare only getting more and more intense.

“Sure, I’ll show you.” Betty moved to stand up, knowing that her mother would quickly take over that for fear that she and Jughead would be using it as an excuse to make out. Alice would never allow that at all.

“No, no, no, I’ll show him.” Alice quickly got to her feet, and Jughead slowly stood up and walked towards Alice. “Follow me, Jug-Head.” Jughead sent Betty one last look before he vanished from sight behind Alice. As soon as he’d disappeared, Betty sprung into action, and she began to rifle through the letters on the mantelpiece. One caught her eye, with a bill for four thousand gallons and she quickly took the letter when she heard footsteps heading towards her.

Turning sharply on her heel, Betty saw her boyfriend looking over at her while he headed towards her. Betty relaxed instantly and then handed over the letter, which Jughead quickly stuffed into his pocket before they sat down. “Everything okay?” Betty asked, retaking his hand, hidden under the table again.

“I think she’s checking the bathroom.” Jughead murmured in disgust while his entire body shuddered at the idea. He gripped onto Betty’s hand even tighter as a reflex before finding comfort in the feeling of Betty’s hand against his.

“Disgusting.” Betty agreed, her face contorting in disbelief and horror, which very much matched what Jughead also felt.

“You think?” Jughead asked, but before he could get an answer, Alice had reappeared, and both fell silent. She resumed her place across from the pair and was about to take a sip of her coffee when her eyes caught sight of the soulmark on Jughead’s wrist.

“Well, I suppose we should also discuss that hellish mark on both of your wrists,” Alice growled at the two of them, evidently livid about it. She didn’t approve of this in any way, shape or form and she would be damned before she let them get away from her house without making her opinion known.

“Hellish, mum, really?” Betty asked, her green gaze turning to fire at the audacity of her mother and even Jughead’s presence didn’t calm her. There was just too much that was fuelling the flames now, and this was the spark.

“Well, I don’t approve of it.” Alice snapped back at her daughter, who bristled under her gaze as if she was stealing for a fight. Jughead found his gaze flitting between the two women and in those few moments it was evident that neither would back down. Alice was too bitter from the past to let go, and Betty wasn’t going to allow her mother to retain the control that she so desperately wanted.

“There is nothing you can do about it.” Betty bit back, her whole body shaking with anger and her voice trembled with every syllable that left her lips. Jughead observed her, rubbing circles into the back of Betty’s hand, hoping to soothe her.

“Oh, Elizabeth, I can do many things that you don’t know about, and I suggest you remember that.” Alice’s threat was evident, and both members of the young couple felt the very fibre of their beings being flooded anger. Even Jughead, who’d remained calm throughout this, flushed with fury.

“Oh, yes, because a Serpent never sheds their skin.” Betty quipped, knowing that it would ruffle her mother’s feathers in the only way that would definitely stay with Alice. The older of the two women blanched at that.

“Elizabeth, what are you insinuating?” Alice demanded, her voice trembling with rage, and then she straightened up, matching Betty’s glare. There was heat radiating from each other’s glares was so intense that Jughead could feel it.

“You’re a Slytherin mum, I’ve grown used to the idea that you embody their cunning and slyness.” Betty pointed out, remembering her mother’s pride in her house and in her blood status, but this time, Betty was able to twist it around.

“And pray tell, what does Jug-Head here, embody?” Alice asked, her gaze landing on Jughead for the first time since she had mentioned the soulmark. Jade and cerulean met one another, and a smirk found its way onto Jughead’s lips, and he leant forward.

“An utter disregard for the rules, and now, Mrs Cooper, if you’d excuse us, we do have rules to break, men to annoy and a whole host of other things to do. Come along, Betts, we’ve got work to do.” Jughead stood up once he’d finished and then he helped Betty up, guiding her over towards the door.

“I won’t be coming home for the rest of the weekend,” Betty stated over her shoulder, and then both of them left the path. Only once they passed the picket fence, Betty turned back to Jughead and smiled up at him. “Thank you.”

Jughead smiled and wrapped his arm tightly around her shoulders, pulling her tightly to his body. “It was either that, or I’d have hex her, and I wasn’t too sure how well that would go down with your family as a whole,” Jughead confessed, not wanting to keep any secrets from Betty, who nodded in agreement.

...

‘Another fun fact about fear, sometimes, it grows up with you, or it curls up inside of you, tightens around your guts.’

“Archie Andrews?” Kevin asked when the redheaded boy stepped out on stage in front of them preparing to play for them. Everyone stared at Archie in confusion because it was the first time that he had ever stood in front of a crowd with his guitar. He looked as if he was entirely out of place.

‘Each Autumn, Hogwarts hosts a variety show, but this event is no mere student frolic.’

“And what will you be auditioning with?” Kevin asked, tilting his head to the side, his eyes wide open in shock at the sight of Archie. Though, unlike everyone else in the hall, Kevin actually wanted Archie to succeed with this.

“An original song that I wrote called ‘I’ll Try’.” Archie looked at them all skittishly, afraid of what they would think of him. All of the Serpents were there, sans Jughead as were the Gryffindor boys and the Pussycats were also there along with many of the other girls.

“Try harder!” Reggie yelled at him, earning chuckles and bellowing laughter from all of the room and Archie couldn’t help but feel his heart sink. Maybe he wasn’t cut out to do this, no matter how hard he tried. “Maybe try not sucking so much,” Reggie added, rubbing salt into the fresh wound that he’d just caused.

Archie blinked regularly, unable to shake the image of all the boys in his house sitting there with wolf masks. He blinked rapidly, his chest constricted and he couldn’t hear a single thing, not even when Kevin called out: “Archie?”

“Oh Merlin, he’s choking,” Josie muttered to her group, but no one understood what she meant by that. Unlike her, they hadn’t grown up with a famous figure and weren’t aware of what she meant at all.

“What’s happening?” Valerie asked, her eyes flitting in between Archie and Josie, her eyes wide with fear for her friend. Archie was clearly unable to cope with any of the pressure, and they all felt their hearts going out for him.

“Stage fright,” Veronica mumbled, her eyes wide with fear, and she was about to rush up to Archie when Melody held her back, knowing that it would only make everything worse for the redhead.

“Archie?” Kevin asked again, rising from his seat slowly to make his way towards Archie when the redhead seemed to snap out it partially. He seemed to notice that everyone was staring at him again.

“I gotta go,” Archie muttered before running off the stage leaving everyone staring after him in concern. They all felt sorry for him, but they had no idea what they could do to help him with this.

...

Meanwhile, Jughead and Betty were locked inside the Blue and Gold using Jughead’s laptop, a muggle invention that Jellybean had given him. Betty was reading the letter that they’d pinched and she could help voice it allowed. “The Sisters of Quiet Mercy?” Betty asked and swept her loose hair out of her eyes and then she turned back to Jughead, who was typing that into his laptop before questioning: “Where’s that? Is it a church or a charity?”

“No, it’s a home for troubled youths where disenfranchised teens will learn such virtues as discipline and respect. Enjoying lives of quiet reflection and servitude.” Jughead read aloud, and Betty stared at him, her eyes flashed with pain at that. Jughead reached out for Betty’s hand, squeezing it tightly.

“Poor Polly,” Betty muttered, placing her head in her free hand while Jughead pulled her closer to him. He knew that Polly must be suffering from something terrible or her secret was so tremendous and shameful that the Coopers would never allow it to be let out. Betty and Jughead both knew that whatever it was, it wasn’t good at all.

...

Two hours later, Betty, Jughead, Archie and Valerie were sat outside Hogwarts eating their lunch by the Black Lake. Tables and benches had been set up since the weather was still lovely outside. On weekends many students grabbed food from the hall and went to eat outside and now, the group basked in the sunlight chatting among themselves.

Though some were more annoyed than others.

“It’s been months. There’s gotta be a reason why my mum and dad don’t want me to see Polly, but I don’t care anymore.” Betty stated to her boyfriend, her eyes never leaving Jughead’s and he could see the fury bubbling up inside of her. Gently, Jughead placed his hand on Betty’s knee and squeezed it, sending shockwaves through Betty.

Yet, before Jughead could respond, Archie had cut into the conversation, which neither of them was too pleased about. “What are you guys talking about?” Archie’s eyes flitted between the two of them, and he asked: “Anything I can help with?”

“What we’re attempting is stealth operation, Archie. If we go in there with the entire Scooby gang, forget it, we’re compromised.” Jughead stated, his eyes boring into Archie’s, attempting to show him how annoyed he was at the interruption. He didn’t see why Archie needed to get involved in any of this.

“Don’t you have to practice? For the variety show, anyways?” Betty questioned, not wanting to tell anyone else about Polly and also, she wanted to have some time alone to work with Jughead because she always got her best ideas from him and vice versa. As well as that, despite her pretences, Betty still wasn’t too comfortable with Archie yet.

Archie exchanged a glance with Valerie, who was apparently his new rebound and shook his head at them. “Erm, no I don’t.” Archie had barely gotten the words out when another voice floated through the air.

“Accept that, yes, you do thanks to certain Veronica ex machina. Excuse me.” Veronica sat down in between Archie and Valerie before looking over at the redhead. She beamed at him and took a sip of her coffee while everyone watched perplexed.

“What do you mean?” Valerie asked her, diverting Veronica’s attention to her and the young Ravenclaw eyed the Gryffindor girl carefully. Veronica had no quarrel with Valerie, but she never saw eye to eye with her.

“Oh nothing, just that I had a few words with our director/host and reminded him that he’s heard you sing on numerous occasions.” Veronica had turned back to Archie and smiled over at him, hoping that he’d say yes. After all, this would help with his music career in every single way.

“Even though it compromises my artistic integrity,” Kevin muttered, evidently annoyed by the situation but he knew that he would never be able to say no to Veronica. They were such good friends now, and she did have a point like always.

“Cutting to the chase, you have the spot if you want it.” Veronica rolled her eyes at Kevin and smiled over at Archie before sipping her coffee, which was too sugary and milky for anyone else to even comprehend trying.

“Veronica, thank you, but you saw what happened.” Archie pointed out, remembering how his chest had constricted in such a way that he never wanted to go on stage again. He couldn’t shake the image of everyone wearing those masks, and he was petrified of seeing them again.

“We all did.” Kevin pointed out, offering no sympathy for Archie while Jughead and Betty were lost in their own world. Both were eating quietly, and Jughead had noticed Betty’s untouched food. Unable to help himself, he indicated to the crisps, his eyebrows raising to ask Betty for them. Betty chuckled silently and nodded to Jughead, who quickly stole her food.

Everyone else, however, remained focused on Archie’s performance, completely ignoring the soulmates. “Playing my songs in front of you guys is one thing, but getting back up on that stage by myself, I’m not sure if I’m ready for that,” Archie informed them, his heart sinking at the idea and he shook his head several times, trying to remove the fear. He was meant to be brave, but he was terrified of the prospect.

“Well, if it’s a partner you’re looking for, Veronica Lodge is more than willing and able.” Veronica offered, grabbing everyone’s attention because, in all the years of knowing her, none of them had ever heard her sing. Jughead’s eyebrows shot up; Kevin almost choked on his sandwich; Valerie rolled her eyes; Archie looked impressed, and Betty just stared.

“Veronica, I didn’t know you could sing,” Betty stated once she’d snapped out of her trance with a quiet surprise. She smiled over at her friend in disbelief while Jughead’s arm snuck around Betty’s waist, pulling her ever closer to him.

“Like a nightingale,” Veronica assured her before she turned to Archie, who was still watching her intently. She beamed at him and asked: “So what do you say, Archiekins? Be the Jay to my Bay?” Archie barely managed to hold his delight back before he beamed at her.

“So, we go in an hour when the bus arrives, then?” Jughead asked Betty in a low voice, turning his girlfriend towards him again and running his hands up and down Betty’s cold arms. The witch beamed back at him gratefully before catching one of Jughead’s hands in hers and holding it.

“Yes, in an hour. Thanks for everything, Juggie.” Betty murmured, genuinely grateful for everything that Jughead was doing for her and she wasn’t going to let him think otherwise. She needed him to know that everything about this was perfect for her and that she couldn’t do it without him.

“You’re welcome,” Jughead mumbled before capturing Betty’s lips with his own, and he pulled her closer to him until she was awkwardly positioned on his lap, but neither cared. All they could focus on was the sensation of each other’s lips against their own. Betty wrapped her arms around Jughead’s neck while his hands settled on her hips.

“Come on, we’re trying to eat!” Valerie snapped, rolling her eyes at the couple, who pulled away at the interruption. Betty buried her head in Jughead’s neck to avoid anyone commenting on the now scarlet blush on her cheeks. She did not or need that to happen, and she just wanted to be swallowed up by a black hole. Jughead, on the other hand, looked at Valerie furiously, not appreciating her comment when she spent most of her time attached to Archie’s lips.

“Fuck off.” Jughead’s voice was intimidating enough without his glower, but Betty quickly stopped him from severely maiming Valerie by reattaching their lips together in a soft, tender kiss, that made Jughead weak at the knees. It didn't lack in passion or anything similar, but the gentle kiss managed to stop his anger in its tracks.

“Leave them to it,” Kevin added, looking over at Valerie in annoyance, knowing that neither members of the couple had had a break recently. They deserved it, and besides, he wanted to see it so that he could write wild fan theories about their relationship when they weren’t around.

“I think it’s cute,” Veronica added, effectively ending the matter when Betty and Jughead pulled away and stood up. They all watched them leave, all noticing how Jughead always held Betty as close to him as physically possible, and at that moment, there was no denying that they were meant to be with one another.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 21 – I’ll Try

‘I'll try

I'll try to let it go

Let it roll right off my back

Yes, so I'll try

I'll try

To let it go

Let it go and never look back this way.’

 

The bus that Betty and Jughead had boarded to visit Polly slowly pulled up in front of the dark grey building that Polly was residing in. Jughead helped Betty move to the front of the bus, and they stepped out into the drizzling rain. Only when the bus left did they finally see the building and Betty shivered in horror. She couldn’t help but wonder what hellish cruelties were happening here, and she felt sick looking at it.

“Hey, don’t judge a home for troubled youths by its façade, right?” Jughead asked, watching Betty tighten her ponytail nervously before she reached out for him. Entwining their hands, he gave Betty’s hand a squeeze before they both began to head towards the entrance.

The interior was as drab as the outside, and it was as cold inside as it was outside in the drizzle, and water dripped from the ceiling. Shuddering, Betty tightened her grip on Jughead’s hand before they both headed towards the front desk. A stern-looking nun glowered at their joined hands, but she said nothing.

“Hi, my name is Elizabeth Cooper, I’m here to see my sister, Polly,” Betty stated, hoping that it would be enough to allow her to see Polly. She needed to see her sister more than she could possibly explain and she was desperate to help her get out of her.

“May I see some identification?” The woman asked, her eyes narrowing at Betty with distrust until Betty pulled out her Ministry of Magic Identification Card, which every witch and wizard owned. The woman inspected it before nodding at it and then she shoved a form towards Betty, who accepted it. “Sign in here please.” She instructed before she turned to look at Jughead, taking in everything about his appearance, from the beanie to the jacket to his battered boots and she hissed: “He’ll have to wait.”

As soon as Betty finished signing, the woman stood up and with one last glance at Jughead, Betty followed the woman. “Polly’s room is right this way.” The elderly lady informed Betty before adding: “Though right now it’s silent reflection time and she usually spends that time in the garden of deliverance.” Betty glanced at the dull, drab room that Polly was occupying and she knew that she had to save her sister.

...

The woman led Betty outside to a large, but mainly sparse garden, which only had a few flowers and trees decorating it. The woman indicated for Betty to go alone into the small flowered area, where there was the glimmer of blonde hair. Betty all but ran towards the garden when she noticed who was there.

“Polly?” Betty gasped, her eyes widening and her sister turned around at the sound of Betty’s voice. Polly froze when she saw that Betty was there and that she hadn’t just imagined her little sister’s voice.

“Betty!” Polly cried, and both girls rushed to one another, engulfing each other in their arms, and holding the other tightly to them. Neither ever wanted to let go. “Oh, Merlin, you’re here!” Polly murmured, pulling Betty ever closer to her as she added: “You found us!”

At that, Betty pulled away slightly and glanced down to see Polly’s protruding stomach, and she couldn’t help but beam up at her sister. “You’re...” Betty trailed off glancing back at Polly before she placed her hand on Polly’s stomach before asking: “Polly, you’re... with Jason’s?”

“Please be happy for me, Betty,” Polly begged, her eyes shimmering slightly as she prayed that Betty wouldn’t act like their parents. All she wanted was for someone in the Cooper family to accept and be happy for her and her child.

“I am, Polly.” Betty insisted, beaming up at her sister in delight. She didn’t care that Polly was having a teenage pregnancy, she just cared that her sister was alright. “I’m just, I’m so sorry I didn’t come sooner. I should’ve but Mum and Dad, they stopped me.”

“Oh, what did they tell you?” Polly asked, curious to see what lied Alice and Hal had spun to keep Betty away from her. She also wanted to know what else she should expect when she returned to life in Riverdale. “That I was on drugs? Alcohol?”

“They said that you were sick.” Betty told Polly, her eyes widening at the memory and her voice trembling as she added: “That you tried to hurt yourself.” She gulped, unsure of her sister’s reaction, but Polly merely smiled at Betty.

“And they told me that you didn’t want to come and see me, which I knew was a lie.” Polly tucked a loose strand of hair behind Betty’s ear and smiled at her. She knew that if Betty had known, then she would have visited her.

“They locked you up because you’re pregnant?” Betty asked in disbelief, despising the idea that her parents would be so cruel to their own daughter. It seemed more like a Blossom tactic than a Cooper one.

“Because they couldn’t control me, Betty.” Polly pointed out, and Betty found herself reminded of her conversation with Jughead. Yet, she was quickly pulled from that as Polly continued speaking. “Mum and Dad hated that Jason and I were dating. They were thrilled when Jason dumped me. Jason’s parents forced him to break up with me, of course, they didn’t approve of a Blossom boy dating a Cooper girl.” Polly paused for a moment and then grinned at Betty in delight at the memory. “But, when I told him about the baby, our baby, oh he was so happy Betty. We were going to run away, start our family in a beautiful place.”

“So, on July 4th, I woke up, packed a bag and I went downstairs to start my new life just like Jason and I had planned. We were going to meet on the other side of the Black Lake.” Polly began to shake with anger at the next memory, and she looked directly into Betty’s eyes as she spoke to her, all while trembling with fury. “But, Mum and Dad found out about everything and when I went downstairs, there was a woman, I didn’t know sitting at the kitchen table, drinking tea with two men behind her.”

“Oh, Merlin.” Betty exhaled, feeling nausea creeping up on her again and she barely had even willpower to stop herself from asking Polly to stop talking. Her mind was spinning at an alarming pace, and she found herself placing a hand on her left wrist.

“They threw me in the back of a van. I was screaming. I don’t think I stopped screaming till I got here to this place.” Polly finished off the tail leaving Betty shaking at the very thought, but within a second, Polly’s demeanour changed completely. “Have you talked to him? Does he know that I’m here?”

“Who, Polly?” Betty was so disorientated by her sister’s change in attitude, and her brain couldn’t keep up. There were too many things happening at once, and she needed it all to stop and slow down for once.

“Jason,” Polly stated, and Betty felt her heart sink at the mention of Jason’s name. Of course, her parents would also keep that from Polly, and now she would have to tell her sister about the death of her boyfriend. Polly didn’t seem to register Betty’s expression, and she asked: “If I give you a message, will you make sure it gets to him?”

“Polly, Jason’s-” Betty started, but she quickly found herself cut off by Polly before she could deliver the blow that was the news of Jason’s death.

“What does he think happened? He knows that I’m here because of Mum and Dad, right?” Polly asked, her eyes wide and full of hope while Betty stood trembling under the weight of what she needed to say. 

“Polly, you don’t understand.” Betty tried to grab her sister’s attention, but she couldn’t manage it because Polly was far too distracted. At that moment, Betty let her resolve slip, and she allowed Polly to carry on talking.

“I can fix this, Betty. I know I can.” Polly insisted, shaking Betty slightly and beaming at her manically, which in turn terrified Betty. “You just have to help me get out of here, and then I’ll go to meet him. I’ll go to the car on the highway off of Junction 40, passed the old maple syrup sign and then you’ll know you’re almost there. See I remember. I’m packed. We’ll go to the farm, just like we planned.”

“Polly! Stop!” Betty finally yelled, cutting her sister off before she moved away from Polly fractionally. Fear flooded Betty at the expression that Polly wore, and she could barely say anything to her.

“What’s the matter, Betty? What? What is it?” Polly demanded, grabbing Betty’s arms again in an attempt to get Betty to look at her in the eyes. The two girls locked their eyes, and Betty felt her heart constrict.

“Jason...” Betty started, memories of Jason’s body coming to the forefront of her mind and she fought back the urge to retch at the memories. They were hardly pleasant, and she knew that it was going to tear Polly apart.

“What? Did something happen to him?” Polly demanded, the light in her eyes growing more vivid, intense and out of control. “Something bad?” She asked, and then she caught Betty’s expression, and it hit her. “Oh, Merlin.” She gasped and then she began to sob erratically in disbelief as Betty stood there unable to offer any comfort. There was nothing she could do to heal her sisters pain as she sobbed:  “I knew it. He’s, he’s-”

“Come with me, young lady, now.” The old woman glowered at Betty and beckoned for her to follow her back the building. Polly was quickly escorted away from Betty while the younger Cooper girl found herself in the company of the old woman again.

...

Betty was shoved into a cold waiting room off of the side of the entrance hall, and she stumbled over one of the benches into someone’s arms. Fear flooded her until she glanced up and saw that it was Jughead who was holding onto her. Helping her to her feet, Jughead was about to speak when Betty launched herself at Jughead, wrapping him up in a crushing hug. Jughead staggered back for a moment before he held onto Betty in the exact same way.

“Betts, you’re alright?” Jughead mumbled into Betty’s neck, clutching onto her for dear life, never wanting to let go of her. He wanted to fight anything and everything that dared even think about harming Betty in any way, shape or form.

“I’m fine, but I don’t know why we’re here.” Betty pulled away from him slightly but remained in his arms all the same. She prayed that Jughead had the answers because nothing was making sense anymore.

Then again, not much had made sense since Jason’s death.

“I got told that you were upset and potentially hurt.” Jughead’s eyes were still scanning Betty’s form for any sign of injury or any indication that she was harmed in any way. His eyes were clouded with concern, and Betty found her heart skip a beat at the sight of it.

“I’m not, but I think that we need to get out of here,” Betty stated, not liking the look of this place or the look that the old woman. There was something about this place that didn’t sit right with her, and it wasn’t just the look in Polly’s eyes.

“Agreed, but did you actually speak to Polly?” Jughead asked, hoping that this hadn’t all been in vain and that Betty had gotten the chance to see her sister. After everything she’d been through this year, Betty deserved to see her sister. Jughead also knew that if it were him and Jellybean, then he would curse anyone who tried to keep him from his sister.

“I did, and they’re keeping her in here because she’s pregnant,” Betty informed him, her voice trembling with fury, and her eyes darkened to an emerald colour that terrified Jughead. Even with the Chuck mishap, Betty’s eyes hadn’t darkened like that, and he realised that if anyone threatened Polly or hurt her, then Betty’s rage would never be suppressed.

Little did he know that it was the same for him.

“What the fuck?!” Jughead all but yelled. He had entertained the thought beforehand, but he’d never assumed that the Coopers would stoop so low. He couldn’t help but feel disgusted at that, and he shuddered at the thought of them doing this to Polly.

He’d be murderous if they tried it with Betty.

“It’s stupid and horrible,” Betty muttered, cursing her parents under her breath for what they had done to her family. All she could feel was anger, and she wasn’t ever going to let this go, no matter what happened next.

“It is, and we’ll get her out of here even if we need to use the Serpents to storm the building, we’ll do it.” Jughead would do anything to end this and to ensure that Alice’s grip on both her daughters loosened. Yet, he couldn’t help but wonder what Polly knew about Jason before he was killed, but he quickly pushed that aside.

“I know, and thank you.” Betty smiled for a moment before looking away from Jughead and down at her feet. Jughead quickly cupped Betty’s cheek and ran his thumb over it tenderly when he heard footsteps.

“Betts, what was that?” Jughead asked, and they both quickly broke away, drawing their wands, preparing to fight when the door opened slowly. They stood side by side as Alice Cooper stepped into view.

“Mum?” Betty asked in shock before she quickly withdrew her wand and tucked it back in its holster. Then she straightened up and glowered over at the woman who had imprisoned her sister. “What are you doing here?”

“I pay the sisters good money. You think they don’t notify me if Polly gets a visitor?” Alice informed her and then she looked over at Jughead, who she glowered at before she grabbed Betty’s hand. Immediately, Betty found herself being pulled towards the door and one of the workers at the Sisters of Quiet Mercy grabbed Jughead’s arm, pulling him along as well.

The pair were marched down a long hallway kept separated from one another and all Jughead wanted to do was to wrench Alice’s hand from Betty’s wrist. Though, before he could act, Polly came into view. For a moment, she didn’t notice them, and then upon hearing their footsteps, she turned to glance back before she froze.

“Mum.” Polly all but growled at her, pulling away from the group she was walking with, much to her guards’ distress. They turned with Polly, who was advancing slowly towards Alice, who pushed Betty behind her slowly and Polly watched her little sister wince. Bruises were forming on Betty’s wrist, but Alice captured her attention.

“Polly.” Alice stared at her eldest daughter in fear as she had no idea what Betty had told Polly when they’d spoken earlier. She had no idea what Polly might say now, and she shook slightly with apprehension.

“Jason’s dead, and you didn’t tell me!” Polly yelled at her mother and then she found herself shaking with fury before she took another step towards her mother. Then, she let her anger consume her and added: “And you kept me in here!”

“Baby, it’s for your own good.” Alice tried to assure her daughter, but she and many others knew that it wasn’t. Jughead rolled his eyes at Alice’s pretences, and Betty shook her head in disbelief at Alice’s attempts to calm Polly down

“Ahh! You always say that, and it’s not true!” Polly yelled at her, and she quickly found herself being dragged back. “NO! BETTY!” She screamed, and Betty surged forward with Jughead attempting to reach her, but he found his path blocked. Two guards stopped him in his tracks, and he watched Betty wrap her arms around Polly tightly.

“I’m going to get you out of here, I swear to Merlin,” Betty whispered to Polly, rubbing her sister’s back to soothe her before she was ripped from Polly. “I love you.” Betty cried out before Polly was ceased again and Jughead broke free to get to his soulmate’s right-hand side.

“NOOOO!” Polly screamed, tears forming in her eyes and her screams echoing through the halls until she was out of sight. Betty found herself turning away, unable to look at that hallway and Betty quickly found herself in Jughead’s embrace.

...

Two hours later, Betty found herself locked in her room, a typical Alice Cooper punishment, and she was staring down at her homework. Her quill moved across the parchment in a dull cursive script, but still, it was a piece of work worthy of an Outstanding. She still worked at her usual standard, but she gained no delight from it.

All of a sudden, there was a knock at her window, and Betty spun in her seat to see Jughead on the ladder outside smiling at her. Rushing over, Betty lifted up the window and smiled at Jughead, who muttered: “Hey there, Juliet.” Jughead then clambered through the window asking her: “Nurse off duty? You haven’t gone full Yellow Wallpaper on me yet, have you?”

“They’re crazy. My parents are crazy.” Betty informed him once he had straightened up and she began to pace up and down in front of Jughead. The beanie-clad boy stared at Betty and waited for her to stop, but when she didn’t, he spoke.

“They’re parents. They’re all crazy.” Jughead reminded her, offering her advice that she’d once given him when his parents had split up. Most of the time it would have consoled Betty, but she was far too distracted to focus on anything else.

“But what if, what if Polly is too? I mean the way she was talking to me, the way she looked at me, and now all I can think is maybe I’m crazy like they are.” Betty carried on pacing before Jughead, and she turned to look at him in fear before she turned back to Jughead. The couple allowed their gazes to meet and then Jughead noticed that Betty still wasn’t breathing calmly.

“Hey.” Jughead rested a hand on Betty’s shoulder, ushering a sense of calm to wash over her as she exhaled. “We’re all crazy.” He assured her, and he gently rubbed her shoulder slowly, his mere touch bringing relief with it. “We’re not our parents, Betts. We’re not our families.” Jughead assured her before his eyes fluttered down to her lips and he added: “Come here, Betts.”

Betty quickly found herself consumed by the feeling of Jughead’s lips against hers and she leant into the kiss. Pulling away, a small smile graced both of their lips, and they exhaled slowly. Yet, at that moment, Betty realised something, and she pushed on Jughead’s chest, her eyes alight with surprise, and she exclaimed: “The car!”

“Wow, that’s what you’re thinking about in the middle of our moment?” Jughead asked incredulously, unaware that his presence had stimulated Betty’s thought process. He had no idea that he could help kick-start Betty’s investigative tendencies.

“NO!” Betty insisted, and Jughead nodded before releasing her and watching Betty pace again slowly. She rubbed at her temples before reciting what her sister had told her. “Polly talked about a car Jason had stashed for them down Junction 40 near some sign. If we can find it, we can confirm Polly’s story.”

“One way or another,” Jughead stated, feeling a swell of pride at the way that Betty’s mind worked though his schooled expression didn’t portray any of them. He merely paced behind her, and he waited until Betty turned back to him.

“I need to know, Juggie,” Betty mumbled before tucking a remarkably wild piece of hair beneath Jughead’s beanie. Jughead froze for a moment, and then he smiled down at her, loving the sensation of Betty’s fingers in his hair.

...

“Hello, Hogwarts and welcome to the 20th Anniversary Year of the defeat of Voldemort. This variety show is in honour of that.” Kevin Keller addressed the crowd waiting in the Great Hall for the acts to start. “We will start with the Josie and the Pussycats performing ‘I Feel Love.’” Kevin walked off the stage and was quickly replaced by all of the Pussycats along with Veronica, and they all faced the crowd beaming.

“Ooh! It's so good, It's so good, It's so good, It's so good It's so good Ooh! Heaven knows heaven knows, heaven knows, heaven knows, heaven knows.”

Josie’s voice enchanted and bewitched all as she sung and eyes remained transfixed on her while the other girls copied her expressive hand movements. All of them had heard of the band’s skill, but they never knew how beautifully they all sung. “Ooh! I feel love, I feel love, I feel love, I feel love, I feel love I feel love! I feel love! I feel love.”

Josie and Veronica both dazzled those gathered, and their hearts swelled as each word rang through the hall. “Ooh! Fallin' free, fallin' free, fallin' free, fallin' free, fallin' free Ooh! You and me, you and me, you and me, you and me, you and me Ooh! I feel love, I feel love, I feel love, I feel love, I feel love I feel love! I feel love! I feel love! Ooh!”

All of the young women finished off the song together, and before it had even finished, most of the crowd had risen up in support. They all burst into applause when the song came to an end and each of the four girls beamed at everyone before they were ushered off stage.

“That was Josie and the Pussycats, long tails and ears for hats.” Kevin addressed the crowd, beaming with delight while the witches and wizards began to sit down in front of him. They all waited intently for the next act to come on stage.

...

“Is that a motorbike?” Betty asked the moment Jughead led her to the small trailer park on the Southside of Hogsmeade. Jughead had moved to sit down on the bike and had grabbed a dark grey helmet which had a messily craved crown on it.

“Don’t question it, Betts,” Jughead smirked at her before he grabbed his keys and placed them in the ignition. He like travelling on his broomstick, yes, but he loved riding the motorbike, and he knew that Betty would prefer it.

“Okay,” Betty mumbled, zipping up her coat while the rain began to come down mercilessly and Jughead quickly copied her actions before he handed over the helmet. It was the only one that he owned, though thanks to his magical blood, he was less likely to get hurt if they crashed than a muggle might.

“Oh and take this, and hold on tight,” Jughead instructed, and Betty did as she was told, circling her arms around Jughead’s waist. He tightened Betty’s grip on him for her protection as he fiddled with the gears.

“What about you?” Betty asked nervously as Jughead took the bike off of its stand and Betty squeezed Jughead’s waist even tighter than she had done moments before.

“Magic will protect me somewhat, and I only have one at the moment,” Jughead informed her and Betty knew that there was no way that she was going to be able to get Jughead to go and get another one right then and there.

“Okay, just be careful,” Betty mumbled into his ear, and he nodded before turning the key in the ignition.

“I will be,” Jughead muttered before they began to drive off towards Junction 40. The ride was a short one and Jughead parked by Fox Forest, which was cut off from the Forbidden Forest by Hogsmeade Village, within twenty minutes.

“Lumos,” Betty mumbled before she and Jughead began to make their way through the forest together, holding hands with Betty leading them. Her light illuminated the area and they soon locked eyes on the car.

Rushing towards it, Jughead muttered: “Alohomora.” All the locks clicked, signalling that it was now open and Jughead quickly opened the boot. Betty shined her light inside the boot while Jughead dug out his iPod and began to snap pictures, including one of Jason’s jacket, which was lying among bags of a white substance, which Jughead picked up curiously to examine. His eyes widened the moment he realised what they were.

 “What are those?” Betty asked him, her eyes locking with Jughead’s in confusion and curiosity while her boyfriend stared at them in disbelief.

“Drugs, Betty.” Jughead pointed out, and Betty stared at him, wide eyes in fear while her mouth fell open. Freezing for a moment, Betty couldn’t think straight and then she realised that Jughead could be implicated in the murder.

“Wait, Jughead put it down. This is evidence. This is all evidence.” Betty reminded him, and Jughead dropped the bag instantly as if it had burned him.

“Oh crap, this whole car is a crime scene,” Jughead stated, glancing back at Betty, who met his gaze instantly, fear consuming them both.

“Okay, we need to get Sheriff Keller, and then we need to get Polly,” Betty stated before the two of them began to run back to the motorbike.

...

“Here’s Archie Andrews!” Kevin Keller announced the Great Hall before scurrying off, and Archie walked on stage, his legs shaking and threatening to give out. He seated himself in front of the microphone before looking out at everyone.

“Stick to Quidditch!” Reggie Mantle yelled at him, and the other members of Gryffindor laughed loudly at Archie. Blinking rapidly, Archie attempted to ignore him, and he quickly sought out Fred Andrews in the crowd. The older man nodded and smiled at his son, and that was all Archie needed to ignore all of his nerves.

Strumming the guitar gently, Archie began to familiarise himself with the chords again and then, he began to sing slowly:

“Can you hear me? Am I drowned out in the crowd? Are you listening? Or is everyone else too loud For you to hear anything? Are you just gonna walk away? 'Cause there are so many things I can do, but instead, I'll say I'll try I'll try to let it go Let it roll right off my back Yes, so I'll try I'll try To let it go Let it go and never look back this way Do you wanna be The one who points and blames That makes us feel many things 'Cause in a word I can't explain Why it hurts so much, you see We weren't born with all this pain I guess that's anything That keeps living day by day And I'll try I'll try to let it go Let it roll right off my shoulders Yes, I'll try I'll try To let it go Let it go and never look back this way I'll try I'll try to let it go Let it roll right off my shoulders Yes, I'll try I'll try To let it go Let it go and never look back this way Never look back this way.”

Eyes had widened in disbelief, and unlike with the Pussycats, everyone rose to congratulate Archie while Fred beamed at his son, evidently proud of his son. The Great Hall applauded louder than they had ever applauded and Archie beamed out at everyone, realising that he had done it.

...

“Sheriff Keller!” Betty yelled when she caught sight of the older man, who made his way towards her and Jughead, who stopped in front of them. He took in the fact that they were both soaked from the rain and they both were out of breath from running.

“I got your message, what is it?” Sheriff Keller demanded, not too sure whether or not he wanted to hear what Jughead and Betty had to say. Jughead, however, was one step ahead of him and he began to show him the photos of the car.

“Look. It’s Jason’s jacket.” Betty stated, pointing out Jason’s green and silver Slytherin jacket with his name written in elegant script. Sheriff Keller’s eyes widened in disbelief, but he knew that this was too good to be missed.

“Where did you get that?” Sheriff Keller pressed, looking between the couple, desperately trying to find out where he could assess this information. He needed to solve this case, and he’d do anything he could to get through this.

“In a boot of a car with a bunch of his other stuff. Jason was running away with Polly.” Betty stated, her eyes imploring Keller to believe them and at that moment, she realised that he did, much to her relief.

“Where’s the car?” Sheriff Keller began to guide them towards his other Aurors, who were all filled in quickly by Jughead and Betty.

...

‘Here’s the thing about fear. It’s always there. Fear of the unknown. Fear of facing it alone. Fear that those closest to you are the monsters. Fear that as soon as you slay one, there’s another monster waiting to take its place. Fear that there’s one more bogeyman waiting at the end of the dark hole.’

Hours later, in the midst of a thunderstorm, Betty and Jughead ran through the corridors of the Sisters of Quiet Mercy. They were desperately trying to get to Polly’s room so that they could rescue her before the killer found her and killed her. Both of them were terrified about what they would find, and they all but kicked down the door to Polly’s room.

Polly’s room was empty and had been ransacked, most likely by the Cooper girl, and then their eyes shifted to the window. It had been broken, and one of the long shards was covered in Polly’s blood. It was a sickening sight, but Betty’s soft: “Polly?”, was more heartbreaking than anything that could be explained.

Jughead and Betty rushed to the window to look out for any signs of the young woman, but there was no sight of her. Both of them stared out into the night, fearful of what might occur next and all they knew was that they had to find Polly.

‘She was out there, alone, bereaved, unmoored. Where was she going? And what would she do next?’

Chapter Text

Chapter 22 – Daddy Issues

‘Go ahead and cry, little boy

You know that your daddy did too

You know what your mama went through

You gotta let it out soon, just let it out.’

 

What makes a place feel like home? Is it warmth and familiarity? Some idealised make-believe version of the Wizarding Dream? Is it love and acceptance? Or is it simple safety?’

Jughead found himself sitting in what he was sure was a fifties style version of the Cooper’s kitchen surrounded by their entire family. He was dressed in a dark green jumper with a yellow ‘S’ on the front, much like his usual t-shirts and in place of his beanie was a whoopee hat. Beside him, he noted that Betty was also dressed in fifties attire with a pale pink jumper and bright green skirt. Had he not been so perplexed, he would have stopped to marvel at his girlfriend, but instead, he watched those around him horrified.

Observing in a state of horror, he watched Alice Cooper set down a giant turkey while Veronica simpered and clapped at her. Alice happily pecked Hal’s lips in a display of affection that Jughead would be hard pressed to find in his everyday life. Though, his terror only increased when Alice pecked Betty’s cheek.

Shifting his gaze to the opposite side of the table, his eyes widened in disbelief when he saw a very much alive Jason and a freed Polly sitting across from him. Though his attention was quickly diverted back to Betty, who grabbed his left hand and he felt smooth metal against his skin. Glancing down, he saw that Betty was wearing an engagement ring and wedding ring that had to be the ancestral Jones rings.

All of a sudden, Hal moved over to Jughead’s side holding out the carving knives to him. The younger of the two wizards stood up slowly and moved to cut the turkey. Yet, the moment he looked up, Jughead saw his father, sitting on the sofa in the trailer he’d purchased when he’d moved out of Jones Manor. As always, in his hand was a bottle of beer, which he was sipping slowly.

Jughead froze.

Fear and shame flooded him, and he quickly glanced away, only to find that the knife he’d been holding was no longer in his hands. Unseen to Jughead, Archie was walking up to him slowly, eying him with anger and only when he was mere inches from Jughead, he asked: “Dude, why’d you stab me in the back?”

Beside him, Betty and Alice cocked their heads to the side with plastered fake smiles on their lips and serene plastic expressions. Archie turned away from Jughead, revealing that the missing knife was now embedded in between his shoulder blades. Jughead stared after him in fear, and his heart clenched in agony at the idea that he could have done that.

‘Or it’s none of those things, and it’s the place where the shining star of Slytherin is murdered. Or, maybe it’s just a forgotten room in behind a well-trod corridor that only two people remember.

Or, maybe it isn’t a place.

Maybe it’s a person.’

...

As always, Professor Weatherbee was late, and Betty found herself looking through her textbook. Beside her, Jughead stood with his eyes closed and refused to look over at anything or anyone in the hallway. Finally, Betty snapped her book shut and looked over at Jughead before resting her hand on his shoulder.

“Jughead, are you alright?” Betty asked quietly, her eyes scanning every single feature of her soulmate’s face as he opened his eyes slowly. Patiently waiting, the Hufflepuff held her breath until Jughead turned his head to face her.

“I’m fine, Betts, don’t worry about it,” Jughead assured her, offering her a small smile, but Betty could tell that it was forced. Yet, before Betty could say anything, Jughead added: “More importantly, are you alright after yesterday?”

“We have to find her, Jug. We can’t let her get hurt.” Betty fear for Polly overshadowed her ability to see that Jughead was deliberately changing the subject. Her mind was suddenly filled with images of the broken window covered in Polly’s blood.

“I know that, and we won’t. We’ll go out after classes have ended and find her, but I have to see my dad first.” Jughead reached out for Betty and pulled her closer to him in an attempt to reassure her that everything would be alright. Though, he didn’t realise that she would about his meeting with his father.

“You do? You’re actually going to see him?” Betty stared up Jughead in disbelief because he had refused to see FP whenever the older of the two had fallen off the wagon. It startled Betty that her boyfriend would extend an olive branch now.

“Yes, I’m trying to get him to go back to work with Fred Andrews,” Jughead informed her while dread filled every fibre of his being. He was mildly terrified of the prospect of it because he never knew how to deal with his intoxicated father.

“He’s not working again?” Betty asked, rubbing Jughead’s arm slowly, attempting to comfort her boyfriend, who was shaking slightly. Betty noted that nothing seemed to be able to calm him down, so she ran her fingers down to the small crown on Jughead’s wrist.

Betty’s cold fingers against Jughead’s soulmark stopped the trembling, and then he glanced down at Betty again. “He hasn’t been working since Mum and JB left,” Jughead confessed, and at that moment, Betty realised that Jughead probably hadn’t seen his father since them.

“I wish that I could help you, Juggie,” Betty mumbled, pulling Jughead closer to her and she realised that while she’d been panicking about her family, Jughead had been struggling with this for much longer. Then again, Jughead would hate her for pitying him, though, in the end, she still wanted to help him.

“You are helping me,” Jughead muttered before he tangled his fingers in Betty’s ponytail and eliciting a small sigh from Betty. For a moment, Jughead allowed himself a small smile before he opened his eyes again. The two of them locked gazes, and Jughead noticed that Betty was staring up at him utterly perplexed.

“How?” Betty asked, cocking her head to the side in confusion and she couldn’t quite understand how she was helping Jughead at all. As far as she was aware, she hadn’t done anything to help her boyfriend at all.

“You’re still here with me, and you haven’t judged me at all for the fact that my dad hasn’t got a job.” Jughead pointed out, and smiled at Betty gratefully, appreciating the fact that Betty never had and would judge him for his home situation. She didn’t care that he wasn’t from a perfect family, after all, her ‘perfect’ family was absolutely horrendous.

“Jug, I’ll never judge you for that. After all, when have you ever judged me for my family’s psycho tendencies.” Betty pointed out, eliciting a soft chuckle from Jughead at the thought of Alice Cooper hearing her daughter talk about their families psycho tendencies. Though, the laughter quickly left his eyes when he remembered the fact that Polly had escaped from the Sisters of Quiet Mercy.

“Talking about your family, we should probably ask the others for help,” Jughead stated, knowing that he and Betty, as intelligent as they were, couldn’t find Polly alone. They would need help regardless of what they may pretend. Though Jughead was determined that they would find Polly soon.

“Jug, thank you,” Betty mumbled, pressing a kiss to his cheek when Weatherbee rounded the corner and walked towards them. They parted and soon found themselves locked in the stuffy Ancient Runes classroom. However, underneath the desk, Jughead rested his left hand on Betty’s knee, reminding her that he was there for her.

...

During their free period after lunch, Betty and Jughead had gathered Archie, Veronica and Kevin to explain the Polly situation. It was evident that with each growing moment, Betty was getting more and more nervous. Her voice trembled and she clung to Jughead, who had wrapped an arm tightly around her.

“My parents don’t want to get the Aurors involved.” Betty pointed out, her anger towards Alice and Hal apparent to all there and they all exchanged nervous glances, apart from Jughead. He just kept on rubbing Betty’s arm slowly to ease her pain as she added:  “They don’t want anyone to know that she ran away or about her shameful condition.”

“Please, what decade is this?” Veronica scoffed, rolling her eyes at the Coopers’ attitude towards their eldest daughter. They always acted as if their entire family should belong to the 19th Century instead of the 21st.

“Well, also, since she knew where Jason’s getaway car was they’re afraid people might think that she burned it and then if she did-” Betty shook as she spoke and was saved from finishing her statement by Jughead.

“She could be the murderer trying to cover her tracks.” Jughead nodded glumly at the idea of people blaming Polly, though, it was primarily because they’d then target Betty as well. That he wouldn’t allow, but he was also reasonably confident that Polly hadn’t murdered Jason because, in the end, she was still in love with him.

“Who did burn the car then?” Archie asked, uncertain of whether or not that had been discovered yet. It terrified him that Jughead and Betty could have been hurt during that and he prayed that the Aurors had caught someone.

“Sheriff Keller says it was possible that someone was following us,” Betty informed them all, glancing back at Jughead, who nodded in confirmation. It had terrified both of them, but they both knew that being together would have helped if someone had decided to attack them.

“Oh, Merlin. Honestly, guys, we should just move to Ilvermorny.” Veronica knew that at the American School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, they would be safer, though no one else seemed to be listening to her. They were all too concerned for Betty to notice much else, especially Jughead, who had barely taken his eyes off of his girlfriend.

“Guys, what if Polly’s really hurt? What if whoever killed Jason is coming after her next?” Betty looked at every one of them individually before sinking even further into Jughead’s side. The Slytherin boy pulled Betty closer to him, and she ended up all but sitting on his lap at this point as Jughead cupped her cheek with his free hand.

“It’ll be okay, Betts,” Jughead assured her, moving to press a tender kiss to her forehead. Betty’s eyes fluttered shut, and she smiled for the first time since they sat down. It was the small, shy smile that only Jughead seemed to be able to get from her and all the others forced themselves to look away until the pair parted and resumed their original seats.

“Betty, even if your parents don’t want to maybe you should go to the Aurors,” Archie stated, presumed that talking to Sheriff Keller would be the best option, but the look on Jughead’s face said otherwise. Unlike most of them, Jughead knew that they wouldn’t get any help from the authorities and it would alert the Blossoms to Polly’s escape.

“Second it, we can talk to my dad together about how he has to be discreet.” Kevin’s optimism was enough to make Jughead roll his eyes at them all. There was no way on this earth that it would go well if they followed that plan.

“No offence, Kev, but your dad answers to a higher authority than Merlin: the Blossoms.” Jughead pointed out, rubbing his eyes with his free hand while the other arm remained tightly around Betty. “They’re the first people that he would tell.”

“And if there’s anyone to keep this a secret from, it’s the Blossoms. They’d twist it around and go after Polly out of spite.” Betty added, agreeing with her boyfriend because the Blossoms would do anything in their power to hurt her family. They would ensure that evidence was found to convict Polly, even though Betty knew with all her heart that Polly was innocent of it all.

“How can we help? Tell us, B, we’ll do it.” Veronica leant forward, her eyes imploring Betty to allow them to offer whatever help they could. The two Gryffindors and the one Ravenclaw wanted to be able to prove that they wouldn’t let this escalate and Betty knew that she needed them more than she’d admit.

...

Once all of the lessons were over, Jughead and Betty began the trek to the trailer park, hand in hand. Every so often, Betty would give Jughead’s hand a comforting squeeze, which he’d return as they walked silently towards the Jones trailer. Nobody else seemed to be around and honestly, Betty couldn’t blame them. It was freezing cold here, and the rain was beginning to soak everything.

“Are you sure you’ll be alright hanging out around the trailer park?” Jughead asked Betty cautiously, unsure of whether or not he should be leaving her here. Though, despite that, he knew that the Junior Serpents would be around soon and would lend a hand if Betty needed it.

“I’ll be fine Jughead,” Betty assured him, pressing a kiss to his cheek before she perched herself on the workbench in front of FP’s trailer. Jughead sighed before kissing Betty’s forehead lightly and pulling her closer to him.

“Are you sure?” Jughead asked, his gaze travelling down to meet Betty’s and she offered him a small smile before she nodded. Betty didn’t mind being left sitting outside because she knew that if she were inside with Jughead, her presence would only infuriate FP.

“Jug, I bet by now that half the Serpents will know that I’m your soulmate so they won’t touch me and if they do, I’m a skilled duellist, remember?” Betty reminded him, knowing full well that she could easily beat most people in a duel. She wasn’t afraid to fight back if anyone tried and anything at all.

“Yes, I know that it’s just, I care about you,” Jughead stated, his cheeks turning scarlet before he sunk his teeth into his lower lip. He could hardly meet Betty’s gaze, and his heart pounded in his chest mercilessly as he waited for Betty’s response.

“I know that, and I care about you too,” Betty mumbled, leaning up and pressing her lips to Jughead’s cheek, but he guessed what she was going to do and intercepted the kiss with his lips. A smile graced both of their lips, and they clung to one another for a moment until they pulled away.

“Are you worried about me?” Jughead asked once he’d pulled away, but instead of sounding teasing and light-hearted, he sounded curious. He cocked his head to the side, and he eyed Betty carefully.

“Yes.” Betty breathed out, her eyes shimmering with concern and adoration, though Jughead couldn’t quite understand what he was seeing. He could never read Betty’s gaze in the way that he could read everyone else’s.

“Why?” Jughead asked, curious to see where this would lead and also, he wanted to delay going inside the trailer. If he could have it his way, he would just stay with Betty and keep away from everyone else who had hurt either of them.

“Because I don’t want him to get to you like he always does. I don’t want you getting upset because of anyone or anything.” Betty informed him, and she watched Jughead’s face morph in an expression of shock and then he became much calmer.

“Betts, I’ll be fine,” Jughead assured her, and he reached out to enfold Betty in his arms, pulling her close to him. Burying her head into Jughead’s neck, Betty held him tightly to her before she pressed a kiss to the sensitive, tender skin of Jughead’s neck. Shuddering, Jughead pulled away and pressed a single kiss to Betty’s forehead before disappearing into the trailer.

Glancing around, Jughead noticed that the place stunk of beer and whiskey while the trailer itself was a mess. Beer bottles were all over the floor, and Jughead noticed that they had piled up by the door. On the back of the front door, FP’s prised Serpent jacket that meant the world to him. Then again, Jughead’s jacket meant more than he could express to him as well, but it wasn’t the only thing he cared about.

All of a sudden, FP Jones appeared from the doorway to the bedroom and caught sight of his son standing there. “Prodigal son returns.” FP drunkenly announced to his son, his eyes narrowing slightly in disbelief before he asked: “How are you doing? You look good.”

“Hanging in there,” Jughead mumbled, feeling nausea rise up inside of him at the sight of his evidently drunk father. “I came by to ask if you would consider going back to work with Fred Andrews?” Jughead saw no reason to beat around the bush and turned to stare at his father, hoping there’d be no fight.

Though that was never going to happen.

“He fired me, Jughead.” FP reminded his son, anger stirring up inside of him when he noticed the small black crown on Jughead’s wrist, though he chose not to voice his opinions on that, yet. He instead chose to ask: “What kind of man would I be if I went back hat in hand?”

“For starters, a man with a job trying to fix his family.” Jughead snapped, his own anger rising up inside of him and he refused to angle his body towards his father. His lack of respect and his fury shocked FP, but he was never one to back down or who would accept the blame.

“That’s your mum, she’s the one who gave up on us and took your sister.” FP pointed out, almost growling at Jughead, who clenched his fists in rage. He finally turned around to glower at his father, who backed up slightly at the sight.

“Can you please just go see Mr Andrews? He’s willing to give you another chance.” Jughead tried to keep his cool and reminded himself that Betty was outside if he needed her. She would take him from here and distract his furious mind.

“Oh, he’s willing, huh. That’s generous of him after all the crap he pulled on me.” FP all but yelled at Jughead, leering over at him and waving his wand around in frustration. Sparks flew out of it, but Jughead didn’t back down at the sight of it.

“Dad, don’t you want to see our family back together? Mum and Jellybean could come home. You could come home to the Manor.” Jughead pointed out, almost pleading his father to come home, though he should have known that he would have gotten no response at that. Giving one last shot, he added: “It’s not too late.” Then he turned towards the door and was about to open it when FP stopped him.

“Jughead, wait!” FP called out, and Jughead stopped, his hand hovering just over the doorknob, though after a moment, he turned around to face his father. Both Jones men stared at one another as Jughead crossed the room to reach his father.

“What?” Jughead asked, staring at his father with a narrowed gaze and obvious annoyance that made FP recoil. He had had no idea that he had annoyed Jughead so much that he son could barely stand to be in the same room as him. It was only at that did FP realise that many he had gone too far off of the wagon and it would take a miracle to get back into Jughead’s good books.

FP, however, was also furious at his son and he quickly shook off the feeling of guilt and returned his son’s glower. He crossed towards Jughead, and when he was mere inches from his son, he asked: “Why the hell is it that I hear from Alice Cooper that you have a soulmate, and not from you?”

“Because you don’t give a damn!” Jughead yelled, his eyes flashing with anger and he found that at that moment, the magic coursing through his blood hand opened his holster. His wand flew into his hand, but neither he nor FP noticed it as they stared one another down.

“Jughead, who is your soulmate?” FP demanded, fearing the answer more than he cared to admit and Jughead knew that all too well. The father found himself trembling with fury, fear and guilt, but he ignored the final emotion.

“Who do think?” Jughead asked, knowing that the revelation would only leave FP feeling angry, frustrated and fearful. He knew full well that FP didn’t want his son dating a Cooper, and if they were soulmates, then that was even worse in his father’s opinion.

“Betty.” FP ground out and Jughead showed him the soulmark, which FP stared at for a long moment, and he instantly knew those initials. He had watched his son grow up with Betty after all, and he found his heart sink at the realisation.

“Well, there’s your answer.” Jughead snapped, about to turn to the door when FP grabbed his wrist, stopping him dead in his tracks. Both froze for a moment, and FP dropped Jughead’s arm immediately.

“Jug, she hurt you.” FP reminded him, still unaware of what had actually happened between Betty, Jughead and Archie back in January. He still assumed that Betty had chosen to stay away from Jughead and that assumption infuriated Jughead.

“Actually, that was Archie, who lied to us both.” The younger of the Jones men pointed out, rolling his eyes at the fact that FP didn’t know. He had sent him an owl to point this out, but apparently, his father hadn’t bothered to read that.

“Wait! What?” FP exclaimed, staring at Jughead in confusion and anger while his eyes flashed with conflict. Part of him was grateful that Betty hadn’t done that to Jughead’s heart, but at the same time, he didn’t want Jughead to remain with Betty.

At least not right now.

“Archie lied to us about what happened, but all you really care about is that I don’t date your enemy’s daughter,” Jughead growled, his fists clenching and several sparks shot out of his wand, startling FP, who stumbled backwards. Jughead straightened up and added: “Sorry to disappoint you, but my soulmate and my girlfriend is Betty Cooper, and there’s nothing you can do about it, so don’t even try.”

With those parting words, Jughead turned and left the trailer.

...

After Jughead entered the trailer, Betty found herself glancing around the trailer park, where most of the Serpents had grown up. Though, while she glanced around, a group of five headed towards the blonde girl. Most wizards and witches would have been terrified at the sight of them, but when Betty noticed them, she smiled.

“Betty, what are you doing here?” Sweet Pea asked, offering Betty a hand and helping Betty off of the workbench before pulling her into a short hug. The other Serpents followed suit and Betty waited for a moment before she turned and responded to Sweet Pea.

“Jughead went to see his dad, so I’m waiting for him before we go and look for my sister,” Betty informed him, indicating with her head to the Jones’ trailer, but the frosted windows didn’t allow anyone to see inside. None of them could see the two men arguing with one another, though they knew that they wouldn’t be having a friendly chat.

“Isn’t that who Cheryl’s after?” Joaquin asked suddenly from Betty’s left, remembering what Cheryl had been venting about after the last lesson. In fact, they had been heading to the trailer park to find Jughead and to ask him if he needed help stopping the redhead.

“What?” Betty asked, unsure if she had heard Joaquin correctly and she prayed that she hadn’t because if Cheryl knew, then they were working against time. That was only going to make finding Polly even more difficult if that was true.

“Cheryl started talking about how Polly killed Jason, and she’s going after him,” Toni informed her and Betty found her heart sinking with fear and she shook slightly in disbelief. Her eyes widened, and all of the Serpents watched as the colour drained from her face completely.

“Fuck! We have to find Polly before the Blossoms do.” Betty exclaimed before she began pacing up and down in front of the Serpents, who stared at her curiously. Toni wanted to reach out and stop Betty when the blonde tightened her ponytail, but she knew better than to do that when the blonde was stressed.

“We’ll help, Betty, don’t worry.” Fangs placed a hand on Betty’s arm, stopping her pacing and she turned to look at her. The Serpent stared at Betty in shock when he saw her wide, fearful jade eyes, but the glimmer of hope inside them could have melted the coldest of hearts.

“Really?” Betty asked, a mixture of disbelief and hope that made the group decide that there was no way that they weren’t helping her. It wasn’t just out of loyalty to Jughead, but the fact that none of them wanted to let Betty suffer.

“Yes, of course,” Kayla assured her, beaming over at the Hufflepuff because they were going to do this for her and if they had known beforehand, they would have already started their search for Polly.

“Anyway, we have to get to know the boss’ girl.” Sweet Pea smiled at her, but he then realised that it sounded like they were only doing this because of Jughead. He shook his head slightly and added: “And we want to help.”

“Thank you so much, all of you.” Betty beamed at all of them in turn and then she threw her arms around Sweet Pea, who staggered back in surprise while the rest of them joined in with the hug. The six held onto one another for a long moment before they finally pulled away.

“Don’t worry about it, Blondie, we love you.” Toni reminded her, smiling and placing a hand Betty’s shoulder while they looked at the others. They were all exchanging a glance before staring back at the two girls.

“Jug better watch out, or Toni’s going to steal you from him.” Fangs mused, beaming at them while Toni rolled her eyes in response. She was used to them teasing her about stealing Betty from Jughead, mainly because she’d threatened to do it in their fourth year.

“He already knew that.” Sweet Pea stated, smirking at the idea, but all of them were too distracted to see Jughead leaving the trailer and heading towards them. The beanie clad boy cocked his head to the side and couldn’t help but be curious.

“Who already knew what?” Jughead asked, startling all of them and they turned to face the Serpent Prince, who reached out for Betty while he looked at all of them in curiosity. Betty quickly crossed to Jughead, noticing that he was still shaking from his encounter and she ran her fingers over his exposed soulmark.

“That Toni’s going to steal your girl.” Kayla piped up, and Jughead turned his head to roll his eyes at Toni, who merely shrugged. Jughead shook his head at her and pulled Betty a lot closer to him.

“No, she’s not,” Betty mumbled to Jughead before sneaking her hand beneath her boyfriend’s jacket, pulling him closer to her. The Serpent became acutely aware that his t-shirt had rucked up and Betty’s icy hand rested against his warm skin.

“You’re breaking my heart, ponytail.” Toni dramatically placed a hand over her heart while throwing her head back slightly. All of the other shook their heads at Toni, who just flipped them all off.

“Good,” Jughead smirked over at the pink haired girl, who rolled her eyes in response before she noted that the beanie-clad boy pulled Betty closer to him and then shivered. Betty’s innocent grip on Jughead was sending shivers coursing through his body.

“Love you too, Jug.” Toni grinned over at him, and Jughead’s smirk softened into a smile because he knew that although Toni had been teasing him, she genuinely did mean it. He stared at her for a moment and then replied to her.

“Love you too.” Jughead nodded at her before squeezing Betty gently beside. Surprisingly, the blonde didn’t feel any jealousy towards Toni because she knew that her soulmate saw his fellow Serpent as a little sister.

“Anyway, shall we go and find Polly?” Joaquin snapped everyone back into reality, and all joy, laughter and happiness left them all immediately. Shrugging at that, he indicated to Fox Forest with his head, and they all knew that they needed to find the other Cooper.

“To Fox Forest.” Sweet Pea began to lead them towards the forest, and the Serpents all fell into step with one another. Betty and Jughead hung at the back, though they would be leading the group when they met everyone at Fox Forest.

“Are you alright?” Betty whispered to her soulmate, glancing up at him and Jughead slowly moved his gaze to meet Betty’s. The concern and care in Betty’s eyes managed to fill Jughead with a rush of relief.

“I am now that I’m with you,” Jughead informed her, unaware that everyone else was listening to their conversation. All he focused on was Betty, and he offered her a small, soft and genuine smile.

“Stop being sappy, Jones.” Sweet Pea yelled over his shoulder at Jughead, who snapped his head up to look at the other boy. Rolling his eyes dramatically, he sighed and shook his head at the tallest Serpent.

“Fuck off, Sweet Pea!” Jughead yelled at the other Serpent, who looked back at him in fake horror. Around him, the others chuckled at Sweet Pea’s expression, and it morphed from a false expression to a real one.

“You deserved that one,” Kayla informed him, leaving Sweet Pea pouting at her in disbelief while laughter filled everyone else.

“Yeah, don’t pout, Sweets,” Joaquin added, evidently enjoying seeing Sweet Pea acting like that and even Betty found herself enjoying it. For a few moments, she allowed her stress to leave her as she watched the group tease Sweet Pea mercilessly.

“I’m not pouting.” Sweet Pea protested before glancing over at Jughead and Betty. Upon seeing that neither of them seemed too bothered at their fooling around while they walked towards the meeting place. Due to that, they continued joking around.

“Sweet Pea?” Fangs asked, tilting his head to the side and distracting his best friend, who glanced back at Fangs, cocking his head to the side.

“Yes, Fangs?” Sweet Pea asked just before they made it to the meeting place and before all joy left them and seriousness set in, Fangs uttered two words that eliciting one last breath of laughter and a smile from the entire group.

“You’re pouting.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 23 – Deep End

‘It's getting close

I lose control

It's taking over

I'm slipping into the deep end

I 'm in over my head

I can't catch my breath.’

 

The Serpents soon found themselves being joined by many members of the sixth year from the Gryffindor jocks to Josie and the Pussycats. They all crowded around the small clearing when Alice and Hal arrived on the scene, but Betty completely ignored her parents.  Slipping her hand into Jughead’s, she turned to address everyone gathered there.

“Erm, okay, the Sisters of Quiet Mercy are due North. The getaway was West on the old Junction 40.” Betty informed everyone gathered there, who nodded in understanding while they all glanced to where Betty pointed.

“Closest bus station is East headed towards the Black Lake. If Polly wanted to leave Riverdale without anyone seeing her, she probably would have left through right-” Jughead carried on until he was interrupted by Betty, not that he minded.

“Right here, Fox Forest.” Betty pointed to the ground, and Jughead nodded in agreement before he glanced back at Betty. Squeezing her hand gently, Jughead offered her a comforting smile before allowing himself to be guided through the forest.

When they were just out of earshot of everyone else, Jughead murmured: “Betts, we will find her, I promise.” His eyes shone with the belief that they would find Polly; they glimmered with a stubbornness to see it through; and there was a small spark of fear as if in the back of his mind, it dawned on him that there was a killer on the loose.

“Thank you,” Betty whispered, squeezing his hand in response before they began to focus on the task at hand. Everyone kept on calling out: “POLLY!” Though, no matter how much they shouted, no response came.

As they walked, Archie sped up to Betty’s side, and smiled at her before he let out a soft sigh and stated: “Hey, all this stuff with your sister, I’m sorry you had to go through that and that I wasn’t there to help you.”

“It’s okay, Arch you’re here now.” Betty smiled in return, and then both of them fell back into step with everyone else. Betty leant into Jughead as they walked and the Serpent wrapped his arm around his girlfriend’s waist, pulling her ever closer to him.

...

On the other trail, which was just visible through the undergrowth, Veronica walked with the Serpents and found herself rushing towards Toni and Kayla, who she’d been needing to speak with. She rushed towards them, and she called out: “Erm, Toni? Kayla?”

“Yes, Veronica?” Toni turned around to face Veronica before looping her arm with hers and then she did the same with Kayla. The three girls fell into step with one another all while looking around the forest for Polly. All of them had met or at least scene Polly, so knew vaguely what they looked like and they kept their eyes peeled for any sign the older Cooper sister.

“I wanted to thank you for making sure that Betty is okay,” Veronica informed them, her eyes travelling to Toni in particular, and the two girls locked their gazes. They beamed at one another before Veronica extended her smile to Kayla.

“Don’t worry about it, Veronica, we care about her as much as you.” Toni reminded her, glancing over at Betty and Jughead on the other side of the walkway. She smiled softly at the sight, grateful that the pair were finally happy and together.

“Betty’s one of us, just like you and we take care of our own.” Kayla reminded her with a small smile before both she and Veronica followed Toni’s gaze. The three girls all beamed at the sight and decided that the suffering that their friends had been forced to endure was over.

At least for a short while.

...

Kevin hung back on the same track as the Serpents and found himself tripping over many stumps and brambles that were covering the forest floor. He had managed to trip over once again when he heard: “Watch out, Keller, or you’ll get hurt.”

Kevin glanced up to see Joaquin smiling down at him, and he smiled up at him. “I’m trying to be, but I’m a bit clumsy.” He pointed out, detangling his hands from the shrubbery, Kevin started to struggle to his feet.

“I can see,” Joaquin smirked before he noted that Kevin was struggling to get to his feet and he offered Kevin his left hand. “Here.” Without thinking, he grasped Joaquin’s wrist with his left hand and pulled himself up. Warmth flooded their veins, and both glanced down to see a dark shape looping around on their wrists to form a Celtic knot.

“Oh, Merlin!” Kevin exclaimed alerting everyone to the fact that something had just happened and everyone turned to face them. The two boys stayed there, their hands interlaced as they smiled at one another.

“Guys, what’s wrong?” Betty asked, cocking her head to the side and staring at them in concern before they walked over to them. The groups converged, and they all stared at Kevin and Joaquin in confusion.

“We’ve just marked.” Joaquin smiled at Kevin and squeezed his hand gently before he finally looked at everyone else. They slowly retracted their hands, displaying their marks to the rest of the group.

“Wow.” Sweet Pea gasped, clapping Joaquin and Kevin on the back with a smile before he moved towards the others. He was pleased that Joaquin had found someone who he deserved and he happened to like Kevin too, so he had no objections to it.

“Finally.” Veronica cheered, beaming over at them and kissing both on the cheek in delight. She was over the moon for both of them, and she was grateful that there was at least some glimmer of happiness in their lives.

“We’ll have to celebrate in a bit.” Fangs beamed and everyone nodded in agreement until they noticed that both Jughead and Betty were distracted. The pair had narrowed their eyes at something near them.

“Though, I think we might be a tad busy.” Jughead murmured nodding towards the Blossoms, who were nearing them Sheriff Keller was by their side, though he was less poised and evidently uncomfortable.

“Alice Cooper, where is she? Where’s Polly?” Penelope demanded, her eyes blazing with anger and most of the students shrunk back. This was not something they wanted to get involved with, at all.

“You think if I knew that I would be out here with the mosquitoes?” Alice asked, grimacing at her surroundings, despising being here with every part of her being. She just wanted to find her daughter and be done with everything.

“Face facts, Mummy dearest, Polly killed Jason,” Cheryl stated, glaring at Betty, who moved away from Cheryl, gripping onto Jughead. The Serpent, in turn, secured his grip on his girlfriend before he glared at the redhead.

“She escaped from the asylum once, who’s to say that she didn’t before, say the day that Jason got murdered?” Clifford suggested, a smirk crawling onto his lips that terrified everyone around him and they all recoiled at the sight.

“The noose is tightening around your murdering daughter’s neck. I know it. Sheriff Keller knows it.” Penelope threatened, her eyes boring into Alice’s, though it was evident that the Auror behind her had other ideas.

“Hold on now.” Sheriff Keller protested, but everyone ignored him as Penelope took another step towards Alice. The Cooper woman held her ground, but it was evident that she wanted to be elsewhere.

“And I promise you when we find her, and we will find her, the entire population of the Wizarding World will know too,” Penelope stated, and Alice found herself realising a way out of this.

...

Alice retreated inside the Shrine of Merlin and promptly started reapplying her makeup while Betty looked around nervously. “Mum, is this a good idea?” Betty asked, unsure of what her mother’s plan was as she added: “I thought we were trying to contain this.”

“Well, we were Elizabeth, but now that the cat’s out of the bag, we’re in full-on damage control mode,” Alice stated, closing her compact before pulling out her pink lipstick. “The Blossoms have their version of the events, but they don’t know the whole story, at least not yet and that gives us a momentary advantage.”

“I don’t know if I can do this,” Betty mumbled, not ready to do this, and she knew that this may only end up worse for her and Polly. There was no way that this could end well at all for anyone at all.

“Oh, you can and you will. You’ll be standing right beside me and your father. A united front against the holiest of backdrops.” Alice stated, indicating to their surroundings before adding quietly: “Let’s see the Blossoms try to smear us then.”

...

Alice and Hal along with a reluctant Betty lined up in front of a crowd of reporters and all of those who had been searching for Polly. All of them noticed that the youngest Cooper was shaking and took pity on her, knowing that she just wanted to find her sister. It was the intentions of Alice and Hal they didn’t trust.

“There’s been a swirl of rumours today about our daughter, Polly and we’re standing here to tell you that they’re all false.” Alice addressed everyone, and Cheryl Blossom rolled her eyes in disbelief at it as Alice continued speaking. “Yes, Polly was seeking treatment in a private care facility, and she was under strict observation even at the time of Jason Blossom’s death.” Betty met Jughead’s gaze and saw that her boyfriend’s expression was masked with concern. He wanted to get her out of there, but he had no power to do that.

“When she found out about the murder she was beside herself with grief,” Alice stated, looking at each and every one before she dropped the ultimate bombshell. “You see, my daughter, Polly, is pregnant with Jason Blossom’s baby.”

Eyes widened in disbelief, and everyone froze. They hadn’t been expecting that, and Alice had been counting on that when she added: “Polly wouldn’t hurt a fly, let alone the father of her unborn child.” People began nodding in understanding as all three of the Blossoms left the small clearing.

Tear-stained and upset, Alice turned to the camera, her eyes glimmering with pain. A single tear cascaded down her cheek and she sobbed: “Polly, darling, if you’re watching this, please come home.”

...

Hours later, Jughead and Betty found their way wandering through the streets of Hogsmeade, hand in hand. “Hey, you didn’t have to walk me home,” Betty stated as they neared her home, though she knew that in the end, they’d both end up at Hogwarts.

“Err, there’s a killer on the loose, remember?” Jughead reminded her, smirking at the look on Betty’s face before he started to choke on his next words. “Besides isn’t this what you know, what people like us who have been who have gone through what we’ve gone through do? Isn’t this what soulmates do?” Betty would have giggled at his words if her mind had been full of turbulent thoughts that seemed to want to consume her. “What is it? I mean besides everything?”

“She wouldn’t have run away if it wasn’t for me, Jug,” Betty mumbled, evidently distressed at the idea that she made her sister run away. She believed that it was her fault that Polly had gotten hurt on that window and guilt consumed her. Betty couldn’t see that Polly had made the choice on her own to leave the Sisters of Quiet Mercy.

“Betty, your parents were the ones lying to her and keeping her in the dark.” Jughead pointed out, sensing his soulmate’s distress and pulling her closer to him. “You did the right thing, telling her the truth.”

“It’s funny. This isn’t the first time Polly’s run away from home.” Betty mumbled, a small smile flickering on her lips and the look Jughead gave her told her to tell him the story. “She was nine, and she and my mum got into this huge fight, and she disappeared for hours. The whole neighbourhood was out looking for her.”

“How far did she get?” Jughead asked, genuinely curious to hear of the older Cooper girl’s antics since he had barely spoken to her despite being friends with Betty for twelve years. Yet, after the prolonged silence, he asked: “What?”

Betty turned to him and grabbed his face, crushing their lips together, and Jughead quickly cupped her face gently. He whined slightly when Betty pulled back, but she quickly cut him off by saying: “Thank you for walking me home, and I think I know where Polly is.”

“Seriously?” Jughead’s curiosity got the better of him as Betty began to lead him towards the Cooper house. Once they had entered, Betty called out: “Mum? Dad?” When there was no answer, Betty mumbled: “Lumos.” With that, she began to guide Jughead up the stairs to the attic all while calling: “Polly?” Upon entering, Betty mumbled: “It’s okay.” Her eyes swept around the attic for any sign of her sister and felt compelled to add: “Mum and Dad aren’t here.”

Just as they were about to leave, Betty and Jughead found a hand clasped over the mouths. They both glanced in the mirror to see that it was Polly, and with that both relaxed. It wasn’t as terrifying anymore, though the dolls dotted around the room were freaking Jughead out a little bit.

“How did you get up here without anyone seeing you?” Jughead asked once they had gotten settled, and he watched as Betty bandaged Polly’s wound slowly. The younger sister bit down on her lower lip as she worked while Polly winced slightly.

“I wrote the book on getting in and out of this house.” Polly grinned at the other two before she added: “And Dad still hasn’t fixed the cellar door.”

“Polly, everyone’s worried sick.” Betty stated, shaking her head at her sisters before quickly asking: “Why did you leave the home? You could have really hurt yourself.” Betty indicated to Polly’s newly bandaged leg.

“I couldn’t just stay there, waiting for someone who was never going to show. Jason and I, we had a plan to go to this farm and raise the baby. It’s where I still want to go, but I don’t have any money. I don’t have anything.” Polly’s eyes watered at the idea, and she found herself once again thinking of Jason.

“Why don’t you just stay here?” Betty suggested, hoping that Polly could potentially stay at home or come back to Hogwarts. Though, she knew deep down that Polly wouldn’t choose to stay with the people who locked her up.

“Mum and Dad want me to give the baby up for adoption. They made that very clear and that’s not what I want.” Polly pointed out, her eyes bulging at that mere suggestion of her staying at home.

“It’s their grandchild, Polly. Everyone knows you’re pregnant now. There’s no more stigma.” Betty tried to reason with her and then she glanced back at Jughead, who shook his head to say that he didn’t know what to do.

“You don’t know what they’ll do, and I won’t have my baby raised in a home that doesn’t want it,” Polly stated, disbelief masking her features and she stared at Betty incredulously for a long moment when they heard the sound of Alice and Hal entering the house.

“Give Jug and me a few days, and we’ll find you someplace safe here in Hogsmeade. Please, Polly, I cannot lose you again.” Betty murmured frantically, squeezing Polly’s hands once before she and Jughead were forced to leave. By the door, Betty turned back to Polly and took one last look of her sister.

...

The next morning while all the students headed to lessons, FP Jones found himself outside of Andrews’ Construction. With one small sigh, he entered the trailer and looked around before spotting Fred at his desk. “This is an upgrade from the tin can we used to work in.”

“Wasn’t sure you were going to take me up on the offer.” Fred set down his work before indicating for FP to sit down. The Serpent King seated himself inelegantly before looking up at the man opposite him.

“Wasn’t sure it was real,” FP stated, unashamed of the fact that he believed that because Fred had cut him loose. Then again, he had been operating many reasonably illegal activities, and he wasn’t about to turn over a new leaf.

“Not going to lie to you, it wasn’t my idea,” Fred stated, sitting back and folding his arms, assessing the man in front of him. “The boys came up with it. I probably could have reached out before.”

“Look, coming back here, it isn’t easy for me, but hell, I just want my son to look at me and not see a piece of garbage. Feels like it might be my last shot.” FP eyes watered slightly, and his voice was strained, and Fred found himself unable to turn him away. Knowing that this was the only chance to help the Jones family, Fred refused to turn them away.

“Then, let’s make it work,” Fred stated, standing up and FP followed suit before shaking his hand gratefully. The two men smiled at one another before both headed out to start work on both the latest construction in Riverdale and on fixing the Jones Family.

...

During lunch, Betty paced relentlessly while Veronica watched from one of the seats in the library. The young Hufflepuff was tense and stressed while her Ravenclaw friend watched her anxiously. “I don’t want Polly to run away, but if she can’t live at home, then I don’t know, I can rent her an apartment.”

“Let me talk to my mum,” Veronica suggested, knowing that her mother would offer Polly a safe place to stay, mainly to spite Alice Cooper, but she would care for Polly at the same time. She also knew that Betty wouldn’t be able to afford a place to stay even though she didn’t have to pay for Polly’s medical care.

“No, you have your own stuff that you’re dealing with right now, V.” Betty shook her head, not wanting to burden Veronica with this and she also wasn’t too sure if Polly would agree. Then again, anything would be better than the Sisters of Quiet Mercy.

“B, Polly needs doctors, she needs prenatal vitamins.” Veronica pointed out, knowing that Betty couldn’t do this on her own and she wasn’t going to let her friend go through this alone. She’d be damned if she did and she was determined to help.

“She needs her family.” Cheryl’s voice floated through the room, and both of the other girls turned to look at Cheryl. “And if you can’t find her a safe place to live, she is always welcome at Thornhill, but I’m sure you’ll want to try elsewhere first. We will look after her, and I’m sorry for everything I said about her.”

“Thank you, Cheryl, and if we can’t find elsewhere, I will ask. Also, I forgive you. I understand that everything has been so difficult for you.” Betty smiled, knowing that she was taking the path of least resistance, though she also didn’t want Jason’s family to hate Polly.

“Thanks, Betty.” Cheryl beamed before fleeing the room before anyone else could see the act of kindness and vulnerability. Both Veronica and Betty were left staring after the Slytherin girl, but neither made to chase after her.

...

FP and Fred were exhausted when they re-entered the trailer, only to find Jughead and Archie waiting for them. The two boys were tossing a ball between one another, but they stopped the moment that they noticed the adults. Fred stared at Jughead awkwardly as he noticed the Serpent jacket on Jughead’s back for the first time.

“How was your first day back?” Jughead asked, looking over at his father, rising from his seat to look at his father, a small smile on his lips. He straightened up and looked at his father as Archie rose with him.

“It was great,” FP assured his son, knowing that it was what Jughead wanted to hear and the young man beamed at his father. That smile alone was almost enough to make FP feel guilty at how he’d been acting towards his son.

“Your dad is the hardest working guy in the crew.” Fred clapped FP on his back while he silently wondered whether it would stay like that. He could also see that Jughead was also wondering that, but neither dared voice it.

“In that case why don’t we celebrate?” Jughead suggested, glancing over at Archie who nodded in agreement. The two fathers glanced at both of them in confusion as it had been so long since they had been so close.

“Yeah, Jug and I were thinking that the four of us could go to Pop’s,” Archie added, knowing that both Jones loved the diner and that it would be a safe place for them to be with one another. It seemed a safe bet for all in his eyes.

...

Several hours since they had left the construction site, Jughead and Archie found themselves in the garage with FP. Archie was strumming his guitar, playing for both FP and Jughead while attempting to ignore the feeling of apprehension that was filling him. He finally stopped strumming and glanced up at the other two with a small smile.

“Damn, Boss, you are good, way better than your dad.” FP congratulated, smirking at Archie, who bowed his head at that. Though he soon found himself grimacing when FP asked: “Hey, does Fred keep any beer in here?”

“Err, Dad, don’t you think it’s a little late?” Jughead asked, his eyes begging FP to stop, and he sighed heavily before turning away. He didn’t see that Jughead could clear watch him take a swing from a hipflask. He didn’t notice his son’s heart shattering into a million pieces at the sight of him drinking again. He didn’t see the light fade from Jughead’s heart as his eyes grew dark and angry.

“Yeah, yeah.” FP nodded, turning back to the boys before remembering that he had to go and say goodnight to Fred. He placed his hipflask in his bag before murmuring.“I’ve got a big day tomorrow, anyway.” As soon as he had vanished, Jughead leapt into action and hid the hipflask in the sofa, while Archie watched on. The Gryffindor boy couldn’t help but wonder how many times Jughead had done that, but before he could ask, they both heard: “You ready to roll, Jugs?”

“See you tomorrow.” Jughead nodded to Archie before returning to his dad’s side. Fred and Archie watched in despair as Jughead all but carried FP to their truck before driving off. Neither of them had expected it to be quite as bad as they had just witnessed, and both were grateful that they didn’t have to deal with that.

The truck rid was silent. Jughead didn’t dare speak to his father in fear of yelling at him, and it wasn’t until they reached FP’s trailer that either spoke. “I’ll sleep right here on this couch,” FP informed Jughead as the younger of the two helped him sit down. Then, as he pressed his arm to his forehead, FP added: “You can take the bedroom.”

“I’m not going to take your bed, Dad, I’ll go back to school,” Jughead spoke coolly, not wanting to spend any longer than necessary in the trailer. All he really wanted to do was curl up in the Blue and Gold and let out all of his pain while he held onto Betty. In fact, all he needed right now was Betty, but he wasn’t about to drag her into this.

“Won’t be the first time I’ve crashed on this thing. Thank you.” FP rambled, thanking his son for helping to remove his tight shoes and he leant back. Only then did Jughead remember that FP was really the only person he could talk to about Gladys and Jellybean.

“I talked to Mum. She got a job at a muggle call centre to pay for online classes. I guess she’s finally going after a muggle qualification. Jellybean is helping her study.” Jughead informed him, silently proud of his mother, but much more impressed by his little sister. He knew that Jellybean would ensure that Gladys succeeded and he quickly added: “By the way, Jellybean wants to go as JB now. She thinks it sounds cooler. She’s ten years old and listens to Pink Floyd on vinyl, I don’t think she could get any cooler.”

Glancing back at FP, Jughead noted that he had passed out, and he was all but certain that his father hadn’t heard a word he’d said about his mother or sister. Sighing quietly, Jughead made FP comfortable and threw a blanket over his father before he made for the door. Stopping, he glanced back, and he couldn’t help but think that it should be the other way around. His father should be the one looking after him, and not him looking after his father. His father should be the one comforting him, not making him feel worse. His father should be the one he trusted the most in the world.

But he wasn’t.

Jughead shook his head, ridding himself of those thoughts before he quickly exited the trailer and wandered into the park. All around him, staring out of the windows of their homes, Serpents watched their Prince walk away from their home with his head down. They had all known Jughead from birth and had watched as Jughead had had his innocence knocked out of him from a young age. They had watched him become thinner, wiser and stronger, but all saw behind his mask and saw the reality.

He was just a sixteen-year-old boy.

But he had the weight of the world on his shoulders.

Though, they had all heard of the glimmer of hope in Jughead’s life. All of them could remember seeing the blonde Hufflepuff, who Jughead was returning to right now. They all knew that there was a flicker of comfort for Jughead in the form of Betty Cooper, and for that, they were grateful.

...

Jughead had headed to breakfast early because Veronica had apprehended Betty in the office of the Blue and Gold. He had pecked Betty on the cheek and then he had fled, still wanting to avoid Betty’s questions. He had just gotten out of the Great Hall when he spotted all of his friends gathered in the Entrance Hall, but before he could cross to them, Sheriff Keller flew through the front door.

Eyes all narrowed as he made his way to Jughead before stopping mere feet away from him, his eyes dark and mistrusting. Teachers and students alike watched the young Serpent straighten up, and they all heard the rustle of leather. Gulping slightly Jughead offered a small: “Hey.”

“Hey.” Sheriff Keller responded, looking Jughead up and down slowly, and Jughead had the crippling thought that FP had once again landed himself in trouble. It wouldn’t be the first time that the Auror had come to Jughead to tell him that and Jughead prepared for that.

He couldn’t have been more wrong.

This had nothing to do with FP.

“What’s up?” Jughead asked cautiously since he already had a deep mistrust of the Auror, but he spoke cordially as ever. He knew better than to antagonise the older man, only this time it was more important than ever. This time it was his neck on the line, only he hadn’t realised that until Sheriff Keller took several steps towards him, bringing out his handcuffs. Jughead’s eyes widened, and his heart raced as he felt fear course through him, only this time it wasn’t just his own. Glancing over at Betty, he saw the anxiety in her eyes, and he knew that both of their tumultuous emotions were coursing through his veins.

“I’m going to need you to come down to the station.” Sheriff Keller stated, stepping behind Jughead and roughly seizing his arms to place the handcuffs on the young Slytherin. Jughead managed to send one last terrified look at Betty before he was led away from her and out of Hogwarts to be questioned.

Chapter Text

Chapter 24 – Demons


‘When you feel my heat
Look into my eyes
It's where my demons hide
It's where my demons hide
Don't get too close
It's dark inside
It's where my demons hide
It's where my demons hide.’

 

Jughead found himself handcuffed to the table at the local Sheriff’s station while opposite him, Sheriff Keller sat, flicking through files and occasionally glancing up at Jughead. Every so often someone would bring him another record, and he would read it, taking forever to read a page. He wasn’t concerned about hurrying this investigation along until he read the final file and then he glanced back at Jughead, who stared at him in fear.


“Forensics just came back on the car. Despite the fire, well, we were able to pull a pair of prints off the trunk: yours and Betty’s, which of course is no surprise. But, what did surprise me is this.” Sheriff Keller opened up his first file and displayed it to Jughead, who blanched at the sight of it. He had seen this file before when it was created, and he hated that this was being brought up once more. “Your prints are on file from an incident that happened six years ago where you spent some time in Juvenile Delinquent Centre in Wales, for attempting to burn down Riverdale Primary School.”


“I was playing with matches.” Jughead snapped, remembering being alone and cold that evening while he waited for his parents. He’d just been trying to keep warm, and he had wanted some light so that he could see. It had been December after all, but that wasn’t what was angering him, and Jughead quickly added: “And that’s a pretty tenuous connection for a sheriff.”


“Well, Professor Weatherbee also allowed me to have a look at your school record. You’ve a long and rough history, Mr Jones. Bullied a lot.” Sheriff Keller pointed out as if he hadn’t known that already seeing as Jughead was still friends with Kevin. For a second, Sheriff Keller saw the small boy he’d met all those years ago who's clothing was too baggy and who apparently only had two friends.


Yet, Jughead’s voice snapped him back to the present.


“Yeah, my name is Jughead.” Jughead pointed out, his eyes smouldering with anger and Sheriff Keller found himself recoiling slightly. He could understand now why Jughead was feared among his peers and he found himself shuddering at the sound.


“By the Gryffindor Quidditch Team and their associates in particular.  I can only assume that would have included Jason Blossom.” Sheriff Keller knew that all of the rich students hung out together and despite being a Slytherin, Jason would have been friends with the group. He watched closely as Jughead flinched at the mention of it and he continued to probe: “So how about this, how about you tell me your whereabouts on the week of July 11th.”


“I was at school and went home on the 11th July on the Hogwarts’ Express as I do each year. I hadn’t seen Jason since the 3rd July until his body was discovered in the Black Lake.” Jughead retorted, knowing that if he had to drink a truth serum, then he’d say exactly the same. He wasn’t lying, and he found that fact somewhat comforting.


“Why should I believe you?” Sheriff Keller asked, his eyes narrowing, searching for any sign of a lie because he needed to solve this case. Yet, the more he searched, the more apparent it became that Jughead wasn’t lying at all. In fact, with each passing moment, Jughead’s gaze grew more and more sincere.


“Because you’ve known me all my life. I’m close friends with your son. Just because I wear a Serpent jacket doesn’t make me a criminal. I hate that everyone assumes that, but you Northsiders always label us with it.” Jughead stated, growing angrier and angrier at the injustice of it all, but behind the façade of confidence, Sheriff Keller saw the need to prove himself.


“I’m not labelling you, Mr Jones, I’m stating facts.” Sheriff Keller spoke carefully, trying not to tread too harshly to prevent Jughead’s feelings from being hurt too much. Though, he knew that Jughead was going to get more frustrated, no matter what he said.


“Facts? I didn’t burn down the school, I was cold and alone outside of school and found several matches. My parents were arguing and had forgotten to take me home. I was abandoned, which is something that no one bothers to remember.” Jughead snapped, still remembering how the cold that night had been and he was on the verge of either yelling, crying or both.


“Mr Jones, please don’t use that tone. I am merely apprehensive because of your affiliation.” Sheriff Keller narrowed his eyes at the boy opposite him, disapproving of everything that Jughead now stood for. He would never be able to fully see eye to eye with Jughead after his decision to join the Serpents, especially since he could be corrupting Kevin.


“What? Because I belong to the Serpents? We’re not evil, we’re just a group of friends and family. Yes, we’re not as polished as everyone else, but we don’t murder anyone.” Jughead clenched his fists, feeling the metal of the handcuffs biting into his skin, but instead of wincing, he used it to fuel his anger as he added: “Yes, Jason bullied me, but no I didn’t murder him.”


“I need someone to confirm your alibi.” Sheriff Keller pointed out, his voice growing more and more stern with each word that left his lips. He wasn’t about to give up on this lead, even though he knew that he was wrong. He just needed this to be over, and if Jughead had to be a scapegoat then, he had to be a scapegoat.


“This is crazy.” Jughead stated, pausing as it all sunk in properly before he added: “You think I murdered-” Cutting himself off, Jughead gulped, terrified that he might be convicted for this and then handed over to the Dementors for the rest of his life.


“Jughead, a kid like you raised by a deadbeat dad and the co-leader of a gang, you’re going to snap one day – who says it wasn’t the 11th July.” Sheriff Keller pointed out, leaning forward, hoping to gain any kind of confession from Jughead.


But the Serpent had other ideas.


“I’m done talking to you – I want a lawyer.” Jughead counted, resisting the urge to fold his arms and Sheriff Keller knew that he would get nowhere if he continued like this. Then again, he only had the rest of this twenty-four hour period to prove Jughead was guilty before he had to release him.


And Jughead knew that.
...


“Professor McGonagall!” Betty chased after the Headmistress of Hogwarts, pushing through the throng of students who had gathered while Jughead was being arrested. They all parted, and the older woman spun around to face Betty. She took in the stunned, broken and fearful expression of one of the most treasured students at school and she knew that she had to do something to help her.


“Miss Cooper?” Professor McGonagall asked while the other teachers began to herd students away from the two women. Eyes remained glued onto them until they were all led away leaving just the woman in green and the Hufflepuff girl standing before her.


“I have to get to the Sheriff’s Station – Jughead didn’t do anything,” Betty stated, her eyes wide, fearful and concerned. Every so often, she also swore that she felt a sharp jab of pain as if she was wearing a set of handcuffs, but she shook it off and focused on Professor McGonagall.


“Miss Cooper, I believe you, I do, but what are you going to do?” Professor McGonagall asked, desperate to help both of the students, but she did not know what could be done. She had never held that much sway with any of the authorities and she doubted that Betty did either.


 “Give Jughead an alibi,” Betty stated, knowing that she wouldn’t be lying to the Aurors, and she knew that Jughead was innocent. He might have a dark side, but he wasn’t evil, and she was sure of that.


“Miss Cooper?” Professor McGonagall stared at Betty in shock, unsure of what Betty might say to the Aurors and she had no idea if she could help or not. Betty would have to be prepared to swear that she would say the same with a truth serum for the Aurors to believe her.


“We both frequented the library during the same periods, and spent a lot of time by the Black Lake – the Serpents one side I would be reading by the old willow tree. Also, I saw him on the Hogwarts’ Express on the 11th July.” Betty pointed out, recalling it all, and McGonagall had to admit that she had seen Jughead there as well. He was hard to miss with that beanie, and besides, she knew that he would never do anything like this.


“Very well, Miss Cooper, we shall leave now.” Professor McGonagall offered Betty her arm in order to disapparate to the Sheriff’s Station of Hogsmeade. She knew that it would be much more efficient than walking and she could see that  Betty was desperate to get to Jughead’s side.


“We?” Betty asked incredulously, having not expected that, but she was incredibly grateful to her headmistress for doing this for her. She knew that McGonagall could have easily said no and she found herself on the verge of flinging her arms around her and thanking her for the rest of her living days.


“My word will back up yours, Miss Cooper.” Professor McGonagall pointed out, reminding Betty that she did hold a very strong voice in the Wizarding World. No one would dare argue with Dumbledore’s assistant, and Betty had a feeling that the old headmaster had left a slightly kinder woman than the one he’d first met. Though she was pulled out of her thoughts by McGonagall adding: “Besides, I can disapparate whereas you cannot.”


“Fair point. Thank you, Professor McGonagall.” Betty accepting Professor McGonagall’s outstretched arm and clutched it tightly, preparing herself to disapparate. She knew that it wasn’t comfortable, but she’d do anything to comfort her soulmate.


“You’re welcome, Miss Cooper.” Professor McGonagall smiled before quickly disapparating, leaving the Entrance Hall empty of all life, apart from the pictures, who had all been watching. It came as no surprise to them that the two women went after Jughead, and a buzz of conversation sprung up the second they left.


...


“Mr Jones isn’t helping himself, Minerva.” Sheriff Keller informed her the moment he saw the headmistress, and he completely ignored Betty. He was frustrated enough, and the guilt was beginning to set in. “He refuses to speak anymore.”


“Has he given you an alibi?” Professor McGonagall asked, her lips thin and her eyes narrowed behind square spectacles. She would do anything to help her students, and she didn’t care if that involved terrifying Keller first.


“Yes, but-” Sheriff Keller trailed off at the look he received, and he gracefully bowed his head to avoid the intensity of the stare he received from the formidable woman. He was absolutely terrified of Professor McGonagall.


“But, Miss Cooper here can offer you the same story, I suspect.” Professor McGonagall’s tone left no room for argument, and she silently ordered Sheriff Keller to hear Betty out. Turning slowly, the man faced Betty with a sigh, knowing that she was about to prove Jughead’s innocence.


“Very well, Miss Cooper, what was Mr Jones doing on the 11th July?” Sheriff Keller asked, his eyes boring into Betty’s eyes in an attempt to intimidate her, but the young Cooper girl stood her ground. She wasn’t afraid of the man before her; he wasn’t half as scary as Alice Cooper was.


“He was on the Hogwarts Express by half nine with the other Serpents, and he left Platform Nine and Three Quarters at around half five. Before that, during the week between the disappearance, he was mainly in the library or at the Black Lake with his friends.” Betty stated, watching as Sheriff Keller’s face drained of hope, confirming that her story matched Jughead’s own tale. She felt terrible that Sheriff Keller had to go back to the drawing board, but he had also falsely accused her boyfriend of murder, so she didn’t feel too bad.


“Hmmm, very well.” Sheriff Keller finally conceded that he couldn’t get any charges to stick and he knew better than to fight a Cooper woman protecting someone they love. He knew when to admit defeat, and he did do that, somewhat painfully.


“Can I see him?” Betty then asked, desperate to make sure that Jughead was alright. He’d been through hell of late, and she hoped to offer him a small glimmer of comfort while they waited for everything to be processed. All she needed was for him to feel safe, and she’d do everything in her power to ensure that.


...


Jughead heard the interrogation room door open once more, and anger flooded his entire being at the sound. Without looking up to check who was there, and through gritted teeth, he growled in a low voice: “I told you that I wasn’t talking to you.”


“Did you?” Betty’s voice met his ear, and he jerked his head upwards to see his girlfriend cautiously walking towards him. Like him, Betty looked exhausted, and her uniform was a far cry from its usual perfected look.


“Betts?” Jughead croaked as a flood of emotions came crashing through his body; pain, fear, relief and hope-filled him as he looked into the teary gaze of the one person who meant the world to him. He reached out for her but hissed in pain as the cuffs restricted his movement and prevented him from taking Betty’s hand.


“Oh, Juggie.” Betty rushed towards him, cupping his head for a second before cradling it to her side while she ran her hand over his beanie to soothe him. Jughead turned his head towards Betty as she asked: “Why are you still handcuffed?”


“I don’t know,” Jughead confessed, glancing back up at Betty, who began tucking stray strands of hair into Jughead’s beanie. The Serpent stayed still for a moment, revelling in the sensation of Betty’s soft fingers gliding through his hair before he finally murmured: “They don’t believe my alibi.”


“They’re processing it as we speak,” Betty mumbled, pulling Jughead closer to her and she found herself praying that they believed her. Doubt from both of them filled her being until all of a sudden, she felt a rush hope coursing through her veins.


“What?” Jughead asked incredulously, glancing up at his girlfriend, cerulean eyes meeting jade and for a moment Jughead lost himself in Betty’s gaze. He remained leaning against her but kept their gazes locked as Betty gave his arm a light squeeze before she ghosted her lips over Jughead’s forehead.


“I kept tabs on you and gave them your alibi,” Betty mumbled, wishing that she could unlock Jughead’s handcuffs and allow him to throw his arms around her or at least stop him from hurting. She knew that the metal was designed to irritate the skin and Jughead was evidently in agony every time he moved his hands.


“Betts, you are my saving grace, thank you. Thank you.” Jughead murmured, encouraging Betty to pull him even closer to her body. Jughead breathed in the familiar scent of vanilla, parchment and lilies that made him feel like home.


“We’re getting you out of here, I promise you,” Betty assured him, but as Jughead leant back to smile up at her, he felt a searing pain through his body. Both of them glanced down at the handcuffs to see that the metal now rested directly over Jughead’s soulmark. Hissing in pain, Jughead moved forwards to stop the pain that both he and Betty were currently experiencing.


“Those paradise lost kids went to death row for wearing black and listening to Metallica – I don’t want to be like them. I don’t want to be a scapegoat, Betty.” Jughead’s fear was beginning to get the better of him, but Betty wasn’t about to allow that to happen.


“I won’t let that happen, I promise you, Jughead,” Betty assured him, knowing that she would fight anyone who dared attempt to lock Jughead up. She would protect him, no matter what, even against whoever was opening the door as they spoke. Wheeling around, Betty turned to face Sheriff Keller, who was glowering at Jughead, who fought the urge to straighten up.


“Mr Jones, Miss Cooper has confirmed your alibi.” Sheriff Keller informed him, placing Jughead’s wand on the table before him and then he moved to unlock the handcuffs while adding: “You’re free to go.”


Jughead shot up, grabbing his wand and Betty’s hand before they both headed out the door, praying that they’d never have to see that interrogation room again. Neither wanted to go back, and Betty was determined that they wouldn’t.


She would never allow it.


...


Jughead and Betty were both given the rest of the day off from classes since Professor McGonagall thought that neither of them would be up to it. Besides, they were both well ahead of everyone else in their year, and she wasn’t afraid they’d slip behind. So, while everyone else was locked up inside the castle, Jughead and Betty sat by the willow tree, wrapped up in their robes and scarves.


“Have you seen my dad at all?” Jughead asked when he could no longer ignore the question that he had been dying to ask all day. It had been eating away at him all day, and he felt a weight leave his shoulders when he finally asked it.


“No, not at all. I’m so sorry, Juggie.” Betty looked down, her stomach turned into a lead weight as she admitted that to her boyfriend. She couldn’t bear to look at her boyfriend’s crestfallen expression, and she felt herself shake with pain, though she was reasonably sure that it wasn’t her own.


“Betts, don’t apologise, it isn’t your fault,” Jughead assured her, pulling her closer to him, reminding himself that it was his father who had left him... again. Betty, on the other hand, had come to his rescue and for that he was grateful.


“But still, I feel bad.” Betty murmured, turning to bury her face into Jughead’s neck, her breath tickling his tender skin. The raven-haired boy couldn’t fight the smile that appeared on his lips at that, and he couldn’t resist the urge to pull Betty closer to him.


“I know, I can feel it,” Jughead confessed after a moment, recognising the feeling of guilt that definitely wasn’t his. He had nothing to feel guilty about, and nor did Betty, but he knew that it was her emotions coursing through his veins.


“Do you think this is because of the bond?” Betty asked, unsure of whether or not this was a side effect since she had never been taught about the bond between soulmates. Alice had always insisted that it would just distract her and she, as always for these conversations, relied on Jughead to inform her.


“Yes,” Jughead answered simply for a moment before remembering that Betty knew hardly anything on the topic. Tracing Betty’s soulmark, Jughead pondered his words for a moment before adding: “Apparently the bond begins to strengthen over time, especially if the mark has the other’s initials on it. You begin to feel the emotions of the other, in particular, the strong emotions.”


“That makes sense.” Betty murmured, moving closer to Jughead and smiling to herself. A shiver went through her when Jughead lifted her left wrist up and pressed a delicate kiss to it. Jughead couldn’t help but smirk at that, enjoying the small whimper that also left Betty’s mouth.


“It’ll strengthen over time,” Jughead muttered, placing Betty arm back down on her lap before ghosting his lips over her forehead. For a moment, they both sat in peace, entertaining the idea of it, but all good things must come to an end.


“JUGHEAD! JUGHEAD!” Both Jughead and Betty snapped out of their apathetic stupor and stood up, wands drawn. Wheeling around, they turned to face the sight of FP Jones running towards them, though he completely ignored Betty.


“Dad? What are you doing here?” Jughead demanded, refusing to lower his wand until he noticed that Betty had placed hers back in its holster. He didn’t put his away, but the action of him lowering it was enough for Betty and FP to let out a small sigh of relief.


“I got a letter from McGonagall. What did Keller accuse you of?” FP asked, stepping towards Jughead, who in turn gently pushed Betty behind him. Jughead knew that if provoked, his father was most likely going to attack his girlfriend and he wasn’t prepared to let that thought even pass through FP’s brain.


“Murder, but I had an alibi, don’t worry,” Jughead assured him, hoping that it would be the end of everything. He didn’t need his father to go and get into another fight, not when half the Aurors were just begging to lock up a Serpent.


“I will rip Keller a new one.” FP turned to storm off to the Sheriff’s Station, but he barely even took one step when Jughead grabbed his arm, pulling him back. The two men stared at each other for a moment before FP tried to wrestle out of Jughead’s grip.


“DAD! Don’t make this worse.” Jughead’s words stopped all movement in FP, and the older Jones stared at his son in disbelief. When he’d been Jughead’s age, he had actively encouraged his father to fight for him, but here was his son telling him not to.


“Do you want me to go? Do you want me to leave?” FP asked, sensing that he really wasn’t welcome here, and he noted that Jughead was imploring him to leave with the cerulean eyes that seemed so familiar and yet so different. He knew that he had no sway here, especially not when Jughead had Betty by his side.


“Please.” Jughead all but begged and at that moment, all FP saw was the small boy who had been abandoned by his warring parents. He didn’t see the Serpent Prince; he saw Jughead Jones the broken and lonely son he’d left behind.


“Jug, I’ll get my act together – I’ll get better, I promise.” FP swore to the younger of the two Joneses, wrapping his arms tightly around Jughead. The raven-haired boy dug his head into the crook of FP’s neck, fighting the urge to let tears fall.

 

“Okay.” Jughead murmured, and just like that, FP released his son and scurried off to do something, Jughead didn’t know what. Yet, as he stared after his father, he felt a gentle hand slip into his, and he turned to face Betty.


“Come here.” Betty murmured, beckoning him to hug her, and he did. His arms wrapped tightly around Betty’s frame, and he pulled Betty as close to him as was physically possible. Then, he buried his face her neck and let the tears cascade. “It will be okay, I’m here.” Betty cooed, running her hands up and down Jughead’s back in a bid to give him some comfort.


When all of the tears had subsided, Jughead mumbled: “Thank you, Betts.” Betty couldn’t help smile at the feeling of Jughead’s lips moving against her neck, and she gave him a small squeeze before she replied.


“You don’t need to thank me.” Betty murmured, pulling away and prompting Jughead to lift his head up at her. Betty glanced down at her watch for a moment before she raised her head once more and muttered: “Come on, let’s get some food.”


“You know the way to my heart, Cooper.” Jughead smiled, wrapping his arm around her waist before they both headed towards the castle. Both could feel the worry and concern of the other that was flooding both of their systems through the bond, but for this one time, they chose to ignore it.


...


Hours later, at the Blue and Gold, Jughead found himself needed to lift a weight off of his shoulders. He held onto Betty, attempting to find the right words to say, but he knew that he needed to tell her. So with a deep sigh, he asked: “Betts?”


“Yes, Jug?” Betty manoeuvred herself up and met her boyfriend’s gaze, a small smile on her lips, and she pressed a light kiss to his cheek. Jughead lost his train of thought for a moment and froze for a second before he remembered what he needed to say.


“Erm, I think I need to talk to you about something.” Jughead murmured, snapping back to what he had to say. Betty sat up in alarm, her eyes wide and she stared at Jughead in shock for a moment before recovering her composure.


“About what, Juggie?” Betty asked, sweeping a lock of hair out of his eyes and Jughead found his breath catching in his throat. She had no idea what could possibly be weighing on Jughead now. From what she had seen, Jughead had gotten over the interrogation.


“When I was in the interrogation room, Keller brought up something.” Jughead murmured, much to Betty’s surprise, and she stared at him in disbelief. She had no idea what Keller could have said to warrant further discussion until Jughead asked: “You remember the accident with the matches?”


“Yes, I remember, and I know that it was an accident.” Betty countered, knowing that the raven-haired boy would never commit a crime intentionally. Jughead wasn’t like that, but she couldn’t stop her mind from wondering what had happened all those years ago.


“Well, erm, I think that’s when everything started.” Jughead murmured looking down, and he pulled Betty closer to him. The blonde couldn’t help but wonder what else Jughead could be referring to.


“Everything?” Betty asked, cocking her head to the side, waiting for Jughead to meet her gaze and eventually he met her gaze. The soulmates stared at one another, unable to tear their gazes from one another as they both drowned in the other’s eyes.


“The self-deprecation. The self-loathing. The low self-esteem. I think they were all triggered by that one night.” Jughead murmured, knowing that he had never been like that before that night and he had always assumed that it was that which had triggered his self-hatred. He felt so useless, but not as much as Betty felt as she had no idea how to help him.


“You never told me what happened.” Betty needed to know everything to help him get over this and to help them both move on. She wanted to be there for him in every way possible, and even he could see that, and he was determined to let her in.


Maybe then she’d do the same.


“They fucking left me, Betts. My parents left me because they were too busy arguing. I was ten, and it was dark out. We also lived a good mile away, and they fucking forgot me – as if I was nothing to them as if I was nothing.” Jughead huffed, his eyes stormy and he turned away from Betty, unable to look at her when he was angry.


“You are not nothing, Forsythe Pendleton Jones the Third, do you understand me?” Betty grabbed his face, turning his attention solely to her. He gulped under her gaze and attempted to tear their gazes away from one another.


“Yes...” Jughead murmured, sounding more disbelieving than ever and Betty wasn’t having any of it. Cocking her head to the side, she stared at her boyfriend until he finally caved in and in a more assured voice stated: “Yes.”


“You’ll always be the most important person in my life.” Betty gently ran her thumb over Jughead’s cheek attempting to offer some comfort, but she did nothing to ease his overactive thought process. He found himself struggling to get the fear out of his mind, and the endless possibilities were consuming him.


“What if I’m bad for you?” Jughead asked, staring at Betty with a broken, concerned and fearful gaze that Betty had never seen before. It should have terrified her; it should have alarmed her; it should have warned her, but she only saw it as encouragement.


“Then we’ll be bad together,” Betty informed him, a small smile flickering at her lips as she reached out and grasped Jughead’s hand. Interlacing their fingers, she kept her gaze firmly fixed on his as she waited for his response.


“What if I get into trouble?” Jughead questioned, not believing that Betty would be able to stomach that possibility. She usually stuck to every rule in the book, though he did suppose that she would break the rules on occasion.


“I’ll be your partner in crime.” Betty’s smile widened at that thought, and Jughead had the feeling that she may have entertained the idea beforehand. After all, she had once asked him about joining the Serpents.


“What if I crash and burn?”


“Then burn me alive in your flames.”


Jughead couldn’t help but release a staggered groan: “Betts...” Betty seized the opportunity and connected their lips instantly before tangling her fingers in his hair. The raven-haired boy gasped against her lips and was about to deepen it until Betty pulled away.


“I mean it, Jug. You are the world to me, and I would sacrifice everything for you because I know you’ll do the same. We are one at heart, mind and soul, and no one can do anything to change it, not even you or me.” Betty stated, running her fingers over the little black crown on his wrist that matched her own.


“Betts...”


“Shh, I know.” Betty placed a finger on Jughead’s lips, silencing him immediately before wrapping herself in his arms. Exhaustion and relief flooded them, and both of them found their eyes drooping. Just before darkness consumed them, Betty heard Jughead mutter once more, eliciting a small smile on her lips.


“You mean the world to me too.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 25 – Everybody Lies

‘Everybody lies, lies, lies. It's the only truth sometimes. Doesn't matter if it's out there somewhere waiting for the world to find. Or buried deep inside. Everybody lies.’

 

‘The Coopers: the Stepfords of the Wizarding World. High School sweethearts, who got married and had two beautiful daughters: Polly and Betty.

 Until Jason Blossom happened.

And now we would hear from the person who was closest to him in those days leading up to his disappearance, Polly Cooper. How a casual conversation turned into epic forbidden romance. How for reasons still murky, their respective parents tried to tear them apart. How their breakup was short-lived because Polly soon learned she was pregnant with Jason’s baby. How they secretly engaged with his grandmother’s blessing and her heirloom ring, and made plans to run away together to start a new life.

And how their dreams of escape went up in flames.’

“That was the last day you saw him?” Sheriff Keller asked Polly, who had been moved into the Pembroke, the Lodge’s home, by Betty and Veronica mere hours beforehand. Now, all the information he needed was right in front of him.

“At Pop’s when he told me the plan that he was going to fake his own death and then we would meet up, but before that could happen my mum and dad sent me away.” Polly confessed, ringing her hands and glancing nervously around the room. She wasn’t entirely comfortable with this, but it could have been worse. She’d heard what had happened to Jughead after all.

“One of Jason’s friends said that before he ran away Jason was dealing drugs.” Betty pointed out, wanting to move this along to give Polly some relief and rest. She also needed to get back to the castle and get some rest herself, she was exhausted.

“Making a one-time delivery. He needed, we needed money to get away and start over.” Polly explained, offering a small smile to everyone else, but all could see that it was forced. The young witch was becoming more and more stressed.

“So Hogwarts’ Head Boy becomes a drug mule?” Sheriff Keller asked incredulously. Then again, it would explain the drugs that Jughead and Betty had found.

“He went to a bar on the other side of the tracks and made a deal with some biker gang.” Polly wracked her brains, but she couldn’t remember who had given Jason the drugs. All she knew was that they would deliver them to a drop off point in exchange for cash.

“Serpents?” Sheriff Keller asked, the Serpents being his first choice of suspect.

“Or the Ghoulies.” Betty countered, refusing to believe that the Serpents were the only ones to be blamed. Jughead wouldn’t have had anything to do with it, but he would be implemented in it if they found enough evidence. Keller hated him enough already to break the law and handcuff a minor, who hadn’t resisted arrest.

“He got an address upstate where he was supposed to deliver the drugs in exchange for cash.” Polly tried to bring the attention back to her and away from the argument that was about to be kick-started between Betty and Keller.

“The drugs you found in Jason’s car?” Sheriff Keller begrudgingly turned to Betty, who he knew would defend Jughead and his gang to the death. She was not about to go down without a fight on this one.

“Yeah.” Betty nodded, her eyes narrowed at the fact that Keller had had to ask that for what felt like the hundredth time. It had been like this all day and she was reaching her wits end.

“Went up in flames?” Sheriff Keller asked once more, looking between the two Cooper women, who both exchanged a glance.

“Along with everything I had left of Jason, including the ring his nana gave me, which he was keeping until-” Polly’s eyes brimmed with tears and Betty quickly pulled her older sister into her lap.

“Okay, Sheriff, I think that’s enough for tonight. I think Polly needs a rest.” Hermione’s tone was not one to be argued with and Sheriff Keller rose with her. He glanced back at the two sisters and found himself feeling guilty for having brought this reaction out of the two of them.

“I’ll be in touch ladies.” Sheriff Keller informed them, wrapping his cloak around him as Hermione placed a hand on his shoulder, telling him to turn around.

“I’ll show you out.” Hermione guided him out of the room and then Veronica wrapped her arms around the two blondes beside her. She knew that while Polly was the only one crying, Betty was struggling just as much.

“We’re going to get you through this, okay?” Betty assured Polly, stroking the older girl’s hair and praying that this nightmare would end soon.

...

“Polly’s convinced herself that no one wants her baby.” Betty informed the group as they all sat in the library during their free period. Jughead sat beside her with his legs upon her lap and his hand in hers while Archie and Veronica sat opposite with Kevin and Cheryl on the other two seats.

“Besides of course the child snatching Blossom Monsters.” Kevin muttered, and then upon realising  his mistake, he turned to Cheryl and added quickly: “No offence Cheryl.”

“No taken, Kev.” Cheryl’s sugary sweet tone dripped with sarcasm, but she knew that he was speaking the truth. Her parents were monsters who did just want the baby because it was Jason’s child.

“So your mum and dad want Polly but not the baby and the Blossoms want the baby and not Polly. It’s a true Gordian Knot.” Jughead sighed, rubbing his eyes and pulling Betty closer to his chest. She settled next to him and entwined their legs, seeking the physical comfort of being next to her soulmate.

“It’s an impossible situation.” Betty sighed, clutching onto Jughead, prompting him to tangle his fingers in her ponytail in a bid to calm her down. With his free hand, he reached for Betty’s left hand and moved to run his fingers over the soulmark.

“Betty, come on, an impossible situation is being invited to Luna Lovegood’s party and Draco Malfoy’s party on the same night. Which happened to me one year, I know.” Veronica informed the group, unaware that Betty was now more focused on Jughead’s actions than Veronica’s statement. “This is merely an annoying situation, but luckily, I’ve been percolating on an idea, hellishly simple in its conception. What if my mum and I were to host a baby shower?”

“Count me in, so long as Toni’s there.” Cheryl beamed at the thought of the pink-haired Serpent, who had definitely caught her eye. She was certain that if Toni went then she would have a much more interesting time.

“You want Polly to feel loved and supported, right?” Veronica asked, ignoring Cheryl and cocking her head to the side, hoping that Betty would agree to the plan. She was certain that it would work and she wanted Betty to enjoy herself.

“Yeah, ideally by her own parents.” Betty stated, unsure of whether or not it would be a great idea. It would most likely end up in an argument and tears, especially if Polly was in the same room as their mother.

“Okay, so baby steps, girl. Get Polly and your parents in the same room in a public setting where they can’t fight and voila, let the healing begin.” Veronica made it sound so simple, but Betty wasn’t sure that it was like that.

“Am I expected to come to this thing?” Jughead asked, glancing over at the raven-haired princess before him, unsure of what he was meant to be doing. He was never sure about what he was meant to do when it came to Veronica’s ideas.

“Of course, you’re Betty’s boyfriend and soulmate.” Veronica stated sipping a mug of coffee, watching the couple exchange a glance. “Oh Merlin, you guys, relax, it’s just a word that starts with a letter ‘b’ and another with the letter ‘s’.” The couple blushed and Jughead placed a quick kiss to Betty’s temple before Veronica spoke again.“Betty, what do you say?”

“Elizabeth Cooper!” Alice stormed into the room before Betty even had the chance to open her mouth and everyone turned to stare at her. Jughead and Betty quickly untangled their legs and moved to sit up properly.

“Mum?!” Betty exclaimed, once the initial shock had worn off. She had sat up straight and was staring at Alice in confusion and disbelief.

“I need you and you, right now!” Alice snapped, pointing at Betty and then Veronica before swiftly guiding them out of the room while everyone watched on, perplexed.

...

“Sheriff Keller told us everything, how you’re hiding Polly at the Pembroke.” Alice paced around the abandoned classroom that she had dragged the girls into, fury radiating off of her. She was shaking with anger, but that was nothing compared to the rage bubbling up inside of Betty.

“Better than in an insane asylum.” Betty snapped back, shocking Alice enough to stop the older woman from pacing and she wheeled around to face her daughter. Sensing danger, Veronica quickly jumped in.

“Actually, Mrs Cooper, that’s on me. I was the one who suggested that Polly stays with us.” All eyes fell onto Veronica, who gulped at the glare she received from Alice. Betty, however, wasn’t about to let her friend take any heat from her mother at all.

“She’s trying to help, unlike you and Dad who want Polly to give the baby up for adoption.” Betty pointed out, knowing full well that all Polly wanted to do was raise her child. She didn’t want to give her up at all.

“Betty, it’s what’s best for Polly and the baby.” Alice countered, her eyes glowing with fury that Betty couldn’t see her point of view in this.

“Mum, that’s not your choice.” Betty felt like yelling, but instead she dug her nails into her palms and stated: “Your choice is whether or not you want to be a part of Polly’s life.” Rising up, Betty glanced back at her best friend and added: “Veronica and her mum have offered to host a baby shower.”

“Well, that is hardly appropriate!” Alice snapped, not wanting to admit that it would probably be one of the few sources of enjoyment that Polly had received since she was taken away. As well as that, she did want to be a part of her daughter’s life.

“Really? Because I think it’s an amazing idea. You want to be loving and supportive like a normal grandmother, then great. Otherwise, stay away.” Betty snapped, and with that, she grabbed her bag and flew out of the room with Veronica following after her. She needed to go back to the library, pick up her textbooks and then start organising the shower.

...

A hours later, Archie had managed to gather together many of his friends in Gryffindor along with the Serpents, who had tagged along with Jughead to help his dad while he waited for a new crew to arrive. Archie was  determined to help his dad, no matter what and he wasn’t about to back down anytime soon.

“What is this?” Fred asked upon seeing the boys gathered before him and Hermione. He knew most of them well and had seen the Serpents around a lot. They’d never given him grief, but he was still wary about them.

“Your new crew.” Archie informed him, grinning at his dad and indicating to everyone there with him. All of the boys were in old jeans that they could throw away and tank tops along with flannels. Some were wearing them and others had them around their waists. All of them looked like normal, trainee workers and Archie knew that as he added: “Reporting for duty.”

“I appreciate it, I do, but isn’t there something more important you need to be doing. Like going to school, and playing Quidditch?” Fred asked, not wanting this to take over all of their lives because he couldn’t get any other workers.

“We can work after practice and on weekends, until you find a new crew and keep things on schedule.” Archie had had it all planned out, and he was determined to see this through. “Come on, Dad, I worked for you the whole summer and these guys-”

“We’re bruiser studs, Mr Andrews, at least some of us are.” Moose assured him before glancing over at Jughead, who was the slimmest of them all. However, beneath his slender exterior, Jughead was all corded muscle.

“Yep, us.” Sweet Pea pointed out, giving Fred a goofy grin that spread across all of the Serpents lips. They were all so similar that they could have all been mistaken for siblings or first cousins by this point.

“Come on, desperate times.” Hermione pointed out, trusting the Serpents more than anyone to do the hard work. She knew that with Jughead here they would all do their work without complaint at all.

“Alright, here we go.” Fred began to lead them onto the site, grateful for their help. As they passed Hermione, all grinned at her, and Kevin mouthed: ‘I love your shoes.’ Then with that, they all walked off after Fred.

...

“This is awesome. Hauling rocks beats working out in a crappy weight, huh?” Moose decided, once they had gotten the swing of things. It was a lot of manual labour, but he was glad to be outside helping Mr Andrews than in a sweaty room.

“Hey Keller, looking good, looking buff. Shame you can’t be on the Slytherin team.” Joaquin called out to his soulmate, who turned around and winked at him before putting rubble into the wheelbarrow for Archie.

“I prefer my commentating.” Kevin reminded him, but he couldn’t deny that his heart raced at the thought of it. Joaquin could all but read his thought at that and he walked up to his side and wrapped an arm around Kevin’s waist.

“So do I, babe, so do I.” Joaquin smirked before pressing a light kiss to Kevin’s nose and leading him away. Archie and Jughead moved to take the wheelbarrow to the dump site. Archie pushed it and Jughead was there to grab anything that fell out.

“Pretty handy with that wheelbarrow, Archie. You know if the whole music thing doesn’t pan out, you can always have manual labour as a fallback.” Jughead joked, knowing that Archie would have a perfect career to fall upon and that Fred would ensure that he did as well.

“Don’t even joke. I did this all summer long remember?” Archie pointed out, but he quickly shook his head, remembering that they hadn’t been speaking at that point. With a quick glance at Jughead, he added: “My dad loves this kind of work and I love him, but-”

“No, I know, your dad’s path is not for you. Trust me, I get it.” Jughead assured him, knowing that he never wanted to be like FP in any way.

“He works his ass off for me, Jug. Never asks for anything. Always has my back, even when I mess up, so if having his back means I haul some rocks then bring it on.” Archie’s passion for this was enough to make Jughead smile.

“Agreed.” Jughead nodded, looking over at Fred, who beamed at the two boys. He thrilled to see them together again, and Jughead knew it. “Your dad’s got my back too. He always has had it.”

...

“Hey guys, real lifesavers today. I appreciate it. Hardhats go in the bins and there’s sodas in the fridge.” Fred told them all once night had fallen and he beamed at them all as they all shed their hardhats. He couldn’t help but smile at the fact that Jughead had worn his beanie underneath the hat all day.

“Crap, hey guys, I forgot my wand.” Moose ran out of the trailer and picked up his wand when he noticed a group of men with crop bars hitting one of the pieces of equipment. Without thinking, he yelled: “GET AWAY FROM THAT!”

In a split second, they turned and rounded on him. Over and over, the crowbars connected with his body, splitting open his skin and leaving multiple bruises in their wake. Pain flooded his entire body when everyone ran outside of the trailer. At the sight of them, the man dropped the tools, growled something at Moose before running off.

“Moose, are you okay?” Archie asked, kneeling beside his friend while everyone stared after the men who were running off now. All of them knew that they couldn’t catch up with the attackers.

“Stay down, we’ll get some help.” Fred informed them, preparing to talk to Sheriff Keller, and he knew that they needed help with this. There was nothing they could do without the authorities to back them up.

“Who did this to you?” Jughead asked, kneeling beside Moose, drawing his wand and using several non-verbal to heal the majority of Moose’s injuries, in particular the worse ones because he didn’t want any complications to occur. 

“No clue, but they said as long as we keep working, they’re going to keep coming back.” Moose mumbled once Jughead had finished healing his injuries. All of the others had a feeling that Jughead’s time with the Serpents had lead to him learning so many spells, and the other three Serpents had had many used on them.

...

“What the hell happened?” Sheriff Keller demanded the minute he arrived and all of them turned to face him, apart from Jughead, who was still tending to Moose. The vast wealth of cuts and bruises, combined with how quickly Keller had arrived had meant that he was still working.

“Moose over there caught a couple of guys working over my equipment with a crowbar.” Fred informed him, placing a hand on Moose’s shoulder once Jughead straightened up and had turned to face the Auror.

“Were they vandals?” Sheriff Keller asked, glancing around at the damage done and the abandoned crowbars. He had no idea who would do this to a teen, but he knew that there were several unseemly characters around.

“Cliff Blossom has made it abundantly clear he would love nothing more than to see this whole project go belly-up.” Fred pointed out, folding his arms and surprising all of them there, who had had no idea that Clifford Blossom was the cause of Fred’s grief.

“I doubt that Blossom is going to hire some thugs to bust up your side and beat up some teenagers.” Sheriff Keller shook his head, not expecting Blossom to act like that and he quickly added: “Maybe it wasn’t him. This is Serpent Territory.”

“In case you haven’t noticed, there are several Serpents here, and we never hurt one of our own.” Sweet Pea stated, stepping forward, but never standing in front of Jughead. The group of four stood there glowering at Keller, and even in the dim light, they could see silvery scars on Jughead’s skin from Keller’s handcuffs.

“We would never do that.” Fangs snapped, folding his arms, and stepping closer to Keller along with Sweet Pea and Joaquin, passing Jughead.

“At all!” Joaquin added, not wanting to annoy his soulmate or his father, but at the same time he knew that they hadn’t done this.

“Fangs, Sweet Pea, Joaquin, back down.” Jughead’s tone was not to be argued with and they stood back, not wanting to anger their leader. Jughead turned back to Keller and stated: “We didn’t do this.” Rubbing at his wrists, he set a clear message to Keller, who gulped at the thought and he allowed the Serpents to walk past.

...

Jughead had invited Betty to meet him at Pop’s the day after once she had prepped everything for the shower, and Veronica had tagged along with her. Jughead hadn’t noticed the raven-haired girl, and had gone straight for Betty. To be fair, he did pull away when Veronica cleared her throat and sat them both down to explain what had happened to Moose.

“Poor Moose, is he okay?” Betty asked once Jughead had finished. She didn’t know the Gryffindor too well, but she didn’t think he deserved what happened to him at all. She wished it didn’t happen at all, but the tiny selfish part of her was grateful that it hadn’t been Jughead who had been attacked.

“His name is Moose, he’s fine.” Jughead assured her, knowing that with some rest Moose would be back to normal. The spells he’d used had made sure of that, but before he could say anything else, Archie ran into Pop’s.

“Dude, what the hell? I’ve been trying to contact you.” Archie slid into the seat beside Veronica and stared at Jughead in disbelief while the other three stared at him in confusion. None of them had been expecting him here at all.

“Archie, Jughead’s just explained happened yesterday.” Betty informed him, hoping he’d calm down somewhat. Sensing the distress coming off Betty, Jughead brought her closer to him and held her tightly. Betty breathed in Jughead’s familiar scent and smiled up at him, pulling him ever closer to her.

“Though I checked out at the words ‘construction’ and ‘site’.” Veronica informed them, stirring her coffee gently, not even hiding her boredom. Yes, she had been distressed by what had happened to Moose, but he was fine.

“Moose and I are going to the South Side to find those Serpents. You in?” Archie asked Jughead, not understanding that Jughead would never help him with this. He knew his gang, his family and they weren’t like this, no matter what anyone thought

“The Serpents had no part in this, Archie. They wouldn’t attack, especially not with other Serpents there.” Jughead emphasised his point buy indicating to his jacket, which was, as always, causing a stare from the other people at Pop’s.

“Wait, you didn’t say it was the Serpents who beat Moose up.” Veronica quickly cut in, curious at why Jughead had never mentioned that at all. She could understand that he wanted to protect his gang, but she would have thought he’d tell Betty at least.

“Because they don’t know that for a fact.” Betty stated, knowing that the Serpents would never do that at all. She’d met a few of the older ones and although they weren’t exactly cheerful, they weren’t cruel either.

“Well, it’s still worth a shot if it might help my dad.” Archie snapped back,. He couldn’t see why Jughead was so blind when it came to his point of view. In reality he was the blind one, and he confirmed that for Jughead when he added: “We can get help in.”

“Get in where?” Veronica asked quickly, glancing at Jughead, who blanched when he realised what Archie was talking about.

“Some bar where the Serpents hang out.” Archie stated, getting up and putting on his jacket before telling them the plan. “If Moose spots them, we call Sheriff Keller and get these goons arrested. Somebody needs to do anything.”

“Archie, going into that bar is a bad idea especially with you not being a Serpent.” Jughead warned him, knowing that the others in the gang would not take too lightly to it. They would see it as a challenge, and that would not be a good idea at all.

“Jughead are you coming with me or not?” Archie asked, his eyes boring into the other boy’s, and when Jughead made no move to get up, he snapped: “Thanks for having my back.”

...

Outside the Whyte Wyrm, a disgruntled Joaquin glowered at Moose and Archie in annoyance, hating that they were here with. “Play cool just like we said, and don’t interrupt our date. Keep eye contact to a minimum.” Joaquin instructed them before shrugging off his jacket and handing it to Kevin to wear. “And you guys best not interrupt our date.

“Moose, if we see the guys who jumped you, we leave and we call Kevin’s dad.” Archie told his friend before walking in after Joaquin and Kevin. The two boys had their hands intertwined and had headed towards the poll table.

“Hey, it’ll be fine Babe.” Joaquin assured him, and then grabbed a pool stick, handing it over to Kevin before grabbing his own. Kevin glanced around nervously as a few Serpents stared at him, but the moment they spotted Joaquin’s jacket on him, they shrugged it off and turned away.

“Okay.” Kevin nodded before taking a shot a failing instantly. Joaquin beamed and aimed a perfect shot.

“Pay up.” Joaquin murmured, and in an instant Kevin found his lips being covered by his boyfriend’s as he was backed up against the pool table. Other Serpents glanced over and smiled at the sight, glad to see one of their own so happy and carefree.

“Is that one of them?” Archie asked, nodding towards a middle aged Serpent not far from them at all. He was a little red-faced from more than just drink and was a similar height to one of the thugs at the construction site.

“I can’t tell.” Moose confessed, not remembering too well. It had been too dark and too fast, and now that he was here, he just wanted to leave. He didn’t like the plan, and he was certain that it would all go wrong.

However, headstrong as ever, Archie approached the Serpent, Mustang as the room fell silent, alerting Joaquin to the danger. “Archie back off!” Joaquin ordered, pulling away from the pool table as the Serpents raised their wands, preparing for a fight.

“What the hell is this!” Mustang branched his wand, aiming it straight at Archie, who accepted that as the proof he needed to convict Mustang for attacking Moose.

“You like beating up teens doing a job, do you?” Archie asked, coping Mustang’s action, but before either could do anything, the entire room froze, and then the Serpents behind Mustang parted.

“MUSTANG!” FP yelled, his eyes narrowing and immediately he raised his wand, disarming Mustang, who backed up. Archie was pulled back by Joaquin, who looked like he was contemplating how best to murder him and hide the body.

“He came in here asking questions and being aggressive!” Mustang exclaimed, glowering over at Archie and grabbing him to show to FP. Taking one look at the boy, FP’s eyes widened and he turned back to Mustang.

“Let him go!” FP ordered, needing to get Archie and Moose out of the Wyrm as soon as possible, and then he’d have to call Fred.

“Why?!” Mustang demanded, but he did as instructed and push Archie back. Staggering, the redhead straightened up and went to Moose’s side before remaining still and silent.

“Which one of us is the Serpent King, me or you?” FP asked, his tone deadly and even the Serpents recoiled at the sound of it.

“You are.” Mustang murmured, and with that he backed down, remembering his place. He knew not to argue on that point. FP only played that card every so often and when he did no one could argue with it.

“So let it go.” FP ordered before turning to Archie and Moose. “Come on, Red, take your friend and get out of here.” They didn’t need to be told twice and fled quickly before FP turned to his son’s friend and added: “Joaquin, enjoy your date.”

“Thanks Boss!” Joaquin beamed and then turned back to Kevin, who’s eyes still followed FP’s retreating form until he vanished.

“Was that Jughead’s dad?” Kevin asked in shock, his eyes wide, and it was evident that he was both surprised and impressed. He couldn’t believe that FP had such power, and at the same time, he could understand it.

“Yep, he’s a good leader, but Jughead has my respect.” Joaquin informed him before nudging him and indicating that they should start playing the game again so not to alarm anyone around them.

...

Jughead weaved in and out of the crowded Pembroke carrying a cake stand in front of him trying to avoid all contact with anyone. The moment he saw Betty he made a bee-line to her with a smile before placing the cakes in front of her. Betty beamed up at him and captured his lips in a short, but sweet kiss.

“You’re sweet to be here.” Betty murmured, arranging the stand before hooking her arm back into Jughead’s. He was wearing a new maroon sweater that she adored on him and barely stopped hugging or touching him all night. “I know this isn’t exactly your scene.”

“What?!” Jughead asked in mock horror as if he couldn’t believe her and in the same tone he added: “Organising a baby shower is totally on my bucket list.” Betty giggled at that but before she could response, Alice walked through the door.

“Mum?” Betty gasped before walking over to her sister, and turning her around to face their mother. “Polly, look, Mum’s here.”

“I’m so glad that you’re here, and you’re safe.” Alice smiled at her daughter, and then swallowed her pride before adding: “You and the baby.” With that she was engulfed in a hug from her eldest daughter.

...

Betty, Jughead and Veronica were watching Polly open her presents while everyone cooed over the mother-to-be. It was all going perfectly until Archie walked into the room. Everyone else was too absorbed by Polly to notice him storming up to the other three.

“You were protecting him, that’s why you didn’t tell me.” Archie growled quietly, his fury evident, and his betrayed eyes told them all that Jughead has hidden something big from him, and them.

“Relax, what happened?” Jughead asked, unsure of what Archie could have seen to be this angry with him. After all, they all knew that he was a Serpent as was his father and many other people on the Southside.

“Archie?” Betty asked, gripping onto Jughead’s arm for comfort, but he was unable to offer any when Archie spoke again.

“Did you know that Jughead’s father is the Serpent King?” Archie asked all of them, his hiss so low and furious that all of them blanched.

“No.” Betty mumbled, and that was enough for Jughead’s heart to break in two. He felt the pain and guilt rise up inside of him while Betty’s own feeling of being  betrayed flooded his system. The overload of emotions was almost too much to bear.

“That’s why he tried to stop me from going to the bar so I wouldn’t find out.” Archie stated to the girls conspiratorially before he rounded on Jughead once more. “After everything my dad has done for you-”

“Archie, I can explain, okay?” Jughead’s voice was cracked and strained. He was pleading with them all to understand, but they seemed to be having none of it at all.

“Not right now, this is Polly’s day, so you two need to check yourselves. I mean it.” Veronica snapped, angry at the two of them. She wished that Jughead had told them earlier, but she was also furious with how Archie had addressed this.

“Archie...” Jughead all but begged. His eyes were watering, but Archie didn’t give a damn anymore.

“No save it.” Archie growled before turning around and walking off with the girls following after him. Jughead couldn’t help but feeling like everything had gone to hell. Pain flooded his veins and he quickly made his way out of the room, to the kitchen, where he slumped against the floor, wiping his eyes furiously. He hadn’t told them all about his father’s position for the fear that this would happen, and now the worst possible scenario had occurred.

He’d betrayed Betty’s trust.

And he didn't know how to get it back.

Chapter Text

Chapter 26 – Everything I Didn’t Say

‘Taking every breath away
With all of the mistakes I made
From all the letters that I saved
This is everything I didn't say.’

 

Jughead had watched people smile and left until Alice and Penelope had begun arguing. Then he’d been forced to watch everyone leave awkwardly before he finally moved to sit in the living room once more. He knew he had to clear up everything with Betty. He owed it to her to explain, and he wasn’t about to disappoint her. He had to find some way for her to forgive him and to understand that he hadn’t intended to keep the secret from her. Bowing his head, he waited for her to arrive when the door creak open.

“Polly’s finally asleep.” Betty murmured, closing the door softly and heading towards Jughead, running her hands down her skirt to ease her anxiety. He had already clambered to his feet and was slowly pulling down his jumper while Betty muttered: “What a mess.”

“I should have told you about my dad when I had the chance.” Jughead hung his head and waited for her to speak. He had no idea what she would say, and he was terrified that this would be the tipping point.

“So, why didn’t you?” Betty asked, facing Jughead and attempting to catch her boyfriend’s gaze, but to no avail. She desperately wanted to know why he would keep something like that from her.

“I was ashamed. I thought that you’d think that I was a Serpent because of him, or worse, you’d think I’d become him.” Jughead murmured, and held his breath waiting to be berated by Betty when he felt her hand slip into his. Finally, he looked up into those bright jade eyes that he so adored.

“Jughead, if we’re going to be together for the long run and expand on our bond, I want to know who you are, all of it,” Betty informed him, squeezing his hand gently and offering him a tentative smile.

“Okay.” Jughead choked out, overwhelmed by the realisation that Betty had forgiven him without hesitation. He was determined more than ever to never let Betty go or allow himself to hurt her in any way.

“Okay.” Betty squeezed his hand once more before a sudden idea came into her mind and she quickly added: “But, Juggie, we should talk to your dad. He might know something about Jason.”

“Alright.” Jughead nodded, swiftly grabbing his and Betty’s jackets and then wrapping an arm around her. Betty relaxed into Jughead’s touch and let out a slow, shaky breath, knowing that whatever they heard may only make this investigation more complex.

...

“Jughead,” FP called the moment the trailer door opened. His son had visited frequently, and he saw no reason to stand on ceremony until he saw a flash of blonde hair. At that, FP flew to his feet to see Betty Cooper walk into the dimly lit trailer.

“Dad, this Betty Cooper, my soulmate and girlfriend.” Jughead introduced his father, feeling that it would be best, especially since he was now dating Betty. Besides, he wanted to lift some of the tension between them. “Betty, you remember my dad.”

“Hi, Mr Jones, nice to see you again and to meet you officially this time.” Betty offered him her winning Cooper smile and prayed that he wouldn’t hex her. Then again, she had a feeling that he was slightly intoxicated at present.

“And you, and you,” FP mumbled, knowing better than to anger his son. He didn’t want to ruin Jughead’s happiness. Glancing around, he quickly straightened the sloppy cushions and murmured awkwardly: “Erm, why don’t you guys sit down.”

“This isn’t really a social call,” Jughead informed him, feeling Betty move to stand behind him so that she was partially obscured by Jughead’s shoulder. She’d never usually do that, but she had never seen Jughead this tense before, and her own worries were only worsening because of Jughead’s fear mixing with them.

“No, I didn’t expect it would be after Archie showed up at the Wyrm.” FP sat down with a heavy sigh. His dark eyes examined the couple before him with a look that neither of them could decipher.

“Dad, I’m a Serpent. I know that the older ones had some kind of drug thing going on and now I know that one of them was doing it with Jason Blossom.” Jughead reminded him, resisting the urge to roll his eyes at the fact that his father had forgotten that he was also involved in what happened with the Serpents.

“What?! Where’d you hear that?” FP asked, not having given the order for Jughead or the Juniors to know anything about it. He didn’t want them involved in it at all, and he found it infuriating an distressing that Jughead now knew.

“Jason’s girlfriend.” Jughead supplied, knowing that his father would find out sooner or later about Polly, and he knew that FP would never attack the girl. Though, it was at FP’s bewildered expression that Betty spoke up.

“My sister,” Betty informed him, her eyes watching FP carefully and she could almost sense his anger, but he held back whatever biting comments he wished to say. He wasn’t about to anger Jughead’s soulmate. 

“The kid needed some money to get away. A clean-cut kid like that, no one’s going to suspect him of running, so we helped him, he helped us.” FP stated, running his fingers through his hair, knowing that there was no getting around what he did.

“Merlin, Dad, did you tell the Aurors that?” Jughead asked, his eyes widening and his voice shaking with disbelief. He knew that most Serpents refused to see the Aurors, and he wasn’t exactly their biggest fan, but in this, it was important that they did speak up. They needed to apprehend the killer before anyone else got hurt.

“What do you think?” FP asked, cocking his head to the side and staring at his son, who merely sighed heavily. Jughead should have expected that from the older man, but this time it infuriated him. He wished that for once his father could have done the right thing and help the authorities, but evidently, FP wasn’t prepared to do that.

“Well, they know now. Polly told them.” Jughead pointed out, much to the annoyance of FP, but this time Jughead couldn’t find himself caring. He only added: “So if they haven’t been by yet, they will be.”

“Did you ever speak to Jason, personally?” Betty asked, attempting to divert the subject away from Polly and to something more likely to get some results for their investigation. She also wasn’t enjoying the violent cocktail of emotions that Jughead was currently experiencing and she chose to take over the role of questioner for a moment.

“My guys gave him some product. When it wasn’t delivered we figured he’d took off with our stash, until-” FP trailed off, needing no reason to explain more, but Betty felt compelled to end the statement.

“Until Jason’s body was found at the Black Lake.” Betty glanced over at her boyfriend, who stood stony-faced staring at his father, who only returned the gaze. Quietly and slowly, Betty moved to take Jughead’s hand, but he didn’t seem to notice her actions at all.

“Anything else you want to ask?” FP cocked his head to the side and stared at him, daring him to ask what was really on his mind. The younger of the two men couldn’t help but feel a surge of anger, and he couldn’t stop himself.

“Did you have anything to do with Jason Blossom’s death?” Jughead questioned. It hung in the air, filling them all with dread. Gulping and straightening up, Betty glanced between the two of them, feeling like an intruder on their conversation.

“You really think I could do that?” FP asked, choking on his words and staring at Jughead while his eyes glistened with tears and even Betty found herself fearful of Jughead’s reply. Neither she nor FP had any idea what the beanie-haired boy might be thinking.

“It’s the dark ages, Dad. I don’t really know what to think anymore.” Jughead pointed out, all but saying to FP that he had no idea what type of person he was anymore. It was true as it had been so long since he had spent more than an hour a week with his father.

“I’m not a perfect father, Jughead, no getting around that, but I’m no killer.” FP’s eyes begged his son to see that he had no part in this killing, but Jughead’s face displayed no signs of belief or disbelief. His impassive expression was enough to terrify FP, and the older man knew that there was nothing he could do to know what Jughead was thinking.

...

Betty and Jughead left the trailer not long after that, hand in hand and both didn’t dare speak for a long moment. It was only when they were away from the trailer that Betty stopped Jughead and moved to stand before him. There she stared up at him and asked him quietly: “Do you believe him?”

“Yeah, I do.” Jughead nodded, hoping that Betty could understand and that his father had no part at all. He didn’t want to consider that he was wrong and he prayed that he wasn’t. With a slightly fearful and cracked voice, Jughead asked: “Do you?”

“I believe you, Jughead,” Betty assured him, cupping his cheeks gently. Jughead’s gaze constantly shifted from her eyes to her lips until he finally cupping her cheeks and kissed her. Every time one pulled away the other would reconnect their lips. It was soft, slow and tender. Betty wound her fingers in the stray hairs poking out from Jughead’s beanie, and he slipped his fingers into her golden curls.

“Come on, let’s go back to the castle.” Jughead murmured once he had finally been able to pull away from Betty’s lips. His breathless whisper brought Betty back to her senses, and she nodded in agreement before she pulled out her wand.

“Lumos,” Betty muttered, illuminating the area before she gently entangled her hand with Jughead’s with a gentle squeeze. In response, Jughead offered her a small, soft smile, and pulled her closer to him.

“Thank you.” Jughead smiled fondly at Betty, leading her away from the trailer. Both of them were completely unaware of the eyes watching them from all the other Serpents around. After all, it wasn’t every day that they got to see the Serpent Prince with his soulmate.

“You don’t need to thank me. I’ll always be there for you whether it’s to provide light or comfort.” Betty realised his hand and wrapped an arm around his waist prompting Jughead to wrap an arm around her shoulders. In a hushed whisper, Betty added: “I promise you.”

“And I promise you the same, Betts.” Jughead echoed her soft tone, and he gently ran his hand over Betty’s shoulder before pulling her ever closer to him. He turned his head slightly and pressed a light kiss to Betty’s left temple before both carried on their journey to the castle.

...

Betty found herself anxiously waiting for Jughead to finish getting ready for bed while he busied himself in the bathroom. Over and over, she attempted to plan out what she was going to say to Jughead, but when he came out of the bathroom, her heart stopped. His raven hair was damp from his shower, and he had forgotten to take his tank top into the bathroom leaving his sculpted, lean muscles on display for Betty to gawk at until he finally slipped a top on.

After that, he clambered into bed beside Betty, and sat beside her when she asked: “Jug, are you okay with what happened?” Her eyes flitted up to Jughead’s eyes, and she caught his gaze just in time to see the pain flood into his eyes.

“I’ll be okay,” Jughead assured her and himself, knowing that if he believed it, then he could find himself feeling better. He just needed to get past the first stage of his father’s road to recovery and in part get past the mystery of Jason Blossom’s murder.

“Juggie, talk to me.” Betty all but begged, knowing that her soulmate was concealing something from her and she was desperate to know more. After all, if she was ever going to help him, she had to know what the root cause of the problem was.

“My dad has done some dodgy shit. What happens if he had something to do with this? I mean they’ve already accused me.” Jughead pointed out, shaking as he spoke. He allowed all his fears to reveal themselves to Betty, and he was terrified at how Betty may respond.

“Jughead, I know you, and I trust you. If you say that you didn’t do it or your dad didn’t do it, then I believe you, and I will defend you both. You’re my soulmate, boyfriend and best friend, Juggie, and I will never not believe you.” Betty assured him, intertwining her fingers with his and giving his hand a light squeeze.

“Betts, I...” Jughead choked on his next words, unable to quite express how he felt about her, though Betty couldn’t blame him for that. She was yet to voice how she felt for Jughead either, and she was still afraid to do so.

“I know.” Betty smiled up at him and gave his hand another reassuring squeeze before she trailed her fingers up to his soulmark. She could feel the slight, subtle grooves that made up the mark on his wrist.

“Come here.” Jughead murmured before meeting Betty’s lips in a soft, delicate kiss. It was reassuring and full of promise. In many ways, he was attempting to tell her how he truly felt through the action.

“I’ll never leave you Juggie,” Betty whispered, resting her head against his neck prompting Jughead to rest his head upon hers. His arm wrapped itself around Betty’s waist, and his hand remained firmly interlocked with Betty’s.

“And I’ll never leave you,” Jughead mumbled before gently guiding them downwards to the bed where both rolled onto their sides and allowed darkness to claim them.

...

Sunlight pierced through the crack in curtains waking Jughead up to an empty bed. It was a common sight since Betty often found she worked best early in the morning. With a heavy sigh, Jughead forced himself out of bed and quickly grabbed his Slytherin uniform. Unlike Betty, he never did his top button, and instead of wearing his black robes, he wore his Serpent jacket.

Only when he was ready for the day did he move into the office of the Blue and Gold to find Betty already typing away. Beside her was a plate of half eaten food and on the other side, the table Jughead found a plate for himself. Sitting down, he smiled and asked: “Morning, what are you working on?”

“Just an article about how the Quidditch season is about to take place and how already there are multiple bets on who will win,” Betty informed him, taking a bite out of a piece of half eaten toast.

“Slytherin, obviously,” Jughead informed her with a small smirk, pride filling his tone. He was never usually one for house pride, but this time he found himself supporting Slytherin more than ever.

“Of course you’d say that.” Betty beamed over at him, secretly agreeing with him on that subject as he was right. Slytherin had won every year since they had started in the first year, which was when Jughead had become seeker. They were all skilled flyers and had proved themselves to be worthy of the Quidditch Cup.e

“It’s true, Betts.” Jughead insisted, watching Betty search for some reason to deny it, but she was yet to find one. At that, she sighed, but upon seeing her boyfriend’s smirk, she immediately decided not to give him that satisfaction.

“Whatever you say, Juggie.” Betty shook her head at him, and he was about to reply when the door creaked open. Both reached for their wands out of habit when Alice Cooper entered the room.

“Elizabeth.” Alice addressed her daughter, and Jughead instinctively knew that he shouldn’t intrude on the conversation. He gathered up his things while the shock slowly wore of Betty who was still staring at her mother.

“Mum? What’s wrong?” Betty asked, rising from her seat to meet her mother’s gaze. She moved to gently take Alice’s shaking hands, but the older woman moved away from her. Her eyes narrowed slightly at Jughead, who sprung into action.

“I’ll go and leave you to talk,” Jughead informed them, dropping a soft kiss to Betty’s temple before he nodded at Alice before he headed to the door. Yet, before he could open it, he heard a soft reply from the older Cooper.

“Thank you, Jughead.” Alice gave him a weak smile before she dropped into Betty’s seat while the Hufflepuff girl turned to face her boyfriend for a moment, their eyes meeting for a fraction of a second.

“I’ll see you in Ancient Runes.” Betty offered him an apologetic look before Jughead left and Betty turned back to Alice, who sat before her with eyes glistening with tears begging to be shed.

“She’s gone.” Alice sobbed hopelessly. Sinking to her knees, Betty rested her head on Alice’s lap, her own tears cascading down her cheeks. Alice clutched on her youngest daughter as she cried: “Polly’s gone to live with the Blossoms.”

 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 27 – The Kids In The Dark

‘They left us alone,
The kids in the dark,
To burn out forever,
Or light up a spark,
We come together,
State of the art,
We'll never surrender,
The kids in the dark.’

 

‘Thicker than blood, more precious than oil, Hogsmeade’s new big business is maple syrup. Since the discovery of the maple trees, one family has controlled its lucrative syrup trade: the Blossoms. They were a part of the fabric of our daily lives. Rich or poor, old or young, we consumed Blossom syrup by the bucket. That sickly sweet smell was inescapable.

The death of Jason Blossom precipitated a crisis.

With the heir apparent gone, who would inherit the family business one day. Certainly not Cheryl. It was a question that brought the wolves to Hogsmeade, and now the Blossoms were circling the wagons against a possible attack from within their own ranks.’

“Polly won’t answer my owls or messages. I mean I get that she doesn’t want to talk to my dad, but what did I do wrong?” Betty explained, sitting crossed legged in front of Jughead on one of the plush leather sofas in the library. She shook as she spoke while her eyes darted around the mere chance that she might see her sister somewhere.

“Nothing. We’ll figure it out.” Jughead assured her, his eyes finally meeting hers and he smiled for a second before his eyes strained to her lips. “Come here.” Betty smiled and connected their lips. Jughead’s hand crept up Betty’s arm and stroked the skin gently.

“Morning you two.” Veronica’s voice floated through the room. The couple abruptly pulled apart before turning to face her, Archie and Kevin, who had been watching them with small smirks gracing their lips. It wasn’t very often that they caught them in the middle of a kiss.

“Hey, guys.” Kevin waved at them before sitting down opposite them. Jughead awkwardly unfolded his legs from beneath him, and he wrapped an arm around Betty before rubbing his eyes with his free hand. Only then did he turn to look at them.

“Erm, is everything alright?” Jughead asked them, his eyes darting between them trying to work out what on earth was happening. He tried not to show them how annoyed he was at being interrupted, but there was no hiding the glimmer of displeasure in his gaze.

“I’ve been asked to escort Cheryl to the Quidditch match, and I have some information on Polly.” Archie sighed, collapsing into the armchair. His action lacked all the grace and elegance that Veronica used to seat herself opposite him.

“You do?” Betty asked, her head shooting up in surprise and she stared at him in shock. She couldn’t quite believe her ears, and she prayed that there was some way that they could possibly get word to Polly. She needed that now more than ever.

“Betty, she doesn’t want to come home, and I reckon she won’t, but she is okay and is being treated well. She’s happy, and she had her baby confirmed while I was there.” Archie assured her, the faintest glimmer of a smile on his lips at the memory of hearing Polly’s news about her children.

“And?” Jughead prompted, sitting up and bringing Betty closer to him. She was shaking ever so slightly, and only when Jughead rested his hand gently on her upper thigh did Betty allow herself a deep breath. The shaking stopped, and she focused solely on Archie.

“She’s having twins – one of each,” Archie informed them, a grin spreading across his lips as he delivered the news to them. All of those gathered offered pleased smiles, but Betty’s smile didn’t reach her eyes. After all, her sister hadn’t contacted her to tell her about this news.

“That’s amazing.” Betty smile was believable enough for Archie, but both Jughead and Veronica could see the pain in the Hufflepuff’s gaze. The Slytherin and Ravenclaw exchanged a glance before Veronica turned back to the other three.

“Anyway, let’s not dwell too much on that, for Betty’s sake,” Veronica stated, and Betty sent her a grateful smile at that before she turned back to Archie, who was staring at her in confusion. “Besides aren’t you kind of seeing Valerie at the moment?”

“And is she okay with you being a gigolo?” Jughead asked, cocking his head to the side to stare at the Gryffindor boy before him and Archie blanched under his gaze. The thought of it reminded him of how he had been with Grundy when he had been sleeping with her but trying to get with Betty.

“Weren’t you once one?” Kevin’s voice broke Archie away from his thoughts as Kevin addressed Jughead. The Slytherin rolled his eyes at that and pulled his girlfriend closer to him. Betty, on the other hand, shook her head at Kevin but made no comment.

“No, and we don’t talk about this.” Jughead reminded him, shaking his head at Kevin before glancing back at Betty, who simply rested her head on his shoulder. She had forgiven Jughead for how he had attempted to get over her, and she knew that it would never happen again.

“You have the body to be one though.” Kevin pointed out, loving how Jughead’s shirt emphasised his lean muscle and physique. Sensing Kevin’s gaze running over his body, Jughead carefully lifted Betty up and set her on his lap to stop his friend’s wandering gaze. Betty smiled at that, and dug her head into Jughead neck once more, breathing in his scent.

“Don’t you have a soulmate?” Jughead asked him, his eyes darting back to Kevin’s for a moment and he watched as the other boy’s eyes glazed over at the thought of his soulmate. Had he not been slightly frustrated at Kevin, Jughead would have smiled at him.

“Yes, I do, but both of us hit on you, a lot.” Kevin reminded him, knowing that Joaquin also flirted with Jughead every so often, though he had toned it down of late, as had Kevin. However, neither of them were afraid of starting it again.

“I know. But, why me? Not Archie?” Jughead questioned, genuinely curious at why he’d been chosen over his brawnier friend, who seemed to be most people’s first choice. Though on occasion, he did remind himself that he had been Betty’s first choice.

“What’s wrong with me?” Archie asked bewildered, not used to being the second choice, and he certainly wasn’t too pleased about it. He was still sour from Betty picking Jughead over him, and he just wished that for once their friends might see him as Jughead’s superior in something. After all, he was already aware that Jughead was the better flyer; was smarter than him; and was Betty’s soulmate, whether he liked it or not.

“You mean besides the fact that you’re a god, Jones.” Joaquin’s voice floated through the room, and they turned to face him as Kevin nodded in agreement. Leaning against the bookshelf, he was partially shrouded in darkness, and his eyes fell to Kevin as if a magnet was pulling them to him. “Hey, babe.”

“Hey, love,” Kevin responded with a smile, getting up and moving to kiss his boyfriend soundly. It took several moments before either pulled away and only then did Joaquin add to Jughead: “Also if you ever want to you could join us.”

“I’m good thanks,” Jughead assured his two friends, not overly keen on the idea of it. After all, why would he when he had Betty all to himself? Besides, there was something about them both offering that made him incredibly uneasy.

“They’re right though,” Betty mumbled, tilting her head so that she could look at her boyfriend, who stared at her in disbelief. He could barely comprehend what Betty had just said, and each time he mulled it over, the more confused he got.

“WHAT?!” Jughead finally exclaimed, his eyes wide and his head cocked the side in confusion and utter bewilderment. He couldn’t believe what he was hearing, and he was more confused about why Betty may think that in any way shape or form.

“You do have a godly physique.” Betty pointed out, smiling softly at him as Jughead took in what she had just said and smiled at her gratefully at that. He couldn’t help but feel his cheeks grow hot and all of the group stared at him in disbelief at the sight of the scarlet blush.

“Thanks, Betts,” Jughead muttered before Betty pressed a soft kiss to his inflamed cheek, and pulled him into her arms with a small smile. All of the others watched them interact with soft smiles on their lips, but they all knew that they deserved more privacy than they were getting at this point in time.

“Anyway, when you’re all done, I need Jones for practice.” Joaquin reminded him, breaking the spell over Jughead and Betty instantly. The couple shifted awkwardly, and Jughead glanced over at his friend before he nodded slowly.

“I’ll be there with half an hour,” Jughead assured him, knowing that he did have practice again, and he wasn’t about to let his house down. He cared too much about Slytherin to ever allow that to happen, and there was his own sense of pride that meant that he couldn’t allow anyone else to win.

“Good.” Joaquin nodded before leaving with a wink at Kevin before he disappeared from the library to get ready for Quidditch. Jughead would do the same in a few moments, but only when he had heard Archie’s reply to their conversation about being a gigolo.

“As I was going to say, I’m not dating Valerie. We were just hanging out.” Archie informed them, knowing that otherwise, he would become just another Hogwarts fuck boy. At that, he quickly added: “Besides, I can handle myself, and the Blossoms.”

“Famous last words, Archiekins,” Veronica smirked at him before finally standing up and beckoning for him and Kevin to follow her. At that, both Betty and Jughead finally stood up and made their way back to the Blue and Gold.

 ...

“Can I watch?” Betty asked, walking alongside Jughead to the Quidditch pitch. She was wrapped up in a warm coat and wore her favourite scarf, her Hufflepuff one. Jughead, on the other hand, found himself in his striped green and silver jumper and dark green Quidditch robe.

“Sure.” Jughead nodded, conducting them both into the pitch where the rest of the team had gathered to meet, and he smiled over at them. They all waved him over before finally noticing Betty at his side. At that, their smiles widened, and they beckoned them over.

“Ahh, here’s our Prince!” Sweet Pea yelled, clapping Jughead on the shoulder to greet him. They were all relieved to see him as after all he was their star player, and no team was complete without a seeker.

“And our Princess!” Toni smiled at Betty and gave her a quick hug before turning back to the team. Betty watched them all crowd around Jughead, and at that moment she could see the reason why he was so respected. He seemed to stand out, but at the same time, he stood among them, something that most other leaders at Hogwarts.

“Hey, guys.” Jughead nodded to them all, a bright grin on his lips, and he found that he could scarcely wait to start flying again. It had been so long since he last had, and he certainly had missed it.

“Ready to kick Ravenclaw’s ass?” Fangs asked, excitement bubbling up inside of him, and the usually quiet boy bounced on the balls of his feet. There was a light to his eyes that Jughead only saw before a Quidditch match or practice and being this close to the match made it brighter than ever.

“Only if we get through practice.” Kayla reminded him, shaking her head and offering them all a small smile. They knew she meant well, and besides, no one was going to win without practice. It was preposterous to think otherwise.

“True.” Joaquin nodded and motioned for all of them to gather the brooms together. They’d all left them when they had come to greet Jughead and Betty, so they all turned their backs on the couple before ambling over to them.

“Good luck.” Betty murmured to Jughead, sweeping a lock of his hair out of his eyes and offering him a tender smile. Gently, she squeezed his hand before letting it go and taking several steps back. She was going to have to head to the Hufflepuff-Slytherin stands in a moment, which was on the other side of the pitch but she didn’t want to walk away just yet.

“Where’s my kiss, Cooper?” Toni asked, turning to the blonde girl and pouting at her. In return Betty rolled her eyes and began her retreat to the stands, passing Toni as she did. Only when she reached Toni did she reply to the pink haired girl.

“Jughead would object,” Betty stated, glancing back at her boyfriend, who had heard her and turned to smirk at her. He stared at her for a moment and cocked his head to the side before shaking it at Betty before replying.

“Actually, I wouldn’t, provided I could see!” Jughead shouted at them, a grin on his face, and both girls were certain that he was doing his best to keep that image out of his head as much as possible. It didn’t matter how much he wanted to see it, but he did have to try not to think of it.

“Just go catch the golden ball!” Betty yelled back at him before retreating to the stands so that she could watch the game unfold before her. After all, she was one of the few people who got to see the Slytherin team practice before a game.

...

“That went well.” Jughead greeted Betty once practice was over. The rest of the team had scurried off to shower straight away, but Jughead wanted to do something different idea. With the sun just beginning to dip behind the mountains around them, Jughead couldn’t resist one more ride.

“Definitely.” Betty nodded in agreement, resting her head on Jughead’s shoulder and looking over at the sunset with a soft smile. At the sight of that, Jughead knew exactly what he was going to do, and he turned back to Betty.

“Hey, Betts, come here a sec.” Jughead grinned over at her, and she quickly made her way over to his side before he added: “Get on.” He gestured to the broom and clambered on himself leaving enough room for Betty to get on with him.

“Why?” Betty asked, cocking her head to the side and she stared at her boyfriend for a long moment, even though she knew that in the end, she was going to get on. She couldn’t refuse him, but she was going to question what they were doing.

“Just do.” Came the reply, and with a sigh, Betty clambered on behind him. Her hands wrapped around Jughead’s waist, and she held on tightly to him. As soon as Betty held onto him, Jughead glanced at her once more before he kicked off from the ground and they shot upwards.

“Holy shit!”

“Language, Betts.” Jughead chuckled, starting the ascent and slowly guiding them around the Quidditch pitch so that they caught a glimpse of the castle rising above the mountains along. Betty gasped in Jughead’s ear and squeezed him even tighter.

“This is amazing,” Betty whispered in his ear, grateful that Jughead had decided to take her on this trip around the pitch. She had never witnessed Hogwarts like this, and she couldn’t believe that she could see it like this, especially with the red and gold glow of the setting sun over the castle.

“I know.”

...

“Welcome to the first match of the Quidditch Season!” Kevin’s voice filled the Quidditch stadium as the entire school thronged to watch the match. There wasn’t a single person at Hogwarts who didn’t attend, and all of them watched the entrance where the players were waiting with baited breath. They clung to scarves, banners and each other as Kevin once again spoke into the microphone. “Today will be between SLYTHERIN and RAVENCLAW!”

The door on the far side, beneath the Gryffindor and Ravenclaw, stands opened up for the players to fly out of in a blaze of cobalt with bronze lettering on their backs. “Entering the pitch are the Ravenclaw team: Doiley – Gold – Patel – Smith – Spellman – Walker and Walker!” Kevin’s voice was nearly drowned out by the combined scream of the Gryffindors and Ravenclaws.

Yet that was nothing compared to the shout given out at the stream of green and silver from the Slytherin entrance that their house and the yellow house let out. Kevin had to scream himself horse to introduce the Slytherin team. “And now, here’s the Slytherin team: O’Hare – DeSantos – Rann – Topaz – Fogarty – Black and Jones!”

In her usual black robes, Madam Hooch walked out onto the pitch, her yellow eyes focusing on each and every player before her as she mounted her broom. The crowd fell silent to her voice, and they all stared at her with rapt attention. It was one of the few times that this ever occurred and with all her usual gusto, she yelled: “On the sound of my whistle, you may begin!”

...

The match was in full swing when all of a sudden, Kevin yelled: “Jones has caught sight of the snitch!” Eyes glued themselves to the seeker who was streaking down the pitch after the snitch. It was at the moment that everyone forgot everything else and just watched.“And Walker is following him tight on his tail – Jones is too far ahead of Walker – Jones reaches out, and he has the SNITCH!”

Jughead raised his hand up high, the look of triumph on his face that was rarely seen elsewhere and he began circling the pitch to the shout of: “Slytherin WINS!” Kevin’s words fell on deaf ears as the stadium was soon consumed with the roar from Slytherin and Hufflepuff.

“JONES! JONES! JONES!”

“Slytherin take the lead in the Quidditch cup with a win of 210 points to 70 points for Ravenclaw!” Kevin yelled, his excitement getting the better of him as Joaquin rushed past before all the Slytherin team came to land. Each of them piled on Jughead, wrapping him in their arms in gratitude.

“Jones, before you run off, you’re coming to the party.” Sweet Pea had to yell to be heard, and Jughead strained even then to hear him. He was resigned to the fact now that he had just won the match and would be made to go whether he liked it or not.

“You are, now get your girl and bring her with you.” Toni finished, and Jughead was all but dragged from the pitch to find Betty in the crowds outside and then to bring her to the Slytherin common room.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 28 – Not Afraid Anymore

‘Devil underneath your grin, sweet thing,

but she plays to win, heaven gonna hate me
And touch me like you never
And push me like you never
And touch me like you never
'Cause I am not afraid, I am not afraid anymore.’

 

“You sure you want to come?” Jughead asked for about the hundredth time, and Betty found herself rolling her eyes at her boyfriend before smiling up at him. Squeezing his hand gently, Betty stopped Jughead and allowed him to turn back at her.

“Yes, now come on, Jones,” Betty assured him, cupping his face gently and running her thumbs over his cheeks gently and she smiled at him before taking his hand and leading him towards the Slytherin common room where the party was taking place.

“Wait.” Jughead stopped Betty before taking out a soft, dark green jumper and handing it to her. “Take this.” Betty accepted the material, and she eyed it curiously. Only after a few moments, Betty realised what it was, and she beamed at it.

“Is this one of your Quidditch jumpers?” Betty asked, tilting her head up and showed him the green and silver material with the Slytherin house crest on it. She ran her fingers over it gently, a soft smile gracing her lips at the article of Jughead’s clothing in her hands.

“It is, and before you get angry, I just don’t want any of the Seventh Years thinking they can go after you. They don’t like other houses.” Jughead reminded her, having already told her many times before when she had come to visit him in previous years.

“Okay.” Betty nodded, slipping into the jumper, which was too large for her and came to rest halfway down her thighs while the sleeves obscured her hands. A soft playful simper graced her lips, and she looked up at Jughead through her glittering jade eyes.

“Fuck, Betts.” Jughead gasped, pressing his lips to Betty’s and pushing her up against the wall as he hungrily moved his lips against hers. Betty found herself being consumed by Jughead’s fiery kiss, and she was unable to hold back the small moan when someone cleared their throat from behind them. Their heads snapped to the side to see Sweet Pea, who had just rounded the corner.

“Is that your to-do list, Jones?” Sweet Pea smirked at the two of them, raising his eyebrows at them suggestively at them. Jughead turned scarlet and hid partially behind Betty who was biting down on her bottom lip at the suggestion as her cheeks became stained with pink.

“Go away, Pea.” Jughead snapped at the same times as Betty responded.

“It is.” Betty nodded, much to the shock and surprise of all of those gathered around the corridor. Sweet Pea looked mildly impressed with the Hufflepuff girl while Jughead looked both horrified and in awe of his girlfriend’s response.

“BETTS!” Jughead exclaimed once the initial shock had worn off, and his cheeks darkened even more as both Betty and Sweet Pea delighted in his reaction. Neither could stop laughing at the beanie-clad boy, who buried his face in Betty’s neck to hide his embarrassment. He clung to Betty, and closed his eyes, willing his blood to flow normally.

“Come on.” Betty finally muttered, detaching Jughead from herself and leading both boys towards the Slytherin common room.

...

Betty was all but swept away from Jughead the moment she stepped into the common room, and Toni had led her over to a secluded corner where both of them sat on the edge of a dark table. However, Betty couldn’t focus solely on Toni as she was far too distracted by the size of the crowd and the noise level.

“I had no idea that it was going to be like this.” Betty had to shout to be heard, and still, Toni had to strain to hear it, though she was fortunate enough to respond as the songs were being changed.

“It always is.” Toni beamed, adoring her house and the sense of pride that she always got whenever this happened. After all, they were celebrating the entire team, not just Jughead, and every so often someone would walk up to them and shake her hand to congratulate her on her efforts.

“House pride?” Betty guessed with a small smile, enjoying the way that all of the Slytherins mingled together and delighted in each other’s company. All of them were dressed in something green with silver jewellery, and many of the Serpents were in their usual jackets, including Toni.

“Hell yes.” Toni cheered, raising her butterbeer bottle at that. Her cheeks were flushed slightly from the amount of alcohol she’d consumed, though, unlike Betty, Toni was better equipped at handling her drink. She was over the moon about the victory after all.

“Ladies.” Cheryl greeted them, her eyes remaining fixed on Toni’s figure. They trailed down Toni’s body, enjoying the way that her Quidditch jumper clung to Toni’s body. Her red lips curled upwards, and her eyes finally met Toni’s gaze.

“Cheryl.” Toni and Betty echoed in response, both unsure of why Cheryl was there, but neither was about to anger her in any way. Then again, Toni loathed to hurt Cheryl or stand up to her unless she felt as if Cheryl was taking things too far.

“Betty, I am so sorry about what happened with Polly, and I wish I could have done more. I regret mistreating you, and I hope we can move forward.” Cheryl turned to the blonde, the sense of regret filling her, and she inclined her head towards Betty.

“I would like that,” Betty assured seeing that Cheryl genuinely was apologetic and she offered the redhead a soft smile. Cheryl stared at her in disbelief for a long moment before returning it with a similar sincerity that Betty had never seen before.

“Great.” Cheryl them turned to the pink-haired girl again before asking: “Erm, TT, can I borrow you?” Holding out her hand, Cheryl made it evident that she wasn’t asking, not that Toni would have refused even if it had been an option.

“Of course.” Toni nodded and grabbed the redhead’s hand before allowing her to lead her away, presumably to the girls’ dormitory.

...

“Betty, enjoying yourself?” Fangs’ voice broke betty out of her thoughts, and she turned to face the Serpent boy before her, who was smiling at her, though she noted a glimmer of pain in his gaze. Her heart went out for him, but she didn’t ask straight away.

“Hey, Fangs, and yes, I am.” Betty offered him a bright Cooper smile, and he immediately made to sit beside her on the table. Betty was surprised by the action as Fangs never usually spoke to her alone, but she chose not to voice that.

“Good, good.” Fangs murmured, debating what to say to her. He eyed her carefully for a moment, letting out a shaky breath, and taking a sip of his tasteless drink that Sweet Pea had given him.

“Are you alright?” Betty asked, her eyes searching his expression, and she turned to face him properly. Her back was now to the crowd, and to the eyes of her boyfriend, who glanced over at them, but then was guided back to his own conversation.

“I wish I could say yes, but I’m not.” Fangs confessed, his downcast expression leaving Betty’s heart to shatter at the thought of it. She rested a hand gently on his and squeezed it lightly, hoping to offer him some form of comfort.

“Why?” Betty asked, cocking her head to the side and she ensured that he had her full attention. Blocking out the rest of the room, she kept her gaze on Fangs, ignoring any looks she received from any other Slytherins in the room.

“Amy Richards.” Fangs confessed in a whisper, not wanting any of his fellow Slytherins to hear him. He glanced around cautiously before turning back to Betty as he added in a tiny voice: “I’m scared to talk to her.”

“Fangs, you are a kind, sweet person who deserves to be happy. You’ll find your soulmate, and hopefully, Amy will come to her senses soon enough.” Betty spoke in a similar tone knowing that Fangs was worried about being overheard by anyone else.

“Thank you, Betty.” Fangs mumbled, grateful to Betty for all her confront and help that he had needn’t hear. It was only Betty who would offer him this much support, and he didn’t know how to truly thank her. He had always known that Betty was a kind soul, but now he truly understood.

“Don’t worry about it.” Betty smiled at him before asking quietly: “Do you want a hug?” Fangs had barely nodded when Betty embraced him, holding him tight and rubbing his back gently. Fangs relaxed and held Betty tight, thankful that she was his friend.

...

“Is Fangs alright?” Jughead asked Betty when they finally left the common room to trudge back to the Blue and Gold and towards a good night’s sleep. He wasn’t in any way worried about Betty being with Fangs, but he was concerned for his friend.

“He’s scared to talk to the girl he likes, and I think he’s afraid he won’t find his soulmate any time soon.” Betty sighed at the thought of it, hoping that Fangs was wrong and that he would find love soon. After all, Betty knew all too well that Jughead’s presence had made her own world feel lighter and brighter.

“He will,” Jughead assured his soulmate, wrapping his arm tightly around Betty’s shoulders and she leant into him as they walked, breathing in his scent. Relaxing into his arm, Betty smiled gently up at her raven-haired boyfriend.

“I know.” Betty nodded, sighing at the thought of Fangs’ hopeless expression. Yet, she soon remembered that there was more that she wanted to discuss with Jughead. “There is something else I need to talk to you about.”

“What is it?” Jughead looked down at her in surprise and confusion as well as a glimmer of concern, though he was certain that Betty was alright. He would have felt it if she wasn’t and he couldn’t feel much more than exhaustion coming through the soul bond.

“I want to start, erm, well trying a bit more than just kissing,” Betty mumbled, hiding her embarrassment at not being able to find the right terms. Yet, Jughead didn’t mind about that; he was still attempting to process what Betty had just said.

“Betts, are you sure?” Jughead asked, unsure on whether or not he had heard Betty correctly and he wasn’t about to make Betty do anything she was uncomfortable with at all. He would never do that to Betty at all, and he was going to ensure that she was happy with her choice.

“I’m sure.” And with that, she kissed him lightly before allowing him to pick her up in his arms so that he could carry her back to the Blue and Gold. Both smiled and laughed at the idea of it, and although they wouldn’t admit it just yet, they both felt their love for one another filling their hearts.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 29 – Broken Home

Hey, mom, hey, dad
When did this end?
Where did you lose your happiness?
I'm here alone inside of this broken home
Who's right, who's wrong
Who really cares?
The fault, the blame, the pain's still there
I'm here alone inside of this broken home, this broken home.

 

‘Weekdays from 8.25am to 4.01pm, we adhere to a strict regimen. Everything in our lives is controlled, well with exception to our magic, but then something like the murder of Jason Blossom happens, and you realise there is no such thing control; there is only chaos. Nevertheless, some of us strive to impose and maintain order in what is fundamentally an order-less world. A fact that would very soon be confirmed in ways that none of us foreseen.’

Alice had come to Betty the next morning in floods of tears, informing Betty that Polly had left them to live with the Blossoms. She now sat in the Blue and Gold, holding Betty close to her, stroking her youngest daughter’s hair trying to ease the pain for both of them. “Elizabeth, I am so sorry that this had to happen to us, and that you were caught in the middle of this all.”

“It’s okay, Mum. You were trying to protect us, and although I don’t approve of your methods, I can see where you were coming from.” Betty mumbled, trying to calm down and hoping that maybe Alice would be able to see that what happened with Polly was the reason for Polly’s actions, but she didn’t push it.

“First your dad and Polly, though, I’m so sorry,” Alice mumbled, not realising that she hadn’t spoken to Betty once about her troubles with Hal yet. Betty jerked upwards and stared at Alice in disbelief and confusion, not understanding what had happened with her dad.

“Dad?” Betty barely managed to say, dabbing at her eyes as she did so. She couldn’t bear to hear that their family was fractured, and she felt her already shattered heart breaking, even more, flooding the soul bond with more pain.

“He and I aren’t happy anymore hence why I’ve been staying in Hogsmeade while he’s in Diagon Alley,” Alice informed Betty with a sigh, pulling Betty closer to her, and hoping somehow that they’d get through this without falling apart.

“I didn’t realise,” Betty muttered, her eyes glistening with more unshed tears that she all but refused to let them fall. She was sick and tired of crying about everything that happened to her, but she was resigned to that there was nothing she could do.

“We just keep fighting, especially about Polly.” Alice sighed, rubbing her eyes and wiping away the smudged mascara, attempting to regain some semblance of respectability. She wasn’t about to have her image ruined by this conversation.

“Why?” Betty asked, cocking her head to the side and not bothering to hide the pain in her gaze. She didn’t give a damn anymore if anyone saw her upset. She had been strong for too long, and now she felt that she had every right to break down now.

“Because I was in Polly’s situation,” Alice confessed in a mere whisper once she had checked to see that the door was still bolted shut and that no one was lurking there. Only then was she able to talk to her daughter about this.

“You were?” Betty asked in disbelief, not quite believing that her mother could have ever been so irresponsible in her youth and callous when her daughter made the same mistake as her. At that moment, her sympathy for Alice wavered.

“And in just the same way, your father arranged for my ‘problem’ to be fixed,” Alice muttered, her voice growing small and her eyes watering once more. She’d never once told anyone about how Hal had tried to control her life and her baby boy who she’d never seen again.

“Dad arranged for both you and Polly to have an abortion?” Betty asked in horror having never have expected to hear that her father could have done anything like that. She’d always assumed that Polly’s quarrel about the baby had been with Alice and not with Hal.

“Without our consent,” Alice added, her tears watering once more, but she wasn’t about to let her perfectly crafted image. She quickly wiped her eyes again and then met Betty’s gaze again without a single tear left in her jade gaze.

“Please tell me they didn’t go through with it.” Betty sincerely hoped that her mother hadn’t been forced into doing something she didn’t want to do, and her heart hammered wildly until Alice finally replied.

“They didn’t. They couldn’t legally go through it without our consent.” Alice offered Betty a perfected smile that was so forced and fake that it looked almost painful, but Betty didn’t question it. She knew never to comment on it and merely nodded.

“Thank goodness.”

...

Jughead removed his beanie the moment he slipped inside the Blue and Gold after his final lesson of the day and ran his hand through his hair. Unbuttoning his top button, Jughead placed his head in his hands and let out a heavy sigh.

“Betty isn’t here,” Alice spoke from the shadows, and she slowly stepped into Jughead’s line of sight. Jughead glanced up at her with, unsure of what to make of Alice. He knew that she had been with Betty earlier and he wasn’t happy about the torrent of emotions he’d felt through the soul bond.

“I know. She’s in the library with Veronica.” Jughead snapped back, rolling his eyes at her before looking back down at his notes for the next issue of the Blue and Gold. He had an article to write, and he wasn’t in the mood to speak with Alice.

“Then why are you here?” Alice asked, walking up to the other side of the desk, eying Jughead suspiciously, unsure of what to make of the Serpent. He reminded her so much of FP at that age, and she wasn’t too pleased about that.

“I work for the Blue and Gold,” Jughead replied hotly, making his notes in his scruffy shorthand, and then glanced back at Alice. Narrowed cerulean eyes met confused green orbs, and for a long moment, Jughead just glowered at Alice.

“Oh, I didn’t know.”

“I gathered.”

“Look, Jughead, I don’t like you.” Alice started to say, knowing that it wasn’t exactly the best thing to start with, but she had no idea how to speak to the young Serpent. She just needed to find a way to understand how her daughter had offered her heart to Jughead.

“At least you’re honest.” Jughead shrugged at her, offering her no easy way around this, and he wasn’t about to change that any time soon. He wanted Alice to work for what she wanted, and he wasn’t going to help her to get there.

“But, you do make Betty happy, and that is more important.” Alice sighed, sitting down opposite him and fixing her gaze on him, but this time it was softer, and she hoped that Jughead could see the effort she was putting in at the moment.

“Is it? Because I’ve always tried to do that and you’ve always tried to push us away from one another.” Jughead didn’t mince his words and narrowed his eyes at Alice because she had always been against him and Betty whether it was when they were merely friends or now when they were so much more than that.

“I’ve made mistakes in the past, but you did turn out to be what I feared.” Alice pointed out, gesturing to his right shoulder where his Serpent tattoo was hidden. She knew that Jughead was as deep as he could get in the Serpents, and she didn’t like it one bit.

“Don’t act all high and mighty, Alice, you used to be a Serpent.” Jughead reminded her, his eyes narrowing, and he wasn’t pleased at all with her ‘I’m holier than thou’ attitude. He hated that Alice treated him as if he was nothing more than the dirt beneath her shoe.

“A long time ago.” Alice pointed out, shaking her head at the suggestion of it, and she tried to dismiss the guilt stirring up inside of her at the memory of how she’d deserted the Serpents. Each member had every right to hate her now.

“Yeah, well, unlike actual snakes, us Serpents don’t shed our skins.” Jughead leant forward, his cerulean eyes burning with fury and displeasure at Alice’s dismissal at their way of life. Even she had to realise that you didn’t just walk away from the Serpents.

“I’ve heard.” Alice shook her head at the reminder of all the warnings she had received from all of the Serpents who had spoken to her of late. “But you have just proved my point. You’re a Serpent. Sheriff Keller arrested you too.”

“He wrongly accused me of murder and broke the law by using the bewitched handcuffs on me, so don’t bother trying to defend him or say I’m in the wrong. I won’t listen.” Jughead wasn’t about to have Alice lecture him on how he should have behaved or how he was a bad influence on Betty.

“Betty mentioned something about that,” Alice mumbled absentmindedly at the thought of it. She could recall what Betty had said about the interrogation and the investigation that she and Jughead were working on to do with Jason Blossom’s case.

“And you’re finally listening to your daughter,” Jughead muttered, knowing that Alice rarely ever listened to anyone other than herself. She was incredibly insufferable when she wanted to be, and he knew that Betty hated trying to reason with her.

“I do listen to Betty. I always have.” Alice insisted, but in the back of her mind, she knew that Jughead was right about how she treated Betty. She also knew that for the past sixteen years she had mainly ignored Betty unless to nitpick at her appearance or work ethic or how she presented herself to the rest of the world, and she knew that Jughead knew that too.

“You really haven’t.” Jughead snapped, folding his arms and fixing his gaze on Alice once more, channelling his Serpent Prince status. He had learnt never to be afraid of the other Serpent adults, and he wasn’t about to be afraid of Alice.

“Look Jughead, can we please set this aside.” Alice pleaded with him, wanting to push all her misdeeds away and hoping to make amends with her daughter, even if that meant making amends with Jughead, who she still wasn’t keen on.

“Why?” Jughead asked, cocking his head to the side, curious to find out just what Alice had up her sleeve, and he wanted to know exactly why, but he had a feeling that he wouldn’t get it. However, he was willing to hear what excuse she had come up with.

“For Betty’s sake.” Alice mumbled, not looking at Jughead, hoping he had heard her, and when she wasn’t sure, she looked back at him and added: “For Betty’s sake, we should try to be civil at least.” Her eyes met Jughead’s, and he sighed.

“Fine.” Jughead stood up, grabbing his beanie, and instantly deciding that he needed to see Betty and tell her. Turning towards the door, he paused and glanced back at Alice for a moment. “But for the record, I don’t like you either.”

...

Entering the library, Jughead passed Veronica, who was leaving to find Kevin again while Betty stayed at the back table so that she carry on with her studies. Smiling at Betty’s dedication, Jughead crossed the room and fell into the chair beside her, wrapping an arm around her shoulders.

“Your mother approached me earlier,” Jughead mumbled, breaking Betty out of her trance and she turned her back to her books to look at her boyfriend in surprise. She hadn’t been expecting to hear him say that ever, and she couldn’t help but stare at him.

“She did?” Betty asked, disbelief ringing through her tone and she stared at Jughead for a long moment, hoping to process what he had just said. It didn’t make sense to her that her mother would do such a thing, and yet she was delighted by it.

“She agreed to be civil,” Jughead confirmed, pulling Betty closer to him, dragging her seat closer and enfolding her in his embrace, and he kept their gazes level. They both had no idea what Alice’s plan was, but they both wanted to know.

“Okay, so she has lost her mind,” Betty mumbled, shaking her head at the idea of it. Alice had always told her to stay away from the Joneses, especially Jughead, and she certainly hadn’t approved when they had announced their relationship.

“I was thinking the same.” Jughead nodded at Betty, agreeing with her, not understanding just what had occurred to make Alice change her idea on him. He had never expected anything like this to happen, and he didn’t trust it at all. “Do you know why?”

“Dad and her are fighting, and the Polly situation has escalated everything,” Betty confessed to her boyfriend, sighing heavily and resting her head on Jughead’s shoulder. She let her eyes flutter shut for a moment before she pulled Jughead closer to her.

“That would do it.”

“Jug...”

“Sorry.” Jughead glanced down sheepishly and then finally he looked up at Betty again, only to see that she wasn’t fazed by his mistake. She pulled him back to her, and closed her eyes again, running her hands up and down his spine lightly.

“Don’t be, just hold me,” Betty mumbled, prompting Jughead to hold her tightly to his chest, and they both closed their eyes, allowing their senses to be filled with nothing but their soulmate.

Chapter Text

Chapter 30 – Don’t Let Me Down

‘I think I'm losing my mind now
It's in my head, darling, I hope
That you'll be here when I need you the most
So don't let me don't let me don't let me down.’

 

“Happy birthday, Juggie,” Betty whispered, shaking Jughead awake on the morning of the 2nd October, pressing gentle kisses to his face, throat and exposed chest. Her actions and her voice jolted awake, for once smiling at the thought of it being his birthday.

“Thanks, Betts,” Jughead mumbled, attempting to pull her closer to him, but he was unable to do so as she had moved away from him. Instantly, she moved to her bedside table and grabbed a neatly wrapped present before returning to Jughead.

“Here, I got you this.” Betty passed him the present, watching him with bright eyes, and slowly Jughead sat up before gently tearing the paper to reveal the book inside it. Jughead loved reading so much, and the gift he’d received left him staring at her in disbelief.

“Is this an original copy of ‘Hogwarts: A History’?” Jughead asked, shock and delight in his voice, and he beamed at Betty, grateful for what she had done for him. He had always wanted his own copy of this book, especially an original and he pulled Betty close to him, grateful for her generosity.

“I thought you’d like it.” Betty beamed at him, kissing his cheek gently, and holding him tightly to her, knowing that she had given him the one thing that he had wanted for his birthday, besides having her with him. That was the main thing he’d wanted each year.

“Like it? I love it.” Jughead mumbled, guiding Betty’s head back towards him, and kissing her softly and tenderly, wrapping his arms around her as he did. He attempted to pour out his gratitude through the action and held onto her tightly.

“I’m glad.” Betty smiled against his lips, and pulled away, resting her forehead against Jughead’s, her eyes shimmering, and she knew that she had made the right decision about the present. She had been hoping that he would love it.

“Thank you, Betts,” Jughead mumbled, smiling happily at her, and gently he kissed her nose, smiling as he did before pulling away again. His eyes shimmered at her, and he prayed that Betty could understand just how thankful he truly was.

“Don’t worry about it, and later we’ll go to Bijou for the double feature and then go to the Slytherin common room together like every year.” Betty smiled at him, knowing that Jughead would be pleased with that plan, especially since they did it every year.

“The only good thing about my birthday,” Jughead muttered, and then met her gaze again. “I get you to myself for the entire day.” Giggling at him, Betty smiled once more, and hugged him once more, knowing that she felt the same.

...

“That was amazing, Betts.” Jughead grinned at Betty, guiding her back to the castle, his arm wrapped around her shoulder. He felt lighter and happier than he had felt earlier, and that was all because of Betty. He was so grateful to her and turned back to her with a smile. “’Animal House’ and ‘American Werewolf in London’. Thank you so much.”

“I knew you’d like that.” Betty smiled, leaning closer to Jughead, knowing that she had made Jughead’s birthday better than he had expected. He hated his birthday usually, but today he was actually enjoying, though he had the feeling that something may go wrong.

“You’re the best, Betts.” Jughead shook off the feeling, pulling betty towards the Slytherin common room, noticing Betty’s blush and he chuckled at the way her cheeks turned scarlet the moment he complimented her. “And you blush beautifully.” He kissed her forehead before turning to the entrance and adding: “Skull.”

“Stop making me blush so much.” Betty protested, turning even darker with embarrassment and she hid her face in Jughead’s shoulder as the door opened. Yet, before either could speak, they were met with a packed Slytherin common room, and all of them turned to see Jughead arriving.

“JONES HAPPY BIRTHDAY!”

“Oh, fuck!”

...

Jughead ran off pretty much instantly, leaving Betty to fight through the crowd to find him, and only after a while did she manage to spot him. Reaching him, Betty placed a hand on Jughead’s shoulder and asked: “Jug, what can I do?”

“Just get me out of here.” Jughead murmured, toying with the zipper on his jacket, trying to distract himself from all of the people gathered around. The room was too loud, and people were steadily getting drunker and drunker with each passing moment.

“Okay, but you have to understand that they didn’t know. They were trying to do a nice thing and allow us all to fit in and feel happy.” Betty reached for his hand, squeezing it gently and she guided Jughead’s face to look back up at her.

“In case you haven’t noticed, I’m weird, I’m a weirdo. I don’t fit in, and I don’t want to fit in. Has anyone bar you ever seen me without this stupid hat on? That’s weird.” Jughead snapped back bitterly, standing up as he spoke, his eyes narrowing at the thought of it.

“Jug...”

“You’re the perfect girl next door, and I’m the damaged loner outsider from the wrong side of the tracks, and I am not good enough for you. I’m far too weird, and I’m definitely not worthy of being your boyfriend or soulmate.” Jughead’s anxieties all came rushing out, and Betty knew instantly that this wasn’t the root cause of all of his problems. He was trying to block out the world, and Betty wasn’t about to walk away or give up on him because of this.

“Jughead, you could be blue and covered in sparkles weird, and I would still want to be with you, but you need to understand that most people can’t see that,” Betty stated, not caring that her boyfriend wasn’t perfect, and she knew that he just needed to get out of this situation.

“I just wanted a quiet birthday with you,” Jughead confessed, sighing and allowing Betty to wrap her arms around him, relaxing into her arms. He finally conceded that Betty had no hand in this and that he shouldn’t have yelled at her. “I’m sorry.”

“I know, and I wish it could have been like that, but we can easily go now.” Betty pointed out, noting that no one was even paying attention to either of them. They could easily slip out of the door without anyone even giving a damn.

They both made a bee-line for the door, but before they could get there, they found their paths blocked by one person they’d hoped never to see again: Chuck. “Oh, no, where are you two going? We’re about to play ‘Secrets and Sins’, and we can’t do that without the guests of honours.”

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 31 – Sick Boy

‘And don't believe the narcissism
When everyone projects and expects you to listen to 'em
Make no mistake, I live in a prison
That I built myself, it is my religion
And they say that I am the sick boy
Easy to say, when you don't take the risk, boy
Welcome to the narcissism
Where we're united under our indifference.’

 

“Well, now that we’re all here, let’s get started with a game of Secrets and Sins.” Chuck gathered all of the room together and stood in the centre so that all of them could see him. The room had turned silent until Toni scoffed loudly at him.

“Oh, we’re not playing.” Toni rolled her eyes at the suggestion. She knew that Chuck was just going to use it as an excuse to spread rumours about anyone and everyone he didn’t like, and that included all of the Serpents along with Betty.

“Listen strawberry shortcake we’re playing this game, and in fact, we’ll start with you.” Chuck leered at Toni, folding his arms and taking several steps towards the unfazed Serpent girl, who merely scoffed at him again before he addressed the room. “We all know that Toni here is the Serpent Girl, but did you know that she publically stripped and pole danced in front of a bar fall of middle-aged men to join a gang. Or perhaps we should point out that you have a very promiscuous lifestyle.”

“So what? I’ve had sex, and I didn’t have to belittle women to get them to sleep with me. In fact, I think I’ve pulled more women than you.” Toni smirked over at Chuck, knowing that she was denting his pride and that all of the room agreed with her.

“Oh damn Topaz!”

“Jealous, Pea?” Toni smirked over at her best friend, who rolled his eyes at her and then turned back to glower at Chuck again. Neither was pleased with Chuck, and they had a feeling that until he got the desired reaction, Chuck wouldn’t stop.

“Anyway, that’s irrelevant.” Chuck turned to look at Jughead, who sat there glaring at Chuck with his arm around Betty, trying to ease his tension. Chuck’s eyes zoned in on this, and he wasn’t about to let this go. “Let’s move on to crown boy.”

“How about no?” Jughead suggested, not in the mood to even be in the presence of the Gryffindor, but he had a feeling that he wouldn’t be getting out of here any time soon. He squeezed Betty’s shoulder lightly, trying to disperse both of their anxieties over this game.

“Not an option,” Chuck smirked over at his rival before addressing everyone again. “Now we all know that the ‘mighty’ Serpent Prince is a stoic leader and intelligent, but he managed to fall for Archie Andrews’ lie about Betty Cooper. He joined the Serpents because of a lie.”

“I didn’t.”

“You did fall for it man.” Joaquin pointed out, and Jughead rolled his eyes at his friend. He hadn’t been referring to not believing Archie’s lie. He had believed that, as had Betty, but he didn’t want anyone to assume that he’d joined the Serpents because of a lie.

“Oh no, I know that part, but I mean I was already joining the Serpents before the argument, so actually get your facts straight.” Jughead pointed out, his eyes narrowing and darkening at Chuck, who back up slightly, but he was determined to see this through.

“Oh fuck!”

“Well, how about we move onto Betty?” Chuck asked Jughead, ignoring Sweet Pea, who merely shrugged at that, having already expected it. Yet, upon hearing Betty’s name, the Serpents all exchanged a nervous glance. They couldn’t allow the Boss’ girl to get hurt. It went against what they stood for.

“How about you shut the fuck up, and I don’t kill you?” Veronica suggested, rising to protect her friend because she knew what Chuck was going to use against Betty, and she wasn’t about to allow that to happen. She hoped she could distract him, but she should have realised that her actions were in vain.

“Then, I’ll go with you.” Chuck turned to the Ravenclaw, his eyes narrowing at her, knowing that he had the perfect opportunity to throw shade at Veronica. “We all know that Veronica’s in denial about the little gingerbread she’s had a crush on for all these years. She’s never admitted it, and now that her daddy may face time in Azkaban, she’s afraid to lose him because she’s the daughter of a criminal. That’s all she’ll ever be: the daughter of a criminal.”

“Die, you ass.” Veronica snapped, her eyes flashing with anger, and she wasn’t about to back down. She honestly didn’t give a damn what he thought of her because, in the end, she’d proved that he was nothing more than a player.

“Such a frosty tone.” Chuck rolled his eyes and tutted at Veronica, but he knew that she had a point, which only made him feel more enraged. He wanted to hold court here, and he wasn’t about to allow anyone to question him or his authority.

“Well, my speciality is ice.” Veronica offered him her most false smile that was enough to chill the blood, and even Chuck backed down now. He knew better than to get into this with Veronica, especially when she wasn’t his intended target.

“Now let’s move onto Gingerbread.” Chuck wheeled around to where Archie sat with the other Gryffindors, but before he could carry on Dilton Doiley rose up, surprising all there and everyone turned to face the bespectacled Ravenclaw. 

“Oh, I have something to say about Andrews,” Dilton informed the room, smirking over at Archie, who paled at the thought of what Dilton could possibly have to say about him. “Well, you see when I was out with my scouts, I saw Professor Grundy’s cloak – something I told Betty and Jughead, and low and behold barely two days later, she was gone.” Dilton paused and smirked over at Archie, who clenched his fists at the Ravenclaw. “But, at the same time Archie was also there, and both Jughead and Betty refused to say anything about it. I do believe that they were covering up for Archie.”

“Wow, Archie you had a relationship with a teacher?” Chuck stared at Archie, mildly impressed at the redhead's actions. It was something he thought was worthy of the playbook, but he knew better than to say that and he quickly spun back to Betty. “Well, how about we move onto Cooper? We all remember when I got suspended, but no one bar Veronica, Betty and I know how it happened.”

“What do you mean?” Cheryl asked from her place beside Toni, her eyes darting from Betty and Chuck, unsure of what she was about to hear. She had no idea what could have happened but judging by the look on Jughead’s face, and on Betty’s, it wasn’t good.

“Well, you see to get this information Betty Cooper dressed up like a hooker in a god-awful black wig, and she handcuffed me to the bath in the Prefects’ Bathroom. Then she drugged me and threatened me until she got what she wanted and then she really lost it.” Chuck turned back and leered at the couple before him and added: “She actually thought she was Polly. But you knew all about this right Jughead?”

“Stupefy!” Jughead cried, sending a flash of red light through the air that flung Chuck back into one of the chairs and it left the room silent bar Betty’s cry of disbelief.

“Jug!”

Jughead merely grabbed Betty’s hand and pulled her up, guiding her out of the room and allowing the door to close behind him. He didn’t give a damn what anyone thought, and he just needed to get out of there, as did Betty. They walked to the Blue and Gold in silence before entering the room, and without even changing, lay on the bed in each other’s arms hoping for the pain and embarrassment to fade.

“Jug?”

“Hmm.”

“Thank you for defending us all against Chuck. I only hope it doesn’t come back to haunt us.” Betty mumbled, looking at Jughead warily, unsure of what to do now. She knew that there was nothing that they could do about it anymore.

“It won’t,” Jughead assured her before noticing that Betty’s hands were covered in blood. Her nails had once again torn through the skin, and he wasn’t about to leave it like that, not now or ever. “Betts, we need to clean your hands.”

“Juggie, don’t.” Betty pulled her hands away, but she wasn’t fast enough as Jughead quickly grabbed her hands gently in his and displayed them to them both. He knew that Betty hated the look of her tarnished skin, but Jughead wasn’t about to leave them like this.

“Betts, I’ve known for a while and have been waiting for you to tell me,” Jughead admitted softly, drawing his wand to perform a healing spell. Betty gulped, and she stared up at him before she glanced away again.

“Oh.”

“Here, episkey.” Jughead waved his wand, watching the skin stitch back together and healing Betty’s skin, allowing the pain to ebb away along with the blood surrounding the wound. He was grateful that her skin was no longer battered and bloody.

“Thank you,” Betty whispered, holding Jughead tightly and pulling him closer to her. She lay her head on his shoulder, her eyes fluttering shut. Jughead held onto her tightly and allowed himself to slip into unconsciousness with her.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 32 – Nicotine

‘I'm going numb, I've been hijacked
It's a fucking drag
I taste you on my lips, and I can't get rid of you
So I say damn your kiss and the awful things you do.’

 

8th January 2017

Jughead stood by the Black Lake, skimming stones across the water’s surface, trying to ease the growing anxiety building up inside of him at the thought of the Gauntlet. In less than six hours he’d be completing the final trial to join the Serpents, and he was both excited and terrified. He knew it would hurt, but finally, he’d be able to prove himself to his friends and his father.

Jones, you ready for tonight?” Sweet Pea asked, jolting Jughead out of his thoughts, and the beanie boy turned around to see Sweet Pea standing there with his arms folded. His eyes were both concerned and curious about Jughead. He knew that Jughead would never betray the Serpents, and he had the feeling that no matter what happened, he would get through the Gauntlet.

“As ready as I’ll ever be,” Jughead assured him, moving to sit on a rock by the lake and indicating for Sweet Pea to take the seat beside him. Closing his eyes, Jughead exhaled three times before glancing back at the taller boy beside him.

“It will be fine. We’ve all been through it – well, bar Toni, but she did something much worse than we did, or you will have done by tonight.” Sweet Pea grimaced at the memory of Toni informing him what she’d had to do to become a member of the Serpents.

“What did Toni do?” Jughead asked, cocking his head to the side since none of the new recruits were told the ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ of the Serpents, but Sweet Pea saw no harm in telling Jughead. After all, he was by default the new leader of the Juniors.

“She had to pole dance and strip in front of a bar full of middle-aged men.” Sweet Pea confessed, grimacing at the thought of it, and he knew that there was nothing he could do to stop the tradition. They’d all tried to end it, but nothing had happened yet.

“Holy fuck that’s appalling.” Jughead shook his head at the thought of it, glad that he hadn’t witnessed that, and he was certain that he was going to stop it if he could when he took the position as Serpent King. He wasn’t going to allow this to keep happening.

“Only the Serpent King can stop it, but FP has far too much pressure from the others to allow to be outlawed.” Sweet Pea pointed out, rolling his eyes at the thought that FP still caved to the whims of the other Serpent elders, who still held sway.

“Well, if I ever become King, I will definitely be getting rid of that,” Jughead promised him, his eyes glowing with a steely determination, and Sweet Pea knew that Jughead would ensure that he would get rid of it, and for that Sweet Pea was grateful.

“Thank you.” Sweet Pea nodded, and swept his hair out of his eyes, trying to calm his fury, and hoping that there wouldn’t be too many disasters before that day occurred. Though, before Jughead could respond, Sweet Pea added: “Oh fuck, there’s Andrews.”

“He’s my best friend.” Jughead reminded him, knowing that Sweet Pea and Archie rarely saw eye to eye, but he had hoped to keep them both civil with one another. It usually worked, but he knew that both could barely stand one another.

 “JONES!”

“Archie, what’s wrong?” Jughead asked, alarmed at Archie’s tone, and he turned to face the redhead in confusion, not understanding what possibly could have happened to make Archie so angry, and he needed to find out why.

“I’m here for Betty,” Archie informed him, his eyes ablaze with anger, and Jughead missed the glimmer of guilt that shone in the Gryffindor’s gaze. He focused solely on Archie’s words, and he hoped that nothing had happened to Betty.

“Is she hurt?” Jughead asked frantically, getting to his feet, hoping that he could do something to help his best friend, and he prayed that Betty would be alright. He was about to grab all his things when he heard Archie speak again.

 “I’m here to tell you to stay away from Betty.”

 “Why?” Jughead stared at Archie in disbelief, not quite believing what he had just said, and he blinked rapidly in confusion at Archie’s statement. He sincerely hoped that he had just misheard him and that he could get to Betty as soon as possible.

“Because she doesn’t want to see you.” Archie snapped, squaring up to Jughead, and he met Jughead’s confusion with anger. Furrowing his brow, Jughead cocked his head to the side, refusing to believe a single word that had left Archie’s lips.

“No, she doesn’t. I just saw her an hour ago.” Jughead protested, shaking his head at Archie, and he glanced back at Sweet Pea, who was just as confused as he was. He saw no reason why Betty would get Archie to tell Jughead to stay away.

“She’s been agonising over it for weeks and weeks. She’s just too afraid to say anything to you because she knows that you are as crazy as Mad-Eye Moody.” Archie bit back, taking another step towards Jughead and poking him square in the chest.

“Fuck off, Archie.” Sweet Pea growled, not appreciating how he was talking to Jughead, and nor was he too certain that Archie was telling the truth, but he wasn’t going to question what Jughead might think on the matter.

“It’s not true. Betty and I are happy.” Jughead protested, thinking about the kiss at the New Year’s party, but he couldn’t stop the doubt from creeping into his mind.

“Then why don’t you owl her? Why don’t you ask her?” Archie asked, knowing that Jughead wouldn’t be able to stop the self-doubt from creeping in. “She was only helping you to stop you from hurting her. You’re destroying her by becoming a Serpent. She will never want you provided you’re a Serpent.”

“I would never hurt Betty.” Jughead felt his fear and pain as they coursed through him that he had somehow hurt Betty in any way, but this time he couldn’t ignore the voice in his head telling him to stay away.

“Only really, why is crying in the library at the thought of it?” Archie snapped, watching Jughead’s determination fail, and he knew he had succeeded. “You’ve fallen off of the deep end, and you’re killing her. The best thing would be for you to just leave her alone. She never wants to see you again.”

“I-I – you know what tell Betty I got the message, and frankly Andrews you can fuck off.”

...

An Hour Earlier.

 

“Betty?”

“Archie, have you seen Juggie? I wanted to wish him ‘good luck’ before the final initiation process tonight.” Betty asked, gathering up her books, preparing to leave the library to meet Jughead again at the Lake. They had been studying together, and now she wanted to spend more time with him.

“Betty, sit down, we need to talk.” Archie indicated to the seat that Betty had just vacated, and she slowly sat down once more, staring at Archie in confusion. She hoped that they would get this out of the way quickly so she could meet Jughead.

“What is it?” Betty asked, staring at Archie in confusion and annoyance at the fact that he was, once again, keeping her from where she wanted to be. He always picked the most inopportune moments to talk to her, and she had a feeling that this conversation would be the same.

“It’s about Jughead,” Archie informed her, knowing full well that only Jughead’s name would instantly grab Betty’s full attention when it came to this. He was proved right when Betty’s head shot up, and she gave him her undivided attention instantly.

“What is it? Is he hurt?” Betty asked frantically, her eyes searching Archie’s, hoping that Jughead was alright, and she could see him as soon as possible. She had to be certain that her best friend was alright, regardless of whether or not she got hurt in the process.

“No, but Betty this is important, and you should sit down for this,” Archie instructed, for in her panic, Betty had clambered to her feet and for a long moment, she processed Archie’s instruction before sighing heavily and sitting back down.

“Oh, okay.”

“Betty, Jughead doesn’t want to see you anymore.” Archie lied through his teeth, guilt gnawing away at him, but he knew that he’d never have a chance with Betty if he didn’t do this, and that was enough to spur him on with the plan.

“What? Why?” Betty asked, her eyes wide and her heart hammered in disbelief that Jughead could possibly ask Archie to do this to her. She all but refused to believe it as she dug her nails into her palms at the thought of it.

“He said you were interfering with his Serpent lifestyle and that he didn’t want to have to deal with that. He just wants you out of his life, and he never wants to talk to you again.” Archie stated, knowing that it would be just enough to make Betty concede to his point on this one.

“That might be nerves. I should go and talk to him.” Betty sat up, about to stand but the look on Archie’s face told her not to do so. Sinking back down, she felt tears fill her eyes at the thought of it.

“Betty, he’s been saying it for a week. I don’t think it’s nerves.” Archie explained, shattering all hope inside of Betty.

“Oh, right,” Betty mumbled, gathering her things and she quickly got to her feet, not wanting to cry in front of Archie. She just needed to get out of here, now.

“Betty, do you want to talk?” Archie asked, going to follow Betty, but the look she sent him froze all movement in his body instantly.

“No, I don’t. Please leave me be.” Betty snapped, attempting to flee while rubbing at her eyes, hoping to hide her tears from Archie.

“Betty!” Archie called, but Betty was having none of it. She didn’t want to be around anyone at all right, and with one last glower, she snapped back at Archie before leaving.

“Good afternoon.”

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 33 – Far Away

‘This time, this place
Misused mistakes
Too long, too late
Who was I to make you wait

Just one chance
Just one breath
Just in case there's just one left
'Cause you know, you know, you know.’

 

‘People like to say that the death of Jason Blossom changed everything at Hogwarts, but certain things, certain traditions never change. Take the School Dance for instance. Though Jason’s roll in all activities had been stopped, there were still be a feast celebrating Slytherin’s victory with the other houses either wallowing or supporting them.’

“I’m just handing off some of my decorating duties to Ethel, so I can keep focusing on the Blue and Gold.” Betty crossed her arms and glowered at Professor Weatherbee, who was once again forcing an unbelievable load upon her shoulders. He didn’t see that she wasn’t perfect and that she was struggling to deal with it all.

“Unacceptable. You made a commitment, Miss Cooper, you need to honour it.” Professor Weatherbee snapped at her, and Betty knew that she had no choice but to continue juggling all her responsibilities. “Especially since this Dance is a reunion weekend.”

‘Previous years’ graduates from Hogwarts’ past would come to the school to relive their more youthful, more carefree days, or to make up for lost time.’

...

While Betty dealt with her heavy workload, Jughead found himself by his father’s trailer to go and see him. Walking inside, Jughead noticed that FP had both shaved and was getting ready for work. “Dad? Have you been body snatched?”

“I feel good, Jug. Look good too.” FP grinned at him, patting Jughead’s shoulder before heading over to the small table in the corner. “Shave, paint this place up a bit until it’s time to move back to the Manor.”

“Well, I got some coffee and doughnuts for you.” Jughead held up the small Pop’s bag, knowing full well that his father would never deny the treat. He took the bag from Jughead while the younger man took a sip of his coffee.

“I read your essay/manuscript,” FP informed Jughead, taking a doughnut out of the bag and meeting Jughead’s gaze, hoping to talk to Jughead about it. He wanted his son to understand that he did give a damn.

“You did?” Jughead asked, not daring to believe his ears, but at the nod FP gave him, Jughead relaxed and grinned at him. He couldn’t help but feel grateful and delighted at his father’s actions.

“I asked you for it, didn’t I?” FP pointed out, knowing that Jughead would have just assumed that he just wanted to look like he was trying. After all, he’d done that before, much to the horror and disappointment of his son.

“Yeah, well I just figured you were pretending to be interested,” Jughead stated, sipping his coffee again, and he marvelled in the bitter liquid while he smiled at his father. He couldn’t believe it.

“This is excellent.” FP  smiled at his son, taking a bite out of his food, and adding: “Me? I can barely string two sentences together, but you, you got a gift and thank Merlin you’re not wasting it.” Pausing, he polished off his food and asked: “Mind if I ask you a couple of questions?”

“Yeah, of course.” Jughead was more than happy to oblige, a rush of amazement and joy filling him at his father’s request. Never had he expected that FP would be so interested in his work, and his heart hammered at the thought of it.

“Why Jason Blossom, huh? Of all the things you could write about, why pick a dead kid?” FP asked, not sure why Jughead would choose someone who had made his life a living hell for the past few years.

“You know, it’s sort of like he picked me. Tell the story that no one was going to tell or even know how to tell from the outside looking in.” Jughead pointed out, knowing that his role as the outsider allowed him the advantage of viewing the world in a unique way.

“Who do you think killed him?” FP asked, shaking slightly as he did so, and upon seeing the look that Jughead gave him, he added: “You and Betty are in this deep, you’ve got to have an opinion.”

“To me, I don’t think the question is ‘who done it?’ You know, I think the real question is whether the Wizarding World is a place of good or a place of darkness and evil.” Jughead stated, still unsure of who killed Jason.

“Or both.” FP pointed out, knowing that the world was neither good nor evil, but was in fact somewhere in between. “Sometimes things are both.” Jughead nodded, about to speak when the older man  asked: “Can I make one suggestion?”

“That’s what Betty says, and then it’s about a dozen suggestions.” Jughead chuckled at the thought of his girlfriend saying that, knowing full well that Betty always had a million different things to tell him about his work.

“I think at a certain point, you should move on. Can’t let this be the only story you’re going to tell. Hell, Jughead, it shouldn’t even be the most important one.” FP stated, knowing that if he didn’t warn Jughead, then the boy would allow this story to consume him.

...

“Hey, you!” Jughead yelled as soon as he saw Betty in the Great Hall, after seeing his father. He needed to see his girlfriend and instantly wrapped his arms around her when he did. “Why didn’t you tell me about the dinner?”

“What?” Betty asked, not knowing what on earth Jughead was talking about. She knew nothing about dinner, and her current state of confusion from her increased the workload.

“Your mum basically tackled me in the hall to invite my dad and I over before the dance,” Jughead informed her, getting the feeling that Alice had yet to tell Betty about the whole affair, but he knew that Betty would agree to it none the less.

“I had no idea that was happening, but I’m sure it will go well.” Betty smiled at him, resting her head against Jughead’s shoulder and closing her eyes. She relaxed into his grip knowing that she was safe and protected in his arms.

“Well, I’m a little terrified by the social experiment of it all, but I think it’s good if our families try to get to know each other.” Jughead mumbled, pressing a row of delicate kisses all along her forehead before adding: “I think it’s important for us, you know.”

“Yeah, me too,” Betty muttered, squeezing Jughead and finally glancing up and connecting their lips in a short, but tender kiss before pulling Jughead with her, and guiding him to where she was working.

...

As evening dawned, everyone in Hogwarts was preparing for the dance, and for one beanie-clad boy and his father, that meant knocking on the door of the Cooper household. Opening the door slowly, Betty smiled at the sight of Jughead and beamed at him while taking in his appearance with a delighted gleam to her gaze. “Juggie!”

“Wow, Betts, you look amazing.” Jughead’s eyes trailed down Betty’s figure, adoring how she looked in the silvery dress she wore and he couldn’t help but wonder how on earth he had managed to get such a beautiful girlfriend and soulmate.

“Thank you.” Betty blushed at Jughead’s words, kissing him lightly before adding in a low whisper: “And you look very handsome, Jug.” A shy smile appeared across Jughead’s lips at that, and he pulled her closer to him.

“Thanks.” Jughead’s cheeks instantly turned scarlet at the thought of it, and Betty couldn’t help but grin at the sight of Jughead blushing at her words. She’d scarcely ever been able to get him to blush, and she loved it.

“Are you blushing?” Betty asked, cocking her head to the side, and cupping Jughead’s face in her hands, refusing to let him inside until he answered her. She wanted to hear him say it, and she grinned when she received his answer.

“Maybe.”

 

Chapter Text

Unfortunately, I have been unable to have any inspiration to continue Behind the Mask, so I am afraid that I must discontinue as other projects demand my attention and it is only heightening my anxiety. However, if you think that you would like to continue with it, you are welcome to contact me on Tumblr, I use the same URL as on here, and I would be entirely grateful. I'm so sorry about this, but I can no longer continue as it is not bringing me the same joy that it originally brought me.