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Spellbound

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   Dawn,

I got your package. Silver really enjoyed those toys you got her, so I attached a couple of pictures of her playing with them in the envelope.

I hope you’re doing okay. I know you said that there was no need for me to worry, but I am. It’s always really odd to deal with a parent remarrying. If you need anything, you’re welcome to come stay at my place in Snowpoint. It’s really beautiful here, I always forget how pretty all that snow is until I get back for the summer break.

Sixth year is a really big deal. I’ve been writing Serena(she got made a prefect), and she says that something big is going to happen this year.

Which reminds me, I actually have some really big news. Cynthia made me a prefect, too! In her letter she told me it was because I’m good at keeping out of trouble, etc. My dad intercepted the letter and is so excited, which brings me to my next piece of big news…..

The Quidditch World Cup! He got me tickets. I’m so excited, you have no idea. So enclosed in the envelope (with the pics of Silver) is your ticket, because you HAVE to come with me. You’re going to love it. You go to every single school game, so I think you’d enjoy a REAL game that much more.

Anyways, I can’t wait to read your reaction. Don’t let your stepdad get to you, okay? Hogwarts is just weeks away. Love you.

Your favorite Gryffindor and best friend,

Zoey

 

Dawn tore into the envelope, excitement tangible in the air around her, and held the ticket up in the air with an excited flourish. Yep, that was a real Quidditch World Cup ticket. For sure. Affection for her best friend surged in her chest, and she set the ticket aside to peer at the rest of the contents of the red envelope.

 

Sure enough, there was Zoey’s snooty cat, Silver, playing with the toys Dawn had bought her from the Magical Menagerie. They were a couple of felt mice with yarn tails, enchanted with everlasting catnip and a charm that allowed them to run around like real mice. The decor in Zoey’s room looked warm, all hues of red and gold, full of posters crowded with the members of her favorite Quidditch teams.

 

Dawn looked around her own room, all fancy tapestry and expensive fixtures. She’d first tried to put a poster up on her wall last year, a huge print of she, Zoey, Candice, and May in Hogsmeade, but it wasn’t on the wall anymore when she got back for summer break. She got the feeling her mother wasn’t a fan of colorful, eye-catching commodities, especially not when they were slapped on the walls of the inherited Berlitz family estate.

 

A loud, expectant hoot from the window startled her out of her stupor, and she whipped around. An enormous Great Gray owl sat on the window sill, his feathers ruffled.

 

“Oh, of course,” Dawn shook her head clear. “You want dinner,”

 

Dawn had purchased Pip from Eeylops Owl Emporium in Diagon Alley before she began her first year, but he was much smaller then.

 

“You spoil that owl,” Drew would say as soon as he saw Pip in the common room. “He’s enormous,”

 

“Great Grays are supposed to be big, Drew,” Dawn would roll her eyes every time.

She slipped a mouse into Pip’s cage and shut the door behind him, before snatching the World Cup ticket back up. Giving it a last loving gaze, she set off down multiple flights of elaborate stairs to get to the kitchen where her mother and stepdad would be.

 

Johanna was at the stove, with the occasional flick of her wand being the only indicator that she was even doing anything at all. Her blue hair, so similar to Dawn’s own, was tied up in its usual style, and her face was tacit as she worked on dinner.

 

“Mom, guess what,” Dawn asked as she reached over to place the ticket in front of her mom. Johanna’s eyes flicked towards it.

 

“Who gave you that?” Her voice was scrutinous.

 

“Zoey was made Prefect, so her dad got her these tickets from the Ministry,” Dawn explained, feeling disappointment begin to pool in her stomach.

 

“Oh,” Johanna paused, flicking her wand to send a set of dish towels into their drawer. “That’s good for Zoey. I was a prefect back in my day.”

 

“So why aren’t you a Prefect?” A   voice teased from the kitchen table. Dawn squeezed her eyes shut in annoyance at her stepdad’s voice.

 

“Because,” She turned to her stepfather, “Cynthia didn’t make me one.”  

 

Maybe she wasn’t made prefect because of that time in second year when she and May Maple got themselves into a duel with a pair of snooty Ravenclaws in the middle of the hallway. Or perhaps it was because of the time she’d snapped at Ursula in front of Professor Olympia during divination after the pink haired Slytherin had made a snide remark at Candice, who was muggle born. Maybe it was because of the time in fifth year when she had gotten into an argument with Paul Rebolledo that was so loud the whole dining hall heard it. Too many possibilities.

 

She was so busy racking her head for possible reasons she hadn’t been chosen that she almost didn’t even notice her mother placing dinner on the table. Dawn slipped into her seat without another word, the World Cup ticket clenched in her hand.

 

“Here you are, honey.” Johanna kissed her husband’s cheek as she set a bowl of stew down in front of him.

 

Joel was exactly what one would expect upon hearing Dawn groan the word ‘stepdad.’ Tall, physically imposing if you ignored his blossoming beer-belly, and remarkably stupid, the pure-blooded Gryffindor was everything Dawn’s birth father had not been; if not for the fact that she’d be moving out in just a couple of years, she would’ve expressed her distaste for the man far more often.

 

If he made Johanna happy, that was all that mattered. He’d be completing a task that Dawn had been trying to for years now, and that was no small feat. But one thing was for sure-- Dawn couldn’t wait to get out of the stuffy estate and into the stands of the World Cup, where she was sure her friends would be waiting--  Zoey, Drew, May, Ash, Kenny, Gary….

 

“So how do you plan on getting to the Cup,” Johanna didn’t ask, she stated her question.

 

“I’m sure we’ll be apparating, or something. Mr. Quinn has apparated us to Diagon Alley before, and Zoey is actually close to getting her license,” She responded.

 

“Quinn,” Joel wrinkled his fat nose. “He was a Gryffindor when I was. Kind of gangly redhead?”

 

“Yes, that’s him,” Johanna affirmed.

 

“So he went and had himself a daughter?” Joel shook his head. “Never would’ve thought.”

 

“Oh, honey, no,” Johanna laughed. “He married a woman from Ravenclaw. Works in the sports department at the Ministry, in the sports department.

 

Dawn wolfed down her stew before heading upstairs in an attempt to avoid her stepfather. It wasn’t like he was downright evil or anything, but he annoyed Dawn nonetheless. It was just like Zoey said in the letter: “ It’s always really odd to deal with a parent remarrying.”

 

She sat down at her desk and fetched a quill from the repurposed mason jar at the table(it had once been full of owl treats, but Pip made quick work of those), dipping it in ink to write a response to her friend.

 

Zoey,

Thank you SO MUCH!!!! I can’t believe you got tickets!!! It’s going to be so much fun!! (Congrats on getting prefect by the way.)

You can come get me tomorrow, I’ll pack my trunk and then we can go to Diagon Alley together after the match. Joel’s been talking about it all week, Ireland vs. Bulgaria.  That’s going to be insane.

 

Not sure what else to talk about, she finished up the letter as Pip watched over her shoulder, having devoured his mouse from earlier.

 

Anyways, can’t wait to see you.

Dawn

 

-

 

The next morning, Dawn made sure to wake up bright and early, pulling herself into the bathroom with an enormous yawn. Her midnight colored hair was messy and frizzy, mascara was smudged on her left cheek, and she felt as though she had been hit by a bus, but she managed to reign in her appearance.

 

She wondered how Zoey would arrive. Side along apparition? Floo network? Brooms, if she was feeling risky?

 

Her question was answered at around ten when the doorbell rang from downstairs, and there where Zoey and her father. Zoey looked nauseous, but Mr. Quinn looked downright giddy as he shook Joel’s hand and pulled Johanna into an embrace.

 

Dawn gestured for Zoey to come inside, and her friend, looking ruffled, stepped past the enormous, old-fashioned French doors into the manor.

 

“Side-along apparition rips me a new one every time,” She hissed through her teeth. Dawn couldn’t help but notice the glowing prefect’s badge on Zoey’s shoulder, and a mixture of pride in her friend, and disappointment that she herself was not a prefect began to swim in her stomach.

 

“Can’t wait,” She smiled, pulling her best friend into a hug. “It’s been a while, Zoey,”

 

“It really has,” said Zoey, her carnelian eyes glowing. “I’m glad we wrote so frequently. I can’t wait to be back at school with you and everyone else,”

 

“Some of them I’ll be able to do without,” Dawn gritted her teeth, grabbing her trunk from where it lay in the entry hall. “But I’m so excited for the cup! I was reading every Prophet article speculating. You know what they’re saying--”

 

“About Alain Calder?” Zoey interrupted, her eyes lighting up. “I read the article! Alain is speculated to win Bulgaria the match, of course.”

 

“I can’t believe we’re going to watch him play,” Dawn sighed dreamily.

 

Alain was the Bulgarian seeker, and one of the most talked about Quidditch players in the league… Dawn constantly found herself in awe reading about his plays, and the idea of seeing him in person felt unreal.

 

“Tomorrow’s the big day,” Zoey agreed, grabbing Pip’s cage off of Dawn’s trunk helpfully. Dawn beamed in appreciation.

 

“I can’t wait.”

 

With a farewell to her mother and Joel, Dawn took the excitable Mr. Quinn’s arm, taking a deep breath to prepare herself for the coming apparition. With a resounding crack, Dawn felt as though her entire body was being sucked up by a black hole. Darkness fell over her eyes and her breath caught in her throat, unable to be passed through her lungs. She felt her eyes screw up inside her skull, and then, in a split second, it was over, and she was in the kitchen at Zoey’s, trunk at her side.

 

“Hello, Dawn, dear,” a pleasant voice spoke from somewhere in the warm, cluttered kitchen. She turned to see Mrs. Quinn, who had not yet looked up from the soup she was stirring. Her long, wine colored hair was all that Dawn could see other than the occasional flash of the ladle magically stirring her soup.

 

Crack. Zoey and Mr. Quinn materialized in the room, Zoey looking queasy. Her flame-colored hair was scattered across her forehead in a messy manner, something that was usually out of question for Zoey, who liked to keep herself neat.

 

Mrs. Quinn waved her wand, still not looking away from her stew, and Dawn’s trunk floated up the stairs and away to Zoey’s room.

 

“Are you ready for tomorrow, dear?” Zoey’s mother asked no one in particular, and Zoey nodded vigorously.

 

“I have all of my money packed and ready,” She said in a serious voice. “So that if I see something I want, I’ll be able to buy it, no problem.”

 

Dawn privately thought that she could buy Zoey anything she wanted if Zoey asked. Johanna’s fortune was immense, both as a member of the pureblooded Berlitz family, and as an actress. Dawn was proud to uphold her mother’s legacy, both Hogwarts house-wise and skillwise. That was what she told herself, at least.

 

“Dinner ready yet?” Mr. Quinn asked, taking off his coat and hanging it off of his chair. Dawn sighed, content filling her at the carefree atmosphere of Zoey’s warm and inviting home. A fire in the fireplace, her friend by her side, and her World Cup ticket safely tucked into her trunk. The rest of the summer would be wonderful, if all went well.

 

-

 

“I think I’m gonna be sick this time...for real…” Zoey groaned, clasping Dawn’s shoulder to steady herself as the two stumbled at the top of the hill.

 

They looked down over the site of the World Cup, and excitement roared to life in Dawn’s belly at the sight. It seemed as though there were miles of tents spanning the campground, black and white and red and green. The wizards below looked like tiny ants on the ground, some zooming about on broomsticks, others with carts piled high with merchandise.

 

Dawn and the Quinns made their way down the hill and soon she found herself surrounded by tents and faces, some friendly and some harried. After setting up the tent, Mr. Quinn wiped the sweat from his brow and gave Dawn and Zoey a smile.

 

“Okay, now run along,” he panted. “Go have fun. Be back at the stadium by dark, the match starts at seven!”

 

“I hear some matches can last literal months,” Zoey said as the two began to make their way through the campsite. “Imagine we get stuck here for that long. We’d probably have to leave for school,”

 

“Well, duh,” Dawn elbowed her. “I’m not missing this year for anything. It’s our sixth year, and you’re a prefect.” She looked up at the sky thoughtfully for a moment. Wow, it’s beautiful out here… “Plus, Serena said that something special is happening this year, right?”

 

“That’s right, she did,” Zoey replied, considering the thought. “I wonder what she was talking about,”

 

Suddenly the pair had to swerve out of the way of an oncoming merch cart. Zoey whisked Dawn aside, and the two of them found themselves in between tents, one emblazoned with a handsome face. His hair was dark as night, contrasting with his crisp, sky blue eyes. His expression was one of quiet victory, not quite smug, but not so humble either. He exuded confidence.

 

“Alain,” Zoey breathed. “It’s no wonder most girls are in love with him. Even I can admire his skills,”

 

“I might be,” Dawn sighed, staring up at the enchanted tent.

 

At that moment, the opening of the tent flapped wide, revealing a familiar face exiting his elaborate abode. Long, wavy violet hair cascaded down his back like he was some sort of prince, and sharp emerald green eyes accentuated his angular face. He was clad in nothing but a crop top and shorts, a stark contrast to many other wizards at the Cup who had no idea how to dress.

 

His eyes widened in surprise at the sight of Dawn and Zoey, a smirk curving his lips.

 

“Oh, hey, girls! Been a while,” Harley greeted. “I see you’re admiring my lovely tent, and I have to agree with you. Alain is hot. But you’re two years too young, hate to break it to you…”

 

He turned to stare at his enchanted tent. “I, however...”

 

“Harley, who are you tormenting now?” Called a voice from the tent, thick with amusement. A pink haired woman poked her head outside, her eyes lighting up at the sight of Dawn and Zoey. “Hi, Dawn! Hi Zoey!”

Solidad Holloway was Ravenclaw’s head girl, a stark contrast to Harley, a Slytherin who adored magicking shortcuts for himself at every opportunity. Still, the two were adjoined at the hip, and had been for as long as Dawn could remember.

 

“Listen, hun, have you seen Drew?” Harley asked Dawn, curling a piece of shining mulberry hair around his finger. “I know you two are all buddy buddy,”

 

“No, I haven’t seen him yet,” Dawn replied, “But if I do, you’ll be the first one to know, I swear,”

 

“Alrighty,” He replied, shaking his head. “He’s probably off picking flowers to give to Maple. I’m embarrassed for her.”

 

“Yes, you’re probably right,” Zoey nodded sagely, in a clear attempt at humoring Harley. Dawn noticed that her friend’s arms were crossed and her fingers were tapping impatiently against her shoulder. “We’re gonna head off now. See you two at school,”

 

“Yes, we’ll see you!” Solidad smiled, giving them a wave. “And you better be looking forward to this year! Things are happening that you won’t want to miss,”

 

There it is again, thought Dawn. That thing that people keep mentioning. I wonder what it is.

 

The two departed from Harley’s Alain-covered tent and back onto their path, marveling at all of the different types of people there. It seemed as though the Cup was packed with wizards and witches from every corner of the globe, and Dawn pressed closer to Zoey as they passed a group of leering wizards from who-knows-where.

 

“Where are we going, anyway?” Dawn asked as they reached an intersection, looking up at her best friend. Zoey’s pretty, tan face seemed to glow in the sunlight, and the freckles that dotted her nose seemed to Dawn as though someone sprinkled chocolate chips there. Her tomboyish good looks did not go ignored, and Dawn knew that Zoey had many admirers, both as a skilled witch and as a successful Chaser for the Gryffindor house team.

 

“The place should be around here somewhere,” Zoey wrinkled her nose, and Dawn stepped to the side as her companion whipped out her wand. “ Orchideous,

 

A bouquet of red carnations sprouted from the tip of Zoey’s wand, and she swept them up with a flourish.

 

“What are those for?” Dawn questioned her, furrowing her brows in confusion. Zoey dusted herself off and stood back up, scanning the tent laden crowd. She began to make her way through a group of people, and Dawn had to hurry to keep up. When the crowd around them thinned, Dawn found Zoey there.

 

Another girl stood next to her, the bundle of carnations in her arms, and Dawn recognized her instantly as Candice, a sixth year Hufflepuff and one of Dawn’s close friends. She was muggleborn, with snowy skin and ebony hair, and eyes blue like an ice floe.

 

Irritation sparked in Dawn’s chest. Had Zoey just dragged her along to make her third wheel? She knew of her best friend’s enormous crush on Candice, and if Candice were a little less oblivious, Dawn was sure that she would know too.

 

Candice turned to notice Dawn, and her blue eyes lit up. She shoved the flowers back at Zoey and raced across the clearing, engulfing Dawn in a hug that picked her up off of her feet and swung her around.

 

“Dawn!” Candice laughed. “I’m so glad you’re here. Zoey told me that you two would be here together, but I didn’t realize how much I missed you until I saw you standing there!”

 

“I--missed--you--too--” Dawn spluttered, laughing as Candice set her down. Zoey cleared her throat, her eyes shining with amusement.

 

“We want to start heading down to the stadium soon,” She said, handing Candice’s flowers back to her.

 

“Oh, Zoey, these are so beautiful,” The black haired girl sighed. “I love them. Dawn, what kind of flowers did Zoe Zoe conjure up for you?”

 

There was a brief and awkward silence in which Dawn met eyes with Zoey, and the two of them cursed Candice’s obliviousness together. This had been going on since fourth year, but by no means did that make it any less frustrating, especially for Zoey.

 

“Something yellow,” Dawn replied quickly. “Tulips,”

 

“Oh, I love tulips!” Candice cried, pulling Zoey into a hug. “You are so thoughtful! That’s so cute!”

 

Dawn stifled a laugh as Zoey’s face flushed. While the duo of best friends was unsure whether or not Candice liked girls, it was fun to watch Zoey pine.

 

The trio made their way down to the stadium as the sky began to darken, Candice and Zoey walking ahead with Dawn bringing up the rear. That spark of irritation was back again, and she wondered why Zoey even bothered to bring her along if she’d just been planning to meet Candice.

 

Oh, well. The conversation with Harley meant that her other friend, Drew, was around here somewhere. She and Drew had been pals since their first year, after being sorted into the same house, and as seeker on their house team, he was quite popular with girls(namely Brianna, a fourth year Hufflepuff).

 

Dawn smirked at the thought. They could try all they wanted, but Drew only had eyes for May Maple, another of Dawn’s close friends. The Hufflepuff was nearly as oblivious as Candice, though Dawn could swear that she was crushing on Drew as well. The two bickered like a cat and a dog, but at the end of the day, it was obvious how much they cared for each other.

 

“Dawn!” A rough, enthused voice snapped her out of her stupor. She whipped around, her eyes scanning the crowd for whoever had called her name, but she didn’t have to look far. Ash Ketchum was pushing through the crowd, his arms laden with snacks.

 

“Ash!” Dawn called to him, her heart soaring. Ash Ketchum was a Gryffindor in Dawn’s year and one of the brightest, most fun people she had ever met. They’d bonded in third year, when a fight between Ash and Paul Rebolledo had spiraled out of control and Dawn was forced to help with the collateral.

 

He was one of the few who had never treated her differently because she was a Slytherin.

 

No one had expected her to  be sorted into the house of serpents on the first day. Not even her mother, who had sworn to her father that Dawn would break the Berlitz legacy by becoming the family’s first Gryffindor, or Ravenclaw… but there she had been, the sorting hat on her head, and it had called out Slytherin.

 

“You have all the marks of a great witch, but your talents will require more refinery than others. You’re undoubtedly brave… resourceful…. No, you won’t fare well with the Gryffindor… in that case... better be Slytherin!”

 

“Ash!” She complained as he engulfed her in a hug. “You’re going to stain my shirt with all of that greasy food!”

 

“Yeah, leave the poor girl’s clothes alone,” Said another voice from behind him. With orange hair bright like a brand of fire and eyes like the ocean, Misty Waterflower had been Ash’s partner in crime for as long as Dawn could remember knowing them. She had never trusted Dawn much, and Dawn knew why. It was fairly common knowledge that Misty and her sisters were purebred Gryffindor, and she had much distaste for Slytherin house. The idea that Slytherin churned out Death Eaters was a popular one, and Dawn couldn’t blame Misty for feeling that way. All she could do was hope to change her mind.

 

“Hi, Misty,” Dawn greeted her hesitantly. Zoey and Candice stopped walking and turned around, Zoey greeting the two of her housemates, and Candice as bubbly and enthusiastic as ever.

 

“Hey,” the other girl replied. Dawn sighed in defeat.

 

“It’s so great you guys are here!” Ash grinned. He was decked out in Bulgarian apparel, and Dawn guessed he must also be a fan of Alain. “I’m so pumped to watch an actual official Quidditch match in real life,”

 

“I know, right?” Zoey agreed. “House games are fun and all, but they’re nothing compared to professional teams.”

 

“I don’t know anything about Quidditch, so I’m just along for the ride!” Candice put in brightly. “It’s so cool to see you all so excited. My mum got me tickets for my birthday, but she had no idea how big of a deal they were,”

 

“Your parents are muggles, right?” Misty asked. It wasn’t a rude question, nor did Misty intend it to be, but Candice still looked nervous. She’d been on the receiving end of harsh words in regards to her parentage a few times already, and while she never let them get to her, Dawn could tell it still made her feel insecure.

 

“Oh, yeah,” She replied. “They are,”

 

Misty sent a glance over in Dawn’s direction. “Better be careful then. You know a lot of wizards don’t have the best judgment when it comes to muggle borns.”

 

“If you’re suggesting--” Zoey bristled, stepping in front of Dawn. Dawn shook her head, pulling Zoey back.

 

“Zoey, don’t. It’s not worth it.” She protested, keeping Zoey close to her. She didn’t say anything to Misty, half out of a desire to avoid drama, and half out the fear of invoking Misty’s wrath. Dawn glanced at Ash, who looked confused. The nuance of Misty’s barbed words had gone straight over his head. “Let’s just go to the stadium…”

 

The campgrounds were beginning to thin out as people made their way to the match, and despite the earlier turmoil with Misty, butterflies flitted around in Dawn’s stomach at the prospect of seeing A. a real Quidditch match and B. Alain.

 

The stands were packed. “Where are our seats?” Zoey called over the roar of the crowd. The group shoved through close-knit packs of wizards in an attempt to find their box, to no avail.

 

“Hey! Berlitz!” A voice shouted from above. Dawn looked up so fast she nearly gave herself whiplash, spotting the vibrant green hair of Drew above. He was covered from head to toe in Ireland merch, with a bright green shamrock pinned to his chest. “Come up here! We have an empty seat!”

 

Dawn looked back at her group. Misty looked utterly suspicious, as though Dawn and Drew were plotting to kill muggleborns together, and Ash was waving at Drew with a wide grin.

 

“Do you mind, Zoey?” The Slytherin asked her best friend, who looked up. It wasn’t that Dawn didn’t want to sit with Zoey-- she did, but she didn’t think she could handle third wheeling so hard, especially when her other choice for company, Misty, hated her guts.

 

“No, it’s fine,” Zoey replied, her eyes understanding. “I’ll meet up with you after the match. Don’t get lost, okay? Stay with Drew,”

 

“I’ll be fine!” Dawn laughed, nudging Zoey. “Don’t worry about me. We can talk all about the match tonight,”

 

“Of course,” Zoey pulled Dawn into a hug. “I’ll see you later.”

 

She made her way to the stadium stairs, her surroundings falling into shadow as she stepped under the row above her to walk up the stairs. A heavy shoulder bumped her, and she hastened to apologize, but found herself staring into a familiar pair of dark eyes.

 

“Watch where you’re going,” Paul hissed.

 

Dawn wished she could sink into the stairs and disappear as he stopped to glare at her, and the space between them seemed to get smaller. Paul was a Slytherin too, and despite living with him for the majority of five years, he still scared the shit out of her. They’d gotten into countless arguments, and she’d covered up multitudes of duels instigated by him, but their relationship remained one of mutual dislike.

 

“You first,” She snapped back. “You act like you’re the only person that even matters--”

 

“I don’t have time for this,” He cut her off, storming past. Dawn watched him go, an odd mixture of rage and dissatisfaction swimming within her. Oh well. Forget about it. Let’s go to Drew.

 

A gnawing sense of unease followed her up the stairs after the encounter with Paul, and she slipped into her seat next to Drew quietly. It struck her then the amount of significant people that were around them-- the Haydens were pure blooded, and like the Berlitzes, they had many connections.

 

Drew’s father was front and center. He was a compact man who looked to be approaching his late fifties, and Dawn was surprised to see how much he looked like his son. They shared the same green hair and square face, but the similarities stopped there. Next to him was Drew’s mother, and while Drew took after his father in the face, he inherited his mother’s tall build and emerald eyes.

 

“This must be Johanna’s daughter,” Drew’s mother held out a hand to shake her own, and Dawn straightened her posture despite feeling intimidated by the beautiful woman in front of her. “Drew speaks very highly of you in his letters home,”

 

“Aww, Drew,” Dawn smirked, sending a teasing glance his way. Her friend stuck out his tongue.

 

“Dawn, isn’t it?” Drew’s father clarified, his voice sharp. He reached up to remove his hat. “Yes, I was sorry to hear about your father. Rigel was a friend of mine. He did great work as a member of the Ministry.”

 

“Oh,” Dawn hesitated. It made sense for Dawn’s father to have known the Haydens, but she hadn’t expected something like that to come up.

 

She and her father had been close. Following in the footsteps of he and Johanna was one of the things that made being in Slytherin feel worth it. His untimely death had rocked the Berlitz family, and while it had happened nearly ten years ago, nobody had any answers; they just knew he died. Johanna wouldn’t even tell Dawn the department he’d worked in.

 

“Way to make it heavy, dad.” Drew flipped his hair, and Dawn gave the Haydens one last smile before turning her attention fully to him. “Soooo… where’s your merch, huh?”

 

“I didn’t buy any, but if I had,   I’d be wearing red and black, baby,”

 

Drew considered this before adjusting his shamrock nonchalantly. “Hmm… I might have to kill you for that,”

 

“Listen,” She interrupted their banter. “Something happened just--”

 

Ladies and Gentlemen!” Boomed a larger-than-life-voice from somewhere in the stands. Drew nudged Dawn and pointed her in the direction of the Minister’s box. There, the Minister of Magic, Lance, stood, his wand to his throat to amplify his voice. Dawn thought that she had never seen a wizard who looked more on-top-of-it. “Welcome to the four-hundred-and-twenty-second Quidditch World Cup between Bulgaria and Ireland. I want a nice, clean game, you hear me?”

 

The Quidditch players were not yet in the stadium, but Dawn doubted that they couldn’t hear him with a voice so loud. She eyed the rings on either side of the stadium, excitement coursing through her veins.

“I wonder what Alain is going to do!”

 

Lance’s voice boomed once again, and he took the wand from his throat, a ball of light soaring from the tip and into the arena. “Now let the match begin!”

 

Chapter Text

The match felt like it was over before it had even begun.

 

Drew was satisfied and wasn’t going to hesitate to be smug about it-- Ireland had won the cup, if only by a hair. The roar of the crowd was immeasurable, threatening to crush his very skull, and green fireworks shot into the sky, bursting into a million particles of victorious light.

 

“What a pity,” Dawn sighed next to him. “Alain caught the snitch, but Bulgaria lost the match! Unbelievable!”

 

“He knew that his team had no chance,” Drew flipped his hair, more in an attempt to annoy his best friend than anything. “He caught the snitch to end the match, because he knew there was no way Bulgaria would be able to catch up!”

 

Dawn’s eyes were two full moons, green sparks reflected in them like stars as she gazed in awe. “But he was so incredible… did you see those moves? Drew, you need to learn some of those!”

 

“Oh, trust me, I’ve made a mental mark already,” He looked back out across the pitch. He’d be lying if he said that wasn’t true. His eyes had been glued to Alain Calder throughout the match. Okay, Drew had no idea how this guy did it, but he was like a god. He soared through the air like a phoenix, or even a dragon, and it was like he had eyes only for the snitch! “We just have to hope that El Capitan lets me use some of the moves.”

 

Paul was Slytherin’s team captain, and he and Drew did not get along. Whether they were bickering over plays or Paul’s treatment of others (namely Dawn,) they were not friends, on or off the pitch.

 

“Speaking of Paul, listen, I didn’t get to tell you-” Dawn began, but she was quickly interrupted.

 

“Let’s get back to the campsite,” Drew’s mother called, clapping her hands with a smile, her blond hair bathed in green light so that momentarily, it was the same shade as her husband’s.

 

Drew gave Dawn a meaningful look. I wonder what happened? But he didn’t want to ask around his parents, not when they thought so highly of the Rebolledos. Brandon Rebolledo, the father of Reggie and Paul, had been close with Drew’s own father while they were at school, and Mr. Hayden refused to hear any slander about his friend’s son.

 

His mother took Dawn’s arm, and for a moment Drew’s friend looked nervous until she realized that they were apparating. Drew grabbed his father’s beefy arm, unable to help but wonder whether one day he would be the beefy one.

 

Then they were back at the tent, and Drew blinked the wooziness from his eyes. Next to him, Dawn did the same, yawning wide.

 

“I can’t wait to get some shut-eye! I have to go back and find Zoey’s tent,” She said, her voice groggy. Drew smirked, nudging her.

 

“Seriously, Berlitz? It’s like eleven,”

 

“Yeah, and that’s late!” She protested.

 

“Well, at any rate, it was very nice to meet you, Dawn,” Drew’s father reached for her hand, shaking it. “You truly remind me of your father. I’m glad that Andrew is keeping good company,”

Dawn beamed, warming Drew’s heart. “Thank you, Mr. Hayden. That really means a lot coming from you,”

 

And then she was making her way back through the crowd. Drew mentally kicked himself. She hadn’t gotten to tell him what happened! What if it was important?

 

“Do you think she’ll be okay walking back to her tent alone?” Drew’s mother said, her voice full of concern.

 

“Of course,” Mr. Hayden said, as though he were thoroughly convinced. “She’s Rigel’s girl, after all.”

 

-

 

Dawn hurried through the packed campsite, trying her best not to bump into others and failing miserably. She sucked air in through her teeth, impatience in every step, unable to wait to get back to Zoey.

 

Okay, there’s the house elf merch cart, she noted. That means I must be close.

 

“Dawn!” Zoey hollered, waving her arms wildly. “Over here!”

 

Dawn rushed to her best friend’s side, slipping into their tent after her. “Phew, I was beginning to get worried I was lost!” She panted.

 

Looking up, she noticed just how enormous the inside of the tent was-- not so big as some others Dawn had heard about, like Drew’s five bedroom tent-- but large nonetheless, two rooms and a kitchen spanning out to a remarkable size despite the small appearance of the tent.

 

Mr. and Mrs. Quinn were a room over in what must be their bedroom.

 

“Hi, Dawn!” Mr. Quinn waved from his bed, his striped nightcap nearly falling off his head. “How did you like the match?”

 

“Oh, I loved it!” Dawn clapped her hands together in excitement. “I just wish Bulgaria would’ve won. Alain was so much more amazing in person, which is pretty hard to believe!”

 

“Look who Candice and I found,” Zoey nudged Dawn towards the next room, and the blue haired girl suddenly found herself crushed in a breath stealing hug. She pulled away to see May Maple grinning at her, her chestnut colored hair tied up in a loose bun. Candice was laying on the floor in the back of the room, totally knocked out.

 

“Dawn! We were just talking about that dreamboat Alain,” May shook Dawn by her shoulders. “That snitch catch! Amazing! I could only ever hope to make a catch like that!”

 

May was the Hufflepuff seeker, but that wasn’t her only tie to Hogwarts. Her father, Norman Maple, taught Arithmancy there. Dawn had left that class as soon as she could, but she knew that Drew still took and enjoyed it. Maybe just in an attempt to look good in the eyes of May’s dad.

 

“I know!” Dawn agreed. “He was crazy. I was sitting with Drew, and we just couldn’t take our eyes off him!”

 

“He sure knows how to play a game of Quidditch, that’s for sure,” Zoey remarked thoughtfully. “Dawn, I wish you’d try out for Slytherin’s team, honestly. You’d make a right good chaser with some training,”

 

Okay, Dawn had to admit. Being on a quidditch team sounded pretty great. She imagined herself flying with the other chasers, tossing the quaffle to each other in perfect harmony… reveling in Drew’s victories with him at the afterparties. But a darker shadow encroached on her daydreams, revealing itself in the figure of Slytherin’s own team captain. Dawn and Paul working with each other would be a catastrophe. Maybe in another life…

 

“Honestly, I prefer cheering you guys on up in the stands!” She laughed. “I mean, unless you’re playing Slytherin. Then I hope you lose!”

 

“We were sitting real close to Reggie and Maylene,” May began, “And Reggie already wants to implement some of the strategies we saw tonight in Hufflepuff’s practices. Iconic!”

 

Reggie and Maylene…

 

Dawn paused. “Was Paul with them?”

 

“Now that I think of it, no,” May replied, her nose scrunching up in thought. “Maybe he just didn’t want to come to the cup.”

 

“No, I--” Dawn thought about telling her friends about her encounter with him on the stairwell, but it didn’t feel right. It felt like something she should keep to herself.

 

Where was he going? Why not sit with Reggie? It’s not like he has anywhere he’d rather be. I’d eat my skirt if he had a girlfriend. This doesn’t make any sense.

 

“Dawn? You okay?” Zoey rubbed her back in an attempt to comfort her. Dawn shrugged her off.

 

“I’m fine. Just exhausted,” She made an effort to stage a huge fake yawn, stretching and hopping onto the pallet the girls had set up on the floor.

 

What was Paul up to?

 

-

 

Drew settled into his bed, warmth enveloping him and his silk pajamas. He heaved a contented sigh, placing his wand on the floor carefully next to him. It was a handsome wand, twelve inches and crafted from elm with a unicorn hair core. Drew polished it every day, just in case he needed to show off in front of any Gryffindors.

 

No sooner had Drew closed his eyes than he was forced to open them again.

 

Bang.

 

He sat up on his mattress, reaching for his wand.

 

Fwoosh. The sound of a roaring fire boomed what seemed like just outside his tent, and he scrambled to his feet, throwing on an emerald colored cloak that he had left on the floor.

 

“Andrew,” his father’s voice called, strong and stern, full of urgency. “We need to leave. Now.”

 

Drew rushed into the foyer, his bare feet slapping against the linoleum floors. It’s insane how they can fit all of this in a magic tent, he thought, but quickly forced his mind back onto the more pressing issue at hand.

 

Bang. Louder and closer now. The fire still roared, and the inside of the tent glowed orange. Whatever was happening was happening just outside.

 

“Dad, what’s going--” He began, but his mother cut him off.

 

“Take my arm,” Her tone was final. Drew did as he was told.

 

They were back in the Hayden manor. With a crack, Drew’s father appeared next to them, looking harried.  

 

“Death eaters,” His voice quivered. “At the cup. In those horrible masks. Chanting. Merlin’s beard,”

 

Drew’s mother rushed to his side, taking her husband by the arm and guiding him to the couch. He sat, breathing heavily.

 

Drew felt his mouth opening and closing in shock. Death Eaters? At the Quidditch World Cup? This can’t be happening. You-Know-Who hasn’t been seen in--

 

“Death Eaters at the Cup?” His mother gasped, her hand over her mouth. “That’s… this is… unprecedented.”

 

The Cup was supposed to be safe and secure, with countless protective spells on it. This wasn’t supposed to happen. Drew recounted with abject horror the fun he’d been having, the unity he’d felt with other Quidditch fans. Were some of them Death Eaters?

 

Then, he remembered something that made his mouth go dry. “My friends are back there.”

 

His mother stood up, her eyes full of sadness. She made to walk over to him, to hold him still. “Oh, Drew, honey,”

 

He allowed his mother to embrace him, but stared at the wall, his jaw set. Dawn was there. May was there, somewhere. Solidad. Harley. Dawn’s friends. And what could he do but sit safe in his home and pray that they made it out alive?

 

“I’m going to bed,” He said quickly. “And hoping that this will all be over by morning.”

 

“Oh, of course, honey,” His mother said, her voice understanding, her emerald eyes shining with sympathy. “I’ll bring you cocoa,”

 

“No, it’s fine,” He turned her down, making his way to the stairs. “I just want to go to sleep.”

 

Drew darted up the stairs, skipping steps as he went, finally finding his room and closing the door behind him. Click. The lock fell shut with a snap. He threw off the cloak, removing his pajamas as quickly as he could, and changing back into his usual robes.

 

With a deep, shaky breath, he took a look in the mirror. My friends are in trouble.

 

There was only one thing he could do. Using every ounce of magical energy he possessed, Drew turned on his heel, and, remembering every lesson taught to him at the watchful hand of his father, apparated.

 

He was not expecting the agony.

 

Feet pounded the ground around him and screams filled the air with fear. Everything was basked in a terrible orange glow, and ahead of him, a looming fire rose, demolishing everything in its path.

 

White hot blinding pain shot through his upper leg as though he had been caught in a bear trap. He struggled to crawl forward, but he found that he could barely move-- and when he looked down, shock and horror nearly caused him to black out.

 

Drew had been splinched. Even thinking the word sent waves of nausea to his stomach. His left leg was gone below the knee, left in his room when he’d botched the apparition attempt.

 

He sucked air in through his teeth, squeezing his eyes shut and trying again to crawl forward. I have to know if they’re okay--

 

Incarcerous,” A deep, distorted voice snarled, and thick vine-like ropes shot out from the ground and wrapped themselves around Drew. He gasped for breath, struggling to look up, and found himself staring at what could only be a Death Eater. “I didn’t think anyone would be stupid enough to apparate here, let alone splinch himself.”

 

A shining metallic mask covered their face, and their wand was pointed cruelly at Drew.

 

Is this the end for me? God, how could I have been so stupid? Why did I try to apparate?

 

“Expelliarmus!” A fresh voice yelled. A willowy figure with flowing purple hair had stepped in front of him, viciously whirling his wand. “Get lost, you stupid bitch!”

 

Harley snatched the Death Eater’s wand from the air as though it were a flying makeup brush.

 

“I said, get lost!” Snapped Harley again. The Death Eater considered its options and vanished, apparating elsewhere to wreak wandless havoc. Harley whipped around, pointing his wand at Drew. “ Emancipare.”

 

The bindings around him released, and Drew gasped for breath, clawing at the earth around him.

 

Another person was crouching beside him, and Drew twisted around to see Solidad. Her eyes were serious, lacking their usual humor, and she was holding Drew’s severed leg.

 

The sight would have been a hell of a lot more jarring had he not been in so much pain. Things were beginning to look hazy as Solidad uncorked a bottle of something.

 

“Dittany--?” Harley began, rushing to Drew’s side. “What are you--”

 

Then he must have noticed Drew’s leg, and he let out a strangled gasp. “The little bitch went and got himself splinched?”

 

Solidad’s hands were shaking, and she flinched at the word. Splinched. It was awful, truly. Something no wizard or witch ever wanted to see or feel, and now Drew understood exactly why.

 

Smoke rose from his wound as Solidad poured the potion over it, but Drew couldn’t feel a thing except for the most intense set of pins and needles he’d ever had-- he choked, coughing, shocked.

 

“Is it back on yet?” He managed to speak, his voice contorted with pain.

 

“That’s what she said,” Whispered Harley. “Okay, bad timing. I’m sorry.”

 

Solidad sat back, finally, wiping sweat from her forehead. “Can you move it, Drew?”

 

Drew attempted to wiggle his toes and nearly collapsed in relief when he found that he could. He scrambled to his feet. “Solidad, you’re a miracle worker--”

“What did you think you were doing ?” She stood, the panic in her eyes replaced with intense anger. “Drew, you don’t have your apparition license. You got s-splinched and you could’ve died!”

 

“Easy, Sol,” Harley stepped forwards, wrapping his arms around her. “That was some advanced healing, hun. He was lucky to have you,”

 

“Too lucky.” Guilt washed over Drew like a wave, and he turned to look behind him. The campsite had been ravaged, skeletal remains of tents looming out of the ashy ground. Smoke obscured most of it, but the campsite seemed more or less empty.

 

“Where did the Death Eaters go?” He wondered, his eyes scanning the site. And then, he saw it.

 

An enormous, evil thing, high in the sky, smoky like a cloud, glowing green. It took the appearance of a skull, its mouth agape as a python slithered out of it.

 

“Well, paint me green and call me a cactus,” Harley breathed. “I do believe that that’s the Dark Mark.”

 

-

 

May was out of breath. Her heart thudded against her ribcage as though it were banging against the bars of its prison cell. Together with Dawn, Zoey, and Candice, she had retreated into the woods at the command of the Quinns.

 

Somewhere out there (hopefully safe at home by now) was her family. She’d left Max and her parents when she first saw her friends, Zoey and Candice with Ash and Misty. Her mom had given her a kiss on the forehead and allowed her to go.

 

Being separated from them was driving May crazy. Are they okay? Have they been captured? Tortured? Killed?

 

She’d heard stories of what the Death Eaters were capable of all her life. Her father had drilled the notion of the danger they posed into her head since she was old enough to understand. Hell, she’d had nightmares of them coming for her and her family.

 

“What are we going to do?” She asked, frustration in her voice. “None of us can apparate, not safely at least. We aren’t safe here!”

 

Dawn’s eyes were wide. “I don’t know,” She responded truthfully.

 

They were in the woods, after fifteen minutes of running like their lives depended on it. They all looked ragged, Candice and Zoey holding each other while Dawn paced nervously, the tip of her wand lit and her eyes scanning the thick forest for any sign of danger.

 

“We have to go back,” Zoey said, holding her breath.


Dawn turned on her. “Are you kidding? We’ll get ourselves blown up back there!”

 

“It’s the only way to find my parents,” The redhead replied. “They can apparate us home,”

 

May knew that Zoey’s parents worked with the Ministry, and Mr. Quinn was undoubtedly back at the campsite attempting to get the Death Eaters under control.  Her stomach felt sick at the thought of Mr. Quinn fighting the Death Eaters, and she prayed that he wasn’t hurt. Zoey looked as though she were holding herself together well, but May knew it was for Candice’s sake.

 

The muggleborn had next to no idea what was going on. Dawn had given a choppy explanation of what a Death Eater was while they were running, but May knew that it wasn’t enough to make her understand the gravity of the situation.

 

“Okay, we’ll go back,” May decided. “Zoey, lead the way, you have the best sense of direction,”

 

Dawn looked apprehensive, but she followed Zoey anyway, and Candice stayed in the back of the group next to May. Together the four carefully picked their way through the woods.

 

As the brush around them began to thin, May caught a whiff of the acrid odor of burning plastic, and she stepped over the skeletal remains of a tent on her way back into the clearing.

 

It had been ravaged. The sky was grey with smoke, and it was almost like a tent-graveyard. May felt relieved that she saw no bodies, laying on the ashy ground unconscious or worse, and she kept her eyes on the ground in her attempts to avoid wreckage.

 

“What’s that in the sky?” Candice asked, her voice hesitant.

 

May looked up, and her breath caught in her throat. An enormous skull floated ominously in the air, with a ghastly snake slithering from its jaws. It cast an eerie green glow upon her friends’ faces, which looked as terrified as May felt.

 

“The Dark Mark,” Dawn gasped. “It’s what… it’s what You-Know-Who and his followers leave above places where they’ve killed.”

 

Candice gasped. “So they… killed someone here…”

Zoey looked queasy. “We need to find my dad.”

 

She tore off deeper into the wreckage graveyard, until she was nearly obscured by smoke. Zoey was nothing but a running silhouette, trying desperately to find her family.

 

“Wait!” Dawn called, tearing after her. Candice was quick to follow. May wasn’t sure if she was going to like what they found if they kept looking, but she knew she didn’t want to be alone here, especially with the Dark Mark hovering over her like death itself.

 

The group of four moved quickly through the rubble. May could feel Zoey growing more frantic by the second, her chest heaving, but she knew better than to call out if Death Eaters could still be around.

 

Suddenly, out of the smoke, appeared three silhouettes, so quick and obscured by the smoke that Zoey and Dawn nearly crashed into them. Startled gasps rang out through the mist, and May blinked rapidly in an attempt to discern the new people.

 

Relief filled her upon laying her eyes on the tallest member of the trio-- long purple hair, emerald eyes, she knew it was Harley. Solidad was on his right, her wand at the ready, and with a shiver May noted that there was blood on her knees and hands. The last member of the trio was the one that was the most shocking to May; Drew Hayden, his green hair disheveled, an elaborate streak of dried blood twisting around his lower left leg like a vine on a tree trunk.

 

Dawn flew at Drew, attacking him with an embrace, and May shoved down the lump in her throat, formed half out of sheer relief, and, though she hated to admit it, half out of jealousy.

 

“You’re safe,” Drew murmured, relief in his eyes as he stepped away from Dawn.

 

“We ran into the woods,” The blue haired girl explained, and May could hear that she was choked up.

 

“Okay, enough drama, yes we’re glad everyone is safe, but let’s focus on what’s more important. Getting out of here? ” Harley snapped irritably. “Although, I am glad to see that you’re okay, Maple. I want to be the one to end you,”

 

May couldn’t help but laugh. Harley cared. He was glad to see she was okay, despite his method of telling her that.

 

Drew’s head snapped up at the mention of May’s name, and she could’ve sworn she almost felt her heart stop.

 

“May, I’m… glad to see that you’re alive,” He stuttered, “Oh, and, um, you too, Zoey and Candice,”

 

“We don’t have time for this,” Zoey’s voice was strained. “I need to find my parents.”

 

“The Maples apparated back to Petalburg when this first broke out,” Solidad said, and May let out a breath of relief. “They didn’t want to leave without you, May, but I told them I would bring you home if Mr. Quinn didn’t. Harley came with me, and we found Drew, and he was…”

 

“Just fine!” Drew interrupted. “I was just fine.”

 

“Yeah, he was just fine.” Harley scoffed.

“I have no clue where the Quinns are,” Solidad said. Suddenly, she tensed, looking up. “But most Ministry officials split up to-- duck!

 

To duck?!”  Zoey screeched.

 

“No! Everyone, duck-”

 

May did as she was told, dropping to the ground, just as what seemed like many voices called out from all around them-- “ STUPEFY!”

 

The stunning spell brushed right over their heads, and Candice grabbed May’s hand. May was startled to find that she was shaking like a leaf.

 

“Stop!” A voice rang out. “Stop it! That’s my daughter!”

 

Mr. Quinn was pushing past two robed figures. Zoey immediately got to her feet, running to her father and throwing her arms around him.

 

“Step away from her, Quinn,” A deep voice called out. “You don’t know that that’s the real Zoey.”

 

“Excuse me? What are you talking about, Lance? How dare you? This is my daughter, and if you have any veritaserum--”

 

“That won’t be necessary!” Zoey yelled. “I’m no damn Death Eater! Ask me anything, and I’ll answer it!”

 

“Okay,” Lance said, stepping forward. May was in awe-- there he was, the Minister of Magic. He was just as powerful looking as her father had described him, and the cape flowing elegantly behind him completed his image. “Go on, Quinn. Ask her a question.”

 

“This is absurd,” Mr. Quinn snapped. This was the first time that May had ever seen the man anything but gleeful, but he conceded to Lance’s wishes despite his rage. “What is the full name of your cat, and what does it look like?”

 

“Reverend Silver Machete McGlam the second,” Zoey responded immediately. Harley snickered. “And she’s pale grey with green eyes and one bent whisker!”

 

“She’s right,” confirmed Mr. Quinn, turning to Lance, his body language hostile. “This is obnoxious. Just let me get these kids home.”

 

“I can apparate,” Harley spoke up, and Solidad nudged him for speaking out of turn.

 

“I need names!” Lance snapped his fingers. The other aurors around them murmured in agreement.

 

“I’m Dawn Berlitz,” Dawn spoke up. “These are Drew Hayden, Candice Donohue, May Maple, Solidad Holloway, and Harley Thornwood. Please, we were just looking for Zoey’s father--”

“Slow down,” Snapped an auror to the left of the group. He was large and well muscled, his wand still pointing at the group.  May bit her lip at the tone he took with her friend, but dared not speak.

 

“...Solidad Holloway, and Harley Thornwood.” Lance listed the names, no sooner a name leaving his lips before the next one took its place. He nodded at the muscular auror. “That’s everyone accounted for, Surge.”

 

“That means we can all go home,” Mrs. Quinn interjected, stepping out from the circle to stand my her husband. Her wand was lowered at her side, and she pulled Zoey close to her. “These kids need to get back to their families.”

 

May silently agreed with her. Her legs felt like jelly and she just wanted to be back at home with her family, to see that they were all okay. She felt terrible that Max had had to experience something like this, even if he was safe. Now she had a hint of an idea how her parents had felt during the first Wizarding War.

 

“I’ll take Drew,” Solidad offered, stretching out her arms. “I know where his house is.”

 

“And you’re a seventh year?” Lance squinted at her.

 

“Yes. I am. I would never apparate illegally, sir.” May could’ve sworn she saw Solidad send a glare at Drew as she spoke.

 

“That’s all in order, then,” Lance replied. “Quinn, I assume you’ll be taking your daughter and Miss Berlitz.”

 

“Correct,” Mr. Quinn affirmed. “But does May have a way of getting home?”

 

May felt everyone’s attention shift onto her, and she became self conscious. How was she planning on getting back home? She hadn’t thought that far ahead.

 

“I’ll take her,” Harley declared, strutting up to her. May inwardly groaned. “Like I would miss a chance to be with my little gingerbread cookie!”

 

“Yeah, good luck with that,” Drew met May’s eye.

 

She looked at the ground, suddenly feeling shy. “I’ll need it,”

 

She and Drew were not close, at least, not in the way he was with Dawn. But they were extremely competitive when it came to the Quidditch Pitch. Rival seekers, it seemed as though May and Drew were always trying to outperform each other, and May relished any moment in which she bested him. Also, it didn’t hurt that he was attractive. She couldn’t help but feel something for him, and it made her nervous and confused.

 

“Quit staring at him, you’re so obvious,” Harley hissed into her ear, clutching her arm in his bony fingers. Then, he turned to the rest of the group, who were all starting to get ready to leave. “Ta-ta, everyone. I’ll see you all at school,”

 

With a pop, they disapparated from the scene, the Dark Mark still looming.

 

-

 

Solidad apparated Drew back into his room. He was nervous for whatever it was she had to say to him, and hoping beyond anything that his parents had not checked his room in the time between his departure and his arrival. Solidad looked tense, her brows furrowed. She sucked in a big breath of air.

 

“How could you be so reckless?” She asked. “Drew. I don’t think you realize how close you came to dying tonight. If Harley and I hadn’t been there…”

 

“Yes, I know!” He snapped. Immediate guilt washed through him at the hurt look on her face.

 

Solidad had been a sort of mentor figure to him since first year, despite the two of them being in separate houses. With the disappearance of Giovanni--he mentally kicked himself. You-Know-Who. With the sudden disappearance of You-Know-Who fifteen years ago, many were hesitant to trust, let alone get along with, members of Slytherin house. This included Drew, eleven years old, ashamed to be in the house that had heralded the greatest Dark wizard of all time and many of his supporters.

 

Solidad Holloway was well respected amongst her peers, even then, in her second year. With a penchant for advanced healing magic, the Ravenclaw had a reputation as one of the kindest and smartest students at the school. No one had expected her to take a Slytherin first year under her wing, but there she was, defending him at every turn. Fighting hard to get him onto the Slytherin Quidditch team in his second year. Helping him study. Arguing fiercely against members of her own house who generalized Slytherin students.

 

She was everything that Drew had needed then. She was like an older sister to him, and she was the reason that he and other Slytherins like Dawn had been able to show that they were able to be trusted.

 

“I’m sorry for snapping,” He said quickly, feeling horrible. She nodded, turning to the window, the hurt expression still there.

 

“Drew, I don’t know what I would have done if I’d lost you. We’re family. Please , just be careful.”

 

Drew crossed the room to embrace her, startled to see tears in her eyes. “Solidad, I’m sorry for worrying you, I’ll be more careful, I swear,”

 

“Just promise me you won’t pull a stunt like that again. I won’t always be there to protect you,” She said, wiping her eyes.

 

“I know. I promise.”

 

“I’m really glad we all got out of there okay. Of course, I couldn’t have done it without Harley,” She said. “You go downstairs and check with your parents. I’m heading back to Harley’s,”

 

Drew wondered privately why she wasn’t heading back to her own home, but didn’t say anything. Instead, he just nodded as she disapparated.

 

His room now empty, he breathed out a sigh, walking into the bathroom to sit on the sink. His leg looked horrid, as though someone had cut it off and then stuck it back on. But then, that was what had happened, wasn’t it?

 

He reached for a cotton swab from the jar next to the sink, soaking it in a disinfectant potion solution before dabbing it onto the dried blood and slowly wiping it all off. A thin, unnoticeable scar remained, curling around his calf from his ankle to the front of his knee.

 

Wiping off a bit of dried blood from his scraped hands, he got off of the counter and made to go back downstairs to talk to his parents.

 

He was halfway to the door when he decided against it, exhaustion settling in. Drew climbed into his bed, pulling the silk sheets up to his nose and placing his wand on the nightstand. He closed his eyes, slowly drifting off, relief settling into his bones as he checked off the safety of his friends in his mind. May was safe, and so were her friends. Solidad and Harley were safe. Dawn was safe, too.

 

Suddenly his eyes shot open. Dawn. What had she wanted to tell me?!










Chapter Text

Terror at the Cup: Are Any of Us Safe?

 

For many magical folk, the Quidditch World Cup is a time where everyone from places all over can gather together in peace. The Cup last week, however, was the exact opposite. Spectators fled in fear as an enormous fire broke out in the campsite, spanning for at least five miles,  and it was reported that there was a group of masked people in black cloaks storming the site and chanting.

It is unknown if there are any casualties, but one of the Prophet’s inside sources has reported that several bodies were pulled from the wreckage. However, the most horrible part of the night was the enormous Dark Mark hovering over the campsite, signifying as it had in years past that someone had been killed there.

At this point the Ministry has confirmed that these hooded figures spotted were indeed Death Eaters, but the Auror Office was unable to apprehend any of them. These Ministry blunders could be life or death for some of us. However, one wand was recovered in a disarming spell by a Hogwarts seventh year, Harley Thornwood. Thornwood couldn’t be found to give comment, but the wand was turned in to the Auror Office and is currently under investigation. It truly is amazing that a Hogwarts student could do more to protect the crowd at the cup than the Ministry, but that seems to be the state of things nowadays.

No word on what this attack means for the wizarding community, as we are unsure of whether or not this is a freak attack or something bigger, but my sources point to it being a lot more than just a chance encounter.

“We’re doing everything we can to make sure that all of the Cup’s attendees are safe,” Stated a ruffled looking Ministry official by the name of Thomas Quinn. Big words for a Ministry that couldn’t manage to subdue a single one of the Death Eaters running amok in plain sight.



Leaf closed her copy of The Daily Prophet  shut with a snap, heaving a sigh as she leaned back in her seat. I knew it, she thought, venom in her mind’s voice. Giovanni was, in fact, not dead, and on his way back to power. Or perhaps another Death Eater had risen from the ashes like some sort of twisted phoenix to take his place. It all sounded so absurd. Leaf couldn’t imagine saying any of it with a straight face, and yet, there it was. Solid proof of the theory she’d been brewing since second year. Who even wrote this?

 

She took a closer look. Oh, of course. Malva Marsaille, the Prophet’s  head shit-spewer.  Leaf knew why they’d put Malva in charge of covering such an important article, and it was because she had so many readers. Malva wrote the type of report that was so widely read that you could hardly go anywhere without hearing someone talking about it.

 

Of course, Leaf had to commend the woman. Her work truly was unifying, if not a venomous pack of lies most of the time. For it just so happened that Leaf herself had an insider account of what had gone on at the Cup that Marsaille would love to get her greasy hands on.

 

A letter from Harley lay on the side of her dresser, entailing his experience and even those of some of his friends. Her tawny owl had delivered the letter just this morning, and Leaf had been hard at work all day meticulously scouring his account until--

 

“Leaf, honey, get ready to go to Diagon Alley. We need to get your things,”  Her mother called. Leaf blinked, standing from her desk and arching her back in a perilous stretch. She checked her reflection, long, ash brown hair neat and kempt, a sophisticated black turtleneck on under her bottle green robes.   

 

Her wand, one of vine wood and a phoenix feather core, was in her pocket, right next to her smallest notebook and quill,  just in case she ran into something that needed to be reported on. Leaf was a journalist. She wrote articles for no one to read, with the hope that one day they’d be important, in one way or another.

 

With one last look back at the workstation on her desk, she thought that that day might be coming soon. With the resurgence of the Death Eaters at the World Cup, a mass panic had been stirred up amongst the wizarding community, and journalists like Malva Marsaille only fueled the flame.

 

Leaf wanted the whole truth and nothing less, and she wouldn’t stop until she had it.

 

For now, though, it would have to wait. There were always loads of mysteries waiting to be solved at Hogwarts, anyways.

 

-

 

Diagon Alley was bright with the midday sun, and Leaf breathed in a deep gust of fresh air. Around her, the streets were ablaze with people rushing about, completing their shopping. She was only browsing, after all-- walking down the streets,  her hands behind her back, meandering about and taking things in while her mother ran errands.

 

It was relaxing to be alone. Solitude was Leaf’s first love; only her affinity for books could come close to the giddy feeling in her belly at the prospect of being on her own. Had she not been so suited to Slytherin, whatever that meant, Leaf felt sure that she would’ve been sorted into Ravenclaw.

 

She was clever, yes, but she felt her talents turned on the opposite side of the fork in the road. While she could solve whatever problem you put in front of her, Leaf’s main focus was always the article she had in the works.

 

Today was no different. She’d stopped in front of a newspaper stand selling Witch Weekly. The Dark Mark was blown up huge on the front page. Leaf bit her lip as she stared at it. The Dark Mark.

 

She hadn’t been interested in going to the Cup, so she had no clue what it must have felt like to see it in the flesh. Still, fear jabbed at her insides with even a passing glance at a photo of the thing.

 

“You gonna buy something, or what?” She looked up to see the wizard working the stand jeering at her.

 

For the life of her, Leaf couldn’t manage a response. She kicked herself inwardly, cursing her habit of becoming tongue tied. For all her eloquence in writing, Leaf’s social skills left much to be desired. Either she was rude without meaning to be, rude on purpose, a flustered mess, or unable to even speak at all--

 

“Yeah, she’ll take…. Uh, that one,” A flippant voice behind her cut in, and a pointing arm encroached on her vision. She whipped around and was instantly filled with quite a funny feeling-- was it loathing? Dread? Leaf sure hoped it was something like that. Those emotions she was familiar with.

 

She was a stranger to whatever it was Gary Oak made her feel. Infuriated barely covered it. Whenever she heard the Ravenclaw’s voice, she felt like she could breathe fire. But then, when she actually got to talking with him, she found that she could hold a conversation for once. Even if he was a total moron.

 

Gary tipped the newspaper stand man a silver sickle, and Leaf snatched up the paper, embarrassment flooding her face with heat. “I can shop by myself!”

 

“Yeah, well,” Gary smirked as they began to walk away. “You looked like you needed my help.”

 

“I was fine,” She grumbled, incredibly angered by the fact that he was right.

 

“Alright, Leafy,” He replied. Then his eyes narrowed. “Though, with the way you snubbed my letters this summer, I wish I hadn’t stepped in.”

 

Leaf wasn’t surprised he brought her responses to his letters up, but she stopped and turned to look at him. “Snubbed your letters? What are you talking about? I responded to all of them!”

“Yeah, with like, one word!” Gary shook his head. “You were so boring. Come on, I’ve read some of your other letters, I know how much you love to write, and you were totally snubbing me. You sneaky Slytherin snubber.”

 

Leaf groaned, pinching the bridge of her nose. “God, is there a spell to get rid of you?”

 

“Don’t think so, or you would’ve managed it already. Or you could just admit that you like having me around.”

 

“Whatever,” She brushed him off, finally remembering what she had been thinking about before. “Gary, did you go to the cup?”

 

They made their way down one of the winding streets of Diagon Alley, and Leaf did her best to carefully avoid the other shoppers. Gary, however, managed to bump into at least three, and annoyance continued to furrow Leaf’s brow.

 

“Yeah,” He replied. “Gramps and I did go, but we packed up and left before the Death Eaters attacked. You read the Prophet , right? Harley Thornwood apparently was caught up in it.”

 

Yeah, and I have his letter. “I was pretty stunned when I read about it,” She began, “But… I honestly had a feeling something like this might happen again. Like, Giovanni activity--”

She was cut off by Gary’s hand slapping over her mouth. He dragged her to the side of the street, hissing, “You can’t just say his name like that, Greene! Jesus,”

 

Leaf mentally slapped herself. She’d started referring to Giovanni by his actual name in her head because she thought that saying You-Know-Who every time was stupid, but she’d forgotten that she had to filter it out of actual conversation. “Sorry,” she grumbled.

 

“Yeah, you better be,” He breathed out a sigh. “Nearly gave me a heart attack.”

 

Leaf didn’t respond. Something in the paper had caught her eye. It had flipped to a new page when Gary dragged her, blown by the wind.

 

“Did your grandfather mention anything about a new teacher this year?” She asked, her eyes scanning the article.

 

“Now that I think about it, he did,” Gary admitted. “I think the guy’s name is like… Surf. Scurn. Something.”

“Surge,” Leaf corrected absently.

 

“That’s it!” Exclaimed Gary. “Surge. The auror guy. I hear he’s tough as nails, too. He’s all, like, big and strong. They say he’s put hundreds of Death Eaters in Azkaban, and is still catching more.”

 

Leaf nodded slowly. That seemed about right. With the threat of the Death Eaters looming over them like a giant snake, it made total sense that Cynthia would appoint a renowned auror to keep the students safe. Though, she wasn’t sure what to think. Over the years they’d had quite a few terrible Defense Against the Dark Arts teachers.

 

“What does Professor Oak think of him?” She asked as the two of them started to walk again.

 

Gary thought for a moment. “Well, Gramps definitely seems to approve of Cynthia’s choice. He says that if Hogwarts’s defenses don’t manage to keep us safe, Surge will.”

 

Leaf didn’t answer. Instead, she was staring at a set of oriole feather writing quills in the window of Scrivenshaft’s Quill Shop. She began to zone out, imagining herself sitting down to write with the handsome black and orange quill… the smoothness of her writing, the satisfying scratch of the quill on her parchment….

 

“Oi! Earth to Greene!” Gary waved his hand in front of her eyes. She blinked rapidly, swatting him away. “You and your writing utensils. I lost you for a second there,”

 

Leaf sighed, staring at the oriole quills. “Those quills write really smoothly, from what I’ve heard…”

 

She looked at the price tag. Six Galleons! That was more than half as much as she’d managed to save up. She grimaced. “Too pricey.”

 

“Oh, come on,” Gary prodded. “Only six galleons. I’ll loan you it,”

“No, Gary, you don’t have to do that,” Leaf said in a hurry, her words coming out jumbled. She wanted the quills, but at what cost? The loss of her dignity? Having Gary Oak buy her something like they were old chums?

 

Gary gave her a smug look, opening the door to the shop.

 

“No! It’s fine!” She called, her voice panicked.

 

The spiky haired Ravenclaw disappeared into Scrivenshaft’s. Leaf groaned, her back hitting the wall in exasperation and embarrassment. He so thinks I owe him after this! That’s why he’s doing it. So I’ll owe him.

 

When Gary exited Scrivenshaft’s ten minutes later with a bag full of quills, Leaf groaned, but grudgingly dug around in her little coin purse. “How much do you want?”

 

“Oh, I just said that so you’d let me get you them,” He scoffed, handing her the bag. “Now maybe you’ll write me some good letters.”

 

Leaf sighed, accepting the bag from him. “You really didn’t have to do this, but… thanks, Gary.”

“Anything to help further the career of the world’s rudest journalist,” He smirked.

 

“Oh, shut up.”

 

-

 

“Dawn! Look at these!” Dawn whipped around. Drew was digging around in a bin of what looked like crystal obsidian. The two of them had been in Diagon Alley for a bit, completing their back to school shopping.

 

After Drew’s extensive robe-fitting (two hours for some elaborate emerald dress robes), the duo had decided to make their way down to Zonko’s for some quality wizard pranks. Drew had been scouring the shop for ten minutes while Dawn perused.

 

Zoey was with them too, but as of now she was being fitted for a new broom. The Nimbus Two Thousand had gone down notably in price since the release of the Firebolt, and what with Alain demonstrating the wicked fast broom’s prowess at the world cup, not many were clamoring over a Nimbus.

 

But finally, Drew and Dawn were alone, and she could tell him what had happened with Paul at the Cup.

 

“What are they?” She humored him.

 

“Peruvian Instant Darkness powder,” Drew answered. “You throw it down and you’re covered. Instant darkness! Just like it says on the tin,”

 

Her interest piqued, Dawn maneuvered between boxes and product to stand at his side. The lumps of powder glittered like gems in the multicolored lights at Zonko’s. She couldn’t help but think of Paul. Maybe Peruvian Instant Darkness powder could come in handy…

 

“Let’s get a couple,” She said. “They might help us down the line,”

 

“Speaking of which,” Drew lowered his voice as he grabbed a couple of the powders. “What did you want to tell me about you-know-who?”

 

Dawn gave him a patronized look. “Drew! He’s not the G Word.”

 

“My bad,” Drew muttered. “Paul.”

 

“Okay, so…” Dawn began, picking up a powder. “At the match. I was coming up the stairs to sit with you, and I ran into him there… we had a run-in, and he was all, ‘I don’t have time for this.’ Then, to make it even more suspicious, May was sitting next to Maylene and Reggie, and Paul wasn’t with them,”

 

Drew was silent for a moment, his emerald eyes slits as he appeared to be deep in thought. “You think he’s a Death Eater?”

 

“I don’t know!” She exclaimed. The idea of Paul in one of those shining masks sent chills down her spine. “I don’t know. It just struck me as odd. I mean, maybe he just didn’t want to sit with them, but... “

 

“Yeah, maybe,” Drew commented as they made their way to checkout. “But it is suspicious when you look at the, you know, attack that happened all of three hours later.”

 

They placed their purchase on the counter. The man behind it grinned, tipping them a wink. “Peruvian Instant Darkness powder? That’ll be two galleons for the lot, then,” He nodded. Dawn pulled out her purse, but Drew waved her away.

 

“No, my treat for sitting all the way through my robe fitting,” He stated, pressing the two golden coins onto the counter. “I have no clue why Hogwarts put dress robes on the school supplies list, but if I must buy them, I want them to look good.

 

“Of course,” Dawn shoved him playfully. “Gotta look your best for May,”

 

“Oh, whatever,” Drew rolled his eyes.

 

The man working the counter raised an eyebrow at the two of them. “What do you two need instant darkness powder for?” His tone was playful, not interrogatory, so Dawn offered him a smile and opened her mouth to explain.

 

Drew beat her to it. “Just a bit of tomfoolery at school. The usual,” He said smoothly. Dawn nodded along.

 

“Just in case we need a quick escape from the groundskeeper or something,” She joked, her eyes sparkling with humor.

 

“Ah, of course,” Smiled the man. “Reminds me of my own school days. Well, have a nice afternoon, kids.”

Dawn nodded. “Of course! You too!”

 

The duo left Zonko’s, strolling back onto Diagon Alley in search for the broom store. Dawn checked her watch. They’d have to be at Platform nine-and-three-quarters in two hours. Best to just pick up Zoey and head back home to put all of their purchases in their trunks.

 

Second Hand Brooms looked warm and welcoming, just as nearly all of the other shops down Diagon Alley did. Past the glittering window display, she could see Zoey, proudly holding a broom-shaped parcel in her arms as though it were her cat.

 

A rush of affection surged through Dawn as Drew opened the door to the shop, and she stepped inside. “Did you get it?”

 

“Even better!” Zoey looked ecstatic. “I found a Nimbus 2001 for cheap! But just so you know, it still took an enormous dent out of my savings…. As in… all of them?” She laughed nervously, but her cheeks were dusted a rosy color in her joy.

 

Dawn couldn’t help but smile with her. “That’s awesome! Now you might have a chance at keeping up with the Slytherin team!”

 

Zoey shoved her playfully, and the two mock-argued over whose Quidditch team was better while Drew looked on.

 

Suddenly, a shadowy figure caught Dawn’s eye from outside and she shifted her attention to it. It was the familiar silhouette of a tall, broad-shouldered figure with shaggy ashen hair. Paul. It must be.

 

He was carrying a couple of bags and looking impatient. Dawn narrowed her eyes. What are you up to?

 

“Dawn?” Zoey’s voice jolted her out of her thoughts. “What’s up? What are you looking at?”

 

As she spoke, two more people joined Paul, and relief filled Dawn at the sight of his brother, Reggie, and Reggie’s girlfriend Maylene. So he’s just shopping... she thought. Ugh! Duh! What is going on with you, Dawn?

 

“Nothing!” She said quickly. “Just thinking about this year’s Quidditch games is all!”

 

Paul, Reggie, and Maylene walked off, disappearing from her line of sight, and Dawn sighed. Maybe she was reading too much into this.

 

-

 

“Goodbye, Dawn,” Johanna pulled her daughter into a brisk yet tight hug. Dawn inhaled her mother’s scent, the aroma of home still clinging to her glimmering black cloak as she squeezed her mother tightly. “Be good for Slytherin, honey.”

 

“Of course, Mom,” Dawn promised, pulling away and grabbing her trunk. Steam billowed from the train’s exhausts, and Drew waited for her at the entrance to their signature compartment. She gave her mother one last hug before finally stepping away. Irritation filled her as Joel immediately took her place beside Johanna, his obnoxious Gryffindor lineage shining through as he shared a booming laugh with her mother. “Bye.”

 

She followed Drew into the train. It was swarming with students, some that Dawn recognized, and itty bitty first years that she didn’t.

 

“There’s no way we were that small in first year,” Drew stated. “No way.”

“We were!” Dawn laughed. “We were teeny tiny.”

 

They began to make their way to their compartment toward the caboose of the train. Dawn kept her eyes peeled for any of their friends, a smile blooming on her face at the sight of Gary walking onto the train. Behind him were Misty and Ash, and Dawn was pleased to see them safe, even if Misty didn’t trust her. She waved at Gary over the heads of some first years and he spotted her, heading over jauntily.

 

“Hey, Berlitz!” Gary grinned, flashing her something on his shoulder. A Ravenclaw Prefect’s badge was pinned there. “Just on my way to the special Prefect’s compartment.”

 

“Oh! So you’re with Serena then?” Dawn inquired.

 

“Mhm,” Gary hummed. “We’ve been writing this summer. She’s so serious about it. Man, I’m just excited to be able to dock points from cocky Gryffindors,” He sent a glare in Ash and Misty’s direction, but it was all in good humor.

 

Drew smirked. “As long as you don’t cut Slytherin points, I won’t report you, Oak.”

 

“Deal,” Gary laughed his roaring laugh. “Okay, I really gotta go now, Serena’s going to kill me if I’m not there. Smell ya later!”

“Bye, Gary!” Dawn called after him.

 

Drew was quiet for a few moments. “Hey… I wonder who the new Slytherin prefects are.”

 

Suddenly Drew was obscured from Dawn’s view as a large figure shoved between them. She stepped backwards immediately, attempting to avoid collision. Drew, however, grunted as he was met with whoever it was that shoved him. Dawn’s jaw dropped when she saw that it was Paul.

 

Drew groaned from where he pressed against the wall as Paul passed. “Fucking watch it, Paul!”

 

Paul’s head turned slowly. Dangerously. Dawn reached for her wand on instinct in case she needed to break something up.

 

You watch it, Hayden. Or it’s detention.” He pointed to the shining golden badge on his chest.

 

Drew gasped, mirroring the shock that Dawn felt. “Are you kidding me? Who in their right mind would make you a prefect?”

 

Paul glared at him, his eyes cold. “Cynthia, apparently.”

 

“Still, you can’t just shove into us however you please! You can say ‘excuse me’ like the rest of us commoners,” Drew spat.

 

“Drew he’s not worth it!--” Dawn attempted to speak, but Paul cut her off, whipping out his wand and pointing it at Drew. Drew moved to grab his own wand but he wasn’t quick enough-- his affinity for elaborate wandwork becoming his enemy.

 

Paul appeared to perform the spell nonverbally. He flicked his wand at Drew, and Dawn’s friend fell as though he had walked over a wire.

 

“A trip jinx!” Drew hissed. “You’re a real coward, you know that?”

 

Fury crackled like lightning in Paul’s eyes at Drew’s remark. He whipped around. “I won’t waste my time with you, Hayden. Don’t provoke me.”

 

Rage ignited in Dawn’s stomach as she watched the back of Paul’s head follow in Gary’s footsteps. “No!” She yelled, pointing her wand at him. “ Everte Statum!’

 

Paul stumbled and Dawn cursed under her breath. The spell was supposed to throw him backwards, but either she performed it wrong or he was all too ready to resist it. Stowing away her wand as fast as she could, she raced to Drew’s side.

 

“Are you okay?” She asked, grabbing his arm to pull him up.

 

“Other than tripping every time I try to walk, I’m just peachy!” He snapped, holding onto her for dear life as his feet refused to cooperate. “This is so embarrassing. Please don’t let May see me like this, I’ll never hear the end of it--”

 

“Yeah, yeah,” Dawn panted as she pulled him into their compartment. Or, what should have been their compartment. Unease roiled in her stomach as she took in the people in front of her.

 

Ursula Schoenberg, the hint of a snarl on her pristine pink lips as she turned away from who Dawn assumed was another of her royal subjects. Her wine colored eyes fell upon Dawn and Drew and the snarl turned into a smirk. Ursula raised her nose, looking at the two with such an air of suffocating superiority that Dawn wished she could hex the expression off of her face.

 

Sitting in the seat that Ursula had been facing was a girl that Dawn recognized but couldn’t name. She looked dangerously annoyed, long, ash brown hair falling over her shoulders and down to her chest. She was neat and dainty, a book closed on her lap, but Dawn could see her middle finger shoved between the pages, keeping her place. Adorned in Slytherin robes.

 

“Well, I must leave you now that the happy couple has arrived,” Ursula leered, her pink hair bobbing at her shoulders. “The Prefects cabin awaits. What a pleasure to see you again, Leaf. Ta-ta.”

 

This was who Cynthia appointed? Dawn’s grip on Drew tightened. Did Cynthia want to reinforce Slytherin’s reputation with the selection of people like Ursula and Paul?

 

The sitting girl rolled her eyes in such a manner that Dawn felt like it had been personally aimed at her.  “Go, then,” She said dryly, re-opening her book. “God knows why you decided to bother me in the first place.”

 

“Real creative, Schoenberg,” Drew called. “If you must know, your partner nabbed me with a Trip Jinx. Can’t you try to reel him in? Damn.”

 

Ursula snorted, a laugh bubbling from her lips and filling the compartment with sound. “Paul hit you with a Trip Jinx? God, that is one for the books! And you think I’m going to tell him to knock it off? Fat chance! Not for all the galleons in the world! Ha! Hahaha!”

 

She shoved past Dawn and Drew, nearly unbalancing them, and slammed the compartment door behind her, still honking with laughter.

 

Dawn helped Drew into his seat, biting her lip in concentration. She was angry, plain and simple. Never in a million years would she have thought that Paul and Ursula would be Slytherin’s esteemed prefects. Why? How? What was Cynthia thinking?

 

Ursula and Dawn had never been on good terms. It was different from her relationship with Paul, however, in the fact that Ursula put effort into hating Dawn. She had no idea how it had started. All that she could be sure of was that her pink haired enemy was a force to be reckoned with. Hate mail, incessant jabs, all made worse by the fact that they were in the same house. But Dawn wasn’t so innocent, either. She’d made her fair share of clapbacks and payback pranks, and Drew swore that once she made Ursula cry(bullshit, Dawn knew. Did snakes even have tear ducts?). The jab about her and Drew was tame compared to Ursula’s usual. Who was  this Leaf girl, exactly?

 

“Hey, I don’t think we’ve met before,” Drew attempted to make conversation. “But you’re a Slytherin, and I’ve seen you around. How come we’ve never spoken?”

Leaf sighed, closing her book again. Her eyes were the color of a crisp, dead Autumn leaf, curled and crunchy underfoot. “Leaf Greene. Your year. We’ve never spoken because you’ve never talked to me.”

 

Recognition flooded into Dawn as though she were a broken dam. “You! You dorm with Ursula in the top room!”

 

Leaf dog-eared a page and set her book aside. “Right, but I never talk to her. That’s why I was surprised when she came into this compartment looking for you, Berlitz.”

 

“Looking for me?”

 

“Wanted to gloat to you about getting Prefect, I’m assuming.” She sniffed.

 

“Sounds like her,” Drew commented. “She and Paul are a shoe in for the Worst Prefects duo. Watch her hand out detentions like they are going out of style.”

 

Dawn slumped back in her seat as the train began to move. She felt the Peruvian Instant Darkness powder shift in her pocket, and an idea that she had been trying to push away pushed back, hard enough for her to sit back up and speak.  “Drew, are you okay here? I’m gonna go find some of our friends,”

“Not like I can move without embarrassing myself, anyway. I’m gonna get to know Leaf here better,” he flipped his hair.

 

“Don’t count on it.” Leaf said coolly.

 

Dawn stood, reopening the glass door and then closing it gently behind her. The train corridor was packed with students moving about and getting to where they needed to go. Dawn passed a compartment filled by Ash and Misty along with some of their other friends, all laughing hard at something.

 

Well, there were some friends. May was in there, and so were Candice and another friend of hers, Shauna. That wasn’t actually what she had left the cabin for, though.

 

She ducked away from their glass door before any of them could see her, continuing down the corridor in search for one thing: the Prefect’s compartment.

 

“Why, hello, Dawn,” A low voice behind her made the hairs on the back of her neck stand on end. She whipped around, finding herself face to face with the biggest creep in the Ravenclaw house-- Conway.


“Hello and goodbye, Conway, I’m doing something right now,”

 

“Without Drew?” He asked, light gleaming off his glasses.

 

She drew in a deep breath, impatient. She could be listening into some important dialogue right now! “Conway! I’m serious,”

 

“So am I,” He chuckled, crossing his arms. “Tell me what you’re doing and maybe I can help. You wouldn’t happen to be trying to sneak into the Prefect’s compartment, would you?”

 

Dawn felt her cheeks redden, and she grabbed Conway by the arm, pulling the two of them back behind a corridor so that they wouldn’t be seen. “How did you know?” She hissed between her teeth.

 

“I just know you,” Conway smirked.

 

“I’m so serious right now.”

 

“I saw you heading towards it looking around. I’m not stupid. In fact, my power of observation is nothing short of extraordinary,” He gloated.

 

She sucked in a sharp breath. “Okay, how can you help me, Conway?”

 

Conway daintily reached into his cloak pocket, drawing out a flesh colored string with a flourish.

 

“Okay, what is that.

 

“Extendable Ears!” Conway exclaimed. “Just put one through the gap in the glass door and eavesdrop to your heart’s content. Of course, they’ll cost you,”

 

Dawn reached for her purse. “How much?”

 

“Oh, no money,” Conway waved her away with his hand. “A date. To be called in at any time by yours truly.”

 

Fury swelled in Dawn’s chest. Was this guy serious? A date? She forced herself to regain her composure. It was just one date. With arguably the worst specimen at Hogwarts. God, no. But the Extendable Ears….. And the date didn’t even have to happen any time soon… Just one date. She wouldn’t even have to hold his hand.

 

“Fine.”

 

-

 

Dawn slipped the flesh colored string through the top of the glass door before reaching into her pocket. The Instant Darkness powder glimmered in her hand. She took a deep breath. If she needed an instant escape, it was there. This was its purpose.

 

“...is so exciting. I can’t wait. This is going to be the most amazing year, and we’re Prefects!” That was Ursula. Dawn would recognize her voice anywhere. “Seriously. All of the common students have no idea what’s coming. Cynthia entrusted us with this secret!”

 

Dawn’s ears perked up. A secret?

 

“Well,” Began another voice, one that must have belonged to Zoey. “First of all, calling them ‘common students’ is a little… much. They’re going to learn the secret literally tonight, Ursula. It’s no big.”

 

“I just feel bad for everyone who doesn’t know, Zoe Zoe,” Ursula replied silkily.

 

“Don’t call me… ugh, nevermind.”

 

“We just need to make sure that we’re keeping the peace,” Serena spoke up. “It’s important because there will be such an uproar. Gary and I will work hard on maintaining order if you guys do, ‘kay?”

 

“What she said,” Gary put in.

 

“Right,” A voice that Dawn barely recognized spoke. “Order. Zoey and I will work on keeping the peace too.”

 

“Perfect, Kenny.” Solidad, the Head Girl, responded.

 

No way. That was Kenny? His voice had finally dropped. Dawn’s mouth hung wide open before she refocused herself on the task at hand. What was this secret?

 

“Paul?” Solidad offered. “Any input? You’ve been awfully quiet.”

 

“Yeah, little bro!” That must be Reggie. Dawn pushed closer against the wall, listening hard. What would he say?

“Sounds good.” Paul’s voice was steely. Dawn was disappointed. That was all ? He wasn’t going to start a fight?

 

She retracted the extendable ears. What was she even doing? Searching so hard for something to put Paul on the chopping block for. Was it wrong? Was she wrong to be suspicious of him?

 

She shoved the ears in her cloak, beginning to walk back to the compartment at a brisk pace. No, it wasn’t wrong. She was allowed to have a gut feeling, and she was allowed to trust it enough to follow her intuition. And her intuition was telling her that Paul was up to no good.




















Chapter Text

It was late afternoon on the Hogwarts Express and Leaf could tell that Drew’s jynx hadn’t worn off. How angry was Paul, to cast a spell this long lasting?  Part of her had to admit that she was a bit embarrassed for Drew. First day of his sixth year and he couldn’t even stand up and walk without tripping.

 

Papers were scattered around her cozy corner of their compartment, some threatening to slip off the cushion and onto the floor below. For the most part, the ride had been quiet. Drew was respectful of her desire to work, and kept himself quietly entertained by fiddling with his wand. More recently though, he seemed to be itching to say something , so, when she felt as though she’d written a satisfactory amount, she closed her book and looked over at him.

 

“What? What is it?” She asked. “You’ve been like a lit fuse over there for the past five minutes.”

 

This was true. Her involuntary companion had been writhing impatiently in his seat for some time now.

 

Drew looked up, his eyes wide. “Nothing! I’m just… waiting for Dawn to get back. She’s been gone for a little too long.”

 

Leaf looked back down at her book, suddenly bored. “Maybe she just got caught up talking to her friends. I’m sure that she’ll be back soon, at any rate.”

 

He frowned. “Yeah, maybe.”

 

They continued in silence for a few moments before Leaf began to feel a peculiar sensation. Goosebumps had begun to spread across her arms. She shivered. This is odd. I’m wearing my fur cloak. I shouldn’t be cold, not at all.

 

It felt as though the train was slowing to a stop. Leaf jolted from her slouching position, her eyes wide. “Drew, why is the train stopping?”

 

“Hell if I know!” He hissed. “Maybe if I could walk without stumbling, I could go ask the conductor!”

 

Leaf ground her jaw. “Okay, I’m going to need you to take the attitude somewhere else, Hayden. I didn’t jinx you.”

 

He leaned forward, his eyes softening. “No, I’m sorry. I’m just frustrated, and now, this.”

 

Leaf opened her mouth to reply, but an extraordinarily bitter cold fell over the compartment before she could manage it. She gasped, pulling her cloak tighter around herself.

 

“Jesus! Why’re we in an ice box?” Drew grabbed the compartment’s window ledge, pulling himself to his feet. “Are you cold too, Greene?”

 

“Freezing,” she replied. “We need to sit tight. Maybe the train just broke down,”

 

“I need to find Dawn,” he shuffled over to the compartment door. Leaf reached forward, snatching the sleeve of his robe and pulling him down into the seat.

 

“You need to let that jinx wear off. Dawn is fine. She’s an upstanding witch,” Or at least, I hope she is. I have no clue. Leaf’s words surprised even herself. She had never been good at providing reassurance, not to most people. But there was something about Drew and maybe even Dawn that made her want to try. They just...seemed to have good intentions. Leaf felt like she could trust them, and, even more surprisingly, she wanted them to trust her too.

 

“You’re right. You’re right,” Drew took a deep breath and leaned back in the seat.

 

The lights flickered ominously above them. Leaf leaned over Drew to look through the glass partition, shocked to see how dark the rest of the train was.

 

“Something is wrong,” She whispered.

 

Finally, after flickering helplessly for a few seconds, the light above the two of them shut off. The only thing illuminating their compartment was the window, and the sky outside was more overcast than it had been when the train had departed. A heavy fog obscured the surrounding landscape from sight.

 

That was when the dots all connected for Leaf. Sudden chill? Heavy fog? Lights off? It sounded very much like something she remembered reading about once.

 

Dementors. Tall, hooded creatures that drained every shred of joy from a person. Leaf squeezed her eyes shut at the thought. And the Dementor’s Kiss…. She didn’t even want to think about it. Leaf was downright afraid.

 

What could she do? Telling Drew might cause him to panic, and he already seemed to be doing less than alright. Maybe, though, she could help alleviate some of his anxiety. She was feeling reckless, anyways.

 

“Hey,” she nudged him. “I’ll go find Dawn, okay?”

 

“No, don’t,” He responded. “I don’t want to be by myself here. I have a bad feeling.”

 

Yeah, well. That’s what a dementor does.

 

Leaf slumped back in her seat, sighing. That meant the only thing that she could do would be to sit here and wait for whatever this was to pass. And if that meant coming face-to-face with a dementor, well… so be it. More experience for her writing, right?

 

-

 

“Everyone stay calm!” Gary called, feeling helpless. He could hardly see ten feet ahead of him, and he knew that people were panicking. As Serena put it, this would be his first task as Prefect. That didn’t really matter to Gary. He just wanted the lights to come back on and for everybody to chill out.

 

The other Prefects were scattered around the train doing much of the same thing as he was, although they at least might’ve been getting something done. Gary felt as though no sooner could he get one person back into their compartment then ten more scrambled out.

 

“Oak!” A voice called from somewhere to his right. He turned, just barely able to make out the silhouette of Misty Waterflower standing in the doorway of her cabin. “What’s going on?”

 

“No clue, Waterflower. Just get back into your compartment and make sure everyone stays there,” He responded, impatience twitching his fingers.

 

She huffed, slamming the glass door. Gary rolled his eyes. Gryffindors and their attitudes.

 

He walked further down the corridor, his wand tip lit, searching for any person unfortunate enough to be on the outside of a cabin. As he made his way over to the compartment where he and the other prefects had been meeting not too long ago, he rounded a corner and came face to face with another person.

 

“Gary?” A female voice whispered. Gary angled his wand towards the source of the voice and  found himself face to face with Dawn, her deep blue hair shining from the white light of his wand.

 

“Berlitz!” His eyes were wide with surprise. “What are you doing outside? You need to get back to your cabin,”

 

“I’m trying, but I can’t find my way around in the dark,” she responded. “I keep tripping on things and running into the walls. I feel like Drew,”

 

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

 

“Oh!” her voice bubbled in a nervous laugh. “Paul hit him with a trip jinx when we first got on the train. He’s waiting with Leaf in our compartment, you know, Leaf Greene? I’d never talked to her before today, but…”

 

Leaf. The rest of Dawn’s words seemed to fade away at the thought of her. He hadn’t even seen her on the train, but, to be fair, he’d been meeting with the prefects most of the time. He wondered if she was using the quills he’d bought her.  

 

“Wait, what?” He shook his head clear. “Rebolledo jinxed him?”

 

Suddenly a new chill washed over them both, and Gary realized that he could see his breath forming clouds in front of them. “What the hell is that cold?”

 

“Shh!” Dawn hushed him, reaching forward and grabbing his wand tip. “Turn it off,”


Nox, ” Gary muttered. The two of them pressed their backs to the wall of the compartment they were near. He couldn’t help but feel a little bit afraid. This was strange. Though he was confident that he,  the Gary Oak, would be able to fend off whatever this was, the fact was that no one knew what was causing all of this commotion was a little bit worrying.

 

A new feeling had come over him. One of emptiness and hopelessness that he’d never been privy to before. And dread. He was dreading something.

 

A long fingered, scabbed, and ashen hand curled around the side of the wall, its sharp nails screeching against the mahogany wood. Gary instinctively moved in front of Dawn as the creature rounded the corner.

 

He heard Dawn gasp behind him. The creature was tall, so tall that it had to stoop to fit in the train corridor, and its face was obscured by a black hood. Gary had never been more afraid in his life. What the fuck was that? It seemed to give the both of them a once-over before moving on, and as soon as it was out of view Gary whipped around to face his friend.

 

Was that a dementor?”

 

Dawn’s eyes were wide and her face had gone pale. “I-- I don’t know! It was terrifying!”

 

He peeked around the corridor. He could still feel it there, checking the cabins for God knows what. How did this thing get on the train? Why was it here? One thing was for sure, somebody needed to get rid of it.

 

Expecto Patronum!” A voice called, as though on a cue. A giant silvery eagle soared down the corridor faster than lightning, and Gary felt as though a weight had been lifted off his heart and he could finally breathe again. The lights flickered back on and wary students poked their heads out of their compartments, looking frightened and confused.

 

Gary turned to see who cast the spell and wasn’t surprised to see Solidad standing there, Harley behind her. The girl had a penchant for advanced magic, he wasn’t surprised she could cast a Patronus charm.

 

“Good job!” He called weakly to her. She gave him a thumbs up in return.

 

“I need to get back to my compartment,” Dawn spoke up from behind him. “Drew is probably freaking out right now,”

 

“I’ll escort you,” Gary said quickly, thinking of Leaf. He wanted to see if she was using those quills. Yeah. that was it.

 

The two of them made their way down the corridor, with Gary looking around to see if everyone was alright. Misty’s compartment looked ruffled. May had her arms tightly wrapped around her knees, with her chin resting atop them. Misty herself was helping Shauna comfort a shaken Candice, and Ash looked stunned. Next to him Clemont was speaking rapidly to Brock, most likely some statistical spew about Dementors and Patronuses.

 

Further down the hall he spotted Iris and Cilan talking quietly, with Iris sending quick glances outside as she spoke. Across from them in their compartment Burgundy looked as though she were trembling, and Georgia was looking out the window impatiently.

 

“Dawn! Gary!” An obnoxiously loud voice shouted. Barry skidded into view. “You better have seen what happened! Or else I’ll fine you! Got that?”

 

“It was a d--” Dawn began earnestly, but Gary cut her off.

 

“It’s all being figured out, Barry, you can relax,” He said, keeping his voice smooth. He sent a look Dawn’s way, and her mouth immediately made an ‘o’ shape of understanding.

 

“It better be!” Barry fumed. “I bought all these snacks off the trolley for me and Kenny, and now he’s running around the train taking care of this!”

 

“Well, if we see him, we’ll send him your way,” Dawn smiled at the rambunctious blond. This seemed to satiate Barry, and he stepped back into his compartment. Gary caught a glimpse of him biting the head off of a chocolate frog.

 

Finally they made it back to Dawn’s cabin. She ran inside to give Drew a hug, but Gary hung back, leaning against the door frame with crossed arms.

 

Leaf was sitting with her legs criss crossed. She was scribbling furiously inside of a small notebook, using, Gary was delighted to see, an oriole feather quill. She didn’t look shaken in the least, but Gary was sure it was only because she had something else

to focus on. He smirked before clearing his throat.         

 

“Nice quill, Greene,”

 

Her head tilted upward and she gave him a dire look, snapping her journal shut and getting to her feet. Leaf stepped over Drew’s legs until she was right next to Gary, and he was delighted to notice that she was a good six inches shorter than he was.

 

“Can you explain,” she hissed, sending a look in Drew and Dawn’s direction as though she didn’t want to be overheard, “why a dementor was on the Hogwarts Express?”

 

So she knew. Gary expected nothing less from her; she’d surely read so many books on the subject that she could recognize the feeling of a dementor’s presence. Still, he was annoyed that she was talking to him as though it was his fault that the creature even got onto the train.

 

“Look, Greene, I don’t know! You think I’m the Minister of Magic or something? And don’t go around telling people it was a--” his voice dropped to a quiet whisper, “dementor. I don’t want people to panic,”

 

She rolled her eyes. “People aren’t stupid. I’m sure some of them already know exactly what it was and if they don’t they will soon enough. Drew figured it out after we saw that damn thing’s gross hand on the glass.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Gary sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. This was too much. Now he’d have to deal with scared kids for the rest of the way to the castle, and expecting Solidad and Reggie to take care of all of it was just absurd.

 

“Can everybody look out of their cabins, please?” A loud yet polite voice rang out from the hall. Gary reached forward to help Drew to his feet and the four of them opened the glass partition and looked outside.

 

Solidad had her wand up to her throat, casting her voice far enough to reach all of the compartments that had witnessed the dementor. Gary caught sight of many other students poking their heads out in confusion, and to his relief, most of the other prefects had regrouped already.

 

“I know everyone is really shaken up by what happened,” Solidad began, “but you don’t have to worry anymore. I spoke to the conductor, so the train’s moving again, and the Prefects are glad to see everyone unharmed.”

 

“Get on with it, Sol,” Harley commented. “They just want to know about the dementor,”

 

At his blunt words a few people gasped, but most of the student body remained quiet, holding onto Solidad’s every word.

 

“Okay,” she took a deep breath. “Yes, there was a dementor. I took care of it. We still have no clue why it was on the train in the first place, but my advice is for you to get some chocolate off the trolley if you’re still shaken up. It’ll help get you back to normal. That’s all… meeting adjourned,”

 

Leaf snorted as she closed the partition behind her. “Chocolate! As if chocolate will fix this. A dementor got onto the train. That signifies a huge problem within the Ministry, because they’re the only ones with control over the dementors!”

 

Gary couldn’t help but groan. “Ughhhh. Who cares? Let’s just be glad the thing is gone.”

 

“You would say something like that,” Leaf snapped. “While you put your blinders on, I will be over here looking at the bigger picture,”

 

“Wow, I’ve never heard you talk so much,” Drew remarked. Gary appreciated his attempt to diffuse Leaf’s temper, but he doubted that it worked, seeing as she had now plopped down in her seat and begun writing furiously again.

 

“Okay, well, I’m gonna go,” Gary began, running a hand through his hair and stepping back toward the glass partition. Dawn gave him a reassuring smile, and Drew, who was testing out his legs next to her, nodded to him.

 

“Give Paul a giant slap on the neck for me if you see him,” the Slytherin hissed, seemingly able now to take a few steps without tripping. “What a hassle of a jinx!”

 

Gary snorted. “Okay, will do, Hayden. You snakes stay out of trouble. Looking at you, Berlitz,” he joked.

 

“Hey!” She called after him, affronted. “I never get into trouble!”

 

-

 

Misty waited at the drop off for Ash to finally get off the train, her foot tapping against the ground impatiently. Did he have to take so long to get his things together? Probably not. He was no doubt talking to anyone even vaguely familiar that passed him on their way out.

 

Next to her, May was also looking as though she were in a rush to get inside. Misty’s gaze softened. She knew how scared May had been on the train, and she couldn’t lie, she had been afraid too. It had been such a hopeless feeling…

 

“...on the school train, it’s just sloppy. Something is off , I’m telling you. You don’t have to believe me, but just wait and see,” a voice spoke, its speaker looking frustrated; Misty raised her eyebrows. It was a Slytherin girl with long, ash brown hair and a contained, nimble look about her. To Misty’s chagrin, she was walking with Drew Hayden and Dawn Berlitz.

 

Misty raised an eyebrow at May. She wasn’t oblivious. May was one of her best friends, and anyone who bothered to read into things could tell that the girl was harboring feelings for Drew. Lovey feelings. Misty could just gag. She couldn’t imagine falling for a Slytherin out of anyone, especially not a Slytherin who was self assured, vain, and sometimes flat out rude.

 

Suddenly, Drew lurched forward on the sidewalk, and the girl’s hand snapped forth to grab him by the hood of his cloak. “I thought you said the effects were wearing off!” She hissed as Drew and Dawn burst out laughing.

 

“I guess not,” Drew snorted. Misty watched him catch sight of her and May standing there, and his eyes widened. This was too good. Catching Drew embarrassed? What a victory. Dawn had seen them there too, and her eyes were round as saucers as she tried not to start laughing at her friend.

 

“Hi, May! Hi, Misty!” She called with a wave. “Waiting for Ash?”

 

It wasn’t that Misty hated them. These Slytherins had never done anything to her personally, and she couldn’t help but feel her distrust was irrational. But then she remembered everything the Death Eaters had taken from the Waterflower family, and she was angry again. It was fact that Slytherin bred Death Eaters. Rock fact.

 

“Yes, but you know Ash,” May laughed, “always wants to talk to everybody all the time.”

 

“You two stay down here and chit chat, but I’m not going to miss the carriages,” the girl Misty didn’t recognize spoke, her hand still on Drew’s cloak hood. Misty glanced over at May to gauge her friend’s reaction, but May seemed to be pointedly looking at Dawn.

 

“Okay, Leaf,” Drew groaned, “we can go.” He looked over towards May briefly, and Misty raised an eyebrow. “You guys should come with us! We can get a carriage together,”

 

“That would be—“ May began.

 

“Thanks, but we’re waiting for Ash.” Misty cut her off.

 

“He’s right there!” Dawn pointed towards the train. “Hi, Ash! How are you!”

 

He was coming off the train, and his chocolate brown eyes lit up at the sight of his friends gathered there. The Gryffindor bounded to Misty’s side, panting, causing Misty to step back.

 

Okay, fine. So she liked him. She had since first year, when they first met, and he helped her out of a tough situation with their Transfiguration teacher, Professor Oak. It was as though she couldn’t help it. Every time she tried to tell herself that she was over her crush, he did something that pulled her back in again. She knew he’d never felt the same— Ash had always been blind to romance, though it seemed as though he had no shortage of people who liked him. He was just a good person. People were drawn to him that way.

 

“Ready for the feast!” He grinned. Then he seemed to take notice of Leaf, and an odd, scrutinous look that Misty had never seen on him before was on his face. “Hey. You’re Leaf Greene, aren’t you?”

 

Leaf looked surprised. “Um, yes?”

 

Okay, Misty did not like this girl. She knew she’d only just met her, but there was something about Leaf that was just so Slytherin. She was rude and snippy, reserved yet confrontational, shy in the manner that rubbed Misty the wrong way.

 

“Gary told me about you!” Ash broke into another grin. Leaf seemed to hold her breath, and Misty didn’t blame her. Hearing ‘Gary told me about you’ as a. A woman and b. A student didn’t often lead to the best initial responses. “He said you were investigating the World Cup! “

 

Leaf let out a sigh of relief. “Oh. Yes, I am. I’m a journalist.”

 

Misty rolled her eyes. “Let’s get to a carriage already.”

 

The group loaded onto one of the nearby carriages. Misty’s eyes had already fallen onto one of the leathery, skeletal winged horses pulling it. Looking at it soothed her, somehow. It just seemed like such a gentle creature— careful where it placed its hooves, with big, watery eyes.

 

“They’re so pretty.” she sighed, to no one in particular.

 

“The carriages?” Drew asked. “I mean, sure.”

 

“No, no. The things pulling the carriages.”

 

Leaf raised an eyebrow at Misty, her brown eyes  disbelieving. “Is that a joke?”

 

“Okay, well. I know they aren’t the outwardly prettiest things you’ve ever seen, but, you’ve got to admit, they’re like. Ethereal.”

 

“Mist,” Ash said seriously, “what are you talking about? There’s nothing pulling the carriages… they’ve been horseless for like. Ever.”

 

“Huh?!” Misty yelped. “Are you crazy? There are weird horses right there. Look! You’re nearly touching its back!”

 

“Ha, ha, very funny.” Drew said flatly.

 

Dawn and May were looking at Misty, wide-eyed. Was she going crazy? She’d been able to see them for all six years she’d been in attendance at Hogwarts. And here they sat, telling her they couldn’t see them?

 

“...Fine, it was a joke.” She finally conceded, though for the rest of the ride, she was unable to keep her eyes off the things.

 

When they arrived at the castle doors, Misty was the first to leap out of the carriage, harried. She had no idea what had just happened, but she was glad to be inside, basked in the warm golden glow of her second home.

 

The Great Hall was exactly how she’d left it, inviting, warm and welcoming. She raced to her favorite seat at the Gryffindor table, surprised to find it open as the hall filled up.

 

“I guess this is where we part,” she overheard May talking to the others. “I’ll see you guys later!”

 

“Say hi to Candice for me!” Dawn called. “And Ash, you tell Zoey hello!”

 

“Bye, Slytherins,” Ash laughed. “See you on the Quidditch Pitch, Drew! You too, May!” And then he was sitting next to her again, excitement in his eyes as he looked at the empty plate and goblet in front of him.

 

“I wonder if Cynthia will talk about the Dementor,” Misty remarked. “No way nobody’s told her about it,”

 

“Of course she will,” another voice spoke from across from them as their friend Brock, a seventh year, sat down. “When something like that happens she has to address the students so they won’t be afraid. Cynthia likes to let us know we’re safe.”

 

“Right, well, I can’t wait to hear what she says,” Zoey yawned as she joined the conversation, sitting down on Misty’s other side. Kenny wasn’t far behind, and Shauna joined them as well, taking her place next to Brock.

 

“Where’s Iris?” Ash asked.

 

“Probably still on the carriages,” Kenny remarked.

 

Misty felt content. To be surrounded by Gryffindors, her friends, was a feeling she never got tired of. They were more than just a house— they were a family. And Misty simply couldn’t click with anyone who wasn’t a part of that (except for maybe May.) The other houses couldn’t compete where they didn’t compare: Gryffindor had it all. The camaraderie, the bravery, the willingness to stick up for what was right. She was honored to belong to the house.

 

Iris later joined the group, leaving Misty with a heart that felt full. She gazed across the hall at the Slytherins and lifted her chin, watching as they all sat in their little groups. She could not trust them. Not after what the Death Eaters had taken from her.

 

“Hello, everyone!” Cynthia’s voice rang out after the Sorting, and Misty whipped her head around to look at the Headmistress. She was a tall young woman with sweeping blond hair and an elegant figure, a person Misty had always admired. She spoke in a voice that was strong and clear, never failing to make every student in the hall stop and listen.

 

Behind Cynthia, a wide table spanned, crowded on one side with the teachers. Misty waved at Professor Oak, who gave her a cheeky smile from where he sat with the History of Magic teacher, Professor Birch. Misty easily recognized everyone at the table until she got to the end. There was a large, muscular man sitting next to Professor Erika, covered in scars, his blonde hair spiked severely. Misty made eye contact with him and swung her head back to Cynthia, feeling suddenly nervous.

 

“I hope you all had a good break,” Cynthia began. At her words many erupted into cheers. “But we have important matters to discuss now that the incoming first years are all set and sorted. First things first, we have a new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher! I hope you can all welcome Professor Surge.”

 

The large man from before stood up. He was almost taller than Cynthia in her heels, but not quite-- looking at him made Misty feel intimidated. He offered a crooked grin, crossing his bulging arms over his chest. “Thanks for that, Cynthia. I’m here from the auror department.”

 

“He doesn’t look like someone I’d want to cross,” whispered Shauna.

 

“Tell me about it.” Misty shuddered.

 

After Surge sat back down, Cynthia cleared her throat again. Now, she looked serious, and Misty wondered what she had to say now. Across from her, Kenny and Zoey shared a look, half excited, half worried.

 

“This year,” the Headmistress began, “Hogwarts will be home not only to you all, but to students from two other prestigious wizarding schools-- Durmstrang and Beauxbatons.”

 

Excited murmurs snaked through the great hall, no more than whispers that whisked Misty’s ears as she tried to focus. Two other wizarding schools? Why?

 

“That is because this year, Hogwarts will host the first Triwizard Tournament in a century.”

 

The Great Hall roared to life. Next to Misty, Ash looked confused, and she noticed that many of the other muggleborns had the same looks on their faces. The Triwizard Tournament… a chance to win honor and glory for both yourself and your school; to be a Champion, to go through death defying, back-bending trials in an attempt to win-- yes, Misty knew all about the Triwizard Tournament.

 

“The Triwizard Tournament was founded as a means to bring about international wizarding cooperation. I have reinstated it because I want those opportunities to be given to all of you. The path of a Hogwarts champion will not be easy-- three trials. In the past, there have been deaths. But the staff and I have worked with the Ministry and your parents and Hogwarts is safer than it has ever been.” Cynthia paused. “No student under seventeen will be allowed to enter.”

 

Cries of outrage rang out through the Great Hall. Misty spotted Bonnie Liscio, a bold fourth year Gryffindor, standing on top of her seat in protest.

 

“The Tournament is comprised of three dangerous tasks that could result in death for anyone unprepared!” Cynthia’s voice was sharp; the hall went quiet. Ash had perked up in his seat, his eyes shining with something Misty didn’t like. He had turned seventeen in May, she knew. And she wasn’t sure whether the idea of him participating in the Tournament frightened or excited her. “The Goblet of Fire will not choose just anyone to become Hogwarts champion. I will place the goblet in this room tonight; and those of you who wish to enter--” she shot a knowing look at Bonnie, “who are of age , may write their names on a slip of paper and put them in.”

 

-

 

Dawn’s eyes were locked onto Paul as she tore a bite of bread from her roll. She knew he wanted to enter. She could tell by the look on his face as Cynthia was speaking, clear as day. His chin had been raised and his jaw set. He was resolute.

 

She’d addressed the dementor, too, but nothing too telling. Her explanation of the events (apparently it was just a runaway dementor) left Dawn and especially Leaf feeling unsatisfied.

 

“I wish I was seventeen already,” Drew sighed mournfully, scooping salad onto his plate. “I’d always loved reading about past Tournaments. But at least we’ll still get to meet people from other schools,”

 

“Yeah, well.” Leaf hadn’t touched much of what was on her plate. “I’m seventeen, and I’m not entering. This is a time for my expertise as a journalist,”

 

“Of course,” Drew spoke like it was the most obvious thing in the world.

 

Dawn wasn’t seventeen yet, and she wouldn’t be for a while, but the thought of meeting girls from Beauxbatons was entertaining enough. As well as, somehow, the idea that Paul could become Hogwarts champion if he really planned to put his name in. “Leaf, you should enter.”

 

The girl wrinkled her nose, picking up a french fry with scrutiny. “And end up with my head blown off? No thanks. You know what, no. I’m so confident I won’t be chosen that I’ll put my name in as a joke. Twice.

 

“You kiddies heard what Cynthia said,” purred Harley as he dropped into the seat next to Leaf. He’d been visiting Solidad. “Only once. And there’s really no point in anyone else here dropping in their namey-poos because I’m winning.”

 

Drew snorted. “Riiiiight.”

 

Looking down at her half empty plate, Dawn decided she wasn’t hungry anymore. She stretched with a yawn, more than ready to hit the hay. “I’m about to head up to the common room. Harley, what’s the password?”

 

“How am I supposed to know?” The violet haired menace scoffed. “I’m no prefect.”

 

Dawn groaned. Was she going to have to ask Paul? Things at the table felt tense already; he and Drew had exchanged heated glares throughout the feast. Some wounds wouldn’t heal easy, especially if they were gashes to Drew’s pride.

 

“Easy, Berlitz. I got this one,” Leaf gave her a half smile before turning to the side and shouting across the table-- “ Yo, Ursula! I’m ready to go to bed!”

 

The honest fact of the matter was that there were too many Slytherin girls and instead of forcing them to sleep in cots, their head of house, Clair (Professor Hollingshead, but everybody just called her Clair) had made the highermost room of the Slytherin dungeons a two-bedder. Ursula and Leaf, two girls Dawn thought could not be more different, ended up being the ones to move into it.

 

Ursula’s head whipped around, her twin drills bobbing along with her movement. She sniffed, making her way over to Leaf. “Shall we go now, then?”

 

“Dawn’s coming to help me unpack,” Leaf replied, getting to her feet and stretching. “You entering the Triwizard Tournament, Schoenberg?”

 

The pink haired girl gave Dawn a rude look before getting distracted at Leaf’s mention of the tournament. A dreamy look made its way into her wine colored eyes and Dawn knew she must be thinking of winning the tournament, the big golden goblet in her arms and everyone cheering her name.

 

“Of course I am,” She replied haughtily, as though it were the most obvious thing in the world. “Why wouldn’t I be?”

 

Leaf shot Dawn a smirk, and Dawn realized that Leaf didn’t care what Ursula did, she just liked to play the devil’s advocate and rile her snobby roommate up. The triad made to exit the Great Hall, and Dawn said good night to Drew and Harley before heading towards the dungeons.

 

When they finally made it to the hidden entrance, Leaf and Dawn moved so that Ursula could pass. She looked at a particular spot on the wall and spoke the password, “Gillyweed.” The wall opened up before their very eyes, revealing, with an ambient green glow, the Slytherin common room. As it was situated under the Great Lake, the windows showed a vibrant emerald color, and sometimes a merperson or grindylow would brush past, much to Dawn’s delight. A warm orange fire cast a golden glow on the elaborate silver-adorned furniture, making Dawn remember the moment she’d first entered the dorms as a wide-eyed eleven year old.

 

“It’s so good to be back,” Ursula sighed, throwing off her cloak and holding it in her arms, “and as a prefect no less! Sorry to you two, having to stick to being common, while I get to live it up in the gorgeous prefect’s bathroom.”

 

“What are you overcompensating for now?” Yawned Leaf. “Let’s go and--”

 

BANG. Two people entered the common room, arguing loudly. Or rather one of them was arguing, and the other was staring straight ahead, annoyed.

 

“As if the Goblet of Fire would ever choose an asshole like you!” One of them shouted. Dawn groaned when she saw that it was Drew, and his fury was directed at none other than Paul. Students trickled in behind them, looking fairly used to Drew’s fit.

 

“Drew, stop causing trouble--” Dawn began, but she was cut off by Ursula.

 

“Paul, how can you let him talk to you like that? Throw him in detention!” She cried indignantly. Harley’s cat, Mr. Needles, who had been sitting by the fire grooming himself, hid under a nearby armchair, annoyed at her tone of voice.

 

“You would defend him, Schoenberg,” Drew hissed. “You two give Slytherin a bad name. If you’re not being rude as fuck, he is, and vice versa! It’s no wonder people stereotype us with you two front and center!”

 

Dawn rushed forward to her best friend’s side. “Drop it,” she said, her voice pleading. Drew swallowed thickly, anger clouding his emerald eyes. “It’s not worth fighting over. The Goblet of Fire will prove them wrong,”

 

“Y’all really just gonna make a giant scene in here? On the first day?” Leaf shook her head from where she leaned against a vanity, watching the show. Noticing them watching her, she held up her hands. “Don’t let me stop you, though.”

 

Paul, who hadn’t said anything yet, rolled his eyes. “You’re all being stupid. I’m going to bed.”

 

“And leaving me here to deal with these morons by myself?” Ursula gestured wildly, her voice just short of a scream.

 

“Something like that.” Paul disappeared up the stairs, slinging his cloak over his shoulders. Dawn watched him go, shaking her head.

 

“How can you defend him, Ursula?” She asked, trying to be gentle. “When he treats you like that ?”

 

Ursula looked at the ground, biting her lip. Her face was red with anger and embarrassment at being hung out to dry by Paul. “You wouldn’t get it, Berlitz. Hayden here is always agreeing with every little thing you say, and you’re just the same. You think Paul and I give Slytherin a bad name, but there you are, consorting with muggle borns like the blood traitors you are.”

 

Dawn froze, looking up at Ursula. She had been peeved before, but now she was seething -- it was taking more than she had not to jump on the other girl and rip her to shreds. Even Leaf was looking nervous, glancing from Dawn to Ursula as though each of them were a lit fuse seconds from reaching their limit.

 

“I’d rather be a blood-traitor than an elitist bitch,” she hissed, raising her chin. “You can enter the tournament and win, but you will never represent me.” With that, she stormed up the stairs.

 

-

 

Ravenclaw was handling the announcement substantially better than Slytherin was. Gary and Serena had shooed the first years to bed and now the upperclassmen could sit peacefully by the fire, discussing the information they’d just been given.

 

Serena was on the fence. She’d be seventeen in September, before the winner was chosen, and therefore able to slip her name into the goblet, but she couldn’t pretend that the prospect of being Hogwarts’ champion didn’t terrify her.

 

“You’ll be entering of course, won’t you, Solidad?” Clemont asked from where he was tinkering with his latest contraption near the fire. “It’s a natural conclusion to come to. You have the skills necessary to win,”

 

“I think I will,” Solidad dipped her head, “thank you, Clemont. Harley was afraid that if I entered I’d die and then he would have no one to go to the Yule Ball with.”

 

“The Yule Ball, you say?” Serena jumped at the voice behind her. Conway had interjected himself into the conversation, as per usual.

 

“It’s traditional during the Triwizard Tournament,” Solidad explained, resting her elbows on her legs. “It’s a dance. You take a date. The champions are supposed to start the dance first, and so on…”

 

Serena leaned back in her seat. A ball sounded like something that was right up her alley. Beautiful dresses? Dancing? It was like a dream come true. The only part she wasn’t sure about was who could be her date.

 

“That sounds wonderful,” Conway purred, sitting rigidly in his chair. His gamer neck had never been more prominent, and Serena wrinkled her nose.

 

“You better not be thinking of forcing some poor girl to dance with you,” Gary interjected, cracking his knuckles in an attempt to make Conway flinch, “because if I find out you are, I’m gonna take you by your skinny neck and swing you around like a pale, greasy lasso--”

 

“Gary Oak!” A voice reprimanded from the common room’s entrance. Everyone turned their heads to see Gary’s grandfather and the head of Ravenclaw house, Professor Oak, standing there in his pajamas, a suspiciously wriggling lump in his breast pocket. Gary looked ready for a scolding about Conway, but Professor Oak reached into his pocket and pulled out a wiggly yet beloved sight.

 

“Gary Jr!” Gary screamed, racing to his grandfather and gently taking his precious ferret from his arms. Gary Jr danced excitedly, flopping around like a pool noodle. Serena had never felt more glad to see a ferret in her life-- Gary Jr was the pride and joy of Ravenclaw.

 

“You left your ferret with me this summer,” Professor Oak explained, “he has been itching to see you for months! Every time I showed him a picture of you he would get excited!”

 

“I’ll never leave you again, Gary Jr,” Gary hugged the ferret tight. “Somebody get this man a sweater, stat!”

 

“On it!” Cilan, who had been quiet up until now, whipped a custom blue ferret sweater (left in the common room last year, knitted by Serena herself) and tossed it to Gary. “It truly is wonderful to see our beloved ferret wiggling around again! Although I haven’t missed having to check my clothes every morning for him,”

 

Conway rolled his eyes behind his glasses. “I personally don’t understand all the love for Gary Jr. He’s just a ferret. I prefer my toad, Leslie.”

 

“You only say that because one time you were ogling those Slytherin girls and Gary sicced him on you,” Solidad commented, her voice blunt.

 

“Well, I’m going to go to bed now,” Professor Oak commented. “You all better be up and at ‘em for classes tomorrow, you especially, Gary.”

 

Gary rolled his eyes good-naturedly. “Of course, Gramps. Goodnight.”

As soon as Professor Oak was out of earshot Gary’s attention rocketed back to Conway. Serena had been daydreaming about the ball and who her date might end up being, but Gary’s loud voice interrupted her thoughts.

 

“What Slytherin girls?” The spiky-haired teen asked suspiciously. Oh, not this again. Every letter Gary had sent to Serena this summer seemed to have been filled with mentions of Leaf Greene, a quiet Slytherin who, according to Gary, was a fantastic writer. Serena would’ve liked to meet her; she was sure they’d get along. Serena always appreciated intellect where she could see it, and the fact that Leaf seemed to be very pretty didn’t hurt either.

 

“None of them!” Conway waved his arms in retaliation.

 

“It was Dawn and Ursula during a cat fight, but I’ve caught him looking that other girl up and down multiple times,” Solidad rolled her eyes, looking back down at her book. “You all love to get off topic.”

 

“What other girl!” Gary demanded. “Who told you you could even look at girls in general! I didn’t give you permission.”

 

“I don’t need your permission--”

 

“You need my permission until I give you permission to not need my permission, Conway. Chads rule over incels, remember?”

 

“I’m going to bed,” Serena stretched and yawned pointedly, grabbing her favorite braided blue blanket from the couch and heading up the stairs to the girls’ dorm. It wasn’t that she didn’t think Gary’s constant teasing of Conway was funny, but it became draining to her quickly. Solidad followed her up to the dorm, snapping her book shut.

 

Several of their roommates were in bed asleep already. Serena wasn’t very close with any of them, but she did enjoy the discussions they had sometimes. Her closest friend, she mused as she got into her pajamas, was the Gryffindor, Shauna. Clemont could be a close second, then perhaps Ash came in third. Or maybe she just thought Ash came in third because she might like him. Something like that! Serena wasn’t even sure what to think.

 

She soon exhausted herself running mental circles and her head hit the pillow, her sleep full of dreams about dresses and Yule Balls and ferrets.

 

-

 

The Hufflepuff girls sat on their beds, contemplating the newest pieces of Hogwarts gossip. May was quite surprised they had this much to go off of so far; the Triwizard Tournament, infighting in Slytherin, who they felt was going to start dating who this year.

 

“I’m telling you!” Burgundy crossed her arms over her chest, her violet hair put up in curlers. “I am calling it. Drew and Dawn will finally start dating this year, and so will Ash and Misty! It’s just fact!”

 

“Oh Burgundy,” Candice laughed, a stark contrast to the jealousy May was beginning to feel. “You’re so wrong! I’m best friends with Zoey who’s best friends with Dawn, and there’s nothing romantic going on there. But I won’t fight you on Ash and Misty,”

 

May was honestly beginning to feel guilty over her feelings for Drew. It was stupid, the way he made her feel. What started out as a baseless quidditch rivalry had transformed into so much more. Drew was handsome and intelligent and May felt like there was no hope for her.

 

“What do you think, May?” Burgundy prompted. “Who do you have your eye on?”

 

She wondered if she should tell them. She knew that whatever she told Burgundy would go straight to Georgia, but Georgia wouldn’t tell anybody else. And May wanted to be honest with her friends.

 

“Okay, don’t laugh,” May spoke earnestly. “But… it’s Drew,”

 

“What?!” Burgundy and Candice almost fell off of the bed. “Drew Hayden?!”

 

“That’s the one…” sighed May, twiddling her fingers.

 

“Okay, well you guys do have that cute rivals thing going on,” Candice began. “ Imagine. You fall off your broom… Drew sweeps down and catches you…. it’s so cute! I can see it, May!”

 

May’s face flushed and she wished she could shove her face into her pillow. “No, really, it’s not like that….”

 

“Resistance is futile, cherie ,” Burgundy clapped her hands together in excitement. “We can be your wing-women! It’s bound to work!”

 

“It’s fine, guys,” May said quickly, her face tangibly red. “Let’s change the subject. How about the tournament?”

 

“The tournament!” Candice squealed. “I nearly forgot. Okay, here’s my prediction. Solidad Holloway will be the Hogwarts champion. I mean, you saw how she handled that dementor!”

 

“Agree,” Burgundy nodded.

 

“Can’t argue with that,” May spoke as she recovered from her embarrassment, “I can’t think of anyone else more suited to the part,”

 

“Ladies!” A voice called from the stairway. The three peeked out of the doorway to see Reggie Rebolledo at the bottom, oven mitts on his hands as he held a tray of cookies. “I made cookies!”

 

May’s eyes gleamed and her mouth watered. Her previous embarrassment forgotten, she shot down the stairs, leaving the other two rolling their eyes as they followed their food loving friend.

 

-

 

Iris was thinking. The Gryffindor common room was packed with excited students talking about the Triwizard Tournament and all the activities that would go hand in hand with it.

 

She was only sixteen, and wouldn’t turn seventeen before the deadline. Iris would’ve liked to enter. The tournament sounded like something she might be good at, but she wouldn’t be able to. It sucked.

 

Oh, well. If she couldn’t get into it, she at least hoped that someone from Gryffindor would be the champion. She knew Ash was planning on entering, and so was Kenny. Between the two of them, Iris hoped that Ash would be the one. Even if he could act like a kid sometimes, everyone liked him. He’d be a great person to represent Hogwarts. Anyone but a Slytherin.

 

“Iris, we’re headed to bed,” yawned Shauna, Zoey and Misty behind her. “Classes start tomorrow,”

 

“Tell me something I don’t know,” Iris said testily, but it was all in good humor and she stood up to go after them.

 

The girls made their way up to bed and Iris gently placed her wand on her nightstand. Zoey’s cat, Silver, leapt up onto her bed and began purring, kneading her paws rhythmically as Zoey stroked her.

 

Misty took her hair out of its usual side ponytail and snapped the hair tie around her wrist. The girls climbed into bed, and after a while, the room was full of soft breathing and snoring on Shauna’s end.

 

Iris quietly walked across the dorm to the little window that was there and sat down, careful not to make a sound. She sighed, her back pressing against the wall, and wondered what this year could bring as she stared at the moon.

 

Death? The tournament had killed people. And what would those students from the other schools be like? Rude? Maybe she’d make some new friends from that fancy French one.

 

One thing was for sure— this year would be chaotic. Iris wasn’t sure how things could possibly shake out, but knowing Gryffindor, they’d find a way to get into trouble. They were just a bunch of kids, after all.

 

Chapter Text

In hindsight, she should’ve been happy to finally be back in her warm bed at Hogwarts, but now that she was laying there under the custom satin sheets she’d brought from home, Ursula’s eyes were wide open. She felt like she could taste the brutal sting of her own words on her tongue, and she didn’t like it one bit.

 

Ursula had always lived what no one would hesitate to call a privileged life. Like most pure-blooded families, the Schoenbergs had inherited a large estate, and as a result, little Ursula had grown up sucking on a silver spoon. The phrase ‘money can’t buy happiness’ had never been an issue to her anywhere but here.

 

She hadn’t meant what she’d said to Dawn, she knew that for certain, and God did she hate that she couldn’t hold her forked tongue. But that look in the other girl’s eyes when Paul left? Staring into Ursula’s soul as though she were trying to feel what Ursula was and then use it against her, like she was someone to pity Dawn had kicked Ursula while she was down, and Ursula, already hurt and embarrassed, searched in that moment for the thing she could say that would burn the hottest. If only to get Dawn away.

 

Ursula rolled over in bed uncomfortably, her curlers poking her face so that she couldn’t relax. She just wanted to sleep and then everything would be back to normal in the morning, and she could put her name in the cup and shine her sparkly new Prefect’s badge and everything would be routinely. But she couldn’t.

 

Sitting up in bed, she looked across the room at her roommate. There was a clear divide in the center of the room, almost like a chalk line. Half of the room had been painted pink, while the other half maintained its gray-green shade, no gradient, a staunch cut of color on the walls. Ursula had brought many frivolities from home, like her canopy bed— all Leaf had brought were her books and a stuffed cat that she hugged in her sleep.

 

Pale green light dappled Leaf’s face, shining luminescent lake light into their room. Ursula hated to admit it, but she liked Leaf a lot. She was stubborn, honest, and blunt, and throughout the years Ursula had noticed her mischievous streak. There was another trait there too, something all too soft and sweet. Sometimes Ursula saw it, like when Leaf watched her take her curlers out in the morning, or when she fell asleep on her writing and ink smudged all over her cheek.

 

They weren’t friends. Leaf often made that clear. But the part of Ursula that knew friendship was something money couldn’t buy longed for her. Leaf was the closest thing that Ursula had to a kindred soul, and they were obligatory acquaintances, forced together by their desire to sleep in queen sized beds.

 

“Leaf,” Ursula hissed. The other girl stirred in bed and opened up one eye, sitting up and yawning.

 

“What do you want? I was just starting to drift off,” Leaf leaned back against her bedpost, setting down her stuffed cat next to her as though she were embarrassed of it.

 

“Am I mean?” She couldn’t help but ask. Opportunity presented itself and Ursula was at a loss.

 

Leaf considered this question for a moment, and let out a scoff that almost became a laugh. “God, are you dragging me into some deep, vulnerable thing at three A.M.?”

 

“Just answer the question.”

 

“Fine,” the other girl took a long breath, “well, you were certainly mean tonight. I know you were upset about Paul, but being straight up bigoted? I thought you were above at least that,”

 

“I am!” Ursula found herself pleading. “I just… looked for the thing I thought would sting the worst. I was hurt and embarrassed and I hated the way she was making me feel,”

 

A quiet hum was all she could hear on the other side of the room. “Yeah, well, you can be a real bitch sometimes,”

 

“Thanks.” Ursula remarked, a sarcastic edge to her tone.

 

“But you know who you’re talking to, right? The fact that you’re even concerned about this means that you’re not all bad. And as you so callously flaunt, you were made a Prefect. That’s because you’re organized and you do care about this House, even if you can be a brat,” Leaf elaborated. “Sometimes I can’t stand you, but other times I even like to be around you. When I can tell you’re trying.”

 

When you’re trying. Ursula thought that she was always trying. Trying super hard to fit the image of herself she’d perpetuated already. “Then I’ll just have to try harder,”

 

“I guess,” Leaf slumped back onto her pillow, “but you can do that tomorrow.”

 

Ursula supposed that was true, but before she could say anything about it, her roommate was out cold. With a slightly lighter conscience and a resolution, Ursula closed her eyes and drifted off.

 

-

 

“He’s coming this way!” A hand grabbed Dawn’s head and shoved her under the table. When she tried to protest, she was immediately met with a biscuit stuffed between her jaws and a kick from a heeled boot.

 

The person the two early risers were avoiding? Conway. He had been stalking the Great Hall for about fifteen minutes now, and Dawn had assumed that he was trying to work up the courage to talk to her about the date she owed him. In a fit of panic, she’d told Harley everything— despite her better judgment, and he was proving to be rather loyal to this cause.

 

“Scram, geek. We don’t have any extra bacon grease,” Harley snapped as soon as Conway got too close.

 

“Um, actually,” began Conway, “I’m looking for Dawn. The two of us have some… business to discuss over a nice glass of pumpkin juice,”

 

Dawn gagged under the table.

 

Um, actually ,” Harley mocked Conway, “I don’t care? This is the Slytherin table, hun. You can’t just come muck it up with your smarty-pants schtick. Besides, I think if Dawn wanted to see you she could just follow the trail of grease,”

 

“Oh, god,” another voice joined in as Georgia slammed her bag on the table. “What’s the geek doing here?”

 

I just want to eat my breakfast, Dawn thought to herself, and now fix my hair! The extendable ears hadn’t even let her eavesdrop on anything good— this date with Conway was far too high a price for what she’d paid for.

 

As Conway walked away she resurfaced, pulling off a bite of the biscuit and sitting in her usual seat. “He’s constantly just popping up everywhere. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was right behind me as we speak,”

 

“Maybe he can teleport,” Georgia suggested, sarcasm dripping thickly off her tone like honey.

 

“Apparition is very real and very dangerous,” Harley put in as he slathered a biscuit with grape jam and butter. “Drew knows all about the dangers of it. You should ask him,”

 

Dawn raised an eyebrow. That was a weird thing to say. “What do you mean by that? Is Drew trying to learn how to apparate or something?”

 

“Oh, he already has a basic grasp on how to do it, hun. He’s just not very good at it,”

 

“What are we talking about?” Speak of the devil. Drew set down his bag on the bench next to Dawn, his hair shining and freshly blow-dried. “Apparition?”


Georgia was watching the exchange, a bored look on her face. “Who cares? I didn’t actually mean that about Conway being able to teleport, you dummies.”

 

Harley shrugged, putting his hands up, “Oh, I know that, Georgie. I’m just saying Drew is very close to getting his license is all!”

 

Drew gave Harley a look. Dawn recognized it immediately-- that was Drew’s shut up right now stare. She looked over to her best friend and he straightened up, pulling his cloak closer around his right leg. Okay, now she was suspicious.

 

“What’s going on here?” Dawn demanded, looking between the two of them.


“More drama already?” Leaf remarked offhandedly as she sat down, a stack of bacon appearing on her plate.

 

“Don’t be mad,” began Drew, “but at the Quidditch World Cup I might’ve accidentally s--” he looked around, lowering his voice to a quiet whisper, “splinched myself,”

“There it is!” Harley cried out, clapping his hands together.

 

Splinched himself? Even thinking the word made Dawn feel sick. She imagined Drew trying to walk around with his leg torn off and flinched, shaking her head. “ What? What happened?”

 

This had piqued the interest of Georgia as well as Leaf, and the latter had pulled out her notebook and quill eagerly. Drew waved her away.

 

Off the record!” He hissed, and Leaf stowed away her notebook reluctantly. “I snuck back to the cup via apparition because I was worried about everyone and I guess there’s a reason I don’t have my license yet because I s-- did that. If not for Harley and Solidad, I would’ve died. I just don’t understand why he--” Drew glared at Harley, “is trying to stir up trouble now.”

 

“Oh, hun!” Harley laughed, waving a perfectly manicured hand. “I was bored. You should know me well enough by now.”

 

“Yeah, well,” Dawn grumbled, “way to give everyone a heart attack on our first day,”

 

They finished up breakfast, but Dawn didn’t have much of an appetite; Drew kept looking at her apologetically, but she told him it was fine. Harley bustled off soon after and the sixth years looked down at their schedules for the first time.

 

“Anyone else have Surge?” Georgia asked, looking up at the others. Dawn checked her own schedule and sure enough, her first period was Defense Against the Dark Arts.

 

“I do,” Drew offered.

 

“Same here,” added Dawn, glad at least to share a class with her friends.

 

Leaf only hummed in affirmation. “Guess we should be off then,”

 

Surge’s class was in one of the top towers, so the little group set off to the moving staircases. Dawn felt it odd; usually it was just she and Drew and occasionally Georgia heading to their classes, but now Leaf, whom had previously been an enigma, was there too, and Dawn sort of liked it. Leaf had a new vibe and she reminded Dawn a little bit of Zoey’s picky cat, Silver, but she was someone new and interesting and she had a lot to say if you were listening.

 

When they reached the tower, they were shocked to find it absolutely packed with students as though the corridor was like a pack of sardines. Slytherins, Gryffindors, Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws alike crowded around the hall, all sixth years as far as the eye could see.

 

“What is this?” Hissed Georgia, “it’s like the whole year is here,”

 

That’s because it is! ” A loud and clear voice spoke from behind them. It was Cilan, dressed immaculately as always in his Ravenclaw robes. Dawn was surprised that he hadn’t made Prefect, but Gary was a very good choice. Sometimes people tended to tune Cilan’s unctuous voice out. “Professor Surge has gathered all the sixth years because his class is supposed to be run in a new way!”

 

“Put a sock in it,” Georgia snapped, “I could’ve figured that out myself!”

 

Dawn and Drew exchanged an uneasy look with Leaf. A new way? Involving literally every sixth year? How could that even work?

 

“Hi, Dawn,” A hand on her shoulder alerted her to an exhausted looking Zoey, with Kenny trailing her looking equally tired.

 

“Gryffindor have a party last night?” Drew raised an eyebrow at them.

 

Zoey nodded with a sigh, grabbing Kenny to keep his head upright. “Kenny here never slept because he promised he’d help the first years to their classes,”

 

“Hi, Kenny,” Dawn laughed at her friend. They’d been close in first year, wide-eyed and scared and getting on the train for the first time, but as the years went by and they found friends in their own houses, they’d grown apart. Dawn got the feeling he’d been slightly put off when she was sorted into Slytherin, but she’d never admit it.

 

“Atten- hut!” A deep voice roared suddenly over the crowd. Dawn watched the sixth years around her snap to attention and she did the same, looking for Surge in the sparsely populated crowd so that she could have her eyes on him and be respectful. “Shut up, all of you! This is how it’s going to go.”

 

Surge was on top of a conjured platform, looking down at the students over his nose. “We’re going to be doing something a little different . My classroom has a capacity limit of twenty four. There are around fourty eight of you. First ones into my class by any means necessary will be in my elite class period. The rest of you are in the… other class.”

 

A hand shot up in the crowd, and Dawn craned her neck to see Barry on his tip toes trying to ask a question.

 

“Uh, yes,” Surge looked vexed as he pointed to Barry, “what is it, Mr…”

 

“McGonnigal, sir!” Barry saluted. Dawn heard Kenny let out a long groan behind her. “Yeah, um, my question is, why not just have Cynthia split us into two periods like all the other classes?”

 

Dawn immediately felt afraid for Barry as Surge’s eyes widened at this insubordination. “And who made you the teacher here, Mr. McGonnigal ?”

 

“No one, sir!”

“Then how dare you question my methods!” Surge roared, and people flinched and even covered their ears around her. Leaf was looking annoyed, her eyes slits as she glared at Surge.  


After that nobody asked any more questions. Instead, they were all nervous for what they were going to have to do. Dawn realized then that the door to the classroom was nowhere in sight- were they supposed to track the thing down, too?

 

“I’m sure you’re wondering where the door is,” Surge addressed them. “Too damn bad. Use what you’ve learned and find it. Now GO!

 

The room erupted to life, students running in every direction, searching far and wide for the door. Dawn caught a glimpse of Ash, Misty, and May, all bound together with conjured rope like a group of hyper kindergarteners, on the prowl for the room.

 

Dawn immediately turned to her friends. “Let’s work together! This is all about strategy, and if we--”

 

“Nope,” Leaf interrupted, pulling out her wand and performing a cloaking spell on herself. Dawn tried not to feel let down as the girl disappeared from sight.  

 

“My strategy is following that geek from breakfast,” Georgia waved with a smirk. “Later. Or at least, I hope.”

 

“Typical,” Drew huffed as Georgia left, turning back to Zoey, Kenny, and Dawn, “but we can do this, as long as you Gryffindors stay awake.”

 

“We can!” Kenny protested. “I swear. Let’s get looking. He’s got to have hidden the door somewhere,”

 

“Duh,” Drew crossed his arms.

 

Dawn blinked, suddenly understanding what Kenny was trying to say. “I think he means that Surge made the door invisible, but you can’t have an invisible door without having a visible room.”

 

“So…” Zoey began.

 

“So,” Dawn elaborated, “the door has to be… in the wall somewhere.”

 

“In the wall?” Drew asked skeptically. “How will we get to it then?”

 

“We’ll have to be really quick,” Dawn lowered her voice, reaching into her pockets. Thinking quickly, she pulled out four silver sickles and handed one to each member of the group.

 

“I can enchant these so that we can use them to communicate. We can inspect the walls and if you find the door, you touch your coin. The rest of us will group up, and then we’ll—“

 

“We can use bombarda on the wall but we have to get in fast, ” Kenny pounded his hand with his fist. “Let’s go!”

 

With that they split up. Dawn wove between students doing all sorts of things to get to the wall— she passed Burgundy yelling loudly at Cilan and Georgia tailing a creeping Conway. Finally her hands met the stone walls and she pressed her ear up against it, tapping rhythmically with her wand on the wall as she walked. She zeroed in so hard on listening for changes in sound that she nearly didn’t notice the person in front of her— stopping only inches from a collision, she looked up to see Paul.

 

He was looking down at her with a blank face, yet his aura exuded smugness. “You’re not getting past this point.”

 

“Last time I checked,” she brought her hands to her hips, “you don’t own this wall. You know what? All you’re doing is making me suspicious that you know something I don’t!”

 

He rolled his dark eyes, sighing impatiently. “I’m not here to play mind games. Even if I was, you’d lose.”

 

“Get rid of Ursula again?” Dawn shot back at him, “or is she somewhere doing your bidding only for you to treat her like shit?”

 

“Shut up,” Paul shook his head.

 

“Excuse me,” she snapped pointedly, shoving between him and the wall and resuming her tapping. He didn’t bother her much after that, electing to stand back and watch for a moment as her efforts returned fruitlessly. How humiliating! I wish I could just find the stupid door.

 

“You know, I could help you.” Paul offered. Dawn’s head snapped up. Did she hear him correctly? Paul? Offering help?

 

“Ha, ha, very funny. As if you’d help me.”

 

“I will, if you tell your friend Hayden to leave me the hell alone,” he replied.

 

Oh, so he’s serious, Dawn thought, suddenly nervous. She looked back at the wall to avoid staring at him. “I… I mean, if you want to help, I won’t say no. I just didn’t think you…”

 

“Whatever,” he interrupted her, suddenly becoming even more serious. “You’re right to look at the walls, but tapping isn’t going to help you find the door. It’s still the same density as the rest of the wall.”

 

“So what do you propose I do instead?” Dawn asked testily.

 

Paul pointed his wand at the wall. It was longer than Dawn’s own wand, with darker wood and a more rugged look to it. “ Specialis Revelio.

 

She watched as the wall seemed to open up from a small hole in the middle, and panic shot through her at the thought of her friends. “Wait! Make it stop!” She hissed, fumbling with the silver coin. Paul lowered his wand and pressed his back against the hole, looking around to give the impression he were still attempting to find the door.

 

She touched the sickle and it seared in her hand as she searched for her friends in the chaos. Suddenly Zoey’s head popped up from the crowd. She spotted Dawn and rushed over, only stopping to do a double take when she saw Paul there. Distrust immediately marred her features.

 

“It’s fine!” Dawn hushed her before she could speak. “He found the door.”

 

Zoey nodded, not speaking and instead electing to cross her arms and look away. They were soon joined by Drew and Kenny, and before Drew could say a word to Paul Dawn shot him a warning glare.

 

“We found the door,” she whispered.

 

I found the door.”

 

“Excuse me, Paul found the door.”

 

Drew was staring at the two of them with a look of sheer incredulousness on his face, but he didn’t try to speak.

 

“How do we get in?” Zoey murmured, “without letting everyone else know we found it, of course,”

 

What are we talking about over here?” A loud voice interjected, and a hand on Dawn’s shoulder jolted her to attention. Gary and Serena were standing there, Shauna and Clemont close behind them.

 

Shhhhh!” Dawn hissed. Gary’s eyes widened in understanding and he stepped back, suspicion turning into excitement on his face.

 

“I knew it would be on this wall,” he smirked. “ I used aparecium.

 

“Isn’t that spell super advanced?” Drew teased him.

 

Gary shoved Drew, breaking into a laugh, and Zoey cleared her throat.

 

“I have a plan,” Serena spoke up, and all eyes turned on the Ravenclaw. “We could spread a fake rumor about where the door is. Then, when everybody goes over there, we get inside and close the thing up again,”

 

Everyone was quiet for a moment until Shauna spoke, her eyes glowing with admiration for her friend. “That’s an awesome idea, Serena! That could really work!”

 

“Shauna’s right,” Dawn put in, “it could. But how could we get the rumor around to enough people?”

 

“Leave it to me,” Gary said, rolling up his sleeves and breaking out his wand. “I learned how to throw my voice to make Conway think there was a ghost in the common room.” He then held up the wand to his throat and spoke softly as though he were using Sonorus. Next, he made a throwing motion with his wand; suddenly it seemed that there were multiple iterations of Gary Oak hissing “I found it, in the other corridor!” around the room.

 

The effect was immediate. Students tore over to the next corridor as though they were a stampede of raging bulls. The only people not to race out were Conway and by proxy Georgia, and the two of them stalked over to the group by the door.

 

“I know that spell,” Conway said, annoyed. “You use that to play tricks on me, Oak.”

 

“Yeah, yeah, suck it up. Go look in the other corridor like everybody else,” Gary hissed, shooing him away.

 

Paul, seemingly unwilling to wait any longer, stepped away from the wall, finishing his earlier spell. The wall opened up completely, revealing a tiny black door, and he opened it with some effort.

 

A scuffling noise followed and a bulb inside the room lit up brighter than the sun, emitting a short sound like the ringing of a bell.

 

“That’s one person in,” Professor Surge spoke, somehow inside the room already, sitting at his desk as though he were about to fall asleep.

 

“But none of us have—“ Georgia began.

 

Suddenly, Leaf materialized in front of their eyes, standing inside the room with her arms outstretched and a smug look on her face.

“Cloaking charm, baby,”

 

“What!” Protested Gary, stepping in after her. The light sparked, and Surge barked out, “two!”

“Are you kidding? You let everyone else do the work and then just slip in?”

 

The rest of the small group filed in after him. Paul first, Dawn followed, then Drew, Zoey, Kenny, Georgia, Serena, and Shauna, and Conway headed up the rear. Dawn and Zoey stepped back towards the door, each quietly uttering an incantation to fix the wall back to normal.

 

“Seems that way,” Leaf was inspecting her nails closely.

 

“That’s eleven,” Surge grunted.

 

“I should’ve done that,” groaned Georgia.

 

“Welcome to the elite class,” growled Surge from the shadows. “If you’ve made it here it means you’re ready to learn what I have to teach.”

 

“Thank you, sir,” Drew spoke, nodding his head politely, but Surge didn’t say anything else. That meant all they had left to do was wait.

 

Dawn’s mind was whirling. She was relieved and glad to have found the door, but still reeling from receiving help from Paul of all people. She made a mental note to thank him, but quickly scratched it out, shaking her head. The thought of doing something like that was too much for her pride to handle.

 

Suddenly, voices outside made the conversations inside the room slow to a halt.

 

“I know they were here,” a muffled voice was preaching, “I saw them standing right here and now they’re gone!”

 

“Maybe they went to go look in the other corridor with everyone else,” a rougher voice responded.

 

“No, Ash, I think she might be onto something,” Dawn recognized May speaking. So that meant Ash, Misty, May, and God knows who else

were out there right now, inches from victory.

 

“Okay, stand back then,” Misty began, and Dawn could almost feel her pointing her wand at the wall.

 

Bombarda! ” She yelled. An explosion rocked the room, and Dawn and Zoey, being closest to the door, instinctively cast protego to block the flying debris. Standing in the explosion hole were Misty, Ash, and May as expected, but they were joined by a smirking Ursula. Behind the four of them, Cilan was looking hesitant, but as soon as they saw the current elite group, they all raced inside.

 

“Seventeen,” counted Surge gruffly.

 

At the sound of the explosion, the stampede of heavy bull hooves made its way into the right corridor again. Dawn noticed the distinctive purple hair of Burgundy leading the pack. She was neck and neck with Barry, and the two skidded to a stop as soon as they were safely inside, panting heavily.

 

Impedimenta! ” A voice from within the pack yelled. Many of the front runners seemed to stop as though they were running in slow motion, allowing Iris to sprint past, her hair bouncing wildly behind her.

 

“Twenty.”

 

Time seemed to be passing at a snail’s pace as the students outside fought to get into the elite class. Dawn recognized one of the members of the Ravenclaw Quidditch team, who became number twenty one. Twenty two and twenty three darted inside as well-- two Gryffindor students Dawn had never met.

 

Who would the last student in the class be? Dawn noticed Zoey looking anxious. Was she hoping that Candice would be able to pull through and join them? Dawn sure was. She recognized some of the other students from Quidditch teams and the like, and some of them weren’t the friendliest. Even a few of her roommates were out there, save for Georgia.

 

“Candice!” Zoey called, directing Dawn’s attention back to the herd. The black-haired girl was pushing her way through the crowd, her shoes in one hand and her wand in the other.

 

Incendio! ” she shouted, pointing her wand at the classroom, and at the last second she shot inside.

 

“Twenty four,” Surge stood up, holding out his wand and waving it in a large circular motion. The pieces of wall blown apart by Misty’s spell fell back into place; fighting students fell calm as Surge fixed the door, opening it.

 

Dawn could only see his back from where he addressed the other students. “Go back to your dorms. You’ll return here at this time tomorrow for your class!” He barked.

 

Disappointed students groaned and dispersed, and Surge turned back to the elite class, his muscly arms crossed over his chest. He pointed his wand at the windows and the curtains flew back, letting light into the room. With another wave of his wand the desks and chairs were propped up against the back wall; Surge grinned, excitement palpable in the air around him.

 

“Lesson one!” He yelled sharply, “duels!”

 

-

 

Around the room, students looked at each other. Duels? The last time they’d been over duels was in second year, and that hadn’t ended well. A twelve year old Ash Ketchum was in the hospital wing for a week after a spell gone awry, and Gary, his then partner, had a permanent scar above his left elbow from a misfired curse.

 

Leaf wasn’t worried about duels very much at all. She doubted Surge would make them duke it out for real right now, and even if he did, it was unlikely that he’d choose her.

 

I want,” Surge began, looking around the classroom with a scrutinous eye, “you there, Squirt. Come up here,”

 

Conway jolted and immediately strode to the front as Surge pointed at him. Leaf glanced at Gary, wondering if he would comment, but his eyes were glued to Surge as though he were scared to step out of place.

 

So we’re actually doing this. This guy must want us to kill each other.

 

“And….” Surge continued to look around. His eyes came to a rest on Leaf, and her stomach dropped. “You, little lady.”

 

Annoyance was like a wound up viper in Leaf’s stomach, ready to strike Surge’s throat at the utterance of the nickname, but she swallowed her pride and stepped up to face Conway.

 

“Yeah! Go, Leaf!” Dawn cheered from the audience.

 

“I’ll go easy on you,” Conway swore, “I’d never hurt a lady.”

 

“Leaf! Get his ass!” Called Gary from the back.

 

You all be quiet,” snarled Surge. Gary’s jaws snapped closed, but Leaf could still feel his eyes on her. She looked across the room at Conway.

 

He was raring to go, his arms outstretched as though he were going to tackle her. She breathed in a deep sigh, rolling her eyes.

 

“This is an opportunity for you all to show me what you got. It’ll help me determine what I need to teach you. Only rules are if you draw blood you’re out, got it?”

 

“Sir yes sir!” Conway snapped to attention.

 

Leaf rolled her eyes again. Was this guy serious? Pairing her up with Conway? He was excellent at things like potions and ancient runes, even astronomy… but duelling?

 

“Now bow to each other and make nice,” Surge demanded.

 

Conway immediately sunk to his knees and bowed to Leaf. She looked at the rest of the class in discomfort, emboldened by the sight of Ursula urging her furiously to do the same.

 

She bent at the waist, a half bow. No way she was going to go low for this kid. Now what do you do next in a duel? Of all the subjects Leaf read about, fights and duels were the ones she skipped over the most.

 

Now step back six paces,” Surge demanded.

 

Leaf did as she was told, keeping her eyes on Conway’s face. The rest of the class was watching with bated breath, on the edge of their seats to find out what might happen.

 

“Let the duel commence—“

 

Petrificus totalus! ” Leaf shouted immediately. The full body bind curse took its course and Conway fell to the ground, completely rigid.

 

“Who can tell me what he did wrong?” Surge asked, surveying the class as Leaf stepped away, heading back to her seat. She was almost embarrassed of how easy that had been. “You there, twinkle toes.”

 

“He was too slow!” Barry exclaimed. “He didn’t shield. Too cocky.”

 

“Right. Why don’t you go next then?”

 

And the dueling commenced. Barry versus Misty, Georgia versus Iris ( intense!! ), and May versus Zoey were interesting to watch and provided at least more action than Leaf’s match.

 

Moving on, Burgundy put up an enormous fight against one of the Gryffindors that squeezed into the class, and Candice duked it out with Cilan. Serena and Clemont provided the most apologetic match, with Serena ending it by means of Expelliarmus and then immediately gasping and running his wand back to him.

 

“Boring!” Ursula exclaimed, looking at her nails. Leaf shot her a look. What happened to trying to be nice?

 

“Why don’t you come up here then, Barbie?” Surge ordered her, looking annoyed.

 

“My pleasure,” Ursula smiled venomously, getting to her feet and straightening her skirt. “And it’s Ursula. Who will I be duelling, hmm?”

 

“Me!!!” Shauna nearly fell out of her seat. After Serena’s match, she’d been raring to get up there and go, and Leaf had been wondering when Surge would put an end to her incessant excited wiggling.

 

“Fine,” their teacher approved, and the girl bounced up to the front of the class.

 

Their duel was surprisingly long lived, with Ursula throwing curveballs at every opportunity and Shauna meeting them as though she were up at bat. Finally, Shauna managed to disarm Ursula, and the pink haired girl was furious.

 

“What?!” She cried out. “You’ve got to be kidding me!” Leaf, sensing trouble, stumbled out of her seat and pulled Ursula over to the back of the class again.

 

“Yay, Shauna!” Serena cheered sweetly, the loudest Leaf had ever heard her talk unless she was disciplining underclassmen.

 

“I demand a rematch,” grumbled Ursula.

 

“No,” Leaf shook her head in exasperation, “remember what you said about being nice,” Ursula lowered her eyes, but Leaf could tell she was still pissed off.

 

“Now how about you two?” Surge demanded, and Leaf strained to see who he was pointing to. Dawn and Kenny were making their way to the front of the class, and interest made Leaf pay attention.

 

“Wait,” Kenny began as soon as he was in position, “I don’t think I can fight Dawn. I don’t want to hurt her or anything,”

 

Surge blew a huge gust of air out of his nostrils as he scoffed. “C’mon, kid. She’s a Slytherin. You saw that last match, they’ll screw you over first chance they get.”

 

The room went relatively silent, and Leaf felt her eyes widen at the way Surge was talking. It didn’t feel too far off the mark for Ursula, but she could imagine how embarrassing that would be to Dawn, and it made her angry that someone so kind could be referred to like that. She assumed that most of the rest of the class felt the same by their reactions.

 

Kenny was wide eyed. “You’ve got it wrong, sir, Dawn’s not—“

 

“God damn, kid, back in my day, we Gryffindors picked fights with the snakes for fun,” Surge snapped, “you can’t trust ‘em, little man. They all get sorted in for a reason, whether it’s Death Eater parents or—“

 

Can you keep your little prejudices to yourself? ” A voice snarled right next to Leaf’s ear. She whipped around to see Ursula bristling with rage, standing on her feet and glaring at Surge. “I’m sick of it already! You don’t even know her well enough to say something like that!”

 

Murmurs of agreement floated through the classroom, but Surge silenced them in one terrifying glare. Leaf remembered what she’d read about him in Diagon Alley— he was an auror, and he’d dealt with loads of dark wizards. Suddenly he was a lot more intimidating than before, and that was saying something.

 

“Detention, Schoenberg,” he growled, “and if you ever talk to me like that again, you’ll be out of this class faster than you can apply another coat of mascara.”

 

Ursula looked as though she were about ready to snap. She was trembling with rage, but she stood down.

 

“Alright, commence the duel.”

 

Dawn looked shaken, but she and Kenny bowed to each other, and she lifted her chin as they took their six paces.

 

The blue haired girl won the duel with a Confundus charm, but Leaf had the feeling Kenny had let her get the shot in. She offered to take him to the hospital wing, but Surge told her he’d be fine in a few minutes, so instead she helped him back to a seat.

 

The duels had gone from fun to a little bit miserable, so Leaf wasn’t surprised when Gary Oak volunteered, rolling up his sleeves and strutting to the front. Ash hooted and hollered for his friend, and Gary pretended to be accepting imaginary roses from the crowd, bowing to them all like a true show-off. Leaf wrinkled her nose in distaste, almost debating pulling out a book.

 

“And you can join him, Champ,” Surge pointed to Drew, who frowned at the demeaning nickname.

 

“I’m no champ,” he sighed melodramatically, acting as though he had to drag himself from his seat. He straightened up when he reached his spot across from Gary, and the two bowed to each other.

 

“Let the duel commence,” barked Surge.

 

Densaugeo! ” Gary yelled, and Drew’s front teeth began growing and growing until they went far past his chin.

 

“I like dis,” Drew said, his speech impeded by his gargantuan teeth.

 

The class erupted into laughter, and Leaf shook her head. It was almost funny. Almost.

 

“Oh, my God!” Shouted May between wheezes, and Drew looked very pleased with himself.

 

Engorgio,” Drew managed to incant, and Gary’s left hand swelled up to around the size of a watermelon.

 

“Okay, enough, ” snapped Surge. “I asked for duels, not clownery! Get down to the hospital wing, both of you.”

 

Gary shot Leaf a look as he and Drew exited the classroom amidst the snickers of most everyone else, and she shook her head in exasperation. While she admired that he and Drew were trying to lighten the class up, she was incredibly annoyed over the fact that he couldn’t seem to take anything seriously. First the dementor, and now class with their terrifying new teacher? His stupidity would be the death of him one day.

 

“I’m so done with this,” Ursula let out a long sigh. “This guy is like, crazy,”

 

Leaf only nodded along, half listening.

 

“Alright, morons,” their teacher began again, eliciting a groan from Ursula, “our last match for today will be between you two. Ketchum and Rebolledo, isn’t it?”

 

“Yep!” Ash grinned, while Paul only grunted. Leaf found it odd that Surge knew their names while she’d been reduced to ‘Little Lady,’ but she supposed Cynthia must’ve talked to him about Ash and Paul’s… mutual dislike of each other.

 

Their rivalry had started in first year and over time exploded into a mutual hatred of epic proportions, and while no one was quite sure why Ash seemed to be the only person capable of causing Paul to blow up, some had ideas. For starters, Ash was popular. Sweet to everyone with a lot of friends, he was the polar opposite to Paul, and they had fought on numerous occasions over Paul’s treatment of some of Ash’s buddies. It escalated on the Quidditch pitch, and in fourth year Paul aimed a bludger so fiercely at Ash that it knocked him off his broom and cost Gryffindor the match. Needless to say, there’d been a ton of outrage over that incident.

 

So now they stood across from each other, and everyone was nervous about what might go down. Leaf had to admit that even she, so often impartial to these sorts of things, was on the edge of her seat.

 

“Let the duel commence!” Roared Surge.

 

Everte statum—“ Ash began, attempting to throw Paul backwards, but the other shielded against the jinx with some effort, staggering a bit before regaining his balance.

 

Locomotor mortis ,” Paul spoke, and Ash’s legs locked, causing him to become unbalanced and fall to the floor. Leaf winced at the thud his body made as it hit.

 

Even from the ground, Ash was still fighting. “ Aguamenti!” He shouted, and a jet of water burst from his wand, knocking Paul backwards and rendering him incapacitated. Ash aimed another hex at him, but it never connected.

 

Langlock ,” said Paul, and Ash’s mouth opened and closed without sound.

 

“Use a nonverbal spell!” Misty pounded on a desk, and Leaf could tell the Gryffindor fiercely wanted Ash to win.

 

But Leaf knew from years of classes with him that Ash was more experienced with thinking on his feet than using more controlled types of magic, especially nonverbal spells. He thrust his wand as though he were attacking, but no magic came out.

 

As if to add insult to injury, Paul made sure his own spell was nonverbal itself. Leaf recognized the full body bind from when she herself had used it on Conway, and Ash groaned as Paul dusted himself off.

 

Surge seemed disappointed at Ash’s loss, which unnerved Leaf yet again. He helped his student to his feet, unbinding him and restoring his ability to speak from when Paul had used langlock.

 

“That was a dirty trick,” remarked Ash venomously as he grabbed his bag, “using langlock on me like that,”

 

Paul shrugged as everybody else began collecting their things. May and Misty had moved to Ash’s side, standing in solidarity with him.

 

Leaf glanced at Ursula, wondering if she’d go defend Paul as she usually did. Ursula seemed to be hesitating, but she did get to her feet and walk over, hissing a few poisonous words at the trio before looking back to Paul.

 

“Class dismissed,” grunted Surge. Leaf waited for Dawn by the door, not surprised to see her talking with a concerned looking Zoey. After assuring her friend that she was fine, Dawn caught up to Leaf and they began on their trek back to Slytherin common room to get ready for their next class.

 

“Hey, um,” Leaf began, cursing her lack of tact. It was so hard to start conversations like that. She wondered how Gary did it. “What Surge said really wasn’t cool. But you know none of it was true, he was just trying to get Kenny into the fighting spirit,”

 

Dawn sighed, “Yeah, that’s what I hoped he was doing. But it still hurt. I try not to be a walking Slytherin stereotype, yet I still get treated like one! It isn’t fair.”

 

“Some people are just ignorant,” Leaf shook her head. “Just because Death Eaters are so open about having been Slytherins doesn’t mean that the other houses haven’t churned out their fair share of assholes too. I mean, look at Surge.”

 

This elicited a sharp yell of laughter from Dawn, and that caused something to stir in Leaf’s chest. She’d never made anyone really laugh before.

 

“Leaf, you’re funny!” Dawn managed between giggles.

 

That’s new. ‘Funny’ was not a descriptor Leaf was used to having applied to herself. She looked away, feeling the tug of a smile at her own lips. Grinning felt like a betrayal to her pre-established persona, the one who made sarcastic quips and  used sneaky underhanded ploys to win hallway battle royales, but here she was, walking with Dawn Berlitz, and fighting the formation of one on her face.

 

-

 

After her detention, Ursula was exhausted. Surge had had her moving heavy tables and scrubbing floors with no magic, and she wished she could grab him by his meaty neck and choke him out right there.

 

Dawn was more trouble than she’s worth, Ursula decided, shaking her head as she grabbed her bag and left the empty classroom. Night was falling over the grounds, and as she passed a window she caught sight of the sunset’s reflection on the Great Lake. It must look beautiful in the common room.

 

“Ursula!” A voice called out, and the sound of shoes clicking against the shiny floors made her turn around. Dawn was racing over, her deep blue hair flying behind her. She caught up to Ursula and slowed down to a normal pace. Ursula looked at her, puzzled. What does she want? “I wanted to thank you for what you did this morning,”

 

“Oh,” Ursula paused, glancing at her. Dawn’s bangs were all cattywampus from her running, and Ursula had to fight the urge to say something rude.

“I mean, it’s no big deal. He was insulting all Slytherins, not just you.”

 

“I know, but you didn’t have to stand up for me like that,” Dawn said, “seriously, thanks. I was so shocked that he would talk about me that way, even though I’ve never…”

 

“You’ve never what?” Ursula interrupted, annoyance making her nose twitch. She knew what Dawn was thinking. I’ve never acted like a reincarnation of Salazar Slytherin. I got into the house because I’m ambitious and resourceful, not snobby and elitist. I’m sooo much better than you, Ursula, because I’m—

 

“Because I’ve never done any of that stuff he was saying I’d do,” Dawn muttered. “He was kind of being an asshole, and even though he’s this big tough guy, you called him out.”

 

Ursula paused. This was different. Talking to Dawn. In fact, Ursula was sure that the only other time they had spoken respectfully was on the first day of their first year. They’d been clear with their mutual dislike of each other, especially as they got older and learned how to fight with the under hand, as Slytherin girls so often did. Now Dawn was all buddy buddy with Leaf, the girl Ursula’d been trying to befriend for years, and god damn it, Ursula couldn’t let this go. Her pride wouldn’t let her.

 

“Yeah, well. I wasn’t doing it for you. Look beyond your own nose for once. Slytherin is my house too. ” She snapped, immediately feeling regret when Dawn’s eyes widened.

 

“I came here to thank you. Why does everything always become a fight between us?”

 

Ursula was miserable. She didn’t even know the answer to Dawn’s question, because there wasn’t a good one. “You know why? It’s because you’re a friend to the other houses, and me? I’m the kind of Slytherin Surge was talking about.”

 

Dawn didn’t say anything as Ursula stormed past. Good, she thought, tears biting the corners of her eyes. God, what is wrong with me? Today had been terrible. First, that stupid door thing, and she had seen Dawn and Paul, working together, standing together, and it had made her so angry. Then she’d had to sit through a myriad of classes dreading her detention and then the detention itself and now this.

 

“Hello M’Lady,” a nasally voice wafted around the corner, and Ursula almost rammed straight into Conway, who was fresh from the dining hall.

 

“Can it, geek!” She snarled, shoving past him and continuing on down to the dungeons. She finally reached the Slytherin common room, pleased to find it empty, slammed her bags down and threw herself on the couch.

 

She didn’t know when she fell asleep or how long she was out for, but when she awoke the common room was dark save for the fire. She sat up, yawning and drawing a blanket around herself, ready to grab one of her textbooks and get to work when the portrait opened up and someone stepped inside.

 

She turned to see Paul, ducking to fit under the top of the portrait, his cloak slung over his shoulder. It seemed that he’d already untied his tie, and it hung across his shoulders, one side longer than the other to a point that it bothered Ursula.

 

“What were you doing out so late?” She demanded, cursing the fact that her voice was still scratchy from crying.

 

“I went for a walk,” Paul said, not looking at her as he crossed the common room and set his bag down, “and caught some third years doing God knows what behind the greenhouse.”

 

“Of course. You were nowhere to be seen when we did that door thing this morning. I thought you’d help me.”

 

He raised an eyebrow at her. “Was I supposed to or something?”

 

“Yes!” She blurted out. “No! I don’t know! I just… expected it would be me, if anyone.”

 

Paul sighed, looking as though he would rather be anywhere else in the world than right here. “Just because we’re the Slytherin prefects does not mean we’re friends.”

 

“So you’re Dawn’s friend now?”

 

“Oh my god. Goodnight.”

 

“You know what?” Ursula stood up, throwing the blanket aside. “No. How are we not friends, after everything? I always stand up for you, because I actually think you’re alright when you’re not doing shit like this. I’ve made an effort with you for years. So how am I not your friend?”

 

“Schoenberg, I’m going to bed.” Paul sighed again.

 

“No, not this again,” she groaned, stepping over a book someone had left on the floor to get over to him, and reached for his wrist. “You can’t just go upstairs when you don’t want to have a conversation—“

 

“I do not have the extra energy to focus on you right n—“ Paul began, pulling his wrist back, but before he could finish his sentence, the portrait hole opened again, and Dawn and Drew toppled in.

 

“Ow! The curse hit your teeth, not your legs, Drew!” Dawn hissed.

 

“I didn’t see the ledge!” Drew protested, helping her up.

 

“Yeah, yeah,” Dawn teased him, “you’re lucky I was awake and able to come and get you, otherwise you would’ve had to...“ her words died on her tongue at the sight of Paul and Ursula, and Ursula felt Paul’s wrist stiffen beneath her hand as he finally yanked it away.

 

“Wait,” Ursula pleaded. She didn’t care how pitiful she sounded, Paul was one of the only semblances of a friend that she had, and she didn’t want the conversation to end like this.

 

“I’ll talk to you tomorrow,” Paul responded flatly, heading up the stairs.

 

Ugh. Ursula wanted to punch something. I’ll talk to you tomorrow , when does he ever say things like that? Whatever. I’ll hold him to it.

 

“Ursula?” Dawn began, looking hesitant. “Are you—“

 

“I’m fine! ” She snarled, grabbing her blanket and her bag and storming up the set of stairs that led to her dorm room. Leaf was awake, writing at her desk, but she didn’t say anything as Ursula stormed past, throwing herself between the silk sheets and stuffing her face in her pillow.

 

I do not have the energy to focus on you right now. The hell did that mean? What was he so focused on? They had the same classes, same amount of work. She knew he wanted to compete in the tournament, but the Goblet wasn’t even open yet. Just an excuse to get away from me, she thought miserably.

 

-

 

Across the water, the sky looked soft, an extension of the deep blue ocean. The Pegasi were grazing in the fields, five enormous, sturdy palominos. Melody sighed contentedly, leaning against the beautiful white marble window frame of her dorm room.

 

Being back at Beauxbatons felt incredible. It was such a shame she’d be leaving soon to head to Hogwarts. In their beds behind her, her friends were fast asleep, and Melody watched them for a moment before turning back to the midnight sky. One of them would become the Beauxbatons champion, Lusamine had assured them. It was traditional for the sixth and seventh year girls to train in lieu of the Triwizard Tournament, and though it hadn’t been held in centuries, Burnet and Lusamine had still been working tirelessly to make sure that they were ready should the opportunity arise.

 

And now, here it was. And Melody just knew she’d be the one holding that cup in the end. No fool at Hogwarts or Durmstrang could be dumb enough to get in her way, but she wouldn’t put them past it.

 

One of the pegasi in the pasture ruffled its wings, and Melody sat up, moving back to her ivory bed. She could just barely make out Lillie’s sleeping form in the bed next to her, and further back, Miette was snoring with her arm dangling off the side of her mattress. Melody wrinkled her nose, shaking her head with a half smile.

 

“You’re up late,” a voice murmured softly, and she looked up to see Mallow leaning forward in her bed. “Excited?”

 

“I guess,” Melody shrugged, “are you?”

 

“Oh, I’m super excited,” the green haired girl sighed, looking dreamily out the window. “I wonder who we’ll meet there. I wonder who the champions will be. Do you think their school is as beautiful as ours?”

 

“That’s impossible,” Melody smirked, “but I have a pretty good idea of who our champion will be,”

 

“Oh, really? Because we all think that it’s going to be y—“

 

“Me, I know.” Melody interrupted, flipping her hair. Mallow looked surprised that Melody had interrupted her, but it melted into another excited grin.

 

“I can’t wait, Melody. A whole year at another school!”

 

“Yeah, yeah.” The brown haired girl leaned back in her bed, pulling the covers up over her chin. “You just wait until you see me with that cup.”















Chapter Text

In the early morning, the library was a different place. The enormous, book-filled chamber was dim and empty, lit only by golden lantern light. Leaf was almost positive that there was nobody there except for her and the librarian, Ms. Wicke, and Wicke didn’t care what Leaf did as long as she was quiet. Really,  it was only natural for her to go to the Restricted Section.

 

With some effort, she pulled an enormous, leather bound book from a top shelf. She dropped it on the desk with a thud, coughing as a cloud of dust bloomed underneath. Slipping her right hand between the pages, Leaf opened the book. Its pages were yellow with age, and some had been damaged by either rats or doxies(who could tell?), but she was sure that it must possess some of the information she sought.

 

A HISTORY OF BLUNDERS: DEATHS RESULTING FROM THE TRIWIZARD TOURNAMENT

 

The Triwizard Tournament has been a fundamental part of the coming of age of a witch or wizard. Therefore, the tasks given to those participating are meant to be difficult. They are meant to be life and death, and in some cases, those who are not sure in their jurisdiction may fail at their task, or become involved in an accident that kills them. Deaths of the Champions are not uncommon during the Tournament. Far less likely, but worse still, are situations in which average students die due to the circumstances of the tournament.

On some occasions participants in the Triwizard Tournament are not as valorous as one might hope, and will turn to unconventional, manipulative  tactics in order to cheat and win. Cheating has been almost as traditional as the Tournament itself. In 1787, Beauxbatons Champion Aurore Lafaille manipulated students of the host school, Durmstrang, into collecting information for her and subsequently six of them were killed when sneaking into the pen of a dragon at her request. Due to the magical binding contract of the Tournament, it was not permitted to end, even as protests sprung up calling for Lafaille’s removal.

 

“Hey, Greene,” a voice broke Leaf away from her reading. Annoyed, she looked over her shoulder, not surprised to see Gary Oak there. He leaned against the bookcase, one arm supporting himself, and the other holding a wriggling ferret. “Wicke told me you might be over here… the Restricted Section? Damn. Do you even have a pass to be back here?”

 

Leaf rolled her eyes, slamming the book shut in irritation. She was too tired to deal with him. It took all that she had to get up early enough to come down here, her eyes were swollen with exhaustion, and he just pranced in like it was nothing? “Oak, you better have a good reason for bothering me this early, or else I will hex you.”

 

Gary put his hands up in mock fear, his brown eyes wide. The ferret scrambled onto his shoulder, its little claws digging into the tie of his uniform. “I have the best reason! The delegations from Beauxbatons and Durmstrang are supposed to arrive today, and Gary Jr. and I were only wondering if--”

 

Gary Jr.?” Leaf held up a hand to stop him. “Hold on. You named your ferret Gary Jr. ?”

 

“Um, yes?” He scoffed. “What, was I supposed to have named him after you ? Maybe then I would’ve named him Twig, or Grass. Maybe even Pebble--”

 

“Okay, I get it!” Interrupted Leaf. She almost felt like laughing, but it must’ve been the lack of sleep. It was so fitting that Gary would name a ferret after himself. After all, no one else on the planet could have that big of an ego, could they? “So what were you and Gary Jr. wondering?”

 

“We were wondering if you would come watch the delegations arrive with us,” Gary’s usual cadence was in its full effect, his voice smooth and warm, and he held eye contact with her easily, as though he’d done this before a million times. And, Leaf had to remind herself, he had. An inexplicable feeling of embarrassment washed over her then, and she shoved the heavy book back into its slot.

 

Watch the delegations arrive? With Gary Oak? Like a date? No. Oh, no. Leaf’s face felt hot. Was he asking her out? It couldn’t be. There was no way that he, the Gary Oak, would ask her out, and even if he did, there was no way that she would allow herself to be reduced to a piece in his collection. Or maybe she was reading too far into things; maybe this was only friendly. But on the off chance it wasn’t?

 

“I can’t,” the words were out of her mouth before she’d even had a chance to think about them further. Leaf’s mouth felt dry. Disappointment flashed in Gary’s eyes, but only for a brief moment, and then his obnoxious smirk was back.

 

“Oh? And why not? You going to miss the show to sit up in your dorm and read?”

 

“Um, no,” she intended it to be snarky, but she could tell she sounded nervous, and it pissed her off. She had to make up a lie, and she couldn’t tell herself why, but she knew it had to be so. An excuse. Something. She couldn’t do this. “I promised Dawn I’d see it with her,”

 

“Damn,” Gary snapped his fingers in defeat, “well, I’ll still see you there. It’ll only be like, a thirty minute thing, and then the feast. That’s what Gramps says at least.”

 

Leaf shook her head, gathering her bag and throwing it over her shoulder. She stifled a yawn; on top of waking up so early, Ursula had kept her up late into the night, crying. Leaf hadn’t been sure how to comfort her, and so she’d awkwardly tried to sleep as Ursula sobbed. God.  “Well, it was nice to meet Gary Jr, but I’m afraid I must be going to Divination now.”

 

“He enjoyed meeting you too, Greene,” Gary rolled his eyes, tipping Gary Jr. into his leather bag. “And Divination? Seriously? Ms. Practical takes Divination?”

 

“The hell is that supposed to mean?”

 

“Nothing,” he conceded, but to her irritation, he was still smirking. “Just let me know if you see any handsome Ravenclaws in your crystal ball—“

 

“Yeah, I’ll keep my eyes open for Conway.” She shook her head, brushing past him on her way out of the library. I missed breakfast for that. And I didn’t even get to finish what I was reading.

 

The Goblet of Fire would be put out tonight, after the students from Beauxbatons and Durmstrang had arrived. Leaf tried to make herself feel excited, but all she could think about was the gut feeling that something would go horribly wrong. She imagined becoming a Champion, but the thought felt too gratuitous, and she forced it out of her head. She imagined someone else then, maybe Solidad, as Hogwarts’ Champion, sabotaged by someone from Beauxbatons or Durmstrang, getting mortally wounded. Leaf shook her head clear of the thoughts; they’d all have to hope that Cynthia had meant it when she said things would be safer.

 

Leaf wasn’t very good at Divination. She’d taken it to blow it off; bullshitting her work in there was easy, but sometimes one of Olympia’s predictions would come true, which was always unnerving. She climbed the ladder into the stuffy pink classroom, not surprised to see that she was the first one there.

 

“Morning, Greene.” Olympia didn’t look up from the tea that she was brewing, and the smell of the wafting steam made Leaf feel dizzy.

 

“Are we doing tea leaves, professor?” She wondered, looking around at all of the teacups that were in the room, on the doily-covered tables.

 

“Mhm,” hummed Olympia, waving her wand and filling each teacup at once. The room began to slowly fill up; Iris Amala took the open seat across from Leaf, meaning that they would be partners. Leaf glanced over at the Gryffindor’s desk, noticing the copy of the Daily Prophet that Iris was looking down at.

 

THE TOURNAMENT BEGINS: BEAUXBATONS AND DURMSTRANG ARRIVE

 

“Who wrote that article?” Leaf asked. Iris looked surprised that Leaf was speaking to her, but she checked the top of the paper regardless.

 

“Malva Marsaille,” the other girl replied, “that same woman who writes the gossip column.”

 

Leaf snorted. “You read the gossip column?”

 

“It’s funny sometimes!” Iris defended herself, snatching the paper away. “And I like reading about the misfortune of dumb people,”

 

“Touché,” relented Leaf, leaning back in her chair out of boredom.

 

When the class seemed to be as full as it was going to get, Olympia decided to begin class. With a flick of her wand, the teacups appeared on the table in front of each student.

 

“Drink,” Olympia commanded.

 

-

 

“Today,” Professor Petrel moved slowly across the front of his classroom, as though he were a tiger stalking an invisible chimp. “We will be brewing the Draught of Living Death.”

 

The students inside the room stirred a bit. The Draught of Living Death was supposed to be an advanced potion; it was even said to be able to put a person in a sleep so deep it appeared that they were dead.

 

Dawn narrowed her eyes, trying hard to remember reading about the potion in question, but she couldn’t recall a single thing. Oh, well. She’d just have to use her textbook like everyone else. Next to her, Zoey was rubbing her hands together in anticipation, having already opened her book onto the proper page. Dawn hastened to do the same as Petrel set out the ingredients.

 

The class had eased into a steady stream of hushed conversation, and Dawn was getting to her feet to grab the things she would need when a disheveled looking Gary burst into the room.

 

“Sorry I’m late,” he said breathlessly, “Gary Jr. got out of my bag and I had to chase him down. He’s cool now.” Then Gary gestured to his bag, where a small, wriggling lump was visible. Petrel glared at Gary, disdain in his droopy eyes.

 

“I don’t care. Ten points from Ravenclaw.”

 

Every Ravenclaw in the class groaned. Dawn caught sight of Serena throwing Gary an intense look of betrayal and almost felt bad for him. The scolding he would receive later would surely dissuade him from being tardy again.

 

“Now, there is a reward for brewing this potion the best,” Petrel narrowed his eyes. Dawn straightened up in her seat. A reward? I wonder what kind. Producing a tiny golden bottle from his cloak pocket, the Professor held it up to the light; a glint of pale gold caught Dawn’s eye. “Felix felicis, or liquid luck. He who drinks this should find that for twenty four hours, he will succeed in anything he does.”

 

Murmurs of excitement spread throughout the class. Twenty four hours? Dawn eyed the tiny golden bottle. Really, how different was making a potion compared to baking?

 

-

 

“Swish the remnants of your cup around three times,” commanded Olympia, “and then switch your cup with your partner.”

 

Leaf did as she was told. The tea had been a tad bitter, but still warm and welcome to her all the same. She held the cup in her hands now, swishing around the remaining tea leaves until she was sure that she’d done it correctly.

 

“This is oolong tea,” Iris commented, “supposed to help you relieve stress. That’s smart of Olympia, what with all the Tournament drama going on.”

 

“Mhm.” Leaf hummed in agreement, not really caring, exchanging teacups with Iris. She opened up her book of symbols, on the table next to her, and got to work looking at her partner’s tea leaves. “Okay, Iris. You have kind of like a spiky newt type thing front and center.”

 

Iris raised an eyebrow. “Spiky newt? Let me see,”

 

Suddenly Olympia swept over them, her cape flowing behind her. “That is a dragon,” she corrected.

 

Iris’s eyes lit up. “A dragon! I love dragons. What does it mean, Professor?”

 

Leaf flipped to the D page in her book, scanning it for the word ‘dragon.’ Finally she found it, and, squinting at the tiny text, read it aloud. “If you have the dragon, that means that there is a great change on your horizons, about which there is an element of danger,”

 

“Good,” acknowledged Olympia, moving on to the next table, which was occupied by Shauna and Barry.

 

“You also have…uh, I think you have a piece of celery,” Leaf continued, inspecting the cup closely.

 

“No way. What does that mean?”

 

“Let me check,” Leaf flipped the pages of her book to the C section. “It basically means that you’re going to be energetic even when you get old,”

 

Iris hummed in consideration. “Hmm. That’s nice. Is there anything else?”

 

Leaf looked down at the cup closely. There were no more coherent shapes in Iris’s leaves— only small flecks of black amongst the drained cup. “No. The dragon took up a lot of space.”

 

Iris swished Leaf’s teacup in her hands. “Aw, man. I’ll start reading yours now,”

 

-

 

Twenty minutes into brewing the Draught of Living Death, Dawn’s hair had begun to frizz up as though someone had rubbed a static charged  balloon all over it. She looked down at her copy of Advanced Potion Making.

 

Cut up the sopophorous bean and drop the juices into the cauldron.

 

She looked around. Sopophorous beans were flying through the air everywhere— she only narrowly avoided Gary’s soaring bean as it shot out from under his knife. Next to her, Zoey was trying her hardest, but her temper was beginning to flare and frustration reddened her puffed up cheeks.

 

“It’s supposed to be violet by now,” Zoey hissed through her teeth, “after adding the bean juice. So why is it green?

 

“I don’t know, Zoe,” Dawn replied in ernest. She glanced down at the bean between her index finger and thumb, securing it to the table, and glanced over at her book. All it wants is the juices, right? She placed the flat edge of her silver knife on top of the bean and pushed down as hard as she could. So much juice spurted from within that she couldn’t even get it all into the cauldron, and a couple drops sat out on her desk.

 

The color of the potion changed from an inky black color to a heathery violet almost immediately, and Dawn broke into a smile at the sight of her success.

 

“How did you do that?” Zoey demanded.

 

“Crush the bean,” answered Dawn.

 

Crush the-  the book says to cut up the bean, Dawn.” Her friend sighed in exasperation. “This isn’t fair! I want that liquid luck,”

 

“Thirty minutes left!” Yelled Petrel.

 

Dawn shrugged at Zoey, returning to her copy of Advanced Potion Making for further instruction. Excitement was writhing in her stomach at the thought of winning the Felix Felicis.

 

-

 

“Leaf, this is like, a super clear ferret,” Iris spoke after a few minutes spent considering Leaf’s teacup.

 

Leaf blanched. Ferret? Like Gary Jr? What was that even supposed to mean? Was it a sign she should’ve accepted Gary’s offer? No, it couldn’t be. She was sure she’d done the right thing. Besides… she wasn’t ready for… something like that. She’d only just begun coming out of her shell socially, and that was because she’d been yanked out by the forearms courtesy of Drew Hayden and Dawn Berlitz.

 

“It means,” continued Iris, one finger on a page of Unfogging the Future, “that jealousy is going to cause you some major stress.”

 

“Jealousy,” Leaf repeated, “I have nothing to be jealous of.” It was true. She couldn’t think of one thing that she coveted, other than, of course, Malva Marsaille’s spot in the Prophet , and she wasn’t exactly jealous of that, per se.

 

“Well, the leaves think you do,” Iris replied matter of factly. “Anyways, there’s a lot to unpack here,”

 

Great , thought Leaf sarcastically, but she kept her mouth shut.

 

“I can see a falcon or an eagle here. This means you need to be on your guard. You’re going to make an enemy,” Iris spoke. Olympia looked over at her appraisingly as she interpreted Leaf’s leaves, and Leaf rolled her eyes.

 

“Are you kidding? An enemy? I hardly leave the dungeons,” she could’ve almost laughed.

 

“An omen is not something to be taken lightly,” Olympia made her way to their little round table. “If the leaves say it’s so, then it is so.”

 

-

 

“Five minutes left!” Petrel called, looking at the clock on the wall next to the closed window.

 

People were beginning to become frantic. Serena looked as though she were on the verge of tears as she stirred her potion, Gary had given up completely and was wandering around the room peeking into the cauldrons of other students, Conway seemed to be sweating copious amounts into his cauldron, and Zoey’s teeth were gritted in frustration.

 

Dawn was frustrated too, but moreso because her hair— which had taken an hour to do this morning— was now puffed up and frizzy. Her potion, however, looked exactly as it should’ve— clear, down to the bottom of the cauldron.

 

“My, what’s this?” Petrel remarked as he strode by. He produced a leaf from his coat pocket and dropped it into Dawn’s potion. It evaporated immediately, leaving him pleasantly surprised. Did I do it right? Nerves caused Dawn to tap her fingers anxiously on the desk. “I do believe that Miss Berlitz has created the perfect Draught of Living Death,”

 

-

 

“Your last symbol is an alligator, Leaf.”

 

-

 

“One bottle of Felix felicis as promised,” Petrel slipped the tiny bottle into Dawn’s empty hand, and she couldn’t help but smile. She’d always been better at potions than most other subjects— because really, it was just cooking. Except the outcome could be deadly and dangerous. “Use it well!”

 

-

 

“The alligator is a bad sign of personal danger and distress possibly caused by those nearest to you; it also shows much mental disturbance and worry; if very near consultant a catastrophe is imminent.”

 

“Well how close to you is it?!” Leaf, all self control vanished, pounded her fist on the table. What the hell is going on with all these shitty fortunes? Everyone knows Divination can be totally jank. This is all just speculation!

 

Not… not very? ” Iris considered, squinting at the teacup, “so don’t count on that imminent catastrophe,”

 

“You should be taking your fortunes seriously,” Olympia’s voice rang out through the classroom, “and writing them down. This is important to a later unit.”

 

Leaf groaned. Why had she taken this class again? Maybe she would have an enemy like the leaves were telling her. Maybe some catastrophe would happen at the Triwizard Tournament. Maybe something would make her jealous. But come on! Iris got a dragon while Leaf got all this prophetic garbage?

 

Just then, the bell rang. Olympia waved her wand, and all the teacups were magically cleaned and then filled. Leaf grabbed her messenger bag, slinging it over her shoulder and walking out of the classroom.

 

She met with an ecstatic looking Dawn outside the entrance to the dining hall, a tiny golden bottle in her friend’s grasp. “It’s liquid luck,” the blue haired girl explained, “it makes you lucky!”

 

“I’m aware,” Leaf rolled her eyes good-humoredly, before remembering a pressing topic that she needed to speak with Dawn about. “Hey, listen, do you wanna watch the delegations arrive together? Gary asked me and I didn’t want to, so-“

 

What! ” Dawn interrupted, “hold on! Gary Oak asked you to watch them with him?!”

 

“Yes!” Leaf hissed, holding up a finger to Dawn’s lips as a warning to lower her voice, “but I got flustered and said no! On top of that, there’s no way I’ll be just another girl for Gary Oak to screw with,”

 

Dawn relented, shrugging her shoulders. “I can understand that. Of course you can watch the delegations arrive with Drew and I,”

 

“Thanks, you’re a lifesaver,” sighed Leaf, pushing a lock of hair behind her ear and settling her book bag a little higher on her hip. “Anyways, you have charms next, right?”

 

The rest of the day went through without a hitch, such that Leaf completely forgot about her fortunes first period. Lunch was good— she bolted it so that she could spend the period in the library. Then she went to her best class, Transfiguration, before ending out the day in Ancient Runes.

 

Before they knew what to expect, it was time. Ravenclaws, Gryffindors, Hufflepuffs and Slytherins all gathered on the bridge, not sure what to expect as they waited for the students from the other schools to arrive.

 

“I hear that boys from Durmstrang tend to be really hot,” Ursula was speaking loudly, as though last night had never happened. Leaf rolled her eyes. She was sure that Ursula was only saying that in an attempt to get a rise out of Paul, who was near her, but it wasn’t working, and Leaf wondered why Ursula even tried at this point.

 

“Boys from Hogwarts are hot too, right Ursula?” Conway’s lisping voice rose above the crowd, and Leaf shook her head. Poor sucker chose the wrong girl. “Like me?”

 

“Honestly Conway, if you don’t stop talking to me right now I’ll curse off your tongue,” hissed Ursula.

 

Leaf, Dawn, and Drew pushed through the crowd, making their way to the front so that they could get a better look at the lake. It was rumored that Durmstrang was supposed to arrive by ship, and nobody wanted to miss anything.

 

“Drew Hayden, no pushing!” Solidad’s stern voice called from where she oversaw the crowd with Reggie.

 

“Whatever you say, mom, ” Drew rolled his eyes. The trio came to a halt and looked out over the dark green lake, searching for any sign of a ripple under the water.

 

“I don’t see anything,” Dawn observed.

 

“Okay, well, we just got here,” retorted Leaf, glancing around. There was Gary, leaning against the railing of the bridge, speaking easily to Serena and Clemont, and Leaf had to force herself to tear her eyes off him. Had the sun always hit his face like that? And did he always scrunch up his eyebrows and nose when he was trying not to laugh, did he always throw his head back when he finally fell apart?

 

Leaf looked away so quickly she could’ve given herself whiplash. Am I admiring Gary fucking Oak? She shook her head. Nuh uh. No way. Not happening. Fixing her eyes on the lakeline, Leaf was determined to look anywhere but at Gary.

 

Suddenly ripples broke the surface of the emerald green lake. Students yelped in surprise, all pointing to the mast of an enormous ship that had begun to surface.

 

“There! That’s Durmstrang!” Ursula’s voice split the disjointed murmuring of the mass of students. The ship anchored itself in the bay, and a large door dropped open onto the sand. A tall man stepped out, his hair a silvery teal color and pointed into a severe widow’s peak. Cynthia rushed out to meet him, followed at a distance by Surge and some other ministry officials that Leaf didn’t recognize. The students were no doubt still on the ship, waiting to exit.

 

“Look!” Another student’s voice rang out, “in the sky!”

 

Leaf glanced up. Next to her, Dawn’s breath caught in amazement, and even Drew’s eyes were full of wonder. A beautiful white carriage, pulled by four enormous winged horses, was making its way down to land on the school grounds, and the Care of Magical Creatures teacher, Professor Kukui, was guiding them down towards him. Leaf noticed Cynthia’s attention being immediately pulled from the headmaster of Durmstrang to the Beauxbatons carriage, and Surge stayed behind as she rushed forward.

 

A woman exited the carriage, so beautiful that she looked as though she could’ve been a movie star. She had short, dark hair that was pulled into an elegant braid that wrapped around her head, and her beautiful robes were pure white. She and Cynthia embraced, a blob of black and white robes against the green of the school grounds.

 

“Everyone!” Solidad’s voice rose above the clamor of the crowd, and Leaf turned to find her. “It’s time to prepare for the feast. I want to see you all at your respective house tables in five minutes. Prefects, make sure everyone does what they’re supposed to,”

 

The students did as they were told. Leaf brushed past Ursula, who was directing some underclassmen to the mess hall, and made it to her seat before most of the other Slytherins could arrive.

 

“Durmstrang headmaster was low key kind of cute.” Harley commented as he slid into the seat next to her. “Don’t you think so?”

 

Leaf’s attention was elsewhere. Gary was standing near the Ravenclaw table, surrounded by excited first years, all looking at something that he was holding. Further inspection showed it to be Gary Jr, who seemed to be just as ecstatic as the rest of the school. Harley followed Leaf’s gaze with a huff.

 

“Really, girl? You better be staring at the ferret, not the Gary,” he chided her, “seriously. I know you’ve only just now decided to join the rest of Slytherin house at mealtimes, but come on. Rule number one! No staring at people like a freak.”

 

“I’m not staring, ” Leaf defended herself, exasperation driving her to clench and unclench her fists, outstretched on the table in front of her. “I see a large crowd, I look at it. Basic cause and effect,”

 

“Guys, you will not believe it,” Georgia slammed her hands on the table, interrupting them as she sat down. “Burgundy and I just saw one of the Beauxbatons girls and we think she’s part Veela—“

 

“And I’m part jackalope,” Drew rolled his eyes, sitting down at the table with an excited looking Dawn.

 

“Really? Part veela?” The blue haired girl asked, her eyes wide with interest, “I want to meet a part veela girl. She must be really pretty,”

 

“She was,” sighed Georgia. “Look, here they come now!”

 

Everyone whipped their heads around to watch Cynthia stride up to the post where she usually made announcements. The gorgeous Beauxbatons headmistress was not far behind, and finally, the Durmstrang headmaster brought up the rear. Leaf noticed that he was trailed closely by Surge, and raised an eyebrow.

 

“Welcome, everyone!” Cynthia began. She looked ecstatic, her silver eyes shining with excitement. “It is my great honor to welcome the students and faculty of two wonderful wizarding schools. This,” she broke off to gesture to the woman next to her, “is Madame Diantha, the Beauxbatons headmistress and my longtime friend. And next to her is the Durmstrang headmaster—“

 

“My name is Archer,” the man introduced himself, surveying the students with two sharp slate colored eyes.

 

“And I would also like to welcome the Ministry officials here with us today!” Cynthia gestured to a small group of important looking people. “If you have any questions about the Tournament proceedings, you may direct them to the Ministry’s director of sporting events, Bill. Bill, say hello.”

 

An average looking man with auburn hair waved to the crowd of students without getting to his feet. A red haired woman next to him nudged him, and he stood up abruptly. “Hello! Tonight we will set out the Goblet of Fire and you will legally be allowed to put your names in it. This will go on until the end of September,”

 

The crowd of students began to murmur excitedly. Leaf saw many students sitting straighter, paying more attention. Oh yeah. I’m supposed to be putting my name in too.

 

“Thank you, Bill. Now. without further ado,” Cynthia rubbed her hands together. “Let’s meet the students from Beauxbatons Academy. Come on in, students.”

 

Leaf watched the large wooden doors as the two groundskeepers, Jessie and James, scrambled to open them. Finally they were thrown wide, and her eyes immediately fell on one of the most beautiful girls she’d ever seen.

 

Medium height, with long legs and hair the color of redwood bark, she entered the room first, crossing it as though it were a runway. Casual conversations in the room fell to a hush as everyone’s eyes fell upon her— and Leaf now understood why Georgia said she might be part veela. She was gorgeous.

 

Behind her followed a short girl with ocean blue hair, speed walking to keep up, and behind her two more girls walked in, one with white blonde hair and the other with green pigtails and tanned skin. They were followed by a boy who bore a stunning resemblance to the prior pale haired girl— his own whitish locks fell over his eyes, and Leaf privately thought that he looked angsty enough to give Paul a run for his money. A dozen more Beauxbatons students entered, all looking a mixture of nervous and doubtful.

 

“Damn,” Harley said out of the corner of his mouth. “That bitch knew how to strut her stuff.”

 

“Wonderful,” Cynthia clapped her hands together, “just wonderful! You all can take a seat at the Ravenclaw table, all the way over at your left. Yes, that’s it.”

 

Leaf watched the first girl as she approached the table. Immediately a spot was cleared for her by none other than Gary Oak, and Leaf felt a jolt of something she didn’t like inside her chest. Gary got to talking with the girl almost immediately, causing her to burst into a laughter that sounded like tinkling bells.

 

“And now, meet the students from Durmstrang!”

 

A new procession entered the room, throwing open the doors again. It was headed by a familiar face, a tall young man with dark hair and icy eyes adorning a perfectly angular face, and throughout the dining hall swoons erupted. Next to Leaf, Harley had stood up in his seat.

 

“Who is that?” Leaf hissed across the table to a wide eyed Dawn.

 

“That’s… I don’t believe it. That’s Alain Calder! Bulgaria’s seeker!” She was almost jumping up and down in her seat. Nearby, Paul looked annoyed but intrigued, propping his head up on his arm. Next to him, Ursula was looking at Alain like a leopard spotting a gazelle.

 

Alain was followed closely by who appeared to be a fourth year girl, and the only girl in their delegation. She had short red hair, and she looked excited to be there, her eyes glimmering in the golden candlelight.

 

“Wonderful!” Cynthia repeated. “We are so glad that you’re here. You all can sit with the Slytherins, to your far right.”

 

Leaf raised an eyebrow as Harley began immediately preening himself to make sure he looked his best. Around them, many girls had begun to do the same, and Ursula had even begun taking out her pigtails so that her pink hair fell over her shoulders, soft and wavy.

 

Alain led the way to their table, and Leaf grimaced as others began to clamor for him to sit next to them. In the end, he chose the seat next to Paul, and while Leaf couldn’t blame him, Ursula looked about ready to pounce. The rest of the Durmstrang group sat down too, and Leaf was pleased to notice how nice most of them looked.

 

Soon the feast had begun. Everyone was clamoring over Alain, but Leaf was zoning out right over his shoulder at the Ravenclaw table, where the veela girl had managed to scoot even closer to Gary. An elbow in her side snapped her out of her thoughts, and she shook her head clear. “What—?”

 

“Alain asked you if you were alright,” Harley hissed, as though she had committed a crime by not paying any attention to the Quidditch star.

 

“Huh?” Leaf began, looking over at the handsome young man. “I’m fine. I wasn’t staring at you, if that’s what you were wondering,”

 

“Oh, I didn’t think you were,” he laughed, and next to her, Harley seemed to melt, “you just looked like you weren’t feeling well,”

 

“Alain!” The little red haired Durmstrang girl whacked his arm, “you can’t go around telling girls they look sick,” then she looked over at Leaf and smiled apologetically.

 

“I’m Mairin,” she introduced herself with a spark of energy, reaching across the table to offer Leaf her hand. She took it reluctantly, but shook it just the same. “And honestly, boys have no tact,”

 

“Tell me about it,” Dawn put in, laughing, “you should meet this guy, Conway—“

 

Drew groaned exaggeratedly. “No! No talking about Conway! We’re trying to make friends, not make them barf,”

 

“No, I wanna hear it!” Laughed Mairin, clapping her hands together, “point him out to me,”

 

“Mairin,” Alain warned, giving her a stern look. “You’re not here to gossip. Or get into trouble.”

 

The feast went along without a hitch for the most part, in spite of Harley and Ursula and others bombarding Alain with flirtatious questions. They were introduced to the rest of the Durmstrang boys— a photographer named Trip, two friends named Trevor and Tierno, a sweet lad named Virgil, an excitable fifth year, Sawyer, and finally a boy named Rudy, who seemed alright, even if something about him rubbed Leaf the wrong way.

 

Leaf decided to call it quits after she looked over at the Ravenclaw table one last time and spotted the Beauxbatons girl laughing hard, her hand on Gary’s arm, as Gary Jr climbed over his shoulders. He looked up, spotting Leaf, and the two made brief eye contact before she broke it, stomach churning, and grabbed her bag. What is wrong with me?

 

“Leaf!” Dawn called, “Are you going up to your room? I’ll come too, I want to put my things away—“

 

“Yes,” Leaf interrupted her quietly, “c’mon, let’s go quick.”

 

“See you later, Drew,” Dawn flicked him in the back of the head before following after Leaf, and the two made their way back down to the dungeons.

 

“Are you alright?” Dawn asked Leaf after they reached the dorm and opened the portrait in the wall. “You seemed off at dinner,”

 

Shit. “No, I’m fine!” Leaf assured her, a little too defensively, causing Dawn to narrow her eyes at her.

 

“Okay, if you say so. Just know that if you ever need me, I’m—“

 

Guys!” Their moment was interrupted by Drew throwing the portrait door open, completely disheveled  and out of breath. “Maple just told me that they’re having a party in the Gryffindor common room tonight! We’re invited!”

 

Wonderful , Leaf grimaced. “I think I’m just going to go to bed,”

 

“Nonsense!” Drew insisted. “The new Leaf is gonna be a party animal,”

 

“Um, no,” she shook her head, “the new Leaf minds her damn business just like the old Leaf did,”

 

“Don’t make her go if she doesn’t want to, Drew,” Dawn put in helpfully, but Leaf couldn’t help but wonder if he was right. She should really be more outgoing if she wanted to have a good time at all this year. It was time to finally start putting in the effort.

 

“No, it’s fine, Dawn. I actually might want to go,”

 

“Well come on then, get ready!” Drew called. “It’s starting right after the feast and we need to be with a Gryffindor to get the password!”

 

-

 

Gary tightened the tie of his uniform, running a hand through his hair as he glanced at his reflection in one of the Gryffindor common room’s mirrors. He looked fine; he had to. The girls from Beauxbatons would be coming to this party, and the good old Oak Charm couldn’t fail tonight. Gary Jr was safely locked in his enclosure in the Ravenclaw common room, and Solidad had promised to watch over him while she did her Astronomy homework.

 

“You look fine, Gary. Stop preening,” came the voice of Misty behind him. He looked up, spotting her reflection in the mirror. Her fiery hair was out of its usual side ponytail, stopping just above her shoulders, and she’d changed out of her uniform into a tank top and shorts. “Who are you trying to impress, anyways?”

 

Okay, Gary had to admit it. Leaf had been driving him up the wall since late fourth year. She seemed to be one of the only girls capable of resisting him, outside of those who knew him best, like Dawn, Misty, and Serena. And, y’know, girls who weren’t into guys. But he was absolutely sure that Leaf didn’t do parties, and almost halfway sure that she wasn’t even into him like that. She seemed to become incensed whenever he provoked her, which made it fun, but still. Most girls would’ve cut the banter by now and taken it to the broom closet.

 

Melody, however, was a whole new brand of girl that you didn’t even see at Hogwarts. From his time with her at the feast, he’d managed to determine that A. she was damn near physically flawless, and B. somewhat into him. She had this kind of cool girl flare that pulled him in, and she talked like she couldn’t give less of a shit about the topic at hand. She’d been cutting and witty and even managed to scare Conway off on her own, which was an automatic turn on for Gary. And she would be at the party tonight. He was conflicted.

 

“Those new girls, of course, Waterflower.” He shook his head, “I mean, c’mon. Practically every guy here is trying to do the same thing, aside from Ashy Boy, but what does he know about girls?”

 

“Hey! I resent that,” commented Ash from the couch. “I know plenty about girls.”

 

“Yeah, right.” Misty scoffed. “Anyways, Oak, if you find your dream girl tonight, take her to Ravenclaw tower. I’m not covering for you again like I had to with Lyra Allen.”

 

Gary cringed at the memory of his last failed hookup. “Okay, okay, I get it, red! But enough about me. Who are you trying to impress with that outfit? Let me guess. He’s a Gryffindor, black hair--”

 

“Shut your mouth!” Misty snapped, glaring him down, hard. He couldn’t help but snicker. She was so painfully transparent about her feelings for Ash. The only person who hadn’t noticed yet must be him.

 

The sound of shoes on the stairs made them both turn around, just in time to see Zoey come downstairs. She was dressed simply; a black band t-shirt tucked into a checkered skirt with a flannel wrapped around her waist.

 

“Nice, Zoey!” Misty complimented her, and the other redhead grinned, looking sheepish.


“I didn’t want to wear the skirt, but Candice saw it in my trunk and said that I had to at the next party. Anyways, I’m off to go get the Slytherins. I figure they’ll be the most peaceful ones to let into the common room first, other than Gary and Serena.”

 

“Hey Zoey,” Gary started before she could exit the portrait. Misty gave him a quizzical look, and he remembered what he’d wanted to ask. He was going to request that Zoey try and get Leaf Greene to come, but remembering the amount of eyes on him, especially Misty’s, he shook his head and waved a hand. “Nevermind.”

 

-

 

Dawn and Drew waited down in the common room for Leaf to finish getting ready. An hour had passed and soon they were joined by Ursula, Georgia, and Harley, all coming from the feast to change their clothes quickly. Ursula made sure that all of the underclassmen were in bed without an inkling of what was going on, which, though she hated to admit it, Dawn thought was a smart choice.

 

Her mind flashed to the bottle of Felix Felicis hidden inside her trunk and she quickly recounted what exactly she had done with it, anxiety filling her at the thought of losing it or allowing it to get stolen.

 

Almost everyone had changed their clothes already; Drew was wearing a violet colored sweater and dark jeans, his hair impeccably styled as always. Georgia hadn’t put much thought into her appearance, simply electing to wear a t-shirt and skirt, but she still looked good. Harley had taken the most time with his choice, even moreso than Ursula; he wore a pale green crop top embroidered with cacti and a pair of bell bottom jeans that Dawn wondered how exactly he could pull off, and yet he did it anyways. Ursula had her hair down and straightened, and she had on a form fitting black dress and high heels.

 

Finally, Leaf poked her head out over the banister. “Is it time to leave yet?”

 

“Why don’t you show us what you’re wearing and then we’ll decide that,” Ursula snapped her fingers, earning a snicker from Georgia.

 

“Ugh, when did you get here?” Leaf groaned, traversing the stairs. Dawn perked up at the sight of her outfit; she looked nice. Neat and elegant. She wore a forest green sweater over a collared white shirt, and her sweater was tucked into a flowy black skirt. The most notable thing about her outfit, Dawn thought, were the thigh high boots she’d paired with it.

 

“Okay, you’re fine,” Ursula relented. “Now when is our Gryffindor getting here? I am sooo bored. Alain is waiting for me, anyways.”

 

A soft knock on the portrait outside alerted them to Zoey’s presence. Drew let her in, but she didn’t enter the common room itself, electing to stay outside. “Okay everyone, c’mon! But be quiet, we can’t be caught.”

 

The little group of Slytherins followed Zoey out. Dawn hung back, though, feeling suddenly like something was off. Were they missing someone? “I’ll catch up to you guys, I know where the common room is already,”

“Okay,” Zoey waved at her. “You look great, by the way,”

 

Dawn glanced at her friend’s own cute outfit and smiled. “You too! You wore the skirt,”

 

“Enough chit chat! Let’s move,” Harley demanded.

 

Drew looked over his shoulder at Dawn as he exited the portrait hole. “Be careful,” he warned her. “Don’t get caught in the halls by Jessie and James. Or worse, Paul.”

 

That was it! Paul. That was who she had neglected to remember. As soon as the portrait hole closed after the other partygoers, Dawn slipped off her white heeled boots so that she could walk quietly. Where was he? She’d noticed that he’d never come to the common room after Ursula had put the younger Slytherins to bed. She was going to find him. He could be performing prefect duties, but then again, there were no underclassmen left for him to govern. So what was he doing out of bed? Perhaps illegal Death Eater activities? She was going to find out.

 

Dawn picked up her shoes and opened the portrait hole, beginning her journey throughout Hogwarts castle. She’d done this whole sneaking out thing before multiple times in fourth year, meeting Zoey for sleepovers in the Gryffindor common room and binge study sessions in the library fifth year. But now was different, she had someone to find and she didn’t know where on earth he could be.

 

Let’s think . She checked everywhere that she could think of, careful to be quiet; the potions store, the library, even one of her favorite hidden chambers. Not a Paul to be found. God, she felt so stupid. The castle was huge. Of course she wasn’t going to be able to find him.

 

Dawn decided to just head to the party. This was a problem for another day, but mark her words, she’d be back. It wasn’t until she passed the Dining Hall, its enormous doors ajar, that she stopped in her tracks.

 

The enormous room was bathed in blue light. The ceiling, which usually reflected the sky outside, was a galaxy of stars and comets; it took her breath away. She didn’t register the voices until she noticed the Goblet of Fire in the center of the room. It was gorgeous, like an ice chip had been eternalized and turned into enamel. Who could only be Paul was standing with his back to her, and next to him, speaking rapidly, was Reggie.

 

“You shouldn’t do this,” Reggie was saying, his voice pleading. “People die in this tournament. I can’t lose you on top of Dad,”

 

“Brandon’s not dead,” Paul’s voice was dangerous, “and you can’t stop me, Reggie. I made up my mind the day it was announced.”

 

“I know he’s not dead, but you know what I’m talking about—“

 

“And you shouldn’t be talking about it here.” Paul silenced his brother, and Reggie stepped back in defeat.

 

Dawn perked up, listening hard. She backed up against the door so that she wouldn’t be seen, barely allowing herself to breathe in case she missed something.

 

“I know, Paul. But you risking your life will not get him to care,” Reggie tried to convince his brother.

 

Suddenly the beautiful blue glow of the room changed to a vibrant red. The fwoosh of a flame met Dawn’s ears, and her eyes widened in bewilderment.

 

“I told you, you won’t stop me.”

 

The thud of footsteps right outside the door alerted Dawn to Paul’s exit before she had the chance to make her escape. He gave her a scathing glare, his eyes falling to the heels in her hand and then to her outfit and finally back up to her face.

 

“What the fuck are you doing here?” His eyes were cold, and her heart felt like it was about to give out due to fear.

 

“Uhh, I was just passing by,” Dawn stuttered. She was so stupid. Every time she thought he could be up to something, she found him doing nothing wrong at all. Either he was good at covering up his tracks, or she was just plain wrong. Whatever he was doing, he had every right to be pissed at her, both as a prefect and someone who had been eavesdropped on.

 

“Just passing by,” he repeated, slower. Dawn felt as though she couldn’t speak.

 

“Um… yes?”

 

“What’s the problem, Paul?” Reggie’s voice came from behind the door, and Dawn’s eyes squeezed shut. Great! Now I’m really in for it. Head boy.

 

“Berlitz says she was just passing by,” sarcasm dripped from his icy tone. Reggie looked her up and down, and his eyes widened in understanding. Relief filled Dawn’s stomach. He must know about the party.

 

“Then assume she was,” yawned Reggie, stretching out his arms. “Honestly Paul, I think you’ve caused enough trouble for tonight. Why don’t you guys go back to the Slytherin dorms?”

 

Dawn gave Reggie a meaningful look of protest. “I was going to the bathroom!”

 

“The common room has bathrooms,” Paul pointed out, his eyes still cold and flinty.

 

Thinking quickly, Dawn opened her mouth again. “Well, I was going to use the Room of Requirement to take a giant bubble bath.”

 

“In a dress.”

 

“Let’s just let her go, little bro,” Reggie clapped a hand over Paul’s shoulder, “really. Dawn, if you want I can let you into the Prefect’s bathroom. It has a huge bath and all the bubbles you can imagine,”

 

They exchanged a meaningful look. Reggie was going to take her to the party and get Paul off of her trail. God, she loved Hufflepuffs.

 

Paul gave Reggie a scathing look, shaking his head before walking off in the direction of the Slytherin common room. Reggie waited patiently while Dawn put her shoes back on and then they were ready to head off.

 

“Sorry about Paul,” he apologized as they began on their way to the Gryffindor common room. “I wish there was an excuse to give you, but he’s actually just like that,”

 

“Oh, it’s fine,” Dawn laughed, stepping onto one of the moving staircases. “I know he doesn’t like me very much. It’s nothing I’m not used to.”

 

“You know, it’s strange,” Reggie remarked as they began to ascend the staircases. “Our families actually used to be very good friends. I know you don’t remember, Paul doesn’t, but I do. Our fathers were really close, before…” he trailed off, not knowing whether or not to continue.

 

Dawn noticed his sad gaze. “It’s okay, Reggie, you can mention my dad. I’m not going to break down and start crying. He died when I was really young. I don’t have much of a recollection of him,”

 

It didn’t come as a surprise that the Berlitzes and the Rebolledos had been close; most pure blooded families were. But she couldn’t imagine her and Paul as babies playing together. It was just weird.

 

“It’s just hard to watch your little brother put his name in some type of death Goblet,” said Reggie, “is it wrong of me to hope the Goblet chooses someone else?”

 

Dawn imagined Drew or Zoey’s name coming out of the Goblet on the fateful day of which they would be chosen. Drew or Zoey competing in dangerous tasks, so close to death or injury that Dawn just couldn’t bear it. Even the thought of one of them getting hurt, nonetheless dying, sent chills down her spine, and she understood what Reggie meant.

 

“He’ll be fine, Reggie,” she attempted to reassure him, “if he gets chosen. He’s super good at magic, y’know? Even though I don’t like him, I’ll still admit that. He’s very talented.”

 

Suddenly they realized that they had come to a stop in front of a portrait of a very fat lady. “Oh, this is it!” Dawn exclaimed, recognizing the painting immediately. “It’s me,” she insisted to the Fat Lady. “Dawn! Y’know, Zoey’s friend.”

 

The Fat Lady gave her a patronizing look, frozen in a position of placing a grape between her lips. “You still require a password to enter,”

 

“I’ve got it,” Reggie announced, stepping forward. “ Chocolate frog.”

 

Making a reluctant face, the Fat Lady ate her grape, shrugging. The portrait swung open, and Dawn and Reggie stepped inside.




Chapter Text

The Gryffindor common room was nearly pitch black when she arrived, vague outlines of moving students the only thing that she could see. Light spilled into the room from the open portrait hole behind her, obscured by the bodies of her classmates standing behind her.

 

“Melody, are you sure about this?” The hesitant voice of Lillie asked. Melody shot her a glance. Lillie had always been the naive one, the baby. Sixteen years old and she’d never even touched a bottle of firewhiskey. Oh, well. Melody couldn’t blame her. Lillie’s mom worked at Beauxbatons.  But now, Lusamine was nowhere to be seen, most likely conferring with Diantha and Burnet, and here was a party right in front of them.

 

“Of course I’m sure, have some fun for once!” Melody snapped, irritated at the challenge. Rationally, Lillie would never pose a threat to Melody’s authority, but being questioned rubbed her the wrong way. “A little party never killed nobody, Lil. Especially when there are cute boys there.”

 

She thought about Gary Oak, the handsome Ravenclaw that she’d been flirting with at the feast, and a devilish grin spread on her face. Oh, she’d caught him hook line and sinker. Not that it was hard. Boys seemed to naturally fall at her feet.

 

“Yeah, well, big deal,” Mallow shrugged behind her. “I’m here to make friends, not suck face.”

 

“Couldn’t say the same about you, Mel,” laughed Miette. Ugh! Melody’s eye twitched in irritation, but she forced herself to giggle all the same. It was a show laugh, perfected by years of boredom and underhanded fakeness. Do they think they’re better than me just because they wanna have fun in the lamest way possible?

 

“Let’s just go in,” the quiet voice of Lana piped up, and the shortest of the bunch stepped forward into the common room with a reassuring smile at the others behind her. Shaking her head, Melody composed herself before she clambered inside after her.

 

Music was blaring, and as she stepped in she wondered how she hadn’t heard it from outside. Must be a silencing charm. Not a bad idea. Taking off her fur stole and folding it together in her arms, she looked around at all of the Hogwarts students mingling and having fun. A tall girl with boy short red hair leaned comfortably against a banister, a red solo cup in her hand as she spoke with a shorter, friendlier looking girl whose hair had been styled into two black braids. On the couch, a short brunette laughed and gestured to two friends next to her, one with fiery orange hair and the other full of boyish charm, his face dotted with freckles and scrunched up with laughter. More students passed by her, some giving her admiring looks, and she felt her ego inflate considerably.

 

“Melody!” A personable voice called. Melody raised her eyebrows at the source of the voice; Gary, his hair impeccably styled and his dark eyes full of warmth. He gave her friends a nod, and she spaced out as he re-introduced himself, unable to help but stare. Is Gary champion material? Is he worth getting close to?

 

Snapping out of it as the other Beauxbatons girls walked off, she glanced back over at him, and he took her fur stole off her hands. How polite. “Almost didn’t recognize you without that ferret on your shoulder, Mr. Oak.”

 

“Oh, he’s back in my common room,” Gary laughed, tossing her a wink. He really thinks he’s all that, doesn’t he? “I’m glad you came. We’re about to show you hoity toity Beauxbatons girls how to party.”

 

“I don’t think I need any help,” Melody shrugged, giving him an award winning smile. “We might be the ones showing you what a real party looks like.”

 

Suddenly the portrait hole opened and annoyance coursed through Melody’s veins as all of Gary’s attention was sucked away from her; his eyes were wide and his face held an expression of surprise. She turned to see what he was looking at.

 

A group mostly comprised of girls; two boys (was that a boy? He was awfully gorgeous to be a boy, and that long aubergine hair must be the envy of half the girls in this school), headed by a girl with long ash brown hair and narrowed hazel colored eyes. Immediately Melody glanced at the girl’s outfit; thigh high boots, a bold move, but she was making it work. Somewhat. She turned back to converse with Gary, only to find him walking over to the newcomers as they dispersed.

 

“...shocked that you actually came. You look…” he trailed off as Melody followed him, stopping at his side to flash a look at the newcomer he was talking to.

 

“I look?” The girl trailed off, her eyes comically wide, mocking Gary’s inability to find his words.

 

Immediately Melody crossed her arms. Who was this, and why did her plain ass have all of Gary’s attention?

 

“I was going to give you a compliment,” Gary shook his head at her, half a smile on his face. I see what’s going on here, thought Melody, halfway bitter. These two had a thing . And it was clear that neither of them even knew it. She felt the ghost of a smirk on her face. I can use this to my advantage. Gary then jolted her back into the present with a hand on her arm. “Have you met Melody? Melody, this is Leaf. Leaf Greene.”

 

Leaf was just barely taller than Melody, and she seemed out of place here at the party. With one look Melody could tell that this wasn’t her element; the two met eyes and Leaf’s expression was full of boredom. She gave Melody a brief nod and grimace, not even looking her in the face.

 

“Melody Birnbaum,” she introduced herself, feeling more irritated by the moment. It was rare that people weren’t excited to meet her, and Leaf’s reaction made her feel small. They stood around in awkward silence for a moment until Gary cleared his throat, patting Melody’s shoulder and straightening up.

 

“I’ll be right back, ladies. Conway appears to be trying to chat up your friend Lillie,” and with that he was gone. Melody turned back to Leaf.

 

“Sooo…” she began, wondering where to start. “Gary, huh? You his girlfriend?”

 

Leaf’s eyes went wide and she nearly choked on her own tongue. Her face red with embarrassment, she straightened back up, pushing some hair out of her eyes. Melody raised an eyebrow as the other girl recovered. “ Absolutely not.”

 

“Aw, why not?” Melody pretended to be interested, “you think he’s cute, right?”

 

“Oh, sure. In the way that a dog thinks a rat is cute. No way, dude. Oak is anything but cute . I’m quite frankly sick of him trying to distract me,” Leaf explained, wringing her hands as she spoke. Oh, that’s adorable, thought Melody. She’s in denial.

 

“I think he’s hot,” pressed Melody. “Those broad shoulders? Sign me up.” She paused.  “Sooo if you don’t like him, you won’t be upset if I make a move?”

 

It was a delight to see Leaf’s resolve fall apart with that comment. The other girl shook her head, an uneasy and derisive laugh escaping her lips as she looked away from Melody again. “You can do whatever you want. I couldn’t give less of a damn who Gary Oak hooks up with next.”

 

Melody smirked. “Just making sure.”

 

-

 

Misty pushed past a group of students, feeling overwhelmed. The music was too loud, the drinks too strong, and there were too many people everywhere she looked. And the Durmstrang students had just arrived-- the common room was nearing capacity. The last thing they needed were a couple of first years coming down the stairs to see this and telling Cynthia.

 

She glanced up at the sofa where she had been sitting with Ash and May. Ash was still there, surrounded by pretty Beauxbatons girls who laughed at everything he said. Misty had met them and they all seemed sweet, but they were part of the reason she was on edge right now.  Bringing her knees up to her chin, she sat on the steps that led to the dorms.

 

“Hey,” a voice spoke from above her. She glanced up, finding herself staring into an unfamiliar face. “You okay?”

 

The girl had short hair the color of the sea and eyes to match. She was wearing a white t-shirt, tied up into a knot just above her belly button, and comfortable looking track pants that were just a shade bluer than her hair. A golden necklace dangled in Misty’s face as the girl bent over her, obscuring the oscillating lights that Serena had charmed.

 

“I’m Lana,” the girl continued. “Lana Reyes. You look a little overwhelmed,”

“No surprise,” Misty grumbled. Lana offered Misty her hand and Misty took it, allowing herself to be pulled to her feet. Lana was nearly a head shorter than her, and she had to look pretty far down to make eye contact.

 

“What about you? What’s your name?” Asked Lana, looking undaunted.

 

Misty started. “Oh! I’m Misty Waterflower. Sixth year Gryffindor.”

 

“Waterflower… that’s so pretty!” her blue eyes sparkled. “I feel like I’ve heard it before!”

 

Misty felt a stone drop in her stomach. “Um, you’re probably thinking of someone else,”

 

“No, no. It was definitely Waterflower. I remember thinking about how pretty the name was. Do you have any siblings?”

 

Okay. That’s safe. I can answer that, thought Misty, trying to ease her nerves. Lana seemed kind, and she had no reason to become snippy with the girl. “Three sisters. They graduated two years ago, they’re triplets.”

 

“I have two little sisters!” She replied excitedly. “They couldn’t come, of course. Age cap. They were super disappointed.”

 

They were silent for a few minutes as Misty watched the party begin to unfold. Harley had a bottle of firewhiskey in his grasp and he was pouring generous amounts into the cups of the Slytherin girls. She rolled her eyes. Of course.

 

“Lana! ” A voice suddenly called. Misty’s head shot up as another girl approached the two where they stood. Her hair was the color of bluebonnet flowers, and her eyes a harsh shade of carmine. She wore a trendy romper, white with little red hearts.

 

“Oh, hey, Miette,” Lana acknowledged the girl in her quiet voice. Misty raised an eyebrow.

 

“The Durmstrang boys just arrived,” Miette smirked. “C’mon, don’t you want to go meet them?”

 

Misty watched Lana hesitate, biting her lip nervously. “Oh, um…” she drifted off, her eyes flickering to Misty as though she really didn’t want to leave. But Miette was blinking at her expectantly, and Misty could tell the shy girl didn’t like this pressure. “Okay. It was really nice to meet you, Misty.”

 

“It was nice to meet you, too—“ Misty began, but Miette was already pulling Lana away. She couldn’t help but feel the bitter sting of disappointment as she sat down on the steps again.

 

-

 

Leaf didn’t know what she was feeling. She couldn’t have articulated the sensation if she tried, not even on paper. Which was why she’d pulled back; sat a ways away from the action, under a burning candle, her notepad on the table in front of her and a quill in her hand. Looking at the oriole feather in her grasp made her feel sick.

 

The Triwizard Tournament’s wheels have been officially set into motion with the arrival of students from Durmstrang and Beauxbatons, schools of witchcraft and wizardry located in Bulgaria and France respectively. The students arrived today at 5:32 PM, with Durmstrang surfacing in an enormous ship from the Great Lake, and Beauxbatons arriving by means of a carriage pulled by Pegasi.

 

“... please get everyone together to play spin the bottle? Come on.” A sudden, familiar voice encroaching on Leaf’s headspace caused her to grit her teeth in annoyance, her quill spiking across the page in an erratic motion so forceful that it tore a gash in her paper.

 

“Conway, Conway,” the voice of Gary was replying, and Leaf had to force herself to keep her eyes on her paper. “If you want a kiss, you should just go ask Ursula,”

 

“Do you want him to die? ” Shauna was replying, and Serena’s laugh mingled into their conversation.

 

Is she there? Is Melody with him? Okay, no. I don’t care. It doesn’t matter. Like you said, he can do whatever he wants.

 

“Nobody wants to play spin the bottle.” She could almost hear the girl rolling her eyes. “Really, dude. You’re that desperate?”

 

“Hold on, Melody, let’s hear him out,” Gary spoke out. “ I for one would love a game of spin the bottle. Hey, everyone!”

 

Spin the bottle? Are you kidding? Are we third years again? Leaf thought, looking back down at her notebook. But her concentration was all over the place; she wasn’t sure that she could write a cohesive thought if she tried. But, she’d try. If only to spite drama mongers like Malva Marsaille.

 

She watched without seeing as Gary gathered students from the common room and pulled them into a circle by the couch that Ash, Misty and May had been on. Even people who had been in the kitchen helping Maylene were somehow dragged out into the open, and once she thought Gary was coming her way, only for him to be pulled back by Melody, who was talking rapidly.

 

-

 

Drew plopped down into the forming circle between Dawn and Harley, watching with a vague interest as Gary formed the circle. Some of the Durmstrang boys he’d met at the feast were there, but Mairin was missing. Drew was sure he’d seen Alain earlier, and was a bit disappointed by the fact that he wasn’t in the circle. Not that he wanted to kiss him or anything, but Harley sure did.

 

Though he was distracted most of all by the girl across from him. May was laughing at something that must have been extraordinarily funny, because she kept snorting and Drew just couldn’t help but stare at her. The way her sandy hair fell over her shoulders, the cute red outfit she was wearing, the bandana that tied back her hair, the way her face looked in this lighting… Drew almost couldn’t stand it.

 

“Let’s get this party started!” Gary clapped his hands together, setting a green bottle in the middle of the circle. “Who’s spinning first? Conway?”

 

Drew heard Dawn groan audibly from beside him, and he could’ve sworn across the circle that Ursula had done the same thing.

 

“Of course I will,” Conway wiggled his fingers, reaching across and flicking the bottle. It spun for a few seconds, and Drew felt sorry for the poor sucker that would have to kiss Conway. But as the bottle began to slow to a stop, horror crept up his spine at the predicted end result. He exchanged an incredulous look with Dawn; it was going to land on her.

 

“Ha, ha,” said Dawn good naturedly, but Drew could tell she was uncomfortable as she shifted back onto the balls of her feet. He exchanged a pointed look with Gary, and it was like the two of them almost had a telepathic bond. Make it land on someone else!

 

“Get ready, Dawn,” Conway pushed his glasses up on his nose and smirked. “I’ve been told that I’m an incredible kisser.”

 

“By who?” Ursula wrinkled her nose. “Your pillow?”

 

With the distraction of conversation set, Drew watched Gary pull out his wand as stealthily as possible and perform a silent Confundus charm on the bottle. It spun a little further; everyone was on the edge of their seat, Dawn slumped back in relief.

 

And then it stopped on Drew.

 

Oooooh, Drew and Conwayyyyyy-!” The circle of students giggled like a pack of hyenas. Gary gave him a helpless shrug, his brown eyes wide, but it did nothing to curb Drew’s urge to strangle him.

 

He let out a heavy sigh. “Come here, big boy.”

 

Conway shook his head in disbelief. “Um, there must be some mistake. The bottle landed on Dawn. It literally stopped on Dawn. I will not kiss Drew!”

 

“The bottle said what it said,” one of the Durmstrang boys — what was his name— Rudy, said, his eyes shining with amusement. Drew instantly felt distaste towards him. Next to him, Dawn elbowed his ribs.

 

“Drew, you don’t have to,” she assured him, “you can say you don’t want to. You’re going to have to wash your face for weeks on end if you do,”

 

But May was staring at him expectantly from across the circle, so Drew was going to do what the bottle had told him to do. “Nonsense!” He reached out to grab Conway’s shoulder. “Conway knows it’s just a kiss. The only thing I’m worried about is that he might catch feelings…” he flipped his hair.

 

This earned a laugh from many of the people in the circle, boosting Drew’s morale.

 

“I will not catch feelings for the likes of you,” Conway snuffed. “I only catch feelings for lovely ladies.”

 

“Just kiss already!” Called Ash from the circle. Shouts of agreement sprang up around him.

 

Drew screwed his eyes up into his head and leaned forward.

 

-

 

A loud burst of cheers, screams and giggles broke Leaf’s concentration for the second time that night, and she was beginning to wonder whether or not she should call it quits when somebody pulled out a chair across from her.

 

“What are you doing over here by yourself?” It was Alain. His voice was full of curious abandon, and Leaf avoided eye contact with him for fear she might snap at him and say something rude.

 

“Oh,” she pondered for an excuse. She didn’t want anyone to read the story she was working on, not yet. It was nowhere near ready. Embarrassing, really. “I’m just… just writing. I got inspired all of a sudden, I guess.”

 

“You’re a writer?” He asked, sitting down and looking at her with interest, one eyebrow raised.

 

“Well, I write,” replied Leaf, feeling embarrassed.

 

Alain nodded, glancing down at her notebook. She instinctively moved her arm just a bit to the left, attempting to obscure the majority of her work from view; his name was there, after all. He was a notable Durmstrang student. “You don’t need to be embarrassed. You’re Leaf, right?”

 

What does this guy want from me? She sighed, uncovering her notebook and closing it. “Yup. That’s me. Leaf Greene. Slytherin and hater of parties.”

 

This earned a quiet laugh. “I’m not big on parties either. I only came because I… well, let’s just say I have my fair share of Quidditch parties and I’m kind of tired of them,”

 

“I bet stuff like that doesn’t happen at your little Quidditch parties,” she glanced over at the circle in the middle of the room, where Drew and Conway were wiping their mouths in disgust. She saw Melody laughing hard, holding onto Gary’s arm from where they sat together, and fought to swallow the bile that rose in her throat. Why do I have such a shitty feeling? I’ve never felt like this. For him. It’s something about her.

 

“No, the Quidditch parties are a lot more entertaining,” Alain laughed.

 

“Oh, sure. All those autographs you have to sign… so fun,” she prodded.

 

“Hey!” Protested Alain. “I do a lot more than sign autographs. Quidditch parties are so intense that Mairin isn’t even allowed to come,”

 

Leaf rolled her eyes, her mouth curving into a smile. “Shoddy argument. Mairin wasn’t allowed to come to this party, either.”

 

“Touché,” he said, his half lidded blue eyes meeting hers, leaning forward on his palms.

 

-

 

Drew was up next to spin the bottle, and Gary watched as he reached over and pushed it to get it moving. Okay, sure, Gary felt bad for making Drew kiss Conway. But it had been fucking hilarious, and the girls in the circle had lost their minds over it.

 

He’d lost sight of Leaf. Once he thought he’d seen her sitting at one of the tables in the back, but he’d been dragged off before he could see if she wanted to play. Oh well. She probably hadn’t the slightest desire to be involved in the game anyways.

 

The bottle spun and spun and spun, and everyone was leaning forward as they waited for it to stop. Finally, it began to slow. Drew was waiting with bated breath when it finally halted; Gary’s eyes followed the end of the bottle to the form of one unsuspecting May Maple.

 

Oh boy. Gary bit back a snicker as Drew clearly fought embarrassment, his cheeks tinted pink. Dawn nudged him forward, and May looked like a steamed vegetable.

 

“W-what!!” The Hufflepuff cried, “hang on! I’m not kissing Drew! No way.”

 

Beside Gary, Melody nudged him. “What’s going on there?” She asked, her voice a quiet whisper.

 

Gary shrugged his shoulders. “He likes her.”

 

“Okay, well if you’re not kissing me, I’m not kissing you,” Drew crossed his arms, halfway teasing her. Gary could tell that this made him nervous and made a mental note to bully him about it later, but for now, May would need some convincing.

 

“Um, yeah, that’s how it works,” May snapped, holding her arms, clearly embarrassed.

 

“Oh, come on,” Melody interjected, “it’s just a kiss. It’s not like he’s ugly, either. Just get over it and go so we can keep playing!”

 

Ursula agreed in a loud voice. “Maple, just because this might be your first kiss —“

 

“Shut up, Ursula,” Dawn cut her off, a warning in her voice.

 

“She doesn’t have to do it if she doesn’t want to,” Gary decided it was time to step in. “But if she doesn’t kiss him she’s out.”

 

“I said I won’t!” May insisted. Her stubbornness is really something else, thought Gary. Almost like Gary Jr when I try to put him in his ferret enclosure. “He’s an arrogant, spoiled, rude—-“

 

“Hey!” Dawn protested, “May, you don’t have to kiss him, but you don’t have to insult him, either!”

 

“That’s okay, Dawn,” Drew motioned for his friend to pipe down, “I know she’s only saying that because she’s secretly into me.”

 

May exploded. “ This is what I’m talking about!”

 

An argument erupted between the two, and others in the circle jumped in. Gary looked at Melody, irritated. She shrugged, holding up her perfect hands in a gesture of innocence before seeming to come across an excellent idea in that pretty head of hers.

 

“May!” She called, and the arguing group went quiet to hear her speak. Gary had to admit, he was impressed by her ability to command an audience. “If you won’t kiss him, I will. We need to keep the ball moving!”

 

Gary watched as May’s eyes went round and she stammered over her response. “Wh-What? You’ll kiss him?”

 

“Sure,” Melody clambered over to where Drew, who looked bewildered, sat. Next to him Dawn had a hand up to her mouth, and Harley looked as though he wished he had a bucket of popcorn.

 

Gary knew that May was trapped; the Hufflepuff had only two options. One, let Melody kiss Drew and get out of the circle, or two, decide upon kissing Drew herself. He watched her internally struggle with the decision, her brows furrowed.

 

“No, it’s fine,” she finally spluttered, “I’ll kiss him,”

 

“Christ, it’s like a fucking soap opera, little miss May-be. I won’t kiss him! I’ll kiss him! Pick one and stick to it, god damn,” Harley interjected, sitting back on his heels with a huffy breath.

 

“Whatever we do, let’s just hurry it up,” said one of the Beauxbatons girls, with short periwinkle hair. Gary agreed.

 

May took a deep breath where she sat, moving over besides Drew and taking Melody’s place. Everyone watched, and Gary could tell it was making the both of them uncomfortable, until finally, May grabbed Drew’s face in her hands and quickly pecked him on the lips.

 

“That was absolutely underwhelming,” complained Drew, but it was clear that his cheeks were red, “it wasn’t even a second long,”

 

“Well, you get what you get!” Blushing furiously, May crawled back to her spot, where Ash nudged her arm, teasing her.

 

“Can’t say I wouldn’t have kissed him better,” purred Melody, winking in Drew’s direction. This seemed to strike a chord with Harley, who looked intensely annoyed with her.

 

“Okay, skank. Anyways, May-May, it’s your turn to spin the bottle,” he commanded.

 

Gary sighed as Melody settled in next to him, flashing him a perfect smile despite Harley’s name-calling. She was beautiful, but something about her felt incredibly off. Oh, well. It didn’t really matter as long as they both were into each other, did it? And he was sure he was into her. I mean, what person who was attracted to women wouldn’t be?

 

“Wanna get out of here?” She whispered. “This is getting lame. We could have so much more fun if we explored the castle.”

 

Oh, shit. Was she implying what he thought she was? Gary didn’t know how to feel, but words came out of his mouth before he could stop them.

“Hell yeah. Let’s go.”

 

The circle didn’t notice them leaving, too preoccupied in the next kiss to watch them go. He swung by the kitchen to grab a snack from Maylene and almost didn’t notice Leaf sitting at a table near it, reading something dramatically from a little notebook in her hands. A glass full of firewhiskey sat on the table next to her, and Gary could hear someone else laughing as she read.

 

“Oh, hey, it’s your friend,” Melody exclaimed, some unidentifiable toxin in her voice. “Why don’t we go say hi?”

 

Gary only nodded. He’d never seen Leaf look so… at ease. Her shoulders were back, she looked as though she was trying to speak through a ferocious attack of giggles. Melody took him by the hand and guided him to her table. As the two came into full view, Gary realized she was with Alain Calder. Oh, my god. The fucking Quidditch dude! He’s epic. But what is he doing with Leaf Greene?

 

“Alain Calder, eighteen year old seeker for the Bulgarian Quidditch Team, arrived from— snrrk— from Bulgaria today by ship,” Leaf was reading, “and upon his arrival, he had only this to say to reporters: where’s the firewhiskey?

 

Alain and Leaf roared with laughter, Leaf kicking her booted feet so hard her knees shot into the table and knocked her glass over. “Oh nooo!” She gasped, her eyes wide.

 

“Are you drunk? ” Interjected Gary, electing to leave her spilled firewhiskey where it was and cut her off.

 

She looked up at him as though only just noticing him for the first time. Alain have him an unfamiliar smile and wave, his own cheeks flushed.

 

“The party’s that way,” Melody scoffed, jerking her head back to the circle. Leaf rolled her eyes, propping her head up on her hand.

 

“Tell me something I don’t know. And I’m not drunk. I’m not going to throw up,” she spoke in an unusually expressive tone, something that Gary had never heard from her. He didn’t know if he liked it or not, but it may have been the creeping sensation of something broody  growing in the pit of his stomach. Why Alain? I mean, aside from the obvious celebrity Quidditch star thing. But Leaf had never cared much for Quidditch; he didn’t ever see her at games.

 

“Let’s go, Gary,” urged Melody.

 

“Bye,” Alain offered, waving them off as though he were ready for them to leave. Gary gritted his teeth, fighting his instincts to stay and give a piece of his mind. Who does this guy think he is? But he went away all the same, with Melody hanging off of his arm, feeling the strangest sensation of misery.

 

-

 

The next morning, Dawn had a pounding headache. What? I didn’t even drink. Must’ve been the loud music. The rest of the dorm was slumbering, and Georgia was snoring softly. Oh, yeah. It’s Saturday.

 

She crept downstairs, blinking sleep from her eyes as she entered the dim, green-lit common room. It was almost empty; only Harley was awake, looking as though he were going to fall asleep at any second, wearing his same clothes from the night before.

 

“What are you doing up, Harley?” Dawn asked as she stood on her tip toes to grab a cereal bowl from the cupboard. She didn’t feel like going to the Great Hall for breakfast this morning, planning to hang out in the common room and study spells for Surge’s class.

 

“I waited up all night for Alain Calder to come drop Leaf Greene off,” he yawned. Immediately Dawn felt alarmed. Leaf! Is she okay? Did she not come back to the common room last night?

 

“Well? Did he?”

 

“Actually, yes,” Harley scoffed, crossing his arms, “but he didn’t pay me any attention whatsoever! It was so stupid. I stayed up all night thinking about it. I even wrote Solidad a letter.”

 

“Oh, Harley,” Dawn began, trying to find the best way to stroke his ego without patronizing him, “I’m sure he actually did notice you and just had to pretend not to.”

 

“Men are so annoying,” Harley groaned. “I just wanted to talk to Maylene and Reg last night, but Gary Oak had to drag me into that little circle-jerk game of spin the bottle.”

 

“What did you think of those Beauxbatons girls?” Wondered Dawn. She herself had liked them, especially Mallow, but she’d gotten along with Lillie, too.

 

“I didn’t even memorize their names. Except for that Melody girl. That’s the future Beauxbatons champion. I’d bet my left ass cheek.”

 

“Speaking of champions,” a voice cut in. Leaf descended the stairs, looking exhausted, a slip of paper in her hands. Behind her another set of shoes clacked loudly against the stone steps, and Ursula came into view, dressed to the nines as always. “I’m putting my name into the Goblet today.”

 

Dawn’s mind instantly flashed back to last night, before the party. Standing outside of the Great Hall’s enormous oak doors, caught like a deer in the headlights. Paul’s scathing glare. The things she’d heard that hadn’t been meant for her ears, and he knew . But the fish were in the fryer now; his name in the Goblet, and some strange part of her felt guilty for her harbored suspicion. Something is happening with Brandon, that’s all I know. He’s cast out his sons, and I don’t know why.

 

“Berlitz? You listening over there?” Leaf’s voice hooked her from her thoughts, reeling her back to reality. “Come with me, will you?”

 

They climbed out of the portrait hole, leaving Harley and Ursula behind in the common room, and began up the stairs out of the dungeons. Leaf was quiet, retrospective, and Dawn couldn’t help but wonder whether or not she even wanted to put her name in the Goblet. Leaf had no desire to grab any sort of spotlight, Dawn knew that.

 

“Are you sure you want to do this?” she wondered. “If you’re chosen, you’re going to be risking your life. I thought you were just being sarcastic about joining in before.”

Leaf hesitated. “I was. Last night someone told me to try and get out of my comfort zone. I figured this is as good of a way as any.”

 

They traveled to the entrance of the Great Hall, its enormous doors open so that they could see inside. The room was filled with people, all in sleek baby blue uniform. Beauxbatons kids. Many of them sat off to the side, in the remaining chairs and tables that surrounded the beautiful blue flame.

“Leaf Greene!” A voice called. Dawn looked up to see Melody, her arms thrown wide as though she were receiving an esteemed guest. Heads turned to look at Dawn and Leaf, and Dawn could see that Leaf was trying to look undaunted.

 

“Hey, Melody.” Leaf greeted as the girl strolled up to them, her voice unenthused.

 

“Come to watch the show?” Melody’s voice was brash and confident, and Dawn could tell the girl had an ego on her. “Oh, and by the way, I can’t thank you enough about last night.”

“...What are you talking about?” Leaf asked, her eyes narrowed.

 

“Gary, of course! Him and I had a really great time last night, and it’s all thanks to you,”

 

Something in Melody’s voice put Dawn on the alert. It was something poisonous, malicious, like she was casting a line with the highest quality of bait and dangling it in front of Leaf’s nose. Confused as she may have been, Dawn nudged Leaf, trying to encourage her to not let Melody’s words have the effect that the other girl so clearly wanted them to.

 

“Uhh, okay.” Leaf said.  


Melody looked affronted that Leaf hadn’t bitten her line. “Well, are you here to put your name in the Goblet then?”

 

“Not anymore,” yawned Leaf, and Dawn felt both surprised and relieved. But what had changed her friend’s mind? “This isn’t really my thing.”

 

“Not your thing?” Melody protested. “How? Everyone wants to win this cup.”

 

“Yeah, well. Not everyone wants the stupid cup, just like not everyone wants Gary Oak. You can try all you want to fuck with my head, but I see right through you.”

 

She hadn’t seen it coming, really. Had Leaf known that this exchange would change her future, maybe she would’ve thought against it. But how could she have known? She was only doing what she always did when provoked; lash out. Leaf would understand it later, but with this response, she’d made a dangerous enemy. Melody’s hatred of being challenged, never mind by whom, coupled with her desire to rise to the top, would never coincide with Leaf’s inner muckraker.

 

“Let’s go, Dawn.”   

 

They left the Beauxbatons girl standing there, silently seething, and on the way out of the Great Hall, they passed two familiar faces.

 

Ash and Misty were on their way inside, a slip of beat up paper clenched in Ash’s right hand as Misty listed the dangers of tournaments past. Dawn planned to walk straight past them without saying anything; she wanted to wish Ash luck, but knew that  Misty didn’t have the greatest affinity for Slytherins. But Leaf stopped, and opened her mouth to speak.

 

“Hey, Ketchum,” she called. Ash turned and met her eyes, and Misty flashed a suspicious look.

 

“Hi, Leaf,” Ash met her in the middle of the hallway. “How are ya? Did you just put your name in the Goblet?”

Dawn met eyes with Misty from behind their respective friends and tried to smile at her, but Misty only raised her eyebrows.

 

“No, I didn’t. But you are, and I hope you’re chosen. I hope you give that Beauxbatons bitch hell.”

 

Chapter Text

Serena exited her first period with a hefty sigh, hoisting her books higher up on her hip. The greenhouses were never her favorite place to be; so humid and hot, and her long, thick, honey colored hair that she worked so hard to style looked as though she’d been rubbing a balloon on it for the past hour and a half.

 

The end of October had been nearing fast, and before the students knew it, Halloween was upon them. Though the passing weeks had not been without their fair share of drama, Serena was pleased to note that she had been taking care of her prefect duties quite well, and Gary, though somewhat subdued, had been doing his part too. It was strange; every time Melody came around, Gary’s demeanor changed. Serena worried about him, but not to a debilitating point; he’d dated girls before, he knew the ropes well by this point. If he didn’t like her, he’d break up with her, right?

 

She walked her bag to the Black Lake, plopping it under a beautiful willow tree, and sitting down with an exhausted sigh. It was lunchtime in the castle, but Serena wasn’t hungry. No, her stomach was in knots. Tonight, the three champions would be chosen.

 

If it wasn’t for the fact that half the people she knew were entering, maybe she’d be more excited than nervous. Ash, Solidad, Harley, Barry, Brock, Maylene… just to name a few. Not to mention Shauna. Serena looked at her shoes. She’d tried to be supportive of Shauna’s choice to put her name in the Goblet, but still, it was hard. She was terrified that her best friend would be chosen to participate.

 

“Hey, stranger!” Chirped a distinctive voice in Serena’s ear. She snapped out of her thoughts, glancing back over her shoulder to see Shauna standing behind the willow, her pink painted nails gripping its sides.

 

“Shauna! You scared me,” huffed Serena, getting to her feet and dusting off her skirt. “Why aren’t you at lunch?”

 

“Looking for you, of course,” Shauna rolled her eyes, “come on. What are you doing out here? It’s overcast outside! Oh, I know. I bet you’re here watching for Alain Calder to come out of the Durmstrang ship,”

 

“No, that’s not—“

 

“Relax, I’m only teasing,” the Gryffindor laughed, her nose scrunching up as she tried not to snort. Serena’s heart fluttered. “Come on, come to the Great Hall and eat with me,”

 

She grabbed Serena’s hand and pulled her forward, and Serena barely had time to snatch her bag from the ground.

 

“So the Champions will be chosen tonight,” Shauna began, gesturing excitedly as she always did, “and I am honestly so pumped. I was talking to these boys from Durmstrang, Trevor and Tierno, and they both entered! It would be so fun if I got picked with one of them. I really just can’t wait to see who—“

 

They reached the doors to the castle and Serena opened them with her wand, allowing Shauna to step inside first and keep talking. She knew a lot of people who were annoyed by Shauna’s constant conversation, but Serena loved to listen. Her best friend always had something new to say.

 

The Great Hall was full of students laughing and eating, and Serena and Shauna found a spot at the Gryffindor table next to Kenny and Zoey.

 

“Hey, Shauna,” Zoey acknowledged, “and Serena! Glad Shauna was able to get you inside,”

 

“Yeah, well, how could I say no?” Serena laughed.

 

They talked and caught up for a few minutes, and Serena grabbed a buttered roll from the basket, tearing it into neat pieces and popping one into her mouth.

 

“You guys excited for the Halloween feast?” Asked Kenny, his mouth full.

 

“First of all, swallow your food before speaking,” Zoey stopped him before he could continue, and Kenny nodded obediently. “Second of all, of course. I can’t wait to see the champions. I’ve got a bet with Candice, see? Solidad for Hogwarts champion. She thinks it’s going to be someone else, though.”

 

“Well, who does she think it’ll be?” Inquired Shauna.

 

But Serena wasn’t listening. She was watching a small group of blue-clad girls prance across the Great Hall, the one front and center looking at her perfectly manicured hands as she led the pack.  With a jolt, Serena realized that they were heading in her direction.

 

She jumped to her feet in front of them, earning confused looks from Kenny, Zoey, and Shauna. The leader of the little group, who Serena recognized as Melody, looked at her with a quizzical expression, and Serena winced at the cutting remark clearly forming in her head.

 

“Hi! I’m Serena, Ravenclaw prefect. I just wanted to let you guys know that if you need any help making your way around or getting anywhere, feel free to ask for my help!”

 

“Hey, you’re that friend of Gary’s!” Melody exclaimed, snapping her fingers, disregarding Serena’s statement without so much as a thank you. “Hm. What do you think, girls?”

 

Another girl stepped out from within their ranks, her periwinkle colored hair tied up behind a white bandeau. Serena thought that she was very pretty, and a twinge of jealousy shot through her at the sight of the girl’s perfect nose and eyelashes.

 

“Not bad bone structure,” said the girl, Miette, reaching forward to grab Serena’s face and turn it to the side. Serena had never felt so vulnerable before, and she could feel the eyes of Shauna on her, just waiting to see if the need to butt in arose. “Pretty blue eyes, nice styling of her uniform. It’s a yes from me,”

 

“What are you talking about?” Serena asked, her voice both curious and anxious.

 

“See, we were wondering if you wanted to come eat lunch with us in our carriage,” Melody smiled sweetly as Miette stepped back. “You seem kind, and we’d love to have you around. Whaddya say?”

 

“Oh… uh…” Serena glanced back at Shauna. Her best friend’s eyebrows were raised, and she had leaned back in her seat. Kenny and Zoey exchanged a look. Ugh… she wasn’t sure what to say. The Beauxbatons girls were so cool. Hanging around with them was like a dream come true; but she didn’t want to hurt Shauna.

 

With another look at the Beauxbatons girls, she made up her mind. Shauna would just have to be happy for her, making new friends from another school like this! “Of course! I’d love to. Let me get my bag,”

 

“Wonderful!” Melody clapped her hands together, and Serena grabbed the straps of her bag from the floor next to the table, slinging it over her shoulders.

 

“See you guys,” she offered a smile to Shauna, so that she would know that there was no ill will behind her decision, but her best friend only gave her a disappointed stare before shaking her head and turning back to Zoey and Kenny. Oh, shoot.

 

-

 

May’s first free period was right after lunch, and she’d spent her time debating how she was going to spend it instead of eating. Eventually she decided to head down to the Quidditch Pitch, her family’s old Cleansweep broom slung over her shoulder.

 

She knew that because of the Triwizard tournament, the Quidditch season had been canceled. She’d been super upset about it at first; Quidditch was what she loved, and everyone always said that she was a brilliant seeker, even if her methods were a bit unconventional. Once, she’d both blocked a Slytherin chaser’s quaffle toss and snatched the snitch clean out of the air. They’d still lost the match, though. The Slytherin chasers were notoriously underhanded, and their keeper, Paul, almost never let a goal through.

 

“Hey, May!” A rough voice called, and she turned to see Ash and Misty racing up to her, their brooms in their hands. “I see we had the same idea!”

 

“Well, I can’t get rusty and risk letting you, Drew, and the next Ravenclaw seeker walk all over me next season,” she slowed down to walk next to them as they approached the pitch.

 

“Hey, wait a second,” Ash paused, craning his neck forward and squinting his eyes. Misty did the same next to him.

 

“Somebody’s already using the pitch,” May gathered as she followed their eyes. A distinctive silhouette sped against the midday sky, and May felt embarrassed of the fact that she could recognize who it was all the way from here; Drew. She’d know his flying style anywhere.

 

“So?” Misty scoffed, “nobody owns the pitch. Let’s go!”

 

Reluctantly, May followed them as they trudged down the hill towards the stadium, entering through the archway at the bottom and coming out onto the pitch.

 

Drew was sweating, and his green hair, usually so pristine, was messy from the wind. Dawn stood on the ground below him, a stopwatch in her hand.

 

“Five seconds! You’re getting faster, Drew,” the Slytherin girl remarked. When Drew didn’t reply, she looked up, following his glance towards Ash, Misty, and May, who felt herself become embarrassed. “Oh! Hey, guys! Are you here on free period?”

 

“Just wanted to get some practice in,” May explained, mounting her broom and kicking off into the air. Her Cleansweep Eleven was definitely not Drew’s Nimbus 2001 , but she made it work. Besides, she thought, there’s nothing wrong with flying what you can afford.

 

“Same here,” called Drew. “I don’t want to lose practice because of the Tournament. I just wish that there were actual matches, you know?”

 

May definitely knew. There was nothing like the rush of a Quidditch match, the breeze in her hair as she plotted out the Snitch, helping her teammates in plays and following Maylene’s plans to a T. She wished there were actual matches this year too; it felt wrong that she wasn’t playing this year.

 

The two groups split off to practice, mostly due to Misty’s dirty looks at the Slytherins. May and Ash brought her to the other side of the huge pitch, and they practiced for the majority of the free period.

 

May hadn’t noticed Leaf Greene in the stands until she came down onto the pitch, a leather bound spellbook tucked under her arm and her long cloak flapping as Drew breezed past her to land on the ground. Misty and Ash lit down on the ground as well, sweat glinting on Ash’s tanned face.

 

“Well, this is the most we’re getting this year, so enjoy it while you can,” Drew sighed to Leaf as Dawn caught up to them, joining the little group. May frowned.

 

“Is there any rule saying that we can’t play Quidditch this year?” She wondered aloud. Misty and Ash looked at each other, shrugging. They didn’t think so, but none of them knew enough to be able to know if there was a rule.

 

Leaf cleared her throat. “The rule is that there can’t be any house matches. They haven’t said anything about informal games.”

 

“Something tells me that Petrel or Surge wouldn’t be happy if they found out that we were playing unofficial Quidditch matches,” interjected Dawn.

 

May’s eyebrows slowly unfurrowed. “Hold on. Leaf might be onto something!”

 

Drew raised an eyebrow at her. “You want to stage unofficial Quidditch games?”

 

“In secret!” She exclaimed. “It would be perfect! We can put up advertisements on the bulletin boards in the common rooms! Get a couple teams together! You know what? I bet Leaf could referee!”

 

Leaf whistled, a slow note pitching up and then falling low. “That’s a bold assumption, considering I’ve never touched a broom in my life.”

 

“Oh, please!” Dawn’s eyes were sparkling. “May, that’s a wonderful idea! Drew, we should do it! No! You and May can set everything up, everybody knows how good you two are at Quidditch! Your rivalry is sure to draw in tons of potential candidates!”

 

“I like this idea!” Exclaimed Ash.

 

They all turned to look at Misty, who had remained silent during the introduction of the idea. Her brow was furrowed as she considered May’s master plan.

 

“As much as I’m here for pissing off teachers, this could mean trouble. I mean, what if someone rats us out? What if we get caught? Then we’ll all get detention for like, a year,” she objected.

 

“No, no, no. Wait a second. I think May and I can do this, even if I’ll be carrying the effort,” Drew smirked, and May was too excited to be angry at his provocation. “We can host the matches at night time, and they don’t have to be on the pitch. What if we used that stretch of land beyond the Whomping Willow? Nobody ever goes out there except for Jessie and James.”

 

“Which is a problem, ” Leaf reminded him.

 

“But we can work past that!” May promised her. “It’s just a start. But if everyone works together we can work something out, I know it.”

 

“I’m in,” Drew assured her, and May’s heart felt like it was going to burst.

 

“Me too!” Shouted Ash.

 

“I’ll help!” Dawn put in, looking excited.

 

“C’mon, Misty,” Leaf looked at the redhead with comical puppy-dog eyes.

 

“Ugh! Fine, but don’t say I didn’t warn you!”

 

-

 

Quicker than it should have been, the Halloween Feast was soon upon the students. Ash looked at the enchanted ceiling with wide eyes, feeling a sense of amazement in his stomach, coexisting with the coiled string of excitement residing there. Live bats hung from the stone ceiling in droves, and the house ghosts swooped across the tables, scaring first years senseless. Jack-o-lanterns floated by, their golden light illuminating his best friend’s face as she stuffed it with chicken wings.

 

“Misty, you’re hogging the plate!” He complained, reaching over to try and grab it back from her, but the girl gave him a dangerous look before sitting up straight.

 

“Now that you’re back on your Quidditch diet, you have to eat some protein first!” She insisted.

 

“Chicken is protein,” Ash felt his stomach grumble.

 

“Yeah, well!” Snorted Misty, “not enough! C’mon, get one of the steaks like Brock!”

 

Their other friend did have a heaping, juicy steak on his plate, and he cut into it precisely with his utensils; a stark contrast from Misty, who was eating with her hands, and making an enormous mess of things.

 

“Here ya go, Ash,” Brock slid an equally large, equally juicy steak onto Ash’s own ornate plate, “medium rare.”

 

They all ate in contented silence for a while, and Ash almost did not notice Cynthia, Diantha, and Archer clearing the steps to the goblet. It was spitting blue fire like it always did, and the coil of excitement in Ash’s belly felt ready to spring. I hope it chooses me.

 

“Hello, everyone!” Cynthia called, projecting her voice without use of her wand. The whole hall went silent; even Gary, who Ash spotted sitting next to Melody, his head propped up on his palm. “And welcome to the choosing ceremony for the one hundred and forty third Triwizard Tournament.”

 

The Hall roared to life, students cheering loudly. Ash counted himself among them, standing up in his seat and firing off harmless sparks from his wand. He couldn’t help it! He was more excited than he’d ever been before. He just knew he’d make it in! He had to!

 

“Before we begin,” Cynthia paused, glancing behind her at Bill, who was looking nervous. Beside him, Lance, the Minister of Magic and head of the Auror league sat, his face stony. “A few words from the Ministry. Lance, take it away.”

 

“Thank you, Cynthia,” Lance nodded to her, getting to his feet and looking out to the students in the crowd. “Hello, Hogwarts. Tonight, three of you will become the first Champions in a century. This is a position of honor, prestige, and bravery, and the cup will choose you well. I have no doubt in my mind that each one of you has what it takes to become the champion of your school tonight.”

 

There was scattered applause. Ash was on the edge of his seat.

 

“But,” Lance’s voice was harsh, and the Hall went quiet again. “You must remember that you are representing your school. That means you must play by the rules, or you will be disqualified. Now, now,” he broke off, seeing the worried looks on some students’ faces, “it won’t be hard to keep your noses out of trouble. And remember. To the winner goes honor, glory, and all of the spoils. A thousand galleons prize money will be awarded to the Champion who wins the cup,”

 

Ash’s eyes widened. A thousand galleons? With that kind of money, his mother would never have to worry about anything again. With that kind of money, he would be set for life.

 

“Now, without further ado…” Lance stepped back from the goblet, and Steven Stone, Hogwarts’ Ancient Runes teacher and head of Gryffindor House, took his place.

 

Steven raised his wand to the Goblet, and the audience’s collective breath hitched in their throats. The glowing blue flames of the goblet turned a fierce red, licking the sides of the golden chalice and rising above. It was almost as though the rest of the Great Hall was dark. All that Ash could see were the flames, rising higher and higher.

 

A small piece of paper shot out of the flames, leaving a trail of smoke behind it like a shooting star. It plopped into Steven’s expectant hand, and the man opened it, his brow furrowed, holding it up to the light of the fire.

 

“The Champion from Beauxbatons Academy has been selected!” Steven exclaimed, and Ash caught sight of Melody turning to Gary, her face ecstatic. “Melody Birnbaum will be representing Beauxbatons as their Champion!”

 

Cheers from the Ravenclaw table sprang up, and Ash noticed Serena sitting amongst the Beauxbatons girls, clapping wildly and hollering as Melody stood from her seat and pranced up to Steven, snatching the slip of paper from his hand.

 

“If you’ll head back there, Miss Birnbaum,” Bill raised his nervous voice, gesturing towards an ornate door behind the teachers’ table. Ash kept his eyes on it, picking out the best route to it from where he sat.

 

Almost before the cheers from the Ravenclaw table had died down, another piece of paper spouted from the goblet, and Steven snatched it from the air as quick as he could. His eyes narrowed for a moment as he read the name, and Ash leaned forward just a bit further.

 

“Alain Calder will be representing Durmstrang School of Wizardry!”

 

Wild cheers could be heard from nearly every corner of the Great Hall, Ash among them. Across from him, Misty clapped graciously, looking down at her food as though bored. Alain stood up and waved to the crowd before taking his slip and following Melody into the back room. Ash caught sight of Gary looking mutinous, but he couldn’t imagine why.

 

“And finally,” Steven said, and Ash’s attention snapped back to him. This was it. The whole school was on their toes, leaning towards Steven, glancing at Solidad excitedly, and the like. Ash’s body didn’t even feel real. It was like he was on another plane of existence, one where excitement was all that he could feel.

 

The fire spat out the final slip of paper.

 

“The Hogwarts champion is…” Steven seemed to read the entire slip then, and he cocked an eyebrow before looking back up at the audience again.

 

“Paul Rebolledo.”

 

-

 

Maylene was floored.

 

Paul? As in, her boyfriend’s little brother Paul? The one who was several inches taller than him and had a personality like chips of ice on freezing stone? That Paul?

 

Next to her, Reggie sucked in a breath through his teeth. She glanced over at him, startled to see how troubled he looked. Anyone could tell he was trying to play it off cool. She placed a hand on his, watching Paul as he walked up to the cup, took his slip of paper from Steven, and followed in the footsteps of Alain and Melody.

 

She hastened to clap for him. She was one of the few that did; most were clearly shocked at him being the Hogwarts Champion. Many looks were thrown in Solidad’s direction, but the Ravenclaw held her head up high and clapped politely for Paul.

 

Maylene wasn’t stupid. She knew what a bully Paul could be, knew that he could be cruel. But he didn’t scare her, not one bit. If Reggie needed help dealing with this, she could do that. But she’d be there for Paul too. After all, he might very well become her future brother in law.

 

Her attention was drawn back to Steven as the dull roar of voices died down and he regained the attention of the students. The Goblet’s flames were icy blue again.

 

“Alright, everyone. Those are our champions. I hope you’re all looking forward to an exciting year!” He held up a wine glass half full of rosé. “To the Triwizard Tournament—!”

 

The blue flame in the Goblet roared to life again, cutting Steven off in the middle of his toast. Maylene gasped; something wasn’t right. The three champions had already been chosen— what was going on?! Flames as red as blood roared to life in the Goblet again, and Steven backed away, his eyes wide in shock. Cynthia, Diantha, and Archer stood, dumbstruck, as another slip of paper shot out of the Goblet and into Steven’s shaking hand.

 

“Ash… Ash Ketchum?”

 

-

 

“Ash Ketchum?”

 

Voices flooded the Great Hall, confused and suspicious. Ash shrank in his seat. What’s happening? He tried not to feel overwhelmed, but it was difficult when so many eyes had fallen suddenly upon him. Misty was staring across the table at him, her eyes wide and her mouth agape.

 

“Ash… could you come up here, please…” Steven sounded weak.

 

Ash did as he was told, making his way up to the podium. Misty got to her feet as though she wanted to come with him, save him from the judgment of all the eyes on the back of his head, but she thought better of it and sat back down.

 

He took his name from Steven, who glanced at him nervously. “Head back to the room with the rest of the Champions, I suppose…”

 

What had happened? The Goblet was only supposed to spout out the names of three champions, not four. Definitely not four. Misty said there had never been four champions before, hence the name. Tri wizard. Three wizards. So what was this?

 

The room was full of shimmering golden trophies. He caught sight of Melody moving down the aisle, her hands behind her back as she stared through the glass cases. Alain was standing by the door, and started when Ash entered.

 

“Did they send you to retrieve us?” The Quidditch star asked hopefully.

 

Ash swallowed nervously. “No,”

 

“Then why are you here?” A cold voice broke into their conversation. Paul stood, leaning against one of the trophy cases, and Ash hadn’t even noticed him until now.

 

“Because,” Ash took a deep breath, holding up the slip of paper in his hand. “ This just came out of the Goblet.”

 

An explosion of voices suddenly entered the vicinity. It sounded as though a horse had trampled through a chicken coup, and feathers were flying as the hens clucked angrily. Except, they weren’t hens.

 

“If I had known you were planning to cheat when I accepted your invitation I would never have come!” Diantha’s voice was steely as she tore her arm from Cynthia’s grasp, her pure white outfit flowing behind her. Her eyes were full of fury as she glared at Cynthia, who looked helpless.

 

“No, I didn’t do this, Diantha!” She pleaded. “I would never do something like this to give myself an unfair advantage! I don’t know what happened!”

 

C’est la menteuse! ” Diantha cried indignantly, whipping away from a hurt looking Cynthia to make her way to Melody’s side.

 

Behind Cynthia, Steven looked as though he would very much like to sink into a wall. The Ministry man, Bill, was there alongside Lance, his eyes wide as he flipped through an enormous rulebook. Archer looked dangerously angry, his mouth a pressed like as he held his arms behind his back.  A woman Ash didn’t recognize rushed to Diantha, a long sheet of white blonde hair swishing behind her.

 

“Diantha, we must drop out,” the woman ordered, sending an icy green glare in Ash’s direction. “We should’ve known that this was in their plans all along!”

 

“Don’t be stupid!” Steven snapped, losing his patience. “We didn’t do this. We’d never do this. And even if we wanted to, how can you trick the Goblet of Fire?”

 

For the first time since his silent arrival, Archer, the Durmstrang Headmaster, spoke up, his hand on Alain’s shoulder. “They couldn’t have done this, Diantha. Even if Cynthia is an extraordinarily powerful witch, she has no reason to cheat, and not in such a blatantly obvious way. Somebody put Ash Ketchum’s name in the Goblet and hoodwinked it.”

 

“Hoodwinked it?” Ash asked, puzzled.

 

“Most likely with a Confundus Charm,” Archer elaborated. “They forced it to spit out your name.”

 

“You seem to have put a lot of thought into this, Archer,” a new voice growled from behind Cynthia. Ash’s eyes widened at the sight of Surge stepping from the shadows. “You don’t mean to say that it was you who confounded the Goblet?”

 

“He doesn’t, Surge,” Lance hissed impatiently. “Bill, what do the rules say about this? Can we simply remove Ash from the tournament? Disqualify him?”

 

“The Goblet of Fire is a magically binding object,” Bill began, looking down at his enormous rulebook. “He cannot be disqualified. He must participate.”

 

Ash swallowed. He had wanted a spot as the Hogwarts Champion so badly. But not like this. He felt sick to his stomach. All he wanted was to be back in the Gryffindor common room with Misty, lamenting the fact that he hadn’t gotten in and making fun of Paul. It felt bittersweet.

 

Diantha drew herself up, puffing out her chest. “Well, if he must, he must. But I am not happy about this, Cynthia. Lusamine, let’s get Melody back to the carriage. She has a big day ahead of her tomorrow,”

 

Lusamine nodded, wrapping her arm around Melody’s shoulder. Melody gave ash an unreadable look, but she nodded to Alain and winked at Paul as she left.

 

“Right,” Cynthia said, exchanging a look with Steven. “Well, Paul and Ash, you two better head back to your common rooms. Tomorrow we’ll take your pictures and weigh your wands.”

 

“Yes, Cynthia.” Paul acknowledged her, dipping his head and exiting the room. Ash gave a weak smile to Alain before following after him.

 

-

 

Maylene sat on the couch of the Slytherin common room, trying to avoid the glowering looks that Ursula would throw her every so often, her hands in her lap.

 

“So why do you need to be in here again?” Harley inquired as he filed his nails. “You know it’s big trouble if you get caught. And Ursula looks about ready to tell on you.”

 

Maylene sighed. She couldn’t help but wonder why Ursula had to be so rude all the time, or why she had to wear that expression on her face when she looked over in Maylene’s direction. “I told you, I need to talk to Paul.”

 

“Good luck, sister,” Harley tossed his nail file to the side, glancing up at her with a pitying expression in his emerald eyes. “If he won’t talk to Reggie, what makes you think he’ll talk to you? Or anyone , even?”

 

“I don’t care if he responds to me or not. I just need him to hear what I have to say,” she sighed, understanding how difficult Reggie’s little brother could be. “He needs someone he can trust, even if it’s not Reggie. Or me.”

 

Ursula scoffed from where she sat at the island in the kitchen.

 

Maylene sighed in exasperation. “Is there something you want to say, Ursula?”

 

“Um, yes,” the Slytherin flipped her hair over her shoulder, narrowing her eyes at Maylene. “The Slytherins have each other’s backs. We don’t need you butting in and trying to take over. Paul already has someone he can trust, and it’s me!”

 

“That’s a laugh,” Harley picked up his wand where it lay on the table and began to head up the stairs to his dorm. “Call me when you stop being delusional, Ursula.”

 

“You shouldn’t invest so much attention in a guy that doesn’t care about you,” Maylene frowned at Ursula, waving a silent goodbye to Harley. “you’re going to get hurt. No guy is worth that.”

 

“He does care about me,” Ursula insisted, grabbing her bag off the counter and hauling it over to the stairs on the way to her dorm. “And if I get hurt, that’s my business, not yours.”

 

Maylene sighed as Ursula left. That girl was in too deep. She knew what it felt like to want someone’s attention that badly, and it was never pretty. She was only lucky that she’d had the good sense to realize that she was harming herself, and she hoped that one day Ursula would do the same. Paul was too stubborn to let anyone in like that. But Maylene had to try.

 

The Slytherin common room’s portrait hole opened up to reveal her boyfriend’s not-so-little brother. She remembered when she was a second year sitting next to Reggie in the Great Hall on the first day, and he’d pointed Paul out to her amongst the sea of terrified first years. He hadn’t been scared then, not like the rest of them. Now was no different. His nerves appeared to be hardly jangled as he walked inside, making his way to set his things down by the fire until he saw Maylene.

 

His eyes narrowed. “What are you doing here? You know it’s against house rules for a Hufflepuff to be in the Slytherin dorms.”

 

“I came to talk to you,” she kept her chin up, refusing to allow herself to be intimidated. “Come and sit down.”

 

“I’ll stand,” Paul replied acidly.

 

“Listen,” Maylene tried to think of what the best way to put her point might be. She didn’t want to piss him off, but she wanted to be firm. “I know you understand how big of a deal the Triwizard Tournament is. I won’t patronize you. But I just want you to know that you’re going to need people in your corner to make it out of this alive, even if you think you can go it alone. I’m here for you. Reggie’s here for you. Just… know that, okay Paul?”

 

Paul heaved an enormous, emotionally taxed sigh. “Maylene, quit trying to meddle. I know Reggie put you up to this.”

 

“He didn’t!” Maylene let out a splutter of protest. “I’m not meddling. Just listen to me.”

 

“I honestly don’t care whether you say you’re ‘here for me’ or not. You aren’t. You never have been. A little coincidental that now that I’m a champion, you want to be my friend.”

 

Maylene got to her feet, anger in every stiff moment. This was ridiculous. How stupid could she have been to think he would listen to her? How stupid could he be to insinuate she was doing this for prize money?

 

“You know what, fine, Paul,” she drew in a long, measured breath. “You know I would never do that, but fine. I’ll still be here for you. Just from way far away, you asshole.”

 

With that she drew herself up, grabbing her cloak from the couch and throwing it over her shoulders. She made to the door to open it, but somebody else on the other side beat her to it.

 

“Hi, Maylene!” Said Dawn, her eyes round as she recognized the Hufflepuff. “What are you doing here?”

 

“I came to talk to Paul, but he’s horrid . I’m going back to Hufflepuff now.”

 

Dawn looked past Maylene at Paul, her wide eyes reflecting conflicted emotion. “I’ll see if there’s anything I can do,” she murmured, “but he hates my guts, so there probably isn’t.”

 

Something in Dawn’s expression made Maylene feel almost bad for her. But she knew exactly how the other girl felt; Paul’s stubbornness and cold attitude were endlessly frustrating. Dawn stepped inside and Maylene made to leave.

 

“Hey, Maylene,” called Dawn over her shoulder.

 

“Yeah?”

 

“If you see Drew out there, tell him I couldn’t find anything,”

 

Maylene was puzzled, but she didn’t pry. “Will do. See you later, Dawn.”

 

-

 

Dawn glanced up at Paul as she walked into the common room. One of the Hogwarts Champions…. how had she known that it would be him? That was what the cruel hands of fate had in store for her. Now she had to watch him, cheer for him, when he had never done anything kind for her except for leaving her alone.

 

“Save it,” Paul warned her, his eyes like chips of dark ice. “I don’t want another lecture.”

 

Dawn scoffed. “You think I was going to talk to you? I was going upstairs. The only thing that happens when I talk to you is I get my feelings hurt.”

 

He didn’t respond, and Dawn felt satisfied as she through her bag down on the stairs in preparation to take it up. But a loud tapping on the window startled her, and she looked back in Paul’s direction. “Is that you?”

 

“No?” He pointed to the little window. It was quite high up in the room, just above water level, with a perch. “It’s your owl.”

 

Pip? It had actually been quite a while since Dawn had last seen her owl, but she’d assumed that he was safe in the owlery where she’d left him; but it was odd. She hadn’t used Pip to send a letter since Zoey.

 

She pointed her wand at the window, opening it and allowing her owl to fly inside. To Dawn’s chagrin, instead of landing on her arm as he’d been trained to, he went straight for Paul’s shoulder.

 

“Pip!” Dawn complained, racing over to him and untying a small, neat blue letter from his foot. “You don’t go landing on people! No owl treat for you tonight,”

 

Paul scoffed. “Yeah, because that’s really going to teach him a lesson,”

 

She ignored him, tearing into the letter without looking at the address. Her eyes widened in shock when she saw that it was not addressed to her, but to Paul himself, but she didn’t say anything. She wanted to read it herself first. After all, they’d used her owl to send it!

 

Dear Paul,

     I know that you’re the rightful Hogwarts Champion, so I’m only sending this to you. But I propose an alliance between us. How about we tell each other things that we learn about the Tournament tasks? Doesn’t matter how we come by them. Of course, I’ll make it worth your while, if you know what I mean. I thought you were pretty good looking myself… don’t tell Gary. Anyways, if you want to do this, meet me by the Forbidden Forest tomorrow at midnight. I’ve already got a juicy piece of information regarding the first task that I don’t think you’ll want to miss out on.

             

                                      Love, Melody Birnbaum

                                      Beauxbatons Champion


Dawn felt sick to her stomach. She wasn’t supposed to have seen this letter. But what the hell? Melody wanted Paul to help her cheat, in more ways than one. The task hadn’t even been announced. How could she know anything? Was she talking to Alain, too? And a more pressing question, did she let Paul read the letter?

 

He was right next to her, after all. If he caught a glimpse of the address, it was over for her. She had to let him read it. But there was an odd twisty feeling in her stomach at the thought, and she realized she didn’t want him to. But he had to! Ugh! What could she do? She wished Leaf were here. Leaf would know what to do.

 

“Paul,” she said slowly, “this letter wasn’t for me. It’s for you,”

 

He raised an eyebrow. “ What?

 

“Just…” she handed it over to him, unable to look him in the eyes. “Read it,”

 

He took the letter from her, and she watched his face as he read it. His brows furrowed, then raised, then furrowed again; and then finally he lowered the letter and looked at her with such an intensity that she nearly felt embarrassed.

 

“You can’t tell anyone about this,” he said, his voice dangerously low.

 

“I won’t,” Dawn promised. She was silent for a few moments until curiosity and something else got the best of her. “Are you….. are you going to meet her?”

 

“I don’t know,” he admitted, folding his arms over his chest and biting his lip in frustration. “If she truly has information regarding the first task, I should. But she clearly wants me to…”

 

“Do stuff with her,” Dawn finished his sentence awkwardly, “Yeah. So are you…. going to?”

 

This was the most awkward conversation she’d ever had with Paul. When they were fighting, that was okay— that was normal. This was different. Now they shared a secret, and maybe if she was a less curious person, she’d be able to go to bed and just forget it. But she wasn’t.

 

“You’re seriously asking me if I’m going to be friends with benefits with someone I don’t even know.” He reiterated, looking at her as if he thought she couldn’t be that stupid.

 

“Yes! I know how guys are!” She tried to defend herself. “I mean, Melody is really pretty! Most guys our year would be drooling all over themselves if they had this opportunity. Like Conway!”

 

He rolled his eyes.

 

“I mean, really!” She crossed her arms, mimicking him. “And think of poor Gary! Aren’t they dating?”

 

“Okay, I don’t have time for gossip,” Paul glared down at her. “Just help me figure this out.”

 

She was taken aback. “ Help you?”

 

“I want the information, but I don’t want to touch her. You have the social experience to help me achieve that.” He sighed, as though he couldn’t believe he was doing this. To be frank, Dawn couldn’t believe he was doing it either.

 

“No offense, Paul,” she began, “or maybe, full offense. But why should I help you? All you ever are is awful to me.”

 

“Well, for starters,” his eyes found Pip on the couch and stayed there. “You want Hogwarts to win as much as I do.”

 

“Then I would help Ash!” She insisted.

 

“You’re a Slytherin. I know that matters to you.” He tore down her claim.

 

She hated that he was right. “Still, Paul. You haven’t done a single thing that would warrant me helping you with this.”

 

“Secondly, I know you were going to the party in Gryffindor’s common room that night.” He glanced back at her. “And thirdly, I know that right now, you’re trying to instate an underground Quidditch league, the discovery of which could land you in detention for the rest of the year. Detention that I could give you right now.”

 

“So you’re blackmailing me?” She was shocked, drawing her arms closer to herself out of instinct.

 

“Not blackmailing you. Simply letting you know all the things I could have gotten you in trouble for if I hated you so much.”

 

“Okay, you win,” she sighed in resignation, relief sweeping over her. “I’ll help you.”

 

“Thank you.”

 

“You’re welcome,” she rolled her eyes, walking back to the stairs to grab her bag. “But how did you know that I was at the party? Or doing the Quidditch league?”

 

“Ursula told me you were at the party. You talked too loud about the Quidditch league.”

 

“Oh,” she said, stepping onto the stairs. “Makes sense. Okay, I’m going to bed. We’ll see what we can do about the Melody thing in the morning,”

 

“Hm,” he grunted, and she walked up the stairs.

 

Everyone was asleep when she entered the common room, making her realize how late it was. She pulled on her pajamas and climbed into bed, deep in thought.

 

She was still more than suspicious of Paul. And God, how he infuriated her. But downstairs he’d trapped her like a fly to honey, and she was almost angry at herself for agreeing to help someone so detestable. But a new idea had cropped up inside her head. Maybe, while helping him with Melody, she’d learn something incriminating about him. All of the other times she’d suspected him, and all he’d been doing was something normal… maybe she just hadn’t been close enough. Drew couldn’t help her now. She was in it alone, and with the looming threat of the first task, she needed to get to serious work.

Chapter Text

Leaf pulled her notebook out from her shelf, dusting it off with her wand and flipping it open. Stories she’d tried to write and had given up on flashed before her eyes until she found a blank page closer to the back cover, flipping an oriole feather quill between her fingers.

 

The quill in her hand, she decided, should in no way reflect the way she felt about any given person at any given time. Especially not Gary Oak.

 

She’d come back to the common room during her break period, half annoyed with herself, and half puzzled. When she had a class with Gary it was so incredibly hard to keep her eyes off of him, her head racing with thoughts, her chest constricted with confusion. He made it so hard for her to focus what with all of his attention-grabbing jokes and his incessant desire to bring Gary Jr. with him wherever he went.

 

Ugh. She couldn’t speak to him or even face him. In fact, she’d been downright ignoring him since her knock down drag-out with Melody, and while the Beauxbatons girl was incredibly easy to brush off and infuriate, Gary Oak was not.

 

He’d tried everything to get her attention. Crumpled notes charmed to pelt the back of her head, cornering her after class, and even having Ursula bring Leaf a letter that only said “what’s wrong :(“.

 

She headed back downstairs, wanting to sink down into the floor, her notebook tucked beneath her arm, and was almost to the bottom when she heard the hissing of whispered voices. She poked her head out from behind the staircase, and felt her grip tighten as she saw two figures she never expected to glimpse alone together. Paul and Dawn were speaking in hushed voices, and Dawn looked incredibly exasperated, gesticulating wildly with her hands whilst Paul glared down at her, unimpressed.

 

“You don’t need me to go with you! You’re a big boy, right?” Dawn hissed.

 

“You need come to get a handle on the way she acts around me.”

 

“You could just tell me what she does!” Throwing her hands up in frustration, Dawn made like she was going to walk away, and spotted Leaf from behind Paul’s shoulder.

 

Leaf grimaced awkwardly at her.

 

Dawn raised an eyebrow, looking as though she would like to grab Leaf around the throat and throttle her for eavesdropping.

 

“Look, I don’t want you to be there just as much as you don’t want to be there,” Paul sighed, “but you can just wait outside.”

 

“Fine, fine!” Dawn relented. “Whatever. Just go to the dumb thing. I’ll catch up with you, I have to do something,”

 

Paul shrugged and wrenched open the portrait hole, disappearing through it. Dawn whipped around to face Leaf.

 

What are you doing here!”

 

Leaning against the banister, Leaf couldn’t help but smirk at her friend. “Free period. What are you doing here?”

 

Her friend looked around quickly before walking over to Leaf and grabbing her by the shoulders. “I’ll tell you, but you can’t tell anyone . Especially not Drew!”

 

Not even Drew ? Leaf thought, man, she must want to keep this under wraps. I wonder what’s going on? Still, she felt an odd sense of obligation to Dawn that she’d never felt for anyone else before. Whatever this secret entailed, she would not tell anyone, no matter what.

 

Dawn sat Leaf down and reached into her bag, pulling out a crumpled piece of paper. Leaf took it and began to read.

 

Dear Paul,

     I know that you’re the rightful Hogwarts Champion, so I’m only sending this to you. But I propose an alliance between us. How about we tell each other things that we learn about the Tournament tasks? Doesn’t matter how we come by them. Of course, I’ll make it worth your while, if you know what I mean. I thought you were pretty good looking myself… don’t tell Gary. Anyways, if you want to do this, meet me by the Forbidden Forest tomorrow at midnight. I’ve already got a juicy piece of information regarding the first task that I don’t think you’ll want to miss out on.

             

                                      Love, Melody Birnbaum

                                      Beauxbatons Champion

 

Her heart began to pound. Melody wrote this? Melody wanted to mess around with Paul and form an alliance that would help them both cheat? And did she mean what Leaf thought she did when she said she’d make it worth Paul’s while? Leaf couldn’t help but want to tear up the letter into little pieces. Gary was with Melody, but he had no clue she was doing this, Leaf knew. He’d had girlfriends cheat on him before, but never one so openly conniving that a baby could see it. What could she do? Tell him? Expose Melody?

 

No. She looked up at Dawn and knew that no matter how much it nipped at her, she couldn’t tell a soul.

 

“This is what I’m helping Paul with. Getting information out of her without having to screw around with her,” Dawn explained, “I would tell Drew, but he doesn’t trust Paul one bit. It wouldn’t end well.”

 

“Yes, I can see that,” Leaf murmured, folding the letter with a tight crease and handing it back to Dawn. “So you’re going to the weighing of the wands?”

 

“Yeah, but I think I’m just going to wait outside. You can come if you want,” her friend smiled nervously at her.

 

Leaf felt warm. She’d never had a friendship like this; never had anyone want to confide in her, entrust her with something like this. And while she was pissed off about Melody, she’d put those feelings, and whatever existed in her heart for Gary, aside.

 

“What’s wrong?” Dawn asked, concerned.

 

“Nothing,” Leaf considered, shaking her head, “I’ve just never had anyone tell me a secret before.”

 

-

 

May walked back from Charms alone, holding her books to her chest, deep in thought. She needed a place to host the Quidditch matches, and fast. The news that she and Drew were hosting underground Quidditch games had spread quickly, and already a sizeable number of students had approached her with interest. She’d told all of them that everything was figured out already, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

 

In fact, working on this with Drew wasn’t anything like she’d hoped it would be. It felt like May was doing the majority of the work and he was simply watching, making barbed remarks when he disagreed with her. She hated it.

 

May felt stupid and naïve for expecting this to have been a catalyst of some sort for her and Drew. She felt like a fool for hoping that maybe, by having some alone time together, he might realize he liked her. But it was so, so, so apparent that he held no feeling towards her whatsoever, and while Misty tried to tell her this wasn’t true, May could just tell.

 

Oh, well. She wouldn’t allow her heart to be trampled by some Slytherin with stupid, silky hair and eyes like an emerald lake. Hair that she definitely did not want to run her fingers through, and eyes that she definitely didn’t want to find staring at her.

 

She rounded the corner, shaking her head to clear it of thoughts of Drew. She needed to focus on finding a place to host the Quidditch matches, not him, anyways. Just a place big enough for us to fly, and sheltered enough for us not to get caught.

 

May stopped in her tracks, gazing straight ahead at the wall. For a second there, I thought… she gritted her teeth and squeezed her eyes shut. Stop being stupid, Maple! It was nothing, wasn’t it? The wall had not shifted, the bricks in front of her were not moving— yet when she opened her eyes, the truth contradicted her thoughts.

 

A door had appeared. May had never seen it before, which was something, seeing as she went the same way from charms every time she left the class. Looking around, she edged forward, wrapping her fingers around the cold brass and pulling the door open.

 

Her mouth fell open.

 

It was an enormous room, larger than it possibly could’ve been from the outside, with a floor covered in plush grass. Three goal posts stood on either side of the pitch— Quidditch goal posts, May thought with a jolt of excitement— with a small set of stands for observation. On the ground in the middle of the pitch sat a briefcase sized box, and May immediately recognized it as one that would hold the four balls of Quidditch.

 

“What… is this place?” She couldn’t help but breathe out, her blue eyes wide as she glanced around the room. And how did I manage to find it?

 

Adrenaline shot through her, butterflies pumping their wings within her stomach and making her giddy. This was what she had been looking for! This place was more than perfect. Not wanting to leave but knowing she could not stay, May darted back to the door and slipped out, barely able to contain the skip in her step as she raced to tell Drew.

 

-

 

Leaf and Dawn sat with their backs to the wall next to the door of the interviewing room, boredom making their eyelids heavy and their postures slack. Leaf had her sketchbook pulled into her lap and a pencil held loosely in her grip, but she wasn’t drawing; the thought counts, right?

 

“Dawn, I implore you. Let’s go inside. What are they going to do? Kill us? We can just say that Paul forgot his Transfiguration textbook. It would be that easy,” she whined.

 

“While you make a compelling argument,” Dawn began patiently, “you fail to consider that I would literally rather die than go in there, because Paul might grab me by the throat and snap my neck if I do,”

 

“He won’t,”

 

“He will,”

 

“Won’t.”

 

Will—“

 

“What are you beautiful ladies arguing about?”

 

Leaf and Dawn turned at the same time to spot him: Conway. How he constantly managed to sneak up on people who were unaware was one of life’s great mysteries, and today, he was wearing a particularly awful brown vest over his school robes. He was bent over to look into Leaf’s sketchbook, and she snapped it shut with a curl of her lip.

 

“Do you mind? ” She hissed. “Run along back to anime class now. Dawn and I aren’t in the mood,”

 

Conway, as usual, did not catch the very obvious hint that he was unwelcome, and pressed his sweaty back against the wall, sliding down and falling into a sitting position with a flop next to Dawn.

 

“Hi, Conway,” she said patiently. Leaf had no clue how she did that.

 

“Hi, Dawn,” he replied, a little too close to Leaf’s friend for comfort.

 

“Dawn, I think we should go inside,” Leaf spoke in a pointed voice, sending her friend a look.

 

Dawn was opening her mouth in what Leaf hoped was agreement when suddenly the door to the interviewing room opened and a girl stepped outside, her arms full of camera equipment. Leaf stared at her. She had never seen someone who looked so blissfully unaware of the world around her. Finally, the girl caught sight of the three of them, and Leaf was able to fully take her in.

 

She was drowning in a set of pastel pink dress robes that had been covered in bows and lace. A choker wrapped around her neck, adorned with a little jingly bell, just like Harley’s cat, Mr. Needles, had on. Brown roots were showing beneath teal hair, and her eyes were an unnatural shade of pink, huge and round with poorly applied fake lashes. If Leaf had to wager a guess, she’d say that the girl looked to be around fifteen, and she clearly was not a student at Hogwarts or Beauxbatons or even Durmstrang.

 

“Um, excuse me?” Conway was the first to speak, his voice derisive as though he was loathe to be interrupted in the middle of making people uncomfortable.

 

Snap at him, Leaf urged the girl—  who looked like a deer caught in the headlights— in her mind. But the pink girl did no such thing, her eyes fixed on Conway and shining brightly.

 

“Oh hewwo! My name’s Marilyn…” she began, and Leaf felt herself cringe at the nearly adoring tone of voice the girl was using, “and I think this is a fated meeting…”

 

“Who asked?” Conway snorted, turning his full attention back to Dawn, who looked dumbstruck. Conway? Refusing female attention?   It just didn’t seem right.

 

Leaf grinned. “Oh, that’s Conway,” she told Marilyn, “and he’ll help you with all that heavy camera equipment, I’m sure.”

 

“A gentleman!” Marilyn squealed, her body trembling in what had to be excitement.

 

Conway whipped around to look at Leaf, his eyes almost pleading. “But I’m talking to you ladies!”

 

“You are a gentleman, aren’t you Conway?” Dawn implored.

 

Marilyn seemed to notice the blue eyed girl for the first time, and her eyes narrowed at the close proximity between her and Conway. Leaf bit back a snicker. This can’t be real.

 

“Go on, Conway. Help Marilyn out,” said Leaf.

 

“It would be really impressive if you did it,” Dawn added.

 

This seemed to steel Conway’s resolve, and he got to his feet to grab some of the camera equipment from Marilyn. As he reached forward to take the equipment from her, she pushed it into his arms with a sigh, batting her eyelashes. Conway’s knees buckled under the weight of the camera that Marilyn had been carrying easily before.

 

“Jesus Christ, woman!” Conway protested. “How strong are you?!”

 

“It’s not that heavy,” Marilyn replied, her huge pink eyes wide.

 

Conway snapped back at her, “Why don’t you just use magic like a normal person?”

 

Something in Marilyn’s wide eyed gaze flickered, and she looked away from Conway, facing the direction that she was walking in before. Leaf raised an eyebrow. Why didn’t Marilyn use magic? Was she a squib? And yet, she detested Conway’s tone towards the poor girl. Especially when Marilyn clearly had a crush on him so soon after their first meeting. But Leaf’s attitude kept her from speaking up. She preferred to watch things go down with minimal interference, and besides… they were two very entertaining people.

 

“Ok, they’re gone,” Dawn breathed a sigh of relief as the two disappeared around the corner. “Conway’s awful. I thought he was going to ask me about the date I owe him,”

 

“...The what you owe him?” Leaf raised her eyebrows in disbelief.

 

“It’s a long story,” Dawn seemed to become embarrassed, “and I should really save it for another time—“

 

“Right, because we’re going into the room now,”

 

Ugh. Fine. You win, Greene.”

 

Leaf put a hand on the wooden door and pushed it open, stepping into the room with Dawn behind her. At once, she felt eyes upon her face. It seemed like everyone in the room was staring straight at them, and Leaf swallowed her discomfort as heads turned away from the two again.

 

“Leaf!” A voice called out, and she saw Alain standing at the side of the wandmaker, Alder, his own wand in Alder’s hand as the man examined it. Alain waved at her, and Leaf gave him an acknowledging nod. He’d called her out, and now Melody would know that she was here.

 

“What are you doing here?” Speak of the devil.

 

Leaf turned to meet eyes with Melody. There was a stylist on either side of her, fixing her long, chestnut hair into an ornate style. Dislike surged at once through Leaf’s chest, and she glared down the other girl.

 

“Paul forgot something and we’re bringing it to him,” she explained.

 

“This room is for Champions,” Melody stated, her blue eyes flashing dangerously. “Ketchum is already pushing it by being here! What makes you think you’re allowed to—“

 

“They’re with me.” A voice from behind Leaf broke in, sending chills down her spine.

 

She had never had much of an opinion on Paul Rebolledo herself. Mostly because, over the six years she’d gone to school with him, neither of them had spoken more than three words to each other. Neither Leaf nor Paul were the type of people to seek out social interaction, so naturally they’d never needed to speak.

 

She just knew that most everyone was afraid of him, and she could see why.

 

Melody closed her mouth immediately, instead fixing Paul with a simpering look. “Of course. Sorry, Paul.”

 

Leaf had forgotten that Dawn was behind her until the girl stepped up, standing beside Paul and extending a hand to Melody.

 

“I don’t think we’ve met,” she said, “I’m Dawn Berlitz. I’m in Slytherin with Paul and Leaf,”

 

Melody took her hand and shook it. “Oh? Paul, you didn’t tell me that you had such a cute friend,”

 

“We’re not friends,” he said flatly.

 

“Oh, sorry,” Melody brushed off his remark, looking more assured of herself. Leaf had never seen her submit to someone like this. It was almost as though she were trying to impress Paul.

 

Dawn’s nervous laugh echoed through the room. “No, we’re not. He just forgot his Transfiguration textbook. Speaking of Ketchum, where is Ash?”

 

“Getting interviewed,” Melody rolled her eyes, pointedly speaking in the direction of Dawn and Paul, cutting Leaf out of the conversation entirely. “Honestly! This whole extra champion thing is the bane of my existence. Not only does it give Hogwarts a leg up, but he’s completely oblivious to the trouble he’s caused,”

 

“I agree,” Paul put in. “He shouldn’t be here.”

 

Leaf stayed quiet, watching her friend. Dawn looked pissed at the blatant badmouthing of her friend, biting her bottom lip with a fixed expression before she decided to speak.

 

“I don’t think that’s true,” she said, her voice forceful. “I think Ash deserves this more than anyone. He’s brave and kind. I think he’s the perfect person to represent our school.”

 

Paul scoffed. “You would.”

 

Melody’s eyebrows raised with interest. “Such glowing words… Dawn, do you have a crush on Ash?”

 

“Piss off, Melody,” Leaf cut in.

 

The three turned to her, a mingling of expressions on their faces. Melody’s eyes were narrowed in annoyance, Paul was looking at her with an unreadable expression, and Dawn looked grateful.

 

“Oh, sorry,” Melody rolled her eyes again. “I forgot that you were here. You don’t have to be such a bitch all the time, I’m just talking to Dawn,”

 

“Melody, I don’t have a crush on Ash,” Dawn protested, turning the attention back to herself. “We’re friends, and besides, I—“

 

“Oh! I know!” Melody exclaimed. “Aren’t you with that Drew guy anyway?”

 

Leaf groaned.

 

“And what is this charming conversation all about?”

 

Chills cascaded down Leaf’s spine as the unfamiliar voice from behind her caused each member of the little group to look up with wide eyes.

 

“Oh, nothing, Ms. Marsaille,” Melody was the first to speak, her voice sugar coated and smooth. “Just a bit of gossip between friends, you know?”

 

“We’re not friends,” said Leaf and Paul at once.

 

“But I could’ve sworn I detected a bit of animosity here between you…” a well manicured hand clutched Leaf’s shoulder from behind. She whipped around to find herself face to face with the one person she’d been keeping tabs on for what felt like all her life; the woman whose lies people consumed on the daily, the bane of Leaf’s existence.

 

“You!” Leaf started, wrenching her shoulder out of Malva Marsaille’s grip and turning to look at her.

 

She stood tall in a pair of studded heels and an outfit straight from Vogue. Pink hair cascaded over her elegant shoulders, and orange shades covered her critical gaze. Above her shoulder, an emerald green quill floated as though it were listening intently to every word. A Quick-Quotes quill, Leaf recognized.

 

“Oh… but you’re not a champion,” Malva looked down at Leaf over her nose. “And neither are you,” she glanced over to Dawn.

 

“We were just bringing Paul one of his textbooks,” Dawn said in her most polite voice. “We’re in the same house. He left it,”

 

Malva’s eyes glittered behind her shades. “That’s so cute. How long have you two been together?”

 

“Okay, no, you’ve got it twisted, we’re not—“ Dawn attempted to straighten Malva out, but it clearly was not working. Paul was shaking his head, a grimace on his face.

 

“Dawn’s dating Drew anyways,” trust Melody to gleefully toss gasoline onto the flame.

 

“I’m not-“ groaned Dawn.

 

“Oh, you know how my readers adore a scandal. What will it be?” Malva looked at her quill expectantly. “Two-timing girlfriend of Hogwarts Champion? Breakup leaves Paul crushed?—“

 

“Oh, no you don’t,” Leaf spoke up, her voice thick with rage. “You are not going to treat your Triwizard Tournament coverage like another one of your little gossip columns, and you’re not going to lie about my friend,”

 

“Are you a fan?” Laughed Malva. The fact that she wasn’t taking this seriously further served to anger Leaf. “Besides, I’m only messing around. What’s profession if you can’t have a little fun every once in a while?”

 

“Just keep your quill out of our business,” Leaf snapped, grabbing Dawn’s arm and beginning towards the door. Dawn quick-stepped to keep up, surprised by Leaf’s rage.

 

“Leaf!” A voice called from behind them. She turned to spot Alain approaching and almost groaned in impatience. “Are you alright?”

 

“Just fine, thanks,” she replied curtly.

 

“We have to go,” added Dawn. “Tell Mairin I said hi, Alain,”

 

“Will do,” he replied, though his eyes were shining with concern. Something deep within Leaf’s chest clenched in annoyance, and she brushed past him.

 

“Leaf, calm down—“ Dawn called after her.

 

“How can you say that?” Leaf whirled around to face her friend. “She was going to smear you in front of millions of people. Or at least she was threatening to. And who says she won’t? It isn’t right that someone like her is at the top, with the world hanging onto every lie she writes,”

 

“You’re right, it’s not. But we did what we needed to do. And if she writes an article about me, that’s just pathetic. She’s a grown woman and I’m a sixteen year old girl,”

 

“But doesn’t it piss you off?” Leaf could sense the desperation in her own voice.

 

“Of course it does,” Dawn admitted. “But we don’t have to let her get to us. If she writes an article about us… well, you can write an article about what you think of her.”

 

“No one would read that.”

 

“But I think they would!” Argued Dawn. “I would read it. Drew would. We could circulate it, too. Pretty soon the whole school would be reading it,”

 

They continued down the hallway and Leaf’s boiling anger reduced to a warm simmer. It was a sense of resentment toward Malva’s successful career that kept her going, that made her consider Dawn’s words. If she wrote it, would she use an alias or refuse to hide? How would it be received? Would people actually read it? Could she become the Triwizard Tournament’s trusted news source?

 

“Look, Dawn. If she does anything to us, I’ll consider it, but right now we’re going to be late for Surge’s class. And, also, we forgot about Conway and that Marilyn girl,” Leaf hoisted her bag over her shoulder.

 

“Yes! I knew you’d see it my way,” Dawn grabbed Leaf’s arm, and she allowed herself to be tugged to Defense Against the Dark Arts. “Let’s forget about them more, though.”

 

-

 

Gary walked into Surge’s class, nervous yet excited for whatever the hardass teacher had in store for him today. He’d picked Melody up from her photoshoot and left her at the Beauxbatons carriage with a kiss on the cheek, with time to spare to hand off Gary Jr. to Solidad. He was on fire.

 

“Sit down, Oak. I swear, you spend enough time showing off that I could cast three spells on you before you even notice I have my wand out,” Growled Surge from the front of the room, where he was looking at some complex diagram on the board.

 

Gary noticed almost immediately that the Slytherins had opted to sit towards the back of the room, aside from Paul. He attempted to catch Leaf’s eye, unsurprised when she pointedly ignored him to continue talking to Ursula, who was looking engrossed in the conversation. He wondered what they were speaking about, and so, he slid into a chair in front of them.

 

“...name is Marilyn. It was love at first sight,” Leaf’s voice was almost gleeful. “She asked Conway to help her carry her equipment and he literally could barely lift it.”

 

“Oh, they were made for each other,” Ursula’s voice was full of scorn. “Maybe now he’ll stop trying to sneak into our common room,”

 

Ah. Conway talk! This was one of Gary’s natural fortés, if he might say so himself. He leaned back in his chair to join in. “Did I hear that Conway just met Mrs. Conway?”

 

Leaf turned to fix him with a stony glare. “Did anyone ever tell you it’s rude to butt into other people’s conversations?”

 

“Ouch,” Gary pretended to be hurt, “did anyone ever tell you that more people would talk to you if you were nice?

 

Ursula seemed to pick up on the tension between them, and her expression flickered between concern and deviousness.

 

Leaf swiveled around in her seat and continued to ignore Gary.

 

Okay, he couldn’t lie, that kind of hurt. He was used to them engaging in delightful, snappy banter, but she’d been snubbing him all week, and Gary thought he might know why, if he was being honest.

 

It was so clear to see. Melody! Ever since he’d started dating Melody she’d been nothing but rude to him, and he’d tried and tried to figure out what Leaf’s problem was with his girlfriend. At last he’d arrived at the only conclusion he could find; she hated Melody because she was jealous. She wanted to be with Gary, and now that he was with Melody, she didn’t want anything more to do with him! That had to be it.

 

He turned back around in his seat, twiddling his thumbs. This was so stupid. Why couldn’t Leaf just be happy for him?

 

Gary paused. Would he be happy for her if she got with someone else? Someone like Alain? He shook the thought out of his head, refusing to entertain it any longer.

 

Fifteen minutes into class, where the students were learning about countercurses, Serena burst into the room.

 

He started. He hadn’t even noticed she wasn’t there— Serena never missed class or fell late. She looked frazzled, hairs out of place and eyes wide with fear for the consequence that Surge could present her with.

 

“I’m so sorry I’m late, sir!” She panted, laying her bag on the desk next to Gary’s. “I lost track of time. It won’t happen again.”

 

“Detention, Paschall.” Surge sighed.

 

Her eyes widened. Gary would’ve snickered if he wasn’t so concerned; Serena had never had a detention, not once. But she didn’t debate it, falling into her seat next to Gary with a wounded noise.

 

“Where were you?” He asked her, raising a brow.

 

“Please don’t tell Shauna,” Serena pleaded.

 

“Pinky swear.”

 

Serena heaved a big sigh. “Ok. I was at the Beauxbatons carriage hanging out with Miette and Melody and I completely lost track of time. I don’t know what happened… I was just having a lot of fun. It feels nice to be there.”

 

“Okay,” Gary folded his hands together, “and why exactly can’t I tell this to Shauna?”

 

“She’d be upset,” admitted Serena. “I was… supposed to walk with her to class.”

 

“Shauna will forgive you for your mistake!” Gary slapped his friend on the back and she winced. “Don’t worry. You guys are best friends.”

 

-

 

When the bell rang to signal the end of class, Drew jumped to his feet to be the first one out the door. He stopped by the wall and waited for the rest of the class to come out.

 

Paul was next. The two of them exchanged a look of mutual hatred. That was not who Drew wanted to invite to his coveted event, no sir.

 

Laughter filled the air, and a group consisting of Zoey, Misty, Iris, and Shauna appeared, with Ash and Kenny trailing behind. The Gryffindors! It was perfect. Drew immediately stepped into their path.

 

“You guys want to play Quidditch?” He inquired.

 

Misty’s eyes widened. “Did you finally work out the underground match stuff?”

 

“Uh, you bet I did. More like May did, but still. Ten o clock tonight, third floor corridor. Don’t be spotted. Spread the word!” Drew said as they looked at each other in excitement. He felt satisfied.

 

“We’ll be there,” Iris promised. “Is it BYOB?”

 

“If you want to. We have brooms that we can supply too, though,”

 

“Oh, hell yes!” Ash threw his fist in the air. “I can’t wait. This Champion stuff is so stressful. I can’t wait to play. Thanks, Drew,”

 

“Psshhh, don’t mention it. Repay me by playing your best,” the Slytherin brushed Ash’s glowing praise off with a mock bashful act.

 

The Gryffindors left, talking excitedly amongst themselves. As soon as they were gone, Drew found himself face to face with Gary, his nose barely an inch from Drew’s.

 

“Do mine ears deceive me? You and Maple figured a place out? Count me in. On second thought, reserve me a spot as Chaser. Preferably on the winning team. Okay, got to go find GJ a ferret-sitter, smell ya later! ” And with that, he was gone as soon as he’d arrived.

 

Behind Gary, there was Conway , with a sniveling grin plastered on his face. “If you don’t let me play, I’m going to tell Cynthia—“

 

“Fine! God. You can be the ball boy.”

 

“Um, no, I want to be a chaser, ” Conway complained. “You can’t make me be the ball boy like Diary of a Wimpy Kid .

 

Um, yes I can,” Drew snapped. “Next!”

 

“Why didn’t you tell me you had it all figured out?” Dawn demanded from behind Conway. “I had to hear it from May! Oh! Do I get to play?”

 

“Of course you get to play. What position do you want?”

 

“Umm, I don’t know,” Dawn pondered. “Chaser,”

 

“Done. Is Leaf playing?”

 

“No, but I’ll watch. Get Solidad on the scene, though, because someone needs to be able to fix injuries,” Leaf put in, appearing from what seemed like nowhere next to Dawn. Beside her was Ursula.

 

“I’m playing,” Ursula stated. “Beater.”

 

“Alright, Ursula,” Drew couldn’t lie, he respected her a lot more after the way she stood up for Dawn when Surge was tearing into her. But he wasn’t sure if they could ever be friends. Honestly, now that Melody was here, Ursula seemed like a saint.

 

The last person out of the classroom was May, and she was holding so many things that Drew wasn’t sure she could get it all. He immediately waved his wand, and her books levitated neatly in front of her.

 

“Drew!” She complained. “I had it!”

 

“Ohhh, yeah. Sure,” he replied. “Just stayed behind to let you know I told everybody,” and because I wanted to see you, but that’s not important.

 

“Okay, that’s great,” May was back to business, clapping her hands together. Drew couldn’t help but notice the clear nail polish she was wearing, and had to battle his sudden urge to grab her hand. “I’m going to tell some of Max’s friends, too. Do you think the Durmstrang kids wanna play?”

 

“We can ask them,” Drew considered the wall behind her head. “Leaf knows Alain,”

 

“Okay, that’s awesome!” May clapped excitedly, bouncing on one foot. “Playing Quidditch with Alain Calder. Imagine Max’s face when I tell him!”

 

“It’s really exciting,” Drew admitted. “Especially since everyone is stressed over the whole four champions thing.”

 

“It’s a much needed opportunity to blow off steam. Do you think that we can make the room serve ramen?”

 

“Hmm,” he looked at her, endeared, wishing he could take a snapshot of the glowing look on her face and keep it in his head forever. “Why don’t I get some stuff from the kitchens?”

 

“Oh, Drew, you’d do that?” A huge grin spread across her face. I’d do that? Drew asked himself.

 

“...Sure. I’ll ask Barry, June.”

 

“First of all, it’s May. Second of all… thank you. I think this thing is really going to work out!”

 

Drew had to look away from her. She was shining too bright, all gratitude and joyful smiles. In that moment, he honestly could not think of one thing he wanted more than for tonight’s match to go without a hitch.









Chapter Text

“I’ll see you guys after the game, okay?” Said Iris, trying not to be put off by the disappointed looks on her friends’ faces. “I’d love to play, but I need to take a walk. Save me a seat in the stands,”

 

“You shouldn’t go walking the grounds alone at night, Iris,” Shauna’s eyes were wide. “Something could happen, you just don’t know.”

 

Iris rolled her eyes, blowing out a puff of air and forcing a reassuring laugh. “Don’t worry, Shauna. I’ve brushed up on my spellwork,”

 

“Take Cilan or something,” suggested Misty, her eyes also reflecting concern. “I know he likes to talk, but still. It’s better to be safe than sorry,”

 

“Misty. Hey.” The Gryffindor placed a hand on her redheaded friend’s shoulder. “I’m going to be fine on my own. Just enjoy the match, okay?”

 

Shauna and Misty both looked hesitant, but they could see that Iris was not backing down. Misty dipped her head, turning to look back up at the large wooden doors that had formed as they’d been standing there.

 

“Well, you know where we’ll be,” she said, fixing her fiery hair into a ponytail.

 

Iris watched them open the doors and walk inside. She didn’t get much of a glimpse at the room’s interior, but she assumed that it was huge. It had to be, to act as a stadium. Normally, Iris loved Quidditch; she was on the Gryffindor house team, and Cilan jokingly referred to her as ‘the dragon of the pitch.’ She couldn’t explain what unearthly force pulled her to the grounds tonight, but she could feel it in her bones; something was going on out there, and she couldn’t miss it.

 

She began towards the large wooden doors that led to the ground, trying to step lightly in her flats, making sure that her cloak didn’t crinkle. She was almost at the door, ready to open them as quietly as she could, when a voice pierced her ears.

 

“And where do you think you’re going?”

 

-

 

“We need two teams!” Drew called, his wand hovering next to his throat, amplifying his voice. “I’ve decided on our two team captains, Gary and Paul.”

 

Dawn raised an eyebrow at Drew. Paul? Really? She didn’t quite understand why Paul had come tonight, nor did she understand the reason Drew would choose him as a Team Captain. She supposed it could be because he had experience as one already, but still. Even Drew himself looked to be having doubts on his choice as Paul walked up to the front of the pack alongside Gary.

 

“Each team needs seven members,” May took over the explanation, her erratic motions betraying her excitement, “and some of you have already made requests regarding your position, so we’re going to try to accommodate. Let’s let the team captains choose their teams first,”

 

Dawn looked behind May, Drew, Paul, and Gary at the packed stands.  She spotted Clemont’s little sister Bonnie engaged in a rapt conversation with Mairin and smiled. It seemed as though every student from the fourth year onwards was there, even though statistically she knew that couldn’t be the truth.

 

“I’ll take first pick,” Gary said, bringing her attention back to the four of them. He scanned the group in front of him with narrowed eyes.

 

“Wonder whose team we’ll be on,” a voice murmured into her ear. Dawn looked over to see Alain, his blue eyes focused on Gary.

 

“I don’t think you have anything to worry about,” she reassured him with a grin.

 

“I want Ketchum,” Gary called, and Ash leapt to the front of the group goofily to stand with him. On Dawn’s other side, Misty let out an exasperated sigh.

 

“Calder,” Paul said immediately, to no one’s surprise. Alain gave Dawn a sheepish grin and moved to stand next to Paul.

 

“Drew,” Gary said next.

 

“Schoenberg,” retaliated Paul, and Ursula trotted up to stand at his side. Looking at them made Dawn’s stomach turn in a way that she didn’t understand. Looking at her feet, she decided to chalk it up to her feelings on her rivalry with Ursula.

 

“Misty,”

 

“You,” Paul said, pointing his finger at someone in the small crowd. Dawn stepped aside to let whoever it was through. He was taller than her by about a head, with the blondest hair she’d ever seen and eyes like green smoke. She recognized him as Lillie’s brother, a Beauxbatons student named Gladion. Most people made sure not to stray too close to him— he was known for being blunt. Well, Dawn thought, that fits Paul perfectly.

 

Dawn waited patiently as the team captains chose their teammates. The crowd around her began to dwindle as her peers were picked out, and she wondered briefly why Gary, who was her friend, didn’t just mercy-choose her.

 

“Berlitz,” Paul said finally, and she breathed a sigh of relief before realizing what exactly just happened. Paul chose her? She’d been expecting Gary to. Regardless, she moved to stand between Zoey and May, making brief eye contact with Drew, who had one eyebrow raised.

 

A volley of names and the team-choosing was over, with Gary heading a team made of Drew, Ash, Misty, Kenny, Shauna, and Barry. Her own team comprised of Paul, Ursula, Zoey, May, Alain, Gladion, and herself.

 

“So that’s it?” A voice spoke from near the goal posts. Dawn turned to see Leaf, a broomstick in her hand and an unimpressed look on her face.

 

“Leaf!” Dawn called, waving to her friend. “You’re reffing! I didn’t think you would!”

 

“Still might drop out,” she said, looking at her nails.

 

“But you won’t, right?” May said, her eyes wide. “This whole thing is hinging on you! Without you, we’d probably all start beating each other up.”

 

“You’ll probably all start doing that anyways, knowing Ash and Paul,” Leaf rolled her eyes. “But I’ll do my best. I brushed up on the rules, but don’t kill me if I mess something up.”

 

“Wouldn’t dream of it, Leafy,” Gary responded.

 

This was met with an icy glare from Leaf. A few people turned to look at Gary in confusion at Leaf’s cold reception of him, but Dawn hurried to change the topic of conversation.

 

“So what time are we—“

 

“Hel- lo !” A loud voice called from the entryway as the doors were pushed open. A group of girls made their way across the pitch, and Dawn was unsurprised to see that it was the Beauxbatons gang, with Serena tacked onto the end. Melody herself was at the head of the pack, as always, and Dawn moved to obscure Leaf from her view. “Hope we’re not too late!”

 

“Aw, Mel, you made it,” Gary stepped forward to pull her into a hug. “We’re just waiting on our commentator,”

 

“Is he even allowed to be this late?!” An impatient Barry spoke from within the crowd. “I’m gonna hit him with a fine so large he’ll be in debt for the next thousand years! Come on!”

 

“He’ll be here soon,” Kenny reassured his jumpy blonde friend.

 

“We need team names,” someone said.

 

“Team Gay Ferrets,” Gary responded without even needing a moment to think.

 

“Gay Ferrets unite! ” Ash and Drew yelled, smacking their hands together. Misty’s eyes flitted to the ceiling and she drew in a long, exasperated breath.

 

“No,” Paul groaned. Dawn noticed Melody’s eyes flick up to his face and pushed to the front of the group.

 

“How about Team Boring Leader?” She suggested, a barb in her voice as she glared up at him. “Team Fun-Hater? Team—“

 

“Team Bitch,” Drew put in helpfully.

 

“Okay, stop,” Paul interrupted them.

 

“Then pick a name,” she snapped.

 

He looked in Ursula’s direction. “I don’t know. She’s better at this than I am.”

 

The pink-haired Slytherin looked delighted to be of service, the corners of her mouth curving into a smirk. “Team Ursula,”

 

“Ursula, that can’t even compete with Gay Ferrets!” Gary pushed a hand through his hair, laughing. “Pick something better. Come on. I didn’t take this long,”

 

“Something tells me you have been waiting for an opportunity like this since forever,” Melody let out a laugh, but her eyes didn’t leave Ursula’s face. Dawn was surprised that she wasn’t still ogling Paul, and even more surprised that Gary hadn’t noticed.

 

“Okay, then! We’re Team Sexy,” Ursula clapped her hands together. “Can we just get started? Look. The commentator is here now!”

 

Everyone turned to look up at the stands, where a familiar face was setting up a microphone. Dawn almost laughed when she saw that it was Cilan. Of course. He took his seat in the stands next to Clemont. The audience roared with anticipation, ready for the match to start.

 

“Can anyone who’s not playing the game get off the pitch?” Hissed a testy voice from behind the group. Leaf . She wove between players until she stood face to face with Melody and the rest of them.

 

“We were just leaving!” Said Serena quickly, grabbing Melody’s arm and pulling her away from Gary. The rest of the girls followed suit, with Lillie waving at her older brother before following to sit in the stands.

 

“Let’s get it started!” Leaf called, mounting her broom and kicking off of the ground to hover impatiently in front of them. Dawn noticed a large chest tucked underneath her arm. That must be where all of the balls are.  She darted forward to grab her own broom before mounting and kicking off into the air.

 

She couldn’t help but feel nervous. She’d never played an actual game of Quidditch before, not outside of the occasional mock-match with her friends. Zoey flew up next to her, placing a reassuring hand on her shoulder.

 

“You’re gonna be fine. I know you know what to do, okay? It’s just chaser stuff. Not like you’re a seeker,” She said, her voice reassuring.

 

“Watching from the stands and being on the pitch are two different things,” Dawn took a deep breath.

 

“Hey,” a voice said from above, and she looked up to see Alain, a reassuring smile on his face. “Just keep your eye on the Quaffle and everything will be ok. And watch out for bludgers!”

 

“Thanks,” she smiled up at him, still anxious. Anyone could’ve told me that!

 

When she glanced down, she caught Paul watching her and Alain, his expression impossible to read. Somehow, his gaze made her feel more anxious than before. I really, really don’t want to screw this up.

 

Below them, Leaf opened the clasp on the chest, opening it up to reveal the balls. Two dark ones, the bludgers, struggled wildly against the chains that held them in place, and the quaffle remained stationary. First, Leaf pulled open a tiny compartment, allowing a tiny ball, the Golden Snitch, to fly free. Dawn followed it with her eyes as it zipped around like a little wasp before disappearing into the air. Next, Leaf undid the chains restraining the bludgers. They shot into the air and zoomed around the pitch, one narrowly missing the back end of Dawn’s broom. Finally, she grabbed the Quaffle, setting the chest down, and flew up a little higher.

 

Dawn focused on the ball in her friend’s hands. She just needed to grab it and put it through one of the hoops, right? That was all.

 

Leaf tossed the ball into the air, and the game began.

 

Immediately, it was chaos. She’d flown forwards, right into Gary’s immediate area— and the Quaffle was in his hands, but by no means was he about to play gentle with her.

 

“C’mon, Dawn,” he teased, tucking the quaffle under his arm. “Wanna escort me to your goal post?”

 

She leaned forward on her broom to try and punch the quaffle free, but he dodged her. Soon seeing that if, by chance, he did not dodge her, she could punch out the quaffle, he moved it back into his hand again, holding it against his chest and attempting to feint her out. She stayed close to him, until—

 

Crack . A bludger slammed into Gary’s arm. Dawn looked up to see Paul, the bat in his hands and a satisfied look on his face. Gary hissed in pain and dropped the quaffle, and Dawn, seizing her chance, snatched it up. Shock that it was in her hands stilled her for a good two seconds, until Ursula snapped her out of her trance.

 

“The goal! Berlitz! Take it to the goal , you blue headed moron!” The girl screamed.

 

Oh, right. The goal! Dawn accelerated, and May and Zoey quickly fell in at her sides so that Ash, Shauna, or Gary wouldn’t be able to slam into her and cause her to drop it. They cut through the air to the goal post, and Kenny, the keeper of Team Gay Ferrets, prepared to block her goal.

 

May and Zoey left her sides to guard her from behind as she attempted to feint Kenny. He can’t cover three goals at once, she thought, and when she felt like she had him, she took the shot.

 

The ball went straight through the hoop.

 

“And that’s a goal for Team Sexy!” Cilan announced into the mic, “scored by Dawn Berlitz, this puts them in the lead with ten points! Can the Gay Ferrets catch up, or is this the beginning of the end?”

 

“Fuck yes!” Zoey punched the air with glee. Adrenaline pumped through Dawn’s veins, and she couldn’t help but grin with the euphoria of scoring her first ever goal. If this was the feeling that came with Quidditch, her only wish was that she’d tried out for her house team earlier. “Nice job, Dawn!”

 

“Yeah, good job!” Called Kenny, despite being unable to block her goal. Dawn smiled at him, grateful for his good sportsmanship, before flying back to her end of the pitch with May and Zoey. She pulled her broomstick around to face the other team’s chaser’s again, and prepare for the next bit of action.

 

Ash had the quaffle now, and he was zooming along the pitch like a freight train. Dawn and Zoey tried to find an opening, but Misty had him covered-- a well-timed bludger flew right past Dawn’s nose, and definitely would’ve broken it if she hadn’t jerked back so fast. Adjusting her position on the broom, she flew towards the action.

 

“Oooh!” Winced Cilan into the mic, “that’s a goal for the Gay Ferrets. Who’s the keeper for Team Sexy?”

 

“That’s Gladion, you big idiot!” Another voice rang across the pitch, and Dawn turned to the stands to see Burgundy attempting to wrestle the mic away from Cilan. Next to them, Bonnie and Mairin looked positively gleeful at the sight of the chaos. “He’s Lillie’s brother. You met Lillie.”

 

Gladion rolled his eyes, setting his gaze back on the pitch.

 

Both teams scored goals within the next hour, and Dawn was exhausted. She’d wrestled the quaffle free from Gary and hurled it through the top hoop, where it had hit Kenny square in the face and bounced downwards into Shauna’s open arms. Shauna was hurtling towards the other end of the pitch, ready to toss the quaffle, when Leaf flew out onto the middle of the field.

 

“Halftime!” She yelled, blowing a shrill whistle. “Get on the ground!”

 

Halftime? Dawn descended and fell in next to Paul, who was landing near the same place.

 

“Do we have a halftime show or something?” She asked him, attempting to strike conversation.

 

“No clue,” he grunted. God, that pissed her off. She was just trying to start a conversation with him, and he had to go and be rude. She shook her head and looked away from him. Maybe it had something to do with the way his face was slightly flushed from exertion, and his long,  ashen hair was a complete sweaty mess across his forehead. Whatever it was, she had to put her eyes somewhere else. It was too much to look at. “...you’re playing better than I thought you would.”

 

Huh.

 

“Was that a compliment?” She said, her voice incredulous. “Did you just compliment me?”

 

He rolled his eyes. “I’m saying that I thought you would be awful.”

 

“Oh, you don’t mean that. You’re just too scared to say you think I’m doing a great job--”

 

“Dream on, Berlitz.”

 

“Berlitz is actually playing pretty good, huh?” Ursula’s voice interrupted, and for some reason, despite the compliment from her eternal rival, she felt resentful that Ursula had put an end to her (somewhat) pleasant conversation with Paul.

 

“Aww, thanks, you big softie,” she prodded Ursula’s side with her elbow. “Look at this camaraderie. Wow. The power of sports.”

 

“Do mine eyes deceive me?” Another voice broke in as the three took their seats in the stands. Dawn glanced up to see Leaf in her referee’s uniform, sitting down at her side. “Are you two actually getting along right now?”

 

“Don’t act so surprised, Leaf,” Ursula said, her nose in the air, “I am perfectly capable of being civil with Berlitz here--”

 

Suddenly, Dawn felt the hairs on the back of her neck stand up. But that meant… no, it couldn’t be possible… was Conway nearby?

 

“Hi ladies,” his voice snaked into her consciousness.

 

“Damn it!” Dawn said out loud. This earned her amused looks from Leaf and Ursula.

 

“And Paul,” Conway added, his voice mutinous, as though he were upset that Paul got to sit with ‘the ladies’ and he didn’t. Dawn almost laughed at this, because she was sure that Paul would give Conway his seat without caring one bit if Conway wasn’t such a little prick.

 

“Conway, what are you doing here?” Asked Ursula, tossing a pink curl over her shoulder.

 

“Well, you could say that I’m here to see you beautiful ladies. Oh, that reminds me! Dawn, when are we going to go on that date you owe me?” Said Conway.

 

Embarrassment and annoyance made Dawn’s face heat up, and she was sure it must be red. She felt Ursula raise her eyebrows at her.

 

“Never, if you keep following me to places and asking me about it!” She snapped.

 

“Oh, Dawn,” Conway crooned, his voice like rotten honey, “don’t make me explain to everyone the reason you owe me a date in the first place,”

 

“Now that I’m interested in,” Ursula leaned forward, propping her face up on her palm.

 

Dawn exchanged pleading eye contact with Leaf, whose brown eyes lit up immediately with an idea.

 

“Hey, Marilyn!” She called. Conway’s face went white and his head whipped around to look in the direction Leaf was waving in. Marilyn was indeed there, in the same outfit from earlier, looking all but lost surrounded by unfamiliar people. She spotted Leaf and her eyes lit up, and then she spotted Conway.

 

“Connie!” She called, scuttling over to them like a little pink gerbil. “I missed you so much! I’ve been thinking of how you helped me carry my camera equipment and it was just so chivalrous… Oh, and did I tell you that I’m going to draw you and--”

 

Conway’s expression was murderous. Dawn looked at Leaf. I am literally indebted to you, Leaf Greene. I owe you my life. You can do anything to me and I will still owe you. Thank you SO much.

 

Leaf simply gave her a knowing smirk.

 

“Did you follow me?” Conway turned on Ursula, fury in his tone. “Marilyn, are you kidding me? That is the weirdest, creepiest thing ever. You really are a whole different breed. Jesus. What the fuck. What the fuck.”

 

“Why are you being so mean to her?” Ursula cut in, irritated. “You literally follow us all the time. You’re such a little leech, Conway.”

 

“But Ursula!” Conway protested, “I don’t want to spend time with her, I want to spend it with you, and your beautiful--”

“Who are you?” Marilyn’s eyes snapped onto Ursula’s face. Something had changed within her. She looked furious. “Are you being mean to Connie? Seriously? He’s a nice guy and girls like you probably always walk all over him. This is why I don’t hang out with other girls.”

 

Dawn blinked. “Wow, it feels like I just met a middle schooler’s pinterest board.”

 

“What the hell?” Ursula looked to Leaf and Dawn with wide eyes. “Are you two hearing this? Listen. What’s your name, Marilyn? I’m going to give you and your little pest of a boyfriend ten seconds before I start firing spells.”

 

“I’m not her boyfriend!” Protested Conway.

 

Next to Dawn, Paul let out a long sigh and stood up.

 

“Oi, Paul!” Called a voice from behind them. Dawn turned to see Gary. “Is he bothering you? Want me to come and get him?”

 

“Please.” Paul responded.

 

No! ” Conway hissed. “Gary, leave me alone!” And with that, he was gone, Marilyn on his tail, and Gary was giving chase.

 

“Okay, that was weird, even by Conway standards,” Dawn said as Paul sat back down.

 

“I dunno,” yawned Leaf, “I think he’s really starting to grasp the way he should treat women,”

 

“Wow. I’m going to kill you,” said Ursula, an amused glint in her eye as she looked at her roommate. “So what’s this big deal over halftime, huh?”

 

Leaf nodded towards the pitch. “See for yourself.”

 

Dawn turned to see what Leaf was talking about and nearly did a double take.

 

“Oh, my god,” groaned Paul.

 

Harley was strutting across the pitch in an elaborate outfit that he must’ve made himself from sparkling green nylon. He was covered from head to toe in sparkles, and his long, violet hair waved proudly as he walked in tall, tall heeled boots, his wand in hand.

 

Laughing, Dawn cheered with the rest of the people in the stands, privately feeling that she hadn’t had this much fun in a long time. It felt strange to get along with Paul and Ursula, but she couldn’t help but like the stress-free interaction. Paul in particular was surprising her. He seemed to be tolerating everything that happened to him, and Dawn might go as far as to say that she thought he was enjoying himself.

 

-

 

“Look what we have here!”

 

Iris whipped around, expecting to see an angry teacher. What she actually saw was Georgia, a condescending smirk on her face. Iris rolled her eyes. How was she going to shake the nuisance of a Slytherin off?

 

“Leave me alone, Georgia. Go watch the Quidditch game or something,” she snapped, reaching for the door handle.

 

“Hmm, I don’t think I will,” mused Georgia, following her to the door. “I wanna know what you’re doing, sneaking around the school like this,”

 

Iris sighed, rolling her eyes. “You know, you’re doing the same thing as me.”

 

She stepped out onto the grounds, surprised by the faint chill in the air. The sky was pitch black and full of stars, and she began walking towards the Forbidden Forest, pointedly ignoring her forced companion.

 

“Hey! Don’t leave me here!” Georgia huffed, jogging after her. “I just wanna know what you’re up to, jeez. This is classic Iris. What if somebody came along and kidnapped me?”

 

“They’d be scared off by your obnoxiousness, Georgia.”

 

“You’re so bitchy,” the Slytherin rolled her eyes, slowing to a walk at Iris’s side. She blinked, glancing over when her jab didn’t illicit a response. “Iris?”

 

Iris was shivering. She’d always been sensitive to the cold, and she hated it-- at the slightest frost, she shook like a leaf. Georgia, however, looked right at home in the cold. The two of them walked in silence for a few minutes, despite Iris’s companion having zero idea where they were going.

 

“Okay. Where are we headed,” Georgia asked after a few more minutes of silence.

 

“The Forbidden Forest,” Iris said, “if you’re scared, you can head back. I’m sure the game is getting pretty intense at this point,”

 

“Okay, I am not scared, for starters,” began Georgia, “and second of all, if I wanted to be at Drew’s dumb game I’d be there. Burgundy is starting to crush on Cilan and it’s bugging the shit out of me.”

 

“Aw, why? You jealous?”

 

Georgia let out an ear-piercing belly laugh. “Me? Jealous? You must be even dumber than I thought, Iris. Why on Earth would I be jealous? Do you think I like Cilan or something?”

 

Iris shook her head. “No, no, you dumbass. I mean, are you jealous of Cilan,”

 

This earned another guffaw from Georgia. “Jeez, you’re dim. I mean, congrats, you figured out the big secret that I’m gay. Wow!” She clapped her hands together, and Iris huffed in annoyance. “But, no. Burgundy’s my ex, so I’m not really jealous of Cilan at all. Just annoyed. She gets a certain way around her crushes.”

 

“Well, I haven’t noticed anything different from average Burgundy behavior,” Iris said, her eyes on the forest ahead. They stepped into the woods, dead leaves crackling underfoot, and Iris put up her guard. There were dangerous things in these woods. It was no wonder they were forbidden-- if anyone found out that they were here, they’d be in huge trouble, if they weren’t dead or injured.

 

“Okay, seriously, Iris. What are we doing here?” Asked Georgia after a pause.

 

Iris hesitated. Should she tell Georgia about her gut feeling? No, it didn’t feel right. But how else could she explain her need to be in a place like this? “I don’t know, Georgia. I really don’t have a good reason, ok? No one is keeping you here, though.”

 

Georgia bit her lip, looking off into the woods. “God, you’re weird.”

 

“Leave, then,”

 

“Not happening,” she retorted. “I don’t think anyone should be in these woods alone. Even you.”

 

So Iris continued to plod forth in the Forbidden Forest. She could hear the wind rustling the leaves of the trees above, and shadows stretched themselves into tall, scary figures at the edges of her vision. She didn’t want to admit it, but having Georgia there was an immense comfort. The Slytherin didn’t jabber like Cilan, and she followed behind Iris at an easy pace, not pressing her and yet letting her lead the way. Even if it was Georgia Langley.

 

However the night was not as quiet as Iris thought it might have been. They had been walking for fifteen minutes when Iris heard a multitude of shouts.

 

“...out of the way! I’m opening the Horntail’s cage!” A distant voice called.

 

Iris’s breath caught in her throat. The Horntail? Like the dragon? The huge, easily angered dragon with a tail like a mace?

 

“Iris!” She was jolted back to reality as Georgia grabbed her arm, pulling her behind the tree. Sudden heat flooded her body, and it felt good. Behind their tree, orange light brightened the blackness of the woods. An inferno of a flamethrower shot past them narrowly avoiding setting Iris's sleeve ablaze.

 

“What is that?” Asked Georgia, panic in her eyes. Iris could tell that she was trying to act as though she wasn’t scared, but she could see right through the Slytherin.

 

“That,” said Iris, peeking around the tree, her heart in her throat, “is a dragon,”

 

-

 

Leaf watched in amusement as Harley flounced across the field, fully enjoying every moment of the show that he was putting on as he danced and fired off his flashiest spells.

 

“Is this Beyoncé?” Ursula gawked, though there was no mistaking the fondness in her eyes for Harley. “Is he dancing to Beyoncé?”

 

“Um, most definitely,” piped up another voice as Drew sat down on Dawn’s other side. “Bit off brand for him. I was expecting Carly Rae.”

 

Leaf leaned back on her arms, crossing her right leg over her left as she watched. Okay, she had to admit, Harley knew how to work a crowd. He had them screaming every time he death dropped on the grass pitch, and his spellwork was pristine. She wondered how many times he’d practiced this, and how many times Solidad had been ordered to watch.

 

Even Melody had a grin on her face as she watched, which was something Leaf noticed, not because she’d turned in her seat to find where Gary was sitting. Absolutely not. With the smile on her face, Melody almost looked kind. Leaf felt a surge of something in her chest. She really was beautiful. Just Gary’s type.

 

She didn’t like the half-assed jealousy she was feeling. It wasn’t even about Gary right now. Melody was so beautiful that it wasn’t fair. Her hair shone like summer rain on polished wood, her skin was clear and dewy, glowy even, and her eyes could have been literal sapphires plucked from a jeweler’s glass box. It really was no wonder she had people following her around like dogs wherever she went. Hell, if things were different, Leaf might like her too.

 

But things were not different, and Melody was screwing the guy Leaf had been in denial over liking for years, and on top of that, even Gary apparently wasn’t enough for Melody. She was like a viper, with movements so fluid that Leaf didn’t even know how she was human, and a bite like hell itself. She understood why people chose to turn a blind eye, and she understood why Melody felt like she could get whatever she wanted. But she could not understand how other people didn’t touch upon the fact she had a personality like moldy fucking bread.

 

That was not to assume that Leaf herself was much better. Not at all. And people still liked to be around Melody.

 

Before she knew it, half time was over. Harley took a bow, his chest heaving, and the packed stands stomped, cheered and whistled for him.

 

“How was that for entertainment, Drew?” The violet haired menace asked smugly as he took his seat.

 

“Not half bad,” Drew smirked.

 

Not half bad? ” Harley gasped, affronted, “Hun, you couldn’t have gotten better!”

 

Well, that was Leaf’s cue. She got to her feet, snatching her broom off the ground and flying back onto the pitch.

 

“And we’re back!” Called Cilan, taking back over the commentator’s microphone. “When we left off, Team Gay Ferrets was at 100 points, and Team Sexy was trailing behind at 80. If either team catches the snitch, it’s over!”

 

Leaf glanced up at each team’s respective seekers. Drew was looking around the pitch with a keen eye, but there was nothing he could do if the snitch was flying higher than him. Ash was flying circles around the edge of the pitch, a look of concentration on his face.

 

How could he float above it all like this? If Leaf herself were the so called fourth champion, she wouldn’t be able to focus. Even in the audience, people were murmuring and glancing at Ash. Most of them considered Paul the true Hogwarts champion, despite Ash being more popular overall. Leaf suspected that his sunny disposition and immense amount of friends were the only reason kids from Durmstrang and Beauxbatons weren’t giving him shit. But what did she know? Maybe they were.

 

Suddenly there was a loud, collective gasp from the crowd. Damn it! Leaf had lost focus for one moment and missed a potential foul. But it didn’t take long for her to see what had happened. Gary hit the ground with a thud, his eyes squeezed shut tightly. Above him, Paul held his beater’s bat as though he’d followed through with a particularly rough shot.

 

“Gary!” Melody called from the stands, stepping over several people to get onto the pitch. Leaf blew her whistle loudly and braced herself to land down on the ground before the Ravenclaw.

 

Leaf’s eyes were wide, and she felt frozen. What could she do? Call a foul? No. Paul was well within the rules if Gary had been hit by a bludger.

 

“Are you…” she began, looking down at Gary as he clenched his teeth in pain.

 

“I’m fine!” He snapped, struggling to his feet. Melody grabbed his arm and pulled him up, shooting Leaf a look. “Call a fucking foul, Leaf! He aimed to knock me off!”

 

Excuse me?” Leaf said, affronted. “Why are you yelling at me?!”

 

“Because you’re enjoying this, aren’t you?” Gary exploded, his eyes full of rage as he stepped forward to jab a finger in Leaf’s face. “You’ve been acting pissy with me for weeks. You’re totally fucking loving this!”

 

Okay. That was it.

 

Leaf’s wand was out of her boot before she even realized it. She didn’t utter a spell but Gary was knocked away from her anyways, staggering back.

 

Melody was at his side again, her eyes wide, but she didn’t speak up. Her eyes were on something behind Leaf, who felt a gust of air behind her as Alain landed.

 

“What’s going on?” He demanded. “Why are you yelling at her?”

 

“It’s not any of your business now, is it?” Gary threw his hands up in the air, now even more incensed. Leaf slid her wand back into her boot, her heart feeling suspiciously squished beneath her rib cage.

 

Before Alain could speak, Leaf threw her broom to the side. “I’m not calling a foul. Paul didn’t break any rules. And on top of that, I’m absolutely finished here. Tell Drew and May I’m sorry.”

 

Her heart pounding, she spun around and stalked towards the exit of the room of requirements.

 

“Leaf, wait—“ called Alain, but Leaf didn’t turn around.

 

She didn’t care if she was making a scene. She’d had enough. With Melody, with Malva, with Gary, with it all. Her hand was on the door handle when suddenly a hand grabbed her shoulder. She turned, expecting Alain or even Dawn or Ursula, but it was Mairin who stood before her.

 

The fourth year Durmstrang girl’s amber eyes were concerned. “Leaf, don’t go,” she pleaded. “Sit in the stands with me,”

 

“Mairin,” Leaf scoffed, “listen. I don’t need you feeling sorry for me, I—“

 

“It would be a shame!” Mairin raised her voice, taking Leaf aback. “A right shame, if you ceded defeat to that Ravenclaw guy and left.”

 

“I’m not ceding defeat, ” Leaf retorted hotly. “I’ve simply had enough of him. I don’t want to see him.” It was true, but that didn’t stop it from hurting so badly.

 

Mairin sighed in defeat. “Okay, I guess. But Alain was really excited that you were going to be here. I think he’d be really disappointed if you left.”

 

Leaf drew in a sharp breath. This year was already fucking insane. The one year that she decided to step out of her shell, thinking and hoping that it would be good for her-- well, here was the verdict. She hadn’t written anything worth a damn, her relationship with Gary had shattered into fractals, people had started to care about her-- and inevitably she let them down. Dawn and Drew must have been so disappointed in her. She really did not have many options here.

 

“Tell him I’m sorry. He played well,”

 

Unless she went back to what she knew. Leaf turned away from Mairin, drawing her body close, and left the stadium, her eyes trained on her feet. This was all unfamiliar territory, brought on far too fast. She shouldn’t have tried to be someone she was not. Shouldn’t have gone to that party. Shouldn’t have agreed to ref for this match. Shouldn’t have let herself care about a guy like Gary to the point where she’d fight to protect him.

 

In that moment, Leaf did not care about Melody anymore. The girl could do what she wanted. Gary was a big boy, and he didn’t need Leaf looking out for him. He could make his own decisions, and if Melody was one of those decisions so be it. Leaf would be in her little room above the Slytherin commons, or a comfortable seat in the library, as she had been for the past five years. And she would get through this year just as she had before. Alone.

 

-

 

The match was over, and Drew might say that it had been a success. Team Sexy had pulled ahead for the victory, with Alain catching the snitch two hours in. The only hitch had been that little incident between Gary and Leaf, and Gary hadn’t played the same after Leaf left. His motions had been erratic, sloppy, and definitely part of the reason that the Gay Ferrets had lost.

 

But Drew wasn’t upset with Gary. It was just for fun, and the teams understood that. As he shut the lid of the chest containing the balls, most of the audience and the players had begun to stream out. He sighed in relief, feeling a sudden wave of exhaustion crash over him.

 

“Good game, Drew!” A voice from behind made him jump. He turned. May stood there, changed out of her Quidditch robes, holding a bundle of broomsticks. “You played well, but sadly, it wasn’t enough to beat us…

 

“Oh, can it, Maple,” he got to his feet, mouth opened wide in a yawn. “It was close. Next time for sure,”

 

“No, but seriously,” she laughed, glancing up at him. For a moment he was completely taken aback; the harsh stadium lights were hitting those blue eyes of hers in such a way that they looked like the warm shallows of a tropical beach. “It was an awesome game. We did a great job. Everybody loved it!”

 

“You think so?” He raised an eyebrow at her. “I think a few people were not having the best time of their lives.”

 

“Well, I did,” she said, twisting a strand of her around her index finger, and he couldn’t help but notice that the chipped nail polish on her fingers was a dead ringer for the color of his own hair. Did she do that on purpose? Did she know it would drive him ballistic?

 

“May,” he said, his voice still caught in his throat. He hated himself in that moment because he knew that his voice betrayed his every thought. May was something else, and he could try to fool himself with their silly rivalry all he wanted, but deep down he’d known since second year that he liked her liked her.

 

She paused at his tone of voice. “You okay, Drew? Are you worrying about Gary?”

 

No, his subconscious thought helplessly. I want to kiss you so badly that it hurts, and I can’t stop thinking about what that would be like, but I’m terrified that you don’t feel the same.

 

He wasn’t sure how to respond. He wanted to tell her that she’d played well, but she was stepping closer to him now and oh God his mind felt like it was going blank.

 

“You look super pale. Do you need to go to the hospital wing? Jeez, if I’d known that a loss would mess you up this bad, I would’ve let you win!” And then she laughed, and he was absolutely sure that his mind had gone blank.

 

“Do you remember that game of spin the bottle?” he asked suddenly, surprising even himself. She looked taken aback, but her demeanor remained open and friendly, so he pressed on. “Did you really not want to kiss me that bad?”

 

May was quiet before she replied. “That wasn’t it! I just… everybody was watching. I was a little overwhelmed.”

 

“Understandable,” he shrugged, scuffing the ground with his shoe. “So if nobody was watching, would you still have kissed me?”

 

“Well, if nobody was watching, we wouldn’t have been playing spin the bottle, genius,” she stated like it was the most obvious thing in the world.

 

She wasn’t getting the hint. That, or she was actively choosing to ignore it. Drew would rather jump off of the astronomy tower than make her uncomfortable, but his feelings were overwhelming him. May was right there, the only thing he could think of. And they were alone.

 

“May,” he said, his heart jumping into his throat. “I like you. I’ve liked you for years now.”

 

Her mouth opened into a tiny “O” shape, her eyes wide. This was agony. He wished that she would give him an answer now, yes or no, so that he would know. He needed to know. This silence was so hard.

 

“Let me get this straight,” she said. “You’ve liked me. For all this time,”

 

“For all this time,” he repeated. “Second year.”

 

“Second year?!” She exclaimed. “I’ve had a crush on you since first year, you ass! Drew, why didn’t you tell me sooner?”

 

Relief crashed down on his shoulders as he comprehended her words, a laugh bubbling up in his chest. “Are you kidding me? We’ve both liked each other for this long, and nothing ever happened?”

 

And then she pulled him towards her by the collar of his shirt and kissed him. Drew laughed, his hands finding her waist and pulling her close, his previous exhaustion completely forgotten in the haze of happiness that he felt.

 

-

 

Leaf was in the library. The clock on the wall told her that it was 2 AM, but she was not tired.

 

She’d needed a distraction, so she’d come here, plucked out a random book of charms, and started practicing. So far she’d lit several small fires, turned a book into a frog that looked suspiciously like Conway’s toad, Leslie, and then turned the toad into a paperweight. So overall a pretty productive night.

 

She tried not to think about Gary, or how a month before, in this very spot, he’d asked her to watch the processions from Beauxbatons and Durmstrang. And she’d turned him down. For someone who touted her own intelligence like it was her only selling point, God had she been stupid.

 

Leaf was reading a section out of Transfiguration for Dummies when she heard footsteps. Shit. It was late and she truly was not supposed to be here. Even Ms. Wicke would’ve given her detention for being here at this hour, but it was too late to hide. She braced herself to face whatever consequences were coming her way.


“Leaf,” A voice hissed. She looked around and spotted, to her surprise, Iris -- holding a candle and looking downright exhilarated.

 

“Iris?” Leaf squinted.

 

“I didn’t know who else to tell,” The Gryffindor explained, “but you need to see this. Come on, we’re going to the Forbidden Forest!”