It was supposed to be a quiet endeavor, every Friday night after classes had ended and the dessert plates had been cleared off the table in the Great Hall. The students were cheering the advent of weekend in their houses, and the teachers were probably sinking into chairs relieved for two days away from the students.
Three girls though, would creep softly up the stairs at precisely nine p.m. Not a sound would be heard, except for the occasional creak of wood or the rustle of owls wings.
But tonight, on their way up to the astronomy tower, Lisa dropped a drink.
And Rosé sneezed.
Then Jisoo, probably emboldened by her favorite chicken skewers at dinner, called out.
“Shh,” Rosé hissed, looking scandalized, quickly extinguishing the small light from her wand. “You’re going to get 150 points taken away from all of us, Jisoo.”
“Maybe us two. They never take away points from her,” Lisa pointed out.
Jisoo was smirking as she leaned down to spread two blankets onto the floor, then loosened her yellow and black tie. It was true; none of the other professors had taken points from Hufflepuff because of her. She was liked by all of them, something that mystified Lisa and Rosé.
“No one’s going to deduct from a girl who’s still wearing her uniform on a weekend.”
Rosé and Lisa had discarded their respective Ravenclaw and Gryffindor skirts and ties for jeans and tee-shirts; both sprawled out on the blankets and dumped their wares. Lisa squealed. “I didn’t know you had any cauldron cakes left!”
“She always saves three?” Jisoo looked at Lisa as if she’d grown another head. “Her, you, me, but mostly you because she knows you love them.”
“Are you going to tell all my secrets? Maybe you can send the entire school a howler. ‘Rosé saves sweets for her friends!’” She was pouting, but Rosé’s eyes were twinkling. After four years together, she was used to the banter.
“No, I will say, ‘Rosie saves cauldron cakes for Nalalisa because she’s her best friend and sometimes Jisoo gets one too.’”
“Ah,” Lisa said, pointing at Jisoo with her mouth already full of cake. “Sh’right, right.”
“No, she’s wrong, because Jisoo is my best friend too.”
Jisoo nudged Rosé’s shoulder with her own. “Well, don’t worry, two years and you’ll only have to sneak two cakes.”
“Noo!” Rosé wailed, her face crumpling. “Don’t say that. I don’t even want to think about that, it makes me want to cry.” Her pouting was genuine now; her lower lip wobbled as she stared at Jisoo through the strands of light blonde hair that had fallen over her face.
“Why do you always make her cry?” Lisa said. “You should play Quidditch, you treat torturing Rosé like a sport.”
Jisoo shook her head and took a drink of the pumpkin juice Lisa nevertheless offered her. Lisa was one to talk when she couldn’t seem to stop picking on Rosé, or keep her hands off her. But she wouldn’t say that out loud.
“She cries at everything,” she replied patiently. “Hungry? She cries. Sad? She cries. Happy? She cries.”
“It makes me sad when you talk about leaving!”
“Me, too.” Lisa wrapped an arm around Rosé and glared at Jisoo. “It’s gonna happen soon enough, I don’t want to talk about it tonight.”
“Fine, fine.” Jisoo waved a hand in dismissal and settled against the wall of the tower, finally letting the tension leave her body. She relaxed with a sigh and smiled over at her two friends. Four years they’d been doing this, ever since Lisa and Rosé were wet-behind-the-ears first years. So much had changed since then. They’d gone from being classmates and acquaintances to like sisters. Jisoo still couldn’t hardly believe it.
School had been lonely for Jisoo, even though she was proud of going to Hogwarts, and excelling in her classes. Her parents had been over the moon that Jisoo was a witch, and she’d tried to carry that excitement through everything she did. But making friends hadn’t been that easy. Everyone was nice to Jisoo and she was nice to them in return, but she was dedicated to her schoolwork above everything. At times it felt like she related to her teachers more than to the other students, even the ones in her house.
Not to mention that some of the more cruel-minded students seemed to enjoy the occasional slip-up Jisoo would have when trying to remember a word in English. She spent every summer with her parents in South Korea, and going months without really speaking English made the transition back to Hogwarts a little difficult. The professors were always patient, but the other students, not so much. Even her Hufflepuff classmates couldn’t resist getting a little dig in here and there about her accent.
But her second year had brought two friends in the form of one girl with a sweet voice who always seemed to be eating, and then another girl who was… Lisa. Jisoo didn’t think she’d ever fully be able to describe Lisa. Crazy and wild, with hair that flung everywhere as she danced, or chased away the opposing team with her beater’s bat. Lisa always had a joke, Rosé always had a kind word, and somehow, the two of them and Jisoo had gravitated together like moths to a flame.
Now, every Friday and Saturday at nine p.m. on the dot, they were here in the astronomy tower, sharing dreams and snacks. Jisoo knew how Lisa and Rosé felt when she thought about leaving Hogwarts; it was hard enough being away from them during the summer. She couldn’t imagine not being in school with them ever again.
“How’d your exam go?” Lisa asked. Her head was in Rosé’s lap, and she stared at the astrolabe as she munched thoughtfully.
“Oh, fine,” Jisoo said, looking at Lisa then Rosé. “I didn’t get the highest mark though, I think.”
“If you think you didn’t get the highest mark, you probably did,” Rosé managed to say with her mouth full of sweets. “You should’ve been in Ravenclaw. You’ll have high enough marks to be an Auror.”
“But I don’t want to be an Auror,” Jisoo said in a sing-song voice. Rosé threw a chocolate frog at her, and Jisoo deftly caught it with the hand not holding onto the pumpkin juice. “And besides, I sick at herbology.”
“You what?” Lisa said with an upturned eyebrow. “You’re sick?”
“No.” Jisoo made a face. “I’m not good at herbology. I… sick at it?”
“Oh, you mean you stink at it. Or you suck at it?” Jisoo nodded, and Lisa shook her head. “Don’t say that. It’s just hard.”
“I am Hufflepuff,” Jisoo said. “The only Hufflepuff who isn’t good at herbology.”
“I’m sure you’re not the only one of your house who isn’t good at herbology. Hogwarts has been around a long time, there has to have been more than just you.”
“Okay, okay,” Jisoo agreed with Rosé, chuckling and holding up her index finger. “One other Hufflepuff, hundreds of years ago, also not good at herbology. Poor lonely student, I understand you.”
Rosé smacked at Jisoo’s hand and the three girls dissolved into giggles before shushing each other and growing quiet again for a few seconds. Their time together on the weekends, not to mention their house points, was too precious to risk.
“Lalisa, are you ready for the match?”
Lisa shot up as if she’d been hexed, a frown on her face and her eyes dark. She was a Beater for the Gryffindor team, and Jisoo had the feeling that for whatever reason, Lisa was going to enjoy using her bat a little more this time.
“Twice we’ve tried to practice and twice their stupid captain has said it’s Slytherin’s turn. We needed those practices to train on offense, because there’s only so much us beaters can do.”
“You’ll do fine,” Rosé said, and patted Lisa’s shoulder. The girl grinned at her. “They have you for a beater after all.”
“Not just beater, captain,” Jisoo said proudly. It had perhaps come as a shock to the rest of the school that Gryffindor had chosen Lisa as her captain, but even the seventh years on the team had agreed, she was the best. Lisa let it go to her head a little bit, but Jisoo figured some cockiness was warranted. Plus she knew it hid just how much Lisa missed her family, and wanted to make her mark at Hogwarts.
And for Jisoo herself, being friends with the Gryffindor Quidditch captain had its perks, namely the password to the prefects’ bathroom.
Rosé, meanwhile, was looking at Lisa as if she’d defeated Voldemort herself; Jisoo hid her smile by shoving a piece of chocolate into her mouth. Life was never as hard for Rosie as it was when Gryffindor played Ravenclaw in a match, because the girl had confided to Jisoo that she never knew who to root for: her own house, or for Lisa. Privately Jisoo thought that it wasn’t as big of a struggle as Rosé made it out to be; anyone with eyes would know the blonde girl’s preference without a second glance. Anyone who wasn’t Lisa or Rosé, really. Jisoo wasn’t sure how anyone could be that oblivious but somehow those two had managed it so far.
“I just hope they don’t cheat this time,” Rosé groused, still noisily munching. “Everyone knows that Marchbanks plays dirty.”
“That’s how it’s meant to be played, Rosie.” Lisa had lain back down and planted her head once again in Rosé’s lap.
“Not so dirty you purposely try to break someone’s broom in half!”
“They did lose fifty points from Slytherin for that,” Jisoo pointed out, finding it cute the way Rosé’s cheeks would match her name when she was defending Lisa.
“They should’ve lost two hundred fifty. I swear I think McGonagall has a soft spot for them now.” Rosé threw a handful of Every Flavour Beans into her mouth and chewed aggressively; her face changed as she realized what she’d done, and she began gagging while waving her hands frantically.
“Aw, did baby Rosie get a bogie?” Lisa teased, and Rosé growled, swigging down as much pumpkin juice as she could.
“Grass,” she finally managed. “Freshly mowed by the taste of it. Blecch.”
“Oh, that’s not so bad. I got vomit and ketchup at the same time, once. Here, Jisoo, try this one. It’s yummy.”
Lisa held out a golden colored one to Jisoo, who just stared at her.
“I’m not dummy, Manoban.” She shook her finger at her friend. “You like it so much, you eat it.”
Lisa shrugged and popped it into her mouth. The bravado hung on for about two seconds until Lisa scrabbled around for an empty package and spat it out. “Glue,” she said, holding her tongue out and crossing her eyes.
Jisoo snorted and Rosé giggled; after a while Lisa joined in and once again the quiet night was interrupted by the sound of three friends enjoying each other’s company.
“You know, if you’re trying to be secretive, you’re doing a horrible job of it.”
Jisoo yelped and sprang up; three wands were steadily pointed at the direction of the voice, the glow illuminating its owner.
Jisoo instantly recognized her, and instantly recognized that she and her friends were in trouble, because this girl was a Slytherin. She was the same height as Jisoo, which wasn’t saying much, and in her fifth year also. Jennie Kim stood in front of the other three girls with one hand up. She, too, was in her school uniform, even her green robe, which seemed to swallow her. Her dark eyes glowed in the wand light as she regarded them.
“You can put those down,” she said, tipping her head at the wands. “It’s just me.”
“How long have you been there?” Rosé asked, suspicion in her voice.
“Long enough for you to accuse Slytherin of cheating.” She flipped her hair over one shoulder, running her fingers through. “Which, yes, we do. But if you want an advantage, put all your offense on Marchbanks. He’s been studying all week and he’s tired. His mind isn’t on Quidditch right now.”
“That’s almost as bad as cheating,” Lisa said, even though Jisoo could practically see the wheels of her mind turning with possibility.
“Didn’t you just say that the game was meant to be played dirty?” the Slytherin asked Lisa with a raised eyebrow. Jisoo noticed there seemed to be a slight disagreement going on between Lisa and Rosé regarding who would stand in front to protect the other. It might’ve been cute, had someone not been eavesdropping on their entire conversation, and who had no reason not to go to the headmistress.
“Well, since the three of you interrupted my evening, I guess I’ll call it a loss and go back to my own common room. You really should work on keeping it down.”
They watched her saunter off, waiting for a couple of minutes before finally turning to each other.
“I guess I should go back too,” Rosé said. “I don’t want to be here when she tells McGonagall.”
“Me either,” Lisa said glumly. She started dividing the remaining sweets between herself and Lisa, giving Jisoo a couple of her favorite pieces. “What do you think, fifty points?”
Rosé let out a whine, which only grew louder when Jisoo said, “No, one fifty each. No more Hogsmeade?”
“I’ll take anything as long as it’s not expulsion,” Rosé said, and the other two nodded in grim disagreement.
“Well, come on,” Jisoo said, stuffing her sweets into her robe pockets and picking up the blankets. She made sure there were no incriminating sweets wrappers left on the floor.
“Let’s try to sleep; we will need it.”
She was pretty sure, thanks to Jennie Kim, that by the time the sun rose over Hogwarts the next morning, she, Kim Jisoo, Roseanne Park, and Lalisa Manoban were going to be the three most hated students at the school.
Breakfast in the Great Hall the next morning was uneventful. Despite the snacks the night before, Jisoo had been starving, and so she practically inhaled her food as she kept a watchful eye on the house points. Ravenclaw had been docked five points for some infraction or another, but the points essentially stayed the same as they had been. That was more than a little strange, and the other girls thought so too, if the way Rosé and Lisa kept looking in Jisoo’s direction was any indication. Jisoo shrugged – and flinched every time a professor also glanced her way. But no one approached her. Not a professor, nor a Slytherin.
But they weren’t out of the woods – or the castle – yet. Hogsmeade dangled over them like a carrot on a stick, and for the sake of the two of her friends Jisoo really didn’t want that to be taken away from them. She herself looked forward to Hogsmeade all week; she was grateful for the opportunity to rest for a little before the rigors of classes started again. It was nice to be out in the open with Lisa and Rosé; even though things had gotten more relaxed at Hogwarts after the Second Wizarding War, as far as mingling with other houses, during the week the three girls pretty much stuck to their own. Hogsmeade was a chance for them to actually be friends without worrying about what anyone else would think.
Jisoo threw a beret onto her hair and checked her skirt to make sure there weren’t any wrinkles before she left her common room; she spotted Rosé as she was headed down the staircase to the main doors, where no doubt Lisa was waiting for her.
“Chaeng!” Jisoo called; the girl turned at the sound of her Korean nickname, and her eyes lit up when she saw Jisoo.
“Kim Jisoo!” When her friend caught up with her, Rosé leaned over, her lips close against Jisoo’s ear. “Let’s see if we actually make it on holiday.”
Jisoo nodded at her and tried not to appear so nervous she’d arouse suspicion. She linked her arm through Rosé’s as they walked into the summer air. “You look pretty,” she said to Rosé, taking in the girl’s now bright pink hair with a grin. So far, the metamorphmagus’s talent had been limited to how many different hair colors she could get away with before one of the professors, or the headmistress, put a stop to it. They’d drawn the line at yellow, Rosé’s first year. Rosé liked shades of red, pink, or purple mostly, and Jisoo had only seen her with jet black hair on one occasion – and she’d rather not see it again because it usually meant Rosé was mad at Lisa.
Speaking of Lisa, she was indeed waiting for them just outside the main doors, in the courtyard as the other students milled around and waited for permission to set off for Hogsmeade. Lisa looked just as jumpy as Jisoo felt. Over to one side she could see that Jennie was stood with a few of her housemates. She didn’t look half as scary in daylight, Jisoo thought.
“All right,” Professor Partridge said, touching his wand to his throat to be heard over the excited chatter of the students. “I’m certain that I don’t need to remind you that you may enjoy yourself at Hogsmeade as you wish, but you must also remember that you are a student of Hogwarts and any misbehavior will result in swift consequences.”
Misbehavior like sneaking into the astronomy tower at night when there weren’t classes. Lisa made a face at Jisoo; neither of them wanted to figure out how they’d try to explain the “swift consequence” of expulsion to their parents.
“Off you go,” Professor Patridge said, and most of the students were gone with a shout of excitement. Jisoo let out a breath of relief and laughed at her friends, Lisa wiping at her forehead like she’d been sweating.
“Miss Park, a word, if you please.”
They all stopped and turned to look at the professor, dread settling in the pit of Jisoo’s stomach.
“Yes, Professor?” Rosé’s voice made her sound as innocent as a newborn baby.
Professor Partridge looked down at her; the giant’s voice rumbled as he spoke. “Miss Park, do try not to buy out the entirety of Honeydukes. I’m sure your classmates would like some sweets as well.”
“I don’t see what’s so funny,” Rosé pouted at Jisoo and Lisa, unable to stop laughing as they made their way down the well-worn path to the village of Hogsmeade. “It was one time!”
“Sick for three days, remember?” Jisoo said, holding up as many fingers. “And Honeydukes almost go out of business.”
“Oh, they did not!” Rosé shoved Jisoo, which only made the girl laugh harder.
“Aw, come on, Park Chaeyoung,” Lisa said, as if she was speaking to a toddler. “We’ll buy you anything you want.”
Jisoo once again noticed that Jennie was walking just ahead of them; she tilted her head to watch for a moment. The Slytherin girl who had surprised them last night didn’t really seem to be talking to her housemates, more as if she was sticking to just the outside of the path.
Lisa and Rosé were arm in arm now, talking animatedly about getting butterbeer; Jisoo hung back as they passed the group of Slytherin students.
“Hey, Jisoo, come on,” Lisa said to her with a questioning glance.
“I catch up,” Jisoo waved her on. She walked by herself for a few moments, working up enough nerve, before she nodded to herself.
“Kim Je-Ni,” she said. To her surprise the other girl stopped and turned to look at her. “Hello,” Jisoo said, standing next to her.
“I am Jisoo.”
“I know who you are.”
“You do?” Jisoo said, surprised. She honestly didn’t think anyone from Slytherin house knew her by name. “Thank you!”
Brown eyes studied her, and Jisoo thought she saw a small smile on the girl’s lips. She was wearing black pants with a white shirt and a black jacket; to Jisoo she looked as if she’d just stepped out of an advertisement in Witch Weekly. She was also wearing heels. It should’ve been impossible to travel the road to Hogsmeade in anything but regular trainers or boots, but apparently for Jennie Kim walking in heels was as easy as breathing.
That was impressive.
“You don’t have to call me Kim Je-Ni, you know.”
“What?” Jisoo said, realizing she’d been caught staring.
“You can just call me Jennie, if you want.”
“Oh. Okay!” Jisoo said cheerily. She fell quiet again and they walked together a few steps in silence.
“So,” Jennie said, sounding a little younger than the fifth year she was, and awkward, as if she wasn’t used to a Hufflepuff just coming up to her to talk. She probably wasn’t, Jisoo figured. “We’re going to Hogsmeade.”
“Yes!” Jisoo beamed. “I’m so exciting!”
Jennie stopped and looked at her. “Wait, what?” Her eyebrow was raised at Jisoo. “Say that again?”
“I’m so exciting?” Jisoo tilted her head at Jennie, confused.
“You’re so exciting?”
“No,” Jennie said with a shake of her head. “Excited.”
Oh, right. Jisoo felt like slapping herself. Any chance of appearing at least somewhat coherent in front of Jennie had just faded away like a prisoner’s soul in Azkaban.
“Yes,” she said for the third time, her enthusiasm diminished. “I am excited.”
“Good job!” Jennie’s voice wasn’t mocking or sarcastic; in fact, she sounded pleased, and Jisoo glanced over to find the young girl smiling at her. She seemed almost… proud.
Jisoo returned the smile, and they walked on.
“I will get sweets at Honeydukes,” she mused, almost as if she was talking to herself. “I like sugar quills, and candy floss.”
“The more sugar, the better?”
Jisoo hummed in agreement. “What do you like?”
“Chocoballs,” Jennie said without hesitation. “I eat too many of them though. They make my cheeks fat.”
Jisoo took a second to study Jennie’s face, then pursed her lips and shook her head. “Ah, no. Cute cheeks. I mean, not fat.”
Nope, not coherent or even normal at all. Jisoo focused on the road at her feet. She wasn’t sure why she’d even bothered to approach Jennie Kim in the first place. She was a Slytherin, and Slytherins did not like students outside their houses. Or at least, they didn’t like Jisoo.
“I didn’t tell, you know,” Jennie said as Hogsmeade came into view.
“About the astronomy tower. You and the others being in the tower, I mean. I didn’t tell.”
“Why were you there?”
It was an impolite question, and a hypocritical one at that. Jisoo knew she didn’t have any right to ask Jennie why she was there, when Jisoo and the other two girls shouldn’t have been there themselves in the first place. But Jisoo was curious by nature, and it slipped out without her even thinking.
“I wanted to be alone.”
Oh. Oops. Jisoo winced at Jennie’s clipped tone. Maybe even a Slytherin wanted to get away from her house for a while. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be, I was the one who intruded. I guess last night wasn’t your first night there.”
If Lisa or Rosé were around, Jisoo could look to them for a little help on how to proceed; mostly because Jisoo didn’t want to miss a word or say something she shouldn’t; and revealing her secret to Jennie meant revealing Lisa and Rosé’s as well. But Jennie hadn’t told the headmistress about seeing them there, and she’d been there herself. Jisoo hesitated, then said, “We go Fridays and Saturdays. Only couple of hours. We talk, eat sweets. Laugh. Just be friends. Private space, don’t have to worry about… what other people think.”
Jisoo moved so that she was stood in front of Jennie. “Please don’t tell. It’s special to us. We don’t hurt anything.”
“I didn’t tell, and I won’t. It’s fine. I get it.”
“Wanting some place where you don’t have to worry about what other people think.”
Lisa and Rosé were waiting for Jisoo at Honeydukes; she could see them standing just to the left of the entrance, watching her. She knew it wasn’t out of any sense of nosiness or gossip, but that they were worried about her. And worried about what Jennie could still do. Jisoo smiled to herself. Most of the time she felt extremely protective of Lalisa and Chaeng, but sometimes it was just really nice to have someone watching out for her, too.
“Jennie!” A Slytherin girl with a wide smile and inquisitive eyes – Jisoo thought her name was Lucy – bounced over to them. “Come on, we’re going to The Three Broomsticks.” She gave Jisoo a suspicious look, which was natural for a Slytherin and not unexpected. Jisoo just nodded at her.
“I’m coming,” Jennie said with a glance at Jisoo. She seemed almost reluctant to leave, and Jisoo was sure she saw a faint blush on the girl’s cheeks. But she only bowed slightly at Jisoo, and started to walk away.
“Jennie, wait.” Jisoo reached out and grabbed her hand. Jennie stopped, startled, and Jisoo gave out a nervous laugh, dropping her hand quickly. She moved closer though, so that Lucy wouldn’t be able to hear.
“You come. Saturday night. At…” She took a deep breath, struggling with the words. “Nine o’clock. Please?”
“I told you I wasn’t going to tell,” Jennie said with a roll of her eyes. “You don’t have to bribe me.”
“It’s not a bribe,” Jisoo said, the idea of it offensive to her. “Just a place for you to be Jennie. With friends.”
“I’m not sure your friends will agree to that.”
“They will,” Jisoo said, determination settling on her face. She knew it wouldn’t take much convincing anyway; she was the Hufflepuff but Rosé had a heart of gold and would welcome anyone, and Lisa would welcome anyone that Rosé and Jisoo welcomed.
Jennie was staring at her with a dubious expression on her face, as if she expected Jisoo to be laying some sort of trap.
“Jennie, come on!”
“I’ll think about it,” Jennie finally said.
“Okay!” Jisoo watched as Jennie walked away, then she turned and ran to Honeydukes to meet up with Lisa and Rosé at last.
“I need balls!”
“You what?” Rosé said, her eyes wide as Lisa dissolved into shocked giggles next to her.
Jisoo sighed and shook her head. “Chocoballs,” she corrected herself, then grinned. “Lots and lots of chocoballs.”
The shopkeeper at Honeydukes had kept an eagle eye on Rosé, which Jisoo and Lisa were still laughing about as they climbed the stairs to the astronomy tower once again that evening.
“I don’t understand why they don’t realize, I’m not buying just for myself!” Rosé collapsed dramatically onto the floor, pouting up at her friends. “I buy what I like, and I buy for you two!”
“I think you buy more for yourself, Chaeng,” Jisoo said lovingly, stooping down to nudge the girl out of the way so she could place the blankets. Three for each of them, along with three pillows – and an extra blanket and pillow that she set off to the side.
Lisa and Rosé had readily agreed to Jennie possibly joining their little group, which Jisoo hadn’t been surprised by. They’d been a little suspicious at first, but Jisoo had explained her reasoning with a simple sentence.
“I think she’s lonely.”
After that, there’d been no discussion. Of course Jennie Kim was welcome. If she even showed up.
Lisa laid down with a pillow under her stomach, her head close to Rosé, who was on her back. Jisoo laid on her side with her head on her own pillow, and breathed in. It’d be nice to wake up together in the tower, she thought, even if their backs would hurt like hell in the morning. If she was honest with herself, Jisoo didn’t really like being in Hufflepuff. She understood why she was, but sometimes the endlessly… cheerful nature of it grated on her nerves. Not to mention all the plants in the common room were a reminder of just how bad she sucked at herbology.
“Rosie, you getting a cold?” Lisa asked.
“That was not me.” Rosé looked at Jisoo, who looked at Lisa.
“I don’t think anyone dusts up here,” Jennie said, stepping out of the shadows.
Lisa put her hand to her heart as if she’d been terrified. “Do all Slytherins just appear out of nowhere like stalkers?”
She hung on the edge of the group, her hands pressed together in front of herself, and Jisoo realized that Jennie Kim was nervous. That spurred her to action, and she jumped up to grab the other blanket and pillow.
“Sit down, sit down,” she said excitedly. “I have balls.”
Jennie eyed her, and Jisoo blushed.
“Chocoballs. For you.”
“You didn’t have to do that,” Jennie said, settling onto the blanket with her arms wrapped around the pillow. But she was smiling, her expression seeming to have lit up a bit at the mention of the sweets.
“Jisoo has to do that,” Rosé explained. “She’s the mum of the group.” She reached behind herself and unceremoniously dumped a paper bag of her wares from Honeydukes in the center of them all. She smirked when Jisoo groaned, and Lisa leaned forward with a loud “Oooh.”
“I didn’t know what you would like,” Rosé said to Jennie.
“So she bought the whole store.”
“Not the whole store, Lisa!”
“Okay, half the store.”
“They’re always like this,” Jisoo said to Jennie, who seemed a bit bewildered both by Lisa and Rosé’s antics, and the sheer amount of food and drink now in front of them all.
“We’re not always like this,” Rosé countered, and Lisa nodded, already pulling her favorites out of the pile.
“We have to sleep sometime.”
“I brought chocolate frogs,” Jennie suddenly said, and produced four of them from the pocket of the sweatshirt she was wearing. She looked at them and then at the scattered mess in front of them. She shrugged, with what Jisoo thought was embarrassment.
“It’s not a lot, but—”
“I love chocolate frogs,” Jisoo said, snatching one from Jennie’s hand.
“Poor Dalgom,” Lisa teased, referring to Jisoo’s familiar. “Does he know you eat his relatives?”
“You so weird,” Jisoo said, tearing open the package while keeping the frog inside from jumping away. “Ah, Luna Lovegood!”
“Ahhh, Dumbledore,” Rosé whined, looking at her own card dejectedly, before she turned a pair of hopeful eyes to Jisoo.
Jisoo pursed her lips and flicked the frog in her hand towards Rosé; the Ravenclaw shrieked as it jumped past her, then clapped her hand over her mouth. “Now who is going to lose us points?” Jisoo mock-scolded, before holding out the Luna card.
Rosé wiggled excitedly as she took the card and gave Jisoo the Dumbledore one. Jennie looked confused, but before Jisoo could explain, Lisa spoke up.
“Jisoo takes all the Dumbledore cards so everyone else can have the cards they want. How many do you have now?”
“Four hundred fifty six,” Jisoo said proudly.
“That’s impressive. And also really sweet.”
Jisoo smiled at Jennie. “Just small way to make people happy,” she said. She noticed that Jennie seemed a little less tense, and had finally also laid down with the others, on her back staring out into the night sky.
“It’s really nice up here,” Lisa said quietly. She was holding hands with Rosé, Jisoo saw. The other girls made noises of assent, Jennie included.
“It’s always nice to be with friends.”
“You’re a Hufflepuff,” Jennie said. “You’re friends with everyone.”
Jisoo’s smile faded a little; Lisa reached out with her other hand and moved a strand of Jisoo’s hair out of her face. The gesture was reassuring; both Rosé and Lisa knew how hard it had been for Jisoo.
“Friends with Lalisa and Chaeyoung,” she said softly. “They don’t think I talk funny, or laugh when I forget words.”
The tower was silent for a few moments, except for the wind rustling around them.
Finally Jennie spoke. “I don’t think you talk funny, either. I like the way you talk.” Her brow was furrowed, almost as if she was challenging anyone who would say otherwise.
“Well, there you go then,” Rosé said with a yawn. “Now you’ve got three friends, Kim Jisoo.”
“Yay!” Jisoo stretched out her arms and legs in celebration. “Friends are nice.” She paused. “I didn’t think you’d come, Jennie.”
“I almost didn’t. I didn’t know if it would be okay.”
“It’s not your fault most Slytherins are jerk--ow, Rosie!”
Lisa rubbed her arm as Rosé glared at her reproachfully. “You know I’m right,” she muttered.
“Wasn’t your hair blonde two days ago?” Jennie asked Rosé.
“Yep,” Rosé said, smirking a little as her hair turned a vibrant shade of blue, then back to pink.
Jisoo secretly wished she could change her appearance at will. She’d always felt a little plain in everything except her lips. By now she was old enough to notice some of the seventh years looking her way, but it’d never turned out to be anything more than that. Which for the most part was fine with her, really, but she couldn’t help thinking it’d be nice to have someone like that. Especially when, on some nights in the astronomy tower, she ended up feeling like a third wheel with her two best friends.
“Won’t your house wonder where you are?” Lisa asked, rolling over to lean on her elbow as she regarded Jennie with suspicion.
Jennie returned the look measure for measure. “Won’t yours?”
“I’m the Quidditch captain,” Lisa said smugly. “They’re not allowed to ask where I am.”
“Someone’s full of herself.” Jisoo looked at Jennie. “Sometimes her head is so big it can’t fit through the doors of the castle.”
“I can always change the password to the prefect’s bathroom, you know.”
Jisoo gasped in mock horror. “No, please, have mercy on me, captain!”
“Don’t mind them,” Rosé said to Jennie. “They’re both insane. We’ve been coming up here ever since Lisa and I were first years. So far, the only person that’s caught us has been you.”
It was true, they’d only been caught once, but Jisoo wasn’t sure that they hadn’t aroused suspicion. Someone had to have noticed that the three of them vanished every weekend for a few hours. Jisoo didn’t think she wanted to know what theories the other students might have about that. It wasn’t like they were part of a coven. None of them were Slytherin, after all.
Even after the Second Wizarding World War had been waged and Voldemort defeated, some of the old stereotypes persisted. Hufflepuff was still known as the house that would take students no other would, even though Jisoo’s grades alone would’ve refuted that. Gryffindor was still brash and cocky, and Lisa had done little to dispel that “myth.” As for Park Chaeyoung, Jisoo was convinced that Rosé had been sorted into the wrong house. She was smart, but she was also the most generous and loving person Jisoo had ever met. If anyone embodied what was supposed to be a Hufflepuff, it was Rosie.
Salazar Slytherin’s house had borne the brunt of the stereotypes after the war was over. Most of its students had worked hard to be welcoming of half-bloods, and even muggle borns, now. But a few of them still clung to the old blood theories and “Sacred Twenty-Eight” nonsense. Jisoo didn’t exactly know where Jennie fell amidst all of that, but just her presence in the tower with them was enough for her to know that she was different. She knew Jennie Kim was pureblood, and wouldn’t dare even be in private with halfblood Rosé or muggleborn Lisa, if she still harbored the prejudices of families like the Malfoys and Blacks.
There wasn’t much Jisoo knew about Jennie, though, other than the fact that she was here, and that she loved chocoballs. Jisoo opened one of the packages and held it out to her. “Choco for Jennie,” she said with a smile.
Jennie’s smile in return as she took the chocolate made Jisoo wonder if Hogwarts sorted their students way too early.
Jennie’s arrival in the tower that Saturday night was still very much on Jisoo’s mind the following Wednesday in herbology, which is probably why she missed the plant sneaking up on her. Jennie hadn’t relaxed fully with them; she was still guarded, which Jisoo figured was just the nature of being a Slytherin. But she’d laughed a little, and joined in the conversations a few times. And now, even though she stood two tables back, she kept sending little glances Jisoo’s way, which Jisoo wouldn’t have noticed but for the fact that she was also looking at Jennie a lot.
A spiky vine snaked its way around Jisoo’s arm and she jumped, whacking at it with her wand. “What the fuck,” she snapped, grateful that they were allowed to swear, at least to warn the other students. She smacked the plant a few more times with the wand, finally breathing a sigh of relief when it slunk back to its pot. She looked up at Professor Longbottom with an apologetic shrug.
“What the fack,” she heard someone say, and Jisoo stared down at her hands. Making fun of her wasn’t limited to the other houses; Stillwell was a student in her own. He twisted his body and jerked in an imitation of her.
“Whatu the facku, go away bad plantu,” he mocked, as the other students burst into laughter.
“Hey, leave her alone.” Jennie’s voice cut through the derision. Her face looked thunderous, and her hand gripped her own wand as if she was daring someone, anyone, to give her a reason to raise it.
“That plant could’ve killed her, and you’d all be without the nicest person in this school. Shut up.”
Stillwell sneered but went silent, and Jisoo mouthed “thank you” at Jennie, who only nodded.
“Ten points to Slytherin,” Professor Longbottom said, sounding confused about everything that had just happened, while Jennie’s housemates cheered.
That afternoon at lunch in the Great Hall, Jisoo picked at her food, the memory of herbology class still present in her mind. It seemed as if none of her housemates would even look at her; she wasn’t alone but she still felt terribly lonely. Lisa was talking animatedly with her Gryffindor teammates, and Rosé was too busy eating to bother talking with anyone. Every now and then Jisoo would check to see what Jennie was doing; a couple times she was talking to the girl Lucy, who was sat next to her, but otherwise Jennie was quiet. Almost as if she’d rather just get the meal over with.
Suddenly there was the tinkling of flatware against glasses, and the entire room grew quiet as the headmistress stood up and approached the front of the dais. Several students whispered to each other; the headmistress usually never said anything during meals unless it was the start of term, or unless someone was in a lot of trouble.
Jisoo’s eyes widened, and she looked at Lisa, who was staring back at her with the same alarmed expression. Rosé too. Only Jennie seemed unperturbed, instead staring up at the headmistress with bored indifference.
“Students,” McGonagall began, nodding at each table in turn. “From the very beginning, Hogwarts has had a strong tradition of our houses being our family. We live and we learn with our respective houses, we grow and create bonds stronger than an Unbreakable Vow.”
Jisoo wasn’t so sure about that one, but interrupting the Professor to debate that point probably wouldn’t be a good idea, so she stayed quiet.
“Each of us brings our own qualities – good or bad – to our houses, and each of us brings our own opinions – good or bad – about other houses. I’m proud of the traditions Hogwarts has fostered over the years of finding family within our similarities.”
She’d rather be with her own family, back in Korea, but that meant leaving Lisa and Rosé behind. She wasn’t ready for that yet.
“However, years ago I was reminded that Hogwarts is at its best when we are together, regardless of differences. Regardless of blood, or birth, or house.”
That perked up everyone’s attention. The whispers continued, but stopped with a raise of Professor McGonagall’s hand.
“So I propose a little experiment. In the future, during meals, students may sit with whomever they choose, in whichever house they choose.” She was looking directly at Jisoo, and she wondered if Professor Longbottom had told the headmistress about the events in herbology class. “You don’t have to be a Hufflepuff to make friends with everyone. But I do expect you to have manners.”
No one said anything. No one moved an inch, and finally Professor McGonagall huffed in frustration.
“Well, what are you waiting for? Go on!”
The Great Hall erupted into a din of scraping benches, dishes clanking, and shouts as students began to rearrange themselves. Jisoo watched, happy for the others, even as the spaces next to her grew empty.
Then suddenly a plate plonked down next to hers, and Jisoo startled; Rosé grinned at her, still chewing on something. “Hi, Jisoo!”
“Kim Jisoo!” Lisa piled onto the bench next to her, bumping her shoulder with her own. “Jisoo, do you want some pork belly?”
“I do!” Rosé said, and Lisa rolled her eyes. Jisoo laughed.
“Is there room for one more?”
It was such a quiet question that they almost didn’t hear it, but they did, and Jisoo’s smile grew wider when she saw Jennie standing next to them. She moved to sit next to Rosé, but Lisa’s voice stopped her.
“Ah, Park Chaeyoung!”
“Ah, Lalisa?” Rosé said, looking at her.
“Move over here, sit next to me.”
“No,” Lisa whined. “Rosie, come here, come here, baby Rosie.”
Jisoo closed her eyes briefly. The sooner those two stopped being idiots the better, she thought to herself, but they probably had a long way to go. Still, Rosé moved to sit next to Lisa, which left the spot to Jisoo’s right open. Jennie sat down, looking almost shyly at her own plate.
Jisoo felt warm inside; the rest of the Great Hall, the noise and the laughter, vanished, and the only thing left was Jisoo and her three friends, clustered close at the table. Lisa and Rosé, bickering over who got the piece of lemon meringue pie until miraculously another piece appeared. And Jennie, who reached for the mashed potatoes at the same time Jisoo did, so that their hands brushed together, fingers tangling slightly.
Jisoo drew back, her cheeks heated, and she grinned at Jennie. “You like mashy potato too?”
Jennie smiled, a genuine smile that reached her eyes and made her cheeks puff slightly. Jisoo fought the urge to pinch them. “Yes,” she said. “I like mashed potato too.”
“Right,” Jisoo agreed, nodding. “We like that.”
This time Jennie laughed, a loud, girlish sort of sound that made Jisoo stare at her for a moment. She liked it, she decided. She would make Jennie laugh more. Jennie leaned her forehead against Jisoo’s shoulder as she giggled, and Jisoo realized that McGonagall was right.
They were better together.