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Fidelity

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It's Christmas, Zora's favorite holiday. Why? Because there is so much food, more food than she could ever hope to eat, piled high and neverending. On top of that, Christmas usually means she gets to visit her magical family members, a rare treat. Then, of course, there are presents, too.

But magic itself seems like the best gift of all. She doesn't live with magic in her day-to-day. She goes to a normal school with normal friends, and her dad has a normal job. But Zora's mom works at the Ministry of Magic. She's a judge, and Zora is proud that she helps put away bad witches and wizards. Her mother is beautiful, fair, and kind. And so, so special. Not even because she is everything to Zora, but because she's a witch.

She wasn't sure what that meant when her mum first told her, but Zora has come to understand that being a witch means that her mother can cast charms and enchantments, transfigure objects, and see otherwise invisible places. She can disappear and reappear at a moment’s notice. Using petals from their rose bushes, she can weave ornate and flowery crowns for Zora with just her wand. She repairs broken toys when Zora cries with loss. Her mother makes magic wonderful and, not living in the magical world, that makes it all the more special.

So, on days like today, Zora tries to soak in as much magic as she can. She stares at the moving photographs in her uncle's hallway for hours, watching the little people make faces, even walk in and out of frame. She watches a broom sweep by itself in the hall. She gazes into the too intelligent eyes of the owl perched on the mantle.

She’ll always be awestruck, she’s sure of it. She thinks it's nothing short of a miracle, and she has so many questions. She peppers her older cousin, Cal, with an endless barrage of them, morning, noon, and night.

Are unicorns real? Can you turn that lamp into a frog? Are there love potions? Does Uncle Jorah work at the ministry, too? Why does it make that crack sound when adults disappear? Are all spells charms? Are all charms spells?

When Cal tires of her nonstop interrogation, he finds ways to shut her up. He tells her about terrifying creatures or powerful magic. For instance, Cal told her about the Memory Charm over the summer, and she was oddly horrified.

“Obliviators wipe and modify your memories,” he’d said.

What if someone had used it on her? What if her memories weren't her memories at all? It makes her worry that one day she will wake up and forget all about magic. She thinks that might be the worst thing that could happen to her.

Until today, that is.

Because right now the mahogany dining room table they'd been eating at only moments before is split in two. Plates lie smashed. Food is strewn against the red wallpaper in yellows and oranges and greens. Her mother had pushed her, too hard, under the fallen tabletop, and Zora crouches there, her hands over her ears. She doesn't know what's happening. One second they were eating, and the next, everything is chaos.

She squeezes her eyes shut when the whole room shakes in a deafening chorus of explosions. She hears voices pitch in high, strained screams. She feels spells rip through the air like bolts of lightning, colliding like titans. The ground moves, unstable and unnatural, an earthquake unrelated to the tectonic plates she just learned about in school.

She's never seen magic do such horrible things. No one had told her that it could be used to destroy.

Her eyes shoot open when she feels an urgent hand wrap around her bicep, and then she's being carried from the room. It's Cal, and his hair is singed and frayed, a far cry from its earlier polished gleam. Blood is streaming from one of his ears, she can feel it warm and wet, as she buries her face into his collar.

She wants to ask what's happening, where is her mother?, but she hears Cal's father scream, and she loses her courage.

"The lab, Cal!" Uncle Jorah says, and Cal lurches forward, trying to move fast.

Zora is too confused, too shell shocked to understand. She clutches Cal's neck, which is tense, the muscles coiled. Cal looks different than he did when Zora was younger. He's large now, with broad shoulders and defined muscles. Zora is still small. Cal calls her a twig.

He pitches down a flight of stairs, almost stumbling when they reach the bottom. He raises his wand, incanting "lumos" quietly. Zora wants to ask what that means, but her question is answered when his wand tip alights, emitting a soft white shine.

He sets Zora down, and she doesn't know what to do. Outside of the wand’s glow, the lab is dark and black like a nightmare. She has never liked it down here, it has always felt claustrophobic. There are desks and cabinets and file boxes everywhere. They feel crowding, as if eager to trap her in.

But Cal doesn't seem bothered, scrambling to a work table. He says "where is it, where is it, where is it" over and over, and she only wishes she could answer him.

"What's happening?" she asks timidly. She hears shouts close by, but Cal doesn't notice, throwing open drawers frantically. “Where’s mum and dad?”

"I—" he starts to say, turning to her, but his eyes flick upwards and something red and bolt-like hits him hard, square in the chest.

He flies backwards as if struck by a car, into the work bench that then crashes into a wall. Glass shatters somewhere, followed by the heavy rumble of wood splintering.

Zora is terrified. She's never seen Cal be anything but graceful and athletic. She's sure he's never been knocked off his feet in his life. She takes a step forward, but she thinks she smells something burning, and she looks back at the stairwell. She looks up.

A figure in black is standing at the top of the stairs, hood drawn, face obscured. Smoke billows into the room from behind him. Zora thinks it's a man, she doesn't know why, but his wand is already raised, moving towards her. She doesn't have time to hide, but her mouth opens in muted protest, a silent scream. The figure's wrist flicks and all of Zora's muscles clench. Her legs snap together, her jaw seizing shut.

She's frozen to the spot, teetering uncomfortably on her heels, hoping she doesn’t fall flat on her face.

"Good girl," he says, descending the stairs.

Zora tries to move, but she can't. Something is wrong. He's done something to her. But the figure doesn't seem interested in her any longer, waving his wand and muttering several incantations in a low growl.

Then, he sucks in a breath. It sounds excited, triumphant. He drops his hood, and Kara can see the profile of his face.

He has long brown hair, spotted with gray. His beard is neat and trimmed. She thinks he looks familiar, but she’s not entirely sure. He crosses to a wall, moving his wand over the brick in a series of practiced motions. It reminds Zora of her and her best friend's secret handshake. He watches, still as undisturbed water, while a small, golden safe appears out of thin air.

Zora would gasp if she wasn't paralyzed. She'd be amazed if she wasn't so scared.

He reaches out to touch the safe, to claim his prize, but when his fingers make contact a bright crimson light swells. He hisses, and Zora sees the skin of his fingers turn a shade of coal black, withering. He grabs at them with his other hand, muttering anti-curses, but it doesn’t seem to be having any effect. Then, there is a creak on the stair, and the man spins on his heel, wand brandished.

She can't turn her head as he moves, hiding behind her. All she can see is Cal's father standing above them, wand pointed in turn. There is blood on his shirt and trousers, plumed in different shapes and sizes. He takes in the sight of Zora, frozen in the middle of the lab, and he pauses, looking stricken. She wants to call out to him, but she can't.

Instead, Zora feels hot breath on her neck, a wand tip at her ear. She can't move, but her muscles burn with the desire to run. A deep voice says,

"It's too late, Jorah. I've found it."

Her uncle descends the steps slowly, wand still raised, face a mask of sorrow, anger, and fatigue.

"Open the safe," the voice demands.

"No," Jorah answers, standing in front of them, Zora between them.

"I'll kill her."

"You didn't have to do this, Lionel," Jorah says, his voice breaking. Zora can see he's noticed the splintered desk where Cal lies, crumpled. She feels something wet, a tear slip down her face.

"It’s not over, yet,” the man replies, voice silkier and smooth. “There’s no need for you to die, too.”

"You killed my wife upstairs,” Jorah replies through gritted teeth.

Kara swallows. Her aunt. Her mother’s twin.

"We can work together," the man continues unfazed, voice slippery like a snake. Zora feels the press of the wand hard at her temple, an unspoken threat. "You heard the prophecy. That kind of power… we could share it."

“We don’t even know what it does, how it works.”

“Not yet,” the man says, deep and cool. “That’s why I need you.”

Jorah's wand hand trembles, torn between concepts that Zora couldn't possibly conceive.

"I won’t."

"Alright, then," she feels the wand raise.

"No!" Jorah shouts, dropping his wand, his only defense. It clatters on the ground, and Zora wants to cry out, to tell him to fight.

"You can kill me,” he says. “Just not the girl. Not Cal."

“Gladly,” the voice replies, arrogant and mocking. "Avada Kadavra!"

A jet of dark green light blasts by Zora's cheek, blowing her blonde hair back. It hits her uncle near his heart and he buckles, eyes open. She tries to scream, but tears only come hotly, her breaths ragged. The man rounds her side, staring down at her uncle's body.

"I suppose my Lex is bright enough to figure it out, anyway," he sneers.

He grabs Jorah's limp arm with his good hand, dragging him towards the safe.

Zora watches distractedly, filled with an acutely warm sensation. Her chest rises and falls more sharply, she can wiggle her toes. The man's back is turned, so he doesn’t see Zora realize suddenly that she can move. He doesn’t see her eyes fall to her uncle's discarded wand. She crouches low, quiet and catlike, to pick it up.

When the safe opens with several loud clicks and metallic groans, he doesn’t hear Zora dart to Cal, who's rousing from unconsciousness, his feet shifting. She shoves the wand into his hand, and his fingers curl weakly around it.

"Wha—?" he starts to say, eyes fluttering open and focusing on Zora.

The man turns at the half spoken word, a green vial of potion in his palm. Cal sees the movement, sees the man, and then sees the lifeless form of his father.

Cal shouts a curse first, the man fumbling for his wand with his withered fingers. He manages to dodge it, but the curse rebounds off the safe, hitting the vial in the man's open hand.

It explodes in a blinding white flash, and everything goes black.

Chapter Text

 

First year.

Kara doesn't feel any different when she first holds the letter in her hand. She thinks she should feel excited, that she should run inside, waving the letter for Eliza to see, but she merely sits there instead. She can feel a thick piece of parchment folded inside as she runs her thumb over a waxy, purple seal. Having delivered his mail, the Danvers family owl, Hugo, peers at her expectantly, earning him an absentminded ruffle to his feathers. Satisfied, he flies away, and Kara flips over the letter again, rereading the address written in looping, emerald green ink.

Ms. Zora El alias Kara Danvers
The back lawn
26 Mellalieu St
MiddletonManchester

Today is her 11th birthday, so Kara knows that this is her Hogwarts letter. She knows that this letter officially confirms that she is indeed magical, but she has mixed feelings about it. Magic is what killed her parents. Magic is what made her move.

She sighs and places it on the ground next to her, unopened. She returns to the task of waiting patiently for a very skittish cat, one who is now reasonably late for his dinner. She’s named him Streaky, due the incredible speed at which he bolts from anyone who approaches. However, she’s proud to admit that she’s developed a kind of rapport with him. She’s learned that if she maintains perfect stillness, he will eat from a freshly opened can of tuna placed in front of them. She sees this as positive progress, and she has high hopes that one day he’ll even allow her to pet him.

Over the summer, she’s spent much of her time in the yard, courting various flora and fauna this way. The Danvers home sits on the edge of several undeveloped acres, overgrown with trees and bushes, providing ample room for exploration. It’s better than being inside, anyway, steadfastedly ignored by her new adoptive sister and given pained and pitying looks by her new adoptive parents. It’s not that she doesn’t like them, they’ve all been very kind, even Alex in her own way, but it’s been hard when she catches glimpses of the Daily Prophet, the Wizarding newspaper.

In it, Cal’s face is everywhere. He’s famous. Maybe it’s because the wealthiest wizard in England, Lionel Luthor, had died in an explosion after murdering the rest of Cal’s family. Or maybe it’s because Cal is different than other wizards now, having emerged from that cellar lab with special and mysterious powers. Kara’s not sure.

All she knows is Cal is different in most ever sense. He used to be more relaxed and care free. He used to smile with all white, pearly teeth. But, now, he’s serious and tense. He lives with the Danvers, too, something about a “bond of blood,” but he’s almost never home. And when he is, he doesn’t allow any cheekiness or playing around. He spends all his time forcing Kara to commit various small details about her new identity to memory. And when they’re not doing that, he’s running through a list of charms and hexes, telling her how to recognize them and what effects to emulate. He even forces her to carry a wooden stick at all times, pressed into her back pocket, as practice for eventually carrying a wand. He quick draws on her, anywhere and everywhere (the kitchen, on the stair, in the garage) and then admonishes her if she is slow to react.

“You must always be alert, Kara.”

Kara is frequently slow to react, though. So Cal tries, often times in vain, to teach her a shield charm. It’s a complicated wrist wiggling action, and she practices the motion with her stick, no idea if she’s getting it right. All the while, he tells her that nothing is more important than this spell, that she needs to be able to do it with her eyes closed and in her sleep.

“No one can know you are magically resistant,” he’d explained. “If you can’t block the hex or curse, you have to fake its effects. Now, do it again."

All the practice is punishing.

“You’re too hard on her,” she’d once heard Eliza say behind a closed door.

“She needs to be ready,” Cal had said back, no room for dissent in his voice.

"She's just a girl."

But her being just a girl doesn’t seem to matter to Cal. She misses when he was goofy, when they had easy banter. She misses who he used to be.

She misses who she used to be, too.

After that night, Cal had taken her to the Danvers. He had carefully explained that she was no longer Zora El, that her new name was Kara Danvers. When she hadn’t understood, he’d said that there were very bad people who would want revenge for Lionel’s death. He’d said she was too young to defend herself, so it was best that she went into hiding. It was best that everyone thought that she had died, too.

“Now this part is very important,” he’d said, the two of them and the three Danvers gathered round in a circle. “After this, you won’t be able to talk to anyone about what’s happened. Only the people here will know who you really are.”

She’d nodded, still somewhat confused, and they’d placed their five hands in the middle of the circle. She’d hazarded a glance at Alex, and even she’d looked troubled under that devil-may-care veneer. Then, Cal had cast a very advanced looking spell, golden lights dancing all around them, and that was it.

When she’d later asked Eliza Danvers what had happened, she’d told Kara, “the Fidelius Charm is the magical concealment of a secret inside a single living soul. And, in this case, you’re the secret.”

Kara hadn’t understood. How would magic keeping her identity, her entire person a secret? It didn’t seem possible, but nothing with magic ever did.

Kara sighs, about to forsake her endeavor of befriending a creature who seemed determined to avoid it, when she sees a small movement at the bottom of the hedge. Kara freezes, holding her breadth, watching Streaky pause and fall into a sort of deep deliberation on whether or not to approach. It seems altogether unnecessary given that Kara has only ever fed him and, when feeling bold, tried to speak to him. But, either way, she’s relieved when he decides to take the risk and begins to slowly advance.

Every muscle is tense and ready for quick escape as he sidles up to the tuna can. When he finally begins to eat, Kara watches him contentedly. She’s happy that she helps him feel safe. When finished, he uncharacteristically lingers, sniffing near where she’s placed the Hogwarts letter in the grass.

“I’ll go if you go,” she whispers to him quietly.

He only looks up at her with thoughtful, golden eyes before sitting down a safe distance away and using a paw to wash his face.



In September, Kara’s loaded down like a pack mule, all of her new school things crammed inside a giant, black trunk ten times her weight. In it, she’s got a cauldron, a dozen or so books, a telescope, brass scales, loads of glass vials, and several different uniforms. She keeps her wand in an inner pocket of her robe, though, having been reminded by Cal at the door.

“Always be alert, Kara.”

Then, Cal lifts her trunk like it weighs nothing at all and places it on a cart at the train station. The whole family rolls through the invisible barrier at Platform 9 ¾.

That’s where Kara first spots the Hogwarts Express, bright red and gleaming. The train platform is crowded with people, cats looping at their feet, owls screeching, and trunks scraping along the pavement. They come to a stop just by the train, Cal looking nervous and rather grim.

Catching the hint, Alex looks away, speaking softly to her parents. Cal retrieves something tentatively from his waist pocket.

“I wanted to give you this,” he says.

Kara looks up into his vivid blue eyes, framed by large, black glasses. He’s not Cal El today, the face that wallpapers every newsstand, but Clark Kent, someone he pretends to be when they’re in public. He uses magic to conceal himself and even dresses and acts differently, all nervous and unassured. Sometimes, it comforts her. They even wear the same fake glasses. But, other times, it makes her sad that they have to pretend at all.

“My father gave me this when I started Hogwarts,” he continues quietly, holding something small in one hand. “But now I want you to have it.”

Opening his palm, he hands her something shiny, a thick silver chain with the letter S hanging at one end.

“The ‘S’ stands for—” he stutters to a stop, reconsidering his words on the crowded platform. “Our house.”

Kara knows what he means. The House of El.

“It’s our coat of arms,” he explains, helping Kara wind it around her neck and close the clasp. “It means ‘stronger together.”

Once on, she tucks the necklace under her robes, sure that this, like so many other things, is something she will need to hide. Then, she waits expectantly. When he only stands there mute, it elicits a nudge from Eliza, who had been watching their exchange.

At that, he makes a strained face before bending over, hugging Kara. It starts stiffly, but eventually they both relax. She remembers with a pang that the last time they hugged was before Christmas dinner, when her parents had still been alive. It’s not that she hadn’t wanted to, she’d always liked hugging, it just seemed like Cal had been trying hard to be strong. And that maybe he thought hugging made him weak.

“Don’t forget that, Kara,” he whispers with an ache in his voice. “We are together. We still have each other.”

When they pull apart, Cal, Eliza, and Jeremiah wave the two girls off and they file toward the train steps. As they wait behind a few other students, Kara’s attention lingers on Cal, wondering when she will see him next. He doesn’t see her though, he’s watching someone further down the platform. Seeing his look of consternation and suspicion, Kara follows his gaze to another good looking young man with thick, wavy hair and cunning, green eyes.

Kara swallows her next breath because she knows him. Unmistakably.

When the papers aren’t talking about Cal, they’re talking about her family’s murderer, Lionel Luthor. He’d been highly influential in the wizarding community, responsible for several magical breakthroughs, and now his prodigal son, the man Cal is staring at, had taken his place.

"I suppose my Lex is bright enough to figure it out, anyway.”

Kara shivers at the memory, her eyes flicking to a black haired girl in front of him, the focal point of Lex’s affection. He speaks to her softly, then laughs, booming and sincere. A woman stands next to them, looking haughty and critical, but Lex ignores her. He holds the girl’s hands in his with none of Cal’s trepidation and reserve. His eyes are bright and intense as he tells her something before kissing her cheek. Kara cranes her neck to see the girl’s face, but Alex yanks her sleeve roughly, pulling her impatiently onto the train.

The train is positively overrun with students. Several fight over seats and empty compartments. Some are running to and from separate cars. Some just stand there, looking entirely lost.

Alex leads Kara (with no real conviction to make sure she’s still behind her) to an overcrowded Gryffindor section, sliding a door open to reveal a car full of inquisitive eyes.

“This is my sister,” she says gruffly. “So make room.

After that, the train engine roars to life. Kara ends up squished next to an overlarge second year boy that seems a bit too keen on their proximity. After a few minutes, she makes an excuse about needing to use the bathroom, one Alex either doesn’t hear or pretends not to hear, and she hastily exits the compartment.

She makes her way down the train, dodging curious looks and wandering eyes, with no particular destination in mind. Then, she sees something that makes her heart leap.

Candy.

And not just normal candy, which she loves enough as it is, but wizarding candy.

Kara beelines straight for the treat trolley, bumping into another student in the process.

“Oy!” he shouts, attempting to regain his footing, but Kara ignores him, fishing in her pockets for the bit of wizarding money Eliza had given her.

“How much for—” she pauses, trying to calculate how much candy she can buy in one go. “Three cauldron cakes, four chocolate frogs, two pumpkin pasties, two licorice wands, and a bag of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavored Beans?”

“Ten Sickles, dear,” the cart attendant replies.

Kara smiles widely as the woman loads her arms full. Heading back in the direction of her train car, however, she becomes thoroughly distracted by consuming a pumpkin pasty whole and realizes she might be lost. And, further, that she has no idea what train car her sister is even in.

She lingers indecisively in the hallway, torn between heading back in the direction that she came or resolutely trodding forward, but ultimately, she stays put, deciding it’s best to open a chocolate frog instead.

Ripping open the packaging, Kara startles when her frog makes a desperate bid for freedom. It jumps onto an open train compartment door, and she makes a grab for it, dropping all of her candy in the process. She misses when it leaps again, so she follows it, completely single-minded. However, she stops dead, her hand outstretched and body half leaned over another rather alarmed student.

She’s face to face with a girl. A pale-faced girl with jet black hair and brilliant green eyes. They’re green like the Danvers lawn in the summer after a few rainy days. Like the black alder leaves that wave in the wind in the lot behind her house.

“Er, sorry,” Kara falters, quickly withdrawing her hand and regarding her frog with a scowl. It merely considers her impassively, perched atop an open book sitting in the girl’s lap.

“It’s alright,” the girl replies in a soft Irish accent.

Kara stills, willling her cheeks not to go scarlet, willing herself to think properly. It’s as if she’s just discovered she has a new weakness, like when she’d tried red velvet cake for the first time.

“Did you want to eat that?” the girl prompts gently, motioning to the frog.

“Erm—no—yes,” Kara replies in a stammer. “I mean—here.”

Kara quickly scoops the frog off the book and holds it awkwardly in her hand, still fixed by the girls green eyes.

“I think you’ve dropped some outside, too,” she reminds Kara.

“Oh—yeah,” Kara says, taking a step back, bumping gracelessly into the partially ajar door. Rolling her eyes at herself, she bends over and gathers her lost candy back into her arms.

“Hungry, were you?” the girl asks as Kara stands.

Glancing at her, Kara can tell she is teasing, a small smile at the corner of her mouth. She’s grateful that the stranger is being friendly, even if only a little.

“A bit, yes,” Kara replies honestly and, remembering her manners, she extends a bag of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans. “Would you like some?”

The girl regards the beans with some reluctance, her hands not moving to accept. They remain still under the cover of the book and hidden from view.

“I don’t know,” she says slowly. “The last time my brother gave me one, I got gasoline.”

Kara laughs in earnest and sits down next to her, dropping her enormous loot of candy on the seat between them.

“I’ve only just discovered them,” she says excitedly, “but I think the worst one I’ve had was earthworm.”

“Earthworm?” the girl gapes, aghast, and Kara nods with a pained expression as she tears open the bag.

The girl watches with interest, not moving much, the book still balanced in her lap. It’s large enough to be a dictionary or an encyclopedia, and the text is small and difficult to read. Kara wants to ask what she’s reading, but there’s something she’d like to know first.

“I’m Kara, by the way,” she says, presenting her hand.

The girl regards her thoughtfully, not unlike Streaky weighing his options, before answering.

“I’m Lena,” she finally replies, taking Kara’s hand.

Lena’s hand feels a bit cold to the touch, making Kara wonder if there are any blankets on this train. She smiles, however, delighted to know the girl’s name.

Dropping her hand, Kara plunges into the bag and offers Lena a light green colored bean, wishing for her sake that it’s peppermint and not wasabi. When Lena takes it, Kara picks a white one for herself, hoping for coconut.

“Cheers,” she says.

They both take a steeling breath and pop their respective beans into their mouths.

“Green tea,” Lena says with relief, swallowing.

“Soap,” Kara gags.

Lena laughs at her, but not unkindly. It’s a beautiful enough sound that it makes Kara forget wanting to cauterize her own tongue.

“Are you a first year, too?” Kara asks after she recovers, trying not to seem too eager.

“Yes,” Lena answers primly, sitting up a little straighter.

There’s a quality to her voice that Kara is only just registering. Something that sounds cultivated, even coached. Kara has to stop herself from saying something flimsy like ‘cool’ or ‘wicked’ in the wake of such refinery. Instead, she settles on,

“Another one?”

Lena nods, and Kara smiles happily, reaching into the bag. Before she can select their next bean, though, someone raps their knuckles hard on the compartment door. Kara looks up, surprised to find Alex observing the pair of them with a disapproving look.

“Come on, Kara,” she says coolly, crossing her arms. “Mum said I needed to tell you about the sorting.”

Kara knows instantly that it’s a lie. Alex had told Eliza earlier that summer that Kara was annoying her to within an inch of her life with questions about the sorting and Hogwarts houses.

“She’s obsessed, mum, make her stop!” she’d cried out.

“Okay,” Kara says, anyway, not wanting to irritate her sister further.

She stands, picking up her candy.

“Bye Lena, it was good to meet you,” she says warmly, offering Lena an apologetic look.

Lena merely acknowledges Kara with a sad smile. It gives Kara pause. She considers telling Alex that she’ll stay here instead, but Alex rudely pulls her sleeve again, jostling her out of the compartment.

“What was that all about?” Kara asks when they’re out of earshot.

“You didn’t get her last name?” Alex asks, throwing a mocking look over her shoulder.

“She didn’t say.”

“Lena Luthor, Kara,” Alex supplies with a huge eye roll. “Honestly. I shouldn’t have to tell you she’s not the good sort.”

Lena Luthor, Kara echoes in her mind. Luthor.

Her heart sinks while she follows Alex back to the Gryffindor car, feeling both a little shocked and a little stupid.

Of course.

The girl with the black hair who had been talking to Lex Luthor. That must’ve been her brother. Lionel must’ve been her father.

Kara sits quietly in the boisterous Gryffindor car, a forlorn feeling settling in her stomach. She thinks that Lena didn’t seem like the bad sort of witch. She seemed nice. A little quiet, like Kara herself. Kara had noticed, too, that Lena had been alone in her compartment, and she had never removed her book from her lap, as if not expecting Kara to stay.

Did people know of her family from the newspapers? Were they scared? Or distrusting, like Alex?


 

Kara is still wondering, thinking about Lena, when they arrive at Hogwarts, darkness spreading across the sky outside. She sees mountains and forests surrounding them, and it’s brisk in the cool night air as they disembark.

Following the instructions of a large man bellowing on the platform, Kara moves into a group with the rest of first years. The man leads them down a steep and narrow path until they reach a vast lake. The water is smooth and black like obsidian. Kara surveys the beach, spying several dozen docked boats, and the first years clamber over each other to pile in. She’s heaped into a boat, sharing with three unfamiliar faces, and it’s not long before she sees the large castle turrets and towers looming above them, windows sparkling.

After they cross the lake, they move through several rooms until they’re waiting silently outside of the Great Hall. Kara spots Lena in her periphery. She’s staring at everything with wonder, her green eyes glazing over the huge, oak front door, the gray flagstone floor, and the giant twelve foot tapestries. Kara looks at them, too, but she’s distracted by the rumble of hundreds of voices behind the door.

It’s the voices that begin to make her feel nervous. She knows what’s coming, but it doesn’t stop her from neglecting to listen as a clever looking witch explains the ceremony. It doesn’t stop her legs from feeling heavy and leaden.

She wonders for the hundredth time which house she’ll be placed in, but before she can give it more thought than she already has, the witch is finishing,

“—your house will be your family. Now, form a line and follow me.”

When they enter the Great Hall, Kara is in awe to see it lit by thousands of candles, glittering off of golden plates and goblets. There are four gigantic, long tables, filled with waiting students. The ceiling of the room is bewitched, too, and it looks like the sky outside, which is clear, starry, and cloudless.

It’s not long after the hat sings that Kara realizes that she will be sorted sooner rather than later. In fact, they had already begun on the A’s.

“Ardeen, Imra!”

“HUFFLEPUFF!”

“Arias, Samantha!”

“SLYTHERIN!”

Through the loud cheers and boisterous clapping, Kara reminds herself to ask the hat to put her in Gryffindor. She wants to be with Alex, and she’s heard it might listen to suggestions. But before she’s finished formulating the phrasing of her request,

“Danvers, Kara!” the witch calls out.

Kara tries to remember to breathe and to not look out at the expectant crowd. She feels sick from nerves. She forgets her plan entirely as she sits on a four legged stool, feeling the hat slip onto her head. But it doesn’t matter, she’s not given the chance to choose.

“HUFFLEPUFF!” it shouts not a moment later.

Hufflepuff? Kara thinks with a drop. She won’t know anyone in Hufflepuff. She won’t be with Alex.

She doesn't have time to fully process it, however, before she’s being whisked off the stool and guided towards a table full of friendly faces. They're all wearing yellow, her favorite color. Like daisies. Like the sun. Maybe it won’t be so bad, she muses.

The witch cycles through more names, and Kara listens half-heartedly. That is, until she registers that they are in the L’s.

“Lance, Sara!”

“SLYTHERIN!”

“Lane, Lucy!”

“HUFFLEPUFF!”

“Luthor, Lena!”

She hears an unusual muttering in the crowd after Lena’s name is called. Kara looks about the Great Hall, and there are a number of narrowed eyes and shaking heads.

“Her dad’s a murderer, he is,” she hears someone whisper loudly.

Kara frowns. She feels a strange desire to defend Lena, even though she knows it doesn’t make sense. Lionel hadn’t just been a murderer, he’d murdered her family. He’d killed her uncle in front of her. She knows she should hate the Luthors, even Lena, but…

She doesn’t.

She watches Lena sit gingerly on the stool. She finds herself hoping that she will be sorted into Hufflepuff. Maybe that would quell the murmuring. But when Lena pulls the hat over her head, the sorting hat doesn't bark out ‘HUFFLEPUFF!’ It doesn't say anything at all. It just sits there. For ages.

Until finally,

“SLYTHERIN!”

Kara deflates. After all, she knows what nearly everyone says about Slytherins.

Resourceful. Ambitious. Cunning. Dark.

There is a huge roar at the Slytherin table, but Kara is strangely comforted to see that Lena does not look all that happy with the warm welcome.

Maybe she’s different, Kara still hopes.

After the sorting is complete, Kara’s thoughts of Lena are eclipsed by something far more important; food appearing suddenly and everywhere. She’s never seen so many things she’d like to eat. She piles her plate high with roast beef, pork chops, sausages, boiled potatoes, carrots, and biscuits, and then douses them all in gravy.

“I, for one, am proud to be in Hufflepuff,” a know-it-all sounding first year, Lucy Lane, says between bites. “Did you know we’ve produced the least dark wizards of any house?”

“Hear, hear!” another student toasts, but Kara ignores them. She’s singularly focused on consuming a number of freshly appeared treacle tarts.

When they’ve all finished stuffing themselves sick, Professor Prince, their Head of House, leads them to their new common room. Kara is thrilled to find it situated next to the kitchens. They enter through a stack of barrels after Professor Prince teaches them a series of specific touches, all the while with Lucy listing off a never-ending catalog of Hufflepuff facts.

“Hufflepuff common room hasn’t been seen by a non-Hufflepuff in over a thousand years!”

“The Fat Friar is our ghost, he’s very cheerful, just like all of us!”

“Eglantine Puffett was in our house, and she invented the self-soaping dishcloth!”

Kara tries to ignore her, a difficult task, especially given they are assigned as bunkmates. Kara wonders if this an eternal sort of damnation or if her roommates will rotate every year. Her other bunkmates, Megan Moores and Imra Aberdeen, don’t seem so bad though. They both linger at the enchanted, sun-lit windows, enjoying the round and cozy common room. Rippling grass and dandelions line the walls and nearly everything looks plush, honey-colored, and relaxed. Even their dormitories seem comfy with patchwork quilts already draped over their beds and copper tea kettles hanging on the wall.

Kara sits on her bed, feeling the soft dip of the mattress, and thinks that even despite the disappointments of the day, she can’t help but feel like she’s come home.



Lucy informs her at nearly dawn the next day that there are, in fact, a hundred and forty-two staircases of all shapes sizes at Hogwarts. Kara discovers this information for herself shortly thereafter, when she finds that not only do they all lead to different places, but they change at random. Given this and the tendency for doors to disappear and reappear, to only open at tickling, or to otherwise require solving a riddle to enter, it’s honestly a miracle that Kara finds any of her classes at all.

Her classes are difficult, too, requiring many diligent hours of homework. She has Charms, Astronomy, Defense Against the Dark Arts, Potions, Transfiguration, and her favorite, Herbology. She loves Herbology the instant she sets foot in the greenhouse. It reminds her of their common room, warm, green and sunlit. Even through the potent smell of dragon dung, Kara always wears a smile on her face during that class.

And it isn’t just the Venomous Tentacula with its spiky and creeping tendrils that she enjoys, but the fact that it’s one of the few lessons she shares with the Slytherins. It’s a rare opportunity to interact with Lena, something that seems to vex Alex beyond measure. Her sister is often at Kara’s side, and on the day that Kara spots Lena walking briskly down the winding steps, she pauses to watch the dark haired girl hopefully.

This earns her a swat on the back of the head.

“Ouch!” Kara yelps, turning to look at Alex indignantly. “What was that for?”

“I know what you were thinking,” Alex says accusingly, poking Kara hard on the shoulder. “And no.”

But whether Alex does or doesn’t know what she’s thinking, Kara remains undeterred. Over the coming months, she tries and fails repeatedly to register Lena’s attention. Maybe it’s because she wants to know why Lena’s father killed her parents. Maybe she wonders what Lena is like, too, is she like Lionel? Is she like Lex? Kara tells herself, she’s just curious. But she knows on a deeper level that there’s something else to it. Something soft and hopeful and difficult to decipher.

It’s nearly impossible to answer any of those questions, however, because Lena is always preoccupied. If she’s not devotedly paying attention to the lesson, then she’s nose down, immersed in a book. Kara has never seen someone read so many books of different shapes and sizes, each of them longer and larger than the last. She once even saw a Filibuster Firecracker explode right near Lena’s head in the courtyard, and she didn’t even look up, too engrossed in a furry tome that Kara could swear was purring.

And apparently Kara isn’t the only one unsuccessfully trying to court her friendship. On a rather rainy Tuesday, Kara overhears a snippet of conversation from a pack of Slytherins nearby. They are all picking fat, pink beans from Puffapods and emptying them into a wooden pale. A tall boy among them tries to invite Lena to join, but she doesn’t appear to hear, a pair of puffy earmuffs snug and secure over her ears.

“Give it up, Jack,” an arrogant looking girl named Siobhan Smythe declares. “She doesn’t talk to anyone.”

“How can she when she’s trying to read the whole library?” Sara Lance adds with a snicker.

Jack Spheer looks disappointed, pulling his Puffapod too roughly and spraying shining seeds everywhere. He scrambles to gather them up, but it’s in vain, they’ve instantly bloomed.

“Bugger,” he says.

Sara snorts at him. A few moments pass while Siobhan watches Lena, a curl on her lip.

“She probably thinks she’s better than us, being a Luthor and all.”

That’s what everyone says, anyway. Kara’s not sure so sure though. She still thinks Lena is just shy and given that every single student seems to know her name, it's for good reason. It also doesn’t help that she’s becoming the best in their class either, performing nearly every spell flawlessly. While most of her classmates just roll their eyes, Kara’s impressed, having not yet discovered any discernible or untapped talents.

“That’s not true,” Alex would disagree. “You’re really good at finding the kitchens.”

And Kara’s not half bad during their flying lessons. While Lena mostly stands to the side, looking as if she’d much rather her broom were a book, Kara zips around the pitch, laughing with Megan and Imra. One day, she even looks down to find Lena’s green eyes watching her. She smiles, and Lena shyly returns it. Then, James Olsen hits Kara directly in the face with a passed quaffle.

It breaks her nose, and she has to go to the infirmary. But even still, it’s worth it.

Kara is also noticeably improving at the shield charm, the one Cal is so adamant about her learning. Alex spends nearly all of Christmas holiday dueling with her in an empty classroom. It doesn’t provide much sport as it mostly involves Alex hurling every hex, spell, and curse she knows at Kara. Kara blocks about a third of them and, if she fails, tries to be believably affected by the rest.

“Wiggle more.”

“Laugh louder.”

“Don’t move at all,” Alex will direct.

At first, Alex complains loudly about having to spend her holiday this way. Then, she adopts a sort of morbid fascination, coming to see Kara’s magical resistance as a kind of personal challenge.

“Do potions work on you? What about magical creature bites? What about viruses and diseases?”

Kara doesn’t know. It’s not as if nothing works, everything just seems to have a diminished effect. She’s not sure how far this resistance goes, but Alex is determined to find out.

She searches their school books high and low for anything new to try. Kara thinks she might love to gloat one day that she performed a spell that actually had a proper effect and, for her part, Kara hopes she does. It’s very tiresome to keep pretending to laugh at a Tickling Charm.

Otherwise, she's grateful for anything that makes Alex see her as less of a burden and more of a friend. At the beginning of term, Alex had been all eye rolls and heavy looks at her friends when she’d spent time with Kara. She knew none of the other second years stuck so closely to their siblings, but by Christmas day, Kara had a feeling she'd finally grown on her.

“Like a barnacle,” Alex replies with an eye roll, skipping down the steps towards the Great Hall. “But you do have your perks. I’m getting really good at the Bat-Bogey hex.”

Kara only smiles at her distractedly. Christmas is always hard.

It’s still strange. Sometimes, she’ll wake in the morning and forget her parents are even gone. She’ll find herself wanting to tell her mother or father something funny she’d seen, but remember she can’t. She still has nightmares, too. Lucy had shaken her awake several times in the night, asking if she was okay.

And Christmas... Her mother had spent hours building snowmen with her, enchanting them to smile and wave. It’s weird to think that would never happen again. She doesn’t really know what to do with the feeling.

Alex must sense her melancholy, so they don’t talk much as they eat breakfast together. The quiet allows Kara’s attention to wander, and it doesn’t escape her notice that Lena is in the Great Hall, too, thumbing through a book at the end of the Slytherin table.

The dark haired girl looks small, her skin an alabaster white in the glow of the enchanted snowy ceiling. She has a cup of tea next to her, but there’s no food on her plate. Kara’s noticed she doesn’t normally eat much, but today seems different. Lena looks sad.

Kara feels an unusual pang at the sight of her. Maybe it’s because she knows Lena must be mourning her father. Or maybe it’s because it’s Christmas, and Kara doesn’t want Lena to feel alone. Either way, she's seized with a desire to invite Lena to sit with them. She even stands to do so, but Alex catches her by the wrist.

Kara flashes with annoyance. Alex will do this; act like she never wants Kara around and then watch her every step like a balloon that must be carefully tethered lest it float away.

She wriggles free from Alex’s grasp.

"I'm just getting more waffles from over there."

“What’s wrong with these?” Alex asks, indicating the enormous stack in front of them,

Kara ignores her, walking down the aisle and watching Lena furtively from across the Great Hall. She hasn’t looked up yet, reading as always. Kara picks unconvincingly at a waffle, thinking… if only she had another wayward chocolate frog. If only she had another reason to talk to Lena, instead of ten reasons against.

If only she weren’t an El and Lena weren’t a Luthor.

Ignoring all of that, Kara rounds the table, pulled by an invisible force. She can feel Alex’s reproachful gaze on her back, but it doesn’t stop her. She finds herself standing before Lena, a hand on the glossy table top, until the girl looks up through a shelf of her straight, black hair.

“Merry Christmas, Lena,” Kara says simply.

Lena smiles uncertainly, that same small smile from the Quidditch pitch, from the train.

“Merry Christmas, Kara.”

Chapter Text

Second year.

Over the summer, Kara becomes a passionate consumer of the Daily Prophet. Often times, she beats both Jeremiah and Eliza to the newest issue, sitting down for a good long read at the kitchen table. Her bagels go stale, her juice lukewarm, while she scans every page, intent on any information she can find about her cousin. And Lex Luthor. Today's issue does not disappoint.


THE MAN OF STONE: MIRACLE OR MENACE?
By Ron Troupe, Staff Writer

Lex Luthor, the Head of Luthor Magicorp, spoke today at the Ministry of Magic.

"Cal El is a public enemy. Simply put, he is a threat of the tallest order. He won't tell us how he got his powers. He won't tell us what happened the night my father died. Rather than share his secrets, he has hoarded them. What does he plan to do next? Who will he hurt in the process? The wizarding world deserves to know."

Sources say that Lex Luthor and Cal El were once close friends during their school years at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. What's changed? Was Lionel Luthor the target of a revenge plot? Was he framed for murder? Since Cal El has famously refused to share his memory of the night in question, despite the urging of the High Wizengamot, witches and wizards everywhere speculate that he does indeed have something to hide.


Kara looks up from reading, breathing a heavy sigh. She watches Lex continue tirelessly in the magical photograph, soundless outrage pouring from his mouth as he points and gesticulates in accusation. She turns the paper over so she can't see him.

Many recent articles in the Daily Prophet have been of this same tone, suspicious and implicating. Different witches and wizards have demanded Cal be brought before a wizarding jury. They want him to reveal what happened or be sent to Azkaban. Other less seemly publications have said that he should be dissected and studied, or worse, killed.

They call him dangerous. They call him a freak.

It's hard for Kara to read these opinions about her cousin. They're things, after all, that could be said about her. At least, she thinks they are. The articles always make her mind swim with unanswered questions.

What was that potion? Why did Lionel die, but she and Cal survived? Why had Cal been friends with a boy whose father killed their family? Were they connected?

When she sees a dozen more articles like this, she decides to ask Cal about it one day in late July when they're both in the garden, on their hands and knees in the dirt. They're collecting leaves from Kara's bed of Dittany, and there's a light sweat above Cal's eyebrows, his normally slicked back hair coming loose around his forehead. There's dirt heavily caked underneath Kara's fingernails, her pants stained and brown at the knees.

"I know we never talk about it," she says, pausing to avoid a particularly noxious plume of smoke from the plant. "But I keep reading the newspaper—and—they're saying—I just—"

Cal reaches for a vial after quickly snipping a leaf off the plant.

"Yes?" he asks.

"What was that potion?" Kara breathes quickly, before she loses her nerve. "That night. In the tiny bottle."

Cal regards her from the corner of his eye, his jaw tensing. He retrieves a cork stopper from his pocket.

"It's complicated, Kara."

Kara frowns, pulling at her fingers. Cal sighs in response, dropping the leaf into the open vial. It sizzles at the bottom like cooking bacon.

"My father," he starts, his voice sounding edged. "He'd been working on imbuing non-magical objects with magic. He was interested in muggle sciences, specifically rocks and matter from other planets."

"Other planets?" Kara asks, confused but excited. Cal had almost never talked about his father, not since that night. He'd never told Kara more than what she'd 'needed to know.'

"He theorized that magic would act differently in foreign material," he continues, still looking grim. "He'd been studying a rock from a meteor, drawing it into liquid form. They hadn't had time to study it or discover all of its properties before—" he pauses, then closes his mouth.

He snips another leaf.

"And that's what exploded?"

"Yes," he replies darkly.

"Why did it—why did it kill—" Kara stutters. She still has difficulty saying his name aloud. "Lionel Luthor?"

Cal looks pensive, placing the leaf in the bottle with the other and rolling the small glass vial around in his hand.

"I don't know," he says in a low voice. "My father's work was all about infusing magic into something non-magical. Maybe it wasn't designed for someone like Lionel."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, he's a pure blood. Both you and I are only half," Cal says with a shrug. "Maybe it was too much for him."

Kara considers his words. She takes the small plant scissors from Cal and snips off a few more leaves of her own.

"Do I have powers like you?"

Kara had been contemplating this particular question for several months. She'd read enough to know that they were both magically resistant, more so than any witch or wizard should be. But she'd read other things, too. Cal had been training to be an auror when their family had been murdered. He'd held his position, even during all of the scrutiny, and had apprehended dark wizards using peculiar powers like advanced hearing, extraordinary strength, and lighting fast speed.

"I'm not sure yet," he replies uncertainly.

Kara toys with the vial in her hand.

"What would we do?" she asks. "If someone found out about me?"

"I suppose we'd have to wipe their memory before they told anyone," Cal answers without looking up. "We'd use a Memory Charm."

Obliviators, Kara thinks fearfully.

Alex slides the patio door open at that moment, bearing two glasses of cold pumpkin juice. It's unusually thoughtful of her, and Kara's expression must betray such, because Alex mumbles,

"Mum said to bring you these."

Kara accepts hers enthusiastically. It had been suffocating and hot that day, but now a cool breeze lashes through the yard. As the sun sets, pinks and oranges dapple the horizon above the trees. For Kara, the addition of pumpkin juice makes this a nearly perfect moment.

"That's why I'm asking Alex to look out for anything unusual this year," Cal says, his voice back to stern and authoritative. "And under no circumstances is she allowed to duel."

"That's lucky for them," Alex says under her breath to Kara, poking her adopted sister in the shoulder.

She is, of course, speaking from personal experience. During Kara's second term, Alex had drawn her wand on Kara as practice in an empty hallway. Kara had been standing in front of her and, on instinct, produced such a powerful shield charm that it blasted Alex backwards and though a second story window.

Kara had been agonized, not meaning to hurt her sister, but Alex had only exclaimed "excellent, Kara! Really excellent!" when she'd been carted off to the hospital wing with six broken bones.

Professor Henshaw, who had witnessed Alex hurtle past from his classroom window below, had shot Kara a condemning look later that day.

"I see you share your sister's appetite for wanton destruction, Danvers. Ten points from Hufflepuff."

So, no, Kara did not plan to duel in her second year.

"Why is that?" Cal asks, having overheard her.

Alex straightens, unused to Cal's sharp hearing. Kara can see her sister reliving the memory, but fortunately she thinks better of sharing it with Cal.

"That shield charm you taught her," Alex says instead. "I reckon it's better than anyone in my class, maybe anyone in the school."

Kara beams at her, but Cal looks distracted, his lips a hard line.

"Good," he replies simply, standing to his feet.

He stoppers his vial, now full of dittany leaves, and turns to head inside. He leaves his pumpkin juice untouched.

"I better get these to the lab," he says by way of a goodbye.

Kara's smile turns downwards. Not for the first time, she wonders if she will ever impress Cal. If he will ever be proud of her. All last summer and her whole first year, she and Alex had worked on the Protego charm. And for what?

"Good."

She sighs angrily, and Alex lingers near Kara, watching as she finishes snipping a few more smoking, green leaves.

"What are those for?" she asks.

"I don't know," Kara replies. "Apparently if you eat them, they heal wounds. Could be useful?"

Alex smirks.

"Planning to hurl me out of another window?"

Kara's face pinches as she stands.

"I'm so sorry, honestly, I really didn't mean to."

But Alex merely laughs, taking Kara's arm in hers.

"I know, I know," she says, leading her inside. "It's a shame he won't let you duel though. I'd really like to see you wipe the smirk off that Smythe girl's face."


The summer passes quickly. Before Kara has even finished half her homework for the start of her second year at Hogwarts, she's packed and waiting on the platform at 9 ¾. This time, it's just Eliza kissing her on the cheek, and Jeremiah offering her a warm hug. Cal isn't with them. He's away on business in Romania, sent to stop illegal dragon egg trafficking.

"Where's your cat?" Eliza asks with concern, eyes tracking through the legs of various parents and students on the platform.

"Probably on the train," Kara answers easily.

Eliza looks skeptical, but Kara isn't concerned. Over the summer, Kara had made great strides in socializing Streaky. They'd even had the witch behind the counter at The Magical Menagerie confirm that he was, in fact, magical.

"I'm not sure if he's quite all there," she'd said as they watched Streaky chase something invisible. "But he's more than just a cat."

Kara, of course, had already known that. Streaky had always been smart, seeming to understand nearly everything she told him. Plus, he'd brought her a spindly, half-dead doxy once, and she wasn't sure if that was something a normal cat could even do.

Eliza turns to fuss over Alex's red and gold necktie, prompting a theatrically huge eye roll from her daughter.

"Mum," Alex whines. "It's fine, please, my friends will see."

"It's always loose," Eliza retorts, unrelenting. "I swear you do it on purpose."

Kara smiles, knowing that Alex hates doing her tie and absolutely does it on purpose. Ignoring the bickering of the two, she lets her attention wander, her eyes eventually finding Lena Luthor a couple of meters away.

She stills, concerned, noticing that Lex isn't with her either. Instead, her mother towers over Lena, eyes darting around as if everyone is an enemy, voice sharp with words Kara can just barely make out.

"—need to make friends this year, Lena. Lex is a busy man, and won't always have time to be your crutch—"

"Come on, Kara," Alex says, making her jump.

She hastily tries to pretend not to have been eavesdropping and hurries past Alex to board the train.

"Go sit with your Hufflepuff friends," Alex tells her as they bustle into the train corridor. "I'll see you after the feast."

Alex turns to catch up with a tall boy, punching him hard in the side.

"Kestrels beat the Cannons!" she tells him triumphantly. "You owe me a Sickle."

Kara watches them fade into the crowd before dragging her feet in the opposite direction. She knows Alex wasn't trying to be mean. She knows she was just trying to help her, that she wants Kara to branch out.

Hufflepuff friends, she thinks, but she's not really sure who those are.

She has her bunkmates, of course. Lucy, Megan, and Imra. But outside of sharing homework and giggling madly over a poorly conducted spell, she wouldn't necessarily call them friends. Not because she doesn't like them, but because Cal's Fidelius Charm tends to manifest in strange and inconvenient ways.

For instance, Kara can't write her real name down. She can't say it aloud. In fact, outside of Cal and the Danvers, she can't tell anyone about her life before that night. Not even something innocuous during conversation. If someone were to ask about her mother or father, she can't say that her mother had brown, curly hair or that her father was tall and lanky. The charm is too strict for that.

So strict that she's unable to compromise her secret in any way. It feels like sand fills her mouth, thick and grainy, when she tries to share any personal details. It makes her seem stuttering and awkward as she tries to navigate a way to tell some part of the truth.

"I've been to Paris," she can say, but not, "I visited Paris with my dad when I was small. He showed me the muggle museums during the day, and my mum showed me the cursed catacombs at night."

It's maddening. Zora El had been gregarious and open and free, but Kara Danvers is quiet and stammering and confined. It's as if she can only ever share a fraction of herself.

Despite that, she knows the Charm is necessary. She's never been good with secrets. If she'd given herself up accidentally, those bad people might've found and killed her. But, even still, she can't help that a small part of her hates Cal every time she's forced to supply a piece of her fake identity. It makes her feel like an actor, a fraud.

As a byproduct, she's simply learned not to talk much. The only person who hasn't seemed to mind is Lucy, who speaks enough for both of them in a single breath.

"Everyone says you're shy, Kara," she'd said first term in that know-it-all tone. "But I think you're just a great listener."

Kara had certainly done her fair share of listening to Lucy.

She eventually finds her fellow Hufflepuff in one of the last cars on the train, tucked into a seat with Imra. When Lucy sees Kara, she pulls her by the arm and spends a majority of the ride regaling her with an almost day-by-day account of what she'd done that summer.

"My father took us to Ireland, he works at the Ministry of Magic in the Department of Transportation," she tells Kara boastfully. "Do you know what this is, Kara? I bet you've never even used floo powder. I bet you've never side by side apparated!"

"I haven't," Kara replies truthfully.

Lucy laughs, too loudly, and is still chattering about fairies and pixies and strange, stinking mud hollows when they arrive at school. Lucy's talk is sort of a constant buzz in Kara's ears, but hearing about Ireland, it makes Kara instinctually search for Lena on the busy platform.

She's not far, standing next to Siobhan Smythe, looking equally as glazed over as Kara feels. It's strange that she doesn't have a book for once, and Kara swears she can see Lena's fingers twitching as if they're trying unconsciously to seek one out. Meanwhile, Smythe is telling the group of Slytherin girls something that has them all laughing mockingly.

All but Lena.

Kara doesn't try to listen in, though. She's focused on the way Lena has her hair braided, long and off to the side. She hadn't noticed back at King's Cross. It's beautiful, and Kara absently wonders what it would feel like to braid another girl's hair, Lena's hair when—

Someone swats her on the back of the head.

"Agh!" Kara cries, turning sharply.

Alex stands there, bold and unrepentant.

"Why?" Kara asks, rubbing her head. Lucy hides a laugh behind the back of her hand.

But Alex doesn't answer. She merely shoots Kara an exasperated look and walks towards the carriages with the other Gryffindors.

Still annoyed, Kara considers jinxing her, nothing too bad, but she quickly realizes she doesn't know any aggressive spells. All that dueling, and Kara could only produce a shield charm capable of blasting a hole in the south wall.

Resolving to learn at least one hex by the end of term, Kara follows Alex irritably. Alex jumps into a carriage with four other students, and it's only then that Kara looks to the head of the carriage and sees them.

Two pitch black horses with reptilian eyes and skeletal bodies lurch forward, pulling Alex's carriage. Kara turns, her face drained of color, to see another pair harnessed to a new carriage, coming to a halt in front of them.

While Lucy prattles on, not seeming to notice, Kara doesn't move. She watches one of the creatures turn its large head, a pair of ghostly white eyes trained on her. There's an eerie intelligence to them, and she feels like spotted prey.

Lena, who seems to have momentarily removed herself from Smythe's endless blather, appears at Kara's side.

"Hi Kara," she says softly, but then she jumps a mile when she sees the creature closest to them.

"What is that?" she cries.

"It's a carriage, Lena," Smythe says condescendingly, shouldering Lucy out of the way and climbing. "Haven't you seen one before? Not in one of your books?"

The group of Slytherin girls burst into snickers, and they clamber in after Siobhan.

"She's afraid of the carriages," one whispers mean-spiritedly.

Kara riles, wishing for the second time in minutes that she could curse a fellow student. But before she can even attempt a poorly practiced pus-squirting hex, the horses break into motion, pulling the Slytherins down the crushed dirt path.

Lena doesn't notice, watching the next carriage pull up with fresh horror on her face.

"What's the matter?" Lucy asks, looking distressed. "What is it? Is it a snake? Oh Merlin, it is, isn't it? Is it big?"

Kara ignores her, placing a comforting hand on Lena's arm.

"I see them, too," she offers gently.

Lena glances at Kara's hand on her black robes, which feel silky and expensive. Then, she looks into Kara's eyes. It makes Kara a little nervous, so she removes her hand and needlessly straightens her glasses.

"See what?" Lucy intervenes.

"Nothing," Kara tells her, trying not to sound cross.

Lena shakes her head, though, as if girding herself, and steps up into the carriage. She pauses with one hand on the rail, eyes still fixed anxiously on the still and silent horses, so Kara holds out a hand to assist, a reassuring smile on her face. After a moment, Lena accepts it, a bit pink in the cheeks, and climbs into the carriage.

"Can see what?" Lucy, ever persistent, directs to Kara.

Kara doesn't answer, climbing in after Lena. James Olsen gets in next, and mercifully Lucy is instantly distracted.

"Oh, hello, James," she says in an abnormally high voice.

Lucy talks animatedly to James and another Gryffindor as they're carried to the castle. Lena says nothing, and Kara sits quietly next to her. They both gaze at the folded leathery wings, the creatures' sharp looking beaks. They look unnatural, and she can feel that Lena is tense. She can see the whites of her knuckles as she grips her seat.

Kara wants to help. She knows that, if it were her, Alex would hold her hand or hug her, but somehow she doesn't think Lena would like that. So, Kara sits as close as she can, content to be near her, hoping her presence is comforting enough.


"Isn't James Olsen such a gentleman?" Lucy keens when they get back to their dormitory.

Kara nods indifferently as she copies a few extra inches from Lucy's "Goblin Wars of Central Europe" essay. Lucy spends a few more minutes (or hours, Kara's not sure) talking about James, but Kara doesn't mind. It's only with her roommate's help that she manages to finish all her homework before term starts.

It's a relief, too, because her second year classes are even harder. Kara finds herself spending most of her free time studying and, when she's not doing that, she's eating. She's come to know several of the Hogwarts house-elves by name, and they are almost always willing to cook her items off menu; a perk Kara takes advantage of at all hours of the night and day.

"I swear, you're always eating," Alex chides one morning as they walk to class. "Isn't she always eating?" she directs to Maggie Sawyer.

Maggie is a Gryffindor in Alex's year, and Kara finds her fun and companionable. However, at this moment, she's eying Kara's cinnamon sticky bun with predatory intensity.

"Do you want some?" Kara offers, holding it out.

Maggie nods eagerly, reaching out, but Alex snatches it first.

"Ha!" she says, holding it above her head and just out of reach.

Maggie stretches for it futilely, but she's much too short. Alex sprints down the corridor, forcing Maggie to give chase, and Kara can hear still hear their peels of laughter as she turns down into the dungeons.

She sighs. She hates the dungeons. There aren't any windows and the air is always strangely damp and moldy. Plus, Professor Carr has always been hard on her. However, this year there's one redeeming quality; they share Potions with the Slytherins, and somehow, she's managed to partner with Lena.

It was a miracle really. On their first day of class, Professor Carr had told them to mix it up. Something about "half wits working with half wits" and him "not being able to stand it any longer," but Kara hadn't really been listening. Her mind had become one track.

"Hi," she'd said to Lena, bumping into the table and nearly knocking her cauldron over in her rush. "Do you maybe—want to—you know, with me—"

She'd motioned awkwardly between them until Lena had understood. She'd nodded, looking relieved to move away from Smythe, who'd been watching Kara with an unimpressed raised eyebrow.

For today's lesson, Professor Carr had written directions for a Sleeping Draught on the chalkboard, and Lena sits, copying diligently while Kara sets her bag down. Kara watches her partner for a moment before moving to the ingredients cupboard and selecting a few sprigs of Lavender and two, sticky blobs of Flobberworm mucus.

"Yuck," she says to Megan Moores, who is adamantly trying to unstick a blob of mucus from her finger.

They erupt into giggles when Megan tries to stick it to Leslie Willis' face instead.

"No-no-no-no," she yelps in disgust, dodging left and right.

After being thoroughly entertained, Kara returns to their work table, and she and Lena go about readying their potion.

"When you're done, the potion should be a deep purple," Professor Carr snaps impatiently. "One of you will test it. Don't kill yourselves."

Kara gulps. So far, she's managed to get away with not having to drink any potions. She's not sure if they'll have an effect. She prays Lena will be willing to test their drought.

Lena sets the burner below their cauldron on medium heat for about a minute, and they wait in silence. They haven't spoken yet this class, but that's not unusual. They don't talk much. They might actually be the two most silent partners to ever exist. At least, Lucy seems to think so and voices this opinion often.

"How do you know what to do? How do you know when you're finished? Is she even nice?"

Kara doesn't mind. Lena may not use her words, but she communicates quite effectively without them. She points at instructions, a soft finger pressed to the page. She crinkles her brow when a potion isn't quite right. She balls her right fist when she hears Siobhan's laugh.

And no speaking for Kara means no lying. It's nice.

Working without the distraction of conversation has its perks, too. Kara notices little things about Lena she hadn't seen before. She uses luxurious looking quills with long black, silky feathers. Her handwriting is small and neat. Her wand is elm wood, light and ashy versus Kara's honey gold rowan. She wears a too big, silver ring on her left hand with the letter L brightly emblazoned in gold. It's similar to Kara's necklace, which feels oddly heavy on her chest around Lena.

It reminds her of who they are, who they might be to each other one day.

"Ready?" Lena asks when they're finished, her first word of class.

Kara nods and watches closely as Lena drinks. After a few moments, Lena blinks thickly. She throws an arm out on the table and slumps forward on the desk. Kara watches as she breathes heavier, a strand of her black hair falling across her cheek. Kara watches her sleep, watches and watches until she forces herself to stop.

"Sir," she says, motioning Professor Carr over to inspect.

"Not as sloppy and half-baked as your usual potions, Danvers," he observes in a growl. "I expect Luthor is doing the impossible and teaching you a thing or two."

Kara grumbles, she's not that bad at Potions. However, Professor Carr has a reputation of intentionally provoking students and then docking House points. So, she remains insolently silent.

Somewhat disappointed with Kara's lack of response, Carr rouses Lena with a bored wave of his wand. She blinks blearily as she lifts her head, disoriented and looking around with confusion.

Kara can't help but smile. It's cute.

"I guess I have no choice but to give you a high marks," he relents, walking away without further comment.

Lena returns Kara's smile before packing away her things.


Over Christmas, Alex doesn't stay at Hogwarts. She tries to convince Kara to come home with her, but Kara declines. She knows it's irrational, but she's anxious to be around another loving family at Christmas time. She doesn't want to risk anything bad to happening to the Danvers, too.

Alex looks torn but eventually relents when Kara insists that she'll be fine.

Several days into the holiday, Kara's reading the Daily Prophet alone in the Great Hall, her breakfast going cold. She's absorbed in an article about vampires in the London underground, so much that she doesn't notice Lena at first. Not until Kara's taking a bite and turning the page does she see her standing on the other side of the table. In a start, she promptly knocks over her pumpkin juice, splattering it everywhere.

"Hi," Lena says, taking a step back to avoid the spray. She watches with a small smile as Kara scrambles to set her goblet upright.

"Hey," Kara replies frantically, shocked that Lena is there, in front of her, and speaking. Her sleeve is entirely drenched.

"I thought you might—" Lena starts, motioning back towards her table. "Have you ever played Wizarding Chess?"

"No," Kara says, remembering to swallow the half bitten piece of toast in her mouth.

"I can teach you if you want," Lena offers shyly. "It's like muggle chess."

"Oh," Kara says brightly. "I've played that."

"Shall I go grab my set?" she asks with hesitation. "Unless—you're not doing anything else?"

"No, no," Kara assures, waving her hand and nearly hitting her goblet again. She grasps it firmly.

"Alright," Lena smiles. "I'll be back."

Kara whisks the juice off of her clothes with her wand while she waits, attempting to look at least semi-presentable. When Lena returns a minute later, she sits opposite Kara, retrieving a large chessboard from her bag. She folds it open and places the pieces while Kara races through every possible thing she can remember about chess.

It's not much.

Kara holds the Queen in her hand while she thinks, smoothing a finger over the beautiful, white marble. When suddenly, it turns to her indignantly and says—

"Excuse me."

Kara puts the piece down quickly, her mouth falling open.

"They talk?" she gapes.

"Yes," Lena says. "They also move. They're rather murderous, actually."

Kara watches her Queen peer at her judgmentally, before elbowing her fatter, squatter King and saying, "This one doesn't look promising."

Kara looks up at Lena with astonishment. Lena politely stifles a laugh.

"I guess I'd be hurt if it wasn't true," Kara laments. "I'm pretty sure I'm about to lose spectacularly."

Lena laughs fully this time, Kara had forgotten the musical quality of the sound.

"That's okay," she says kindly. "I'll teach you."

Lena proceeds to go through the rules before they start, and Kara listens closely, not wanting to make a total fool of herself. Regardless, her pieces move around restlessly in their squares, not looking encouraged.

Several moves into the game, Lena's knight takes Kara's rook in a brutal beheading. The knight holds the head up to show Lena's side of the board and all her chess pieces cheer.

"This is very violent," Kara points out, entertained despite herself.

"No more violent than Quidditch," Lena replies. "You broke your nose, and you weren't even playing."

Kara doesn't quite mean to, but she smiles.

"You remember that?"

"I was looking right at you, Kara," she states. "It was like… an eruption of blood."

Kara laughs.

"It wasn't that bad," she says, moving a piece at random.

Her Queen sighs, muttering, "that wasn't clever."

Kara glares at her, but sure enough, Lena swiftly takes the piece with a bishop.

"What do you know about Quidditch, anyway?" Kara teases, an attempt to distract from her less than stellar chess acumen. "You look at your broom like it's a dead rat."

"I'll have you know," Lena states importantly. "That my family owns the Kenmare Kestrels."

"That's brilliant," Kara exclaims. "I've never been to a match. We should go!"

Kara goes momentarily pink, realizing what she's suggested, but Lena only shakes her head, not noticing.

"Trust me, I've had enough Quidditch for a lifetime."

"Alex's favorite team is Yorkshire," Kara carries on excitedly. "She won't even hear of anyone else."

"Over there," a pawn suggests, pointing to the square in front of him. Kara listens, moving him forward.

"Your sister," Lena says thoughtfully, surveying the board. "She doesn't like me."

"Why do you think that?" Kara asks, brow furrowing.

"Am I wrong?" Lena challenges, directing a hopeful looking knight to C4.

"She's just—" Kara falters for the right word. She can feel her Fidelius Charm interfering. "Protective," she finishes with difficulty.

"Did she tell you who I was?" Lena asks unexpectedly. "That day on the train?"

Kara pauses, her eyes flicking over the board, stalling. She's unused to such a direct line of questioning. She's unused to Lena talking at all.

Not wanting to lie, she finally nods.

"You didn't know?"

Kara shakes her head.

"Why?" Lena asks again, looking up. Her green eyes seem paler today, like seafoam in the snowy light of the Great Hall. "Because you were raised with muggles?"

Kara smiles ruefully, familiar with the territory they've come into, the moment where she has to lie.

"Is that what people say?" she deflects.

Lena considers her, a hard to read expression on her face.

"They say wizards killed your muggle parents," Lena says softly.

"No, that's—" she starts wryly, but she can't continue.

Why was the Charm interfering? What had she been about to say? 'No, that's wrong?' 'No, wizards killed my half magical parents?'

Kara represses a sigh of frustration.

"They died in a car crash," she lies flatly.

Lena's face flickers with something sad. She looks back down at the chess pieces.

"I'm sorry," she offers.

"It's okay."

They both stare at the chess board before Kara moves another piece.

"Were you there?"

Kara looks up at Lena again in askance.

"The thestrals," Lena supplies simply.

"The what?"

"The—the creatures we could see at the carriages," Lena explains. "I figured out what they were. I read that they can only be seen by someone who's seen death."

"Oh," Kara says, finding that she's unable to elaborate.

The Charm, for whatever reason, is not allowing her to say 'yes' to the question. She doesn't understand why. After all, Kara had seen her uncle and Lionel Luthor die, not her parents. Unless… what if she had?

"I—" Kara starts uncertainly.

"I'm sorry," Lena interrupts with sudden shame, covering her face with her hands. "I didn't mean to pry. This time of year—it's just hard for me."

Kara watches her press her hands hard over her forehead, she can see the dewy look in the corner of her eyes.

She can't help it. She reaches out and pulls Lena's hand away, squeezing it for a second. Her skin feels cold, like last time, and Kara's surprised when the Charm allows her to say,

"Me too."

Lena looks at Kara's hand, much like she had at the carriages, before smiling sadly at her.

"Hey!" one of her pieces balks from the board below. "That's the enemy, that is!"

Kara laughs, maybe too forcefully, at the double meaning of his words and pulls her hand back.

"What about you?" she asks. "Why can you see them?"

"My mother," Lena answers easily, dispatching another of Kara's knights.

Kara looks at her confused, thinking of the woman on the platform.

"My real mother," Lena clarifies. "I'm adopted."

Kara feels a swell of hope surge in her chest. Maybe Lena wasn't a Luthor?

"I mean, I guess not adopted," she adds, toying uncomfortably with one of the pieces. "My father—he was—but Lillian isn't my mother."

Kara tries not to visibly deflate, moving a piece quickly and without thinking.

"What happened?" she asks. "I mean, to your real mum."

"Honestly, I don't know," Lena says quietly. "I was really young."

They play a few more turns in silence, chess pieces dwindling quickly for Kara. Her chances at winning were looking exceptionally dim.

"I can't believe I told you that," Lena says after a moment. She doesn't meet Kara's eyes, looking embarrassed.

Kara moves another piece at random, trying to hide her smile.

"Don't worry," she says. "I can keep a secret."

Lena looks up, returning the smile before she indicates the board with a graceful sweep of her hand.

"Check mate, Kara."

Chapter Text

Third year.

One week into the balmy summer holiday, Kara assesses her bedroom with a critical eye, intent on redecorating. After all, her room is awfully barren. There are no posters or photographs on the walls. Her lonely twin bed is tucked into a corner like an afterthought. Her sheets are bland, the wallpaper floral and faded, and the bookshelves are mostly empty. There's scarce evidence to indicate a teenage girl has even been inside, much less lives there. Even the personal items she'd brought from London have all been left in their packed boxes and pushed to the back of her closet, rarely seen and never opened.

Kara knows why, of course.

When she'd first arrived, she hadn't thought living with the Danvers would be permanent. What if the Danvers didn't like her? What if they sent her away? A small part of her, too, hadn't wanted to start a new life without her family. She hadn't wanted to become Kara Danvers from Middleton.

So not decorating her room had been a small sort of rebellion. If she put photos on the wall, it would mean she'd moved on. It would mean Zora El and her parents were really dead.

She sighs. There's something about it now, though, almost three years later, that feels inevitable. Whether she wants to be or not, she is Kara Danvers. And the Danvers' home… well, it is her home. There isn't much point in fighting it any longer.

So, she strips the wallpaper. She picks a friendly pastel yellow, and she and Jeremiah paint all four walls. Satisfied, she retrieves the dusty boxes from the closet and lines her dresser with a select few photos; Kara with her parents, Alex, Cal, and the Danvers. Then, as a finishing touch, she sets out a vase of cut blooms and hangs several large, brilliant green posters of the Kenmere Thestrals Quidditch team. The various players zoom between them, catching and releasing the snitch, diving and knocking each other off their brooms. It's wonderful bedlam.

Kara's examining the posters, trying to decide whether to move them a bit left or not, when Alex walks past her bedroom door and catches sight of them.

She stops dead. Her mouth falls open, scandalized. The scandal evolves into purest fury, and she looks at Kara as if she's committed an act of war.

"What?!" she shouts in outrage. "Not in this house, Kara! Not in this house, you won't!"

And thus begins a week long row.

"You know I root for Yorkshire!"

"So what! I don't have to root for them, too!"

"The Kestrels are rubbish! They haven't won the cup in an age!"

"The Kestrels have Holly Billinger as Chaser! She's the best in the league!"

"You didn't even know about her until this summer! You didn't even like them before!"

"Why do I have to have a reason to like them? I just do!"

"I can't believe you, Kara! I absolutely can't believe it!"

"I'm not taking the posters down!"

"Who likes the Irish, anyway?! That's like being a traitor to your country. That's what you are, a traitor to England!"

After too many hours that turned into too many days of this type of shouting, Eliza meets her limit. On an otherwise beautiful Monday morning, Alex opens her mouth to spew another hot stream of vitriol in Kara's direction when Eliza slams her open palm unexpectedly on the kitchen counter, disrupting a tall stack of pancakes.

"THE POSTERS STAY!" she shouts to the heavens, her eyes fixed to a spot on the ceiling as if seeking help from a higher power.

But they understand her meaning nonetheless.

Alex crosses her arms, looking sullen and betrayed. Kara sticks her tongue out. Alex glares back, her eyes so knifelike that Kara thinks they might cut her tongue clean off. She quickly retracts it.

They don't speak for several days, and Kara's not sure which is worse. At least during the yelling and constant threats, Kara knew what was on Alex's mind. Now? It could be anything.

Sensing imminent treachery, Kara asks Eliza to put an Immovable Charm on the posters, thinking Alex might vandalize them in the night. She doesn't put it past her sister to climb in through a window, so she locks those, too.

But nothing happens. Mainly because Alex quickly discovers a new way to torture Kara.

For instance, every time Kara tries to join her in pickup Quidditch in the empty lot behind their house, Alex feigns disinterest. Even when Kara catches Alex in the act of flying, practicing dives or striking bludgers with her bat, her sister makes excuses, like "just getting a bit of air" or "thought I saw pixie in the tree."

Alex has even gone so far as to hide the only spare broomstick, an old Cleansweep they kept in the shed. Since Alex won't let her use hers ("Don't even look at it, Kara!"), this now hidden broom is Kara's only means of practice. But every time Kara accuses of her deliberate sabotage, Alex adamantly denies it.

"It's not my fault you lost your broom."

"I didn't lose it, Alex!"

Alex keeps up this charade for several days until Kara is finally forced to resort to begging.

"Alex," Kara beseeches her through gritted teeth. "You know I want to join the team this year. I can't very well go all summer without flying."

Alex merely smirks with thinly concealed triumph.

"Then I guess you'd better figure out which tree it's buried under."

Kara fumes, turning back towards the house with red ears and clenched fists. She finds Eliza in the kitchen and tells her everything in one loud and uninterrupted rant. She's just finishing, in fact, when Alex slips through the back door. Her sister takes one look at her mother and Kara and promptly calls the latter a snitch.

"That's enough," Eliza says. "Family meeting."

Both girls roll their eyes hard enough to earn a week's worth of chores, but Eliza simply directs them to the dining table.

"Jeremiah!" she beckons him into the room, too.

They all sit, two of them considerably surlier than the rest.

"What if," Eliza suggests slowly. "We make a trip to Diagon Alley."

"What for?" Alex asks, sulky but somewhat baited.

"If Kara is going to try out this year, she'll need a proper broom."

"But I've never gotten a proper broom—!" Alex immediately interjects, voice raised.

"Not another word!" Eliza shushes her. "Yes, you both need brooms. But neither of you will get anything until you make up."

Alex's mouth, which had still been hanging open in silent outrage, quickly snaps shut.

"What kind?" she asks quietly.

"Not a very good one if you both keep this up," Eliza informs them snappily and stands from the table.

Kara and Alex are model sisters after that. No more fighting or shouting. No more slammed doors or underhanded bullying. Alex even shows Kara where she'd buried the spare broom, indicating a patch of grass under a large alder in the back lot.

"How long did this take you?" Kara asks in awe, unearthing the Cleansweep from a grave several meters deep. "You couldn't have used magic."

"All night," Alex answers.

"All night?"

"Next time it'll be you down there if you mention the bloody Kestrels again."

Kara doesn't. And it's worth it when they're finally in front of Quality Quidditch Supplies in Diagon Alley. They're not the only ones there, a horde of other children stand nearby with faces pressed against the display glass.

"That's the Firebolt!" one points out. "That's the fastest broom in the world!"

When they enter the shop, Kara and Alex peruse the wide selection of brooms together, eyes as wide as saucers, each broom looking more beautiful than the last.

"What do we want?" Kara asks her sister, too overwhelmed by all the glittering, golden seats and smooth, polished wood.

"Any Nimbus would be brilliant," Alex tells her. And Eliza must overhear because, sure enough, two Nimbuses is what they get.

Kara holds her package close to her heart as they exit, the tip of her handle just visible. It's shiny, black, and glossy. Further down the neck, silvery letters are embossed into the wood: Nimbus 2000. She holds it gingerly like a newborn kitten, meets the eyes of the crowd outside with pride.

When they get home, Alex and Kara sprint into the back yard, pushing through the hedges into the unkempt, undeveloped lot. With two brand new broomsticks, they're too excited to remember their grudge.

"Want to race?" Alex asks, jumping onto her broom.

Plainly in a state of wild excitement, she tears off before receiving for an answer. Kara belatedly mounts her Nimbus, eager to begin pursuit, but when she kicks off she instantly collides headlong into a tree. A tree half way across the lot.

It had felt like a blur, like she'd been riding on the back of a bullet. Was that normal? Was the Nimbus that much faster than the Cleansweep?

Luckily, nothing was broken, either in her body or on the broom.

"That's a real broom for you, Kara!" Alex teases from the air above, Kara still searching for her glasses in the brush. "You better learn to use it!"


She and Alex spend the rest of the summer practicing and honing their skills. Kara's sure her broom isn't as fast as the first time she'd mounted it, but had it just been inexperience?

"I swear, Alex, I flew," she tells her sister for the sixth or so time.

But Alex only shrugs and aims another bludger at her face, a reflection of how many of their practices go. Alex tries to pelt Kara with bludgers while Kara tries to avoid them, shooting at makeshift rings that Cal had built for them. It's not unlike their dueling sessions, Kara dodging and blocking Alex's hexes, so they fall into an easy routine.

They stay outside nearly all day every day, and Kara's arms become tan and sunkissed, her ponytail on the brink of platinum blonde. Kara even grows several inches, so she's almost as tall as Alex, a fact that her sister bemoans often.

"I can't believe I'm going to have to play you," Alex complains. "I'm teaching you everything I know just so you can use it against me."

"If I make the team," Kara replies with a touch of nerves.

"You'll make the team."

Kara hopes so.

Thinking it can't hurt her chances, she uses the train ride to Hogwarts to chat amiably with the new Quidditch captain. She's a dainty 6th year by the name of Eve Teschmacher, and she's been Hufflepuff's seeker for nearly four years. She's relatively talented, from what Kara can see from the stands during matches, but Hufflepuff still hasn't taken home the cup.

"You're tall for a third year, I'll give you that," Eve tells her. "And we've just lost our captain and chaser, Adam Grant, so there may be a spot for you."

Kara beams. She didn't want to be a Beater like Alex. She wasn't too keen on breaking bones and knocking people off their brooms (even if Alex lived for it.) Seeker also seemed boring and solitary, like she'd always be one step removed from the match. And Keeper? That seemed too stressful.

So, she's excited about a shot at Chaser. Too excited to sleep, unfortunately. And by the morning the trials take place, she's a total mess. She can't even eat.

Instead, she picks dejectedly at her eggs, maligned with visions of falling off her broom, missing goals, or otherwise making a total idiot of herself.

"Wow, Kara," Alex says, approaching the Hufflepuff table. "I've never seen you leave food on your plate."

Kara says nothing in reply, and they walk together towards the pitch.

As they wind down the lawn, she listens to Alex speak animatedly about how she's going to crush it and how "Hufflepuff really isn't that good, anyway, they're sure to let you in." She barely hears her, though, too distracted by the rolling sensations in her stomach.

She looks up, noting that at least it's not terrible weather. It's slightly overcast, but no wind. The sun peeks out over the lake, warming the skin on Kara's arms below her rolled up sleeves. She breathes, steeling herself, as they reach the field. Alex crushes her in a tight hug.

"You can do this," she says.

Kara watches her sister depart to find a good place in the stands, before she turns, clutching her Nimbus 2000 in a vice grip.

"Alright," Eve calls out to the gaggle of students waiting on the pitch. "Since we have an open position, we'll have a go at the Chasers first. Form a line and each of you will get five shots on Rick."

Still feeling like she might be sick, Kara purposely positions herself behind a few other third and fourth years. She just needs more time to regain her composure. It also helps that the first two Hufflepuffs are relatively unsuccessful, scoring on only one out of five runs. The next gets two, though, and Kara can't help but feel pressured to get three.

Then suddenly it's her turn.

She kicks up off the grass, swallowing hard, maroon quaffle in hand. Her palms feel slippery, her robes over hot. She meets Rick Malverne's eye across the field as he floats lazily between the hoops. He looks unchallenged and slightly bored. He's a fifth year and he's tall and blonde, how Kara might imagine a Viking. He's been the Hufflepuff Keeper for years now, and Kara can't help but think how his experience will make this difficult.

She girds herself, anyway, and pretends he's just Alex. It actually helps a lot to imagine him as a girl, long hair and dress flowing in the breeze. She smiles, a smile that seems to unsettle Rick, and barrels towards him.


It's official. Kara is a Hufflepuff Chaser.

Nearly every member of her House congratulates her at one point or another, their exuberance overwhelming. Kara's found her House is very physical, and there is quite a lot of hugging, even from the boys. She tries not to blush too hard and too often.

She's still getting claps on the back and high fives the next day when Alex makes her way over to their table at breakfast.

"I still can't believe you did it!" Alex exclaims, shaking her by the shoulders. "I mean, obviously I can. You had the best trainer ever," she says, indicating herself. "Did you hear that bit Eve said about you being 'particularly good at dodging bludgers?' All me, right there."

Kara laughs, holding her sister by the elbows. Alex drops her voice to a near whisper.

"Can you come watch our Dueling Club match tonight? It's our first for the term."

"Sure," Kara breathes quickly.

Alex had been in Dueling Club since her second year. From what Kara understands, each house has their own head member who acts as leader, arranging practice duels, and the teams even had their own personal dueling areas: Gryffindors gathering in the Great Hall, Ravenclaws in the courtyard, Slytherins in the quad, and Hufflepuffs in the training grounds. Matchups were organized several times over the course of the year, and this would be the first between Gryffindor and Slytherin.

Kara, obviously, is still expressly forbidden from dueling, but sometimes she'll cheer for Alex on the sidelines. Her sister nearly always wins.

Finishing her breakfast, she breezes through her lessons. All except for Potions, of course. Mind still in the clouds from winning her role as Chaser, she distractedly puts snails instead of frogspawn into her cauldron. It turns an unsavory shade of puce, bubbling menacingly.

"Five points from Hufflepuff!" Carr barks without even looking at her.

"How did he know?" she whispers to Imra. "He hasn't even seen it yet!"

Imra merely shrugs, too distracted by her purplish potion that threatens to be just as terrible as Kara's.

Kara stirs gloomily, watching her spoon burn and wither away in the noxious liquid. Giving up, she wishes for the millionth time she still had Lena as a partner. She would've never let Kara make such an atrocity, but sadly, they share Potions with the Ravenclaws this year. Winn Schott is the only one who occasionally attempts to help her, but even he sometimes looks at her like she's a total lost cause.

Mercifully, Potions finishes shortly after Professor Carr refers to her head as an "air balloon with a ponytail attached" and twilight falls over the sky. Grumbling, Kara makes her way to watch the duels, hoping it will improve her spirits.

Walking closer to the Great Hall, she can see a long, padded platform running down the middle of the room, and the House tables pushed to the sides. There are also bleachers set up against the walls, and Kara spots Professor Zatara presiding over the match, speaking sternly to the Dueling Club heads.

Alex is lucky, Kara thinks, because Zatara teaches Defense Against the Dark Arts, and despite being Head of Slytherin House, she is usually fair and encouraging. She's also quickest at removing the hexes and spells.

Approaching the half open oak doors, Kara scans the bleachers, searching for a place to sit. To her surprise, however, she finds Lena Luthor not far away, sitting three rows up, her hands buried in her robes. Her green eyes watch intently as Professor Zatara states the rules to the gathered teams.

Kara's step falters. She's never seen Lena at one of these things. She's not ready to talk to her. What would she say?

It's not that Kara's nervous. No, of course not. It's just that they hadn't spoken much since spending those few precious days over Christmas together. In their second term, they'd gone back to their quiet work routine in Potions, and Kara had barely been able to choke out a goodbye in their last class.

No. No, she's not scared.

Even if Lena's hair is down today, straight and curtained, like thickly falling water. Even if her jaw looks more refined at this angle, sharp and regal.

Pretty, she thinks.

Too focused on Lena and not on the entryway of the Great Hall, Kara's brain betrays her body. Her shoulder catches the edge of the half open door as she walks through the threshold, and it bangs violently against the wall.

The sound reverberates in the high ceilinged room like a gun shot, and the door even has the nerve to bounce back and hit her. Kara almost falls down from the impact, but she quickly pops up again, straightening herself, only to find every single head in the hall has turned to look at her.

"Merlin, Kara, have you been confunded?" Alex asks somewhat seriously, stepping over to her sister and touching her shoulder.

Too mortified to form an explanation, Kara mumbles a hurried 'good luck' before shuffling away towards the bleachers, preferably to find a spot at great distance from Lena.

Sitting down, Kara avoids any and all eye contact and works to calm her breathing. She tries not to pull at the hot collar of her robes. Instead, she focuses on Maggie Sawyer, who has been paired against Samantha Arias, a Slytherin in Kara's year. Kara has seen Sam talking and working with Lena in their shared Transfiguration class, and she wonders vaguely if Lena is there to watch her.

Kara finds the thought unpleasant.

Especially when, moments later, Sam gets lucky with a Stinging Hex that hits Maggie in the cheek, swelling instantly and making it difficult for her to speak and counter cast. It's over quickly after that.

"Miss Arias advances," Zatara announces to the crowd, her voice loud and magically enhanced.

Several of the Slytherins, identifiable by their green and black cloaks, cheer loudly for Sam. Kara doesn't have the heart to turn to see if Lena is among them.

"Next up, Alex Danvers versus Samantha Arias."

Kara claps a few times before sitting nervously on her hands. Not wanting to be too unkind, she only wishes that Alex crushes Sam a little. Or maybe even a medium amount.

"I hear she's the best duelist in the school," a voice surprises Kara.

Kara swivels around to find Lena settling down behind her, placing her bag not far from Kara's back one row up on the bleachers. She smiles despite herself.

"You mean Alex?"

Lena nods.

"Yeah, she's really good," Kara replies with pride. "Some of her jinxes are wicked."

"Have you ever been on the receiving end?" Lena asks with an amused quirk of her lips.

"Hundreds of times," Kara replies before she can catch herself. "Er—I mean—not that many—but one time feels like a lot—just a couple—just a couple of times."

Lena merely crinkles her eyebrows with good-natured confusion, and the timing is lucky because Alex casts a particularly nasty jinx, distracting them both.

A loud buzz fills the hall as Sam uncontrollably sneezes giant, black and yellow bees. It looks painful, several of the bees attacking Sam as she swats at them, desperately trying to stop sneezing and, in turn, making the swarm larger. Alex smirks, and Kara can't help but think this is her well executed revenge for the Stinging Hex that hit Maggie.

Sam retaliates with a slash of her wand, but she sneezes at the last moment, garbling the word. The spell seems to go awry, causing thick black fur to sprout all over Alex's body. Nothing else happens, and Kara guesses Sam had been trying to transfigure Alex into something. An ape? Or a cat? Either way, Alex looks confusedly at her fur covered arms before she promptly disarms Sam.

"Miss Danvers advances," Katara declares.

Sam rushes immediately to her Head of House, the bee swarm in hot pursuit, and Zatara waves her wand, removing the fur and the bees. She casts an additional healing spell to soothe the angry, red stings on Sam's neck and hands while Alex watches on, looking smug.

"If I may, though," Lena comments, quietly and close to Kara's ear. "I've noticed she's not that great at blocking."

Kara snorts. Alex is definitely not the better blocker between them. Kara's not even sure if she's even seen Alex attempt it.

"Why don't you ever duel?" she asks turning to face Lena. "You're top at everything else."

Lena reddens at the compliment. Kara likes that it's always easy to identify on her pale cheeks.

"I don't know," she answers, smoothing down the bottom of her uniform sweater. "I guess—I don't know. I don't want to be known for being good at that."

Kara tilts her head in confusion, wondering if Lena judges Alex for being 'good at that.'

"I mean, it's not bad for others," Lena corrects in a slight ramble. "I just think it would be bad for me, you know, as a Luthor. I don't want people saying I like cursing people for sport. They say enough bad things about me as it is."

"Oh," Kara says gently, watching Lena, who is now watching her shoes.

A brief moment passes where Kara thinks of touching her hand, but instead she warmly says,

"Well, none of those things are true."

Lena looks up at her with a small smile.

Kara gazes back at the mats when she hears Professor Zatara announce Alex's next opponent. Alex glances at her then, and Kara gives her an encouraging thumbs up. Alex doesn't seem cheered, though, her eyes flickering between Lena and Kara with the same sort of prejudice Lena had just mentioned.

"What about you?" Lena asks, bringing Kara's attention back to those curious green eyes.

"I'm not very good at hexes or jinxes," Kara tells her honestly. "Plus, I'm not allowed."

"You're not allowed?" Lena replies incredulously. "But your sister gets to curse Veronica Sinclair to pieces?"

Kara turns again to watch her sister, and that certainly seems to be Alex's intention. She looks determined and fierce as she bears down on Sinclair with spells flying in all directions. Sinclair manages to block a few before an Impediment Curse strikes her in the leg, causing her to fall down. She drops her wand as she braces on both palms, but before she can recover, Alex follows quickly with the Langlock Jinx.

"Winner!" Zatara says with a flourish. "And Gryffindor wins, 3-1!"

Alex preens in response to the applause, looking self-satisfied as she walks towards a pack of excited Gryffindors. Maggie Sawyer is among them and hugs her so hard Alex looks at a loss for breath.

"Veronica's going to be smarting about that for a week," Lena whispers.

"Do you know her?"

"We went to boarding school together before Hogwarts," Lena answers, her eyes turning impish. "But I still can't believe her parents let her get that snake tattoo."

Kara twists her head and gapes, having somehow missed the giant, inky snake winding around Sinclair's neck. It's positively huge, disappearing under the girl's shirt and robes.

"Is that…" Kara begins uncertainly. "Everywhere?"

"Yes," Lena answers with a smirk. "And it's magical. It moves."

Kara's shock transforms into horror.

"You're lying."

"I'm not," Lena giggles. "I hear it sleeps at her feet."

"No, it doesn't!" Kara says, repulsed and slapping Lena's knee, but she can't help but laugh.

As their laughter dies down, Lena playfully tugs on Kara's sleeve.

"Congratulations, by the way. I heard you made the Quidditch team."

Kara smiles, finding herself leaning backwards, closer to Lena.

"Does that mean you'll come to a match?"

"Oh, Kara," Lena says with teasing exasperation. "I've had enough for a lifetime, remember?"

Kara frowns slightly. She knows Lena never goes to the school matches, she's looked for her in the crowds. But now it's different. She wants Lena to see her fly. Before she can open her mouth to convince her, though, a voice calls out,

"Lena!"

Lena's eyes glance behind her, and Kara follows the movement, catching sight of Sam Arias impatiently waving Lena down. Kara sees her own sister, too, still gathered with the Gryffindors nearby and shooting them both miffed glances.

Lena stands with a sigh, reaching for her bag.

"We play Slytherin in a few weeks," Kara pleads, standing with her. "Won't you come?"

Lena rolls her eyes in good humor, but Kara catches her arm before she can step down the bleachers.

"Seriously," Kara begs again.

As she holds Lena's arm, she notices there's an obvious height difference between them now, and she hopes she doesn't seem intimidating. So, she throws in a pout in for good measure, which appears to break Lena's resolve entirely.

"Fine," Lena caves. "I'll try."

"Excellent!" Kara exclaims, almost excited enough to hug her. Instead, she squeezes her arm and bounces on the balls of her feet.

"I've gotten really good."

"Humble, too," Lena teases as they both hop down the steps.

Kara only smiles brightly, watching Lena's eyes, her fingers pushing hair behind an ear.

Oh stars, her mouth is moving. She's talking, Kara thinks with a start.

"—you have to be more graceful up there than you are down here."

Kara only hears the end of the statement, but her mouth falls open in shock. Lena is calling her ungraceful! She's referring to the Door Incident!

"The door—" Kara stammers in defense, pausing at the bottom of the bleachers. "Was very large and—right in the way."

"Jumped out at you, did it?"

"I'll have you know." Kara says with forced confidence. "That I am a very smooth flyer."

"That's a relief."

Kara's mouth is still open in surprise.

"Lena Luthor, are you mocking me?"

"She better not be," a cool voice says from behind them.

Alex.

Lena clutches the shoulder strap of her bag tighter, looking immediately less relaxed as Alex approaches them.

It's a shift in character Kara has seen often. While they are both less shy, each of them with a few more friends than their first year, Lena still tends to regard much of their class (and most of the school) with aloofness and chilly reserve.

"Good match," she says to Alex, her tone clipped.

"Thanks," Alex replies as if she means nothing of the sort.

Lena's eyes glaze to Kara.

"See you later," she says softly before turning away to join Sam Arias.

Kara turns on Alex as the two Slytherins leave the Great Hall, her expression reproving.

"You didn't have to scare her off."

"Me?" Alex replies sarcastically. "Scare a Luthor?"

"She's not—"

"She is," Alex shuts her down. "And are you going to say congratulations or what? That bee jinx deserves at least three sticky buns from the kitchens. Think that house-elf, Potty, will make them for us?"

"That's not his name, Alex," Kara corrects her with an eye roll.

"Snotty?"

"Spotty."

Alex tries to get her to smile by pulling on her robes, but Kara only looks at her crossly.

"Come on, little sis," Alex whines. "You have to admit the look on Sinclair's face was funny. I think that snake spit at me."


By the time the days turn cooler, rolling into October with fall colors and dead leaves, Kara plays in her very first Quidditch match.

And then she wakes up in the hospital wing.

She's confused and disoriented at first. The last thing she remembers is flying over the Slytherin stands, their jeers and boos vibrating beneath her feet like an angry hive. She'd scored thirty points of their 70-30 lead, and Slytherin was decidedly not happy with the new Chaser. She hadn't cared though. With every score, she'd flown past them until she found what she was searching for; Lena Luthor standing there in the green and silver masses, not booing, but smiling up at her.

Then, Kara had felt her broom handle shaking strangely. It had felt as if she were moving it versus the other way around. Then, everything leapt forward, and she shot straight through the other side of the stadium wall.

Or so she was told.

They'd found her on the edge of the Forbidden Forest, knocked out cold and sprawled out on the lawn. Her broom was still in tact and held loosely in her hand. She had cuts all over her body from the splintered wood, a concussion, and a broken arm from the impact.

"Mom is going to be livid," Alex tells Kara, seated next to her bed in the hospital wing and looking very stressed indeed. "And somehow it's going to be all my fault, I know it is."

"I just," Kara starts groggily. "Went through the stadium? And ended up across the grounds?"

"I've told everyone your broom malfunctioned, that maybe it was tampered with," Alex says, though not quite answering her question. "Professor Prince is looking at it now."

"Really?" Kara squints at her. "Is that what you think happened?"

"I don't know," Alex wavers. "I saw it, and… it just wasn't right, Kara. Remember, it happened this summer, too?"

"You said that was just me getting used to the Nimbus."

"I know I did, but now… It just seems like one of those things I'll have to tell—" but Alex breaks off, looking slightly bewildered.

She casts her head around, making sure they're alone.

"Why can't I say it? Aren't we alone?"

"It's because she's in there," Kara points to the office where the Matron is filling out an injury report. "You're not going to be able to say anything about—uh—that. You Know What or Him."

Alex sighs. "The Fidelius Charm is weird, isn't it?"

Kara nods, though she's not quite sure if she'd use that word. Maybe 'strict,' 'unforgiving,' or 'terrible.'

In fact, any of those words would describe this entire situation. If Alex was saying she was going to have to tell Cal about what happened, it meant she thought Kara had used a special power. Cal was supposed to have super speed, and it looked more and more like that's what she'd been accessing somehow while flying in Quidditch.

"Do you really have to tell him?" Kara asks quietly.

Alex flexes her fingers, looking at her hands as if she'd been wringing them just before Kara had woken up.

"Yes, I think so," she says.

"What if he bans me from Quidditch?" Kara counters, becoming slightly tearful.

But she doesn't want to cry, so she holds it back. Even though her healing broken arm throbs painfully, even though her whole body feels like one giant bruise. She's just frustrated and angry and bitter.

Why can't she do something normal for once? Why can't anything just be simple?

"I mean, what if it happens again?" Alex argues. "You can't just be zipping through buildings at super speeds. People would—they'd know."

Kara sighs, turning away to look miserably out of the window.

"Maybe he won't ban you if you train," Alex adds more softly.

"I hate training."

Alex blows out a sigh, too, following Kara's gaze to look out onto the grounds.

"Well, if it makes you feel better," she says after a long moment, voice lowered. "She came to visit you."

"Who?" Kara turns back to Alex, perking up, daring to hope.

"Who else? Lena Luthor," Alex confirms, expression slightly perturbed. "She was sitting in this very chair when I came in."

Kara can't help but smile, thoughts of being banned from Quidditch momentarily put on hold. Instead, her imagination instantly spools up several possible scenarios.

Lena leaning over her bedside.

Lena reaching for her hand.

Lena dabbing her forehead.

Was there a tear in her eye? Yes.

Kara's fantasy is decidedly interrupted by an unpleasant flick to her ear.

"Ouch!" Kara yelped. "Stop that!"

"I can't help it when I see you looking so rapt and misty eyed," Alex mocks.

"I am not misty-eyed," Kara growls in reply, rubbing her ear.

"You know who she is, Kara. You know who her brother is, who her father was."

"I don't care, Alex," Kara says sorely. "She's not like them. She's nice, and she's my friend. She came to watch my match, and she came to see me in the hospital."

"If she finds out—" Alex starts.

"She won't," Kara finishes for her. "I can't—I can't even—" but she's unable to continue.

The bloody Charm.

She shoots a frustrated glare at the nurse's office before glancing back to Alex.

"You need to be nice to me," she reprimands instead.

"I am being nice," Alex argues. "I told you she came, didn't I? You were passed out, all black and blue. It was very piteous. I think there was even a spot of drool on your chin—"

"No more hitting me," Kara interrupts, rubbing at her chin self-consciously. "I'm in the hospital wing, I could have head trauma!"

"You definitely have head trauma," Alex mutters. "You're the only I know who could like Lena bloody Luthor."

Kara groans while Alex leans back in her chair, kicking her feet out.

"Plus," she starts, garnering Kara's attention. "I'll never forgive her for making my little sister root for the Kestrels."

"She didn't make me root for the Kestrels!" Kara defends hotly. "She doesn't even like Quidditch."

"Oh please," Alex challenges, drawing the word out. "Her family just happens to own that team and you just happen to like them?"

Kara attempts to reply, but only fish mouths. Alex looks maddeningly triumphant, but unluckily for her, the nurse chooses that moment to return from her office.

"How are you feeling, Kara?" she asks with concern.

Kara adopts a beleaguered expression, sighing heavily.

"She's making me very tired, Madam Martin," she says, pointing an accusatory finger at Alex.

Madam Martin whirls on her.

"Out!" she shouts, making Alex jump. "She needs rest. Return to your dormitory at once, Miss Danvers!"

"Okay, okay," Alex replies, hands raised.

She stands and turns towards the door. Before she leaves, however, she hisses over her shoulder.

"She did!"

"She didn't!"

"Good night, Miss Danvers!" the nurse says, shooing Alex out of the infirmary.


Fortunately, Cal doesn't ban Kara from Quidditch. However, he does enforce strict practicing schedules with Alex every Saturday and Sunday until Kara "can control herself." Kara hates the way he says it, like she has some sort of embarrassing condition, but she tolerates it silently because Cal's also said he's not above removing her from Hogwarts if she can't get a handle on her speed. That threat alone is motivation enough for Kara to try.

At first, Kara and Alex aren't even sure she has super speed.

"What made you do it before?" Alex asks.

"Dunno," Kara answers, thinking back on those two moments.

The first one was obvious, she was really excited about her new broom. But the second one… she's almost too embarrassed to admit it.

"I guess I was just… happy?"

"Well, try to be happy and move really quickly," Alex gruffs.

Feeling entirely uncomfortable with the idea, Kara thinks back to that day in the stadium. She remembers the wind blowing on her face, the thrill of scoring so many goals against Slytherin. She remembers Lena watching her in the stands. She takes a step.

She smacks into a tree trunk half a mile away.

Super speed confirmed, they practice in empty classrooms and hidden spots around edge of the Hogwarts grounds. But Kara finds herself super sped into the Forbidden Forest, into the lake, and slammed into several school walls. She bruises every bit of her body and breaks her toes, her fingers, and her nose repeatedly. On the bright side, it makes her more and more proficient with the Episky spell. On the dark side, she isn't always able to heal everything, and she requires several trips to the hospital wing.

"Are you sure you're alright, Ms. Danvers?" the nurse asks with a suspicious eye. "You're here almost every week."

"I'm just clumsy," Kara attempts with a smile, but Madam Martin looks nonplussed.

It doesn't help that they break all manner of school property, too; tables, chairs, suits of armor, windows. Nothing is safe. Alex is constantly running behind Kara, frantically shouting,

"Reparo!"

"Reparo!"

"Reparo!"

Until one cold day in December the caretaker finds Alex standing guiltily in front of a portrait with a Kara-shaped hole ripped right through it.

He loses it.

"Miscreant! Vandal! It's not enough for you to drag your muck and dirt all over this school, you have to destroy precious heirlooms, too?!"

Needless to say, Alex receives a month's worth of detention. Between that, her lessons, Quidditch, and training Kara, Alex is so annoyed, she finally writes a heated letter to Cal.

"HOW THE BLOODY HELL AM I SUPPOSED TO TRAIN SOMEONE WITHOUT BEING SEEN WHEN SHE CAN GO MILES IN ONE SODDING SECOND?! I'M GOING TO GET EXPELLED BEFORE SHE CAN LEARN NOT TO BREAK HER FACE ON EVERY VERTICAL SURFACE, CAL, WHAT ARE WE SUPPOSED TO DO?" she scrawls in huge red letters.

"Go to the seventh floor," Cal replies in a thinly rolled scroll attached to the Danvers owl. "Walk past the tapestry of Barnabas the Barmy three times, thinking hard on the place you need."

It seems utterly mental, but Kara and Alex are desperate enough to try anything. They head to the seventh floor, and to their absolute surprise, a door appears on their third pass. When they enter, it's filled with training equipment of all types and sizes, and Kara is greatly relieved to see the walls covered with thick, padded cushions.

"This is exactly we need," Alex comments, her mood much improved. "It's like Hogwarts wants us to stop destroying it."

"Thank Merlin," Kara replies happily. "The house elves were just about to give up getting all the blood out of my clothes."


With the help of their training room, Kara gets a tentative grasp on her speed, and by some miracle of the heavens, they're not found out.

The whole thing is so stressful and grueling, though, that Kara forgets to be happy or grateful that she technically has a magical power no one else possesses. Even when she remembers it, it doesn't excite her in the least. Instead, she's nervous to find out what comes next. After all, Cal is supposed to be fast, strong, and have incredible hearing. She worries about when (and where) those abilities might manifest.

"Just don't move if you find yourself too giddy, Kara," Alex mocks her.

And Kara practices just that on the last weekend before Christmas. All students third year and above assemble in the courtyard, chatting excitedly about their plans in Hogsmeade. She's very, very excited, too, her body buzzing enough to alert her to take very careful steps as they walk in packs towards the village.

This will be Kara's second time in the all-wizarding town. She'd been just once before Halloween, spending most of her time with Alex. Her sister had given her the grand tour, taking her to Honeyduke's, Zonko's, and the Three Broomsticks. There, they'd shared hot and foaming tankards of butter beer with Maggie, Lucy, James Olsen, and Megan Moores. It had been the most delicious thing she'd ever tasted and seemed to heat her from the inside out. They'd stayed at the pub for the rest of the day, laughing themselves silly, until Professors Prince and Henshaw rallied them all to return to the school.

While it had been fun, there were still a few spots Kara hadn't seen, namely The Shrieking Shack and Dervish and Banges. As they linger on the main village road, she invites Alex to join her, but her sister shakes her off with an excuse about needing to buy Christmas presents. Something about this seems suspect, as Alex and Maggie keeps glancing at Madam Puddifoot's, but Kara shrugs and continues off on her own.

Inside Dervish and Banges, she walks down each of the aisles, wishing she could buy anything and everything. The shop is filled with exceptionally odd objects, all of which look finely polished and delicate. She comes closer to inspect a long row of sneakoscopes, listening to the slight whirring as they spin.

"They never stop when you lot are in town," the shopkeeper tells her with narrowed eyes. "Hogwarts students are always up to no good."

Kara only smiles amiably before he leaves her to talk to another customer. She turns back to the sneakoscopes, reaching out to touch a particularly fast spinning one, when a hand materializes to her right, taking it first.

Kara turns to find Lena's shrewd eyes inspecting the instrument, her pale fingers holding it carefully. Kara stills. She keeps her feet firmly planted, not daring to imagine what might happen if her super speed crashed her through this wall of expensive devices.

She'd be in debt forever.

"My great grandfather invented these," Lena says conversationally in that soft accent of hers.

"That's neat," Kara says, instantly hating her word choice.

Lena looks up at her, smiling slightly, and hands her the sneakoscope. Kara takes it, fingers brushing Lena's, not sure if the humming she feels is from the whirring glass top or her own skin.

Do NOT move, she tells herself repeatedly.

"Do they work?" she croaks.

"My brother has about fifty in his office," Lena comments. "But, honestly, I have no idea."

Kara bites her lip, putting the magical instrument back in its place on the shelf. She's grateful, though. The mention of Lex Luthor sufficiently kills her buzzing nerves.

"You're not with your sister today?" Lena asks.

Kara shakes her head. "She said she has to buy presents."

"That's why I'm here, actually," Lena says with a disappointed sigh. "But it's impossible to get my family anything."

"Same. Alex would probably just ask me to take my Kestrel posters down—" Kara stops mid-sentence, feeling her cheeks burn.

"You have Kestrel posters?" Lena asks with amusement.

"I'm going to the Shrieking Shack," Kara blurts, her mouth feeling dry. "Do you want to—maybe—go when you're done here?"

"Sure," Lena answers, kind enough not to embarrass Kara further. "I'll go check out."

Kara waits by the exit, looking at a rack of pearly, translucent invisibility cloaks. Lena joins her a few minutes later, stuffing a parcel in her robes, and they leave the shop in a flurry of snowflakes. They head down a winding lane, passing a tall sign indicating 'The Shrieking Shack.'

"Why does your brother have so many sneakoscopes?" Kara asks as they walk, the trees getting thicker around them.

Lena flexes her jaw, the muscle clearly outlined in her cheek. Lena only does this when she's mad, and Kara hopes she hasn't upset her.

"I'm sure you've seen," Lena starts, her words fumbling. "I mean, I know you read the Daily Prophet almost every morning," she pauses, looking embarrassed.

"Sorry," she says, though Kara's not sure why. "But I mean, he's just—"

"You don't have to tell me," Kara rushes to say, not wanting to be responsible for the irate quality that has Lena has started pulling on her robes.

"No, it's okay," Lena says after a beat, smoothing her robes out again. "I never really talk to anyone about it."

They round the edge of the path and come into a snowy clearing. Kara can see the Shrieking Shack at a distance, behind an old rotting fence in front of them. They approach it, and Kara dusts snow off the top, slipping her gloved hands over the wood.

She turns to look at Lena, who looks melancholy and thoughtful.

"He's just obsessed with that man, Cal El," Lena says quietly. "I think he blames him for my father's death."

Kara listens, feeling tense. Other students have casually talked to her about Cal El, and she just pretends not to know him. Those students never speak about him personally, though. Kara knows her cousin and Lex Luthor have a past. Had Lena met Cal before? Did she know him?

Kara tries to play off the awkwardness by looking out over the field. The shack's windows are boarded up, the walls tilted. She thinks she can hear a kind of disembodied groaning.

"I don't know why," Lena continues. "What they said he did—they proved it with his wand. Everyone knows he killed—"

But Lena breaks off, picking at the wood of the railing with her nail. She's not wearing gloves, and Kara has to hold back from offering hers, from covering Lena's hands with her own.

"It happened at Christmas, you know?" Lena turns, head bowed. "There was a girl my age that died. I just feel—responsible somehow."

Kara watches Lena intently. She looks too sad, too burdened. Kara feels her expression pinching in confusion and concern. She knows who was responsible for what happened. She had been there.

"Why would you say that?" Kara asks.

"I just—I remember him leaving that day," Lena explains, oblivious to Kara's turmoil. "He said things would be different. I just wish I could've gotten him to stay. If I'd known—"

"You didn't do anything wrong," Kara states, placing a hand on Lena's arm.

"I think about her," Lena admits quietly. "I wonder what she would be like, if she'd be at Hogwarts."

Kara has a selfish desire to ask Lena what the girl's name was. She wants to hear her real name spoken aloud. She wants to remember, to fantasize about what it would even be like to be Zora El again. She also wishes she could tell Lena that she's standing right here. She's alive. There's no reason for her to be so sad.

But she feels the sandy quality of the Fidelius Charm heavy on her tongue, and ultimately she says nothing. Lena looks away, out and over the field.

"I hate this time of year," she says flatly.

Kara can't help but laugh slightly, and Lena looks at her in askance, a small smile curling at the corners of her mouth.

"Why are you laughing?"

"Sorry—I just know what you mean. I told you my parents," Kara says, her smile fading. "They died, too, around this time. It's been—" she falters, unable to say the exact time. "Years."

Kara remembers her hand on Lena's arm and removes it. Feeling an acute need to put it to use, she needlessly knocks a dusting of snow off the fence post.

"I'm—I'm just," Kara starts, finding the words difficult to say. She hasn't told anyone about this. Not even Alex. She feels ashamed of it.

"I'm starting to forget them," she sighs.

And it's true. Her parents are no longer the first thing she thinks of in the morning or the last before bed. She's forgotten little things, too; nuances to the way her mother smelled, how her father would look when she did something he didn't like. Had he raised his eyebrows when he was surprised? Did he sigh loudly or quietly when relieved? How had her mother worn her hair before work?

She has photographs, but looking at them, it isn't the same. They don't tell her if her mother liked Quidditch or if her father drank his coffee black. She may never know, all because her brain hadn't prioritized learning these details when she'd had the chance.

She doesn't look at Lena, staring pointedly at the fence post. She doesn't want to see any sadness or judgment, but she hears her voice, kind and gentle.

"Did she look like you?"

"Yes," Kara answers with a smile, meeting Lena's sad and thoughtful eyes, pleased the Charm allowed her to say as much.

"I can't remember my real mother," she tells Kara. "Not her face, just a sort of feeling."

"Did she look like you?"

Lena shakes her head. "I don't know. I don't have any photos."

Kara considers her words. Lena looks a bit like Lex, especially in the eyes, and she has mannerisms like her stepmother, but there is something altogether distinct about her, too. Something that stands apart from the rest of the Luthors. Deep-set eyes, a heavier brow. Imagining Lena's real mother, Kara is sure she's—

"I'm sure she was beautiful, too," Kara finds herself voicing aloud.

Lena only gives her a precious look while Kara coughs uncomfortably into her hand.

"So, you're from Ireland?" she says with a noticeable lack of cool.

Lena nods, allowing the lame attempt at subject change, and turns away from the Shack. She leans against the post.

"Siobhan Smythe and I live close together," she shares. "They say her family was cursed by a banshee."

"That would explain a lot."

Lena laughs lightly.

"And there's so much green there," Kara continues. "Perfect landscape for two Slytherins."

Lena makes a face, displeased.

"Isn't it though?" Kara argues.

Lena doesn't answer, still looking peeved. "Sometimes I think you don't like your own House."

"What's to like?" she counters. "There's not a dark wizard alive who wasn't a Slytherin," Lena impersonates in a thick, male sounding voice.

Kara laughs at the accuracy of it.

"Well at least they don't call you a doffer, that's what they say about Hufflepuffs."

Lena only smiles, unwilling to confirm or deny.

"So, you didn't want to be in Slytherin?"

The edges of Lena's smile turn down.

"Well, I—" she starts awkwardly. "I actually asked the hat to put me in Slytherin."

"Really? Why?"

Lena groans, like there are a thousand and one reasons.

"My mother would've killed me, for starters," she breathes. "Everyone in my family has been Slytherin."

"Well that's not fair," Kara grumbles. "The sorting hat didn't let me ask it anything."

"Have you seen yourself?" Lena teases. "There's no question, you are hopelessly a Hufflepuff."

"Hopelessly?" Kara says, aghast. "Are you calling me a doffer?"

Lena can't hide her laugh behind her hand, though she tries.

"I'm offended," Kara states.

Lena shrugs, pushing hair out of her face as a blast of cold wind whips between them. Kara's eyes catch on the glint of her 'L' ring in the white, snowy light, and, without thinking, she takes Lena's hand, turning over her fingers to look at the ring.

"Did your mother give you this?"

Lena doesn't move, almost like she's not even breathing.

"I—my father, I suppose," she says.

Kara nods, dropping her hand, but Lena takes a step closer. Kara's confused and a little overly excited at first. She tells herself 'DON'T MOVE' lest she end up splintered through the slanting walls of the Shrieking Shack. So she stays perfectly still, watching Lena lift a hand, the wind breezing between them. Kara realizes she can smell her, she's that close. She's not sure how she'd describe it, but it's somewhere between the fragrant rose bushes near the Herbology greenhouses and something deep and woody, like the Forbidden Forest during winter.

Lena reaches for Kara's neck, and she can feel her fingers, frigid and icy cold against her heated up skin, but it's only when they trace the edge of the thick silver chain around her neck that she realizes what's happening

"What's this?" she asks. "You always wear it—"

Kara jumps backwards. The House of El crest lies at the end of the chain. The symbol her cousin has been wearing on his chest like a beacon. Lena will surely recognize it. She can't see it.

Lena's fingers trip away from the chain, and a look of confused hurt flashes across her face. Kara adjusts her glasses awkwardly, not sure how to smooth the situation over.

"I think they're calling us back," she lies. "Are you ready?"

Lena nods, stiffening, and falls into step with Kara. They don't say anything as they walk the path back in silence. Lena occasionally rubs her hands together, and Kara sees that her fingernails are blue. She pulls her gloves off, offering them to her.

"It's fine," Lena answers with a sharp cut of her eye, still looking tense.

"Please take them," Kara begs.

Lena glances at them warily, as if they might bite.

"I didn't mean to jump backwards earlier. Your hand was freezing, it was very unpleasant," she tries to joke, even though she knows she did that well after Lena was touching her.

Somewhere in the back of her mind, she hates that she's such a liar. She hates the Fidelius Charm.

"They're not freezing," Lena defends, though her shoulders seem to relax a little. "You're just a furnace."

"You're right," Kara shrugs, a hopeful smile still on her face. "I don't need them like you do, so won't you?"

Kara urges her to take the gloves again, and Lena relents, snatching them with a roll of her eyes. She slips them over her hands.

"Maybe you are a doffer, Kara Danvers."

Maybe, Kara agrees.

Chapter Text

Fourth year.

Moving into second term, Kara tries to cultivate her burgeoning friendship with Lena. It's difficult without a shared common room, there isn't much of an opportunity to "accidentally" run into each other, but Kara finds Lena is often in the library. In fact, Kara's discovered a somewhat regular cadence.

Tuesdays and Thursdays in the evening.

Saturdays and Sundays in the morning, just after breakfast.

She adapts her schedule accordingly, hoping for overlap.

The first few times Kara spots Lena, face buried in a book at one of the large oak tables, she loses her nerve and chooses to stay hidden in the stacks. The next visit, however, she works up the courage to sit at the same table. When Lena looks up at the new visitor, Kara plasters a bright smile on her face and hopes for the best.

Lena returns the smile.

After that, Kara strikes up idle conversation, and they fall into a habit of doing much of their homework together. Working with Lena, the smartest witch in their class, Kara's marks have never been higher and her homework is always on time.

But her favorite part is that sometimes, on special days, Lena invites Kara to end their studying with a game of chess. Kara has never won, Lena almost always wrecks her, but somehow being thoroughly stripped of her dignity doesn't deter her from the encounters. In fact, she looks forward to them.

"You're getting better, I promise," Lena tries to console her.

"That's generous," one of the pawns taunts.

"Shut up," Kara mutters at him half-heartedly.

Sadly, she's used to the passionate abuse from Lena's chess set. The chess pieces have become well acquainted with the sight of her and almost always groan when she sits down, anticipating their forthcoming and violent ends. Unfortunately, this game is no different, and today will not be the day she gets to prove them wrong.

Kara surveys the board, lost and frantic.

"Priest to C5."

"Knight to C5," Lena says too quickly for Kara's liking.

Lena's knight takes the piece and begins to dismember him in a gruesome fashion.

"Hey!"

The black marble piece stares up at Kara, insolent in his attempt to pluck the last limb off of her priest.

"Just make it quick, you don't need to drag it out!" she shouts at him.

At the sound of raised voices, the librarian appears suddenly to Kara's left with a legendary shush. That surprise of it almost has Kara falling out of her chair.

"No games allowed!" Madam Grayson screeches. "You're disturbing the tranquility of the library!"

Kara and Lena hurriedly gather their things, Madam Grayson yelling "Out!" all the while. Kara would like to point out that the librarian is doing more to disturb the quiet than they ever did, but the librarian's gaze is so vindictive that Kara keeps her mouth shut.

"And I better not see you two together again! Or so much as a piece of that chess board!" she scolds their quickly retreating backs. "The library is for studying ONLY!"

They rush into the main hall, eager for relief from Madam Grayson's ear splitting verbal assault. As the door closes, they burst into a fit of laughter.

"I thought the window panes were going to shatter," Lena says.

"More like my ear drums," Kara giggles back.

Her smile fades, though, as she feels a flash of concern.

"Where will we study now?"

Lena merely shrugs, averting her eyes and pushing a strand of black hair behind her ear.

"I better get back to the dungeons," she says with a small smile. "See you later."

Kara watches her go, disappointment mounting. What was she going to do?

As she winds her way down to the Hufflepuff Common Room, she runs through a list of places they could study. The Room of Requirement springs instantly to mind, Lena would love it there. Kara's seen her eyes brighten in the presence of unexplained magic. She's seen her mind work to puzzle it out, the way someone might disassemble a watch, examining and reexamining every little cog and spring.

But her excitement wanes. Alex would never approve. Her sister barely tolerates the two of them together as it is, eyes always narrowed on Lena as if the less she can see of her, the better. She definitely wouldn't like Lena knowing anything that might expose Kara's secret. And what would Lena think, seeing the padded walls and the training dummies?

So, Kara wallows for a week, her outlook increasingly bleak as days pass, long and Lena-less. She worries that Lena will fade back into the obscurity of the school, that she will only see her by chance, as it had been before.

Moping in the court yard, she spots Alex and decides to wander over, dragging her feet and sighing heavily.

"To what do we owe the pleasure?" Alex asks tersely, Maggie Sawyer seated next to her on a stone ledge. "Not busy with your other half?"

"We were kicked out of the library," Kara replies glumly, toeing at a slushy pile of snow beside them. "Madam Grayson said we can't work together anymore."

"Oh, is that where you've been having your secret rendezvous?" Alex asks in a babying voice, grating on Kara's nerves. Her face must indicate as much because Alex laughs.

"I always thought you two were in the kitchens, you practically live there anyway."

It dawns on Kara; the solution to her problem.

Of course!

"Alex!" Kara says, face alight. "You're brilliant!"

She hugs Alex tight before rushing off.

"She's daft," she hears Alex huff to Maggie.

Kara almost trips on her robes in her rush to find Lena, banging into the library with a harsh push of the door. She hears Madam Grayson's sharp intake of breath at the offending sound, her quick step approaching, but Kara quickly darts off.

Avoiding the woman, she dodges in and out of the stacks until she spots Lena, alone and seated on the ground, green eyes cast upward in surprise.

"Madam Grayson said—" she starts.

"I know a place we can go," Kara interrupts excitedly.

She reaches for Lena's hand without further explanation, pulling her to her feet. Lena grabs her things, shouldering a book into her bag that looks like it weighs as much as a small Labrador, and they run off just before Madam Grayson can catch and berate them again.

Kara leads her to the kitchens, hands still clasped. She introduces Lena to a number of the house-elves, who bow reverently, before excusing themselves back to their work. Lena seems charmed by Kara's over familiarity, by her constantly running monologue about where they're from, what they do, and each of their personalities. There are so many, after all, nearly one hundred working in the kitchens, and it takes Kara several minutes to give Lena the full run down.

Meanwhile, Spotty, her favorite house-elf, directs them to a comfy pair of armchairs by a licking fire. They're surrounded by food; rolls, biscuits, sweets, fudge, pies, and treacle tart leftover from dinner. It's perfect. A sanctuary. A kind of heaven. Lena seems to like it, too, her eyes darting this way and that to watch the flurry of activity.

"I had no idea Hogwarts had house-elves," she comments. "It makes sense."

The question is on her tongue, does Lena have a house-elf? But Lena has already begun to set up the chess board between them, and Kara forgets to ask as Lena promptly annihilates her.

"Well, that was record time," Kara remarks, sagging back against the plush arm chair in defeat.

Her cat, Streaky, pushes and purrs against Lena's legs, and Kara has to resist calling him a traitor.

"I guess it wouldn't be the same if you weren't beating me here, too."

"We've christened the place," Lena smiles jokingly before packing away the loudly complaining pieces.


Over the coming months, they spend so much time in the kitchens that Kara's other friends begin to take notice. She becomes the recipient of many of Lucy's pointed looks of suspicion.

"You're never around, Kara," she accuses one night as they're tucking into bed. "Are you sure you aren't hiding? Are you snogging someone embarrassing?"

Kara snorts at that, cheeks flushed hot.

Kara Danvers does not snog, much less snog 'someone embarrassing.' And certainly not secretly.

Ha.

But the thought does make a spike of anxiety prickle across her chest.

While she knows she and Lena are not snogging, she does wonder if they are hiding. For instance, why had Kara become so afraid when they were kicked out of the library? Had she known that Lena, being so reserved in front of others, wouldn't want to be friends if they couldn't hang out in a private?

Even Alex had called it "secret," and it does bother Kara. What if Lena is embarrassed to be seen with her?

Kara tries not to parcel through the feeling too much. She wants to believe the absolute best of Lena. Maybe she's just shy, private. Spending time with her, Lena's edged out of her shell. Once wound tight, she's now relaxed. She smiles, and she jokes. She's kind and intelligent. Kara has worked hard to peel away the top layers of Lena's reserve. It falls away like something physical every time they walk into the kitchens, and Kara wouldn't give that up for anything.

After all, Lena's friendship is something dear to her, tenuous and delicate. She wants to protect and nourish it, the way she would one of her plants in the greenhouses. Lena with her emerald eyes and Kara with her warm, summer's glow, she's convinced they will become strong and tall.

Something stronger together.

One week before school year's end, they've shed their sweaters, the classrooms baked by spring sun. She and Lena linger in the hallway after Transfiguration, Kara having drawn her friend into some thoughtless conversation.

She can't even remember what she'd asked, barely following Lena's reply, because something is pulling within her at the idea of not seeing or speaking to Lena for a full summer. She wants to stall somehow, keep her near for as long as she can. She's gotten used to her company, even prefers it. It will be hard not to talk to her, not to see her every day. She doesn't want to do it.

Kara's mulls over the thought, feeling the need to stay close, when she registers Lena's look of polite confusion. Kara realizes her thoughts have manifested in movement, and she's stepped towards Lena, hand on her book bag.

"Will you write this summer?" she blurts out. "If I write you, too, I mean?"

Lena considers her, a look on her face Kara has seen many times before but never quite deciphered.

"Yes," she agrees, her voice as practiced and refined as ever.

Kara smiles, she can't help herself. She surges forward with the inevitability of a fast moving train. Nothing is stopping her.

She hugs Lena.

After a long few seconds, she pulls back, hoping she hasn't made Lena uncomfortable, but her friend doesn't look too bothered. She holds Kara by the elbows.

"Cool," Kara stammers. "I mean, brilliant—I mean, have a safe trip, you know, on the train."

Lena shoots Kara a humoring smile.


Lena keeps her promise. They write to each other; some things mundane, some things funny, and some things serious. Lena loves to write about little known facts. They could be about spells, magical beasts, or mythical places, things Kara imagines she comes across while reading one her many books. Kara enjoys it because, unlike Lucy, it's never meant to impress or show off. Lena simply wants to share.

But while she's charitable with her knowledge, she's much less so with facts about herself. Outside of their initial conversations, Lena rarely talks about her family. She doesn't describe her home or where she went to school before Hogwarts. Kara doesn't even know if she has pets. It's painful in a way for Kara, like hunger. She wants to know everything about Lena, insatiably so, and Lena feeds her tiny, bite sized amounts of information, and Kara files them away like an avid collector, but it never feels like enough.

On a late July afternoon, Lena's post owl meets Kara in the garden when she's alone and tending to her Dittany.

"Oh, hello, Angus," she greets with a smile.

He hoots happily.

He almost always arrives when Kara is by herself, so much that Kara has wondered if Lena has instructed him to do so. It feels paranoid, the feeling rising again that Lena is ashamed of her, but it doesn't exactly bother Kara if she thinks about it. She doubts Cal or Eliza would take kindly to her frequent correspondence with a Luthor. It's likely for the best.

He stretches his wings in the sunlight, and Kara thinks not for the first time that Angus really is an exquisite specimen. He's large, and his feathers are a deep and inky black with white marks and lines painted throughout. When he opens his wings like this, he looks like a small, feathery piano.

Kara reaches for the package in his talons, and he shifts from foot to foot excitedly. Hugo, the Danvers family owl, watches him with thinly concealed envy. Kara tries not to laugh, she doesn't want to bruise his pride. Instead, she opens the parcel and finds a late birthday present from Lena, a bouquet of bright yellow flowers and a handful of large, almond shaped seeds.

"I realized I missed your birthday when you mentioned it in your last letter, and I wanted to get you something," Lena writes. "The yellow flowers are called Colt's Foot, and they're native to Ireland. I thought you could plant them in your garden. They make highly effective shrinking solutions. And the seeds? You'll just have to grow them and find out."

Kara's eyes gloss over the words. She imagines Lena using one of her luxurious black quills to etch out her neat and small hand writing. She wonders where she wrote this letter. In her bedroom? In a living area? Outside? She wonders often about Lena's home, a place that is only ever referred to in the papers as "Luthor Manor."

She eagerly plants the seeds and quickly pens back a thank you. She probably uses far too many exclamation points.

But she doesn't hear from Lena again. The letters stop.

Kara's not sure why at first, and she sends a few short notes, to ask if Lena's okay, to simply check in, but there's still no reply. She frets over it for several days. That is until she sees the Daily Prophet a week later.


LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON
By Lois Lane, Staff Writer

The Department of Magical Catastrophe and the Auror Office joined forces with Cal El, famously imbued wizard, to track and apprehend Lex Luthor Monday afternoon. The surviving son of Lionel Luthor was charged earlier this week with multiple counts of murder and crimes against wizards, witches, and muggles. Attempting to flee law enforcement, Luthor was reportedly dragged away in blood stained robes, raving and screaming.

Two aurors were killed on the scene.

"He certainly put up a fight," Oliver Queen, Head auror, reports. "But he was no match for Cal El."

Sources say that Lana Lang was crucial in the capture of the Mockingbird. The Luthor family, now more infamous than ever, will face much scrutiny in the coming months over their potential involvement…


Kara looks up, staggered. She rereads the headline again. And again.

Sitting there, her shock becomes anger. And with whom, she's not quite sure. Herself for not keeping up with the news? Cal for never being home? Or the Danvers for not thinking this news might be important to her?

Lex had been charged a week ago. Why had no one told her? Was Cal really that much of a stranger to her? All she knew about him, she only knew through the newspaper, and she was sure Cal knew nothing about her in return. Like how this news might be relevant.

Kara rips through the rest of the paper. There are photos everywhere.

One frames Cal at the Luthor Manor, a grand building sitting high atop a cliff, the first time Kara's ever seen it. Another shows several spells hitting him in the chest to no affect. A third displays the earth erupting beneath his feet, bowling him over. Spells spark and fly in all directions. It's like one of Alex's duels, but worse. The front cover photo has Lex bruised and bleeding while he stares at Cal El, the hatred burning deep within his eyes.

She tries to contact Cal, but he never answers. She waits to hear from Lena, but a letter never comes.

Kara doesn't sleep well. She bites many of her nails down to the quick as she follows Lex's trial. Lena attends a hearing as a character witness.

She feels betrayed in an odd way, seeing her there in the Daily Prophet, a photo showing her in a glossy and polished chair, eyes cast downward as she speaks soundlessly. Betrayed that Lena is talking to a hearing, but not talking to her. Betrayed in the way that… does Lena think her brother is not a monster?

But then Kara thinks of Cal, of the way people have called him a freak. What would she do if it had been him who'd killed people? How would she act?

She knows that Cal and Lex are not the same, she knows it. But still. She wants to think the best of Lena.

LENA LUTHOR PAINTS LEX AS LOVING BROTHER, DEVOTED SON

ANOTHER LUTHOR, ANOTHER LIAR?

UNCONVINCING TESTIMONY, UNSURPISING OUTCOME

Despite his family's efforts, despite more money than a dragon's horde, Lex is condemned to thirty-seven life sentences in Azkaban.

Thirty-seven.

Kara thinks it an odd number.

And then the Daily Prophet and every other paper start printing her family's photos over and over again.

THE ONCE GREAT HOUSE OF EL

LUTHOR AND EL SEALED WITH BLOOD

It makes her skin crawl. She wonders how the newspapers have access to photos of her mother and father, her uncle and aunt. Cal stands in them, too, loose and relaxed. Sometimes they even print photos of her, smiling and blind to her fate.

It's painful to see her family, a constant reminder of loss, but it goes a level further. Kara's terribly worried to be recognized. She's hard to make out in the small photos and she looks so young, but what if?

Cal doesn't answer. Lena doesn't write.

It's been tense in the Danvers household, too. She can feel her sister's worried gaze following her everywhere, like an annoying shadow. Kara can tell she's trying to force her into conversation, but she ignores her. She even ignores Eliza. Instead, she spends more time than ever outside. When she's not on her broom, she's exploring with Streaky in the back lot. She even rereads Lena's old letters at night. She wonders what she missed. She wonders why Lena had never talked about Lex.

By the time the holiday is over, Kara's nerves are edged. When they arrive at Platform 9 ¾, she scans the crowd unceremoniously.

Will Lena be there? Did her mother take her out of school?

She's mid thought when her eyes light upon the dark haired girl. She's halfway down the train, a medium distance away. Everything goes still, quiet.

Then, Kara walks away from the Danvers without explanation. They're bent down, digging through Alex's trunk and don't see her leave.

"I packed it this morning," Alex cries, hurling items left and right. "Do you think I left it at home?"

Kara leaves them behind, weaving through the crowd, pushing past students and their families.

"Barry Allen's got a vampire bat in his compartment!" a second year shouts.

Kara doesn't care though. She closes the distance to Lena, and fortunately Lillian Luthor is not looking her way. The older woman is talking with Siobhan's Smythe's mother, whose daughter stands nearby, openly trying to garner the attention of Winn Schott.

"Winn!" she keeps hissing.

Winn looks more than a little confused, pointing questioningly at his chest. Kara capitalizes on everyone's relative distraction and moves right into Lena's space.

Their cloaks brush, and Lena turns sharply in surprise. Kara thinks she sees a flash of recognition followed by one of guilt, but Lena masks it. She looks somehow different than she had only a few months ago. Something like Cal, hard like stone. She looks paler, too, a beaten seashell white, but Kara can still see the tentative creature beneath. She can still see her friend in the way Lena's eyes soften.

Kara puts her hand on Lena's arm, only half of what she'd really like to do. She'd like to hug her.

"Hi," she says instead.

"Hello, Kara," Lena replies.

Her tone is stiffer, cooler and well-trained in the presence of her mother. Lena's eyes glance sideways, checking on her, but Lillian is still engaged in conversation. She doesn't pull away from Kara's hand, though. She doesn't step back.

"I'm sorry, you know," Kara says awkwardly. "About your summer."

Lena bites her lip, looking down and away.

Kara feels a stab of empathy for Lena, and the sounds of the platform suddenly swim around her. Younger students call out, robes ruffle with movement, the bells and horns of the train toll and whistle. She can hear snatches of conversation, too; Lucy Lane gloating about her sister's byline in the Daily Prophet, Siobhan teasing Winn, her words occasionally punctuated with shrill laughter. She can even hear Lillian's dropped voice, speaking whispered and hurried. Kara thinks she shouldn't be able to pick out the words so well, but she can.

"—are dangerous times," Lillian's saying. "This is only the beginning."

Kara feels disoriented. She tries to focus singularly on Lena. As she does so, everything else fades, Lena crisp and clear like a photo with blurred edges. There's a thumping Kara can't quite place, calm and continuous, before sound retreats back to a normal volume.

"No, I'm sorry—," Lena says, her voice shifted, now vulnerable and small. "I'm sorry I stopped writing to you. My mother—she didn't think I should talk to anyone."

Kara shakes her head.

"It's fine," she comforts easily. She squeezes Lena's arm. "Are you alright?"

"No, not really," Lena mumbles, the brightness in her eyes dulled. "It's just—it's been horrible, honestly. Everyone talking about him. The way they look at us."

Kara's about to speak, but a voice disrupts her concentration.

"There she is," it states, whispered and aggressive.

Confused, Kara casts her head around. It had been close by, maybe from behind them? It had sounded like a man.

She turns, scanning through the throng of people. She falters, eyes sharpening on two men with overly intent stares and clenched eyebrows. One has a hand buried in his robes, and the other has already produced a slip of wood, a wand.

Without conscientious thought, Kara steps bodily in front of Lena.

"Crucio!"

The curse hits Kara in the shoulder, and sharp pain blossoms there, causing all her muscles to tighten. It fades dully, but Kara doesn't think to fake a continued effect.

Lena screams something unintelligibly, grabbing at Kara's free hand, vicelike and jerking, but Kara doesn't feel it. Instead, her wand is out, her wrist flicking.

Protego!

Having performed the Shield Charm hundreds of times before, the movement is no different. Just the feeling. This time, Kara is afraid. Really afraid.

What if the man aims to kill? Even her shield won't block that.

Fear courses through her, and the shield she produces is so powerful, Kara can feel it beating out of her like a lifeblood. She feels it shudder from her heart to her hand to her wand. The air smells of burning, throbs with electricity.

The shield is normally invisible, but at this moment, it has a silvery physical manifestation. It pulses in front of Kara and Lena, twice their size in height and width, brilliant and lenslike. It knocks everyone on the other side of it backward, the resulting wind of it whipping Kara's hair.

Kara stares at it in awe, even though maintaining the shield feels a lot like wrestling a wildly bucking bull. It requires all of her focus, so she doesn't see Lillian Luthor turn to Lena and place her hand on her shoulder. All she sees is the second man's raised wands, the words mouthed,

"Avada Kadavra!"

Kara tenses as she sees the green light arch towards them. She feels Lena's hand, still grasped hard in her own, before everything turns inward, goes black.

The crowd is gone. The train is gone. The platform is gone.

She thinks she's dead at first, but that wouldn't explain the sensation. Kara feels pulled, as if stretched through the head of a needle, pressed very hard from all directions. There's a tightening in her chest, and she feels her eye balls pressed uncomfortably into her head. There's a loud crack, and Kara's standing on a black, marble floor.

She wobbles perilously. Then, she throws up.


A hand rubs between her shoulder blades, up and down. Kara blinks at her half processed breakfast. She wipes her face across her sleeve.

She's just Apparated for the first time in her life. She knows she did. And it was terrible.

"Are you quite done?" a cool voice says.

Kara rises, searching for the source. Lillian Luthor is looking serious and expectant a few steps away, and Lena stands next to her, one hand at her back, the other still gripping Kara's fingers.

She's alive, Kara thinks. We're alive.

Lena's green eyes are wide and unusual, though, like she's just seeing Kara for the first time. There's a shuffle at her feet, and a house-elf is already cleaning up the mess, muttering something about "besmirchment" and "taint."

Kara wonders distractedly what his name is.

A voice clears its throat impatiently, and Kara glances back up again, willing her stomach to settle.

"Who are you?" Lillian Luthor asks, more of an accusation than a question.

Kara wavers. She's never seen Lena's mother this up close and personal. Lillian is tall with an imposing regality. Her eyes are a crystal bottle green with flecks of grey and yellow. They're not like Lena's. Where Lena's are pensive and examining, hers are stark and deconstructive.

"Um," Kara squeaks, intimidated. "Kara. Kara Danvers."

"Danvers," Lillian repeats, gaze still penetrating.

Kara glances at Lena, who is staring hard at her mother, her face blank and carefully curated. But Lena is also squeezing Kara's hand so firmly it's almost cutting off circulation.

"Mother," Lena says warningly.

Kara notices Lillian's wand lifting.

"We were just attacked," she tells Lena, a justification. "We could've died."

The wand flicks with a whispered 'Legilimens!'

Kara feels a strange sensation wash over her. Memories dance behind her eyes, random and non-sequential. She's playing Quidditch with Alex, eating dinner with Eliza. She's laughing during a game of chess with Lena, she sees Lena's owl, wings outstretched in the sunlight. Lena's hands wind up the chain around her neck, there's a smattering of snow in her black hair. Kara smells her.

"Stop it," she hears Lena snap, and the images halt. "She's telling the truth."

Kara takes an uncomfortable breath, trying to understand what's just happened. She feels like she might be sick again.

"She's just a classmate."

Lillian's severe eyes flick to Lena, the barest smirk playing her lips.

"Just a classmate?" she challenges, gazing down at Lena's hand in Kara's, the hand at her back.

Lena drops her hands under the scrutiny, and Kara feels destabilized without her.

"She saved our lives."

"I saved our lives," Lillian replies sharply. "And you brought her here. What were you thinking?"

It's the first time Kara thinks to look around. Where is 'here?'

They're clearly in an entry hall, but it's bigger than the Danvers entire house, maybe their entire property. The floor Kara had just vomited on is black marble with specks of white and gold, and it's so shiny, she can see her face reflected in it. The walls are black, too, but textured and rocky, as if carved from stone. They're lined with luxurious gold crown molding. There are several moving portraits of varying sizes with expensive and gaudy frames, many of its participants watching her with haughty and critical expressions.

It's easily the most extravagant room Kara's ever seen.

Her ears perk up at the sound of a crashing wave, and she turns to find floor to ceiling windows all along the other wall, the glass so clean and clear, it looks like open air. Outside the windows, there's a breathtaking view. Impossibly green hills rise and fall on one side while dark water slams against jagged rocks on the other. It feels like they are high up.

Luthor Manor, Kara thinks.

She chills at the thought.

"Like you said, we were under attack," Lena replies, barbed. "I wasn't thinking."

"Finally," Lillian snipes. "A little honesty."

Kara hears the loud click of heels, and she turns back to watch Lillian snatch up a heavy looking crystal tumbler. She slams a matching glass down on a golden tray and pours several inches of thick, amber liquid.

Fire Whiskey? Kara wonders.

Lillian throws the drink into the back of her throat. Her head turns and her eyes drift down Kara's figure, lingering on her black and yellow robes. She makes a disapproving noise, curls a lip as she swallows.

"A Hufflepuff hasn't been in this house in a decade," she clips. "And not to mention… a blonde."

Kara's eyes widen. She has no idea what her House and her hair color did wrong. Lena covers her face with a hand.

"Danvers," Lillian continues in a droll tone, flicking her wrist, the ice clinking against the glass. "That's an all wizarding family, isn't it?"

Kara nods.

"Satisfied?" Lena asks.

Lillian's eyes snap back to her daughter as if to say, "Not nearly."

But before she can voice the thought, there are several loud cracks and pops, muffled as if they may have come from outside. Moments later, violent banging echoes down the hall, resonating from a pair of giant stone doors.

"Just a moment, mistress," the house-elf informs Lillian in a gravelly voice, bowing low. Lillian ignores him with a great roll of her eyes.

The banging resounds, and the elf makes his way to the doors. Kara's convinced there's no way he'll be able to move them. They're colossal and look like they weigh a metric ton, but the elf manages drag them open just enough to let a man shout through a very slim crack.

"Step aside, elf!"

The voice sounds male and aggressive. Kara has a scared thought. What if its Cal? The house-elf makes no movement, though, eying the unseen visitors stubbornly.

"The mistress is not home."

Kara's eyes roam over doors. There are several black scorch marks marring the ornate carvings. She wonders what caused them, how many times wizards have forced entry into Luthor Manor.

"Just let them in," Lillian barks with another slam on the serving tray.

Looking reluctant, the house-elf opens the door more fully and several witches and wizards storm inside.

"Kara!" a woman shouts.

It's Eliza, her adoptive mother, and she sprints to Kara, squeezing her in a painful hug. Over her shoulder, Kara watches the other wizards scowl at Lillian and Lena, menacing with wands clutched tightly in their fists.

"Are you alright? Are you hurt?" Eliza asks, running a hand over Kara's hair, her face.

"No, I'm fine," Kara says.

Why did Eliza look so worried and so relieved? Suddenly, Kara remembers the Killing Curse. It had been aimed right at them.

She squeezes Eliza's hand as her mother takes it. Eliza turns to face Lillian, her face more rigid, her tone less familiar as she speaks.

"Thank you, Lillian," she says in a tense voice. "We'll be going now."

Lillian merely holds her glass, still and statuesque. She reminds Kara of Lena, then, but with an aged veneer, a dark and storied depth. Before, Kara had never met anyone like Lena, but this woman… she's like her. In all the worst ways.

"Come on," Eliza whispers, tugging Kara back towards the stone door.


The other witches and wizards follow, looking put out that there wasn't more of a fight, leaving with begrudging glances. Kara manages one last look over her shoulder at Lena, who disappears behind the slate grey doors, that strange expression still on her face.

Having missed the Hogwarts Express, Eliza elects to use side-by-by side Apparition to get Kara back to school. She explains that's what had happened on Platform 9 ¾; when Lillian had Apparated and Lena had been holding Kara's hand, Kara had come with them, too.

However, this understanding doesn't lesson Kara's trepidation as she takes Eliza's arm. Last time, she had thrown up. But this time, when they arrive in Hogsmeade with a loud crack, she manages to bite it back, a small miracle. Altogether, Kara decides she much prefers a broomstick when it comes to travelling.

She and Eliza walk the rest of the way to Hogwarts, Eliza filling Kara in. Apparently, one of the attackers had been related to an Auror Lex had murdered, and another had owed the Luthors a great debt. After Lena, Lillian, and Kara had Disapparated, they'd been stunned and arrested.

"I can't believe they used the Killing Curse," her adoptive mother recounts grimly. "They could've hit any child on that platform."

"Will they go to Azkaban?" Kara asks, thinking again of Lex and his thirty-seven life sentences.

"I hope so."

They walk the rest of the way in relative silence. The journey takes so long that the moon is high in the sky by the time they arrive at school. Her mother leaves her with another bone crunching hug and a promise to write.

"Be careful, Kara," she muffles into Kara's hair.

Kara nods with a weak smile and shuffles inside the great oak doors, lamenting deeply about having missed dinner. She hopes desperately that there will still be scraps of food left in the kitchens, but before she can check, she finds Alex waiting for her, looking red eyed and frayed.

At the sight of Kara, Alex rushes forward and pulls her hard into a hug. Then, almost as soon as she lets go, she swats Kara in the back of the head.

"Ah!" Kara cries out in pain.

"What were you thinking, walking off like that and talking to Lena Luthor?" her sister scolds. "You could've died!"

"I thought we agreed," Kara huffs. "No more hitting!"

"Well, you really deserved it this time."

Kara sighs deeply, too tired to argue.

"It's not your job to protect her," Alex informs her brusquely.

Kara looks down at her shoes.

"I didn't plan on doing it, it just happened."

"The whole bloody school saw that Shield Charm, Kara. There's a scorch mark where that Killing Curse hit the train. Everyone's talking about it."

Kara pushes her glasses up her nose as they threaten to slip down further, her head still bowed. The day has left her exhausted and brain dead. She doesn't know what to tell her sister.

"Cal Apparated onto the platform just after you left," Alex continues darkly. "I thought he was going to kill those men."

"I thought—I thought," Kara stutters, her voice trembling. "He came to Luthor Manor. But it was just—"

She breaks off at the memory.

"Is that where they took you?" Alex asks.

Kara nods.

"Blimey," Alex says, sighing hugely. "You at Luthor Manor. If they knew… Well, it would've given you away, don't you think? If Cal El had showed up?"

Kara shrugs. "I don't know."

"You two kind of look alike," Alex adds, indicating the area around Kara's eyes. "No one's ever seen you side by side. I bet the last thing he'd want would be Lillian Luthor seeing you both together and asking why he was making a personal house call."

Kara shudders, thinking of Lillian and her shrewd eyes living in that house high atop the cliffs. She remembers the black scorch mark on the stone doors. She wonders if that had been a missed Killing Curse, too.

"She was scary," she remarks.

"I bet," Alex says with a dark laugh.

"She did something funny to me when I was there," Kara tells her. "Lena—she was holding my hand, and I wasn't supposed to go with them, and Lillian, well, it felt like she read my mind."

Alex's laugh dies, her face becoming serious.

"She probably did. There are spells for that, you know."

Kara cast her gaze back to the floor. She thinks about what Lillian saw. She wonders if she does it to Lena, too.

"I'm think I'm going to go to bed," she informs Alex.

"Okay," Alex replies, still looking uneasy. "But come sit with me tomorrow at breakfast?"

"Okay."


The next morning, Kara wakes early, roused by a bad dream. Lucy dresses near her bedpost, watching Kara indiscreetly as she moves to the edge of her bed, throwing her glasses wearily onto her face.

"My sister says you better have a look at the paper today," Lucy tells her mysteriously.

Kara only grumbles.

Disheveled and worse for wear, she makes her way down to the breakfast and slumps into a chair next to Alex at the Gryffindor table. Several of the students shift uncomfortably, their eyes flicking over her.

"I feel like everyone is looking at me," Kara mutters to Alex.

"That's not a feeling, Kara, that's a fact," Alex replies flatly.

Fortunately, a rushing sound overhead alerts them to a hundred or so owls streaming into the Great Hall, and Kara enjoys the momentary distraction.

"The Daily Prophet should be interesting this morning," Alex says as a rolled up newspaper drops down from the ceiling, landing in front of Kara's fried eggs.

She reaches for it, unrolling the crinkled and yellowed parchment. She flattens it out, her eyes falling to the front page, and she gasps.

It's her.

She blinks and smooths a thumb over the page to make sure it's real.

"Merlin's pants, Kara," Alex whispers, looking at the newspaper over her shoulder.

On the very front page, a magical photo depicts Kara standing on Platform 9 ¾, wand out and producing an impossibly large Shield Charm. It shimmers in front of she and Lena, braced behind her, while Lillian Luthor stands there astonished, a far cry from the cold rigidity Kara had met at Luthor Manor.

LUTHORS ATTACKED AT KING'S CROSS, the headline reads.

But Kara can only gawk, gobsmacked. She's never seen herself in the paper. She's seen Zora El, sure, but not Kara Danvers.

She glances at Alex, her face contorted in panic, but as she opens her mouth to speak, two more envelopes flutter down from the ceiling.

"Dragons, Kara, how much mail are you getting?"

Ms. Kara Danvers, the first one reads.

The Great Hall

Gryffindor Table

Confused, Kara slides her finger under an official looking seal and slips the letter free.

"Dear Ms. Danvers, the Ministry received intelligence that you performed the Protego Charm at twenty-seven minutes past ten yesterday morning on Platform 9 ¾, King's Cross, London. We must remind you that underaged witches are not permitted to perform spells outside of school grounds, and any future violations may result in your expulsion from Hogwarts School of Witchraft and Wizardry (Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery, 1875, Paragraph C).

Yours Sincerely

Daphne Francis

Improper Use of Magic Office

Ministry of Magic"

Kara reads and rereads the letter, clutching the parchment tightly in her hands.

"Let me see that," Alex says, snatching it from Kara's grasp.

Kara presses a hand to her temple, an unfamiliar sensation swelling in her chest. She feels… she feels… angry. She'd been protecting Lena, why was that against the law? First she's in the paper, and now she's being reprimanded by the Ministry of Magic. This was totally unfair.

But before she can get too riled, she hears a hiss. She smells a wisp of smoke.

Kara stares down at the second letter. It's different than the others. The envelope parchment is a deep blood red, and the letter trembles with a scarcely controlled rage. It's even begun burning at the corners.

"Well, this is total bullocks—" Alex says, finishing the letter, but she looks down, sees the red envelope, and swears loudly.

"Uh oh," James Olsen hoots from further down the table. "Kara's got a Howler!"

Kara blanches.

Unfortunately, she knew what a Howler was. Eliza had sent one to Alex last year, just after Kara had been injured in Quidditch, and Kara had heard each and every word with crystal clarity, even three tables over.

"YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO PROTECT HER!" it had screamed. "I DIDN'T LET YOU SPEND ALL SUMMER LONG GALLIVANTING AROUND ON THAT OVERPRICED BROOMSTICK JUST TO LET YOUR SISTER HURTLE THROUGH A ROCK-SOLID WALL. IF YOU DON'T TAKE BETTER CARE, KARA WON'T BE THE ONLY ONE BANNED FROM QUIDDITCH."

Alex had been mortified.

"You'd better open it," her sister says with foreboding, pulling her food away as if to protect it from an incoming blast.

"But who sent it? There's no return address," Kara questions. "And it can't have been Eliza. I saw her yesterday, and she wasn't mad."

Alex shrugs, plugging her ears with her fingers. Kara hesitates, and several nearby Gryffindors clap their hands over their ears, too.

Then, the letter detonates.

An awful, disembodied voice rings out so loudly that every plate, goblet, fork, and spoon rattles in the Great Hall.

"DO

NOT

FORGET

YOUR

PROMISE.

STAY

AWAY

FROM

THE LUTHORS."

It tapers off, echoing off the walls and ceiling for another few terrible seconds. Then, the remaining shards of parchment burst into flame, charring a blackened hole on the varnish of the table top.

Kara sits there in shock, a dead silence descending over the hall. If every student hadn't been looking at her before, they were certainly looking at her now. She keeps her eyes down, watching the last orange smoldering bits of paper.

Kara had known that voice. It hadn't even sounded human, much less like a man, but she'd recognized Cal.

She fists her hands, feeling the emotional response from earlier, huge and rippling like a building wave.

What did Cal want her to do? Let Lena get hurt? Let her die? Was she supposed to just stand by and lose another person she cared about for the sake of her stupid fake identity?

She stands suddenly, slamming her palm and smearing the ash across the table. Alex leaps back in surprise, but Kara doesn't notice. She's thinking about how Cal isn't her father, how he's not even her brother. He's just her stupid cousin. Her stupid cousin that got them both exploded and parades around in an outfit and calls himself a defender of the people. And now he's telling her to remember herself, remember the Fidelius Charm, like she even has a choice to forget it?

The emotion peaks, the wave crests. She kicks out and away from the table and storms past the long row of gaping students, some of whom are now openly whispering about her.

"Kara!" Alex says, struggling to get to her feet. "Kara!"


Kara does not enjoy her new celebrity status at the school. She does not meet the hopeful eyes of her fellow students, eager to ask questions, like she's some sort of gossip columnist. In fact, she does everything she can not to listen her name spoken in hushed whispers, along with "Luthor" and "platform" and "almost murdered." But, somehow, her hearing is better than ever, and she catches every murmured speculation.

For instance, she can hear a pair of Ravenclaws on the marble stairs, huddled and discussing the Howler she'd received. They think it had been from her father as all they can agree on is that it sounded 'distinctly male' and 'very angry.'

It's uncomfortable, going about her classes this way. The Hufflepuffs give her the benefit of the doubt, but a wide berth nonetheless. The Slytherins beam pride at her, shooting her smiles and jolting claps on the back. But the Gryffindors… outside of Alex and her friends, they had turned remarkably cold towards Kara. They seemed to think she was in the business of harboring dark wizards, even though Lena was nothing of the sort.

And then there's Lena herself, the reason she'd gotten herself into this mess, but it's just her luck that the one person she'd like to see, she has barely seen at all.

Kara looks for her in the hallways, between classes, and at the library, but Lena's regressed back to her first year tactics. She's impossible to find. And when Kara does see her, she's either occupied or surrounded by Slytherins. She never looks Kara's way, her capacity for stoicism reaching previously undiscovered heights.

And it doesn't feel like first year. Something feel different. Something feels intentional. Was Lena avoiding her?

Experimentally, she calls out to Lena one day after History of Magic. Lena doesn't turn to answer, not even when Kara calls out again. Lena doesn't acknowledge her in the slightest.

It puzzles Kara. She hadn't been mad before, had she? Was it because of the Howler? How had they gone from spending nearly every day together, writing letters, and saving each other's lives to this?

Feeling downright miserable, Kara resolves to get an answer from her, even if involves waylaying Lena on the seventh floor, just as other students are breaking for lunch.

Through the crowd, Kara spots the jet black hair, the green Slytherin robes. Quickly and quietly, she navigates her way to stand just in front of Lena. Lena starts at the sight of her and makes a belated attempt to sidestep Kara, but Kara blocks her path, and they almost crash into each other. Kara places a steadying hand on Lena's arm, but Lena pulls away sharply, looking suddenly very cross.

"Can we please talk?" Kara whispers to her. Lena's jaw goes tight, her eyes bouncing around the hallway, over the curious eyes of passing students.

"I have to study," she says briskly, though Kara thinks it's an awfully predictable excuse.

"Please," Kara replies, stepping in front of her again as Lena tries to go around her.

Lena huffs, straightening to her full height, which is still much shorter than Kara.

"Well, I'm not talking to you here with everyone staring," she says in a quiet, irritated rush. "And I'm not going to the kitchens, that's halfway across the castle."

Kara falters at the antagonism in Lena's voice. She's never heard her speak so sharply, certainly not to Kara, and it throws her. She just wanted to talk. She needed somewhere to talk to her. Where could they go?

"Well, I—I—" Kara stammers, but Lena's gaze has fallen on the wall just behind her.

"Has that door always been there?" she asks, her eyebrows pinched.

Turning, Kara flushes with relief.

"Oh, yes. Let's go in."

"What? But it could be a broom closet—" Lena protests, but Kara has already thrown the door open and walked inside.

"Where is this?" Lena asks, perplexed as she follows, eyes gazing around the room.

Having wanted to show Lena the Room of Requirement on multiple occasions, Kara brims with excitement. When she looks around, however, the room is different.

Rather than a training room with padded walls and spellbooks on defensive and offensive spells, it's much smaller. There's a cozy fire with two comfortable chairs, a chess set sitting between them. There's a kettle of tea boiling over the flames. Multiple bookshelves line the walls, similar to the library, and the ceiling is adorned with Hufflepuff and Slytherin hangings. A solid-looking study table sits in the middle of the room.

Kara is baffled.

"I—" she starts, shooting a bewildered look at Lena, but Lena merely turns to scrutinize her with that same annoyed expression. Kara can see that muscle in her cheek flex, the one that means she's angry.

"Are you—are you angry with me?" Kara asks, cutting to the point.

Lena shakes her head, too sharply, confirming Kara's suspicions. She turns on her heel, inspecting several of the books on the shelf.

"You don't have to lie," Kara informs her, a bit cross herself.

Lena whirls back around.

"Me?" she says indignant. "Lie? What about you?"

"What?" Kara asks, her annoyance being replaced by confusion.

Lena stares at her, unblinking and severe, altogether too reminiscent of her mother.

"You're magically resistant," she states with an air of finality.

"What?" Kara says again, feeling her heart rate jump. "No, I'm not."

"Really?" Lena questions, her eyes narrowing. "I was there when Cal El took my brother. I know what it looks like."

Kara stands there in shock, saying nothing. Lena pulls her wand from her robes, and Kara takes a breath, fighting back the urge to reach for her own.

Lena is her friend. She trusts her. Lena wouldn't—?

"So, if I could silently cast a spell," Lena starts, and Kara feels herself go numb.

Silent spells were something students usually couldn't do until their sixth or seventh year. Even Alex couldn't cast silently yet. If Lena were to cast something silently, Kara might not know how to emulate its effect.

"Like you did on the platform—"

"I didn't cast a silent spell on the platform," Kara stammers.

Had she, though? Kara tries to think back. She'd thought the word hard, and she'd said it aloud. Right? She can't remember.

"Kara," Lena says, still holding her wand at her side. "I was standing right behind you. I saw you produce that shield without saying a word. And I saw the Cruciatus Curse hit you. You barely flinched."

Kara opens her mouth in protest, but words fail her. She feels the first tremor of fear. Where was Lena going with this? What was she getting at?

"If I silently cast a spell, would you know what the effect was? Or would you be faking it?"

Kara's face falls.

"I can explain."

"By all means," Lena replies bitterly, stowing her wand back into her robes.

"It's because," Kara starts, but a familiar sensation makes her bite back.

The Fidelius Charm.

"It's because," she tries again stubbornly. She conjures a slew of different ways to phrase her answer, but she can't seem to get the words out. How can she explain why she's magically resistant without confirming that she is?

Her jaw works furiously, she grits her teeth. Even her hands start to tremble, but all versions of the truth stall in her mouth. Nothing is allowed.

"What?" Lena prompts impatiently.

She doesn't understand, Kara thinks in anguish.

"I—" Kara can only stutter impotently. "I'm—"

"I'm not stupid, Kara," Lena interrupts her.

"I know that—"

"I mean, I knew there were things you weren't telling me. You never talk about yourself, not really. At first, I thought you were just shy," she continues, beginning to briskly pace the room.

Kara's eyebrows furrow. Lena thought she was shy?

She watches the firelight dance in Lena's light green eyes, she sees hurt flash across Lena's face. Kara wants to tell her that it's not about her, she'd never lie to her if she could help it, but she can't.

"But you're not, Kara. You're not shy. I swear, you only ever shut up when you're eating and you're so easy to read sometimes, I think there's no way you could ever keep a secret."

The way Lena words it, it should be mean, but somehow Kara hears a stilted affection. Lena's face shifts to something else, though, something Kara might characterize as pain or heartbreak. Kara's chest tightens at the sight, and she hears that strange thumping again. This time it's fast and erratic. It does nothing to calm her.

"But you are," she says, meeting Kara's eyes again. "You are lying to me."

"Lena—" Kara interjects again. She doesn't want her to finish, and she's not sure if it's the Charm's influence or her own.

But Lena isn't daunted. She's never given up on anything, and for once, Kara wishes she would.

"You always spend Christmas here with me," she continues, "but you don't say exactly when your parents died. I heard Lucy talking about how you have nightmares, that you call out to your parents. You talk about a man—" Kara thinks she might kill Lucy and her big mouth. "—And you look—"

Lena stops pacing for a moment, breathing heavily. "You look so much like her."

For a moment, Kara doesn't breathe.

"Who?" she asks.

Lena's eyes shine in a strange way, a shadow of the look she'd been giving Kara at Luthor Manor. Was she figuring it out then?

She fishes in her bag, and she drops a rolled up parchment on the surface of the study table in the middle of the room. Kara unrolls it to find a dated issue of the Daily Prophet. On the cover, it sports the photo Kara has come to hate, the one of her murdered family.

Kara stares at it, almost wanting to cast it into the fire, but the paper looks worn and wrinkled, faded in spots where Lena must've clutched it, looking closely. Lena steps nearer to her, the closest they've been since the platform, and drops a finger to the page, indicating one of the faces.

Kara had thought she would point at 'Zora El', Kara as a girl. Instead, Lena's finger hovers over Alura El, honeyed blonde and bright blue eyed.

"You were right," Lena states. "She does look like you."

Kara takes a breath, feeling her eyes prickle hotly. She's surprised Lena remembers that conversation. It had been almost a year ago. Her eyes trace the photo, and she can see it, too. She and her mother have the same hair, the same brow, the same nose.

It makes Kara feel the old hurt, the hurt that meets her late some nights, the one that is never really gone. Distracted, she doesn't think to move away as Lena reaches up and removes her glasses.

"Do you even need these?" Lena asks, holding the black rimmed spectacles between her thumb and forefinger.

Kara stares at her, and she realizes it's the first time they've looked at each other unfiltered, without the frames between them. It makes Kara feel exposed. She feels seen by Lena, seen in a way that no one has seen her before, and given their current conversation, given that Lena is seeing something no one else has, it makes fear rise like bile in her throat.

The sounds of the room roar; the crackling fire, the bubbling water, the slight movement of the tapestry hangings, that beating sound.

Get a grip, Kara thinks.

She rushes to take her glasses back from Lena, shoving them over her ears and back into place. She tries to collect herself, flipping over the newspaper. She doesn't want to see them. She doesn't want to see her.

"Of course I need them," she replies quickly, forcing a smile onto her face. She tries to blink back her tears.

Lena merely takes a breath as if disappointed, Kara's smile more like a blow than a comfort.

"Why didn't you tell me?" she asks, a note of betrayal in her voice. "How could you—why did you protect me if you—?"

Lena pauses, looking at Kara expectantly, wanting an answer, wanting the truth.

"I can't—" Kara replies, taking several steps away from her.

"You acted like you didn't know anything about my family," Lena continues, the anger reasserting itself in her tone. "You came to my house. My mother—she saw you. If she knew—or Lex—"

Kara still doesn't look at her.

"Has anything you've said to me been real?"

Kara turns at that.

"Yes," she says, but without being able to elaborate, she knows it must sound hollow.

Lena looks back at her with a mounting sense of despair.

"I thought you were different. Everyone always wants something from me. What do you want?"

"Lena, I don't want—"

"Were you only pretending to be my friend?"

"Of course not," Kara replies desperately, but Lena is already shaking her head.

Kara reaches out to touch her, to comfort her, but Lena quickly steps back.

"You don't trust me. You must've thought," she says taking another shaky pause. "Luthor."

"No, that's not it," Kara pleads. "I want—I'm—you—I wish—" she stutters powerlessly.

There are so many things Kara wants to say.

She wishes Lena wasn't mad at her. She wishes her parents had never been murdered by Lena's father. She wishes she could tell Lena that she doesn't blame her, not even a little.

"Please," Kara chokes out. "You're not a Luthor—I mean, you are, but you're just Lena to me. And I like you. I've always wanted to be your friend."

But the glassy look in Lena's green eyes tells her that Lena doesn't hear her, that it's not enough. The pain transforms, hardening by the second, like white hot metal cooling in water.

"We're not friends," Lena states finally, her jaw set, her expression closed off. "I can't trust anything you say."

She swings her bag over her shoulder, leaving the newspaper on the table.

"And I am a Luthor, and you're—" she pauses painfully, uncertainly. "I don't even know who you are."

She turns, reaching for the door.

"Lena, wait," Kara calls after her.

But without a backwards glance, Lena leaves the Room of Requirement, and the fast, thudding sound abruptly silences. Kara is left alone.

Chapter Text

Fifth year.

Lena doesn't come to Kara's next Quidditch match. Kara repeatedly flies by the Slytherin stands, but she never sees the gleam of black hair. The cold wind whips her face, and it's just as painful as the truth she's forced to confront.

Kara will never be able to tell her secret.

No matter who it is. No matter how badly she wants to.

She has dreams, fantasies, where they make up, where they're friends again. She always wakes with the same determination. She'll make things better today. She'll make things right. She'll find a way, but… a solution never comes. Because how is she supposed to apologize with the Fidelius Charm blocking her at every turn? There is literally nothing she can say. Lena wants the one thing Kara's incapable of giving: honesty, the truth. And without it, she won't come back.

It feels like she's lost something, everything, all over again.

She goes through the motions, anyway. She carefully tends to her plants in the greenhouses. She spends more time at the top of the Astronomy Tower, learning the names of the stars, planets, and moons. She likes being alone and immersed in the inky black vastness, silvery stars twinkling down on her. It makes her feel small, her problems inconsequential. She thinks about the meteor that gave her and Cal extraordinary powers. She wishes she could give them back.

Regardless, the sun keeps rising, the world keeps spinning, but Lena Luthor is still not her friend.

Instead, Lena is careful to avoid Kara's eye in the corridors, she never lingers after class. Now that she knows, it's clear she doesn't want to be alone with her. It's painful. She acts like a stranger. Like the night sky Kara studies, Lena is made of shadows, something that flits on the edge of her periphery until she looks fully, and then Lena disappears.

It's not just her she avoids, though. Outside of her own House, Lena is a pariah because of Lex. She's constantly the victim of hallway and courtyard jinxes. Kara hates it, especially when students only attack when her back is turned. Kara tries to shield her when she can, but she doesn't catch them all. Lena misses two days in late April because of a nasty Knee Reversal Hex. She even stops taking breakfast because of the number of Howlers she gets from anonymous witches and wizards. Kara gets them, too, thanks to that Daily Prophet front page.

"LUTHOR LOVER!" has been shouted at her too many times from a singed red envelope.

It all makes Kara wish she could bring Lena food in the morning, even walk with her to class. No one would mess with her then. Not when they'd seen Kara's Shield Charm. Not when half the school knew of Alex's dueling prowess.

But she sighs. Lena doesn't want her help. Lena doesn't want anything to do with her.

"Earth to Kara," Alex says, waving a hand in front of her face.

"Sorry?"

"I said, show me that bit again?"

Kara nods distractedly and repeats the movement for Alex. They'd been practicing in the Room of Requirement for the last hour, working on Alex's blocking though not making much progress.

Alex imitates her, shouting a hoarse "Protego!"

A very small shield surfaces briefly from the tip of her wand.

"Damn it," Alex curses. "I have got to learn to block. Veronica Sinclair keeps getting me in the hall, and I've had Madam Martin remove a pig's tail three times."

"You'll get it," Kara encourages.

"I'm going to hex that snake right off her," Alex grumbles.

Kara peers over at her. Alex has been in a grumpy mood for most of the week, and Kara tries to think of something that might cheer her up.

"Do you want to see something cool?"

"Of course," Alex replies, stowing her wand in her pocket.

"Alright," Kara jumps on the balls of her feet excitedly.

She positions three dummies in the middle of the room, and with a series of several flicks and shakes of her wrist, she casts shields simultaneously in front of all three dummies.

"Kara," Alex says, wowed. "That's wicked."

"Right?" Kara replies, pleased. "I haven't tried to test how far I can do them, but I can definitely make several at once."

"I didn't even know that existed," Alex says with a slightly suspiciously look. "You haven't used it in front of anyone, have you?"

Kara doesn't respond. She doesn't want Alex to know she discovered this while trying to protect Lena from three concurrent curses. Instead, she silently tries to disarm one of the dummies.

Expelliarmus! she shouts in her mind. Her wand merely fizzles.

"Cal wouldn't like it, you know that."

"I don't care what Cal thinks," Kara replies irritably.

Expelliarmus! she thinks hard again, becoming purple in the face at the effort. Her wand sparks.

"Is that why you've been so sulky?" Alex asks.

"I haven't been sulky."

"Is it about Lena?"

"Expelliarmus!" Kara finally shouts in frustration. The spell blasts the dummy backwards, and its fake wand flies across the room.

Alex lifts an eyebrow. "So, yes."

"No, it's not about Lena," Kara responds testily, wiping her hands. "It's not about anything."

She walks away from the training area and hurls herself moodily onto the couch.

After all, she can't tell Alex what's happened. Alex would tell Cal that Kara's cover had been blown, and then Cal would find and obliviate the memory of Kara from Lena's mind. Or worse.

STAY AWAY FROM THE LUTHORS, Kara remembers. Cal would be beyond furious if he knw. And she couldn't do that to Lena. She did trust her.

Alex watches Kara, a skeptical expression poised on her features.

"Well, you two haven't looked too chummy lately."

"Yeah, well, I guess—" Kara sighs loudly. "She doesn't want to be my friend, okay?"

Alex frowns and moves to sits next to Kara on the couch, the cushions dipping.

"Want me to hex her? I can hex her for you."

"No," Kara shakes her head, covering her face with an arm. "Please don't hex her, Alex. It's hard enough as it is trying to block them all."

"So you have been using that multi-shield spell," Alex accuses, poking Kara hard in the leg.

Kara cries out in protest, leaning back against the cushions to avoid another jab.

"Why?" Alex asks, disbelieving. "Why do you protect her?"

"Just because she doesn't want to be my friend," Kara states dejectedly. "Doesn't mean I want people to hurt her. She doesn't deserve it."

"She's a Luthor, I think she deserves it."

Kara sighs with exasperation.

"What if it had been me, Alex?" she challenges. "What if I went mad one day and blew up a city block? Would you still love me? What if it had been your dad who'd killed my family?"

Alex draws her legs up to her chest, still looking mutinous but somewhat chastised.

"Her brother and her dad," Kara continues, taking a breath. "You can't help who you're related to. You can't help who you—who you love."

Kara swallows thickly, looking at the fibers of the couch. Alex shrugs noncommittally, toying with one of her shoe laces. Kara shoots her a wary look.

"Please don't hex her."

"I make no promises."

Kara levels Alex with a serious gaze.

"Don't do it," she warns, though a smile threatens to overcome her. "If you do, you'll force me to use the one jinx I've learned."

Alex's eyebrows shoot up.

"Kara Danvers," she says in feigned surprise. "You've learned a single jinx? For me?"

"Yes, and I'll use it," Kara says seriously. "Want a preview?"

Alex jokingly pretends to prepare herself by flattening her tie and robes and sitting up, back straight.

"Okay," she says with a calm breath. "I'm ready."

Kara raises her wand.

"Wait!" Alex shouts suddenly, holding up a hand. "You're not going to send me to the hospital wing again, are you? You're not going to break any of my bones?"

Kara suppresses her smile again. "No, not this time."

"Okay, okay, ready."

Kara points, waving her wand.

"Pullum!"

Purple light hits Alex in the chest, and at first, it doesn't seem like the spell has taken any effect. Alex looks down confusedly before opening her mouth.

"Honk!" she says.

Kara immediately bursts into laughter. Alex continues to try to speak, but she only emits a series of high and low goose honks. After a brief look of consternation, Alex begins laughing, too, but in chortling bird noises which only makes Kara laugh harder. It's one of the silliest things she's ever seen or heard, and her stomach aches from the force of her laughter.

It takes about ten minutes to wear off, and as they walk back to their common rooms, still giggling, Alex says,

"I'm going to use that on Sinclair straight away."

Kara smiles, but it wanes. She's sure Lena would've liked that jinx, but it's like all the other things Kara had unconsciously catalogued to share later. There's no one to tell.


After Alex jinxes Veronica Sinclair with Kara's altered Pullus Jinx, it becomes quite popular in the halls of school. She can't walk three feet without hearing a goose honk, but despite the smiles and laughs it brings her, Kara still spends the much of her remaining fourth year slumped by the fire.

It's just… she's lonely. Many of the Gryffindors still scowled at her alignment with a Luthor. Her shine had been short-lived with the Slytherins, and the Ravenclaws, outside of Winn Schott, had never noticed her at all. And within her own House, her peers felt more like acquaintances than family, every relationship glancing and only skin deep. Even knowing Lucy's life history, it didn't make her feel all that close to her.

Plus, Lucy had started dating James from Gryffindor, and she never shut up about him. Kara can barely contain her eye rolls at the frequent mentions of his name, and it makes her long for the comfortable silences she and Lena used to share.

"Just you wait, Kara," Lucy tells her with an air of annoying superiority. "Once you have a boyfriend, you'll understand. Nothing else will matter!"

Kara sighs heavily at the thought. If having a boyfriend meant becoming more like Lucy, she would be certain to avoid it. But still, she longs for someone, anyone to talk with, laugh with. She has Alex, true, but it's not the same. A sister is different than a friend.


Her melancholy must be noticeably severe by term's end because Spotty begins sneaking sticky buns into her robe pockets. Her cat, Streaky, leaves a variety of half dead mice and bugs in her bed. And by the time she turns fifteen in May, she can't help but think it's the beginning of the worst year of her life. Hufflepuff loses both the House cup and the Quidditch cup. The Kestrels bomb in the league playoffs, and Alex gloats endlessly about it.

She ruminates endlessly.

Had she only liked the Kestrels as some kind of misguided attempt at impressing Lena? Had the Kestrels always been rubbish?

She almost hates them now. When she's back home for summer holiday, she glares balefully at the posters on her bedroom wall. They're the first thing she sees when she wakes up in the morning, a daily reminder that Lena had once been in her life, that Lena is now gone. The only thing that keeps her from taking them down entirely is giving Alex the satisfaction.

Until one summer day when she finds a stack of Lena's old letters in a forgotten drawer in her desk.

She frowns, tracing a hand over the faded parchment. She picks them up, and she doesn't know what to do. There's no need to keep them, but… can she throw them away?

She crosses her room and opens her closet without thinking, eyes still tracing Lena's neat handwriting.

Kara Danvers
26 Mellalieu St

Middleton

Manchester

She moves to bury them in one of the boxes, but she pauses. She looks up, casting her gaze around the closet. Old bedding from her home in London. A lamp her mother had given her. A broken clock of her father's. Everything in here, dead things from her past.

Was Lena one of those things, too?

Her cheeks feel hot suddenly, her eyes sting. Kara steps away from the closet, paces back and forth, back and forth, across the room, the letters still clutched in her hands. Suddenly, she can hear the croon of a band on the Wizarding Wireless Network playing on the other side of the wall in Alex's room. She hears birds sing outside, a lawn mower roar to life down the street.

How could Lena just stop talking to her? Why had she left? Was she ever coming back?

Kara claps her free hand over an ear. Everything was so deafening.

She stares down at the letters. They're proof that they'd meant something to each other at one point, that there'd been something there. Now there was nothing there. How was it just gone, swept away like ash in a fireplace?

Just throw them away, she tells herself. Just set them on fire. Get rid of them.

But she can't. It meant throwing Lena away, throwing her hope away, when Lena had taken up a kind of permanent residence within her. She had grown into something Kara couldn't weed out.

For instance, Lena's roses, the seeds she'd sent by owl, bloom yearly on Kara's birthday and all through summer. They're beautiful, fragrant and purple. The Colt's Foot, too, stays perennially yellow and vibrant, never wilting in their vase on Kara's dresser. They prove Lena had given her presents once, like a real friend. Like a best friend. Should Kara smash the vase, chop her gifts down to brambles? Should she cleave Lena from her heart?

She's not coming back, she thinks.

She glances at the posters again, reeling and hurt. She drops the letters on the floor and dashes forward, scratching at the wall. She's going to tear these stupid posters down with her nails, with her bare hands. She can hear every scrape, every little drag against the paper, but the posters remain. They're impervious.

"Damn it!" Kara curses loudly.

"What's going on in here?" Alex asks from the hall, glancing at Kara's clawed hands with a touch of concern.

But then Alex breathes a sigh of relief.

"Finally!" she says, stepping into the room. "Here, let me help."

Alex tries to help Kara remove the posters, but nothing works. Alex even throws a Fanged Frisbee at it, but it bounces off harmlessly.

Kara rampages. She feels as helpless against the Permanent Sticking Charm that Eliza had placed on these posters as she does against the Fidelius Charm that Cal had placed on her.

"Why can't I ever have ANYTHING I want?" she yells, kicking her bed post as hard as possible.

It had been a better idea in theory. Instead of feeling satisfied, she howls in pain, clutching at her toe.

"Kara," Alex says in surprise, her concern returning. Her eyes pass over the pile of letters strewn over the floor. "Are you alright—"

"And can you please, for the love of all things holy, turn that down!" she shouts at Alex before her sister can finish.

Alex looks at her completely bewildered, so Kara points rigidly at the radio, not realizing she's pointing at the wall.

Alex closes her mouth, looking at the wall in ever present confusion, before her eyes land back on the letters. She clenches her jaw with a flicker of anger.

Kara watches her, thinking Alex might preparing to tell her off, but instead, Alex steps forward, grabbing her wrist.

"I know what you need," she says. "Come on."

Alex drags Kara into her room. Kara gazes around, Alex has redecorated. It's now painted in broad navy blue strokes, an almost black. It's messy, clothes and quills everywhere. Several large bookshelves sit by the bed, filled to the brim. Every bit of wall is covered in posters and stickers and newspaper cut outs. There's so much movement from the wizarding photos, it's dizzying but beautiful chaos.

"I've been building a stash," Alex tells her, dropping on her knees and reaching deep under her bed. "Mum would kill me if she knew."

Kara watches her, intrigued, some of the anger fading. The radio seems less loud, she even forgets to turn it off.

Alex smiles triumphantly, retrieving a nondescript brown box while Kara sits on her knees, watching.

Alex removes the lid, and Kara's eyes widen.

The box is filled with Filibuster's Fireworks of all colors and sizes. There are amazing shapes; dragons, unicorns, a phoenix. There are small ones, too, that advertise an explosion of sounds like car horns, laughter, and chirping birds. Then about a hundred silver stars, Catherine wheels, firecrackers, and sparklers.

"Pick out a big one," Alex tells her, taking a fist full of brightly colored silver stars and shocking pink sparklers.

Kara picks the dragon.

They wait impatiently for night fall, Kara jittering, fidgeting her hands, jumping to her feet when asked to do chores. Afterwards, they linger in the yard under the pretense of inspecting Kara's garden. Kara tries not to look at the roses, but it's hard. They're so lovely.

"Let's go," Alex whispers as twilight sets. If Eliza suspects trouble, she doesn't say anything.

Kara nods as if they're on some sort of covert mission, and Alex stuffs the fireworks into the back of her shorts. Kara can't help but giggle at the idea of one of them going off.

Fortunately they reach the very back of the lot without incident.

"Don't we need matches?" Kara asks.

"They're wet-start."

Alex dumps the loot onto the ground and reaches for the water bottle she brought.

"Want to do the big one first?"

Kara nods eagerly.

Alex sets it aside, digging it into the ground. She steps back, wincing, and sloshes the open bottle forward, throwing water all over the brightly emblazoned firework.

It instantly roars to life with smoldering, pointed teeth and big, yellow glittering eyes. It takes off above them, green scales illuminating the tree branches, massive tail curling around the black sky. Alex takes several of the shooting stars and throws water on them too.

They light everything up in an explosion of shimmering color. Kara can hear the crackling and banging, almost painful in her ears, but she's too thrilled to care.

"Alexandra!" they hear Eliza call in the distance, voice high and piercing. "Alexandra Danvers!"

Alex curses, but Kara doesn't mind her, watching the way the fireworks burn hot and burst brightly. The way they're launched into blackness, sparking out and fading away. They're beautiful, and then they're gone, just like everything else.


Kara's foul mood doesn't improve much by August. Even Alex has taken to referring to her as "the terror" or "the beast."

But Kara doesn't care.

She doesn't come out of her room to eat dinner. She doesn't go shopping for new schoolbooks and supplies in Diagon Alley. She's short and snappy at every turn. Jeremiah constantly consoles Eliza with words like "she's at that age" or "she'll grow out of it," whatever that means, but Kara doesn't think that has anything to do with it. She just doesn't want to go back to Hogwarts. She doesn't want to see anyone. She doesn't want to hear them.

The reserve she'd always found to deal with her situation (her dead family, her unwanted powers, her secret) wears ever thinner with the onset of… she doesn't even want to acknowledge it. She knows intellectually what it is. It's Cal's super hearing. But she has a hope, a last resort, that if she never speaks of it or thinks of it, it'll just go away.

But it hasn't. In fact, it's getting worse.

For the last month or so, she can barely stand to be out in public. Being in crowded places, it's a waking nightmare, and Platform 9 ¾ is no different. Kara can't focus on any one thing. All the voices, all the noises, it's a constant ringing in her ears. It sets her teeth on edge. She squeezes her hands into fists, her knuckles are bone white, her nails digging half-moon gouges into her palms.

She can't think. She can barely breathe.

It'll go away, she tells herself. It'll go away.

Alex watches her suspiciously, but Kara refuses to acknowledge her. It's just one more thing Kara can't handle, and she doesn't need Alex informing Cal. She hadn't even seen her cousin this summer, and she doesn't need him writing a patronizingly long list of training instructions before she's even set foot in Hogwarts.

Kara bolts away as soon as they've given their goodbyes to Eliza and Jeremiah, not wanting to give Alex an opening to interrogate her. She pushes down the train corridor toward the Hufflepuff compartments, looking resignedly for Lucy, ready to serve as her captive audience, but she doesn't find her.

She slouches into a chair and reaches tap Megan's shoulder.

"Where's Lucy?" she asks.

"Oh, I'm sure you'll hear all about it," Megan mumbles back. "Lucy's been made prefect."

Kara leans back into her chair, somehow disappointed. With Lucy, she could've focused on her inexhaustible talking. It might've helped with the noise on the train. But without her…

Kara closes her eyes, her patience worn too thin by the crushing amount of sound reeling in her ears. She picks out a regular thumping, a beating that's—is it familiar? She hadn't heard it this summer, but she doesn't know, she doesn't care. She focuses on it, and she falls into a restless doze.

It's been an age since she's slept properly, but Lucy turns up near the end of the train ride, voice jolting Kara from sleep.

"Can you believe it?" she assaults Kara's ears, plopping down beside her. "I've just finished patrolling the corridors. Did you know I can take points from other Houses? And even given detentions?"

Lucy looks positively delighted, but Kara merely rubs at her eyes and gazes down at the shining badge on Lucy's robes. The letter 'P' is embellished in bright yellow and outlined in black.

"Congratulations," Kara smiles softly.

"Thank you!"

Lucy regales Kara with a thorough list of her duties, tallying out each and every rule the Head Boy and Girl had shared with her. It's so comprehensive, they're sitting down to dinner by the time she finishes.

"Well, of course James is a prefect, too," Lucy chatters on. "He always knows how and when to keep people in line. He's such a good leader."

Lucy sighs dreamily, looking far off.

"Who else?" Imra asks pointedly.

"Oh, well," Lucy starts, coming back to herself and combing through her hair with her fingers. "There's Winn Schott in Ravenclaw and some girl I've never talked to named Chloe Sullivan. But of course the big gossip is who Professor Prince chose as the Slytherin prefects."

Kara perks up, looking up from her boiled potatoes. Several other Hufflepuff 5th years glance in Lucy's direction as well, and she preens under the attention.

"Who?" one of the boys asks.

"Jack Spheer and," Lucy pauses for effect. "Lena Luthor."

Several of the Hufflepuffs gasp and guffaw.

"Lena Luthor?" Megan asks. "A prefect?"

"Looks like you can buy anything," Lucy snipes.

"She does have the best marks in the year," Kara mumbles, taking a bite of her glazed carrots.

"That may be true, but—" Kara zones her out.

Instead, Kara searches for Lena's face at the Slytherin table. She finds her sitting close to Jack Spheer, their matching badges glittering and green. They're whispering, and Lena is smiling.

Kara grimaces. Something about it makes her stomach curdle. Had Lena missed her at all?

The sounds of the raucous Great Hall crest wildly with hundreds of disjointed voices making Kara nauseous. She thinks she can even hear the house elves scurrying in the kitchens below.

She closes her eyes, trying her best to concentrate on her food.

"—I've heard they're dating, too," Megan says back at the Hufflepuff table, and Kara nearly cracks a tooth when she bites her fork.

"Not surprising," Lucy replies snidely. "He's the second richest person in school, after her. Knowing her family, you probably have to go through a process, pay an application fee."

Several of the girls snicker, but Kara glances up, her eyes inevitably drawn back to the pair.

It's not like she can't see the appeal. Jack was rich, yes, but his manners were also impeccable. He spoke in a very fine English accent, and Kara had never seen his tie messily done up a black hair out of place on his head. When they'd spoken, he had even been charming, his dark eyes dancing with cunning. Honestly, they were a match that made sense. Lillian must've been so pleased.

She chews half-heartedly, tasting nothing.

"—that Kestrel match was a blast," she can suddenly hear him telling Lena.

No-no-no-no-no,she thinks. She doesn't want to hear their conversation. Instead, she stands so abruptly that half the plates clatter against the table.

"Kara!" Lucy cries out in surprise. "What are you—where are you going?"

"Forgot—book—" is all Kara can manage, shuffling down the long aisle.

She can't get out of there quickly enough.

"Is Kara okay?" Imra asks.

Kara shouldn't be able to hear her, she's certainly out of earshot, but she can.

"I think she's just jealous," Lucy replies, and Kara flinches, picking up her pace. "I'm sure she wanted to be a prefect. It's a huge honor, it really is."


Kara's drowning in homework, everyone is. All of their professors harp endlessly about the importance of their O.W.L. exams, not letting them forget about them for a single moment where they stand, grade-wise.

"If you want any hope of landing a proper job," Professor Carr tells them all in his usual gruff. "You better be able to draft a Draught of Peace in less than ten minutes."

It's exhausting. They're not even a month into school, and Kara already spends much of her time in the Room of Requirement trying to catch up. It's because, lately, her homework has taken her twice as long to complete. She just can't concentrate in the library or the common room. The sounds of the other students seem to permeate the very walls around her. But fortunately, she's discovered that the Room of Requirement effectively blocks everything out. It means she can study, she can even sleep.

But she always has to go back.

Some days are better than others, quieter and peaceful. Other days are worse. Like when she sees Lena and Jack walking hand in hand through the courtyard looking happy and relaxed, feelings Kara has almost forgotten.

Sound pitches in intensity. She hears a bark of laughter from the Astronomy Tower, a cauldron explode in the dungeon below.

"Allen!" Carr screeches.

"Sorry, professor!"

She curls her lip, willing the foreign sounds to stop. She tears at a loose fiber of her book bag with one hand, balls a fist with the other.

"What's got your knickers in a twist?" Alex asks near her shoulder.

Kara jumps, startled.

"Nothing," she answers, too quickly.

"So you weren't about to punch Jack Speer?"

Kara unballs her hand, tries to look calm.

"Of course not."

She glances back at Jack, leaning against a tree, Lena's hand still held limply in his. They whisper furtively. A shaft of sunlight shines red on Lena's black hair.

"Lena, then?"

"Alex," Kara admonishes, looking away and turning in the opposite direction. Alex follows with a roll of her eyes.

"Who cares what they do?" she asks. "Two gits who will probably make two git babies."

Kara suppresses a groan and tries to shake her off, but Alex takes her by the shoulders and forcibly directs her to a stony bench near the breezeway.

"What?" Kara asks tersely, continuing to pick at her frayed bag.

"Maybe you should, you know," Alex starts, forcing her to sit. She looks slightly uncomfortable, doing a strange circular motion with her hands, "date someone."

Kara gawks at her, brows pinched in askance.

"You know, it's a long standing mating ritual," Alex tells her in a mock clinical tone. "Two people make a habit of getting food, you'd like that, spending time together in the hopes of a kiss or maybe even a little —"

"I know what dating is," Kara cuts her off.

"Doesn't seem like it."

Kara glares, and Alex holds her gaze, unchallenged.

"What about Mike Matthews?" she suggests, throwing a casual arm over the back of the bench. "That 6th year boy in your House. He looks at you enough."

"Is that how I choose?" Kara inquires sarcastically. "Someone who looks at me enough?"

Alex shrugs.

"I've never had to choose. They always come to me."

"Who always comes to you?" Kara asks, suspicious.

Alex shrugs again.

"You haven't dated anyone… have you?"

"Not that you know of," Alex sing songs.

"What! I think I would have noticed," Kara balks. "Plus, you tell me everything."

"Not everything."

"Alex!"

"Look he's right over there," Alex quickly diverts Kara's attention, indicating Mike Matthews leaning against the stone wall across from them, hands in his robe. "And he's looking."

Kara glances towards the Hufflepuff boy, and there he is, smiling and hopeful.

"Go talk to him," Alex says with a light shove to her shoulder.

But Kara freezes. She feels a sudden and keen desire to be alone.

She leaps to her feet and bolts in the opposite direction. It takes a tantamount strength of will not to use her super speed, so Alex is able keep up with her as she races into the school. Alex gets near enough to grab Kara's shoulder, damn her extra height, and pulls her to a stop.

"Wow, Kara," she says, winded and breathless. "That was pathetic."

"Shut up," Kara croaks, pulling free and walking briskly.

"I just—I don't get it," Alex states, still breathing hard.

"I can't date anyone," Kara blurts out. "You know why. I'd just be lying all the time."

"Is that what's holding you back?"

Kara looks away, trying not to think of Lena. If she can't even have a friend, how could she have a boyfriend?

"I've heard Mike only talks about himself," Alex offers with a smile. "Could be a good match. You wouldn't be lying if you couldn't get a word in."

Kara grumbles, thinking of Lucy. Someone else to talk at her all the time?

"No, thanks."

"Well, maybe it doesn't need to be dating," Alex pivots. "Honestly, you seem tense. You know, all the time."

Kara shoots her an annoyed look, not quite sure what she's getting at.

"I don't know," Alex says, the weird motion with her hands back again. "Maybe you could use a bit of snogging."

Kara punches her in the shoulder, and Alex swears.

"Please never give me relationship advice."

Alex whines, rubbing her shoulder. "Fine, fine. Just… think about it, okay?"

Kara waves her off, intent on ending the conversation as soon as possible. When she arrives to Charms nearly fifteen minutes early, she does the opposite and tries not to think about it at all.


"Where's your head at?!" Rick Malverne, Hufflepuff Keeper, shouts at Kara in the locker room after a woefully bad practice. "You looked like you were barely trying. We haven't got a hope of beating Slytherin if one of our Chasers can barely stay on her broom."

"Shut up," Kara mutters, slamming her broomstick against the locker room bench.

"Am I wrong?" he beseeches the rest of the team. "Imra, Kara dropped four of your passes, you can't convince me she was paying attention."

Kara sighs deeply, closing her eyes, trying to tune out the howl of the wind. Today's practice had been windy and rainy, making it impossible to see anything and difficult to grip the Quaffle. Kara had even slipped from her broom after a missed pass and tumbled into the mud below.

It was the second time in two weeks. It was unlike her. She'd been distracted, unable to tolerate all of the sound out in the open air. She'd had trouble flying. She'd only scored twenty points against Rick, far below her average, and even she knew that the bad weather wasn't the reason for her poor performance.

"—see, she's not even listening now," she hears Rick say. "I think we should replace her."

"You didn't do so hot yourself," Kara snaps. "It's easy to sit back at keeper and try to command the field, but I'm pretty sure letting Imra score a hundred points on you wasn't part of our practice strategy."

Rick's eyes flash, and he steps up to Kara.

"At least I can stay on my broom."

"If you want to have a go," Kara holds her ground, nose to nose with him. "Have a go."

Rick looks like he might, and Kara can already feel her wand in her hand.

"That's enough," Eve cuts through the tension, entering the locker room. "Shut up, Rick. We're not replacing, Kara."

Kara shoots him a 'ha ha' sort of look and turns back to her locker, but she feels Eve's presence linger at her shoulder.

"Kara, can I talk to you?"

Kara bristles. She wants to say no. She wants to tell Eve to bugger off, but her captain had just defended her, and it wasn't her fault Kara could hear every grasshopper in the Forbidden Forest.

So, she nods curtly and follows her into the corridor.

"I know you've been stressed," Eve says leaning back against the wall. "And I don't know what's going on, and I'm not pressuring you to talk to me about it or anything."

Kara wants to refute her words, but she doesn't trust herself not to speak and prove Eve's point.

"Maybe it would help if you used the prefect's bathroom up at school," Eve continues kindly. "It's on the 5th floor behind the statue of Boris the Bewildered. The password is Crisp Apple. You can stay in there as long as you like, and Rick won't be there to run his big mouth."

Kara toes at the floor, her mud sodden robes slapping heavily across the wood. She considers the option, knowing she might hex Rick if she sees him in the changing rooms and not a nice one.

"Okay," Kara says at last.

"Just relax, Kara," Eve tells her. "Get some peace and quiet."

Not possible, Kara thinks, but she trudges out of the locker room anyway.

Her thoughts are dark as she braves the torrential rain, pounds through puddles and makes her way up the slick stones leading back to school. Quidditch had always been something she could rely on, that she could take pride in. Quidditch had made her happy but, like everything else, it was failing her.

She enters the school and heads to the 5th floor, shoes squelching with every step. It takes Kara a few minutes to find the statue and speak the password, albeit very sullenly. However, when the door coils open, she's impressed to find a splendid white marble room. She marvels at a candle filled chandelier hanging above a rectangular, sunken swimming pool. There's a diving board, long white linen curtains lining the windows, and at least one hundred golden taps. Fluffy white towels sit in the corner and a blonde, stained glass mural of a mermaid turns to look at Kara. Her hands instantly move to groom and primp her hair.

"Oh," Kara says, blushing slightly at the sight of the half-naked mermaid.

"Kara?" a voice says.

Kara jumps, turning in the direction of movement, of two people springing apart.

"Lena?" she says at the sight of long, black hair. She takes a jolted step to her right, closer to the pool.

"Kara Danvers?" a second voice adds.

Jack.

Kara blanches, mortified and realizing belatedly what she must have interrupted. Her blush becomes furious, and she turns quickly to leave. However, in her haste, she missteps and her foot catches on her mud laden Quidditch robes. She takes an unbalanced step, and to her horror, slips the length of the marble until she's falling headlong into the sunken pool.

She takes in a mouthful of lukewarm water. It's soapy and bitter on her tongue. She kicks to the surface, but the water is so deep her feet barely touch. Still, she emerges sputtering, and the first thing she hears is the sound of ringing laughter.

It's Jack.

Kara rubs the water from her eyes to see him doubled over at the sight of her.

She hates him in that moment.

But her eyes flicker to find Lena at the edge of the pool. She's not laughing. Instead, she's on her knees, one hand gripping the marble edge of the bath.

"Are you alright?" she asks, her green eyes concerned as she reaches out the other hand, an offer.

Kara looks at her hand, but she doesn't take it. She feels too humiliated.

She hadn't wanted to walk in on them, and she certainly hadn't wanted to slip and fall into a pond-sized pool. And worse, her nostrils flare, and she's convinced she can smell Lena. It's a blend of scents, coconut, vanilla, lavender, and she's sure they're from the foam and bubbles. Lena's even wearing one of the fluffy white robes from the rack, the pale skin of her neck somehow looking whiter than the robe itself.

Wait, Kara thinks.

Had this been her bath? Had she just finished? Had Jack been with her?

If possible, Kara feels even more awkward at the thought and takes a step backwards, away from Lena. Lena shrinks, looking wounded, and withdraws her hand.

"Yeah," Jack says, his intolerable laughter finally dying down. "Alright, Kara?"

Kara glances back at him, trying to muster any of her remaining dignity. It's not much. She's soaked and fully clothed with mud forming a floating ring around her, but it'll have to do.

"Isn't this a girl's bathroom?" she finds herself chiding, her tone cold. "You shouldn't be in here."

Jack's eyebrow arches imperiously.

"He'd just come in, Kara," Lena defends quietly, her cheeks pink. "The door unlocks when someone's finished, he wasn't in here with me—"

"It's a prefect's bathroom, if I'm not mistaken," Jack interrupts Lena. "And, last I checked, you aren't a prefect."

Kara breathes in an angry breath through her nose.

"Eve Tessmacher gave me the password," she says without thinking.

"Well, Eve doesn't have the authority to just go giving away prefect privileges," he says in his prim accent. "I reckon I should dock Hufflepuff points for breaking rules. What do you think, Lena?"

He looks at Lena with obnoxious self-satisfaction, but it goes unwitnessed. She's still crouched down and watching Kara, her back turned. Her brows crease, her knuckles flex against the marble. The green of her eyes linger at Kara's silver chain necklace. With her Quidditch robes weightless in the water, her collar floats freely around her neck, and it's the most the necklace has ever been visible. Kara's thankful that the chain is long and heavy enough that the House of El crest remains hidden under the scrutiny of a Luthor's gaze.

"10 points?" Jack prompts, his face flickering with annoyance at the lack of Lena's attention.

"Jack," Lena warns, standing suddenly. "We're not taking points from Hufflepuff. And can you please wait outside? I need to change."

Jack looks surly, as if he's been robbed of a present. He casts a dark look at Kara, and Kara doesn't quite contain a small smirk.

He simmers and bangs out of the bathroom, leaving the two of them alone. Lena glances at her, and Kara averts her gaze, wading to the corner of the bath farthest from her. Lena says nothing and disappears into the back recesses of the bathroom where Kara guesses there might be showers and toilet stalls.

After pushing a hand over her face in frustration, she pulls herself from the depths of the pool and seats herself on the ledge. She slouches under the extra water weight and begins to remove her protective Quidditch gear and outermost robes.

Why, why did she have to fall into the pool? And why did someone have to see it? And why did that someone have to be Lena? And Jack?

Lena and Jack. LenaandJack.

Kara flings her robe away from her and it lands in a loud, wet slap.

Lena returns, eyes flickering over Kara's long legs as she angles her shin guards off. She's redressed in her usual pleated skirt and thick grey sweater. Her cheeks still look pink.

She hovers near the door, her mouth opening as if she wants to say something, and Kara meets her eyes. She hears something then, a beating, a thumping, the sound that seems to always calm her, flitting in and out of her awareness. It increases in rhythm.

"He really wasn't," Lena says quietly.

"What?" Kara asks, distracted, squeezing water absently from her socks.

"He wasn't in here with me," Lena rushes. "He came in after I put on my robe, I was about to drain the bath."

Kara clenches her jaw, not sure why Lena cares about her interpretation of events. After all, it's the first time in a year since they've spoken. They're not friends. What was she supposed to say?

I don't care?

Do whatever you want?

Why are you dating a creep who walks in on you after a bath?

But she can't quite bear to be callous towards Lena, even after... everything. So, she just shrugs.

She hears Lena sigh, the shuffle of her feet. The door closes, and the beating quiets and becomes distant.


Kara's relationship with Jack Spheer steadily deteriorates further as the Slytherin and Hufflepuff Quidditch match approaches. As competing Chasers, there are a number of whispered taunts and spiteful looks sent her way. For instance,

"My first year sister flies better than you."

"Better hold on tight, wouldn't want you falling off your broom!"

"Got your bed booked in the hospital wing, Danvers?"

But she ignores them. She can't wait to body check each and every one of the Slytherins, especially Jack.

However, they wake the morning of the match to find the weather as rainy and cold as it had been all through November. The wind feels vicious, practically a personal attack as it whips across the grounds. It doesn't help, either, that Kara's already relentless distraction is intensified by the horde of unruly students piling into the stadiums. She can hear the thread of dozens of conversations, the shuffling of hundreds of feet, and the constant adjustment of scarves, hats, and robes.

It's agonizing. Who knew wool could be so loud?

But somehow, even with all that, she's still able to catch the discussion happening just beyond the wall in the opposing Slytherin locker room.

"We've got nothing to worry about," Slytherin captain Beth Breen is telling her team. "We stick with the game plan. Malverne's weak at protecting the second post, and it's going to be impossible for Tessmacher to see the snitch in this weather."

"And Danvers can't stay on her broom," Jack snickers. "I heard she's fallen off twice."

"Then knock her off," Beth instructs. "Target her."

Kara grits her teeth as the Slytherin team laughs. She tries to shut them out as she changes into her Quidditch robes and protective guards.

"Alright, let's huddle up," Eve calls out, and the three Chasers, two Beaters, and Eve form a tight circle in the middle of their locker room.

"Short, reverse passes," Eve starts. "More up and down motions versus zig zags—"

"How's it going with Lena?" a different voice asks, male.

Kara clenches her hands into fists, tries not to cock her head towards it, willing herself to concentrate on Eve.

"—Rick, watch the second post. They're going to fake, so be sure—"

"Great," a familiar voice replies, arrogant and smug.

"Yeah?" the other voice says, clearly fishing for detail.

"We've kissed, but…"

"—keep those bludgers on Spheer."

"You gits talking about Luthor?"

"Yep," the first voice says. "But what about her, Jack?"

"She's obsessed with her O.W.L.s. She's always studying," Jack complains.

"Good luck trying to replace Lena's great love of books," the female snickers. It's Sara Lance.

"Is that why you tried sneak into her bathroom?" a different female voice cuts in. Samantha Arias. "Thought you'd trap her? Pretty gross, Jack."

"Desperate," Sara confirms.

"Shut up!" Jack barks, but he still sounds amiable, cocky. "Sometimes you have to take matters into your own hands, if you know what I mean."

Kara jars. So, Lena hadn't been lying.

She feels her face blaze hot, her hands shake. She turns towards the wall, glaring at the place where Jack is standing just beyond.

"Are you listening, Kara?"

Her head snaps back to Eve.

"Yeah," she replies thinly. "Spiral dives—V formation—erhm."

Rick rolls his eyes.

"I said keep your head in the game," Eve tells her in a reprimanding tone. "Now hands in."

Kara thrusts her hand forward, but she's still thinking of Jack. That is, until the ear splitting roar of the crowd hits her as they walk onto the pitch.

It shatters her ability to think. She wavers unsteadily. It's as if the sound of the stadium is a physical weight, heavy on her shoulders and threatening to crush her. She faces the referee, Madam Vasquez, but doesn't hear what she says. Instead, it's a chorus of,

"There she is!"

"Jack is so cute, isn't he?"

"If Slytherin beats Hufflepuff, then Gryffindor has a chance at the cup."

"Have you done your Charms homework yet?"

"Give me one of those chocolate frogs."

It's too much. Kara's almost grateful when the wind picks up, and it feels like she's being skinned alive. Anything that distracts from her sense of hearing.

"Up!" she finds Eve shouting at her from above, and Kara jerks.

Had the referee blown her whistle?

Kara bolts into the air. She flies awkwardly at first, too slow, too tentative, but she hears something, the tendril of a familiar rhythm. She focuses on it, and it grounds her. Her eyesight sharpens, the noises fade.

She catches a pass and hurtles towards Breen, the Slytherin Keeper. She dodges a bludger, shoots up and down. Then, she pulls her arm back, arcs her hand left and…

"Danvers scores!" Barry Allen announces. "That's 10 points for Hufflepuff!"

The crowd erupts in cheers, and for once it doesn't throw Kara.

Take that, she thinks, and, somehow, she maintains her concentration. The match rages on.

Kara even manages several more scores, so many that Hufflepuff has a considerable lead. It's still painfully cold, frozen rain now falling. Ice shards are falling, stinging and cutting Kara's exposed cheeks as she flies. She can only just feel the tips of her fingers, steadily holding her broomstick, but she feels alive. She feels happy.

The Slytherin Beaters aim both bludgers at Kara as she heads towards the goal hoops, and she barely dodges them. She hears them crack as the slam into each other. She's about to score her seventh goal, her arm reached back, when a body slams into her and her hand slips on her wet broom handle.

To preserve her balance, she drops the Quaffle and spirals towards the stands. She regains her bearings and tears after Jack, but it's too late. He's already half way across the field, flanked by two other Chasers.

He scores. She glowers.

She can see him show boating around the crowd, waving his hands exultantly. His attention is trained on the Slytherin section, and she follows his line of sight right to…

Lena.

Kara stills in the air. She's excited for a moment. Lena hasn't been to watch one of her matches in ages, but Lena smiles, and it's not up at her, but up at him, clapping politely. A dark realization hits her then. She's not there to watch Kara.

Her insides pitch like rolling waves. She burns hot despite the cold. Her thoughts aren't even fully formed, just vaguely pointed and incoherent.

Had she ever smiled and clapped like that—

Lena didn't want people to know we were friends—

I was never good enough—

She continues the match in a wild frenzy.

How does she like him, he's so—

She scores three more goals.

Did she enjoy watching him body check me? Does she like seeing me hurt—

She hopes Eve won't catch the snitch. She wants more time to completely decimate Slytherin.

It's this thought that's on her mind as she strips the Quaffle from Jack, coming from below to punch it clean into the air. As she catches it, he slams into her side again, but this time she's prepared. She throws her elbow out just as he makes contact, and it catches him square in the face.

"Ooooh!" Barry exclaims, voice magically enhanced and rippling over the crowd. "Danvers and Spheer are playing dirty!"

Kara thinks she sees red spurt through the air and splatter over her robes. Jack retaliates, a forearm connecting with her lip, and it splits. She tastes blood, warm and metallic.

"You're trash, Danvers," he hisses as they hurtle towards the hoops. He swipes at the Quaffle, trying to knock it out of her grasp. She slams into him again.

"At least, I'm not the pervert—" she grits as she takes aim, "—who sneaks in on a girl in the bathroom."

She shoots the Quaffle. She scores on Breen.

The crowd roars, riotously loud, as she swerves around the posts. Jack, however, remains steadfast at her side.

"Careful, wouldn't want you to fall," he snarls, reaching for her broom and wrenching the handle away from her grasp.

Balanced perilously, she leans sideways, forcing Jack under her arm and into a head lock. They roll in the air, veering downwards towards the ground. She seizes a thick fist of his robes and pulls him clear from his broom right as she loses her own in the process. The feeling of spinning, untethered in open air is almost thrilling. Almost like flying.

Until they careen earthward, until she hits the ground. It's cataclysmic. It punches the breath out of her lungs.

Jack rolls several yards away across the hard, icy earth, sleet pounding around them, and she hears a whistle pierce the air.

"Penalty!" The referee shouts, and Kara reels, attempting to get to her feet as Madam Vasquez lands neatly next to her.

Kara can barely get a breath out. She thinks she may have broken her ribs.

"Mr. Spheer!" Vasquez shouts in reproach, but Jack doesn't seem to listen. His wand is out.

"Petrificus Totalus!"

Kara blocks the spell before she even realizes her wand is in her hand. She's momentarily thankful she can cast the Shield Charm silently, since the slicing, gutting feeling in her side is making it difficult to breath, much less speak. But the spell rebounds off the shield and hits Madam Vasquez in the chest. Kara gasps, watching in shock as the referee goes instantly rigid and pitches forward. Before she has time to react, however, Jack is already mouthing another spell.

"Calvario!"

Kara blocks this, too, and her anger flares hot and uncontrollable.

The nerve. To attack her. And he hurt Madam Vasquez!

She advances on Jack, even as she hears a dozen feet hit the ground. Without thinking, she waves her wand towards them.

"Immobulus!"

All twelve Quidditch players, Hufflepuff and Slytherin alike, freeze in place. Even the pounding, icy rain drops hang in the air. Kara can smell that burning, singing again. She can feel the crackle of electricity around her.

Her ears pick up hear wands being removed in the stands, breaths being drawn. She casts several simultaneous shields in their direction, the spell she had shown Alex. Light flashes as spells rebound off them, and she draws closer to Jack.

"Sectum—"

"Silencio!" Kara hisses with strain, her wand a slash, her ribs throbbing white hot with the effort.

Jack falls silent, looking stricken and unsure what to do. She can see a strange fear in his eyes, but she doesn't care. She raises her wand again.

She hears a whispered voice, as if muffled from the back of a hand. It's soft, familiar, fond. It causes Kara to pause, to falter and glance in its direction. She thinks she sees a sea of green, a pair of matching eyes, but—

"Terra Fluctus!"

The earth erupts beneath her feet, hurling her into the air. When she hits the ground, colors subdue, sound fades. Everything goes cold.

Chapter Text

Fifth year.

Kara wakes up warm. Unfortunately, she also knows from sense, smell, and sound that she's in the hospital wing.

She groans, opening a bleary eye. She blinks and focuses on a figure sitting at the end of her cot. It takes a few long moments to recognize Diana Prince, Headmistress of Hogwarts, and Kara gasps.

"Professor?" she asks, her mouth hanging open.

Kara can't remember what's happened or why she's there. What had she done to earn a personal visit from the headmistress? Her mind swims, but something in the sadness of the professor's soft brown eyes jogs her memory, makes her think.

The Quidditch pitch, she realizes with a drop. The ice. Jack Spheer.

She feels her eyes well with involuntarily tears. She knows what it means that the Headmistress is here. She's in trouble. She's going to be reprimanded. She hopes against hope that she's not about to be expelled.

But Professor Prince simply reaches for her hand and squeezes.

"Please don't worry, Kara, you're not expelled," she says in a comforting tone, and Kara breathes, sniffling slightly.

"I wanted to check on you," she explains. "Madam Martin says you've broken several ribs and split your lip, but I think they're nearly done healing now."

Kara moves her body tenderly, feeling a warm sensation pulse over her side as if a balm had been applied there. She touches her closed up lip.

"That said, however," Professor Prince continues, her tone a little more serious. "You will be getting detention, and you will be suspended from Quidditch."

Kara jerks her head up, focus snapped away from her injuries.

"What? For how long?"

"That's for your Head of House to decide."

Suspended from Quidditch? Kara thinks in shock.

Would it be for a few matches? Would it go into next year? Was it indefinite?

Her eyes feel wet again.

"But I didn't do anything," she says in a hot rush. "I was just defending myself."

"I understand," Diana says patiently. "But you did block a spell that incapacitated an official. You also proceeded to block staff as well as student intervention."

"I didn't—" Kara starts, but she stops herself.

Because she did do all of those things. She remembers the spurt of blood after breaking Jack's nose. She remembers freezing all of the other Quidditch players in the air, shooting an array of shields into the audience. She'd felt focused and intent, but at the same time, it hadn't been on purpose. She hadn't been thinking. It was just instinct. She didn't mean to hurt anyone, unlike Jack who had instigated the whole thing.

Kara can't help but ask, a note of sour resentment in her voice.

"And Jack? Is he suspended from Quidditch, too?"

Professor Prince nods.

"Yes, and like you his Head of House will determine the appropriate detentions, but Kara," she says, her tone turning soft. "I must say, I've never seen behavior like this from you. Is something going on? Is there anything you want to tell me?"

Kara's cheeks flush impossibly hotter, her tears threaten to overcome her again.

Professor Prince is arguably her favorite teacher. She's beautiful, kind, and intelligent. She has the respect of nearly every person in the school, students and faculty alike. She'd even been the Hufflepuff Head of House before she'd been promoted to headmistress. So, in many ways, she's Kara's idol.

Therefore, she'd love to tell her what was happening. She'd love to explain how her super powered hearing has nearly driven her insane, that it's made her act like a stranger to herself. How she's cracking under the stress of her impending O.W.L.s, how her loneliness has become something tangible, a wound that festers and will not heal.

But she can't. She can't tell anyone. So she shakes her head, biting her lip.

Professor Prince squeezes her hand once more and moves to stand. She looks slightly disappointed, though not altogether that surprised.

"My office is always open," she says warmly.

"Wait," Kara calls out after a moment, and Diana turns, her long fingers held loosely on the metal railing at the end of Kara's bed.

"Did we win?"

Her smile turns sad at the question, and she shakes her head.

"I'm afraid Samantha Arias caught the snitch."

Kara nods numbly at this news, mood having somehow plummeted further.


Kara is released from the hospital wing shortly thereafter. No one else visits, not even Alex.

She drags herself out of the infirmary, mind wandering back to a time when Alex and Lena had both visited, to a time someone had obviously cared. She feels a pang of dejection and self-pity, but then, another image flutters in her mind. Green eyes, a voice.

"Terra fluctus!"

Had that been—?

"Kara!" a voice interrupts her thoughts.

Alex sprints up to meet her as she exits the hospital, stopping just before her, breathless and gasping.

"I'm so sorry, Kara, sorry," she exhales, winded. "Professor Zatara—she stunned me at the match. It was—it was chaos. I just got back after being yelled at for an hour."

"It's fine," Kara mutters, shouldering past her.

"Kara, hey," Alex beseeches, trying to catch up, but Kara marches on. "Hey, I'm talking to you!"

Kara pauses, turning sharply.

"What, Alex? What is it?"

Alex looks stunned all over again.

"I mean—okay, is that how it's going to go?" she blusters, face contorting from shock to anger, gradually building.

"Is that how what's going to go?" Kara growls back.

They've stopped in the hall, facing each other stalwart and stubborn. Alex steels herself, crossing her arms tightly over her chest.

"For starters, why didn't you tell me?"

"Tell you what?"

"You know what," Alex replies hotly. "I let it go for a few months. I tried to be nice. But you and I both know you should be—" Alex fishes for a way to say it under the Charm "—you should be—you know, you should be training."

She finishes with frustrated effort.

"I don't want to train," Kara all but snaps, turning away again, but Alex stops her, catching her arm.

"It's not about what you want," she bites back. "It's dangerous. You didn't see yourself down there. I did. Everyone did. The train platform and now this, you're not exactly keeping a low profile like C—like he asked."

Kara simmers at the thought of Cal and his many asks. She pulls her arm roughly away from Alex, and attempts to walk away.

"You have an obligation," Alex barks at her back.

"No, I don't."

"You're being an idiot."

"Don't call me an idiot!" Kara shouts, whirling.

"Then, stop acting like one!"

"YOU!" Kara finds herself roaring in the empty hallway, her hand motioning sharply in the air. "You don't know what this is like!"

Alex seems to wilt a little in the tempest of Kara's fury, her eyebrows arching up, confused and imploring.

"Then tell me," she pleads.

"You wouldn't understand," Kara dismisses, casting her gaze away.

No one did. No one but Cal, and where was he, anyway?

The silence stretches until Kara hears an indignant huff.

"I don't understand, do I? You think I want to train, Kara?" Alex asks, and Kara can hear that the return of her anger, the sound like a tea kettle boiling to shrieking pitch.

"None of this has been easy for me either," she grits, building steam. "Enough detentions for a lifetime, helping you every bloody weekend, and then of course defending you to all of my friends."

"I am so sorry," Kara retorts rudely. "That sounds so terrible for you."

Alex fumes.

"You know, before you came along, I had a great life. Mum wasn't nagging me constantly, everything wasn't always about you."

Kara's mouth turns down in a deep frown. She feels something like a hardening, something of an emotional barricade forming. She wanted to block the painful words she'd just heard, but it didn't quite work. She'd always known Alex thought of her as a burden. Her sister was just another person who didn't want her.

"Well, you're not my sister, Alex, not really," Kara finds herself saying. "And if you don't want to be here, you can just go."

"Fine," Alex snaps and storms off down the corridor.

Kara motionlessly watches her disappear around a corner. She hadn't thought Alex would actually leave. But she had.


It's easily the least popular Kara has ever been at school.

While Hufflepuff would never cast one of their own out, their reception of Kara post-match has been chilly at best. Alex isn't speaking to her, either, which means Gryffindor is back to hating her. And the Slytherins... they hush their voices when she passes, staring openly. They look more conspiratorial and scheming than ever, and Kara is sure something is coming.

But she can't quite bring herself to care.

At least without friends and Quidditch, there's less distractions. She's able to catch up on most of her homework. She gets a number of E's on her O.W.L.s practice spellwork. But it's of small consolation. She wouldn't say it out loud, because she's still so hurt, but she misses Alex.

And she needs her help.

With each passing day, her hearing has become more and more agonizing. It's getting sharper, even better, even louder.

She can hear all the tiniest things, things she didn't even know existed, much less made sound. She can hear rats scurrying, claws scratching within the walls. She can hear branches creaking during a light gust of wind out in the forest. She can hear what she thinks is a creature, mewling and struggling, cracking from an egg. She doesn't know where that one is. She doesn't even know what it is.

Sometimes, it's almost beautiful. Like the song of water whistling down the pipes or the chorus of hundreds of students breathing and snoring at night when they sleep. It's like a great drum expanding and seizing. Sometimes, she thinks she's getting better at zeroing in, but other times her attention pings around loudly like a marble shaken in a metal box, and she's back to being haggard and skittish and worn.

Kara doesn't know how she managed to focus so well at the match. She has no idea how to reproduce it.

She doesn't see Lena either. The want is still there, tiny and compulsive, but she doesn't look for her. Even if she thinks of her fingers, delicate on her cup, tea sliding down her throat. She wonders what these things would sound like now, amplified, but she doesn't give in. Instead, she focuses on the indistinct thump, the enduring beat she's come to rely on. She tries not to think about a truth she knows, a truth she buries. Because Lena she... she...

She doesn't want admit it, not even to herself.

So, she focuses on what her other schoolmates are saying about her. More often than not, it's harsh. Occasionally, it's sympathetic. But even if she couldn't hear it, she can plainly see the fear in their eyes. It doesn't take a genius like Lena to know it's not common for a fifteen year old to be able to silent cast multiple shield charms at once, to immobilize two entire Quidditch teams, to produce the type of preternaturally corporeal shield like she had on the platform.

"What's she hiding?"

"Where'd she even learn to do that? Is it dark magic?"

"We would've won if it wasn't for her. Hufflepuff is always getting the shaft, I swear it."

It gives her a sort of ominous presence in the hallways. Her peers scoot their chairs back from her in the class room. No one voluntarily partners with her.

But despite all the grumbling, no one does anything. No one picks on her like they do Lena. It makes her think it'll take a bold person, indeed, to actually come out and attack her.

Which means she shouldn't be surprised when she finds Siobhan Smythe and Sara Lance casually lingering in the hallway as she emerges from the Room of Requirement. After all, it's almost past curfew. No one is ever here this late, but they seem they seem to be waiting. They seem to know she'd be here.

"Alright, Danvers?" Lance asks too brightly, smile curled and cruel.

Kara turns in the opposite direction, but they move quickly to catch her, taking rough hold of her under both arms. Kara's wand is in her hand, about to cast, but Smythe hisses in warning.

"Think twice. Another slip up, and you'll be expelled."

Kara hesitates, and Sara Lance wrenches her wand out of her grasp. She's easily the stronger of the two, and Kara feels hopeless and overpowered.

"There, there," Lance coos meanly, pocketing it.

"Now what are we going to do with you?" Smythe sing songs.

"Should we hex her?" Lance growls, her own wand pressed into Kara's chest.

"No," Smythe answers, gleeful and malicious. "Let's put her somewhere no one will find her. Somewhere she can really sit and think about what she's done. Now where could that be?"

"The Forbidden Forest?" Lance supplies perkily. "The Black Lake? There's a squid in there that could strangle her."

"No, no, somewhere she can't just weasel her way back from. We need something else."

Kara squirms, knowing what's about to happen, recognizing the misfortune of where they're standing while Siobhan voices such a wish. She can already hear the door reforming, bricks sliding into place.

No, don't do it! Stay a study room!

She renews her effort to break free. She even flirts with the idea of using her speed, but she knows it would mean giving up her secret. She knows the Fidelius Charm won't allow it. She'll just have to take whatever comes. She seethes at the injustice.

"Siobhan," Sara says, questioning and urgent. "Look at this door. Has it always been here?"

At that moment, Kara's wild eyes light onto a figure walking down the hall and she thinks, I'm saved! She prays for a fellow Hufflepuff, a prefect, even a well-meaning Gryffindor, but it's Sam Arias, another Slytherin.

Her hope withers.

For her part, Sam looks thoughtful, eyes wandering, until she catches sight of the three of them. When she does, she pauses, clutching at the strap of her book bag. Her eyes track over Sara and Siobhan, who freeze, and a silence passes, long and wordless, until Siobhan huffs,

"Well, don't just stand there like a duff, give us a hand, Arias."

Sam steals a wary glance at the hallway behind her, shifting from foot to foot. Kara tries to pull away again, but Lance grips her arm so hard, she's sure it'll bruise.

"Have you gone mad, Shiv?" Sam says at last.

Siobhan grumbles in offense, but Sara beats her to speaking.

"She lost us our Chaser, Sam, she deserves it."

"Haven't you seen Alex Danvers with a wand?" Sam counters. "She'll take your heads off for hurting her little sister. You'll have the whole of Gryffindor on you."

Siobhan and Sara trade a nervous, contemplative glance. Kara feels a flash of pride, that is, until her stomach sinks again. Alex left her in that hallway and isn't speaking to her. She won't come. She's all alone.

Siobhan looks back at Sam with open ridicule.

"Where's the loyalty? Too scared of a Gryffindor to help your fellow Slytherins?"

Sam lifts an eyebrow.

"Uh, yeah. I'd rather not have my hair hexed off, thanks," she says, turning to leave from the direction she came.

"What—come on!" Siobhan shouts after her, "Coward!"

But Sam does not return.

With a groan, Siobhan simply manhandles Kara to the left, jutting her chin sharply at Lance.

"Alright, I'm bored, let's get this over with," she says. "This'll do."

Lance throws open the solid looking door, and they bluntly shove Kara inside. Kara smacks immediately into a wall, yelping in pain. The Room of Requirement is a shallow broom closet now, tiny and claustrophobic. She reels, banging against the door after it closes, but it's deathly quiet. She realizes quickly that she can't hear anything.

She panics. She can't hear anything. She never thought she'd miss it.

She bangs loudly against the door again, shouting, her heart beat hysterical in her ears.

There's no light. She can't see. She can only feel the texture of the door, smooth and polished. She can feel something like stone beneath her feet. But mostly, it feels like she's in a box. A small, cramped, tight box. A coffin.

"Let me out!" she shouts again.

She starts sweating. She hates places like this. She can't—she doesn't like closed in, dark places. It reminds her of—of—

"Open the safe," Lionel says.

"No, no, no," she cries out to no one. She smothers her hands over her eyes, but she can't block out that lab. She smells burning, acrid smoke.

"I'll kill her."

"Shut up!"

She's dizzy, blinded. She tries to sit on the floor, tries to rock herself to calm down, but it doesn't work. She stands again. She bangs her fists against the door. At least, it's something she can hear, loud and resounding. It feels strangely productive, even if she knows it isn't. The door feels just as solid as ever.

Goaded, she slams her shoulder against it, over and over, like a battering ram. She pushes through her legs, off the adjacent wall. Over and over until she hears a wood split, a crack. Something gives, and she quiets, panting.

Over the sound of her ragged breath, she can hear the castle again. She catches a current, a rhythm she's come to know. It grounds her, and she's able to focus on the sound of a soft voice, an Irish accent.

"Sam said she saw them on the 7th floor. Here's her wand."

The object is snatched away by pair of feet next to Lena, walking determined and forceful.

"They could be anywhere by now," the other voice snarls.

It's Alex, angry and scared.

"Alex!" Kara calls out to her, pounding the door. "I'm here!"

But Alex doesn't respond. They must not be close. Kara wonders where they are, on this floor? In the Gryffindor tower? She doesn't know.

"She said there was a door. That room, I think," Lena continues, deaf to Kara's pleas.

"You think?" Alex retorts. "Why didn't you just get her out yourself? Why get me in the middle of the night?"

Kara hears Lena's lips part, the rhythm jump.

"Oh, right, of course," Alex answers before Lena can reply, a cruel twist to her tone. "You're a prat."

"How dare you," Lena responds. "This isn't my fault. You're the one ignoring Kara, you let this happen."

"Keeping tabs?" Alex asks spitefully.

"That's not—look, I just thought you'd want to help your sister, that's all."

Kara hears the squeak of a shoe, as if Alex has turned sharply, gotten into Lena's face.

"Help?" Alex spites. "I'm not stupid, Luthor. I know what you did at the match. Little trick you learned from your brother?"

Lena simmers, and Kara thinks she can hear her jaw clench, muscles flexing.

It's the truth spoken plainly that Kara had been trying to avoid. She knew… she knew Lena had stopped her at the match, and with a spell Alex would've certainly recognized. It had been in the papers when Lex had been taken in. It was an uncommon incantation, used in mining or construction to blast the ground apart, but Lex had used it against Cal. It was clever, really. While magic wouldn't work directly on Cal, it would still work indirectly on all of his surroundings. Lex had destroyed half that cliff face trying to kill Cal, and now Lena had used it against Kara, too.

"I should hex you into the next century," Alex threatens.

An intake of breath, a shuffling of robes, a steeling of nerves.

"Well, then?" Lena prompts, defiant. "Go ahead."

"Oh, I would, I really would," Alex says through clenched teeth, temptation at the tip of her tongue.

"Don't do it, Alex," Kara pleads into the darkness.

"But Kara asked me not to," she growls instead, and with a severe turn, she's walking again, footsteps quick and furious.

There's a weighted silence between them as they approach, and Kara can tell Lena is distressed by her quick breathing, her heavy heart beat.

Kara stills. Is that what that beating is? Lena's heart?

"Why?" she asks at last, voice tenuous and puzzled. "Why would she ask you not to?"

"Because she still tries to protect you, didn't you know?" Alex scoffs. "She blocks half the hexes aimed at your stupid arse."

"You really are a boor, Danvers," Lena condemns, but Kara can hear the waver in her cool reserve.

"Waste of time if you ask me," Alex continues, ignoring Lena's insult. "Unlike her, I know you're not worth it."

Lena doesn't say anything, and Alex taunts further.

"What's wrong? Sad I'm not someone whose admiration you can buy?"

"Shut up."

"It's true, you know," Alex continues to nettle.

Kara hears her taking stairs, two at a time.

"No one likes you for who are, just what you can do for them."

"Stop," Kara whispers, pounding her fist weakly on the door.

"I said, shut up," Lena snaps again, right on Alex's heels.

"Wait," Alex continues, faux thoughtfulness. Her feet pause, she's turned to Lena.

"There was one person who actually liked you, one person who could look past the arrogance and the heinous family tree, but she just wasn't good enough for you, was she?"

Lena takes an overwrought breath, and Kara wishes desperately that she could see them both. She wants to know how Alex's face reads, she wants to measure Lena's reaction. It feels undeniably intrusive, to overhear a conversation of this personal nature, but she can't help it. She can't tune out.

Lena breaths through her nose next, an attempt at control.

"You don't know the first thing about it, Alex."

"And you don't know the first thing about Kara," Alex denounces. "What she's lost. What she's been through. Just because you guessed—because you might've figured out—"

Kara can hear Alex's mouth working but nothing coming out. She can hear the whoosh of air as she gestures inarticulately with her hands. Kara knows that kind of defeat, she knows the effect of the Charm.

"Whatever," she says with vexation. "You knew what she'd lost, and then you left her, too."

Something seems to boil over with Lena, breath coming from a rushing place, bursting hot and wet up her throat.

"She lied to me!" she all but shouts.

There's a pause, and Alex actually laughs.

It's bitter and hopeless. It reeks of all of the ugliest feelings Kara's ever had about the Fidelius Charm, of an unfairness so fathomless, it makes her want to laugh, to scream at the sky, fist in the air, demanding why?

"So what?" Alex finally counters. "Everybody lies."

"Not to me," Lena states angrily, but with a hurt. "Not about that."

Kara thinks she hears a rueful shake of Alex's head, a curling snarl.

"What is it with you? You think with your last name and your money and your stupid badge—" Alex jabs the prefect's badge with a pointed finger— "that you deserve special treatment? Do you think you're better than everyone else?"

Lena's breath hitches.

"Newsflash," Alex continues. "Smythe and Lance locked Kara in a closet, but you broke my sister's heart. You're not better than anyone, Lena. You're worse."

Alex drops the words like a judgement, an end of discussion. Kara hears her turn away from Lena, whose feet remain still. Lena presses against something wet at her cheek and heads in the opposite direction. Kara hears a sniffle and can't stand it. Tears spring to her eyes, too.

She feels exhausted, afraid, stricken with grief. She feels broken down, even more so by the thing Alex had named.

Was it heartbreak? Losing her family, her home, Lena, Quidditch, and Alex? Would it ever mend?

She covers her mouth with a hand to stifle the sound. She wants it to stop, she doesn't want to feel it. Meanwhile, Alex paces briskly on the other side of the door, back and forth, back and forth.

"Show me where Kara is, take me to Kara, I need to find the place Kara's hidden," she mutters over and over.

Some combination of these things must finally work because, without much warning, the door flies open, and Alex is suddenly pulling Kara into her arms.

"Are you okay?" she asks into her hair, worried. "Did they hurt you?"

The tears rush forth at the feeling, hot and messy, and Kara cries freely into her sister's shoulder.

"Shh, I've got you," Alex tries to soothe.

"I'm sorry," Kara says between sobs. "I'm so sorry, Alex."

"It's okay," Alex comforts, gripping her sweater.

"Don't leave me," she begs. "I'm sorry, I don't want to be alone."

Alex tenses, but hugs her harder.

"I'm—I'm not. It's okay, I'm here. You're not alone."


The next day, a numbness settles over Kara like a very thick fog. She can't, doesn't want to feel anything any more. But when she hears Alex has hexed Siobhan Smythe and Sara Lance something fierce, she feels a flicker of returning emotion, of resurfacing interest.

According to Lucy, there was hardly any preamble. Alex had simply walked into the courtyard over break, spotted the pair of them, and waved her wand with a shout. Afterwards, all of their teeth fell out.

"Right in full view of everyone," Lucy tells Kara excitedly in Charms. "I bet it takes a week for those to grow back. I don't know how they're going to eat. Oh, I bet Alex is really going to get it from Professor Henshaw."

Kara represses a smile and finds Alex later that night at dinner.

"I've got about a month's worth of detentions," Alex gripes over her roast beef. "I swear, I've spent more time polishing silver than I have in class."

Kara nods, unfortunately able to relate. Her last four Saturdays had been squandered cleaning cauldrons with Professor Carr. Professor Quinn, her Head of House, had also informed her she'd be suspended until year's end from Quidditch. Mike Matthews took over her position on the team.

It's a point of displeasure for Kara.

Regardless, it's nice to commiserate with Alex again. The muttering in Kara's periphery has eased, too, and even Imra, Megan, and Lucy have been friendlier. Although it's primarily the latter, beleaguering Kara with woeful and dramatic tales of her break up with James.

"Mum wants you to come home for Christmas," Alex tells her, stuffing a wad of potatoes in her mouth. "Professor Prince sent her an owl about, well, you know, and she's not too happy with me for getting detention."

Alex watches Kara carefully as she chews, like she's a temperamental potion prone to explosion, but Kara only sighs, the numbness returning, and she picks at her own potatoes with uncharacteristic disinterest.

She's never spent Christmas at home, and for once, it would actually be quiet at the school. She's also not thrilled at the prospect of being lectured or punished for what's happened in Quidditch. But nothing about her hearing has changed. She needs help from Cal, from Eliza and Jeremiah, and she won't get that at Hogwarts.

"Okay," she mutters.

"Okay," Alex replies in turn, looking incredulous, as if she didn't think Kara's compliance would be so easily gained.

But then she snaps her head to the side, a scowl on her face.

"Olsen," she barks. "Could you shut it? The whole school has already heard the tale of your breakup four times over. I'm not sure if you've noticed, but your girlfriend has a mouth the size of Edinburgh."

There are several whoops and hollers, and James looks appropriately chastened.

"Ex-girlfriend," he mumbles, but when he notices Kara watching, he smiles.

Kara smiles back, before turning away in a panic. That didn't mean anything, did it?


It's strange for Kara to be back on the train so early in the year. She spends most of the journey reading until she tires of it. Then, she stares through the window, trying to ignore the sounds of Exploding Snap, raucous laughter, and engine pistons firing. She focuses on the snowfall, coming down in droves, softening and rounding out the country side. It's another one of those beautiful sounds, something she'd never noticed before. More delicate than rain, but louder than wind, and with so much of it happening at once, it's like a hush through parted lips.

It's calming, although not as calming as her usual method; listening to Lena's heartbeat. Even in Hogsmeade, she thought she could still identify a tendril of it, but now, half way across the England, there's nothing. She's too far away.

She shifts uncomfortably.

Before, when she hadn't known what it was, it felt harmless. But now that she can imagine it as a contraction of veins, a rushing of blood through valves and chambers, a place inside Lena, it feels strangely intimate. It feels like reading Lena's thoughts without her knowledge, like looking in on something she keeps hidden and safe under skin, muscle, and bone. It feels private.

And why was it only her? Why couldn't Kara hear other peoples' heartbeats? Why was her mind prone to listening to Lena so closely?

She's not sure who to ask about such a thing. Or if she even wants to know the answer.

So, she watches Alex doze against the glass and makes a game of trying to hone in on her. She thinks she catches a few beats, thicker than Lena's, stronger and louder, but nothing steady, nothing that's not almost immediately lost in the scuffling of shoes and slamming of compartment doors.

"Zatara never gives me good marks."

"I hear the Irish might win the cup again this year."

"Where's your family from again? Surrey?"

"I want a Firebolt for Christmas!"

Kara shakes her head, eager to rid her mind of the cacophony, and sighs in resignation.

There's no point. She's never going to harness her hearing.


It's a relatively muted ride home from the station after Eliza and Jeremiah pick them up. Eliza gently tries to encourage Alex and Kara into small talk but is for the most part unsuccessful. Alex seems distracted, seemingly set on going straight to her room and shutting the door, and Kara personally can't focus on anything other than the pollution of sound in the city.

Therefore, when she finally gets inside the house, she's surprised to find Jeremiah entering her bedroom after a light knock and leaning casually against the edge of her desk. He absently touches a petal of the Colt's Foot, and Kara wonders vaguely if she's about be disciplined.

"So, how was the trip home?" he asks instead.

Kara shrugs, sitting down on her bed, and Jeremiah continues to watch her, looking studious and inquisitive. He'd always had a bit of a bookworm quality about him, he'd always been more quiet than other adults. He didn't talk much and neither did Kara, so they usually didn't talk much together. But now he fidgets slightly, like something is on his mind. He gazes upwards, his eyes briefly skating over the top of his glasses.

"I'll jump right in, then. Alex tells me you've been having a difficult time at school."

Kara sits back on her bed, fingers splayed, unable to control the jump of her eyebrows.

That's an understatement, she thinks.

"Is it your hearing?" he asks simply.

Kara sighs.

"How did you know?"

"My job at the ministry," he starts a bit awkwardly, smoothing a pant leg. "Well, I'm an Unspeakable, and I study," he pauses, carefully choosing his words, "mysterious aspects of magic. Say like yourself. Or Cal."

Kara's interest piques, and she leans forward, off of her palms.

"Are you under any secret keeping charms?" she asks, intent.

He nods in confirmation.

Kara picks hard at her comforter, feeling a kindred kind of empathy, even anger.

"That's rubbish," she remarks.

Jeremiah ponders her thoughtfully.

"Do you think so?"

"Don't you feel like a liar?" she questions, unable to keep the resentment out of her voice. "Like there's a whole part of yourself you can't talk about?"

He considers her, adjusting his glasses.

"I suppose I do spend most of my days, most of my life working on things I will likely never be able to share. But that isn't all of me. It doesn't make me a liar."

Kara grumbles, looking down again.

"Do you feel like a liar?"

"Of course," Kara breathes out quickly. "I mean—you got to choose what you're doing. You gave it up on your own. You had a choice."

Jeremiah readjusts himself on the desk, a sad quirk to his lips.

"You're right," he answers. "But it's important to remember that you're giving up the right to tell people about your past to protect yourself—"

"I don't care about that," Kara interrupts angrily.

"—and to protect the people you love."

Kara meets his eyes, a pain constricting her chest.

"Even if I—even if I loved someone, how could they ever love me if they don't know me?"

"Your family, your House," he answers softly. "The things that happened to you; they made you kind, caring, and thoughtful. A person doesn't need to know you're Zora El to know those things about Kara Danvers."

Kara sullenly averts her eyes back to the ground. She thinks of Lena, how knowing those things had been crucial to their friendship, how not knowing them had destroyed it.

Sometimes she thinks she hates Kara Danvers.

"It's important to some people," she mumbles.

"Maybe to the right people, it won't be."

Kara wants to argue. Is he saying Lena is not a 'right' person?

"It doesn't matter to Eliza? She doesn't wonder what you do all day, who you work for? How it changes you?"

"She knows who I am," he states frankly. "She trusts me."

"Well, I don't know anyone like that," Kara answers bitterly.

"Not yet," he smiles. "But you have to believe in people, Kara. Keep giving them the chance."

Kara quiets, and a moment passes before Jeremiah draws another breath.

"But, anyway, my work, your hearing," he backtracks. "It puts me in a position to help Cal when he needs it, and I think I can help you, too."

He reaches into his coat pocket, removing a small velvet box.

"Your mother, well, I mean Eliza, she gave me the idea," he explains with a fondness. "We implemented this into Cal's glasses, but she thought these would be more fitting of a young girl."

He hands the box to Kara, and she takes it. When she opens it gingerly, she finds a pair of simple, silver flat disc earrings. They catch the fading winter light from her window, shining brilliantly.

"They should limit the effects of your hearing. Alex says you haven't been sleeping, that you've avoided your common room. This should help."

Kara thumbs at the earrings before reaching in to take hold of one. She hasn't worn earrings in a few years, so she delicately tests that the holes haven't closed up before attempting to push both through.

Once they're in, she immediately feels a pleasant and dulled sensation wash over her. It's like being under a heavy blanket or back in the Room of Requirement. She can still hear details, but they seem far away and muffled, like whispers. She sighs in long overdue relief.

"Thank you," she says, standing to give Jeremiah an eager hug. Despite herself, she feels tears in her eyes.

He hugs her back, firmly around the shoulders.

"Merry Christmas," he tells her.

Chapter Text

Fifth - Sixth year.

With the use of her new earrings, Kara's return to school is marked by a substantial uplift in spirit. She feels light and buoyant, jubilant and carefree. She practically skips down the compartment corridors on the train back to Hogwarts, chatting with people she's never met. Without the constant barrage of noise and sound, she's able to relax back into herself, even spending her first night back at school in the Hufflepuff common room, draped on an overlarge pouf and exchanging Christmas presents with Imra, Megan, and Lucy.

"Look at what my sister got me," Lucy declares, handing Kara a thick, leather bound book. The heat of the fire prickles against the backs of Kara's hands as she thumbs over the cover, smooth and oily.

"A diary?" Imra asks, a hand coming to her mouth to hide a smile.

"Somewhere to place all your thoughts and feelings?" Megan prods, joking, but Lucy remains oblivious.

"I don't know why Lois thinks I need that when I can talk to all of you."

Kara, Imra, and Megan snort with laughter, and Lucy merely looks up at them tartly.

"And what exactly is so funny?"

None of them have the heart to tell her.

Kara's good mood persists even up until next morning, enough that she's able to sleep past dawn for the first time in six months. She'd forgotten that was even possible. Sadly, it also means she misses breakfast, and she's forced to stuff her pockets with pilfered cinnamon rolls before class.

As she exits the kitchens in a rush, she bumps quite literally into a rather solid but decidedly soft object.

"Oh!" she exclaims, catching the person's arms, keeping them both balanced.

She smells a sweet flush of a scent, enchanting yet difficult to place, but the answer is there as she looks up into wide green eyes and a curtain of black hair.

Lena.

Kara goes a bit stiff at the sight and proximity of her. She quickly drops her hold on Lena's arms, nervously twitching her fingers.

For a moment, she doesn't understand how Lena managed to creep up on her. Then, Kara realizes she can't hear her heartbeat as well. It's muted, easily ignored, and she finds herself vaguely missing its brightness and clarity.

"Sorry, I didn't see you," Kara mumbles and makes to go around her.

"Kara," Lena calls after her, and her voice seems strained. At the sound, Kara relents and turns back.

"I was looking for you. I didn't see you at breakfast, and I thought—well, you weren't here for Christmas," Lena speaks in a rush, uncharacteristic of her typical cool reserve.

She takes a step forward.

"But you're back."

"Yes," Kara nods. "I'm back."

At that, a silence grows between them, rife with a tension that Kara doesn't completely understand.

She uncomfortably shoves her hands into her pockets, only to be met with warm bread and a handful of sugary stickiness. She winces and thinks to offer Lena a roll, she has about twelve, and she knows Lena loves cinnamon. But she can also remember Lena's voice in the crowd, cursing the ground she stood upon. And then Lena's voice again, soft and concerned as she led Alex to the Room of Requirement.

Kara oscillates between wanting to thank Lena for helping her and wanting to accuse her of helping Jack, her obnoxious boyfriend. Yet she says nothing before Lena speaks again.

"Good, um, well I'll be going then," Lena offers more formally, the mask falling back into place over her features.

Kara wants to grimace at the sight of it. It's Lena at her most rudimentary, aloof and untouchable. It's leagues away from the kind, intelligent girl that only seems to only exist in her memory. But the façade falters, the mask slips, and Kara catches a glimpse of her once friend when Lena looks down and bites at her bottom lip.

"I just wanted to make sure you were, well," she wavers. "That you were, um—"

But she doesn't finish her sentence. She just turns on her heel and quickly hurries away from Kara.

Kara watches her go, mouth open. She wonders at what would cause Lena to forsake her years of propriety training. It's easily the least articulate she's ever been.

What had upset her? Was it Alex? Had something happened over Christmas?

Christmas, Kara thinks.

She frowns. With everything else, she'd forgotten that Lena had been alone for Christmas at Hogwarts. Even if they hadn't spoken, they'd still born witness to each other during meals in the Great Hall. It had been a kind of routine over the last five years, sharing Christmas together, even when Lena was resolutely ignoring her. What would it have been like for Kara if Lena had suddenly not been there?

Kara opens her mouth, thinks to call out or even go after her. But she pauses. Even if Lena could explain her actions, why she'd attacked Kara on the Quidditch pitch, Kara wouldn't be able to explain herself in return. She'd still be bound by a Fidelius Charm induced silence.

Ultimately still, nothing had changed. There's nothing to say.


"I like James," Kara declares with a sort of reckless abandon.

There, she thinks. She's said it. Maybe it will give her a certain firmness of feeling. Maybe the slippery, anxious feeling, the one she's been grasping at and wrestling with for weeks will finally become solid. Real.

But Alex, like usual, surveys her sister with polite incredulity over the top of her butter beer.

"Really now?" she asks, wiping the foam from her mouth.

Kara nods, eager to convince her.

It just seems like lately she needs to 'like' someone. It's standard fare in all of her conversations with other girls, and Kara feels eager to have something to contribute. She'll be sixteen in May, and she doesn't want to be different. She can be boy crazy, too. And why can't that boy be James? She can manifest a liking into existence through sheer force of will, she's sure she can.

"James Olsen?" Maggie questions, seated to Alex's left at their rounded table in the Hog's Head.

Kara nods her head once and pointedly, hoping to convey the depth of her conviction, but Maggie merely lifts an eyebrow in apparent indifference, and Alex seems only vaguely more intrigued.

"Well, what do I do?" Kara directs at Alex. "You were bursting with dating advice before."

"Was she?" Maggie asks with a smirk. "What did she say?"

Alex makes a move to stop her, but Kara continues unimpeded, "She said they just 'come to her.'"

"Do they?" Maggie snorts, but she winces almost as suddenly, as if struck from under the table. Kara knits her brows in confusion, but Alex waves her hand in a wild attempt at distraction.

"Are you sure, though?" she asks with the pique of an eyebrow. "Olsen? Of all people?"

"Of course, I'm sure, why do you keep asking?"

"Doesn't he seem a bit," Alex starts, making a so-so kind of hand gesture.

"Tall, good-looking, athletic?" Kara suggests.

"Puffed up?" Alex supplies in turn.

Kara rolls her eyes.

"Can't you be supportive? You were begging me to date someone before holiday."

Maggie shoots Alex a quizzical look, but Alex ignores her. Instead, she rolls her eyes and takes another drink.

"Fine," she says crisply. "Maybe you should start by, I don't know, talking to him."

"About what?" Kara asks, choosing to overlook her sister's blatant sarcasm. "Oh, should I talk to him about Lucy? She is my bunkmate."

"Merlin no, Kara," Alex scoffs. "Definitely don't ask or talk to him about his ex."

"Why not?"

"You'll be friend zoned."

Kara stares openly at her. "What's that?"

"Honestly," Alex states, exasperated. "You'd think you spent the last five years in that Room of Requirement."

"The what?" Maggie inquires.

"Nothing," Alex plows forward. "Look, he's over there with Schott and Gordon. Just go make conversation. You both play Quidditch, that's an easy start."

"Right, right," Kara says more to herself as she clenches her fist and steels herself.

She rises from the table and crosses the inn to where Winn, James, and Barbara are seated. Their table is littered with candy wrappers and half eaten sweets from Honeyduke's, and she smiles hopefully at James as she catches his eye.

She thinks to bring up Quidditch, she really does. But her gaze falls to an open bag of Chocoballs, something far more enticing indeed, and she takes a breath, gestures and says,

"Are you going to finish that?"

From four tables away, Alex groans and slaps a hand to her forehead.


Things don't progress much further with James over the coming months, but it's not exactly Kara's top priority with their impending O.W.L.s.

The mental breakdowns surrounding the exams are vast and far reaching. Some students have spasmodic attacks in the hallways; hurling books into walls and shouting at first years to get out of their way. Others conduct nonstop interrogations concerning study habits ("How many hours are you studying? Which books are you reading from? Any idea what will be covered?") While others still have taken up permanent residence in the library, clothes disheveled and hair matted flat from sleeping face down on their spellbooks.

Their professors, too, have not eased up. On top of everything else, they've begun handing out pamphlets advertising wizarding jobs and career advice. Kara flicks through them; there's healing, muggle relations, banking, curse breaking, security, and dozens more. But nothing seems particularly appealing. She has a feeling it doesn't impress Professor Quinn all that much either when she voices this thought in her interview.

"Well, you don't want to be one of those witches living with her parents for the rest of her life," Quinn scolds. "You'd better give it some thought."

Kara doesn't, not really.

At least not before she's given her examination schedule near the end of term. Like everyone else, she's studied as much as she can. She's optimistic about Herbology and Astronomy, being certain that no one in her year has spent more time than she has in the green houses or atop the Astronomy tower. She even thinks Defense Against the Dark Arts will go well. After all, she's seen almost every hex, curse, and jinx Alex could think to throw at her. But Potions? History of Magic? Divination? She can only hope to avoid total catastrophe.

As the written and practical exams come and go in one long sleep-deprived blur, Kara finds herself feeling confident before her Defense Against the Dark Arts demonstration. She even feels slightly relieved as she waits outside of the Great Hall, waiting to be called alphabetically. After this one, she'll be done for the day.

"Danvers, Kara!" Professor Zatara calls out.

Kara jumps out of her chair, returning a nervous thumbs up from Megan and Lucy. She follows an old, wizened-looking examiner into the Great Hall.

He doesn't look at her as he asks her to perform a variety of counter curses and hexes, not until they're nearly finished and he's jotting a few quick notations on his clipboard.

"Well, that'll be all Miss—" he stops, catching sight of her face. "My word, are you that student from the papers? From about a year back?"

Kara nods a bit uncertainly. She supposes a number of her classmates could've been in the paper, but she recognizes the way he's looking at her, with awe and a dash of intrigue, and she figures he must be referring to the clip from the Daily Prophet.

"Is it true you can create a corporeal shield charm?" he asks.

Kara fidgets at the question and, for some reason, she thinks to look around, hoping no one has overheard.

However, she finds astute green eyes watching, Lena standing a few groups away. She's just started her exam, and she doesn't seem to be listening to the lengthy list of monotone instructions her examiner rattles off. Their eyes meet, and Kara feels a resulting rush of… something.

"Could you show me?" Kara's own examiner cues. "For a bonus point?"

"Of course," Kara answers quickly, refocusing.

She lifts her wand, racked by a sudden jolt of panic. What if she can't recreate the shield? It doesn't always take an observable form. Typically, it's invisible. But she tries to think back to the platform, back to the men with raised wands, of Lena frightened behind her. She flicks her wrist.

Protego! she incants in her mind.

The resulting shield is smaller and not nearly as powerful as it had been on the platform, but it shines briefly, circular and luminescent in front of the examiner. It blows back his hair.

"Very impressive!" he claps. "And non verbal, too!"

He makes an excited mark on his clipboard, and Kara smiles at him, avoiding Lena's eye afterwards when she exits the Great Hall.


Her self-satisfaction at having aced her Defense Against the Dark Arts exam is relatively short-lived.

By the end of her Potions final the next afternoon, the Deflating Draught she's concocted looks more like congealed milk than it does a 'moonlight white.' And by the time it simmers, mere minutes from when it has to be turned in, it's yellow and hard as aged cheese.

When she hands her potion over to the examiner, she pinches her nose as she looks it over. Even Kara can smell the rotting, sulfurous contents, and she tries to hold back tears.

She's upset with herself, having dedicated hours and hours to Potions, only to perform with certain failure. After enduring Professor Carr's taunts and jibes at her intelligence for five long years, she'd wanted to outperform his expectations. Success was the best form of revenge, wasn't it?

But that wasn't going to happen today.

The examiner endeavors to take a vial of the potion, but only manages curling a few crusty crumbles into the glass, a disappointed sigh escaping her mouth as she makes a few annotations. Kara rushes out of the dungeons when she's finished, without so much as another word.

"Stupid, stupid," she chants, waving her wand and vanishing the contents from her cauldron.

She clutches hard at the metal as she climbs the stairs, muttering and cursing under her breath. She'd never make it into N.E.W.T. level potions classes now. Not that she wanted to, but still.

When she bursts into the open corridor at the top of the stairs, she hears a loud metallic ripping noise, and she looks down, gaping. Unconsciously, she'd twisted the metal until it had rent in two.

"What—?" she hears a voice exclaim in the hallway, and Kara looks up.

Winn Schott stands there, gaping right back at her.

Never a capable liar, Kara does the only thing she can do. She drops the cauldron, or what's left of it, with a loud clang! and sprints off in the opposite direction.


In long standing tradition, Kara doesn't mention the incident to Alex. Even despite everything they'd been through, she's still a bit loathe to acknowledge the surfacing of yet another other worldly power especially when it's coming directly on the heels of the last. Plus, she figures Alex will suss it out eventually anyway. Her sister has always had a knack for tracking down Kara's secrets like a blood hound, so no need to rush and tell her anything.

Happily, there aren't any more incidents either, and by the time summer rolls around, she can barely believe she's moving in and out of another year at Hogwarts.

Sixteen, she finds herself thinking over and over. Sixteen, sixteen.

She feels like she should be doing something. She feels like something should be starting or that something should be ending. Or that things should be, well, more figured out, but she doesn't know what. It's hard to define. All she knows is that Alex will be in her seventh year and graduating soon. Then, Alex will become an Auror, she'll work with Cal, and she'll be gone, too.

Kara sighs. Alex has never voiced any of Kara's lack of direction or ambivalence. She's always been sure; she's always wanted to stop bad people from doing bad things. Kara knows she should be like her, but she's just… not.

She doesn't know who she is or what she wants to do. Plus, she doesn't know what she can do. What kind of job would allow her to successfully conceal her powers? Would she be hiding her real identity forever? Would she be under the Fidelius Charm until she died?

It's a thought that haunts her, the vague uncertainty of her future. She does her best to ignore it in her usual way, by charting the changing stars, by tending to her garden, fertilizing Lena's rose plant. It's still blooming even after her birthday.

It's beautiful.

It's also developed a wonderful sort of fragrance, one Kara's never noticed before. She can't quite get enough of it. She'd always thought it was just a typical plant, enchanted to bloom during a certain part of the year, but it occurs to her now that it may be more than that. It smells like freshly dug earth, a warm summer's day, the Hogwarts kitchens, and… and…

A thick padded envelope falls from the sky, striking her over the head.

"Oy!" she calls up at Hugo, but the owl ignores her, fluttering his wings and swooping into the kitchen.

She grumbles, rubbing the back of her head, and reaches for the fallen envelope. She sees movement in her periphery, however, and she turns, glancing through the neighboring lawns to find a figure standing, watching her from a few houses down.

Much like he had that day in that corridor, Winn Schott remains stock still, a matching envelope to Kara's in his hand.

They stare, regarding each other for a long moment like two animals meeting in the wild. Then, Kara's eyes flicker over what appear to be his worn and food stained pajamas. His hair looks ruffled, as if he's just woken up.

"Winn?" she calls out, indicating the red bricked house behind him. "Do you—do you live there?"

Winn's eyes widen suddenly, as if Kara's words have made him realize that she can, in fact, see him. His gaze snaps sharply to his clothes, and he runs abruptly into his house, very nearly tripping over a garden hedge.

Alex opens the door behind her, a muffin in her hand.

"Was that Schott?" she asks. "He lives by us?"

"I guess so," Kara replies, eyes still focused on the house. Until her nose twitches and she focuses on Alex's muffin.

She reaches for it, but Alex swats her hand away, possessively pulling it from reach.

"Little weird, right?" she says. "That's he's never said anything?"

Kara shrugs, only wondering if there are more muffins.

"Hang on," Alex points urgently at the envelope. "Those are your O.W.L. results, Kara."

Kara had nearly forgotten about the envelope in her hand, and she feels a wrench of anxiety at Alex's words.

Her results already? This soon? Was the envelope supposed to be so heavy? Did that mean she did bad? What if she failed everything? What if there was a letter of expulsion in the contents?

She clenches the parcel hard, and before she can think to stop herself, her fingers tear right through the parchment, littering the lawn with shreds of paper.

"Oh no!" she cries, scrambling to pick up the pages before the wind catches them. She manages to collect several scraps before she finds Alex watching her pointedly.

"Alex, I promise, it only just started," Kara rushes to explain, knowing Alex has likely guessed at what's happened, guessed at her onset of her strength.

"Sure," Alex replies warily.

"Oh come on, just help me, will you?"

Alex sighs and bends down to gather more bits of parchment. When done, she lazily waves her wand over the pile in Kara's hands.

"Reparo," she whispers, and the pieces reform into a single whole document.

"You're so lucky you can use magic whenever you want now," Kara grumbles.

"Well now, let's have a look," Alex replies impatiently, pushing Kara to open the envelope.

Kara takes a fortifying breath and reopens the envelope with a touch more delicacy. She then scans the first page.


Ordinary Wizarding Level Results

Pass Grades

Outstanding (O)
Exceeds Expectations (E)
Acceptable (A)

Fail Grades

Poor (P)
Dreadful (D)
Troll (T)

Kara Danvers has achieved:

Transfiguration E
Charms E
Potions P
History of Magic P
Defense Against the Dark Arts O
Astronomy O
Herbology O
Divination P
Care of Magical Creatures E


"Wow, Kara, that's three Outstandings! And 6 O.W.L.'s!"

Kara can barely breathe. Her eyes catch on the 'P' at Potions with a stab of disappointment, but everything else? She reads through it again and feels a heavy wave of relief. She whirls around and hugs Alex tightly.

"I did it!" she shouts deafeningly into Alex's ear.

"Blimey, I think you just broke one of my ribs!" Alex wails back.

But Kara ignores her, rushing inside to share the news with Eliza.


Eliza and Jeremiah buy her a new telescope to celebrate her results.

Cal merely sends a note. It's short, and it says,

Great work.

- Cal

Kara buries it at the bottom of her desk drawer.


Winn visits Kara the following week, knocking sheepishly at the front door. Kara's in the back garden, laying under a window box pulling weeds, but she just manages to pick up the sound through her dampening earrings.

Deciding that it will be faster to walk around the house, she comes up behind Winn, who is mumbling to himself and fidgeting, shifting his weight from foot to foot.

"Hi," she says, and Winn jumps, flailing against the front door, a hand held to his chest.

Kara can't help but giggle.

"I'm sorry, I was in the back and coming around was easier."

"No, no, no," Winn stammers, trying to regain his bearing. "It's fine, I just wanted to—wanted to apologize for the other day."

Unlike the other day, Kara notices that Winn isn't wearing his pajamas, but a cardigan over a button down shirt with a neatly tucked tie and pressed, dark slacks. His hair even looks gelled and combed. It seems a bit stuffy for the warm weather, in Kara's opinion, and a far cry from her own dirt stained jeans and mottled white shirt.

"I just—I didn't know we lived next to each other," he speaks quickly. "I mean, I thought maybe we did at one point, there's a lot of noise out in that back lot. But I didn't want to seem creepy, or you know, stalker-y."

He laughs nervously.

"I mean, I'm not a stalker, obviously, but I didn't want to just come calling like I'd been watching you or something," Winn rambles, his smile looking pained. "I haven't, by the way. Been watching you."

Kara takes pity on him.

"It's completely fine," she assures him kindly. "I didn't know we lived so close together either, I would've definitely come by."

"Me either, I mean, me too," he admits with a stammer. "But I guess now that we do, do you want to—I don't know, maybe have some tea?"

Kara smiles, and she gestures to the side gate.

"Sure, come in, I'll show you around."

After that, Winn visits nearly every day. He's odd, and Kara doesn't know what to think of it at first.

He wears clothes that are more appropriate for a middle aged man. He crosses his legs when he drinks tea. He keeps a perfectly folded napkin in his pocket. But while his overall regard is somewhat awkward and bumbling, Kara still likes him. She finds him well intentioned and good natured.

So, she gives him a detailed tour of her garden and the lot behind their house. She talks to him about their O.W.L.s, school, and even possible careers.

Winn wants to be a scientist of sorts. He wants to study spell invention.

"There are spells we use all the time, you know? And we never think about the person who invented them, but they changed so many lives! I want to do that for people," he tells her wistfully. "I want to make a difference."

And Kara believes that he can. After all, he got nine O.W.L.s with seven Outstandings. It makes Kara a little jealous, both of his intelligence and of his ambition. But she's proud of him, too, happy that there are people out there who have both the means and the desire to help.

It's more than she's got.

But despite this, he does tend to wax a bit too poetic surrounding the more technical aspects of spell invention, lulling Kara into a kind of stupor. During these bouts, she tries to ignore a persistent mental association with a person whose poetic waxing had never seemed to bother her, a person who she could listen endlessly to as they talked about dozens of minute facts and figures. Being around Winn sometimes makes her miss Lena achingly, like a phantom pain in a lost limb.

She can't help but think they'd make great friends.

Although it's difficult when Winn mentions her, always with an esteem that Kara's never sure whether to categorize as crush or platonic infatuation.

"I know it's not as many O.W.L.s as Lena Luthor," he laments one afternoon when they're discussing O.W.L.s for the fifth or sixth time. Winn's a little preoccupied with them.

"But it's still good, right? We can't all be like her."

Kara can only nod vaguely and gaze side long at Lena's rose bush, trying to decipher the sweet scent wafting from it, barely listening as Winn continues to analyze who in their class got which O.W.L. grades.

"Mike Matthews certainly got the least, he's a dolt if I've ever seen one."

She murmurs a few 'I knows' and 'probablys', but she's tuned out to the extent that she doesn't realize he's picked up her copy of that morning's Daily Prophet until he asks,

"What does that 'S' mean, anyway?"

Kara turns to look, and Winn points down at the front page. Cal's featured in a swopping, moving photo, saving would be victims from a wild fire in eastern Ukraine. Winn presses at the symbol on Cal's chest.

"Super?" he guesses.

Kara represses a flare of annoyance, feeling her jaw tighten at the effort. That symbol… it was supposed to mean 'stronger together,' but she and Cal had never been farther apart. She touches absently at the silver chain around her neck.

"No," Kara answers without thinking. "It's his family sigil. For the House of El."

Winn looks up at that, at Kara's drawn eyebrows, her murky blue gaze as she stares down at Cal. A garden gnome nearby pulls hard at a wriggling grub, scuffing at the dirt.

"Is that your family?" he asks. "The House of El?"

Kara jolts from the photo, looking up, holding Winn's hazel green eyes.

"What?"

"It's just that, I saw you with your cauldron that one day—"

"I made a really bad potion," Kara blurts. "I got a P on my Potions O.W.L. I probably melted it, compromised its integrity or something."

Winn doesn't answer, but he also doesn't look persuaded. Instead, he glances back down at the paper, gazing at 'Superman.'

"Could you tell me if he was?" he asks casually, as if they weren't touching on one of the most sensitive subjects of Kara's life. "I mean, are you physically able to say the words?"

Kara makes several uncomfortable noises.

"I can't tell you something that isn't true, no—"

"I wondered, is all," Winn interrupts, folding the newspaper shut. "I think everyone in Ravenclaw has at some point. I mean, I've never seen anyone go through the stadium as fast as you did in third year, and I was standing by you on the platform, too. I saw you get hit with the Torture Curse. You didn't even blink," he states, not accusingly like Lena, but factually, calmly.

"But it doesn't explain why you never really talk or say anything about it. Why don't you? Don't you want people to know what you can do?"

Kara merely stares at him, clutching at the concrete steps below them, careful not to leave an imprint or crack the rock. She's not sure if she succeeds, but she doesn't want to look down and draw attention to it, either.

"Is it a curse? Or a charm?" he asks thoughtfully. "Something that stops you from telling the truth?"

She purses her lips, but she can't confirm it. Not in any way. Not with a nod, a glance of the eyes, a flick of her hand. It's torturous.

"You look a little like him, too," Winn continues, seemingly unbothered by her lack of reply.

"Around here," he gestures over her eyes with two fingers. "The funny part is I can't see it in photos. I can't explain it, but when I look at Zora El, she doesn't look anything like you. Weird, right?"

Kara still says nothing, glancing away with defeat.

"Look, I'm not trying to make you uncomfortable," he says genuinely. "I just want you to know, I can help you if you need it. I won't tell anyone. I'm not sure what you're able to show me—"

"I can't show you anything, Winn," Kara interrupts. "There's nothing to show."

"Maybe not," he says. "But I'll still try to help."

Kara looks up at him, and she remembers what Jeremiah had said over Christmas.

Was Winn one of those 'right' people? Did it really not bother him, her lying, her deceit?

"When I was little," he says folding his hands over his lap. "Before Hogwarts, my dad gave me this puzzle he'd invented. He made toys, really cool wizard novelties."

His tone is pensive, even sad. Kara can't help but notice the use of the past tense, and she wonders what happened to Winn's father.

"Anyway," he shakes his head. "I tried to crack this puzzle forever, it took me months. Do you want to know what the trick was?"

Kara nods, still feeling at a loss for words.

"You couldn't look directly at it," he shares. "Insane, right? But it taught me that there are some things you can only see when you're not looking at them."

Kara blinks, and Winn smiles in that cautious way of his.

"For instance, I don't need to look down to know you've cracked the pavement," he says more lightly. "I probably shouldn't, even. Honestly, I'm still a little concerned for my backside."

Kara laughs, albeit a bit nervously.

"But I'm going to help you. I promise."


"Great, so Winn knows now, too?" Alex asks, perturbed as Kara peruses a list of strength exercises Winn had developed for her.

"I know you don't need these," he'd winked. "But in case you do, here are some good exercises to try. And you should try to break this. I think it's definitely smart to start taking some measurements, you know, for science."

"Well, obviously, I didn't tell him," Kara answers, playing with the metal looking baton Winn had given her. It looked legitimately sturdy, she doubted she could break it.

"Then how did he figure it out?"

"Well, I thought I'd failed my Potions exam," Kara explains. "And he saw me accidentally tear a cauldron in half."

Alex processes this information, blinking rapidly.

"A cauldron? In half?"

"Yeah, well, I didn't know he was there, and I didn't mean to destroy it."

"Well, that doesn't make sense," Alex rationalizes. "You're not supposed to be able to tell your secret in any way. How could you do it on accident?"

Kara only shrugs. She had, after all, worked this loophole out for herself when Lena had questioned her, but she obviously didn't want to clue Alex in on that. So, instead, she squeezes the rod experimentally, attempting to bend and break.

"Should we tell Cal?"

Kara shrugs again, but Alex's gaze lingers, single-minded and contemplative. Kara hates it when she's like this, when she's onto something. She tenses unconsciously when she hears her sister's intake of breath.

"Does Lena kn—?" Alex starts, but at that moment the metal screeches and tears.

Attempting to regain control, Kara squeezes one half too hard and it launches out of her hand. It flies through the kitchen window like a speared javelin, and glass explodes over the lawn.

"I'll get it," Alex mutters.

She points her wand at the window and mumbles 'Reparo' with a sigh of deep long-suffering.


She and Alex ultimately decide not to tell Cal about Winn, Kara having made several pleas on his behalf.

"What if the Memory Charm hurts him?" she'd appealed. "He's smart, Alex! He's going to help people! We can't risk that."

She'd had the feeling, too, that even if they did wipe his memory, Winn would just figure it out all over again. Then, Cal would have to wipe his memory repeatedly and surely that couldn't be good for the long term viability of his brain.

Fortunately, Alex gives in with little argument. She seems relieved to finally have some help. Winn takes rigorous care of Kara's strength exercise routine; she's been working on holding eggs, water balloons, and dinner plates, but even still Kara doesn't have a total handle on it by the time she returns to Hogwarts.

She's a walking wrecking ball.

Within the first few weeks of term, she shatters so many glasses at meal time that metal goblets start appearing in their place. She even pushes back from the Hufflepuff table too energetically one evening and cracks the bench in half.

A half dozen Hufflepuffs crash to the ground, spilling into the aisle like fallen bowling pins, and Kara whirls around, hoping that no one has noticed. But of course Lena Luthor watches with mild interest, gaze trained on Kara's hands as she spoons soup into her mouth, and Kara exits the Great Hall at high speed.

She tries to play off the unusual cyclone of chaos that follows her as typical school yard pranks, but it's hard when she's surrounded by a sea of very breakable, very brittle objects. Not to mention, coming into contact with other people. Alex swears she's broken more bones in her body than Quidditch ever has. All just from hugs.

It worries her. Especially given that her classes have taken on new shape. Rather than splitting courses between two Houses, her year has progressed into their various N.E.W.T. specializations, which meant sharing classes with everyone; with Winn, James, and her usual Hufflepuffs. Winn tries to run interference when he can,

"I got you!" he'll say, pretending to be responsible for the broken desk lying at Kara's feet in Charms.

But he's not always there. In fact, Kara shares most of her lessons with Lena, even Care of Magical Creatures, a course few had elected to continue.

Kara tries to keep out of her way, she doesn't want to give Lena any more reason to dislike her, but Lena will watch Kara, often and inscrutably, while she tries to interact with that week's creature without killing it. Kara only wants to pet and hold and love, but she feels like her slight, pale hands have become death wielding weapons of destruction, and she hates it. She wonders what Lena is thinking. She wonders if she's disgusted, if she hates her.

She just wants to be gentle. And nice. And not entirely revolting to Lena. Life isn't fair.

The only class they don't share is Potions, mercifully, but that doesn't stop Kara from hearing all about it. If not from Lucy, from someone else, and even Samantha Arias approaches her during a free period one chilly afternoon in Greenhouse 3.

"Hi Kara," she greets, smiling uncertainly at the presence of the Slytherin.

"Hi," she says cheerfully. "Are you here to collect the Snargaluff pods, too?"

"Oh," Sam says, glancing down at the potted plant. "No. Professor Quinn said I could find you here."

Kara raises her eyebrows, removing her gloves. She's careful not to touch anything lest she break it right within Sam's direct line of sight.

"What do you need?"

"I know you're not in Potions," Sam says, and Kara frowns at the memory, "but we're having to brew Amortentia, and it's incredibly difficult."

Amortentia, Kara thinks, then it clicks.

"The love potion?"

"Yes," Sam says with a sigh.

"Isn't that pretty advanced?"

"Yes," Sam confirms again. "And as an added difficulty, Carr is saying we have to procure our own ingredients, something about 'getting a taste of the real word,' you know him."

Kara snorts.

"Know him? Maybe. Miss him? No."

Sam smiles ruefully and toys with a trowel on the table. Kara's broken it three times within the last hour alone.

"Well, I thought…" Sam trails off, eyes still averted.

"You wondered if I had an ingredient."

Sam nods, looking relieved.

"What is it?"

"The potion needs rose thorns."

"Oh," Kara answers brightly. "Well, we have some over here," she motions towards the back wall, but Sam holds a hand up.

"I don't think those would work. The thorns come from a certain type of rose bush. A special one."

Kara hesitates. "I don't think we have anything like that here at school."

"True, but I think you actually have one," Sam cuts in, and Kara gazes at her, puzzled.

"At least, Lena said you do, or maybe you did. I'm not sure if you still have it, actually," she breathes, pulling at her fingers. "But you'd remember. It's a peculiar looking rose bush. The blooms are purple."

Kara's mind flashes immediately to the plant in her garden. The deep purple roses, the feather soft petals.

"They're quite rare, really," Sam tells her. "Do you think you could write your mum and have her send a few of the thorns up to school?"

"Okay," Kara agrees absently, still distracted by the fact that Lena had given her such a rare and special plant. As an advanced Herbologist, how had she not known? And for a love potion?

"Wild assignment, right?" Sam states with a shy smile.

"Yeah," Kara murmurs. "I'm a little jealous, honestly. I don't think I've ever even seen a love potion."

"Well, it's absolutely gorgeous," Sam gushes. "It's got this pearly white sheen and spiraling steam. And the way it smells," she puts a hand to her chest, a red tinge to her cheeks.

Kara quirks her eyebrows, smiling with confusion.

"It's positively seductive, Kara," Sam tells her. "Carr said it has a different aroma to each person, that it smells like the thing you like best."

Kara feels an uncomfortable twinge at this information. Coupled with a desire to plaster a look of careful indifference over her face. Surely, that wasn't how her plant smelled…

"Oh, well, that sounds—"

"Awkward?" Sam asks.

"Yes," Kara admits. "And a little dangerous."

Sam smirks.

"I know. Can you imagine? If we have to test our potions, it'll be a disaster, and I'll love every moment of it," she shares mischievously.

"You'll have to tell me if that happens," Kara replies lightly, looking away, still aggrieved to be missing such an interesting lesson.

"Thanks for helping me, by the way," Sam adds.

"Of course."

"And Kara?"

Kara looks up, sensing a shift in tone.

"Lena told me what Jack did last year, in the bathroom. For what it's worth, I felt like he had it coming, what happened on the pitch. I know he's my teammate and all, but he can be a bit of an ass, and I'm sorry Sara and Siobhan did that to you."

"It's—," Kara finds herself offering, trying to impress a smile. But she doesn't quite manage, and she doesn't complete the sentence either. Because it's not fine. Not yet, anyway.

"Thank you," she ends up saying. "For getting my sister. I never got around to saying that, I'm sorry."

Sam's eyebrows quirk in confusion, but then she draws her hand away from the work table.

"Any time," she replies. "And from what I hear, Alex isn't the only Gryffindor ready to attack anyone who hurts you," she says mysteriously with a wink. "I hear James Olsen is going to ask you out."

Kara reels. What?

"See you later, Kara," Sam waves, leaving Kara alone with a whirlwind of thoughts.

What did Sam know about James? And how did she know?


Kara doesn't have much time to mull it over before the act itself is playing out before her.

She's alone with James the next day, partnered with him in Defense Against the Dark Arts as they both work on silent casting jinxes, of which neither of them are very successful. James doesn't even seem all that focused, but Kara doesn't think much of it, not until he steps closer to her, placing a hand on her forearm.

"I was wondering," he says, sounding decisively casual. Even though a drop of sweat has formed at his brow and his hand feels overwarm (and overlarge) through her sweater.

Kara can only think, here it comes.

"The first Hogsmeade trip is next weekend," he continues. "Do you want to go with me?"

He doesn't stammer or look scared. He's composed and calm, and Kara thinks that the whole thing should strike her as rather swoon worthy.

James is asking her out. And he's acting so cool.

But she feels strangely detached, hollow like a drum. She knows she should feel excited, she should be excited damn it, but the only thing that manifests is a kind of forced smile, a tensing in the arm where he touches her.

"Sure," she says in an out of body sort of way, and he smiles back.

They return to the lesson, and Kara tries not to bolt too quickly out of the class when it's finished. She needs time to think. What had just happened?


All week, she can't help but look for flaws in James, but nothing is wrong with him. Nothing that explains her absence of enthusiasm, her complete lack of feeling. After all, he's confident and smooth. He's popular. He's relatively quick with a wand. He even loves Superman. He doesn't think her cousin is a freak or a menace. It's refreshing.

"Can you believe he's learned to fly?" he grins widely as they walk into Hogsmeade.

Kara smiles, compelling herself to maintain their proximity when he moves closer, to not flinch when his hand brushes hers. It's only because she's afraid to hurt him with her strength. That he's the first guy she's gone out with. She's just nervous, that's all.

"Is that unusual?" she replies.

"The way he does it, I think so," James says with a press of his shoulder to hers.

Don't move, Kara tells herself.

"Really good witches and wizards can do it, but it doesn't even look like he's using magic. I wonder how it works."

Kara wonders this, too. Could she fly if she tried? Thinking of all of the broken bones and bruises she's incurred in the past, though, she's not eager to try.

When they reach Hogsmeade, they follow the mass of students, going in and out of shops. They talk lightly about Quidditch, and for all the world, Kara can't discern what the big deal is, why the girls hadn't stopped pestering her all week about her 'date.'

Is this it? Is it just a lot of talking? She talked this much to Winn, were those dates?

She's lost in the question, so much that she doesn't realize which shop they've walked into until an overpoweringly sweet smell assaults her senses. Kara looks around as a bell tinkles ominously overhead.

There's pink everywhere. The shop is cramped with couples, all of them at rounded tables with frilly napkins as they talk closely, fingers entwined. A few of them look up, glancing over she and James before turning to each other and whispering madly. Kara feels her insides recoil.

This must be Madam Puddifoot's, the haunt of happy couples.

She pauses at the threshold, her body soundly refusing to take another step. Move, she tells her stupid feet. She wants this!

"Do you want some tea?" James asks with the kind of genteel manners that Kara can find no room to fault.

She nods and slides uncomfortably into an open seat. They order from Madam Puddifoot soon after, and Kara can only stare at her cup when it's delivered, terrified to pick it up under current circumstances. The china looks terribly delicate.

"Did you come here with Lucy?" Kara hears herself blurt out loud.

She curses inwardly. Alex said not to bring her up, why was she bringing her up?

But James only laughs lightly, an easygoing expression on his face.

"Yeah, sometimes," he answers. "It wasn't my style at first, but the tea is good."

Right, Kara thinks ironically, looking around at several canoodling couples. The tea must be very good indeed. Then, for a panicked moment, she wonders if she'll see Jack and Lena, and she freezes.

Ugh, why was she thinking about her?

"I'm so happy you're here, though," he continues, regaining Kara's attention as she snaps her head back to him. "I've been wanting to ask you for a long time, but I knew it might've been weird."

"Why?" Kara asks, feeling oddly paranoid. What did he know?

"You know, with Lucy."

"Oh."

She hadn't spared much thought to that, but Lucy had been acting a bit irritable around her.

"And I know this is forward, but…" Kara feels her body go inert. "Can I kiss you?"

With the violent swings of her mood over the last several minutes, Kara entertains the wild idea of saying no. Of simply getting up and walking out of the tea shop. Getting some fresh air. But she doesn't. She will do this. She will date. She will like someone.

She nods in a jerky fashion, and James leans over. They're sitting closely, after all, and it takes little effort for him to touch his lips to hers. It's brief, light, and strange. Not terrible. Not pleasant. He pulls back.

"Cool," he says, looking misty eyed.

Kara smiles, the effort making her skin feel taut and paper thin, and she reaches for a menu. She brings it up, an effective barrier between them.

"So, do they have food here?"


She and James are dating. They are a 'thing.' Kara is officially part of a club she'd only hoped to some day claim membership. But the change in consignment is one that Kara doesn't totally understand. Some added hand holding, eating together at meal time, and the occasional kissing.

That's it.

It's not so bad. But it's not life altering. And the kissing… it only feels weirder and weirder each and every time it happens.

She has questions.

Was she supposed to close her eyes? When would it feel good? What was the point? When could she stop? Despite a basic lack of understanding, Kara is determined to be good at it. She is determined to feel something.

So, she keeps trying. She even initiates one day as they're walking around the lake, but she leans forward with too much force, and she breaks James' nose.

It's horrifying, and her sister doesn't let her hear the end of it.

"Finally, someone else suffers!" Alex says between loud, raucous laughs.

It makes her scared to try it again. And the whole thing is just incredibly taxing, isn't it? Spending all her time with one person, enduring the giggling girls that worship James, that tell her how lucky she is.

She doesn't feel lucky.

She can't talk to him about anything important, not really, and she feels herself slowly running out of things to say. She feels the silences, long and oppressive. After a few weeks, she finds herself hiding in the Room of Requirement just to be alone. When James asks her to Hogsmeade again, she nods vaguely, not looking up from her spellbook.

"Are you—are you not excited?" he asks in a pained enough tone that warrants Kara looking up.

"I'm excited," she says, but it sounds unconvincing even to her.

"I thought this is what you wanted," he mumbles.

"I—"

And that's as artlessly as it ends.

Half the school seems to know within the hour, however, and Alex approaches Kara later that day at dinner, looking unpleasantly purposeful. Kara is already seated with Maggie, excitedly discussing the upcoming viewing of Saturn, but Alex leans forward and presses in,

"I noticed you're sitting back with us again," she says with the air of someone who will not be ignored. "Is there something you need to tell me?"

"We're finished," Kara states plainly, glancing at James further down the table. He resolutely avoids her eye.

Alex raises her eyebrows but begins to eat her roast beef, satisfied.

"What went wrong?" she inquires through a mouthful.

"Oh, I don't know," Kara sighs. "It's just—I don't know."

She could be more specific, she knows she could, but Kara also feels a strong desire not to analyze anything too critically. Sometimes things just don't work out.

Right?

Maggie watches Kara dolefully.

"Sorry, Kara," she says.

"Oh, it's fine, I'm fine," Kara assures her.

"Do you think that maybe," Alex starts, pushing food around her plate with a fork, "he's just not quite your type?"

Maggie elbows her in the ribs.

"Ow!" Alex yelps.

"What do you mean?" Kara asks. "Like a Gryffindor?"

"What? No, like—"

"He is really tall," Kara interrupts thoughtfully.

"Kara," Alex says with irritation and then shifts to an expression of slight offense. "And—what do you mean? Are you saying Gryffindors aren't your type? And tall people?"

"You're right, maybe I should find a Ravenclaw or a Hufflepuff."

"That is not what I said," Alex sputters.

"What about Winn?" Maggie asks. "You spend a lot of time with him."

Kara considers.

"Fair point, I don't know. Maybe I'll kiss him and see."

Alex slaps Kara's forearm, making Kara withdraw it sharply.

"Hey!" she protests.

"You can't just 'kiss him and see,' Kara. That's rude," Alex berates. "He's a good friend of yours."

"So?"

"So?" Alex mocks back. "You said you don't know. It means you probably don't like him. Do you really want to ruin your friendship over some sort of experiment? What if he likes you, and you hurt his feelings?"

Kara stares back at her sister. Alex has a manic sort of zeal in her eye, and there is an awkward tension now as Maggie shifts uncomfortably in her seat. These are all signs that Kara shouldn't argue, that she should give it up. But…

"Shouldn't you try to be with a lot of people so you can find what you like? I don't see what's wrong with testing someone out."

"Well, you wouldn't, would you?" Alex snaps.

"What does that mean?" Kara balks. "So, I should only snog someone if they're not my friend? That's mental."

But Alex stands in a huff.

"You're mental," she jibes immaturely.

"Wait—what?" Kara calls after her as Alex storms out of the Hall. "What's her problem?" she asks Maggie, but the other Gryffindor only rubs her forehead, looking burdened.


Driven to prove Alex wrong, Kara goes out with Adam Foster, a Slytherin with a famous mother. They kiss in an empty hallway, and Kara still can't shake that nagging feeling. It doesn't feel right. She breaks up with him after less than a week.

"Can you really call it 'breaking up?'" Alex taunts. "You're really going through them, sis."

Kara rolls her eyes, breathing loudly through her nose.

"Was it illuminating, at least?" Alex continues to annoy her. "Did it help you figure out what you want? Or are you going to have to kiss everyone in this school?"

"Shut up," Kara snaps.

"What's next? A Hufflepuff?"

"As a matter of fact, yes," Kara states loftily.

And she means Mike Matthews.

He's goofier than Kara expects, but he actually makes her laugh. And while kissing him is no different, she keeps him around, if nothing else, for the strange and fascinating effect he has on Lena Luthor.

Having maintained a determinedly stoic position during Kara's other dating endeavors, it's become clear that Lena simply cannot abide by Mike Matthews. Kara is sure the act that breaks Lena is when Mike pretends to ride her telescope like a bucking bronco only to send it smashing to the flagstone moments later.

"Sorry," he says with a well-meaning shrug, but Kara thinks the long and loathsome look Lena affords him might actually be capable of murder.

"The eyes of a basilisk, that one," he murmurs to Kara.

So, can she really help it if she lingers after class, squeezing Mike's hand, hoping that Lena will see?

"Why are you dating that idiot?" Alex asks, having observed this behavior one afternoon. "And are you intentionally trying to parade him around Lena Luthor?"

"He's my boyfriend," Kara affects defensively. "He wants to hold my hand, I can't help it Lena and I share so many classes."

"Well, I think you're making rather a business of it in front of her."

"I certainly am not," Kara retorts.

But maybe she is.

And it could be this fact that has Lena in such a sour mood during their shared Defense Against the Dark Arts lesson. Mike, having been particularly disruptive to the class, is relegated to the corner, doing lines that read "I will not be such an insufferable baffoon," while Lena whips her wand around like she's slashing at invisible enemies.

"You need to think of a happy memory," Zatara reminds everyone over the commotion of the classroom. "This is critical in producing your Patronus Charms. All the talent in the world won't get you as far as a really solid memory."

Seeming to take the comment personally, Lena glares at Zatara before turning her baleful gaze on her wand, as if it were a faithful servant that had never disobeyed her before today.

Kara tries not to watch her too closely, knows she should probably be paying attention to Mike who keeps making unsubtle attempts to garner her attention by throwing magical paper airplanes and notes in her direction. But she ignores him and focuses on the task at hand instead.

She parses through her memories, ultimately settling on one with her mother and father at Christmas. She pictures the wet snow soaking through her clothes. Her father's warm hands. The air, crisp and chill. Her mother's smile, brilliant and beaming. Their faces are blurry, worn with the passage of time, but Kara can still remember the feeling.

She'd been happy.

"Expecto Patronum," she incants, and a silvery figure erupts from the end of her wand.

"Wonderful, Miss Danvers!" Zatara exclaims.

Kara can't identify what her Patronus is at first, mainly because the shape of it is very large. And winged. Is it a bird? But then she sees four legs, hooves, and a giant shaking mane.

"An Abraxan, I think?" Zatara notes to the class. "Well done, Kara. Fifteen points to Hufflepuff!"

Kara preens as she watches her Patronus pace the length of the room. She feels comforted by it. Protected. It's so bright and beautiful. Finally, something she can't destroy with her hands. She misses it when it fades back into mist.

"Expecto Patronum! Expecto Patronum!" someone says repeatedly before swearing loudly.

"Language, Miss Luthor," Zatara warns lazily.

She hears another curse, this time under breath, and Kara turns to see Lena with a hand over her face. She's leaning against one of the work benches, and Kara can't help but think that even when she's unsatisfied and annoyed, she looks elegant.

"What's the problem here, miss?" Kara says, wandering over to her.

Immediately, she feels very lame.

"Sorry, that was dumb."

Lena shakes her head, still scratching at the edge of a sculpted eyebrow.

"No, Kara, you're not dumb," she sighs. "You just produced a Patronus on your first try."

"You'll get it," Kara comforts her.

"I'm not so sure. I can't even get a wisp out of this."

Kara watches her try a few more times, but nothing happens. Lena stares resolutely down at the empty space before her, persevering to see a thread of silver mist.

"May I ask what you're thinking of, what memory you're using?"

Lena looks up at her, brows creased.

"If it's not too personal, that is," Kara adds quickly. "I'm not trying to pry."

Lena looks for a moment as if she might tell Kara that is, in fact, too personal, but then she sighs again, shoulders drooping.

"No, it's just—honestly, I was thinking of my brother," she says, voice reduced to a near whisper. "All my happiest memories are with him, but it's just… obviously it's not working. It's not the same anymore."

Kara feels a pang of sympathy as well as a thrill that Lena is talking to her again. She stays quiet, hoping not to disturb the moment.

"It says you have to be pure of heart to produce one," Lena continues, so hushed that Kara almost doesn't hear it. "What if I can't?"

"You're not like him," Kara promises her.

"You don't know that," Lena answers miserably. "What if I am?"

"You're not," Kara says. "You're the smartest witch I know. You can do this."

But Lena doesn't look encouraged.

"Here," Kara steps into Lena's space. Lena looks up at the motion, eyes widened, but she doesn't move away.

"What if you thought of your mother?"

Lena's face quirks unhappily. "My mother?"

"No, not her, not Lillian," Kara hastily corrects. "My memory is—well, it's my real parents. What if you thought of your real mum?"

"I told you," Lena says quietly. "I don't really remember her."

"Do you remember anything? Maybe even just a feeling?"

Lena looks like she might protest further, so Kara takes her by the shoulders and turns her around, standing close behind.

"Just give it a shot, will you?" she gestures, lifting Lena's wand hand by the sleeve.

Lena looks uncertainly back at her, but she doesn't resist. She closes her eyes, allowing Kara to observe her unseen. Her mouth is parted, her lips red. The skin of her neck is a lily white, a sharp contrast to the black onyx of her hair, the shadow of her eyebrows. She breathes deeply, and Kara can see the emerald Slytherin crest on her robes rise and fall.

She's beautiful, Kara thinks. In a devastating kind of way. In a way that makes her body feel under attack just by looking at her. And that's before Lena even opens her eyes, green as spring leaves.

"Expecto Patronum," Lena exhales.

A silvery smoke issues from the end of her wand, taking brief form. Lena gasps in astonishment, but Kara isn't looking at the Patronus. She's still looking at Lena, a feeling writhing within her. A seed that, once dormant, shifts and struggles to sprout.

"Look, Kara," she says, and Kara turns her head.

In front of them, a half formed black swan spreads its wings and stretches its long neck.

Lena smiles warmly and turns her face to Kara's. She looks at her with that same interminable focus, like a painting with eyes that follow. Kara breathes in the sight of it. She's still holding onto Lena's sleeve, and she pulls at it slightly.

Mike breaks the spell.

"Was that a goose?" he comments, strolling up behind the pair of them with a goofy grin on his face.

Lena spares him a look of deepest disdain and returns to her desk. She pretends to read her text book, open to a page that is very clearly blank.

"That reminds me," he says, pointing his wand at Imra. "Pullum!"

Imra honks loudly as she attempts her Patronus Charm, and she slaps a hand over her mouth. The class roars with laughter.

"That's detention this Saturday, Mr. Matthews," Professor Zatara states with an exaggerated eye roll.

"Come on," he defends. "That was funny."

"We'll see how funny you find cleaning out bed pans," she counters, and his face goes white.

Meanwhile, Kara hasn't drawn her gaze from Lena. As Lena's walked away, she's taken something with her. A fragrance, a whiff that Kara didn't know was there until it was gone. A smell she knew, something she'd scented in her garden almost every day of summer.

Kara thinks back to standing behind Lena, nose close to her hair. She thinks back to the rose bush in her garden, the seductive smell wafting from it, and she realizes that Lena smells like Amortentia, that Amortentia smells like Lena.

She realizes what it is she likes best.

Chapter Text

Sixth – Seventh year

Something seismic has shifted. Kara suddenly feels naked.

Did her classmates know? Could her more than friendly feelings for Lena be spotted on her, like a stain or a loud, garish color? But how could they know? She'd only just discovered it, but had it been there all along? Had it been huge and obvious for the whole world to see?

She feels stupid, embarrassed, and unbelievably clueless, but she carries on with her classes and schoolwork, brow furrowed, intent on keeping her newfound discovery to herself.

Her success is questionable, however. A pronounced uptake in her preoccupation with Lena threatens to expose her, but she can't help it. She watches her in Care of Magical Creatures, snowflakes dusting white over Lena's eyelashes, Lena's long pretty eye lashes, as Professor McCabe talks through Yetis.

"How can you repel a Yeti, does anyone know?" McCabe proposes to the small group, but Kara makes no attempt to reply. She's distracted.

Lena's just so—insert any positive adjective. Pretty. Kind. Smart. She's even humble, waiting until no one else offers an answer before raising a graceful hand.

"Ms. Luthor?"

"Fire, professor," Lena states simply, and McCabe claps.

"That's right, ten points to Slytherin."

Lena smiles, small and pleased, and glances Kara's way, but Kara snaps her head back to attention before she's caught blatantly staring by the object herself. Her face burns hot.

Had it always been this way? Will her feelings go away if ignored? Intensify if focused on? And what does it say about her predilections as a whole, what are the greater ramifications of this crush on Lena? Does she fancy boys and girls? Only girls? Or only boys with Lena as an exception?

And the question that racks her brain more than anything… why does she like Lena this way? Is it a consequence of one too many concussions? Was it because Lena was her first and sweetest friend? Is she confused?

All she does know is that these feelings feel unwelcome, like an added complication to an already very challenging puzzle. She's just trying to be Lena's friend, where was she supposed to piece in being her anything else?

So, she stays with Mike, if nothing else to throw others off the scent, to convince them of her authenticity. Her fake authenticity, like every other lie in her life, but what was she supposed to do? Break up with him and ask Lena out?

She shudders at the thought, fingers squeezing Mike's hand later that evening at the Hufflepuff table. She hears an uncomfortable crunch of bone and immediately winces.

"Kara!" he howls. "I think you broke two of my fingers!"

"Oh, I'm so sorry," she apologizes. "It must've been that—that strengthening potion."

Lucy looks on confused, entirely aware that Kara is not in Potions, but Kara ignores her, carting a complaining Mike off to the hospital wing.


Weeks pass and Christmas is only weeks away, but Kara's still got nothing figured out. She thinks about what it all means, what to do about it every night and day. She even becomes distracted while pinching the tendrils of a particularly violent Tentacular, and her garden sheers slip.

She flinches, thinking she's certainly cut her thumb off. Instead, the blade screeches and twists where it encounters her finger. She stares at it for almost three minutes before prodding at herself with the sharp edge, unable to pierce skin.

She tells Alex as they linger in an empty hallway, craning her head to make sure no one's around.

"You're indestructible?" Alex asks with a slight snort.

"Wish it had manifested a bit sooner, honestly," Kara mumbles, thinking of all the blood ruined clothes, shattered bones, and welting bruises.

It's a shame, too, that her indestructibility doesn't appear to work in reverse, healing old wounds. She still has a scar near her eyebrow after she'd been slashed by a Bowtruckle (she hadn't known they were living in that tree when she'd climbed it!), and her nose doesn't sit quite right, a shallow bump near the top, sustained after so many breaks. Would her piercings even close up if she took her earrings out? She doesn't think so.

"That's probably for the best," Alex replies. "Can you imagine what would've happened if you'd been unbreakable, fast, and super strong? You could've destroyed the whole school."

Kara sighs.

They exit the empty corridor, jogging down a large set of moving stairs, shivering when they're struck by an icy wind that whips through an open door leading out into the courtyard. A crowd of students mill just inside the shelter of the castle's warmth.

"You think you'll come home for Christmas this year?" Alex asks, the previous subject curtailed by their lack of privacy. "It's only a few days until the train comes."

Kara wavers. She hasn't decided because, well, Lena will be here at Hogwarts, and they haven't interacted much since that one Defense Against the Dark Arts lesson. Kara is loath to miss a second opportunity to… do what? Talk to her? Stare at her? She doesn't know really, but she opens her mouth to answer.

"Honk!"

Kara jumps at the sound, hearing a nearby group of boys burst into laughter, her boyfriend among them.

"Idiot," Alex mumbles, even though Kara has known her to be an avid user of the Pullum jinx.

Alex flicks her wand in retaliation, transfiguring Mike's shoes into roller skates, and he skids several feet before spilling onto the floor.

The boys laugh harder, and Kara giggles, too, though it sounds more like bird chortling.


When Kara does finally tell Alex she's staying for Christmas, she doesn't expect Mike to overhear.

"That sounds like a great idea!" he says excitably and in plain opposition to Kara's swoop of disappointment. "No one in the castle, I bet we can get up to all sorts of mischief."

Alex shoots her a look like, that's what you get, and Kara sends her back a this is fine smile, although it feels hollow and smacks of defeat.

But it is fine, it's really not that bad. Her boyfriend is a laugh, after all. He plays Exploding Snap and Wizard's Chess with her in the common room. He's terrible at both, and Kara marvels at her ability to actually win, but he whoops and roars regardless, ecstatic at the senseless violence and loud explosions. They also build gingerbread houses in the kitchens with the house elves, and he even manages to nick a key to the Astronomy tower. They experimentally send several things over the edge, shooting rotten vegetables across the ramparts with magic, hurling them as far as the Forbidden Forest.

He comes up with all sorts of ideas that would never occur to her, and she likes him, she really does… it's just that being with Mike seems to be a powerful repellent when it comes to Lena. Kara witnesses black hair disappearing out of sight nearly every time they so much as share the same breathable space, and when Mike enchants the castle entrance foyer into a large ice skating rink, Lena merely burns a path through it with her wand as she stalks off to the Slytherin dungeons.

At this rate, Kara will never get her on her own, much less talk to her. It's hard not to feel frustrated, even when Mike is doing nothing wrong.

"What's up with her, anyway?" he comments on Christmas morning at breakfast.

Kara glances up, following his gaze to Lena, seated alone at her table and unfurling a copy of the Daily Prophet.

"What do you mean?" she asks neutrally.

"Doesn't she live on some big estate? Why would a Luthor stay here?"

Kara takes a careful bite of bacon thinking, she stays here.

"What's wrong with staying at Hogwarts?"

"I dunno, she just seems like the type who'd get a stable full of Abraxans for Christmas. One of those families that has sixteen Christmas trees, you know what I mean?"

"What's your point?" Kara asks.

"I bet she wants people to feel sorry for her, that's all. I bet the whole thing is an act."

Kara's temper flares, and she flicks her wand, conjuring a snowball. She motions it at Mike's face, and it strikes true.

When he falls backwards off his bench from the impact, Kara freezes. She can't believe she did that. Mike looks momentarily stunned, too, dribbles of snow and ice falling from his brow. Then, he laughs loudly.

"Big mistake!"

He gets to his feet, and Kara springs up immediately. She can't help but smile as she runs the length of the hall, Mike in close pursuit.

"You're going to get it, Danvers!" he shouts after her.

Everything escalates after Kara bursts out onto the snowy lawn, and by the afternoon, almost every remaining student at Hogwarts (and even some of the staff) are embroiled in an all-out snow ball war. Kara and Mike lead two clearly drawn sides, and they've built icy bunkers, enchanted snow men soldiers, and are cheating with magic at almost every chance they get.

"Kara!" a third year boy shouts over to her, currently beleaguered by rapid snowball fire from the opposite bank. "I've got stink bombs in my bag just inside the door. Go get them, and we can shoot those over!"

Kara smiles and sends him a thumbs up.

"Stick in there!"

She races up the steps, dodging several snowballs aimed at the back of her head. She's sweating despite the cold, her body hot with adrenaline. She blows through the double doors of the foyer and catches sight of a dark figure making her way across the hall.

"Lena!" she all but shouts.

The figure pauses, curious green eyes turning round. Kara jogs up to her without much thought, still breathing deeply, wisps of cold vapor issuing out in front of her. She stops in front of Lena and throws her hands on her hips, not having thought this far, drinking the image of Lena in, filling Kara up.

She grins, and the itch that needs scratching feels all the more acute. It's flustering. Lena's there, and she could just reach out and—

"You should come out and play," Kara blurts, gesturing to the open door. "We're having a snowball fight."

"A snow ball fight?" Lena smirks, an eyebrow raised, and Kara swallows at the sight of it. After all, Lena has mastered an accomplished and varied use of the eyebrow.

"Aren't we a little old for that?"

"It's fun," Kara encourages, and she can feel herself huddle closer. She can scent that same fragrance on Lena, somehow sharper in the cold, and she wants to be near to it, like hands warming over a fire.

Lena looks momentarily tempted, glancing over Kara's shoulder at the open double doors while she pulls at her gloved fingers. Kara glances down at the movement, and something seems oddly familiar about the gloves. They're worn now, the leather cracked around the fingertips, but Kara knows them. Eliza had bought them for her when she'd left for Hogwarts. Kara had given them to Lena in third year when they'd been at the Shrieking Shack.

"You still have them," she says affectionately.

Lena's eyes widen slightly, processing Kara's words, and she moves as if she might try to hide her hands in her pockets, but just then Mike enters through the double doors, a snowman solider in tow.

"There you are," he says with a laugh. "Admitting defeat?"

"Brief armistice," Kara counters.

She turns back to Lena to find her glaring at Mike's snowman who's begun to make dirty hand gestures with its twigs.

"Funny, right?" he quips, but the look of most wintry disapproval on Lena's face seems to suggest otherwise.

"Well?" Kara prompts, though her insides lurch. With Mike beside her, she knows her chances of spending time with Lena have just plummeted from hopeful to nonexistent. "Want to join?"

"Yeah, want to join us, Lena?" Mike asks, leaning forward, and Lena leans backward with such tandem fluidity it's as if they'd practiced the motion.

"I can't," she answers shortly. "Have fun."

Lena disappears down the stairs before Kara can say anything more, and it reminds her of the snitch slipping through her grasp, of never being fast or spry enough to catch it.

"Told you she's a stick in the mud," Mike comments, and Kara almost elbows him in the ribs with the frustration of it all.

But reasoning that it would probably kill him, she heads back to the Hufflepuff common room instead, to her dorms where Mike cannot follow.


In the middle of second term, they begin their Apparition lessons. A wispy little man with boundless patience tries to teach the sixth years how to magically appear in and out of brightly colored hoops from across the Great Hall, but Kara doesn't much care for it. It reminds her too much of Lena, of when they Apparated and Kara threw up on her shiny marble floor. Of that home buried in an Irish cliff face.

She tries not to look for her in the crowd as she contemplates the three D's: Destination, Determination, and Deliberation. She feels none of them with particular fervor. Mainly she wants to know… did Lena still think of her, too? Should Kara feel stupid that she still thought of Lena years after they'd been close?

She waves her wand dispassionately, her crush starting to feel literal in its every sense. The lesson, Lena, she's not sure which, but it leaves her in a sour mood, especially when Mike disrupts the lesson and receives detention on a Saturday, no less, when Hufflepuff is set to play Gryffindor in Quidditch.

"Why did you have jinx Smythe right in front of Professor Quinn, anyway?" Kara complains as they exit the Great Hall.

She's grumpy, like many of her classmates. None of them had successfully managed to Apparate so much as an eyebrow except for Lena, of course. How's she supposed to live her life when Lena is always there, always being brilliant?

"What if you can't play in the match?" Kara continues, determined to have a Lena-free thought. "Rick is going to be livid."

"We're going to lose against Gryffindor, anyway," Mike answers flippantly. "Their team is unbeatable."

Kara feels a flicker of annoyance. Even after Mike permanently took over her Chaser position in Quidditch, he's never seemed to fully appreciate it or the sainthood it's taken on Kara's part to endure it silently.

"That's not the point," she finds herself saying crossly. "You don't take anything seriously, Mike."

"Neither do you," Mike replies. "You never went back to Quidditch," Kara grumbles, "And you hate those lessons, too."

He glances at Kara for approval, but when she looks more storm cloud than sunshine, he hazards a smile and pulls her in with an arm around her shoulder.

"I thought that's what you liked about me, about us."

"I take things seriously," Kara argues woodenly, stiff in Mike's embrace as they walk.

"Come on Kara, we never do anything serious," Mike continues lightly, and Kara finds his tone increasingly grating. "We never even talk about anything serious. It's been almost six months, and I don't even know basic things about you."

Kara guffaws.

"That's not—you haven't asked!" she exclaims.

Mike only shrugs because… of course he does.

"I figured if it mattered you'd tell me."

Kara simmers, the topic suddenly deeply vexing. Was he implying that things about her didn't matter? That nothing about her was serious? What was she to him? An ornament, an accessory? A passing good time?

"Nothing matters to you," she states. "And that's the problem."

It's not long after their conversation that she hears Mike's flirting with Imra, and then he has the nerve to break it off with her. It leaves an extra bitter taste in her mouth.

"That lasted longer than I thought. I owe Maggie 10 sickles, thanks to you," is Alex's contribution when Kara tells her. Kara rolls her eyes.

"What's next, a Ravenclaw? Still considering Winn?"

Kara exhales deeply.

The whole thing with Winn, with dating a friend… Kara thinks of it differently now. Mainly because of the cripplingly cold sensation that washes over her when she thinks of asking her 'friend' out. There were so many risks involved, things she could lose forever. And what if Lena rejected her? How would she possibly recover?

She couldn't bear the thought of doing that to Winn and his too sweet smile. She didn't want to ruin what they had.

"No, no," she answers. "You were right. I shouldn't risk our friendship."

Alex nods, picking through her book bag, and Kara catches sight of Mike making Imra laugh further down the corridor.

"Plus, I think I'll take a break, anyway. Boys are so annoying."

"Figured that out, have we?" Alex prods, looking smug.


Kara doesn't date anyone else before end of year. A couple of boys ask, and though they mildly pique her interest, she remembers James, Adam, and Mike and how very unpleasantly surface level it had all been. So, she politely declines.

While she's back to being relatively friendless and single, at least Lena's mood has drastically improved. Without Mike draped all over her, she engages Kara more often, letting her borrow her Charms book in class while they're practicing turning vinegar into wine. They even share a rousing conversation one afternoon in Herbology,

"Are you done using that trowel?" Lena asks.

"Oh, yes," Kara replies, handing her the trowel.

Kara usually stalls out like a broken down broom after anything more that. For one, she's a bit terrified to betray the depth of her infatuation, and secondly the fear of an inevitable rejection is a palpable thing. It's as real as any dark and enclosed space, and it traps her in a kind of limbo, a purgatory forged from her own cowardice and indecision.

So, it's almost a mercy when the year ends, and Kara is back in Middleton. But even there, she can't get away from reminders of Lena. She lingers near the rose bush, taking in its seductive scent, convinced that it's somehow stronger than it had been. It's also flourished despite recent neglect, just as beautiful as it ever was, and she's sure there's a metaphor in there somewhere about her feelings for Lena.

Urgh, if only she could talk to someone.

She's considered Alex, but her sister has been busy, leaving early and coming back late. Kara misses her. It's quiet in the house without her music and her shouting and her mess, but she's accepted a job at the Ministry of Magic as an Auror in training and frequently returns home looking disheveled and smelling of singed material.

"It's bloody hard, is what it is," Alex gripes late one night over a freshly poured glass of fire whiskey. Kara eyes it curiously, wondering if Alex will give her some if she asks.

"You have to know damn near everything about magic and have the reflexes of a mongoose."

"How long before you're on active duty?" Kara asks.

"Not sure," Alex answers, taking a drink. "Three years?"

"Wow. Are you going to stay here? Living with—" Kara barely catches herself before saying 'mum,' "Eliza and Jeremiah?"

"Maybe for a few months, but I'd really like to get a flat in London," Alex tells her excitably, resting her elbows on the kitchen counter. "I know I can Apparate from anywhere, but the city seems so cool. I want to live where the action is."

Kara nods, her memories of London more indistinct than they've ever been. It's technically where she's from, but she only has hazy recollections of green parks, brisk weather, and splashing in puddles. She remembers her muggle primary school, its sticky white walls, her severe looking teachers, but even they've faded.

"I don't know what I'm going to do without you," Kara says miserably. "It won't be the same."

"Oh, little sis," Alex says in a coo, and she opens her arms, the act of affection certainly loosened by the whiskey in her system.

Kara doesn't need an excuse, however, and easily falls into them, hugging her tightly.

"Maybe you can come live with me?" Alex proposes, dropping her arms from Kara's shoulders and looking at her promisingly.

"I couldn't afford it," Kara laments. "I don't even know what I'll do for work."

Alex pats her on the back before picking up her glass again.

"You'll figure it out. Just be true to yourself."

"Which self?" Kara mumbles. "Kara Danvers or Zora El?"

Alex watches as Kara stares at the counter top, picking at the granite until it shaves off into her hand.

"Oh no," Kara shakes her head, trying to dislodge the granite from under her fingernail.

Alex takes another sip, her eyes looking shrewd.

"Is something else going on?"

"No," Kara answers, absently shaking her hand as she surveys the damage to the countertop.

"You're not hung up on Lena again, are you?"

"What?" Kara's eyes snap up, shaking her hand too hard and sending a piece of granite flying into the wall.

Alex rolls her eyes, muttering "Reparo" and the piece soars seamlessly back into the counter.

"You're moping by that rose bush a lot again, is all," Alex says with a tilt of her head, placing her wand back into her pocket.

Kara stammers, fumbling for words.

"No—well—it's really not that much—wait, hang on," Kara catches herself. "How do you even know that? You haven't been home."

"I didn't know," Alex says with a sly smile. "But I do now."

Kara groans.

She wishes her sister didn't know exactly how to trick her, but she contemplates the question, anyway, falling into a kind of aggrieved silence. She knows she doesn't need to answer. She could lie. Or she could completely change the subject, but...

"Is that what you thought?" she asks tentatively. "That I was 'hung up' on Lena?"

Alex shrugs noncommittally.

"You just always seemed so—," she searches for the right words. "I just haven't seen you like that with anyone else. I don't know what I'd call it."

"You called it heartbreak," Kara supplies.

Alex looks momentarily surprised, even guilty before she takes a drink and says,

"Didn't realize you were listening to that."

Kara doesn't want an apology, though. She doesn't want to discuss that conversation right now, so she plows forward.

"Did you think I liked her?"

Alex snorts.

"Well, that's obvious."

"Fancied her, I mean," Kara corrects.

Alex contemplates Kara over the top of her drink, her eyes taking on a different quality. The silence expands, and Kara wishes she could take out her earrings and tune into a few of Alex's more delicate biorhythms. She wants to know what she's thinking while Kara feels vulnerable and exposed.

But it's only Alex, she tells herself. Alex won't leave her. She might be mad, but she won't desert her entirely.

"Why, Kara?" she asks, ever the interrogator. "Do you?"

It's Kara's turn to shrug and look away. She can see her sister in her periphery lifting and dropping her glass, like she can't decide whether she wants to drink a lot or not at all.

"Have you said anything to her?"

"No."

Alex takes a fortifying breath, choosing to drink after all. Her knuckles look white against the glass as she tips it.

"Why not?" she asks after a large swallow.

"I just realized it."

Alex exhales loudly, shaking the ice cubes in her glass, for what benefit Kara isn't sure. Then, she gasps, giving Kara a start.

"Kara," Alex exclaims, and to Kara's horror, she looks suddenly angry. "She knows, doesn't she?"

"Knows what?" Kara asks, drawing her arms up and crossing them over her chest.

"Who you are."

"I—"

"How long?" Alex demands, not in the mood to be stonewalled.

Kara pauses, thinking, considering.

"Since the platform."

If Kara had expected her honesty to mollify Alex's temper, she's sorely disappointed. Alex harshly sets down her glass, and turns away, palm pressed to her face.

"Damn it, Kara," she barks, whirling back. "That was three years ago! Is that why you stopped being friends?"

The memory feels like a stab, tiny and small, like a splinter.

"She thought I was lying."

But it feels good to say it, too.

"Or she wanted to pump you for information," Alex accuses, voice rising. "It's not like she could hurt you at school—"

"She'd never hurt me," Kara interjects.

"She did hurt you, just like Lex hurt Cal."

"I know—I mean," Kara stutters to defend. "I don't know why she did that, but she would never actually hurt me—"

"Listen to yourself," Alex spits, pacing the kitchen, drink back in hand and nearly gone. "You ended up in the hospital wing!"

"Don't tell Cal," Kara says quickly.

"Kara," Alex answers, exasperated.

"Please."

Alex regards her for another long, tense moment.

"I know you want to believe the best in people," she starts more evenly. "But it's just not true. Not with anyone and especially not with her."

"She's different—" Kara tries.

"She's a Luthor!" Alex shouts over her, composure vanished. "This isn't like Winn, it isn't at all. She could tell her mother, she could tell Lex. She probably already has!"

Kara opens her mouth to speak, but Alex is settling fully into a tirade.

"He tried to kill your cousin," she rants. "What if he found out about you? He could kill you."

"She helped you find me," Kara persists.

"She was covering for herself!" Alex quickly opposes. "Arias told her where you were. She'd've been in trouble, too, if you went missing."

"Alex—"

"You can't let you feelings for her get in the way of your judgment!" Alex cries out, her tone harsh with reproach.

The kitchen goes quiet, a heavy thickness in the air that makes it difficult to breathe. Alex's words have, of course, staggered Kara, and she feels tears rush hot to her eyes.

"You don't think I know that?" she answers shakily. "And how about you, huh? You've always hated her. You're the one who's prejudiced."

Alex looks struck and even guilty, fingering the edge of her glass as it sits on the counter.

"Even if you told her, even if she—" Alex reels tensely, eyes rolled upward, like the cost of admitting Kara might be right is too much to bear. "It could never work. You must know that."

Kara clenches her jaw, barely moving. She looks away.

"I'm not trying to hurt you—"

"Well, you are," Kara interrupts, running her sleeve over her eyes. "You're being a jerk."

She feels babyish saying it. She doesn't need to be coddled. Kara knows what Alex is trying to tell her, but at the same time, she doesn't want to face the reality head on, and Alex could be a little nicer about it.

"I'd be a jerk to anyone, everyone, if it meant protecting you, Kara," Alex says, taking a step closer and placing a hand back on Kara's shoulder.

Kara blinks at her through watery eyes, her vision blurred.

"But what if," Kara says, filled with a reckless sort of hope. "What if I ask Cal to lift the Charm? Maybe then…"

Alex hand squeezes over the round of her shoulder, but Kara isn't bolstered by the dark look that crosses her face.

"He wouldn't, and even if he did, his history with Lex… I've seen him at work, Kar. He'll never let you," Alex pauses, shaking her head, "confide in a Luthor."

Kara unfurls her arms from her chest, and takes one of Alex's elbows in her palm.

"She's good, Alex. You have to believe me, I'm sure of it."

Alex looks unconvinced, eyes pointed until a rueful, sad smile lifts her lips.

"Why Lena Luthor, Kara?" she asks, lightly mocking. "Of all the people, honestly. Why do you make things so difficult?"

Kara laughs painfully, the irony isn't lost on her either.

"Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with having a crush on a girl, on your friend," Alex continues, steadily taking a breath. "But my advice? Move on. Get past it. Literally anyone else in this world is a better match for you than her."

Kara knows it's what she needs to hear. She knows it's, maybe, even true. But her heart isn't listening. Her heart is certain.


Either way, Alex promises not to tell Cal.

"I just don't want to get sacked in my first month," she mumbles wearily when Kara asks her about it the next morning.

Kara sighs, a touch of tenseness relieved.

The idea that Lena will still remember her when they return to Hogwarts is a comfort, but she also feels unsettled by her conversation with Alex. "It could never work, you must know that" is a kind of mantra that runs through her mind repeatedly, and she does know it, but also she doesn't, not really. She doesn't want to give up hope on a world where Lena Luthor could be a… someone, a something more.

It may be foolish, it may be unreachable, but there's a comfort in pretending. At least it's hope

The summer goes quickly despite her internal struggle, punctuated in part by visits from Winn. Streaky entertains her, too, catching and releasing various garden gnomes around the lawn. She also spends nightly sessions with Alex and her (too regularly poured) fire whiskey while she relives her day at the Ministry of Magic, Kara listening raptly.

When August arrives, she and Eliza tackle her book and equipment list, Kara staring whimsically at the new broomsticks in the display case as they pass Quality Quidditch Supplies in Diagon Alley. When she thinks about it, it's weird that she won't end her time at Hogwarts on the team. But it's weird, too, that she's seventeen and her time is ending at Hogwarts at all. Soon, she'll be a graduate, and Hogwarts will be a memory.

But school doesn't wait for her to come to terms with her forthcoming departure. Before she knows it, she's back on the train, seated cross-legged while Winn imparts the latest news and gossip.

"To general indignation," he starts, straightening his bow tie as he settles into the train compartment. "Lena Luthor was made Head Girl."

"Oh, really?" Kara says, incanting her head. "And Head Boy?"

"James Olsen."

"Oh, well," Kara murmurs, not very impressed but not surprised either. "Good for him."

"I can't lie," Winn muses. "I'm a little jealous."

Kara watches him from the corner of her eye as she searches her pocket for the sickles and knuts required to buy a horde of candy from the treat trolley. Winn's looking out the window, a crease in his brow, and it's not the first time he's made allusions like this. Does he want to be like James? Is he jealous that he and Kara have dated?

Kara avoids the bait, not keen on getting into the whys and hows of his potential crush on her. The thought of losing anyone else because of untoward feelings is not a possibility she cherishes.

"Do Head Boys and Girls get any special privileges?" she pivots.

"They lead us prefects," he answers. "And I suppose they're the first to take on any unusual assignments. Mainly, it's just an impressive resume ticket, like Lena needs any more of those."

Kara sighs, thinking of Lena and all of her impressiveness. She wonders about resumes and jobs and what Lena plans to do for work. She wonders if she'll see her again after school, a painful constriction seizing her chest.

It makes Kara watch Lena more closely (if that's possible), and it's a kind of Déjà vu when she starts yet another term covertly staring at her in Care of Magical Creatures. Would she be an inventor? Would she work for her mother at Luthor Magicorp? It plagues her with a sense of mingled infatuation and foreboding. She wants Lena to do well, she wants her to have everything, but she also doesn't want her to go far and out of Kara's life forever. Luckily, though, McCabe redirects Kara's rumination before it can get too dire.

"I have a treat for you all," the professor tells them. "I know you studied unicorns in fourth year, but I thought we could go over caring for foals."

Even though there are only eight members in their class, every girl audibly coos, Kara especially loudly.

Boosted by their excitement, McCabe steps sprightly, leading the group into a shallow alcove of the Forbidden Forest. Here the brambles and underbrush aren't so thick that it makes walking difficult. The sun even lances through the branches at such an angle that it glows gold as it sets lower in the sky. Kara can still manage the temperature with just her sweater, but her cheeks feel reddened by a crisp wind that blows through the dying leaves of the trees.

As they turn a corner, they come upon a pair of unicorns, and everyone gasps.

"Boys, keep back from the mare, they prefer a woman's touch."

Kara's cheeks tinge pinker while she keeps her mind carefully blank.

"The foal, however, won't mind as much if you come close. Just be respectful."

The boys migrate cautiously towards the baby, who idles by its mother, watching curiously. The mother, however, paws the ground with nervous hooves at their approach. She takes a few steps back, hovering away as the class crowds closer around the foal.

McCabe speaks, but Kara doesn't listen. Something about maturation ages. Something about milk. Instead, she watches the mother, her feet unconsciously bringing her closer. She admires the long pearly horn, the iridescent mane. Her coat is so bright, it's almost blinding. As Kara comes to stand in front of the mare, she eyes her with a kindness, a polite interest, and noses at Kara's school uniform, flicking her tail.

Kara shifts from foot to foot, listening to her breathe, watching white nostrils flare and ribs expand and contract. She raises her hand before she's fully processed the desire to touch, of wanting to run fingers along the elegant neck, over the soft fuzzy bit of nose. She reaches out, but… curls her fingers under her hand at the last second.

Her strength. Even her speed. She can feel her excitement vibrating dangerously. And she's invulnerable! The unicorn isn't.

"Terrible things happen to those that slay a unicorn," McCabe had told them in fourth year, and Kara can think of a thousand ways to hurt this beautiful creature. So, she lingers, too afraid to move.

Just as she's about to drop her hand defeated by her side, Kara becomes aware of a presence, and she reacts viscerally, a flower opening up. She turns her head, her pupils dilate. Without a conciliatory thought to her surroundings, to propriety, her body takes everything in. Lena stands close, and what's more, she's taken hold of Kara's wrist.

"Here," Lena encourages, and she lifts Kara's hand back up.

Kara tenses, freezes when she catches her intention. Lena wants her to touch the unicorn, but she has no idea what Kara could do! She flexes her hand, the tendons press against Lena's fingers, tight and corded. She flusters, wondering if Lena is appalled, dismayed, anything negative, when she hears a peel of musical laughter.

"Stop resisting, let me help," Lena pleads, laughter still fresh in her voice.

"Are you laughing at me?" Kara asks, smiling despite herself.

"I'm laughing with you, darling," Lena answers easily, and the term of endearment spreads through Kara like a strong drink.

Kara's standing close enough, she catches the moment Lena realizes what's slipped, but she doesn't look too ashamed, just smiles a bit clumsily and squeezes Kara's wrist again.

"Let me help you," she reasserts. "You helped me, I owe you."

"I didn't help that much," Kara replies sheepishly, still not allowing Lena to move her. "You still can't produce a full Patronus."

Lena exhales, pained, but still with a smile.

"Please don't remind me of my failures, Kara, you're ruining the moment."

Kara feels another blush overtake her and finds herself caught between two impossible decisions: make Lena stop touching her or hurt a unicorn. She bites her lip, conflicted.

"Trust me, you won't hurt her," Lena whispers, and Kara caves, allowing Lena to steer her hand close until the backs of her knuckles make contact with silky soft hair.

The mare turns an eye on them both at the touch, making an appreciative rumble, and Kara can't quite believe this is happening.

"Try to relax a little," Lena suggests. "I feel like I'm trying to move a statue."

Kara can't help but giggle, and she tries, wills her hand to open up, to wave fingers over rippling shoulder muscles.

"That's better," Lena says, deep and smooth as a river.

Her hand lingers over Kara's as they stroke over the neck, the mane, though it's clear she no longer needs guidance. The unicorn turns its great head and shuffles its hooves, blocking them from the rest of the class. It creates a kind of private bubble that's just she and Lena. Kara tries not to be emboldened by it, tries not to bodily lean into her, pressing shoulder to shoulder.

"You know," Lena says quieter, a secret. "You always smell like food."

Kara almost laughs out loud, then she makes a face.

"Oh, well, that's something I guess."

"No, no," Lena stammers to correct, glancing sideways at Kara, appealing. "It's not a bad thing. Like pastries more than anything, like cinnamon, my favorite kind—" she stops herself, biting her lip, mortification creeping over her soft features.

"I sound delicious," Kara replies with a smile, though it feels dangerous to flirt with a territory she'd promised not to cross. But with the illusion of semi-privacy and Lena inches from her, it's hard not to indulge.

The moment shifts and stretches, lazy and sinuous like a cat. Kara hasn't let herself actively think about kissing Lena, but her mind goes there now, those thoughts manifesting into action. She turns her head from the unicorn and gazes downwards for a beat, an eye blink. Lena's lips look pink, soft. Lena mirrors the movement, and her fingers trail lightly over Kara's knuckles.

"It could never work, you must know that," resonates suddenly, brightly, like a church bell being rung in Kara's mind.

She swallows and drops her hand away, takes an uncertain step to the side. When she looks up again, Lena's smile has shifted to something more like concern or even embarrassment.

"Is something wrong?" she asks.

"No," Kara says, a tremulous, nervous laugh escaping her. She hates it. "It's just… what are you going to do after school?"

Lena clenches her teeth together, almost imperceptibly, but Kara never misses these tiny tells of hers. Especially when they accentuate the ingrained nobility of her jaw, her cheek bones.

She turns away, maybe to buy time, scratching lightly at the unicorn's nose.

"I wanted to help," she says softly, sounding resigned, averting her eyes. "I wanted to heal in any way I could, but…"

"But what?"

"My mother wants me to take over the company," she sighs, running her hand back over the unicorn's neck in a movement graceful enough it could be a choreographed dance. The beauty of the moment makes Kara practically choke on her next question.

"Wouldn't you be too young?"

"You'd think," Lena murmurs.

"Well, you could turn it into something positive," Kara suggests with a smile. "You could make a difference there, right?"

"I don't know," Lena answers, looking abysmal. "Luthors don't exactly get a second chance. I doubt anyone would ever really accept me, and then the company would fail."

"You are too good and too smart," Kara tells her. "If anyone can do it, you can."

Kara thinks that Lena should look cheered, but her eyes are stubbornly trained on the unicorn. Kara drifts back to her, more words of encouragement on the tip of her tongue, when she hears her mutter,

"Why me, Kara?"

Kara stalls, eyebrows pinched in confusion.

"What do you mean?"

"I mean I don't know what you see in me, I never have."

Lena sounds so dejected, and Kara can only stare at her, uncomprehending. She's smart, talented, kind, maddeningly beautiful, the list could go on forever.

"What's not to love?"

"Everything," Lena says with a self-deprecating note.

"It's not hard to love you, Lena," Kara states with conviction.

"You don't know that."

"Yes, I do."

Lena looks up, a strand of black hair pulling loose from behind her ear, and Kara thinks, loving Lena Luthor is as easy as breathing.

Lena's dusky green eyes track over Kara's face, and Kara realizes distantly that she might've just admitted to loving Lena and to her face, but she can't quite focus on that when Lena's gaze falls to her mouth.

By this point, Kara's kissed enough people to understand the cue that she's receiving, but her mind is disbelieving and untrusting. Surely, she doesn't want to…—no, not Kara. Isn't there someone else Lena kisses?

Her next words come from a well of insecurity she'd never wanted to voice.

"How is…" Kara finds herself vaguely gesticulating. Somewhere, she knows Alex is screaming at her to shut up, "Jack? Will he—um, work with you, too?"

Kara berates herself internally. Why did she bring him up? Why now? And so awkwardly.

Lena's eyes go strangely vacant at the question, however, as if exerting a considerable amount self-control.

"We're not—we never—" she stumbles, but McCabe interrupts them, her voice loud from the other side of the alcove.

"Ladies, we're headed back to the pumpkin patch. That's enough for the day!"

Lena shrugs at Kara, though it might be more of a slumping of shoulders, and she turns to follow the departing class. Kara can't find the nerve to say anything else on their walk back to school.


Kara replays the conversation in her mind so many times, she's sure it's not healthy.

Had Lena wanted to kiss her? What about Jack? Would she really work at her family's company? Did Kara love her, like she'd said in so many words? What did it mean if she did?

It could never work, you must know that.

Kara wishes for nothing but more time. Every day is one day closer to graduation, one day closer to having to accept that Lena was never hers to have. She'd always been destined for something great, to leave Kara behind. It would be selfish to burden Lena with her unwanted and likely unreciprocated feelings (people looked at mouths all the time platonically, Kara had probably misconstrued it through the sheer force of her hope.) And did it matter, anyway, when she still couldn't give Lena everything she deserved?

It's enough to make her deeply and truly miserable, but a small, determined part of herself still speaks softly… shouldn't she at least try? Wasn't she brave? Wasn't it worth even the remotest possibility?

So, she resolves to ask Cal to lift the Fidelius Charm. Something's got to give, and she's going to give this… something with Lena one last chance.

Chapter Text

Seventh year.

Once her mind is made up to confront Cal, Kara is filled with a constant and frenetic energy. She can't stop fidgeting. She blows through the rest of term, conducting imaginary conversations with herself, flitting through what to say in half-formed arguments and desperate pleas.

But she's never been good at this. She's never been a planner or even an arguer. She doesn't enjoy the idea of confrontation. So despite the relentless mental rehearsal, she's still afraid that when the time actually comes, it will all desert her. She'll flop like the fish that sometimes wash up on the shore of the Black Lake, and she won't remember anything to say at all.

That is, if she can even get Cal to meet with her.

Over the last several years, she's seen him infrequently at best; stopping by to eat lunch on a wet afternoon in June, grabbing a volume from Jeremiah's study in August. He never spends more than an hour with her, and they've rarely been alone. He hasn't dropped her off at the platform since her first year, and he's never picked her up. He doesn't write either, so Kara's not entirely sure how she should even go about reaching him, but she borrows a school owl nonetheless and begins addressing a letter to Eliza.

I really need to speak with, she pauses her pen lifted from the page, Clark. Please send word if he'll be home over holiday break.

She takes a few moments to scrawl updates on her classes, to complain about how Transfiguration has gotten extraordinarily difficult, before she releases the tawny barn owl into a sharp winter wind and hopes for a prompt reply.

She doesn't get one. Not even a few days before Christmas when she's packing her things into her trunk with a dissatisfied grumble.

So, she heads to the awaiting carriages to depart the castle, and the ride back to the station is slow and mercilessly filled with conversation between Lucy and James (Kara thinks they may be back on again.) By the time they reach the platform, Kara takes the first chance she gets to discreetly extricate herself.

She sighs, her attention wandering as she waits. She goes over yet another dozen what if scenarios, her palms becoming hot and sweaty as they ball into fists.

What if she can't reach Cal? What if he's unable to lift the spell, what if it's permanent? What if Kara can't keep the secret without the spell? What if everyone finds out? What if Lena finds out before she can tell her?

A whistle shrieks through the air, causing Kara to startle, and the students around her shift, jockeying for position as the doors of the train inch closer.

When the crowd parts, Kara sees a figure still as undisturbed water, calm despite the boisterous scrambling and shouts. She sees an open schoolbook, a veil of black hair, a pale finger running softly across the parchment.

It's Lena, dark as a shadow, fixed and statuesque. Her trunk sits by her side, and she seems entirely immersed in the text as she quietly flips a page. Kara's so focused on her, she thinks she can hear a tendril of her heartbeat again. Their classmates begin to board, and Kara pivots away, walking directly up to her.

"Lena," she says, eyes grazing over her outfit.

Lena's not in her school robes and seeing her outside of them feels almost indecent but strangely thrilling. She looks a bit severe and sharp in nearly all blacks, but still, it's different and refreshing and—

"You're going home?" Kara asks, attempting to control her spiraling thoughts surrounding how perfect Lena is.

Lena looks up to regard her with those seafoam green eyes and a smile at the corner of her mouth. She dips her book down, closing it.

"You are too," she answers plainly.

"Yeah, but…" Kara wavers, scratching the back of her neck. She's anxious to see Lena there, but she doesn't know how to articulate it. It's divergent. It's a break in their routine, and it makes her uneasy.

Students thin out around them while Kara hesitates, and Lena moves past her, into the very back of the line, and Kara follows reluctantly.

"Is everything alright?" she probes, still tense.

Lena turns slightly, the sharp line of her jaw momentarily in profile. Kara can't fully see her face, but she thinks the smile piques into something more like melancholy.

"My mother wants to see me."

Lena says it casually, carefully, but for some reason Kara doesn't buy it. She wants Lena to be safe. She wants to protect her. She has a bad feeling about... whatever this is.

So, when Lena steps up into the train, Kara can't help it. She wraps her fingers around her upper arm, forcing her to pause, holding Lena in her orbit.

"But," Kara stammers, unvoiced questions on the tip of her tongue. Why did Lillian want to see her now? What did she want with Lena? Was she in danger?

Lena looks confused, first down at Kara's hand and then into Kara's face. But her expression softens when Kara shifts fretfully from foot to foot.

If only she could tell Lena now, she thinks. They could share a compartment. They could talk the whole way home. Kara would be content to never let go of her arm ever again.

"It'll be fine, Kara," Lena encourages gently, but Kara looks away with a frown.

Before she can ruminate further, however, Lena moves her free hand, cupping it under Kara's chin. She lifts Kara's eyes to hers, and Kara's mind blanks. She's solely focused on the flecks of gold around Lena's irises, the slow beating caress of her breath. She realizes abruptly that they're completely alone, shrouded in the stairwell of the train. Lena stands above Kara on a higher step, palm cradling her face, and she bows down to meet Kara's cheek with her lips.

Her lips are soft, impossibly soft, but it's over before Kara can register anything else, before she can think to turn and meet her mouth. Her eyes flutter open as Lena pulls back, long black hair brushing Kara's neck.

"We'll see each other later," she hushes. "I promise."

Kara swallows. She nods, or someone does, she's not entirely sure who's connected to her body at the moment. She remembers to breathe, and it comes in huge like a gasp when Lena's hand slips from her chin. Unconsciously, Kara releases her arm and Lena turns away, but not before one last smile.

"You've forgotten your trunk," she says, and then she disappears down the train corridor.

Kara looks back, and so she has. Her trunks sits lonely and forgotten on the platform, but she can't find the will to move, struck silent and immovable, branded by the ghost of that kiss on her cheek.


She'd thought she'd be excited.

Lena Luthor had kissed her.

Every time she thinks of it, she swears she can feel the exact spot, that sacred spot on her cheek, blush a deep shade of red, but somehow, she doesn't feel better. Questions fly through her mind, anxious and worried.

Why was Lena going home? Why had she kissed Kara's cheek? It was almost unlike Lena, and it makes Kara's nerves worse. She'd promised she'd be back, but would she? That kiss… it felt like a goodbye. It's not right. Something's not right.

Kara hustles through the other students when they arrive, practically flying off the train the moment the doors open. She's quick to spot Eliza on the platform and notices with a spike of annoyance that she's alone. No Cal.

"Hi," she greets, sweeping Eliza into a hug, careful not to break any ribs. "Where's Clark?"

Eliza smiles at her indulgently, brushing a strand of blonde hair behind Kara's ear.

"You're just as stubborn as Alex," she says, lifting her wand, bewitching Kara's trunk into the air. "He couldn't make it today."

"Eliza," Kara whispers insistently as they begin to weave through the crowds and off of Platform 9 ¾. "Did you tell him I needed to talk to him? It's urgent."

Eliza doesn't quite meet her eye.

"I did, but dear, you know him. He could be anywhere in the world."

"It's important," Kara huffs. "There's no way to contact him?"

"There is," Eliza replies tentatively, and they step through the invisible barrier together. "I can ask Jeremiah, but it's really only for emergencies—"

"It's an emergency," Kara interrupts, even though she knows she sounds rude.

Eliza glances at her then, hair loose in a bun at the back of her head. They step to the side, out of the way of families bustling off to cars, to fireplaces and secure Apparition locations. Meanwhile, Kara bounces on her heels, waiting impatiently for her to answer. She taps her fingers at her side, compulsively opening and closing her hand.

"What is it, Kara?" Eliza asks with a touch of concern, barely audible. "Is something wrong with your—?"

Eliza gestures to her ears. Her powers, she means to say, but can't in the crowded train station.

"No, it's just—" Kara starts but also can't finish.

What would she say? That she wants to see Cal so he'll lift the Fidelius Charm? That she wants to tell Lena Luthor who she really is?

She knows Eliza will say no. She can already imagine the horrified look on her face. She may even stop Kara from reaching Cal at all.

"It's nothing," Kara sighs.


She doesn't give up, though. Kara tries her luck with Jeremiah later that night, but she gets the same sort of canned response.

"We should only use our method of contact for dire situations, like death or imminent danger," he explains calmly, and Kara seethes in response.

He looks over her, canting his head to the side as if attempting to read a secret script written under the baleful look on Kara's face.

"If you could tell me why you want to talk to him, Kara, it would be easier for me to—"

"I shouldn't need a reason!" Kara cuts him off suddenly. It's nearly a shout and it surprises even herself.

But she's not done.

"I shouldn't need to fill out a bloody form or wait in a queue or convince a committee when I want to talk to my cousin, my only blood relative."

Jeremiah looks taken aback, but Kara can sense herself on the edge of exploding completely, so instead she bolts from the living room. She slams the door of her bedroom, hearing it crack off its frame.

She paces, pulling at her hair, fuming into the dim light of her bedside lamp when she hears someone sigh "Reparo" just outside the door.

The door unsplinters and jumps back onto its mended hinges. Alex walks into the room and surveys her sister for a long moment, hands on her hips, taking in Kara's ruddy cheeks, her wild eyes, and her clenching fists. She seems to decide something, and she steps closer.

"Look, if you want to find him," she starts quietly. "Cal works a day job, you know, as Clark."

Kara stops pacing, suddenly intent.

"Where?"

Alex sighs.

"The Daily Prophet, Kara, you read that paper, what, six times a day?"

"Merlin, that's right," Kara cries out.

How had she forgotten? She'd been seeing his name in bylines for ages.

"Now I'm not telling you to go there," Alex heads off her thoughts, and Kara deflates a little. "Meaning if anyone asks, I know nothing about it. I was never even here."

Kara reinflates, and Alex strides from the room.


Kara makes an easy excuse in the morning to Eliza, something along the lines of wanting to practice magic in the back lot. Her adoptive mother doesn't seem particularly suspicious, moreso relived that Kara's shouting and tense nature has abated. So, Kara steps into the wooded area and pauses behind the thick trunk of a tree. She makes sure Eliza is out of sight and takes a deep breath. She focuses on the three D's: Determination, Deliberation, and Destination.

It's not that she's nervous. She's passed her Apparition exam. She's just never used it much, so this will be her first true, long distance test. And she really doesn't want to get splinched.

London, she says over and over. London. London. Diagon Alley. The Leaky Couldron. London.

She concentrates on every memory she's ever had of the city. The tall buildings, the rounded cobblestones, the bustling streets. She remembers the gray storm clouds that threaten to constantly rain, the river, sometimes frothy and off blue.

She turns, wand in hand. Her world inverts. She's crushed and reformed.

CRACK!

Kara keeps her eyes squeezed shut, terrified despite the fact that the air has changed, that the sounds of birds chirping have morphed and become silent. Distantly, a car horn wails. She checks her body for splinching, for pain. She flexes her hands and toes.

Good, all still there.

She opens her eyes and finds herself standing on a lone winding road, stone grey and ordinary. She glances at a muggle bookshop and a record store across the street. There's not much else, and she checks again, head swiveling left and right. She hears the sign first, metallic and creaking on a weak breeze.

Had that been there before? The wrought iron lettering reads, The Leaky Couldron, and Kara glances over the building. It's indiscreet, almost invisible apart from a black door that invites further investigation.

Kara hesitates. She's been to Diagon Alley before with Eliza, but they'd always used floo powder to travel. Standing in the Danvers' fireplace, Kara's cast a handful of green dust down to her feet and shouted, 'Diagon Alley!' a dozen times. But she couldn't risk Eliza's notice this morning, and she'd had to come up with an alternative route. Alex had once told her that she'd be able to get to Diagon Alley through this famous old pub, but she's not so sure now.

Where was she supposed to go?

Kara sighs, taking a steeling breath and pushes open the black door. She's immediately overcome by the smell of stale ale and varnished wood. The pub is smaller than she expected, too, dark and dingy, but still somehow welcoming. The barman looks up at the sound of the door and assesses her appearance, seeming to note the absence of an older chaperon.

"You of age?" he asks.

"Uh," Kara answers.

"Through the back," he points before she can finish, as if he already knows why she's there. "Into the courtyard. Tap the bricks."

Kara follows vaguely in the direction of his knobby finger, but when she comes out into a courtyard, there's nothing but four brick walls and a trashcan.

"Tap the bricks?" she asks herself.

"Here, deary," a voice surprises her from behind.

Kara whirls around to find a toothless old woman with greying hair and a long pipe. She taps her walking cane systematically against several of the bricks.

"You'll have to forgive old Archie in there, it's been a long day," she says and smiles.

"It's fine," Kara forgives easily, returning her smile, but then she gasps. Because where there had once been just a wall, a large archway has appeared.

"Thanks!" she says excitedly, and she darts down the cobbled path and into Diagon Alley.


It takes her nearly half an hour to find the offices of The Daily Prophet, and when she does, the front windows are large, nearly two stories. Wreathes, garland, and mistletoe paint the walls of the interior, and Christmas lights smooth the hard lines of the exterior, blinking and colorful. She pushes open a revolving door, hoping not to be spotted, but she has almost nothing to worry about. It's madness inside.

Witches and wizards are running, glasses askew, between giant printing presses. There's newspapers and notes of all shapes and sizes zipping through the air with a mind of their own. One darts around Kara's head before nearly colliding with her nose, and Kara jumps backwards, shielding herself behind a large, white marbled column.

She gazes around in wonder. The place is grand, richly furnished, and feels historied. But it also feels violent and chaotic, like being repeatedly pummeled by the waves of the ocean, drug down and rolled upward.

"Perry!" a man shouts to her left. "They said they can't find him, he's cooped up in the—"

"Either you find him or you're fired!" a man shouts back.

There's a flurry of movement, a group of witches and wizards talking furiously to each other, and Kara hangs back out of sight. Newspapers fly past her, catching her interest, begging for attention.

"NOT ENOUGH BROOMS IN THE FAMILY GARAGE?" one reads, depicting several inky black witches riding one broom.

She can't read the rest before it's gone.

Then, there's more shouting and running, and Kara wonders briefly at why Cal would work at such a place. It's frenzied and stressful. Did these harried people write the articles on her family, on Cal? Did they really take the time to understand just what they were writing?

Her mood darkens. The writers here… they told her story, one she herself could never tell. What gave them the right? And Cal, his stories were always so mundane and lacking of substance. Did he only work here to control the narrative of his dual identities? Did he only love seeing himself on the front page?

Kara pushes herself from the column, recommitting to her task. She walks with purpose past several dozen desks and into an open floor with more yelling, more manic scribbling, more activity.

"It's Christmas Eve, damn it!" a woman's voice rings out, raised and irritable. "I shouldn't have to remind you all we're on a deadline!"

Kara moves past her, hugging the wall. She casts a surveying glance over the room, but she doesn't see Cal.

So she moves into another quieter room, crammed with tall towers of paper, leaning precariously. There are dozens of desks, unorganized with shelves half open. This office seems empty, though, and just when she's thinking Cal might be out for the day, he's not even here, she hears a peal of laughter.

The sound draws Kara's eyes to two people in the corner. One is a woman, the source of the sound, and Kara can tell that even from behind the hand she's holding modestly over her mouth, that she's lovely. She has a large purple scarf draped around her neck and shoulders, so purple it's regal, and her thick black hair spills out over it, both perfectly curled and perfectly straight. She's by a window and the light glances off her, giving her a white ethereal kind of glow.

Something about her is familiar, and she reminds Kara of Hogwarts, even of her dorm room.

Who is she?

Quizzically, Kara glances left to find Cal situated near the woman and he's smiling, too, a hand placed on her desk, fingers splayed flat against the wood.

It's almost possessive, his arm, his hand placed there. It blocks out the bedlam of the outer office. It secludes them there in this place where they smile and laugh. Even though she's only watching, Kara suspects that she's intruding on something private. She thinks to hide, to leave even, but the woman turns her head as her laughter fades, and her eyes light on Kara standing still in the middle of the room.

"Can I help you?" she lilts, the vestiges of a smile still remnant on her features.

Her voice, she recognizes it, and Kara knows instantly who she is.

Lois Lane. Lucy's sister.

Anger flickers deep inside her, like flint attempting to spark.

"My sister says you better have a look at the paper today."

This is the woman who'd written the article about the platform. The reason Kara had gotten Howlers for months, hate mail for years. Lois Lane.

And Cal. Why didn't he stop her? If he was so concerned about Kara blowing her identity, why did he let Lois Lane print that story?

Kara looks at the hand on the desk, the mirrored smile. She watches Cal turn, sees his demeanor change, the hand fall away, and Kara can't help but think… after all the warnings and all the excuses that Eliza and Jeremiah had given about contacting him, here Cal was, not saving anyone but flirting with a colleague.

"Kara," Cal says, his voice reflecting a note of surprise.

"Oh," Lois turns a palm up, a finger points. She's suddenly intrigued, a hound catching scent of prey. "Do you two know each other?"

"She's my—" Cal stutters awkwardly.

The disguise is good, Kara thinks. He takes it seriously. The hunched shoulders, the altered speech, it's an impressive feat of acting. The eyes, though, icy blue as if scraped from the top of a glacier, they're the same. Not even his thick black frames can detract from that.

"She's a family friend," he finishes, and Kara hears a touch of familiar firmness.

Stay away from the Luthors.

"Here, let's go to a meeting room," he motions towards a winding hall to the left, and Kara follows without another word to Lois.

Cal leads them to a small office encased in glass, and it feels like they're on display, like they're swimming in a fishbowl. Cal waves his wand to cast a number of muttered spells, frosting the glass, and muting them from the rest of the office.

"Kara," he reprimands with a sharp turn, the façade entirely dropped. "What're you doing here? Do you know how dangerous this is?"

"You won't answer any of my owls," Kara replies through clenched teeth. "I've needed to talk to you."

He stares at her uncomprehending before crossing his arms. Kara can see the coil of muscle there beneath the navy blue button down of his shirt.

"Okay," he answers slowly, as if switching tactics on a child in the throes of a tantrum. "What is it?"

Kara takes a deep breath.

This is it, she thinks. This is the moment.

"IwantyoutolifttheFideliusCharm," she says in a rush.

Cal tilts his head.

"What?" he asks, but Kara suspects he's heard her just fine.

"I want you to lift the Fidelius Charm," she repeats more slowly. "I'm 17. I'm of age. And I don't need it. I don't want it anymore."

Unable to pretend not to have heard her, Cal's face becomes serious, his lips thinned.

"It keeps you safe, Kara."

"I can keep myself safe," she replies brusquely. "You keep yourself safe."

He watches her, wary and unmoved.

"That's different. I'm older, you're—"

"Please just lift it, Cal," Kara interjects, knowing the more he tells her no, the harder it will be to keep asking. "I've never asked you for anything."

"Why?" he asks in return. "Who do you want to tell?"

Kara unconsciously thinks of Lena, but she shouldn't need a reason. It's her damned life.

"Does it matter?"

"Of course it does."

Kara turns away with a huff, staring out of the fogged glass of the room, willing something to emerge like a ship from a fog. Nothing does. She clutches the edge of the table until she hears it groan.

"I'm the Secret Keeper, Kara," Cal says, using that same calm voice. Does he talk to criminals this way, too? "I can tell whoever you want to tell. We don't have to remove the spell completely."

"It shouldn't be up to you," Kara replies quietly.

"What?" Cal asks again, stepping closer.

"I said it's my life," Kara snaps back, whirling to face him. "It's destroying me. You've—it's made me a liar."

"It's protecting you," he reemphasizes as if she's never heard this strain of argument. She ignores it.

"If you want to live a lie, Cal, if you want to live whatever this is—" Kara bites back, motioning to his disguise "—you can. But I don't want to, and you never gave me a choice."

"A choice?" he echoes, taken aback. "You were a child. You couldn't make a choice, and I wanted you to have a life, a normal upbringing."

"A life?" Kara challenges. "A normal upbringing? How is it normal when I can't even tell people who I am? I can't say anything about my real family. I can't say anything about my home—"

She wants to say more, but her throat betrays her, constricting and cutting her words off. Tears sting at her eyes, and Cal's expression shifts in a way Kara has never seen. He looks upset, stunned.

"We were in an accident," he says. "We can't change it. We had to make sacrifices. I can't be myself either."

Kara scoffs loudly, running a hand over her eyes, wiping away the unshed tears.

"Your real name is everywhere," she argues. "Everyone knows who you are."

"Superman is not who I am," he responds with a clench of his jaw, but it makes him look more like Superman than ever.

"Well, I've never known who I was," Kara replies. "You—at least you had eighteen years of being Cal El. Me, I was just—I was—," Kara stammers. "You made me Kara Danvers and Zora El, but somehow I'm neither."

She steps closer to her cousin, hand still on the table between them.

"Let me choose who I want to be."

Cal contemplates her words, the blue of his irises rimmed with that same conflict and turmoil.

"My family died, too, Kara. I've given up everything. I can't have friends. I can't have," Kara wonders if he realizes he's glanced towards the door, surely to where Lois Lane's desk sits. "Anything either."

"But you're still you," Kara argues softly. "You still have Cal El."

He heaves a great sigh, pressed a palm to his forehead.

"I would've given that up if I could," he tells her. "But it was too late. Lex Luthor already knew who I was. Cal El, Superman, it's not me. It's someone I've had to become."

Kara looks down at one of the wooden office chairs beside her, runs her hand along the back of the seat.

"This spell," she starts. "It forces me to be someone I'm not. I can't do it any more."

"I'm sorry," he says, and Kara looks up to find his eyes sincere and earnest. "I promise I only ever meant it to help. You were so young."

Kara breathes in deep.

"Please just—just take it away."

Cal regards her heavily before he finally nods. Kara watches his wand raise and sweep in a golden arc over their heads, a rainbow of color flowing from the tip. When he drops it to his side again, the lights have faded, and they stand there in a relative silence, Kara searching his eyes.

"Be cautious," he tells her. "Be safe."


The rest of Kara's holiday passes both swiftly and agonizingly slow. Swiftly because the days are filled with cocoa and Wizard's Chess and presents. But slow because Cal has given her the best present of all: her freedom, her ability to speak, the weight on the back of her tongue effectively removed. And all she can think about is getting back to Hogwarts and telling Lena.

When the day finally comes and she's back on the train feeling bouncy and unburdened, the first face that pops into her eye line is one sinkingly familiar (if not slightly unwelcome.)

Kara throws herself into a compartment and Lucy Lane follows, looking like she's positively bursting.

"I'm Head Girl now! Did you know?"

Kara's head snaps up, so fast she hears something ominously like bone pop in her neck.

"What? Where's Lena?"

"Lena Luthor isn't returning to Hogwarts," Lucy says, and Kara doesn't like the smugly thrilled look that passes over her face. "Didn't you see the Daily Prophet?"

Lucy offers the morning edition to Kara, and Kara snatches it out of her grasp without one thought spared to decorum. She doesn't care. She's only concerned with the photo of Lena gracing the cover, looking miserable but lovely, even in black and white.

For a moment, their eyes meet, the photograph from the page just as disarming as the real Lena, and Kara buckles under its pressure, looks away, her attention dropping to the byline.

Lois Lane. Of course.

Kara quickly scans the article, finding several disturbing reports.

"Lena Luthor will be sitting her N.E.W.T. exams at home."

"Lillian Luthor gave a statement to the Prophet early this morning. 'My daughter is absolutely essential to the future of Luthor Magicorp. She's one of the most brilliant minds to grace the halls of Hogwarts, and she's more than proved she's ready for the real world.'"

"She's not that brilliant," Lucy huffs over Kara's shoulder, following her finger pressed to the page. Then, she shrugs with a pleased sigh.

"It's cute, though, isn't it? James and I as the Heads of school!"

It's not cute, though. Not to Kara, not even close. It reminds her of getting her nose broken. It feels like being hit in both eyes by a Stinging Hex.

Lena's graduated early, she thinks with disbelief. She's not returning to school.

"But she promised," Kara says in a whisper.

"What's that?" Lucy asks, digging through her bag.

Kara doesn't answer. Instead, she throws the paper into an empty seat and looks sulkily out of the window for the rest of the ride to school.


Hogwarts isn't the same without Lena. Kara endures her absence like a supermassive black hole is slowly sucking all of her positive feelings out into a nothingness void.

Why? she keeps thinking. What's the point?

It also doesn't help that no one else seems to notice or care, except for Jack Spheer, who Kara still doesn't get on with. Especially now that he's become increasingly testy in their shared classes, snapping at teachers, and impatiently hexing younger students in the hallways. Acting like that, Kara can't take much comfort in his pain. But she can relate. She wants Lena back, too.

Why did it have to be now? The timing is simply awful. Terrible. No good.

Kara agonizes over how else she might be able to tell Lena. She can't send word by owl, it's too risky. She can't use the Floo Network. She really can't even leave Hogwarts.

Or can she?

Growing desperate, she comes up with a plan that is probably even stupider than her trip to the Daily Prophet. She bides her time until their spring visit to Hogsmeade and after pretending to Winn that she's going to the bathroom, she heads outside instead. She passes into the alley behind the Hog's Head and concentrates.

It's not easy. She's never done anything like this. She's not supposed to leave Hogwarts during term. She could get expelled.

But she doesn't care.

No more second guessing, she focuses hard, and Kara Apparates.

CRACK!

Eyes open this time, she finds herself directly in front of Luthor Magicorp, a soaring building of reflective glass, a monolith to progress and excellence if Kara's ever seen one.

Unlike the grubby, lonely road to the Leaky Cauldron, Luthor Magicorp sits in the middle of downtown London, and Kara stares up at it, awestruck. It's so big. What do the muggles see? A bank? A law firm?

They push past her, hardly sparing the building a glance, pompous in their tailored suits, polished shoes, and leather bound briefcases. Some of them yell into their phones while others walk with a singleminded determination, zigzagging through the crowds. A few send her curious glances, she's still in her Hogwarts uniform after all. They don't recognize the emblem on her chest.

Kara shuffles away from them, towards the grand entryway, not wanting to garner any attention. She wonders where Lena sits inside a building this large, but she's guessing it's right at the very top.

She follows a serious looking group of wizards inside, two with cages smoking from the inside, but Kara is stopped short in the open atrium by two security trolls standing watch over the golden and elegantly inscribed elevators. They look hulking and muscled, carrying large and heavy looking bats.

Kara weighs her options, parting from the group of wizards. She feels the buzzing under her skin, an electric current with the voltage increased. She hadn't even thought to use her super speed, but it's ready, already there and willing. So, she waits for the doors of one of the golden elevators to close, and an instant later, she's inside, only a gust of wind lifting the pointed hats of nearby witches to indicate that she's passed at all.

"What floor?" a disembodied female voice asks.

"Lena Luthor," Kara replies uncertainly.

The elevator lurches into motion, so quickly that Kara thinks she may be ill from the motion. She ascends nearly sixty floors in only a few seconds, and by the time the doors slide open Kara wobbles out, disoriented and clutching the wall for support.

When she gets her bearings, she sees that the floor is wide open, the ceilings tall, and there's only one desk at the end of the room. A girl, no a woman? No, Eve Tessmacher, her former Quidditch Captain, sits at an overlarge desk jotting quickly with a feathery black quill.

Kara can't quite believe her eyes, and she pauses at the sight of her, a stab of foreboding shooting down her spine. Eve will know Kara isn't supposed to be here, but before she can leave, something giant and rectangular catches her attention behind Eve. It's the only thing on the bald white walls, and it's massive.

It's a portrait. In it, Lena stands next to her mother, face turned and looking off canvas, as if she's refusing to meet the painter's eye. Face hidden, her black hair sheens with a thick polish that almost seems tangible, like a darkness.

"Kara?" Eve asks, and Lena's head turns in the portrait, her eyes watching Kara with a knowing depth, a cleverness.

Then, Lena's office door opens.

Damn, Kara thinks. She's not ready.

Then, Lillian Luthor emerges from that office.

Double damn, Kara's definitely not ready for her.

Lillian's stark green eyes sweep the room and immediately fall to Kara standing awkwardly by the elevators. She smiles, shutting the door behind her, and it booms into the quiet room like a finality, a period punctuating the end of a sentence. She closes the gap between them, and while Kara's taller than the last time she'd met Lillian, Lillian still feels towering, clothed in a long beige cloak that barely dusts the tops of her bright red heels.

"Kara Danvers," she says, looking at her expectantly, but she doesn't extend her hand. It feels more like she's blocking Kara from Lena's door. "My dear, shouldn't you be in school?"

There's an air of snobbishness, an aristrocratic condescension fused directly into her demeanor, but it's so subtle, Kara can't quite identify its origin. All she knows is that standing in front of Lillian Luthor, a cold fear laces through her veins. She remembers Lillian using Legilimens, the mind reading spell, and she swallows hard. Kara isn't safe without the Fidelius Charm, and for the first time, she realizes how foolish this endeavor really is.

"If you've come to visit my daughter," Lillian continues despite the lack of answer, "she's busy running a company now, I'm sure you've heard."

"I need to talk to her," Kara croaks, but it's tentative at best. Lillian blocking her way might as well be a brick wall, a thousand meters tall.

"Then, it will have to wait I'm afraid," Lillian counters easily. "Between her new position and wedding planning…"

Lillian shrugs with a charmed smile.

"Wedding planning?" Kara asks, crestfallen.

"Oh yes," Lillian preens. "I'm sure you've met the groom to be, Jack Spheer."

Kara disheartens even more. She'd never thought it was that serious between Jack and Lena.

"Very sturdy wizarding stock," Lillian continues, enjoying herself. "Old money."

"Isn't she a little…" Kara finds herself saying tensely. "Well, young for that?"

Behind Lillian, Eve goes rigid, her quill halting its movement. In front of Kara, Lillian's smug self-satisfaction quivers, arches into a kind of sneer.

"And who are you say, Ms. Danvers?" she starts, tilting her head. "Who do you know? No one. Your grades? Average. Your family? Of questionable station."

Lillian lists these things as if they're purely bullet points on a ledger. Facts.

"My Lena is already head of this company. She's tip-top, top-notch, and you…"

Lillian's eyes move over Kara, clearly assessing and finding everything lacking.

"I'll admit you saved my daughter once. You were brave on that platform, but the rest was simply luck."

She steps forward.

"And that's all you have to offer; dumb luck."

Kara holds her gaze despite the flaring pain in her chest, despite the insecure voice that has told her the same all along.

"And that is simply not good enough, certainly not to get you through that door," Lillian gestures to Lena's office behind her.

"Ms. Tessmacher," she snaps without turning her eyes from Kara. Eve jumps up from her desk. "Make sure Lena continues her day uninterrupted."

Lillian brushes past Kara and into the open elevator.

"I'll see you out," she motions to the golden doors, and Kara follows, defeated.

It only takes seconds to reach the main lobby, but Lillian stops Kara with a hand on her arm before she can exit the elevator.

"I'll be having a word with Diana Prince about the lack of oversight regarding her students," she says, then she smiles, but it doesn't reach her eyes. Kara's not sure if it ever has. "Take care."

Chapter Text

Kara doesn't get expelled from Hogwarts for her transgression although she does receive such a strongly worded letter from Eliza that it's nothing short of a Howler.

"I honestly don't know what you were thinking, and in your 7th year, too! When you come home for holiday, we are having a long discussion about responsibility. I don't know what would possess you to ever take such a risk, and at Luthor MagiCorp of ALL places—"

Kara throws the letter onto her bed without finishing it. Later, she chucks it into the fire.

She grumbles over her breakfast, moodily stuffing pancakes into her mouth. She doesn't need further admonition. Thirty seconds with Lillian Luthor had been enough for a lifetime, and she knows it was reckless. She knows she'd gambled perhaps her entire life to do… just what exactly? See Lena Luthor again? Share her deepest secret with a girl who by all accounts had attacked her on the Quidditch pitch two years prior and had never bothered to give Kara an apology or an explanation? A girl from one of the most dangerous wizarding families in the world? A girl who had kissed Kara's cheek only to lie about seeing her again? A girl who was… getting married?

Yes, it all felt very stupid. Where did Lena get off on kissing Kara's cheek, anyway?

The whole thing smarts like a badly healing burn, but a bit of Kara's bluster fades as the days turns into weeks. Her anger morphs into something closer to depression, to shame and humiliation. Without seeing Lena every day, she wonders… had she made more of it than had really been there? Had her loneliness, her lack of luck with boys amplified her crush into infatuation, even obsession? Had she been clingy and needy? Had that kiss simply been friendly, and Kara had deluded herself into thinking it was something else? Or worse… had Lena kissed Kara's cheek out of pity? Did Lena see Kara like Lillian did?

"Who do you know? No one. Your grades? Average. Your family? Of questionable station."

Kara buries her face into her pillow at night, willing herself not to cry. She knows that Lillian is right, that she has nothing to offer Lena. And Lena likely knows it, too. Otherwise, how could she have left without a word? No note. No letter. Not even a proper goodbye.


Kara passes her N.E.W.T. examinations with acceptable grades (not 'average') and graduates Hogwarts without much ceremony. There are celebrations, of course, but she just doesn't feel all that invested in them. She hugs her bunkmates goodbye, makes promises to see them soon, and spares the steepling turrets, the worn down flagstone, and the great black lake one last glance.

It had been her second home, and she knows she loves Hogwarts. But she's also eager to leave. The school had lost some of its colour, some of its allure through the endless trials and tribulations of dealing with her powers. With every laugh, she'd had loneliness. With every hug, she'd broken a bone. And with the Fidelius Charm lifted and no one to tell, Zora El doesn't feel all that important any more.

She wonders what the purpose of all of it had even been.

After the long train ride back to London, Eliza waits for Kara on Platform 9 ¾. The fact that she's still cross is obvious from the visible pinch of her eyebrows, but she's proud, too, pulling Kara into a warm hug and whispering such in her ear. Alex stands at her mother's elbow and claps Kara heartily across the back. She winces a bit after contact, holding her bruised fingers, but smiles brightly nonetheless.

"Well done, Kara!" she exclaims. "I can't wait to show you our flat!"

Kara had almost forgotten; she's moving in with Alex. She's currently very grateful of that fact, especially since Eliza still has a look about her like she might start scolding Kara the second they're alone.

"Ready?" Alex asks, having led them to a Ministry-approved Apparition location.

Kara nods, and the three of them turn on the spot, linked arms and shoulders brushing. They Apparate with a discomforting squeeze, a loud crack!, and Kara finds herself in the middle of London. While she's still orienting herself to the sounds of a bustling city, Alex has already launched into breathless a description of their new apartment.

"It's not in a half bad part of town," she says quickly, gesturing about a street lined with tall apartments. "I got a real deal from a colleague who's travelling to Africa for a year. We're also close to the Ministry!"

Kara gazes around, absorbing Alex's words without much understanding. She can faintly hear birds and running water through the dampening of her earrings, and that makes her happy.

"Are there parks nearby?" she asks.

"Two!" Alex exclaims. "Come on, it's this way."

Alex leads Kara and Eliza around the block, explaining that they can only Apparate to a specific area, until they reach a black wrought iron swing gate, ornately designed and recently painted. Kara expects her sister to use magic, but she actually produces a key and turns the lock.

"We're supposed to act like it's a normal muggle apartment," she whispers by way of explanation.

Alex shoves through with a loud groan of wood and rusty hinges, and they climb several flights of stairs, so many that Kara is sure the interior has been magically expanded. It had only looked like five or six floors from the outside, but Kara's counted twelve landings so far.

"We won't have to do this every time," Alex puffs, taking two steps at a time. "Just wanted you to experience the mystique of the building. We can always Apparate up."

"Well, I didn't need to climb twelve flights, Alex, I've been here before," Eliza complains.

Kara, however, is happy for the extended tour. Unlike many of her classmates who Apparate at every given chance, Kara still prefers to walk, to take the long way. After the first time, she can always taste a lingering bile at the back of her throat, and she'd prefer to avoid it.

When they finally reach their flat door, it stands tall, looking ancient yet polished. It looks heavy, too, and Kara appreciates the sturdiness of it. Alex uses the same key to enter, and a light blinds Kara momentarily, bluish and fresh.

"Well?" Alex prompts as they step inside. "What do you think?"

It's small and spartan, with empty shelves and white walls. There's only three rooms, but the main living and kitchen area share four great windows, the source of the light. Kara crosses the room to unlatch a window, swinging it wide and filling the room with a warm summer's breeze. The opening is almost big enough for her to bodily step through, but instead she peers through the old glass, warped in places, bending the other buildings and rounding them out as if through a fish lens.

She turns back to Alex with a smile.

"I love it."

Alex beams.


It doesn't take long for them to get settled. They inherit some of their favorite mugs and cutlery from Eliza and purchase a cute, square red carpet for their shared bedroom. They occupy twin beds on opposite walls, and Kara had worried (a little at least) about living in such close quarters with her sister, but she finds she doesn't mind. Alex is gone on assignment for much of the day, and Kara spends her time perusing the Prophet, looking for jobs and familiarizing herself with their neighborhood. She finds a cute coffee shop at the end of the street and even a divey wizarding pub around the block named The Full Moon. She's sure Alex will love it.

She also walks the city, careful not to use magic. She pretends to be normal. She enjoys the rituals of the muggles, and she likes to see what it's like to live in their world. She even takes the bus sometimes, and she'll stay seated for hours, staring out the window and making a game of trying to spot magical locations, the places the muggles simply overlook.

Today she sees an English History of Magic museum near Trafalgar Square, nestled between a bookshop and a department store. She even catches a glimpse of a man reading the Daily Prophet discreetly as he bites into a bagel, leaning against the side of a bank. She knows because an advertisement plays over the back of the paper,

"MAGIC CARPET CO: FLY IN SECURITY AND COMFORT. RIDE WITH THE WHOLE FAMILY. FULLY INSURED."

She wonders if any of the muggles have seen it. Will he get in trouble? In the back of her mind, too, she wonders about the ad.

She really needs a job. Just a bit of direction, really. Maybe she could sell magic carpets?

She feels like she goes through this routine a hundred times a day. Could she be a bank teller? A museum curator? A ticketing officer at the Magical Menagerie? She could run a food stand in Diagon Alley. It could be fun. It could all be a fit, couldn't it?

She just wishes someone would tell her what to do.

She hops off the bus at the next stop with a sigh, tired of the game for today. She walks aimlessly, stopping to purchase a hot dog with the bit of muggle money she has. But it's not long before her feet take her to a familiar place, to a tall, glittering building that cleaves the uniformly white, rainy sky in half.

It looks just like it had so many months ago, a monument to progress. She's come here unconsciously, a dozen times at least, with a too sweet coffee in her hand and a hesitant gaze lifted skyward. Sometimes Kara even entertains a wild notion of going into the lobby, but the thought of Lillian Luthor stops her cold. She remembers her predative smile, that portrait of Lena hanging impressively on the wall. She remembers Lena's radiant green eyes, looking for all the world that she was right where she needed to be.

Kara stares at the building, furrowing her brow.

She won't pretend she hasn't checked (every day) for a wedding announcement in the Prophet. She's sure that kind of thing would make the front page, but there's been nothing. Only scathing articles about Lena's reclusiveness and her lack of experience. She's even seen Jack featured once, looking handsome in a photo blown white from a glaring Egyptian sun. Beth Breen stood next to him, their old Slytherin keeper, hand touching his elbow. It had said something about him doing research for St. Mungo's, but nothing about marriage.

Nothing about Lena.

What is she doing? Kara wonders, staring up, pinpointing a glittering window and willing herself to have x-ray vision.

Had the marriage been a lie? Or were they trying to keep it quiet? But why would Jack travel without her and with Beth Breen? Had it fallen apart? Lena never wore a ring, not in any of the product releases Kara has seen, not in any of the photos the Prophet has taken.

Regardless, it had been almost a half year, and Lena hadn't sent an owl. Kara's heard from everyone else at Hogwarts, but not her.

It's obvious, Kara supposes, a kind of unpleasant truth she can only deny for so long. Lena doesn't want to see her, she doesn't want to talk to her. She left Kara behind when she left Hogwarts, and Lena doesn't seem like the type who would ever look back.


She finds Alex later that night at their kitchen island, eyes pouring over a thick padded folio, a glass of fire whiskey sitting just out of the range of her grasp. Kara has an intense desire to seize it for herself, but it wouldn't do any good.

She can't get drunk, although not for lack of trying. She and Alex had nearly made it through an entire bottle with Kara saying, "I think I feel something!" every few minutes, but she hadn't. Not really. There had been a flicker of warmth, the dying of a candle flame, but that was it and Alex had ended up passed out on their living room floor. Another fluke power of hers, though sort of a lame one if you ask her.

"Whatcha' reading?" Kara asks conversationally, setting a tea pot to boil.

Alex shoves her hand over her face, pressing at her temples.

"Just some low-lifes trying extort galleons from one of our Head Aurors," she sighs. "I'm trying to see if they have any justifiable claims."

Kara nods, waiting for the whistle of the kettle.

All of Alex's work is like this: extortionists, thieves, murderers, and vandals. Kara wonders if it ever bothers her sister, if it keeps her up at night. She thinks maybe it does judging from the dark circles under Alex's eyes, but Kara's gaze continues to move until it falls to a pile of their post stacked neatly in a wicker basket.

"What's this?" she asks, smoothing a palm over a slick magazine cover.

Alex spares her a sideways glance.

"Ugh, Witch Weekly. Mum thought we might want a subscription. She loves those stupid quizzes."

Kara picks up the magazine and begins flipping through its pages.

BROOMS AND HATS, MUST HAVES FOR LONDON NIGHT LIFE

EVER CHANGING SUMMER DRESSES

HOTTEST AURORS

Kara snorts.

"Hottest Aurors?"

Alex rolls her eyes as Kara flicks to the right page from the index.

"Don't tell me you like that garbage."

"No," Kara laughs lightly. "I was just—"

Honestly, she'd been thinking of her visit to the Daily Prophet. Did Witch Weekly have the same giant printing presses with the moving faces, the bold typography? This magazine wasn't in black and white, though. It was brilliant and colorful, all shiny hair products and thick lipsticks. It definitely seemed more fun than the Prophet.

"I was just thinking there really aren't a lot of newspapers or magazines," Kara answers. "Muggles have loads. I see them stacked up in the stands every day."

"I suppose not," Alex agrees, looking back down at her work and striking through a statement with a thick black quill. "Witch Weekly isn't exactly known for its hard hitting journalism, though. Nothing competes with the Prophet."

Kara simmers at the statement.

"That doesn't seem very fair.'"

"Why?" Alex asks, still focused on her folio. "Are you not happy with the Prophet?"

She frowns, decidedly not happy with the Prophet. Seeing Lois Lane's name all over articles that criticize Lena, noticing how they cater and simper to the Ministry of Magic. They're biased. They're rushed. They don't tell the stories that matter. And she doesn't like that their claimed superiority has no challengers.

What made them so special?

"It'd just be nice to have an alternative," Kara mumbles, flipping back to the front of the magazine, to a glossy photo of a blonde woman who looked slightly gaunt but very put together.

"And the editor is a woman," she adds.

"Who?"

Kara's eyes fall to the byline.

"Cat Grant."


Kara feels a pull for once, a distinct inspiration for where she needs to be the following morning. As if driven by Felix Felicis, she follows the instinct and wakes in the dawn hours of the morning. After getting ready, she sets out to find the offices of Witch Weekly in Diagon Alley. It doesn't take long before she locates the building in the early morning sun, bright like a pearl against the back drop of its grimey, soot blackened neighbors. The name of the magazine reads across the top of the building in bold, blood red letters, and Kara smiles. It reminds her of a tall, pale woman with lipstick.

When she goes to enter, however, she has to jump out of the way as a girl, slight and fragile looking, rushes past her with tears streaming down her face. Clutched in her hands is a box filled with frames, some sort of snapping plant, and a serene pygmy puff.

"Excuse me," she says to Kara before bursting out onto the street with a wail.

Kara tries not to take it as an ill omen, her smile faltering slightly. Instead, she finds the nearest reporter inside, typing away at a neatly organized desk.

"Hi," Kara greets brightly. "I'm Kara Danvers, and I'm looking for Cat Grant?"

The woman visibly shrinks from the request and points a wordless finger to the end of the building.

This is fine, Kara thinks. It's fine. Nothing bad is going to happen.

But it's deathly silent as she makes her way towards the office. Witch Weekly clearly doesn't keep their printing presses on the main floor, therefore it's a much different experience than the Daily Prophet's entrance of chaos and disorder. Instead, everyone seems to be working in near perfect tandem, eyes jumping to the end of the wide open room every few moments.

Kara wonders what they're looking at or… what are they afraid of?

She passes rows and rows of desks, the whole floor a single long line that ends in a large, open office. It feels like it takes several minutes to traverse the whole distance and when she finally arrives, Kara thinks to knock, but there isn't exactly a door. There isn't an assistant either, the desk outside the office looking forlorn and empty. Inside, a woman sits marking a sheet and making occasional noises of disgust and discontent.

"You're not my 3 o'clock," the woman says tartly, neither moving from her desk nor looking up.

Kara recognizes her immediately from the magazine photo, even if she looks more petite in her giant plush chair. Her eyes are hidden, too, by a pair of pointed black cat-eye glasses.

"Ms. Grant?" Kara asks tentatively.

Cat Grant doesn't answer immediately, turning a page sharply before peering at Kara over the top of her spectacles. Her expression is a bit offended and painfully appraising. Kara gets the unmistakable impression that she has about four seconds to say something before she's swiftly given her leave.

"I—" Kara steels herself. "I want a job. Here. I'll do—I can do anything."

Cat's expression shifts to something less easily accessible, and she turns another page sharply.

"Anything?" she repeats.

"Anything."

A tense silence stretches, and Kara begins to fidget with her hands before Cat finally pauses, looking up.

"Well, as you might've noticed I've just sacked my last assistant, so you've got timing in your favor," she declares, and Kara thinks of the willowy girl crying and running into the street.

"What're your credentials?" Cat questions in more of a sing song, almost bored tone. She lifts her red quill and makes another harsh, slicing mark on the page in front of her.

"Well," Kara stammers. She's at least rehearsed this bit a few times. "I've just graduated from Hogwarts. I achieved N.E.W.T.s in Charms, Defense Aginast the Dark Arts, Herbology, Astronomy, Care of Magical Creatures—"

"Care of Magical Creatures?" Cat interrupts with a tilt of her head. "They still teach that?"

"Uh, yes, madam."

Cat shakes her head violently.

"Oh no, absolutely not," she says, waving a hand in front of her face as if to clear an invisible stench. "It's Ms. Grant. Not Cat, and never madam. I'm not a professor," she states. "I don't roam the halls of an ancient school with thick glasses, a hooked nose, and constant reprimands for young children."

Kara flails internally at having clearly made a mistake. She opens her mouth to apologize, but Cat is already talking again.

"And speaking of young," she continues with a tone of mild expaseration. "You are. And pretty. Tell me, does your hair just naturally shine like that or do you use a smoothing hair potion?"

Kara hesitates at the compliment because it seems a bit back-handed, like her prettiness is a bad thing, but when she opens her mouth to answer, Cat holds up her hand.

"Never mind," she says. "I don't want to know. Put it up next time. I don't need my assistant looking better than I do."

"Yes, Ms. Grant—"

"That's more like it," Cat comments under her breath.

"And—your assistant?" Kara smiles hopefully.

"Not yet," Cat states, deflating a bit of her excitement. "Why is it you want to work here, anyway?"

Kara wavers, trying to think of something clever, something impressive.

"And don't lie," Cat instructs, looking back down at her work.

Kara grits her teeth, wills herself instead to come up with a true answer.

"To be honest, Ms. Grant—I well—" Kara stammers in a rush, Cat heaving an impatient sigh.

"Spit it out."

"I want to write," Kara does finally spit out. "I want to be a reporter. And frankly, well, Witch Weekly isn't the Prophet. I'd rather work here."

It's out of Kara's mouth before she can take it back. It sounds flimsy and borderline immature, certainly not enough to get her the job, but Cat actually looks up with the faintest outline of a smile, the first Kara's seen this whole conversation.

"You don't like the Prophet?"

"No."

"Then I agree," Cat says with a tinge of pride. "Witch Weekly is not the Prophet."

She considers Kara with more seriousness, resting her elbows on her desk and leaning forward.

"Can I tell you a secret?" she says conspiratorially. "I can't stand the Daily Prophet. And I hate Perry White."

She casts a churlish gaze out of her overlarge office window. Outside, the sun glints off of a pretty, white marble looking balcony lined with colorful flowers and plant boxes.

"You know, he threw a chair at the Head of the Floo Network Authority when they wouldn't let him install a connection directly to the Minister of Magic? A chair. And they all laugh about it now."

"Oh," Kara adds, but Cat continues.

"And I throw one tiny plant at one tiny assistant, and it's news for the next century."

"A plant?" Kara gawks.

"There's an insane double standard," Cat ignores her, leaning back. "They marginalize us and say we're only good for puzzles and quizzes and celebrity gossip, but this is a magazine for women, by women. And having one reporter who looks like a Greek deity and will write anything to get ahead, and yes I mean Lois Lane, is not balanced reporting."

Cat directs another sigh back towards the mock-up on her desk and picks up her quill again.

"What's your name?" she asks indifferently.

Kara jumps at being directly addressed after the tirade and almost can't conjure her own name.

"Kier-Kara," she forces out. "Kara Danvers."

"Okay, Kiera—"

"Kara—"

"Kiera."

Kara stays quiet as Cat's gaze lingers on her.

"Miss 'I can do anything,'" Cat says in a rolling wave. "You've earned a trial period."

"That's—that's great," Kara gushes, excited albeit also a little terrified.

"So, I'll need you to send three owls," Cat starts in a monotone flow. "One to Marcus Herring telling him I will not date a man over the age of 30, it's something of a golden standard."

"Oh—okay," Kara turns to leave.

"I said three owls, Kiera, are you listening?"

Kara freezes in the door way.

"The next will be a Howler to Perry White. I don't care what it says, just make sure it's loud. And the third, send this pile of garbage," she throws the mock-up draft across her desk, it lands in a pile of paper at Kara's feet, "to the photography department lead, Mark Sheldon, he's in Paris. Kindly inform him that if he submits something as sloppy as this again, he's fired."

Kara gulps, beginning to feel the need to write all of this down as she scoops up the papers.

"Then, drop off my cat," Cat continues without so much as a breath. "That's right I have a cat and my name is Cat. Be aware that if you make a joke at any time, for any reason, and I mean a comparison, a pun, an allusion," she lists off on her fingers, "any sort of cat noise that you think is funny, trust me, it's not. And you'll be escorted from the building by security."

"So, drop her off," Kara says to remind herself. "Where—is she?"

"Bother someone else with your questions," Cat waves. "She'll have the usual cut at Ms. Fillaby's, and get a copy of the Prophet, would you? I need something to hate read while I wait for my ex husband to drop off my son. He loves to ask for money, and I need to make sure I'm very mean and angry when I tell him no."

Kara nods.

"And I'll need that all by 3:30 so," she glances at a ludicrously sized clock on the wall. "You've got half an hour? Chop, chop."


Kara's days blend together with early pre-dawn starts and post sunset ends. Everything in between is a blur of hundreds of errands, and she quickly comes to learn why the office had been so quiet and focused on that first day. It's because Cat is unyielding, ever watchful, and all knowing.

"She's here," she'll whisper shout to her colleagues before her boss enters every morning, a perk of her super hearing. There will be a flurry of activity, a straightening of ties and blouses, and then a silent and vigilant waiting.

Then it's send an owl here, get over to that building there, get rid of my tea, did you put mint in it? I can taste mint, Kiera. And that's all it is until sun down, until the sky is so blue it's black.

And, honestly, Cat's lucky Kara is her assistant. She's not sure anyone else in the world could do it. Especially when Cat is difficult to please, rarely satisfied, and always making critical comments. Or how Kara can only get her job done through a combined use of her super speed, super hearing, and super strength.

That's what it takes.

But it's not all bad. Cat is a strong woman, maybe the strongest, and she's not unfair. She's not cruel, outside of being a little petty. She just has very little patience for incompetence, a downside of being whip smart, and she expects perfection. Plus, she's made a promise to Kara that she can move into reporting after a year, and that's more than Kara thinks she'd ever get at the Prophet.

Even if her job is borderline impossible and often times thankless.

Cat will sit in her plush chair, gazing at a draft Kara has managed to acquire in less time than it takes to tie a bow, and she'll only make a vaguely satisfied noise, something of a 'hm.' Then, she'll critique Kara's wardrobe, a fond pastime.

"They don't exactly teach you to dress at Hogwarts, do they? Those uniforms have stunted your style," she claims, quill in hand. "You do realize there's more in this world than a pastel color scheme and an animal print? And I don't mean animal animal print, because that could actually be fashionable. I mean, the nifflers, hippogriffs, sea horses, unicorns, and phoenixes that parade across your shirts, Kiera. Where do you even find such things?"

Kara can only shrug. She's found that's the best way to deal with the daily pokes and prods, the mostly rhetorical questions.

Because, really, she is happy at her job. She likes to be needed. She saves Ms. Grant on a day-to-day basis even if she'd never admit it. And working for such a highly respected (and often times feared) woman has given Kara a kind of elevated status. She's Cat's right hand. She has sway. The connections she's formed with powerful people all around the city, all around the world, they open doors. Working for Cat means people remember her name (Kara, not Kiera.)

Which is probably why, even after two years, she doesn't move into reporting.

Not yet.

It's just—she loves seeing so many different places. She loves meeting new people. She goes all over the world for Cat, and honestly, no one else could do her job, so why should they?

"You could be doing so much more though," Alex laments to Kara over a pint at The Full Moon.

This isn't the first time she's said as much. After graduating from the Auror academy with honors, she often refers to Kara's career choices with a measure of disappointment.

"But I like it," Kara answers. "I'm doing a lot for Cat."

"It's Witch Weekly, Kara," Alex replies with a slightly drunken eye roll. "You don't even get any perks. You never come home with high end clothes or fancy new shoes."

Kara shrugs, taking a sip of her butter beer.

"Hell, you don't even have time to date."

Kara shrugs again, keeping a passive smile on her face. She traces the foam melting at the edge of her glass with a finger.

"It's been awhile," Alex continues, a dog not dropping the scent. "Haven't you met anyone? Even at work?"

Kara's not sure how to answer.

There's suggestive questions, sure. Loiterings near her desk. And not just men, women too. For instance, the barista at Cat's favorite muggle coffee shop had left her number on the outside edge of Kara's drink sleeve. Kara didn't have a telephone, but she understood the significance. Even an unassuming assistant at Gringott's had asked with more than a polite interest if she was single.

But she just can't. She makes excuses. She's unavailable. A small voice in her mind tells her she's just not ready. For rejection. To lie.

In a way, it's a blessing that Cat has never shown the slightest interest in her personal life, that she's never questioned Kara's near inhuman ability to get things done. It keeps her at a distance. But anyone else getting close to Kara? They'd certainly come to suspect something, and she still hasn't told anyone. She's afraid of what they would think.

Freak, they'd called Cal.

She'd thought her life would be different without the Fidelius Charm, but it wasn't really. Maybe being secretive had become too second nature.

"No, not really," Kara eventually answers. "I don't know anything about romantic love."

"Yes, you do," Alex sighs.

"I'm fine on my own, I really am," Kara deflects. "I'm too busy, anyway."

Alex's eyes roll up to the ceiling again before dragging across the dozen or so other patrons at the pub. Kara wonders if she's looking for someone.

"What about you?" she asks, elbowing her sister.

"Oy," Alex yelps, pushing Kara's pointy elbow away from the soft flesh of her side. "Unlike you, I'm actually not lying about being too busy, and even I have met someone."

Kara's eyes go wide, her face lights up. She curls her hand back around Alex's elbow.

"Really?" she squeals. "Who?!"

"It's new," Alex answers reluctantly, pulling her arm away to take a drink. "So, I can't tell you yet."

Kara groans loudly.

"You're always like this, you never tell me."

Alex only shrugs infuriatingly. Maybe being secretive simply ran in their family.

"At least tell me, is it a… she?" Kara asks, slightly under her breath.

Two years ago, she wouldn't even have known to ask this question, but Alex had finally opened up about the whole Maggie mystery. There hadn't been much to it, but Alex had wanted there to be more. She'd been scared to tell Kara, which Kara hadn't understood. After all, she could relate. She'd told Alex about her crush on Lena.

Lena. Lena Luthor.

Kara tries to shake the name away from her thoughts but knows she hasn't quite dislodged it. She never does.

"It is a she," Alex confirms.

"Do I know her?"

"I—" Alex starts. "I can't answer that."

Kara jumps in her seat.

"I definitely know her. Who is it?!"

But she doesn't get a straight answer. Alex successfully distracts her with a work story about a jinxed toilet that exploded on two unsuspecting vandals. Then, it's late enough that they both have to head home.

On the way, Kara doesn't think of Lena, she doesn't, though the desire presses on the back of her mind like a heavyweight, like a massive boulder.

She stays buried in her work instead, watching the impressive churn of stories march their way across the newest edition.

Barry Allen cracks timeturners. Super Speed?

Imp from genie lamp grants wishes, havoc in the south Sahara

Lena Luthor changes name: Luthor MagiCorp now L-Corp, and Kara stutters to a halt. There's a photo next to the article. It's Lena in America with Bruce Wayne, shaking hands and standing close.

Secret romance? a subheader insinuates.

Kara already hates him.

It's a daily struggle. She tries not to think of her, but it's impossible in her line of work. Lena makes headlines almost every edition, and Kara knows why. Even with the hundreds of people she's met in her employment by Witch Weekly, there's no one like Lena Luthor. No one as beautiful, no one as smart.

Her eyes still follow Kara in her wizarding photographs, but she's never sent an owl. Outside of her photos, she's never so much as acknowledged Kara exists.


Kara falls asleep that night continuing to not think of Lena. She doesn't dream of her. She doesn't hear her cry out,

"Expecto Patronum!"

Kara jerks awake, bathed in sweat. Her heart races. She'd heard something, she's sure of it. So much that she jumps out of bed and pulls her earrings out to investigate further, but she's immediately assaulted by the night life of the city.

A man puking behind a dumpster three blocks away.

"Do we have any beer left?"

A car screeching to a halt.

"Get out of the way!"

She slaps her hands over her ears and tries to focus, but she can't. She paces nervously to one of the windows and throws it open, almost ripping it off its hinges. Cool air floods over her as she struggles to pinpoint Lena, but there's too many heartbeats, too many footsteps, too many tires squeaking over pavement.

If she could maybe fly over the city, she could hear Lena better, and she has a wild thought to throw herself from the window. Cal can fly, why can't she? But she stops herself, foot perched on the ledge, when she thinks… what if it had just been a dream? What if Lena wasn't actually in trouble?

She eases herself back inside and, after a few more moments, she starts to feel silly. She pads back to her room and puts her earrings back in, but… Alex's bed is empty and made.

It gives her pause, enough that she can't go back to sleep. Enough that she gives up and waits until the early hours, until she hears a pop! just outside their door.

"What happened?" Kara says, standing on the other side of the door as it opens. She grips the outside of Alex's arms. "Are you alright?"

Alex stares at her, startled. Her eyes look blood shot and red. Kara sees a bruise at the bottom of her jaw, another one at the base of her collar line.

"What—" Alex breathes. "How are you awake? How did you know?"

"Know what?" Kara asks, and Alex only stares at her for several long moments, breaths slightly labored, muscles tensed.

"Lex escaped tonight."

"He what?" Kara intones, face falling.

Alex shakes her head, patting Kara's arm.

"Make some tea, would you?"

"Tea," Kara says hollowly, and Alex pulls away from her grasp. She moves like a zombie into the kitchen and sits at the island. Kara follows, making the tea but feeling awkward in the silence.

"Were you there?" she asks, pushing a cup across the gap between them as soon as it's ready.

"Yes, I'd been—" Alex pauses. "Tracking Cal."

"Cal?" Kara asks. "My cousin, Cal?"

Alex confirms with a grave nod.

"Yes."

"Why?"

"I don't know, I just—I don't know how to say it. I wanted to know what he was up to. He's so—he just lies about is all," Alex defends, her voice sounding more like herself, less shell shocked. "I followed him to the Ministry, and Kara, Lena was there."

Kara's mouth closes. She feels a fear within herself go vibrant, strung taut. She hopes against every hope that this isn't bad news.

She had heard Lena call out.

"Is she okay?"

Alex takes a thoughtless sip of her tea.

"We caught him, Lex, I mean," she answers. "That's what's important. He's going to back to Azkaban, but…"

Kara wants to shake her. She didn't answer her question. But before she can interject an impatient 'but what?' Alex continues.

"Have you ever—have you ever seen her Patronus?"

"Lena's Patronus?" Kara asks bewildered, feeling like this is her twelfth question in so many minutes, but Alex only nods. It feels surreal, completely unrelated, and it jars Kara, who quickly muddles through her memories on the matter.

"Yeah, I guess so," Kara answers artlessly. "It's a swan, I think, but she always struggled with those. Did she produce one?"

Expecto Patronum!, she remembers suddenly.

"But why?—Oh no," Kara reacts with horror. "Were there dementors?"

"There were," Alex exhales, and Kara sees it come out of her in a shudder, her expression haunted. "They were there for Lex. It was awful, and she—she saved us. She conjured a Patronus, and I was… she..."

Alex looks down, biting her lip.

"So, she wasn't helping Lex," Kara supplies, but Alex doesn't answer.

"Cal lifted the Charm awhile ago," her sister says instead. "Did you ever tell her, you know, who you really are?"

Kara frowns.

"No, I mean, I tried," she says, but it sounds so lame. "I think she already knew. But didn't you say 'anyone but her?'"

"I think I've changed my mind," Alex mumbles.

Now, this. Really takes Kara by surprise. Alex rarely admits to being wrong. Even little things like how she puts bowls in the wrong cupboard or how she never cleans the bathroom. Forget admitting she was wrong about Lena Luthor.

"Really?" Kara states in disbelief. "You believe me? After all this time?"

"Yes," Alex confirms. "She wasn't helping Lex, and she's not under arrest. It's going to be all over the papers tomorrow."

Kara thinks of Cat, of the media explosion, and she can't help it. She thinks of Lena.

"You said she's alright?"

Alex nods. "She's fine but, Kara, I think you should talk to her."

"Talk to her, why?" Kara hears herself repeat, baffled. "I haven't—it's been so long, Alex, I can't."

Alex takes another sip of tea, looking a thousand miles away.

"What did you see?" Kara asks slowly, but Alex rises from the island and places a hand on Kara's shoulder.

"Just talk to her," she replies. "It's been a long night. I'm going to bed."


Kara doesn't talk to Lena. Definitely not the next day when she's gotten only an hour of sleep. Definitely not when owls are swooping over her head on Diagon Alley before the sun is even up. She can see them clutching morning editions of the Daily Prophet in their talons, black emblazoned fonts reading,

"LEX LUTHOR ESCAPES AZKABAN!"

"LEX LUTHOR CAUGHT AT MINISTRY OF MAGIC!"

All she can think is that Cat is going to be furious, furious that Witch Weekly has nothing to publish this early. Kara's barely in the office five minutes before Cat Apparates onto her balcony and bellows,

"Meeting, two minutes, editors and Kiera, my office!"

Kara doesn't need her super hearing to pick up the collective gulps and groans as her colleagues amass inside Cat's office. Cat's already there, hip out and pressed against her desk. She reads the Prophet out loud,

"Infamous mass murderer, Lex Luthor, escaped Azkaban some time late last night. The wizarding prison situated in the middle of the North Sea is well-known for its deathly guards, but the Dementors allowed Luthor to slip through their cold clutches. Even more confounding is the fact that he breached the security at the Ministry of Magic, breaking into the Department of Mysteries while joined by both his sister, Lena Luthor, and his mother, Lillian Luthor. Lena Luthor will not face charges or indictment, but the latter will be subject to the full inquisition of the Wizengamot."

Cat throws the paper onto her desk with a smack!

"Does anyone want to tell me how the hell The Daily Prophet got this story before we did?"

Kara has an idea, knows that her cousin likely leaked it to them first, but she stays silent. So does the rest of the office.

"Did I not hire reporters? Is this not your job? And here we are, scooped by the Daily Prophet again," Cat denounces loudly.

She paces angrily from one end of her desk to the other. She stops, a finger raised.

"We can still take control of this narrative," she declares. "If you all get back to your desks and start working. And don't show your face until you have one competent solution to salvage this mess."

Kara waits for the other employees to file out of Cat's office, faces stressed and beleaguered. She waits until she's the last one standing, until Cat acknowledges her with a questioning lift of her eyebrow.

"Yes, Kiera?"

"I know it's not my place, and I don't normally offer opinions," Kara starts.

"One of my favorite things about you," Cat mutters, throwing her glasses on and sitting behind her desk.

Kara takes a breath, anyway, and surges on.

"It's just—I went to school with Lena, she was in my year. People have always treated her the same, they've always had this prejudice against her. I know what the Prophet is going to report."

Cat doesn't looking up from scribbling furiously across parchment.

"They're going to say she's just as guilty," she provides apathetically. "They'll say she bribed her way out of arrest or that she used the Imperius Curse."

"Exactly," Kara says. "But she's not."

Cat glances up.

"And your evidence?"

"My sister is an Auror, and she was there."

Cat pauses in her writing, actually looks fully at Kara.

"At the Ministry last night?"

Kara nods. "It was only her, Lex, Cal El, Lena, and Lillian Luthor. And the thing is, she believes Lena's innocent."

Cat leans back in her chair processing this new information.

"That's only one account. One source isn't enough."

Kara sighs. She knew Cat would be distrustful, knew she'd be wary to listen, but she has to keep going, has to get this out. It may be her only chance to get someone like Cat on Lena's side.

"She's not like the rest of them, Ms. Grant," Kara tells her earnestly. "If you don't mind me suggesting, maybe you should do an exclusive, interview her, and give it, I don't know, a positive spin."

Cat narrows her eyes.

"A positive spin? On a Luthor? That would be career suicide."

"Trust me," Kara pleads. "There's a story here, I'm sure of it. She's more than her name."

Cat watches her closely, as if trying to decide whether to throw Kara out of her office once and for all. Then, she looks away, and Kara knows she's actually considering it.

"I'll admit it's a different angle," Cat says slowly. "No one else will write it, of that I'm sure, but it's new. It's different. And she's a beautiful woman, Lena Luthor."

Cat looks down at her desk, shoving through parchment, and picks up a photo of Lena. It's a full page glossy where Lena's hair is down, her eyes stark, her posture regal but withholding. She holds it up to the light at an angle. It's enough that Lena's mirror image can see Kara, and her eyes shift away from Cat. She watches Kara stoically from a distance.

"Not bad at all for a front page," Cat murmurs, but Kara barely hears her.

She's looking back at Lena, looking at her. The black and white photo dampens the intensity of those green eyes, and Kara wonders if she's starting to forget them, their exact colours and hues. She's trying to remember if they're more lime like moss or more blue like the sea.

"Kiera?" she hears Cat repeat.

"I'm sorry?" Kara shakes her head, refocusing.

Cat holds her gaze for a beat, watching her in a way like she's parsing out the very truths of her.

"You said you knew her? Did you ever meet?"

"Yes, I—well," Kara struggles before taking a breath. "We knew each other."

Knew, Kara thinks. Past tense. Over. Done.

Cat watches her another moment longer before setting the photo down.

"I won't lie, I am a little tired of a woman, especially a successful one, being constantly lambasted by the press. So, I'll give her a chance."

Kara breathes a sigh of relief.

"That said, you have work to do. Set up a meeting with her assistant."

She nods and heads out through the door. Just before she leaves, she can just make out Cat whispering to herself.

"What's your story, Lena Luthor?"

Chapter Text

Lena remembered very little from before her time with the Luthors. She'd kept a few irregularly updated diaries when she was young enough not to realize what a fool's errand that was. It was stupid in a house like hers, a house where every member attempted to pry apart each other's secrets, through manipulation, through deceit, through painful and extricating force. But she still kept them, old and black leather volumes, because as a child she'd written about a woman with dark hair and deep-set, kind eyes. A woman who had clutched her hand when they'd crossed busy streets, who had picked her up and held her against a hip.

In Lena's mind, her mother was something felt not something seen. She was a featureless entity, a sheaf of curly black hair that Lena folded her face into, shying away from a stranger. She was a warm embrace, a gentle touch to Lena's cheek. She was safe. She was loving.

Darling, don't cry, she was sure her mother had said, but had she?

I miss mummy, she'd written, but who was she?

I miss our walks in the park, but where had that been?

Mummy is so pretty, but what had she looked like?

All Lena had were these diaries, infantile expressions in crudely written words. Details about playmates or big fluffy dogs that didn't allow her to track, find, or locate. Whyhad Lena never written down her mother's name? Had she not known it? Had it felt irrelevant at such a young age, a pretend name that only other people called her?

One thing she did remember, however, was that they'd travelled. She remembered long boat rides, waves lapping at a green hull. She remembered taxis and affable men talking to her faceless mother, charmed by what they heard and saw. She remembered trains, glistening gold handle bars, and green passing countryside. Lena had pressed her face into her mother's waistcoat, scratchy wool brushing her cheek as she napped. Her mother's clothes had always smelled vaguely flowery and perfumed. But the helpful details, like the languages on signs, the names of the cities, what her mother took photographs of with her face hidden behind a camera lens… those had long since gone.

Lena hated herself for forgetting. She hated that she was already beginning to disappoint even by the age of four.

Instead, Lena recalled with agonizing clarity her first few weeks and months as a Luthor. It had been like drowning; a mouthful of oxygen that was never quite enough, arms and legs flailing but never finding purchase. If the softness of her mother had faded her memory then the hardness of Luthor Manor had sharpened it.


When she first arrived, she could smell the ocean, the salt sweet scent of the water. She could hear it, the waves crashing violently against the jagged bluff. But she couldn't see her new home, so much of the Manor hidden in the rock. Only an impassive black structure crawling with vivid green ivy indicated an entry, and even it was walled off by two giant, stone-grey doors.

It could be the mouth to hell for all she knew. Her mother had died and somehow Lena had been left to Lionel, a stranger, a father who now led her into the belly of the beast, their hands joined in an iron clad grasp.

Inside, the grand entry hall was insulated from the thunderous roar of the ocean. It was tomblike save for an elegant woman stepping into view, a shadow of a smile on her face.

"Ciara," she said fondly, directed at someone just out of sight. There was a peel of laughter, a commotion of clattering cups and plates.

"That is simply not how you conduct yourself in public—" she broke off at the sight of them, her eyes flitting from Lionel to Lena, to the hand placed possessively on her shoulder.

The woman turned cold and still. No one spoke. Lena could feel the anger uncoiling from her like something tangible in the room with them, a snake.


Her new stepmother, Lillian, rarely left her side. She was omnipresent. Hers became a voice in the back of Lena's mind, barking hundreds of new demands and instructions. There were chores to be done with the house elves, rules to be followed in silence, long study hours to be had in the library. There were early bed times and harsh penalties when it came to making mistakes.

"This is how you'll learn, Lena," she told her, impatient and disappointed. "Your mind is soft and untested. I promise you, the world will not be as kind as I am."

Kindness to Lillian meant forcing Lena to stand at the cliff's edge, shaking and chilled by cold sea spray when she'd written the wrong origination for the word "Lumos." Kindness meant locking Lena in her bedroom for three days after she'd broken an ancient vase. It meant only being allowed to interact with Siobhan Smythe, one of their few neighbors, and enduring her silent taunts and insults.

"You shouldn't even be here," Siobhan whispered from behind her hand. "They pity you. You're a charity case."

It made Lena burn, enough that she intentionally dropped Siobhan's porcelain doll, its face smashing into pieces. While Siobhan wailed, Lillian pinned Lena with a look that promised certain torment, and Lillian always delivered.

There were months of standing in corners, writing lines, and endless isolation. There were months of reading words she didn't understand and breaking rules she'd never known existed. As Lillian worked Lena through a relentless curriculum of etiquette training, there was a certain and inevitable fracture in spirit. Lena found herself unable to eat for fear of selecting the wrong utensil. She became afraid to speak lest she supply the wrong answer. She sat straight and dutifully silent at meal time, feeling like one of the many portraits that hung in the house, lifelike in its realism but ultimately a husk hollowed out.

Therefore, it was unusual for Lena to speak aloud one morning, but she couldn't help it. Something was different.

"You're happy," she stated bluntly over breakfast, Lillian meeting the statement with a curl of her lip.

"After lunch, I want you to recite the definition for the word 'tact,' Lena."

Lena frowned, insolent.

"But yes, I am," Lillian continued, uncharacteristically humoring conversation as she took a sip of tea. "My son, my Alexander is coming back from Hogwarts. He'll be here for the summer."

Alexander, Lena thought.

There was a clever looking boy in most of the paintings in the Manor, but she had never met him. Would he be kind? Would he be cruel? He was supposed to be her brother.

"Stay out of his way," Lillian warned, observing Lena's thoughtful curiosity. "And close the door, will you? You're letting a draft in."


Lena did try to stay out of his way. She tried to read the book Lillian had shoved into her hands, Can Stupidity Be Fixed? Magical Cures for the Painfully Dense, but that didn't stop Alexander.

That night Lena heard a creak in the floor, a turn of the lock on her bedroom door. A boy crept inside, silhouetted in darkness, silent and soundless as he seated himself next to her bed.

"Hello," he said, tucking his long white fingers into the edge of the comforter.

"Hi," she replied, her throat scratchy and dry, her nerves keyed.

"So, it's true," he whispered with awe. "I have a sister, an actual sister."

Lena didn't know what to say. Was she really his sister? Or was the whole thing one long, elaborate nightmare? But the boy smiled, eyes bright, like she was the best present in all the world.

"I'm Lex," he said, reaching for her hand.

Always Lex, never Alexander.

Lena took it, and his grip was strong.

"I have a present for you," he released, digging into his pocket.

Lena felt a surge of excitement. It had been a long while since anyone had given her a present. They were always taking things away. So, she eagerly opened her palm as he dropped a silver ring into it. The top was opal and emblazoned with a gold capital letter 'L.' It was ten times too big for any of her fingers, but she held it preciously.

"You are a Luthor," he leaned forward, a sudden intensity to his sea foam green eyes. "You're one of us now. Don't let anyone try to convince you otherwise."

Before Lena could reply, though, his head snapped back towards the door, having heard a sound, a groan from within the house.

"Alexander!" a male voice shouted. It sounded terrible.

Lex left without another word and unease filled Lena. She pulled her blankets up to her chin as the shouting got louder, raised voices ringing throughout the house. She clutched the cool metal of the ring in her closed fist. It offered a small comfort, at least until Lillian threw the door open, hands on her hips, and swept into the room.

"Get up," she ordered.

Lena did so, blankets pooling around her feet.

"Where is it?"

"What—" Lena asked, fully prepared to lie, but her stepmother's wand raised.

"Legilimens!"

Her mother had hexed her before (pinning her tongue so she couldn't cry was nothing new), but Lena had never experienced a spell like this. Images of Lex played without her consent across the backs of her eyelids. Lex's bright smile, his hand holding hers.

"You are a Luthor."

She saw the ring as it passed between them, and then inexplicably, the black haired woman, the kind eyes.

"Don't cry, darling."

Lena's awareness crashed back into her bedroom. Sweat matted the hairs at her forehead, and she reached to touch it, her head pounding. Lillian stood there watching, still as the day Lionel had brought Lena home.

She held out her hand expectantly, and Lena passed her the ring. When Lillian left, the lock on Lena's door clicked.


Lex had stolen the ring from their father. It was a family heirloom and a priceless possession. Lex surely endured punishments that cost him in blood, but if he had scars, he hid them. And he didn't stop. The routine played out many times over the next several years, an awful kind of power struggle. Lex would steal the ring and give it to Lena. Their father would discover it missing and punish Lex. Then, Lillian would break into Lena's mind, find the ring and hide it all over again.

Once Lillian boasted about hiding the ring in a dragon cave in Siberia, and she said Lex would never find it. Six months later, she blanched deathly white when Lex gave it to Lena for Christmas in front of their father.

Lena would never forget the angry red bruises around Lex's wrists, the red welts too near to his eye.

"Do you have any idea what your brother goes through for you?" Lillian criticized her harshly. "If you really loved him, you'd tell him to stop."

And Lena tried, she begged him to stop. She couldn't stand seeing how Lionel treated Lex, how Lex goaded him after he'd been drinking. Lionel would break Lex's things, torture him with petty magic, and ban him from the house. For a whole year, he wouldn't let him come home, he wouldn't give him money.

"This is your fault," Lillian told her.

"You don't have to take it back," Lena replied miserably, handing the ring over. "Can't you just tell father you hid it again?"

"And defy him? I couldn't possibly. You have the power to stop this, Lena, not me."

But Lillian was wrong. Lena didn't have the power to stop anything, only Lex and Lionel did. Their family never knew peace. Not all together, at least.

Separately, it wasn't so bad. Lionel enjoyed taking Lena into town, into the larger muggle cities like Dublin. They'd sometimes even travel all the way to Kenmare to watch the Kestrels Quidditch matches. He'd drink from a glass of amber liquid, a glass that never went empty, while he bought her things, both frivolous and practical. The drunker he got, the more he'd look at Lena like she was someone else. He'd clutch at her hand and hold her close. He'd call her the wrong name.

And with Lillian, sometimes there could be harmony. If Lena could hold her tongue and obey without argument, things could go smoothly. Lillian would read to her in the library, usually boring segments on advanced potion making, but her voice was nonetheless polished and elegant. It was pleasant. Lillian even taught Lena to braid her hair into beautiful plaits, despite making comments like,

"Your hair is so coarse, darling, it's like the hide of a werewolf."

But where Lillian and Lionel's affection always seemed conditional, always required playing a part, Lex was different. Lena loved Lex. When he was home, it was all adventures and secret escapes. It was all imagination and made up stories. His beautiful, looping handwriting was everywhere, he loved to leave clues. Like the ring, he loved to play games.

Lex would sneak Lena away from Lillian and show her the fairies out on the moors. He'd point out the water sprites that danced along the cliff face. He was insatiable about magic. He told her about Hogwarts, about wands, about mystical creatures. He told her how special she was, how lucky she was to be a Luthor.

"It's not just about the galleons, Lena, it's about excellence," he claimed. "It's about being the best. We have the power to make today better than yesterday."

And Lena listened, enraptured by the green of his eyes, just like hers. He was her world, her light in the dark. They'd play wizard's chess, and he'd shower her in compliments.

"You're like a lost princess. I bet you're smarter than all of us."

Then later, Lillian would destroy her delusions, annihilating Lena's half of the chess board.

"He lets you win, Lena," her mother stated, steepling her long fingers. "I hope this will teach you to the dangers of flattery."

But it didn't, not really. It taught Lena that it was never clear who to trust: her father who was kind to her but abhorrent to Lex; her mother who was loving to Lex, but endlessly disappointed in Lena; or Lex who was wonderful to everyone else but a constant vexation to their father. Even Lena couldn't be trusted. Not with all her mistakes, not with letting Lex get hurt, not with never ever being able to stop her mother from breaking into her mind and finding the ring.

Everything always ended in shouting. Everything always ended in hiding. Lena learned how to keep secrets, she learned to speak carefully. She hid her hands. She tried her best to be good, but there was a difference between being good and being good enough.


Lionel and Lex had been arguing for a week. She'd just turned nine years old in October, so she was old enough to hear the fights but not understand them. She knew Lex had stayed with a friend, a classmate named Cal El, while he'd been banned from the house. She knew her father had threatened to disown him. So, there were words she recognized when they were thrown around with regularity.

"My inheritance—"

"I've given you what you wanted—"

"When will I take my place at the company—"

But then there were also words she didn't recognize.

"Department of Mysteries—"

"Interplanetary matter—"

and "transitive magical properties."

She tried to ask Lillian, but she was duly ignored. That was what her stepmother did best, wasn't it? She ignored the gaping problems of their household.

But her father, he visited her that night dressed all in black, like he'd materialized from the very shadows of her bedroom. He was already drunk, Lena could easily spot it, easily smell it by now, but his eyes seemed alert and filled with a kind of mania.

"Everything's going to be different after tonight," he told her.

And he was right. It was different. Things changed when her father murdered seven people, including a little girl like herself. Things changed when her father died, gone like that, carved down to just a thing that existed in her memory.

Lex became more stoic and angry. Lillian became more paranoid. And Lena, she was anxious. She was sure Lillian would send her away. She was sure her father was the only reason they'd paraded her around as a Luthor for so long. She even began to pack her things, but when her stepmother entered the room, surveying her trunk with a hard expression, she merely said,

"You're not going anywhere, darling. You're stuck with us."


Lena dreamt of that little girl, a hazy outline she'd formed from seeing her photo in the paper so many times. She dreamt, too, of the night her father had visited. In her dreams, she tried to keep him from leaving. She clung to his sleeve as he dragged her across the room.

"Please don't go, father, please."

But when she woke, her father was still an infamous murderer. Her family was still hated, stared at and scorned when they shopped for her school supplies in Diagon Alley. She wished she could tell them that she would've stopped him if she could, if she'd known.

There was still so much she didn't understand. Why did he kill those innocent people? Why did he leave her?

She was sure Lionel hadn't meant for Lex to send her off to Hogwarts. She was sure he'd never wanted Lex to take his place at all. But there he stood, a man now, and the head of their father's company. Lex was dressed neatly in a crisp pinstriped suit, and he clutched both her hands in his.

"I'm so proud of you, Lena," he told her, stooping down to her level. "You're going to be great, even better than me, I'm sure of it."

Lillian scoffed behind him while he kissed Lena on the cheek.

"That's quite enough," Lillian admonished. "Let's not be swept up in sentiment."

Lex laughed at that, standing to full height and dropping Lena's hands.

"Be kind, mother."

Lillian lifted an imperious eyebrow, the closest to kindness that Lena had come to expect. She didn't expect a hug. She didn't expect to be told that Lillian loved her. She was eleven and she'd grown out of such childish hopes. Her mother merely gazed at her coolly.

"Slytherin, Lena. Nothing else."

And Lena nodded.


She boarded the train, noting the wide berth her fellow students gave her, as if they might catch an infectious disease. Even Siobhan, who she'd known for half her life, snickered as she snapped a door shut to her carriage. Everyone was smiling inside. They looked happy and excited.

Lena sighed and made her way to an empty compartment. She slipped a book out of her trunk, a dictionary of potions ingredients, one of the largest she owned. It was a favourite of Lillian's to read aloud, and Lena found it soothing.

Fluxweed / flucks-weed / Plant . from the Mustard Family. Non-sentient. Green in colour. Known for healing properties. in: Medical Magic, Medications, Plants, Potion Ingredients

Granian Hair / gray-nee-an hare / Animal matter . from the Granian Winged Horse. Non-sentient. Gray in colour. Known for magical enhancement. in: Creature products, Potion ingredients

Horklump Juice / hor-k-lump joos / Magical substance . exracted from Horklumps. Non-sentient. Red in coulor. Known for healing properties. in: Body fluids, Medical Magic, Medications, Potion ingredients

There were so many definitions surrounded by even more notes and annotations that Lena could never hope to finish. That was part of the book's appeal. Reading was an escape, in a sense. A whole universe for her to hide in.

Therefore, she was beyond startled when a chocolate frog landed directly onto Knotgrass, when a blonde girl burst into her compartment, hand outstretched like she was going to grab Lena by the front of her robes.

Lena froze and so did the girl, close enough that Lena could see the fountain blue of her eyes. Those eyes, her face with the slightly cleft chin, the line of her jaw, she looked… familiar, somehow. Like Lena had seen her many times before, but that was impossible wasn't it? Lena would remember.

"Er, sorry," the girl mumbled.

She pulled back her hand, but she was still open mouthed and staring. Lena thought it had to do with recognition, but the longer they spoke, the clearer it became that this girl had no idea who she was.

It made sense, anyway. Why else would someone be so kind as to share their candy with her? Why else would they sit down and extend a hand in an open act of friendship to Lena Luthor?

"I'm Kara, by the way."

"I'm Lena," she told her in return, careful to leave out her last name. Might as well let the illusion of normalcy last.

They shook, and Kara's hand was warm.

After they shared a bag of Bertie Bott's Every Flavored Beans, Lena fidgeted slightly, her mind in a lathe. It was almost like she'd dreamed of Kara, but how was that possible? How could she have dreamed up a whole person? And surely her imagination wasn't this generous. Kara was nice and funny and… pretty. She'd never met anyone like that, much less dreamt of one.

It made Lena feel guilty, in a way. She felt she should warn Kara or ask her to leave. People would talk if she was seen with Lena, and she didn't want to be responsible for ruining this sweet girl's reputation before they even started school.

But someone beat her to it; a reddish brown haired girl with eyes that could kill. Kara's sister, by the looks of it. She whisked Kara from Lena's compartment with a flimsy excuse and a baleful glare, and honestly, Lena couldn't blame her.


"Luthor, Lena!" Professor Zatara called out.

Lena could hear the muttering in the Great Hall, the hissing whispers like a den of snakes. Some people craned their necks to get a better look at her.

"Luthor, like Lionel Luthor?" one whispered.

Murderer, another replied.

Criminal.

Killer.

She seated herself on the stool, trying to block it out. Three years had passed since her father had died, three years since he'd destroyed the House of El. She was relatively familiar with cat calls and curses spat under hot breaths, but it was harder in front of such a large crowd. She wasn't used to the hate and mistrust reflected back at her in the depths of so many eyes.

The darkness of the Sorting hat being placed over her head was, therefore, a mercy.

"Hmm," said a small voice in her ear. "Difficult. Very difficult. A sharp mind, yes, very clever, and the desire to prove yourself to everyone in this hall is strong, isn't it? One might even call it ruthless."

Lena could only hold her breath, too stunned to speak. She didn't know the hat could talk. Lillian hadn't mentioned that.

"But you're brave to face them," it continued. "Plenty of grit. Could be great in Gryffin—"

No! Lena thought hard.

"Lena, our house is made up of a long, prominent line of Slytherins," Lillian had stopped her before leaving that morning. "You will bring a very great shame upon us if you're sorted anywhere else, especially into Gryffindor. Do I make myself clear?"

Slytherin, she thought desperately. Please put me in Slytherin. Please.

"Well, if you're that determined to be with your kin, better make it – SLYTHERIN!"

Lena walked listlessly to her new table, the claps from her new House coming in a roar, but their cheering didn't hearten her. She felt like she'd cheated herself out of something, that she hadn't been altogether honest. But it would be worth it. Her stepmother would have one less reason to hate her.


Lena didn't focus too much on friends that first term. She didn't focus on much of anything outside of her schoolwork. She shared a dorm room with Samantha Arias, Siobhan Smythe, Sara Lance, and Beth Breen, but she nearly always kept her bed curtains drawn. Sam made more of an effort than the others to engage her, but Lena couldn't help but feel like it came from a place of pity.

"You don't need anyone's pity," she could hear her mother say.

Plus, access to the Hogwarts library brought thousands of new books into Lena's purview. While Luthor Manor had a sizable collection, it had a certain focus: poison making, astronomy, spell invention, and dark magic. Also, many of the books were too advanced for Lena to understand. Therefore, Hogwarts having age appropriate material was like Christmas five times over. With so much to read, she'd never have to look into the disdainful eyes of another student ever again.

But that didn't stop one of her classmates.

"Merry Christmas," Kara Danvers told her.

Kara Danvers, the kind girl from the train (as Lena had come to think of her), was always smiling at Lena, always trying to catch her eye. Even now, Lena was certain Kara had come out of her way to say hello in the empty Great Hall, especially given Alex's irritated glower.

But Lena couldn't possibly understand what she wanted. Was it power? Was it charity?

"Everyone always wants something. There's no such thing as pure intentions," Lillian would say.

And her mother, Lillian, would certainly disapprove. There was nothing discernibly special about Kara Danvers, after all. She was from a normal family. She was a Hufflepuff. She was good at flying but almost painfully clumsy on the ground. Lena had seen her break her nose at least twice, and first year wasn't even over.

But Kara was pretty in a way that was hard to pin down, the kind of pretty that made Lena avert her eyes sometimes. She was blonde, tall, a little gangly and skinny despite the amount of food she piled into her mouth at meal time. And Lena couldn't describe it… Kara sort of glowed in the sunlight? She'd never admit that to anyone as long as she lived, but it was true.

So, Lena ignored her. As best she could anyway, like trying to ignore an enthusiastic golden retriever puppy. It was harder as the year wore on. She needed someone to talk to as she lost Lex little by little to work. He was always at the office. He was her best friend, and now he was too busy to even see her off for her second year at Hogwarts.

"You need to make friends this year, Lena," Lillian reproached. "Lex is a busy man, and he won't always have time to be your crutch."

Quite the pep talk.

Lena tried to follow the advice, she tried to get close to those she knew would garner Lillian's approval. People like Siobhan Smythe, Sara Lance, or Veronica Sinclair. But they were so mean, catty and cruel, she couldn't help but be drawn back to Kara like a good book on a rainy day.

Kara, who could see Thestrals. Kara, who was adopted. Kara, who could understand her without speaking.

It felt right. It felt inevitable.

Guiltily, she knew it would be better to stick with the Slytherins who would never judge her for being ambitious and intensely focused. She knew she should leave Kara well enough alone, but—she couldn't. She partnered with her in Potions. She watched Kara when she wasn't looking, happy and blue eyed, and when Lena saw her alone at Christmas that second year, the crack in her resolve was so profound, she was amazed it didn't echo in the Great Hall.

Against her better judgment, Lena found herself approaching Kara's table and asking in a would-be casual voice if she wanted to play Wizard's Chess. And then they had fun, actual fun. It wasn't like that with Lillian, who was indescribably cutthroat, Lena's hands shaking from fear and adrenaline when they played. It wasn't like that with Lex, who was always testing for weaknesses, a blacksmith inspecting finely crafted steel for vulnerabilities.

"You have to control the middle of the board, Lee."

Instead, Kara barely paid attention. She laughed with her whole body. She stifled yawns, huge and wide, with no indication of being self-conscious. She didn't even sit properly on the bench, one leg hiked up, and she gravitated near to Lena, completely oblivious to personal boundary. She was pure. She was herself.

Lena couldn't stop the questions from pouring out, dammed for too long. She wanted to know Kara better. She wanted to know who she'd seen die. Lena had thought her ordinary, but she'd been singularly wrong. Kara knew things she was unlikely to learn in books.

For instance, she knew how to create casual intimacy. She knew how to touch Lena without timidness. She reached across the table and unconsciously squeezed Lena's fingers in hers.

"Me too," she said.

Her hand was warm.


It was a kind of painful dance, after that, trying to resist Kara's friendship. She wasn't even sure why she didn't just give in, but she felt a kind of danger around Kara. Not that Kara herself was dangerous, but there was something dangerous in the way Lena felt about her. So in an effort to avoid her, Lena became closer to Samantha Arias.

Sam wasn't like the others in her House. She was vitally loyal, and she didn't seem to care about Lena's last name. They often worked on their homework together, and Sam was smart, even finding corrections in Lena's work. She had hobbies too, unheard of for Lena, and in third year Sam asked if she'd come to watch her duel.

Sam was nervous about Alex Danvers.

Lena was… the feelings she had for Alex were complicated. She was jealous of the bond Alex had with Kara, she could admit that. They shared a comfort, an effortless energy. Lena had Lex, of course, but they were so far apart in age, she wondered what it would've been like to be at school with him, to be near equals. It would've been nice to have a built in friend, a defender, but that wasn't all it was. When Kara came barreling through the door like a speeding freight train, she felt that same something stir.

She couldn't help it. She moved to sit behind Kara. They watched Alex defeat Sam, and Lena felt it flicker again, a bitterness, an anger.

Alex was so smug in her victory, meeting Kara's eyes in the crowd. Alex Danvers, who had never once looked at Lena without judgment. She'd only ever seen a name, Luthor, and that was it. Trial, judge, and executioner.

She thought that she was so justified. She thought that she was invincible.

"If I may, though," Lena commented, quietly and close to Kara's ear. "I've noticed she's not that great at blocking."

It wasn't hard to see. Lena had imagined many times how she'd dispatch Alex in a duel. It was a fantasy of sorts. That's what Luthors did, didn't they? When they were angry, they sought and destroyed. It was purely pragmatic. It was chess, eliminate the competition from the board and win. And she wanted to, she wanted to eliminate Kara's sister, but it would only prove Alex right; that Lena was just like her father, that Lena was just another violent offender.

"I don't know why you don't duel. You're letting that Danvers girl tear down Lex's legacy," Lillian would chide.

Her mother not liking it made her sure it was the right thing to do, so she fought her instincts. She congratulated Alex after the match. She resisted the desire to pull at Kara's arm, to remove her from Alex's dominion. She wanted to be good. She always wanted to be good.

That's why it was easier to be near to Kara. She was nothing if not good, tan and summer gold. It's why Lena watched over her, worried and anxious, in the hospital wing after her first Quidditch match. It's why she followed her into Dervish and Banges during a trip to Hogsmeade. Being close to Kara was like being close to the sun, every shadow of Lena's burned away. When she plucked at the silver chain around her neck, eager to know every inch of her, Kara's skin was warm despite the winter weather.

But Kara jumped away from the contact, and Lena should've known better.


She'd had inklings before it happened. People would ask her later if there were signs, and Lena would decline to comment because… well, there were. It was just that she'd been fourteen, just like she'd been nine, just like she'd been five, and she'd been naïve.

Losing Lex, it was personal. She'd always seen her brother as a savior from Lionel's alcoholism and Lillian's discipline. He was her hero. She hadn't wanted to believe the things the Daily Prophet had reported about him.

"It's just parlor tricks, Lena," he'd say when asked. "Propaganda. False charges slapped on an easy target to distract from the fact that the Wizarding World has been seduced by the Man Who Steals."

That's what he told her, anyway, that Cal had stolen proprietary material from their father, that he'd hoarded the secrets behind its uses after experimenting on himself to gain extraordinary powers.

"And you think it's a coincidence that father died? Cal El has anointed himself as a sham messiah, bringing salvation to those of us who are supposed to fall in line like willing apostles. He's the villain here, not me."

And Lena had believed him because, well, he didn't seem mad. He never had. The command he had with his words, his voice; he could say anything, and people would agree. Even Lena. And she told Lex everything, every little thought, every little detail about her days, and Lex always listened patiently. He loved her, and he was the only one.

So, how could she lose that? How was she supposed to even look into the face of the alternative?

It was just the tone, the nature of the things he'd begun to say, even her denial had its doubts. Lex always spoke of progress. He wanted an evolution in excellence, but this fixation on Cal El, on his powers, of its merits, it was pure stagnation. It was an engine turning over without starting. He was knees deep mired in it, just like he had been in the bog showing Lena the kelpies so many years ago, and he wasn't moving forward.

When she came home from Hogwarts after her third year, when he was pouring sparkling Gillywater in the study, she observed the tightness across his shoulders, the rigid way he held the crystal glass.

Lex was happiest when he was getting things done, and Lex clearly wasn't happy.

"What is it, Lex?" Lena asked gently.

"Tell me," he replied, leaning against the mahogany desk and dropping into one of his philosophical moods. It used to be something she enjoyed, but now the topics only ever revolved around one thing.

"Is a man a wizard without a wand? And if he's a wizard without a wand, is he a man at all?"

Lena sighed.

"What is it about him?" she ruminated, taking a seat on one of the plush leather couches. She tried to control her tells (her hands), and she kept them still.

"All that power unchecked, I worry for us, Lena," Lex breathed, settling into a surely well-rehearsed argument.

"He claims he'll protect us, but who will protect us from him? He says he fights for truth, but it's all carefully finessed lies. All that power, and it wasn't earned. It wasn't given. It came on the back of a heavenly rock, and everyone thinks it's a blessing, but he's hardly human any more. He's a force of nature, a hurricane with a name."

"He's on our side, though," Lena countered.

"As long as the wind blows our way," Lex smiled. It didn't reach his eyes. "But when he's not, we can't win."

He stood straight, staring up at the ceiling, maybe at the stars above.

"I see the end."

And that was weeks before the murders, before Cal El came for Lex directly. He came to the Manor, and Lena and Lillian were there. They watched as Lex resisted arrest. They hid as Lex attempted to bend the very curvature of the earth to destroy Cal.

"Terra fluctus!"

His spells had always been beautiful, had born the mark of a certain genius, but that day it was terrible to behold; a prodigy corrupted, a tainted spring.

And Cal El. Lena felt it tangibly when they fought out on the moor. Lillian held her back as the air snapped with electricity. It made her teeth vibrate. It buzzed through the soles of her shoes. There was a smell, too; a singed burning.

"A false god," Lex had always called him, but Lena wasn't so sure.

Cal met Lex's titan with something of the celestially divine, an avenging angel. Cal moved so fast, blurred like brush strokes, stopping giant boulders with his bare hands. Not a single of Lex's hexes or curses held. Lex used to ask,

"What else is he hiding?"

But one thing was clear. If Lex was great, Cal would always be greater.

Lena couldn't help but wonder if that was part of Lex's madness. And she'd wondered often, why him? What was it about Cal El? Why would Lex give up everything; Lena, Lillian, their legacy, for him? Was it jealousy? With their father gone, had he needed an enemy, another fight to pick with the biggest bully around? Cal El seemed the logical tallest mountain. The brightest star. She could see why her brother had wanted to tear him down, to strip him from the skies, but she still couldn't understand.

"Why didn't you tell me?" she asked tear stained in the holding cell after his trial.

Why didn't you tell me the truth?

But Lex had merely laughed, still charming, still sane sounding, and replied,

"You don't have any secrets, Lena?"


She didn't think Kara would ever talk to her again. Maybe one homicidal family member was forgivable, but two? Not likely.

It was one of the more painful aspects of the whole Lex ordeal because she and Kara had grown close. They'd written letters nonstop. Lena had given her a birthday present, rose seeds that had been painstaking to acquire (at least her Occlumency was working.) Kara had told her about her summer days and the back lot behind her house. Lena was often anxious about school, performance anxiety made her sick with nerves, but talking to Kara was an ointment, an antidote. Lena had come to love seeing Angus swooping home on the skyline.

But that would surely be over now.

"These are dangerous times," Lillian told her. "This is only the beginning."

The beginning of the end, Lena thought. Best to stop talking to Kara first.

But Kara didn't forsake her. She was there on the train platform, a breath of warmth at Lena's side as she held her arm. Lena knew that her mother would see, that she should push her away, but she couldn't. She wanted to be touched. She wanted to be held.

So, naturally, they're attacked.

"Crucio!"

Lena blinked and braced for the impact, but it didn't come. It hit Kara instead, who stepped between Lena and the attackers, unflinching and wand held high.

A shield burst to life in front of them, silver blue and luminescent. Lena smelled it again, the singed air. At some point, she'd grabbed Kara's hand, and she felt it; the electrical pulse thrumming through their hands. She didn't have time to process it all before her mother jerked her shoulder and Apparated them into blackness. All she could think was,

She saved me. Without even thinking, she took a hit from the Cruciatus Curse.

There was no amount of shock to describe it. No one had ever done anything like that for her, and come to think of it, no one from school had ever visited the Manor either. And certainly no one had ever vomited on the floor. She rubbed Kara's back.

Special, she thought without thinking.

Then, Lillian did what Lillian did best. She questioned Kara's answers, Kara's motives. She assumed her a liar.

"Legilimens!"

"Stop it!" Lena cried out. "She's telling the truth. She's just a classmate."

"Just a classmate?" her mother replied with a tenor of suspicion.

Lena felt something cold settle in her stomach. What had she seen in Kara's mind?

Lena sprinted through her recent memories, a practiced response to being caught by Lillian and interrogated at length. She looked for anything her mother could criticize, assembling quick and ramshackle lies, but then Lena's mind stopped. In it, they were back on the platform, and the red spell hit Kara. She winced and drew her wand.

The torture curse hit Kara, and she'd only winced.

The Torture Spell.

Lena's mind drifted to another memory where she'd seen the exact same thing. Lena had pulled at her mother's hands,

"He's going to kill Lex, mother, let me go," she'd begged, but Lillian held fast.

Cal El walked into a spray of curses from Lex, looking mildly uncomfortable as each one struck, mosquitos on a predator. Her brother switched to The Killing Curse then, and that's when Lillian dragged Lena bodily inside.

Kara was… That meant Kara was like… No.

Lena watched in a disbelieving stupor as Kara's adoptive mother hugged her so close and tight. She side eyed her own stepmother, who watched apathetically.

She doesn't know, she didn't see, Lena thought.

"So, that's who've you've been writing to," Lillian remarked once the doors were closed, and they were alone.

Lillian still held the now empty glass in her hand and there was a bitterness to her expression. As if she were annoyed at Lena for trying to lie to her.

"A mother always knows."

Lena tried to empty her mind, sure that Lillian was about to break into her memories. She fought the swell of emotion, but she just couldn't do it. She began to sweat, as if she were on the platform all over again.

"Whatever that is," Lillian threatened. "Get it under control."


That was one of Lillian's more adept qualities. She didn't give direct orders. She left Lena to interpret them. That way, if Lena was wrong, it was her fault. If she was right, it was only by the grace of Lillian's help.

But what had she meant, 'get it under control?' Get what under control? Kara? The way Lena felt about her? Or the fact that Kara herself was somehow related to Cal El?

Thinking about it made Lena's skin crawl, and over the next day, she found herself spiraling. She found herself falling back into old patterns of denial, the same as she had with Lex.

Kara couldn't—Kara wouldn't lie to her, she kept thinking. Not about something as important as this. She tried to make excuses in her mind, tried to dream up far flung explanations, but the next morning brought irrefutable evidence. Kara received a Howler.

STAY AWAY FROM THE LUTHORS

Cal El's voice was clear and unequivocal.


Lena felt her entire life schema fall apart. She moved through her classes like a ghost, ripped unwilling from the mortal plane. She didn't talk to anyone.

She could only wonder, is this what had happened to Lex? Is that why he'd gone mad? He and Cal El had been friends once. Had he betrayed Lex? Would it be like that for she and Kara?

It made her sick. It made her burn with curiosity. Kara was so young, what was her relationship to Cal El? Had he experimented on her? Were they family?

Family, Lena thought. It felt intuitively right. The blonde hair, the fathomless blue eyes, the noble chin. She examined Kara's profile furtively in History of Magic, and she wanted to scream. She wanted to curse out loud.

She and Cal… they looked alike, especially in the eyes. How had she never noticed it before? Lena was supposed to be smart. She was supposed to be the best in their year.

She tore down to the dungeons after class and sprinted to her dormitory. Once there, she dug into her trunk for that photo, the famous one the Daily Prophet had always promoted of the House of El. She ripped open an old newspaper and searched for the photo that had inspired the dreams she'd had of Zora El.

She stared at the little girl. It didn't look like Kara, but her trembling finger fell to a different member of the photo. Alura El. They were mirror images.

Same age, too, Lena thought. Same build. Maybe the glasses she wore were supposed to hide details of her face, and Kara was adopted by the Danvers. She clearly grieved at Christmas time. And some of the unusual things about her time at school; hurtling through the Quidditch stadium, not reacting to the Torture Curse, the electricity in the air on the train platform, it all added up.

She was Zora El in hiding. And she had super powers, too.

Lena rolled the newspaper back up in a kind of numb haze. She sat on her bed and stared sightlessly out of a porthole that looked into the Black Lake, dark blue and hazy green.

If Kara Danvers was Zora El then Kara had been lying to her the whole time. Since that very first day on the train. Lena had thought her the only one at this school, in this world, who possessed pure intentions, and Lena had been naïve. Again.

Tears pricked at the corner of her eyes, and she wiped at them furiously.


Lena couldn't sleep. She could barely eat. Every single day felt like betrayal on a molecular level. Sometimes her skin broke out into goose bumps just thinking about it. Like hives. A physical manifestation of an internal burn, stoked.

"Why didn't you tell me?" she found herself asking for a second time in so many months.

Why did Kara do it? Was it revenge, an elaborate scheme? That was something Lena could understand, at least. It's what a Luthor would do. It's how a part of her could still love Lex. Lex turning out like their father, it had been heartbreaking, but had it been surprising? Kara was different, though. With her cloudless blue eyes and soft, charming smile, Kara was not supposed to lie.

Kara was not supposed to lie to her.

But just like Lex, Kara didn't answer.

Everything was a disappointment.

She tucked herself into bed that night, no closer to the truth than she'd started that morning, and drew her curtains. She pulled a magical photo of she and Lex from under her pillow and stared at it. They were younger, it was before her father had died. She was smiling, and Lex had his arm around her shoulders. Knowing he was in Azkaban, knowing he was locked away forever, she missed him. She missed his voice. He would've known what to do about Kara.

But she'd never told him about Kara.

"You don't have any secrets, Lena?"

She did. One. Even though Lena shared everything with her brother. He was the only one who knew the Manor, their father, even Lillian the way she did. He was the only person who loved her. He'd always been there. So, why hadn't she told him?

Had she known she couldn't trust him, not with everything? Had she known who Kara really was and repressed it? Or had it been something else entirely? Had she started to sense the nature of her feelings for Kara shifting, had she wanted to protect that scared and tenuous love as it formed?

Not that it mattered now. It was shattered.

Lena knew what her mother would say.

"Everything is a game, Lena. Everything can be dissected and distilled. The board can be arranged and rearranged. If things aren't going your way, you're being outplayed."

And Kara Danvers had completely outplayed her. Lena had always thought herself the superior planner, the superior player, but Kara had been playing more than Wizard's Chess all those nights in the kitchens. She'd been playing the long con, fingers absently reaching out to play with Lena's as she thought hard on her next move, touch warm and soft. She'd made Lena believe that a true and unassuming love could really exist, and then she'd destroyed her. Kara had snuck into her heart, into the inner circle of her trust, and left a devastating Trojan horse.

Lena felt her chest physically ache at the thought of it. Because just like her brother, she didn't want to give up Kara, too. Despite her faults, Lena missed her.

It was weakness, her mother would say, and yes, Kara made Lena understand weakness.

No. Not Kara, Lena corrected herself.

Zora El.


Lena was miserable for a long time after that. It felt like a light in her had died, extinguished by a calloused thumb and forefinger. Sam tried to encourage her to 'talk about it,' but nothing mattered. There was no point in talking. Lena simply studied harder than ever. She was jinxed nearly every day. She even missed class from it, too, something that had never happened before.

"You're in the hospital wing almost as often as Ms. Danvers girl," Madan Martin commented after observing the painful Knee Reversal Hex.

Lena didn't reply.

She didn't tell her mother about her terrible time at school. She didn't tell anyone about Kara. Rather, she patiently waited for term to end. She was almost grateful to be out of Hogwarts. Until her mother took on her academic career like an actual full time job.

"You must be made prefect, Lena," she announced. "I'm going to pull some strings."

"I don't—" Lena began irritated. "I'm top in our class, who else would they pick?"

"Dear, everyone loves to persecute a Luthor in this day and age. It's popular sport, and I won't have a rightly earned achievement stolen from you. Your father and I were both prefects, and Alexander, well, he was…"

Lillian trailed off, a thinness to her lips.

She hadn't cried about Lex, although Lena's not entirely sure what that would look like. Lillian only vacillated between three states of being; infinite crossness, austere stoicism, and cutting wit. And none of those were well-equipped to handle healthy emotional expression.

So, she didn't talk about her only son, just like she didn't talk about her late husband.

My Alexander, Lena remembered anyway.

"And I want you interning at Luthor MagiCorp this summer. You'll be joining the fold soon enough, and we need to set up meetings with all the right people."

Lena looked back down at her book, eyebrows furrowed. She'd give anything not to work at her father's company. There were so many wonderful aspects of magic to study, so much more than product invention. Plus, she hated the idea of her mother micromanaging every facet of her day.

"And there's a boy you should consider dating," Lillian added absently, thumbing through several parchments in her hand.

"A boy?" Lena actually looked up. Was Lillian going to dictate her love life as well?

"That's right, Lena, a boy. I'm sure you've seen them. I know you've heard them, they're complete dimwits at your age."

Lena grumbled, she knew what boys were.

"Who is it?"

"Jack Spheer."

Lena tried not to groan louder. She weighed the pros and cons of fighting, pushing back against her mother. She inventoried the ways Lillian could make her life even harder than it already was.

"Do I have a choice?"

"Oh dear," Lillian simpered sarcastically. "You always have a choice. But also, no, you don't in this case."


Lena wondered if Lillian paid Jack to date her, given the choreographed nature of all of their initial meetings that summer. When Lena wasn't working at the office, Lillian dragged her to parties where Jack would conveniently be waiting. They were stuffy affairs that their parents had organized, so naturally there was no one else to talk to but him. After one such party, he finally worked up the nerve to ask if he could write to her, and with Lillian's watchful eye set on them, she reluctantly agreed.

Jack wrote in neat, perfectly error free sentences, letters that made Lena suspicious of their authenticity. Did his mother write them? Did Lillian proof read them? It seemed like something her stepmother would do. She was awfully happy lately.

Especially when they attended a Kestrels match at the end of the summer, an event Lena swore she would never do again.

"I hate Quidditch," she'd told Lillian.

"Darling, everyone hates Quidditch, but do try to be pleasant."

It was barbaric. Lena vowed to sell the team the moment she could. It was loud. It was raucous. Someone spilled green ale on her. Jack even grabbed her hand during a clutch play that put the Kestrels in the lead. Lena watched on nonplussed, her fingers numb. His hands were sweaty.

He just wasn't—well, at least he didn't lie to her. Even if he wasn't effusive with his care, even if he was borderline arrogant. It was hard not to break him down like she did everything else.

"Why do you have to think so much, Lena?" he asked when they were celebrating their prefects badges arriving in the post. It was an innocent question, but it annoyed Lena nonetheless.

It had been different with Kara. Kara liked her thoughts, her thinking.

"You're so brilliant, I wish I could get in there."

"Get in where? My brain?"

"Yes," she'd smiled.

"Trust me, it's not very fun."

Kara only stared, all blue and tawny yellows. "No way, I bet it's a theme park! A wild ride."

Jack didn't have that kind of whimsical excitement. But Jack also didn't lie to her. Kara had never told her anything that mattered. Everything had been hopelessly one way.


She'll tell me, Lena found herself still wishing when fifth year arrived, when Jack was regularly holding her hand and angling to kiss her. She'll come and tell me the truth. And then I can forgive her. And then we can go back to the way things were.

She held out like this for days. For weeks. But Kara never came.

She hated the sting of perceived rejection, she hated herself for even wanting Kara to come back (weakness again, she thought). She hated herself for not wanting Jack. Not like that, at least.

She was thinking as much after a bath she'd taken in the prefect's bathroom. Jack was kissing her, eager and sloppy and open mouthed, and all Lena could wonder was what this would be like with… someone else. A softer face, puffier lips, a girl even.

What would it be like to kiss a girl? Would it be just as clumsy? Would it be soft and sweet? Wouldn't a girl just inherently understand what she wanted, what she liked?

Lena's eyes opened when she heard the door to the bathroom swing wide. She startled when she saw Kara Danvers emerge.

She pushed Jack away. "Kara?"

"Lena?"

"Kara Danvers?"

And then Kara fell into the bath. Lena sprang to the edge of the water, hoping she was okay, hoping she hadn't hit her head on the marble. Kara burst from the water spluttering, and Jack was laughing.

Lena held her hand out. It had been ages since she'd been this close to Kara, since they'd even made eye contact. With the water disrupted, too, Lena smelled every kind of wonderful fragrance: lavender, coconut, vanilla, warmed brown sugar. Kara's blonde hair looked matted and dark blonde, a curl of it plastered to her neck.

Why won't you tell me? Why did you lie?

Seeing her like this again, it was a physical ache. A pain made more so when Kara rebuffed her hand. Kara looked angry and spoke unusually churlish. Lena gazed at her neck again, tracking the chain that curved around it. She wished she knew what lay at the end, although she had an idea. Lena still wore her 'L' ring, and she could imagine Kara wore the crest of the House of El.

Why? Whywhywhy?


Things did not recover between Kara and Jack. Things did not necessarily recover with Lena. After kissing Jack and seeing Kara wet in her post bath water, something sickly and insidious was happening to her. Lena wanted, and she couldn't get away from it. It was spreading to her unfocused thoughts, her dreams.

"Don't look so put out, darling," her mother had once explained with a smirk. "One day, you'll see Mr. Spheer's value, I assure you."

Lena had been mortified at the time, she could guess what her mother meant. And she was mortified now. She did see a fresh value, but not with Jack.

Her boyfriend must've picked up on this distraction, her avoidance of him, because he upped his petty Quidditch rivalry against Hufflepuff. Lena knew he was jealous. She could see it in his eyes. She could hear it in the neediness of his voice.

"Will you cheer for me when I knock Danvers off her broom?" he provoked Lena subtly.

She didn't answer, wondering why she had to date another Quidditch player. Why was her existence so bitter? She'd rather be reading in the library. She'd rather be doing virtually anything else.

By match time, it was cold out on the grounds and bitingly so. The wind whipped through the stands like a viper, needling any exposed skin. It was going to be an unpleasant match, to say the least, and Lena hoped it would be over quick. She hoped Sam would catch the snitch. She needed a time limit on seeing Kara, gold and graceful and glowing, flying through the skies. With every pass she made over the stands, it forced Lena to confront these ruinous feelings of attraction, and she needed it to end.

The match started out normally enough. Kara racked up points for Hufflepuff, and Jack played to the crowd. Lena politely clapped for him as thick sheets of ice fell from the sky. But then things went awry, and Jack and Kara were fighting in the air.

"Danvers and Spheer are playing dirty!" Barry Allen sounded over the magical speakerphone.

And he was right. Given that Lena was something of an unwilling expert, she knew they were flying illegally. Lena watched Kara's elbow connect with Jack's face, and the high wind turned his blood into a fine red mist. Lena jumped to her feet when they went crashing to the ground.

She wasn't the only one, almost all of the Slytherins were upright. They hollered and booed as the referee flew into to regain control. Kara blocked a spell from Jack that incapacitated Madam Vasquez and the stands positively erupted into pandemonium.

"Stow your wands!" Professor Zatara, their Head of House, shouted amidst the chaos.

Lena was pushed, jostled from her seat. She gripped the person's shoulders in front of her as she watched both teams drop onto the field. Kara actually turned as their feet hit the ground and,

"Immobulus!"

Merlin, she could smell the air again. Like on the platform, like with Cal El, it smelled of burning, and Kara had frozen twelve individual players.

Lena began to panic.

Her head snapped towards Zatara just as a brilliant white shield erupted in front of her. Lena ducked, and Zatara's spell rebounded to hit a Slytherin two seats away. Things were out of control. People screamed as three more shields popped up all over the Slytherin stands and in the Hufflepuff box, too. It took a moment for Lena to realize Kara was casting them.

How did she know?

Lena pulled her wand from her robes and pushed through the fray. Kara was advancing on Jack now, and her wand was raised. Lena knew, she just knew Kara was a moment away from blowing her entire cover. If even one spell hit her, everyone would know Zora El was still alive.

Lena covered her mouth with a hand. She used the first and only spell that came to mind. It had kind of worked on Cal, after all.

"Terra—"

Kara twisted to look at her. Their eyes connected across the field, and Lena thought, she can hear me, but Kara didn't defend herself. Lena's heart broke a little bit at that fact.

"—Fluctus!"


Everyone at Hogwarts wouldn't shut up about the match for weeks. It inspired more gossip and drama than Lena had ever known, and people were close to guessing the truth about Kara, even idiots like Mike Matthews.

"No fifth year can multi silent cast a dozen shield charms at once, they just can't!"

And the Slytherins were furious, too. Kara had made them look stupid and powerless. No one cared that Sam had caught the snitch (a fact her friend bemoaned often), they only cared that Jack had been suspended from the team and that a common Hufflepuff had embarrassed them.

Common? Hardly. If they only knew the truth.

"You should care more about this than anyone, Lena, he's your boyfriend," Siobhan criticized as they got dressed one morning.

"Quidditch is stupid," Lena replied matter-of-fact, tucking her tie under her collar.

"Hey," Sam complained.

"Sorry, dear, even when you play," Lena smirked, and Sam threw a balled up pair of socks at her.

"Quidditch or not, this is about loyalty. I swear they put you in the wrong House."

Lena's eyes snapped coldly up, and Siobhan relished cruelly in having struck a nerve. Her bunkmate left without another word, whispering slyly with Sara.

"Ignore her," Sam told her.

But Lena couldn't ignore when Sam entered their room later that evening and reported that Siobhan and Sara had stuffed Kara into a closet on the 7th floor.

Lena sighed heavily and got out of bed. She donned her prefect's badge and headed out of the dungeons, but her nerves rose with every step she climbed. Would Kara want to see her? Would Kara forgive her for what had happened on the pitch? Did she understand why Lena had stopped her? Also, what other weird powers did she have? Would she somehow know about Lena's elephant-large crush on her?

She couldn't bear the idea of being alone with her, so she rerouted to the Gryffindor tower. She fetched Alex Danvers through the portrait hole, but she wished she hadn't about five seconds in.

"Why didn't you just get her out yourself?" Alex immediately questioned. "Why get me in the middle of the night? Oh right, because you're a prat."

God, this girl was irritating.

"How dare you," Lena responded. "This isn't my fault. You're the one ignoring Kara, you let this happen."

"Keeping tabs?"

"That's not—" Lena flustered, not having meant to let that slip.

Of course, she kept tabs on Kara. Of course she noticed when even her sister wasn't there to defend her at her most vulnerable.

"Look, I just thought you'd want to help your sister, that's all."

"Help? I'm not stupid, Luthor. I know what you did at the match. Little trick you learned from your brother?"

Lena bristled, anger boiling hot.

Always the same. Always a Luthor. Alex wouldn't understand that it was to stop Kara, to save her.

"I should hex you into the next century."

"Well, then?" Lena goaded. "Go ahead."

Her fingers flexed over her wand in her robes. She was certain she was faster than Alex. Alex leaned in, obviously tempted, and Lena thought she might finally get her wish to beat Alex Danvers in a duel. In self-defense, especially, no one could blame her.

"Oh, I would, I really would," Alex said through clenched teeth. "But Kara asked me not to."

Alex walked away, and Lena felt puzzled, confused, and also slightly put out at not getting the fight she wanted.

"Why? Why would she ask you not to?" she followed at a trot.

"Because she still tries to protect you, didn't you know? She blocks half the hexes aimed at your stupid arse."

Lena felt cold drop into the pit of her stomach. Kara still protected her. She still cared. All those shields, she'd practiced them before…

Lena hated Alex a bit more for telling her, for the seed of guilt now nourished by the news. Kara had helped her, and Lena had put her in the hospital wing.

"You really are a boor, Danvers."

"Waste of time if you ask me. Unlike her, I know you're not worth it."

Like Siobhan, Alex could tell it was another pain point successfully pushed.

"What's wrong? Sad I'm not someone whose admiration you can buy?"

"Shut up," Lena felt her anger rising again, her self-control slipping.

"It's true, you know. No one likes you for who are, just what you can do for them."

It was uncanny how many of Lena's buttons she was finding.

"I said, shut up."

Lena mentally searched for the most painful spell she knew, preparing her wand, consequences be damned, but Alex spoke again,

"Wait, there was one person who actually liked you, one person who could look past the arrogance and the heinous family tree, but she just wasn't good enough for you, was she?"

This stopped Lena in her tracks.

"You don't know the first thing about it, Alex."

"And you don't know the first thing about Kara; what she's lost, what she's been through. Just because you guessed—because you might've figured out—whatever—you knew what she'd lost, and then you left her, too."

"She lied to me!" Lena found herself shouting in the empty hall.

It was very un-Luthor like. She was supposed to stay calm, she was supposed to stay cool. She was supposed to deliver cruel barbs with the utmost of condescension. She absolutely wasn't supposed to shout or talk about her feelings.

"So what?" Alex countered. "Everybody lies."

"Not to me. Not about that."

It was the closest she'd come to discussing Kara to anyone. It had always felt too sacred, ineffable. Why did it have to be with her stupid sister?

"What is it with you?" Alex jabbed the prefect's badge with a pointed finger. "You think with your last name and your money and your stupid badge that you deserve special treatment? Do you think you're better than everyone else?"

Lena didn't answer.

"Newsflash – Smythe and Lance locked Kara in a closet, but you broke my sister's heart. You're not better than anyone, Lena. You're worse."


Lena would never admit that Alex had made her cry.

"You broke my sister's heart."

For some reason, that was the part of the sentence that Lena focused on most. Because Kara had broken her heart. Why was everything always Lena's fault? Why was she the worst?

The feeling was compounded, too, by the fact that Kara left Hogwarts for Christmas for the first time ever. There was no one to look for at breakfast and dinner. No one for Lena to pretend not to be watching. Fears raced through her mind.

What if Kara dropped out of school? What if she never came back? What if what Lena had done at the match affected her permanently? She couldn't bear it if that was the last interaction they ever had, and when she didn't see Kara the first day back from break, she almost lost her mind entirely.

Lena went looking for her in the kitchens, already late for class. She just needed to know. In her haste, she ran directly into Kara, and the relief of her was so extreme, Lena thought she might sag directly onto her knees. But Kara held her up by her arms.

Her hands were warm.

Kara was different, too. She'd been blustery before break, cyclone grey and snapping with electricity, but now she was back to the girl Lena knew, happy and radiant. Everyone noticed, especially the boys.

Getting 10 O.W.L.s with 9 Outstandings did not ease Lena into the reality of Kara dating James in their sixth year. She even suffered the indignity of having to witness them kiss through the storefront glass at Madam Puddifoot's. Sam paused next to her, pinching Lena's arm.

"It's rude to stare, Lena," she commented good-naturedly.

"Nothing," Lena replied fast, dragging her eyes away and resuming her brisk walk. She mentally scolded herself when she replayed Sam's words back in her mind.

"Why aren't you in there with Jack?" Sam asked as they trudged down the lane. "Are you still dating?"

Lena picked lint off her sweater. For appearances, she could say they were still 'dating.' They'd certainly never officially broken up. Over the summer, he'd hardly written to her, and she was sure he had snogged a Ravenclaw girl in the year below them. She was always waving excitedly from across the Great Hall, but there was a certain understood agreement. Jack could do what he wanted, but if anyone asked, yes, they were still dating. They both had strict expectations to meet, after all.

"I guess."

"Then, Lena, you have everything," Sam said, leaning in. "What's wrong?"

There was no answer. Her feelings on dating, on relationships, on Kara; it was a book Lena had read over and over yet never understood. She cleaved the pages for meaning but retired each time empty handed. She just knew she didn't want Jack, and the person she wanted, well, they didn't want her. So, she didn't have everything.

"—asked Kara for the rose thorns from her Amortentia plant."

Lena tuned back into the conversation sharply.

"That got your attention."

"You what?"

"I said I asked her for those thorns. We need them for class."

"We could've bought them," Lena balked. "Between the two of us, I'm pretty sure we could buy Zurich."

"That's not the point. She still has it."

"Has what?"

"Your gift."

In that moment, Lena very much regretted consulting Sam back in their third year about a good present for someone who loved Herbology.

"Purple roses stand for enchantment and love at first sight, Lena. Are you sure that's what you want to give her?" Sam had questioned, a soft implication at the nature of Lena's feelings.

"I don't—" Lena flustered, feeling the need to defend herself. "I don't feel that way still. We're not even friends."

"I don't know why," Sam began, drawing a hand through her hair. "I think she likes you."

Lena gave an undignified laugh.

"She doesn't like me."

No one did.

"Are you quite sure?" Sam pushed. "I brought up the smell of Amortentia, and I've never seen someone blush so hard."

Lena herself went rigid at the thought. The scent of that potion still haunted her nightmares. Baked goods and cinnamon, warmed brown sugar, she didn't even like those foods. But someone else did.

She tried to play it off, pretending to be interested in the exterior display at Zonko's joke shop.

"Also, Kara said I got her sister last year when Sara and Shiv locked her in that closet. I got you. Did you bring Alex? Why didn't you go by yourself?"

Lena shook her head with deprecation. She was a terrible, wretched thing that had hexed her crush and hurt her. She didn't deserve to save Kara alone. She kept walking, but Sam persevered.

"Why would you get the sister you're scared of?"

"I am not scared of Alex Danvers," Lena replied icily.

"Then what are you scared of?"

Lena didn't answer.


She was scared of Kara. The way Kara ate. The way Kara was always eating. Messy, licking her fingers and running her tongue the length of a butter knife. Smelling of raspberry and chocolate and cinnamon. Smelling of bread, freshly baked.

Sometimes Lena thought she owed Lex an apology. Some days she could understand the blazing obsession. His went in one way and hers (clearly) another, but would she destroy, too? Did the same madness course through her veins?

Every cell in her brain screamed at Lena to let it go, but she couldn't quite quash the interest. She had so many questions. Kara's existence defied everything Lena knew about the magical world. She wanted to study her. Kara was a puzzle, and Lena loved puzzles. She tackled them with a single minded determination, but Lena couldn't 'tackle' Kara, per say. She was a person.

A person who was breaking everything in the school with her super strength, bones and bricks alike. A person who was so lovely, Lena wouldn't be surprised if her next superpower involved grain rising beneath her feet, golden yellow and glowing just like her.

The part of her that still felt betrayed by Kara wasn't gone, but it didn't bleed and throb and fester every day like it used to. It was just an old wound. A scab badly healed. A scar. Kara was somehow both people, the person who had hurt her and the focal point of her attention, and there were so many other classmates for her to like, but the memory of Kara was warm, tactile, and endearing. And Lena was endeared.

Entirely.

It felt like a punishment, a damnation, having a front row seat to the carousel of boys Kara dated. Was it penance for crimes committed in a former life? Or by her family in this one? They shared practically every class together. Lena even signed up for Care of Magical Creatures just to have one extra. It was an added bonus that her mother hated it.

"What possible practical use would that serve at Luthor MagiCorp?"

None.

It served a single personal use. It was one class without Mike Matthews, a boy she felt Kara selected just to annoy Lena personally. Mike was different than James, different than short-lived Adam Foster. He was goofy and care-free and likable. All things Lena would never be. If Kara wanted to be with someone like Mike, she would never want to be with someone like Lena.

And Lena hated how that made her feel. It made Defense Against the Dark Arts all the more arduous.

Lena scanned the page of their book, preparing for today's lesson.

"The Patronus Charm is a pure, protective magical concentration of happiness and hope (the recollection of a single talisman memory is essential in its creation.) It is the only spell effective against Dementors. It represents that which is hidden, unknown but necessary within the personality. The Patronus is the awakened secret self that lies dormant until neededbut which must be brought to light."

The second she tried the Charm, Lena knew she would dislike it. A single talisman good memory? She didn't have one of those. Not with every happy memory of Lex tainted by the crimes he'd committed. Not with Lillian, not with Lionel, not even with Kar—

Lena glared at Mike as he was assigned lines to repeat on the back blackboard. He was such an idiot. It was hard to focus with him making Kara laugh, running his hands over her shoulders, and holding her hand in his. Lena couldn't focus. She couldn't even produce an incorporeal Patronus, not so much as a wisp, and every kind of fear washed over her.

What if she wasn't worthy? What if she had no secret self to awaken? What if her secret self was evil, like her brother's? Like her father's? And she'd produce maggots from her wand tip if she tried again?

Lena was frustrated beyond belief until Kara stepped up behind her, until Kara whispered assurances in her ear. She tugged at Lena's sleeve.

"Just give it a shot, will you?"

Lena luxuriated in the balm of Kara's presence. She'd give it a thousand shots for her. With her hand placement, too, Kara was holding her. A Luthor in the arms of an El.

Lena produced her Patronus surrounded by the feel and scent and sight of Kara.

A black swan.

Fitting.

Mike ruined it, of course, but Lena did take a measure of satisfaction in distracting Kara from him, at least for a time.

I don't love her, she told herself. I can't love her.

But between the Patronus and the unicorn, anyone would have their breaking point. Touch starved and lonely, Lena wanted to feel the shape of Kara more solidly. Kara was single by this point, too, and constantly watching Lena with an adorably concentrated expression on her face. Lena just had to wait for the right time, and when the opportunity presented itself, she mobilized.

In Care of Magical Creatures, Lena wandered over to Kara at an angle, hidden, and took hold of her wrist as the other girl charmingly wrestled with the idea of touching the mare.

"Here," Lena gently encouraged, lifting Kara's hand.

Kara resisted at first, unmoving like stone, and the effect of feeling all that harnessed strength nearly unhinged Lena. But she persisted and, finally, Kara gave in. She allowed Lena to guide her hand over the soft hair of the unicorn's neck, warming Lena's cold fingers with hers.

They spoke softly as a shaft of sunlight grazed Kara's skin. She glimmered like stardust, and Lena mindlessly called her darling. She didn't back down from it, either. Instead, she felt around the edges of flirting with her. She blew past a line she'd drawn where looking was fine, but touching was off limits. They didn't stop touching.

Until Kara pulled away, and Lena remembered her place in the world. She didn't deserve good things. Her crush on Kara, it made sense, like the dark loving the light, but why would Kara tolerate her? Ultimately, Lena was awful. Lena was a Luthor.

"Why me, Kara?" she asked out loud.

"What do you mean?"

Ever the innocence.

"I mean I don't know what you see in me, I never have."

Kara only smiled at her, not phased in the slightest.

"What's not to love?"

"Everything."

"It's not hard to love you, Lena," Kara replied back with easy confidence.

"You don't know that."

"Yes, I do."

The shock of that reply threw Lena's world sideways. Was Kara saying she loved her? She still didn't believe it—absolutely didn't think Kara meant it, but Lena's attention fell to the other girl's lips anyway. She wanted to—she was actually going to kiss—

"How is—" Kara spoke, and why was Kara speaking? "Jack? Will he—um, work with you, too?"

At the drop of her ex-boyfriend's name, Lena self-corrected hard. She pulled back. In that moment, she loved and hated Kara for asking about Jack. Lena had been about to forget herself entirely, and she'd needed to be called back down to a sensible manner of conduct. But also, merlin, she'd really wanted to kiss her.

Trying to answer the question though, no, she and Jack weren't still 'dating,' but no one knew that. Over the summer, Jack had told her,

"I know you don't like me."

Lena tried to speak, but he had held his hand up.

"It's okay, really. You don't have to explain. I know what it's like with my parents, with yours."

Lena had thought of all the business functions, the too vigorous handshakes. She thought about how she and Jack stood next to each other, perfunctory and not touching.

"But Lena, you're brilliant. We can break the mold. We can do whatever we want. Work with me after school, won't you? We can solve all sorts of magical maladies. We can help children, like you've always wanted."

It had been a tempting offer. Jack was smart. He was driven and ambitious. He would be a wonderful business ally, especially without the pressure of having to be with him, but Lena had hesitated. After what had happened with Lex, her mother had not mixed messages about what she expected of Lena. She'd work at Luthor MagiCorp. There were no other options. She'd even wanted Lena to skip her seventh year and start sooner ("you aren't even learning anything"), but Lena had insisted the papers would have a field day.

It wasn't the truth of it. Not by half. Lena couldn't leave Hogwarts, leave Kara behind like that. Not when there was still so much left to say.


Lena found the act of actually saying anything harder than she expected, however. What was she supposed to do, ask Kara on a date and absolve her for ever having lied to her? Were they supposed to sit down and have a heart to heart? Were they supposed to ignore that Lena's father killed Kara's family? That her brother tried to kill her cousin?

Lena didn't do things like that. She didn't talk. She was terrified that if Kara actually knew her, knew what she thought, what she felt, the intensity of her attraction, she would run in the opposite direction. She was sure Kara would reject her. So instead, when Lillian asked her to come home for Christmas break, Lena ran away first.

She just needed a brief retreat to marshal her reserves. She'd always been meticulous and logical. She'd always stuck to her mother's plan, but Kara brought out the impetuous, and Lena needed to calm down before she said (or did) something she regretted.

She needed to think this through.

She didn't get far. Kara seemed to sense something immediately on the train platform. She held Lena's arm, wordlessly begging her to stay, and looked at her with those soulful blue, puppy dog eyes. Lena kissed her cheek. She couldn't help it.

She kissed Kara's cheek, and Lena didn't kiss cheeks. This was why she needed a break. This was why she needed a plan.

She was such a disaster.

She tried to focus on other things on the ride back, but her lips still tingled. She traced them with her fingers. She remembered the warmth of Kara's face in the cradle of her palm. She'd been so close to what she wanted, yet now—Lena forced herself to focus on why her mother asked her to visit. She couldn't help but think of it as a kind of tactical complication, a preemptive strike designed to throw Lena off her game.

What did Lillian want? Was there an intention to her timing? It instilled a kind of full body paranoia in Lena.

Did she know about Kara? Did she somehow know about Lena's feelings?

Christmas was an entire production in the Luthor household, and Lillian usually didn't want Lena in the way. She never seemed to miss her daughter during her annual charity gala, so Lena was surprised to find her waiting impatiently in the foyer between more than a dozen decorated Christmas trees.

"It looks like a boreal forest in here, mother."

"Oh, you're here," Lillian replied tartly in return. "Put your things away and meet me for dinner in an hour."

Lena sighed, just another house elf to be bossed around, and did as instructed. She could hear Lillian flitting through the house like a swarm of cornish pixies, pointing out flaws and changes to the event coordinators.

When she seated herself for dinner, perfectly punctual to Lillian's request, Lena barely had time to pick up her cutlery before her mother spoke again in a decidedly criticizing tone.

"You've barely said a word. Why so sullen?"

Lena gripped her fork, hoping the anger wouldn't be too obvious to her mother who sat further down the long dining room table.

"I've only just arrived, have I really offended you already?"

"You're distracted," Lillian countered.

Lena wasn't sure how she'd deduced that within less than ninety seconds of seeing Lena, so she merely raised an eyebrow and toyed with her kipper.

"Is it about Jack?" Lillian asked taking a sip of dark, red wine. Lena barely caught herself from rolling her eyes.

"Not everything is about a boy, mother."

Nothing was, at least not for Lena.

She took a bite of her food and absently thought of the kiss to Kara's cheek. What if Kara had turned her head? No one would've seen it in the train stairwell. It had been so dark, almost stuffy. She'd bowed to kiss her as in prayer, a religion Lena could easily devote herself to daily, and Kara's eyes had turned an intense Loch blue. Lena could see the memory as easily as if she were reliving it, and she didn't even notice until—

Lena looked up sharply, and Lillian was standing with her wand in her hand.

She felt her face go unbearably hot. Had Lillian performed Legilimens silently? What had she seen?

"No, you're right," her mother replied coldly and with, to Lena's horror, confirming suspicion. "It's about a girl."

"It—that wasn't—" Lena implored, hating the pleading, unconvincing nature of her voice. "It didn't mean anything."

"Don't insult my intelligence, Lena."

Lena closed her mouth, searching for a believable excuse, but there was none, none at all.

"Is this really why you've ignored my requests for early graduation?" Lillian continued in a quiet rage. "For Kara Danvers?"

"No—"

Lillian slammed her hand on the table, and the outburst shook Lena to the point she dropped her fork with a clatter.

"Why, Lena?" her mother asked, lips trembling. "Of all people, why her?"

Lena froze. It was unsettling to see Lillian this upset or emotive. It was strange to hear her own thoughts about Cal El delivered back at her with acrimony.

Why him?

"Mother—"

"I've spent so much time with you. I've groomed you to be the very best, and yet you still haven't got that under control!"

The shout echoed in the large dining hall. Lillian very rarely raised her voice, and the answering silence made it all the blunter.

"Are both my children destined to disappoint me?" she appealed to the ceiling.

Lena's eyes widened. Did she see Lex as a disappointment? Did she Lena has her child?

"I can't—I won't see you go down that same road, Lena. That family—"

That family?!

"—they've taken so much from us. You are all that's left, can't you see that?"

Lena couldn't see much right now. She was not prepared for this conversation. It was a surprise ambush, if anything ever was. She'd had no idea her mother knew, had even guessed who Kara was, and a wild fear tore through her.

What if she told Lex? What if Lex found and hurt Kara?

Lillian's hand pressed into to the glossy wood of the dining table, clenching there, open and closed. It felt like a threat unvoiced. Her mother's eyes looked shiny and hysterical, and Lena couldn't help but feel the emotions mirrored.

"The world doesn't need another madman obsessed with an El," Lillian said after a beat. "It needs you. This company needs you. I need you."

Lena reeled, gripping her hands to the point of pain beneath the table. Her mother breathed deeply, looking down and back up.

"I've always been honest with you, Lena, always, and—I know you don't want to follow what I'm saying. I know you must hate me on a level, it's—I knew your life would be hard, and I wanted to make you strong. I'm sorry."

Her mother, Lillian Luthor, admitting wrongdoing? Her mother, Lillian Luthor, speaking more than two sentences to her, none of which were directives? Was she going to do something even more outlandish and tell Lena she loved her next?

"You think you have no one on our side, you think you're alone, but you're not. We have each other. You wear the ring of our house. Please stay with me."

Lena was devastated to find that her mother was crying. Every wish she'd cast into the universe to see her as human, as emotion having, was suddenly rescinded, reeled back. Seeing her beg was worse than any punishment Lillian had ever inflicted on her before.

"I'm sorry," Lena found herself beseeching, eyes stinging. She'd say it a million times more to get Lillian to stop crying.

"It's fine, Lena, it's—" her mother pushed a hand to her face, not wiping but pressing as if to push the emotions back into the dark place where they lived, unheard and unseen.

Lena looked down at her food, cold and untouched. She breathed hard.

"Lex already thinks there are others," Lillian admitted quietly. "If you stay with her, you'll lead him right to her."


Lena left Hogwarts. Without saying goodbye, not to Jack, not to Sam, not to Kara. Like chess, life was about sacrifice, and she wouldn't be spared.

She ended up contacting Sam after she sat her N.E.W.T exams, and her friend wasn't angry, just a little hurt. She deflected with her typical effortless humor and told Lena she'd be applying to Luthor MagiCorp when she finished school. Lena smiled when she read it. It was gladdening, a dim light in the otherwise murky twilight of her life.

Lena tried to write to Kara. Several times with a quill held to parchment, black ink staining in a judgmental and uneven circle, but nothing came. She knew why. If she wrote to her, Kara would convince her to come back. In all her sweet forgiveness, she'd find a way to change Lena's mind, and Lena couldn't put her in danger like that. She'd already been so selfish.

So, she set the quill aside. She tried to convince herself her feelings for Kara were the bewitching work of a fever dream. She tried to tell herself it wasn't real, that it was paltry in the face of her greater obligation to the world, but her heart never quite believed her.

Crushes were cruel.

And Jack. He sent her a furious set of owls during her first week at Luthor MagiCorp.

"It's about legacy," she'd tried to explain.

"This doesn't have to be your legacy," he'd replied. "You've fought being a Luthor for so long. Just let it go. Be free."

But freedom wasn't a concept she understood, not since she'd been four years old. She worked tirelessly, always into the night. She learned nearly every employee's name, every facet of her father's company. Her mother had been running things, but it was clear she didn't have Lena's cleverness or knack for numbers. Lena expanded Luthor MagiCorp into the magical medical products market, and Lillian did not follow.

"We've never done anything like this," Lillian told her.

"You're right," Lena argued politely. "It's not what Lex would've done, but that's why it's going to work. He incited fear and paranoia, but this company needs positive recognition. We're sinking, and we need allies."

When she showed her mother the new prototypes, Lillian evaluated them with a critical eye.

"It's… adequate, Lena," she begrudged her.

Lena took it at face value.

Over time, she even opened an additional children's ward at St. Mungo's, a feat she secretly attributed to Jack and Kara. Not that the greater world at large cared. Lena could perform a thousand miracles, and she'd still be flayed alive by the press.

It felt like dying by a thousand cuts only to be reborn each day to new torment. She'd thought Hogwarts difficult, but school had clearly insulated Lena from the worst of it. Her family was hated on a global scale, and the Daily Prophet threw constant gasoline on the fire.

Lena rarely left her building. She never travelled alone. She had an entire security team, two of which had already died; one from poisoning and the other from tampering with an elevator. The papers didn't report on that, of course. They didn't report on any of the good she did, either.

Things had been so different when she was younger. Her father used to call Luthor MagiCorp 'a dream he could touch.' Her brother used to tell employees to 'just to call him Lex' when he interned. He flirted shamelessly with muggles, and it had infuriated Lillian.

"It really isn't fair," Sam commented late one evening, inspecting a new breathing apparatus for children with dragon pox. "If the Luthor name wasn't on this, you'd win a peace prize."

And she was right.

It gave Lena the idea to reposition the company entirely: remove the name from the meaning. Lex used to say you had to cannibalize yourself before someone else did, so Lena changed Luthor MagiCorp to simply L-corp. It took hundreds of meetings and loads of facts and figures accompanied by heavy persuasion, but it was the proudest Lena had ever been. It was the first time her company actually felt like hers.

So, naturally her mother doused her happiness.

"You really need to meet someone and get married, darling," as if it were a skirt that needed ordering.

"I'm not interested in men, mother," Lena replied without looking up from a product that had just combusted into fiery fragments.

"Then you'll have to plumb the depths of your acting ability."

"No," she turned, hands covered in black ash and white sleeves rolled up.

It was poisonous, the idea of Lena getting married, of being auctioned to the highest bidder. She knew she was rich, she knew she was attractive, but it would only be more of the same. Of the few people that didn't sense the Luthor disease on her, there was only self-serving desire, never love; it simply wasn't good enough.

Lillian raised her eyebrow at the refusal, and cleverly she pivoted.

"Do you really want to be stuck with me forever?"

It reminded Lena of what her mother had said when Lionel had died, and it was just as ominously positive then as it was now.


Kara didn't write to Lena. Lena didn't write to her. She didn't let herself look for her. She kept her promise to her mother. She stayed away like Lex should have. She could learn to be alone. Especially if love would always be this way; an endless agony.

Regardless, she wondered where Kara was, what she did for work. She wondered where she lived. She hoped she was safe.


Lena was nearly asleep when her mother woke her with a rough shake to the shoulders. Exhausted from her trip back from New York (Bruce Wayne had been taxing, to say the least), she nearly pushed her away. She was only stayed by the frantic look on Lillian's face.

"Your brother," Lillian hissed. "He's escaped Azkaban. He's headed to the Ministry."

Lena blinked several times, pushing her blankets from her body. She stepped out of bed, and the room momentarily swam with a surreal dreamlike quality. Her brother free? But how?

"Eve Tessmacher," her mother answered without prompting. "Your assistant has been working for him."

Lena grumbled, dressing quickly.

"She's taken care of," Lillian's eyes glittered fiercely.

"You didn't—" Lena pulled on her shoes.

"No, she's not dead, but we have to head Lex off before he does something stupid."

And that's how they found him. Doing something incredibly stupid in the Department of Mysteries.

It took some time to track Lex down. It required the combined knowledge of both Lillian and Lena to trace his steps, to navigate the confusing department without setting off more alarms. But ultimately they discovered Lex in a black room filled with silvery stars and large gleaming planets.

Lena wavered upon entry, swimming with vertigo. It felt like there was no floor, like she was being suspended in space, swallowed whole by the night sky. Her mother moved passed her, however, and Lena followed. They witnessed Lex shielding something brilliantly green in his hands. He used his wand to carefully encase it in a grey box.

Lead, Lena guessed.

"How did you get out?" Lillian asked loftily, and Lex turned, a smile playing over his features.

He looked different, tall and spindly thin. The apple of his cheeks were hollowed, strung tight so that his cheekbones were prominently displayed. His skin had a pallid nature to it, as if it had been years since it had seen sunlight. The drawn nature of him cut a more vulturine and dangerous form. For the first time, Lena was a bit scared of her brother.

"No prison can hold me."

He looked happy, madly so, and Lillian watched him carefully, wand held fast.

"I'm guessing that's the material your father had?" she asked. "You finally found a way to give yourself powers?"

"No," Lex denied blithely. "Everyone always thinks I want to be like him, but we were created to create ourselves. As wizards. As humans. Not abominations."

"Then, what are you doing here?" Lena questioned.

"Hello to you, too, Lee."

Lena almost flinched at the term of endearment. It didn't feel right. It wasn't the same.

"Answer the question," Lillian reminded him, her tone impatient.

Lex sighed like a child being reprimanded.

"I'm waiting."

"And what's that in your hand?"

"It's a weapon."

Lena saw her mother's wand slash across her periphery, but Lex was faster. He sidestepped the Stunning Spell and hissed,

"Imperio!"

Lillian's arm faltered and a haziness fell over her eyes.

"That's better, much more docile like this," Lex commented as Lillian came to stand next to him, expression glazed. He turned his gaze on Lena, whose wand was pointed between both of them, undecided and shaking.

"Now, are you going to be a nuisance, too, Lena?" Lex asked, his wand flicking back at her. "Or are we going to play nice?"

Lena didn't drop her wand, but Lex looked up, always able to hear things Lena couldn't, and said,

"Right on time."

As if on cue, the ceiling burst open, rock falling everywhere. Lena sprung to the side to avoid several large falling stones, and she reached for the door handle. With her mother under the Imperius Curse, she couldn't take down Lex alone. She would need to get help.

But before she could turn the handle, the door flew open and threw Lena backwards onto the ground. She scrambled up to her elbows and found herself face to face with Alex Danvers.

"Alex—" Lena started, but Alex was already attacking, forcing Lena to roll to the side as a hex struck the ground where she'd just been.

Lena lifted her wand, blocking another curse.

"Stop!" she yelled, but her former classmate didn't seem to listen.

Alex kept up a barrage of spells until Lena had to hurl herself behind a part of the caved in ceiling. It was illuminated by Jupiter shining bright and bold above her.

"Coward!" Alex yelled, and Lena's lip curled.

It was just her luck that when she'd finally got the chance to duel Alex, she couldn't.

Meanwhile, it was obvious Cal El was in the room. Lena felt her teeth vibrating and the hair on the back of her neck standing up. And Lex, he was using all four elements to contain him. Fire leapt up the walls, unburning and deathly orange. Wind lashed at Lena's face like a hurricane. She could hear a crystalline ice forming followed by a cataclysmic shattering. Rocks flew up high, like meteors in orbit, before they crashed, making the ground quake. There was a howling quality to the very air, but she could still parse out Lex's words.

"—just a humble offering to an idol god!"

Lena ordered herself to look, knowing this couldn't be good, hoping to see an opening or a way to stop her brother. Lex held out the open lead box, the glow of it lighting his face in sickly green hues. In the background, Lillian landed a perfect Full Body-Bind Curse on Alex, who still had not improved much on blocking, Lena was sad to see. She fell to the floor, rigid.

"Lex," Cal gritted through his teeth. He, too, fell into a heap.

Lena rounded the edge of the rock and clenched her wand tight. She glanced at Alex, who lay stiff as a board and unmoving on the floor, eyes wide and scared. Then, she looked at Cal.

In a deep, dark part of herself, Lena could admit she hated Cal El. She hated him for taking her brother. She hated her father for making Cal what he was; a martyr, a legend, a man beyond reproach. For every person that despised Lena, there were two people that loved Cal El, and it made her fume.

"What did you do to him?" she asked, voice still quivering from adrenaline.

"Everyone has a weakness," Lex replied drawing a ring of fire around the shivering Cal El. He examined him like a bug pinned to a board. "Father taught me that."

Before Lena could reply, his sharp eyes glanced up, cutting to Alex on the floor.

"Now, who are you?" he questioned with piqued interest.

He motioned to Lillian.

"She's an Auror, and the adoptive sister of Zora El—"

"Stupefy!" Lena barked, but it was too late. Her mother fell unconscious, but the damage had been done. Lena hadn't expected her to state the truth so plainly, and Lex was already casting by the time she turned her wand on him.

Her head whipped back as if struck, a painful burning at the corner of her eyebrow. Her wand flew out of her hand, and the force of both spells knocked her to her knees. She bent there reaching up to touch the hot flow of blood rivering down the side of her face.

He brother smiled.

"Let's not get excited, Lena, what with another celebrity in our midst."

"Stop," Lena replied.

Lex bent down, pushing some of Alex's fringe out of her eyes with his wand.

"Zora El, hm?" he asked. "Soon enough. Good things come to those who wait."

Lena stood straight, eyes casting around the room in search of her wand. She spotted it a few feet away and took a step closer, but another blinding purple light shot past her face, keeping her in place.

"Remember when you wanted to be one of us?" Lex mocked, wand pointed at her.

Lena felt her whole body trembling, but she held up her hand nonetheless. She brandished the 'L' ring which glittered in the dancing yellow of the firelight.

"I am one of you."

"I gave that to you, Lee. Me. You belong at my side."

"In prison?"

He laughed with a playful kind of annoyance.

"Mother really has done a number on you, hasn't she?" he mused, circling to her right like a predator. "Does she tell you she's there for you? Does she tell you she needs you? She used to tell me that, too."

He looked at Lillian, then, lying prone and unconscious on the floor.

"Yet she wasn't there, not when it mattered. She turned a blind eye to father," his lip curled. "And she'll turn a blind eye to you."

Lena sprang for her wand, but vines leapt directly out of the floor, wrapping her legs up in tight ropes. She fell to her knees then to her chest, palms scraping against the jagged rocks, nails scrabbling for purchase. She vainly reached for her wand, but it was too far away.

"Fire is the great redeemer," Lex whispered, considering Lena managed as he turned back to Cal El. "And this a crucible in which only true heroes are forged. So tell me, Cal… will you burn?"

Lena tore at the vines, her fingers bloodying as she gained a trifling amount of slack. If he killed Cal, he would kill Kara, so she threw herself again towards her wand as Lex orchestrated the fire around Cal higher, bringing the circle ever closer. Lena stretched, every tendon in her pulled taut as her index finger just brushed the edge of her wand.

As Lena reached, the planets floating around them dimmed, plunging them into a shadowy darkness. The fire around Cal muted and died low as a silvery white fog slipped into the room. Lex looked about, confused, his breath coming out in puffs. He flicked his wand at Lena and her wand went flying another ten feet. She swore, hatefully looking back at him.

"What do you think you're doing?" he mocked her, but she gasped, her face drained of color.

Above Lex, dozens of wraithlike creatures were gliding into the room through the hole in the ceiling. They were tall, hooded, and deathly silent. Their hands were clawed.

Dementors.

Lex's eyes went wide, he spun around with his arm out.

"Expecto Patronum!" he shouted, but a bouquet of maggots shot out of his wand, and he dropped it as if burned. A Dementor sailed up to him, gripping his wrists in its cold clutches.

"No!" he fought, struggling to break free. He dropped the lead box, and a green looking emerald clattered across the floor.

Lena tore at the vines again with a renewed sense of urgency. A Dementor grabbed her first, though, ripping her bodily from her binds. It held her by the neck, and she clawed at it with one hand, the other holding one of the snakey, broken vines. She could smell nauseating, bad breath and she thrust the sharp end into the hood, into its eyes, and it dropped her with a sickening crack. Her ankle.

She stumbled up and ducked through the cloak of another Dementor that swung to catch her. She picked up her wand and turned.

"Expecto Patronum!" she tried, but nothing happened.

She shivered, feeling chilled to the very bone. Terrible memories flooded her mind. Her father grabbing Lex by the arm at the dinner table, spitting in his face. Lena being pulled away as Cal El and Lex dueled outside. Her mother, her sweet faceless mother, disappearing beneath the waves.

"Mother," Lena called out unconsciously, rubbing at her eyes.

"Father, no," Lex answered her as the Dementor who held him pulled back its hood. He sagged unconscious.

Lena spared a fearful glance around the room, and Alex and Cal were being surrounded, too. They lay helpless on the floor while a Dementor knelt by Lillian, dropping its black hood. A cold arm braced itself around Lena's midsection, holding her tight, and she realized with startling clarity that they were all about to die.

Or something worse than death. The Dementors would kiss them, and they'd become soulless. A void.

She lifted her wand again and it shook violently. How had she done this before?

A single talisman memory.

That which is hidden.

Kara.

Kara.

Kara playing with her fingers absently across a chess board. Kara smiling at her in the foyer of Hogwarts, snow giddy and hands on her hips. Kara's nose inclined towards hers, as if to kiss. Kara on the train, Kara hugging her after term's end; warm, bright, vanilla smelling, and golden.

"Expecto Patronum!" Lena incanted again.

This time, a silver figure burst forth, huge and brilliant from the tip of her wand. It was winged and four-legged, and it soared into the air. The Dementors screamed, recoiling, and released Lex and Lillian. The Patronus chased them back through the hole in the ceiling and filled the room with a wondrous silver light. It reared on its back legs with a neighing sound before it turned and very much pranced proudly back to Lena, its giant wings held aloft in victory.

Lena could do nothing but stare and muffle a soft sob behind her hand. It wasn't her Patronus. It was Kara's.

She cried quietly, in both emotional and physical pain, but the Patronus felt pulsing and warm. It came closer, and she reached a hand out. It leaned down to nuzzle its nose against her fingers, but Lena only felt a white and delicate mist as it disappeared into darkness.

Lena choked back her tears. She was racked with understanding, devastated and laid waste. She rubbed at her eyes, refusing to confront the obvious, and she looked for Lex, who lay unmoving on the floor. She glanced to Alex, whose eyes were still alert and watching hers. She clenched a fist.

Would she recognize Kara's Patronus? Did she know what it meant?

Regardless, Lena made her way over to Alex and whispered,

"Finite."

Alex instantly sprang to her feet, sweating, and looking absolutely thunderstruck. She gaped at Lena, and there was no doubt. She recognized the Patronus. She knew what it meant.

"I'm sorry," Lena offered, although it didn't make much sense.

"Lena," Alex gasped. There was a question there, but Lena couldn't answer it. She returned to Lex.

"Incarcerous," she voiced, and thin cords began to bind his body. She limped over to the ground near his him and picked up his wand.

"What is this?" Alex whispered, reaching for the fallen green emerald.

"I don't know," Lena answered. "But he had it in this."

Lena held out the lead box, and Alex gingerly placed the rock inside. Lena snapped it closed.

Instantly, Cal appeared to revive. He gingerly rose to his feet, quickly producing his wand. He approached Lex's bound body and whispered.

"Obliviate!"

Lena wanted to protest, to object. But Lex knew who Kara was, and she didn't want him to remember. Even if it meant forgetting, well, everything else. So, instead she watched on, but felt a flicker of fear when Cal turned on her next, wand pointed.

"No!" Alex barked loudly, blocking Lena with her body.

"She knows who Kara is," Cal replied evenly, looking fiercely protective but somehow also very weak. "You heard what he said."

Alex stayed her ground, pitted in front of Lena so close that Lena could smell her. It was odd, she smelled vaguely of Amortentia. Lena took a long, discreet pull through her nose and realized, no, she just smelled a little bit like Kara.

"It's okay, Alex," Lena whispered. "I would understand. It would probably be safer if I didn't know about her."

Alex turned to look at her, stricken.

"But your Patronus—"

"What about her Patronus?" Cal interrupted, and Alex shook her head.

"I'm an Auror, Cal," she told him in an authoritative tone. "Neither of us are supposed to be here, and we need a witness, don't we? It will look very suspicious if we're found, and there's no testimony but our own."

It was fast thinking. It was mercurial. Honestly, it was something Lena would do. But Lena couldn't help but feel the desperate way Alex guarded her, and she suspected it wasn't the real reason. Despite that, Cal seemed to be listening.

"And you can't just—" Alex continued hotly. "Obliviate any old person, Cal. You're not above the law."

Cal shot her a hard expression, but lowered his wand.

"Stay here. I'll go call in the cavalry," he said in that heroic tone of his, and he reached for the lead box in Lena's hands.

"And I'll take that."


The Ministry released Lena after several painful hours of interrogation. They kept Lillian, however.

"I was under the Imperius Curse, you imbeciles!" she could hear her mother shouting through the walls. "You can prove it with his wand! You're wasting EVERYONE'S time."

Lena somewhat enjoyed when other people were on the receiving end of Lillian's wrath, and she wanted to smile. She couldn't quite, though, because she knew what was happening. The Ministry would never let two Luthors off the hook, not with the high likelihood of public outcry. They'd keep Lillian for a solid few weeks on trumped up charges. They'd create a circus over her alleged crimes.

She sighed.

At least, her stepmother came out of the whole ordeal relatively unscathed. Unlike Lena who had a gash at her eyebrow which would scar, no doubt. There were also bruises and cuts and scrapes all over her body. She'd busted her lip. She'd broken one of her ankles. Her nails were a mess, jagged and caked in dirt. When she'd finally seen herself in a mirror, she looked like a crash victim. It must have made for a pathetic sight, indeed, because even Alex Danvers offered to escort her home from St. Mungo's.

There was no need for such a gesture. It wasn't anything that wouldn't heal overnight.

"No, thank you," Lena replied politely. "If you'll be needing anything else?"

Alex shook her head, looking miserable, and there was a beat where Lena was sure they were both thinking of Kara. Of the Patronus and what it meant. Lena Apparated back to the Manor without another word.

She leaned her head, tired and exhausted, against the front stone doors. It was quiet without her mother in the house. She drank her bone mending potion, and it tasted terrible. She bathed and after, she fell into a fitful sleep.

The next day, Lena arrived at L-Corp at her usual time, garnering the open stares of nearly all of her staff, but she had work to do. She set about hiring a new assistant by the name of Jessica Huang.

Ms. Huang was highly qualified but, more importantly, able to start that day. She signed every kind of nondisclosure agreement, and she was all over Lena's schedule after only a few hours at the job. Lena was happy. She also secretly thrilled at the idea of having an assistant with whom her mother held no sway.

"Witch Weekly wants an interview, Ms. Luthor," she told Lena that night while she sat at her desk, pushing her fingers over her eyes.

"That's a first," she replied.


Several weeks later, Lena sat through the interview with Cat Grant. It wasn't too painful, and for her part, Ms. Grant seemed genuinely interested in the truth. In kind, Lena tried to give her what she could. She recounted the night with Lex, leaving out key details surrounding Kara, and walked through her latest breakthroughs at L-Corp.

"And for the future?" Cat inquired, quill pressed to parchment.

"I just want to clear my family name," Lena breathed, glancing out of the high rise windows behind her, gazing over a blue and cloudless sky. "I know it's going to be a long road. They just need to understand I don't expect anyone to put their faith in my family, they just need to put their faith in me."

When Lena looked back, Cat was looking up. She seemed impressed. She bit the end of her quill, thinking.

"You really saved Cal El with a Patronus Charm?" she asked, a slight smile playing at the corner of her mouth. "The Man of Stone rescued by not only a Luthor, but a woman? It's certainly a twist on a familiar tale."

"Is it so hard to believe?"

"Not at all," Cat jotted something down, eyes moving up and down Lena's figure for a moment, as if to imply, not about you.

"But I'm sure our readers would love to know what form your Patronus takes. What animal represents famous Lena Luthor?"

Lena felt her insides seize momentarily, and she instinctually plastered a too tight smile on her face. She dropped her hands below the desk to pull at her fingers unseen, and Cat's eyes followed the movement.

"It's a black swan."

"Oh, really? How can you tell it's black? Aren't they," Cat motioned in the air, "silvery?"

Lena's smile pulled again, and she let it drop, easing the muscles of her mouth and lifting a shoulder.

"Just a hunch, I suppose."

"Could you show me? It would be grand for a photo."

Lena considered Cat for a few probing moments of silence; the shrewd nature of her eyes, the cleverness of her pen to page. Lena knew the signs of someone who was testing her for a lie.

Journalists.

"Maybe another time," Lena replied in her best apologetic tone. "I do have another appointment in a few minutes, but feel free to report a swan, black or otherwise."

"Of course," Cat inclined her head with an equally congenial facade. "I wouldn't want to throw your schedule off."

She rose, and Lena did as well. She crossed to the door as Cat reached for the handle.

"I really do appreciate you coming here," Lena told her earnestly. If she was a less reserved person, she would take Cat's hands, but as it were, she held them fast in front of her. "It's rare for anyone to give me a chance."

Cat contemplated Lena, before she bit at her lip.

"My assistant," she started woefully. "She dug up something that I fear may be too personal to print."

"Kiera?" Lena asked candidly as she'd heard of Cat's assistant, someone who'd famously managed not to get fired after more than a month. Cat glanced up at her keenly.

"Yes," she said slowly. "She had this made."

Cat reached for a package she'd leaned against the wall near the door when she'd entered. At the time, Ms. Huang had asked if she could store it at her desk, clearly unhappy with the blight upon the otherwise clean office wall, and Cat had replied, "Absolutely not."

Lena had thought nothing of it, but she took it now, looking it over. It was on the heavy side and quite large and exactly square. The wrapping was a matte black.

"Is she… a fan?" Lena asked, holding the bulky package uncertainly. She did receive some fairly baffling fan art from time the time, and this certainly felt like a painting or a picture frame.

"You could say that," Cat smirked.

"Thank you?" Lena answered, thrown.

"Of course, have a good day, Ms. Luthor."


"How was it?" Ms. Huang inquired at the end of Lena's very long day. "With the interview and Ms. Grant, I mean?"

"Not too bad, but that reminds me," Lena turned, picking up the package she'd placed next to her desk. She offered it to Ms. Huang.

"Could you send this down to security?"

"What is it?"

"I don't know. Ms. Grant said her assistant wanted to give it to me, but I don't have the stomach for any death threats or exploding pranks today."

"Oh, Ms. Danvers?" Ms. Huang trilled excitedly, taking hold of the package. "She doesn't seem the type—"

"Danvers?" Lena interrupted, clutching the package again and creating a kind of tug of war between them. "Kara Danvers?"

"Yes, that's who made the appointment."

"I thought Ms. Grant's assistant was named Kiera—oh."

Lena felt incredibly stupid. Cat Grant would misname her assistant and spread the humiliating error all over the world.

"Nevermind," she told Ms. Huang, who released the package back to Lena.

"Do you two know each other?"

"Just a schoolmate," Lena mumbled, sitting down and examining it on the desk before her.

Her assistant lingered, hesitating before speaking.

"She was here, you know, earlier this week."

"She was?" Lena glanced up.

"Yes, she nearly took an employee's head off in the conference room when she heard him say—well, something impolite about you. I think she had that in her hands," Jess indicated the package.

But Lena's mind was firmly stuck. Kara had been here? In Lena's building? On Lena's floor? Why didn't she—well—say hello? A nervousness she hadn't felt since her school days flooded her system, and she blushed.

What a fool she was.

"If you don't mind me asking, did she do something to upset you?"

Lena flustered even more.

"What makes you think she did anything?"

Ms. Huang shrugged.

"She looked awfully concerned when I found her, and that strikes me as some sort of apology gift."

Lena shook her head and looked away, trying to decide whether she should continue the conversation or not.

"She lied to me," she breathed, more to remind herself than to tell her assistant.

"I see," Ms. Huang answered thoughtfully. "Was there a reason?"

Lena's thoughts turned dark.

"I'm sure being a Luthor was reason enough."

There was silence for a few moments, but then Ms. Huang spoke again.

"Remember all those magically binding contracts you had me sign when I started?"

Lena shifted her attention back to her assistant, smiling ruefully. "Are you trying to imply my school time friend was under an NDA?"

Ms. Huang chuckled lightly.

"No, I just mean—there are a number of secret keeping Charms, Ms. Luthor. The Fidelius, for one."

"True, but that's not exactly practical," Lena argued, still smiling and politely incredulous. "She couldn't have put it on herself. She couldn't have been the secret keeper."

"Oh you're right, because she was young?"

Lena lifted an eyebrow as if to say, there you go, and looked back down at the package.

"I guess it could've been someone else," Ms. Huang mused out loud. "Someone older. Someone more powerful."

Lena looked up, her smile fading.

"Someone who'd want to protect her."

Lena suddenly felt stricken, gripping her desk. She could see Cal El then, pointing his wand at Lena with that determinedly protective expression on his face.

Jessica quickly backtracked, interpreting Lena's change in disposition for displeasure.

"Don't mind me, Ms. Luthor. My friends always tell me I'm too optimistic. It's just a thought. I'll be right outside if you need anything," she smiled and exited the office.

Now alone, Lena tore at the fine black wrappings, casting them aside to reveal a framed photo. It was a portrait of a woman with black hair, high cheek bones, and kind dark eyes.

It was Lena's mother.

Chapter Text

Three weeks prior.

"Lena Luthor accepted the interview," Cat tells Kara absently on an early Monday morning.

The sun is just climbing high enough to send lancing, mellow rays of light through the windows of Cat's office, and Kara's head snaps up so sharply at the sound of Lena's name, it causes her to overbalance the breakfast tray in her hands. Tea sloshes from its cup to the pristine white napkin, and Cat watches, nonplussed and tapping her quill rapidly on the mahogany desk.

"Well, that's good news?" Kara belatedly attempts to mask her interest, carefully placing the tray flat.

"That remains to be seen," Cat clips, waving her wand to whisk away the spill from her cup before she gingerly picks it up. Kara stands near to her side, awkwardly pulling at her hands.

"Sit, won't you?" Cat directs. "You're making me nervous."

Kara obeys, sitting stiffly across from Cat in one of her fashionably plush chairs. Cat takes a sip of her tea and examines it critically, looking dismayed when she's unable to find anything suitably offensive about it.

"That said," Cat begins slowly, placing her cup back down. "Are you comfortable doing some dirty work and digging around in her past?"

"Me?" Kara hiccups.

"Kiera," Cat admonishes. "You have expressed interest in becoming a reporter, have you not? This is your first investigative assignment. We don't know much about Ms. Luthor, and I'd like you to unearth the hard to find facts and details. Maybe interview her friends? Coworkers? She was adopted, wasn't she?"

"I don't—"

Cat waves her hand in front of her.

"That's all, chop, chop."

Evidently dismissed, Kara stands uncertainly and makes her way out of the office. She shuffles through a stack of files at her desk in a lackluster attempt to look productive, but mainly she's just staring blankly across the office.

Interview Lena's friends? It's not exactly what she'd expected when she suggested featuring Lena. She hadn't planned on taking any sort of active role. It had already been stressful enough to reach out to Lena's new assistant, Ms. Jessica Huang, and now she was supposed to delve uninvited into her past, too?

But at least it will be Kara doing the digging, she thinks with a sliver of optimism. She could make sure no one else reimagined the facts.

So, she sighs mightily and opens an empty manila folder. Determined not to disappoint Mrs. Grant, she set about the slow and laborious process of assembling a thick, bound file on Lena Luthor.


Kara starts with what she knows: Lena's Hogwarts performance, her extra-curriculars, her O.W.L. and N.E.W.T. grades. It's all very familiar and quick to categorize. But what she did after school, Kara had never realized the scope. Lena not only took on the helm of her family's company, but she even changed the name. She introduced dozens of new products to market. She personally oversaw the opening of a new children's ward at St. Mungo's, and she seemed passionate in researching cures for magical maladies and diseases.

Kara can still remember her brushing a hand over the unicorn's mane,

"I wanted to help. I wanted to heal in any way I could…"

And Kara warms with pride at the idea that Lena's been able to accomplish so much of that. It also makes her flush with indignation for the lack of exposure she's gotten in the press. It's not fair at all.

So, she details each accomplishment meticulously. She discreetly interviews anyone who is willing to talk at L-Corp, though it's not many.

"She's here before anyone else in the morning," says a man from the Stealth Department.

"You can't catch her off guard in a meeting, she knows everything,"says another of the executives.

"She personally saw that I kept my job," a kindly looking older woman tells her.

"Why, what happened?" Kara asks, black notebook open and at the ready.

"Well, I'm one of the few people in the world who've studied nanites, funny little creatures from Libya. They were going to deport me, but Ms. Luthor cleared that right up with the Ministry."

"Very kind of her," Kara remarks absently taking notes.

"She's not like the others," the woman tells her earnestly. "You'll report that I said that, won't you?"

Kara nods, detecting a strain of concern in the woman's voice. She wonders if other reporters had made similar promises only to turn around and lie, characterizing Lena's kindness and dedication as pragmatic business thinking or even ruthlessness. Kara's not fooled, however. She knows Lena. She knows Lena protects her own, protects an institution and a legacy that should've never been her burden to bear.

She wants the truth of that out there.

It's why Kara buries herself in everything Lena. It's like being close to her again. By opening the flood gates, she allows herself to stew on images of the girl she once knew so well. Kara pushes through the pages of research on her desk, pulling free a photo where Lena's eyes instantly bounce to hers. Kara traces the page, outlines her cheek with a finger.

One detail that has evaded Kara, has absolutely kept her up at night, is how it's been near impossible to track down Lena's biological mother. She's gone through every kind of photograph, hundreds of birth records, and years and years of St. Mungo's medical files, but there hasn't been so much as a sniff of a trail to follow. Kara leaves paperwork and reports and documents all over the apartment, like a slug with its slime, but even after two weeks she's no closer to an answer.

"Even I'm not this bad Kara!" Alex bemoans, stepping over a long trail of parchment that leads to their bedroom.

"Face it, her mom was a muggle. You're just going to have to get your hands dirty!"

Kara grumbles.

'Getting her hands dirty' means trying to learn and understand muggle hospital record keeping. It means interviewing muggle doctors, illegally perusing file storage rooms, and breaking all manner of rules with magic. It's going to take too much time.

That is, if she can even pinpoint what city to look in or nail down any physically identifying features.

It's impossible, a veritable needle in a haystack, but Kara stays dedicated. She stays late at the office perusing the historical Witch Weekly archives. She reads every article even remotely close to the timeline surrounding Lena's birth. It's not fun. There are so many photos and press releases of Lionel Luthor.

"Good girl," she hears, a phantom, and she shivers, repressing the memory.

Kara thumbs through an article instead on a new sneakoscope model released before Lena was born. Next to it are photos of Lionel standing on a podium in front of Luthor MagiCorp.

"I believe that we were put on this earth for a reason," he had told a reporter. "Our task in life is to find that reason, and we can't always do that alone."

Kara looks away from his bright green eyes, a spitting image of Lex and Lena's. She can't stand how regal and polished he seems, how he looks nothing like the monster who had murdered her family. She scans the crowd aimlessly instead, until she stutters to a stop. Until she sees… her.

A woman stands nearly hidden to Lionel's left. She has shoulder length dark, curly hair and deep set eyes. Her gaze is intent. Kara doesn't know who it is, but the image of her rings familiar, loud and clear like a bell.

"Who are you?" she inquires out loud.

Kara quickly pulls up more photos of the event and identifies the woman in a few other stills. A camera hangs from a strap around her neck. Sometimes, it's pressed to her face, her finger pad light on the shutter button.

It's curious, Kara thinks as she examines the photo. She has a muggle camera, not a magical one, and Kara wonders how a random muggle photographer received access to a magical press event.

Obviously… she's not random.

Kara goes back through other events that feature Lionel either on stage or speaking. She finds the woman time and time again in a blur of black hair or a flash of a camera. Each time, she wears the same focused expression and blends almost seamlessly into the crowd, wearing all blacks and puffy dark scarves.

But she can't hide from Kara, not now that she now knows what to look for and where these photos were taken. All of them, every one, had been taken in Ireland.

Kara canvases Dublin after that. She searches for a name, for a home, for a place of employment. The blurry image she has from Witch Weekly becomes frayed and white around the creases as she shows it to anyone who might've known her, starting with major muggle newspapers and publications. Kara has a hunch… she had to be a photographer.

But it's rough going. She spends so much time being ignored, she's starting to feel like a specter. She keeps telling herself not to give up. A woman from the Irish Times balks at Kara, exclaiming,

"You expect anyone around here to remember some transient photographer from twenty years ago? Not likely!"

And that's almost exciting, different at least than the total apathy most strangers offer in the form of shrugs, averted eyes, and 'nope, sorry's.' Doggedly, Kara keeps showing the photo.

"That's a stunner," a front desk security guard comments at The Irish Examiner. "I think I'd remember someone like that."

He hands Kara back the photo, and she visibly deflates. Cat wants the file in two days, and the deadline looms all the closer. The guard watches Kara's piteous expression and softens.

"But I've only been here a few years," he offers generously. "You should talk to Connor Brady, he's just retired. He'd have been here nearly twenty-five years."

Kara smiles, the biggest she's done in an age, and the man visibly brightens.

"Thank you!"


She finds Mr. Brady living alone at the top of a multistory flat. She can tell he must be old by the time it takes him to reach the door. She's right, too, when she sees him, and he greets her with confusion when she tries to explain who she's looking for.

He stares at the photograph for a long while before finally, finally his face lights up in recognition.

"Oh Bridge," he says. "That's Brigid Flynn."

BRIGID FLYNN! Kara thinks in high pitched excitement.

"It's been some time, hasn't it?" he says congenially. "Is she doing well?"

Kara can't help the way her face falls, and he seems to read the change in spirit. He shifts to another foot and motions her inside.

"Come in, I've got a pot on already," he tells her. "I don't get a lot of visitors."

Kara follows him inside, some of her previous excitement returning as she looks around to find the space quaint but small. It's fairly tidy. There are picture frames hung along the green wall paper, and they move past a well-worn spot on the couch in front of the television. In the kitchen, Mr. Brady checks on the kettle of boiling tea before turning back to face her.

"Oh, I do remember Bridge," he recalls ponderously. "Absolutely lovely. She always said good morning to ya' when she came into The Examiner. She did freelance work all over the country, deadly talented."

Kara doesn't have the strength to reply yet, furiously scribbling with a muggle pen she found at the round kitchen table. She'd been a moment away from pulling out her magically enhanced feather quill but barely caught herself. That certainly wouldn't have gone over well.

"The baby was a surprise, though," he adds, scratching his chin, and Kara's eyes jump up. "Never even knew she had a fella'."

The kettle starts to whistle, and Mr. Brady removes it from the glowing orange range coils while Kara asks excitably,

"A baby?"

"Oh yes, little Lena, I think," he answers with a small smile, pouring two cups. "A pretty name."

Kara's not sure if she wants to hug him or shake him, but given she'd probably hurt him, she settles for not shattering the tea cup and saucer he passes to her shaking hands. She takes a polite sip before eschewing it quickly to the tabletop in favor of taking more notes.

"What happened to them?" she asks in a nearly composed voice.

"Well, she disappeared to America a few years after the baby was born, didn't she? Couldn't believe it."

"America?" Kara questions. It made sense. It answered why Lena's mother had been so hard to track, why Kara couldn't find any birth records.

"Yes, a shock to everyone. She'd travelled, sure, but she was an Irish native, a rose. No one questioned it, but it did always seem a bit odd to me, like she was running from something."

Kara's intensity darkened. She could guess.

"You know, now that I think of it…" he continues, shuffling towards an older wooden desk. "I've got a nice portrait of her here somewhere."

Kara springs to her feet, eager to assist him, but he turns a wary eye on her.

"You're a reporter?" he asks, but Kara had expected this question.

"Oh yes," she answers, quickly producing her forged muggle credentials. He glances briefly at the badge and smiles, mollified.

They dig together through a mound of heaping, yellowed papers. As they search, Kara allows him a few long winded and reminiscent explanations of some of the other items they come across. It only seems fair.

"Ah ha," he says at last, pulling out a flattened and faded glossy. "I think this was a professional headshot of sorts. I can't even remember why I have it."

"Do you think," Kara finds herself asking without really thinking, fingers itching to take. "Do you think I could have it?"

Mr. Brady smiles at her, briefly considering before handing it over.

"Well, I can't make much use of it. Hopefully, you'll put it in the paper? It'll find a good home?"

"It will, yes," Kara gushes. "The best."


Kara knows she needs to give Lena the photo immediately, even Alex had said to talk to her, and this is a great excuse. But… her folio is also due to Cat first thing the next day, and in a rush, she makes a copy and shoves the image haphazardly in with the rest before meeting with Cat.

"You better have a good reason for missing nearly three weeks of work," Cat Grant warns with her usual intimidating glare. "Your replacement has delivered the wrong beverage on three," she holds up three fingers, "separate occasions. You know how that provokes me."

"I do, Mrs. Grant," Kara smiles brightly, and Cat seems to wince at its brilliance. "But I think you'll be very impressed with this."

She places the thick folio on Cat's desk with a flourish of self-satisfaction. The name 'Lena Luthor' reads bold and black across the front cover.

"Careful, Kiera," Cat tsks, examining it with delicate fingers. "If I had a galleon every time an employee told me that and turned out wrong…"

But Cat doesn't seem to be disappointed. She doesn't say anything at all. She's silent as she takes hours to review Kara's work. Kara doesn't even hear from her until Cat corners her later in the break room with a determined glint in her eye.

"You found her mother?" she asks keenly.

Kara nods, unable to stop smiling, a half poured cup of tea in her hand.

"Brava, Kara," Cat slips, calling her by the right name for once. Kara preens even more.

"No one has ever reported anything like this. It's going to be a smash, I can already tell," Cat holds up the glossy copy of the portrait, and it catches a sheen in the light.

Kara frowns a little, imagining Lena seeing that photo for the first time in a magazine with everyone else.

"Don't you think that's a bit personal to print?" she suggests. "I don't think even Lena knows who she is. I haven't had a chance to show her yet. I was planning, well, to give it to her in a nice frame or something."

Cat gapes at her, dropping the photo to her side.

"You're telling me Lena Luthor hasn't seen this?" she asks, appalled. "She doesn't know who her own mother is?"

Kara cringes, hearing the blatant beginnings of a furious criticism.

"Kara Danvers," Cat chastises, elongating the name and shaking her head. "You should've gone there first! Do you think I want to be on the bad side of Lena Luthor?"

"But the article—"

"I haven't even interviewed her yet!"

"I can go," Kara rushes to say. "I'll go!"

Cat shoves the copy into Kara's chest, pinching the bridge of her nose. Kara clutches it, feeling delinquent.

"Then go," Cat insists, walking away from her. "'Doesn't know her own mother', the incompetence I have to deal with."


Kara frames the original portrait immediately after their conversation. It takes a few days, but when it comes out, it looks classic and elegant, all blacks and whites. The framer does a beautiful job with the matting and glazed glass, too.

"It won't break," she tells Kara. "Magically insured!"

Kara offers a strained smile in return. Magical insurance. It's a small consolation in the face of her anxiety at having to visit L-Corp.

At least Lillian Luthor won't be there, she thinks, but Kara expects anything as she walks through the beautiful atrium and boards the shiny, gold elevators.

She shifts from foot to foot, trying to keep her stomach from pitching with worry. She tries not to think about what Lena will look like, the expression she'll wear after seeing Kara after almost two years. Will it be pleasure? Will it be dismay? Maybe Kara won't even see her at all. Maybe she'll simply drop the framed photo off with her assistant. Would that be a relief or a disappointment?

Either way, she's sweating and her heart is racing as the elevator doors clang open, revealing Lena's top floor to be vastly changed. It's much improved. Instead of a giant, empty floor with a single office at the end, desks and newly built meeting rooms line the walls. Light pours in through floor to ceiling windows. It's bustling with activity, and the giant portrait of Lena and her mother no longer hangs behind the assistant's desk.

Which is empty, Kara observes. Lena's assistant must be away.

Kara taps her foot nervously as she turns from the desk and curiously lingers. She shuffles the ungainly package in her hands, but somehow, even despite her nerves, she catches scent of something delicious, something bready and sweet. Without much else to do, she lets her feet lead her to its source.

A few paces away, Kara discovers an empty meeting room not far from Lena's office. There's an open box of freshly baked croissants on the long conference table. She's stuffed two in her mouth before has a good handle on what's happening, but thank Merlin, they're already magically replenishing. She sighs in relief, chewing loudly.

"Croissants, again?" she hears a man say, entering the room from behind her. "Why is it always a continental breakfast around here? Who knew one the richest people in the world was so cheap."

He mumbles the last part, but Kara hears it all the same, and she stills. She drops the third croissant from her mouth, frowning and enduring a largely familiar feeling; the feeling of needing to protect Lena from prejudiced words and snap judgements.

"You know what I mean?" he continues without even looking at her face, picking through the almond croissants with disgust. "First, the cuts in our department for 'not being efficient enough,' and now this. Tight cun—"

The word doesn't make it out of his mouth before Kara finds herself with a hand on his shoulder, the other producing an empathic crunch of glass and wood around the frame in her other hand

"That's not very respectful," she grits through her teeth, their eyes level. He looks stunned, his face going pale. "You should get back to work."

But at the sound of her authority, his eyes regain a bit of their fight.

"And who are you? You're not in this meeting," he has the gall to point out, but he winces when Kara presses all too subtly, digging into his clavicle.

"And neither are you, Mr. Edge," a voice comes in from behind them, pleasant albeit somewhat intimidating. "So, get back to work unless you want to hear from the… what was the word you were about to use to describe Mrs. Luthor?"

Kara drops her hand from the man, distracted by the new voice.

"No—nothing," he stutters, and Kara snaps her head back towards him, glaring. He hurries away, rubbing his shoulder.

She tracks his exit, feeling a bit like a cat who lost its mouse, before her eyes glaze back over to the other woman. She has the regard and appearance of Lena's assistant, and Kara freezes. They've only written to each other by owl, and Kara hopes she doesn't look like a total mess. She thumbs at the frame in her hand apprehensively and gasps to feels it broken. Shattered glass litters the floor, and there are perfectly sized finger shaped holes piercing the wrapping.

Damn it.

"I'm Ms. Huang, Ms. Luthor's assistant," the woman tells her, studying Kara and the maimed package with mingled curiosity and stoicism. "Did you have an appointment?"

Kara glances back up, fish mouthing and taking entirely too long to reply.

"No, I—" she stalls, taking a step towards the exit of the room. "I'll be going. I'm sorry about the—" she motions her hand towards the man, points at the debris on the floor, but she can't find the will to finish under the weight of her embarrassment.

This was not the impression she wanted to make on Lena, bearing a broken present and complaints from a disgruntled employee. So, she rushes out of the office without further explanation, ignoring the calls of 'Miss!' behind her.


Kara veritably hates the rest of her week. She drops off the portrait again to get framed (to the framer's absolute astonishment,) and Cat laughs loudly when Kara tells her what's happened.

"Leave it to you to break something unbreakable, Kiera. Your clumsiness, it's remarkable."

Kara sighs.

And the worst is at the end of the week, Cat picks up the frame to take to the interview herself. Kara's stomach sinks at the thought that she won't get to see Lena. She's not even sure if Cat will give her credit. Without the interview, without the portrait, what excuse will she use to see her again?

She deservedly mopes later at home, and Alex watches her with a critically diagnostic eye. Although, it's hard to take her sister seriously when she's devouring a baker's dozen of toffee biscuits.

"Give me one of those," Kara beseeches, reaching. "I've had a bad week."

"No," Alex leans away on the couch, popping another one into her mouth. "It's not my fault you ruined your big surprise for Lena Luthor."

"Please," Kara whines, salivating at the yellow frosting. "They're shaped like little bees, they're so adorable I have to eat one."

"You," Alex snorts, pulling away again when Kara makes another grab at her tin. "'Have to eat' everything, so no."

Kara grumbles pitifully.

"They're handmade," Alex remains unrelenting. "They're not for you."

Kara perks up at that tidbit of information.

"So, they're 'for' you? They're a treat?" she coos annoyingly. "From a girlfriend? From a secret admirer?"

Alex lifts her chin with practiced restraint, as she often does when Kara stubbornly tries to get the name of the woman she's dating. She wants Kara to know exactly how immature and childish she's acting.

"So what if they are?"

"Is she a cook? A baker?" Kara begins to launch another bombardment of questions, "a candlestickmaker—?"

But she's interrupted by a sharp knock at their door.

Alex narrows her eyes at the sound, ever vigilant. Not unlike Mr. Brady, they don't normally have many visitors either.

(Kara reminds herself to send him a gift basket or something, maybe stop by the next time she's in Dublin.)

"Were you expecting anyone?" Alex asks, placing the tin of biscuits on the side table (and out of Kara's reach). She pulls out her wand.

"No, but I'll get it," Kara answers, standing from the couch.

"No, I'll—" Alex begins, but Kara puts a steadying hand on her leg, pointing to her chest.

"Invincible, remember?"

Alex remains seated but she doesn't look placated, idling behind and staying hidden from view.

Kara makes her way to the door and tries to think who it could be: Eliza? Jeremiah? Cal? Cat Grant? The list of possible visitors is so short it should be a bit depressing, but Kara doesn't have much time to lament that fact as she opens to door and comes face to face with…

Lena Luthor.

At first, Kara's not entirely sure it's her. She's spent so much time looking at Lena and thinking about her over the past several weeks, she wouldn't be surprised if she'd conjured her directly from her waking thoughts.

So, she simply stares before asking, slow and unsure,

"Lena?"

Lena's mouth opens and closes, and Kara notices her enticing red lipstick. She notices the framed portrait it in her delicate hands. She sees the beautiful, rich blue texture of her ankle length overcoat and the white-red shine of light reflecting off of her syrupy straight hair. The emerald golden green of her eyes stare vulnerably back at Kara.

Suddenly, Kara realizes it's real. Lena's real.

She takes a sharp inward breath and immediately steps closer. She forgets her manners. She lifts her hand out of instinct, wanting to… she's not sure, map Lena's face with her hands? Lena looks different, and she wants to catalogue each and every change. For instance, there's a healing scar at her eyebrow and without any thought to acceptable conduct, without any thought to their gap in friendship, Kara delicately cups her hand to Lena's cheek. It's velvety soft, and she skims her forefinger close to the cut.

"You're hurt?" Kara asks, and Lena breathes deeply, melting into the touch like a cat. Her swan black eyelashes flutter closed, and her expression shifts to a heavier regard when they open again.

"It's healing," she replies simply.

Her voice is gravelly, throaty, as if each word had labored to escape, but she's still so refined, so regal. Lena is a vision standing there, perfectly put together. If not for her shaky breath, her rising and falling chest, Kara would think her very similar to one of her photos, always watching Kara kindly.

Kara drops her hand, and Lena exhales, looking bereft. But Kara takes the portrait from her, foregoing the pretense that it's heavy, and wraps her other hand in Lena's.

"You're really here," she whispers, more to her benefit than Lena's. "Come inside."

She pulls Lena by their joined hands, still feeling dreamy and trancelike. Back in the apartment, she absently places the frame on the counter, and it's only when she steers them towards the living room that Kara nearly runs into Alex.

Kara jumps, stepping back unsteadily. She reaches for the nearby wall with her free hand and with a crash, it goes through the plaster and the underlying wooden plank.

Lena staggers, bumping into Kara's back. Surprised, Kara pulls her sooty white hand from the rubble, and Alex raises an eyebrow.

"That's my cue, I'm afraid," she says, reaching for her keys and wallet on the kitchen island. "I'll be at the pub with Sam."

She moves past them to the door, and Kara only just croaks out,

"Sam?"

"That's right, Samantha if we're being formal."

Kara feels Lena squeeze her hand slightly.

"Samantha Arias?" Lena asks quizzically, regaining an edge of her deep, smooth voice.

"Yes, she works in your research department," Alex tells her, straight-faced.

Lena flounders, her mouth working furiously.

"I mean, I know that," she scoffs.

"Really?" Alex smirks, clearly enjoying getting a rise out of Lena. "Reparo!"

Alex twirls her wand, and the lumber splinters back together. The plaster Kara had unintentionally destroyed remolds itself back into a flawless ivory wall.

"I hope you're good at that spell, Luthor," Alex mutters, replacing her wand into her coat. "You'll be using it a lot."

"Uh—" is all Lena manages by way of reply.

"Cheers," she winks at the pair of them, and the door groans closed with her exit.

Lena gawks at the door, mouth agape, whispering something to herself that sounds like a scandalized 'Ms. Arias,' and Kara thinks, for the first time, to feel self-conscious. While Lena's looking away, she seizes the opportunity to examine the state of herself.

Her pony tail is low, having been smashed up against the couch just minutes before, off duty for the day. Wisps of hair are free all around her face, and she rushes to push them back behind her ears, adjusting her glasses. She finds a smattering of powdered sugar over her shirt. What had she eaten? And she wipes her dusty hand on her pajama shorts, which are covered in unicorns.

Merlin.

Kara's half way convinced herself to use her super speed to change when Lena looks back at her. Her gaze sweeps over the messy hair, the powdered sugar, the shorts, and she smiles fondly. She then glances around, her hand going limp in Kara's.

"So, you live with your sister?" she asks tentatively.

"Oh, yes," Kara remembers herself, jolting. She releases Lena's hand and steps out into the living room, gesturing to the space. "This is our flat. It's not much, but it's home. I guess."

It's not as suave as she would've liked, but despite the semi-unfortunate wording, Lena seems interested. Her curious eyes bounce around the lived-in apartment, over the cute knickknacks that were clearly purchased by Kara (a yellow pillow with dancing embroidery, a miniaturized Quidditch pitch on the mantle), and she steps into the living room after Kara. Her eyes catch on the large bay windows and she moves towards them, unlatching one and holding a pale hand out to the crisp, cool breeze.

"I like it."

It's almost exactly how Kara had first reacted. Except it's now late fall instead of summer, and it's night instead of day. A just rising moon spills light over Lena, and Kara thinks for a second time how surreal this feels. Like a dream. It begs the question… what is Lena doing here?

Kara twists back to look at the portrait, and she feels Lena's presence return at her side.

"I told you she'd be beautiful."

"I came here," Lena says with insistency, enough to make Kara look back into her eyes again. "Straight away, as soon as I realized what it was."

"Brigid Flynn," Kara mentions with a half-smile. "Did Ms. Grant tell you?"

"Brigid," Lena repeats in a small voice. "No, she didn't. How did you find her?"

Kara touches the frame, smooths a finger over the once broken wood.

"It wasn't easy. I meant to give this to you myself, but—"

"Why?" Lena interrupts.

Kara's eyebrows quirk. "Why didn't I give it to you?"

"No, why did you do this for me?"

Kara opens her mouth to reply, but suddenly she realizes there are tears in Lena's eyes. She pains at the thought that she's upset her.

"Oh, Lena," she says, pulling Lena by the shoulders into a hug.

Lena comes stiffly at first. She's still rigid when she buries her face in Kara's shoulder, into the ponytail hung loose over her neck. Kara opens her hands across Lena's back, rubbing to feel the curve of her spine, the ridges of her ribs. Lena relaxes by an inch and winds her arms around Kara's waist.

Kara squeezes, breathing in. Lena feels thin, Kara thinks, but she still smells the same, honeyed and sweet. Encouraged, Lena begins to reciprocate, gripping Kara tighter but still gently as if doing something wrong. It only lasts a moment before she pulls back, their foreheads just on the verge of touching, and Kara yearns to bring her back in. She hasn't touched anyone in forever and it feels… good.

"Kara, I—"

"I wanted to tell you," Kara finds herself interjecting. "I tried to—but Kara's not my name, not my real name."

It feels freeing to finally say it aloud to Lena, like a great relief, but Lena merely sighs. They're so close that the puff of air warms Kara's face.

"Zora El," Lena softly corrects herself, averting her eyes. "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry—I didn't realize… you must think so poorly of me."

Tears threaten to fall again as Lena takes another quivering breath, and Kara presses a comforting hand over the back of her head, through her hair.

"Never," Kara admits gently, and Lena buries her face back into Kara's shoulder.

"I've been so stupid," she states miserably to the skin of Kara's neck. "You were under a Charm, weren't you?"

Kara nods with a slight frown.

"I just don't understand," Lena replies, muffled. "How could you ever forgive me?"

Kara clears her thoughts, grounding herself, and runs a hand back through Lena's hair again. Lena shivers as if cold.

"I was bound by the Fidelius Charm not to tell anyone who I was," Kara explains thoughtfully. "But I'm bound to you, too, Lena, ever since we were children. Even from that first day on the train."

Lena draws her face back from Kara's shoulder then, pale cheeks flushed pink and stained with dried tears. Her eyes gaze back, questioning and cavernous green.

Kara takes a breath, steeling herself for the realest answer she'll ever give. Her fingers bunch into the luxurious material of Lena's coat, into the pliable firmness of her waist. She wants to feel her there, strong, present, just in case she disappears forever.

"Lena, I think I've loved you all my life."

Lena's mouth parts, her cheeks blush a lovely shade deeper, and Kara wills herself to continue.

"But," she endures, and Lena seems to shrink again, lips quirking downward. "I didn't think you felt the same. You never wrote to me. I never thought you'd care enough to come here."

At this, Lena pulls away, and the terrified, shuddering feeling inside Kara intensifies. Their arms drop from each other. She wants Lena to stay, stay in her arms, but she also needs a reason. She needs to know why.

"My mother knew who you were," Lena explains, eyes downcast. "My brother, too. I was scared. I was only ever trying to protect you."

"And now?" Kara asks with a tender, precarious hope. "How do you feel?"

Lena doesn't answer, not with words at least, and the silence drags, draining Kara of what feels like an essential life force. But then Lena moves, casting silently with her wand.

A glimmering, luminous figure bursts from its tip. It grows larger and larger, nearly filling the empty space of the living room. It's a Patronus, yes, but it's also… familiar. It's not Lena's. The fine, silvery mist shapes itself into four, thick strong legs. A mane materializes, shaking. Great, big wings spread wide in front of them, and the fully corporeal winged horse rears back it's head to proudly display its hooves.

"My—your—," Kara stutters, unable to look away. She knows what it means, even if Lena doesn't explain it a moment later.

"I love you," Lena whispers. "I can't help it."

Kara turns from the shining, beautiful figure. She presses both hands over the sides of Lena's cheeks, hinging her thumbs behind her jaw. She moves forward and claims Lena's lips, and Lena yields, soft and responsive.

It's wet as Lena's tongue touches her lip. It's passionate as Kara angles, kissing deeper. She remembers every moment of wanting to do exactly this; at the fence post, in the entry hall, over a chessboard, in class, by the unicorn, on the train. She'd wanted it every day since graduation, every day she hadn't been able to see Lena, talk to Lena, touch Lena.

And Lena… Lena kisses like she studies; curious and intent. Precise and focused. She tastes like the Amortentia plant smells, like all of Kara's favorite things.

Kara pulls her closer, drops one hand to wind back around her body, a vice. She presses Lena backwards into the island. Lena tangles her hand into Kara's hair, her ponytails pulls resoundingly free. The other grips Kara's bicep, and she makes a noise in her throat when Kara's hand wanders, squeezes.

Kara hears the sound and absolutely enlivens, energizes. She kisses Lena harder and promptly puts her hand right through the kitchen island.

Crack!

Lena startles, and Kara feels for her, making sure she's not hurt.

"Your sister wasn't kidding," Lena comments, turning to glance at the hole in the island as Kara distractedly pulls her hand free from it.

Kara merely smiles with a shrug (Alex is usually right) and takes the opportunity to press more kisses to Lena's profile, over her neck, her jaw, her eyebrow. She's rewarded by the sight of rosy cheeks and large black pupils.

"Stay?" she asks against the shell of Lena's ear.

Lena turns and rests her forehead against Kara's. They stare into each other's eyes. It's a boundless expanse Kara could get lost in forever.

"Always."

They kiss again, and Kara can't help but think it's a miracle, a miracle that they love each other despite their families, despite a forced fidelity, despite everything.