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If Music Be The Food Of Love Please Stop

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Harry gasped for breath as her heart beat erratically in fear and panic. She heard the wood splintering as the waves crashed down around her. Salt filled her mouth and she wiped desperately at her eyes. Her vision was blurred both from lack of glasses and the harsh sting of the water. The churning ocean beat up against her trying to pull her away from the sinking ship. Still, she could see clearly enough the figure struggling to hold onto the top of the mast. The blurry figure was grabbing for something out of reach as the wind whipped at the sails around him.

“Archie!” Harry cried uselessly, her throat stung with every syllable. She was pushed under again by the unforgiving waves. She clutched desperately to the plank she held, the fragmented wood cutting into her fingers. She ignored the pain, the one in her lungs was worse as she gasped for another breath and only succeeded in inhaling another mouthful of saltwater.

“Archie!” the girl yelled again as she flailed uselessly, trying to stay afloat. She silently cursed her parents for never bothering with swim lessons.

Why had she insisted they travel by boat?! This was all her fault! Harry’s arms beat harshly against the water. She had to get back to the ship. She had to get to Archie.

The mast swayed. Harry screamed. It lurched forward again and this time it broke in half with a sickening crack! The top half hung menacingly over the water but Archie appeared to be suspended, dangling in the air twenty feet above the churning sea. With a sinking feeling in her stomach, Harry realized he had used the ropes to bind himself to it. She tried to scream out in warning and paddled desperately in his direction. The mast lurched again and this time it fell, hitting the water with a thunderous smack, shooting huge waves out in every direction.

The ship split down the middle.

Harry struggled desperately against the current yet the waves forced her further and further back.

“Archie!” She shrieked, not sure if the words came out as a shout or as a whisper. Her mouth filled with saltwater but she didn’t care. Her head bobbed uselessly over and under the waves as she clutched her bit of wood. She moved her arms forward trying to propel herself towards her cousin but it was no use.

Harry could no longer see, her eyes stung both from seawater and tears. Her lungs burned. The water stung her arm where it had been cut. Her cousin was dead.

Harry tried to keep her head above the water, giving up on moving back towards what was left of the ship. She was too tired to move her arms. Everything ached. Archie was dead.

The waves seemed to be calming down slightly. The wind was no longer deafening. Yet her best friend was still dead. Harry closed her eyes, clutched the wood in her hands, and allowed the ocean to claim her.

[AbAbAbAbAb]

Archie gasped. He coughed and felt salt water come out of his mouth. He couldn’t see. Why couldn’t he see? Where was he?! He felt sand beneath him and his clothes were wet. He smelled blood and something else, something familiar.

There was a noise of some sort. It sounded far off but it was getting closer. It sounded almost like talking...

“Calm down would you!” The voice shouted and he felt hands grab him. He winced at the sharp pain that coursed through him. It was his blood then, he surmised.

“Who are you?” He tried to say, but his throat ached from all the screaming and the seawater he had swallowed.

“Here, drink this and calm down. I’m a doctor.” The woman’s voice said. He felt something cold pressed against his lips and he gulped desperately at the water. He wasn’t sure how much he’d drunk when the cup was pulled away again.

“Where’s Harry?” Archie asked when he thought he could speak. The healer was silent for a moment.

“You’re the only one they found here,” she said quietly, “the only-the only live one I mean.”

Archie jolted again. It wasn’t true. It couldn’t be. Harry couldn’t be-

“Calm down! They didn’t find anyone here. Whoever you’re looking for may have washed up somewhere else.”

Archie shook his head as the memories washed over him. He saw her falling overboard as the ship cracked down the middle. He saw her head fall beneath the waves and the blood staining the water.

“Thank you for saving me but I can heal myself.” The dark-haired boy said, sitting up. He was pushed back down.

“You certainly cannot!”

“Unless you can fix my vision I think I’d be better off myself.”

“What? There’s nothing wrong with your vision! It was supposed to sedate you while I healed you but-“ the woman stopped and groaned. “You’re a wizard.”

“Obviously.”

“It’s a muggle spell. That’s why you can’t see. Give me a second.”

The healer's feet crunched down hard on the sand. After a moment the steps sounded closer.

“Why would you think I was a muggle?” Archie asked.

“Because the real healers didn’t take you.”

“The what?” He questioned. “Aren’t you a healer?!”

“Of course I am! Just not officially,” she answered vaguely, at Archie’s panicked look she rushed on, “oh calm down! I just mean I don’t work for the clinic.”

“They wouldn’t hire you?” He asked, confused.

“They did...and then they unhired me.”

“You were fired?!”

“It wasn’t for anything bad,” the maybe a healer assured him, “I just...they’re policies are ridiculous! They only heal wizards who wash up here. I wanted to help muggles too, I even invented spells to do so. I wanted to save lives and those idiotic bureaucrats wanted to let innocent people die.”

Archie smiled hesitantly. He could now make out the silhouette of his savior as his vision began to clear.

“You’re very noble.” He told the healer. “And beautiful.”

“You can’t see me.” She stated, sounding slightly flustered at the compliment.

“I meant your heart. Most people don’t bother to help muggles. And your mind, most people wouldn’t have the ability.” His vision was slowly clearing.

“Is that so Mr…”

“Archie. You can just call me Archie.”

“Well, I’m Hermione Granger. Now, I’m going to have to sedate you again, Archie. It will take me a while to heal you and you’ll likely be on bed rest for a few months. I should be able to revive you later today, though you did lose a lot of blood.”

“I’d se-date you any time, Hermione,” Archie mumbled as his vision fogged up again. He heard a startled snort and then the world went quiet.

[HpHpHpHp]

Harry’s eyes flew open and she gulped at the air. She tried to sit up but her head throbbed and black dots swam across her vision. She lay on the sand for a moment and waited for her head to stop swimming. Slowly Harry sat up and began to cough. Her throat ached and her stomach felt empty. Slowly she opened her eyes. The world was blurry. Why couldn’t she...everything came back to her in a whirl of memories. The boat...the water...Archie!

Harry pushed the overwhelming feelings down and focused on what was important. The shipwreck was over. Archie was gone. She was on a beach. Harry reached into her boot where she had stored her wand. Thank the goddess for her perfect boots or it might have been lost. The sun was just starting to poke above the horizon bathing the water before her in a comforting orange glow. At least it would have been comforting in any other situation.

Harry’s clothes were soaked and ripped in several places and her left arm was still bleeding. She looked around. The beach was completely empty apart from a few splinters of wood. She tried to stand up and winced. The injured girl grabbed a nearby rock and swiftly transfigured it into a glass which she filled with water from her wand. Once Harry had drunk the whole thing she set about assessing the extent of her injuries.

“Are you alright?” A woman’s voice asked from behind her. Harry whipped around and pointed her wand at her. The Asian witch in blue healer’s robes held her wand out non-threateningly.

“Fine. Just a bit cut up I think.” Harry answered, pointing her wand at her left arm and turning deliberately away from the other girl. “I’ll manage.”

“You’re a healer?” The witch asked curiously.

“Kind of,” Harry murmured distractedly as she began to clean out the wound.

“Then you should come to the clinic.”

“Why didn’t you bring me while I was out?” Harry questioned.

“We’re not allowed to bring muggles and I couldn't sense your aura, sir,” the witch said as she walked closer. Harry focused on knitting her skin back together. Finally, she wiped the sweat from her brow and glanced back at the witch.

“This clinic, who runs it?” the black-haired girl asked, choosing not to correct the young woman about her gender

“The king of thieves. He runs this land.”

“And he hates muggles?”

“No, sir. His highness is far more compassionate towards them than most of his station. The order not to help the muggles comes from those above him, however.”

“I see. I believe I’ve heard my father speak of this king of thieves, now that you mention it.” Harry said.

“What did he say?” The healer asked, raising an eyebrow.

“That’s he’s a rascal. A useless teen who has no right to the throne nor the ability to stay atop it.” Harry answered casually as she quickly healed her fingers, “I'd Like to meet him I think, and see if he’d give me a job. Could you arrange it, miss?”

“Chang. But you can call me Zhou, Mr…?”

Harry hesitated. It was safer to travel as a boy in these unknown parts, and yet her father's name would not be well received by most if the name 'king of thieves' was anything to go by.

“Black...Rigel Black.” Harry decided.

“Very well Rigel. If you are set against stopping by the clinic then I’ll show you to the kingdom.” Zhou said with a smile.

“Perhaps sometime I will stop by if only to see you,” Rigel said, trying to affect her cousin’s easy smile. Zhou blushed and laughed slightly.

“Come on then. I’m sure his highness will hire you for your charm if nothing else.”

[HpHpHpHp]

They walked for some time along the beach and up to the gates of the kingdom. It was larger than most of the boating towns Rigel had seen. It was bright and bustling and full to bursting with people. The townsfolk seemed friendly enough and rather curious about her. As they walked witches looked their way and began to gossip and children stared at her. Zhou stopped briefly at a stand selling the most vibrant fruit Rigel had ever seen. She talked to the merchant who worked there and he gave Rigel an apple to eat while she waited. It was sweet with a tart aftertaste that lingered on her tongue as she wiped the juice from her chin.

Finally, they reached the castle. It was big with marvelous stone towers shooting up, a stone wall surrounding it, and a magnificent drawbridge that hung open like a big welcoming mouth. Rigel followed Zhou inside and they were immediately shown to the throne room.

“Whos this?” The big man sitting atop the throne asked Zhou.

“Rigel Black, your highness,” Rigel said, bowing low to the king of thieves. The man laughed loudly.

“I’m no king, lad. I’m just filling his highnesses place while he attends to some other such thing. Now are you just here to grovel or do you want something?”

“A job sir. I washed up on the-“

“What can you do?”

“He can heal,” Zhou said eagerly.

“Though I’m a brewer primarily,” Rigel added hurriedly. The man sat up and now appeared somewhat interested.

“What can you brew?” He asked.

“Anything if I have the recipe.” She answered confidently.

“Cocky for a wee squirt. How old are ya?”

“Sixteen.”

“You don’t have a hair on your face, lad.”

Rigel paused.

“I have a condition.” She said. It wasn’t really a lie as being a woman could be considered a condition. Maybe. The man looked down at her.

“Is it serious?”

“Very Sirius.” She answered, trying to keep the humor from her voice.

“Is it fatal? Cause our clinic-“

“No, it's nothing like that. It’s not fatal, sir.” Rigel said, biting her lip and shifting her weight unconsciously. She felt bad for making the man worry. “Just means I can’t grow a beard. That’s all.”

“Fine then, I’ve been needing a new brewer anyway. I'm Mr. Krait, by the way, lad.” Mr. Krait said. He then proceeded to hand her a list of potions which he apparently kept on his person and to direct her to the apothecary which he apparently owned. Why a potioneer had been placed temporarily in charge of the throne Rigel didn’t ask. It was none of her business anyway. As long as she could be left alone to brew all could be well.

[HpHpHpHp]

All was not well.

“Please Rigel, for me?” Leo whined. He sure didn’t act like any king she’d ever met. In the few months she’d known him in fact she couldn’t remember him actually ordering anyone around or doing anything kingly. He didn’t even dress like a king. His robes were a brilliant orange and he never wore a crown.

“I’m busy Leo. And besides, that’s not my job! Don’t you have literally hundreds of other people to deliver things for you?” Rigel asked, not looking up from her cauldron.

“Aye but none of them are as charming as you, lad,” Leo said with a wink. Rigel rolled her eyes. “It’ll pay well. Really well. And I’ll owe you a favor.”

Rigel bit her lip. A favor from a king could prove useful.

“Fine. I’ll deliver your letter but if I get killed I’ll haunt you forever.”

“He won’t kill you and besides it’s not just a letter. You have to read it aloud and make it rightfully dramatic for the masterpiece I’ve written.” Leo said. His face was serious but there was a hidden humor in his eye that made her weary.

“You’re the most annoying king in the world,” Rigel informed him.

“Why thank you, Rigel, I didn’t know you felt so strongly about me.” Leo returned. Rigel rolled her eyes at his antics. Now she would have to go all the way to Lord Malfoy’s court just to deliver some stupid trade agreement. At least it would be over quickly and she could get back to her cauldron.

[HpHpHpHp]

The Malfoy castle was much smaller than Leo's though it was still very impressive. Just visible from the gate was a beautiful and exotic-looking garden that was probably full of all sorts of interesting ingredients. Still, Rigel didn’t have time to wander. She would deliver Leo’s letter and then get back to her cauldron. At least that was the plan if the gate ever opened.

“Why can’t you just let me in?” she asked with a sigh. The gateman was making this far more difficult than it needed to be.

“Because it’s not my job.” The man said. She stared at him.

“Then why are you standing at the gate?!”

“In case anyone handsome stops by,” the man winked a golden eye at her. He wore bright teal robes with a ruffled neckline that he had neglected to tie properly so it hung open, revealing his chest. “I’m Aldon by the way, Aldon Rosier. And who might you be?”

“Uninterested,” Rigel deadpanned, “just let me in so I can deliver my message, and then I’ll go.”

Rosier held out a hand imploringly, “give me the message and I’ll deliver it for you.”

“I’m supposed to read it aloud to Lord Malfoy,” Rigel answered. “So can you please just let me in?”

“I told you I don’t have the authority-“

“What are you doing, Aldon?” A woman interrupted. Her hair was tied in a blonde braid and she wore a light green dress that flowed around her ankles as she walked.

“Causing trouble, corrupting the youth, the usual,” Rosier answered idly. The woman rolled her eyes.

“I’m sorry but Aldon has an appointment elsewhere.”

“Do I, Pansy?”

“You do. Good day young sir.” The woman, Pansy, said politely and began to pull Aldon inside. The man stumbled and almost fell over and, now that she cared to look, Rigel thought he might have been a tad drunk.

“Wait, Miss! I’m here to deliver a message to Lord Malfoy.”

“Deliver it then,” Pansy said. Her hands were perched on her hips and she tapped her foot impatiently. Rigel grimaced self-deprecatingly.

“I’m afraid I must deliver it to Lord Malfoy himself by way of mouth.”

“I doubt he’ll be interested in that kind of message, lad, though me on the other-“ the black-haired man said smirking.

“Please shut up Aldon, you’re making a fool of yourself.” Pansy said with a long-suffering sigh, “what’s your name, boy?”

“Rigel Black, miss,” Rigel answered.

“And what business do you have with Lord Malfoy, Mr. Black?”

“Please call me Rigel, sweet heavenly sun as I'm afraid any other name would only darken your lips,” Rigel answered with as much charm as she could. The other woman blushed slightly so she went on, “As for my business it is far above my station yet far below my pay grade.”

“I know the feeling,” the blonde woman answered with a slight smile, “and if I should tell you that the Lord isn’t home?”

“I would wait here until he arrives.”

“And if he’s sick?”

“I shall weather any plague in hopes that my message may cheer him up.”

“Wait here a moment then and I’ll see what excuses he can come up with. Come Aldon.” Pansy said, tugging the golden eyes man back inside. He waved over his shoulder at her as they disappeared inside the castle and Rigel settled herself in for a long wait.

[DmDmDmDm]

Draco lounged lazily on his throne and stared down at the annoying boy who was currently complaining to him. Again. Honestly, what was he going to do with his stupid cousin? Since Draco had inherited the lordship from his father all Caelum Lestrange did was laze about his castle complaining about one thing or another.

“And all of your servants are so annoying-”

“Not as annoying as you, Lestrange,” Aldon said as he was pulled into the throne room by Pansy. Pansy was probably the only person Draco actually wanted to be here, but he couldn’t just kick his stupid cousin out. Not without starting a war at least.

“You could be beheaded for that, Rosier.” Caelum sneered.

“Yes but you won’t, as you know Ed would avenge me,” Aldon answered lazily.

“It depends what you did to deserve it.” Edmund rumbled, his voice deep and low like boulders slowly rolling down a mountain.

Draco rolled his eyes. As if Caelum could kill anyone without his permission. His cousin was powerless unless you considered his ability to annoy the living daylights out of everyone he met a power. In which case he was the most powerful person Draco had ever met.

“Drake?” Pansy asked, interrupting his thoughts. She seemed hesitant so he nodded for her to continue, “there’s a boy at the gates. He says he has a message for you.”

“What kind of message?” Draco asked. Aldon laughed loudly and Pansy blushed, an odd occurrence for the girl.

“He wouldn’t say.” She said after a moment. “He said he would only tell you.”

“Well, what's he like?”

“Young. Our age I think, maybe younger.” She said vaguely.

“Gorgeous, Divine, beautiful.” Aldon ticked off on his fingers.

“Charming,” Pansy added, “and quick-witted. Smart I’d wager, probably schooled well.”

“Does he have a name?” Draco asked. He’d never seen Pansy swoon so much, Aldon sure but never Pansy.

“Rigel Black.” She seemed to blush more at the name. “I tried to deter him but he rather insisted.”

“Did you ask what Mr. Black’s business here was?” Draco questioned. Aldon stood up and swept a dramatic bow.

“Please call me Rigel, O sun of heaven, else my name should darken your lips!” He declared loudly. “And as for my business, it is above my station and involves my mouth and Lord-“

“He didn’t say that!” Pansy sputtered.

“Something like it though. A big tease, that one and it didn’t look like he’d be leaving anytime soon.” Aldon answered sitting down. “I could go and speak to him though, see if something can be arranged.” He waggled his eyebrows in a way that made him look utterly ridiculous

Draco rolled his eyes and thought for a moment.

“Caelum go speak with him. Tell him I’m sick or sleeping or the like. See if you can get rid of him.” Draco decided. “And if he fails, then I’ll speak with him.”

“As you wish, cousin,” Lestrange said and, after a sarcastic bow, he left.

[ClClClCl]

Of course, it was left to Caelum to put some street urchin in his place. It was absurd that his cousin had so much more land and power when he was clearly a better fit for it. If only my parents would hurry up and die, Caelum thought angrily. Instead, he was forced to be their errand boy, making sure his cousin didn’t turn his back on them. It was humiliating. And now he had to suck up to his pampered, pompous, power-hungry-

Finally, he reached the gate.

“He’s not home,” Caelum told the boy, putting as much anger into his voice as he could. The boy simply stared at him and sat down right there on the dirt.

“I guess I’ll just have to wait for him then.” He said, crossing his arms. Caelum rolled his eyes.

“He’s sick.”

“As I told the others I will weather any plague if it means I can deliver my message.” The boy answered firmly, crossing his arms to emphasize his point.

“What type of message?” Caelum asked.

“I’ve no idea. Something important hopefully or I’ll have wasted an afternoon for nothing.” The boy answered casually. Caelum scoffed. He dared ask to speak to a Lord without even knowing what type of message he was here to deliver? What kind of messenger was he? Caelum gave the boy a once over and scoffed again. He wasn’t dressed like a messenger. He wished he could say he was surprised the others hadn’t noticed but they were imbeciles so he wasn’t.

“He’s dead.” Caelum decided. The boy rolled his eyes.

“Then we shall have to have a seance or else I’ll be stuck here forever; which would be a real shame as I’ve really got to get back to my cauldron.”

Caelum’s eyes widened. He zeroed in on the stains on the boy's fingers and the carefully trimmed nails. He could see the grease spots on his robes and in his hair and now that he cared to notice it the smell of potions lingered in the air around him. The bag he held looked much more like a potions kit than a messenger bag and his black robes looked like they could conceivably be worn in a lab. A very shabby lab but still.

“You’re a brewer.” Caelum sneered. “What can you brew then?”

“Anything, though regretfully I’m already employed.” The boy had the audacity to answer.

“We’ve already got a brewer here.” Caelum scoffed. The boy tilted his head slightly and lifted an eyebrow. “Me,” Caelum answered the brat’s unasked question. The boy’s eyes widened and he smiled.

“Then you can help me out, right? One brewer to another?” He said, smiling hopefully. Caelum gaped at him.

“I certainly will not-“

“Right I see. You don’t have the authority. That’s al-“

“Shut up,” Caelum said through gritted teeth. “I could let you in but I won’t-“

“Because you’re not qualified. That’s alright sir, I suppose you can help keep me company.” The boy said. “Tell me what’s the most impressive potion you’ve ever brewed?”

Caelum stared at him for a second before deciding he was seriously asking.

“Polyjuice,” Caelum answered, lifting his head slightly. The boy merely nodded.

“Yeah, that one's not so bad as long as you have a decent recipe.” He said confidently. Caelum rolled his eyes.

“What’s your answer then?”

“Seifer's solution probably. That one was quite difficult.” The brat said. Caelum’s eyes widened against his will and he gaped at him. The boy was what, sixteen?

“You need a license for that.”

“Technically you need a license for polyjuice too.” He answered.

“You need a license just to access the recipe I mean,” Caelum sneered, “and there’s no way you have a license.”

“Maybe but I doubt you could prove it.” The boy said with a slight grin. “You know I invented a new brewing technique? I mean my cousin did most of the work but still I helped.”

“And what’s this plebeian brewing method called?”

“Shaped imbuing,” Black said. Caelum gaped at him again. He’d heard of that. He’d read about it.

“You’re serious?” He asked, fastly reevaluating his opinion of the boy.

“I’ll teach you how it works if you let me in.” The boy said with a smirk. Caelum scowled. He had somehow allowed himself to be cornered in a conversation with this urchin. He could dismiss him, sure, but he really had wanted to figure out that technique ever since he’d heard about it and no one else in the kingdom seemed to have figured it out. Still, what was the harm in letting the boy in? It’s not as if his idiot cousin was really busy with anything. If Caelum was lucky maybe he’d turn out to be an assassin.

“Fine,” Caelum answered, “you can deliver your message, and then you’ll show me how to shaped imbue.”

“Deal. Not today though, I do have to finish a few things after this.” The boy said. He stood up and stretched slightly, causing Caelum to notice for the first time that he was rather fit. “Can I have your name so I can look you up next time I have some time off?” The boy reached his hand through the gate and offered it to Caelum.

“Caelum Lestrange.” He answered and shook the boy’s hand. His sleeve fell and Caelum could see that his arm was also quite muscular. You didn’t get muscles like that just from stirring cauldrons. Maybe he played Quidditch? Only a beater would have-

“Right. I’m Rigel by the way. Um, can we go now?” Rigel asked, cutting through Caelum’s thoughts. He realized he had been holding Black’s hand for far too long and quickly dropped it. Turning away, he chose to ignore the heat he felt creeping up his cheeks. He pulled down the handle and the gate swung open.

“This way, brat,” Caelum said, gesturing into the castle.

[HpHpHpHp]

Rigel followed Lestrange through the winding stone halls of the Malfoys castle. Unlike Leo’s castle, which looked as if there were actually people living in it, this place looked like a museum. There were paintings hung on most walls and statues placed throughout, most of which all appeared to be of the same person. Either that or everyone in the family looked the same. She also noticed that a common theme throughout the art was snakes and peacocks, a strange combination to be sure. Rigel desperately wanted to know the story behind it but was almost afraid to ask.

Lestrange stopped, his black robes swishing behind him. He was the only person in this new land she’d seen in black robes. Perhaps it was a cultural thing? It was also strange how vibrant everything looked. Even in the dreary hallways of Malfoy castle all of the colors of the portraits were eerily bright to the point that they almost glowed. Maybe it was a special kind of paint?

Lestrange opened the grand doors in front of them, which were decorated with slithering snakes and peacock feathers that swayed slightly in a nonexistent breeze. Rigel followed him through and into the throne room. Unlike the rest of the castle, this room had a relaxed atmosphere. There were a few tables scattered throughout at which the man and the woman from earlier were sitting.

The real sight to behold. though, was the throne sitting on an elevated platform opposite the door. It was a bright electric blue and sticking out from behind it was a grand display of vibrant green peacock feathers. The boy sitting regally atop the throne wore a green gown the same color as the feathers with silver snakes slithering down the sides. Rigel had to bite her lip to keep from laughing. He clearly didn’t realize how ridiculous he appeared, looking like some deranged type of peacock being strangled by snakes.

Lestrange bowed his head slightly and left the way he’d come in.

“So you’re the one who’s been causing so much trouble at my gate.” The peacock said. “Something about a message?”

“Yes sir, from King Leo-“

“Ugh! Not again. I don’t want it.”

“Well, then it appears we’re at a standstill as I have to deliver it,” Rigel answered slowly, crossing her arms. She was honestly done with this whole thing. She just wanted to get back to her apartment and spend the rest of the day brewing. Why did everything have to be so difficult?

“Why not just tell him you delivered it and be on your way?” The boy on the throne asked, seeming genuinely curious.

“Well as I understand it it’s about some sort of important trade agreement.” She answered. The boy blinked at her and his expression seemed to lighten.

“You haven’t read it?” He asked a little too eagerly. Rigel cautiously shook her head. He was smiling in full now and his silver eyes burned with a strange sort of excitement. “Then go on and read it to me.”

Rigel didn’t pause to wonder at the boy's strange behavior, she simply pulled out the letter, cleared her throat, and began to read.

“Dear Lord Malfoy-“ Rigel stopped and looked up. The boy was grinning at her.

“Well don’t leave us in suspense, Mr. Black. What’s it say?” The young lord asked.

Rigel opened her mouth but no words came out. She frowned down at the letter. Skimming the first few lines she could tell it was a very poorly written marriage proposal.

“I suppose Leo’s not much of a romantic.” She said, folding the letter back up again. He owed her big time for this.

“And you Mr. Black?” Lord Malfoy asked, with a strange look in his eye that made her weary. Did he know she wasn’t really Archie? Was this a test? She supposed if he had heard of Sirius then he would be expecting her to say yes.

“I suppose you could call me a romantic, though I’d much prefer you call me Rigel.” She said as charmingly as she could. The boy smiled.

“Well, then how would you rewrite his highness's letter, Rigel?” The boy atop the peacock throne asked. Rigel froze.

“I’m not sure I understand Lord Malfoy.” She said. Another strange smile.

“If you were to propose to me, Rigel, how would you do it?” It was a simple question and yet she barely managed to keep herself from falling over. He’s a lord, she reminded herself, he could have me executed. She took a deep breath and straightened her spine. What could she say? She needed to sound as Archie-like as possible if she was to get through this. Goddess only knew what the penalty for blood identity theft was in this strange land.

“I’d start by buying you chocolate, and flowers. Not like a bouquet but something useful that you could plant in your garden. I’d ask around to make sure it was something you didn’t already have,” she started trying to think of what else to say, “then I’d barge through the gate, none of that charming my way through nonsense as I would save all of my charms for you. And of course, none would be able to stop me from getting in. Once here in front of you I would sing your name so it reverberated through the castle and beyond.” She answered thinking of how her parents liked to sing, “Draco, Draco, Draco,” she echoed, her voice getting softer on each cry.

“Then I would compare my love to a-to a potion. Bright and bubbling and filled with hope for a better day that we could make together. Like a combination of all our best parts working together in perfect harmony to achieve something magnificent,” Rigel said trying to think of what else she loved, “or to a...a pair of boots. Sturdy and practical and always together. Our love could survive water or acid or anything else spilled on it...metaphorically I mean,” Rigel added. What else could she say?

“And then I would get down on one knee and hold out the nicest ring I could. And I would ask you to marry me even though I know you never would. Because of course how could you love me if you can’t love a king?” Rigel finished as dramatically as she could. Lord Malfoy was blushing and looking at her strangely. Everyone was staring at her.

[DmDmDmDm]

“Wow,” Draco said before he could stop himself. He heard Aldon snickering from the corner but couldn’t bring himself to take his eyes off the boy before him. Rigel Black. He spoke like he had been schooled well which seemed unlikely considering he was delivering letters for the king of thieves. Yet his accent didn’t quite sound like he was from the kingdom. His speech was formal but his voice was clumsy as if the declaration were bursting out of him in a fit of passion. The words themselves didn’t make any sense and yet there was something endearingly genuine about them.

“What is your parentage, Rigel?” Draco asked. Pansy glanced at him sharply. He kept his face blank but felt his cheeks grow hot. She rolled her eyes and looked away. Damn the nosy girl. She was too clever for her own good.

Black seemed more flustered by this question than he had by the previous if that was possible.

“Above my fortunes…but my state is well…I am a pureblood,” he answered vaguely. Draco smiled slightly. Whatever cause he had for delayed answers aside he was certainly good at dissembling. That was about as vague an answer as one could possibly give and yet it was somehow also entirely too blunt. Most people would bring up blood purity like that. Perhaps he was trying to use his blood status to deflect the conversation away from his financial position?

“Leave then and tell his highness not to send anymore ‘trade proposals’,” Draco said, smiling at the blush that crept up Rigel’s cheeks. “But if he must send another, tell him it should be written and delivered by you.”

The boy looked up sharply. He nodded and rushed out of the room at a speed that was nearing disrespectful. He had barely escaped hearing distance before Aldon was back on the table.

“Above my fortunes but my state is well!” Aldon moaned, swooning and nearly falling over.

Draco ignored him with the ease of practice and stared after Rigel Black. The boy was a mess of contradictions. Vague yet blunt. Well schooled but a peasant. Nothing out of the ordinary yet undeniably fascinating.

“You like him,” Pansy whispered too quietly for the others to hear. Draco nodded and pulled the ring from his finger.

“Give this to Caelum. Tell him the boy left it and to give it back to him.” He said, dropping it into Pansy’s hand. She glanced down at it and looked up sharply. She opened her mouth to speak but then thought better of it and left. Good, he wouldn’t have listened to her anyway. Draco was now utterly certain that he would marry Rigel Black.

[HpHpHpHp]

Rigel walked out of the gate not even stopping to look longingly at the garden which was probably full of all sorts of rare ingredients that she couldn’t find anywhere else. Ok fine, she may have stopped for a few moments and then turned and went through the gate. She was going to get Leo back for this. “How difficult would it be to slip a hair dye potion into the drink of a king?’ Rigel wondered.

“You there! Boy! Black!” Lestrange called after her. Rigel stopped and turned around trying and failing to appear somewhat friendly. She owed Lestrange, it wouldn’t do to piss him off.

“I told you I’m busy today, Lestrange.” She said, trying to keep her voice even and not at all angry.

“I know. Here.” The dark-haired boy said and, scowling, pulled out a ring. He held it out to Rigel with an impatient expression. She glanced disbelieving from him to the ring and back to him. Lestrange smirked. “Thought you’d just leave did you? Take it before I change my mind.”

Rigel took a deep breath. The boy had helped her get through the gate. And more importantly, he was a potioneer. He couldn’t help it if he had gotten so unbelievably confused.

‘Was he confused?’ A small part of her asked.

‘Yes!’ She told it firmly. Yes, Caelum was handsome and a good brewer but that didn’t mean anything. Rigel pushed down the butterflies in her stomach as they tried to argue and squared her shoulders.

“Listen…Caelum…I’m flattered, really I am. But…uh…we just met and um…” She silently begged him to take the hint but he stared at her blankly and continued to hold out the ring. She sighed and continued, “Caelum I’m not looking to marry anyone right now and we just met so though I appreciate the gesture I respectfully decline.”

Lestrange’s face melted into shock and then appeared to go through the seven stages of grief in a matter of seconds. The poor boy was clearly devastated.

“It’s not you though it’s mostly me really. I swear I’d be a terrible partner-“

“Shut. Up. Black.”

Rigel nodded and waited to see if he would say anything else.

“Whatever you were trying to do by leaving this ring with Malfoy didn’t work. And I would never marry you.” Lestrange ground out. Rigel nodded quickly. Lestrange was clearly trying to downplay his feelings. “So take this and please never come back here.”

“But it’s not my-“

“Are you calling Lord Malfoy a liar?” The boy snapped. Rigel shook her head.

“No…I guess it is mine…but why don’t you keep it?” Rigel asked slowly.

Lestrange looked from the ring to her and back at the ring. He growled, threw the ring at her, and then stormed off. Rigel sighed. Good job not pissing him off. She leaned down, picked the ring up from where it had landed in the bright green grass, and examined it. She hadn’t left Malfoy a ring. Though now that she thought about it she might have seen a similar ring on his finger.

“Huh,” Rigel said, glancing down at it, “I wonder why Lord Malfoy sent me a ring.”

Rigel stared at it for a moment in contemplation. Then she shrugged and walked off. She had more important things to worry about, like how many blood replenishers she could brew in the remainder of the afternoon.

[HgHgHgHg]

“We are not done talking about this Arcturus!” Hermione shouted at the idiot in front of her as she followed him out of the door. Archie had been staying with her in her hidden hunt on the beach as he recovered.

Archie winced. “I regret telling you my full name.” He informed her, “and we are done talking about this. You’ve done enough for me as it is ‘Mione. I can’t put you in danger.”

“But you don’t care about yourself?!” She asked, exasperated.

“Mione…if Harry is out there then I have to find her. Talking to the king is my best chance of doing that.” The boy’s voice was broken and his eyes were filled with a deep despair that told her some part of him already knew the truth.

“Arch…I’ve checked everywhere but none of the clinics have registered her. I think you may have to prepare yourself…” she cut off as Archie turned deliberately away from her. “Arch I’m not saying you shouldn’t go-“

“Then what are you saying?!”

“I’m saying it’s foolish for you to set out by yourself without any money to a kingdom with a history of murdering outsiders!” She shouted. “And I think you need to get it into your thick skull that you can’t help your cousin if you’re dead and that she’s not the only one who cares about you!”

Silence stretched for an agonizing moment. Then Archie turned and walked toward her.

“Mione, you saved my life and I will forever be in your debt. But I can’t let you put yourself in danger on my behalf,” he said, pushing a curly strand of hair behind her ear, “I care about you too. I’ll come to say goodbye before heading home.”

He looked like he wanted to say more, or do more perhaps, but he didn’t. He turned and walked off with the bag she had given him containing the few second-hand garments she had successfully convinced him to take.

Hermione forced her gaze away from the foolish boy walking down the beach. What did she care if he was fine? It was none of her business. He wasn’t even a muggle. He was a healer though, like her, and a friend. No, not a friend, a patient. Sure they had grown close over the last few months but that didn’t mean anything. And neither did the way her cheeks grew warm just thinking about him.

Debt. Archie dared talk about debt between them? As if him sticking around hadn’t more than repaid whatever he may have owed her. Didn’t he realize she wasn’t only going along for his benefit? That she wanted to spend more time with him? That she longed to hear what other spell modifications he’d been thinking up? To kiss him?

Hermione froze. That was a new one. Had she really just thought that? She had, for a while now probably. She blamed the wretched boy and his constant flirting. Hermione sighed and turned around. If she hurried she could probably still catch him before he got himself killed. Or worse, arrested.

[HpHpHpHp]

“Back already?” Leo asked cheerfully as Rigel walked in. She couldn’t help noticing how much more authoritative Leo looked compared to Malfoy. Perhaps it was the fact that his throne didn’t look like a show bird, or maybe it was simply the height difference.

“You didn’t tell me I was there to propose to him,” Rigel grunted. Leo grinned magnanimously down at her.

“What’d he say?”

“He’s not interested.” She stated plainly. If Leo was hurt by the words he didn’t show it. “Do you really want to marry him?” She asked after a slight pause.

Leo shrugged, “If I’ve got to marry someone it might as well be someone who benefits my people.”

“And how does Lord Malfoy do that?”

“Well he’s rich, noble, has connections to suppliers and to the best ports, and from what I hear he’s not a complete moron.”

“True love then,” Rigel commented blandly.

“Do you believe in true love Rigel?” Leo asked. Rigel shrugged.

“I believe true love has nothing to do with potions.” She said evenly. Leo chuckled. “You don’t believe either if you’re trying to marry Malfoy.”

“I wouldn’t bother if I met someone else,” Leo said, staring at her with an unreadable expression on his face.

“Someone who benefits your people, you mean?”

“Maybe. Not in the traditional ways though. Maybe he’d help in his own way,” he said, still looking at her. “You know by being smart and helping with reforms. Being kind enough not to judge. Brewing…”

Rigel froze.

Her thoughts froze. Was Leo…no surely he just meant in a general sense.

“Right,” Rigel said,” I think Malfoy has a good brewer. He’d probably let you borrow him if you were married.” Leo chuckled again.

“I’ve got you for that lad.” He said in a soft voice.

Just then the door opened and two identical redheads walked in.

“Your highness,” they chorused, bowing their heads slightly.

“Now now, none of that,” Leo said, waving them off, “now I’ll have that same song you sang last night alright?” The twins nodded and went to the edge of the room. Rigel glanced from them to Leo confusedly, until they started singing.

“Come away, come away, come away death,”

“And in sad cypress let me be laid,”

It was an eerie bittersweet sort of melody. At first, they seemed to switch off every line but after a while their voices blended together in a beautifully entrancing harmony. It must have taken them years of practice to get so good together, Rigel simply couldn’t believe that something so magical could come out of a simple accident of birth.

As the song continued their voices began to swirl and it was as if she could see the picture that was painted by the words. It was bright and tragic. The colors swirled together in a dizzying array of light that knocked her off balance.

“Dance with me, Rigel,” Leo asked, pulling her out of the trance. The taller boy now stood right in front of her, hand extended in open invitation. When had he stood up? How long had she been listening to the music and the colors...what had happened to the colors? Something felt wrong...no, she thought, shaking her head, she had just been imagining things. Rigel hesitated only a moment before giving Leo her hand. It was warm and she felt the lingering disorientation melt away to the back of her mind.

“I’m a horrible dancer,” she confided in him as they stepped closer together.

“It’s easy, lad, just follow my lead,” Leo answered as he placed his hand on her waist. It was more like swaying than the formal waltzing Rigel had seen at the galas back home but soon they fell into an easy rhythm.

“Have you ever been in love, Rigel?” Leo asked softly. Rigel stumbled slightly and he chuckled.

“Perhaps I have,” Rigel answered slowly.

“Mhm,” Leo murmured, “as vague as ever. I think you have though. Boys these days fall in love so quickly.”

“Not girls?” Rigel bristled slightly. Leo glanced at her and shook his head slightly as they continued swaying.

“Not girls. Girls are too strong-willed to fall deep into love,” Leo answered, “boys understand better matters of the heart. Don’t you think that the love of a boy is stronger, more passionate?” Rigel bit her lip.

“I think a girl’s love can be just as passionate as any man’s if she allows herself to love,” Rigel answered.

“I’ve never known that to be the case.”

“Well I-I knew a girl once...and she loved a man…” Rigel trailed off, feeling a sudden swirl in her stomach.

“What type of man?” Leo asked curiously.

“About your age, I think,” Rigel answered, “and her love was hesitant, sure, but no less deep or passionate. She cared for him.”

“How so?”

“Silently, in her own way. She would help him, do him favors knowing she would never ask for any in return. She didn’t want to be in love, you see, and the man he...they couldn’t be together. There were things about her, reasons she couldn’t be with him. She knew that and yet her love was so passionate that despite her war against it, it persisted and it was deep and innocent and painful. Isn’t that the same as any boy?”

“Yes, I suppose it is,” Leo said awkwardly, he was looking at her strangely. That wasn't good, and why did her stomach feel so weird?

They were still swaying and the music was still as sweet as ever but now it felt wrong. It was too loud and overwhelming and Rigel, as if punched in the gut or caught off guard by a free brewing explosion, realized that she might love Leo. And yet for some reason, this didn’t derail the world. The music continued and they kept on swaying even as Rigel realized what she had just admitted to herself. She was suddenly all too aware of Leo’s hand on her waist and how close their faces were and as if by their own force of will her eyes moved towards his lips.

“What happened to the girl?” Leo asked quietly. And just like that, the spell was broken and Rigel realized where she was and who she was pretending to be. She took a deep breath and turned deliberately away from Leo.

“She drowned,” Rigel said coldly, trying and failing to not remember Archie’s smile, “that's what happens when you let yourself love someone,” Rigel said more to herself than to Leo. She wouldn’t let anyone else get hurt because of her. She was confused, that was all. She had gotten caught up in the moment with the dancing and the music and now it was over.

“Who was she?” Leo asked gently.

“My cousin, Harry. She was my best friend.” Rigel said, trying to ignore the mixed bag of feelings that came from referring to Archie as her. “She-she died in the shipwreck that stranded me here. It-it was my fault she was on the boat.”

“I’m sorry.” Leo said after a moment. Rigel nodded, still turned away, not able to look him in the eyes, not sure of what she would find there if she did.

“Sorry just the-the dancing, it made me think of her,” Rigel said, wiping at her eyes which had begun to grow slightly wet. “She taught me to dance. She was good at it though, really good. I’d always step on her feet.”

“She’d be proud then, you only stepped on mine twice I think,” Leo said, trying to lighten the mood. Rigel nodded. Would Archie be proud of her? Proud that she was lying to so many people? That she was burying her feelings and refusing to let herself love? No, she didn’t think so. Archie would hate her. If he had survived he would go home right away to tell their family that she was dead. He wouldn’t be afraid to face them or to face his feelings. Archie was so much stronger than she was. If she hadn’t suggested they get on that stupid boat in the first place then he would still be with her.

“I’ve got to go brew,” Rigel said, at last, keeping her voice carefully neutral.

“Alright, I may have another message for you to deliver soon though,” Leo said from behind her.

“Don’t think I won’t get you back for the first one,” Rigel answered, turning around once again and smiling slightly at the terrified look he pasted on his face. She tried to keep the smile on her face as the feeling of wrongness once again flared at the edge of her senses.

[GwGwGwGw]

Ginny Weasley sat beside her brothers watching the mayhem before her unfold. Rosier and Rookwood had asked the twins to join them for a drink and apparently none of them had thought to prepare for the disaster that would cause. Ginny had shown up when she heard the shouting and had naively thought she could keep the noise at a manageable level.

“I wonder how many fireworks we can set off at once?!” Fred shouted

“How many do you have?” Rosier asked, his speech slurred slightly. The twins grinned at him in a way that any sane person should have found alarming. Ginny cast her gaze about trying to find another sane person. She landed on Rookwood.

“Aren’t you supposed to control that friend of yours?” Ginny demanded. He simply shrugged and turned his attention back to the conversation. Ginny groaned. “How about instead of setting off a bunch of probably illegally obtained fireworks and burning the castle down we do something else.”

“What did you have in mind sister?!” George said far louder than was necessary.

“We could skip straight to setting the castle on fire!” Fred suggested excitedly.

“You’d need a lot of kindling,” Rookwood pointed out unhelpfully.

“Could make it an illusion I suppose,” Fred mused.

“Or we could use some of Malfoy’s gowns,” Rosier suggested.

“We’d have to break in-“

Right when Ginny was about to interrupt another much louder, angrier, and all-around more annoying voice broke in.

“What is going on here?!” Lestrange shrieked. “Up drinking and shouting at all hours of the night and now you’re planning treason?!”

“Treason is as treason does Lestrange,” Rosier put in unwisely. He threw an arm around Lestrange’s shoulder and leaned on him for support. The angry boy’s eye twitched.

“Get. Off.” He ground out and pushed Rosier to the ground. The golden-eyed boy stood and then fell over again, onto Fred and George who managed to catch him. Lestrange turned swiftly from Rosier and the twins to face Ginny and Rookwood.

“I expect this kind of thing from them but you two ought to have yourselves together! If it were up to me I’d behead the lot of you!”

“But it isn’t.” Rookwood pointed out. He placed his drink down on the table and crossed his arms to emphasize the fact that he was significantly bigger than the other boy.

“Run along Lestrange, all this screaming might wake the lord,” Rosier said with a smirk. The twins at least were thankfully keeping quiet. Lestrange actually growled.

“Control these peasants,” he spat, “or I will!” He stormed off the way he had come. There was a brief moment of quiet as Lestrange’s angry footsteps echoed down the hall.

“Less menacing once you know his secret, don’t you think Ed?” Rosier asked.

“Indeed.”

Ginny gave a relieved sigh that her and her brothers weren’t going to be executed, at least not tonight, she amended. She turned to scowl at the others.

“What secret would that be?” George asked, completely ignoring her best death glare.

“Haven’t you heard? Lestrange is in love.” Rosier said in a dreamy voice. Ginny rolled her eyes. Assuming that Lestrange was able to feel love, a statement which went against the prevailing theory of him being part dementor, then there was no way he would go blabbing about it to Rosier of all people.

“It’s true,” Rookwood said, catching her eye, “he was fawning all over the King’s new messenger boy.”

“Can hardly blame him though,” Rosier sighed, dramatically draping himself over a table, “there’s something special about that one.”

Ginny frowned. If Rookwood agreed then perhaps Rosier was right. Lestrange was in love, and with a messenger boy no less. A messenger...Ginny grinned, the same evil grin the twins had done earlier as a plan began to form in her mind.

“Anyone up to prank Lestrange?” She asked casually. The twins' eyes lit up and Rookwood and Rosier both looked interested. This would be fun.

[GwGwGwGw]

Ginny smiled to herself as she waited with Rosier and Rookwood, crouched behind the bushes. The prank they had devised was perfectly devious and unlikely to do any lasting harm, to them at least. Whether Lestrange would see it that way-

“Get down! Get down!” George shouted jovially at them, as he jumped over the bush and sprawled onto the grass behind them.

“He’s coming! Be quiet!” Fred whispered loudly.

“Here, place it down and shut up, for goddesses sake,” Ginny said impatiently, handing her brother the letter. It was an innocuous thing, written on plain parchment and concealed in a plain envelope. Though Ginny had written it she had used a handwriting charm to switch it halfway between her own messy scrawl and Rosier’s neat and curling writing. It would be different enough to throw Lestrange off hopefully.

After Fred placed down the envelope he scrambled to join them behind the bush. She watched as Lestrange leisurely made his way down the path and, as an afterthought, cast a quieting charm around their hiding place. Just in case.

Lestrange walked slowly down the path, his usual scowl in place. He stepped on the envelope and paused to glare down at whatever had gotten in his way. His face melted into confusion when he realized it was an envelope, an envelope with his name on it. He picked it up and cast a few diagnostic spells on it, paranoid git that he was. George sent her an impressed and slightly apologetic look. Early in the planning phase, when Ginny had suggested a letter, George had interrupted her and said that they should fill it with glitter, or live snakes, or some other such nonsense. Luckily Ginny knew that Lestrange never opened anything without checking it for spells.

Upon finding nothing odd, magically speaking, with the letter he opened it.

“Dear Caelum,” Lestrange read aloud, sneering at the use of his first name, “didn’t think I’d write you so soon huh? Well, the thing is I just can’t stop thinking about our meeting, brief though it was. Your icy eyes have haunted my dreams for the last few nights and I’ve decided that there is only one explanation-“ Lestrange cut himself off and Ginny smirked as he rushed to read the rest.

“I’m in love with you. I didn’t have the guts to tell you in person and I don’t want anyone else to know. As such if you return my affections do as follows: wear bright yellow robes, I know that sounds weird but trust me. You must also wear a big smile on your face and be overly nice to everyone you meet,” he sounded as if the very thought of wearing anything colorful made him sick to his stomach, but he bravely read on, “by doing this you will affect what some may call a ‘sunny disposition’ and as this is unusual for you word will get back to me. I will be keeping an eye open and my ears wide in earnest anticipation of your affection.
Love,
Your admirer,
Rigel Black.”

Lestrange stared at the letter for a long while before taking out his wand and lighting it on fire. Ginny couldn’t tell if that was a good sign or not. He scowled darkly, vanished the ashes, and stomped off.

“Do you think he’ll fall for it?” Fred asked excitedly.

“Based on that reaction my guess is no.” Rosier said, sounding bored, “still I suppose it was a good enough waste of an afternoon.” Ginny rolled her eyes.

“You underestimate his ego,” she said, “he’ll fall for it.” And if not it had at least diverted the twins from taking their own form of revenge, which would likely have gotten them all violently executed.

[HpHpHpHp]

Leo had apparently not been joking. He had assured her this time that it was in fact a trade negotiation and not a proposal but Rigel was still skeptical as she made her way back to Malfoy’s palace.

As she approached the gate she saw that it was being manned by the two red-haired singers from the week before whose names she couldn’t quite remember.

“Well if it isn’t the messenger on everyone’s minds!” One of them shouted.

“And everyone’s lips,” the other added, wagging his eyebrows in a way that made her think his poor phrasing had indeed been on purpose.

“Fie! He wouldn’t dare touch another's lips!” The first twin said winking at her.

“I don’t believe our lips have ever touched,” Rigel stated.

“Want to change that?” The second twin asked, grinning.

“Should warn you though we come as a package deal.”

“I doubt Rigel ordered that particular package,” Rosier drawled as he approached them. A burly-looking man about his age but taller stood next to him.

“Still all you have to do is sign-“

“And we’ll be yours forever-“ the redhead said, batting his eyes at her.

“If I am to sign, I believe I should know what I’m getting into,” she said, raising an eyebrow.

“Oh, no one ever knows what they’re getting into with these two,” Rosier said.

“Nonsense! I’m Gred, Gred Weasley!”

“And I’m Forge!”

“And I’m a monkey's uncle.” Rosier drawled.

“And that would make you…” she addressed the question to the man next to Rosier.

“The monkey!” The Weasley twins chorused happily and then proceeded to do their best impression, ooing, jumping around, and pretending to pick bugs out of the bigger man’s hair. The man just blinked at them, seemingly used to their antics

“Edmund Rookwood.” He said in a voice that rumbled like rocks rolling down a mountain.

“Rigel Black.”

“Everyone knows who you are, Mr. Black,” Rookwood said, with no particular emotion. It was as if he were simply stating a fact she ought to be aware of and Rigel got the impression that he knew a great deal but was unlikely to share it with anyone.

“Yes, you’ve stirred up quite the ruckus considering you’ve only come here once.” Aldon drawled.

Rigel shrugged uncomfortably, not sure what to say to that.

“Quiet little thing aren’t you?” The golden-eyed man asked.

“Nothing wrong with a little quiet,” Rookwood said, shooting a glance at the other three. Rigel smiled slightly.

“See!” Rosier said, excitedly pointing at her, “I told you he had a fabulous smile!”

“Best I’ve ever seen,” Forge agreed, grinning at the blush that painted her cheeks.

“And look at that blush!”

“Beautiful color-“

“Nice contrast-“

“A real work of art.”

Rigel fidgeted slightly under the combined gazes. She heard more footsteps approaching from behind and turned around to see the woman from before, Pansy she believed.

“You weren’t bothering our guest were you?” The blonde woman asked the three men.

“Us?”

“Bother?”

“Doesn’t sound like us, does it Gred?”

“Indeed it doesn’t!”

“We were just making our guest feel at home,” Rosier added.

“By leaving him to stand outside?” Pansy asked.

“He looks better out here. The lighting complements his skin tone.”

“He’s not a painting Aldon,” the woman sighed, “besides he’s got work to do I’m sure.”

“I’m supposed to deliver a letter to Lord Malfoy,” Rigel agreed.

“He’s in the garden. You can follow me,” Pansy said, smiling and offering her arm. Rigel hesitated but decided it would be rude to refuse so she took it.

“Bye Rigel…” Rosier drawled, a strange look in his eyes as he watched her go.

Rigel and Pansy walked in silence for a few moments and she took the time to take in the grounds. Somehow the grass had gotten even brighter than the last time she was here, though that seemed impossible. Trees and bushes were scattered around in an array of unlikely colors. The ones nearest the path were a normal, if slightly too bright, green but the leaves of the farther ones ranging from yellow to red to pink. Rigel thought she could even see a blue tree far in the distance but if she looked at it for more than a second it disappeared.

“I’m sorry about all that,” the other girl said, pulling Rigel from her thoughts, “Aldons an alright sort when he’s not in one of his moods.”

“And the twins?”

“They’re always like that I’m afraid,” Pansy sighed. “Still they do their jobs well enough.”

Rigel nodded. Pansy looked at her curiously and Rigel raised a questioning eyebrow. The other girl blushed.

“What?”

“Nothing.” The blonde muttered. Rigel shrugged uncomfortably and tried to think of something else they could talk about. Pansy stopped walking and Rigel looked up. Her eyes lit up as she took in the full extent of ingredients in the garden in front of her. There was rue, fluxweed, ginseng, knotgrass, wormwood, and a number of other things she didn’t even know the names of. Out of the corner of her eye she caught Pansy staring at her again and she realized she had been grinning.

“What?” Rigel asked, slightly defensive.

The girl shook her head and smiled, “I didn’t take you for the type to appreciate a garden, Mr. Black.”

“I’m a brewer,” the black-haired girl answered somewhat distractedly as her eyes lit on a blue flower she didn’t recognize.

“I see,” Pansy said, “well perhaps Drake can give you a tour. He’s right through that grove there, I trust you can find your way?”

“Yes, of course,” Rigel answered, tearing her eyes away with much difficulty, “thank you for showing me the way, Ms. Parkinson

“Anytime Mr. Black,” Pansy said. Rigel thought she heard her mutter something else as she walked away but she couldn’t quite make it out.

Rigel walked slowly, cataloging each ingredient in her mind for when she made her way back through later. She would have to ask Lord Malfoy if she could take some samples. If he said yes then maybe she could look into setting up her own garden in the kingdom. She didn’t have any experience with gardening but that way she wouldn’t have to come back here every time she needed new ingredients. Plus as a brewer, it would be a good hobby to take up. Rigel was so lost in thought that she completely forgot what she was doing until a voice broke through her thoughts.

[DmDmDmDm]

“Rigel?” Draco asked, bemused. The boy looked up as if surprised to find that Draco was here in his own garden as if he hadn’t just been told by Pansy where to find him but a minute ago. Rigel smiled sheepishly.

“Lord Malfoy,” he said bowing. Draco rolled his eyes.

“You don’t have to keep doing that if this is to become a regular thing.”

The boy paused and glanced around as if looking for a cue, “Ah yes. Right.”

There was an awkward pause where Draco waited for the boy to speak and Rigel seemed to get distracted by one of the plants. Draco gave a small cough and the boy looked back at him sharply.

“I have a letter.” He blurted. Draco raised an eyebrow and Rigel quickly pulled an envelope out of his pocket. “It’s from Leo.”

Draco grimaced but took the envelope nonetheless. He looked it over quickly and was happy to see there wasn’t a single mention of marriage. It was just a standard trade proposal. How odd.

“Should I…” Rigel trailed off and bit his lip.

“You don’t have to go yet. I’ll reply later. I wanted to talk to you anyway.” Draco said, smiling slightly at the surprised look the boy gave him.

“I wanted to talk to you too actually,” Rigel said. There was an excited look in his eyes that made Draco’s heart race.

“You did?” He asked, his voice sounded pathetically hopeful but he didn’t care. The black-haired boy nodded. “Here then, sit,” Draco gestured to the bench and Rigel quickly sat down beside him.

He hadn’t stopped thinking about Rigel Black since they met and now here he was. Obviously, he wouldn’t come all this way just to bring a letter. He must have been thinking about Draco too. This was it then the moment he’d been waiting for. The black-haired boy stared into Draco’s eyes with the most intense gaze he had ever seen. His heart sped up and he glanced down at the boy's lips in anticipation. They parted slightly and Draco prepared himself to hear the words.

“Can I take some samples from your garden?”

“What?” Draco asked faintly.

Rigel shifted and his face took on a pleading look.

“Can I take some samples from your garden? I can pay you for them of course. It's just that you have so many rare ingredients! I don’t even know what some of this is and I’ve never seen wolfsbane grown out of a forest before and it’s all so fresh-“

“That’s what you wanted to talk to me about?” Draco asked in disbelief. Rigel nodded and he had a confused look on his face as if wondering why anyone would talk about anything else. Draco sighed.

“Alright. I don’t know what most of this is though.”

“Well see that's wolfsbane, it’s good in aconite alleviation and wolfsbane mostly but you can also use it as a poison, you shouldn't of course, but you could, and that’s-“

Draco watched as the boy next to him pointed to most of the flowers and went on and on about exactly what they were and which parts of them could be used in which potions. He even had something to say about the plants he couldn’t identify, making guesses about what they did and what plants they might be related to and evolved from based on their appearances. Draco had never paid very much attention to his mother’s garden, but as Rigel Black talked with such intensity he started to see it in a new light. He didn’t know how someone could be so excited about plants but the happy carefree air was contagious.

“And that-“

Draco couldn’t help it, he kissed him.

[HpHpHpHp]

Rigel stood still for longer than she would have liked to admit as the boy’s lips pressed against her own. For a moment her brain stalled out and then, once she had realized what was happening, it had suggested she kiss him Luckily she had been too frozen to listen to that part of her. When Rigel finally regained her senses she opened her eyes and stumbled backward.

“What-“

“I’m in love with you.” Lord Mlafor blurted.

“What?”

“I’m in love with you Mr. Black.”

“What?” Rigel asked again, hoping that maybe the answer would change.

“I said I'm in love with you. I have been since I met you,” Lord Malfoy laughed slightly, “I mean can you blame me? You’re handsome, nice, and clearly very smart.”

Rigel stared for another moment. She opened her mouth to speak but no words came out. Draco watched her carefully, clearly looking for some kind of reaction.

“Rigel?”

“Yes?”

“You alright?” He asked, worriedly. She nodded, and shakily pulled something out of her pocket.

“I guess this is why you gave this to me?” She asked, holding up the ring. Draco smiled and nodded.

“Yeah, it was my mother’s, my father proposed to her with it.” He said, smiling a genuine smile. Rigel stared at him. Her brain started to parse through those words but kept getting stuck on the proposal part.

“And are you-“

“Yes. I would love to marry you.” Draco said, and leaned in to kiss her again. Rigel scrambled back off the bench and onto the grass, thoroughly distracted from the ingredients.

“Listen Lord Malfoy…” Rigel trailed off, not sure what to say, “um…I think you and Leo would make a good couple…”

“What?!”

“I just think I would be a really bad partner, I mean I’m pretty much broke and shipwrecked and emotional baggage and all that you know?” She rushed on, going through all the arguments she could think of in hopes of finding one that would work, “plus I’m a liar and I’m super obsessed with potions-“

“Which I think is cute,” Draco stated. Rigel ignored the blush creeping up her face and pushed down the butterflies in her stomach.

“Right but it means I’m not emotionally available-“

“You could use my garden,” Draco said, his eyes pleading. Rigel hesitated for a second too long and glanced around. There were so many rare ingredients.

It caused her physical pain to turn the offer down but, “I can’t Lord Malfoy. I’m sorry.”

Draco nodded. And looked down at the ring. He held it out to her.

“Keep it, in case you change your mind,” He said. She shook her head, “you never know. Just, please? For me?” Rigel sighed and took the ring. She would leave it with Pansy on her way out, she decided.

“Alright,” she turned and ran out of the garden. She could come back for the ingredients.

Rigel was so focused on getting out of there, however, that she barely stopped before running into someone.

“Hi,” the boy in front of her said brightly, so brightly that it took her a moment to place him. Caelum Lestrange was wearing bright yellow robes and smiling with his entire face, “it’s so good to see you again Rigel!” he said in a cheerful tone.

Rigel stared at him and then stared some more. He glanced down and she followed his line of sight to the ring that she was apparently still holding.

“Oh! Caelum. Here Ah this is perfect actually! Can you take this?” She asked holding it out to him. He took it gingerly and to her surprise put it on his finger. He then started to lean in. She stood there frozen and realized with dawning horror that he was going to kiss her.

Rigel scrambled away and fell backward into the fluxweed, which thankfully wasn't poisonous.

“What are you doing?!” She spluttered. He rolled his eyes.

“You’re the one who gave me the ring in public. If you wanted to keep it a secret you should have said something in your letter.” The boy’s tone was now back to the snarky disapproval she was used to.

“My-what? Keep what a secret?!”

“Our engagement obviously, don’t be stupid, brat.”

She stared at him and stared some more. She opened her mouth but no words came out. Then, because of course, her luck couldn’t possibly get any worse, Rosier, Rookwood, the Weasley twins, and a red-headed girl, who was probably related to them, all came from behind Caelum.

“What’s all this then Lestrange?” Rosier asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Black and I just got engaged,” Lestrange said smugly.

“We certainly did not!” Rigel spluttered. Lestrange turned back to her and looked utterly confused.

“But you gave me the ring-“

“To give to Malfoy!”

“Malfoy?! But you said-“

“I didn’t say anything!” Rigel shouted, “all I know is that we are absolutely not engaged and I have no idea what the hell is going on!”

“But you’re letter-“

“My what-“

One of the twins interrupted her with a dramatic gasp.

“Caelum I think you’ve been pranked!” He said.

“By George you’re right!” Said the other.

Caelum glared harshly at them but the twins shook their heads and Rosier pointed at her. Caelum whipped his head around and looked down at her. His eyes were full of hurt and betrayal for some reason but that was quickly replaced by anger.

“Black,” he said, his voice filled with cold rage, “I challenge you to a duel.”

Rigel stared at him.

“Caelum-“

“What?!”

Rigel paused.

“I’ve not brought my wand,” she lied, trying desperately to think of a way out of this.

“We have swords in the shed,” Rookwood said, a small smile tugging at his lips. Caelum seemed to hesitate but Rosier swiftly wrapped an arm around his shoulder and pulled him forward.

“That’s a great idea! Come on Caelum, that way you can get your honor back!” Rosier said as Caelum shoved him away.

“Which’ll be hard in that outfit,” the girl Rigel didn’t know commented.

“Nonsense!” Forge yelled.

“Anyone can look honorable in a duel!” His brother added. Rigel looked from one to the other.

“Listen I really have to go-“

“No!” All six shouted at the same time. Caelum looked at the others who quickly exchanged glances.

“You can’t back down once you’ve been challenged,” the girl said.

“Yeah, you’ll be executed if you do,” Rosier whispered to her as he helped her off the ground.

“Come one then let's get this started!” Gred yelled, racing ahead of them.

“Yeah, this killers got places to be!” Forge yelled, gesturing to Rigel.

Rigel thought she might have seen Lestrange flinch but she couldn’t be sure.

[AbAbAbAb]

Archie walked beside Hermione through the unfamiliar streets. There were all sorts of shops selling anything from clothing to enchanted weapons. His gaze lingered on the apothecary and he thought of how if he were with Harry she would have dragged him in to look at all the ingredients. Hermione laid a hand on his shoulder drawing his attention back to her.

“Here,” she said, bringing something out of her pocket, “why don’t you get us some supplies and a room at the local inn.”

“No,” Archie said, refusing to take his friend’s wallet, “that’s alright ‘Mione.”

“Take it, Archie. I’m going to talk to Lord Malfoy and see if he’s seen your cousin,”

“But I thought you were an outlaw?”

“I am,” she conceded, “but I probably won’t be recognized at the Lord’s castle, it’s really only the kingdom folks who might know me.” She gave him a reassuring smile and he shrugged knowing he could never talk the frizzy-haired girl out of something once she set her mind to it. She was a lot like Harry in that way.

“Just be careful then ‘Mione. I’ll meet you at the castle once I get us a room.”

Hermione nodded and set off in the other direction. Archie turned and went back to the apothecary, so long as he had some time he might as well try to find Harry.

[FwFwFwFw]

Fred stood in a field. Beside him stood George, Ginny, Rosier, and Rookwood. On one side of their little group stood Caelum Lestrange holding a sword menacingly, though the way his hand shook made Fred think he probably wasn’t very experienced. Or perhaps it was just heavy. On the other side stood Rigel Black, who had stuck his sword into the ground and was now leaning on it.

“They’re not going to fight,” Aldon observed.

“We need to rile them up,” Ginny agreed.

Fred turned to his brother and the two shared a series of glances that would have been lost on anyone else. Arriving at the same conclusion they broke into identical grins.

“Leave it to us,” they chorused and then ran off in opposite directions. Fred went to talk to Rigel and left George to handle Caelum.

“Hey, there pup!” Fred said casually as he approached. Rigel looked at him and raised an eyebrow. Fred did the same.

“I think I should just talk to Caelum,” Rigel said, frowning, “I’m sure this is just a misunderstanding.”

“Maybe,” Fred shrugged, “but you’re not allowed to talk to the person who challenges you until someone wins the duel.”

“And I can’t back out of the duel?”

“Not without being executed.”

“Great. That’s just my luck,” the black-haired boy muttered.

“Hey don’t look so glum, pup,” Fred said, smiling down at the younger boy, “George and I can talk to him and we’ll figure something out.”

“You can pass on messages?” Rigel asked, Fred, nodded, “can you ask him what he thinks I did so I can apologize and be done with this?” Fred glanced distractedly at where his brother had begun to run back.

“Sure pup I’ll go ask him!” Fred called over his shoulder as he ran to rejoin the group.

“What’d they say?” Aldon asked eagerly, his eyes alight with curiosity.

“He said-” Fred panted, he really needed to run more, “he said…he wants to…negotiate…a peace talk…using Gred and me, cause I told him it was illegal for him to talk to Caelum himself.” George smiled

“Caelum says he wants nothing to do with him and that he’s prepared to kill him,” his brother said, “unless of course, he wants to apologize. He also asked me to figure out if Rigel’s ever used a sword before.”

“We can work with that,” Fred said, smiling in the maniacal way he knew Ginny hated, “tell Rigel that Caelum refused to explain himself. Also mention that he’s a pretty well-known sword fighter and that if the pup wants to survive this his best bet is to fight back.”

George saluted and ran off towards Rigel. Fred sighed and then ran to Caelum.

“Caelum, Caelum, Caelum,” Fred said, pityingly, “how’re you doing, buddy?”

“Who said you could call me by my first name Weasley?” Caelum sneered. Fred rolled his eyes.

“Do you want my help or not Lestrange?”

“Fine. What’d he say?” The boy asked, putting aside his nasty demeanor in favor of self-preservation.

“Well apparently there’s some old saying in his family,” Fred said, now affecting a snooty rich person accent, “‘A Black never apologizes!”

Caelum shook his head and Fred gave him a fake sheepish smile.

“It gets worse I’m afraid,” he said, inwardly smiling at the way Caelum flinched, “apparently he’s some world-renowned fighter, super well known in certain circles-“

“What?!”

“Mhm. If you want to beat him you’ll have to fight with everything you’ve got,” Fred said cheerfully. Caelum was sweating and shaking slightly now.

“Maybe we should call this off? I mean the weather’s not great for dueling…” Caelum trailed off, Fred looked up and nodded at the cloudless sky.

“Right, it’d be more dramatic in the rain. I’ll see if one of them knows a weather charm,” Fred said, Caelum gave his best death glare and Fred rolled his eyes, “I’ll see if Rigel’s willing to back out. Otherwise, the court rules state that if only one person backs out the duel still has to go on.”

Caelum muttered something about idiotic peasants knowing how to read a rule book and Fred ran back to the group.

“Rigel wants to know if there’s any way to back out and face a forfeit or something to that degree,” George said immediately.

“Caelum wants to disband because of the weather,” Fred answered, the others all looked up to observe the perfect sky.

“So what will you tell them?” Ginny asked curiously.

Fred smiled and exchanged a quick glance to make sure he and his brother were on the same page. Once agreed George ran to Caelum and Fred ran back to Rigel.

“Hey, pup! Listen I don’t think Caelum is gonna let you out of this. He’s really set on having this duel and unless you both agree to back down well…”

“I’m going to have to fight him,” Rigel finished, despondently. After a moment he nodded, “alright. That’s fine. I’ll be fine.”

The dark-haired boy’s hands were shaking and he looked paler than usual. The expression he wore was resolute but his eyes were filled with fear. Fred chuckled darkly.

“That’s the spirit pup, I’ll go see if the others are ready to start,” Fred smiled to himself as he ran back. There would be a duel after all. Mwahahahahaha

[HpHpHpHp]

Rigel stood tall, holding her sword out in front of her as the others retreated. She would not be intimidated by the likes of Caelum Lestrange, nor would she be killed by him. Not that she thought he would attempt to kill her, she was pretty sure he didn’t have it in him. Then again, she thought as she stared at him across the field, he did look pretty angry. She still couldn’t figure out what had sparked this whole debacle. Had her giving him a ring really offended him that much? She hadn’t been that offended when Malfoy gave it to her had she?

A sharp whistle drew her from her thoughts and she realized with dawning horror that the duel had begun.

She was less horrified when, after a full thirty seconds neither she nor Caelum had actually moved. Maybe he wouldn’t go through with it? His arm did seem to be shaking. Though perhaps that was from the weight of the sword. Rigel was relatively in shape and yet even her own arm shook slightly.

She took the sword in her other hand to give her right one a break and that seemed to break whatever spell had befallen them as Caelum charged forward in a blur of bright yellow. She switched the sword back to her dominant hand and held it in what she thought was a protective way. Though if Caelum really was a world-renowned sword fighter he would easily get around it. Her best bet was probably to dodge, or perhaps to strike up a conversation and try and apologize.

Lestrange was upon her and before she could think of what to say he struck his blade out at her. Rigel blocked it and took a step back. He quickly took up the ground she gave as Rigel continued her retreat. They exchanged a few more cautious blows until Rigel felt comfortable she knew Lestrange’s pace. Then she backed up as quickly as she could while still facing him, ignoring the cheers and boos coming from the too green bushes where Rosier, Rookwood, and the Weasley’s had planted themselves.

A digital painting of six characters, with a setting of flowering bushes surrounding a paved area under a blue sky. Fred, George, Ginny, and Aldon are lurking in and on the bushes, dressed in silly, brightly colored robes.  In the courtyard, Harry stands on the left, sword in her left hand, dressed in gray robes; Caelum is on the right, sword in his right hand crossed over hers, dressed in lemon-yellow robes.  The whole piece is done in candy-bright colors.

She only had a few seconds to think of something to say before Caelum would reach her. Should she pretend she knew why they were fighting and just apologize? Why hadn’t Caelum said anything yet? Just as Rigel was starting to wonder if there were any rules against talking during a duel, a strange movement from a nearby bush caught her attention. She turned to face it only to turn back a second later to see Caelum about to slice her face open.

Suddenly Rigel’s sword was ripped from her hand and in a blur of motion, she was pushed to the ground. A woman with frizzy hair stood in front of her, holding the sword, and blocking Caelum’s strike.

“I demand to fight in this man’s place!” The woman declared, sword pointed at Caelum. She turned slightly and whispered menacingly down at her, “I can’t leave you alone for five minutes can I?!”

Rigel stared blankly up at her. She tried to place this young woman somewhere in her mind but was drawing a blank. She looked to be the same age as her and to know at least the basics of sword fighting. Maybe they had met her in the kingdom?

“You can’t just-“ Caelum started but was interrupted as three fully grown wizards ran across the lawn with their wands out and pointed at their group. Caelum dropped the sword immediately and the woman did the same a beat behind him.

“You said dueling was perfectly legal!” Rigel hissed at Caelum.

“That doesn’t mean you should do it!” The woman snapped back.

The men approached and trained their wands not on Rigel or Caelum but on the woman.

“Hermione Granger you are under arrest for crimes against the kingdom including, robbery, consorting with muggles, endangering the statute of secrecy, trespassing-“

“Yes, I know! Can I have my purse back? I’ll need to bail myself out,” the woman addressed this bewilderingly to Rigel. Rigel stared blankly up at her.

“Your purse?”

“Yes, my purse,” the woman said, exasperatedly.

“I don’t have…I mean, I don’t think we’ve ever met. Before now I mean but Uh…” Rigel dug in her pocket until she pulled out her own coin bag, “how much do you need? I don’t have a lot but-“

“What do you mean we’ve never met?!” The woman, Hermione Granger apparently, yelled, she sounded confused and angry and hurt for some reason, “Is that how it is?! You’re going to rob me after everything we’ve been through and let me rot in jail?! You’re going to pretend that nothing ever happened between us?!”

Rigel stumbled to her feet, “I don’t-“

“Ugh!” The woman shouted, tears prickling the edges of her eyes, “fine then! Keep the damn money! If that's all you care about then fine!”

The men began to drag the struggling woman away.

“I shouldn’t have saved you from that shipwreck, Arcturus Black! I should have left you to drown and saved myself the trouble!!!”

The aurors stunned the woman and Rigel stared after her.

Arcturus.

The woman knew her name and yet none of that stuff had happened as far as Rigel could remember. Zhou had helped her after the shipwreck but no one had saved her and she certainly hadn’t ever met that woman. But then why did she think she had saved Arcturus Black from a ship…wreck…

Rigel gasped and turned sharply. Someone was saying something but she didn’t care. Arcturus, Archie. Archie was alive. Archie had survived the shipwreck thanks to that woman. The woman she had just allowed the aurors to drag off to jail.

“Shit,” Rigel took off in the opposite direction. She couldn’t take on three aurors and if she did she would just be arrested. She had to convince Leo to let her talk to Hermione Granger.

In her haste she completely forgot about the duel. There were more important things to worry about it seemed. Archie could be anywhere in the kingdom, she needed to find him.

[AbAbAbAb]

Archie stood at the main gate to Malfoy castle. He was pretty sure he was in the right place and yet it seemed completely abandoned. He had been here for maybe fifteen minutes and the only person he’d seen was a boy in brewing robes running down the path and laughing hysterically. When he had tried to call out the boy had completely ignored him.

Still, Hermione had said to wait by the gate. Maybe she was just held up in her talk with Lord Malfoy? He tried not to imagine the worst. She was fine. There was no reason for the aurors to show up here, right?

“Black!” A voice called. Archie turned bewildered and saw a group of about six strangers coming towards him. Most seemed a bit older than him, except the young woman who was probably around his age. Try as he might, Archie couldn't for the life of him figure out how they knew him. Or why one of them was holding a sword and dressed in ridiculous yellow robes.

“I didn’t think you could be any more of a coward, but I guess I was wrong,” the boy with the sword sneered, “prepare to die black!” The boy swung the sword and Archie fumbled for his wand but it was stuck and-

“Not so fast!” The boy with the golden eyes said, stepping between Archie and the sword boy, “I, Aldon Rosier, challenge you, Caelum Lestrange, to a duel for Rigel’s hand!”

‘Rigel?’ Archie thought, confusedly.

“And so do I!” The red-headed boys chorused. The ginger-haired girl and the burly man seemed resigned to the whole affair but reluctant to get involved.

Archie watched in fascination as the four boys began to wrestle each other to the ground. Why they didn’t just use wands he didn’t know. He also didn’t know how they knew him or what was happening. What he did know is that he needed to find Hermione.

This decided Archie turned to go-

“Rigel!” One of the boys called, “where are you going?”

“I-Uh-have to-“ Archie stuttered trying to think of a reasonable excuse.

“You can’t go! The duel’s not over Black!” The boy, Caelum Lestrange if the other boy was to be believed, pouted.

“Yeah, don’t you want to find out who you’re going to marry?” The dark-haired boy, Aldon Rosier, asked.

“What?” Archie asked, shocked. What the heck were they talking about?!

“Maybe you should let Rigel decide,” the girl said, somewhat sarcastically.

“That does seem fair,” the brown-haired man next to her agreed.

The others paused in their fighting and looked at him expectantly.

“What?” Archie asked dumbly, utterly unsure of how he had ended up in such a bizarre situation.

“Which of us are you going to marry?” One of the redheads asked.

“Yeah who are you in love with, pup?” Asked the other.

“None of you!” Archie shouted, “I’m not going to marry any of you, I don’t even know you!”

The others all exchanged a dark look that made Archie feel uneasy.

“You reckon Caelum had the right idea?” One of the twins asked.

“I suppose so.”

That was all the warning he got before the group whipped out their wands and charged at him as one. Unexpectantly a shield popped into existence before him and blocked the four spells that had been shot at him. Archie glanced around and saw a blonde woman with her wand out who he suspected must have cast it.

“What are you all doing?!” She shouted at the others.

“Rigel says he isn’t going to marry us,” someone piped up. The woman, surprised by the statement, lost her concentration and the spell slipped.

By then Archie had his wand out and managed to get a shield in front of him and the woman before the next volley of spells hit. Still, he couldn’t hold it very-

“Rigel?!” A voice from behind asked. Archie turned to see a boy about his age in a luxurious gown striding towards the gathering. “What the hell is going on here?!”

“Lord Malfoy he-“ Caelum Lestrange started but Archie quickly cut him off.

“They attacked me, my lord! I swear I was just standing here!” Archie pleaded. Hermione would kill him if he got himself executed. The lord turned angrily to the others, not even questioning Archie’s statement.

“What the hell is wrong with all of you?! Do I even want to know?!” He demanded, the others stayed quiet, “Pansy take care of this. Come on Rigel,” Lord Malfoy gestured to Archie as he said this and then began walking. Archie followed him, wondering how a lord knew his middle name. He didn’t even like his middle name.

“Are you alright?” Lord Malfoy asked when they were out of hearing distance.

“Yes, I’m alright,” Archie answered slowly, trying to figure out what the lord wanted with him. Lord Malfoy smiled at his words for some reason.

“Have you thought at all about my offer?” He asked, casually.

Archie gulped, “what offer?” The lord was acting like he knew Archie for some reason and he was desperately trying to figure out if that were true. To snub a member of high society by forgetting them could lead to execution, after all. Was it possible that Archie had met Lord Malfoy and somehow forgotten? Had he also somehow seduced all of Malfoy’s court and forgotten? That seemed…unlikely.

“The marriage proposal,” Lord Malfoy said, still smiling. Archie’s blood ran cold, “I’d be a good match you know. I could help you get whatever it is you want, Rigel.”

“Hermione,” Archie blurted unthinkingly, leaning away from the lord who he was pretty sure had just been about to kiss him.

“What?”

“My uh friend Hermione. If I agree to marry you will you help me find her?”

“Yes!” The lord said eagerly, almost desperately, “yes! It’s a deal, Rigel!”

Archie stood still and allowed the lord to kiss him. He affected a smile after and Lord Malfoy smiled warmly back.

“Come on then, let’s go find your friend!”

[HpHpHpHp]

“Leo?! Leo?!” Rigel called, running through the halls of the castle. Of course, the one time she wanted to find him he wouldn’t be there.

“Rigel?” Leo called from another room. Rigel dashed around the corner and sprinted into the room.

“Leo! I got into a duel at Malfoy manor and I need you to bail out this woman who helped me named Hermione cause I think my cousin who died in the shipwreck might actually be alive and-“

“Slow down lad,” Leo said, placing the book he had been reading down on his desk, “start from the beginning.”

Rigel took a deep breath and explained how Hermione Granger had jumped out of a bush and had called her by her cousin’s name and had apparently given him money and how she had apparently saved him from a shipwreck. She of course glossed over what the duel was about and the fact that she was technically using her cousin’s name, And that her cousin was a boy, and that she was actually a girl, and that Lord Malfoy had proposed to her.

“Alright then, let’s go,” Leo said when she had finished her explanation.

“Really?” She asked skeptically. Was he really going to help her just like that?

“Of course lad,” Leo said smiling down at her, “let’s go find your cousin.”

[HpHpHpHp]

“She’s right in there,” the jailer said as he led Rigel and Leo in, “be careful with that one your highness. She’s a tricky devil.”

“I’m a delinquent not deaf,” the woman in the cell commented. Rigel smiled at her and the woman bristled, “why are you here? Want to rub your betrayal in?”

“I didn’t-“ Rigel started to argue when the door to the room opened. To her surprise, Lord Malfoy came in. What the hell was he doing at a prison?

“Rigel?!” He asked surprisedly, then he smiled, “how did you beat me here, love?”

“Uh…” Rigel couldn’t think of anything to say. Lord Malfoy only smiled at her.

“Well now that you’ve found your friend we can go to the church,” the lord walked over and kissed her before Rigel had time to process what he was saying.

“What?!” Leo echoed her thoughts.

“For the wedding,” Lord Malfoy said smugly, “didn’t he tell you?”

Leo turned to her his expression a mixture of hurt confusion and anger.

“We-I-we’re not-“ just as Rigel started to regain her ability to speak, the door slammed open again. This time Fred, George, Ginny, Rosier, Rookwood, Caelum, and Pansy all came into the now crowded room. They were all shouting and arguing amongst each other and Rigel had to fight the urge to cover her ears. All as one they turned and began directing their onslaught at her.

“Rigel, won’t you marry me?” Rosier shouted to try and be heard over the noise.

“Brat I’m going to kill you,” Caelum screamed as he pointed his sword at her.

“Not if I kill you!”

“I’ll kill all of you!”

“I'm in love with you Rigel!”

“No, he loves me-“

The opening of the door yet again cut through the noise.

‘Probably the jailor here to lock us all up,’ Rigel thought.

“Uh sorry to interrupt but I was looking for…” the voice trailed off. Rigel’s head shot up. That voice. She knew that voice. It-it couldn’t be-

Everyone else cleared away and she was left face to face with a boy who looked identical to herself.

“Arch?” Rigel asked. Her voice sounded small and desperate and she felt her throat close, choked by a million competing emotions.

“Is it really…” her cousin couldn’t seem to finish the thought.

Rigel let out a watery laugh and sprang forward. She wrapped her arms around her cousin and clung to him for dear life.

“I thought you were dead,” she whispered, freely letting her tears leak out.

“I thought you were dead!” Archie laughed, “you weren’t on any of the patient lists Harry-“

“Well, neither were you, you prat!” Harry shouted, hitting her cousin slightly on the back. He laughed and she laughed too. They were safe. Everything was fine. As long as she and Archie were together everything would be ok.

“Hey so um…anyone want to explain or…” George trailed off.

All at once Harry remembered where she was and more importantly who she was with. She quickly separated from her cousin and turned to face the others.

“It’s kind of a long story,” she said, running a hand through her hair.

“We’ve got time, lad,” Leo said. Harry winced as Archie turned toward her.

“Lad?” He asked, “what have you gotten yourself into this time?”

Harry sighed and realized that she may as well tell them everything. If she was lucky they may even laugh, or at least not try to kill her.

So she explained about the shipwreck and hiding her gender and how everyone kept trying to propose to her and how Hermione had shown up. Then Archie told about how he had shown up, gotten involved in the duel, and accidentally ended up engaged to Lord Malfoy.

When the tale was done everyone turned to her.

“Well then I think that just leaves one question,” Draco said. The look on his face made her weary.

“Just one?”

“Indeed lass,” Leo said, “just the one.”

“And that would be?” Harry prompted.

“Who are you in love with?” Caelum asked. Harry felt her heart sink and glanced around. Everyone seemed to be in agreement that this was what they all wanted to know. Harry continued to stare blankly trying to think of a way out. There was only the one door and at the moment it was blocked. She would have to answer the question. But how could she answer that? She liked all of them, or maybe she didn’t like any of them? She couldn’t be allowed to like anyone anyway. It didn’t matter what she felt, what mattered was...something. Something important mattered but she couldn’t remember.

“You must like one of us right?” Pansy asked, breaking into her thoughts.

“Well, I uh…” Harry trailed off. Something was wrong here. But she couldn’t-

“So who is it?” Aldon challenged.

“Come on Rigel, who do you want to be with?” All three Weasleys chorused.

“I-I don’t-“

“Who do you want to be with Rigel?!” Rookwood, Rosier, Pansy, and Draco demanded.

“I-I’m not-“

“Who do you want to be with Harry?!” Shouted Caelum, Leo, and Archie.

“Arch, what-“

“Who do you want to be with?!” This time it was Hermione, Zhou, Albright, and Owens. Where had they even come from? How had they gotten in here? What was happening?

“WHO DO YOU WANT TO BE WITH?!” The words were repeated on all sides and they were getting louder and louder. The room was getting dark. Harry couldn’t breathe. Why couldn’t she breathe?!

“WHO DO YOU WANT TO BE WITH?!?!” The words were deafening. Harry fell to the ground with her hands over her ears but the words wouldn’t stop.

“I don’t know! I don’t know, ok?!” She shouted, but the words didn’t stop. She felt tears burning her eyes and the air smelled of blood and fire but the words kept screaming, “I don’t know! I don’t-“

Harry’s eyes shot open with a gasp. She looked around but she was no longer in the jail. She was in her room. She was in bed. Her room was empty but she could still hear the haunting whisper.

'WhoOoOo doOoOo yoOoOu want to be with?' A voice hissed. It sounded almost like-

DOM?! Harry shrieked at her mindscape.

Hysterical laughter echoed back through her head. Harry rolled her eyes and shifted on top of her covers. There was a book in her lap and she remembered suddenly that she had fallen asleep reading again. It was all a dream then. There had never been a shipwreck or any romantic drama.

“That’s the last time I read mum’s muggle books before bed,” Harry sighed, picking the book up. Obviously, no one was really in love with her, why would they be after all? Harry laid back in her bed. As complicated as her life was right now at least she wasn’t trapped in a Shakespearean comedy.