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seven years (and then some): the end

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Mallyn clutches the letter in her hand, something she has done countless times since receiving it almost a year ago. When it arrived on the first of July, the parchment had been stiff to the touch, but now it is like fabric beneath her fingertips from the excessive unfolding and refolding, not to mention the wringing then smoothing. Her mother’s hand comes to rest on her shoulder, gently combing her fingers through Mallyn’s neat thick hair, twirling the ends of the light brown strands around her fingers before letting it fall to lie against her back. “You are going to have so much fun,” she reassures her, bending down to place a kiss onto the crown of her daughter’s head, swallowing her own concerns.

“I don’t want to go,” Mallyn whimpers. She spins around and wraps her arms around her mother’s waist, interlocking her fingers behind her back to prevent her mother from shaking her loose. The letter floats to the ground, landing on the top of the well-worn loafers that her father prefers to wear on days such as today where he does not have to go into the office as opposed to the crisp impeccable albeit uncomfortable oxfords that match the equally impressive suits that are the standard for a man of his position in a company such as Tesco. “I want to stay,” she cries into the stiff fabric of her mother’s dress. Mallyn leans back, looking up at her mother. “You can teach me,” she pleads, tears now dripping down her cheeks. 

Her mother gently extracts herself from her daughter’s grip, bending down to be eye level with the teary-eyed preteen. She brushes her thumbs under her eyes, drying the tears then leaning forward and placing a kiss on each eyelid. “Sweetheart, we’ve discussed this, I have a job, an important one, and I promise you are going to love Hogwarts so much, some of my best memories were made there,” Lorah whispers, continuing to console her eldest daughter while pushing her own fears to the back of her mind. 

“What about Ellie?” Mallyn whimpers, leaning away from her mother to look at her little sister, her small left hand still tightly secure in their father’s right. Ellie offers her sniffling sister a big smile, trying her best not to cry herself.

Lorah combs her fingers through Mallyn’s hair again, stopping to rest her palms on either of her puffy cheeks, cradling her daughter’s small face within the confines of her hands. “She is right behind you, she only has to wait three years,” Lorah says, gently stroking her thumbs just beneath Mallyn’s eyes, “just think of how much you will be able to help her by the time she gets there, you’ll know all the ropes.”

Mallyn’s lip quivers as she fights back tears. “I’m going to miss you,” she whimpers.

“We’re only a letter away, and you’ll be back home for Christmas before you know it,” Monroe promises, reaching out with his free hand to her. Mallyn accepts it, letting him pull her out of her mother’s embrace and into his, Ellie wrapping her short arms around both of them, their mother joining in and wrapping her arms around the trio. 

The train’s whistle sounds off, a warning of its impending departure. Mallyn glances over and sees a large family, a mother, and father, along with seven children composing it, all with varying shades of red hair, the shortest of the six boys with hair almost identical to his mothers, the two of them sharing the most vibrant hue of the bunch, but all nine heads of ginger hair share the commonality of golden streaks that reflect in the sun shining through the windows at the top of the secret tunnel within King’s Cross Railway Station. 

Mallyn cannot imagine being in a family that large, not when she is perfectly content with the size of hers. Ellie is around when she wants company and off in her own world when she wants to be left alone, dinner together most nights, but always breakfast in the morning at eight am sharp. Who will I be eating breakfast with tomorrow? What house would I be sorted into? she thinks to herself, unable to voice her concerns. Of the four, she is hoping for Ravenclaw to follow in her mother’s footsteps, but other than the small tidbit, her mother did not speak about the actual sorting process or Hogwarts in general, just repeating the same line each time Mallyn asked, saying that it would all be explained once they arrived. Mallyn squeezes tighter and holds on for a few more seconds before extracting herself from the embrace. She crouches down to pick her letter off the ground then carefully folds it,  placing it in the back pocket of her jeans. Taking a deep breath, she stands up, picking her canvas school bag up with her. She looks around, searching for the rest of her luggage along with the trolley her father had loaded her items onto upon arriving at the station. She looks to her mother, who just nods her head, urging her to go while tightly squeezing her husband’s hand. 

“I love you,” Mallyn states before putting on a brave face and squaring her shoulders. She turns around, putting her back to her family so that they cannot see the way her lip quivers as she moves towards the train. She continues forward, extending her ticket to the man standing by the door. He punches a hole into the glimmering paper with a wave of his hand. Mallyn boards the train and wanders down the seemingly never-ending aisle. She selects an empty compartment and sets her bag on the bench, sitting between it and the windows, her hands falling to her lap. She knows if she looks out and sees her family, she will race back down the aisle and back to them, so instead she stares at the brick wall, searching for a pattern within the cement between bricks.

Chatter filters in through the open window in the door, students conversing with each other as they pass, exchanging stories of their summer holidays and hopes for the new school year. She turns her head just enough to be able to watch out of the corner of her eye, watching her future classmates as they move past her compartment. The eleven o’clock bell rings, the train’s whistle echoing throughout the King’s Cross Station’s Nine and Three Fourths Platform. 

Mallyn turns her head just in time to see her parents and sister pass by the window as the train departs. She lifts her hand to wave but pauses midair as passing students obstruct her view. The small group of students passes, but more continue, until several bodies stop just shy of the door. She looks up and recognizes them as three of the redheads that she saw earlier on the platform. Two are identical and appear to be about her age, apart from the fact that they appear to be significantly taller than her, but this does not surprise her as she is always shorter than most kids her age, always having been the shortest in her class with the only exception being the first month of her first year of schooling. The other looks a bit older, but not by much, and he has the same light copper hair, except his ginger strands stick up with the assistance of hair gel, while the twins have horribly cut bangs that stop about two inches above their eyebrows, as if they did it in the dark, except that they match perfectly. It makes her wonder if it was a mistake of one that the other dutifully followed.

Fred hits his older brother on the shoulder. “Don’t worry, Perfect Percy,” he hums, wrapping his arms around Percy’s neck.

“You’ll be a Prefect in no time,” George says, sticking his hand into his older brother’s hair and ruffling it. Percy shakes free of his younger brothers, trying his best to comb his hair to rid it of the mess his brother made of it.

“Follow in big brothers’ footsteps,” Fred adds in a condescending tone.

“Head Boy after that, I’m sure,” George affirms.

Percy stops, his younger brothers slamming into his back. He whips his head around, “Are you going to keep this up? You are twins, not a married couple, there is no need for you two to finish each other’s sentences.”

Both twins plaster on smiles, the ones they use to get out of trouble while being right in the middle of it. “But it annoys you,” George says, setting his hand on Percy’s shoulder.

“So we shall,” Fred finishes, following his twin’s suit and setting his hand on Percy’s other shoulder. Mallyn laughs, accidentally drawing their attention to her. “Hey,” he says, poking his head through the open window.

“Hi,” Mallyn returns, still smiling at the interaction she had just witnessed, her earlier judgement of a large family slipping from her mind. 

His twin leans over his older brother’s shoulder, “Mind if we join you?” he asks.

“Sure,” she says. The closest one slides the door open and enters, the other two trailing in behind him, the oldest of the three closing the door behind them. Mallyn takes her bag off the seat and moves to set it on the floor, but Fred takes it from her hand, placing it in the free space suspending from the ceiling of the compartment. Once their own bags are secure in the overhead storage, they all take a seat, George sitting next to her with Fred and Percy on the bench across from them.

“Percy Ignatius Weasley, Gryffindor,” he greets, sticking out his hand for her to shake.

She reaches out, internally laughing at his introduction as if they were at the royal castle meeting the Queen instead of a train on the way to boarding school. “Mallyn, Unsorted,” she returns, shaking his hand once out of courtesy.

Percy retracts his hand, casually brushing off imaginary dust on the front of his red and gold striped jumper with a large P in the center. 

“Ah, another First Year, looks like we’re in this together,” the twin across the aisle says, extending his hand. “I’m Fred, this is George,” he says, gesturing to his brother next to Mallyn. She shakes Fred’s hand, noticing a few healing scratches traveling up his arm, including one that looks to be a miniature outline of a bite mark. 

Mallyn shakes herself out of her trance, realizing she is still holding his hand. She releases it, offering an awkward smile, but he does not show any sign of embarrassment, simply still smiling at her. “What’s a Prefect?” she asks, looking for anything to talk about.

Fred grins widely, showing off all his teeth, including the empty space on the right side of his mouth. “Official Hogwarts killjoys,” he answers.

“Or buzzkills, whichever suits you,” George offers.

“Or party poopers,” Fred chimes in, poking Percy with his index fingers, playing out a silent beat into the fabric of his sleeve.

George laughs as he leans forward to connect his foot to his older brother’s shins. “Spoilsports.”

Percy pulls his shins away just in time to miss George’s kick. “Got any more synonyms in you?” Percy grumbles, scooting to the far side of the bench and out of reach from his brothers’ assaults. Percy turns his body slightly, his eyes focusing on the only non-redhead in the compartment. “What’s your blood status?” he questions, his eyes narrowing as his gaze scans her.

 “Merlin, Percy,” Fred and George groan in unison.

“I don’t know,” she answers with her confusion evident on her face, not understanding why he would want to know her blood type.

Percy ignores his brothers, straightening his posture and immediately going into his natural authoritative mode. “There are Purebloods, like us,” he says, gesturing proudly to himself while side-eyeing his brothers, “meaning all of our ancestors are Wizards or Witches, Halfbloods-”

Mallyn shakes her head, cutting him off. “I’m not sure, I mean my mom’s a Witch and my dad’s a Muggle,” she says, hesitating that she is using the right word. When none of them correct her, she continues, “But my mom’s dad, my maternal grandfather, he died when I was six, but he was a Wizard.”

“Do you know his name or your mother’s maiden name?” Percy questions, a notebook and self-inking quill now in hand.

“Percy, drop it, it doesn’t matter,” Fred mutters, groaning as he lets his head fall back.

Percy scoffs, “Not to you, but to those who actually take pride in their heritage,” he says, squaring his shoulders. Despite it having only been a few minutes, Mallyn can tell that Percy is the odd one out in his family, evident in his need to appear better, for lack of a better term; where his brothers’ clothes are wrinkled and haphazardly thrown on in haste, Percy’s are pristine with obvious forethought and planning from the fact that his khakis have an iron line down the front to the matching red socks poking out from his polished brown boots. Mallyn looks to the floor, smiling at Fred’s socks peeking out from under his jeans, one solid orange and the other black with purple stripes.

George swats at his older brother, pushing him until his back hits the bench. “Ignore him, we do,” he says, the twins both releasing a laugh, before George continues, “there’s no definitive list anymore, every single bloodline is polluted as the purists like to call it, even Malfoys and Greengrasses have married Halfbloods,” he says as if she should know who the Malfoys are. 

“It’s just a bunch of boring Wizard politics,” Fred adds, drawing Mallyn’s attention.

Mallyn lightly nods, going along with what he is saying, looking to Fred for reassurance. Fred nods once, offering her a smile. Mallyn forces herself to tear her gaze from Fred as she pulls her legs up and crosses them, leaning her back against the window, the glass cool against her back even through her thick knitted jumper and the vest underneath it. “Do you think you’ll be in Gryffindor too?” she asks the twins, making sure to look at George.

“Of course, every single one of us has been so far, including both our parents,” George answers, nodding confidently.

Percy pipes in again, “Our mother was a Prewett before marrying-”

Fred shifts, mimicking Mallyn’s position, his back against the window. “Percy, shut up,” Fred grumbles, kicking Percy’s thigh. Percy scrambles to wipe off his trousers, groaning at the dirt left from the bottom of Fred’s shoe.

“His surname, my grandfather's, was Burke, Herbert Burke,” Mallyn answers, realizing that Percy wasn’t going to let go until he got an answer.

Percy stops messing with his trousers, his head snapping up at her words. “Really? Your mother is Valentina Burke?” he questions.

“No, her name is Lorah Smyth, well, Lorah Burke, but she took my father’s surname when they got married,” she says, the fact that he knows who her family is by name surprising her, but confused at the mix-up with her mother’s first name.

He shakes his head, “Impossible, he had two sons, Romulus and Aurelius, and one daughter, Valentina, she attended the same years as our parents,” Percy states, suspiciously eyeing her and ignoring her protests, bypassing her completely as he continues on his rant, “You’re a Burke and a Black, not to mention-” Percy says, his eyes scanning the page his notebook is open to.

Mallyn snaps her head up, holding up her hand to examine her own skin, “I’m not-”

Fred shakes his head, “Not black, a Black,” he explains, pushing her hand down, “they used to be one of the most noble and prominent Pureblood families within the UK Wizarding Community,” he says, quoting the words he has heard more times than he would like, most often out of Percy’s mouth, “but they’re pretty much extinct now, either married, imprisoned, or dead.”

Mallyn turns her attention to Percy. “No, that’s impossible, my Maba, my grandmother, she’s a Muggle, my mother’s a Halfblood, so am I, or a quarter, I guess,” she defends, the word still odd on her tongue. 

“Your grandfather was a Pureblood, as was your biological maternal grandmother, Belvina Black, he must’ve married your Maba after he left the Wizarding Community in nineteen sixty-eight when your mother graduated from Hogwarts,” Percy explains, watching her as she tries to process the information. Percy tilts his head, accessing the girl. “How did he die?” he questions plainly as if asking her to divulge her favourite meal rather than a painful memory.

“Car crash,” Mallyn answers before the twins can scold him for the inappropriate and invasive question. Percy’s face shifts ever so slightly revealing his abhorrence at the idea of a Wizard such as Herbert Burke dying in such a Muggle way.

Fred gasps, his eyes widen in excitement, preventing Percy from saying anything else. “Your uncles run Borgin and Burke’s,” he exclaims. Mallyn opens her mouth to ask, but Fred beats her to the punch. “It's a Wizard antique shop in Diagon Alley, actually Knockturn Alley, it’s known for trafficking dark objects and artifacts,” Fred explains, watching her face shift from confusion to disappointment.

Mallyn shakes her head, “I’ve never met them, I didn’t even know my mom had brothers,” she admits, her voice lowering as her mind races. What else is my mom keeping from me and how could she send me off to a world that I know next to nothing about? “She didn’t even tell me I was a Witch until last year when I accidentally turned my sister's hair brown,” she murmurs, her face dropping.

“There’s two of you?” George questions, hoping to distract her from her mind.

Mallyn nods, “Ellie, she’s four years younger,” she says, her words barely audible. 

Fred speaks up, “She’ll be in the same year as our little sister, Ginny, and then there’s Ron who’s a year older than her,” he says, hoping that she will look at him, but her focus stays on the fabric of her jeans as she picks at them. He looks to George for help, silently asking what to do. He just shakes his head, their experience with girls severely limited to practically just their little sister who is more like a boy than a girl having been raised with six of them. That is something Fred knows he can talk about for a year, his family. “There’s seven of us kids in total, plus Mum and Da’, Bill’s the oldest, he’s Head Boy for Gryffindor this year and then he’ll be gone, Charlie’s in his sixth year and a Gryffindor Prefect,” Fred tells her.

“My ears are still ringing from Mum’s scream when the letter arrived,” George chuckles.

“I’m in my third year at Hogwarts,” Percy interrupts, not wanting his brothers to speak to his accreditations, “I am top of my class, and will be a Prefect, no question, once I am in my fifth year, then Head Boy in my seventh.”

“What’s it like?” she asks, looking up for the first time in minutes.

“Fantastic, as long-” Percy says, stopping when Fred kicks him in the ribs. “Fred!”

“Percy,” he warns, his eyes flitting to Mallyn. Percy starts to open his mouth again, his lips forming an o. Mallyn raises her eyebrows, silently questioning the odd interaction. 

“Do you have a pet?” George asks, drawing the attention away from his brothers. 

Mallyn looks at the boy in front of her, his brown eyes focusing on her. She shakes her head, some of her long hair falling over her shoulder from the motion. “No, I’m allergic to cats, despise anything with scales,” she answers.

Fred pipes in, his laugh filling the compartment. “Don’t let our brother hear you say that, Charlie absolutely loves dragons,” he says, waving his hands. Little puffs of smoke appear, swirling around his head in the shape of miniature dragons. Mallyn watches in awe as they circle his head.

“Reckon he’d adopt them if he could,” his twin jokes, swatting the smoke away from his brother’s head, the dragons disappearing into thin air.

“More like marry them,” Fred corrects.

Percy huffs, crossing his arms against his chest. “You two are-”

“Horrendous?” Fred questions.

“Terrible?” George suggests.

“Heinous?” Mallyn offhandedly offers. Fred and George whip their heads around, smirking at her choice.

“I think we’re quite attractive,” Fred defends, “don’t even need a mirror to check,” he says, reaching out and slapping George on the arm.

Mallyn laughs genuinely, her concerns leaving her for a minute, “Not with those haircuts.” Fred and George mock offense, dramatically placing their hands on their chests, scoffing at her. “And I said heinous, not hideous,” she clarifies as she looks back and forth between the two, missing Fred’s smile at her semi-compliment, her head tilting as she examines the two. “How do people go about telling you two apart?” she questions, her eyes flitting back and forth between each of their faces. 

Fred shrugs, “They don’t, most of the time they don’t need to, they just address us at the same time.”

“Because sometimes I swear you two are conjoined instead of identical,” Percy grumbles, not even glancing up from the book in his hands. 

Mallyn peaks at the cover, the words inscribed in a foreign language she does not recognize. “What if you end up in different houses?” she asks while narrowing her eyes, squinting at the text on the cover, the words intertwined with an infinity symbol created with rope.

“We won’t,” they answer together, fist-bumping.

“That sure of your bravery?” Mallyn teases, looking up at Fred.

Fred scoffs, swinging his legs until his feet touch the floor then leans forward towards Mallyn. “Of course, we dealt with a rogue doxy all on our own just this summer,” he says, his pride evident in his tone and the smirk on his face. Mallyn smiles back at him, mentally adding doxy to her list of things to research about the Wizarding World.

Percy lowers his book, narrowing his eyes at his younger brother, “The only reason you two idiots could handle it was because it was dying, they can’t survive long in the heat,” he declares before promptly raising his book back up to cover his face.

George taps Mallyn’s knee, drawing her attention. “What house do you think you’ll be in? Are you a daring Gryffindor, or a kind Hufflepuff?” he questions, repeatedly raising and lowering his eyebrows, making her laugh.

“Or a cunning Slytherin, perhaps a creative Ravenclaw?” Fred asks with a thoughtful expression on his face.

Mallyn sits back, pursing her lips as she thinks; Not knowing much about the houses, or the point of them really, the school simply can’t be that big, but if the twins are any indication of who makes the cut for Gryffindor, far too careful to ever be as outspoken as them, hope not Hufflepuff, hate the color yellow . “I think I’d like being in Ravenclaw, like my mom,” she admits. Despite the obvious omissions on her mother’s part, she is still one of the young girl’s idols as most mothers are to their daughters, at least at the young age of eleven while the world is still simple and easy. 

“Your grandparents were both Slytherins, most of the family on your mother’s side are, it was previously thought that the Black family line descended from the founder of Slytherin House, Salzathar Slytherin, but that, of course, has been proven false since not every single member has been placed in Slytherin and it is widely believed that there are no living descendants of any of the houses since the last known descendant of Helga Hufflepuff, Hepzibah Smith, died in nineteen fifty-five, and your last name being the same is a mere coincidence as your father is Muggle,” Percy states. 

Fred moves towards Percy, aiming to hit him again. And he considers himself the smart one when he can’t read the room , Fred thinks to himself as he stretches to reach Percy’s leg.

Mallyn’s mouth twitches, weighing her words before letting them out. “That wouldn’t be too bad, I suppose, I am a good leader, and I guess I could be considered ambitious, I was the longest-running lower class president at my school,” she says, closing her eyes and remembering her friends, friends that she will likely never see again, friends that will not even know where she went. She wonders silently what her parents told the school, highly doubting that they simply told a partial truth along the lines of that she was suddenly attending a private school that no Muggle has ever heard of in the middle of nowhere Scotland . She forces her friends out of her mind, letting her thoughts drift to the back like all the questions about her family. 

She opens her eyes, George’s face right in front of hers, his finger right in front of her forehead. He quickly retracts it, fear in his eyes. She realizes now with him so close, his eyes are not dark brown like she had priorly thought, but rather a warm honey brown with flecks of green scattered within them. “Sorry, thought you fell asleep,” he murmurs as he sinks back into his seat.

“Just thinking, I know I won’t be put into Hufflepuff, one of their main traits is honesty and it’s not that I lie or like to, but there are times when it’s best,” she says, losing her train of thought as the view out the window past George catches her attention. She whips around, practically pressing her face to the window she had been resting against. “Wow,” she says, blinking as if it could make the magnificent view disappear. “The only time I’ve ever even come close to seeing something like this was when my family flew to America for my Uncle Austin’s wedding,” she murmurs, sitting up on her knees to pull the window open. 

“That explains your accent,” Percy says offhandedly.

Mallyn turns around, her hair whipping around in the wind. “I’ve only lived in London,” she says. She drops back into her seat and mouths words to see if it feels different. Fred follows suit, mouthing words along with her, as they watch each other, smiles breaking out on both of their faces. 

Percy does not bother lowering his book. “But you’ve been influenced by your father’s,” he states, matter-of-factly.

“Percy, do you ever shut up? I swear if you didn’t have red hair and Da’s nose, you were adopted,” George argues, knocking Percy’s book out of his hands, the heavy book falling to the floor with a thump. Percy bites the bait George had dangled, engaging in a debate, a few insults reaching Mallyn’s ears. Her eyes widen, feeling like she is hearing things she should not be.

Fred taps her foot with his, gesturing to the window with a knock of his head. “If you think this view is something, wait until our first flying lesson,” he whispers.

She leans forward, “Flying?”

“Yeah, on brooms,” he says, animatedly nodding his head, but then he quickly leans back, trying to play cool. “We have some at home, just to mess around with, but by Second Year, we’ll be on the starting Gryffindor quidditch team so you can go ahead and place your bets now on us winning the House Cup every year until we graduate,” he states.

“If you graduate,” Percy mutters in between verbal jabs at George.

Fred whips his head, shoving his hand into Percy’s hair and pushing his head into the wood of the door. “Percy, don’t you have any friends?”

Percy sits up straight, combing his hair back down. “Yes, but Mum said to keep my eyes on you, I already warned all the professors including the headmaster before the end of term last year,” Percy states, not looking at his brothers. He pulls on the hem of his jumper, smoothing out invisible wrinkles.

Fred ignores his older brother, completely turning his back to him, focusing solely on Mallyn. “Our da’ has a flying car, an old Ford Anglia, blue like your eyes,” he says, looking right at her, and she can feel her cheeks getting hotter by the minute. “It doesn’t work right now, but it will by the time we get our licenses.”

Percy scoffs, closing his book and setting it to the side. “Father should just get rid of the piece of junk, there’s no need for flying cars, especially not broken ones that are illegal under order of the Ministry of Magic, not with brooms, Apparating, Floo Powder...” Percy says, continuing to list off words that mean nothing to Mallyn, only barely following along on the lines that he is still speaking about different ways to travel.

Mallyn leans over, keeping her eyes on Percy, heeding her mother’s lesson that it is rude to blatantly ignore others. “It’s like he’s speaking a different language,” she whispers to Fred.

“Swear he is sometimes,” he replies, trying to hold back his laugh.

Mallyn looks over at Fred, his hand over his mouth to muffle his laugh. “Are all of you like this?” she questions, her eyes shining with wonder.

Fred leans closer to her, “Like what? And please consider carefully how you compare me to my idiot of a brother.”

She laughs, accidentally hitting her head against the window from the force of it, but George and Percy continue to ignore her, engaging in a lively debate full of terms she cannot even begin to comprehend. She reaches up cradling the back of her head. “So full of life, I mean, it’s like all of you have ten different things going on in your heads at once, all dying to come out,” she answers, turning to watch Fred’s reaction.

“Uh, yeah, pretty much,” he laughs. He stares for a moment before gently pushing on her hand, silently telling her to lower her head. Once her head is low enough for him to see the back, he carefully peels away her hand, checking for blood or bump, her black ribbon accidentally sliding off as he glides his hand over her hair. 

“All good?” she questions, tilting her head to look at him. He abruptly pulls his hand away, already missing the softness of her hair. 

Fred nods, handing her back her ribbon. She puts it in the front pocket of her jeans to secure it until she has a chance to put it back on later once she finds a mirror. “You got a way with words, I’m sure you’ll end up in Ravenclaw and you should definitely join Frog Choir, write a new song or two for them,” he says, smiling. 

“The frogs can sing?” she asks, her eyes widening.

Fred shakes his head, “No, they croak on tune and harmonize, students sing.”

Before she can question the concept anymore, there is a light knock at the door. Both their heads whip up.

“Anything off the trolley, dears?” Connie Mcnally asks, her cheeks as pink as the material of her dress poking out from under her white apron. 

Mallyn’s eyes widen for the umpteenth time this week as they have at every new piece of information about the Wizarding World. She stands up, leaning over the window and examining all the different types of sweets spread over the top of the trolley.

Fred leans over her, only now realizing that he is more than a head taller than her. “Two chocolate frogs,” he says, tossing a coin onto the trolley. He looks down at Mallyn, her wide blue eyes looking up at him. “Make that three,” he says, exchanging the coin he had thrown for a different coloured one. Fred peels back the wrapping holding it out to Mallyn while George leans over her other shoulder, examining the candies. Bill had given each of them ten sickles as a welcome to Hogwarts present.

“It moved!” she exclaims, watching the person within the frame smile back at her.

“They’re enchanted to,” he says, looking at the person within the frame. One of the most famous wizards, Merlin himself, well, not really himself, just a depiction of him, stares back at them. He reaches for the frog, letting it sit in his palm as it bounces around before falling still. Mallyn laughs, poking at the frog to make it move again. He shakes his head, breaking off a leg for her to try. The sweet chocolate quickly melts on her tongue, tasting just like Muggle milk chocolate. It earns Fred another one of her smiles that he is quickly growing fond of.

Mallyn looks back at the trolley, scanning the items quickly. “Are those jelly beans? Can I get a box? Sorry, I don’t really understand the money thing yet, I have these,” she says, holding out her hand with the coins her mother gave her before they had left their home this morning.

“It’s just one of these, dear,” Connie says, smiling at Mallyn as she takes one of the smaller coins. Mallyn closes her hand around the remaining coins while holding her box of jellybeans in her other. Mallyn returns to her seat, pulling her legs up onto the bench and crossing them over each other. She sets her coins on her knee, pushing them around and examining them.

Fred bumps into his brother, offering him half of one of his frogs. Percy accepts it hesitantly, eyeing his younger brother suspiciously. Fred knocks his head towards Mallyn, her head still down as she turns over a sickle. “Percy, if you please and I know you do, explain the difference between the coins to her,” he says, speaking loud enough to catch Mallyn’s attention.

Percy reaches across the aisle, plucking the coins off of Mallyn’s leg, holding them out in his palm. “Wizarding currency in the United Kingdom consists of galleons, sickles, and knuts, and they are gold, silver, and bronze, respectively,” he explains, pointing to each coin. “The current approximate value of a galleon is roughly equivalent to six Muggle British Imperial pounds, thirty-six sickles make up a single galleon, one hundred and fifteen knuts in a sickle, four thousand and one hundred forty knuts in a galleon,” he states, Mallyn’s brain not retaining any of the information other than the names. Percy sighs, controlling his urge to roll his eyes. “The symbols around the edges represent the goblin that cast the coin, their names in their native language,” he explains. Mallyn picks up one of the coins, squinting at the tiny runes running along the inside of the edge. “They control the creation of the coins since it requires goblin magic and the proper eyesight necessary to be completed in the darkest parts of the caverns underneath each bank, while they finally have handed over the responsibility of running day to day functions of the Wizarding Banks, such as Gringotts in Diagon Alley, to capable Wizards and Witches after decades of discussion with the Ministry,” he finishes, placing the coins back on her knee, balancing them on top of each other from smallest to largest.

“We stopped by there when my mom took me school shopping,” Mallyn says, picking up the coins and inspecting them herself. She turns them over in her fingers a few times, getting a feel of the weight. She passes the smallest between her fingers, watching it disappear and reappear.

George and Fred lean closer, watching as she continues to move the coin. “What spell is that?” Fred questions while scanning over her to try and figure out where her wand is hidden.

She shakes her head, the rest of her hair falling over her shoulders, now completely obscuring the top half of her jumper. “It’s Muggle magic, my dad’s an amateur magician,” she explains, lifting her hand up above their heads to show that it never truly disappears, just seems to. She tosses it in the air, catching it on the back of her hand, then holds it out to Fred. He retrieves the coin from her hand, careful not to let his fingers linger. He places the coin between his index and middle finger, trying to move it just as she had, but it falls to the floor with a clink. He picks it up and tries again, and again, and again, until the coin rolls down the aisle and under the crack in the door. Fred scrabbles after it, pushing the door open as he chases the coin down the aisle, the movement of the train only propelling it further down. He lands on the floor with a thud, stretching out his hand and slapping it down over the coin, finally stopping its path.

“Fred,” a deep voice calls from above him.

“Aunt Muriel?” he questions, wishing that it would be instead of who he knows it to be. He looks up, meeting his older brother’s eyes. “Oh, you,” he mutters, rolling onto his back then getting up, the coin secure in his hand. He backtracks down the aisle then turns on his heel and sprints back to the compartment. He slides in, closing the door shut behind him, “Code Gold,” he whispers, leaning backwards out the window to spot Charlie’s glare from the end of the corridor.

“Here come the Official Killjoys,” George hums, listening as the footsteps get closer. A Slytherin Prefect walks by, her mouth shifting into an almost unnoticeable frown of disgust. She passes by quickly, continuing down the aisle. A moment later, another redhead with freckles appears, the red and gold of his jumper harsh against his sunburnt skin. His hair is a shade darker than the boys in her compartment, a few strands escaping the string securing most of his hair at the base of his neck. “Hey, all three of you are still alive, not bad,” he teases, pushing Fred back into his seat and leaning against the frame of the window. He looks at Mallyn in the corner, “Charlie Weasley,” he states, his hand extending out to her. She shakes it gently then quickly retracts her hand placing it back in her lap. “Not giving you a hard time, are they?”

“She’s a Burke and a Black,” Percy states unprompted.

Charlie sighs heavily, dragging his hands down his face. “Percy, let it go,” he says, emphasizing each syllable. “Bloodlines are old news, and don’t harass any other First Years if you ever want to be a Prefect, I can and will rescind my recommendation," Charlie warns. He cocks his left eyebrow, a silent dare for his little brother to continue when he knows there is nothing that could make Percy risk losing the title he is so fond of before he even has it. “How are you enjoying the ride so far?” Charlie asks, smiling at Mallyn.

“Hi,” she giggles, a dreamy look on her face as she stares up at Charlie.

“Oh no,” George and Fred mutter simultaneously. Their older brother always seems to have this effect, no matter the age and sometimes gender, to the point that they swear sometimes Charlie managed to inherit some dormant latent Veela gene.

Charlie chuckles, returning her greeting. “We should be arriving in about an hour, best change into your uniforms,” he says then waves goodbye to the compartment, continuing down the aisle to check on other students. Percy stands up for the first time since sitting down, reaching up above George’s head and removing his bag, and carefully setting it down. He reaches up, grabs his brothers’ duffels, and tosses them to them, knocking them back down into benches. He carefully hands Mallyn’s hers, offering her a small smile. She turns around, digging around in her bag, removing her freshly pressed uniform. She double-checks that her wand is safely secure in the bag before zipping it.

Fred awkwardly coughs, shifting on his feet. “Do you want us to step out and guard the door?” he questions, glancing at the clothes in Mallyn’s hands. 

“No, I got it,” she says, pulling the white button-down shirt and grey jumper over her head, then winding her arms under the sleeves and body, pulling out her white and pink star jumper from the bottom. She steps into the grey pleated skirt and pulls it up above the waistband of her jeans, tugging the jeans down from underneath until they rest around her calves.

“Whoa, how-” George stutters, watching as she sits down to take off her shoes in order to get her jeans completely off.

Mallyn looks up, “Muggle magic,” she whispers, winking at him.

“You would blow our Da’s mind,” Fred says as he pulls on his collared shirt, buttoning it up over his tee-shirt. He quickly pulls his standard grey Hogwarts jumper over it, pulling at it the second it settles over his torso. No one will ever be able to give him a good reason that uniforms are necessary. 

Mallyn pulls on her white knee-high stockings then gets to work on retying her standard black oxfords. She stands up and turns to the window to watch the view, keeping her back to the boys as they trade their personal trousers for their uniform ones. 

“Do our ties?” George asks, holding out three black Hogwarts ties to Percy. 

Mallyn turns around, finding her tie missing from the stack of her clothes in her bag. She moves to stand next to Fred, silently waiting for Percy to fix their ties for them.

“Hold still,” Percy warns, lifting his wand. He waves it, all three ties wrapping themselves around their necks.

“Please remember I am not your brother and you do not hate me,” Mallyn says, a forced smile on her face, fear evident in her eyes. Percy rolls his eyes but does Mallyn’s first, careful not to do it too tight, then does both of his brothers’ ties in one go.

Fred and George cough, hunching over. “Merlin’s Left Tit, you trying to choke us?” Fred questions, swinging his arms out to hit Percy in the legs, but he simply steps to the side. The train’s horn drowns out the insults flying from both sides of the compartment. 

Mallyn steps towards the window again, watching as the castle grows bigger with each passing second. Fred leans over Mallyn and undoes the lock on the window then sticks his head fully out the window. George climbs onto the bench, resting his hands on his brother’s shoulders. “This has to be a dream,” Mallyn whispers.

“No way, this is life,” George says, sticking his head out the window and howling.

Fred agrees, looking down at the long brown hair lying against his chest. “The best kind,” he whispers. Percy groans, excusing himself from the compartment. George untangles himself, falling to the ground with a thump as the train screeches to a halt. Fred laughs while he reaches down, pulling his twin up. They stumble out of the compartment laughing, Mallyn trailing behind them, all three grabbing their robes as they leave.

They all pull on their robes, securing the single button to keep them in place. Mallyn reaches up, combing her fingers through her hair and pushing it behind her shoulders, her mouth dropping when she does not feel her ribbon. She reaches down, momentarily forgetting she had already traded her jeans for her skirt. “I must’ve left my ribbon in the compartment, I gotta go back and get it,” she says, backing up and accidentally stepping on someone’s toes. “Sorry,” she mumbles, stepping around them.

“I’ll get it,” Fred offers, rising up on his toes to see over the crowd. He weaves around them, stepping back into the compartment. The benches are empty and one of the train’s workers has their bags in hand. “Sorry, did you see a ribbon?” he asks. The worker nods, the ribbon floating out of his front pocket and into Fred’s hand. Fred stares at the thin material in his hand, stroking his thumb against the soft material, noting it is almost as soft as Mallyn’s hair. He wraps it around his hand, quickly weaving his way back through the crowd until he spots George’s head of hair.

Mallyn smiles when she sees him, “Find it?”

Fred opens his mouth to speak, still stroking the material. “No, sorry,” he says, tucking his hand into the left front pocket of his trousers, his robe covering his arm.

“Thanks for looking for it,” she says, a small frown on her lips.

The crowd pushes them forward, right off the train and onto the Hogsmeade platform.

A whistle cuts through the chatter, the older students stepping aside while all the First Years stand completely still, unsure of what to do. “First Years with me! This way please, got to hurry, places to be, things to do, food to enjoy,” a loud voice roars. Rubeus Hagrid steps out from behind the pillar, his lantern extending a few feet past his body.

Mallyn’s mouth literally drops open, her eyes starting at his feet then ending about nine feet above the ground, just above the top of his bushy hair that seems to be extending in all directions. “Whoa, giants are real?”

Hagrid squats, finding the eyes of one of the shorter First Years. “Of course, but I’m only a quarter,” he reassures her with a kind smile that bares only the front row of his stained but straight teeth.

“There’s bigger giants than you?” she says in awe, her head shaking from side to side, “Wow.” 

Fred laughs and bumps his elbow into her, drawing her out of her trance.

“Gotta love Muggleborn First Years, everything’s fascinating to them,” Marley Thomm, a Fifth Year student, whispers as she tugs at her blue and bronze tie, earning a few laughs from the crowd of students.

Mallyn blushes at the comment, not meaning to come across as naïve, but how can she be expected to just pretend this is all normal? The closest she has come to a giant prior to this is the old man in her family’s building that has to duck to fit under the door frames. “Come on, this way to the boats, no more than four in each,” Hagrid declares, the lantern jiggling as he moves his hand, gesturing for them to follow him.

“Boats?” she questions, audibly gulping. 

Fred leans down, whispering just loud enough so that only she can hear. “No one’s ever drowned, sure they’re enchanted not to tip,” he promises. She turns to him, offering an unsure smile. “Hey, if you fall, I’ll just jump in, seems like a nice night for a swim,” he jokes. She wants to laugh, but as they get closer, the foul smell of the lake water just makes her stomach twist into a knot. Once they reach the shoreline, Fred sticks his hand out, offering it to her. She places her hand in his, relying on him to stay upright as she steps into one of the seven wobbly boats. Chivalrous , she thinks to herself, another word her mother had used to describe Gryffindor. What were the other two? One of the others started with c , she muses, remembering that much. She racks her brain, finally landing on the correct word. Courageous! They should make a song, it’d make it easier to remember, still can’t remember the other . The twins had said it earlier and now it escapes her mind. She glances behind her, George already in a boat and purposefully rocking it as a boy with skin so dark it fades into his hairline laughs along with him. Daring , she remembers, holding in a laugh. She takes a seat on the bench, trading Fred’s hand to clutch the sides of the boat. Mallyn slams her eyes shut, forcing herself to count her breaths, knowing that the last thing she needs is to be the girl who passes out on the boat ride over.

“Mallyn,” Fred whispers, blowing at her hair to make it move. Her nose scrunches up from the rush of air, twitching to try and soothe the itch she refuses to remove her hands to scratch.

“I don't like this, I don’t like this,” she laughs, mostly at herself. 

Fred leans forward, blowing on her nose purposefully this time to try and get her to scratch it. She wiggles it again, retaliating by blowing her tongue at him. “Hey, open your eyes,” he says, poking at her fingers.

“No, I’d prefer to see darkness instead of the light at the end of the tunnel,” she says, rapidly nodding her head.

“Come on, open your eyes,” he urges, poking and pulling at her the skin around her eyes.

She shakes her head, trying to push him off, but he continues. She opens her eyes just a crack, expecting to see him, but instead she is met by Hogwarts’ silhouette. “Fred, sto-wow,” she sighs, the lights from the castle reflecting in her eyes. She cannot help the smile that grows on her face, and neither can Fred as he watches her experience the magic he has taken for granted his whole life.

Chapter Text

Even as she stares up in awe, as soon as the boat reaches the shore Mallyn scrambles over Fred and out of the tiny boat, plopping herself onto the damp sand. “Oh, thank goodness,” she exhales, digging her fingers into the sand.

Fred laughs as he climbs out of the boat, offering her a hand. “Hey, you only have to do it once more,” he says, as he pulls her up.

“What?” she questions, stumbling forward directly into Fred’s chest, their arms awkwardly bent between them, their hands still in each other’s. They shuffle away from each other, Fred backing up right into George, who shoves him back towards Mallyn. She steps out of the way just in time to avoid being run into or over.

“When we graduate, we ride it back across, symbolic and all that,” he explains, watching the relief wash over her face. Hopefully, seven years will be enough time to get over my fear of boats, or open water, maybe both . “Hey, I’ll be right there by you then too, if you need me,” he says. She is starting to think she will always need him if she has any intentions of making it through Hogwarts intact.

The remaining First Years disembark the boats, along with Hagrid. They all stand around waiting, for what they are not sure.

“I expected there to be more of us,” Mallyn whispers, surveying the group. She counts twenty, twenty one including Hagrid.

Fred nods, “Classes used to be bigger, Mum and Da’s was fifty-one when they graduated,” he tells her.

“Come on, then,” a gravelly voice calls. A man comes around the corner, his hunched back surprisingly his most defining feature over his scraggly hair and raggedy clothes. A grey long-haired cat with piercing yellow eyes circles his feet, gracefully moving in between them, her tail curling around his legs with each turn.

Hagrid claps his large hands, drawing everyone's attention with the almost thunderous echo. “This is Mr. Argus Filch, Hogwarts’ very own caretaker,” Hagrid informs the group as he bends down and extends his hand to the cat, “and this beauty is Mrs. Norris,” he coos, scratching the top of her head. Filch grumbles under his breath, causing Hagrid to straighten up and tuck his hands behind his back. “Right, here we go, other kids are chomping at the bit to eat,” he says, laughing at his own words. Hagrid follows after Filch who continues to talk to himself, muttering under his breath. Filch stops at two very large doors to the castle, stepping to the side to allow Hagrid to push on the ornate metal handles. All the students look around as they travel down the massive corridor, a few gasping and murmuring as the staircases above and around them move as they please, rearranging themselves with each passing second. Hagrid comes to an abrupt stop at the bottom of a large stationary staircase, bidding a quiet goodbye before excusing himself. Filch mutters under his breath, nothing very nice if his tone is any indication. The First Years look at each other, unsure of what they are supposed to do, if they were supposed to follow one of them or wait for someone else to appear.

“What exactly are we waiting for?” George questions, peering around.

“Me, Mister Weasley,” a stern voice states. Everyone turns around, looking up to find a Witch waiting, complete with the black pointy hat and cloak. She claps her hands once, drawing everyone’s attention. “Welcome to Hogwarts,” she greets, “I am Professor Minerva McGonagall, Deputy Headmistress.” She surveys the group, her eyes narrowing a few times. The twins can only assume a few of those are for them, Percy did say he warned the professors. “In a few moments, you will pass through these doors here,” she states, pausing to gesture to the large double tempered glass doors behind her, “and join your classmates, but first, you must be sorted into your houses.” She looks around again, pausing on each student’s face, trying to see the faces of their parents in them. The Weasleys are the easiest, their hair and prolific amount of freckles always the dead giveaway. The girl standing between the two twins shys away under her gaze, her eyes going anywhere but on Minerva. She spots Amos Diggory’s son in the back, recognizing him from a Ministry banquet last year, along with another boy, fairly small, whose face is reminiscent of his brother’s, Chester Davies, who graduated but only two years ago who is now working his way up in the Ministry. Minerva stops her mind’s ramblings, knowing her guesses will either be proven right or wrong in a matter of minutes. “For any who are still unaware, there is Gryffindor, my alma mater and if you are placed there I will be your Head of House, along with the Transfiguration professor here at Hogwarts, for those who get picked for Hufflepuff, your Head of House is Professor Sprout, our own Herbology instructor, Slytherin will be under the watchful eye of our Potions Master Professor Snape, and last but certainly not least, Ravenclaw, the Head of House being Professor Flitwick who functions as both our Charms instructor as well as the director of the choir,” Minerva states, taking a deep breath. She keeps trying to convince Albus to update with the times and simply print out the information, but he is nothing if not a traditionalist.

Fred nudges Mallyn at the mention of her mother’s house and the choir. Minerva surveys the group once more, worry finding its way into her heart. “Hogwarts is one school, one student body, but your house will become your family, the people you rely on in your weakest moment, which can cost your house points when rules are ignored and broken, but who will cheer you on in your greatest, where you can earn points that all will get added up at the end of the year to determine which of the four wins the house cup,” she says, making sure to make eye contact with each student, making sure they heard her. “The sorting ceremony will begin in a minute, follow me,” she says, turning on her heel. She taps her wand against the seal between the two doors.

The doors creak open, revealing a well-lit dining hall from the candles hanging freely in the air. Mallyn looks up, watching as the ceiling shifts to depict the movement of dark clouds as if they were truly outside standing under the night sky. She tears her eyes away just long enough to see two pale freckled hands extend behind the row of backs on their right, Fred and George slapping their two eldest brothers’ hands as they pass. Mallyn surveys the room, taking in the four long tables lining the immense hall, each table filled with students representing their houses. Minerva stops at the foot of the short set of stairs, turning to address the students. “Please welcome this year’s new students,” she says.

The room erupts in cheers and chants, each table speaking to the fact that they believe their house to be the best. Minerva quiets the room with a lowering of her hands. She takes a scroll from the bench on the platform, unrolling it. “Now when I call your name, please come up and take a seat, then I shall place the Sorting Hat on your head and you will be sorted into your house.”

Without thinking, Mallyn reaches out and takes Fred and George’s hands, whispering under her breath. She does not know if God is real anymore, or if he is, if he has any domain here, but after years in private Catholic school, she thinks she will always find a sense of comfort in praying. While her head is down, Fred and George exchange an odd glance, silently asking what is occurring, but they play along, bowing their heads while Minerva prepares to begin. 

She sees this out of the corner of her eye and knows the twins didn’t initiate it. That poor girl, any house but Hufflepuff is going to eat her alive, or at the very least attempt, she thinks to herself, but Minerva stops herself, reassuring herself that the past is not doomed to repeat itself and she has to trust that Albus’ plan will work, even if he refuses to share the exact details. “Pomona Brooks,” she reads, the list descending alphabetically. A tall girl with dark blonde curls fighting to break out of the constraint of the tight ponytail elastic silently encasing them steps forward from the crowd, wringing her hands beneath the fabric of the sleeves of her robes. She carefully climbs the steps, taking a seat on the stool. Minerva lowers it to her head, letting the hat rest as it prepares for the first sorting of the year. The old hat wiggles around on her head, talking to the girl with words only she can hear. Minerva has always appreciated the fact that the hat allows the deliberation to stay between itself and the child, only its final decision audible for all to hear. “Hufflepuff!” the hat exclaims, shifting around excitedly on top of the girl’s head, the crowd erupting in cheers as her tie changes from the plain black tie with the Hogwarts crest to yellow and pewter stripes before their eyes.

Mallyn stares down at her own tie, wondering what colour hers will shift to in a matter of minutes, and whether or not she will be given a few seconds headstart before the entire room knows her fate.

Minerva removes the hat, holding it up in her right hand while her left hand holds the scroll. “Lucy Cresent,” she says. The girl steps forward, accidentally tripping over the extra material of her robe, but catching herself. She straightens up, swinging her heavy black hair behind her shoulders as she pulls up the robe, carefully ascending the steps to the stool.

Minerva places the hat down, barely touching the top of the head of the girl before declaring, “Slytherin!” The girl hops down, quickly exiting the platform and moving to the table next to Gryffindor.

“Roger Davies,” Minerva calls out. She suspects he will be in Ravenclaw, just like his elder brother, and not a minute later her suspicion is confirmed. She glances down at the scroll. Ah, that’s his name, Cedric, Amos’s son , she thinks. “Cedric Diggory,” she announces. He offers her a polite hello before sitting on the stool and allowing Minerva to place the hat on his perfectly coiffed light brown hair with only a slight grimace.

The hat deliberates for a few minutes, obviously talking to the boy until it yells, “Hufflepuff!” With a smile, he walks off the stage, congratulations given in the form of pats on the back from his new family.

Minerva moves down the list, eyeing the next two names, another set of twins besides the red-haired ones in the crowd. She glances up over the scroll, noting the two identical girls in the back, down to their matching braided brunette pigtails. Minerva clears her throat, “Fauna Etchemendy,” she says, watching as the twin on the left steps forward. Fauna hesitates for a moment, offering her twin a smile before unlacing their hands. She steps forward, quickly climbing the steps.

She sits down, looking up as the hat talks to her, nodding along with something it says. “Hufflepuff,” the Sorting Hat says, loud enough to be heard, but quieter than the others as if almost unsure, something extremely unlikely as the hat rarely goes back on its decisions, only admitting to a few mistakes over the centuries of sorting.

”Flora Etchemendy,” Minerva quickly reads. Minerva sighs, hoping for the best. It is never easy when siblings are in separate houses, let alone twins, despite the founders’ origins. Flora steps forward, exchanging an uneasy glance with her sister as Fauna takes her seat at the Hufflepuff table.

Flora sits down, messing with the bottom of one of her braids while the hat talks to her. “Really?” she questions. She slaps her hand over her mouth after she realizes she accidentally spoke out loud instead of just thinking it.

“Ravenclaw!” the hat announces. Flora smiles, sliding off the stool and walking over to the Ravenclaw table.

George and Fred exchange a look, questioning how twins could end up in separate houses, neither able to imagine being separated from the other. Suddenly both start questioning if their lifelong ideas of both being Gryffindor are possibly about to come to a stop.

Minerva notices all five Weasleys suddenly looking uneasy. She forces herself to look at the list, quickly counting the number of students until their turn. As usual, they are the last ones on the alphabetical list. “Elfy Helga,” she says. The girl that steps out of the crowd practically prances up to the stool, her dark brown eyes shining with excitement.

The hat does not even wait a full second before declaring, “Gryffindor!” With a large smile, she slides off the stool, striding over to the cheering Gryffindor table, inspecting the new red and gold hue of her tie against her dark hair.

Minerva smiles behind the scroll at the new addition to her house. “Iris Huang,” she reads. Iris’ head jerks up, a look of surprise on her face as if she had not expected her name to actually be called while still messing with a loose string on the hem of her jumper. She carefully approaches the stool, staring at it as if it might come to life along with the hat. Minerva nods, silently reassuring that it is okay. Once the hat is on her head, her face relaxes as she finds comfort in the words the hat speaks to only her.

“Hufflepuff,” the hat proudly announces, Iris smiling at the decision. She hops off the stool, gladly heading over to the table and picking one of the spare Hufflepuff scarves at the end of the table and sliding it around her neck.

Minerva smiles at the girl’s immediate change in attitude, one that she completely understands as she remembers her own sorting ceremony well, especially the nerves she felt. “Angelina Johnson,” she calls. A girl, with her hair carefully pulled back into four equal plaits, steps forward. She holds her head high as she ascends the stairs, sitting down on the stool.

The hat deliberates for a moment, before loudly declaring its choice, “Gryffindor!”

Minerva watches as the girl walks over to the table, smiling as she reads the next name, “Lee Jordan.” The boy that had ridden the boat over with George moves forward, winking at Angelina, which earns him a scoff from her. As the Sorting Hat bellows Gryffindor, any trace of a smile on Angelina’s face drops. Lee strides over to the table, placing his right arm around Angelina’s shoulder. She promptly shrugs it off. Minerva has to stop herself from laughing. Seems the eight-hour train ride over allowed for some feelings to develop, some obviously unrequited ones. “Susan Loxias,” she reads.

A petite girl in the front steps forward, shrinking the remaining students' group even more; where there were once twenty, now only ten remain. Susan steps forward, sitting down with a smile on her lips that seems to reach her brilliant hazel eyes. Minerva sets the hat down, the front dipping to cover the top quarter of her otherwise bare forehead due to her high hairline and pale blonde hair. “Ravenclaw!” the hat announces for Susan and the following student, Tyson Mayberry, an average-looking boy by all accounts except for the extremely large glasses resting on his nose.

Minerva reads the next name on the list, double-checking that it is in fact an m at the end instead of an n, her heart stuttering for a moment. “Theo McKinnom,” she announces, making sure not to let her voice waver. A brown-haired boy steps out from behind George, who turns around in surprise, not having realized anyone had been behind him. Theo wears a smile the whole time: through the hat’s entire deliberation, the announcement of Hufflepuff, to taking a seat at the table that is quickly growing full as it is almost always the most populated house as it is typically the most welcoming and least selective. Before Minerva can even finish his name, Adrian Pucey steps forward, his arrogance dripping off of him. He knows exactly what house he is going to be put in and wants everyone else to know as well. “Slytherin,” he mouths along with the hat, the second before it touches his dark hair. Minerva forces herself not to roll her eyes and reminds herself that it is not his fault, it is just the way he has been raised.

“Mallyn Smyth,” Minerva calls, watching Adrian out of the corner of her eye. Mallyn exhales and refuses to look at her new friends, instead forcing herself to drop their hands even though she wishes she could drag them up there with her. As she steps up, she can finally see the table at the back of the room, lined with adults, all in varying degrees of odd yet entirely fitting attire. Mallyn takes a seat on the stool, scooting until she is sure she will not fall off. Fred reassures her with a hesitant smile.

Mallyn waits, unsure of the exact process of how her house is determined, but the last thing she expects is a voice besides her own to start rambling on in her head. Ah, I remember your mother, Valentina Burke, how did her family take her marriage to the Muggle? the deep croaky voice says within the confines of her mind. 

Mallyn looks around, noting that no one else seems to be able to hear it. Is this how it is with all of them? she silently wonders. 

Yes, now answer my question, just think your answer , the Sorting Hat instructs. 

We don’t see them , she thinks, focusing on the question instead of spiraling on the fact that her mother had indeed had another name when she attended. 

The hat grunts, Their sort do tend to hold quite the grudge when someone defects , it says, grumbling something indiscernible. I sense great potential in you, you’ll thrive - it says, stopping before it finishes its train of thought, suddenly derailed by one of hers. I also sense that you have a preference of Ravenclaw, but I do not see much of her in you, I see more of your grandmother , it states. 

Really? she silently questions. I wouldn’t know, she died before I was born and my mom doesn’t talk about her, well, I mean, I guess any house, I still can’t believe I’m here , Mallyn rationalizes to the hat and herself.

“Slytherin!” it yells out. Mallyn forces herself not to show how she feels and does not dare to look down at her tie, keeping a small smile on her face instead of showing her disappointment. She slides off the stool, trying to ignore the way that Fred’s eyes stay on the ground as she moves past him.

She takes a seat in the empty spot at the end of the table, ignoring the glares from behind her. She pushes against the edge of the table and spins to face the front as the next girl takes her seat on the stool, but it is as if she is suddenly within a wind tunnel, only the words of the houses discernible over the rushing in her ears. Gryffindor. Gryffindor. Slytherin. She perks up at her house's name, suddenly a boy with dirty blonde hair and stunning green eyes is staring at her.

“Mallyn?” Cassius Warrington questions, testing out the name on his tongue. She nods, paying more attention to the redhead moving up the stairs than the boy in front of her. Fred takes a seat on the stool, his feet scraping against the floor. His eyes flit to Mallyn but he quickly forces them away. Cassius continues talking, quite animatedly, while monitoring his volume.

“Gryffindor!” the hat shouts. He has been waiting for this day for years, and yet now sitting on the stool and looking out amongst the hundreds of pupils of Hogwarts, he cannot find it in himself to even feign visible excitement. He slides off the stool, giving his twin a light pat on the back as he takes the empty seat next to Charlie, forcing a big smile onto his face as he watches his twin, the hat declaring Gryffindor only a few seconds after it touches his head.

After all is said and done, there are seven new Gryffindors, four new Slytherins, four new Ravenclaws, and five new Hufflepuffs. Minerva looks out, surveying the tables.

“What did the hat say to you? You had a funny look on your face,” George questions.

Fred shakes his head, “Made a remark about how many of us there are,” he says. While it is not technically a lie, it is the closest he has ever come to lying to his twin and suddenly his stomach drops farther than it already was, worrying that if it drops any more he might as well be walking around with rocks in his shoes.

“Yeah, it and everyone else,” Bill mutters as he keeps his eyes on the front of the room.

The Sorting Hat begins to sing, Minerva rolling her eyes as it boasts about itself. She glares at the object, urging it to move onto the founders and the houses knowing Albus still has to make his speech before the food can be sent up from the kitchens. The hat sings louder, trying to outdo the students chatting amongst themselves and when the hat finally ends its song, it holds out a loud note that makes several students cover their ears in an attempt to lessen the pain.

At the front of a room, a man with a long white beard, perhaps just as long as Mallyn’s hair stands up. He touches the tip of his wand to the side of his neck then clears his throat to ensure the Amplifying Spell has taken effect. “Welcome students, new and old, what a pleasure to have you all here this fine year,” he greets, smiling out at the crowd of young faces. “If you do not know, or perhaps need a refresher after the long months apart, I am your Headmaster Albus Dumbledore,” he says, looking around. He sighs deeply, “With a heavy heart, I’m afraid that the first announcement of the year is not a good one as I do have to announce that from this moment until further notice, all Hogsmeade trips, as well as any other event requiring to go off campus has been canceled as Daichi Yasuda, a former student of our Japanese counterpart, the Mahoutokoro Institution for Magical Schooling, who was expelled for practicing the Dark Arts in his final year, has escaped from the Ministry of Magic before he was able to be sent to Azkaban for his crime against four English Muggles in broad daylight with the gravest of spells, The Killing Curse,” Albus announces, listening as murmurs spread across the room, “now he has not been sighted near the school as of yet and doubt he ever will be, but I assure you this measure is just due diligence at the advice of the Ministry's capable team of Head Aurors,” he states. “To make up for this disappointment, the Hallowe'en Ball has officially been reinstated as of this year for all Third Years and up,” he says, smiling as the students erupt in cheers. The Hallowe'en Ball was always a student favourite, loving the excuse to dress up and have fun. Albus hated having to cancel it over a decade ago when a student took their costume too far and showed up with a magically enchanted chainsaw that landed several students and teachers in the infirmary. Minerva lowers her hands to quiet the students, knowing what announcement is coming next. “One final announcement,” Albus says, clearing his throat, “please help me in officially welcoming the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Professor Patricia Rakepick,” Albus instructs as a woman with hair as vibrant as her cherry red lipstick as if the makeup got its pigment from a strand of it, and her eyes as blue as the colour of the glass eye dangling on a chain from her ear visible from even the back corner of the room, stands up and gives a slight wave as students and teachers politely clap. Albus waits for silence before continuing, “Now some of the older students might recognize her from roaming around the last few years as she sought to assist with the Cursed Vaults and has so kindly offered to step up as Professor Mullins is unable to return this year to fulfill his previous post.” Albus looks around, waiting for the clapping to stop again, allowing his mind to wander for only a moment until Minerva clears her throat next to him, drawing his attention back to the present. “Professor Rakepick has asked me to remind everyone to be careful and not to venture too far from any approved spaces such as the Great Hall and the classrooms as Jacob Heath still has not been seen since he disappeared ten years ago shortly after his expulsion and is presumed dead due to one of the many curses guarding the secrets within.” Albus forces the bad memory to the back of his mind, instead focusing on all the potential of this year, as is his tradition every year. “Now, as much has been lost, there is so much very more to celebrate,” Albus says as he raises hands and the food appears, cheers erupting from the crowd. “Let the nineteen eighty-nine, nineteen ninety school year begin,” he declares, clapping his hands once. The candles lower, fully lighting the room as platters of food descend to the tables, almost every type of food imaginable available.

Mallyn reaches forward and selects a single pastry, whipping cream practically falling off of the fluffy circle. She holds it in front of her and inspects it, not quite sure yet how much she trusts food that magically appears. Looking around, she sees every other student indulging in the food in front of them.

The girl next to her purposely bumps her elbow into Mallyn’s arm, her hair red but not like any of the Weasleys’, the strands more brown than orange and complimenting to her dark brown eyes in a way that almost seems rehearsed. “It doesn’t bite,” she teases, nudging Mallyn’s arm towards her mouth.

“Promise?” she questions, laughing as she takes a bite. Her eyes close at the sweetness, savoring the flaky crust. Mallyn does not think she will ever be able to go back to Muggle puddings again.

“I’m Kelsey,” she introduces, extending her free hand. Mallyn returns it with her free one while taking another bite of the pastry. “This is just how food is in the Wizarding World,” Kelsey explains, watching as Mallyn finishes the pastry then immediately reaches for another. “You a Halfblood?” she questions.

Mallyn licks her lips, getting rid of the little bit of whipping cream on her upper lip. “My mom’s a Witch, but we live in Muggle London,” she explains.

“Your da’?” she questions, eating a single chip in tiny little bites.

Mallyn hesitates, remembering Percy’s words from earlier that Fred had interrupted. “Muggle,” she answers.

There is a noise of disgust from the opposite end of the table, a few older boys rolling their eyes, a mutter of ‘letting anyone in now,’ from one.

Fred bumps his elbow into George, making him aware of the scene occurring at the next table over. They slide under the Gryffindor table, taking the two empty seats on the bench opposite of Mallyn.

“Ignore them, bunch of pompous arses!” Kelsey calls, grabbing a roll and tossing it at the boy’s head. He whips around, his wand pointing at Kelsey. She throws another roll, standing up. “Dare you, Turner! Probably backfire and turn your own hair pink again!” Duke shrinks under her threat, not wanting to face the first day of his Fifth Year with anything going against him. She sits back down, turning her attention back to Mallyn. “Ignore him and anyone like him, they’re all riding high on old ideas of blood purity,” Kelsey tells her, loud enough that the boys down the way can hear her, “despite having a Muggle great-grandmother himself.” Duke shoots her a nasty glare, his friends trying their best to console him.

Mallyn hesitates, unsure of exactly how to word her question. “You don’t-are you?”

“Both parents are Hogwarts’ alumni, Mum was a Slytherin, Pop was a Ravenclaw,” she answers, knowing exactly what Mallyn is asking without her really asking.

A light thump hits Mallyn in the back, another quickly hitting the back of her head. Mallyn turns around to find Fred and George staring at her, eyes wide while she rubs the back of her head. They both lean back, Mallyn matching their stance.

“You’re lucky, only one roommate, we went from one to three,” they say together.

Mallyn huffs, glaring at the two, focusing more on Fred, “Your brother tried to warn me about Slytherin and you stopped him,” she says, reaching out and hitting Fred in the arm.

Fred recoils from her palm. “It wouldn’t have made a difference, just would’ve made you nervous, the hat doesn’t care what you want,” he says, offering her a sympathetic smile. “Hey, you’ll be fine, you’re a Halfblood, they really only have problems with Muggleborns,” he offers, trying to lessen her worry.

“Hello, little Weasleys,” Kelsey greets, swinging her legs around to face the trio. “Please tell me you are nothing like that one,” she whispers, her eyes falling on Percy. The twins laugh while shaking their heads, glad it is finally not just them who see what a git their brother is when they have spent the better part of their childhood trying to convince their mother of the fact. “Good, then I think we’ll get along quite swimmingly,” she says, extending both her hands to them. They each take one, shaking it once. Kelsey pivots, tapping fellow Fourth Year, Hayley Booth, on the shoulder. The lioness, in both house and appearance with her short hair extending out of her head in golden curls, turns around and greets her friend with a large smile. 

Mallyn spins on the bench to face the twins, her back aching from leaning backwards. “I’ve never seen this much food in my life,” Mallyn says, reaching over Fred and stealing a slice of cheese pizza from his plate. He intercepts the slice mid-air, a string of cheese falling over his left eye.

“And it never stops,” he winks, shrugging the cheese off his eye and into his mouth.

“What?” she asks, reaching for another slice. He allows her to take this one, watching as she savors the bite.

George swallows his bite of chicken, licking his lips. “It’ll keep replenishing until it’s ordered to stop, feel bad for the house elves though,” he says, reaching for another leg of chicken.

“House elves?” she questions.

“They’re the ones that do all the cooking, cleaning,” Fred explains. “We don’t have any at home, but a few of the other old Wizarding families do,” he says, his eyes drifting over to Seventh Year, Pippa Macmillan, at the end of the Gryffindor table.

A slightly transparent body floats around, pausing between Fred and Mallyn’s feet, his chains dragging along the floor. “Look at this, houses getting along,” he hums, poking Mallyn’s feet.

Mallyn peers down at the ghost, the only thing about the Wizarding World that has not surprised her yet. “You don’t look like the ghosts I've seen before, you’re much more clear,” she states, hesitantly dragging her finger through his form. He silently scolds her, swatting her away from his head, but his fingers just drift through her hand.

He floats up, stopping when his head is level with Mallyn’s. “You’ve seen ghosts before?” The Baron questions.

“Yes,” she says, unsure of why he is asking, “my grandfather once when I was little,” she admits, shuddering at the memory of him showing up in her room in the middle of the night only six years ago, appearing as a hazy but still terrifying version of what he had looked like when he died. “The old lady who was the neighbor when we first moved in, the previous tenant of my family’s apartment,” she states, silently grateful that the latter two died of natural causes and appeared no worse for wear.

“Weird,” Fred and George murmur, watching in awe.

“But you see them,” she states, looking up to see multiple other ghosts floating around the oversized room, some pausing at the tables, others completely ignoring the students.

“Yeah, because Hogwarts is a permanent place of importance in Wizarding history,” The Baron explains, “allows the ghosts to attach themselves here even if they didn’t die here, such as myself.”

The Baron clears his throat, floating up the rest of the way until he is at his full height above the children. “For example, I am The Baron, Ghost of Slytherin, sometimes referred to as The Bloody Baron, no clue why,” he muses as the slime oozing off of him drips onto Mallyn’s knee. Before she can wipe it away, it disappears completely.

Another ghost floats down, scoffing at The Baron’s remark. “Perhaps we should go discuss your name with a certain Ravenclaw,” he cracks, a sly smile on his lips. “Harassing the First Years?” he questions, raising his sword. The Baron backs down, slinking away to bother some of the students at the end of the Slytherin table. “Sir Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington KG, at your service,” the ghost states, curtseying instead of bowing.

“You’re Nearly Headless Nick?” Fred questions, looking up in awe.

He stands straight, narrowing his eyes at the elder twin. “Sir Nicholas, or Nick, if it pleases you,” he corrects, tired of the onslaught of jokes from the students. Mallyn decides not to push it and ask about the title, seeing as his head appears to be completely intact as well as his neck.

“How many of you are there?” she questions, watching all the ghosts move around.

Sir Nicholas looks around, surveying the growing ghost population in the Great Hall. “Currently there are twenty-three ghostly residents of Hogwarts,” he answers, a proud smile on his face. “That over there is the Ghost of Hufflepuff, The Fat Friar,” he states, pointing across the room at a quite heavy man, his head thrown back in laughter.

Mallyn scoffs, crossing her arms across her chest, “Well, that’s rude to call someone that, can’t imagine he appreciates it.”

George tries to hold back a laugh, but Fred just watches in awe at her defending a ghost. “Then we better not introduce you to The Fat Lady,” George murmurs.

“She guards the Gryffindor Common Room,” Fred explains, hoping to ease her grim expression, but her features harden as she thinks about it more.

The Fat Friar floats over, having overheard the discussion since his ears have the tendency to ring whenever his name is spoken. He floats down to sit in the empty space next to Mallyn. “Milady, I do not mind the name, it is fitting after all, but I thank you for coming to my defense,” he says, tilting his head to her.

She returns his gesture with a small smile, “It isn’t right.”

“That may be true, but there are many greater injustices in that world than pointing out the fact that when I was alive, I enjoyed delicious food a little too often and a little too much,” he states, patting his robust belly.

“So you wish to be called The Fat Friar?” Mallyn questions.

He nods, watching as her expression softens. “It is what most call me,” he says, “but if it distresses you, you may call me Friar Michael,” he offers.

She smiles, her lips stretching to accommodate her happiness. “Friar Michael, it is a pleasure to meet you, I’m Mallyn,” she says, offering her hand, but quickly retracts it as she realizes he can not do anything with it.

“A pleasure, Lady Mallyn,” he returns, bowing as he stands. “If you’ll excuse me, I do believe I am being summoned,” he states, floating away to the far table across the room.

“There’s no way she belongs in Slytherin, making friends with everybody,” Lucian Bole remarks in a low voice, his friends scoffing amongst themselves. Fred’s head whips up, glaring at the older boy.

Adrian leans over to the Second Year girl with artificial platinum blonde hair next to him, Cara Yaxley, whispering under his breath while making eye contact with Mallyn across the table. “She was crying on the bloody platform, begging her mummy and daddy not to make her go,” he teases, smirking at her. Mallyn glares at the pair.

“Scared of the boats too,” Cassius adds, having traded his spot next to Mallyn for the one next to Adrian.

Kelsey whips her head around, “And what does that have to do with being a Slytherin?” she questions, narrowing her eyes at the younger Slytherins. “Bravery is reserved for Gryffindors, don’t you know? Or is that the reason you didn't make the cut for Ravenclaw?” she sneers, the boys withering under her gaze.

“You are my hero,” Mallyn whispers, squeezing the older girl’s hand.

“My pleasure,” she says, returning the squeeze while jerking her head back to the boys who physically recoil at the movement.

There is a great clattering behind the teacher’s table, a slamming of a heavy door then a scream echoing off the walls. “Get back here!” Filch yells as he takes off from the front of the hall, chasing after a blur of translucent colour maniacally laughing as he races through the Great Hall, pulling on students’ hair as he passes them, his bright red trousers leave streaks of colour in the air.

“Peeves!” Albus, The Bloody Baron, and Sir Nicholas scream at the same time. Peeves comes to a screeching halt, crashing into the wall right by the double doors, taking a few platters from the Ravenclaw table with him.

A head pops up, a wide smile covering the lower half of his face, but there is fear in his eyes.

“Out!” Albus orders, pointing to the doors. Peeves scurries out, the double doors slamming shut behind him. The Baron and Sir Nicholas run through the closed doors, their yelling audible in the Great Hall as they chase him down the corridor.

Filch slinks towards Albus, wringing his hands as he approaches. “Sir, he stole a bunch of undergarments from the students’ trunks and has plastered them all across the stairs,” he whispers, careful not to speak loud enough to let the students hear.

Albus’ face remains stoic but internally screams at the pest. “I shall have a word with him later, thank you, Mr. Filch,” Albus states, quietly dismissing him. He sends a look to Hagrid, silently asking him to assist the caretaker in his task of cleaning up before it is time to dismiss the students. Hagrid pushes his chair back, the feet scraping the floor. He flinches at the noise, raising his hands in a silent apology. The two quietly exit the room while Albus stands. “Apologies for the intrusion, Peeves thrives on chaos and doesn’t realize that most others do not,” he states, his eyes finding a few select students in the crowd, including two of the newest Gryffindors.

The feast resumes and continues without interruption, besides a few rolls thrown across the room between houses.

Filch ducks his head into the room, giving Albus a single nod. “Students, it is now nearing ten o’clock,” he declares, waving his wand. A giant clock appears, tolling with the new hour. “Prefects, if you please, escort the students back to the dorms, I’m sure it has been a long day for all, especially our new students,” Albus says, clapping his hands once. The lights in the room dim as the Prefects of each house move to the doors, their wands pointing up, the respective mascots of each house illuminating from the end of each of their wands. The students shuffle out of the Great Hall, First Years in the front directly behind their Prefects. Mallyn shares one last look with the twins, before Slytherin breaks off with the rest, heading deeper into the castle. The four students’ wands provide the only light as they enter a secluded hallway, descending a long flight of stairs then stopping just in a seemingly ordinary stone wall.

One of the boys turns around, staring down at the Slytherins, placing his wand beneath his chin. “I am Ayers Goulding,” he introduces, the light illuminating his face in a frightening way, exaggerating his already prominent chin and brow bone.

“Lee,” the other boy states, rolling his eyes at the dramatics. The First Years exchange a glance, wondering if that is his first, last, or only name.

The shorter of the two girls, that Mallyn recognizes from the train earlier, smiles larger, purposefully pointing the light at the end of her wand down at the First Years. “Astrid Studds,” she whispers, startling the students with a boo. Her laughter cuts into the next introduction, stopping when the last girl bumps into her, forcing her to be quiet.

“Kamala Milner,” she repeats, smiling. She looks around, surveying the group before turning around. She taps her wand against the stone three times, waiting a beat in between each touch while whispering the password under her breath. “And this is Slytherin,” she announces, waving her wand.

The room erupts in light as candles flame to life, illuminating that every hard surface in the expansive circular room is either wood, marble, or concrete, and every soft surface is fabricated in luscious velvet or silk, all in varying shades of silver, green, and black. 

“We may be bad, but we do it with style,” Astrid declares, crossing her arms with a smirk.

Kamala walks around the room, feeling as though it has been a lifetime since she saw it last when in reality it has only been a mere two months. She trails her finger on the back of one of the oversized couches, stopping for a moment to pinch one of the pillows, feeling the small beads move between her two fingers. “This is the Common Room, communal space, available to all Slytherin Students,” she explains, continuing to circle as if she were a tiger and the First Years are her prey, pausing for a moment, “only Slytherin Students,” she emphasizes. She stops just in front of the four new students, towering over them. “Do not tap on the glass unless you want to piss your pants when the Black Lake squid comes around, or the merpeople,” she says casually as if they are not about to piss themselves right now. The two girls lean to her right, the boys to her left, peering at the oversized glass pane windows that take up the majority of the back curving wall of the room, a dark abyss on the other side. 

Ayers leans back against the couch, lounging nonchalantly, “Next order of business, First Years, your rooms are through either curtain, boys to the left, girls to the right,” he states, tilting his head towards the openings with velvet curtains cloaking the hallways on either side of the room. “Don’t let the vampire bed bugs bite,” he whispers.

“Everyone else, you know where to go,” Lee says, dismissing the group with a wave of his hand. The curtains fly open, the lights in the Common Room dim as the ones in the two hallways brighten. 

The girls and boys split off to their two separate hallways. Once they are standing in the doorway, Mallyn looks down the hallway, counting nine hovering lanterns, one right above each invisible doorway, and one over the permanently open doorway of the bathroom at the end of the hallway. The older girls push Mallyn and Lucy forward, Lucy stumbling on her first step. Astrid stays behind, pulling the two girls to a stop with her, as the rest of the girls continue on their journey forward. “Default password is Pureblood, you two can change it once you agree on something,” she instructs, gesturing to the solid stone wall in front of them. 

Mallyn reaches out, dragging her hand along the stone wall, unsure of exactly where the door is. “Pureblood?” Mallyn questions, a wave of unease washing over her.

Astrid shakes her head, “Can’t phrase it as a question, has to be a statement.”

“Pureblood,” Mallyn states. Out of the stone, a glowing green light highlights a generous size slab in the shape of a doorway. The light disappears as there is a second of light grinding of stone against stone, then the rectangle slides upwards disappearing into the wall, leaving only the gaping hole, revealing a darkly lit room. The curtains are drawn over the windows and two four-poster beds against the far right side of the room.

Astrid pushes the two younger girls into the room. “Sleep tight, you have the weekend free, but classes start on Monday, schedules are over on your desks, for that which you need you need not ask, you only speak your demand, ” she says, pointing to the two long desks against the opposite wall of the room. She wiggles her fingers as a goodbye, excusing herself from the room. Her head pops back in, “Oh, and the loo is the room at the end of the hall,” she says as the slab of stone lowers back to the ground, resealing the room.

The two girls stand around, unsure of what to do. 

The taller of the two takes the initiative, offering Mallyn her hand. “Lusidia, but everyone calls me Lucy,” she greets, quickly shaking Mallyn’s hand then retracting hers, “guess we’re stuck together for the next seven years.”

Mallyn looks around, surveying the room. Besides the two beds and two desks, the only other pieces of furniture in the room are the giant wooden armoires against the wall that the door had been. “At least there’s only two of us, I don’t think I could handle four roommates,” she says. “Are you okay with the beds the way they are?”

“Yeah, could do with more light,” Lucy shrugs. The room grows brighter and warmer, a chandelier of candles descending from the center of the ceiling. 

“Whoa,” they both exhale. 

Lucy spins around, looking around the room. “I want my bed where my desk is,” she says, testing out her theory. The furniture starts to move, her bed floating away from its spot as her desk moves as well, each piece ending up where the other had been. “Cool,” she says, “you try.”

Mallyn looks around, spotting the empty space between their armoires. “Can we have a full-length mirror between the wardrobes?” she asks. They wait, nothing appearing in the space between the two wooden cabinets. Mallyn scowls, frustrated at why it is not working for her, then she remembers Astrid’s words. “I want a full-length mirror between the wardrobes,” she states. A full-length mirror complete with an ornate silver frame surrounding the reflective surface materializes from the wall as the wardrobes shift to make room. 

The two girls look at each other, bursting into a fit of giggles. They sink to the cold floor, recoiling from it. “Black shag carpeting,” Lucy speaks to the room. The entire slab of concrete disappears, plush ebony shag carpeting replacing it. They sink into it, feeling the soft material against their skin. Mallyn shivers, the temperature of the sub-level rooms cooler than she had been prepared for this early in the year. “Fireplace,” Lucy states. Out of the corner of her eye, Mallyn sees a fire roar to life. Lucy’s face shifts from pure excitement to disappointment.

Mallyn reaches out, “Are you okay?” she questions, placing her hand on Lucy’s knee.

“My parents are gonna be so disappointed,” she murmurs, reaching up to wipe a tear from her cheek.

“Why?” Mallyn inquires

Lucy looks up, searching Mallyn’s face for sincerity, finding in excess. “Are you Muggleborn?” she questions.

“Kind of? My dad is a Muggle,” she says, thinking of her parents, smiling at the image of them sitting on the hideous outdated floral couch in the living room in her mind.

“I’m guessing your mother hasn’t told you much about Hogwarts, or the Wizarding World in general,” Lucy gathers. She should not be surprised, not with the way that Mallyn has reacted to everything so far. She breathes deeply, unsure of exactly where to start. Even with her father attending Mahoutokoro in his youth, he knew the warnings of the house of snakes cloaked in shades of green and silver. He and her mother, a Hufflepuff Alumni, have spent Lucy’s childhood making sure she has known who, or more exactly what she is, she cannot imagine finding out and having to adapt. “Slytherin as a house, and those who are members, have a bad reputation for being,” she says, choosing her words carefully. Mallyn raises her thick eyebrows, silently asking her to continue. “Evil,” Lucy finishes, unsure of what other word to use when they would all be synonyms of the simple truth. Mallyn’s face drops as she processes the word. “Some of the worst of the worst came from Slytherin, the ones who end up in Azkaban,” she tells Mallyn, chills running down Lucy’s spine from just mentioning it. “Top security prison for Wizards and Witches,” she explains.

“Does everyone…” she says, unsure of her own question. Does everyone know? Does everyone think this? Does everyone fall to the same fate? She gasps, realizing now exactly just what Fred and George had stopped Percy from rambling on about on the train. She does not even need Lucy to answer, she knows just from the experiences she has had in this momentously long day.

“Think it’s my turn to ask if you’re okay,” Lucy says, placing her hand over Mallyn’s. “It doesn’t mean we’re gonna turn out that way,” she reassures her, “being Slytherin doesn’t mean you’re doomed, I mean, apparently, there’s a Sixth Year that goes by the name Tonks and her mom was a Slytherin, and a Black at that, she married a Hufflepuff Muggleborn and went against everything her family stood for, plus there’s only a handful of those that turn out truly evil, and it’s not like it’s just Slytherin, I mean, there’s thirteen other official Wizarding Schools, not including the unofficial ones plus kids who get homeschooled, some of them are bound to be bad, I mean, there was the whole you know, well, I suppose you don’t actually, but there’s so much more to Slytherin than the bad,” she says, moving more animatedly as she goes on, obviously excited by the promise of something besides gloom and doom, “I mean, those who accomplish great things are awarded with an Order of Merlin-”

“Merlin was actually real?” Mallyn asks, removing the card from her chocolate frog from her back pocket. The gold writing still proclaims his name, but the space where his photo had been is empty.

“And a Slytherin,” Lucy adds. 

Mallyn turns her focus back to the card, watching as Merlin reappears and waves to her. “How does the hat choose?” Mallyn questions, watching Merlin disappear again.

Lucy hums, dragging her fingers through the soft strands of the carpet. “Not really sure, I know it uses Legilimency, wouldn’t be surprised if it uses Arithmancy or Divination,” she says, thinking out loud, suddenly wondering herself. Mallyn opens her mouth to ask a question, but Lucy cuts her off, quickly learning Mallyn never leaves something as be, always needs an explanation, “Mind reading and two different ways to predict the future, you can take classes on them your Third Year as your electives if it interests you,” she explains.

Mallyn nods. It is only the first day, not even as classes have not begun, and how is she going to make it through the week, let alone three more years with all these questions swimming around her mind. The question that floats to the front of her mind is that of which the Sorting Hat stated to her mere hours ago. “Did it talk to you?” she asks Lucy.

Lucy shakes her head, her ebony hair moving in waves much like the water beyond the glass. “No, I mean it barely even touched my head, but it laughed,” she says, her face contorting, “laughed like it knew something no one else did.”

“It remembered my mother, knew that she married a Muggle and that her family didn’t like that, called it defecting,” Mallyn says, hating how the words feel in her mouth, but hating even more how it feels to hear them out loud. She shakes it from her head, forcing a smile on, “It said that I have great potential,” she tells Lucy. She can feel her smile fade when she remembers the other comment the hat made.

Lucy smiles with her, noticing when Mallyn’s drops rather quickly. “What?”

“Nothing, that was it,” she lies, realizing that revealing the reference the hat made about her lineage may not be the best move and while she may not be willing to talk about it, that does not mean she cannot try to understand it. “I’m pretty tired, think it’s best to head to bed,” Mallyn says, standing up. Lucy follows suit, trailing behind her as they walk over to the armoires, pulling open the door to reveal all their clothing out of their trunks and sorted perfectly. Mallyn pushes a few things around, finally finding her favourite jumper to sleep in, one of her father’s Oxford ones from his years of attendance. She sheds her robe and hangs it carefully on the hook on the back of the door along with her tie, taking only a moment to survey the dark green and silver hues of the stripes. In the cover the door offers her, she slips off the many layers of her tops, trading it for the warmth and comfort the jumper provides. Mallyn selects the first pair of sleep trousers from the bottom drawer, quickly pulling them on. She carefully closes the doors to the armoire, turning around to face her bed. She walks over, carefully pulling back the heavy curtains, Lucy already comfortably curled up under the bedspread of her own four-poster bed. Mallyn stands at the edge of her bed, eyeing the black silk sheets and silver velvet bedspread. Lucy rolls over, yawning into her pillow. “Vampire bed bugs aren’t real, right? That was just to mess with us?” she questions, hesitant to touch it, let alone sleep in it. The answer she receives is not reassuring.

“They’re real, just not here,” Lucy murmurs, her words fading into another yawn. She rolls over once more, the right side of her face pressing into the fabric of her pillowcase. 

Mallyn inhales deeply, reminding herself that there is absolutely nothing to be scared of, not in this bed in a magical room in a magical dungeon that is technically underwater in a lake that holds monsters at a school that is on lockdown because an evil wizard has escaped custody. Absolutely nothing to be scared of at all, other than everything. Pushing aside her bag, Mallyn climbs into the bed and sinks into the mattress, comfort immediately flooding her senses. She reaches over, pulling the curtain tight, trapping her in momentary darkness. Digging around in her bag, she finds her wand, separating it from the other contents of her bag. There is one spell she does know, one that her mother deemed perfectly safe to teach her herself. “Lumos,” Mallyn whispers, a golden light projecting itself from the end of her wand. Pointing her wand down into her bag, she digs around, searching for what her soul is craving. Finally feeling the worn leather, she wraps her hand around the strap and pulls it upwards. Her journal flops out of her bag, pulling the box of jelly beans along with it. She picks up the box, inspecting the colourful design of the small box. “Bernie’s Bott’s Bean?” she questions, silently repeating it three times. “Wizards have such weird names,” she mutters, turning the box over in her hand. Banana? Eh. Black Pepper? Weird. Blueberry. Uh yes please! Booger? Booger? “And taste in food, I need to bring regular sweets back with me after break,” she mutters, pushing the box of repulsive candies aside. She pulls her knees up, resting the journal against her thighs. She drags her finger along the design embossed on the front, an ornate design of green lines intertwining into a never-ending cycle. Mallyn tugs on the knot, undoing the straps. The journal falls open to the last page, her pen still stuck into the binding. She leans forward, transcribing her day only omitting the trivial and mundane. She reads through it, smiling at the amount of memories she has made in a single day, the good and the bad. She goes back and fills in the not particularly important details in the runoff, not wanting to forget a second of one of the days that has forever changed her life. Sighing contently, she closes the journal and secures the leather binding. She absentmindedly traces her finger along the design, something she has done time and time again, in the past she has even found herself tracing it on paper, tabletops, against her skin, finding comfort in the familiar design, the familiar feeling of the carvings on her skin as she presses her fingers into the leather. Lucy moves within her bed, shifting restlessly under the bedspread. Mallyn pushes her curtain back, peeking at her roommate. Her arm is laying on top of her face, pushing against her nose, affecting the way she breathes. Instead of a quiet in and out, her breaths come out in little huffs, her lungs overcompensating for the obstruction of her nose by forcing more air out of her mouth. Mallyn pulls her curtain shut, blocking out the light from the fireplace. She shoves her bag, journal, and wand all to the far side of the bed. Even with her items taking up space, she can still stretch out entirely. Back home, in her little twin bed, she can stretch from the top to the bottom, but if she puts her arms out, her hands flop off the sides. She reaches out, gripping the silk beneath her fingers, slowly dragging her thumbs against the soft material as her consciousness slips from her.

Chapter Text

Owls circle the ceiling of the Great Hall, packages, letters, and everything in between dropping from their claws, a select few descending to the tables for the strings around their legs to be undone. A deep red envelope with the gold Weasley crest embossed on the back drops from the sky, landing on the Gryffindor table where all the Weasley boys sit eating their breakfast. Errol lands on the table next to Percy, waiting for her payment. 

“Oh, no,” George groans, throwing his upper body onto the table, letting the wood soak up his pain.

“Oh, yes!” Charlie cheers, laughing at his younger brother’s embarrassment. “I wish I had a camera,” Charlie says, holding up his fingers as if taking a picture. Percy holds out a small piece of bacon for the family owl, the creature gratefully accepting it and gobbling down the piece of fried meat.

Bill groans at the standard Howler packaging. He wishes the Ministry would just ban them under cruel and unusual punishment. He picks up the letter, making a tear in the ribbon with his knife.

Molly Weasley’s voice explodes out of the letter, the parchment taking on the shape of her lips. “Hello, my Gryffindor boys, it’s Mummy, I couldn’t be more proud of you! Ah, Bill, my Head Boy! Charlie, a Prefect! And Percy on his way! And Percy tells me the twins have made a new friend quite quickly, but I’m not sure he spelled her name right in his letter, Mallyn,” their mother’s voice calls out. “Mallyn, Mallyn, Mallyn, M-A-L-L-Y-N,” she repeats, each time taking on a different tone as if it could help her figure out a way that sounds right. Unbeknownst to the boys, Mallyn approaches the table, watching in horror as the animated letter screams and yells, flinching when it says her name, only relaxing when she realizes it is not in fact talking to her, but rather just about her. Her cheeks flush, knowing she is hearing something George and Fred would probably not want her to hear. Parents talking about friends, or pretty much anything, is always rather embarrassing. “Hmm, suppose it’s one of those names you have to get used to, although he went on and on about her bloodline,” she says, her octave dropping from excitement to actual disappointment. The Howler turns to face Percy, “Percy, drop the subject entirely,” it orders. The lips upturn again, addressing the Weasley boys as a whole now. “Anyway, kisses and hugs from your father and I, Ron is absolutely chomping at the bit to join you and Ginny too! Love you!” her voice calls before the letter rips itself to shreds, falling to the table in little bitty pieces.

Fred groans, matching his twin and flopping onto the table, a little bit of leftover toast sticking to his cheek. “Could she be any more embarrassing? Why’d she send a Howler for that?” he complains.

Charlie and Bill burst out laughing, remembering exactly how it felt to be in their position. In Charlie's third year, their mother had sent a Howler about getting top marks in his first Care for Magical Creatures class. “The letters get confused by her voice, I got one second year that was talking about how excited she was about me making the quidditch team,” Charlie offers, remembering staring at the letter as it heated up while he tried to figure out what he possibly did to deserve a Howler.

Percy makes a little noise, almost as he did not intend for it to escape. He scowls at the parchment in front of him. “Better get used to it, I have a feeling you two are gonna be getting a lot of those in the next few years,” he says while stirring his tea with one hand, scratching something out of the writing on the parchment in front of him with the quill in his other hand.

Fred and George both pop up, glaring at their older brother. “Why do you assume the worst?” they question together.

“Because I have been your brother for eleven and a half years, you came out of the womb with fireworks in your hands,” he states, never looking at them, just continuing to stir his tea and write.

“Shove off,” they mutter, pushing at Percy. He slides out of the way, careful not to knock over his tea.

“That’d be quite the sight,” Mallyn chuckles, her hand covering her mouth.

George and Fred’s heads whip around, smiling at their friend. “Hi, Mal,” Fred greets.

Her smile drops at his words. “Don’t call me, Mal,” she warns, her arms crossing against her chest. The movement makes her bag hit her in the leg, knocking her off balance slightly. “My name is Mallyn,” she asserts, standing her ground.

Fred’s face shifts, his smile vanishing and his eyes widening in confusion. “Sorry, it just slipped out,” Fred offers, looking to his brother for help.

Mallyn inhales deeply, “It means bad and I’m not, I’m not bad,” she states, forcing herself to remain calm.

“I never said-” Fred says, trying to backtrack.

Mallyn sits down, her bag separating their legs from touching. “It hasn't even been a full day, and it’s already been made very clear what Slytherin is known for,” she says. 

George pushes a fresh glass of orange juice to her. “It’s just a stereotype,” he offers.

Percy sets aside his parchment, unable to concentrate with the bickering. “Some legends say that gingers’ freckles are souls they’ve stolen from others since they don’t have their own,” he states. One set of wide blue eyes and two sets of narrow brown eyes stare at him. “Another stereotype, a legend, a story, a warning, if you will,” he explains. All three First Years’ mouths drop open into o’s. 

“I can’t believe you wrote to Mum last night,” Charlie scoffs, lunging across the table to ruffle his little brother’s hair.

Percy pushes him off, his own hands immediately going to his hair to try and tame it. From what Mallyn has observed so far, he should just leave it be as it seems like every one of his brothers is determined to undermine his desire to have neat hair. “I write to her every night, I’m not a barbarian like the rest of you,” he proclaims while fiddling with his tie, the only out of six at the table to be in his uniform despite it being Saturday.

“You need a hobby,” Charlie states, a heavy sigh escaping his lips as he rubs his hand over his brows.

“Perhaps a girlfriend,” Bill adds, although he is not one to talk. Even with Emily Tyler having gone and graduated, he still cannot seem to find it in him to trust his own judgement of character, at least when it comes to serious romantic prospects.

“Maybe a hobby with a girlfriend because you’re getting just plain sad,” Charlie adds.

Wanting a female’s perspective, Bill turns to the only girl at the table, “Mallyn-” 

“No,” she says, both to his unasked question and to being involved at all. 

Fred and George burst out laughing. “See even a lowly First Year wouldn’t touch you with a ten-foot pole, but she was all for Charlie yesterday,” George mocks. Fred hits him in the arm while Mallyn’s cheeks flush. “Ow,” George mutters, rubbing his arm with one hand, punching his twin right back with the other.

Charlie raises his eyebrows, nodding at the entire interaction. He pushes himself up from the table, swinging his legs over the bench. “Gotta catch you guys later, first quidditch practice of the year starts at noon,” he states, stuffing the last bit of eggs in his mouth. He lifts the first two fingers of his left hand to his temple, saluting the table goodbye as he walks backwards.

“Quidditch?” Mallyn questions, watching as Charlie walks away.

An almost sinister smile grows on Fred’s lips. “Oh, you’re going to love this,” he exclaims, swinging his legs over the bench and pulling on Mallyn’s wrist to follow. The pair comes to an abrupt stop at the entrance of the Great Hall. Fred looks her up and down, frowning at her plain pale pink long sleeve tee shirt. “You’re gonna need something warmer, and a snack,” he says, releasing her wrist from his grip. “Meet back here in ten?” he says. She nods, separating from him to head towards her room.

Mallyn wanders down the hall, stopping to look at different points now that things are visible in the daylight streaming in through windows and skylights. There are a few other students in the corridors, exploring exactly as she is. Before she knows it, she is standing in front of the entrance to the Slytherin common room. She lifts her wand out of her bag, holding it up against the cool stone, “Pureblood,” she whispers. The door pops open, revealing the lively common room as a bunch of students move around, all talking at the speed of light as they recount their summer holidays to each other. She scoots around a group of three, gliding past the curtain. “Pureblood,” she states once she is in front of her and Lucy’s room. She stands back as the door reveals itself, sliding open to reveal Lucy still dead asleep in her bed with the curtains mostly shut, the only sign of life being her light snoring beyond the velvet fabric. Mallyn walks over to her armoire, pulling out her heaviest jumper, a light blue turtleneck that her grandmother gave her last Christmas. She pulls it over her shirt, snuggling into the soft material. She turns to leave, stopping when she remembers Fred said to bring a snack. Carefully, she sneaks over to her bed, not wanting to wake up her slumbering roommate. She grabs the box of jellybeans and the small bag of popcorn, holding them tightly in one hand. Pausing for a moment, she stares at her journal. Mallyn looks around the room, trying to decide the best hiding place. Under the mattress is too obvious, as well as her desk. “I need a secret hiding place only I can access,” she says, waiting to see if the room will cooperate with her request. A glowing out of the corner of her eye catches her attention. She picks up her journal with her free hand then walks over to the fireplace, feeling around. There is a slight protrusion in one of the stones where the rest are smooth. She drags her finger along it, recoiling as it nicks her finger. She sticks her finger in her mouth in an attempt to soothe the small wound, her journal dropping to the floor in a dull thump. The stone shoots out of the wall, revealing a hollow space within. Smiling, she picks up her journal and sticks her journal inside, pushing the stone back into the wall. It seals itself back into the wall. Stepping back, she counts the number of stones up and over, making sure she knows exactly which one contains her journal. Her assessment satisfies her. She turns on her heel, exiting the room, snacks in hand and her bag thumping against her leg with every step. 

“Oi, First Year!” a high and airy voice calls as Mallyn passes with the intent of exiting the common room. She turns around, searching the room. A girl with the middle section of her otherwise white-blonde bangs emerald green stands up from a chair by one of the large windows. “She still asleep?” Seventh Year, Erica Rath questions, jerking her finger back towards the dorms. Mallyn nods. “Swear that train ride is a fucking sedative,” she mutters, rolling her eyes. She sinks back into her seat, propping her book up on her lap. Mallyn turns back around, pushing her way out of the room. Weaving her way back up to the main floor, she spots Fred’s hair from the end of the hallway. She walks quicker, not wanting to keep him waiting longer than necessary. 

Fred smiles as he sees her approach, her turtleneck the shade of her eyes. She walks right up, looking up at him, a smile on her face. “Did you try the jelly beans yet?” he asks, noticing the box in her hands.

She holds it out for him to take, shaking her head, “There is no amount of cherry-flavored jelly beans that is worth the risk of getting a booger or vomit one.”

He picks at the top of the box, digging around within it, “Here,” he says, holding out a single red one to her. She stares at the jelly bean hesitantly, her face scrunching up. “Trust me,” Fred laughs.

She picks up the jelly bean, licking it once before placing it on her tongue. “Cinnamon,” she hums, smiling at the familiar flavor. He digs through the box, pulling out a slightly lighter one, inspecting it closely. He holds it out to her. She repeats her process, smiling after chewing it. Fred raises his eyebrows as a silent question. “Cherry,” she confirms. Fred moves to dig around again, but she places her hand on his wrist, stopping his movement. “I know that the earthworm flavor is red, the rest of the box is all yours,” she tells him. 

“I think little Freddy’s got himself a girlfriend,” Bill says. George follows his line of sight. He spots Fred and Mallyn at the doors of the Great Hall, her hand on his. George’s eyebrows raise. It’s nothing , he thinks, if there’s anything going on, Fred will tell him . He turns back to his brother to defend his twin but finds an empty space where Bill had been. George looks around, spotting his eldest brother walking through the door at the opposite end of the hall that leads out to the courtyard, leaving George with just Percy. He looks around, searching for a better option. As if the universe is granting his silent request, one of his roommates walks through the doors, following Fred’s finger to George.

Lee bounds up to the table, his energy radiating off of him. He plops himself down next to George, talking fast enough that a lesser capable person would not be able to keep up, but growing with several talk fasting siblings and his mother has left George more than prepared. “Your brother said he’s busy, but do you want to go explore the castle?” Lee questions. His foot restlessly tapping out an erratic beat against the stone floor.

“Do you know what he’s doing?” George questions, not turning around to look at Fred.

Lee jumps up, setting his butt on the table and his feet on the bench. “They’re going to watch quidditch practice,” he says, looking around the room. He pauses, turning his attention back to George. “Wanna come? Unless you’re doing something with...” he says, looking at Percy.

George cuts him off, getting up off the bench. “Never, sure, let’s go,” he says, heading into the main part of the school, passing where his twin had been. 

Fred rambles on as he and Mallyn walk towards the far door, trying to explain the concept of quidditch. Mallyn does not discourage him, she thinks it is fascinating how he talks about the sport as if it is everything, even when nothing he is saying makes any sense to her, not the words nor the order they are in. Fred winds down as they reach the door. He pushes on it, holding it open for her.

“Is George coming?” Mallyn questions, tucking her hair behind her ear to be able to see Fred, but the wind has a different idea, blowing her hair around her head like a budding tornado.

Fred stops moving, looking back down the corridor then over his shoulder, waiting for his twin to pop up. “I’m so used to him just being there, I don’t think I told him,” he mutters, looking around in frustration. How could he not have realized George wasn’t there? he silently scolds himself. Fred runs back to where they had just come from, poking his head into the Great Hall, but the only ginger still remaining at the table is Percy, muttering at his paper. He runs back to Mallyn, where she greets him with a smile. “He must’ve found something to do, I’ll find him later,” he says, unsure of just how he feels being without his other half. As they walk towards the field, Fred thinks back, trying to find a single memory in his mind where it was not the two of them together. Even at home, if one was on the top floor and the other was on the main floor, that was still only a few feet of distance, and now he has no clue where he is in the great big castle.

Fred and Mallyn tredge out past the school, the bleachers in the distance growing bigger as they get closer. “I’ll meet you up there,” he says, pointing to the top of the bleachers before walking onto the field, making a beeline to Charlie. Mallyn starts ascending the bleachers, taking them slowly to appreciate the view with each step. Once she is three-fourths of the way up, she stops to look around. She sets her popcorn down on the bench next to her. Staring at the school, she appreciates the sheer monstrosity of a castle. If she did not know better, she would think it never ends, but she does know better since she can see the trees that start of the Forbidden Forest and the murky water of the Black Lake.

Fred climbs the stairs, taking them two at a time. He stops a few feet from Mallyn, watching her as she stands still, just taking in the view. She turns slowly, smiling when she sees Fred waiting for her. She climbs over the bench, taking a seat and patting the empty spot next to her.

“For me?” Fred teases, dramatically widening his eyes, placing his hand on his chest.

Mallyn laughs, her hand reaching up to cover her mouth. “No, for Peeves, he’s right there, can’t you see him?” she questions. 

Fred turns, aggressively waving his hands through the empty air next to him. “He had to go,” he shrugs, using the benches as steps to climb up to his spot.

“Then it’s all yours,” she says as he plops down next to her. “So what should I be expecting?”

Fred looks out on the field, thirteen potential Gryffindor players all holding their brooms in their hands. “Not much, this is the first trial of the season, they’ll be working with the new players, they have a new starting Keeper, other one graduated, Charlie’ll fill in the roster with substitutes if anyone’s good enough,” he explains, pointing down at the small crowd, singling out the second shortest player on the field, the new Keeper, Oliver Wood. “I think they have a good chance at winning the cup this year, last time Gryffindor won was for the eighty-five, eighty-six year, Charlie was Seeker then too, but every year since then Slytherin’s won,” Fred rattles on, watching as the players start to move around, stretching the final bits of sleep out of their bodies.

Mallyn squints, trying to understand how Fred can see anything from up here, let alone be able to tell the figures apart, besides Charlie whose hair acts as a beacon to his position wherever he moves. “How come?”

Fred chews on his tongue, wanting to be careful how he phrases his words, as Mallyn’s already snapped at him once today for an honest mistake. “Being cunning, or straight up ruthless, depending on the player, comes in handy,” he explains, emphasizing the middle part of his sentence. Mallyn turns to look at him, no anger on her face, just a simple look of trying to understand this new world of hers. “The rules of quidditch are flexible at best, most of the time anything goes,” he says, shrugging. She turns away, her attention back on the field. Fred peaks over her, spotting the tip of her wand poking out of her bag. “Have you tried any spells yet?” he questions.

“Just one, Lumos,” she answers, leaning forward more to try and see the players more clearly, “my mom taught it to me once I got my wand.”

“Ollivander’s?” Fred asks. Mallyn nods, still not looking at him. Fred sighs, wondering what he can do to draw her attention back to him. He resorts to his natural state of rambling. “That’s where I got mine too, all of us so far, poor little Ronny’s probably gonna get stuck with a hand me down since Bill and Charlie will have graduated by then, Ginny too,” he says. Mallyn turns to look at him, her eyebrows furrowing in confusion. “A lot of Wizards get multiple wands over their life, whether they feel they outgrow it, they break it, you know things happen,” he explains. He reaches into the internal pocket of his jacket, removing his wand. He places it flat against his palms, holding it out for her to see. “It’s got a unicorn core and made of spruce,” he proudly proclaims.

“That can't be comfortable to hold,” she says, reaching out and dragging her finger down the ridges of his wand, the texture reminding her of the pinecones near her grandparents' house in Indiana.

Fred defensively grips the handle, forcing himself not to cringe as the grooves pinch his skin. “Yeah, and what’s yours look like?” he quips while waving his wand around to get a true feel for it. Mallyn reaches into her bag, removing her wand. “I got jipped,” he groans, dramatically flopping backwards. He cracks one of his eyes open at the sound of Mallyn’s laugh.

“Look, I can even hold it like brass knuckles,” she says. Fred sits up and watches intently as she slips her fingers through the three small circles at the base of the wand. She looks up, confusion on his face instead of hers for once. “Oh, they’re these things made of metal, usually steel despite the name, and you put them on your fingers like this,” she demonstrates, switching the wand from her right hand to her left, “and when you punch someone it makes it more damaging,” she explains, mockingly punching the air in front of them. Fred watches the entire thing in awe. “My dad really likes American gangster stories,” Mallyn explains.

Fred laughs, “My da’ would get a kick out of you, all things Muggle fascinate him, he works for the Ministry of Magic, head of the Misuse of Muggle Artefacts Office,” he tells her, while she continues to fiddle with her wand, spinning it around her index finger. “Remember what it’s made of?” 

Mallyn thinks for a moment, trying to remember exactly what Ollivander had told her. She had tried out so many wands, the words all bleed together in her mind. “Dragon and acacia,” she says, deciding those two sounded the most right.

“Really?” Fred questions, mentally flipping through the options in his mind.

She nods, “Yeah, I tried out a few and Mr. Ollivander didn't like any of them for me so he went into the back and brought this out, said he saved the ones in back for special Witches and Wizards, that this one spoke to him, but wouldn’t tell me what was so special about it,” she says, now wondering if there is a reason he would not tell her. 

Fred waits for a moment, unsure if he should say anything. Mallyn tilts her head, waiting for him to speak. He sighs, knowing he is not the best person to explain this, but he also knows she will not let it go now that it has been brought up. “If I remember right, acacia is rare, Ollivander can be a snob when it comes to wands, he only makes wands with either unicorn, dragon, or phoenix cores, tons of different types of wood, but acacia is really picky,” he explains, “it’s just weird that it’s such a weird shape, usually the more special the material, the more boring the design.” 

A little huff of air leaves Mallyn’s lips. She holds the wand up to her eyes, carefully inspecting the object. “Why do I get the feeling that every adult in the Wizarding World knows more than they ever let on?” she quietly asks, staring at her wand as if it would provide her with an answer.

“Do Muggle adults not do that?” Fred asks.

“They do, but not in the same way,” she says, “there, it’s like they’re working off of general assumptions of what they think everyone turns out to be from their own life experiences, but here, it’s like they all literally know things about us,” she says, shuddering under the odd look in Ollivander’s eyes when the wand worked for her almost a month ago. “I mean, the Sorting Hat, for one, it’s just creepy,” she says, her laugh fading into a yawn.

“Yeah,” Fred half-heartedly murmurs. Fred watches closely as Mallyn’s body shakes from the force of her yawn, or rather from trying to fight it. “You okay?”

She nods her head while continuing to yawn. “Yeah, yeah, just tired, I didn’t really sleep,” she murmurs, her hand reaching up to cover her umpteenth yawn, except this time her yawn turns into a laugh. “I swear the squid was staring at me through the curtains,” she says, even though she has no way of knowing if anything was truly outside the window through the curtains covering the windows plus the curtains around her bed. 

Fred looks down at the field. None of the players are even on their brooms yet. “Take a nap, they’re not gonna start doing anything for about twenty minutes,” he says. Mallyn shakes her head, wanting to power through and not miss a minute of the practice. Fred shrugs off his jacket, bunching it up in his hands. He holds it out for her. 

Mallyn accepts it with a shy smile and sets it on the bench. She pulls her legs up onto the wood plank and lays down, resting her head on the makeshift pillow. She moves a little bit and a content sigh escapes her lips before settling into the comfort of sleep. 

Fred smiles, proudly resting his hands behind his head as he lounges back, keeping her in the corner of his eye as he watches the players shift on their feet to keep warm. The cool breeze nips at his skin, but the warmth inside him from seeing Mallyn use his scrunched-up jacket as a pillow is more than sufficient to keep him from shaking. He moves around a little bit, careful not to bump into her. Her hair fans out against the jacket, the light brown hue of her hair contrasting to the sunshine yellow of his jacket. He sticks his hand in his pocket, dragging his thumb against the soft material of her ribbon to avoid reaching out and touching her hair. He has never felt anything so soft. Everyone in his family, besides sharing the colour, all of them have an odd variety of textures scattered throughout their hair, none even coming close to the silkiness of Mallyn’s. He reaches up with his other hand, dragging his fingers through his own hair, catching on little knots despite brushing it only an hour ago.

Charlie looks up, finally taking a break from his role as team captain, to wave at his little brother. If anyone in the family is more obsessed with quidditch than Charlie, it’s the twins. Quite frankly, he was surprised when Fred walked onto the field earlier without George. Charlie gives him a thumbs up, before lowering his goggles. 

Fred leans up, nudging Mallyn’s shoulder. Her eyes flutter open, inhaling deeply. She shifts, recoiling at the coolness of the wooden bleacher against the small sliver of skin from her jumper bunching up in her sleep. “Better?” Fred questions as soon as her eyes are completely awake.

“Yeah, thanks,” she mumbles, reaching up to rub her eyes. Her head lulls to the side, looking down at the field. “They about to start?” she questions, a yawn distorting her words. Fred nods. Mallyn pushes herself up, sitting up. She carefully picks up Fred’s jacket, shaking it out in front of her to unbundle it. She hands it back to Fred. He quickly pulls it on, zipping it up completely. Mallyn stretches up, trying to rid her body of the last bit of sleep.

Practice kicks off, each player zooming around on their brooms, trying to regain the feeling for their rides after a summer off. Mallyn leans farther forward, trying to get a basic understanding of what is going on, but all she sees are multiple blurry blobs moving around the field. Fred leans forward, trying to get into the game, but he quickly finds that watching practice is nothing compared to playing.

“This is boring,” Fred exhales, leaning back onto the bench. 

“Oh, thank God,” she says, leaning backwards as she laughs. Mallyn moves, fidgeting uncomfortably, moving until she pushes her upper body off the bench, dangling by her feet. Fred leans between his legs, watching as her hair sways from the light breeze. She hangs upside down, content to sway with the breeze. The world looks different flipped, almost like it is a different world entirely. Instead of everything rushing by, it is as if they are in slow motion. Movement out of the corner of her eye catches her attention. Her brows furrow as she squints at the man across the yard, hovering between a wall and a tree, staring directly at her. A lightbulb goes off within her mind. “I know him,” she mutters, pulling herself upright. The sudden movement causes her to lose her grip. Before she can even try to catch herself, she is slipping through the small gap between levels of bleachers. Fred reaches out, grabbing her by her jumper, but the fabric slips through his fingers. She hits the first level of wood a few feet down, breaking through the old oak as she cradles her knees to her chest. She continues tumbling through the air, through the next wooden platform all while watching Fred’s face contort in fear. She slams her eyes shut, preparing for the worst, but impact never comes. She peeks through one eye, the ground a few inches below her. Her savior slowly lowers her the few remaining inches until her entire body is pressing into the damp grass. Resisting her urge to kiss the earth, she pushes herself over, flopping her back against the ground. Charlie drops to the ground, his face hovering over her, concern dripping off of him. “Are you okay?” he asks, scanning her for signs of damage. 

“Whoa,” she exhales, looking up at the boy hovering above her as if he were an angel. 

“Mallyn!” Fred calls as he runs towards the pair, his heart pounding. If it was not for his older brother's quick reflexes, she would be nothing but a pancake-shaped girl on the ground. 

Mallyn’s head falls to the side, her eyes focusing on the spot she had seen the man that had distracted her in the first place, but there is no sign of him. “Up we go, come on,” Charlie mutters, hoisting her off her back until she is standing upright. 

The world around her spins. “You were so fast, how did you get to me so fast,” she rambles, not actually asking him, more processing the fact that she almost just died. Why had she fallen in the first place? Of course! The man! She looks around spinning in circles, but the only people out are students, minus Filch who is completely unaware of what just happened, off in his own world as he talks to himself. 

Charlie chuckles, “Well, I’m not Seeker by accident,” he says, clasping his hands onto her shoulders, forcing her to stand still.

“What?” she questions absentmindedly, still turning in search of the man. “I knew him,” she says, only coming to a stop as Charlie holds her still with a firm grip on both arms. 

“Of course, you know me, we met yesterday on the train then again this morning,” Charlie chuckles, lines forming around his brown eyes as he smiles. “Are you alright?” he asks as a small crowd grows around the two. Fred rushes up to the group, hunching over in exhaustion as his adrenaline fades.

“Fine, fine, I knew him, how do I know him?” she mutters, trying to wiggle out of Charlie’s grasp, but Charlie tightens his grip, forcing her to look at him. She blinks a few times, a sudden rushing filling her ears.

“Who?” Charlie repeats.

Mallyn blinks a few more times until Charlie and Fred are clear in front of her. “The man, the man that was over there,” she says, turning to look over her shoulder.

Fred and Charlie lean to look around Mallyn. “I don’t see anyone,” Charlie says as Fred raises his eyebrows.

She shakes her head, pushing his hands off of her. “He’s not there anymore, I saw him when I was upside down, I know him, I just don’t know from where,” she says, turning to walk in that direction. 

Fred trails behind her. “What’d he look like?” he questions.

“Miss Smyth!” a shrill voice calls. The three come to a stop. Minerva catches up with the trio, her focus on Mallyn. “Pray tell, what on earth was that?” she questions. She reaches forward, pinching Mallyn’s face between her fingers and examining the girl. Her pupils are blown out, only a sliver of blue visible. Charlie and Fred back away, putting a foot between themselves and the Head of Gryffindor. 

Mallyn stutters as she shakes herself loose from Minerva's grip. “I didn’t mean to, I just lost my balance,” she explains, looking to Fred for help. 

Fred steps forward, stopping when Minerva raises her hand. “I can see that, but my heart isn’t-” she says, exhaling heavily. She examines the young girl in front of her, her face betraying her confusion more than anything else. “Please follow me to the infirmary,” she instructs, sweeping out her arm.

“I’m okay,” Mallyn insists, again looking to Fred for help, but he shakes his head, his face contorting into one of pity.

Minerva places her hand on the girl’s back, guiding her back towards the school. “Madam Pomfrey will be the judge of that,” she says. Mallyn trudges along, pouting. “It hasn’t even been twenty-four hours, are we going to have a problem?” she questions. They approach the spot where Mallyn had seen the man, her eyes widening when she looks at the ground.

“Of course not, Professor, I didn’t mean to, I just slipped,” she says, her eyes focusing on the pair of footprints in the mud, exactly where she had seen the man.

Minerva stops, peering down at the girl. “How exactly does one just slip through the openings between levels?” she inquires, glancing over her shoulder at the structure. She’ll have to make a note for the repairs.

Mallyn looks up at her, chewing on her cheek until she sneezes, cringing at the pain. “I was upside down, tried to pull myself up, and lost my grip,” she explains. “Fred tried to help, he couldn’t hold me,” she says, quickly backtracking, not wanting to seem as if she was blaming him, “this isn’t his fault.”

“And you were upside down, why?” Minerva questions, her exhaustion written all across her face.

Mallyn sneezes again, her nose quickly growing red. “It’s fun, I did gymnastics growing up-” she says, turning to sneeze again. “Sorry, I’m usually only like this around-” she says, her explanation cut off by another small sneeze.

“Cats?” Minerva fills in for her. Mallyn nods, sneezing again. Minerva pushes forward, Mallyn trailing along next to her. “Madam Pomfrey can get you set up with an allergy potion,” she says. She waves her hand, the door opening for the pair. Minerva leads the way, winding her way through the building with ease. Mallyn follows her, taking in the castle as they move. Minerva waves her hand again, the doors to the infirmary opening. A woman stands up from her desk, rushing forward, the tail of her white cap following behind her.

“Miss Smyth here took a tumble from the top of the bleachers, through the platforms,” Minerva says, her lips pulling into a straight line on her face. 

Poppy Pomfrey gasps, reaching out to the girl. She escorts Mallyn to the first bed, one of twenty in the large room. Mallyn looks around, all the windows amazing her into silence. “Oh my goodness,” she exhales, quietly inspecting the silent girl. “Thank you, Minerva, I’ll take it from here,” she mutters as she waves her wand, supplies filling her cart. Minerva silently excuses herself, closing the doors behind her. The Madam raises her hand, the dividers boxing the two in before she magically removes Mallyn’s jumper and long sleeve shirt in one go, leaving her in her vest. Poppy gasps, bruises already forming all along Mallyn’s back. “Oh my goodness,” she exhales again, closing her eyes. “I have told ‘Landa a thousand times that she needs to watch all the students, not just the players,” she mutters to herself.

“I feel fine,” Mallyn says but groans as Poppy reaches forward and taps her wand against her back. “Okay, maybe not so fine,” she groans, her chin dropping to her chest. 

Poppy raises her wand, preparing herself. “Only take a moment, dear,” she promises before waving her wand, preferring the precision her wand offers her and whispering the incantation. The bruises on Mallyn’s back fade from existence before they even have a chance to fully form. Mallyn exhales a sigh of relief. Poppy holds up her arm, tutting at the little slivers of wood in her skin. “Just a few splinters, it could’ve been much worse,” she says, mostly to herself. She selects the tweezers from her cart, summoning her chair from the corner of the room. She carefully plucks the embedded wood from Mallyn’s skin, healing the open wounds with a wave of her wand. A content sigh escapes her lips, inspecting her work. She summons back Mallyn’s clothes, the soft fabric sliding back onto her body. “Now, you need to rest and give the spells the proper time to work,” she declares, cleaning up her workspace.

Mallyn stands up. “I feel fine really,” she says, but Poppy gently pushes her back down. 

“Rest,” she instructs. Mallyn lays back, the blankets coming up to rest over her. Mallyn lets her head fall to the side, seeing the quidditch field in the distance. Poppy waves her wand, the curtains closing around Mallyn, forcing her to choose either between the darkness of the room or the darkness behind her eyelids. She begrudgingly chooses the latter but is fast asleep within the minute.

Chapter Text

Mallyn rushes down the hall, sliding to an abrupt stop in front of the Potions classroom. She straightens her uniform, tugging at the front of her robe and jumper. Taking a deep breath, she steps into the room and quickly realizes her mistake: the room reeks of twenty different putrid smells that were not evident from the hallway due to the heavy barrier spell around the entirety of the classroom. Her eyes scan the room, searching for an empty seat in the dark and dingy room. A smile grows on her face when she spots two heads of red resting on a table. Mallyn weaves through the rows of desks, setting her bag down on the empty space of the desk in front of the twins. She takes a seat then spins to face them. Mallyn waits for a moment, appreciating the first sense of peace in this singular moment since leaving her home. She closes her eyes, savoring it for another second until she scoots forward, purposefully dragging the feet of her stool against the concrete flooring of the classroom.

Both boys' heads pop up, matching goofy grins on their freckled faces. “You escaped!” they proclaim together.

Mallyn nods, trying to control her smile. “Madam Pomfrey finally let me go, said I couldn’t miss the first day,” she explains.

The Potions Professor stalks towards the group, the hem of Severus Snape’s cloak dragging along the floor. He stops just before the group and clears his throat. “You look no worse for wear, Miss Smyth,” Severus states, giving a curt nod. Mallyn looks up, coming face to face with the Head of her house. She nods slightly, trying not to tremble under the hard gaze of the man. His attention switches from Mallyn to the twins. “No,” he declares, indicating with his finger for them to separate. They do not fight his order, Fred quickly moves around the table to sit next to Mallyn, while George sinks into his seat until Lee slides into the seat that Fred left vacant. Severus turns on his heels, scanning the room as he walks to the front, noting that all twenty First Years students are now present and in seats with partners. Severus stops moving as soon as he reaches his podium, glancing down at the parchment. “I am Professor Snape, your Potions Master, please turn to page one and read until page thirty-nine,” he says. With that, he turns on his heels and disappears into his office.

“Guessing he’s not a morning person,” Mallyn whispers.

Fred laughs, careful not to be too loud. “Oh no, he’s like this all the time,” he says, remembering his older brothers’ warnings.

Mallyn cracks open her book, flipping to the first page and reading through the foreword. Fred flips to page one, skimming the writing. He quickly works through all thirty-nine pages before Mallyn even reaches page one. He closes his books, opting to steal one of Mallyn’s sheets of parchments from her bag, doodling on the blank sheet. Mallyn tries to peek as he scribbles, knocking at his arm when he tries to cover up his work. He reveals it with a flourish. She rolls her eyes, watching as the little figure of himself flies around on a broom, zooming through a quidditch hoop.

“Mister Weasley,” Severus calls, stalking over to the desk. Mallyn quickly begins rereading, finally moving onto the second page. Severus glares down at Fred, scowling at the drawing. “Since you seem to be the first and only one done, care to explain what type of caldron Mr. Markings believes is best for a simple antidote potion,” Severus inquires, his hands linking behind his back as he peers down at the First Year. Mallyn tries to warn Fred not to answer, knowing it is a trap.

Fred looks up, smiling at Severus. “Certainly, Professor,” he says, “Mr. Wigger,” he states, emphasizing the correct name of the author of the book, “thinks that pewter caldrons are best for most potions which is why it is one of our required materials,” he says, pausing to look down at the closed book in front of him, “and he despises collapsing caldrons for their unsteadiness,” Fred answers, careful not to show off just how smug he feels. “Anything else, sir?” he asks, smiling at the grumpy Potions Master.

Severus’ lips remain in a straight line while a light huff escapes him. “Leave Miss Smyth alone or I will have no choice but to separate you two, Mister Weasley,” he states. Instead of retreating to his office again, he moves throughout the classroom, keeping an eye on the students as they continue their reading.

Fred returns to his doodles, adding in thirteen other players, his twin fulfilling the role of the other Beater of the Gryffindor team, which wins in a crippling defeat against the Slytherin team. Mallyn comes to the end of the introductory chapter, sticking a strip of parchment in as a placeholder. She leans over Fred’s arm, watching as a rematch plays out on the parchment.

Severus claps his hands together once, concealing his smile as he turns when several students’ faces contort in fear. “I understand that this is your first class and will take that into consideration when grading your homework that is due first thing tomorrow,” he states, watching as several students' shoulders drop. He waits for a moment, surveying the new class. “One parchment’s length on the basic necessities of any potions kit,” he looks around, raising his eyebrows. “You may get started,” he drawls, his annoyance seeping through his words. “Leave when the time is up,” he declares before slinking back into his secluded office, closing the door with a slam. A clock starts counting down, the silver object hovering just above the podium.

The First Years share a look, all wondering if this is what every class is going to consist of. Mallyn retrieves a fresh sheet of parchment from her bag, dipping her quill into the ink.

Fred follows suit, peeking at her essay, already done with the first paragraph. “Merlin, how do you write so fast?” he questions, his parchment still blank.

Mallyn sets her quill in the inkpot, refreshing the supply. “At my old school, nuns would walk around with these wooden rulers and hit our hands if they felt we weren’t working fast or neat enough,” she explains while copying a line from the textbook. Mallyn pauses, looking at Fred’s parchment, her mouth gaping at the ink on the page. “Your handwriting is horrid,” Mallyn whispers, hitting the feather of his quill with her own. Fred starts to defend his lettering, which he knows is horrible, his mother and brothers never stop pointing it out during lessons at home, but Mallyn tilts her head causing any words Fred wanted to say to drift away. She sets her quill down and places her hand on Fred’s forearm. “Thank you for bringing my bag to the infirmary,” she says, smiling, “Madam Pomfrey told me you stopped by.”

“That lady is not a fan of visitors,” Fred tells her, remembering how Poppy’s face had grown tenser and tenser in each passing moment he and George had stayed in the infirmary. “We tried to stop by to see you four times,” Fred says, “she’d only let us stay for a minute at a time and you were never awake when we stopped by, but she promised she’d get you your bag.”

George leans forward, placing his entire torso on his and Lee’s desk. “She’s scary, in a quiet sort of way,” George adds, his face contorting as he thinks of his mother’s silent anger, only a select few incidents in their life causing it to happen, the woman preferring verbal scoldings to silent contemplations.

“My heroes,” Mallyn teases, moving her hand from Fred’s arm to rest against her chest just where her heart lies within her. The clock in the front of the room reaches zero, rattling around against the wood. Mallyn carefully tucks everything back into her bag, not wanting the ink to spill or her words to smudge. Fred shoves his barely started essay in between pages of his book, holding it in his right hand. George rolls off the table with a flop, his items in his grip. Mallyn looks down at him, his bangs flopping backwards. “How’s the view from down there?”

He looks around the classroom, the words on the books around the room making about as much sense as they do upright. “Eh,” he shrugs. Fred and Lee offer George each a hand, easily pulling him up.

Mallyn swings the strap of her bag over her shoulder, standing still as it thumps against her leg, her skirt and robe softening the blow. “Charms?” she questions, the rumbling of her stomach making itself evident. “Sorry, didn’t get a chance to eat breakfast,” she mumbles, placing her hand over her stomach.

Fred riffles around under his robe, extracting a granola bar from his back pocket. He extends it out to Mallyn, “Sorry, it’s a little crumbled,” he grimaces as he feels it rattle around in the napkin.

“I imagine sitting on it would do that,” she jokes as she takes the snack from his hand. “Thanks, Freddie,” she says, quickly unknotting the napkin. Fred looks at her for a moment, a sort of odd expression on his face. “What?” she murmurs, wiping at her mouth as they climb the stairs.

He shakes his head, not meaning to make her self-conscious. “Only my brothers have ever called me that,” he explains.

“Oh, sorry,” she says, her face dropping.

“No, I like it, you don’t say it like they do,” he says, pausing when she tilts her head. “It’s an insult from them,” he adds.

“Because you’re their little brother,” she says, understanding the annoyance in his voice. He nods while shrugging his shoulders. It does not actually bother him, just more annoying than anything else. “I’ll call you Fred, or anything else if you’d like me to,” she says, finishing the last bit of the granola bar.

“Freddie’s good,” he assures her, liking how it sounds when she says it, “as long as you say it with an ie instead of y.”

George catches up, leaning over Mallyn’s shoulder. “Does that make me Georgie?” he questions, batting his eyelashes.

“If you’d like,” she laughs. She looks over her shoulder “Lee? Any name requests?” she asks, drawing his attention from the hacky sack he is tossing between his hands. It hits the ground with a light thud, the rice rattling around within the confines of the knitted material.

Lee bends down, retrieving his toy. “Captain Awesome,” he declares as he stands up, placing his fists on his hips.

“No,” Mallyn laughs, shaking her head. Her hair falls forward, covering the top half of her outfit, making it easy for everyone to forget she is in Slytherin.

Lee squats down, balancing on one leg while mimicking The Thinker pose before popping up. “Lee’s fine, or LJ,” he declares with a shrug of his shoulders and a large smile. Students pass by, not even taking notice of the small group congregating in the corridor.

“LJ,” she tries out, smiling at the two letters that take more syllables than his three-letter name. She smiles after repeating it three times. “LJ,” she confirms.

All three’s attention turns completely to her. “And what about your nickname?” George asks, squinting his eyes as he mockingly assesses her.

Mallyn laughs, opting to not repeat some of her less flattering nicknames from childhood. “My sister calls me Lynnie, no one else is allowed to,” she says, trying to think of any others.

“Mal is out,” Fred says, sharing a look with the other two boys.

“What about your parents?” Lee questions.

She shrugs, “I mean, the usual, sweetheart, darling, but I don’t know, I like my name, it’s always felt right even when other things haven’t,” she explains.

“Mallyn,” all three confirm together.

“Mallyn!” Lucy yells from down the hall, pushing past the other First Year students behind the small group. She tries to stop but slams into Lee’s back. The pair stumbles forward, falling into a heap on the ground. Lee rolls them over, Lucy’s eyes widen as she takes in their current position. She scrambles off of him, gladly accepting George and Fred’s help up.

Unintelligible words rush out of her mouth as she gets to her feet. She breathes deeply, carefully repeating her words. “Are-you-okay?”

Mallyn looks at her roommate in bewilderment. “Me? Are you?” she questions.

“Hundred percent,” she says, tugging on her uniform to straighten it, “but I was so worried, I heard what happened,” she explains, her concern written across her features. “One of the older girls saw it happen, I can't believe you jumped from the top of the stands.”

Mallyn’s eyes shoot wide open. “What? No, I fell,” she rambles, turning to Fred for support. Fred nods along animatedly, backing her story. Lucy’s mouth drops open into an o. “Did she say I jumped?” Mallyn questions.

Lucy shakes her head. “No, Lee did,” she says. All eyes except Lucy’s fly to Lee, his hands raising in defense as well as taking a step back while shaking his head. Lucy shakes her head, her braid rattling against her back. “No, Lee the Prefect,” she clarifies. The pieces start coming together in Mallyn’s mind, remembering him from the first night but confused as to why the one that had rolled his eyes at the dramatics would fabricate a story.

A loud tapping draws their attention, the group peeking into the classroom. Filius stands at the front, tapping his wand against the amplifier next to him. “Students, students, please take your seats,” he announces. The five stumble into the room, taking up the last row of desks. Fred scrambles after Mallyn, sliding in next to her at the middle desk while Lee offers the empty seat next to him to Lucy, leaving George all alone, until he notices Angelina in the corner, her focus on the open book in front of her. She looks up as he approaches, apprehension in her eyes.

“Are you saving this for someone?” he questions, gesturing to the empty stool. She shakes her head and pulls her bag closer to her so that he can have room. He sits down, setting his supplies down in front of him.

The petite professor steps up onto his podium, clearing his throat before pressing his wand to his throat. “Welcome class, glad to see everyone could make it,” he announces, mentally counting the students. “I am Professor Filius Flitwick, the local Charms Master here at Hogwarts, as well as I’m sure Professor McGonagall informed you, the leader of the school choir, which will be having auditions on Wednesday during lunch,” he mentions, silently hoping for a bigger turnout than last year. Fred nudges Mallyn in the ribs. She rolls her eyes at his insistence for her to join when she is still hesitant on the concept of frogs being involved. “I am beyond excited to be the one to teach all of you the introductory chapters of Charms, including proper wrist movement and the importance of enunciating,” he says, smiling at his students, truly thrilled to be teaching. “If you please, open your books and we will be diving headfirst into the exciting magic of Charms,” he says, waving his wand to disseminate the books. The books hover out of the shelves, two stopping at each desk until they are all out. Mallyn pulls hers off the top, flipping it open. Filius waves his wand again, passing out the syllabus. Students reach up, snatching them out of the air. “If you direct your attention to the paper, it covers what we shall be focusing on this year, including the standard Levitation Charm, Wand Lighting Charm,” he says, Mallyn smiling because she knows that she already has that spell handled, “the Wand Extinguishing Charm, Fire Making Charm, Softening Charm, Locking Charm as well as the Unlocking Charm, Mending and Severing Charms, the Knockback Jinx plus the Ice Jinx, as is standard operating procedure for First Years,” he finishes, double-checking the list that he covered them all. “Well, shall we get started?” he questions, proudly clapping his hands together. “Today, we will be starting with an essential charm for any Witch or Wizard, the Levitation Charm,” he says, stepping off his podium, floating himself to the floor. The students applaud at the demonstration, whispering filling the classroom. “I’ve had feathers placed at all of your desks, please open to page ten where you will see the breakdown of the charm, and then we will learn how to float the feather,” Filius instructs.

Mallyn flips open to the page, placing the book between her and Fred, leaving his book untouched at the top of the desk. Fred scans the page, pausing on the image of a pineapple floating. “Could’ve used this on Saturday,” Fred murmurs, laughing to himself.

Mallyn controls her urge to hit him in the arm. “I could’ve died,” she scoffs.

Fred scoffs back, “It’s Hogwarts, school, no one dies at school,” he mutters, flipping through a few pages, “unless it’s from boredom.”

Mallyn slaps her hand down, stopping him from flipping any more pages. She glances down at the page. “How could you possibly find any of this boring?” she asks, pointing to the moving image of a door opening and closing on its own.

Fred shrugs, his face scrunching up. “Kind of know it all, I mean my mum is a mean teacher, you don’t escape without being able to recite the page back to her,” he says, shuddering at the seemingly nonstop lessons of his youth. At this point, he would gratefully accept any teacher other than her.

“Well, if you know everything, do the spell,” she suggests, picking up the feather and placing it in front of Fred.

He eyes the feather. Huffing, he riffles through his robe pockets, searching for his wand. He wraps his hand around the handle, making sure not to grimace. Pointing the tip at the feather, he glances at the proper page again, rehearsing the words in his mind. “ Wingardium Leviosa ,” he says, narrowing his eyes until the feather floats.

“Excellent! Excellent!” Filius exclaims, clapping as the feather floats a foot above all their heads. He steps closer and whispers for Fred to keep it steady. Fred lowers his wand, retracting as soon as the feather touches the wood of the desk. “Now you, dear,” he urges Mallyn.

She pulls her wand out of her bag, lacing her fingers through the circles and gripping it firmly. “ Wingardium Leviosa ,” she says, frowning when the feather barely budges.

“Try again, dear, there’s more to magic than just waving your wand and saying a few funny words,” Filius says. Mallyn suspects so or there would not be the need for a school to learn it. Mallyn breathes deeply, focusing on the feather. She says the words again. The feather wiggles around for a moment before lifting off the desk, rising as Mallyn raises her wand. “Perfect!” Filius exclaims, clapping for her. He scans across the classroom, a few other students successfully levitating their feathers. “Come, come, everyone else now!” he proclaims, moving around the classroom. “Now, remember enunciation is key as well as proper wand movements, you must not waver,” he instructs. The classroom erupts with repetitive declarations of the words. Most students succeed, only a few needing help in the first lesson of the year. As the class comes to an end, Filius moves around the room, the feathers and books putting themselves away. “I am very much looking forward to this year!” he declares, the door whooshing open with a wave of his hand.

The class moves as a whole to the main building, stopping at the door of the History of Magic classroom. The First Year students filter in, selecting their seats, the last six claiming the back row again. Mallyn drops her bag on the desk, her books clattering around within. 

The ghostly form of Cuthbert Binns floats through the wall, floating over the desks. “Open your History of Magics textbook to page seven,” he instructs, his voice barely loud enough to hear and monotonous enough to lull himself to sleep. The First Years turn to look at each other, unsure of how to proceed. Roger lifts one of his textbooks out of his bag, purposefully dropping it onto the table just high enough up that the impact creates a thud. The old man startles awake, blinking a few times.

Adrian raises his hand, his face contorting in confusion and disgust. “You’re our teacher?” he questions before the ghost can even notice his raised hand in the far right side of the room.

Cuthbert chuckles, low and throaty as if there is something stuck in the back of his throat. “Of course, who better to teach young Wizards and Witches about the History of Magic than someone who was there,” he says, sighing deeply before floating down and sinking into his chair. “Just kidding, I’m not that old,” he mutters, sighing deeply as he assesses the room. 

Fred leans over, dragging his first two fingers across the curtain of Mallyn’s hair separating them. She turns to look at him, pushing her hair behind her ear. “Rumor has it, he taught here when he was alive, died in his chair right there, and just got up the next morning and continued to teach,” he whispers, raising his eyebrows.

“Not a rumor if it’s true,” George murmurs, leaning over to swat at his twin. He falls out of his seat, the legs of his chair rattling against the floor. “Just doing my part in keeping you awake, sir,” he announces, his hand shooting above the tables with his thumb sticking up.

Cuthbert sinks further into his chair, a ghostly cup of coffee in his hands. “Thank you, Mister Weasley, is it?” he questions, messing with his glasses. George’s head pops up, level with Fred’s head. “Two of you?” he asks, blinking a few times as if to clear his vision. George climbs back into his seat, rearranging his mess. The class settles down, allowing Cuthbert to start his lecture and by the end of it, thirteen out of twenty students have fallen asleep before he dismisses the class an hour later. Mallyn grabs her bag and turns to shake Fred awake.

The redhead roars to life with a jolt. “We’re free?” he questions, looking around hopefully, “Or dead?”

“Time for lunch,” Mallyn confirms as she sticks her unused quill and parchment back into her bag.

“Oi! Lunch!” he calls, hitting George on the arm. George wakes up, falling out of his seat again, landing on the floor, his hair flopping out from the angle. 

Mallyn stands up, hovering over George, “Might as well just stay down there, you seem to end up there often enough,” she says, holding back her bag so that she can look at him.

“Feeling high and mighty up there, are you?” George cracks, swatting at her robe. 

Mallyn squats down, her bag resting on the floor next to George. “Have to admit, feels pretty nice,” she admits, stepping backwards out of his reach. He crawls after her, grabbing her ankle. He jerks just hard enough that she loses her balance, landing flat on her butt with an oomph. George scrambles to his feet, now towering over Mallyn, although she would not have to be sitting for that to happen. He grins down at her for a moment before offering her his hand. 

“You two done?” Lee questions, leaning against the doorframe. “I’m starving,” he groans.

“You ate like three people’s worth of breakfast only a few hours ago,” Angelina argues, absentmindedly playing with the end of one of her braids.

“Hey, I’m a growing boy, gotta catch up to these giants, right?” he says, knocking his head towards the twins who stand a head taller than him.

Fred moves to stand next to George, offering Mallyn another hand up. “You wish,” the twins scoff as they pull her to her feet. 

“How do you know that you won’t be some of those kids that just hit their growth spurts early then stop growing at fourteen?” Mallyn questions as they exit the classroom as a moving force of six.

Fred purposefully looks down at her, squaring his shoulders. “Because Bill’s seventeen and six-three, but when he was our age he was five foot, we’re already five-two,” he states. “Five-three if we try,” he adds, but Lee’s look says otherwise.

“Plus da’s six-three,” George chimes in, straightening his posture.

“And your mother?” Mallyn questions as she attempts to hide her sly smile, failing horribly. 

“Five three,” Fred confirms while scowling at her.

“That’s what I thought,” she hums, tossing her hair behind her shoulder as she pushes forward, literally pushing on the twins’ backs to get them to move.

“How would you know?” George interrogates over his shoulder. 

Mallyn looks up to meet his eyes. “Saw all you guys on the platform,” she explains. Fred slams on his breaks, craning his neck to look at her. “Kinda hard to miss nine redheads,” Mallyn clarifies quickly, shaking her hair free from behind her ears to hide the tips of them as they grow hot, a horrible betrayal of her body that always reveals her embarrassment even over the slightest things. 

The group enters the Great Hall, noting there are not many other students in the large space, the most being a cluster of older students at the far end of the Hufflepuff table. George, Fred, Lee, and Angelina sit down at the closest table in the open spots next to the large door frame. “Are we allowed to sit here?” Lucy questions, staring at the wood table. The Gryffindors look around, unsure of the protocol. They know technically anyone can sit at any table, Mallyn sat with them on Saturday and nothing burst into flames. Mallyn takes the first step, setting her bag on the table then sits down and promptly swings her legs over the bench and tucks in. She pats the spot next to her. Lucy stares at it, unsure of the unspoken promise of nothing happening. Mallyn tugs on her robe, forcing her forward. She takes the seat but keeps her hands off the table. 

A platter of chicken appears in the middle of the table, along with a bowl full of mashed potatoes. Each student helps themselves to the food, Lee piling on twice as much onto his plate as anyone else. Mallyn picks at the single scoop of mashed potatoes on her plate, her overwhelming hunger dissipating with each passing second. When she can no longer stand it, she pushes her plate away, content to just listen to her friends talk amongst themselves. 

It is odd to think of people that she met just days ago as her friends, but it feels right when she has more in common with any of them than all of her friends back at school. Even though she had not known the truth, she always knew there was something there, another underlying aspect of herself lurking just beneath the surface that set her apart from them. For a while, she thought it had been the fact that her dad was American, but then Emily transferred in when they were eight and she fit right in, right away. As they got older, she thought it had to do with the fact that she preferred reading and her private lessons rather than partying, but Susana was on her way to becoming upper-class president and still seemed completely happy at any party. Now Mallyn understands, even when she did not consciously know, some part of her knew that she was different, and because of that she had to keep a part of herself hidden. Here at Hogwarts, she is free to be herself, completely and utterly unfiltered, now it was just a matter of time and effort to discover herself, who she truly is, starting with her heritage. The library would be the best place to start, surely they would have some sort of record on wizarding families, especially ones as seemingly prominent in the community as the Burkes and Blacks , she thinks. She tries to picture her mother at her age, being called Valentina, or Val, or Tina, but finds it hard to imagine when she has never seen a photo of her mother before her parent’s wedding, the rest destroyed in the fire that left her childhood home in ruins.

“Mallyn,” Lucy whispers, gently pushing on her arm. 

Mallyn turns around with fright, realizing she is still in the Great Hall. “Sorry,” she says, shaking the thought off. “Yes?” she questions, eyebrows raising.

“Are you going to try out for the Frog Choir? Fred was saying that you should,” Lucy clarifies. Mallyn turns to look at Fred, but his face contorting in confusion forces her to look away. She cannot make sense of the madness of her family within her mind just yet, let alone having to try to explain it.

“Oh, I guess, I mean, does Hogwarts have any other clubs?” she questions, making sure her focus stays on the conversation.

Lee shovels another serving of mashed potatoes onto his plate, picking at it with his fork. “There’s the Gobstones Club, but I don’t think it’s anything you girls would be interested in, the stone shoots out fart gas when you lose a move,” he says before promptly shoving a concoction of chicken and potatoes into his mouth.

Angelina’s face contorts in disgust, watching the spectacle of Lee eating for the second time that day. “That is disgusting,” she mutters, scowling at him.

Lee nods animatedly, “Yeah, that’s why-”

“Not the game, your assumption,” she says, cutting off his words. “And your eating habits,” she groans. They engage in their own private argument, their volume getting louder with each exchange, eventually leaving the table and walking off together.

“What other clubs?” Mallyn questions once it is quiet enough to speak.

“Charms Club, more tutoring than a club really though,” George says as he steals the last chicken leg off Lee’s abandoned plate. 

“Astronomy Club is on Wednesdays at nine-thirty at night,” Fred says, smiling, having already forgotten the weirdness of Mallyn’s earlier trance.

Lucy clears her throat, just loud enough to draw their attention to her timid voice. “If you’re into entomology, Slugs and Bugs Club meets Fridays at six,” she tells the three, trying to visualize the posters in the Slytherin Common Room.

George leans forward, waving his hands to everyone. Playing along, they all lean in. “There’s rat racing on Wednesdays at five forty-five, we’re going to steal Percy’s rat and enter it,” George whispers, grinning widely. Mallyn rolls her eyes, both at him in general and at the notion. 

“You should check the message board in your Common Room, there’s some house exclusive clubs,” Fred suggests, remembering quite a few posters in their Common Room bulletin were exclusively for Gryffindors.

George drops his forks, sudden information rushing through his head. “Oh, and Hagrid, the giant we met first night, hosts a Magical Creatures for anyone with an interest in magizoology,” he says. Mallyn perks up at the idea of learning of all of the creatures the world has to offer, sending a rush of excitement through her blood. 

“Meetings are on Wednesday from five-thirty to seven-thirty,” Fred supplies on cue at the sudden interest on Mallyn’s face. 

George smiles to himself, pausing to look at Mallyn. “Charlie goes to them,” George says, laughing as her cheeks flush. Fred restrains his urge to hit his brother, knowing his teasing is only in good fun, but he wishes his twin would remember how embarrassing it can be to be publicly reminded of futile crushes having been through it himself two years ago when their mother blindly pointed out George’s constant looks at Hilary, a friend of the family who was not only fifteen but was also standing right next to her boyfriend. 

Lucy speaks up, her eyes staying on her wristwatch. “We should go, class starts soon,” she says, digging through her bag for her schedule. Fred and George both shove one last bite into their mouths before sliding off the benches, books in hand. Mallyn is last up, looking around the large room before following her friends into the corridor. 

“What do we have next?” Fred asks, searching his mess of papers for his schedule. 

Mallyn pulls out her schedule from the pocket within her bag, unfolding the piece of parchment. “Transfiguration with Professor McGonagall,” she answers, her eyes skimming the remaining classes of the day. Astronomy at two, Defense Against the Dark Arts at three, and their final class of the day being Herbology at four. 

“What type of clubs did you have at your old school? Our mum’s idea of a club was dinner, attendance was required,” Fred says. 

“The usual,” Mallyn says, thinking for a moment while shoving the paper back into her bag, “choir, debate, one of the older boys started a cooking club last year, maths, science, writing, driving but that was for only for the older students, had to be in at least year ten,” she explains. Fred’s head tilts like an animal when it tries to understand something. “My school started at first and went all the way to twelfth year,” she explains, realizing how odd it must sound when students at Hogwarts graduate after their Seventh Year.

They enter the classroom, Angelina and Lee still bickering but sitting next to each other at one of the tables in the middle of the room. Their faces drop, realizing there are notecards with names hovering above each desk.

Lucy breaks away first and makes her way to the front, taking her seat next to the girl who had been the first one called for sorting. Both sets of twins are seated next to each other, George and Fred taking the very last desk in the back right corner of the room. Mallyn forces her feet to move, taking the seat below her notecard, plucking the parchment out of the air. 

“Alicia,” her partner introduces, holding her own notecard in her hand. 

“Mallyn,” she returns, tucking her notecard away.

“I know,” Alicia responds, literally biting her bottom lip at the accidental admission. Mallyn’s eyes narrow, confusion written across her features. “Sorry, no, it’s just quite the fall you took, everyone kinda knows who you are at this point,” Alicia explains.

“I didn’t jump,” Mallyn states, her lips pulling into a tense line.

Alicia raises her hands in defense, “Oh, no, I know, I was there.” Mallyn’s face visibly relaxes while her nerves stay on edge. Alicia lowers her hands and offers a small smile instead. “I love quidditch, hope to make the Gryffindor team in a few years,” she says, hoping to ease the tension.

Minerva exits her office, smiling out at the students already all in their seats, everyone conversing with their desk mates. She crosses the room in a few strides. “Miss Smyth, glad to see you are recovered,” she says, hovering by the end of the desk. She steps closer, watching carefully.

“My allergies are better, gone,” Mallyn confirms the unasked question hanging between them, staring up at the professor. Minerva shifts into her Animagus form and pounces onto the desk, turning in a circle in front of Mallyn. She purrs in response to Mallyn’s silence, the air free of sniffling or sneezing. Minerva moves from table to table, pausing by each student. She jumps forward, landing on her two feet at the front of the classroom. “Mister Towler and Miss Loxias, please see Madam Pomfrey at your earliest convenience to receive an allergen potion,” Minerva declares, her charmed quill taking note of her announcement.

Fred, George, and Lee all exclaim their personal choice of expletives from their seats while everyone else claps, Minerva's glare finding all of them in a fraction of a second. “Detention, all three of you,” she orders, not sparing them another glance. “Can anyone tell me why I am able to transform into a cat as you all just saw?”

Theo raises his hand, his dark blonde hair standing on end with the assistance of gel. Minerva nods at him, urging him to speak. “You’re an Animagus, a Wizard or Witch capable of shifting into an animal after years of practice, not to be confused with a Metamorphmagus who are born with the capability to change their appearance,” he answers while flipping through his book, stopping on the page with the information he seeks. “The process of becoming an Animagus is long and arduous, and has the potential to backfire and cause the transformation to go horribly wrong,” he lists, his finger guiding his way through the dense text, “and one part of the process includes a leaf of a mandrake plant which must be held in the Witches’ or Wizards’ mouth for an entire month, from one full moon to the next, before using it in the potion,” he reads. Theo pauses, flipping the page.

“Very good, Mister McKinnom, five points to Hufflepuff,” she says, cutting him off before he could continue. “I went through the process during my Seventh Year here at Hogwarts,” she says, smiling through the pain of the memory, the pain of what could have been had it gone wrong. Minerva turns around, moving to her desk and searching for something.

“Why a cat?” one of the Etchemendy twins, Flora, asks. 

“A Witch or Wizard, does not choose their form, just as we cannot choose our Patronus form, it is simply a testament to the soul,” she says, internally cursing herself for phrasing it exactly as her father would have. Multiple hands shoot in the air. 

Adrian leans over, looking at the page in Theo’s book. “So she’s a pussy?” he whispers, not even bothering to hide his smirk.

“Detention, Mister Pucey,” she says, the irony of pronunciation of his last name not lost on her. His face flushes bright red as he slumps down into his seat, unable to meet her eyes when she turns around. “Hands down, you will be taught about Patronuses in your seventh level of Defense Against the Dark Arts and may consider becoming an Animagus after your Sixth Year under the advisement of myself should I still be the Transfiguration teacher, or whoever supersedes me in my position,” she says, partially answering all of the questions. The students lower their hands, disappointment on some of their faces. Minerva sighs heavily, pinching the bridge of her nose. “Neither are for the faint of heart, or spirit,” she explains, “and certainly not First Years, but to tide all of you over, Transfiguration is nothing to be bored with, as it is one of the most important aspects of using magic, and in being so, must be practiced with extreme care and under the proper eye,” she says, several students sitting up straight, a few taking out a sheet of parchment and their quills. Minerva waits for the few to settle, always hating having to try and teach over clattering. “This year, we will be discussing the exact definition of Transfiguration and all it encompasses, including the four types of Transfiguration, which are Transformation, Untransfiguration, Vanishment, and Conjuration, the last of which being the most challenging that can prove difficult for even the most talented Witches and Wizards,” she instructs as the board starts to copy her words, separating each of the categories by dashes. The chalkboard spins, landing on the other side, already covered in scribbles. “But to even start, you must learn the alphabet that is utilized for all methods of Transfiguration,” she says, gesturing to the board. The remaining students get out their parchment and quills, copying down the strange symbols on the board. For the next few minutes, the only sounds are the scratches of quill tips dragging across parchment and the occasional sigh. 

Mallyn holds up her parchment, comparing it to the board, frowning at the deviation in her symbols from the examples on the board. She places the parchment back down, using sparing amounts of ink to try and correct her drawings. Holding it up again, she tilts her head to the side, squinting at the board. Her frown shifts into a smile of satisfaction as she sets her quill in the pot of ink. 

Minerva moves around the room, offering suggestions as she goes. She knows from personal experience how much a little mistake in ink can ruin a spell from working properly. She comes to a stop at the front of the room, lightly clapping her hands to draw everyone’s attention. “Class is dismissed, but before everyone goes, I have an announcement,” she says, surveying the room of First Years, wondering if any of them will be the one to accept her challenge. “We are in search of a new quidditch commentator, seeing as our previous, Murphy McNully, graduated in June and is now working for the Department of Magical Games and Sports in London,” she announces, waving her hand. The door in the back of the classroom opens. Fred and George try to slip out, the door shutting a centimeter from the tip of George’s trainers. “Mister Pucey, Mister Jordan, and both Mister Weasleys stay behind to discuss your punishment,” she says, emphasizing the last two on the list. Sighing, they both turn on their heels, heading to the front of the classroom. Mallyn shakes her head at the four as she packs up. They deserve whatever they get, their outbursts were uncalled for, especially considering all of them have grown up in the Wizarding World.

Fred and George slink into the Astronomy classroom and sink into the first empty seats they spot. Mallyn sneaks in behind them from her hiding spot behind the door. “First day, and detention,” she scoffs, dropping her hands on their shoulders. They both crane their necks to look at her, no true malice on her face. She walks between their chairs, claiming the vacant one in front of Fred. “You’re going to get another Howler from your mother,” she chides as she sets her bag on the floor.

“Another?” they question. Mallyn closes her eyes, realizing her mistake. 

“Did you hear any of the first one?” Fred inquires, fighting back the blush he can feel heating up his cheeks and ears.

She looks up at Fred, the embarrassment he is feeling obvious. “Yes?” she says, not wanting to look at him, but unable to tear her gaze away.

Her momentary salvation comes in the form of an exclamation from the far corner of the room. The only adult in the room, Aurora Sinistra, strides over to her chair. “Ah, I see we have another Black this year,” she announces, offering her version of a smile to the girl, an odd combination of gritted teeth and tight lips.

“Pardon?” Mallyn questions, smiling awkwardly as she is unsure of how to react.

Aurora stares down at the girl, the excess fabric of her gold velvet head scarf falling forward over her shoulders, highlighting the golden tint of her lipstick and the accents within her cloak. “You are a Black, on your mother’s side, I’m assuming since your last name is Smyth,” she says, tilting her head as she analyzes the girl, noting how the birthmarks have changed in the past decade, no longer tight together on her face but stretching out across her features, all but three falling below her eyebrows.

Mallyn hesitantly nods, trying to remember Percy’s words on the train. “My maternal grandmother,” she answers. Professor Sinistra turns on her heels, her olive cloak swirling around from the movement. “How’d you know?” Mallyn calls after her.

She turns, just enough to look at the First Year over her shoulder. “Your birthmarks, dear, they form your constellation,” Aurora answers as if it is the most reasonable assumption in the world. Mallyn reaches up, self consciously touching her largest birthmark, the one at the start of her hairline, then dragging down to the one just above the tail of her right eyebrow. Her eyes flit to the teacher as she starts drawing on the board. Sure enough, she draws a constellation consistent of fourteen points, the exact number of birthmarks on Mallyn’s face that she has been staring at her whole life and yet never put it together. “Pegasus,” Professor Sinistra announces, retracing the lines with her finger. Mallyn’s face drops, her mind putting more pieces of the puzzle that is her life together. Her grandfather often called her Peggy, insisting that it was a family joke the one-time Mallyn had asked. She watches as the professor wipes the board clean, wasting no time in recovering the board in various drawings. Mallyn tries to pay attention, but only catches words here and there as her mind gets lost in the descent of madness that is her life which she seemingly knows nothing about. 

The class files out, leaving Mallyn there, quill in hand but her parchment blank. Fred squats down, waving his hand in front of her face, but receives no reaction, oblivious to the world and the truths of it forming behind her eyes. He leans over, pleading to George for help with fear in his eyes and confusion riddling his eyebrows. Fred tries to pry the quill from her hand, but her appendages are frozen around it and he does not dare try with the parchment out of fear of giving her a severe papercut. 

Aurora frowns at the small huddle of remaining students. “What seems to be the matter?” she questions, gliding over to them. 

Fred looks up at the professor, “She didn’t know,” he answers, knowing that the revelation has to be the cause.

Sighing deeply, Aurora bends down until her eyes are level with Mallyn’s. She moves her head back and forth with gentle pushes of her index fingers, narrowing her eyes as she examines her. She drags her pointer finger in front of Mallyn's eyes, waiting until she catches the slightest movement then snaps. The quill and parchment fall from Mallyn’s grips as she shakes her head, her hair falling in front of her face. “She should be fine, just a common trance,” Aurora states, standing back up. Mallyn’s head lolls backwards, her hair no longer obscuring her face. The boys look from their friend to their professor. “Mallyn, what is today’s date?” she asks, hoping it will be enough to soothe the boys’ worries.

Mallyn blinks a few times as she sits upright. “Fourth of September, of course,” she answers, looking around the classroom in confusion. George and Fred watch with close care, watching every small movement.

“See, perfectly fine,” Aurora declares, dusting her hands off in front of her and turning to leave.

Fred shoots up, grabbing at her cloak to stop her from leaving. “People don’t just randomly go into trances!” he yells, tightening his grip on the velvet material.

Aurora pulls the fabric free from his hand, understanding his anger but finding herself annoyed with it. “They do when they’ve been spelled to,” she simply states, offering no further explanation. First Years are always so exhausting , she thinks to herself.

“You spelled her?” George questions, ready to stand up for his friend, but Mallyn’s hand shoots out, gripping his arm tightly. He turns to her, quietly speaking as Fred continues his interrogation, refusing to let her leave his sight.

“No, I simply broke the spell,” she corrects, not moving to leave as it seems futile. “If I had to guess, there was a reason she never noticed her birthmarks formed a constellation,” she says. Fred nods, urging her to continue. “Because someone didn’t want her too,” she explains, wishing they could put it together themselves, it is truly not that complicated. “If you plan on attending your next class, you better hurry, it begins in but a minute,” she says, finally turning away and moving into her office, slamming the door shut as she waits for them to leave and the next class to start filing in. 

Fred returns to Mallyn's side, picking up her bag and slinging it over his shoulder. George climbs down the ladder first, waiting at the bottom, ready to catch Mallyn should she lose her footing. Carefully, she descends the ladder, grateful for the extra support on both ends with George waiting below her and Fred above. The soles of her shoes meet solid ground not a second too soon as she sways, holding onto the ladder for support. Fred slides down the ladder, waiting for Mallyn to move before touching down. Carefully, the group moves over to the top of the staircase. From the top, the staircase suddenly seems as if it is never-ending. 

Taking it one at a time, the three reach the bottom a minute later. Mallyn tries to turn right, but Fred grabs her hand, stopping her. “No, we’re going to the infirmary,” he states, leading the way.

Mallyn stops in her tracks, looking up at her friend. “We have class,” she says, shaking her head. The idea of returning to the room she has only just escaped from this morning making her heart skip a beat.

“You’ve been spelled,” George argues, helping his brother by grabbing her other hand and pulling. Mallyn stands her ground, her body lurching forward with each tug but not her feet.

“Obviously for a long time,” Fred adds, tugging again.

George leans down, putting them nose to nose. “Your pupils are the size of saucers,” George states, watching as they retract just the slightest, still only a sliver of blue visible.

“It’s the first day,” Mallyn whines, purposefully pouting.

George scoffs, recognizing the tactic from Ginny, the last in her book of tricks as his sister usually prefers trickery first, then violence, only resorting to crying when truly desperate. He kicks at Mallyn’s heel, forcing her forward a step.

Taking advantage of her sudden movement, Fred pulls her forward, five more steps towards the infirmary, five further from the Defense Against The Dark Arts classroom before she digs her heels down, halting all three of them. “You’ve been spelled!” Fred says, repeating his twin’s earlier words.

“The dark arts can leave us alone for one more day,” George promises. Mallyn remains in her spot, trying to wiggle out of their grasps.

Albus turns the corner, his gaze sweeping across the corridor, his eyes falling on the only other people in the vicinity, the three First Years huddling in the distance. He continues his path, stopping right behind them. “Hello, children,” Albus greets, interrupting their squabbling. They all turn around, fear written across their faces. Fred and George drop her hands, tucking their own behind their backs. “What seems to be the issue?” he questions, looking down at the First Years.

“She’s been spelled, went into a trance during Astronomy,” Fred explains.

Professor Dumbledore frowns, looking more closely at the shortest of the group. “My dear, if you will look at me,” he instructs. He fiddles with his glasses, inspecting Mallyn for a moment before he leans back up, letting his eyeglasses fall to rest against his beard, hanging from their beaded chain. “She is completely fine,” he assures the children. 

“But-” the boys start, determined to make sure their friend is okay.

Albus sighs, understanding their fears. “I am afraid this is my doing,” he admits. Mallyn looks up at this, wondering whatever could the Headmaster have to do with her. She has never even met him before now, only seeing him once prior at the beginning of year feast. “Your grandfather came to me many years ago and asked for my help in concealing a certain truth about yourself from yourself, to prevent you from seeing the pattern in which your birthmarks form, at least until the time was right, do not believe today was what he had in mind, but it is so very hard to control unforeseen complications such as time, especially from beyond the grave,” he tells them. He claps his hands together once, lightly. “You all should be on your way, wouldn’t want to miss the arguably most exciting class,” he says, smiling. The two redheads of the bunch start to argue, but Mallyn pulls at their robes, silencing them. “I’ll send word to Professor Rakepick explaining your tardiness,” Albus calls after them. He turns to leave, pausing for a moment. “Oh, and Miss Smyth, if you have any questions, feel free to stop by my office and I shall try my best to answer any that I can,” he says, choosing his words carefully. With a wave, a paper airplane shoots out of his sleeve, flying down the hallway. 

The children turn and follow, losing track of the paper airplane only once, then relocating it as soon as they turn the corner. Only one door is in the expansive corridor, chattering audible from the small crack under the door. Fred pushes on the heavy wooden door, stopping as more than eighteen sets of eyes fall to him. 

Patricia stops her introduction, staring at the intrusion. “Two Weasleys and a Smyth, I presume?” she calls from the front, the skull she had been talking about hovering above her open hand. Fred steps aside, revealing Mallyn and George. “Are you three going to stand there all day?” she questions. She waves her wand, pulling the three into the classroom, the door slamming shut behind them. “Take a seat, there’s two free chairs up front, one in the back,” she says, turning her attention back to the skull. She snatches it, placing it carefully on the stack of books on her desk.

Before the twins can react, Mallyn moves forward and slides into the empty chair at the back table, leaving the two at the front up for them. Fred gawks at her for a moment then smirks because it is exactly what he would have done if it was anyone but his twin standing beside him. 

Unenthusiastically, the twins move around the back table, dropping into the two empty seats at the front one that were left empty for a reason: they are directly in front of the professor’s desk and it will be nearly impossible to do anything but be on their best behavior.

Patricia surveys the room, pausing on the three latecomers. “As I was saying, I, myself, am a former graduate of Hogwarts, proud Gryffindor of the Class of Seventy Five, I went on to work for Gringotts as a Curse Breaker, or Professional Adrenaline Junkie to some,” she says, smirking at her own joke. “I’ve traveled the world, seen one of everything,” she announces, knowing it was just the right bait to entice someone into asking. Five hands shoot into the air. “Yes?”

George puts his hand down, “Is it true that you killed a Sphinx with your bare hands?”

“Or that you ripped the tail off a Manticore?” Fred questions while still wildly waving his hand in the air.

Patricia laughs, truly and deeply, the kind that requires your entire body. As her head reclines backwards, her hair skims the top of her desk and moves in waves from the force of her laugh. “A lady never tells,” she says, smiling at the disappointment on the students’ faces, “but then again, I’ve never fancied myself much of a lady, got into my fair share of trouble during my days here, I’m sure McGonagall has quite a few stories that she’d me prefer not to share,” she says, winking once, “wouldn’t want to give any of you ideas.” 

“Why give all that up to work here?” Alicia questions when Patricia gestures to her.

“Because I wanted to enrich the minds of children, you are the future after all,” she says, holding back her laugh long enough to enjoy the shock on every student’s face. “Kidding,” she promises, smiling as half of the class relaxes. “If you were paying attention at the feast, you’d know that I have been stationed at Hogwarts for over two years as a favour to Professor Dumbledore, he actually found me in Brazil where I was exploring the newly-discovered ruins underneath Castelobruxo, and he practically begged me to return to try and finally solve the mysterious case of the Cursed Vaults,” she tells the class, all the children leaning forward in anticipation. “When I attended school here, I had my own suspicions about the Cursed Vaults but was horribly under-skilled and prepared, but now, I am older and wiser and have no doubt I will be successful in finding all of the Cursed Vaults and unveiling the secrets within as well as ending the threats they hold over the school,” Patricia tells them. She scans the room, holding eye contact with each of the twenty students for a moment. “That being said, I must urge all of you to be forthcoming with anything you believe having to do with them, or anything else for that matter as after all I am here as but a humble servant of the greater good and to keep you safe as possible while furthering your magical educations,” she says. Patricia waits a moment for the words she has spoken to truly settle into the students’ brains. “Onto a lighter note,” she announces, sliding off her desk and pulling out a cage from beneath it, “this darling right here is Sickleworth,” she tells the class, cooing at the creature within the wire cage. The ball of black fur unfurls from itself, revealing a long cream coloured snout. Patricia sticks her index finger into the cage, scratching his belly with the tip of her acrylic nail. “He’s a love, incredibly sweet and utterly destructive. Anyone tell me what he is?”

“Niffler!” Lucy calls. Mallyn leans forward, finally spotting her roommate at the far end of the front table.

Patricia nods, “Very good, and what do Nifflers do?”

Adrian raises his hand, but answers before the professor can realize, “They’re attracted to shiny things which make them helpful for locating treasure.”

“Yes, and this particular one is very good at his job,” she says not to the class but to Sickleworth, “but very defiant when it comes to following orders, not unlike myself." She unlatches the cage, grabbing the small creature and pulling him out. He dangles from her hand, holding on tightly to the two plain gold bands on her middle finger. Patricia gently removes him from her hand, setting him on her shoulder before handing over her rings for him to play with. The small creature's eyes get wide as he takes in the sight of the plain rings, quickly tucking them into his belly pouch. “I’m afraid we only have a few more moments together today so before we go, a quick overview of what we’ll be covering in this class,” she announces as she pushes some papers around on her desk, finally withdrawing a single sheet of parchment. “Imps, Ghosts, Hags, Gytrashes, Vampires, Zombies, Curse of the Bogies, Knockback Jinx, Wand Lighting Charm, which if I remember correctly Professor Flitwick will also be covering, Smokescreen Spell, Verdimillious Charm, and Duo Spell, Verdimillious Tria, plus the difference and when to use Red Sparks and Green Sparks,” she reads, double-checking she did not miss anything on the list. “Oh, and ten points to Slytherin, yes?” she questions. Lucy and Adrian nod. “Five each,” she confirms, tossing the syllabus behind her. The door shoots open, dismissing the class. 

Mallyn quickly exits, not wanting to give the twins the chance to try and drag her off to the infirmary again. She hurries down the halls and out of the building before all the other students are even out of their chairs. She spots the glass building in the distance which motivates her to move even faster. She pushes on one of the glass doors, relaxing only when it is securely shut behind her. “Hello, dearie,” a warm voice calls from the other end of the room. Mallyn looks around, trying to find where it came from. Pomona Sprout emerges from behind the wall of various plants, her attire blending seamlessly into her surroundings, the green of her gardening coat the same shade as the leaves, and her hair the same dull brown as the flowers. Sprout crosses the room, revealing herself to Mallyn. “Are you in this class?” she questions, dusting her hands off on her coat then offering the cleanest one to the girl. 

Mallyn shakes her hand, making sure not to grimace at the feeling of the wet soil against her skin. “Yes, I’m Mallyn Smyth,” she introduces. Sprout retracts her hand, offering the girl a handkerchief. Mallyn gratefully accepts it, cleaning off her hand and handing it back to the professor.

“Any relation to Helga Hufflepuff?” Sprout questions as she digs around in the pockets of her coat.

Mallyn shakes her head, “Not that I know of, my dad’s a Muggle,” she explains.

Sprout pulls out a square of parchment, tapping it once with her wand. The tiny square expands into a regular sized sheet, each of the students' names neatly printed on it. “Ah, never mind, I see you spell it with a y,” she murmurs, putting a checkmark next to her name. “Dearie, why don’t you pick a spot, some of your classmates are almost here, but lucky you, you get first pick,” she says, waving her hands to get Mallyn to move. 

Surveying the room, she chooses a spot in the middle, picking up a pair of gloves and a set of furry earmuffs, inspecting them closely. Before she can question the need for earmuffs, her classmates start filing in. George and Fred make a beeline for her, settling on either side of her, with Lee on the other side of George and Lucy claiming the spot next to Fred. 

“Come in, come in, don’t be afraid to squish in, yes, yes, gather around,” Professor Sprout calls, waving her hands wildly. “For those not in Hufflepuff, I am Professor Sprout, your Herbology teacher, and this is Herbology One,” she announces, surveying the First Years. “Over the course of the year, we’ll be learning about Devil's Snare and Venomous Tentacula in theory only, Venomous Tentacula practically is in Year Six, we’ll also be dealing with Puffapods, Moly, Asphodel, Dried Nettles, Dittany, Wormwood, Mandrake Roots, Aconite, Bouncing Bulb, Spiky Bush, plus the basics of Fire Making Spell and Lumos Solem Spell which are essential for all Wizards and Witches,” she explains, each of the plants hovering over their heads as she lists them off. “I’m going to pass around a piece of paper, please sign next to your name to check out the gloves and earmuffs you’ll need from this year forward and it is your responsibility to keep up with them, or you’ll regret it, especially when we get to repotting the Mandrakes next year,” she tells them. She watches as some of the students pick up their new tools, trying them on for size. “Well, shall we begin?” she asks, clapping her hands together. A seemingly normal plant lands in front of each of the students. “Now, please watch carefully, and do not repeat after me,” she instructs. Placing her wand against one of the leaves, she mouths, “ Diffindo.” The leaf falls from the plant, a nice clean cut dividing it in half. 

“Why didn’t you wait for us?” Fred questions while watching the professor out of the corner of his eye. She just looks at him and he knows the answer. 

“Professor Flitwick will be teaching you how to properly use the Severing Charm next year, so for now, we will have to stick to the good old-fashioned tools and do it by hand,” she says, picking up a pair of oddly shaped scissors from the table. “Now, everyone please pick up the herb shears and snip off half of a leaf on your plants.” All around the table, each student carefully accesses their plants, deciding on the best leaf to start with. As the last one snips, everyone holds their freshly cut leaves in the palms of their hands. “And now you all have the first ingredient necessary for your potions tomorrow,” she tells them. With a wave of her wand, glass vials pour out of the cabinets, settling in front of the students. “Best take a few extras each in case you need to start fresh,” she says. Carefully, they all snip a few more and set them into the vials. Mallyn holds it up in front of her, eyeing the small green leaves, preferring them to the mysterious items in jars in the Potions classroom. “Make sure you take care of those and pack them away safely, I know from experience that Professor Snape is not lenient when it comes to missing ingredients, no matter the reason.” Almost all the students take heed, only Fred, George, and Lee ignoring her warnings and simply dropping them into the inner pocket of their robes. “That ends the lesson for today,” Sprout announces. “I hope your first day was all that you expected and more, I will see everyone, same time, same place tomorrow,” she says, smiling widely at her new students. She dismisses them with a wave of her wand, the double glass doors opening.

Students flood out of every available door, breathing fresh air after the first day of classes. Mallyn holds on tightly to her bag in her hands out of fear of smashing her vial accidentally. The boys cheer, dramatically taking in a deep breath as if they had been trapped in a submarine for a year. The group chatters about their plans, but it turns into white noise once it reaches Mallyn’s ears. She watches as the scenery changes as they move as a group. Looking down the corridor, all she can think about is the peace that the quiet of her room is offering in the distance. “You guys have fun, I really just want to take a nap,” Mallyn says, nodding her head to the vacant corridor. Everyone stops to look at her, Fred’s face dropping. 

“I’ll come with you, a nap sounds great right now, who knew the first day could be so draining?” Lucy says. The two bid adieu to their Gryffindor friends then set off down the corridor, descending the staircase at the end of it.

Mallyn has every intention of retrieving her journal from its hiding space in the wall the second Lucy falls asleep, but before Lucy can even sit down, Mallyn is unconscious, clutching her pillow against her. Lucy waits for her response for a moment before looking over her shoulder for an explanation to the silence. Smiling, she crosses the room and pulls the curtains of Mallyn’s bed, sealing her off in the darkness before following suit and climbing into her own bed where she falls asleep but a moment later.

Chapter Text

Fred and George lock their arms under either of Mallyn’s shoulders and pull her with them towards the Great Hall. She tries to stop them, pushing her heels into the stone as hard as she can but they might as well be dragging a pillow with how effortlessly they pull her along with them. “Guys, stop,” she says, still struggling against their grips. They stop moving but do not release her. “Let go,” she groans, prying at their fingers to no avail.

Fred and George share a look before looking down at her. “Are you going to audition?” Fred questions, narrowing his eyes at her as if he would be able to ascertain a lie from a truth just by focusing.

Mallyn stares at him, mimicking his face as best as she can. “If it’ll make you drop it,” she states. 

George releases her from his grip, “We will never bring it up again.” He holds out his pinky to her for good measure. She returns the gesture, wrapping her own around his and shaking once.

Mallyn is left with Fred still gripping her arm, suspecting her plan to make a break for it. “Fine, fine, I’m going,” she groans, letting her head fall backwards. Her words satisfy Fred, finally relinquishing his grip on her. She continues forward, stopping when she hears their footsteps following behind her. Turning over her shoulder, she glares at the twins. “Why are you following me?” she questions the pair.

“You really think we’d let you audition without moral support?” George teases.

“What kind of friends would we be?” Fred adds, putting his hand over his heart.

“Good ones,” she snarks, reaching up and flicking them each on their foreheads. Taking her comment in stride, they step forward, placing themselves on either side of her. 

“Shall we?” Fred asks, tilting his head towards the Great Hall.

George loops his arm under Mallyn’s, not like before, but just simply keeping them together. “We shall,” he declares but waits for her to move forward. Sighing, Mallyn steps forward, stepping into the Great Hall. 

There are fewer students at the tables than usual, probably not wanting to bear witness to the auditions or be coerced into joining at the choir director’s request as he is famous for, except for the Gryffindor table which contains all six of her friends once George and Fred join them, leaving Mallyn alone as she heads to the front of the overbearingly large room, the size more obvious now that it is not filled with all the inhabitants of Hogwarts. 

“Students, students, what a lovely turnout!” Filius cheers, clapping his hands a few times. The seven students looking to audition gather in front of the professor, standing back just far enough to be able to see him without looking down. “Do we have any volunteers to go first?” From the back of the room, there is a chorus of Mallyn’s name, but before she can shoot her friends a glare, Filius is calling her forward. “Lovely, lovely, no need to be nervous, dear,” he promises, sweeping out his hand to encourage her to step up on the singular platform. Mallyn steps up and takes a deep breath before turning to face the room. “What will you be performing for us?” Filius questions, his smile taking up almost the entirety of his lower face as he slides onto the bench in front of the piano.

“Do you know Your Song by Elton John?” Mallyn asks, sticking to her safe choice as she knows the song by heart, having performed it every year for her parents on their anniversary since she was five.

“Afraid I’ve never heard of it,” Filius mutters, racking his brain, “it’s a Muggle song, I’m assuming.”

“Yeah,” she nods, looking at the piano. Surprisingly, it appears to be a standard grand piano with no magical modifications made, at least none distinguishable just by looking at it. “I can play,” she says, looking at the piano more carefully. 

“While singing?” Professor Flitwick questions, his amazement written clear across his face.

“I performed it for my old school’s talent showcase just a few months ago,” she says, remembering how happy and proud her parents had been, all for playing a four-minute song that they had heard her play a hundred times before.

“Please,” he says, sliding off the bench and leaving it open for her. 

She slides onto the bench and places her hands on the keys. She tests her reach, practicing the opening line in her head. Taking a deep breath, she centers herself then presses down. Her fingers move across the keys, her voice waiting for the cue. “ It's a little bit funny, this feeling inside, I'm not one of those who can easily hide , I don't have much money, but boy if I did, I'd buy a big house where we both could live ,” she takes a breath, her fingers playing a few keys before she resumes. “ If I was a sculptor, but then again, no, or a man who makes potions in a traveling show ,” she sings, smirking at the new meaning, wondering if that was one of the reasons her mom loves the song so much. “ I know it's not much, but it's the best I can do , my gift is my song, and this one's for you .” As her fingers dance across the keys, her mind drifts for the briefest of moments, but she quickly forces it back to the task at hand. “ And you can tell everybody, this is your song, it may be quite simple, but now that it's done , I hope you don't mind, I hope you don't mind that I put down in the words, how wonderful life is while you're in the world .” Mallyn relaxes for just a moment, allowing herself to forget the people watching and just lose herself in the music. “ I sat on the roof and kicked off the moss, well a few of the verses, well they've got me quite cross, but the sun's been quite kind while I wrote this song, it's for people like you that keep it turned on ,” she sings, pausing for a moment, “ so excuse me forgetting but these things I do, you see I've forgotten, if they're green or they're blue, anyway the thing is, what I really mean , yours are the sweetest eyes I've ever seen .” Listening to the notes as she plays, she fights the urge to look down at the keys, choosing instead to look at the wall of windows opposite of her. “ And you can tell everybody this is the song, it may be quite simple, but now that it's done, I hope you don't mind, I hope you don't mind that I put down in the words, how wonderful life is while you're in the world, I hope you don't mind, I hope you don't mind that I put down in the words how wonderful life is while you're in the world .” Mallyn closes her eyes as she plays the final few notes and takes a deep breath. The moment after a performance is always the worst in her opinion, the drop after the euphoria from allowing her soul to express itself always leaves a nagging feeling in the bottom of her heart, sometimes migrating to her stomach and forming into a pit.

Nearby clapping draws her attention. She forces her eyes open and spins on the bench, cringing at the dull clap the new soles of her shoes make against the stone. “Wow, wow, I was not expecting you to-your voice,” Filius cheers, his eyes still wide in shock, stuttering to find his words.

“My teachers have always said the same thing, ‘what a voice out a tiny little thing,’ usually,” she says, biting her tongue a second too late.

Filius does not take it to heart, his smile dropping at the obvious disappointment on the young girl’s face. “I promise you I won’t be making that comparison,” he assures her, laughing full-heartedly. “That was truly excellent, but I’m afraid to say that we don’t require another alto, we’re looking for two sopranos,” Professor Flitwick says, wording it as to not offend her as her talent is obvious. “Can you sing that range?” he inquiries 

“Not without strain,” Mallyn says while shaking her head.

Filius thinks it over in his mind. Her voice truly is lovely and the first student he’s met who is able to play the piano while singing without it affecting one or the other. He’s never said it aloud, afraid of the repercussions for many years, but he’s always felt that music sounds better when it is performed by a person, not an enchantment . “Perhaps in a year or two when some of our other members graduate,” he tells her.

“Of course, thank you for the opportunity,” she says just as she has rehearsed many times in front of her mirror, all in practice for when it is required of her, after every audition or performance, no matter the type, even in that trivial debate class her father insisted she take last year. She nods once more before sliding off the bench and descending the single step down from the platform.

Trying not to show her disappointment, she plasters on a large smile as she approaches her friends, whose faces show none of the sorrow she is feeling.

Fred reaches out and pulls her down to the table, sitting right next to him. “I know I said that you'd be a great songwriter, but that was amazing,” he exclaims, his awe holding her attention. 

It takes a few seconds for her to process what he said. She shakes her head, “That was a Elton John song.” She looks around, only the girls at the table showing any sign of recognition. “Seriously?” Mallyn questions, “What do you guys listen to?” 

“Eh, there’s the Weird Sisters, the lead singer graduated from here last year, there’s Spellbound,” Lee says, chewing on a chip as he tries to think of other bands.

“Oh, my mum doesn’t like them, doesn’t like all the scandals,” Alicia says, shaking her head, cringing at the memory of her mother’s rants on the outfits the band members don for their performances to the lyrics in some of the songs.

Lucy thinks for a moment, trying to remember the names of the albums in the bookcase at home. “There’s The Bent-Winged Snitches, they’re American, but their stuff is pretty good,” she says, closing her eyes as she tries to picture the other album covers.

Lee cracks open a small notebook, jotting down the names. He is always on the lookout for new music. “The Hobgoblins have some good songs, but they’ve gone downhill since Stubby Boardman quit,” Lee says, quoting his father’s and the general public’s opinion. 

“Stevie Nicks is my favourite,” Alicia says offhandedly, picking at the chips on her plate.

Mallyn turns to look at her over her shoulder. “She’s a Witch? I mean, she’s always been witchy, but oh my God this makes so much sense,” she exhales, trying to process the information while also thinking of other bands. “Queen?” she thinks out loud.

“The Queen of England?” George questions, his face scrunching up. 

Mallyn laughs, shaking her head, “No, the band, you know, Queen, Queen ,” she repeats in disbelief. She cannot even begin to comprehend that anyone in the world does not know who Queen is, let alone people who have grown up in the same place as the members themselves.

“Not that I know of,” Lucy answers.

“Damn,” Mallyn exhales. Her money would have been on at least the lead singer and the guitarist. “Madonna?” she questions.

Lucy shakes her head. “No, but Siouxsie Sioux is, not her real name, of course.”

“As in Siouxsie and the Banshees?” Mallyn asks in shock. Her entire family loathes the band, the entire genre of music really, but Mallyn has always been a fan, listening in secret of course, behind the school on a friend’s Walkman or at the record shop around the corner from her family’s apartment.

“Yeah, the singer and bassist both were in Slytherin actually,” Lucy adds, suddenly wondering if any of the older students would remember them, or at least heard any worthwhile stories.

Lee’s head suddenly shoots up, slamming his notebook down onto the table, “Jimi Hendrix!” he exclaims. “He graduated from Ilvermorny,” he tells his friends. George reaches across the table, snatching the notebook out of Lee’s hands, squinting to read the tiny scribbles. Lee lunges back at George, missing the edge of his notebook by an inch, but landing on the edge of the bowl of tomato soup. The red soup splatters everywhere, covering George’s entire head. 

Everyone else slides away, barely avoiding the onslaught of thrown food, a handful of chips narrowly misses the top of Fred’s head. Safe on the opposite end of the table now, Angelina and Lucy discuss their favourite album, finding their love of The Beatles in common, while Alicia watches in amusement at the fight between Lee and George. Fred pushes his plate that he had saved from his twin’s reach towards Mallyn, silently offering her some of his remaining chips. She shakes her head, unable to even think of eating at the moment with her stomach still in knots.

Fred leans over, taking a chip off the plate. “Even if it wasn’t yours, I liked the song,” he whispers, watching his brother out of the corner of his eye.

“Elton John is my mom’s favourite singer, swears that song was playing when she and my dad met,” she tells him, thinking of how her mother smiles every time she tells the story, her father always sporting a matching one, “he can’t recall, was too busy rehearsing what he was going to say in his head that he wouldn’t have heard a train coming at him, his words.”

“Does he have any other songs?” Fred questions, picking up one of the remaining chips.

She has to stop herself from laughing, knowing that he really does not know any better. “Tons, he’s a great songwriter,” she tells him.

“What’s your favourite?” Fred asks.

Mallyn does not even have to think about it, “Tiny Dancer,” she answers. “I’ll play it for you some time,” she promises, finally taking a single chip off his plate.

He is about to ask her to do it now as he spots the empty piano behind her, but he glances at the clock, only five minutes until Transfiguration. “We gotta head to class,” he says, knocking his head back towards the doorway of the Great Hall. 

Mallyn looks around, noticing the few other students getting up and slowly filing out of the large room. “I hope we get to use our wands today,” she says, thinking of her own wand laying at the bottom of the pocket in her bag. 

Lee and George finally break apart, Lee emerging victorious with noticeably less food on him and his notebook in his hand. George on the other hand has food dripping off him from head to toe. Angelina squeals as she walks by, dodging his attempt to splatter her with the tomato sauce on his hand.

“What the bloody hell happened to you?” Bill exclaims, his eyes bugging out at the sight of one of his younger brothers covered in food. He steps into the Great Hall, blocking George’s attempt to flee.

“Disagreement,” George answers, avoiding eye contact.

“Attempted thievery!” Lee claims, proudly holding his notebook above his head and running circles around George. 

Bill sighs, pinching the bridge of his nose. Truly the only thing that surprises him is the lack of food on Fred. “Both of you, hold still,” he orders, removing his wand from his robe. He waves it once, removing all the food from their uniforms and hair. “Ten points, each,” he announces as he tucks his wand away.

“You’re gonna take points from your own house?” George exclaims.

“If he doesn’t, I will,” an unrightfully cheerful voice calls. 

Another deep sigh escapes Bill. “I’ve got it handled, Lyn,” he calls out, ignoring the growing presence behind him. 

A girl barely taller than Mallyn, except for the six-inch platform Mary Janes strapped to her feet, with artificial black hair steps next to Bill and rolls her dark green borderline hazel eyes. “My friends call me Lyn, you Weasley call me,” she says, popping her gum. She chews on it for a second, deliberating her words. “Actually, I’d prefer you don’t speak to me, but if you must, Jocelyn will suffice, Miss Webb, if you’re feeling official,” she declares, blowing a bubble then popping her gum once more.

“I have this handled,” Bill states, trying his best not to show his frustration. 

Jocelyn rolls her eyes again, “Whatever you say, Weasley.” She pops her gum again as she accesses the two boys standing in front of them, somehow making them both feel small despite being taller than her. She turns on her heels, returning the shadows she had emerged from with her two friends, the three eagles disappearing into the darkness.  

Bill resists the urge to call her by another name, keeping his eyes on the children in front of him. “Go to class,” he orders, walking away to go to his own.

George and Lee take off down the hall, arguing over whose fault it is. Angelina, Alicia, and Lucy follow closely behind, offering their opinions, and much to George’s dismay, all three side with Lee. Mallyn and Fred follow closely behind, laughing at the ridiculous arguments arising in front of them. 

“What about Lyn for your nickname?” Fred asks, testing it out in his head. 

“There’s already a Lyn, we just met her,” Mallyn says, furrowing her eyebrows at the ridiculous suggestion. 

Fred jumps in front of her, blocking the doorway to the Transfiguration classroom. “But she’ll be gone next year,” he argues. 

Mallyn’s face falls. “Do you not like my name?” she questions, not tearing her eyes from Fred. 

He shakes his head, “No, no, I just-everyone deserves a nickname,” he tries to explain, hating that he accidentally hurt her feelings. 

“Well, you keep thinking and let me know,” she declares, moving under his arm and into the classroom.

The remaining four classes of the day pass by in slow motion, each of the four teachers assigning reading while the students are chomping at the bit to use actual magic. The closest they have gotten was the first day when they levitated feathers in Charms. Since then it has been all reading and taking notes. 

The final bell of the day rings and the boys gather their things in a hurry, unceremoniously tossing their supplies into the pockets of their robes and rush out the doors. Fred comes to halt, the other two boys crashing into his back. He makes a u-turn and sticks his head back into the Herbology greenhouse. “Charlie will meet you outside your Common Room to take you to the creatures meeting!” he yells at Mallyn, sprinting off in the opposite direction.

Mallyn does not even have a chance to ask what time before Fred’s already gone and completely out of sight. She scoffs as she shakes her head, tucking her gardening tools into her bag and slinging the bag that grows heavier by the day over her shoulder.

 

. . .



“Why is the Weasley Gryffindor Prefect waiting outside?” Astrid yells as soon as she steps inside the Common Room, the door sealing itself behind her. Her hard gaze scans the room, daring anyone to answer.

Swallowing her nerves, Mallyn tucks her History of Magic textbook under the velvet wing back chair she is reclining in and spins so that she sits upright, her vision blurring for a moment as her body readjusts to being right-side up. “He’s taking me to the Magical Creatures Club meeting,” she explains, standing up to hold her ground.

Astrid sighs, staring at Mallyn from across the room. “It’s bad enough you're friendly with the ones your age, now you’re going out of your way to be buddies with the older ones,” she declares, her ruby red lips in a tight line. 

“They’re Purebloods,” Mallyn defends, assuming that is the issue. 

Astrid shakes her head, her chandelier earrings rattling from the sudden movement. “That’s not the issue, it’s a matter of class,” she says, tossing a look over her shoulder to where the door to the Common Room forms then turns back to look at Mallyn, “and they have none,” she sneers. She pushes past Mallyn, hopping over the backside of the couch and sinking into the plush cushions. 

Mallyn frowns at the statement. She has met all five of the Weasleys currently at Hogwarts and can ascertain no difference between them and any of the other students, but she knows from personal experience uniforms do not hide everything as adults hope. The slightest difference in brand, colour, quality can set off warning bells in the elitists. Mallyn stands in front of the wall, waiting only a second before the door opens. As soon as it opens, she is met with the sight of Charlie leaning against the opposite wall, his hand stuck in the pockets of his denim jacket, his red and gold Prefect pin stuck on the collar.

“Ah, there you are,” Charlie says as he watches her step through the hole in the wall. He pushes himself off the wall, meeting her halfway.

Mallyn pulls on her down jacket, fiddling with the zipper until it goes up. “Sorry, I didn’t know you were out here,” she says, finally looking up at him, doing her best to use full sentences, unlike the first time they met. She mimics his position, sticking her hands in the pockets of her jacket. 

Charlie shrugs, “I figured, my little brothers aren’t the best at details, they’re more big picture types,” he says, chuckling at his own statement. “Shall we?” he questions. 

Mallyn nods, following him as he leads the way out of the lower levels. Once they are on the main level of the school, their pace automatically slows down. “Thanks for doing this,” Mallyn says, unsure of what to make of his silence.

“No problem, I know how confusing the castle can be and how intimidating it can be to try and join clubs as a First Year,” Charlie says, remembering his own First Year well, and he at least had an older brother looking out for him. “Are there any other clubs you’re interested in?”

She shakes her head, trying to remember exactly what other clubs exist at Hogwarts. “I auditioned for the choir but,” she says, letting her words trail off. She did not even really want to be in the choir, but the rejection still stung.

“Eh, for the best,” he shrugs. Mallyn wishes she could be so nonchalant about it. “You didn’t hear it from me but it’s kinda a snooze,” he admits, “I was in it my First Year.”

Mallyn stops moving, standing still to look at him, waiting for him to crack a smile, but he does not. “Really?” she questions, laughing a bit. 

“Oh, yeah, voice of an angel,” he chuckles, removing his left hand from his pocket to tap against the front of his throat. “Whole family does really, even Percy, although I haven’t heard him sing in years.” Charlie tucks his hand back in his pocket to protect it from the cool night air. Mallyn pulls at her own coat, zipping it up as far as it can go. “Mum tried to make us into a band when we were little, but I think she would’ve tried anything to keep Fred and George distracted, came up with some completely bonkers ideas to keep them busy so they would not destroy the house,” he laughs, remembering all the different schemes. Charlie pauses, looking around as if checking for any eavesdroppers, staring at the hut in the distance for a moment. “They nearly burned the house down one time, although I played my role in that, tried to Transfigure them into dragons,” he admits, unable to help the smile that grows on his face or the twitch of his nose at the mere mention of the memory. “Do you like dogs?” Charlie questions, looking out into the forest.

“Love them,” Mallyn answers, unsure of how a dog fits into the story.

He takes off, winding his way behind the hut so Mallyn follows. They stop a few feet from the largest dog Mallyn has ever seen, his fur as black as the night sky above them. “Meet Fang,” Charlie states, smiling at the beast.

Mallyn looks at Charlie once before moving towards the dog, dropping to her knees and scratching behind the creature’s ears. “Fang? Aren’t you just the most handsome boy? Bet your bark and bite are something to fear,” she coos, scratching behind his ears. His back left leg lifts off the ground, shaking violently to scratch at his side. 

Charlie laughs, holding his stomach. “You didn’t even hesitate,” he says, laughing in between each word.

Mallyn looks over her shoulder at Charlie, smirking, “Why would a Gryffindor Prefect lead an innocent First Year to her death? Besides, like owner, like pet,” she remarks. Mallyn turns her attention back to the dog as he flops over, displaying his belly to her for scratching. She obliges the beast’s silent request and drags her nails along his ribcage.

There is an echoing thud as the back door of the hut swings open. The quarter giant who resides there emerges, carrying a torch in one hand, a blanket-covered cage in the other. “Charlie, there you are!” Hagrid calls as soon as he spots the redhead. His gaze falls to his dog, smiling at both him and the girl next to him. “And you brought a friend!”

Mallyn looks up, extending her free hand to him. “I’m Mallyn,” she greets.

Hagrid bends down and sets his torch on the ground then returns the gesture while squinting at her. “We met the other night?” he questions. She nods, trying her best to control her bulging eyes. Sitting on the ground, he seems even taller than the other night. Hagrid straightens up, a loud crack echoing in the night as he stretches. “Well, come on, about to get started,” he says, waving the hand with his torch.

Charlie offers Mallyn a hand up, patting Fang on the head once before following after Hagrid. “What do you have in store for us tonight?” Charlie asks, his fingers itching to get his hands on any creature other than the garden gnomes that plague his mother’s gardens.

A deep rumble escapes Hagrid, “Oh, just you wait,” he promises. Mallyn and Charlie step around the house, joining the four other students all sitting around the open fire on logs. Hagrid turns his back to the group for a moment, fiddling with the cage. He turns back around, proudly holding a little blue bird the size of a biscuit in the palm of his right hand. “I’d like all of you to meet Rowena, named her that since her feathers look like the crown in her portrait,” he announces proudly, the three royal blue feathers sticking out of the top of the small bird’s head curl forward, jutting out like jewels. “She is a month old Hoo-Hoo bird, cousin to the more commonly known Phoenix,” he states, gently petting the bird’s back with the pad of his index finger, “they come from Japan and when full grown are only as big as a cat but can produce a flame that can wipe out a small house.”

“Like yours?” the boy, Bruce Wise, sitting next to Mallyn questions, audibly gulping. 

Hagrid’s eyes shift from the brunette boy sitting on the log to his hut. “Well, yes, but no need to worry, Bruce, I’ve had her since she was an egg, she’s a domesticated Hoo-Hoo, or at least will be when I’m done training her,” he states, moving his finger to scratch under Rowena’s chin.

Taylor Gillespie raises her hand, the glint of the lion ring on her thumb catching in the light of the fire. “Are you going to teach her any tricks?” she questions, smiling at the small creature.

“She’s already great for keeping my tea warm,” Hagrid says, surveying the six in front of him. “Anyone like to hold her?” he questions. Charlie bumps Mallyn’s shoulder with his arm, offering her an encouraging nod. Mallyn stands up. Hagrid offers her a big smile, bending down to make them more level. “Just hold out your hand and if she likes you, she’ll hobble on over,” he instructs. Mallyn follows his direction, sticking out her hand and placing her fingertips next to his palm. “Look at that,” Hagrid quietly cheers as the bird crosses from his hand to hers. Mallyn stares down at the little creature as it stares back at her. She is careful not to jump when a puff of smoke escapes her beak, looking up to Hagrid for instruction. “Good, good, she likes you,” he promises. Rowena moves around on her palm, taking in the scenery more than anything else. “Anyone else?” Hagrid questions. Charlie stands up, poking his head over Mallyn’s shoulder. “Of course, you want to, Charlie, this is the closest you’ve gotten to a dragon in a few years, huh?” Hagrid laughs. 

Charlie sticks his hand next to Mallyn, smiling as the creature migrates from her palm to his. “She looks like a miniature peacock,” Mallyn whispers, carefully petting Rowena’s back. “Do wizards have peacocks?” she questions, hoping he knows what she is referring to.

Charlie shakes his head, some of his hair escaping from the string containing the rest, the tendrils falling around his face as he looks down at the bird. “Not typically, although I’ve heard rumors the Malfoys, Pureblood family, have a few running around their properties, but pretty much all Wizard and Witches know what a peacock is, they’re majestic creatures,” he explains as he tickles the bird’s underbelly, earning a little coo from it.

“They’re crazy,” Mallyn tells him as he passes the bird off onto Bruce. “A few years ago, my class went to the London zoo and one of the peacocks got loose and chased Jimmy Thomas up a tree, literally,” she says, laughing at the image of him in her mind of him hanging off a limb as the bird snaps at his feet. Charlie sits back down on the log, holding his hands out to the fire. “The zookeepers hadn’t realized she’d laid an egg and then Jimmy got a little too close,” Mallyn tells him as she follows his suit and holds her hands out to the fire. “I think it served him right, he shouldn’t have tried sneaking off,” she mumbles as she tries not to shake from the cold seeping into her even through her jacket.

“Little sneaking off every now and then can be good,” Charlie whispers, “unofficially, of course.”

“Of course,” Mallyn teases, bumping her elbow into his side. 

Rowena makes her way around the group, taking well to everyone except Ainsley Farrington, a Second Year who screams the second a puff of smoke exits the bird’s mouth and catches the end of her long brown hair, scarring Rowena enough to fall to the ground. There was no damage, but it freaks her out so much she runs back to the castle crying about how she cannot pull off a bob. Hagrid dismisses the group as he chases after Rowena, assuring her everything is fine as he tries to corral her back into her cage. With Charlie and Mallyn’s help, the three of them finally corner Rowena against the side of his hut. Hagrid scoops the tiny bird into his massive hands, cooing comforting words to the small creature. Hagrid retreats into his hut, offering a silent good night to the students before slamming the door behind him.

Charlie sticks his hands back in his pockets, his fingers numb from the cold. “Need me to walk you back?” he asks, jerking his head towards the castle.

Mallyn shakes her head, breathing into her hands. “Can you just point me in the direction of the library? I just want to look for a book before it closes,” she says, surveying the large castle in front of her. She cannot even imagine how many rooms there are in the building and she has barely seen a fraction of them.

“That way,” Charlie points, directing her to the castle entrances on the far right. “Straight shot down the corridor then a left, but better hurry, the Matron locks up at ten,” he tells her before hurrying off across the courtyard. 

Mallyn pushes on the heavy doors, exhaling in relief for the warmth in the building compared to the nipping wind outside. She walks down the long corridor, stopping to look at the display cases along the way. A couple exclusively for quidditch, MVP’s and house victories over the years, then another for student awards. At the end of the corridor, torches light the way to the library, a set of glass doors revealing the expansive room of books. She pushes on one, slipping inside the room. Standing still, she looks out into the room, completely in awe of the seemingly endless rows of bookshelves. She winds her way down the first few, laughing at a few of the titles on the spines, completely avoiding the more scary-looking ones, including one that seems to be glowing, an eerie red haze hovering around it. Mallyn stops in her tracks when her eyes find a great big one, laying sideways on the shelf, the text on the side reading ‘History of Europe’s Magical Families and Suspected Origins’. She tugs on the heavy book, cradling it against her chest as to not chance dropping it. On the next row, she finds another, ‘The Black Family Prerogative’, along with ‘Purebloods? Halfbloods? What About Me?’. She adds them to the growing stack in her arms, the limbs starting to lose feeling from the weight. Unable to take it anymore, she makes her way to a table, carefully setting the books down on the wooden tabletop, and spreads them out. Despite her better judgement, she pulls the biggest one close to her and cracks it open, scanning through the introduction. She pulls a fresh sheet of parchment from the stack at the end of the table, along with the quill, and starts jotting down notes. The family trees start to come to life before her, the information within the hardback covers only adding more questions instead of answering any. She makes it a quarter of the way through the book before there is even a mention of the Blacks, the first part mainly the author rambling on about how nothing is truly concrete, including the Sacred Twenty Eight, an anonymous list that was spread amongst the Wizarding community in the thirties, comprised of twenty-eight last names, Black and Burke being only two of them. Mallyn stares down at the list, recognizing only four as her eyes focus on the name Malfoy, Charlie having mentioned it only an hour before and remembering the name had been mentioned on the train. 

The words on the page start to blur as Mallyn’s head grows fuzzy and lolls forward, her chin dropping against her chest before her entire body sags forward, slumping onto the large book.

Mallyn awakes with a jolt, her heart pounding and her head buzzing. She looks around, unsure of her surroundings until she remembers she is in the library, although she would never be able to tell with all the lights out. The lack of light through the skylights tells her it is late, later than she should be out. Scrambling, she gathers the papers and books in front of her, carrying the heavy load in her arms. Carefully, she moves towards the doors, stopping at the desk and leaving a note with the titles of books she is taking, then continues towards the doors only bumping into a chair once before the double doors are in front of her. Mallyn spins around, using her back to push open the doors just enough for her to slip through. As soon as she is free, it closes with a dull thud, but the sound echoes down the empty corridor. Mallyn looks to both sides, trying to remember which way she had come from only mere hours ago. Truthfully, neither way sounds familiar, but she makes her choice, turning right. She keeps walking until she reaches a wall, once again forcing her to make the choice between left and right. With fifty-fifty odds, she takes a left.

“Mallyn?” Charlie questions, giving the girl a fright. She drops the work in her arms, the leather-bound books and free papers scattering all around her feet. She looks around, searching for the source of the voice. She smiles when she sees Charlie at the very end of the corridor. Mallyn drops to her knees, trying her best to reorganize her papers. “What are you doing out of your dorm?” he questions, bending down to help her gather her things.

“Fell asleep in the library,” Mallyn mumbles, shoving some of the papers into her pockets. Charlie holds out one of the books, waiting for her to take it. “What time is it?” she asks, rearranging the books to fit in her arms then taking the one from him.

Charlie looks at his wristwatch, squinting at the tiny numbers. “Little after midnight,” he says, bringing his watch closer to his face to be sure. Mallyn tucks the last book under her arm, standing up carefully. Charlie looks around, double-checking that they are alone in the hall. He knows that technically this should cost her points and a detention, but his heart aches for the young Slytherin, being thrown into a world she knows next to nothing about and no one will give her a straight answer about, plus he has never one to seek out a reason to deal with the Head of Slytherin. “Best be on your way back,” he says, knocking his head towards the path she had been on before he had interrupted. She follows his gaze but remains still.

“I don’t know how to get back,” she quietly admits, clutching the books to her chest. Charlie nods, remembering well how easy it is to get turned around in the castle, especially at night. He waves his hand, silently urging her to follow him. She jogs to catch up, slowing to a brisk walk in order to keep up with his strides. “Thank you for this, and everything else,” she tells him even though she has already thanked him for saving her life every time she has seen him. “Can I ask you something?” she questions. Charlie tilts his head to look down at her, nodding once. She bites on her bottom lips for a second, trying to figure out if now is the right time to do this. She bites the metaphorical bullet, “Why do you hide your nose piercing?”

Charlie chuckles as he reaches up and rubs at the tip of his nose, smiling as the cool metal hidden just within his nose brushes against his finger. “You saw that, huh?”

“When you were helping me up,” she tells him, “I pieced it together later when I remembered one of the upper girls at my old school had one she kept hidden.” They walk in silence for a minute, before Mallyn finds the courage to speak up again. “Are they not allowed here?” she asks. Her old school had a strict no body modifications rule, including that students were not allowed to paint their nails, wear makeup or dye their hair. A few girls got away with it every year, claiming the summer sun lightened their hair or that the winter air made it look like they were wearing lipliner, but anything else had to be hidden under clothes, hair, or in a pinch, bandaids.

Charlie tilts his head back and forth, “They are, just not,” he sighs, unable to find the words.

“You’re a Prefect, you’re supposed to be a role model student,” she answers for him. He nods, grateful she understands without needing him to spell it out for her. “Did someone here do it?” she asks.

Charlie stands still, looking around to make sure they’re still alone. “Why, you interested in one?” he asks, tilting his head as he looks at her.

“I’ve always liked them,” Mallyn admits, trying to imagine what she would look like with one. Right now she only has her ears pierced, once in each lobe, as it is all her parents allow, thinks anything more looks trashy, her mother’s exact word.

“Maybe in a few years, you’re only eleven,” Charlie reasons, thinking of the absolute fit his mother would have if she were to find out about his own nose piercing or if he helped a First Year mutilate their body, not even wanting to begin to think about the repercussions if any of the teachers found out.

Mallyn crosses her arms, “Twelve on the twenty-ninth,” she defends.

“Happy early birthday,” Charlie chuckles, her stance amusing him.

Mallyn drops her arms, realizing that she is being ridiculous. Of course, twelve is too young, she legally would not even be able to purchase the jewelry for that specific piercing for another year. On the other hand, she is a Witch, she could figure out how to conjure the tools and transfigure her earrings. “Can I see it?” she asks. Charlie obliges, reaching up and flipping down his nose ring. Mallyn presses up on her tiptoes to get a better look at the jewelry. Two gold claws, one on either side of the cartilage that separates his nostrils hold small glass balls, light grey smoke swirling around inside of them.  “That is so cool, your brothers mentioned you love dragons,” she says, her mouth dropping open as the colour of the smoke shifts to green. “Is that going to be your costume for the ball?” she asks breathlessly, watching as the colour shifts again, this time to a vibrant orange.

“In a way,” he says, barely able to stay calm as he thinks of the costume coming to life in his dorm. He starts walking again, quickly descending the staircase down to the dungeon level of the school. “Well, here we are,” he announces, looking at the blank wall in front of them. “Don’t make a habit of staying out so late, you’re lucky it was me that found you,” he warns, looking down at Mallyn. “I’m surprised the Matron let you stay,” he admits, but his thoughts are elsewhere, the gas inside his piercing turning a brilliant yellow.

Mallyn wiggles around the books in her grasp, removing her wand from the inner pocket of her jacket. “I don’t think she realized I was there when she left, I didn’t even see her when I went in,” she tells him, stepping forward and tapping her wand against the stone, whispering the password under her breath. The doorway opens up, staying open as Mallyn sets one foot inside, one foot still on the stone of the corridor. She leans against the wall for support as the books grow ever heavier in her arms.

“She’s getting up there, not what she used to be, just don’t think Dumbledore has it in him to admit it, would mean admitting a few things about himself,” Charlie says, stopping himself before he can get too amped up. “Goodnight, little snake,” he says, turning to leave.

Mallyn forces her eyes to stay open, blinking slowly. “Goodnight, fire lion,” she calls as a yawn escapes her.

“Fire lion,” he hums, intrigued by the combination. Looking at her over his shoulder, “I like it,” he declares, smiling to himself at his new nickname.

Finding herself unable to pull herself away from the wall, she calls after his retreating figure. “Charlie, have you ever seen a real dragon, in person?” she questions, remembering Hagrid’s earlier words when handing off Rowena to him.

Charlie turns back around, coming to stop in front of her. “Of course, where you think I got the scar,” he whispers, pulling up the sleeve of his jacket just enough to reveal a burn about the size of a quarter on the back of his left wrist. “Night,” he tells her, gently pushing at her shoulder to go into the Common Room. 

She wavers, swaying back and forth for a moment before resting solidly against the wall again. “Your mom most definitely knows,” she says, rubbing under her nose with her finger, “if I can see it, I’m sure she can too,” she murmurs, knowing that at his mother’s height if she stood where Mallyn is, she would have a clear view of the underside of his nose. “When’d you get it?” she questions, turning her head to yawn into her shoulder.

“Last year,” he answers, watching carefully as she sways, ready to catch her if necessary. 

“I can wait until then,” she murmurs, her yawn distorting her words.

Charlie pushes on her shoulder again, backing her into the Common Room. “Think it’s time for you to go to bed,” he urges, taking the chance to peek at the décor. It is about as he expected, colder though, the lack of fire surprising him.

Mallyn looks over her shoulder, the velvet couch looking very appealing even though her room is only a few extra steps away. “Night, Charlie,” she whispers, turning around carefully as to not lose her balance. “Sorry, one more question,” she mumbles, yawning again, “why were you out after midnight?”

Charlie leans against the doorway, keeping it open. “I take the night patrol in exchange for only afternoon classes, never been able to fall asleep before three anyway,” he answers, watching with concern as she stumbles across the room, barely able to stay upright. Charlie rushes forward, ignoring the door shutting behind him, and sweeps his arms around him just in time to catch her from crumpling to the ground. “Are you okay?” he asks, looking down at her face as it grows paler and paler.

“Yeah, just feeling,” she mutters, words escaping her.

Charlie helps her over to the first chair he sees, taking the books from her hands and setting them on the table. “What have you eaten today?” he questions, knowing lack of sleep can not be the sole answer. Mallyn watches as the gas within the piercing under his nose shifts colours rapidly, settling on black. She blinks a few times, expecting it to change again. He holds her face in his right hand, forcing her attention to him as he repeats his question.

“A chip,” Mallyn answers, her tongue darting out to wet her lips.

“A chip? As in singular?” Charlie questions, his heart racing faster.

Mallyn nods, wanting nothing more than to go to sleep. “Yeah, Freddie,” she mumbles, letting her head fall back against the soft cushion of the back of the chair. She remembers hiding her book under the chair before she left earlier. She tries to sit up, her hands scrambling under the chair, but Charlie pushes her back.

Charlie holds her back against the chair by her shoulders, “Fred gave you a chip? One chip?”

She blinks a few times, trying to process his words. “He tried to give me more, but I auditioned at lunch and my stomach is always weird,” she mumbles, the mention of lunch making her stomach gurgle.

Charlie looks around the room, searching for any spare food. There are always snacks left around the Gryffindor Common Room, packets of crisps, biscuits, water bottles, but the Slytherin Common Room is bare of all food, of all signs of life really. Charlie sighs, turning his attention back to the girl in front of him, nearly unconscious at this point. He snaps his fingers in front of her, gaining back her attention. “Do you have food in your dorm?” he asks slowly, making sure she understands his words.

She shakes her head, knowing the only snack she brought with her was the popcorn she took with her on Saturday. “Can I ask for it?” 

“Ask the room?” Charlie questions, unsure if she knows what she is saying.

“Yeah,” she mumbles, “it changes to what we want, so can’t I just ask it for food?”

“I don’t know,” Charlie weighs his options. If he leaves her here alone, how will he get back in to get the food to her, but she does not seem to have enough left in her to make it all the way upstairs and to the kitchen. “I’m going to go get you something from the kitchen, I need you to stay awake to let me back in,” he tells her, forcing her to look at him. 

She slumps further into the chair, a sadness taking over her features. “Don’t be mad at Fred, if he had known I hadn’t eaten he probably would’ve force-fed me the entire table,” she tells him, both fully believing her words.

“I’m not mad, just promise me you’re going to stay awake to let me back in,” Charlie reiterates. Mallyn nods groggily but pushes herself up in the chair. Accepting it is as good as he is going to get, Charlie rushes over to the wall, anxiously fidgeting as he waits for it to open. The second it slides open, he takes off in a run down the corridor and up the stairs, not stopping until he is in front of the painting of fruit. He reaches forward, tickling the depiction of a pear, the frame of the painting swinging forward to reveal the always bustling kitchen of Hogwarts. 

A house elf in a pale blue sheath tunic stops in front of him, staring curiously. “Mister Charlie Weasley, Sixth Year Gryffindor Prefect, sir, how may Timpkins be helping yous, sir?” he questions, wringing his wrinkly pale hands in front of him.

Charlie looks around, his nerves striking a new high at the bare tables. “I need a meal, something quick,” he explains, clenching and unclenching his hands as he tries to calm his racing heart.

“We has pizzas leftover from dinners, sir,” he says, snapping his long fingers. A plate of slices of cheese pizza appears in his hands, extending it upwards to Charlie. 

Charlie gratefully accepts it, moving to turn then pausing and turning back to the house elf. “You can apparate within Hogwarts?” he questions.

Timpkins nods vigorously, his large ears shaking with each movement. “Of courses, sir, it allows us to do what Hogwarts needs,” he explains, looking around nervously.

Charlie sighs in relief, finally seeing an end in sight. “I need you to take me and this pizza to the Slytherin Common Room, can you do that?”

“Of courses, sir,” the house elf nods. He reaches forward, but hesitates, “many apologies I must touch you,” he explains.

Charlie reaches down, setting his free hand in Timpkins’. “Yes, yes, that’s fine, hurry, please,” he urges, hating to leave Mallyn alone for any longer than necessary. There is an audible crackle in the air before the bright kitchen disappears from sight and the dark Common Room appears. Charlie releases Timpkins’ hand and rushes towards Mallyn in the chair, completely asleep. He holds the plate under her nose and waits as she inhales deeply, waking up to the scent of the pizza. Mallyn sits up, taking a slice from the plate and nibbling on it. As her senses sharpen, she looks around, aware of the surroundings, yelping when she spots the creature lurking in the corner. 

“Shh, you’re going to wake the whole bloody house,” Charlie laughs, falling to the ground with a light thump. He waves his hand to the house elf, inviting him over. “This is Timpkins, he’s one of the house elves that works here at Hogwarts,” he explains.

“Thank you for the pizza,” she murmurs, unsure of exactly what to make of the odd little creature. His yellow large eyes overpower all the rest of his features, even though his ears are quite oversized for such a small frame. 

The house elf nods rapidly, “Of course, miss, it is Timpkins job, a house elf’s duty, honor.”

Charlie reaches for the plate, retrieving a slide of the pizza for himself. “Could you bring us some juice?” he asks before taking a bite out of the pizza. It is lukewarm but tolerable and Mallyn does not seem to have any complaints.

“Of courses, sir,” the house elf states, disappearing with a snap, only to reappear a moment later, two glasses of apple juice floating in the air above his open hand. “Here, sir,” he says, passing off one glass to Charlie, the other to Mallyn.

Mallyn sips on her juice, savoring the sweetness. She cannot remember the last time she had juice without watering it down. Charlie watches as she downs the juice, mildly worrying that she may accidentally drown herself in the process, but a minute later she sets the empty glass down and reaches for another slice of pizza. Charlie turns his attention to the house elf, offering him a kind smile. “Thank you, Timpkins, I think that is all, you are free to leave,” he tells the creature.

Timpkins bows slightly, “Of courses, sir, miss, thank you, sir, miss,” he says then disappears again with a single snap.

Charlie shifts on the floor, leaning back against the chair. He flops his head backwards, looking up at Mallyn as she nibbles on the same slice of pizza. He knocks his head into her leg, drawing her attention down to him. “How come you didn’t eat breakfast?” he questions as he chews on his own slice.

Mallyn stares at him for a moment, focusing on the pink of the gas instead of the concern in his eyes. “Not a morning person,” she tells him. Not the complete truth, but not a lie either.

Charlie frowns at her, sensing the anxiousness within her. “You can’t go a whole day without eating, this is why you fell asleep in the library, your body’s got nothing to work with,” he says, knowing all too well. Everyone in his family shares little in common besides their hair and the fact that they are all nothing if not passionate, all forgoing eating or sleeping at least once in their life for the sake of something else.

“Charlie,” Mallyn murmurs, drawing his attention back to her. He lets his head fall to the side, resting against her knee. “Thank you,” she says, knowing that they both know it is for more than just tonight.

“Anytime, kid,” he teases, but it is a promise nonetheless, one that he will keep if he has any say in it.

Chapter Text

Mallyn slides into her seat, almost falling off as the old wooden stool wobbles beneath her as Fred retracts his foot from the bar connecting the legs. Fred shifts in his seat, turning to face her. He sits there, a smile on his face while he waits for her attention. Sensing his gaze, Mallyn shifts every so slightly, letting him know she is listening to whatever he has to say. “Have fun last night?” he questions, trying to conceal the amusement ricocheting around within his restless mind and body.

“Tell Charlie it won’t happen again,” she mumbles, still not looking at Fred. She digs around in the largest pocket of her robe, withdrawing the honey granola bar that she had found waiting on her bedside table when she woke up. Tearing at the wrapper, she sticks the first square into her mouth, raising her left eyebrow as she chews the grainy material. Fred does not say anything, just turns his attention back forward, happily listening as she chews under the growing chatter within the room. She sticks the second square in her mouth, wishing she had water to wash it down with. As soon as the bar is finished, she holds out the wrapper in the palm of her hand to Fred. “Happy?” she questions. 

He takes the wrapper, jokingly inspecting it for crumbs. “Positively ecstatic,” he announces. He balls up the wrapper, sending it flying into the waste container in the corner of the dark room with a wave of his wand. “Now if you plan on passing out again, give me a heads up, I’ll make sure my arms are free,” he teases, bumping his elbow into her arm.

“You’re welcome to use mine as well,” Lee calls from behind her.

“And mine,” George adds, resting his chin on his interlocked fingers.

“Great,” she deadpans, ignoring their increasing offers of chivalry.

Fred waits a moment, tilting his head as he watches her. “Will you sing that song at lunch today?” he questions. Mallyn ignores him, choosing to distract herself by rummaging around in her overstuffed bag. Fred slumps forward on the table, turning to look at her. “You promised,” he whines, puffing out his bottom lip. 

“And I will, just not today,” she mumbles as she drops her bag onto the ground. She leans forward, resting on her palm and keeping her attention on Professor Snape as he starts rambling about something, the words all turning to static the second they reach her ears and somehow she manages to keep her eyes open despite her exhaustion feeling like a weight tugging on her eyelids.

Fred pushes himself up, mirroring Mallyn’s posture. “You have a great voice,” he whispers.

Mallyn turns her head ever so slightly to look at him, appreciating the small smile his lips form as he stares at her. She turns her attention back to the front, untucking her hair from behind her ear and prays that Fred does not see the blush she can feel heating up her cheeks and ears. “Thank you,” she quietly responds, careful not to take her eyes off the menacing professor. She sighs deeply, turning her eyes to the chalkboard, but not having the energy to get out a piece of parchment and quill to copy them down. She can get them from someone else later, she silently rationalizes. “Answer’s still the same,” she whispers, knowing Fred is still waiting.

“You don’t even have to sing loud, I just want to hear the song,” Fred pleads quietly. She does not respond, using all her energy to stay awake. Fred slides his seat a little closer to hers. “Tomorrow morning then, hardly anyone uses the Great Hall before first period,” he whispers.

“Wonder why,” she mutters, covering her mouth as she yawns. 

Her yawn is the final straw for Severus. He crosses the room in less than a second, stopping right in front of her. “Is my lesson not entertaining enough for you, Miss Smyth?” he drawls, the boredom in his voice sounding how she feels.

“No, sir, the twelve uses of dragon blood,” she says, double-checking the board out of the corner of her eye, “is absolutely fascinating, I’m just afraid I didn’t sleep very well last night,” she tells him, sitting upright in her seat and folding her hands in her lap.

Severus tilts his head, examining her before reaching into his cloak and retrieving a note. “Yes, I imagine breaking into the library will do that to a night’s well rest,” he states as he releases the note, letting it flutter down to the empty space in front of Mallyn. She picks up the note, recognizing her own rushed handwriting. “You are to take all the books you took back to the library as well as serve out a week’s detention with Matron Pince for your choices,” he states, glaring down at her.

“Yes, sir,” she sighs, not having the energy to even try to explain what actually happened. 

Severus’ jaw clicks as he tenses before turning around and resuming his position at the front of the room. “As I was saying,” he states, his narrowed eyes finding Mallyn as he hits the chalkboard with his wand, “dragon blood for a long time was entirely underused as well as undervalued as the uses were not understood, but thanks to our own Headmaster, there are now twelve uses officially recognized by the Ministry, the ones of which concerns you in this classroom is how it can be used within potions,” he explains, the chalk writing out the twelve uses, then crossing out seven of them, “particularly when used in spells related to love, protection, and banishing, as well as healing potions which is what we will be focusing on today until next Friday.” He turns away from the class, selecting a single vial off his desk. He turns around, holding it up for the class to see the sickly green liquid within the glass vial. “Today we will begin to work on the potion used by even the best Healers at St. Mungo’s for curing stomach ulcers, and that Madam Pomfrey has available should any of you need it during your schooling here,” he announces, waving the bottle around so that every student can get a good look at it. “Directions are on the board, get started, one potion per a table by end of class,” he states, tucking the vial into his cloak and retreating to his office.

Fred sits up and drags the caldron forward, groaning at the stale odor wafting out of it. 

Mallyn retrieves her book, flipping through the pages until she finds the words Stomach Ulcer Aid printed in swirly cursive. She presses her finger to the page, skimming down to the ingredients. “Single tablespoon of fresh honey, teaspoon of finely grinded turmeric and ginger, two drops of infusion of Wormwood, one drop of essence of dittany, and a drop of dragon’s blood,” Mallyn reads, frowning at the page. Her finger presses into the fine paper, the thin paper crumbling under the pressure as she glances at the board making sure the words match.

Fred leans over to try and see the page, but the words are unreadable from the creases. “What?”

“It’s cruel,” she mutters, retracting her finger and slamming the book close, “I’m assuming the dragons don’t just hand over their blood.”

“Of course not, they’re beasts,” Fred scoffs, realizing that was the wrong decision when Mallyn’s hair hits him in the face as she whips her head to face him.

“Are they, or have they just learned that in order to stay alive they must be beastly?” she questions, her face growing tenser.

“I don’t understand what’s happening right now,” Fred whispers, not understanding her question or the look on her face. Dragons are monsters, that’s a fact of life, nothing more, nothing less, even his dragon loving brother knows that.

Mallyn sighs deeply, trying to ground herself in the present moment. She picks up her book, flipping it open to a random page. “I’m vegetarian, I can’t use dragon blood or Flobberworm mucus, or a Scarab beetle, I won’t,” she states, flipping through the pages, her eyes catching on the ingredients that make her stomach drop.

“What’s vegetarian?” he asks, never having even heard the word before.

Mallyn turns to look at him thinking he’s kidding, ready to berate him for making a joke out of something so serious, but there’s no trace of a smile on his face, just concern. “I don’t eat or use anything that a living thing had to die for,” she explains. He nods once, but she can tell he doesn't understand. She turns to face him completely, “Okay, so the honey is fine because bees don’t die to create it, it actually benefits the environment to use the honey otherwise there’d be a surplus and they could literally drown in it.” 

He nods once slowly, trying to process it. “What about plants?” he questions, trying to remember what his mother had taught him years ago about how plants make their own food. 

“Plants are living, but not in the way that I meant, they don’t have a heartbeat, a soul, they can’t scream as they’re being murdered,” she explains, trying to make it as simple as possible.

“Tell that to Mandrakes,” he mutters under his breath.

“What?” she questions, her eyebrows shooting up.

“Nevermind,” he says, shaking his head. Fred stares at her for a moment then pries the books out from under her fingers. “How about I handle the ingredients and just tell you how much to add when,” he suggests, holding the open book close to his chest, “that way you won’t have to know which is which.” Mallyn narrows her eyes, suspicious of the plan. Hesitantly, she nods, agreeing to at least giving his plan a fair chance. He races from his seat, moving over to the shelf in the corner and selecting vials. Returning to the desk, he sets all the vials with the label facing towards him, carefully making sure she cannot see the writing. Mallyn fiddles with the caldron for a minute before withdrawing her wand and pointing it under the bottom of the cauldron.

“Incendio,” she whispers, smiling as a small flame erupts under the hanging caldron.

One by one, Fred hands her ingredients and reads off the amount and directions, watching as Mallyn completes it. “Okay, now it just has to simmer for ten minutes, stirring it once with your wand every two and half minutes while reciting patientiam, fortitudo, salutem,” he instructs, setting the book down on the desk.

Mallyn sticks her wand into the mixture, stirring the potion once clockwise while repeating the incantation. She removes her wand, wiping it on the sleeve of her robe. Mallyn sits down and leans forward, resting her chin on her knuckles while watching the green smoke rise from the potion. “Stamina, strength, health,” she whispers, repeating the words to herself again, Fred watching with interest. “Latin was required at my old school,” she says, answering Fred’s unasked question.

“Did you get in trouble much at your old school?” he asks. “Just asking since you know you now have more detentions than I do,” he points out, looking at her out of the corner of his eyes.

“Not for long,” she states, teasing him for his penchant for getting himself in trouble.

Fred scoffs, bumping his hip into her. “Is that so?” he questions, mocking disbelief.

“What can I say, I believe in you,” she tells him, looking up at him through her lashes. She reaches forward, stirring the potion again, reciting the incantation. Fred turns around, checking in on his brother’s and Lee’s potion. The bubbling liquid within their caldron is a few shades darker than his and Mallyn’s. Lee bends over the pot, his face a mere inch from the rim. He sticks his finger into the mixture, withdrawing it from the cauldron and sticking it in his mouth. Lee’s face contorts the second the potion touches his tongue, severely more bitter than anything containing honey should ever taste. George follows suit, sticking his finger into the cauldron, watching as the green liquid drips off it and back into the pot. He tries to pull his finger to his mouth, but finds it caught in an invisible force field. 

“Mister Weasley,” Severus calls from the front of the room, his wand pointing at the back of the classroom, holding George’s hand away from his face. Severus crosses the classroom, all eyes following him. “Unless you wish to follow Mister Jordan to the infirmary, I would suggest rethinking your choice,” he declares a moment before Lee collapses to the floor, his eyes rolling back into his head. Students scramble out of their seats, peering over each other to get a look at Lee. He sits up, rubbing at his throat before turning to the side and throwing up the bit of green potion he consumed along with everything else in his stomach. Severus releases George’s hand from his spell, turning quickly and facing the classroom, glaring at all the students. “Everyone, eyes on your potion unless you wish to find yourself in the infirmary with burns when it explodes from being left alone a second too long,” he instructs, the hem of his cloak whooshing against the stone flooring as he turns back to George, who is still nervously hovering over his friend. “Mister Weasley, you and Mister Jordan are done for the day, please escort him to see Madam Pomfrey and explain he sampled an incomplete stomach ulcer potion,” he states, the door shooting open with a wave of his wand. Fred rushes around the table to help, but Severus’ arm shoots out to stop him. “I think one Weasley is all this situation requires,” he sneers, “although who knows, maybe he’ll come back with another and prove my theory that you have the tendency to self replicate when left alone.” Fred glares at the professor, his upper lip twitching as his mind races of possible schemes to make him pay for his comment. 

“Fred, what’s the next direction?” Mallyn questions, drawing his attention to her. He moves back to their table, picking up the book but his eyes glaze over, darkening with rage. Mallyn sticks her wand into the potion again, stirring for the last time. She turns to watch the clock count down the remaining two and half minutes, her eyes flicking between the clock and George as he loops his arm under Lee and pulls him up then they stumble out the door. “It’s done,” she announces. Fred mindlessly goes through the motions, standing up and removing the cauldron from the flame. Mallyn leans over and blows it out, watching the fire quickly die. She turns around and tries to take the cauldron from Fred’s shaking hands, but his hands are locked around the handles. “Freddie, let go,” she whispers, placing her hands under the handles. 

Fred looks down at her, blinking a few times before she feels his fingers relax. Working fast, she wraps her fingers around the handles and pulls it from him, setting it down on the table with a thud. Fred steps up to the table, pulling the caldron to his half. “I can do it,” he murmurs, picking up the empty glass vial and ladle, silently pouring one serving into the tiny container. He sticks the cork in it just as the clock at the front of the room rattles. 

Severus starts at the front row. He takes the vial from Lucy, holding it up to his face for close inspection while Tyson nervously grips his books, the cover creaking underneath the pressure. He uncorks the vial and smells it once. “Insulting,” he announces to the class, pouring the light green liquid back into the cauldron. Tyson crumples forward, lightly hitting his head on the table. Severus ignores the boy, moving on. He repeats the process at each table, taking less than thirty seconds for each set of partners. “Surprisingly acceptable,” he tells Susan and Flora, glaring at the two Ravenclaws for their success. “Tolerable,” he admits to Cedric and Roger through tight lips. Kenneth and Theo earn a “Sufficient,” from the professor even though he breezes by their desk, barely stopping long enough to constitute any lack of movement. He pauses in front of Alicia and Angelina, staring into the cauldron. He picks up the vial at the edge of their desk, sniffing it twice before putting a dab of it on the back of his hand. The green potion dissipates into his skin, leaving it glowing. “Satisfactory,” he remarks, capping their potion and handing it back to Alicia. As soon as he is gone, they turn to each other, sharing a look of surprise. Abruptly, he stops in front of Pomona and Fauna, glaring at their cauldron. “What is this?” he complains, picking up the ladle and sticking it into the mixture, withdrawing it a moment later, the spoon part having completely melted off, only the handle left. He drops it onto the table, glaring down at the girls who are both too afraid to answer his question. “Offensive,” he tells them, “that is what it is, offensive.” He stands still for a moment, accessing the ingredients on their desk, trying to figure out how they could have possibly messed up so severely since there is not a single corrosive ingredient in the potion. “I suggest you practice your potion skills unless you want to cost your house more than the twenty points you just did,” he declares. He looks up, staring at Mallyn and Fred, the next table to be graded. He glides forward, accepting the vial from Fred’s now steady hand. Fred keeps his eyes on the professor while he examines the potion whereas Mallyn cannot find it in herself to look away from her hands which are now shaking. “Oddly fine,” Severus declares, putting the cork back in the bottle and holding it out to Mallyn. She quickly takes it, using all her focus on not letting her hands shake. As soon as he steps away, she sets it down on the table, sticking her hands under her legs. The echo of Severus slamming a book down in front of the two Slytherin boys startles half the room, Fauna falling from her seat to the ground, the wooden stool rattling around until it settles down on the ground next to her. “Extraordinarily horrid, did you even read the instructions?” he interrogates Adrian and Cassius. Both boys’ eyes are wide, obviously having expected better treatment from their own Head of House. “Detention with me, tonight, where we will review your mistakes,” he states, moving away from them before anything else can be said. The two remaining students, a Hufflepuff and a Gryffindor, both prepare for the worst. Severus inspects their potion, finding no true fault with it, just not as good as it could be. “Fair,” he declares. Iris and Elfy’s shoulders fall as relief washes over them. Severus eyes the now empty table. He strides over, picking up the cauldron from Lee and George’s station. “Incomplete,” he says almost cheerfully as he pours the ruined concoction down the drain. Severus moves to the front of the class, turning around quickly to face his class. All around the room he sees faces of disappointment and embarrassment, but only one of pure anger. Ignoring Fred, he flips over the chalkboard, their homework written out in his own font, a combination of neat cursive and printing. “Be prepared first thing tomorrow to begin and complete the potion to stop bleeding on page twenty-nine,” he announces, dismissing the class with a wave of his hand, watching as they file out. He waves his wand, each of the cauldrons moving over to the sink and dumping themselves out. 

Lucy catches up with Fred and Mallyn, walking in the space between them. “Merlin, him walking around grading, someone must’ve given him a thesaurus for Christmas or his birthday, if he celebrates either,” she mumbles, nervously twirling a strand of her hair around her wand, accidentally getting some leftover potion in it. 

“Probably doesn’t, can’t imagine him finding joy in anything,” Fred grumbles, busy plotting revenge in his head.

 

 

.  .  .



 

Mallyn steps into the library, the heavy glass door slamming shut behind her and sealing her to her fate in the eerily quiet room. The books in her arms seem to weigh even more than they did the other night, something she would not have thought possible, but the feeling in her arms had already faded from painfully staticky to irritatingly numb. Stepping carefully as she cannot see her feet, she moves forward and sets the stack of books on the edge of the old table, her arms screaming in relief as feeling rushes back to them. She watches as her fingers regain their colour then retrieves the note from the pocket of her jeans, setting it on top of the tower of books. Mallyn raises up on her tiptoes and peers around, trying to find the librarian, but the only people she can see in the expansive room are a couple of students still in their uniforms sitting at one of the tables a few dozen feet away. 

The librarian, Matron Irma Pince, notices the small girl waiting in the distance and stalks forward towards her public desk, quietly closing her office door behind her. She stands there for a moment before clearing her throat, startling the First Year. “Do you have anything to say for yourself, young lady?” she interrogates, pulling her slim rectangular glasses off her nose and letting them swing from the chain around her neck until they fall still resting against her chest, the light streaming in from the windows reflecting a rainbow in the thick glass lenses. She sticks her right hand out, counting the offenses out on her fingers, “Out after hours, breaking into and out of the library to steal books from the collection, all before the first week is even done,” she says, part of her not even able to comprehend all of it. Mallyn does not speak, just stares at the older woman as her young eyes grow wider, her fear building from each accusation. Matron Pince sighs, her head reclining ever so slightly and pinching the bridge of her nose, trying to smooth out the practically permanent indents on either side. “How did you even sneak in?” she questions, pulling the stack of books to her. “I lock the doors behind me every night,” she says while scanning the titles in front of her.

“I didn’t,” Mallyn promises, shaking her head vigorously, “I came to the library at seven.”

Matron Pince’s head whips up, “Impossible, I would’ve seen you,” she states, having been in her office until nearly eleven last night.

“I’m easy to miss,” Mallyn suggests, not daring to laugh.

Irma looks down at the small girl, trying to assess her statements as fact or fiction. “If I choose to believe you, it doesn’t explain how you got out,” she tells her, watching for her reaction, “I lock the doors when I leave and there are only three keys, I have one, the Headmaster and Professor McGonagall have the others, even Mr. Filch isn’t allowed in here unsupervised.”

Mallyn turns over her shoulder, pointing at the door she had used to leave last night, third from the left, “You must’ve missed the one I used, I’m sorry, ma’am, I don’t know what to tell you,” she says, hoping she believes her. The last thing Mallyn wants right now is to be thought of as a thief and a liar all before the first week is even over.

Matron Pince spins the books towards her then spreads them out in front of her. “Why these books?” she questions, her right index finger coming down on the closest one with a thump, “there’s plenty of others in this library worth stealing.”

Mallyn shakes her head, stuttering out her explanation, “I didn’t steal these, I borrowed them, why would I leave a note if I was stealing them?”

Matron Pince considers it for a moment; the girl did leave a note before leaving and students aren’t usually aware that the library is sentient and makes note in the large book in her office whenever one leaves the premises until much later in their careers, if ever, so unless she was playing at some reverse psychology attempt much beyond her years, she has to be telling the truth . “What is your name?” she questions, lifting up her glasses and setting them back on her nose. 

“Mallyn Smyth, ma’am,” she answers, nervously tapping her fingers against her legs, twisting the soft fabric in between her index fingers and thumbs.

Matron Pince peers down at the collection of books in front of her, all about the Wizarding World and the families that make it up. “Muggleborn?”

“Halfblood,” Mallyn answers, “but might as well be, I didn’t know anything about practically everything until almost a year ago,” she explains, her cheeks flushing at the memory of her accidentally changing her sister’s naturally pale yellow blonde hair to her own shade of mousy brown in a moment of anger fueled by jealousy.

Matron Pince’s head tilts, “Your parents kept it from you?” she questions, her brows furrowing tightly at the revelation. Every year there’s a mix of Pureblood, although less and less with each passing year, decreasing numbers of true Halfblood students as the divide between the Wizarding World and the Muggle one grows with the changing social and technological landscapes of both, plus an increasing amount of Muggleborn students every year, and even the rare cases of students whose parents leave the children to be raised by others unaware of their status, but never having heard of someone’s parent purposefully keeping them in the dark about their heritage and abilities

“My mother, yes,” she answers.

“Did she attend here?” Irma asks, her knowledge of the students at Hogwarts only a step below the Headmaster himself, the woman priding herself on her own little private Rolodex of names and histories within her mind. Mallyn nods ever so slightly, unsure if she is ready to dive down the rabbit hole with anyone other than her mother herself. “What was her name?” Matron Pince asks, her mind already thinking back to the possible names, going back at least a decade and a half back since her mother would have had to have already graduated from Hogwarts in order to get pregnant.

She starts to answer but realizes her answer would be useless since the name she has always known her mother by is not one others would know. “Valentina Burke,” she tells her, watching as the lightbulb in the old lady’s mind goes off.

“Really?” she questions, her hand raising to cover her mouth. She stares at Mallyn, trying to find her mother’s face in hers, but she cannot, not in her eyes, nor her smile, not until Mallyn cocks her left eyebrow, silently questioning the older woman. Matron Pince nods once, seeing it now and questioning how she missed it before. She inhales deeply, the air clicking against her teeth. “Well, now your book choices make more sense,” the old woman declares, smiling to herself. She looks at the books down on the table again, mentally going through the contents of them. “May I recommend a few more to you?”

“Really?” Mallyn questions, unable to follow such the abrupt one-eighty turn the conversation just took.

“It is anyone’s right, especially for people like us, to know where they come from, who they come from,” she tells the young girl. Irma retrieves the small piece of parchment and scribbles a few more titles onto it then holds it out to Mallyn. She quickly grabs it, her eyes widening once more at the now fifteen book titles that may be just the thing to begin to unravel the truth. The Matron watches as Mallyn’s eyes shift back and forth across the paper. “Do you have anyone who can collaborate your story?” she questions, drawing the girl’s attention back to her. 

Mallyn thinks for a moment, Charlie’s kind face immediately popping up in her mind. She wonders if Charlie could get in trouble since she knows he technically should have reported her for being out after curfew, but instead he was kind and helped her. “No,” she firmly answers, shaking her head once. 

Matron Pince assesses her for another moment, her eyes scanning the room once. “I am going to take you at your word,” she states, the young girl’s face lighting up. Matron Pince restacks the books and pushes them towards Mallyn, keeping her index finger on the leather cover of the top one. “Put these back where you found them and we’ll consider your detention served,” she declares, nodding curtly once then retracting her finger. 

“Really?” Mallyn gasps, not only looking a gift horse in the mouth but questioning it as well. 

“Yes, now go,” she confirms, waving the girl off. 

Carefully, Mallyn picks up the heavy stack and weaves her way through the shelves, setting all of them back where she had discovered them less than twenty-four hours ago. She dusts her hands off in front of her then turns around and returns to the front desk. 

Matron Pince watches as Mallyn approaches, stopping a few inches from the table. “Yes?” she asks, a hint of amusement brightening her aged features. 

“I’m done,” Mallyn declares, her fingers loosely intertwining behind her back as she waits for the other shoe to drop, for Matron Pince to announce she realized her error and has changed her mind in the mere minute since Mallyn left. 

“Well, unless you have something better to do, I’d suggest you go get them along with these titles,” she says, handing Mallyn another small sheet of parchment with six more titles on it. 

Mallyn does not take her eyes off Matron Pince while she takes the sheet from her. “I can use them?” she questions. She would not have been able to predict how her detention would turn out even if she had tried.

“You may take them back to your dorm, if you like, these titles are not in high demand nor are they from the Forbidden Section, you are free to use them whenever and for however long you want, just please,” Matron Pince says, her face tensing up.

Mallyn nods rapidly, cutting off the old woman’s words. “I will take such good care of them,” she promises. She rocks on her heels, practically bouncing with excitement. “Thank you so much,” she whispers, clutching the two pieces of parchment close to her heart. She turns around, weaving her way back through the maze of tables and shelves on the first floor of the library. Standing in front of the largest of the books, she pulls it from the shelf and instead of immediately returning to her dorm, she takes the books and the sheet of parchment from her back pocket and sits down, continuing her ongoing chart of the Black family.

She sits at that table in silence for almost an hour before her concentration is broken by a hushed shout of her name. Mallyn looks up, searching for the source, scoffing when she sees a glimpse of ginger hair peeking out from between shelves.

“Found her!” George calls, poking his head out in between two shelves, books surrounding his head on either side. Fred’s head appears right above his, popping out and smiling when he sees Mallyn sitting alone at a table a few feet away.

Mallyn laughs at the intrusion, waving them over to her table. “Hey, guys,” she greets, looking up at the twins. Fred and George slide into the seat across from her. She stares for a moment, trying to make note of any differences, but she finds none and yet she knows exactly which one is which. She stares for a moment longer, trying to ascertain the reason but finds herself unable to. She quickly shakes the thought from her mind, remembering what she had been so caught in only a minute ago. She taps the book in front of her, the boys following her direction and looking down at the open book. “Okay, so, get this, Percy wasn’t entirely right, I am a Burke and Black, but I’m also a Flint and Ogden, they invented the drink called Firewhiskey, and who knows what else, the records get spotty the further back you go,” she rambles, trying to show them the pages, but her hands refusing to move from the printed words, “and there’s some Black in your blood too, actually you're just as removed from the Black family as I am, by one generation since your father’s mother was a Black, but pretty much every Wizard or Witch is or has one or the other, most likely multiple, but it’s all broken up by decades of marriage and children, I mean,” she says, shaking her head in disbelief at all the information she has been able to gather over only two days.

“Okay, no more genealogy for you,” Fred grumbles, trying to shake the information out of his head.

 “Merlin’s Braided Beard, your detention is reading?” George questions, pulling the book out from under her hands, slamming it close before she can protest then pulls at the piece of parchment from under her hand, “That’s just cruel,” he scoffs. She tries to stop it from moving, but only succeeds in smearing the fresh ink, ruining the names she had written moments ago. 

Smiles that can only be described as wicked grow on both twins’ faces. “Good thing we’re here to save you,” Fred declares, sparing a glance over his shoulder. 

Not even a second later, a loud explosion breaks the peaceful silence of the library,  bookshelves a few rows down rattling from the force of the exploding snaps the twins had placed under the lowest shelves. Without a word, the twins high-five each other then turn their attention to Mallyn. Her mouth is wide open, staring at the horrifying disarray in the near distance. Books are strewn everywhere, a few even hanging over the guard railing on the second floor just above them.

The Matron rounds the corner, searching for those responsible for the mess. A light huff escapes her lips as she tilts her head to relieve a bit of tension before marching towards the two gingers in the distance, their pride practically radiating off of them. “Mister and Mister Weasley, I presume,” Matron Pince remarks, her arms tightly intertwined against her chest. The twins tilt their heads back, looking up at the stern woman above them. “What possessed you to come in here and wreak havoc on my library?” she questions, her hands darting out to grab the backs of their t-shirts. 

Mallyn finally stops gaping and manages to mutter out a weak sentence. “I don’t have detention anymore.”

“What?” George and Fred question as Matron Pince pulls at their shirts, effectively yanking them out of the chairs.

“Yes, Miss Smyth has been cleared of all crimes, unlike the two of you,” Matron Pince states, tugging the boys along with her. Mallyn shoots out of her seat, quickly grabbing the book and parchment as she follows after them, only glancing down at the mess of the twins’ making for a moment. Irma does not stop moving until they are all standing outside the library doors. She drops the twins’ shirts, letting them scramble away far enough to not be within reaching distance. “You know it’s a good thing actually,” she remarks, “Mr. Filch mentioned that he needed help in the dungeon’s tonight, it seems that Peeves misappropriated some leftovers from the first night’s feast and left them to rot in a few of the suits of armors,” she says, barely hiding her smirk, “lucky you two.” Matron Pince slips back inside the library, muttering under her breath.

“Lucky us,” the twins grumble, already dreading the task, but not ones to let anything damper their chipper spirits, George and Fred start discussing tactics, excitedly trading ideas on how to improve. 

“What did you do?” Mallyn questions, the words coming out in squeaks. 

“Set off exploding snaps,” Fred says offhandedly, his mind focusing on other things.

“We didn’t want you to be alone,” George explains in between explaining his theory to Fred that in order for more shelves to have fallen over, they should have spaced out the six exploding snaps on only one side to throw the piece of furniture off balance.

Before guilt can even try to root its way inside her, amusement takes over. She scoffs, loud enough to silence the twins’ bickering. “Well, now I’m going to be while you two are stuck in the dungeons all night,” she says, mocking anger. “Who am I supposed to sit with at dinner?” she questions, taking pride in the looks on their faces. “Oh, wait, let’s see,” she says, finally smiling, “Lucy, my completely sane roommate, or any of the other seventeen students in our year, or my favourite nonproblem causing Weasley,” she lists off, cocking her eyebrow.

Fred scoffs, his mouth hanging wide open in awe of her. “First off, rude,” he declares. He truly thought she had been angry with them but instead she stands there teasing them.

George steps forward, pushing his right pointer finger into her shoulder. “Second off, he won’t be at dinner, quidditch trials start officially next week, he’s putting the final touches on his drills.”

Fred steps forward, pushing his left pointer finger into her other shoulder, her torso jolting back slightly. “Third of all, rude,” he reiterates. Mallyn rolls her eyes, turning and walking off. Fred and George follow after her, Fred slinging his right arm around her shoulders. “I mean, truly that cuts deeply, you wound us so,” he says, jokingly putting his right hand over his heart, pulling her into him. 

She shoves at his torso, forcing him to release her from his grip. “Where’d you even get your hands on something like that?” she questions as she pulls at her jumper, straightening it out.

“We have our ways,” George says mysteriously, Mallyn bursting out laughing at the way he contorts his face. 

Mallyn leads the way down to the dungeons, silently directing them to Filch’s office at the end of the dark and menacing hallway with her index finger. “Hold this, please,” she says, holding the heavy book out to Fred. She lets it drop into his hands then reaches up and pulls her wand out of her hair, her long brown locks unraveling down her back. Pointing the end at the blank stone wall, “Callidus, Gloria, Arbitrium,” she whispers, waiting for the doorway to open up. “Have fun,” she teases as she quickly grabs the book out of Fred’s hands and darts inside the Slytherin Common Room, the doorway sealing itself before either of the twins can get a good look. 

Chapter Text

Mallyn slips out of the opening in the otherwise solid stone wall, listening as it slides shut behind her and silences the chatter within the room on the other side, grateful to be as far away as possible from the room she had waited all night and well into the early morning to get into. She hightails it to the stairway, escaping the gloomy dungeon level for the basement then the main floor, sighing in relief when she sees the first ray of sunshine shining through the windows. She turns for the library, stopping in her tracks when she sees Fred and George lurking in the distance, their backs facing her. She turns around to leave, tensing up when she hears them calling her name. The twins take off into a jog until they are right behind her. 

“There you are!” Fred exclaims, wrapping his arm around her shoulders and sticking his hand into her hair, ruffling it around.

“Yeah,” she laughs, silently cursing herself for leaving her dorm as she pulls herself out of his grip. She runs her hands through her hair trying to tame the mess Fred made of it only for George to pull her to him and repeat the process all over again. “What are you doing up so early?” Mallyn questions as she wiggles away from George, putting her hands up in front of her, warning them to stay back.

“It’s a beautiful day,” George states, mischievousness pulling at the corners of his lips as he steps forward. Mallyn steps backwards, desperate to avoid another nuggie.

“It is, be a waste for you two to spend it inside,” Mallyn says, hoping Fred forgot her promise. 

Fred steps forward, Mallyn taking another back, intent on keeping a safe amount of distance between her hair and their hands. “We don’t plan to, just for a few more minutes,” he says, tilting his head down to look at her, his eyes darting over to the wide open doors of the Great Hall.

Mallyn backs away, one step further from the overbearingly large room. “I know I promised,” she stutters, nervously glancing into the room, the empty tables only calming her nerves slightly, “but I’m actually headed to the library.”

Fred’s face drops, “But it’s Saturday,” he points out, wistfully looking out the windows, the sunshine and green grass practically calling his name.

Mallyn sighs as she follows his gaze. “I know, it’s one of only two days that I can spend fully at the library and I focus better there than my dorm,” she explains, hoping they understand, but the twins just stare at her blankly. “I need the full day,” she states, her hands fidgeting at her sides.

“But it’s beautiful outside,” George argues, not understanding how she can possibly want to waste the day away in the stuffy library rather than take advantage of the beautiful day waiting outside. He would not seal himself in the library on a day like this, or any day for that matter, for anything less than the threat of death, well perhaps for maybe no quidditch for life, but that is it.

Fred dramatically pouts, fluttering his eyelashes at Mallyn. “You promised to show me the song,” he whines, fluttering his eyes a few more times for dramatic effect. Fred lightly hits George’s arm with the back of his hand, silently asking for him to join in. George drops to his knees and interlocks his hands as he stares up at Mallyn with his bottom lip sticking out.

Mallyn shakes her head at the pure ridiculousness of them. “The Great Hall’s going to be so busy,” she whines, her fingers still restlessly tapping out an erratic beat against her leg.

George's eyes catch the movement at his current lessened height. “Not right now,” he promises, but can tell she is still unsure. “If there’s more than five people, I promise, on the remainder of my hair and Fred’s, that we will let you leave, no questions asked.” Mallyn weighs her options, including making a run for it, but she knows she would never be able to outrun one of them, let alone both. She nods once, sending George scrambling to his feet. Fred and George poke their heads into the room, the same cheshire smile growing as they turn back to face her. 

“Not a single person,” they confirm together.

Mallyn takes a deep breath. “I will play the one song I promised and then I’m going,” she states, her pointer finger wiggling between the two of them. 

George and Fred nod animatedly, agreeing to her terms. She moves towards the room, the twins on her heels. The three move quickly past the tables and to the front of the room. Mallyn takes a deep breath then moves forward, sliding onto the bench. She carefully raises the cover, revealing the white and black keys to her.

“Sure we can’t convince you to come with us?” Fred questions as he watches her inspect the piano, lightly dragging her fingers across the expanse of the eighty-eight keys.

George drops down onto the platform, sticking his legs out in front of him then leans back, resting his weight on his hands. “We’re going exploring,” George explains, shifting so that his hands come to rest behind his head to cushion it from the uncomfortable wood beneath him. “Lee and Lucy are meeting us at nine by Greenhouse One.”

“I really need to go to the library, I need answers,” she murmurs as she keeps her eyes on the keys.

Fred plops himself down next to George and crosses his legs in front of him. “Well then, we better hurry before anyone shows up,” Fred says, nodding towards the piano. 

Mallyn places her fingers in starting position, takes a deep breath, then presses down. Her fingers quickly dance across the keys, playing the introduction to the song she knows by heart.

“How do you do that?” George questions, watching as her fingers move across the keys. Fred shushes him, urging her to continue. 

Mallyn starts like she always does, by taking a small breath before singing the first line. “Blue jean baby, L.A. lady, seamstress for the band, pretty eyed, pirate smile, you'll marry a music man,” she sings, focusing on the way the wind outside the windows across from her moves the trees, swaying as if they were dancing to the song. Fred and George watch carefully, in awe of how quickly she gets lost in the music. “Ballerina, you must've seen her dancing in the sand, and now she's in me, always with me, tiny dancer in my hand.” Mallyn doesn’t dare look at her friends as she plays the short instrumental break between lyrics, knowing no matter the expression on their faces, she would lose her train of thought and place in the song. “Jesus freaks out on the streets, handing tickets out for God,” she sings, smiling at the words coming out of her mouth, “turning back, she just laughs, ‘the boulevard is not that bad’, piano man, he makes his stand in the auditorium.” Holding the last note for a few seconds, Mallyn closes her eyes as her fingers move almost instinctively at this point. “Looking on, she sings the songs, the words she knows, the tune she hums,” she sings, taking the words to heart as always and humming the tune under her breath while waiting for the perfect moment to transition from the gentle instrumental to the upbeat shift of the song. She presses a little harder on the keys than necessary, determined to hit every note just right. “But, oh, how it feels so real, lying here, with no one near, only you and you can hear me when I say softly, slowly,” Mallyn sings, her voice contradicting the last two words. She sways her head with the song, letting it fill her completely, “‘hold me closer, tiny dancer, count the headlights on the highway, lay me down in sheets of linen, you had a busy day today’,” her breath hitches for moment before she continues on the first repetition of the verse, “‘hold me closer, tiny dancer, count the headlights on the highway, lay me down in sheets of linen, you had a busy day today’,” she sings, once again humming under her breath as the piano softens, going back to the ease of the beginning, nice and calm. “Blue jean baby, L.A. Lady, seamstress for the band, pretty eyed, pirate smile, you'll marry a music man,” she sings, opening her eyes and watching the trees continue to dance to the music, “ballerina, you must have seen her dancing in the sand, now she's in me, always with me, tiny dancer in my hand.” She plays the gentle instrumental then switches again to the more upbeat melody, but is more gentle on the keys this time around. Starting strong, she confidently sings, “oh, how it feels so real, lying here, with no one near, only you, and you can hear me when I say softly, slowly,” her heavenly voice steadily decreasing in volume as she has practiced time and time again, “‘hold me closer, tiny dancer, count the headlights on the highway, lay me down in sheets of linen, you had a busy day today,hold me closer, tiny dancer, count the headlights on the highway, lay me down in sheets of linen, you had a busy day today,’ oh ho ho,” she sings, letting the last note hang in the air as she finishes out the remaining notes on the piano. Her fingers come to a stop after the final note, but she doesn’t dare remove them from the keys, or chance a look at her friends. “It sounds better with a full band,” she mumbles, replaying the performance in her mind and silently criticizing her near-invisible mess-ups that are nonexistent to her less musically informed audience.

Fred barks out a laugh as his face contorts in confusion, snorting slightly as he inhales too quickly. “Are you kidding us? That was bloody brilliant,” he exclaims, shaking his head in disbelief at her statement, he cannot imagine it sounding any better than how she just performed it. “Know any others?” he asks.

“I promised one song,” Mallyn declares, placing her hands on the edge of the key cover.

“Fine, fine, we’re not to back out of a deal,” George says, pushing himself up off the floor. He quickly slides onto the bench, stopping her from closing the wooden shelf. “Before you go, can you show me how you do that, if I was to touch those, it’d sound like a dying cat,” he explains, demonstrating by slamming his fingers down. 

Mallyn grabs at his hands to stop him from applying any more pressure, “Don’t do that ever again,” she laughs, clutching his hands in hers. She looks down at the piano, readjusting his hands, “Here and here,” she instructs, setting his hands on the correct keys, gently laying hers over his. Fred watches as closely as he can without making it obvious how interested he is. Mallyn presses down on George’s fingers as if it were hers on the keys, a yelp of joy leaving him as she plays out a simple tune, guiding his hands every step of the way.

Fred can feel himself growing more jealous with each passing second along with the pain of his nails digging into his skin through his jeans. He pushes off the ground, planning on leaving them alone but Mallyn calls out for him. He watches in slow motion as she pats the empty space next to her. Careful not to appear too interested, he strides over and plops himself down on the bench. Fred leans down to get a closer look at the keys, carefully poking one of the black ones just out of curiosity. Mallyn repeats what she had just done with George by picking up Fred’s hands and placing them on the starting keys, pressing lightly into his skin to encourage the keys to play for them. He smiles more at the warmth of her touch than the beautiful music they create but he listens nonetheless. George watches intently as his brother’s fingers dance across the keys under her careful guide, only missing one note. 

Unbeknownst to the three, Bill watches from the entrance of the Great Hall, smiling to himself at how well his brothers are adjusting to their new home, and prays for everyone’s sake that Mallyn is more of an influence on them than the twins are on her. 

Mallyn finishes out the song, the final note hanging in the air before she speaks. “This is how my nanny taught me at first,” she tells them, closing her eyes and remembering the first time she sat at the old piano in her family’s apartment. “I remember just sitting and watching her for hours as she’d play song after song,” Mallyn reminisces, her mind shifting to the first time she played a song on her own, a much simpler one than any of the songs she can play now. She shakes herself out of it, laughing as both George and Fred try to replicate the music she had helped them make, but failing horribly, the piano just emitting one horrible screech after another at the clashing keystrokes. Bill flees as the first sour note hits him, turning and leaving in search of anyone straying too close to any of the suspected locations of the vaults. “If you guys knew how to play you’d be better than me, it’s easier when you have longer fingers, more reach,” she explains, demonstrating the reach of her own hands versus theirs. Mallyn lightly plays the introduction again, humming to herself. 

“What do the lyrics mean?” Fred questions as he tries to remember every word she had sung.

“Bernie Taupin wrote it when he and Elton John went to America for the first time, for their first tour there, it’s actually the first song on the album, Madman Across The Water,” Mallyn explains, “it’s a love song to his wife.” 

“Love song,” George repeats, frowning slightly since none of the words came across as love, at least in his mind. “Was the other one?” he asks, referring to the song she sang for her audition.

“Yes,” she answers hesitantly.

“Yes?” Fred questions, stopping his ghostly movements on the keys and looking at her.

She thinks for a moment, trying to decide on the right words. “Taupin was seventeen when he wrote it and had never been in love so he wrote about what he thought it would be like,” she explains, hoping he understands. 

“Oi!” Lee shouts from the entrance of the Great Hall, dramatically tapping his wrist. George shoots off the bench, racing towards him and tackling him to the ground. 

Fred watches, itching to go and joining the fun. “Is it not?” he asks absentmindedly, laughing when George manages to get a hold of Lee’s shirt and pull it over his head, blinding Lee from his next attack, a tickling blow to his exposed stomach. 

“Wouldn’t know,” she murmurs. Fred turns his attention back to her, frowning at her lack of an answer. She forces a smile on her face, “But for him, obviously not,” she says as she pulls the cover over the keys, “you can tell over the years that his opinions change.” Mallyn slides off the bench and quickly moves down the steps.

Fred follows after her, keeping his eyes on his brother and Lee, who are now standing upright, waiting at the entrance, their clothes only a little worse for wear. “After meeting his wife?” he questions.

“Yes,” she answers, failing to mention that most of the change was due to heartbreak, which Fred can sense in her hesitation. “When he wrote it, he was seventeen, naive to what love could truly be like,” she adds, hoping it satisfies his curiosity. 

He nods along but does not understand at all. His parents met when they started Hogwarts together, were dating by their Sixth Years, and got married right after graduation, and they are still together after all the years and seven children. The pair reaches Lee and George, now accompanied by Lucy, all animatedly talking about where they want to explore. 

“Are you coming with us?” Lucy questions, smiling bigger than Mallyn’s ever seen before, revealing a missing tooth in the far left back side.

Mallyn shakes her head, “Headed to the library.”

“Again?” Lucy gasps. “You didn’t come back until late last night,” she says, having stayed up herself well into the night waiting for Mallyn to return. Lucy had not dared leave their room to try and find Mallyn herself, the castle menacing enough during the day, let alone in the darkness of the night, not to mention the threat of detention if caught by a Prefect or teacher.

“Yeah, lost track of time again,” she lies, not wanting to involve her friends in the drama. “I’ll see you later though, have fun,” she says to all of them before leaving the small group to their own adventures in pursuit of her own.

Mallyn knows the way to the library by heart now, having spent the last two nights there. Before she knows it, she is standing in front of the heavy glass doors, opening one just enough for her to slip through. 

Upon hearing the door open, Matron Pince raises her head from her notebook, her quill pausing on the last stroke of her final word. She closes the notebook, the end of the raven feather of her quill sticking out the top. The Matron waves Mallyn over, not getting up as she is resting comfortably in her chair. Her hips are bothering her more and more with each passing day, despite the potion bottle sitting on her dresser that grows emptier and emptier as the days pass. She fears that the extra cold weather predicted for this winter will wreak havoc on her aching aging body. She would not be surprised if she were to wake up one morning and find her bones turned to dust in her sleep. “Your detentions have officially been revoked, cleared it with Professor Dumbledore myself,” she tells the young girl. The Matron bends down and slides the heavy stack of books out from under her desk and raises them up to Mallyn, the old leather creaking under her grip. 

Mallyn quickly grabs the books, taking them from the old woman’s shaking hands. “I want to apologize again,” she says, but stops when Matron Pince raises her hand to silence her.

“Their actions were not yours,” she corrects, a stern look on her face, extra creases added to her already plentiful number of wrinkles.

“No, but they only did it because of me,” Mallyn sighs. The Matron looks away for a moment then looks back to Mallyn. “My dear, for the rest of your life, people will blame you for things that you have no control over, I suggest you do not go around volunteering yourself,” she advises. Mallyn nods lightly, trying to fully process her words and take them to heart. “Which book shall it be today?” she questions, pointing her chin down at the stack of old books but keeping her eyes on the girl.

“Still working through ‘History of Europe’s Magical Families and Suspected Origins’,” she answers, tapping the spine of the bottom book, the largest of the five in her hands.

“Picking up where you left off?” Matron Pince questions, looking at the feather sticking out from between pages in the book. Mallyn nods, tilting the books back and forth so that her fingers do not go numb. “Have you made any progress?”

“Some,” Mallyn answers thinking of the partial family trees safely hiding with her journal back in her room. 

The Matron watches as Mallyn’s face shifts from excitement to hopelessness, a blank veil dropping over her young face. She reaches out and places her hand over one of Mallyn’s. “It’s only been but a few days, give it some time, perhaps your mother will be more forthcoming when you go home on break, now that you’ve been properly introduced to our world,” she offers, hoping it can give the girl a bit of comfort for her obviously troubled mind. 

Mallyn nods lightly before turning and retreating to what is quickly becoming her table. The books hit the wood top with a dull thump. She spreads them out in front of her, just staring at the covers for a moment before pulling the largest book to her and flipping it open to the pages she stuck her quill between last night. She grabs a new sheet of paper and the quill, dipping it into the tiny ink jar. “The Burkes,” she reads, sighing more deeply than any eleven-year-old should. She copies practically the entire chapter, not wanting to miss a single detail of the family history that has been kept from her. As with the families before them in the previous chapters, the Burke family tree seems to include at least one member from every known wizarding household. Her quill pauses as she stares at her mother’s name in the book, unsure of which to put in her personal records. Unable to choose, she puts both, separating the name her mother was born with from the one she chose for herself with a single dash of her quill, the two forever intertwined when they may as well be two entirely separate entities, for the girl that was Valentina Columba Burke no longer exists but in memory. 

“Hello, Little Snake,” Charlie greets, mockingly hissing at her. Mallyn looks up just in time to see him take a seat in the chair across from her, resting his elbows on two of the books. “Did the Matron tell you you’re all good?” he questions as he tries to read the upside-down titles. “I told them I was with you, Timpkins confirmed it too,” he tells her, missing the way her eyes almost pop out of her head at the admission.

Mallyn’s head jerks up, shaking rapidly, “I didn’t tell them, Charlie, I swear.”

Charlie looks up, “I know,” he answers, the panic in her voice confusing him. “When I heard you got detention, I went to see Professor Dumbledore and told him,” he explains while flipping through one of the books before closing it. 

“Everything?” Mallyn questions.

Charlie narrows his eyes at her. “No, just what he needed to know,” he tells her while his eyes scan her. He reaches out and grabs the edges of the book open in front of her, her hands shooting out to keep it in front of her, not looking for a repeat of Wednesday night, realizing quickly where the twins might have learned some of their tricks. “Have you eaten?” he inquiries, tugging on the book. 

“No,” she states, ignoring Charlie’s stern glare that only an older brother could ever hope to achieve so flawlessly. “But I’ll grab something for lunch, I promise,” she assures him. She tugs on the book, but his grip does not lessen as he waits for an explanation. “I didn’t have time to get anything for breakfast since I was showing your brothers a song,” she explains, tugging on the book again but careful not to put too much pressure on the pages as to not rip them.

“A song?” Charlie questions, finally abandoning his grip. Mallyn pulls the book to her, watching Charlie’s hands carefully.

“Elton John one,” she answers, as she clutches the book safely against her chest, “I had promised Fred I would show him my favourite.”

Charlie leans back against the chair, crossing his arms in front of him. “I’m a Smiths person myself, but I can dig his stuff sometimes,” he announces casually.

Mallyn’s mouth drops open. “You know Muggle music?” she scoffs, leaning back and mimicking his posture.

“Of course, I’m not a hermit,” he answers, his lips quirking to the side, the exact same way his younger brothers’ do. 

“Fred and George didn’t know anyone I talked about,” she says, now wondering if it was just their idea of a jest, leaving her the fool at the center of a bunch of Wizards and Witches.

“Well then I’m glad they have you to show them, I had Tonks,” Charlie answers, forcing her worries aside. “Her dad-”

“Muggleborn, I know,” she cuts off. Mallyn stills for a moment, trying to think clearly. Carefully, she sets the book down and closes it before leaning forward and resting her elbows on the table. Charlie laughs before following suit and matching her across the table. “Charlie, I have a favour to ask, of you and your friend,” she states, all business. “Nymphadora, she’s my cousin, I guess,” she tries to explain, the concept of family all muddled in her head.

“No one who knows what’s good for them calls them Nymphadora, they’re just Tonks, and she isn’t always a she, sometimes a he, they is always a safe bet,” he warns, having experienced first, second, and third hand the extraordinary fury that the usually sociable Hufflepuff can release when prompted by use of her given name. “Tonks doesn’t care to participate under other people’s rules, they are who they are, you can question and argue it all anybody wants, they won’t change, now I can get away with Nym on certain days, but that is after years of careful negotiation and mutual blackmail,” Charlie states while fiddling with his nose ring, finally pulling it down. “Come grab lunch with me and I’ll take you to them after, deal?” he questions, sticking out his hand to Mallyn.

Mallyn stares at the pink gas swirling beneath his nose. Her eyes flicker to his for a brief moment then a smirk of her own shifts her lips. “Deal,” she declares, firmly shaking his hand once.

He helps her gather her items, carrying them all the way to the Great Hall while letting her ramble on about the information her brain has managed to latch and hold onto. Charlie carefully places her bag and books on the bench as they take their seats, automatically serving them both plates full of chips and nothing else. Mallyn takes the plate but adds a scoop of salad to the plate, picking at the lettuce with her fork. “Sorry, carb loading,” Charlie says as he begins to pick at his chips.

Mallyn shakes her head, “It’s fine, they don’t make many vegan, or even vegetarian-friendly options.”

“I’ll talk to Timpkins,” Charlie declares, nodding his head. Charlie works through his pile of chips at a steady pace, but not as quickly as Mallyn as she shovels the contents of her plate into her mouth. “Slow down,” he chuckles, pressing on her wrist to lower her fork to her nearly empty plate.

“Sorry,” she mumbles around her food, “just-”

“Excited, I get it, but you can’t meet Tonks if you choke,” he teases.

Mallyn drops her fork completely, “A school of Wizards and Witches and I’d choke?”

Charlie shrugs, casually sticking a single chip into his mouth. “Who’s to say any of us act well under pressure?”

“Might want to learn to before you go and work with dragons,” Mallyn scoffs.

“I’m quick,” Charlie states with a teasing smile.

“Seeker for a reason,” she says, quoting his own words back to him. Uncomfortable with the lull in the conversation, she searches her mind for a topic not related to her heritage, knowing that conversation will resume later if Charlie ever manages to finish eating. “Ayush mentioned that scouts are coming to some of the matches this year, does that mean you’re considering playing professionally?”

Charlie’s eyes glaze over, his fingers prodding the remaining chips on his plate. Mallyn waits patiently as he stays silent until the fire behind his eyes returns. Charlie smiles at her before picking up a fork and rearranging the chips to rest along the outer edges of the plate. “Charlie?” she questions.

He tilts his head from side to side, thinking of what he needs to say. “I enjoy quidditch, love it, it’s just not,” he says, hesitating on his words and sighing, “even mid-game, my mind, it wanders to what it would be like to be racing alongside dragons, studying them, helping them, instead of chasing the Snitch, but quidditch is a close second, but I don’t, I don’t see myself playing professionally, much to my mother’s horror, she hates the sport, the danger of it, but next to working with dragons she views quidditch as safe as breeding Puffskeins.”

She listens to his explanation, but cannot bring her eyes away from his plate. “Hurry up,” she murmurs, staring angrily at his plate. Charlie raises his eyebrows. “Pretty, please?” she amends.

“It’s a good thing you’re the size of a Puffskein, makes your anger issues nearly impossible not to laugh at,” he states, reaching across the table to boop her nose.

“I do not have anger issues,” Mallyn defends, crossing her arms over her chest.

“Impatience issues then,” he corrects. Charlie draws out the moment, purposefully toying with her as he pushes the chips around on his plate before letting his fork fall to the plate with a cling. “Alright, let’s go, you might combust otherwise and I’m sure Filch already has enough to do today,” he declares as he pushes himself up from the table and slings her bag over his shoulder, balancing the books in his arms.

Mallyn untangles her legs and follows after him, toying with the material of her gloves. “Is there anything else I should know? I mean, besides what you told me,” she says, elongating her steps to keep up with Charlie’s.

“Tonks is pretty good at filling people in as they go,” he shrugs.

As they cross the courtyard, Charlie quietly approaches the large oak tree, signaling for Mallyn to stay quiet behind his back with a raise of his index finger. He stops just short of his best friend’s head, their vibrant pink hair fanning out against the lush green grass beneath her. “Tonks, don’t be mad,” he says in lieu of an actual greeting.

Tonks stares up at Charlie, trying to comprehend his guilt but being upside down makes it too difficult. They kick off of the sturdy tree trunk and flips herself over backwards to be upright. “What did you do?” she interrogates as they recline back against the tree trunk for support. Charlie steps aside, revealing Mallyn. Tonks laughs wildly, clapping her hands. “Oh, you brought one of your little pets, a gremlin, is it?” Tonks teases, reaching out and swatting at the ends of Mallyn’s hair, “Better be careful bringing her out here, supposed to keep these things away from bright lights, let me guess you’ve already fed her after midnight and tossed her into the lake as well, always wanting to wreak havoc on the school.”

Charlie catches their wrist, stopping her and forcing their attention to him. “She’s your cousin, Valentina Burke’s daughter,” he states, hoping she can see the desperation in his eyes. Tonks’ eyes shift back and forth from their best friend to the silent girl, settling on Charlie’s hand, still encasing their wrist in his grip. He releases it, but stands his ground. “Halfblood with a Muggle father and in Slytherin,” he states.

Tonks leans forward, tilting her head to the side, accessing the scared girl. “Oh, you poor little gremlin,” she coos at Mallyn as if she truly were a creature rather than a Witch. Tonks leans back, her long pink hair shifting to a large blonde bun, cushioning her head from the harsh bark of the tree trunk. “Afraid I can’t help you though, you’re as good as dead,” she remarks.

“Tonks,” Charlie reprimands.

Tonks whips her head to Charlie. “What? You want me to lie to the poor girl? Unless she can magically,” they snort at her own choice in words, “change her status, she’s fucked.”

“I don’t want to be,” Mallyn murmurs, staring down at Tonks even as her vision blurs as tears build up, but she does not dare let them spill out.

Tonks sits up, “what was that, Gremlin?”

Mallyn squares her shoulders. “I don’t want to be fucked,” she spits, still holding back her tears. “I don’t want to be tripped and locked out of the common room and sneered at, I want to belong,” she declares, shrugging off the hand Charlie places on her shoulder, “or to at least seem I do.”

“Well, you may be a true Slytherin after all, that’s a pretty ambitious ask,” Tonks remarks, ignoring Charlie’s glare.

“I don’t want to be miserable the next seven years all because I got put into a house I didn’t ask to be put in, I asked to be put into Ravenclaw,” Mallyn states, blinking a few times to try and force the tears away, but a few manage to slip out of the corners of her eyes.

“Did you?” Tonks questions, leaning forward and resting her elbows on their knees, “Ask to be put into Ravenclaw?”

“The Sorting Hat knew I had a preference and said it wouldn’t be a good fit,” Mallyn answers, the words still echoing around in her mind even now.

“Did it say anything else?” Charlie asks, looking at the youngest of the three with pure concern, the brown gas encased in the matching glass orbs beneath his nose making it evident along with the pain in his words.

Mallyn looks up at Charlie, surveying his face. She scoffs, not at him, but at herself for acting this ridiculous where anyone could see her. “It said it saw more of my grandmother in me than my mom, but I never even met her, didn’t know she existed until Percy told me on the train,” she tells him as she looks around for any witnesses while wiping at her teary eyes with the backs of her mittens.

Charlie silently fumes for a minute, expecting his best friend to fill the silence, but she remains silent as well, staring off into space. “Tonks?” he questions, kicking at the bare sole of her left foot.

They raise their hand, lifting her index finger. “I’m thinking,” she mumbles, her mind racing as fast as their hair switches colours. Her hair settles on a shade of orange Mallyn has only ever seen in sunsets before. “Belvina, right?” Tonks exclaims, pushing herself back to rest against the tree trunk, “She’s still on the family tree, at least she was when my mom was our age but that was-Kellan!” Tonks reaches up and grabs Mallyn’s hand, tugging her down to the ground in front of her. “Kellan Black, he’s in your house, year above you, he’s Halfblood, less than really, his dad was a Squib, won’t ever admit it,” Tonks rambles, “but dear old daddy got with a Muggle after being exiled from the family and made him, but he was raised by his Aunt Cassiopeia, he’d have a better idea if your grandma was still on the tapestry,” she states, Mallyn’s hands turning white under Tonks' crushing grip.

Charlie drops down onto the empty patch of grass beside them, carefully prying Mallyn’s hands out of Tonks’ hands. “That matters why?” Charlie questions, keeping Tonks’ hands in his.

Tonks squeezes Charlie’s hand, smiling widely, her dark eyes shining almost as much as her flaming hair. “Because my dear idiot, the Sorting Hat knows something we don’t, always does, but at least this time it gave a hint,” she states, energy practically thrumming off of them. She tears her attention away from Charlie and redirects it to Mallyn. “You want to figure out why you got put in Slytherin, why the hat thinks you belong there, you need to figure out why your grandmother was.” Tonks’ attention drifts for a moment, her hair shifting to their house’s shade of yellow before returning to its default of hot pink with a shake of her head. “But your guess is as good as mine,” she shrugs, flopping back against the tree and dragging her hands over the short blades of grass, the stiff strands tickling her skin. “It’d be easier to start with the living,” she suggests, mentally going through the glossary of Black family members in her head. “You have another cousin of sorts, Lynx Burke, I knew her, vaguely, Lynx, uh, spent a little too much time with her grandfather, your uncle, if you know what I mean,” Tonks rambles, laughing in between words, “she graduated in June.” 

Mallyn leans forward, finally realizing how overblown Tonks’ pupils are. She leans back in awe and horror. “You’re high,” she gasps.

“As a kite,” Tonks laughs, twirling her finger and sending a smoke silhouette of a kite soaring up into the air. Tonks sighs as she lets their head fall back against the tree trunk, but her eyes stay on Mallyn. “But doesn’t change what I said,” they murmur. Mallyn scoots over, allowing Tonks the room to stretch her legs out between herself and Charlie. “If anything, I think more clearly this way,” she assures Mallyn. Tonks sticks her hand deep into the pocket of her jeans, fingers wiggling around in the bottomless space. She withdraws her hand, holding out three gummy bears in the palm of their right hand. “Want one?” they questions, using her thumb to push the blue one to the edge of her index finger.

“Don’t corrupt the youth,” Charlie teases, reaching out and twirling a strand of their pink hair around his index finger while grabbing the red gummy bear from Tonks and popping it in his mouth.

“You make it sound like I’m trying to give a baby cocaine,” Tonks murmurs, pulling at Charlie’s hair, the strand of fire-like hair bouncing back into a perfect coil as soon as she lets go. “She’s no younger than I was,” Tonks states, popping the yellow gummy bear into her mouth and savoring the sweetness, designed exactly to their liking, “and don’t get all judgy, as if this wasn’t the reason we became friends in the first place.”

“Charlie!” Mallyn mocking scolds, slapping at his arm, “What would your mother say?”

Charlie flops backwards and rests his feet against the tree trunk, watching the clouds move, his mind finding patterns in the shapeless blobs. “Oh, wouldn’t say anything, not for a while, would definitely skin me alive though, especially after finding out why her courgette never grows right,” he laughs. He rolls his head, laughing at Mallyn’s expression. “Where else was I supposed to grow it?” he questions. He watches as her eyes flicker from him to the remaining gummy bear. He taps her leg with his knuckles, rapping out a three-beat tune. “You can take it if you want, this strand is her own personal creation, relaxes you while opening your mind to possibilities, no nasty side effects,” he tells her. 

Deciding nothing else could make things worse, she plucks the blue gummy bear from Tonks’ finger and carefully places it on her tongue, already suspicious of Wizarding sweets. Surprisingly, the gummy bear is just the right amount of sweetness with a hint of spice, she savors it for another second before she swallows. 

Tonks watches with pride as Mallyn’s face shifts as the effects quickly wash over her. “Great, isn’t it? No wait time and the flavor is exactly what you crave every single time,” she sighs. Tonks shifts, lacing her fingers with Charlie and Mallyn before pulling her down to lay on the soft grass with them. “I see a Hippogriff,” Tonks states, pointing to the sky, dragging their hands along. Mallyn and Charlie follow her line of sight, laughing at the singular cloud. It quickly shifts to look like a Hippogriff under the mere whisper of a suggestion.

“And that one’s a unicorn,” Mallyn says, watching as the one next to it soars across the sky, its horn cutting through the sky. A thrumming in her ears draws her attention away from the clouds, watching as a dragonfly hovers next to her, its wings moving so fast they are invisible to the naked eye. If she did not know better, she would think it was watching her. As quickly as it had appeared, it disappears, flying off into the air and she is left thinking about the dragonfly that had landed in her hair on the day her mother took her to Diagon Alley, her mother mentioning it was good luck.

“How you liking Hogwarts now?” Tonks questions, bumping her elbow into Mallyn’s side, giggles erupting out of the young girl.

“Definitely better,” Mallyn giggles. She drags her free hand over the grass, enjoying the slight tickling sensation that seeps past her skin and goes right to her bones.

Charlie shoots up, inadvertently pulling Tonks with him. “I have a brilliant idea,” he declares as he untangles his hand from hers. He stands up, brushing off his hands on his trousers. “I’m gonna go spy on the other teams,” he whispers, looking around for any eavesdroppers. He takes off in a full run, sprinting across the courtyard with his eyes on the quidditch pitch in the distance.

“Boys and their sports,” Tonks chuckles as she repositions herself so that her head is next to Mallyn’s. 

“What’s the family like?” Mallyn questions, turning every which way but remains unable to see Tonks through her mess of hair.

Tonks pushes around her dark strands, allowing her to see one of Mallyn’s eyes and the tip of her nose. She boops the end of Mallyn’s nose, imagining it honking like a clown’s. “First of all, they’re not family, family is what you make of it, not blood,” she states, watching as Mallyn blinks slowly, “if it was practically the entire school would be related, especially if you believe the Pureblood propaganda,” she says, laughing at the joke Mallyn is not in on yet. Mallyn pushes up, resting on her elbows, her dark hair coming down from her head like a curtain, blocking her off from the rest of the world except for the wood of the tree trunk in front of her. Tonks drags her fingers through it, watching as it ripples beneath the touch. “They think all true English Purebloods all stemmed from one wizard, ridiculous, right?” Tonks murmurs as she continues to drag her middle finger back and forth against Mallyn’s thick wall of dark brown hair. 

Mallyn turns just enough to see Tonks, watching as her finger drops from her hair to trace indiscriminate patterns on the sliver of her bare arm between the cuff of her jumper and her mitten. “What about Halfbloods and Muggleborns?” she questions.

“Thinks we siphon it from proper Witches and Wizards, blames us for Squibs,” they mumble, her finger dropping from Mallyn’s arm to the ground. She pinches singular blades of grass between her fingers and plucks them before letting the wind carry them away.

“Squibs?” Mallyn questions, frowning at the foreign word.

“People born into magic families without magic,” Tonks answers as she pushes herself up. She stands still for a moment before reaching for the lowest branch and pulls themself up, swinging from the sturdy branch.

Mallyn flops over onto her back, watching as Tonks pulls themself up higher onto the branch, her legs swinging over either side. “Wait, what’s the difference between Muggles and Squibs then?” she questions, “Like what if it’s a magical family and something happens that only one gets power, like those in Muggleborn families, how do they tell? Like okay, if both parents were adopted so they don’t know their birth families who could be wizards, get married, have kids, and all but one are ‘Muggles’ when in reality a Wizard was the odd one out of a family of Squibs,” Mallyn rambles, her mind opening to new possibilities. She stands up, pacing in circles as she tries to comprehend her own thoughts. She suddenly wishes she had brought her journal with her instead of leaving it safely locked up in her room.

Tonks swings herself back over the branch, their legs supporting her weight as she hangs upside down. “You’re hurting my head,” she claims, her forehead growing twice its normal size, “see look what you did to it.” 

Mallyn reaches out, touching the new skin on Tonks’ face. “How do you do that?” she questions, dragging her finger down over the curve of their nose, pausing on her lips before dropping off after her chin.

“I’m a Metamorphmagus,” Tonks tells her, commanding her features to shift. Her nose grows long and pointed as her eyes shrink to the size of pennies, gaining the reaction she was aiming for; a single laugh of amusement from Mallyn.

“Oh, we talked about that first day in DADA, the difference between it and Animagus, Animagi, Animaguses?” she questions, frowning as she tries to figure out which sounds right. She tilts her head, looking at Tonks’ face as it reassumes its natural form. “Can you shift into an animal or just change your features? Are there any hair colours you can’t do? I’ve already seen you with blue, orange, yellow, and of course, pink is your favourite, I’m assuming.”

“Only features, but I can do this,” Tonks answers, concentrating to shift her nose into a pig’s snout, oinking once. Mallyn falls down to the ground from the force of her laugh. “Can change my hair any way I want, just won’t do white blonde, bad memories for my mom,” she murmurs, scrunching up her nose. Tonks drops from the tree, her feet landing right next to Mallyn’s head, the excess length of the rainbow ribbons acting as shoelaces for her boots lightly hitting Mallyn. “Fancy a walk?” she asks, holding out their hand to Mallyn. The First Year accepts, offering Tonks her hand to help pull her upright. Tonks uses the leverage to pull Mallyn onto her back, holding on tightly to the underside of her thighs as she spins them around in circles, stopping before she can get too dizzy. Tonks lets Mallyn slide down off their back, her legs wobbling slightly but she remains upright. The two walk toward the school, giggling at every misstep. 

“Do you know anything about the list?” Mallyn asks, sighing as she finally catches her breath, resting her back against the stone exterior of the school.

Tonks scoffs, “Other than it’s complete bullshit?” Tonks shakes their head, her hair shifting to a short buzzcut, the hue of the natural brown that matches her father’s. “It left off families right and left over petty disputes,” she mutters as the two approach the school. “The Potters were left off for having the audacity to call out the Ministry for not helping Muggles during the First World War, yet the Weasleys are on there and you see what people think of them, how they treat them.” Tonks leads the way, winding down the path to the side of the building, her hand grazing the wall as they go. “That’s not even mentioning the Tufts, the Diggorys, the Boots, the Clearwaters, the Wilkes, although most of them are in the States now, or the fact that the Ollivanders will be extinct soon since he’s never had any kids, the Gaunts wiped themselves and any blood claim to Salazar Slytherin off the face of the Earth by refusing to marry outside the family, that last Shafiq fled to the most eastern corner of the continent over a dispute over their false claim to Salazar, which the Blacks can’t even claim heritage with Salazar because they’re only connected to him through marriage, not blood and at that, the only reason the Blacks are Purebloods is because they’ve burnt a lot of branches off their family tree, literally,” she says, her hair growing brighter and wilder with each word. She stops abruptly, spinning to face Mallyn, her eyes now practically flaming with her anger. “The tapestry I mentioned, there’s one in every proper Black household, but anytime someone strays, they fire away,” she scoffs, and in one swift move, Tonks retrieves their wand, points it at the stone wall, and fires one bolt of fire at it, singed black ash radiates outwards from the tip of her wand, nearly covering the beige colouring of the stone entirely.

Mallyn takes a step back from Tonks, but doesn’t back down, “Makes a lot more sense, I couldn’t figure out how they determined the Pureblood families, as far as I could tell, there’s no distinct Abbott, Avery, or Fawley tree, they’re just in everyone else’s, like how the Flint family just pops up here and there,” she rants, watching as Tonks places her wand back in her pocket, her hair slowly fading back to brown. “Granted, I have a lot more books to go through but,” Mallyn mumbles, trailing behind Tonks.

Tonks turns to look at Mallyn over their shoulder, offering her a small smile as the high from her gummy bear fades. “Don’t waste your time, there’s plenty more fascinating things to study in that dusty library than family history,” she remarks, remembering her own first year well, especially the hours she had sealed herself away with the endless rows of books.

Mallyn stops, standing with her back to the school, “But I don’t know any of mine,” she mumbles.

Tonks sighs, pinching the bridge of her nose, a habit picked up from too many hours spent around Charlie. She lowers her hand and looks at Mallyn. “And I wish I didn’t know mine and you’ll drive yourself mad trying to make sense of what they have insured won’t,” she warns before diving her hand into her pocket, searching for the remaining gummy bear she knows is somewhere in the depths. She removes her hand victoriously, tossing the single candy into her mouth in one fluid motion, not bothering to chew it.

“What does that mean?” Mallyn asks, frowning at the cryptic statement.

Tonks just shakes her head and throws her arm around Mallyn’s shoulders, pulling her along with her. “Have fun, I mean, when’s the last time you saw the sun?” she teases, poking her cheek. Mallyn shrugs her off and readjusts her jumper. “Have you even been out to see the grounds before today?” Tonks questions, sweeping their arms out as if to show off the entirety of Hogwarts.

Mallyn scoffs, “You mean the lake with the aquatic creatures that want to kill me or the forest with terrestrial creatures that want to kill me or the bleachers that I almost died falling from?”

“My dear Gremlin,” Tonks says, placing her palms on Mallyn’s cheeks, “that’s the fun.” Tonks lowers her hands, bopping Mallyn’s nose once before completely retracting their hand. She frowns at the serious look on the girl’s face. “You’re not going to let it go, are you?” she sighs.

“No,” Mallyn confirms, standing her ground both literally and metaphorically.

“Eh, I wouldn’t either,” Tonks admits. “Afraid this is where I leave you, my bed is calling my name,” she announces, continuing their previous path and heading towards the closest set of doors. She spares Mallyn a look over her shoulder, her heart sinking at the blank expression on her face. “Chin up, little Gremlin, you aren’t alone,” she calls, smiling widely at the girl.

Mallyn watches as Tonks’ figure retreats further into the distance, her hands coming to rest on her back belt loops, realizing she still has one important task to do before she can return to the library. “How do I use an owl to send a letter?” she calls after her.

Tonks stops, turning back to face Mallyn. “Got the letter on you?” she calls. Mallyn nods, hoping she can see it. “Come on, I’ll take you up to the Owlery real quick,” Tonks says, waving Mallyn forward. Mallyn jogs to catch up with her, following her into the building. Tonks tears through the corridors, telling jokes the entire time, only stopping when she hears a humorless laugh from the top of the staircase.

“Frog in your throat, Snyde?” Tonks questions, crossing her arms over their chest while their hair grows long and pitch black. Mallyn instinctively steps to the side a little, hovering halfway behind Tonks.

Merula descends the stairs, her violet eyes staring daggers at the pair. Her heavy Irish accent saturates her words to the point they are almost unintelligible, but the look of disgust on her face gets the point across well enough on its own, “Two disgraces to the Black name, starting a little club? Should make sure to invite Kellan and all those little gingers you’re so fond of, fucking filthy little mutts.”

Tonks laughs, not a real one, but a short and bitter one. “Yeah, actually we are, calling it the Black Sheep Club, clever little name my cousin Sirius came up with,” they remark, savoring how Merula’s face shifts. Tonks’ head tilts, “You knew him, right?” Tonks questions. Merula’s glare intensifies, hating any reminder of her parents’ fates. She brushes past Tonks, pushing her shoulder into theirs. Tonks shakes her head, her hair accidentally hitting Mallyn in the face from how close she is standing. Tonks looks down at her over her shoulder. “Ignore her, nothing but a stuck-up bully, thinks she’s the universe's gift to Wizarding World, fucking declared so first day of First Year.”

“She’s a Slytherin,” Mallyn says, swallowing hard as she watches Merula walk down the corridor and goes out of her way to push a kid into the wall, laughing as she does so.

“Yeah, but so are you, so they can’t all be bad,” Tonks promises, offering Mallyn a smile. They follow her glare, watching until Merula turns the corner. “She just definitely is, I mean, truly, yikes,” she remarks. Tonks moves onto the next step, continuing up the seemingly never-ending staircase.

Mallyn quickly follows after her, “Who’s Sirius, does he go here?” she questions.

“Used to, graduated way back,” Tonks answers, her sentences and tone unusually short.

“Oh, well, even if it’s just the two of us, I’ll happily be a part of it, the club, be nice to have a proper excuse to not hide in my room,” Mallyn says, hoping to ease some of the tension.

“I’ll make the shirts,” Tonks remarks.

“I’ll bring the snacks,” Mallyn counters.

Tonks lets out a little laugh but turns to look at Mallyn. “Maybe we should switch, I can guarantee my snacks are far superior,” she teases. Tonks pauses at the top of the staircase and pushes the single door on the platform open, looking up the staircase it reveals. “Up we go,” she declares, knocking her shoulder into Mallyn’s. They share a single glance before they both take off, racing up the spiral flight of narrow stone stairs, less than one-eighth of the width of any of the staircases within the castle walls. The pair stops at the very top, the wind whipping their hair around. Tonks pushes on the heavy wooden door, the sound of a hundred screeches and hoots greeting them. They both step far enough in to be free of the cold wind. Mallyn turns in circles, taking in the room of owls and a few other birds. “Okay, letter?” Tonks questions. Mallyn reaches around and pulls the letter out of her back pocket and hands it over to Tonks. “Good handwriting,” they remark, surveying the neat print on the outside of the letter depicting Mallyn’s home address and her mother’s chosen name. “Usually best to send after dinner, they prefer to fly at night,” Tonks tells Mallyn as she leads her over to the far wall of the Owlery where all the school owls typically reside, “so you pick one, these are all school property, state the person’s name and they’ll do the rest, address isn’t even needed, but recommended because every now and then the owls can drop them and Muggles can help get them where they need to go from there.” 

Mallyn looks at the owls, trying to pick one from the bunch. “Thanks, I think I’m good from here,” she tells Tonks, but her focus is on making the right selection.

“Sure?” Tonks questions. Mallyn nods, her eyes shifting between two owls, one small enough to fit in the palm of her hand with feathers the colour of the lightest of night skies or a slightly larger one who looks like it belongs in the desert with the mixture of the shades that make up sand spread over its entire body, either of which will look odd flying into the middle of London. Tonks heads for the door, her hand resting on the doorknob. “Hey, you need anything, don’t be shy, Hufflepuff door is always open and when in doubt, look for a ginger, they’ve always proven to be safe havens in my experience,” she offers before ducking out of the open door. Her left foot lands on the second to top step when she freezes and turns around. She sticks her head back in the door, “Oh, and just leave a Knut in the jar or you can wait for end of month and they’ll send you a nice little note asking for their money.” Tonks continues down the stairs, taking it slower than when they had come up, stairs usually proving difficult for her usual clumsiness. Halfway down the stairs, Tonks passes Kelsey heading up to the Owlery, and she’s at the bottom before she remembers what she would have otherwise forgotten. “Oi! Paxton, you still owe me a Galleon!” she calls up the stairs, the wind carrying her words up to the top and through the open door for Mallyn to hear.

Kelsey looks over the edge of the staircase, spotting Tonks’ free-flowing pink hair at the bottom. “All you had to do was ask,” she calls down. She reaches into her purse and withdraws a single coin, flinging the coin down into Tonks’ open hand. Kelsey walks into the Owlery, closing the door behind her to try and seal out some of the nipping wind. She smiles widely when she spots Mallyn. “Hey, heard you think you can fly,” Kelsey teases, poking at Mallyn’s shoulder.

“I didn’t,” Mallyn starts to defend, wondering when talk of her accident will die down.

Kelsey shakes her head, her two intricate braids falling forward over her shoulders. “Only teasing,” she promises, squeezing Mallyn’s shoulder but her face remains solemn and unmoving. “You okay?” she questions. Mallyn opens her mouth to speak but thinks twice, her mouth stuck in an odd in-between state of being neither fully closed nor entirely open. “What?” Kelsey questions as her brows knit together, a few light creases appearing in the empty space between them.

“I was locked out last night,” Mallyn admits, pulling her bottom lip under her teeth and gnawing at the already dry skin.

Kelsey scoffs, her tongue probing the inside of her cheek. “Those bastards,” she states, knowing exactly who would be willing but also capable of managing that, “I’m gonna put their rotten excuses of potions in their pumpkin juice,” she threatens, other equally horrible ideas swirling around in her mind.

Mallyn’s face drops. “Please don’t, I don’t want any more reason for them to,” she pleads, her mind imagining what other punishments they could come up with in retaliation. 

“Oh, trust me, I’ve got my own reasons,” Kelsey assures her.

“You and?” Mallyn questions.

Kelsey’s attention snaps back to Mallyn, her face contorting in disgust. “Oh God, no, none of them, you’re going to make me vomit, no,” she declares, “I’m sick of their bullshit.”

Mallyn waits for a sign that the gears within Kelsey’s mind are finally slowing down, she does not expect they ever truly stop. “How do you know Tonks?” she questions.

Kelsey’s face drops, losing any sign of humor or goodwill. “How do you?” she questions, her eyebrow darting up to punctuate her point. Instantly, Mallyn regrets opening her mouth and potentially ruining the one budding friendship between herself and someone in her house. Kelsey laughs, her hand coming up to cover her lips before lowering it to Mallyn’s shoulder and offering her a reassuring squeeze. “I’m kidding, you need to lighten up,” she promises, shaking her head at the First Year. “My boyfriend’s in her house and she has the best treats in or off-campus,” Kelsey tells her, laughing when a small smile tugs at Mallyn’s lips. “Ah, you tried one, didn’t you?” she teases, poking Mallyn’s reddening cheeks. “I keep trying to get her to tell me how she gets the candy to taste perfect for every person, but just won’t spill,” she tells Mallyn. Kelsey looks down, noticing the envelope in Mallyn’s tight grip. “Got some letters to send?”

“Yeah, was just about to send it off,” Mallyn answers, looking at the little owl on the top row, the sky quickly fading to match its feathers.

“Here, use my owl,” Kelsey offers, reaching up and offering her hand out to an owl next to the little one she had been eyeing. Kelsey retracts her hand, her little brown owl sitting happily on her wrist. “This is Taz, she is just the best, aren’t you, baby?” she coos, scratching under the owl’s beak, the creature leaning into the affection. “You have a pet?” she questions while continuing to pet the little creature, its large blue eyes taking up the top half of its face, its rather oversized beak taking up the other.

“No,” Mallyn answers, lightly shaking her head.

Kelsey shrugs, “maybe later, by Seventh Year almost everyone has one or the other during their time here,” she says. Mallyn hands over her letter and watches as Kelsey ties the envelope to Taz’s leg before tapping the owl on her back. The little brown owl takes off into the night, heading straight for London. Kelsey drops her hand onto Mallyn’s shoulder. “Come on, bonding night,” she announces, lightly tugging on Mallyn’s jumper. “Oh, don’t look so scared, I said bonding, not bondage, that’s every third Saturday,” she says, laughing at the scared expression on the young girl’s face. “I’m kidding,” she promises, but Mallyn’s heartbeat remains erratic, never sure what’s next out of the Fourth Year’s mouth. Kelsey sets her other hand on Mallyn’s other shoulder, directing her out the door, lightly massaging her shoulders as they move. “Merlin, you are tense,” she grumbles, pressing hard into a knot on Mallyn’s back as they start their descent down the spiral staircase, “spa night came at just the right time, you definitely need it.”



Every day for the next three weeks, Mallyn climbs up to the top of the Owlery and sends letters home. None arrive for her until her birthday. 

Chapter Text

Fred rushes up to the front of the room, leaning on the half-empty table. “Hey, Lucy, was Mallyn up when you left?” he questions in one breath, messing around with the cauldron in front of him. Lucy’s eyes shift nervously, searching for any sign of the Potions Professor. “What?” Fred questions, leaning closer.

“She’s not going to come out of the room, told me so herself,” she whispers, her eyes still scanning the room. “It’s her birthday,” Lucy explains, “her mum wrote to her and didn’t answer a single question, didn’t even mention all her letters,” Lucy whispers, her eyes still scanning the room for the first sign of Professor Snape leaving his office, but Severus emerges from the back of the classroom and silently moves forward. “The letter is now burning in our fireplace along with,” she tells him, stopping as a shadow falls over the desk from behind the pair. 

“Professor,” Fred greets without looking up, slowly retracting his hand from the handle of the cauldron.

“Changing seats, Mister Weasley?” Severus questions, his finger tapping his arm as he waits for an answer.

Fred stands up, squaring his shoulders as he looks up at Severus. “No, sir, just was asking Miss Cresent here a question,” he answers.

“Can I be of any help?” he questions, cocking his eyebrow.

“Afraid not, sir,” Fred remarks, clicking his tongue once. 

“Then it has no business being asked in my class,” Severus declares, his index finger jutting out from beneath his cloak, silently commanding Fred back to his seat.

Fred slinks back to his seat, already formulating a plan. Completely ignoring the lesson, he jots a note onto a slip of parchment then with a wave of his hand sends it to the table behind him. He turns his body just enough to catch George and Lee’s nods of agreement. 

The second the Potions Professor dismisses the class, the three take off for the opposite side of the dungeons, stopping just in front of the blank stone wall where they know the entrance to the Slytherin Common Room lies after hours of sleuthing.

Fred steps forward, pointing his wand at the wall. “Pureblood,” he states, rolling his eyes. He waits for the door to open but the wall remains the same, the plain stone mocking him. “Why isn’t this working?” he questions, poking the wall with the tip of his wand.

“Maybe they changed the passwords,” George offers up. 

“Try it in Latin?” Lee suggests. 

“Don’t bother,” Ayers calls from down the hall. He pushes off the wall and walks towards the three First Years. All three immediately recognize him as one the Beaters on the Slytherin quidditch team, the surprisingly less aggressive of the two, at least from what they have observed under Charlie’s ask of them spying on the practices. Ayers stops in front of them, purposefully looking down even though the twins are only half a foot shorter. “You’re not Slytherins, you can say the password as many times as you like, the castle knows your wands, and your blood,” he tells them, cocking his head to the side as he surveys the group. “Weasleys never make it into Slytherin, the colours alone would clash horribly,” he remarks, dragging his index finger across the hair on Fred’s forehead.

Fred ignores the action, doing his best to remain calm. “Can you let us in?” he questions, jerking his head back, gesturing to the wall.

“We just want to check on our friend,” Lee elaborates before George can.

Ayers looks over their shoulders at the blank wall. “The one sobbing in her room, I assume?” 

“That would be the one,” Fred answers, the idea of her being this upset creating a gnawing pit in the center of his stomach.

Ayers tilts his head back and forth as if he is considering but he turns away, “Pity I don’t care,” he calls over his shoulder as he moves towards the staircase.

“Hey!” all three call after him, but only Fred reaches out and grabs Ayers’ shoulder, pulling him back.

Ayers pushes Fred off, the younger of the two stumbling from the force of a Beater’s impact. “Hey, yourselves,” he states, pushing at Fred’s chest with his index fingers, “you have no business being here or trying to get into the Common Room, it’s for Slytherins, otherwise the door would let you in,” he states, pushing at Fred’s chest again. Fred stands still, George and Lee backing him up, the three silently daring Ayers to do it again. Ayers surveys the group, realizing even he cannot win a physical fight three to one, even if the three are four years below him. He stalks away, only calling out to them again when he is on the bottom step of the staircase, “And as far as your little friend goes, leave her be, I’ve found it’s always best to leave crying girls to themselves, at least long enough for them to get it out of their systems,” he remarks before ascending the stairs and disappearing from view.

Fred huffs, turning to face the wall. He brings his open palm up to it, feeling around as if there might be a secret embedded in the stone. 

“We can wait and see if someone else will let us in,” Lee suggests, leaning back against the opposite wall as he watches Fred.

“Maybe Charlie can, I mean-” George begins to suggest, rationalizing that Prefects must have ways to get into the other houses’ Common Rooms in case of emergency. 

Fred shakes his head as he continues to feel along the wall. “If we wake him up right now, he will feed us to whatever creature he can get his hands-on,” he grumbles.

George falls back to lean against the wall next to Lee. “Maybe he’s right, maybe we should just leave her be for a while, when she’s ready she’ll come out.”

“And if she doesn't?” Lee questions.

“She has to eventually,” Fred states but turns to look at his brother and friend over his shoulder. “Right?”

“Yeah, yeah, no point in being here if she doesn’t attend classes, otherwise they’d send her home,” George argues, wondering exactly what are expellable offenses for a school that encourages pushing the limits of what is thought to be known.

“That’s worse!” Fred exclaims, hitting the stone once with an open palm. He brings his hand to his chest, cradling the tender flesh against the soft material of his uniform jumper.

Lee pushes off the wall and grabs at Fred’s hand, inspecting it for a moment before slapping it quickly then darting away. He stops at the bottom of the staircase, not far from where Ayers had stood only minutes ago. “Come on, let’s just go to class, that way at least when we come back at lunch, we’ll have the excuse of dropping off her classwork,” Lee states, waving his hands at the twins.

“Brilliant,” George admits, shaking his head with awe in his eyes and smile.

Fred spares one last glance to the stone wall before trailing after Lee and George, each step that he takes from the dungeons tugging at his heart, the thought of Mallyn all alone in her bedroom on her birthday not sitting right with him. Birthdays are meant to be happy and fun, full of cake and presents, and in his and George’s case, pranking. He sinks into his seat in Charms, resting his chin on his arms as he slumps over the bare table.

Filius enters the classroom last and quietly closes the door behind him, pausing briefly to scan the room. “No Miss Smyth today?” Professor Flitwick questions, noting the empty seat.

Fred sits up and spins to face the professor. “Afraid she’s feeling ill, Professor,” Fred tells him.

“Oh, dear,” he murmurs, his brows knitting together. “Well, I do hope she feels better, she does know Madam Pomfrey is available if she needs her, yes?” Filius says, clutching the bundle in his arms a bit more tightly as Sickleworth struggles to escape his temporary confinement. He never should have agreed to watch the sneaky little creature, but at least he seems happily occupied by the collection of coins within the bag with him.

Fred watches suspiciously as the bag continues to move, light squeaks barely audible through the thick cloth. “I’m sure she does, but I will pass on the message, I’m going to collect her assignments and drop them off after class,” Fred says.

“How wonderful of you,” Filius announces with glee, “five points to Gryffindor!” He moves past the desk and up to the front of the room, climbing up onto his podium, all while still holding the bag against his chest. “Now today we will be learning about-,”

Roger raises his hand, almost falling out of his seat as he struggles to get a closer look. “What’s in the bag, Professor?” he questions, readjusting himself to be in the middle of his chair.

Filius looks down at the bag, loosening his grip around the top. “Oh, Professor Rakepick asked me to watch over Sickleworth, although I had to put him in here with some coins, little rascal kept trying to nick my glasses,” he laughs as he peeks into the bag. The small creature contently curled up, grasping one of the coins between his hands, another poking out of his belly pouch. Filius closes the bag up and carefully ties it off, then levitates the bag over to the cushion in the corner of the room, silently setting up a boundary charm around the edges.

“Where is she?” Roger’s tablemate, Flora, asks.

“Got a lead on one of the Vaults, so actually your Defense Against The Dark Arts class is canceled today, thank you for that reminder, five points to Ravenclaw, I would’ve completely forgotten, the old ticker isn’t what it used to be sometimes, I’m afraid,” he laughs, tapping his wand to his head.

Angelina’s hand shoots up, accidentally hitting George’s ear in the process. She whispers an apology before turning her attention back to the Professor. “How old are you, sir?”

“Oh, dear, I’ve made myself seem older than I am,” Filius says, “I am only a young fifty-four, which if anyone does not know by now, is not even middle age for most Wizards or Witches.” Filius’ eyes widen as all around the room hands shoot in the air. One by one, he calls on each and every student at least once, answering questions about everything from his own personal history to the school’s, knowing that Binns rarely got to the modern century even when he was alive. On chance, Professor Flitwick glances at the clock, realizing only a minute remains in the class period. “Oh, dear, I fear we’ve spent the entire class discussing this,” he mutters. The few remaining hands drop, disappointment on the students’ faces. “Oh, well, I say it counts, it was educational after all,” he declares. He waves his hand, the door in the back of the classroom opening at his command. “Have a great day children,” he states. As the students file out, he hops off his podium and goes to check on Sickleworth. He is now free of the bag but made himself a nest out of the pillow. Filius digs around in his pocket, withdrawing a single carrot for the little creature. He drops it onto the pillow. One of Sickleworth’s little hands darts out and firmly grasps the carrot before retreating back into the stuffing, little crunches of content reaching Filius’ ears.

The First Years move as a whole to the History of Magic classroom, Fred only sticking with the group because George keeps a tight hand around his elbow. Cuthbert is already lecturing by the time the students arrive, completely oblivious to the lack of an audience. The students share a look, silently asking each other if it is even worth staying, half deciding otherwise and splitting away immediately without even entering the classroom, the other half begrudgingly taking a seat out of fear of getting caught or loyalty to their friends who decided to stay. 

Fred takes a seat at his desk, staring at the empty space beside him while nervously fidgeting with his wand, dragging his thumb up and down the detailed grooves along the base of it. He lifts his wand, pointing it at Lucy, and with a quick wave and a nearly silent whisper, he tugs on her hair. She turns around at the sensation, staring at Fred. “Can we go check on Mallyn?” Fred pleadingly whispers. Lucy nods quickly, her own worry keeping her from being able to truly focus all morning as well.

Professor Binns does not ever notice that the students joined him, let alone that half of them are missing, nor does he notice when one by one, Fred, George, Lee, and Lucy slip from the classroom, leaving the entire back row empty when Angelina moves up to sit next to Alicia to fill her in. 

Lucy leads the way down to the dungeon level of the castle, but only barely as Fred consistently manages to get half a step ahead of her. Standing in front of the blank stone wall, Lucy states the default password, the doorway opening for her. “It’s probably best if you guys wait here, I don’t even know if she’s dressed yet,” she mumbles, glancing unsurely at where her room is. The boys all mumble agreements as they step back from the door but not before peeking around, all of them raising their eyebrows at the gloomy room. 

Lucy crosses the Common Room and comes to a stop as she stands in front of the wall to the dorm, waiting a minute to see if she can hear anything. “Tace atque abi,” Lucy recites, the doorway opening a second later. She steps into the dark room and blinks a few times as her eyes adjust to the lack of light. She spots a glimpse of long messy hair in the mirror before finding Mallyn’s normally expressive eyes matching the vacant expression on her face.

“Mallyn?” she questions as she steps a little closer.

“Who else knows the password?” she remarks, combing her fingers through her hair, trying to untangle the nonexistent knots. Mallyn raises her blue eyes to meet Lucy’s dark ones in the reflection of the mirror between their wardrobes. “Do you need something?”

Lucy teeters back and forth on her heels, the state of Mallyn striking unease into the very deepest parts of her. Mallyn raises an eyebrow, still waiting for an answer. “The boys are outside the Common Room wanting to see you, they’re worried, we all are,” she tells her, Lucy’s eyes nervously flitting to the open doorway that is providing the only light in the room.

Mallyn turns her gaze back to herself and resumes combing through her hair. “I’m fine, and you can report just that to them,” she states.

“Do you want me to bring you back anything from lunch?” Lucy offers, knowing Mallyn does not eat breakfast on a normal day, let alone today of all days. 

Mallyn scoffs, her hands dropping to her lap. “A book with the truth with it would be nice if you could scrounge that up,” she remarks, her eyes quickly shutting in regret. “Nevermind,” she whispers, dropping her head into her hands, scratching at her scalp.

Lucy moves towards the door, knowing that Mallyn only wants to be left alone. She hesitates by the doorway, her hand resting on the cool stone. “Hey, Mallyn,” she says, looking at the sorry sight of her roommate on the floor in between their armoires, “I’m sorry.”

Mallyn looks up, offering her a small smile. “Don’t be, you haven’t done anything,” she promises, knowing that Lucy, or anyone else in the vicinity, does not deserve any of her bad mood, they just have the misfortune of being here instead of her mother.

“Happy birthday, by the way,” Lucy murmurs, sparing one last glance before stepping through the doorway.

“Better hurry, don’t want to miss lunch,” Mallyn says as the doorway seals itself. She turns her attention back to the mirror, hating everything she sees, everything she feels. She pushes herself off the ground and forces herself away from the mirror. Mallyn paces around the completely dark room, the fire having gone out over an hour ago. She picks up the pillow at the end of her bed and throws it against the wall, then picks it up again and throws it with all her might then repeats the process all over again and again until she slumps down on the ground, gripping the strands of shag carpet under her shaking hands. She catches a glimpse of herself in the mirror and she almost does not recognize herself with swollen eyes and tear-stained cheeks, her bottom lip raw from excessively chewing on it for the past twenty days, ever since she sent the first letter home. She scoffs and pulls her gaze away from the mirror again, instead at looking at the ashes in the fireplace, all that remains of the letter and the books that had been at the end of her bed when she woke up over four hours ago. She flops backwards, praying that the carpet can somehow soak up some of her anger and sadness and deposit it in the Black Lake, knowing the merpeople or even the squid would probably be better suited to deal with the emotions than her. Mallyn turns her head, looking at the glass and the dark water that lies behind it. She sits up, looking around the room when a glint in the corner draws her attention. She scoots over, sticking her hand under her bed and blindly reaching around. After a few seconds, her fingers touch cool metal. She closes her hand, withdrawing the object with it. She holds it out in front of her, instantly recognizing it as her missing earring that she had not been able to find since last week after coming back from the library late and undressing in the dark. Lost in thought, she accidentally presses down on the post, the end digging into the soft skin of her palm, the prick of pain drawing her attention. Mallyn stares down at the tiny droplet of blood resting in the palm of her hand, reminding her of just how fragile she truly is when she wishes to be anything but. Deciding not to let it go to waste, she stands up and walks over to the wall, placing her palm against the stone. The hidden compartment shoots open, her journal and the parchments with the family trees lying within, the names staring up at her and mocking her with all her unanswered questions. She had forgotten they were in there. Mallyn pushes hard on the stone, slamming it shut just as an idea pops into her head. She grabs her blanket off her bed and drapes it over her shoulders then walks over to the doorway. It opens for her without a spoken word. 

Mallyn pads down the hall, her blanket loosely hanging off her shoulders. Stopping in front of the last lantern on the left, she raises her hand and knocks on the space below the light, crossing her fingers beneath the cover of her blanket. The door slides up, revealing Jaden Fischer, a Seventh Year. She rubs at her eyes, smearing the remaining eyeliner leftover from yesterday all around her eyes. “Yes?” she questions, looking down at Mallyn, her eyes barely more than thin slits on her face. She holds her hand up, trying to block out the light from the lantern.

“Jaden?” Mallyn questions. She hesitantly nods, eyeing the younger girl. “Will you pierce my ears?” Mallyn inquires.

“What time is it?” Jaden questions, but steps to the side, allowing Mallyn inside the room only so that the wall will seal itself and block out the harsh enchanted flame. 

She looks around, her eyes scanning the room and taking in the mostly Muggle music and movie posters covering almost every inch of the walls, along with the acoustic guitar resting the footboard against the middle bed, the sheets and bedspread messily thrown back. “Twelve thirty?” Mallyn says, estimating based on how long it had been since Lucy was gone, but without sunlight, she really has no clue.

“In the morning?” Jaden asks, her eyes widening in panic at the thought she missed an entire day of classes, knowing that even though it may be a Friday, Seventh Year is not the time to slack off.

“No, no,” Mallyn reassures her, “it’s lunchtime.”

“Oh,” Jaden murmurs as her heart rate slowly lowers. She accesses Mallyn, turning her head back and forth with a gentle push of her index finger. “You want your ears pierced?” she questions, noting the small holes already in her lobes. Mallyn nods a few times, smiling truly for the first time today since waking up. Jaden directs her over to her bed farthest from them. Mallyn moves to the end of the neatly made bed, sitting gingerly on the edge of it. “So is there a reason for this sudden idea of yours?” Jaden questions as she digs through her desk, searching for her piercing kit she keeps hidden in the back of the smallest drawer. 

“It’s my birthday,” Mallyn answers, her focus on the guitar a few feet from her. She has always wanted to learn how to play, but between school, piano, and dance, she has never gotten the chance. 

Jaden moves to stand in front of Mallyn, tilting her head back and forth as she surveys her features. “And you decided what, twelve means you’re all grown?” she questions as she drags her finger, or rather her nail, down Mallyn’s face, stopping on a few of her birthmarks before knocking her bent thumb under her chin. 

Mallyn raises her head, looking Jaden in her eyes, now visibly hazel that she is not half asleep. “No, just that, I’m tired of listening to what others tell me I can’t do,” she murmurs, watching as Jaden watches her.

“Let me guess, mom? You seem like the type of girl to have mommy issues, maybe daddy,” she says, thinking more out loud than making an actual statement.

“I like my dad,” Mallyn defends.

Jaden laughs, resting her hand on Mallyn’s shoulder. “That’s a whole ‘nother type of issue, what twelve-year-old admits to liking either of her parents,” she mutters, offering Mallyn a small smile to show she is partly kidding. She sets her kit down next to Mallyn's leg. “What are you thinking?” 

“Can you do one like you did for Erika?” she says, touching the side of her ear where she knows Erika has a silver hoop that she had seen and overheard about at the spa night a few weeks ago.

“Sure,” Jaden says, shrugging her shoulders. “Need you to spin and put your head here,” she instructs, patting next to her open kit, several needles laying against the black fabric with different styles of earrings next to them. Mallyn turns on the bed, placing her head at the end and looking up at Jaden. “You sure about this?” the older girl questions, the hollow needle hovering over the curve of Mallyn’s ear.

“Just do it,” she says, gritting her teeth. She counts down in her head, reminding herself to breathe when the pain comes. Jaden brings the needle down, quickly piercing through the cartilage then quickly pushing the post of the earring through. It is not as bad as Mallyn thought it would be, just a pinch and a bit of pressure. 

Jaden screws on the back, then leans back to admire the clear gemstone against the curve of Mallyn’s ear. “All set,” Jaden declares, “gotta wait a few weeks though before you can change it to a hoop and can’t sleep on it.” She moves some things around, searching for her compact. She unfolds the small mirror, angling it for Mallyn to see for herself. “Think it suits you,” she hums. 

Mallyn tilts her head, looking at her new piercing for a second before her eyes drop to her empty lobe. “Do you have any more?” Mallyn asks, unable to see the kit.

Jaden nods. “How many more do you want?” she asks, pushing around the remaining earrings. 

“You can decide,” Mallyn murmurs, setting the mirror down.

“Want a tattoo while we’re at it?” she questions, her face dropping when she realizes Mallyn’s actually seriously considering it. “I’m kidding,” she says, shaking her head. “Hold still,” she instructs. Carefully, she punctures two holes above Mallyn’s already existing piercings on either lobe, leaving the needles in for a moment before she goes through and switches them all out for matching studs, creating a gradient of white to black from the top to the bottom, putting the darkest studs in her original holes. As soon as she is done, she holds up the mirror again and lets it hover in the air, taking pride in the way Mallyn smiles as she takes them in. “Want your nose done?” Jaden asks while Mallyn continues to stare at her reflection, noticing her the redness and puffiness around her eyes have died down.

“No, I made a promise to a friend,” she mumbles. She carefully reaches up and touches the outside of her ears, careful to not touch the actual piercings. “I love them,” she murmurs, turning her head back and forth to get the full effect. Mallyn finally tears her gaze away from the mirror. “Thank you,” she says, already feeling a little bit better even though she knows it is illogical. Her mother will not even get the chance to see them for a few weeks until she goes home for break unless she can somehow figure out how to get a picture taken and sent home. She pushes herself up and spins around, crossing her legs in front of her, watching as Jaden packs up, sending all the needles flying into a jar of antiseptic on her desk. “Can I give you something, I have some coins, still don’t really know,” Mallyn offers.

“No, not money,” Jaden answers. She thinks for a moment before speaking again. “You’re close withTonks, right? Get me five of her special gummy bears plus a brownie and consider us even.”

Mallyn hops off the bed, picking up her blanket and wrapping it around her shoulders. She moves towards the door, hesitating, “Thank you,” she says again, knowing that Jaden did not have to answer the door, let alone go along with her request.

“No problem, now if you don’t mind, I gotta get going, class starts in a little bit,” she says, pulling at the elastic band around her forehead. 

Mallyn watches as Jaden frees her hair from the silk shower cap, her dark hair divided into little equal buns all over her scalp. She dips her fingers into a jar on her desk then carefully but quickly, unwinds each one and lets her hair fall freely. “Do you happen to have any hair dye? Or know a spell?” Mallyn questions while she watches her separate each thick coil, creating multiple smaller ones from each.

Jaden chuckles, “And risk damaging four years of growth?” She shakes her head but pauses as she reaches for her comb. She raises it, pointing the ends of the teeth at Mallyn. “But I do know someone who does,” she says, “if anyone has black hair dye, it’d be Jocelyn Webb.” Mallyn immediately knows exactly who she is talking about and nothing about their short interaction screamed ‘sharing type’. “No colour other than black will stick to your hair unless you want to try bleaching it and risk half of it falling out,” Jaden warns. She begins to carefully drag her comb through the roots of her hair. 

Mallyn turns to leave her to finish getting ready, quickly retreating to her room to avoid running into anyone. “Tace atque abi,” Mallyn states, smiling to herself. “Hold thy peace, and go thy way,” she mutters as the doorway opens, remembering all the times the phrase had been directed at her from various nuns at her school, more often than not from Sister Halloway, a woman not much taller than Mallyn but a force to be reckoned with. Mallyn lets the doorway close and waddles over to her bed, careful not to trip over her blanket or the carpet. She plops herself down on the edge of her bed, her feet swinging. “Lights,” she calls out, watching as the chandelier flickers to life, each individual candle holding a small flame. “Timpkins?” she speaks, summoning him.

The house elf appears a moment later, his large hands interlaced together in front of him. “Miss Mallyn,” he greets, bowing slightly. He is careful to keep his eyes on her, to not let them stray.

“Hello,” she returns. “Can I ask a favour?” she questions, looking down at the ever unusual creature as he lightly drags his feet against the plush carpet, unused to any texture other than stone.

Timpkins perks up, shaking his head rapidly as he wrings his hands behind his back. “A favour? No, no, ma’am, no favour, Timpkins is here to help, always,” he insists.

“In that case, may I please have cheese toastie with tomato soup,” Mallyn requests. She rationalizes that she can afford a larger meal than normal, it is her birthday after all, and she has been eating even less than normal due to her constant state of nerves wreaking havoc on her stomach. Timpkins moves slightly, but she raises her hand, drawing his attention back to her. “Oh, and a single slice of cake, vanilla with chocolate chips mixed in, if you can, extra icing,” she asks, offering him a small smile. “It’s my birthday,” she tells him with a shrug of her shoulders.

“Oh, happiest of birthdays to you,” he proclaims, his smile growing to take up the lower half of his face. “I will work most quickly,” he declares before disappearing with a snap. 

“Room, light the fire,” Mallyn mutters as she flops backwards, snuggling into her blanket as the warmth returns both to the room and her.

Chapter Text

Fred’s leg restlessly rattles against the footrest of his stool as he watches the door. Mallyn had not emerged from her room all weekend and he was starting to worry she was ditching again. He turns in his seat and throws a piece of paper at Lucy, but it freezes midair. Severus summons it towards him, quickly unfurling it in his hands.

“Yes, that is a very good question,” he remarks before burning the parchment, the ashes scattering to the ground. “Miss Cresent, do you happen to know where your roommate is?”

The entire class, including Severus, turns around as the door creaks open, narrowing his eyes at Mallyn’s new appearance more than her almost tardiness. She strides into the room and sits down, ignoring the stares. The professor moves across the room and stops in front of the second last desk on the right, glaring down at the girl. He dares to question what no one else will. “Change something about your appearance, Miss Smyth?” he drawls. Mallyn rolls her eyes, stopping on him, a snide remark about him needing a change in appearance remaining on the tip of her tongue. “Do you have an explanation for your absence on Friday?” Severus inquires, his arms crossed over his chest.

“Ill,” she states, keeping her focus on him, just like everyone else in the room.

Severus’ gaze narrows even further, “Will Madam Pomfrey be collaborating that?” he questions with a tilt of his head.

“No,” Mallyn simply answers before pulling her textbook out of her bag and setting it on her desk.

“No?” Severus questions, his right index finger restlessly tapping against his forearm, the fabric of his cloak fluttering with the constant movement.

“Not that kind of illness,” she states, flipping open the book.

Severus flips her book close with a cold glare. Mallyn raises her eyes back to him. “And what kind of illness would that be that does not require a visit to the infirmary?”

Mallyn smiles sweetly, “My period, sir,” she answers, watching out of the corner of her eye while Fred’s eyes widen at the admission.

Severus does not take the bait, sensing Mallyn’s desire to see him flinch as many lesser men would. “See Madam Pomfrey, she has a potion for that,” he states, the tips of his fingers still pressing into the cover of her textbook.

“I’ll be just fine without a potion,” Mallyn remarks, leaning back casually as she pulls her right leg up onto the seat of the stool, the charms around her ankle jangling with each movement.

Severus knocks his wand at her leg, forcing her to drop it back down. “If you miss class over something that can be prevented-”

Mallyn pushes herself forward while still remaining in her seat. “I don’t care if you fail me,” she states, glaring back at her professor, “not in this barbaric class of yours, I am not using that potion, nor any other that requires the use of something that was once living, it’s cruel.”

“It is the circle of life,” Severus states, his patience wearing thinner than the sad excuse of tights Mallyn is wearing beneath her stockings.

Mallyn scoffs, “No, Professor.” She looks around the classroom, her eyes settling on the ingredients cabinet. “The circle of life is getting born, living a free life, then dying a natural death,” she corrects. “This,” she says, waving her index finger around while maintaining eye contact with Severus, “is keeping creatures in a cage their entire lives until they’re killed for a stupid lesson that just gets thrown out at the end of class.”

“Detention,” he declares, a low growl rumbling in the back of his throat.

“Fine,” Mallyn states.

“Not another word out of you,” Severus announces, turning away.

“Fine,” Mallyn repeats behind his back, twisting her face to mock him.

Severus spins back around, his lips twitching with anger. Mallyn resumes a neutral face. “Another detention and not another single word,” he orders, his eyes threatening to set her on fire with the fury burning behind the dark irises, “and fifty points from Slytherin for being out of uniform.”

Mallyn smiles coyly, a huff of air escaping her nose. “I’m not out of uniform, sir, check the handbook if you’d like,” she states, pulling out the handbook of her bag and flipping it open to her bookmark, “I already did.” Severus snatches the open book off the table, scanning through the passage while Mallyn reiterates the words printed on the page, “All that is required is house tie, which I am wearing,” she states, gesturing to her tie securely holding her hair back in a low ponytail. “Hogwarts approved skirt, which this is,” she remarks, it being the only item on her person that she has not altered in any way shape, or form. Severus sets the book back down on the table and stares at her, waiting for her to finish her list. “Hogwarts approved jumper, which is on my person, knee-high white stockings and black shoes, all of which I am wearing,” she says, finishing off with a wave of her hand to emphasize her point, “and of course my robe, couldn’t forget that.”

“And then some,” he says as he mentally notes the infractions, ultimately adding up to zero despite the multiple embellishments to her uniform.

“Yes, well, that isn’t unallowed,” she states with a smile. “Sir,” she adds for good measure.

“Very well,” he says through his teeth. He turns around, her pages flipping from the force. “Read pages forty-seven through sixty-four,” he declares before sulking into his office.

“Wow,” Fred chuckles under his breath, not looking to have their professor’s bad mood directed at him. He watches for a minute to confirm he stays in his office. He turns to face her, tapping her shoulder, but she keeps her attention on her book, ignoring all the eyes still on her. “So this is all very interesting,” he says, tugging at the cuffs of her jumper resting against her skirt. She simply hums, confirming he has her attention. Fred’s eyes scan her, taking in all the new additions, from the heavy-duty black combat boots resting on the footrest of the stool to the green striped tights poking out from the sliver between her socks and the hem of her skirt. Mallyn reaches up and tucks her hair behind her ear, both in order to hear anything Fred might whisper and to show off her new piercings. Fred’s eyes skip over her torso, zeroing in on the jewels adorning her ear, especially the one furthest from the other three. “The earrings are really cool, Ginny would love them,” he says, watching how the jewels catch and reflect the little light in the room.

Mallyn finally turns to face him, shifting her body slightly. “Really?” she questions while looking at him over her shoulder. “I can get her some for Christmas, I love earrings, my mom wouldn’t let me get them pierced until I was ten,” Mallyn says, her mood dropping off again as she processes her own words.

Fred finally realizes the method behind Mallyn’s sudden madness. “Our mum technically didn't let Ginny get hers pierced,” he tells her, raising his eyebrows to emphasize his words.

“You didn't,” she gasps, repetitively lightly hitting his arm with both hands.

“She asked us to,” he defends, holding her wrists to keep her from hitting him again.

She spins around awkwardly to face the back table as Fred twists her arms over each other, creating pretzels out of them. “George Weasley,” she accuses in a hushed whisper.

George’s head pops up from the desk, his eyes wide. “What?”

She pinches Fred with the little reach she has, making him drop his grip on her wrists. Using her new freedom of motion, she picks up her stool and scoots over to the table, Fred following behind her. “Tell me you didn’t pierce your little sister’s ears,” she says, leaning over the table to poke George in the chest.

“Of course not,” George defends, feigning offense as he swats her hand away. Mallyn stares at him as she waits for him to drop the act. He shrugs, accepting his ploy has failed. “I did one while Fred did the other,” he admits, sharing a low five with Fred under the table.

“Who did yours?” Lee questions, twirling his finger to get Mallyn to turn her head to show off her piercings.

“A Seventh Year, Jaden,” she answers while she holds her hair back so George and Lee can get a good look.

“And this took three entire days?” Fred questions as he pulls at her hair to see if her other ear matches.

Mallyn shakes her head, pulling her hair free of Fred’s loose grip and covering both of her ears. “No, the piercings took fifteen minutes, hair took an hour, crying and throwing things took up the other,” she answers, resting her elbows on the table.

“You left out time for sleeping and eating,” George points out.

“Did I?” she muses, holding a section of her hair out in front of her and inspecting the colour saturating the strands. She looks up, laughing at the dejecting expressions on all the boys’ faces. “Kidding, don’t worry, I got in an hour of each,” she tells them, their faces dropping further. “Kidding,” she promises, “seriously, I ate and slept this weekend, probably more than I should’ve of.” George narrows his eyes, unsure if he is able to trust her statement. Mallyn turns away from his stare, shuffling her stool back to its proper spot.

Fred joins her, careful to not drag his stool and potentially draw Professor Snape out of his office. “So, can we finally give you your present at lunch or are you going to toss it straight into the fireplace?” Fred teases, poking her arm in rapid succession.

“You guys got me a present?” she questions in awe, tilting her head to try and determine the sincerity.

Fred smiles, “Of course, birthdays aren’t birthdays without presents.”

“Any hints?” she inquires, her mind running wild at the possibilities, excluding the ones she cannot even begin to think of because she does not know of their existence yet.

Fred shakes his head, miming closing a zipper over his mouth. Playing along, Mallyn reaches forward and tugs on the imaginary zipper, but Fred pulls his lips in, raising his eyebrows in defiance. Mallyn eyes flit back and forth between his eyes and her fingers still hovering at the corner of his lips. With a light huff, she lowers her hand for a second before darting up to point at his left eye. She moves closer until the tip of her finger is as close to his eye as possible without actually touching it. He blinks, his eyelashes tickling the tip of her finger. She retracts it, her nose scrunching up at the sensation. “I am one of seven children, you can’t really have thought that was going to work,” Fred states, snorting at her attempt.

Mallyn rolls her eyes, “Give me a break, I’m a ballerina, you need someone to make someone question the size of their ankles until they die, I’m your girl,” she declares, “but any other type of mental anguish or mind tricks is not my forte, I just plié,” she says, laughing at her own joke.

Fred’s eyes are wide in horror. “Merlin, ballerinas are weird,” he exhales. He thinks about it for a second before shaking it from his head almost entirely. “What are ballerinas?”

Mallyn laughs, pushing at his arm, but he just looks at her, waiting patiently. “You’re not kidding?” she questions, momentarily have forgotten that as many things as there are about the Wizarding World she does not know about, there is an equal amount that those raised in the Wizarding World do not know about the Muggle one. “It’s a type of dance, spinning around on stage in tights and tutus,” she explains as simply as she can.

Before Fred can ask any questions, Severus bursts out of his office, startling all twenty students. He looks around the room, noting that almost every single textbook is closed, except for the ones that never bothered getting them out in the first place. Accessing the room, it seems that only Pomona and Fauna actually bothered to make an attempt at following his instructions, the sting of their first failure in Potions still fresh in their minds. “One announcement that the Headmaster has asked me to share before class is over,” he states, dragging out his words then the silence just to savor the panic hanging in the air. He looks around, letting his eyes settle on Mallyn, his upper lip twitching. “Wednesday is class picture day and everyone will be on their best behavior and look their best in standard uniforms with no deviations from the example here,” he states, flipping his chalkboard over to reveal a sketch of two students in standard uniform with an asterisk in the corner, specifying that no additional attire will be accepted. Severus turns and retreats back to his office, the door slamming shut just as the classroom door flies open.

“There’s no way that was drawn on the board before he went into his office,” Mallyn scoffs as she throws her books back into her bag.

“Oh, definitely,” Fred assures her, nodding as he scrunches up his face.

As she stands up, the twins and Lee take the chance to observe the outfit in its entirety for the first time.

Fred raises his eyebrows just as Mallyn looks up, furrowing her brows. “What?” she questions. Fred drops his eyebrows, shaking his head and taking a step back.

“Nothing, nothing,” Lee says, but laughs through the words, ruining any chance of Mallyn believing him.

“I like it,” she declares, smoothing her skirt then tugging on the sleeves of her jumper to tighten it around her waist. She turns to the only person yet to express an opinion on it. “George?” she questions.

George freezes, trying to think. He blinks a few times in an attempt to buy more time. “It’s interesting,” he finally states, smiling at her.

Interesting ,” she scoffs. Mallyn rolls her eyes at the cop-out answer. She moves past the boys and out the door.

Lurking just outside the door, Tonks waits for a sign of fresh black hair then reaches out and wraps her hand around Mallyn’s arm, pulling her to the side. Mallyn turns around ready to fight, her fist and face relaxing when she sees Tonks’ smile. “I thought she was kidding,” Tonks remarks, dragging their free hand through Mallyn’s ponytail, her nails catching on a few tangles. Tonks gently pulls her hand free, keeping it at their side. “What’d you do,” she questions, “dunk your head into a bucket of paint?”

“Dyed my hair,” Mallyn defends, jokingly pushing her backwards until Tonks’ back hits the wall.

“And then some,” they remark, tucking her hair behind her ears to get a glimpse at her new piercings. Tonks boops the end of her nose, jokingly inspecting it for any hidden metal, “I’m surprised your nose is untouched.”

Mallyn shrugs, “Made a promise.”

Tonks tilts their head, surveying Mallyn from the top of her head to the floor, moving back up to settle on the piercing blue eyes peeking out from the smears of black around them. “Care to share what prompted this?” she inquires, swirling her finger then booping her nose again.

“Wanted a change,” Mallyn shrugs. She watches as her classmates filter out of the class and waves her friends ahead, silently promising she will catch up with them.

“A change is putting on nail polish or trying a new shade of lipstick, this is,” Tonks remarks, letting her eyes scan the outfit in its entirety again, “awesome,” they snort, twirling a strand around their finger. Tonks knocks her head to the side then pushes off the wall, dusting off the little bits of concrete from the back of her trousers. Mallyn leads the way, heading towards the Charms classroom. “Please, please, tell me what Snape said,” Tonks says, gripping Mallyn’s arm.

Mallyn links her arm through Tonks’ as they walk in step. “Two detentions, for backtalk,” Mallyn states, dreading whatever Professor Snape will make her do in them.

“Arse,” Tonks mutters, rolling her eyes. “None for the outfit?” they question. It is certainly not the most outrageous take on the uniform she has seen in her six years of attendance, but typically students wait until at least Third Year to start trying to push the boundaries of the dress code.

“Hey, Halloween isn’t until end of the month!” Marcus Flint calls from the end of the corridor, his two buddies egging him on, hands shooting out from the huddle to push at his back while Cara laughs alongside them.

“So then why are you dressed as a pompous arse?” Mallyn fires back, moving towards him. Tonks follows closely, ready to intervene.

Flint steps forward but his cronies hang back, watching closely as the distance between Mallyn and him shrinks. “You better watch your mouth around me,” he warns, glaring down at her.

Mallyn scoffs, rolling her eyes at the beast of a boy, from the almost jagged teeth protruding every angle out of his mouth and down to the smell radiating off of him. “I don’t think I will considering you are neither a teacher nor my dead grandparents, although you do smell like the latter,” she remarks. Tonks barks out a laugh, quickly clapping a hand over her mouth.

Peregrine Derrick and Lucian step forward, only stopping when Flint raises his hand. “I am your better,” he states, glaring at Mallyn, his eyes drifting to Tonks for a second before settling back on Mallyn.

“Why because you’re taller?” she challenges. She scoffs and crosses her arms over her chest. “Just means I can see all your boogies from down here,” she glances at Tonks before turning her full attention back to Flint, “and yikes, I mean, you should really take care of that otherwise people might start to realize you’re part troll.”

Flint steps closer, leaving barely an inch of space between them. “Watch your mouth, mutt, I know where you sleep,” he threatens, anger pulling at his upper lip to show off his teeth even more.

“So do I,” she cautions. He turns away quickly, his buddies following after him as he storms out of the castle in search of something to pummel.

Tonks watches as they sulk away, her mouth hanging open. Mallyn turns to look at her over her shoulder. She reaches up and pushes on Tonks’ mouth. Tonks shakes her head then wraps her arm around Mallyn’s shoulders. “You learn fast,” Tonks exclaims, sticking her hand into Mallyn’s hair and ruffling it up.

“Gotta if I want to survive, right?” Mallyn says, smiling up at Tonks as she fixes her hair.

Tonks slows to a stop, firmly placing each of their hands on either of Mallyn’s shoulders. “You are officially my favourite First Year,” she declares, shaking her once.

Mallyn loops her arms over Tonks’ and sets her hands on Tonks’ shoulders. “And who was my competition?” Mallyn teases, shaking Tonks once. The two stand there like that for a moment, just basking in the glory of the showdown. Mallyn looks around, realizing now the corridors are entirely empty. Mallyn untangles herself and tugs Tonks down the corridor. “Oh, I need to buy five of your gummy bears and one brownie,” she says as they jog up the staircase.

“For who?” Tonks pesters, poking Mallyn’s side.

Mallyn swats her hands away, walking backwards to keep an eye on Tonks. “Jaden,” she says, trying to think of her last name, realizing she never actually caught it. “She’s the one who pierced my ears.”

“Gotcha,” Tonks says. She thinks for a moment, trying to remember what she has to do after classes, coming up blank. “I can get them to her tomorrow and you don’t have to buy them, consider it my birthday gift since I didn’t get you one because I didn’t know it was your birthday,” she declares before shoving Mallyn inside the Charms classroom. Mallyn stumbles backwards and into her seat. “Have fun, learn something, hi, Professor Flitwick!” Tonks calls before darting away and skipping down the corridor.

“Tonks, see you at three,” Professor Flitwick calls after the Sixth Year, laughing at her dramatics.

“Wouldn’t miss it for anything!” she calls from the end of the corridor, her voice carrying remarkably well.

Mallyn adjusts herself on her seat, her bag sliding to the floor. “Apologies, Professor,” she says as she tries to catch her breath.

“Not at all, I am so glad you are back, Miss Smyth, and feeling better I presume?” he says, nodding rapidly at her, his head moving like a figurine.

“Much,” she confirms with a smile. Filius moves away, taking his place at his podium.

Fred leans over, bumping his shoulder into Mallyn’s. “Are you high? Was she high?” he whispers, raising his eyebrows.

“On life,” she states proudly. She looks around, checking for any eavesdroppers. “Stood up to Flint,” she whispers.

“The Third Year Chaser who looks like a Fifth Year?” he questions, his mouth dropping open. “Wicked,” he declares, his lips quirking to the side. He looks around then waves her towards him into a huddle. “I need every detail and feel free to embellish,” he whispers, winking.

“Later,” she whispers before leaning back and resting against the back of her chair.

Fred sinks into his chair, wishing she would tell him now. With no other choice, he turns his attention to the front of the class, watching as Professor Flitwick demonstrates the concentration necessary to levitate the empty table next to him. “Everyone else now, stand up and attempt with your own chairs,” he instructs. All twenty students stand up and move to be by their seats, most staring down at the objects anxiously. “Now, don't forget that nice wrist movement we've been practicing!” he tells them while helping Kenneth with his technique.

The classroom erupts in various cries of the spell, a few chairs rattling around before settling back on the ground.

“Wingardium Leviosa,” Mallyn declares, frowning at her chair when it remains still. She looks at her hand, practicing the movement a few times before trying again. “ Wingardium Leviosa ,” she repeats. The chair raises a few inches off the ground, laughing at her success. She holds it steady, letting it hover in the air for a few seconds before carefully lowering it back to the ground.

Fred removes his wand from his robe, pointing it at his chair. “ Wingardium Leviosa ,” he says, careful of his pronunciation. His chair rises off the ground, following his command as he points his wand higher and higher. He jerks it to the side, placing it over the table then lowering it. With a smirk, he turns his focus to Mallyn’s chair and raises it into the air then moves it to balance on top of his own, creating a tower out of the table and two chairs.

Professor Flitwick claps, “Well, looks like someone over here has the hang of it,” he declares, accessing the tower. Fred knocks into George and destroys his focus, giving Fred the chance to steal George’s chair and add it to the structure. “Want to try something a bit more challenging, Mister Weasley?” Professor Flitwick questions. Fred nods, eager to see what he has in store. “Try using the spell on the top two chairs at the same time,” he instructs. Fred stares at the top two, focusing as he mutters the words. The two raise together, acting as one as they rise higher into the air, hovering a foot below the stone ceiling.

“Nice,” George says, patting Fred on the shoulder. Fred turns to look at him over his shoulder, the chairs falling from his spell and heading for the ground.

Profesor Flitwick catches them, carefully lowering them to the ground. “That was wonderful, and a lesson in focus!” he declares, clapping once. “Remember, enunciation, technique, and focus are always key to any spell, any magic, or anything in life really,” he announces before encouraging all the students to try again. “Have a great rest of your Monday, students!” Filius says after every single student manages to levitate their chairs after a little help and encouragement.

Alicia, Angelina, Fred, George, Lee, Lucy, and Mallyn gather their things and flee the classroom, the boys leading the way to their next class.

“History, yay,” Lee mockingly cheers, his face showing his disinterest.

Mallyn scoffs, “I’ll take History with Professor Binns over Potions with Professor Snape every hour of every day for the rest of my life.”

“Definitely gonna be the first class I drop,” Fred declares. He hates the class, or more accurately, the man teaching it, but despite this and to no one’s knowledge, he has the best grade in the class at the moment.

“What elective will you take in its place?” Alicia questions, wondering if she needs to start planning ahead. She has been so focused on making it through each day that beyond wanting to make it onto the Gryffindor quidditch team, she has not even begun to consider other electives and clubs.

“Oh, definitely, Care of Magical Creatures, heard Kettleburn is insane,” Fred declares, the idea alone sending a thrill throughout him, his mind racing at the potential of working with every creature known to the Wizarding World.

“Isn’t he like a nonelectronic cyborg?” Alicia questions, remembering the stories she overheard from the older students in the Gryffindor Common Room.

“You mean because of his limbs?” Mallyn questions. She thinks about for a second, her experience with cyborgs limited to an American movie her dad forced the entire family to sit through when it replayed on the television over the summer. “Yeah,” she shrugs after her moment of contemplation.

“What’s a cyborg?” the boys all ask at the same time.

“Half-robot, half-human life form, they’re in dystopian stories,” Angelina answers, the creatures taking the central role in plenty of her nightmares.

Mallyn steps forward and places herself between Fred and George. “Have Bill and Charlie taught you nothing?” she questions. “Charlie knows who The Smiths are,” she states.

“When they come home mum keeps them busy,” George tells her.

“She does it on purpose so that they can’t teach us new methods,” Fred adds.

“And I quote ‘have enough trouble keeping us alive as is’,” George explains.

“We spy on her and da when they have their coffee meetings,” Fred tells them.

“We used to spy through their bedroom door,” George adds.

“Never again,” they say together, their mouths upturning in the same way.

All seven First Years shiver at the same time, various groans escaping them.

Lee breaks the uncomfortable silence with an even more uncomfortable admission. “I caught my dad with his girlfriend once, couldn’t look her in the eyes again, but they broke up a year later anyway,” he states, shrugging after the words leave his mouth.

“No one else dare share any stories about catching their parents,” Angelina pleads, not wishing to know anymore.

Noticing Mallyn shying away from the touchy subject of parents, Fred diverts attention, moving to stand in the doorway, him and George acting as a blockade to the classroom as the others form an uneven circle. “Miss Smyth here has a story, about her, Tonks, and Marcus Flint,” he announces, setting his hand on top of her head. Mallyn pushes off his hand, playfully slapping at his arm until he pulls it out of her reach.

“Did he spit on you? He has a habit of spitting a lot, swear the quidditch pitch is half his DNA at this point,” Lee says, jokingly sticking his finger in his mouth and gagging. The boys spying on the other quidditch teams has paid off for Charlie but left all three of them with more information than they could ever want or need.

“I stood up to him,” Mallyn proclaims.

“And lived to survive?” Lucy questions, having run into the boy herself a few days and left the short interaction never wanting to see the dark-haired Third Year again.

“And won,” she answers, cockily raising her eyebrows.

“Welcome students, please sit down,” Cuthbert says, forcing the group to retreat into the classroom and take their seats. Cuthbert sinks into his chair, adjusting the spectacles on his nose to rest on the very edge as he looks down at the open textbook on his desk. “Today I’ll be covering the short life of German Wizard, Emeric the Evil, rumored former master of the rumored cursed Elder Wand, also known as the Deathstick, during the Middle Ages,” he states in the even pitch his voice never seems to raise above or lower below. “Now as I mentioned previously, the Middle Ages, also knowns as the Medieval Ages, were from the year five hundred to the year fifteen hundred, and roughly halfway through, around the year nine hundred, was when the Wizarding community in Europe made the decision to separate from the Muggle world as there was religious and cultural persecution occurring across the continent, and Hogwarts was founded only ninety years after that.” He pauses for a moment, accessing the class for the first time since the first day, noting there are in fact twenty students before returning his gaze to his book, despite knowing the history better than anything after having taught the same lessons since his induction at Hogwarts in eighteen ninety-one. “Emeric the Evil was born in the year eight seventy-nine and was killed in the year nine eleven, but in those thirty-two years, he wreaked havoc in England, terrorizing and killing Wizards, Witches, and Muggles alike.”

Fred does not stay awake long enough for Mallyn to get the chance to further explain her encounter, his even breathing quickly filling the air around their desk. She looks around him, noticing George, Angelina, and Alicia also fast asleep. She turns and finds Lee in the same state, even Lucy fighting to stay awake. Resigning to the obvious fate, Mallyn rests her head on her arms, not fighting when the first yawn escapes her.

“Only he could make murder sound boring,” Cassius whispers, nudging Adrian with his elbow. Adrian nods in agreement before reaching into his robe and removing his wand. He points it to the front of the room, whispering under his breath then watching as Professor Binns' textbook hovers off his desk then glides right through him.

No one erupts in laughter since the only people still awake are afraid to ruin the calm of Cuthbert’s monotonous voice and the quiet snoring of their classmates. Cuthbert drones on, eventually lulling himself to sleep.

“Smyth,” an ominous voice harshly whispers. Mallyn looks around the classroom, her eyes widening when she sees Kamala standing outside the open door, waving her over. “Come on,” she urges, keeping her eyes on the lecturing professor, Binns completely oblivious to everything aside from the history he is spewing in his sleep. Mallyn slides out of her seat, shrugging at Lucy when she catches Mallyn’s eyes. Mallyn slips into the corridor, following after Kamala who stops a few feet from the door, giving her just enough space to speak without having to worry about her words leaking into the classroom. “Professor Snape has asked me to speak with you,” Kamala tells Mallyn, but Mallyn knows ask is a stretch; Severus Snape does not seem the type to ask or suggest, only to make demands. “Even though this is technically Lila’s or Gemma’s territory, but Lila has quidditch practice, and Gemma, well, who knows honestly, blah, blah, blah, long story short, you are more than welcome to let your cycle run its natural course, but it would simply be an inconvenience since nothing can come from it,” she says while digging around in her practically bottomless purse, victoriously removing her lip gloss and applying it in one clean sweep.

“Nothing to come from it?” she mouths, her eyes widening when she realizes exactly what Kamala is referring to. “Oh, I’m not, I don’t want,” Mallyn stutters, barely able to process the insinuation.

Kamala smacks her lips together once, spreading the sticky substance evenly across her bottom and top lip before putting the small tube back in her purse. “No, wouldn’t think so considering you spend all your free time with at least two instead of one,” she states plainly, her dark eyes boring into Mallyn. “Although,” Kamala thinks out loud, pursing her lips. She turns her attention back to Mallyn, her wide blue eyes staring up at Kamala. “You might not be now, but most likely one day you will and as long as you are at Hogwarts, you can’t get pregnant, the castle won’t allow it, there’s enough things to worry about without adding teen pregnancy to the mix,” she states. Mallyn just shakes her head lightly, still trying to process everything. Kamala sighs, reaching up and scratching the tip of her nose. “Look, I get your stance, animal rights and all that, but really, cramps are a bitch and trust me when I say you do not want to be forced to use the second-floor girl’s lavatory, so just take the potion and don’t miss classes at least not until you’re on sturdy enough ground with the professors to get away with it,” she tells the younger girl. Still in a daze, Mallyn just blinks slowly. Kamala reaches up and tucks her hair behind her ear, surveying the new piercings adorning Mallyn’s left ear. “My baby did a good job on you,” she remarks before letting the hair fall back down, covering the four gleaming jewels.

“You and Jaden?” she questions in disbelief, but her words come out harsher.

“I’m going to ignore that,” Kamala states, watching as Mallyn’s face shifts as she thinks. “What?” she questions, crossing her arms over her chest.

Mallyn looks up at her, shaking her head once, “Nothing, now it just makes sense why her bed was so neat.” She thinks for another moment, remembering all the posters in the room. “Is the guitar yours?”

“It’s certainly not Erika’s and Jaden isn’t allowed to touch it with those nails of hers, among other things,” Kamala remarks. She bites her bottom lip, chewing on the soft skin and tasting the strawberry before quickly releasing it when she processes her words. “Sorry, she’s always reminding me I need to work on my filter.”

“Nothing I haven’t heard before, I went to Catholic school,” Mallyn admits with a slight blush to her cheeks. She thinks back to the stories she has overheard in the locker rooms and bathrooms, each and every one far more interesting than any of the bland in comparison stories in the magazines she reads whenever her mother drags her along to the small grocer's on the next block. Mallyn typically does not mind going, but she just prefers going to the supermarket where at least there are other things for her to look at besides the produce and new designs on the boxes on shelves.

“Oh, those produce some of my favourite people, there may be hope for you just yet,” Kamala remarks, watching as students start to file out of the classroom behind Mallyn. “Just think about the potion, will you? Madam Pomfrey is totally chill about it, all you have to do is put your name on a list and the potion will be on your nightstand the next week,” she tells her, glancing at her watch, knowing she has five minutes to make it down to the dungeons.

“How does it work, exactly?” Mallyn questions, actually contemplating it. She had mainly declined it just to defy Professor Snape.

“Stops your cycle completely, only have to take it once a month,” Kamala tells her, surprised she is actually expressing an interest.

“I’ll think about,” Mallyn says honestly, thinking it would be nice not to ever have to worry about bleeding through another unitard, the incident of her first period still haunting her dreams every now and then. Mallyn begins bouncing on the balls of her feet, remembering her incentive to go to the Great Hall for lunch. “Can I go now? I have a birthday present waiting for me.”

“Don’t let me stop you,” Kamala says, waving the younger girl off, “I have to head to class anyway.”

Mallyn stops and turns around. “But it’s lunch,” she objects, frowning at the idea of giving up the one free space in her timetable to take another class.

Kamala shrugs, pushing her purse strap further towards her neck. “I take Advanced Alchemy, Snape only teaches it during lunch,” she explains, checking her pink wristwatch, noting she now has two minutes left.

“You willingly spend your lunch and another class period with him?” Mallyn questions, emphasizing her second word.

“He’s the best, well only, professor for it,” Kamala tells her. She checks her watch again.

Finally getting the hint, Mallyn offers her a small wave, allowing Kamala to turn and leave the First Year standing there in the corridor questions the older girl’s sanity. “Have fun, I guess,” Mallyn calls after her. Mallyn turns and heads towards the center of the school, quickly winding her way to the Great Hall.

“There you are!” Fred exclaims as soon as she steps into view. Mallyn moves towards the table and lets him pull her down to sit next to him, wedging her between George and himself and right in front of a present box, complete with messily done paper with little doodles of candles on them, all eyes on her in anticipation.

“Is this going to explode?” she questions, hesitantly reaching out for it. The twins shake their heads. She picks up and holds it in her hands, tilting it back and forth. “Harm me in any way, shape, or form?” she asks as she raises it to her ear and listens carefully.

“I mean, technically if you use anything wrong, it can harm you,” Fred points out. Mallyn rolls her eyes and waits for an actual answer. “No, this is your birthday present from the two of us, plus Charlie and technically Bill, with no bad will on our parts and it will tell you just that,” he states.

Mallyn tears at the fold in the paper, tugging it off in a few moves, leaving a small brown box in her hand. She lifts the lid, revealing a small gold compass but without any writing to indicate direction. “What is it?” she questions, staring down at the small device, a white string hanging through the small metal loop at the top, or maybe the bottom. She turns it every which way, trying to make sense of it.

“‘ What is it ?’ she says,” Fred teases, bumping his shoulder into her, “can you believe her?”

George brings his thumb and index finger to his chin, jokingly inspecting her with an imaginary magnifying glass. “I think she’s pulling our leg,” he declares, bumping his leg into hers. She looks around the table for help but no one says anything.

Fred picks it out of her hand, displaying it proudly on his open palm, the string hanging off between his thumb and index finger. “It’s obviously a Bad Intentions Compass,” he states, tossing it in the air then catching it just in time to let it hang from his middle finger.

Mallyn reaches up and flicks her temple. “Obviously,” she gasps, playing along. The group murmurs encouragingly, still waiting for a proper explanation.

George snatches it from Fred, placing the string over Mallyn’s head and letting it fall to rest around her neck. “An invention of our own creation,” he states, tapping the glass once.

Mallyn lifts her hair to let the string fall beneath it as she looks down at the odd little trinket resting against her shirt. “Of course, how could I be so blind and stupid?” she jokes, poking at the suspicious device. “And what exactly was Charlie’s part of this?” she questions, looking to George for an explanation.

“The wrapping,” Fred states, picking up the wrapping paper off the table. Mallyn grabs it out of his hands and inspects the little doodles before neatly folding it into a little square then she sticks it in the pocket of her shirt.

“He’s the best out of all of us,” George adds.

“That’s sad,” Mallyn remarks, patting both of them on the back, “but thank you, really, I love it,” she says while carefully cradling it in the palm of her hand. The little dial begins to spin, pointing opposite of her.

George leans over to look at the face of the compass, looking up and frowning at Lee, then looking back at the device, unaware of Flint in the courtyard a few yards aware glaring at the group from the other side of the glass. “We got the idea from a Sneakoscope, but made it portable and wearable,” he proudly states.

“Bill helped, he’s great at stuff like that, tinkering, creating, he’ll be a great Curse Breaker, nothing scares him,” Fred says, his words trailing off as he looks over Mallyn’s shoulder. She turns to look but hands come to cover her eyes, blocking her vision of everything besides the dark space in the small space between her eyes and the hands. She reaches up and sets her own over them, trying to push them off, but they remain firm against her face. There is a few light laughs from the table, giving her a clue. Playing along, she moves her hands around, feeling light scarring along the underside of the left wrist. “Charlie,” she guesses. She sticks her fingers under his palms and pries his hands away, looking up to meet his warm brown eyes.

“Happy late birthday,” he greets, resting his chin on her forehead as he reaches over her to grab a roll. With his other hand, he grabs the invention and holds it in his hand, watching as it spins. “See you got your gift,” he remarks as he lets it fall back down to rest against her shirt. “Any other requests?” he asks, taking a bit out of the roll and savoring the sweetness of the honey.

Mallyn tilts her head up, meeting his eyes again. “Your hand in marriage,” she states plainly, horrifying all at the table.

“Absolutely not,” he scoffs. He lifts his chin off of her and moves around her to sit down in the empty space to the side of her recently vacated by George moving to sit on the table with his elbows on his knees as he watches the entire conversation with an amused smile. Fred watches, slightly less amused, but silent nonetheless as he takes in the interaction.

Mallyn lifts her hands, pushing on her index finger with the other, “When I’m eighteen-”

Charlie cuts her off and pushes her hands down. “I do not want to hear any of the math you’ve done in that devious little mind,” he laughs.

Mallyn tilts her head, “Is it because you and Tonks are together? I’m sure we could work something out, I’m her favourite First Year, told me so herself just hours ago,” she states, managing to keep a straight face the entire time.

“No,” he laughs, taking another bite of the roll.

She thinks for a moment, trying to remember anyone else she has seen him interacting with, but comes up blank. “You and-” she starts, knowing he will cut her off.

“I’m not with anyone,” he tells her while reaching for one of the few remaining pieces of chicken on the table.

“How come?” she questions as he sticks the remaining piece of his roll into his mouth.

Charlie sticks the piece of chicken into his mouth then dusts his fingers off on his trousers while contemplating it for a second. “Don’t really care to,” he shrugs, grabbing another roll from the basket.

“Lot more work than it’s worth? That’s what my friend always says,” she tells him, her mind drifting to Oggie.

Charlie frowns, staring at Mallyn. “How old is this friend?” he asks, knowing the words are far too well-informed to be from within the friend group currently at the table, all quietly eating the remaining food on their plates before they have to accept the inevitable fate of returning to classes for the afternoon.

Mallyn thinks for a second, “Hmm, thirty?” she guesses since Oggie rejects the concept of birthdays, and government, and space, and really anything outside of music and whatever stands directly in front of her.

“Why are you friends with a thirty-year-old?” Fred questions.

“She runs the music shop ‘round the corner from my apartment, she’s so cool, you two remind me of her actually,” she says, her mind wandering to how Oggie is doing. She had not said goodbye before leaving for King’s Cross Station, always rationalizing she had enough time to put it off for the next visit and then suddenly she did not have time between deciding what to pack and making sure to spend enough time with Ellie.

The dial spins as a pair of Slytherins grows closer to the group, the ever unpleasant Merula Snyde with her equally unpleasant best friend, Ismelda Murk, walking side by side as they pass. The latter spares a glance at Mallyn over her shoulder, sneering before releasing a single bark. Charlie’s head whips around, glaring at her as the pair walks towards the entrance of the Great Hall.

“What the fuck?” Fred laughs, rolling his eyes at the antics.

Charlie turns his attention to Mallyn, his face tense. “Did they just bark at you?” he demands, all signs of good humor gone. Fred stops laughing when he notices the seriousness on his older brother’s face. He looks back and forth between Mallyn, Charlie, and the girls leaving the room, finally settling on George who knows no more than Fred does.

“Ignore it,” Mallyn whispers, but cannot find it in herself to mean it as she fights back tears, her fists balling up at her side.

“Why are they barking at you?” Lee questions, unsure of what to make of the entire situation.

Mallyn pokes the inside of her cheek with her tongue before taking a deep breath. “Because I’m a mutt and a Halfbreed and every other stupid little insult they want to throw my way,” she says remembering the words Merula had spit at her and Tonks a few weeks ago. “Just ignore it, I do,” she mutters, reaching out and grabbing a roll, stuffing it into her mouth.

Charlie pushes off the bench, stalking after Merula and Ismelda. “Hey,” he calls after them. They turn around, smiling like the cats who got the canary. “If you’re gonna say something, say it to our faces,” he shouts, a good ten yards between them as the First Years watch anxiously. Fred takes Mallyn’s left hand in his own, stopping her from driving her nail further into her skin as he laces his fingers through hers. George notices and drops back down onto the bench, taking her right hand in his and doing the same. She does not look at either of them, or anyone else for that matter, just keeps her focus on the arrow pointing directly at the pair of girls.

Merula takes the first step, quickly closing the gap between Charlie and herself, Ismelda closely behind. “Gladly,” she states with a smile. Lifting her finger, she singles out Mallyn, pointing at her back, “She is a filthy little mutt.” Mallyn grips the twins’ hands harder, their skin paling beneath her numbingly painful grip. Merula’s eyes scan the table, her finger following her gaze and pointing at everyone at the table except for Angelina, “The lot of you are blood traitors, all of your blood is tainted,” she sneers her eyes shifting to Angelina, “might as well be a Mudblood.” Ismelda breathlessly laughs, rolling her eyes at the terror in the First Years’ eyes and the anger in Charlie’s.

Charlie steps forward, putting him chest to chest with Merula. “And you belong in Azkaban right alongside your parents,” he snaps.

Merula reaches for her wand beneath her robe, careful of her movements. She leans forward, barely whispering, “And you and all the precious little redheads including mummy and daddy dearest belong graves alongside your uncles.”

“Sure Tulip would love to hear that,” he returns, watching as her jaw tenses at the mention of her Ravenclaw friend, knowing even a whisper of ill will could be the final straw in their fragile rekindled friendship.

Merula tightens her grip around the handle of her wand, ready to draw it. “Have to be alive to tell her,” she whispers. Her head whips around at the sound of light footsteps approaching. The unmistakable light chiming of small metal charms colliding against each other makes her forcibly relax her posture and let her hands rest at her sides, plastering on a smile as the Headmaster closes in.

“Children,” Professor Dumbledore greets, clasping his hands tightly in front of him, the tip of his white beard skimming just along the backside of his hand. “Is there a problem?” he questions, surveying the group. The First Years all look to Dumbledore except for Mallyn, her eyes still set on the dial. Albus looks at the device, noting its arrow pointing directly at the two Sixth Year girls.

“None on my side,” Merula remarks, smiling at the Headmaster, her violet eyes sparkling with satisfaction. “Weasley?”

“Just exchanging some words,” Charlie says through his gritted teeth.

“Excellent,” Albus states, bringing his hands together again. “I will see everyone later, I am in search of lemon treacle tart, a rumor reached me that the house elves would be preparing it today,” he says, an entire plate of the dessert appearing on the table a second later. “Ah, always listening,” he remarks as he picks up a single dessert, sharing a knowing glance with Merula. She does not waver, just maintains eye contact with a humorless smile. Albus departs from the table, sparing the group of First Years a glance before leaving the hall.

Merula turns on her heels. Ismelda follows suit, but Charlie reaches out, wrapping his hand around Ismelda’s arm. “At least I know what it’s like to be loved,” he whispers before releasing his grip. She stumbles forward a step, her glare finding Charlie as she regains her footing. She catches up with Merula, the two whispering under their breath.

“Well, that was fun,” Lee remarks, flinching when both Angelina and Alicia both smack his arms. “Sorry, just trying to, never mind,” he mutters, sinking down in his seat while he chews on a strip of jerky.

“Happy late birthday to me,” Mallyn mutters. Fred tries to squeeze her hand to reassure her everything is okay now, but she pulls her hand away from his and George’s and flees from the table. Lucy shoots off the bench, running after her roommate with her school bag in hand. Charlie follows, keeping his distance for a moment watching as Mallyn rounds the corner, resting against the wall and letting her head fall backwards to stop the tears. Lucy offers her a tissue from her bag, but Mallyn shakes her head until Lucy raises her compact, showing the drips of black halfway down Mallyn’s cheeks. Mallyn accepts the tissue, quickly wiping away the excess then stowing it in her waistband.

“Mallyn, Lucy,” Charlie says, walking over to them. He looks around, taking a deep breath. He slouches with his arms against his chest, surveying their faces. The remaining unshed tears in Mallyn’s and the concern in Lucy’s makes his heart ache while his hands clench, ready to seek out the pair to finish what they started. “Watch out for them, and Barnaby Lee,” he warns, glancing around. “They’re all...” he says, trying to think of a word other than friendly because he would not use that to describe any of them individually, let alone all together, “they talk to each other, even Brandon Heath,” he states.

“Is anyone in our house safe?” Lucy asks, biting at her nail. Mallyn tugs on her wrist, forcing her to stop.

“Kelsey’s a good bet,” he encourages, remembering Tonks’ having mentioned that Mallyn was already on good terms with her. “Jaden and Kamala, Erika’s brutal on the field, but she’s not-”

“So any Halfblood,” Mallyn sums up for him, rolling her eyes at the notion.

“I’d stay away from Thatcher Cobb, his roommate, plus your cousin, Kellan,” Charlie adds, “Terence Higgs, Seeker for the Slytherin team isn’t half bad most of the time, and Douglas and Lila are Purebloods, but they’re cool, Dumbledore won’t let anyone into that position without the promise they look out for all students.” Charlie loses his train of thought for a moment before regaining it, trying to mentally recall the blood statuses of current students, but comes up short. “I’ll have Percy draw up a chart, give it to the twins,” Charlie says knowing that he is the best one for the job. Charlie looks around for a second, knowing that classes start any minute. “You don’t deserve any of the shite they’re throwing, it’s just...” he murmurs, sighing deeply instead of finishing his thought.

“It’s worse because my mom was a Burke and defected by marrying my dad,” she answers for him, having figured out that much for herself. She pushes off the wall, pacing nervously. “I can handle it, I have to, can’t change who I am, but they,” she says, pausing to look at the doorway of the Great Hall, then Charlie and Lucy, “none of you should have to suffer this side effect of being my friends.”

Charlie reaches out and grabs her hand, forcing her to stop and look at him. “Trust me, this isn’t because of that, those two have thrown plenty of shite my way over the years, and at Tonks, even Bill, and every other single students she deems below her, which is every single one, even takes aim at Slytherin Purebloods once in a while,” he tells her, squeezing her hand once tightly. Mallyn squeezes back, silently thanking him for his words, and support above all else.

“Why doesn’t Professor Dumbledore do anything?” Lucy questions, picking at her nail beds behind her back.

Charlie wishes he had a solid answer himself, but he really cannot think of a single reason Merula and Ismelda are still allowed to attend Hogwarts other than neither have actually tried to kill anyone, at least not yet. “They’re just words, hearsay,” he tells the two younger girls, repeating the reason Bill gave him years ago when he posed a similar question.

“She threatened to kill you,” Lucy whispers, her eyes shifting around the corridor.

“You heard that?” he questions, blinking in shock. He forces a smile on, “Like I said, just words.”

Chapter Text

Professor Silvanus Kettleburn attempts to corral the First Years in order to organize them by height, but they keep rearranging themselves to their liking, and he quickly finds himself longing for any of the potentially deadly creatures he typically deals with over the fidgeting preteens. He silently questions how he got stuck with the job when three exceedingly better equipped professors, Septima Vector, Bathsheda Babbling, and Charity Burbage, are lounging against the wall merely supervising, then he remembers the bet he made with Minerva at the sidelines of last year’s graduation ceremony. Coordinating this years’ student photos is paying the price for underestimating Minerva’s knowledge of the intermingling of the students. After fifty years of on and off work at Hogwarts, he should know better, but every time she, or anyone else, sets a wager, he cannot help but up it.

Mallyn stands in the first row, sandwiched in between Elfy and Lucy with Alicia directly behind her. She turns around, frowning at the two empty spots in the last row. Lee raises his eyebrows while biting his lip to hold back the laugh threatening to ruin the surprise. He tips his head to motion for Mallyn to turn around. “Oh my God,” Mallyn exhales, a laugh of amusement bursting out of her at the sight of the twins at the door. And I didn’t wear my tights today , she internally laughs.

Fred and George proudly march into the room and towards the stands, swishing the skirts they are wearing more than necessary. Charlie sticks his hands out from the huddle around the Gryffindor table, the majority of the quidditch team sitting on the table rather than the benches, all ten members in matching red and gold jumpers with their brooms in hand. George and Fred slap his hands then raise them, fist-pumping in the air as they approach the back of the room. 

After making a proper show of it, they claim their spots on the last row, sharing low highs with Lee behind the cover of everyone in front of them.

“Boys,” Silvanus calls, directing their attention to him. “Please tell me that you two are the last of your family,” he says while awkwardly fiddling with the bandage over his left eye, the hint of a nasty cut poking out.

“Afraid not, sir,” Fred answers with a shake of his head.

“Two more,” George adds.

“Don’t worry, little Ronnie is nothing like us,” Fred reports, “we remind him all the time.” 

“But Ginny,” George sighs, a proud smile overcoming his face, “oh, she’s our proudest achievement.”  

“Remember when,” Fred reminisces, the memory of Ginny on top of the lopsided roof of their family home crystal clear in his mind.

George thinks for only a moment, the same image forming in his mind, “Oh, that was truly fantastic,” he murmurs, remembering his younger sister’s proud smile even as their mother yelled at her to get down.

“More than we could’ve ever imagined or hoped for when Mum told us we were getting a little sister,” Fred admits.

“Looks like there’s three Weaslettes instead of one,” Cassius sniggers, looking over his shoulder at the twins.

“Maybe we’re just reclaiming our Irish heritage,” Fred states, scowling down at Cassius.

“Or honoring the Scottish heritage of our great school,” George argues.

“I find them rather freeing,” Lee admits, having traded his own trousers for a skirt as well.

“Boys!” Kettleburn exclaims, drawing all attention to him. “Let’s get this over with, shall we? Still have all the other groups to photograph,” he sighs, letting his head fall backwards. The photographer raises his wand, commanding the risers to adjust with a simple wave. The slates of wood rise and fall to make everyone on each row appear equal heights so that no one is cut off. “Quickly, yeah?” he says, whispering to the photographer to double-check that the skirts are not visible in the shot. 

The photographer lowers his head underneath the curtain, his hand sticking into the air to count them down. “Three, two, one,” he whispers to himself before pressing down on the large button in his hand, a bright flash going off and blinding the First Years. “All good,” he announces after a moment of deliberation. All the students blink a few times attempting to regain their sight, but little dots of light still cloud most of their visions.

Kettleburn takes a large gulp of his lukewarm spiked coffee, praying to Merlin, Morgana, Hecate, the founders of Hogwarts, and anyone else willing to listen to his silent plea for the strength to get through the next hour. “Second Years!” he yells, sending the First Years flying off the platform out of shock from the sudden command.

Angelina guides the way to the table, claiming the spots at the end so that they can all watch the other portraits get taken. 

“I think you all look rather nice, you guys have got the legs for them,” Alicia declares, playing with the hem of her own skirt. All three boys share a look before propping their legs up and jokingly revealing more and more of their legs until they reach the hem of their boxers, laughing right alongside the girls. “Where’d you get them anyway?” she questions.

“Nicked them from the laundry,” Fred proudly declares as he flops down onto the tabletop, stuffing a few chips in his mouth.  

Lee sits down next to Fred, grabbing a chip from the platter. “But I say that’s what they deserve for not just doing it themselves, I mean, wave of your wand and done,” he states, waving his finger.

“I don’t know the spell,” Mallyn mumbles.

“Neither do I,” Angelina declares in solidarity. “You forget not all of us grew up with magic,” she scolds.

“We can teach you, Mum makes us do our own laundry,” George offers.

Alicia shakes her head, “But we can’t do magic at home until we’re seventeen.” 

“Yeah, but the Ministry can’t track exactly who does a spell, well, I’m sure they could, they just don’t care enough to, so as long as Mum or Da is home we can get away with it,” Fred explains.

Charlie steps forward, placing himself between the remaining First Years and the grumbling professor. “Sir, quidditch teams are next so that we can change-”

“Fine, fine, just pose yourselves,” he mutters before raising his mug to his lips again, grimacing when he bumps the edge against his remaining front teeth. All of the houses’ quidditch members move forward, each team arranging themselves as they see fit, the only common denominator being the team captains posing dead center. “Gryffindor first, I suppose?” Kettle says, waving the photographer over to stand in front of the team in red and gold.

“Always,” Charlie declares as he sits down, resting his left elbow on his knee and leaning forward, a small golden ball resting between his thumb and middle finger while holding the handle of his broom tightly in his right hand. 

“Rarely,” the Slytherin captain remarks, rolling his eyes at Charlie’s comment, “in case the décor isn’t enough of a reminder.” 

The photographer counts down, a blinding flash signifying the Gryffindor team is free to move. Charlie leans forward a bit further, looking over to the team to the right of them, eyeing the eight members in matching jumpers of green and silver. “We’ll see about that, won’t we, Huffman? Got a feeling the tides are changing,” Charlie teases, throwing the inactive snitch over to him. 

Ayush catches the snitch and passes it off to Slytherin Seeker, Terence Higgs. “It would take the best players from Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, and Gryffindor to beat out my team this year,” he declares, putting on his game face a second before the camera flashes, dropping the facade the second it is over. 

“Are you forgetting I taught you half of what you know?” Nathalie Wilders questions while holding out her hand for the snitch. Ayush obliges, leaning forward to take her hand in his own and turns it over, placing a single kiss on the back of her hand before placing the small golden ball within her palm. She rolls her eyes at the gesture as she moves around him, but does not bother to hide her smile. He shoots his arm out, catching the side of her waist in his grip, dipping her in one swift move, her ponytail dragging against the floor as he kisses her. Students clap and cheer, some hooting at the very public display of affection that the First Years all gape at. 

“Students!” Kettleburn yells, waving his flesh hand at the couple.

Ayush looks up, smiling goofily at the grumpy old man. “Can’t control love, Professor,” he states before he leans back down once more, placing a chaste kiss on each of Nathalie’s blushing cheeks.

Silvanus grabs the back of Ayush’s jumper, jolting him upwards with Nathalie still in his arms, careful not to loosen his grip on her. “No, but you can control yourselves at least until I’m not present,” he mutters, dropping his grip and turning away. “Disgusting, all of you, little hormone monsters,” he mutters, mostly to himself.

“Thought you loved monsters, sir,” Nathalie remarks, a teasing smile on her lips. She pecks Ayush quickly before extracting herself from his embrace and joining her team. She sits down and mimics the pose Charlie had done minutes prior, adjusting only her posture to be sitting upright rather than lounging forward as he had.

“I prefer the nonhuman variety,” Kettleburn states plainly. He brings his cup to his lips, angrily sipping on his coffee as he glares at any student who dares to meet his eyes.

Ayush watches as Nathalie shifts in her seat, nervously fidgeting with the snitch as the photographer resets the camera. “Got some secret weapon we don’t know about?” Charlie questions, clapping his hand down on Ayush’s shoulder, shaking him out of his trance. 

“Always,” he jokes, his attention not fully on Charlie yet. Nathalie throws on a smile, waiting patiently for the blinding flash. As soon as the light dulls, she drops her smile. She tilts her head back and forth, a futile attempt to release some tension, only successful in cracking her stiff neck. Nathalie stands up and crosses the short distance to place herself under Ayush’s open arm, relaxing under his touch. He places a kiss on her forehead while pulling her in tighter. “Even with those little spies of yours,” he says, knocking his head towards Fred, George, and Lee who are watching the entire interaction, not shying away from his glare. Ayush rolls his eyes at the First Years, finding it humorous how serious the three seem to be taking their duty. “We still on for the meeting tonight?” 

Charlie nods, before turning and realizing Ayush is not looking at him, but instead staring down at Nathalie, a dopey grin on his face. “Course, I’ll be bringing along that one too,” he says, pointing to Mallyn. She waves awkwardly, unsure of the sudden attention on her, shrugging when her friends ask if she knows the other two. 

“Recruiting from outside your house?” Ayush scoffs, bumping his shoulder into Charlie’s. “Are the pickings in Gryffindor that slim?”

“You’re just jealous,” Charlie chides, smiling at his friend’s attempt to get under his skin.

Ayush looks over at his friend with a cheeky grin, “Always.” Ayush finally relinquishes his grip on Nathalie, freeing her to leave with the other girls to switch into their uniforms for class photos. The two boys head over to the Gryffindor table where their school uniforms are waiting. “Everyone knows the Cannons and the Wanderers have their eyes on you, heard they’re trying to come to some matches this year.” 

Charlie pulls off his quidditch jumper and throws it on top of the twins, the sleeves flopping in front of their faces. They swing it around, whacking Lee and Mallyn in the face with the cuffs. “Then we’ll just have to make sure we’re on our very best behavior, yeah?” Charlie teases as he pulls on his button-up over his undershirt, quickly doing up all the buttons and pulling his grey uniform jumper over it. 

“Never,” Ayush declares as he pulls his head through the neck hole of his Hogwarts jumper, his tie loosely hanging around his neck. He stalks away, jumping over the Ravenclaw table to slide in next to Nathalie, immediately wrapping his arm around her waist and resting his head on her shoulder

“Wouldn’t want it any other way,” Charlie calls after him as he tightens his own tie, tucking it into his jumper. He reaches between the twins and grabs a burger off the plate, taking a large bite as he hops up onto the table, resting his feet on the bench next to Lee. 

Fred tugs Charlie’s jumper off his and George’s heads and throws it over Mallyn’s head. Using her momentarily lack of sight to his advantage he sneaks a chip under it, blindly aiming for her mouth. She shakes the jumper off, holding it in her lap with one hand while pushing Fred’s hand away with her other. “Stop trying to force-feed me, I’m going to get fat,” she grumbles, pushing his wrist until the chip hits him in the face just to the right of his nose, smearing a dollop of ketchup across his cheek.

“So?” Charlie questions in between bites. “Nothing wrong with that,” he states, stuffing the remaining quarter of his burger into his mouth before hopping off the table and making a beeline to Professor Kettleburn.

George leans around Lee and sticks another chip in front of her, waving it in what he hopes is an enticing way. “What was it that Friar Micheal said?” he muses, poking her lips with the chip, missing a few times and finally hitting the tip of her nose.

Mallyn tears the chip from his grip and throws it back at him, the cold sliver of potato landing amongst his tangles and logging itself in between two curls. “He’s a centuries-old dead monk, I am a twelve-year-old girl and...” she says, her words dying off. 

“And what?” Fred questions, staring at her. 

And enough people already don’t like me as is , she thinks. She sticks a single chip in her mouth, raising her eyebrows defiantly as she chews it. “You two are impossible,” she declares, pointing at them with another chip.

“You’re beating a dead horse,” Percy states from the end of the table, “I’ve told that to them countless times.”

“Fuck off, Pers,” George and Fred yell together, each throwing a handful of chips at him. 

“Isn’t your attention better spent on your homework? Never thought I’d hear of a class that gives you trouble,” Charlie teases, throwing another chip at Percy.

Percy flicks the chip off of his parchment, groaning at the oil stain it leaves behind. “Only signed up for the bloody class-” 

“Because you couldn’t stand having a blank space on your schedule, we know,” Charlie says, wrapping his arms around his brother’s shoulders from behind. “Could always give up your lunch too, join Bill in Advanced Alchemy,” he teases.

Percy shakes off Charlie, his hands going to straighten his jumper. “That class is only open to Seventh Years, as you’re well aware,” he grumbles. He turns his focus to the table, zeroing in on Mallyn. “You were raised in the Muggle world,” he states, his eyes narrowing.

“So were they,” Mallyn says, pointing to Alicia and Angelina, silently apologizing with a pitiful look in her eyes for dragging them into whatever mess Percy is about to involve them all in. 

He stomps over to them, slamming down a piece of parchment, a replication of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa staring up at them. “What is the bloody obsession with this?” he grumbles, staring down at the offending object with intense hatred.

“What’s the assignment?” all three girls question at the same time.

“To write a parchment’s length on why we like it,” Percy grumbles, the crease between his brows growing in-depth, so deep Fred wonders if he held Percy down and poured water on his face if it would collect in the crevasse.

Angelina pulls the parchment closer and stares, trying to find something she likes about it, settling on the muted hues that create an almost calming effect. “Then write about why you like it,” she states furrowing her eyebrows as she stares at the image. 

Percy snatches the parchment, rolling it up and fighting the urge to hit himself with it. “I don’t, it is hideous, and pointless like all art,” he states as the parchment begins to crumble under his grip.

“What’s the class?” Alicia asks.

“Muggle Art One,” he declares with a low groan as Ayush and Nathalie rejoin the group, hovering behind Percy.

Alicia reaches across the table and sets her hand on Percy’s shoulder, patting it once. “It’s gonna be a long year for you,” she whispers. He shrugs it off, completely crumpling the parchment in his hand as he walks away grumbling.

Charlie brings his hands down onto Mallyn’s shoulders, startling her. “You guys gotta head to class,” he declares as he reaches over her for the final burger on the platter.

“Why don’t you?” the twins question, staring at the three Sixth Years over his shoulder.

Charlie chews his bite, careful not to speak until he is done, his mother’s voice ringing in his head about how rude it is to speak with food in his mouth. “Prefect duty,” he explains, “I’m supervising the inevitable shitshow class photos always turn into.” He pauses as he takes another bite, savoring the honey-infused bun. “Last year, Kent Turner tried to turn Momina Bishop’s hair pink-” he says, laughing at the image of Kent in his head.

Mallyn cuts him off, the pieces of the story clicking into place for her, “Backfired and turned his own, Kelsey mentioned it at the feast.”

“Still argue she could’ve pulled it off, at least more than he did,” Nathalie says as she swipes a napkin across Charlie’s face, wiping off a smear of ketchup from his nose.

Charlie takes the napkin from her, finishing off the job then bunching it off and tossing it at Fred’s face. “Off you little ones go, got to enrich those minds while you’re still capable of absorbing information, unlike us poor bastards,” Charlie jokes, knocking his head towards Ayush.

Ayush pushes at his shoulder, jerking along Nathalie for the ride. “Speak for yourself, mate, I learn new things every day,” he says with a smirk.

“Such a cheeky little bastard,” Nathalie teases, biting her bottom lip as she stares at Ayush, love evident in her hazel eyes.

“You love it,” he counters, ducking down to press a quick kiss to her lips, more enjoying the feeling of their matching smiles against each other’s skin than anything else.

“It, you, tomayto, tomahto,” she whispers against his lips, “just like you love me.”

Ayush pulls her away with him towards the benches as the other Sixth Years begin to line up for their class photo. “And I tell you all the time, don’t I?” he murmurs, kissing her again before separating to find their places.

“I can’t believe those two,” Angelina sighs, watching the entire exchange with a smile on her face.

Alicia leans forward and rests her chin on her hands. “I know, right? So cute,” she sighs.

“So public,” Mallyn mutters as her face scrunches up.

Angelina laughs, staring oddly at her friend. “You act like you’ve never seen PDA before,” she teases, bumping her fist into Mallyn’s shoulder.

“No, no,” she mutters, shaking her head. Sighing, she looks at the couple as they share a final glance before posing for the photograph. “I meant, he’s in Slytherin, and she isn’t,” she states. The possibility of a happy, nay non-violent, ending seems near impossible in her mind. Her friends all stare at her, unable to comprehend her issue with the couple. Not wanting to dwell on it, Mallyn slings her bag over her shoulder and swings her legs over the bench. Leading the way, she heads towards the entrance, her friends close behind her. The eight slide into the classroom, claiming their seats and waiting for their professor to arrive.

Minerva stops by the edge of the twins’ desk, blinking a few times to ensure her mind is not imagining things. “Mister Weasley, why are you in a skirt?” she questions, staring at the inch of visible freckled skin between the top of the knee-high socks and the hem of the skirt.

“Just following Professor Snape’s order for picture day,” Fred states, offering Minerva a shit-eating grin. 

“I see,” she murmurs, lowering her glasses to look at the boys over the rim. “The common assumption is that students will understand what is between the lines and that is that the skirts rule applies to the female students,” she states plainly, still eyeing the sliver of visible skin with the hint of a frown on her lips.

Fred props his feet up on the desk, “Well, Professor, you know what the Muggles say about assumptions,” he says. She waits patiently, staring down at the cocky First Year. “Make an ass out of you and me, whole thing, you know,” he explains with a cheeky smile.

“Detention, Mister Weasley,” she declares with a sigh.

“Sweet number nine,” he cheers, offering out his fist to George.

Professor McGonagall removes her glasses, pinching the bridge of her nose where the rims left indents. “I’m assuming it’s a lost cause to stop you from expressing yourself?”

The twins share a look, matching smiles growing on their faces. “Safe bet,” they answer together as George brings his legs up to rest on the desk next to Fred’s.

She sighs deeply, a sound familiar to them from their mother. “I figured as much,” she wistfully states. “Mister Weasley and Mister Weasley,” she announces, her eyes shifting between their atypical attire. “Have you ever stopped to consider why you two insist on acting out? Perhaps it stems from being middle children, your older siblings took their roles with ease so you had to find your own, your own way to fulfill your desire to be noticed,” Minerva muses.

“No one can ignore us if they tried,” Fred states.

“My point exactly,” Professor McGonagall declares before turning away from their desk.

“What’s your diagnosis for me, Professor? I’m an only child,” Lee says, leaning back in his chair to prop his feet up on the table, putting his legs on display. 

“Loyal friend,” she answers without looking. She moves behind her desk, glancing down at the stack of parchment. “Oh, Miss Smyth, Professor Dumbledore would like to see you,” she says while flipping through the papers. Ohhs echo across the room. Minerva snaps her head up, “Hush,” she orders. She relaxes her face before turning her attention to Mallyn, offering her a small smile. “You can go ahead, dear, someone can lend you their notes later, just follow the airplane.”

The note on Minerva’s desk shifts into a paper airplane, zooming out the open door. Mallyn scurries out of her seat, jogging to keep up with the enchanted bit of parchment as it zigs and zags all around the interior of the castle. It comes to a stop in front of a menacing gargoyle statue just before the start of a corridor, the windows on both sides allowing the sunlight to stream in and light the entire area. The paper collapses back into a flat sheet. She reaches out just in time to catch it in her open hand. The beastly face carved into the stone moves, Mallyn yelping in fear when its mouth opens to bare its fangs. “Password?” it questions, its stone eyes following her. 

“Lemon sherbert,” she states, double-checking the note in her hand. 

The statue does not say anything else, just stares blankly at her until the doorway opens, revealing a spiral staircase. Mallyn hesitatingly steps forward, holding onto the wall as the stone below her jolts forward, the staircase spinning upwards as it carries her to the top. It finally stops, revealing an expansive office with books lining the walls from the floor to the ceiling. She looks around, her eyes widening when she spots a bird of the brightest orange, red, and yellow she has ever seen. Unable to tear her eyes from the majestic creature, she steps into the room as the creature silently calls to her, beckoning her towards it. 

A light creaking draws her attention. Turning her head, she finally spots the Headmaster sitting behind his desk in a plush office chair that reminds her of the one Dr. Hilltop always used to sit in for their weekly appointments. “Ah, Miss Smyth,” Albus states, waving her towards him.  She looks away from the creature, watching over her shoulder as the doorway seals itself. 

“Hello,” she greets, frozen in her spot. 

The Headmaster stands up from his chair behind the oversized desk, gesturing to the chairs in front of it. “Please, come in, sit,” he urges, waving his hand so that the one closest to her shoots out.

Mallyn sits down, placing her hands in her lap and keeping her eyes on them. “Sir, I didn’t mean to disrespect Professor Snape, I just-”

Albus chuckles then sighs, “Oh, no, no, dear, I’m sorry, you misunderstand, I am aware of your detentions with Professor Snape, but that isn’t what this is about, it’s about my offer.” Mallyn’s head pops up, her uncertainty evident on her face. The Headmaster smiles, “To answer any questions,” he explains.

“Oh, I thought you were just being polite,” she murmurs, nervously pulling on her fingers. “To be honest, sir, I don’t particularly have any questions, just confused in general at why my mother didn’t tell me anything,” Mallyn states. She looks around the room, using the time to try and think of something to say. Her eyes return to the desk in front of her, reading the title on the page of the book facing Albus. Her eyes flick up to him, “You said you put the spell on me because my grandfather asked you to.”

“Yes,” he confirms.

“Why?” she asks.

Albus smiles, “See there’s a question.” He closes the book in front of him, the ancient index having served its purpose. “I knew your grandfather well, he was once my pupil and we stayed in touch after his graduation, he often sought out my guidance,” Albus explains. He clasps his hands in front of him, resting them on the top of the book. “Stop me if you know any of this, but I shall start from shortly before you were born, nineteen eighty, correct?”

“Seventy-nine,” she corrects.

“Pardon, seventy-nine,” he repeats, nodding once. He removes his spectacles from his nose, placing them amongst the clutter on the desk. “Around nineteen seventy, odd things of all sorts started to occur throughout both the Wizarding and Muggle worlds, an extremely dark wizard, some would argue the darkest,” he says, pausing to taste his own words, but the look in his eyes makes her think he thinks otherwise from the statement, “claimed credit for the horrendous acts, both those due to him and those not which was the start of his rise to power, infamy if you will, he gained a lot of followers very quickly, and that was a cause for concern for many, including your grandfather seeing as he had recently met your Muggle grandmother,” he says, watching to gauge her reaction.

“Maba, I call her Maba,” she corrects, hating the way the term sounds even in the respectful tone the Headmaster uses.

“Married your Maba,” Albus restates. He smiles, losing himself in a memory for a moment. “And then there was the matter of your mother and you,” he says, “he came to me, brought you along with him actually, and that was when he asked me to put a spell on you, a Disillusionment Charm to be specific, so that when you and others looked at your birthmarks, none would be able to connect the dots to form the constellation that your birthmarks make, knew it would lead to some questions your mother wished you not to be asked or even thought, not when potentially they could put you in danger,” he murmurs, pitying the young girl for having to hear the horrible story at all.

Mallyn sits completely still, trying to process the truth she never even knew she was missing. “The dark wizard, his followers, they didn’t like Muggles?” she questions, her eyebrows furrowing.

“Despised them, but more so Muggleborns and Halfbloods, even though some of them were Halfbloods themselves,” he tells her, pausing for a moment, realizing she may not know the distinctions between classes. “Within the wizarding community, there’s Pureblood families, which mean as far back as people can track the tree has been filled with magic.”

“Like the Blacks, the Burkes,” she fills in for him.

“Precisely,” he confirms along with a single nod. “Then there are Purebloods which only require the past two generations to be magic, parents and grandparents to be magic to be counted as such,” he answers. His mind drifts, trying to remember all the names on the growing list in the book in the bottom left drawer of his desk. 

“And Halfbloods, sir?” she asks, drawing him out of his thoughts and back to the conversation at hand.

Albus clears his throat, “Yes,” he mumbles, “apologies, afraid my mind has been wandering quite often these days,” he tells her. “Let me skip to Muggleborns,” he states as his mind is already there.

“Anyone born to two Muggles,” she states, wishing he would just hurry up and get to the point. After her time in the library, the basic breakdown of the types of bloodlines is permanently etched in her mind. “That term is rather self-explanatory, and Halfbloods are anyone else who does not fit into any of the other categories,” she says as her fingers begin to tap out an erratic beat against her skirt. She wishes she could remember her logic from her talk with Tonks, but the thoughts and the words escape her mind, too many other questions now racing through it.  “The dark wizard,” she says, wanting to know more, “did he have a name?”

“Of course, everyone and everything does at one point or another, but his is not one that many speak, whether of fear or reverence , most preferring to speak only of him by the title of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named or You-Know-Who, although I personally have never understood why as my personal belief is that fear of a name only increases the fear of the thing itself, but you would still do best not to repeat it around others, still holds bad memories,” Albus warns, his face growing stern to emphasize his point. 

Mallyn nods once, “I understand.”

“Lord Voldemort was the name he proudly declared to anyone who would listen,” he states, the name unfamiliar on his tongue after the many years. He waits for a moment, letting the name sink in for her. “His supporters often spoke to and of him by the title of Dark Lord and he was a purist of the most extreme, sought to kill those who defied his beliefs even in the smallest of ways, enslave those he saw as below him, bend them to his will until he bored of them,” Albus tells her, “he surrounded himself with loyal followers who shared the beliefs.”

“Sirius Black,” she whispers, her eyes dropping to her lap.

Albus’ eyes narrow, “Where did you hear his name?” he questions.

“Tonks mentioned him,” Mallyn answers before she can stop herself.

“Ah,” Albus sighs, leaning back in his chair, “Miss Nymphadora, always the little troublemaker.”

Mallyn sits forward, “She didn’t mean any harm, she was,” she starts to defend, but does not finish her sentence, staring at Albus, unsure of whether or not to trust him with the entire truth. 

“Yes?” Albus questions, sitting upright again, his hands resting on his desk as he waits for her answer.

Mallyn weighs her options. “Defending us to Merula Snyde,” she tells the Headmaster.

“Ah, I see,” he states, “I am well aware of Miss Snyde’s habit of nasty remarks, unfortunately, I cannot expel her for just words, plenty worse whispered on the quidditch pitch.”

“Her parents were followers, right? That’s why they’re in the prison?”

Albus nods, “Along with many of his other followers that were rounded up after the war by the Ministry’s talented teams of Aurors.”

“That’s what Tonks wants to do,” she says, smiling at the thought of her friend playing the role of the hero, racing around the world to make it a safer place.

“I am sure she will do quite fabulously at it,” Albus remarks. He looks around the room, settling on the hourglass clock on the shelf in the distance. “Afraid I veered off track again,” he murmurs as he watches the individual pieces of red sand fall upwards, slowly filling the top portion. “Your grandfather brought you here and I performed the spell he asked, but he returned not even a month later asking that I remove your birthmarks completely seeing as they had already taken you to a Muggle dermatologist in efforts to have them burned off,” he admits, watching Mallyn carefully as the information sinks in.

She inhales sharply, feeling as if the words pierce her soul. “Oh my God,” she whispers. Her head whips up, “Am I allowed to say God?”

“Of course, the magic we practice isn’t a religion, just a part of who we are, you’ll find that most Witches and Wizards are agnostic or atheists, but it is not a requirement, over the years we have had a few students from practically every denomination,” he explains slowly, knowing her mind is almost at max capacity for new information and there is still much to tell her.

“Why would he ask you to do that?” she murmurs.

“For your protection, I assure you,” Albus states, “it seems harsh, I know, but he truly only had your best intentions in his heart, those birthmarks, to certain people, are a slap in the face to the things they hold dear, seeing as you carry them while your father is a Muggle.”

She waits for a moment, so many new questions racing through her mind. “And to others?” she asks.

“Just birthmarks,” he declares. Albus leans forward, needing to ensure she understands. “But if whispers of a girl with a constellation on her face got around,” he says, watching carefully to gauge her reaction, half expecting her to shoot out of the chair and flee the room, but she remains still, staring right back at him.

“Why didn’t you remove them?” Mallyn asks.

“I did,” he tells her. Her eyebrows furrow, waiting for the rest of the answer. “They grew back within the hour as if we hadn’t even touched them in the first place,” he states simply. Albus leans back, watching her in awe as a light chuckle escapes her.

“Guess now I know why I had bangs for the first seven years of my life,” she murmurs, running her hands through her hair before turning her attention back to him. “Sir?” she questions.

The Headmaster smiles at the young girl, his mind drifting to new possibilities. “Apologies, I have been working on this cabinet,” Albus says while gesturing to the angular construction of wood in the far right side of the room. “Bit of a hobby of mine to tinker with things, you see, I just cannot seem to get it to work,” he admits. He rises from his chair, the beads in his beard chiming against each other with each small step towards the piece of furniture. “Suppose it’s just as well,” he murmurs while closing the door on the antique, “I haven’t got a clue where its twin is.”

Mallyn twists in the chair to face him, “Twin, sir?”

“This is a vanishing cabinet,” Albus explains, “put something in it, say the spell unique to the set and it sends it to the other.” He drags his hand over the carvings on the side panels, letting his hands fall to rest on the handles, staring at the ornate metal hinges that seal the gap between the doors. “Not as common as they used to be, a lot were destroyed during the Second World War when a Wizard named Erhard Dietrich used the Nazis as an excuse to raid and terrorize those he, amongst others, saw unbecoming,” Albus explains. He steps away from the cabinet to run his fingers along spines of the books closest to him, stopping on one at random. He withdraws the book, flipping it open to the first page and hands it over to Mallyn. Her eyes skim over the page, reading a small part of the names and objects lost to history within the years of the Second World War. “Yes, lots of things destroyed, parts of history erased entirely,” he murmurs, sadness etching itself within the crevices of his agelines, the sorrow of those who never lived long enough to receive their own weighing heavy in his heart. “Himmler Göring, a graduate of Durmstrang, and later a lower Lieutenant of some of those closest to Adolf Hitler, actually started the concept of book burning, planted the idea amongst his Muggle comrades, wanted to limit the number of people who could learn magic,” he explains. Mallyn sits still, her mind reeling with all the new information and wondering how much of history she does not know, what secrets lie behind the truths she was taught. “The remaining cabinets came quite in handy during the First Wizarding War, provided protection for many in cases of sudden attacks, one could simply step inside, disappear to a new location then reappear once the danger had passed.”

Mallyn chuckles, “Next thing you’re going to tell me is Narnia is real as well.”

“Never heard of it, I’m afraid,” Albus says, raising one eyebrow.

“Oh, it was a joke,” she murmurs, shaking her head, but Albus maintains eye contact, nodding his head once to urge her to explain. “It’s a magical land in a Muggle book series that the main characters get to by a magic cupboard,” she rambles, “I actually haven't read it yet, wasn’t allowed to, but I’m going to check it out from the library back home over break.”

“Perhaps I shall look into it as well, I’m quite fond of Muggle literature,” Albus admits. He takes the book from her hands and trades it for a simple brown cardboard box from his desk. “If you will, please take this back to Professor McGonagall, it is quite a special day for my dear friend,” he says, tapping the lid once. Albus leans down, the edge of his beard brushing against the back of the chair. “Between us?” he whispers, “It’s her hundredth birthday.”

Mallyn turns to look at his face, checking for any sign of humor, but finding none, just goodwill. “She’s a hundred? She doesn't look it at all.”

Albus chuckles, “Be sure to tell her that, might earn you a few points.” Before Mallyn can question, Albus sits down next to her, crossing one leg over the other at the knee. “Witches and Wizards age differently than Muggles, I myself am one hundred and eight years old, thirty-nine thousand five hundred and forty-two days to be exact, if my calculations are right and they usually are,” he explains. With a wave of his fingers, he ushers Mallyn out of her chair and towards the door, pressing on his knees to stand up to follow behind her. He guides her over to the door with a gentle hand on the back, just between her shoulder blades, staring at the pitch-black colour of her hair hanging over her shoulders. “Oh, and no need to serve those detentions this weekend, I had a word with Severus,” he states.

Mallyn frowns, having never heard the name before. “Severus?” she questions.

“Professor Snape’s first name,” the Headmaster explains. Mallyn nods once, the knowledge of a teacher’s first name always leaving an odd pit on her stomach, like the unneeded additional information gnawing at her brain and taking up valuable space that could be otherwise filled. “On you go,” Albus urges, guiding her forward to stand on the top step of the spiral staircase. It jolts forward, her body going with it. “Oh, Miss Smyth, the offer is outstanding, any time you wish to talk all you need to do is ask,” he calls into the opening, the words echoing off the walls and into her ears. 

The stairs jump to a stop, Mallyn stumbling out of the stairway and into the corridor. Laughter is audible from the end of the corridor, the joyous sound echoing off the stone walls. Mallyn stands still, looking around as she tries to remember which way to go. The paper within her robe pocket rustles to life, soaring out of the small space as a paper airplane once more. It soars down the corridor, flying just slow enough for Mallyn to keep up without having to sprint after it.

Mallyn enters the Transfiguration classroom, confetti erupting out of the box in her hands as soon as the door closes behind her. The confetti shifts into little birds of every colour, the creatures flying around the room, tweeting happily before resting on the windowsills. 

The windows fly open, all thirty-eight Seventh Year students flying into the room on brooms, some in groups of two and three, before dropping off at the front of the room. Fred and George cheer as Bill steps forward, acoustic guitar in hand. He quietly strums out a simple tune, before the crowd starts singing, the more tone-deaf members of the group just yelling the words. “Happy, Happy Birthday, on this your special day! Happy, Happy Birthday, that’s what we’re here to say! Hey! Happy, Happy Birthday! May all your dreams come true! Happy, Happy Birthday from all of us to you! Woo!”

The First Years clap wildly, cheering on the Seventh Years while Mallyn stares in horror with her mouth open. “I’m assuming Professor Dumbledore gave you that,” Minerva says, looking at the box in Mallyn’s hands.

Her head snaps up in an odd combination of a nod and a shake. “Yes, ma’am, but he didn’t mention anything about them,” she whispers. She stares up at the older woman, surprised to find no anger on her face, just the faint hint of a smile. “Oh, and to repeat the fact that I would have never guessed you to be a hundred,” she whispers, testing the waters.

Minerva’s smile grows as she takes the box from her hands. “Thank you, Miss Smyth,” she whispers before guiding her to her desk with a firm hand on her back. Minerva turns around, smiling at the soon-to-be graduates. “Very lovely, thank you,” she announces, applauding their efforts with a single clap.

Emma Reynolds steps away from the group and makes a beeline for Professor McGonagall. “Had to go all out, it’s our last birthday together,” Emma cheers as she wraps her arms around the professor, the two buns on the top of her head smushing into Minerva’s chin. She leans back, beaming up at her birthday twin, her dark eyes shining with a mixture of happiness and sadness.

Minerva returns the smile, “Happy birthday, dear,” she says, placing her hand on the younger woman’s cheek, wishing she could erase the sorrow out of the girl’s eyes.

“Thanks, Professor,” she returns, wrapping her arms around the elder woman again and squeezing tightly. The Ravenclaw finally relinquishes her grip on her favourite professor with a heavy sigh and steps back to allow other students to share their individual birthday wishes.

After speaking to Minerva, Jocelyn steps away from the group along with Emma and Nicolle Boyer, heading straight towards Mallyn’s desk. Jocelyn breaks away from her friends just as she had in the corridor the first time Mallyn met her. “Hmm, turned out nicely,” Jocelyn remarks, tugging on a section of Mallyn’s hair, her own bangs slicked into four even sections against her forehead. “But need to scrub the scalp a little more, all that buildup will cause breakouts on your scalp,” she warns as she lightly drags her nails against Mallyn’s scalp, holding out her hand backwards to show the black residue lining the edge of her nails. She pulls on her bottom lip with her teeth as she contemplates, finally releasing it and leaving a line of black lipstick along the bottom of her teeth. “I like it, makes your pretty little eyes pop,” Jocelyn declares before taking her two best friends’ hands and fleeing the classroom.

After short conversations with each of the remaining Seventh Years, Minerva smiles at the group huddling around her. “Best you all get to your classes,” she states, her voice less stern than usual.

The seven quidditch players of the group grab their brooms and fly back out the windows, putting on a performance outside the windows before zooming off.

“How about some cake?” Minerva asks the class. The First Years erupt into cheers as she waves her hand, the large cake rising from her desk begins to divide itself into small pieces.

 

 

. . .

 

 

 

Mallyn’s hair drags along the carpet as she dangles upside down from the end of her bed, watching as Lucy digs through her trunk. “Swear I packed it,” she mutters, tossing a few odd items onto the floor including a shoebox full of paper cranes, half of the small creations falling out and onto the floor, creating a confetti of colours against the lush black material of the carpet.

Mallyn flips over, “Could your parents send it?” she questions. Lucy leans back, gnawing on the already stubby nail on her pointer finger. “Quit it, you’re gonna make them bleed again,” she reminds her roommate, the image of bloody tissues covering Lucy’s bed still fresh in her mind.

“I know,” she mutters but continues to chew on the rough surface, “I just could’ve sworn I packed it.”

Mallyn slides off her bed and takes a seat next to Lucy, carefully refolding the pyjamas and setting them next to the trunk as the top half of Lucy’s body disappears into her trunk as she practically climbs into it, pushing around the remaining contents at the very bottom, a few spare snacks and her stuffed bunny. Mallyn tugs on the back of her shirt, forcing her to resurface, a few crumbs hanging onto the tips of her hair. “Just write them, I’m sure they’ll send you it, or a new one if they can’t find it,” Mallyn rationalizes, knowing it is what her parents would do, especially considering they have no idea how mad she is at them.

“They can’t,” Lucy whines as she slumps back onto the carpet, pulling at the threads beneath her fingertips. Mallyn lays down beside her, tilting her head to face Lucy. “It’s a special edition, there were only a thousand copies made, had to wait in line for seven hours to get it,” she explains. A noise of pain escapes her, a dramatic flop of her head emphasizing her distress.

“Seven hours?” Mallyn questions in disbelief.

Lucy turns to face her, “Yeah, practically camped out in front of this tiny little hole in the wall bookstore in Chinatown because they managed to get their hand on ten copies,” she explains, “plus it took nearly two hours to get there because the ferry was late.” Mallyn tilts her head, waiting for an explanation, thinking that as a Witch herself with a Witch mother and Wizard father, surely there are more efficient ways. “My parents don’t like to use magic if they don’t have to, especially not in public, hard enough fitting in as is,” Lucy tells her.

“Wow,” Mallyn exhales. She sits up, determined to find the missing book. She crawls under Lucy’s bed, pushing around the clothes and spare pillows. “I don’t think I’ve ever been interested in anything enough to wait in line for it, especially not for seven hours,” she calls out.

A sharp knock against the stone draws their attention, Lucy watching upside down as the stone slab slides open to reveal Ayush waiting in the corridor. His eyes scan the messy room until they find Mallyn’s feet poking out underneath the bed skirt of Lucy’s bed.  “Come on, First Year, if we don’t get out there soon, Charlie’s gonna think I kidnapped you,” he states, knocking his head towards the Common Room.

Mallyn pokes her head out from under the bed. “Are you not?” Mallyn asks, unaware of the conversation that occurred between Charlie and Ayush several hours earlier during their shared Care of Magical Creatures class.

Ayush cocks his eyebrow, “You’re not on my quidditch team, got no reason to.” Mallyn stares unsurely, but pushes herself under the bed, trying to wiggle her way out to no avail. Sighing, he enters the room and reaches down to help Mallyn climb out from under the bed, tugging her the last bit of the way when her shoe gets stuck on a pillow. He pulls her up and dusts off the top of her head. “Just going to the Magical Creatures meeting, promise,” he declares. 

Mallyn fixes her jumper, adjusting the heavy knit to sit right after wiggling around on the floor. “You and Charlie are friends, right?” she questions without looking up at the Slytherin Sixth Year.

“Yeah, and?” he scoffs, just wanting to get the show on the road.

“You’re in Slytherin,” she says, ignoring the way Ayush rolls his eyes at the statement. “I’m in Slytherin,” she continues, “and told I’m not,” she says, letting her words taper off while she chews on her bottom lip.

“Oh,” Ayush sighs, shaking his head, “Ismelda and Astrid to name a few, I’m assuming? Both of them have personal grudges against Gryffindor as a principle.” Mallyn nods along, her mind wandering.  “They give you shit again, just punch them, pull their hair, whatever girls do in fights,” he rambles while guiding Mallyn out of the room. “Actually, you’re small, don’t bother trying to punch them, hex them,” he states. 

“Seriously?” Lucy questions from the floor.

Ayush shrugs, “I’m not a Prefect or Head Boy, don’t have an obligation to promote peace, someone else starts shit, you finish it.” Ayush looks down, raising his eyebrows at Lucy, “Are you coming?”

“Not my thing,” she answers as she pulls herself up and tucks her legs underneath her.

“See you when I get back,” Mallyn calls over her shoulder as Ayush leads her out, not wanting to give her the chance to stop again before they are in the Common Room. 

He drops his grip and moves past her, leading the way out into the corridor and out of the dungeons. The two walk in silence, Mallyn not daring to break it like she had with Charlie a month prior. 

Ayush abruptly stops, looking around the open space along the side of the building. “Here, hit me,” he declares, standing in front of Mallyn.

“What?” she nervously laughs, suspiciously eyeing the Sixth Year.

He grabs her wrist and folds her hand into itself, creating a pitiful excuse for a fist. “I’m a big boy, I can take it, hit me, right here,” he states, holding out his right hand, palm facing her. He lowers it a bit, estimating roughly where other First Years’ heads would be. “Hard as you can,” he encourages. Mallyn opens and closes her fist, adjusting it to her liking before striking his palm with a dull thud. 

“Decent power,” he remarks, watching as she tries again, the impact making his hand waver backwards ever so slightly. 

“What is this, Muggle Dueling Club?” Charlie laughs, the thought of Mallyn taking on Ayush purely ridiculous considering he has over a foot advantage on her plus twice the body weight.

“Kinda, come here,” he says, guiding Charlie to stand behind, hiding his ridiculous smile from his friend. “Okay, someone comes from behind, elbow here,” he demonstrates, bringing his elbow to hover a hair length away from Charlie’s nose, “jerk up with force.” Ayush spares a glance over his shoulder to Charlie, “Or if someone tries to grab you, grab their wrist like this and pull,” he demonstrates by tugging on Charlie’s wrist to place it over his shoulder then jerks forward, Charlie flipping over Ayush and landing on the ground with an oomph. 

“Hey!” The twins yell racing towards the three. 

Charlie sits up, brushing off a few shards of dried grass from his arms. “Just showing off,” Charlie says before they can reach Ayush. “Mallyn, they’re more your size, try it on one of them,” Charlie suggests, barely hiding his smile.

“Try what?” Fred asks, narrowing his eyes as he looks at his brother, completely missing the quick movement as Mallyn reaches out towards him.

“This,” she says, grabbing Fred’s wrist and spinning around to place him behind her then pulls him over her shoulder, then flipping him to the ground.

Fred stares up at her, holding onto his stomach as he laughs. He reaches out, trying to grab her ankles, but she darts away and directly into George. Before she can step away, he grabs her waist and hikes her over his shoulder. He holds on tightly as he spins around, their laughs filling the air. She finally manages to wiggle out of his grasp, falling to the ground in a fit of laughs. Charlie’s fingers poke her sides, exacerbating the joyful noise erupting from her in breathless gasps as she tries to pull air into her lungs.

“If you guys are done,” Ayush states while rolling his eyes.

Charlie looks up at his friend, “Just jealous you’re left out,” he mutters. Ayush sticks out his hand, helping Charlie up. “Can hit you with a tickling jinx next game to show what you’re missing,” he offers, patting him once on the back.

Ayush wraps his arm around Charlie’s neck. “Doubt even you can pull that off without your wand,” Ayush declares playfully, raising his eyebrows as a dare.

“Why wouldn’t he have his wand?” Mallyn questions while dusting off a few pieces of dried grass off the back of her jumper and skirt.

Charlie helps pull up Fred and George, immediately shoving them backwards with a laugh before turning to face Mallyn. “Can’t use them in quidditch, not even allowed to bring them to professional matches,” he explains, “too many incidents of less than friendly scuffles.”

“There you all are!” Hagrid cheers, waving them over.

Charlie and Ayush lead the way, stopping just shy of the friendly giant. “Wouldn’t miss it, Hagrid,” Charlie tells him, having only ever missed one of the meetings in his entire career at Hogwarts due to Madam Pomfrey refusing to release him from the infirmary in time after a particularly nasty quidditch match that required him needing an extra-strong dose of Blood Replenishing Potion. 

“What’s the creature tonight?” the twins question as they eagerly follow after Hagrid. 

Hagrid turns to look at the twins over his shoulder, his smile poking out from beneath his bushy mustache. “Going to see if we can’t lure the Black Lake Squid to come say hi to us,” he states, watching with glee as the twins’ smiles grow at the thought. Hagrid turns back to watch where he is going, squinting at the lantern in the distance signaling the start of the dock. “Need to check up on a nasty wound he got last month,” he states.

“What could possibly damage that monstrosity? It’s huge,” Ayush questions. 

“Something bigger, meaner,” Hagrid answers with a hint of unsureness in his tone. 

George jogs to place himself right next to Hagrid, Fred hanging back to walk next to Mallyn, not wanting to leave her in the back alone. “You don’t know what?” George asks. 

Hagrid shakes his head, the various tools hanging off the belt hanging diagonally across his chest clattering from the movement. “No, been trying to get some info, but he won’t tell me,” he gruffly answers.

“You can talk to it, him?” Mallyn questions. 

“‘Course, even them Muggle squids and octopuses are smart, can open sealed jars, but old Narmer here is special, telepathic,” Hagrid cheerfully says. He surveys their surroundings before knocking his head towards the dock. “You’ll see for yourself,” he announces as he leads the way towards the short poorly lit dock. 

“Where’s Lee?” Mallyn asks the twins as they walk a few paces behind Hagrid as he animatedly chats with Charlie and Ayush. 

“Trying to figure out how to get Angelina to like him,” Fred tells her while watching Hagrid mess with his tools.

“He’s wasting his time,” Mallyn mumbles with a shake of her head, “he’s coming on too strong, she barely wants to be his friend after the stunt he pulled.”

“It was funny,” Fred defends, having come up with the idea himself. 

“It was embarrassing,” Mallyn scoffs, shaking her head lightly at her friend’s idea of wooing.

“You weren’t even there,” Fred defends, but finds himself suddenly rethinking his concept of charming. He thought Angelina would have been flattered by the act, but instead, she stormed out of the Great Hall as the paper followed her.

“I got the play by play recap from Lucy,” Mallyn says, thinking of how vividly her roommate had painted the picture of the enchanted parchment screeching poorly written poetry no matter what Angelina did to it until Professor Snape came up and caught the paper off guard, snatching it out of the air and wordlessly setting fire to it.

Hagrid inhales deeply, a light rumbling filling the air around the small group. “You kids hang back here, I’m gonna go see if I can entice him into joining us,” he states. He looks around once more, his dark but warm eyes settling on the redheaded seeker. “Charlie?”

“On it,” he confirms before retrieving his wand from his hair and pointing it directly at the stinking thirty-pound fish at the end of the dock. It rises into the air and out onto the lake, hovering a few inches above the water. 

“Narmer,” Hagrid calls out into the night as Charlie levitates the fish just above the surface of the lake. Ripples in the otherwise still lake are the only warning before two exceedingly large tentacles shoot out of the water, wrapping around the fish and pulling it back beneath the surface. “Narmer,” Hagrid growls. The creature surfaces, his two hazy white eyes popping above the surface and staring directly at the groundskeeper despite not being able to see. All three First Years lean closer, staring in awe at the giant creature, the moonlight reflecting off the iridescent spots along his skin, turning the surface of the lake into a disco ball. Hagrid breaks away from the group and goes right up to the edge of the water, bending down to talk to the majestic creature.

“Want to go make friends with him?” Charlie asks while tucking his wand back into his hair. 

Mallyn shakes her head, “I am not getting too close,” she mutters, exhaling shakily as her fingers twitch at her side as she stares at the dark abyss ahead of her, every fiber of her body screaming at her to turn and run except for the center of her brain that thrives on logic, promising her she is perfectly safe and that there is nothing to be scared of in this moment. 

Charlie tilts his head to look down at her, Fred and George picking up on his sly smile that Mallyn misses. “I really think you should,” he murmurs, “really close.” 

Mallyn looks up in time just to see his hands reach out to grab her. He flops her over his shoulder, holding onto her waist tightly as he rushes towards the lake, the twins' laughter echoing through the night as they watch.

“Charlie!” she exclaims as she beats her fists on his back, but the act goes completely unnoticed by him as his entire body shakes from laughter. A foot from the shoreline, sense finally floods her system even as her heart echoes in her ears and her ability to breathe threatens to leave her. “I can’t swim!”

Charlie digs his heels into the ground to slam to a stop while tightening his grip on her. “You can’t swim?” he questions, twisting his neck to look at her face.

“No!” she exclaims, her nails digging into the thin fabric of the belt loops of his trousers, the first thing she can get a solid grip on.

“How come?” Charlie casually questions, making sure to keep a tight grasp on her to keep her from falling.

“Nowhere to learn,” she lies while squirming in an effort to free herself from his hold.

“I can teach you,” he offers, looking out at the still lake now that Narmer resubmerged himself.

Mallyn huffs, hitting his back once with both her fists. “I’ve survived this long without needing to know how to,” she grumbles, “the one and only boat I have been on is those rickety things that brought us here first night.” Charlie loosens his grip but makes no move to let her go. “Put me down,” she groans, tugging on the ends of his hair. 

Charlie chuckles as he swings her back down to rest against the ground, the grumpy expression on her face only making him laugh harder. He pats her head once before stepping away to move closer to the water.

“Cannonball!” Fred yells as he takes off in a sprint, launching himself off the edge of the bank, grabbing Charlie’s jumper as he passes, dragging him along for the fall. Mallyn scrambles backwards onto the grass as the impact drenches the entire area in freezing lake water. Charlie and Fred swim upwards, their heads breaking the surface as blobs of dark red hair.

“Wicked! Eight!” George yells, holding up both hands with his fingers spread out. “Two points bonus for grabbing Charlie in time!”

“Only two?” Charlie questions as he swims towards the shoreline. He pushes himself up on the bank with ease, shaking his head like a dog trying to rid itself of water after a bath. His long red hair clings to his head like a helmet, the ends plastering to his skin along with the knit fabric of his jumper, now looking two sizes too small on his lean frame as he had stolen one of the twin’s jumpers instead of donning his own this morning. Fred climbs up next to him, collapsing backwards into the muddy bank bordering the lake.

“Three,” George counters as he towers over his brothers. Mallyn watches from the distance after declining his invitation to follow.

“So generous,” Charlie scoffs. He pushes himself off the ground and groans at the feeling of the mud already drying the fabric of his clothes to his skin. He walks away from his twin brothers before they can drag him back into the lake. Mallyn steps back, eyeing the walking mess that is Charlie, glancing around him to watch as George launches himself into the lake. Charlie stops a foot from her, holding up his hands in goodwill. “Now, I expect you to head straight home, young lady, no dilly-dallying this time,” he states with a joking wag of his index finger, “don’t want to catch you out at midnight or worse find out Astrid caught you.”

“Oh, you mean my best friend in the whole world?” she jokes.

“You’re hilarious,” he says dryly. “Seriously, you’ve heard the phrase all bark no bite? Doesn’t apply to her, she isn’t all bark, her bite is nasty too.”

George and Fred join them, dirty lake water dripping off them, as well as a piece of seaweed hanging from George’s ear. “Dry us off?” Fred questions while shaking his entire body, a few droplets hitting Mallyn. She takes another step back, keen on making it back to her dorm without looking or smelling like an escaped sea monster. 

Charlie shakes his head, “Not a chance, you did this, you get to climb back up to the tower soaking wet and hope Filch doesn’t catch you.”

“What about you?” George questions, knowing having a Prefect with them would lessen the heat of the Caretaker’s anger.

“Hagrid needs help with something then I have patrol,” he tells them. Charlie waves them off before taking off in a jog to join Ayush and Hagrid at his hut. 

Mallyn leads the way towards the castle, purposefully keeping a few steps ahead of the boys until they reach the closest set of doors. She spins around to face her friends. “Can I try a spell?” she asks eagerly.

“Will it hurt?” George questions, not trusting the expression on her face.
“Shouldn’t,” she murmurs, pursing her lips as she tries to recall any warnings.

Fred flails his arms out, “Blast away,” he declares.

Mallyn pulls out her wand and points it at the twins, “ Aerium Calidus ,” she states while twisting her wrist. Hot air rushes out the tip of her wand, propelling Fred and George back a step as the spell dries them off. 

Fred waves his hand motioning for her to stop. She lowers her wand, the supply of air cutting itself off. “Where’d you learn that?” he asks while shaking out his jumper, a few small clumps of dirt falling to the ground.

“It’s in our charms book,” she answers. She wavers on her feet, staring down the corridor through the window in the door. “Still smell, but at least Filch can’t get mad at you for dripping lake water everywhere,” she says before tugging on the door and holding it open for the twins. The door shuts behind the three of them, sealing them in the silent space. “See you guys in Potions,” she declares before heading down the dark pathway to the left, a shortcut to the dungeons. 

“Night!” Fred and George call after her.

Fred picks at his jumper, holding it up to his face, only a slight hint of lake odor still hanging around. “We don’t smell that bad,” he mutters.

George pushes on his back, “Yes, we do,” he declares before taking off in a sprint, the thought of a warm shower propelling him towards Gryffindor Tower. 

Fred stares down the dark pathway that Mallyn disappeared down then lifts his jumper up to his nose again, inhaling deeply. “Do not,” he grumbles. He takes off after George at the first sound of rattling keys echoing off the walls from an unseen hiding place signaling Filch is too close for comfort, anxious to catch any student threatening to ruin his precious false sense of peace.

Chapter Text

Slowly but surely each of the twenty First Years make their way to the side yard nearest to the quidditch pitch, some still attempting to shake off the last bit of sleep plaguing them as they stumble towards their first flying lesson. 

Lee collapses onto the ground, angrily picking at the tallest shards of grass and holding them up for the light breeze to blow them away. “Can’t believe Rakepick is still out,” Lee grumbles. Reading from the textbook is nowhere near to what he had expected from his first Defense Against the Dark Arts class. 

Alicia slumps onto the ground and stretches her legs out in front of her, smiling at the sensation of the sun warming her exposed skin, grateful for the break from the weather that typically plagues Scotland year round. “They’re gonna have to get a stand in pretty soon,” she says, holding her hand above her eyes to block the sun as she looks up at her friends. 

“Don’t know why she even bothered accepting the job if she wasn’t going to do it,” Angelina complains as she collapses next to Alicia, mimicking her position and laying her legs out in front of her. 

George is the next to fall to the demands of the early morning, taking a seat next to Angelina, but instead of stretching out, he crosses his legs and rests his elbows on his knees. “Probably,” George murmurs, a yawn breaking up his words, “couldn’t get anyone else.”  It is common knowledge amongst those raised in the Wizarding World that the Defense Against the Dark Arts position at Hogwarts is cursed with not a single teacher holding the position for more than a school year since Arsenius Jigger died in the position in nineteen sixty-five.

Lucy tilts her head, trying to work out a kink in her neck. “Then who would step in?” she asks while looking at her friends sideways. 

“Dumbledore,” Fred says with a shrug of his shoulders, “it’s what he taught before he became Headmaster, Transfiguration and Arithmancy too.”

Alicia scrunches up her face, “That’d be weird, wouldn’t it? Being taught by the Headmaster?”

“Heard he was actually pretty cool back in the day,” Fred states, his focus not entirely on the conversation as he stares at the bleachers in the distance, his fingers literally itching to get ahold of a broom. 

“Bet he’s got some great stories,” George murmurs, covering his mouth with his hand as he yawns again. 

Fred takes a seat next to his brother, tugging Mallyn down with him with a firm grip on her wrist. “There’s always Snape,” Fred offers. Everyone except George turns to look at him, frowning at his words and the idea of having to suffer through two classes a day with him. “Word has it, that’s the position he applied for originally and reapplies every year,” he explains.

“Not a rumor if it’s true,” George mumbles as he finally gives into his body’s demand and lies back against the grass.

“Why doesn’t the Headmaster let him?” Mallyn absentmindedly questions while watching the clouds take shape.

“Because he doesn’t know how to defend against the Dark Arts, just how to use them,” Fred snarks.

George tilts his head, frowning at the lack of recognition on Mallyn and Angelina’s faces. “I forgot you guys don’t know,” George murmurs. He looks around before sitting up and waving his hands to draw his friends toward him. “Snape was a Deatheater, a supporter of You-Know-Who,” he whispers while raising his eyebrows.

“Or He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named,” Lee offers, “whichever you prefer.”

Mallyn remembers the Headmaster’s warning not to use his name so she leaves it alone, accepting the silly nicknames. She sits forward, resting her elbows on her knees. “And Professor Dumbledore knows this?” she questions.

Fred nods, “Testified on his behalf right after everything went down, kept him out of Azkaban, gave him his job when the other professor left midterm.”

“But he won’t let him teach DADA?” Alicia questions.

“Wouldn’t invite an alcoholic to a bar, would you?” Angelina rationalizes.

Mallyn sighs, “So we’re gonna end up with Professor Dumbledore.” 

Lucy bumps her shoulder into Mallyn’s. “How is he by the way? You never really said anything after you came back from his office.”

“Oh, he’s fine, little odd,” Mallyn shrugs, unsure of how to explain the feeling that has hovered around her ever since their meeting.

“You know who’s really odd?” Fred rhetorically questions, drawing attention away from Mallyn’s silence. “Ginny’s best friend,” he declares.

“And you’re not?” Mallyn laughs. She plucks at the strand of string off the back of his shirt to prove her point, raising her eyebrows as the quill at the end of the string sways in the breeze.

Fred snatches the invention from her hand, tucking it back within his shirt for safekeeping. “No, I’m creatively zany,” he declares, bopping the end of her nose to emphasize his point, “and more importantly fun, she’s got a couple screws loose rattling around in her head.” 

“Seeing your mum die would do that, Fred,” George scoffs, hitting his brother in the shoulder. “Her mum died when we were nine, right in front of her because of an experiment, it’s one of the reasons our Mum hates Da tinkering with Muggle things so much,” he explains to his friends. 

All their faces drop as they try to imagine the pain, but none of them find themselves able to even get close but are too young to be thankful for that.

Always one to make an entrance, Rolanda Hooch soars over the group of students before dropping off her broom, letting her wings carry her to the ground. Her broom hurdles toward the ground, her hand shooting out to catch it as she shifts back to her human form. “Hello, First Years!” she greets as she pushes her goggles up to rest in her spiky grey hair, her piercing yellow eyes scanning the children. “I am Madam Hooch, I am here to teach each and every one of you how to properly ride a broom now that this year's quidditch trials are over,” she practically screams, a few of the students scooting backwards away from the painful volume of her voice. Hooch notices, tapping the side of her head violently with the palm of her hand, successfully popping her eardrums. “Apologies, don’t notice my own volume sometimes, but as I was saying, I am the coach as well as the referee, should any of you be interested in playing quidditch next year.” The twins elbow each other at the mention of their soon-to-be-achieved lifelong goals. Rolanda surveys the group, noting everyone is now standing and waiting patiently. “Everyone, follow me,” she instructs, heading off towards the quidditch pitch. Mallyn eyes the bleachers, her subconscious guiding her towards the set of seats as she relives the events leading up to her tumble. Fred sets his hands on her shoulders, guiding her forward and away from the bleachers, only releasing his grip when the view of twenty brooms lying on the grass draws his attention. He and George share a look before taking off towards the brooms, inspecting each and every one of them before selecting two. Hooch watches in amusement at the spectacle, smiling at the boys, their actions almost identical to how Charlie reacted during his first lesson six years ago. “Select a broom, doesn’t matter which, they’re all the same,” she states loud enough for everyone to hear. 

Mallyn moves forward, selecting the broom closest to Fred, George on the other side of him. She picks up the item, testing its weight in her hand. Upon inspection, it appears to be just a normal broom like one would use for sweeping until Fred reaches over and tickles the end of the bristles, two twigs popping out of the side of the wood, perfectly placed for a rider’s feet to rest on. Mallyn swings her leg over the broom, testing out the feeling of it until Hooch sharply whistles. “Alright, brooms on the ground,” she orders. Students groan but reluctantly relinquish their grips on their brooms, letting them fall to the ground. “I know, I know, but first things first, got to learn how to command it.” She walks around the group, repositioning a few students until all twenty are standing to the side of their respective brooms. “Arms out,” Hooch commands. She looks around, a smirk growing on her thin lips, “and say the magical word: up.”

Mallyn flexes her fingers as she would before playing the piano and takes a deep breath in, “ Up ,” she commands. The broomstick wiggles around on the ground then falls still. “ Up ,” she repeats, frowning at the object. It soars off the ground, knocking into her hand. She retracts her hand, the broom falling to the ground as she cradles her hand against her chest. 

“Suppose to hold on to it,” Fred offers, proudly demonstrating the tight grip he has on his own broom.

“No shit, Sherlock,” she sneers. She pulls her hand away, inspecting her palm for any splinters, but finds none, just the normally pale skin of her palm blaring red from the impact.

He mockingly gasps, placing his hand on his chest. “The mouth on you,” he scolds, wagging his finger at her. 

Mallyn scoffs, “Says the boy with not one, but two detentions for cursing in Transfiguration alone.”

“Trying to keep me company at my next one?” he questions while twirling his broom around.

She shakes her head, her long braid rattling against her back. “If you’re not careful, Professor McGonagall’s gonna resort to washing your mouth out with soap,” she warns, wondering to herself how that would even work when the soap at Hogwarts exists only in tablet or spell form.

Fred scoffs, “The Silencing Spell didn’t work when I was seven, nothing will,” he proudly declares, resting the wooden tip of his broom on the ground.

“You’ve obviously never tasted soap,” Mallyn remarks, her face contorting at the thought.

“Have you?”  Fred teases. He looks up, noting the expression on her face. “You have,” he gasps. He swats the bristle end of his broom at her feet, watching as she jumps. “What did you say?”

Mallyn sighs, tilting her head, “Told my Maba I hated her, I was nine and we’d been at the studio all day, I just wanted to go home, but she wouldn’t let me until I perfected my penché,” she explains. Fred raises his eyebrows, silently questioning the foreign word. “Oh, it’s this move in ballet where you basically have to hold one leg completely up while balancing on the other.”

“Like this?” he asks before jerking his leg up, toppling to the ground a second later. She shakes her head as she rolls her eyes, turning her focus back to the broom on the ground. Fred repositions himself on the ground, twirling his broom in his hand, moving the handle between his fingers, similar to the Muggle magic trick Mallyn had demonstrated on the train. “Who’s Sherlock?” he asks.

“If you weren’t banned from the library, maybe you’d be able to find out,” Mallyn remarks.

George taps the bristles of his own broom against the back of her legs, laughing as she jumps at the sudden sensation. “We’re not banned, just suggested not to return unless absolutely necessary,” he corrects. He picks up her broom and repositions it on the ground next to her. “Try again, less angry though,” George suggests.

Mallyn stares at the still object, suddenly questioning whether she even wants to learn how to ride a broom or not. “ Up ,” she says, but cannot find it in herself to actually command it.

George steps closer. “Don’t be scared of it,” he whispers, urging her to try again with a nod of his head. 

Mallyn spares another glance at him over her shoulder before turning her attention back to the broom laying on the ground. “ Up ,” she declares firmly. The broom wavers then rises into her hand. She grasps it, feeling the energy within the wooden handle thrumming with power.

“See!” the twins cheer, both patting her on the back.

She holds it out in front of her, staring at the strange creation full of possibilities as Fred watches her, Lee momentarily distracting George. “What about M?” Fred questions.

Unable to tear her gaze from the broom, “Did your mother not teach you the alphabet? It’s the thirteenth letter.”

Fred knocks his broom into hers, successful in gaining her full attention. “For your nickname,” he explains.

She thinks about it for a moment, comparing it to his previous suggestions. “You can call me that, no guarantee I’ll respond to it,”  she declares before turning her attention back to her broom, studying every indent in the wood, every bristle, finally settling on the pedals.

Fred smiles to himself, proud of his objectively minimal achievement, but to him it feels like the second major step towards the peak of the mountain of their friendship.

“Everyone ready?” Hooch questions. Her piercing eyes scan over the group, making sure every one of the students has their brooms in their hands. “Firmly grasp the handle of your broom and slide one leg over it, doesn’t matter which, whatever feels most natural,” she instructs. All the students follow her instruction, albeit some handling it with more grace than others; Tyson falls to the ground in his attempt to mount the broom, along with Elfy whose broom started to hover and lifted her off the ground until it fell down, taking her with it. Hooch helps them up, checking for any minor injuries in the process before reclaiming her spot in the center of the pitch. “Let’s all try again, make sure to keep both feet on the ground,” she chuckles in good humor. The two mount their brooms with ease the second time around, making sure to take their time. “Alright, now lightly kick off,” she instructs. 

Mallyn pushes off the ground, giggling as her feet leave the ground. 

Across the way, Angelina on the other hand stays completely silent as she stares at the ground, intently focusing on staying in the air.

“You should try out next year, you’re a natural,” Fred teases Mallyn as he hovers next to her, reclining backwards with his hands behind his head.

“Can’t,” Mallyn murmurs while watching as her feet dangle a few inches above the ground. “Can’t spend too much time in the sun, if I tan, my slippers won’t match, I’ll get points deducted,” she says, missing the confusion on her friends’ faces while she focuses on remaining in the air.

George looks around, waiting for an explanation. “Technically know what all those words mean,” George mutters with a grimace, shaking his head as if it will knock some logic loose. 

Mallyn does not hear, too lost in the feeling of hovering mid-air on nothing more than a common cleaning utility that prior to Hogwarts, she would have never looked twice at. She tilts her body, laughing when the broom follows her simple command.

Angelina follows her idea, tilting her body to the side then the other, holding on tightly as her broom follows her. She lowers herself to the ground, pushing off the grass to turn, facing the group. “For ballet, if your dance slippers don’t blend into your costume, your tights, you lose points,” Angelina explains while spinning herself around like a dial on a compass, “I used to dance, but I stick to gymnastics now.”

“Buy a new pair?” Alicia suggests while trying to mimic Angelina but only succeeds in getting herself stuck facing the school. Fred urges his broom forward, careful to make sure Madam Hooch is not watching, and gently grabs onto the end of Alicia’s broom, guiding it until she is facing them again.

George taps Mallyn’s leg with his foot, knocking his head towards Alicia. Mallyn shakes her head, “I wouldn’t have time to break them in, plus they only come in so many shades, a lot of girls have to hand paint theirs or use makeup, most companies only make shoes in alabaster or midnight, I’m one of the lucky ones that doesn’t have to,” she explains, trying her best to keep her focus on the conversation, but her mind drifts, not back to flying, but to dancing. 

“Alabaster?” Fred teases, poking her hand, “More like pure unfiltered sunlight.”

George drops his hand onto her shoulder, “We’ve been meaning to talk to you about that, gonna accidentally put someone’s eye out the way you reflect lights.”

“Shove off,” she scoffs, rolling her eyes as she lightly pushes at his shoulder.

“No pushing!” Rolanda shouts before immediately turning her attention back to the Etchemendy twins as they spin uncontrollably.

“Yeah, Mallyn, no pushing,” George scoffs, turning his back to her, but not before pulling a funny face to earn a laugh.

Lee scoots over to Mallyn, “And I’m midnight, baby, we’re the perfect pair,” Lee chimes in, proudly flexing his bicep while wrapping his other around her shoulders.

Mallyn rolls her eyes, “You send me a poem via Howler, I will hex you.”

“Never mind,” Lee whispers as he untangles himself from her.

Mallyn’s mood drops as the distractions fade. “Suppose I shouldn't even be worrying about it really, haven't danced in over a month,” Mallyn murmurs to herself, watching her friends as they mess around on their brooms.

Hooch claps her hands together, “Alright, alright, now that we’ve gotten the hang of that,” she announces, her voice seemingly echoing, “hope everyone is feeling daring today because we are going to go up, five feet.” She gestures around the pitch, the simple act sending poles shooting out of the ground around the group to measure five feet into the sky. A ribbon flies out of the sleeve of her jersey, the green silk material ties itself around the tops of each, creating an invisible boundary around and above the First Years to limit their range of freedom.

George and Fred lead the group, showing how to gradually go higher by urging the broom upwards in small increments. 

Lee ignores their advice, lowering himself to the ground before pushing off hard, sending him straight into the boundary, the impact creating green ripples where each of his dreads whip into it. 

Fred zooms upwards, inspecting Lee’s head to ensure no damage has been done, then immediately shoves him back into the barrier, laughing as a show of lights dances across the surface before propelling himself into the invisible border.

Mallyn safely hovers a foot off the ground, George enticing her to gradually join the rest of them a little bit higher. She urges her broom upwards until she is parallel with George and Alicia. She looks around, surveying the group, noting a few students watching from the bleachers, along with Lucy hovering near the edge, talking to the boys’ roommate. “The people you mentioned, Deatheaters, is that, are they what happened to your uncles?” she asks George. He frowns at the sudden question. “Merula, the other day she said,” she murmurs, quirking her lips to the side.

“They were killed during a fight right before the war ended,” George tells her, “ her parents didn’t do it, at least I don’t think so, but people like them.” His eyes drift away from Mallyn, landing on Fred hovering near the top. “We’re named after them, me and Fred,” he says, “Frederick Gideon, George Fabian.”  Mallyn tries her best, but George eyes her silence suspiciously. “You’re trying not to laugh, aren’t you?” he scoffs, shoving at her shoulder.

She spins out but remains in the air and after some manipulation, manages to regain her balance. “I’m sorry, Gideon and Fabian? Did your grandmother not like them? Does your mother not like you?” she laughs.

George chuckles, “Sort of, but she loves us, that’s what's important.”

Mallyn looks around, searching for the only other head of ginger in the vicinity. “Hey, Frederick!” Mallyn calls up at Fred.

Fred’s head whips around, searching for the source of his full name. “What?” he squawks, his eyes narrowing as he scans the bleachers until he spots Mallyn and George below him. “Oh,” he scoffs, “you think my name’s funny do you?”

“Kinda,” she calls up to him. She glances at George, who is trying his best to keep a straight face, before turning her attention back to Fred, now hovering next to her. “Actually, no, really funny,” she tells him. “Frederick Gideon Weasley,” she repeats, poking his chest in between each name, “I can hear your mother screaming it now.”

“You’d be amazed how quickly she can get it out though,” George chuckles.

Hooch blows on her whistle, summoning all the First Years back down to the ground as the boundary undoes itself. “Think that about does it for this lesson,” she declares. She snaps her fingers, all the brooms falling to the ground. “See all of you next month!” Hooch yells as she exits the pitch, the brooms hovering behind her.

The First Years look around, all of them wondering how to spend the rest of the unusually beautiful day. Angelina hunches forward, catching herself on her hands, moving forward a few steps until bringing her feet back to the ground. “How come we aren’t allowed our own brooms?” she asks, looking to the three seemingly Hogwarts experts of the group.

Fred chuckles, “Years back, two First Years almost got themselves killed trying to play a one on one game of quidditch using the Whomping Willow as the pitch.”

“So they’re your heroes,” Alicia guesses, poking George’s side.

“Pretty much,” he laughs while attempting to dodge her jabs. He rolls to the ground, somersaulting away. He pops up, proudly presenting his arms in the air. His friends feed into the act, applauding his efforts, Fred holding up an imaginary scorecard.

“Want to go do something?” Lee questions while attempting to do a handstand of his own, failing horribly and landing on the ground with a heavy thump, his limbs facing every which way.

Mallyn looks at the school building then back at her friends. “Can I meet you guys later? I need to go to the library.”

Everyone turns to look at her, disbelief on their faces. “What are you vying for the old lady’s job?” Lee teases.

“I need to get a book, a single book and I’ll drop it off at my room and meet you guys,” she promises as she is already walking backwards away from them.

“Great Hall?” Angelina suggests, taking Mallyn’s comment about limiting her time outside into account.

“Sure, I’ll be as quick as I can,” she calls before taking off in a jog towards her home away from her dorm away from her home.

“A Sickle she gets distracted and stays in the library until curfew,” Fred wagers, holding up a single silver coin.

“Not going to take a bet with the odds against me,” George murmurs, pushing Fred’s hand away.

Lee squints at Mallyn’s form in the distance. “You’re on,” he declares, snatching the coin from Fred’s fingers, “I will return this should she not.”

Mallyn heads directly to the library, not allowing herself any time to wander. She pushes on one of the heavy doors, slipping inside the silent room. Making her way to the desk, she waits patiently for Matron Pince to join her, offering her a small smile as she steps out of her office. “I’m looking for Alice and Wonderland,” she informs her.

Matron Pince smiles at the young girl, glad she is finally taking a break from the severity of the bloodlines of the British Wizarding Community. “Title of the book is Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” she says, “but I am afraid we do not carry it in the library, dear.”

Mallyn’s shoulders slump, “But my mom said I could read it once I came here, she did.”

“Of course she did, but she was in Ravenclaw,” Irma states plainly, her glasses rattling against her chest as she sits down.

“That matters?” she questions.

“Of course,” Matron Pince murmurs, “Ravenclaw towers has all the books that the library does not. Where do you think it finds all its riddles?”

“Can I use it?” she asks, dreading the answer she can sense coming from the somber expression on the Matron’s face.

Irma offers Mallyn a small smile, “If you can solve a riddle or get a Ravenclaw to let you in, I would but I’m afraid I can’t make it up those stairs anymore, I stick to the ground level.” She stares at the young girl for a moment.  “Is it important to you?” she questions.

“I wasn’t allowed to read anything with magic which I didn’t think anything of, they were banned at my old school, but then she explained that it was because she was worried it would somehow trigger my magic or encourage me to try, but she didn’t see a point in it anymore after I got my letter,” she explains, leaving out the fact that her mother had in fact sent her a copy of the book for her birthday or that the ashes of the book still reside in the fireplace in her and Lucy’s room. Mallyn watches as Matron Pince fidgets restlessly in her seat, massaging her aching hands. “Do you want me to supervise the putbacks today? I know the weather has been bothering your joints, does the same thing to my nanny.”

“That would be lovely,” Matron Pince admits. She retrieves her wand from her hair, the silver locks falling down her back in a cascade of waves. With a simple flick of her wrist, the cart behind the desk wheels itself around her and out to the main area. 

Mallyn sets her jacket on the desk then follows behind the cart, watching as the books fly off the cart and place themselves in their proper places. The cart grows emptier and emptier as it weaves its way deeper into the library until it stops moving. Mallyn looks around, trying to guess its next move, but it begins to hover, placing itself on the top floor walkway. Looking around, Mallyn finds the closest set of stairs and races up them. The cart remains still until Mallyn is standing right behind it, the magic within it simply waiting for her presence. It continues its job, Mallyn weaving through the rows of bookshelves, dutifully following the cart as the books fly off it. 

There is a yelp of pain from the next aisle over. Mallyn pokes her head into the aisle, her eyes going wide at the sight of Bill standing there with his shirt halfway undone and his tie flopping backwards over his shoulder as he grips a shelf with both hands. “Are you okay?” Mallyn questions, knowing it would not be the first time the books hit someone on their journey back to their shelves. 

“Perfect, fine, thanks,” he murmurs, rubbing at his head, messing his hair up even more than it already is. He shuffles awkwardly, forcing a cough out of his throat, a sad attempt to cover the snide remark from below him. 

Mallyn’s gaze drops, spotting a pair of platform Mary Janes poking out from behind a tall stack of books, then a head of unmistakable black hair that matches her own. “Jocelyn?” Mallyn questions in disbelief. Her head pops up, her dark brown eyes burning with anger as she glares at the First Year. Mallyn takes in her appearance along with her position, or rather Bill’s state of appearance along with Jocelyn’s position, her mind putting two and two together. Before she can stop herself a gasp of surprise leaves her lips. “You, her, here, oh my,” she stutters before pulling on the cart and backing out of the aisle. She high tails it for the front desk, dropping the mostly empty cart off and muttering an excuse of a stomach ache to the Matron as she frantically grabs her jacket before fleeing from the room entirely. 

She moves along the corridors, paying only enough attention to her surroundings to not run into other students, but only after accidentally running right through Professor Binns, although as with most things, he did not even take notice. She steps into the Great Hall, immediately taking a seat at the end of the Gryffindor table, silently staring at the wood grain of the tabletop. 

“Mallyn?” Lucy questions, “Did someone curse you?”

“No,” she mumbles, shaking her head.

Alicia gasps, “Did you finally have to use the loo on the second floor?”

Mallyn frowns, “What?” she questions. She shakes her head, “Nothing, nothing happened,” she insists, trying to erase the image of Jocelyn and Bill from her mind.

“Obviously not nothing,” Alicia consoles as she sets her hand on Mallyn’s shoulder.

Mallyn looks around, the boys completely oblivious to her behavior as they argue over the odds of the twins getting on the Gryffindor quidditch team next year, let alone be the starting Beaters as Second Years. “Library didn’t have the book I wanted,” she mumbles. 

Fred scans the room as Lee spouts out statistics, George countering each and every one of them without faltering. He frowns when his eyes land on Mallyn, noting the clear signs of distress sprawling across her features; a frown tugging her normally full lips into a thin line as her teeth keep her bottom lip between them, her shoulders hanging forward, a distant look lurking within the dark pupils of her light blue eyes while she avoids everyone else's. “That makes you this upset?” Fred asks in between bites of his slice of pizza. He holds out a slice for her, dangling it in front of her face.

“I’m not upset, I’m not upset,” she insists, shaking her head. Mallyn forces a smile, “What are we doing?”

Lucy smiles, glad to see her friend back to normal, “Coming up with our nickname like the ones in history.”

Fred climbs up onto the bench, setting one foot on the table, “I shall be known as Fred the Fearless,” he declares, darting one hand up and waving around an imaginary sword. He points the tip of the imaginary blade at Mallyn, “Or Ferocious,” he announces with a rise of his eyebrows before jumping back down to sit on the bench. “We’ll see,” he states with a shrug.

Angelina snorts, “More like Fred the Fascist, ruling over a nation of prankers and strict laws of chaos.”

“George the Gallant,” Lucy suggests, “you are a Gryffindor after all.”

“Lee the Lucky,” Lee declares, popping a cherry tomato into his mouth. He bites on it, a stream of juice shooting out and hitting Lucy in the face. “Sorry!” he exclaims, shooting out of his seat and leaning across the table, cloth napkin in hand.

“More like loquacious,” Angelina quietly remarks.

“Lucy the Lovely,” he suggests while wiping a napkin across Lucy’s face, accidentally poking her in the eye in the process. She takes it from him, swiping the napkin against the last bit on her forehead before setting it in her lap.

“Angelina the Ambitious,” she declares. A sadness takes over her face. She pulls at her bottom lip with her nails, digging into the plump flesh. “I’ve always wanted to be a doctor,” she murmurs, laughing a bit to herself, “used to hold my cousins hostage to practice wrapping bandages, turned them into mummies more than once.”

Alicia reaches out, squeezing Angelina’s hand. “You still could.”

Angelina shakes her head, “No med program is going to accept a diploma from a school that doesn’t exist to most of the world.”

“Sure they will, my mom went,” Mallyn reassures her. 

Angelina’s attention turns to Mallyn, “Your mom is a doctor, like a Muggle doctor?” she questions.

“Yeah, she’s an obstetrician,” Mallyn says. Angelina keeps staring, not intentionally, just zoning out as she wonders if her dreams are still possible. “I can ask her if you want,” she offers.

“Really?” Angelina questions, leaning forward. “I know things aren’t great,” she murmurs, tilting her head.

“I’ll ask her,” Mallyn promises, figuring that she has from now until the beginning of Seventh Year before Angelina needs a solid answer with exact details.

“Thanks,” Angelina tells her. She thinks for a moment, trying to remember what they were doing before the subject change. “Okay, your turn,” she says, poking Alicia in the arm. “Alicia the Aeronautical, you’re gonna make a great Chaser, gonna kick butt and take names when we’re on the team.”

Alicia thinks for a minute. “Alicia the Aberrant,” she states. Everyone looks at her. “Means departed from the accepted standard,” she explains, “it’d be fitting, never have fit in.”

“You do here,” George declares. Surveying the ragtag group, a smile grows on his face, “We all do.”

“And then there was one,” Lee states, zeroing in on Mallyn.

“Anyone suggests Mal the Malicious will be slapped,” Fred warns, angling his imaginary sword around the table.

George purses his lips. “Mallyn the Mysterious?” he proposes.

“Machiavellian,” Lucy contributes.

Mallyn frowns at her roommate, trying to ascertain if the noise that just came out of her mouth was an actual word. “What?” she questions.

Lucy sets down her chip, the end landing in the small collection of oil from the pizza on her plate. “Characterized by craftiness and duplicity, kinda the definition of Slytherin,” Lucy explains, “my mom teaches Philosophy at the University of Cheshire.”

“I think if we’re going to be friends I need to get a dictionary,” Fred mumbles around his bite of pizza.

“Seconded,” George scoffs, frowning as he tries to guess the first few letters of the word, resorting to writing them out in the air.

“Thirded,” Lee agrees while watching Lucy scribble the spelling on a strip of parchment before sliding it to George. 

He frowns at the paper, tilting it every which way as if it would help him make sense of the long name.

“Can you play a song?” Fred asks, knocking his head towards the piano all by its lonesome on the platform at the front of the room.

“Sure,” she shrugs. Mallyn surveys the group, settling on Alicia and Angelina. “You guys said you like The Beatles, right?” The pair nods, encouraging her to head towards the piano. She slides off the bench, everyone trailing behind her. The group spreads out on the floor, Lee resting his feet against the piano as he lays backwards. Mallyn sits down on the bench, removing the cover off the keys. “It’s supposed to be on guitar so it won’t sound exactly right, but it’s one of my sister’s favourites,” she explains. 

Mallyn presses down on the keys, her fingers nimbly moving across them as she plays the easily recognizable introduction with an added bit of flourish. “ Here comes the sun, do, do, do, here comes the sun, and I say, ‘it's all right’ ,” she sings as her fingers stretch to play all the notes together, “ little darling, it's been a long cold lonely winter , little darling, it seems like years since it's been here , h ere comes the sun, do, do, do, here comes the sun, and I say, ‘it's all right’ ,” Mallyn sings, humming along to the tune during the momentary the break in the lyrics. “ Little darling, it seems like the ice is slowly melting , little darling, it feels like years since it's been here .” All too aware of the number of eyes on her, she tries to focus on the lyrics, thinking of how Ellie always screeches along whenever the song comes on the radio, even having crafted an entire interpretative dance. “ Here comes the sun, do, do, do, here comes the sun, and I say, ‘it's all right’ ,” her smile evident in her voice as she sings. “ Sun, sun, sun, here it comes, sun, sun, sun, here it comes, sun, sun, sun, here it comes ,” Mallyn sings, her head moving along with the beat, mindlessly following the cues of that the keys feed her. “ Little darling, it feels like the ice is slowly melting , little darling, it seems like years since it's been clear .” Alicia scoots closer to the piano, accidentally bumping her toes into the leg of the bench. She watches carefully as Mallyn’s fingers move across the keys, wondering if she’ll ever be able to do something as graceful as the seemingly effortless act of her playing the piano. “ Here comes the sun, do, do, do, here comes the sun, and I say, ‘it's all right’ ,” Mallyn sings, preparing for the ending. “ It’s alright, it’s alright ,” she sings, humming as she finishes out the note, ending with a flourish.  

Her friends applaud, cheering her on for her efforts and talent.

“My turn!” Lee declares shooting off the floor and sliding next to Mallyn. He mimics her position, carefully placing his hands next to hers then slams down on the keys, Lee managing to hit every wrong note.

“You’re not even trying!” Mallyn manages between fits of laughter, her voice barely audible over the sound of quick fingers moving gracelessly across the piano keys.

He removes the pressure from the keys. “Fine, fine,” he scoffs, shaking his head. Lee bumps his shoulder into hers, “Any requests?” 

“You can actually play?” Angelina questions.

Lee raises his eyebrows defiantly, playing out a perfect rendition of Debussy's Clair de Lune while maintaining eye contact with Angelina. Accepting defeat, Angelina claps once. “Please control yourself, I’m no Mallyn,” Lee teases while waving his fingers, encouraging the group to applaud his effort. “Got nothing on her voice,” he compliments, bumping his shoulder into hers again. “But think it sounded okay if I do say so myself,” he says as he literally pats himself on the back

“It was great,” Mallyn reassures him, bumping her shoulder into him. She looks out past the piano, smiling at her friends. “This is great,” she whispers, silently praying that she can remember the feeling of belonging forever no matter what the future brings.

Chapter Text

The First Years shuffle into the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom, staring and taking in every little detail as if it were the first time they were experiencing it, when in reality it has only been a little over a week since their last session, but since their last class one thing is alarmingly different: all the desks and chairs are missing. The students share looks, silently questioning the odd disappearance as well as the still missing presence of their teacher when the far door flies open. “Watch out!” Patricia calls from the corridor. She rolls in a large glass tank, the screeching emitting from within more horrible than any noise any of the students have ever heard before. Professor Rakepick pulls back the plain sheet with her usual flourish, proudly presenting the squirming mermaid in the oversized tank. Everyone leans forward, taking in the odd sight. “Who can tell me what this is?” she questions. No student dares to speak, the sight captivating them and the sound paralyzing them. Patricia laughs, drawing some attention back to her. “This students, is a merperson from the Black Lake,” she explains, grinning widely. “Now normally, this lesson wouldn't be covered until much later in your schooling, but I found this beauty stranded on the far banks when I was investigating a possible vault, nasty bite out of their side and decided to take advantage of an opportune situation,” she states, tapping the side of the tank to draw the mermaid’s attention. The creature turns, exposing the freshly healed wound on her left side, seaweed plastering it close. 

“Who could attack it?” Kenneth asks as he steps closer to the tank with his hands over his ears. 

Patricia points her wand at the tank, wordlessly casting a muffling charm over the entirety of the glass. She smirks proudly as she tucks her wand back into her pocket as the volume noticeably lessens, despite the mermaid not lessening her screeches, as the bubble settles over the entirety of the tank. “Another merperson, of course,” she explains, “they have a society based on similar principles as packs of wolves, there’s a hierarchy and if one of them acts against the leader, they pay the price.”

“Can they talk?” Iris asks as she dares to step closer. 

Patricia nods once, “Of course, just not in a way we can understand, at least not out of water, she’s speaking it, Mermish, right now in fact,” she explains, motioning for the students to watch as the mermaid’s mouth opens and closes, “but I’m afraid we have no way of speaking with it.” The students step closer, observing the act, grateful for the spell to block the noise. “Unless someone wants to volunteer to climb in the tank,” she suggests, laughing at the immediate step back half the class takes at the suggestion.

“What’s she doing with her hands?” Alicia questions, watching closely as the mermaid raises and lowers her hands from her chin.

Patricia turns her focus back to the tank, noting the mermaid to be repeating the same motion she has been for the past few hours anytime she catches Patricia’s eye. “I believe it to be a form of sign language,” she states, mimicking the motion herself.

“She’s saying thank you,” Pomona says, repeating the gesture of placing her fingers against her chin then lowering his entire hand.

“Do you know any other signs?” Patricia asks, gesturing for Pomona to step closer.

Pomona shakes her head, “Just thank you and you’re welcome, sorry.” She demonstrates the signs, watching as the mermaid copies them, smiling at the creature.

“No, no, this is great,” Patricia promises, setting her hand on Pomona’s shoulder, “step further than I was, now just need to find someone who knows sign language.” Patricia looks around until she turns her attention back to the girl under her grip. “Five points to Hufflepuff,” she chimes before releasing Pomona. 

Pomona beams, laughing as the mermaid tries to match her grin, revealing several rows of jagged teeth.

Cedric circles the tank, writing down his observations on a small strip of parchment. “How do you suppose she learned it?” he questions, squinting as his eyes dart between the creature and the parchment, trying to make out the details of the scales on her back as he sketches a fairly accurate depiction on the rough paper.

“Guess we’ll find out when we find someone who can speak sign language,” Patricia declares. She moves around the large tank, pushing around items on her desk. “Let me just send a quick message to the Headmaster,” she mutters to herself, finally withdrawing a single sliver of mostly clean parchment from beneath the mess. She scribbles a quick note on the slip then rolls it up. Carefully she pulls on the silver dragon curled around her ear, unhooking its tail from the hole of her piercing. The metal creature unfurls in her hand, shaking to life with a light roar. “Be a dear and take this to the Headmaster,” she whispers. The dragon nods before taking flight, note secure in its talons.

“Wicked,” George and Fred declare together as they watch the dragon soar out the door, silently making plans for Charlie’s birthday and Christmas present.

“Is Professor Flitwick still watching Sickleworth?” Mallyn asks as she finds herself missing the cuddly little creature of chaos, even after multiple attempts to steal her earrings.

Patricia shakes her head, her wild hair flying out its restraints. “Oh no, I loaned him to Kettleburn today, wants to teach his classes about him,” she tells the class. She turns her attention back to the tank, absentmindedly dragging her hand along the glass, the mermaid following her cue and doing the same. “About time the old man gave himself a break from things that go bump in the night, better off leaving that to those more qualified,” she murmurs, raising her eyebrows to the creature. The mermaid grins, apparently sharing the same thought.

Lucy bumps her elbow into Angelina’s side, “Finish your story,” she whispers.

“It was disgusting,” Angelina declares, her face contorting to show exactly just how she feels about the entire situation of the Gryffindors’ group lunch detention.

“And awesome,” Lee chimes in while watching the mermaid out of the corner of his eye.

“So Filch had us cleaning this Vanishing cabinet,” Fred announces, summing up the previous information revealed in bits and parts between their classes after lunch.

Alicia leans forward, cutting Fred off before he can get too carried away. “Peeves threw dung bombs into it,” she says, whispering to not draw attention to the group.

“Dumbledore had one in his office, but said it was useless since its twin was missing,” Mallyn tells her friends.

“Yeah, pretty much just a cupboard at this point,” George confirms.

“A disgustingly awesome cupboard,” Fred declares, a wicked grin growing on his face.

“I am never letting you three drag me into anything ever again,” Angelina grumbles, accusatorily pointing her finger at the three boys.

“You will,” Alicia chimes in.

“And it will be glorious every time,” Fred promises, slinging his arm around Angelina and Alicia’s shoulders.

Mallyn leans over, bumping her shoulder into Lucy’s. “Aren’t you glad I convinced you to skip breakfast?” Mallyn questions.

“For once, yeah,” Lucy laughs.

Angelina sits down on the edge of the bookshelf, pushing herself backwards until her legs swing off the ground. “Don’t get why Filch is so grumpy, he’s a Wizard, can’t take that long to clean,” she grumbles as she crosses her arms over her chest. Lee hops up next to her, but keeps his arms to himself out of fear of getting his head bitten off.

A light knock on the door draws everyone’s attention, twenty two pairs of eyes turning to stare at the Third Year standing in the doorway.

Patricia stands up, towering over the crowd of First Years. “Yes, Will, right?” she calls, waving her hand, “Come in.”

“Willem, actually,” he corrects. Willem steps into the classroom, frowning at the large tank and the creature within. “Professor Dumbledore asked me to come by,” he states glibly, “seems I’m the only person in the entire building who knows sign language, ghosts included.”

Patricia does her best to keep her smile on her face as she speaks to the sullen boy. “Muggleborn, I’m assuming,” she says as she crosses her arms over her chest as she leans back against her desk. “Never met anyone raised in the Wizarding World to know sign language.”

“Halfblood,” he corrects. He moves further into the room, sourly staring at the creature within the tank, exaggerating the dark circles around his blue eyes, his glasses framing them even further.

Patricia waves her hand, “If you will.”

Willem squints as he stares at the mermaid, watching the motions carefully as the water ripples around her hands. “Says we can call her Iyahmia, spelled I-Y-A-H-M-I-A,” he says, spelling out her name letter by letter.

“Ask her how she came to know sign language,” Patricia urges, closely watching each small movement of the interaction.

Willem frowns, repeating a few signs back to the mermaid to double-check they are on the same metaphorical page. “Student taught her years ago through the windows in the Slytherin Common Room,” Willem repeats a few signs, verifying the spelling of the name, “A boy named Marwood.” 

Patricia purses her lips, exaggerating the dark brown hue of her lipstick that matches the single drawn-on beauty mark just above her upper lip. “Hmm, sounds vaguely...” she murmurs, trying to place the familiarity of the name. She thinks for a moment, racking her brain for the name in between all the adventures and mishaps. She exclaims, startling the students as she smacks her palm against her forehead. “He must be the ancestor of Dylan Marwood, the author of ‘Merpeople: A Comprehensive Guide to Their Language and Customs’, that he speaks about in the foreword,” she excitedly tells the class. “I should reach out, see if he can offer any assistance,” she murmurs to herself. She retrieves a self-inking quill from her desk and scribbles out a note on her forearm, the ink immediately smearing as she rests her arm on the edge of the tank.

“She first met Marwood in eighteen ninety-five, during his second year of schooling,” Willem loosely translates, ad-libbing in the concepts of grammar and the English language that Iyahmia’s vocabulary seems to be missing. “That would make her,” he murmurs while trying to mentally calculate her age.

“At least three hundred and seven years old,” she fills in for Willem, “at least by our calculations, their species doesn’t track time like we do, it’s too dark to see the sun and moon so they use the growth of the plants to track time.” She pauses in her rant before she can get too ramped up about the subject. “Fascinating,” she declares with a clap. “What’s she saying now?” she asks, knocking her head towards Iyahmia.

“She’s thanking you for saving her,” Willem states as if he rather not say anything at all.

“All in a day’s work,” Patricia cheers, placing her hand over her heart. She looks at Iyahmia, her eyes finding the wound then surveys the expression on her face. “Could you ask her what attacked her?”

Willem moves his hands slowly at first then rather rapidly, trying to keep up with the speed that Iyahmia moves her own. “She doesn’t know,” he mutters, shaking his head, “a creature she hadn’t seen before, not of its size anyway, some type of snake or eel that moved through the water with ease, it was fast.”

Fred leans over, casting a shadow over Mallyn. “Maybe it was the same thing that attacked the squid,” Fred suggests, the idea of a deadly creature not deterring him from wanting to go back into the lake but rather enticing him. 

Mallyn shakes her head, “Can’t be, the wound on Narmer, the size was too big to be made by the same creature.”

“Very peculiar to say the least,” Patricia murmurs to herself as she circles the tank. She stares at the rippling water before she regains her focus. “Can you ask her one more question? It’s a rather brutal one I’m afraid,” she warns. She tilts her head back and forth, debating whether or not to dismiss the First Years, her mind settling when she notices all of them watching her eagerly. “Why didn’t the creature kill her?”

Willem repeats the question to Iyahmia, watching carefully as she answers. Patchworking her words together, he answers, “Her family saved her, used their weapons and teeth against it.”

“They were able to wound it?” Patricia questions.

“Yes,” Willem confirms with a nod.

“Excellent,” Professor Rakepick murmurs as she taps her finger against her chin, thinking of her personal motto; if you can make something bleed, you can make it do anything, including die . Willem clears his throat, drawing the professor’s attention back to the present. “Sorry, anything else?”

Willem nods once, “She’d like to be placed back in the lake, she misses her family.”

Patricia smiles, but it does not quite reach her eyes. “Of course, I shall see to it personally,” she states.

Minerva clears her throat from the main doorway of the room, her steady gaze fixed on Patricia. “Professor,” Patricia cheers, urging the older woman into the classroom. 

Professor McGonagall moves into the room, the First Years parting like the Red Sea to make room for her. “Miss Rakepick,” she returns with a curt nod.

Patricia’s smile wavers, “I’m not your student anymore, Minerva,” she says, emphasizing her name.

“And yet you still have so much to learn,” the elder woman sighs. She sticks her hand into the pocket of her velvet green robes, retrieving the small object that provoked her wrath less than an hour ago. “For one, just because it is rumored that I have eyes in the back of my head does not make it true as we do not spy on our students, so make sure to keep your wandering eye,” Minerva states as she places the glass eye in Patricia’s outstretched hand, lightly digging her nails into the rough pads of her palm, “on your person or you may find it under my or Dumbledore’s lock and key.”

“Okay, Professor McGonagall,” Patricia remarks, failing to hide her animosity as her anger seeps into the nine syllables. 

Minerva’s hardened gaze scans Patricia, her upper lip curling ever so slightly. “I’ll be watching, Professor Rakepick,” she warns. 

Annoyance joins her anger as the Deputy Headmistress remains still. “Anything else?” Patricia questions, the nail of her right index finger tapping erratically against the metal edge of the tank.

Minerva glares at the actions but makes no comment, at least not aloud. “Just came to collect Mister Pinker, important lesson today,” she states, gently placing her hand on the boy’s shoulder to guide him towards the door. 

Patricia chuckles politely, her head tilting as she considers her words before she spits them out, “You have my abundant apologies for keeping him, he was valuable to figuring out-”

Minerva cuts her off with a single pointed look. “Please ensure they,” she says, raising her eyebrows above the frame of her glasses as she looks at the creature staring at her from within the tank, “are returned to the lake before word reaches the Ministry.”

“And how would they find out?” Patricia scoffs.

Minerva’s jaw clicks as she does her best to remain the cool, calm, and collected professor she is known to be, but finds it increasingly harder with each passing moment as the young professor gnaws away at the carefully crafted façade piece by piece, quick quip by quip, poorly hidden sneer by sneer, along with her blatant utter disrespect for the rules day after day. “Get it back in the lake,” she declares before turning around, her cloak swishing around her ankles from the movement. She ushers Willem out the door, checking on his well-being the second they are far enough away. He assures her that he is okay, but the distant look in his eyes says otherwise. The only reason Minerva had let him go in the first place was at the Headmaster’s insistence which she should have ignored just as he had ignored her own concerns over the appointment of Patricia into the Defense Against the Dark Arts position: vocally and numerously.

Patricia circles the tank to take a seat at her desk, sinking into the plush office chair. She drums her fingers on the desk as a plan begins to form in her mind. Adrian steps toward the desk, hovering near the edge as he waits for the attention of the professor. She looks up, frowning at the intrusion to her thoughts until she remembers class is still going on for another five minutes. She raises her eyebrows, silently urging him to get out whatever is waiting on the tip of his tongue. “Did you find anything about the vaults?” he asks while his eyes roam over her desk, searching for any hints.

Patricia huffs, leaning back in her chair. She props her feet on the desk, her hands laying in her lap. “Believe I’ve narrowed down a possible area,” she announces. The class scoots closer, all eager to hear her tales that kept her from teaching for more than a week. Patricia pulls her arms up, resting her hands behind her head. “Of course, would have much sooner if the school would just cooperate and stay the same for more than five minutes.”

“Which one?” Roger asks as he bounces on his toes, the sugar from his pudding at lunch kicking into full gear.

Patricia laughs, shaking her head. “Can’t very well tell you that, can I? Wouldn’t want any of you going off in search of it,” she teases, winking at the huddle of Gryffindors. She leans forward to rest her forearms against her desk. “Besides majority of the information is purely subjective, no proof there is five, could be more, could be less,” she murmurs, shrugging it off as nothing more than conjecture when she very well knows the facts from the fictions, “after all who knows what sorts of secrets lurk within the walls after the centuries as acting as a safe place for things secrets deemed too dangerous to be allowed in the general public.”

Cedric murmurs under his breath, accidentally drawing the attention of his classmates and professor to him. Patricia nods at him, urging him to voice his opinion. He steps forward a foot to ensure she can hear his soft-spoken voice. “Shouldn’t they go to the Ministry? Surely they could do a better job protecting items in the first place.”

Patricia’s head bobbles back and forth as she considers his stance. “ You would think so, especially with your father, but since its beginning Hogwarts was always intended as a safe place, agreeing to shoulder the responsibility of safeguarding items that have proven or thought to be dangerous in order to prevent them from falling into the wrong hands, and it has carried the burden of the job remarkably well over the centuries, there’s more stories within the ever changing walls than you could ever imagine,” she tells the students. A few nod along as they try to process her words while Lee, Fred, and George share a look that is sure to get them into trouble later. Angelina and Alicia sidestep, putting a bit of space between themselves and Hogwarts’ new resident troublemakers. Patricia leans back to rest her back, “Just ask Nearly Headless Nick, he’ll tell you the very same,” she states.

“What if you set off another curse?” Cassius, Pomona, and Elfy ask at the same time. 

The first asking out of a desire to know whether or not he has to plan around a hazard in the near future. 

The second asking out of concern for herself and others. 

The third asking out of pure excitement, the prospect of proving herself appearing earlier than she could have ever expected in her schooling career.

Patricia shakes her head, “I assure you, I am proceeding carefully and taking the necessary steps to keep Hogwarts safe,” she states, “after all, I am not a big fan of cold weather, can’t imagine having to deal with ice inside and out of the building before winter even hits.”

“Or sleepwalking into the forest,” Flora says, the stories told by the fire in the Ravenclaw Common Room giving her more than enough reason to never stray on her way to and from classes.

Fauna nods along, “Or get trapped in a painting,” she says, thinking of the horrible fate that one of the girls, Beatrice Haywood, in the dorm across from her suffered all of last year, resulting in a sudden and despondent personality change, at least in the words of some older housemates including the girl’s own sister.

“Yes, precisely,” Patricia confirms, choosing not to embellish with any of her own stories, “but none of you should fear too much, none of the curses are truly curses, the vaults simply want to be found, that’s all they are doing, trying to be found.”

“No matter the cost apparently,” Lee remarks as Professor Rakepick dismisses the class with a wave of her hands. She pushes herself out of the chair and stands behind the tank, placing her hand against the glass. The two women stare at each other, observing, studying, judging each other for their differences and similarities. Patricia turns away first, excusing herself to her office as Second Years filter in, the mermaid captivating their attention. 

The small huddle of First Years watch as Seventh Year Jennifer Pearson flees from the main stairway and down the corridor, her cries echoing against the stone walls. 

“Merlin, what’s her problem?” Fred questions, leaning up on his toes to watch her until the girl is out of view. 

Charlie approaches the group from behind. Sneaking up on his younger brother, he pushes down on Fred’s shoulders, digging his thumbs into the pressure points on his neck. Fred squirms, wiggling to get away from his brother’s torturous touch. “Remember that weird teacher at the feast, sat at the end of the table, crazy hair, wore all the colours, huge glasses, bright blue lipstick? She’s the Divination teacher and she predicted Jennifer’s death today,” Charlie tells them.

Alicia raises her hand to her mouth, “That’s horrible,” she murmurs.

Percy scoffs, making his presence in the nearby alcove known. “Trelawney's a loon,” he mutters, “don’t know why she’s so upset, she’s wasting her own time and energy as well as everyone else’s.” He turns the page of his book, oblivious to the looks of horror he receives from all that heard his words.

“She got told she’s going to die,” Mallyn scoffs, shaking her head at him.

“All living things do eventually,” he states simply as he turns to the next page. 

Lee knocks his elbow into Charlie. “Do you know what the prediction was?”

Charlie thinks for a moment, trying to remember exactly what Tonks had relayed to him only moments ago before they ran off in the opposite direction in search of their missing tie. He frowns because he knows he saw the tie at the start of the hour when he arrived in Charms. It had been securely fashioned around Tonks’ head before he made a comment that the shade of green of their hair did not work well with Hufflepuff yellow. Fred flicks Charlie’s arm, drawing him back to the present. “That she would die before the school year is over in place of another with a weapon that contains the letter r,” he says, deciding the words feel right enough to be accurate to what Tonks told him. 

“I’d be bawling my bloody eyes out too,” Lucy murmurs. 

Looking around, Charlie checks for any teachers, but upon finding none, he bends down. “Trelawney predicts shite all the time, none of it ever comes true, she just spouts things off to keep interest so she doesn’t lose her job,” Charlie tells the First Years, “told Talbott Winger during our Third Year that he should be wary of returning home for break because his parents were cross with him.” 

The First Years share questioning looks, unsure as to why that would be such a horrible prophecy to receive. 

Annoyed by the sudden silence, Percy huffs. Lowering his book just enough to glare at Charlie over the edge, he watches, waiting for his older brother to explain the vital evidence missing so that the story makes sense. “His parents were killed by Deatheaters before the war was over when he was eight,” Percy explains from his place on the wall, shaking his head at Charlie’s obliviousness. 

The First Years gape at the admission, Charlie shaking his head at his brother but knows better than to try and correct his behavior at this point of their shared years on Earth.

“Bet the school gets a lot of therapy bills,” Mallyn remarks as she tugs at the strap of her bag, trying to get it to stay in place, an impossible feat with the number of books weighing down the cloth.

“What’s therapy?” George asks offhandedly while watching as groups of students hurry down the stairs, splitting off in different directions with whispers of finding their distressed friend.

Mallyn looks up at him, hoping to find a teasing smile on his face. “I shouldn’t be surprised, but this explains so much,” Mallyn mutters as she walks away. Another head of neat ginger hair at the end of the corridor makes her turn on her heels. “Let’s go this way to Herbology,” she announces, tugging on the twins’ sleeves. 

“Walk with you guys, Care is out that way,” Charlie says, “Percy?” His younger brother grumbles under his breath, ignoring the attempt to get his attention. Charlie pushes on his book, the heavy object dropping to the floor, the bookmark in Percy’s pocket chasing after it to keep his place. “Class,” he orders with a jut of his finger. 

Percy grumbles under his breath as he bends down to retrieve his book before moving down the corridor towards Bill. The Gryffindor Head Boy reaches out and wraps his hand around his younger brother’s arm, knowing it is immensely easier to gain his attention with physicality rather than vocally. Percy stops momentarily, his index finger pointing directly at Mallyn in response to Bill asking if she was with the group. She leads the way, rushing out into the courtyard to put as much space as possible between herself and the eldest Weasley at Hogwarts. 

Charlie pulls her to a stop as he watches the spectacle of a Slytherin and Hufflepuff going head to head in the center of the grassy area, the large tree shading them only from the sun and not prying eyes as students watch from upper windows and the open-air corridors surrounding the courtyard. “Stay away from my little sister,” Penny Haywood states, fleeing at the urging of the voice in the back of her head warning her to leave before Merula has a chance to process her words and act in retaliation.

Merula scoffs as Penny walks away. “She’s free to make her own decisions,” she calls after Penny.

Penny spins around, her yellow blonde hair whipping around. She marches towards Merula until they’re almost chest to chest. “She’s a Second Year, leave her alone,” she whispers, a mixture of anger and fear swirling around within her, “she doesn’t need to be involved in any of this, she never did, she won’t be.”

“Just having fun, pinky promise,” Merula teases, holding up her hand, her pinky finger a hair length away from the tip of Penny’s nose. Penny stares down at the extended appendage suspiciously. Merula darts her hand down and hooks her finger around Penny’s, yanking her forward. “If you’re that worried about little sissy, perhaps you should keep a closer eye on her, hate for something to happen,” she whispers into Penny’s ear, “again.”

Sensing the impending danger, Charlie steps away from the First Years and enters the budding arena. “Problem?” Charlie questions as he approaches the girls.

“Hi, Charlie,” Merula jokingly coos, turning her violet eyes to him.

Penny takes the opportunity to step backwards, putting distance between herself and Merula. “Penny,” Charlie cordially greets before turning his eyes to the Slytherin. “Merula,” he states.

“Weasel,” she returns along with a raise of her eyebrows. 

“How original,” he jests. 

Her upper lip curls slightly as she steps towards him. “Bite me,” she snarls.

“No thanks, hate bitter things,” Charlie remarks while checking the surroundings as more students gather in the area, anxiously waiting. Ismelda breaks through the growing crowd, tugging her reinforcements along with her, Tulip Karasu jogging to keep up, her hand holding on tightly to her boyfriend’s wrist. “Brandon,” Charlie greets to the only other quidditch player in the vicinity. 

“Problem?” he asks, his eyes jumping back and forth between the members of his own house to the lone badger.

“That was my question,” Charlie states, his eyes still on Merula. 

“Ismelda,” Tulip quietly pleads, urging her to talk their friend down. 

Brandon turns to the side, consulting Ismelda with faint whispers and darting glances. She saddles up next to Merula, leaning down so that her words are only audible to the violet-eyed girl. “Merula, don’t want to be late,” she whispers, subtly knocking her head in the direction of the Forbidden Forest. 

Merula rolls her eyes at the desperate gesture, but caves nonetheless. “Guess now we know luck is the reason Hufflepuffs make such good finders,” she remarks before pushing past Penny. Her friends follow behind, only Tulip sparing Penny a second glance over her shoulder. Lurking in the corridor waits the youngest of the troublesome group as well as the current source of tension. Ismelda holds out her free hand, locking it around Beatrice’s to lead her away from her sister’s pitiful stare.

As soon as they are out of sight, Charlie steps closer, murmuring to Penny. She leans into his friendly touch on her arm, her eyes glazing over with a lovestruck look.

“Swear he showers with a bloody love potion,” Fred scoffs. He watches the interaction curiously, forever amazed by his older brother’s effect on practically everyone not related to him, few seeming to scrape by untouched, present company excluded by the expression on everyone’s faces except for George. 

Lee’s eyes shift back and forth between the pair of Sixth Years. “Anyone else feeling the weird tension?” 

“Last year, Penny asked out Charlie, don’t blame him for saying no, wouldn’t want to date a girl who screams like a banshee every time she gets a good grade or a new dress,” George explains with a shrug. Lee frowns at his roommate, a noise of confusion escaping his open mouth. “What?” George says, “Percy’s a horrible gossip.”

“Wouldn’t be surprised if all of you are,” Mallyn teases, booping the end of George’s nose.

Fred shrugs, “Can’t help the noses we’re born with.” 

Mallyn spots Bill making a beeline towards them with no Percy insight to act as a detour. “We should really get to Herbology,” she urges, already stepping closer to Charlie. 

“You’re kidding,” Fred scoffs. “This is way better,” he declares with a shake of his head, but as the words leave his mouth, the crowd begins to disperse, students breaking off as they head to their next classes now that the drama is over.

Mallyn walks the fastest despite being the shortest and manages to get two steps in for everyone else’s one. Alicia jogs to catch up to her, looping her arm through hers. “Do you have a crush on the twins’ older brother? You got so nervous when you spotted him,” she murmurs, careful to whisper so that the boys do not hear her. “Wouldn’t blame you, of course, he is rather fit, both of them actually,” she says, momentarily losing herself in a daydream, but quickly shakes it from her mind.

“Just don’t want to be later than we already are, Professor Sprout is so sweet,” she mumbles while glancing behind to make sure Bill is not following as she does not doubt he could catch up in a few steps if given the chance. She sighs in relief when the only redheads behind her are the twins.

“She is, isn’t she?” Alicia murmurs dreamily as they approach the greenhouse. The group slides inside the doors just as class begins, Mallyn’s heart finally resting within the safe confines of the glass room.

Chapter Text

“Mallyn,” a soft voice with a touch of a Surrey accent calls. Her stomach drops, recognizing the deep underlying tone all too well. She looks up, meeting Bill’s piercing blue eyes for the first time in a week. He laughs, truly and deeply at the expression on the First Year’s face, one of complete terror and embarrassment. Mallyn thanks whoever has a say over things in the universe whether it be her God, another’s, or something else entirely, that at least he is completely dressed this time, his button up shirt done up all the way with his Gryffindor tie securely around his neck, a shining gold Head Boy pin halfway down, but also curses whatever made her say no when Lucy asked her if she wanted to join her for a game of chess in the sudden safety of the Slytherin Common Room, an odd thought to think of the room as a safe place. “Just want to talk,” he promises, holding his hands up as a gesture of good faith. He sits down and looks at her from across the table for a moment before sighing, “What you saw-”

She tugs at her hair to cover her ears as if he cannot already tell embarrassment is flooding her system. “Nothing,” she rushes out, tearing her eyes from him.

“You’re not a good liar,” he murmurs. He waits a moment, surveying the writing on the book in front of her. He brings his hands onto the table, interlocking his fingers. “You obviously saw or heard something.”

Mallyn shakes her head, “Nope, nothing, not at all, I was off in my own little world,” she rambles nervously, tapping her temple, “just ask anyone, always am.”

“Mallyn…” Bill says, staring at her. She refuses to look up, preferring to count the imperfections in the wood grain. Bill sighs then swings his legs over the bench and presses on his knees to get up.

Mallyn looks up in time to see him start to walk away. “I won’t tell, it’s none of my business who you do what with,” she says, wishing she could hide the blush on her cheeks.

Bill turns to look at her over his shoulder, the hint of a smile tugging at his lips. “Ah, so you do know?” He sits back down, carefully maneuvering his long legs so that he does not accidentally bump into her, fearing with her nerves it might send her to the infirmary. “We weren’t sure if you did,” he murmurs, tilting his head as he purses his lips.

“Figured it out, I mean, she was,” she says, shaking her head before she can finish the thought aloud.

“It wasn’t what it looked like, I assure you,” Bill promises. He thinks for a moment trying to figure the best way to explain it without being crude, but even after deliberation he stutters over his explanation, “We were simply-I was holding her and when the book hit me, I dropped her, that’s why she was on the ground.”

Mallyn takes in his words, picking at her bottom lip as they settle. “Why the library?” she questions. Bill tilts his head, not having expected a question, let alone that one. She exhales heavily, “Heads have their own rooms, I mean, those poor books, what else have they had to witness?”

He laughs, clutching at his stomach. “You’ll understand when you’re older,” he sighs.

“God, I hope I don’t,” she mutters, laughing along with him.

Bill sighs and sets his hands flat on the table, pushing himself up. “Maybe you won’t,” he shrugs, “like Charlie, and that’s fine too.”

Mallyn looks around the room, her eyes landing on Ayush and Nathalie at the Hufflepuff table, his arm around her waist while she turns the page of the book in front of them. “Are any of the teenagers here single? Everyone I’ve met is with someone, even Charlie has Tonks.”

“They’re best friends, nothing more,” Bill tells her with a shake of his head. He sits back down, realizing their conversation is far from over. “I’m single, but I get what you mean,” he says. His eyes scan the room, buying him time to find an answer before meeting hers again. He sighs again before he is able to find the words. “It’s a big castle with small classes, but even then it’s nice to just have someone that can be there,” he explains, hoping she can grasp the concept.

“And Jocelyn is there for you?” she questions with a frown.

“She’s Head Girl of her house, she gets the responsibility, the pressure, and we actually have a lot in common, goals-wise,” he tells her. She tries but fails to imagine what petite punk Jocelyn with her artificially dark appearance and permanent pout could possibly have in common with prim and proper skyscraper Bill who she has never seen without a hint of a smile, aside from their interest in each other. Her eyebrows furrow as she tries to think of anything they could have in common, prompting further explanation from Bill. “We both want to be Curse Breakers.”

“Like Professor Rakepick?” Mallyn questions, unable to picture either of them ducking curses or trapezing through the jungle in search of hidden artifacts.

“Sure,” Bill murmurs, pressing his lips into a thin line as his face hardens, deep thoughts taking over the previously jovial conversation. He finally takes the step to get away from the table, prodding the inside of his cheek with his tongue as he walks away.

Mallyn looks down at her book, the words on the pages appearing as just scribbles, her mind refusing to comprehend any of them at the moment. “Wait, what did you mean like Charlie?” she calls after Bill.

He turns to look at her over his shoulder, the corners of his lips pointing down slightly. He shakes it off, plastering on a small smile. “He’s fine being alone, romantically or otherwise, made a big announcement last year and everything, he was tired of getting asked out,” Bill explains. Bill scans the room again, his eyes settling on the oversized clock at the front, the large hand just a touch shy of the v. “Gotta go, promised Ayers I’d take over his patrol so he can attend your little movie night,” he says before he turns his attention forward and strolls out of the room without another word.

“Movie night?” Mallyn quietly murmurs to herself, trying to think why Bill would be under the assumption that she and the arguably most grumpy Slytherin Prefect would be watching movies tonight. Mallyn counts the days in her head, realizing it is the second Saturday of the month, aka time for another Slytherin house bonding night where attendance is mandatory. The first one truly had not been that bad, she liked the nail polish that had been charmed to change at her command until it wore off and the fancy lavender face lotion that Beatrice Winter, a Third Year, had shared with her, but being forced to sit in a room with multiple people who openly hate her guts is not her idea of relaxing or bonding.

Still lost in thought, mostly trying to figure out a viable excuse to miss it, Mallyn misses it as Kelsey sneaks up behind her. The Fourth Year throws a leg over the bench, straddling the space next to the First Year. “Boo!” she exclaims, pinching Mallyn’s side. Mallyn jolts forward, banging her elbows on the table in the process as she instinctively clutches her book to her chest. “Sorry, didn’t realize you’d already had your fourteenth coffee of the day,” Kelsey laughs as she carefully pulls the book free of Mallyn’s titanium grip. She closes the heavy book and sets it just out of reach then loops her arm through Mallyn’s, tugging her closer to her. “Come on, where’s your smile?” she teases. Kelsey pokes her cheeks, pulling until Mallyn’s lips resemble a sad excuse for a smile. “It’s time to bond with your local not-so-friendly neighborhood Slytherins,” she sing-songs.

Mallyn slumps forward, pulling Kelsey along for the ride. They rest their cheeks against the table, staring at each other. “I’m not in the mood for sticky face masks and that waxing spell your roommate wants to test,” she grumbles.

Kelsey sits up, all hints of the summer holiday gone, her long honey brown hair free of all hints of red sways freely against her back, her magically unblemished skin free of the glow from the summer sun. “No, that was last month’s theme,” she tells her, shaking her head, “and I swear Rosemarie is one batch away from perfecting it, did my eyebrows just this morning, skin only stayed red for an hour afterwards.” Noting the apprehension still on her face, Kelsey tugs Mallyn off the bench and away from the table with a gentle grip around her wrist, snatching a bunch of grapes off the table as Mallyn grabs her book before leading the way towards the dungeon sublevel of Hogwarts. Mallyn’s eyes drop to her wrist, Kelsey’s hand still loosely holding on. As gently as she can, Mallyn shakes her off, digging around in her bag as an excuse to need to be free. “This month’s theme is movies,” Kelsey explains, “horror to be specific, got to honor the time-old tradition of shitting your pants at least once every October.” Mallyn’s right eyebrow twitches as she tries to conjure the image of any of the Slytherins being scared of anything, let alone a movie. “Kidding,” Kelsey laughs, wrapping her arm around Mallyn’s shoulders. “Well, not entirely, there was that one year, not to mention before the school installed the plumbing, but never mind, we’re starting with the ever classic, The Shining, can’t go wrong with a good old fashion haunting murder-suicide gone horribly wrong, then the ever terrifying murderous psychotic clown of Stephen King’s It, and once the kiddies, you included, go to bed, we’re wrapping it up with Nightmare on Elm Street, maybe the actual Poltergeist, Peeves is a big fan, swear it’s the one thing that makes him calm, oddly enough.”

Mallyn blinks, trying to process all the words that had spilled out of Kelsey’s mouth without a notable break for air. “I thought electronics didn’t work here,” she mumbles with a slight frown.

Kelsey shakes her head, “That’s just Pureblood propaganda, don’t want to find good in anything Muggles can do.” She tugs Mallyn to a stop, handing her the grapes so she has both hands free to rummage around in the pockets of her acid wash denim jacket, silently cursing herself for ever using the expansion charm on her older sister’s hand-me-down. It had been useful in the first place at her refusal to use a tote for her school supplies, but now she finds it as more of just a nuisance. Kelsey abandons her search, chalking her strawberry chapstick up to a loss of the abyss, joining the likes of her favourite hairbrush, one or two overdue essays, and her mother’s Christmas-before-last present. She reclaims her grapes, sticking one in her mouth and chewing quickly. “Newer technology can be questionable, high levels of electricity don’t always work well with even minimal levels of magic, normal or dark, takes a bit of tinkering, managed to charm my curling rod to work here, but we’re going old school, hand-cranked projector, magically enchanted, of course,” Kelsey rambles, wishing that she had used her curling rod this morning before emerging from her room, but rationalizes the thought away, knowing that once the movies start no one will be able to see her flat hair in the dark. Mallyn spots Bill at the end of the corridor, talking to a small huddle of younger students before continuing down towards the opposite side of the school. Unknowingly, she purses her lips as she tries her best not to let her mind drift back to their conversion or the events leading up to it, including the multiple detours she took over the week to avoid running into him. Kelsey tilts her head down at the stark silence, can carry a conversation easily, often both sides of the conversation, but she always appreciates at least a few murmurs of acknowledgment for her efforts. “Why are you making that face?” she questions, causing Mallyn’s head to jerk up, but Kelsey follows her previous line of sight. “Oh,” she exclaims, slapping the back of her hand against Mallyn’s arm. “You have dirt, tell me,” she urges, poking Mallyn’s cheek.

“I can’t, I promised,” she whispers, her eyes scanning the corridor.

Kelsey tilts her head as she contemplates her options, chewing on a grape as she does so. “Then I’ll guess,” she shrugs. Mallyn continues down the hall, not wanting spectators for whatever messy trail of thoughts is running around in Kelsey’s mind. “Okay, so, before I came over, you were talking to Bill Weasley and there was a distinctly ginger head of hair disappearing around the corner, so it has to do with him,” she says, turning to Mallyn for confirmation. She nods slightly, just enough to constitute movement. “Okay, good, right direction, okay, so the good Sir Lord William, eldest Weasley, former Prefect, current Head Boy, future Curse Breaker, permanent stickler for all that is good in the world,” she murmurs, humming to herself as she thinks. “Bill and someone else?” Mallyn does not confirm or deny, silently wishing for the entire conversation to come to an end. “Two someone else's?” Kelsey inquires, solely with the intent to force a response. Mallyn’s mouth pops open, squeaking out a horrified no. “Just one, okay,” Kelsey says as they move further into the castle. “They were obviously breaking a rule, that’s a given with the look on your face,” she says as if it were as simple as reading facts off a page. Mallyn forces her face to relax, hating that she is practically an open book when she is upset. “Drugs? Sex? Sex!” she says, gauging her guesses around Mallyn’s ever-changing expressions.

“Shh!” Mallyn urges, looking around. No prying eyes or ears seemingly fall on the pair, each of the other five students in the surrounding area caught up in their own business.

Kelsey rolls her eyes, knowing that as long as a few certain somebodies are not within hearing range, which they are not, a yelled secret is as good as a silent omission. “Can’t believe you caught stuffy Bill Weasley hooking up with someone,” she scoffs. She jerks her head, leading the way down the wide set of stairs. Kelsey puts on a pensive expression, toying with Mallyn’s nerves. “In the library,” she states plainly.

“How?” Mallyn exhales, her mouth dropping open.

“That’s where you spend all your time, where else would you catch them unless it was in the Slytherin Common Room and I don’t exactly see any current members of Slytherin House breaking the no Gryffindor rule, let alone for a Weasley,” Kelsey rationalizes, “except you, of course, you rebel,” she teases. Mallyn lightly shakes her head, just enough for Kelsey to catch the notion, her hair falling forward to hide her blush. Her friendship with the twins, and subsequently Charlie, didn’t stem nor does it remain from the desire to rebel, but from simply enjoying their company. “Didn’t think so,” Kelsey declares as she pops another grape in her mouth. “Okay, so Head Boy Weasley and someone else in the library,” she muses, relishing in the embarrassment on the younger girl’s face.

Mallyn abruptly stops moving, jerking Kelsey to a stop with her. “Please stop this before you go through the entire school roster or whatever else is swirling around in that head of yours,” she groans.

“Then just tell me,” she whispers, raising her eyebrows. Mallyn’s eyes dart away, a silent denial of the request. Kelsey clicks her tongue, “Bill and someone, a girl, no, a boy,” she lists, moving on when Mallyn gives a subtle shake, “no, a girl, okay, in the library.” Kelsey waits for a moment before raising her eyebrows, smirking. “None other than Jocelyn Webb, Ravenclaw Head Girl, was giving him a gob job in the stacks,” she states before continuing towards the dungeons.

“How?” Mallyn sighs in exasperation as she jogs to keep up after her momentary brain freeze.

Kelsey smiles, “I can draw a diagram-“

Mallyn’s eyes widen in horror. “No, how’d you guess?”

“I’m good at this game,” she shrugs. Not buying it, Mallyn pulls her to stop. “People hook up in the library all the time and those two have all sorts of tension,” she says, but her smile gives away her untold truth of the matter, “plus I overheard you two.”

“And you made me sit through all that?” Mallyn scoffs, hitting her arm as Kelsey had done to her minutes ago.

“Got you to smile, didn’t it?” Kelsey raises her wand to the stone, the doorway opening at her silent command.

“Punctual as always, Paxton, just under the cutoff,” Douglas Leonard, Slytherin Head Boy, mutters as they step into the Common Room. The doorway seals itself behind them, Douglas waving his wand to command it to not to open again until the morning unless an emergency requires otherwise as he does once or twice a month as it is required of him.

Kelsey scoffs as they pass him, “And a hello to you too, Dougie.”

He rolls his eyes at her nickname for him, one he has vocally renounced multiple times over the years, but she still manages to bring it back around every so often. Douglas moves into the center of the room, pointing his wand towards the windows. All the chairs and couches move at his command, shifting to face the wall of windows, pillows flying into the Common Room and landing in empty spaces to create more seating, the curtains closing to create a screen for the movie. Kelsey pulls Mallyn further into the Common Room, claiming two spots on the couch closest to the boys’ hallway just as Jaden emerges from the girls’ hallway, bags of various snacks in her arms.

“Who let the Gryffindor in?” Ismelda jeers as she emerges behind Jaden and hops over the back of the couch, tucking her feet to avoid hurting Merula. Merula grabs her ankles, straightening her best friend’s legs to rest on her thighs.

“Make another crack about my hair and see what happens,” Jaden threatens as she throws a box of jelly beans right at Ismelda’s forehead. Merula reaches forward and catches it with ease, popping open the lid then holding it behind her. A small hand with chipped black nail polish shoots above the arm of the couch, snatching the box and retreating back into hiding.

Mallyn leans over to Kelsey, “When she pierced my ears, Jaden mentioned that she’s been growing her hair out for four years, did they...?” she questions, avoiding even saying the tormentors’ names.

“Inadvertently,” Kelsey tells her, her eyes continuously darting between Mallyn and the girls on the other couch that she has secretly and unaffectionately named two of the Future Inmates of Cellblock Sixty Six at Azkaban, a section that they will be constructed just to accommodate the next generation of hateful hags such as themselves. “She got tired of the comments, not just from them though, so she tried a straightening spell of her own creation, not a lot of work done in the Wizarding World for hair like hers, real shame truly, but she burned off everything except the roots.” Her own hands reach up and cradle her head, frowning as she thinks about losing her pride and joy. “Which was a crime really because her hair is completely gorgeous, had these soft curls to die for, offsets her eyes like nothing else, and then it all went up in smoke, literally, puff of smoke, still remember the scream,” she murmurs. A tiny snort escapes her, “Kamala’s, not Jaden, she was supervising,” she sniggers.

Ayers steps up onto the coffee table, his wand illuminating his features from beneath his chin. “It’s a full moon tonight,” he hoarsely whispers, his dark eyes flitting around the room. He jumps off the table, the Exploding Snaps on the floor exploding from the pressure, making the few and mostly younger unsuspecting Slytherins jerk backwards from shock. “You know what that means,” he states with a wink before extinguishing all the lights in the room with a single clap. Light clicking fills the room as the projector winds itself up, projecting a poor quality image of the opening scene for The Shining, obviously a bootleg copy, but a poor one even at that, a recording of a recording of a recording.

Mallyn leans over, trying her best not to disturb anyone around them. “What’s he talking about?”

Kelsey scoots close, not wanting to disturb the few students actually paying attention to the film. “There’s this little old run-down shoddy house outside of Hogsmeade, and rumor has it, every full moon, the ghosts return and have parties to celebrate and rub in the livings’ faces about how much better the afterlife is,” she whispers. She involuntarily jumps as Kamala settles into the couch next to her, teasingly dragging her finger across Kelsey’s spine.

“Full moons are a werewolf thing, at least in the Muggle world,” Mallyn whispers.

Jaden leans over the back of the couch between Kelsey and Mallyn, holding out a choice of snacks. Mallyn declines to take any of the options, none of the labels looking the least bit familiar. “Here too,” she confirms, making Mallyn feel a bit better that at least not everything is different in the Wizarding World. Jaden climbs over the back of the couch, settling in next to Kamala with an arm around her waist. “Just not at the Shrieking Shack,” Jaden continues, “You blow at it and it’d fall over it, it would never survive a werewolf going through the transformation, that’s why they prefer the forest, nice and sturdy, plenty of space.”

“As in the forest on the edge of school property?” Mallyn questions, her eyes wide.

Kamala raises her eyebrows, “The one and the same,” she whispers.

The curtains across the room ruffles as a head of sleek black hair pokes out, surveying the room with brilliant brown eyes. After careful deliberation, she emerges from the girls’ hallway, extra pillows in her arms. She weaves her way through the crowd, settling on the floor in front of Jaden, silently passing a pillow over her head. “This is Eliza, my little sister, she’s a Fifth Year,” Jaden introduces, wrapping her legs around Eliza’s shoulders, her ankles locking in front of her neck as she tugs her backwards to place a kiss on the crown of her head. Mallyn reaches down and shakes her hand before leaning back to settle back into the couch.

“Whose brilliant idea was it to build a school here?” Mallyn asks, her eyes momentarily landing on the curtains, the scene moving as the heavy velvet curtains do, distorting the image even more.

Eliza leans back, resting her head against Kamala’s leg. “The founders, Helga, Rowena, Godric, and your unholy savior Salazar,” she teases, smiling at her own joke.

A huff of annoyment draws their attention, all eyes landing on the petite blonde girl laying on the floor below the screen. “Salazar was but a man, our true savior is out there waiting for the moment to save us, lead us, once we redeem ourselves to be worthy, he shall return,” Cara proclaims from her place on the floor, looking at the girls upside down as she continues to drag her foot along the bottom of the curtains.

“Oh, shut the fuck up,” Merula mutters lobbying at pillow at her.

“Surely, you’ve read about them by now, what with all that time you spend in the library,” Kamala teases.

Mallyn blushes, not realizing her reputation had spread beyond her friends. “Here and there, really only in relation to families who claim heritage,” she mumbles, suddenly wishing everyone’s attention was on the movie.

“All lies, those bloodlines are good and gone,” Jaden states, sensing the unease in the young girl, “anyway, werewolves stick to the woods, secluded places, not really ones for company.”

Lucy sneaks into the room, claiming the spot in front of Mallyn on the floor. She raises her hand, offering Mallyn a bag of Muggle crisps, courtesy of the latest care package from her parents. She gratefully accepts the safe snack, quickly opening it and quietly chewing.

“There was an attack a few years back in the Forbidden Forest, Dumbledore saved the day, fought the Fenrir Greyback single-handedly,” Jaden whispers, her eyes flirting back and forth between the screen and the teasing smile on Kamala’s face.

Anthony Sonny emerges from his dark corner in the back of the room, preferring to sulk by the door than even trying to pretend to watch a Muggle movie. “Oh, shut up,” he scoffs. The six girls pivot themselves to be able to see him, but the shadow hides most of his features, only the small amount of light in the room revealing the dirty blonde shade of his hair falling over the top halves of his eyes, leaving them to wonder whether he is sporting a matching scowl as his voice portrays. “That old man did nothing of the sort, Fenrir Greyback is a beast in every manner, the worst of the worst, he wasn’t beaten and he certainly didn’t flee, he left because he got what he wanted,” he practically growls, his deep voice developing a raspy rumble whenever his anger gets the better of him, which is quite often in his case.

“What did he want?” Lucy asks, unintentionally egging him on.

Kamala speaks first, wanting to exclude him from the conversation entirely, finding his opinions on most matters unreliable, and quite frankly aggravating. “To add to his pack,” she states, her disapproval of the answer evident in her tone.

“And he did?” Mallyn asks a second too soon to see Kamala and Jaden’s silent pleas to let the matter die.

“Yes,” Anthony declares.

Jaden pushes herself up and spins to completely face Anthony. “No,” she refutes.

Anthony steps away from his corner, walking towards the couch, only stopping an arm’s reach away from the back. He rests his hands on either side of Jaden, gripping the fabric beneath his hands. “He bit someone, didn’t he?” Anthony whispers, tilting his head as he looks down on her.

Never one to back down, Jaden knocks his hands away, forcing him to step closer to avoid falling. “Did not,” she emphasizes, her breath hot on his neck.

“Did too,” Anthony argues, his eyes rapidly moving across her face, momentarily dropping to the small amount of skin visible above the neckline of her shirt.

Kamala pushes herself up, tired of the drivel and drool, especially the drool leaking out of the corner of his mouth as he watches Jaden, the way he always watches her. “Did not, besides anyone who knows anything knows everyone here would be a little too old for his taste,” she argues, leaving no room for argument. She glares at Anthony until he disappears into the shadow of the bookcase.

“A student?” Mallyn questions, unable to help herself.

Jaden and Kamala sink into the couch, whispering between themselves. Kamala’s eyes occasionally land on the darkness hiding Anthony. Kamala holds Jaden’s hands in her own, reassuringly stroking her thumbs over the back of her hand. Eliza’s eyes fixate on Jaden, waiting for her permission to fill in the First Years. Jaden nods once without taking her eyes off Kamala. “Jaden’s ex, Chiara Lobosca, Sixth Year Hufflepuff,” she explains quickly and quietly, “their first year here, Chiara and,” she murmurs, pausing as her eyes zero in on Brandon on the floor, “went out exploring, ended up in the Forbidden Forest on Halloween, got attacked by Greyback and two others, Dumbledore showed up and scared them away, but it wasn’t even a full moon.” Her eyes land on Jaden again before returning to Mallyn but Mallyn turns away, silently questioning whether it could be true, that Tonks’ could be living with a werewolf, and if it is if she knows about it. It would not surprise Mallyn one bit to find her friend openly scoffing danger, she expects it at this point, but what of the other roommates, the protective older sister that stood up to the arguably nastiest Slytherin all by herself, or the Hufflepuff Seeker and quidditch captain capable of holding her own on the field even against her own boyfriend, all brave in their own respects but none of which, even Tonks, could she see facing a werewolf and walking away. Eliza mentioned that it was not a full moon, but for all Mallyn knows it does not even have to be a full moon for a bite to take effect, she knows practically none of the rules of the Wizarding World especially when it comes to creatures. 

Lucy turns herself on her pillow to face Eliza, completely forgoing the illusion of watching the movie. “And everyone knows? She’s allowed to go here?”

“Yes, because she’s no monster,” Jaden defends wholeheartedly before returning to her conversation with Kamala.

Lee scoffs, crossing his arms over his broad chest, the sleeves of his shirt tightening with the movement. “Lycanthrope or not, she’s still a monster,” he mutters, “blonde hair and blue eyes don't come naturally, not in those shades.”

Jaden turns around to face Lee, “Except for the fact that she was literally born with them.”

“Because she’s a Veela,” Lee argues, practically spitting the word out. His fists opening and closing as he tries to get a handle on his own emotions, silently reciting his uncle’s words to himself.

“You just want to blame the fact that you’re attracted to a Halfblood on anything, but your own damn self,” Kamala scoffs.

Lee rises from his place on the floor, moving to tower over Jaden in her seated position. “I have better taste-” he defends.

“Oh,” Jaden scoffs, rolling her eyes at his obnoxious attempt to get the upper hand. She kicks her legs out, scraping his knees to force him backward. “So this taste you’re referring to is what led you to asking out Looser-Than-A-Noose Katrina two years ago and getting rejected? Because if it is, Barnaby, got some news for you, might want to brace yourself,” she sneers, kicking his knees again until he crumples to the ground in a huff.

“She’s a monster, how else do you explain her getting all banged up every month?” Anthony declares, re-emerging from the corner as Lee pushes himself up, fully intent on rejoining the discussion.

Jaden rolls her eyes as she turns away from Lee, leaving him to sulk away, collapsing back on the floor with a grunt. “She’s always banged up, she’s Kettleburn’s little protégé,” Jaden states simply as if she were answering what her favourite colour is or what she wants for lunch.

Anthony remains against the bookshelf, leaning against the side as he accesses her. “And I wonder why that is? She’s just another one of his collections, his and Dumbledore’s.”

“Professor Dumbledore collects creatures?” Mallyn quietly asks.

Kelsey ducks her head, leaning down to speak to Mallyn privately. “Amongst other things,” Kelsey murmurs, “I mean, you’ve been in his office, he’s got that Phoenix, he’s the only one who has an understanding with the centaurs.”

“Centaurs?” Mallyn questions to herself, pulling her chin to her chest.

Merula groans dramatically, flopping her head back against the armrest before raising her head to stare at Mallyn. “In the forest,” she sighs exasperatedly, “keep up, First Year, might as well be a Mudblood with how little you know.”

“What exactly is your reasoning that he would be collecting things?” Eliza asks Anthony, genuinely curious to know his twisted logic, her head jerking back and forth to watch the verbal tennis match.

“Can we just watch the movie?” Brandon grumbles, tightening his grip around Tulip. She leans her head back to rest against his shoulder, whispering words for only him to hear, her red hair cascading down his back much to Merula’s chagrin. Slytherins collectively yell at him as a pillow lands at his back. He grabs it, searching for the thrower, but no one fesses up, only settling back down at Tulip’s gentle coaxing, her thumb gently stroking along his forearm.

Anthony slides a spare chair up to the back of the couch, settling behind Mallyn. “He’s collecting things because he’s preparing for war,” he whispers, “everyone in the Wizarding War knows the first time around if it had come to a battle, the victory would’ve lied with whoever had the most help.” He looks around, before settling his eyes on the two youngest members. “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named had the giants, Dumbledore got the centaurs, He got werewolves, Dumbledore-”

“Don’t fucking say the bloody Phoenix,” Ismelda groans, pushing her face into the couch.

“They’re rare and powerful,” Anthony argues as he whips his head to face her.

Merula meets his gaze, “It’s a bloody bird, a singular bird, besides He’s gone and He’s never coming back, He can’t-”

Milton Parsons interrupts, “I wouldn’t be so sure, my dad-”

“Oh, here we go again,” she sighs. She swings her legs down, propping her chin on her hands as her elbows dig into her thighs. “What is your daddy dearest saying now?” Merula mockingly coos.

Milton raises his hand over his head, his middle finger prominent in the air as the projector catches it and enlarges it in the middle of the scene.

Anthony leans forward, resting his forearms on the back of the couch. “That there was a break-in at Malfoy Manor and Dumbledore was behind it, wants something they have, and they have a lot,” he whispers. He clicks his tongue, his mind wandering off. “Can’t even begin to imagine what the Lestranges squirreled away,” he murmurs.

“Ministry confiscated everything,” Ismelda states, the couch cushion muffling her words.

“That’s what they want the public to think,” Milton remarks, absentmindedly playing with the fringe of the pillow in his lap.

Reaching into the bag of crisps, Jaden removes a handful and flings them forward, wishing she could do more, she could, would, if she had her wand instead of being forced to leave in her room, which she realizes is precisely why none of them are allowed to bring their wands to these monthly events. “I am so sick of your conspiracies,” Jaden sneers, ready to aim another handful at Milton.

“Don’t hate, just because they ain’t,” Duke hums, turning his piercing blue eyes on Kamala and Mallyn.

Jaden scoffs before tossing the crisps at him, contemplating going over there and shoving more down his fancy little shirt, ultimately deciding better, or rather Kamala decides better with the tight grip on the back of her sweatshirt. “Do you hear yourself? Do you process your own words?” she exclaims, throwing her hands into the hair, flakes of crisps showering over the couch, “That is literally your whole thing, hating what you aren’t.” She sighs exasperatedly, settling back into the couch with a huff.

“Only what’s lesser,” Cara whispers, selecting a single crisp off the top of Duke’s head and popping it into her mouth, grimacing at the taste of the potion that he uses to keep his hair sticking straight up.

“Lesser,” Jaden scoffs, shaking her head. She crosses her legs and pulls them up onto the couch. “We all know that the Purebloods aren’t even the best Wizards in the school,” she mutters, angrily picking at the piling on Kamala’s jeans.

“Of course, they aren’t,” Merula agrees, her tone hinting that there is anything but good intentions as per usual with her. Everyone looks at her, waiting for the other shoe to drop. “They leave that to the Pureblood Witches,” she declares with a proud smirk.

“Fuck off, Snyde,” Jaden grumbles. She leans into Kamala, sneezing when she accidentally inhales a feather from the collar of her blouse.

“Give me a chance to prove it,” Merula warms, her eyes finding Mallyn despite the numerous people between them.

Kamala leans forward, blocking Merula’s view. “Oh, real nice, picking on a First Year who doesn’t know a single defensive spell, yeah, that’ll really prove yourself.”

Merula matches her posture, pushing her torso over the edge of the couch. “The challenge was for your girlfriend,” she whispers, her upper lip curling as her eyes dart to Jaden, “but if you’re offering the little one up as target practice.”

Kamala stops Jaden from getting up again, a petty catfight being the last thing that needs to happen, especially since as a Prefect it would be her job to break it up. “Bugger off,” Jaden snarls, “go sulking back to your little cave, aren’t we all below your effort anyway?”

“Of course, but I’m bored,” Merula declares with a shrug.

“Then sit down, shut up, and watch the fucking movie!” Erika yells, the talking getting on her nerves as she tries to work out the pressing issue from the latest practice, needing to figure out a solution before the first match. Ayush grumbles as he does the same next to her to a degree of varying success thanks to Nathalie turning down his invitation to join movie night.

Merula slumps back in her seat, “Fine,” she grumbles, “not like I have any say in the matter, fucking bullshit making this a requirement.” 

“If you become Head Girl next year, you are more than welcome to make up your own little rules,” Lila Painter calls from the front of a room, thoroughly enjoying the movie as well as the arguments in the background.

“I just might,” Merula declares, a hint of triumph in her voice. She bumps her foot into Ismelda, drawing her attention away from the movie. “Anyone less than Pure sleeps in the hall,” she whispers, raising her eyebrows.

“Have fun out there,” Cara sings, kicking the curtains again.

Merula flips on the couch, her shoes hitting the floor with a solid echoing thud. “I am Pure of blood,” she declares, ignoring the groaning from her housemates. She settles back against the couch, scowling. “More than any of you sorry excuses on that shitty little list,” her eyes flitting to land on Cara, Marcus, and Kellan, briefly flickering to Anthony and Milton before deciding they are not worth the effort when they do not carry the names that their mothers were born with.

Cara pushes herself up and spins around to face Merula, none of the unsurety that a Second Year should have evident in her tone or posture. “Show me a Ministry verified family tree and I’ll be happy to bow down,” she says, curtsying halfway before tilting her head up, a wicked grin on her thin lips, “shine those blood-crusted shoes of yours.”

Merula’s upper lip twitches, “Mel, Bea, come on,” she grumbles. She pushes herself over the back of the couch, making a beeline for the girls’ hallway. She waits in front of the curtain for the reminder that the night is required, but it never comes. Lila and Douglas stay silent, both happy to see the group especially their ringleader go, cutting down their potential problems by three.

“What about Tulip?” Beatrice whispers, slightly pouting.

Merula spares a glance to her friend, Brandon’s arms tightly encasing her against his chest as he stares at Merula, silently daring her. “Brandon invited her, not me,” she mutters with a shrug before disappearing behind the curtain.

Mallyn watches as the girls with matching bangs covering half of their faces trail behind Merula, the youngest sparing a glance over her shoulder before the velvet curtain closes off the hallway from the Common Room. “Wasn’t that a Hufflepuff?” Mallyn whispers, afraid of drawing them back out. “And isn’t she a Ravenclaw?” she murmurs as her eyes drop to Tulip.

“Yep,” Kelsey confirms as her eyes lock onto the screen as the repetitive clacking of the typewriter repeating the same phrase over and over echoes off the stone walls of the Common Room.

“I’m a Ravenclaw,” Eliza offers offhandedly, the scene entrancing her as well.

Lucy shakes her head in disbelief, “So many rules but none of them matter.”

“Nope,” Kelsey says, popping her lips. “Although, wouldn’t recommend trying to sneak any of your Gryffindors in here,” she warns the two First Years, wagging her finger at them.

Mallyn frowns, tugging on Kelsey’s sleeve to get her attention. “Why?” she questions.

“Don’t know how the room would react,” she shrugs as she continues to watch the movie.

“It was fine with Charlie,” Mallyn murmurs, shaking her head.

Kelsey’s head whips around, her mouth oscillating between open and close, searching for words for the first time in her and Mallyn’s brief friendship. “Charlie Weasley was in here?” Kesley questions, blushing at the thought of him being in the vicinity.

“Yeah,” she murmurs, mentally picturing the calendar in her head, counting back the days, “about a month ago.”

“How’d he get in?” Kamala questions, frowning at the memory of trying to sneak Kody Mackie into the Common Room a few years ago in order to work on a project with an ounce of privacy and the door practically closed on his toes.

Mallyn pauses for a moment, trying to remember any specifics from the night, but it’s all one big blur that ended with her curled up in bed. “Followed me in,” she shrugs.

“And the room didn’t react?” Kamala inquires, tilting her head as she tries to process the implications. It is no secret that there has never been a single Muggleborn sorted in Slytherin, but she figured the Common Room excluded all other students outside the house, not just those born to members outside of the Wizarding Community. “Interesting,” Jaden murmurs to herself.

“Can we watch the movie now?” Tulip questions, partly wishing she had just stayed in her dorm. Damn Brandon and his smile, she thinks to herself. 

Erika sighs deeply, the constant talking shredding through her last bit of patience. “The mom and kid escape while the dad freezes to death only for his spirit to be trapped in the hotel forever,” Erika states.

“Bitch,” Milton grumbles, tearing his eyes from the screen.

Cara wraps her arm around Milton’s neck, “Careful or I’m going to spread around that you actually enjoyed a Muggle movie,” she teases.

He shoves her off of him, “Only because the Wizarding Community produces abysmally shitty ones,” Milton grumbles.

“Yeah, yeah, whatever you say Muggle lover,” Anthony taunts from the back of the room.

Milton whips around, his finger pointing at Anthony as if it could take the place of his wand. “Take that back or I’m telling your mum that you hooked up with a Mudblood,” he states, staring daggers.

“Name a single one,” Anthony causally counters.

Milton frowns, the lines between his eyebrows growing in number as he racks his brain for a single accurate name, a few lines around his eyes joining the party as his frustration does. “I’ll figure it out!” Milton argues before stomping away from the Common Room, slamming the curtain behind him, wishing it were a door instead of curtains purely for dramatic effect.

“Aw, cousin love,” Kelsey jokingly sighs wistfully, “nothing like it.” 

Jaden snorts, “Better be thankful they’re not Blacks, otherwise, there’d be wedding bells in their future.”

Before she can help herself, the words are spilling out of Mallyn’s mouth. “They’re related to the Blacks by marriage, Lysandra Black, née Yaxley, born eighteen eighty-four, died nineteen forty-six, married Arcturus Black the Second, born eighteen eighty-four, died nineteen fifty-nine, had three children, all girls,” Mallyn recites, the small section of the tree burned into her mind.

“You are the most horrifying little walking Encyclopedia, aren't you?” Kamala gasps, reaching around to poke Mallyn’s side, “Do another family.”

“I only know that because...” Mallyn murmurs, sighing. Kelsey pokes her side, silently prodding her to finish her sentence. “Those are the Weasleys’ great grandparents,” Mallyn murmurs, careful of her volume, “the three girls married into the Longbottom, Weasley, and Crouch families, respectively.”

“That’s a pretty gnarly family tree,” Kamala mutters, shaking her head. She will never understand or get behind the creation of most, if not all, the Pureblood families, just grateful that the Fischer branch does not buy into it as new members of the sought-after community.

“It’s not a tree,” Mallyn mutters, shaking her head, “it’s, it’s like this rope that intertwines and reloops and just is interwoven over and over and over with the name Black and the colour green popping up everywhere,” Mallyn rambles, trying to demonstrate with her hands, leaving her arms woven around each other until her fingers hook on each other, groaning at the result.

Jaden knocks her knuckles into Mallyn’s shoulder as she attempts to untangle her limbs, “Hey, you know, Longbottoms and Weasleys have notoriously been on the good side of things in this world, so looking at that tiny portion of the tree, or rope I guess, two out of three isn’t bad.”

Eliza perks up, spinning around to rest her elbows on Jaden’s legs. “Very true, but the Crouches, not so much,” she declares, shaking her head at the thought, “the son, Barty Junior, last of the name, unless the Mister and Missus decide to try again, he’s currently in Azkaban with a lifetime sentence, partly for participating in the torturing of the Longbottom Aurors that drove them insane.”

“Okay,” Kamala sighs, setting her hands on Eliza’s shoulders to steer her away from the couch, “I think that’s enough horror for one night, yeah?” Kamala pushes Eliza towards the girls’ hallway, knocking her head for Mallyn and Lucy to follow. “Bedtime,” she declares as she holds back the curtain.

“The first movie isn’t even over yet,” Lucy whines.

“And you already know how it ends,” Kamala reminds her.

Lucy’s shoulders slump, “What about the next one?”

Kelsey leans over the back of the couch. “If you want to have nightmares about clowns, I’ll see about tracking down a suit of my own for Halloween, but until then you’re just going to have to settle for fearing that the squid-”

“Narmer,” Mallyn adds.

Kelsey frowns, “What?”

“His name is Narmer,” Mallyn explains.

“The squid has a name,” Kelsey murmurs to herself, silently testing out the name.

“And he’s telepathic,” Lucy grumpily mumbles.

“Shouldn’t be surprised,” Kelsey mutters, shaking her head. She perks back up, smiling at the First Years as they hover by the doorway, Eliza having abandoned the protest to climb into Jaden’s bed. “Fine, since we’re being real specific, have fun having nightmares about Narmer wiggling his way into your brain,” Kelsey teases, planting the idea into their heads. “Sleep tight,” she hums before turning to face the screen, stretching out in the vacant space.

Kamala gives a final gentle push, urging Mallyn and Lucy towards their room. She lets the curtain close behind them, climbing over the back of the couch and settling down with her head in Kelsey’s lap, her feet on Jaden’s legs. “You are never going to be a Prefect,” Kamala warns, mockingly scolding Kelsey.

“Oh, how ever will I live with myself?” Kelsey sighs dramatically, flopping her head backwards as they collapse onto a fit of giggles.

Chapter Text

The First Years shuffle into the Charms classroom, the majority pausing in the back, hesitant to move further into the room. “Why is the headmaster here?” Elfy whispers, afraid to look at the front of the room as she makes her way to her seat.

“No clue,” Alicia mutters as she pushes up on her tiptoes to get a better look, using Lee’s shoulders for support.

Fred bumps his elbow into Mallyn’s side, “Go ask,” he urges quietly.

“What?” she squeaks, turning her head at lightning speed to glare at him over her shoulder, “Why me?”

“You’re the only one of us that has actually talked to him,” George states, ever the rational one.

“And the five of you are Gryffindors,” she scoffs. They all look down at her, waiting for her inevitable concession. “Fine, fine, I’m going,” she mutters. She steps forward then spins around, jabbing her finger into Fred’s chest, “But I want absolutely no bog over my library habits for the next week,” she wagers. They all nod eagerly, willingly to do anything to find out what could make the headmaster show up to their class like this. She pulls her bag off her shoulder and pushes it into Fred’s arms then spins around. Mallyn carefully approaches, nervously wringing her hands behind her back. Logically, she knows she should not be scared, but something about authority figures, especially ones in full length robes, never fails to set her nerves on high alert and doubts they will ever cease to. “Sir?” she questions when she stops a foot away from Professor Flitwick’s desk.

The contraption in hand falls to the desk with a clatter. The headmaster looks over his shoulder smiling at the young girl. “Yes, Gre-I mean, Miss Smyth.”

“Oh,” Mallyn exhales in realization.

Tonks grins crookedly with a hint of mischievousness and unfittingly large for the usually stoic headmaster’s face. “Something I can help you with, dear?” they question as he brings their hands up to rest in front of him, interlocking the aging appendages and purposefully cracking them.

Mallyn glances over behind her, ignoring the mouthed questions from her friends and the students in the first row leaning forward to try and listen in. She turns her attention back to Tonks, finding Albus’ crystal clear blue eyes watching her carefully. “Just wanted to see what you’re doing here,” she murmurs.

“Waiting for Filius,” he announces, loud enough for the entire class to hear, “but seems he is quite tardy.”

“Class hasn’t technically started yet,” Mallyn informs her friend, double checking the small clock on the table to verify there’s still more than a minute until the class period begins.

Tonks shrugs, “Technicalities.” They hunch over the desk, selecting a single sheet of parchment out of all the clutter. His eyes scan the parchment, their thin lips curling into a smile, “Expect young Filius to be better prepared,” he says, lowering the paper to look at Mallyn over the clean edge, “constant vigilance is key.” Tonks rolls up the parchment and pockets it, plans already running through their devious mind.

Mallyn squints at the act before stepping closer, picking at her nail beds behind her back. “Are you okay?” she whispers, her eyes darting around to avoid looking directly at him.

“Of course,” Tonks states, their smile faltering. Looking down at the young girl, he leans down, “Why do you ask?”

“I just hadn’t seen you since Friday,” Mallyn murmurs, her eyes nervously flitting to the row of windows on the far side of the room, finding the small sliver of the moon in the day sky after a moment of searching.

“Ah,” they murmur, “the Lord’s day, I believe, is the saying,” Tonks states, unsure of the significance of her short absence from the First Year’s life when they’ve gone far longer without talking since the start of their friendship.

Mallyn shakes her head, “That’s Sunday, at least for Christians.” She steps even closer, painfully aware of the prying ears only a few steps away. “It was a full moon on Saturday,” she whispers, unable to meet Tonks’ eyes as they are currently not their own. Even throughout the ever-changing whims when it comes to their hair or other facial features, Mallyn thinks back and realizes Tonks hardly ever changes their eyes from the twinkling darkness that she assumes to be the natural hue.

Tonks stands up straight, remembering to at least try to play the role of the experienced and ever professional headmaster. “I do believe it was,” he states with a curt nod.

Mallyn chews on her bottom lip, waiting for a further answer, “And you’re okay?” she questions, teetering on her heels.

“Okay?” Tonks repeats, frowning at the word. “Couldn’t be better,” they laugh. Tonks leans backwards, poking their head out the open doorway behind him before quickly ducking back into the classroom. “Go sit down, Miss Smyth,” they quietly urge, “and tell all your little hooligan friends to do the same.”

Mallyn raises her eyebrow, but tilts her head forward. “Of course, sir,” she murmurs under her breath, chuckling to herself. She weaves through the rows of desks, ignoring the inquiries as she passes. She settles in her seat, taking her bag from Fred.

“So?” he questions.

She smiles to herself, slightly shaking her head. “Just wait,” she whispers, ignoring the prodding finger on her side.

Filius rushes into the classroom, holding his belly as he attempts to catch his breath. “Hello, stude-“ he greets before stopping his thought entirely at the sight of the headmaster at the front of the room, toying with a miniature globe. “Professor Dumbledore, to what do I owe this honor?” he cheerfully questions.

Tonks tosses a glass orb from his own desk to Filius, catching him off guard. “You think I would forget your birthday?” she teases watching as the contraption fills with red smoke. “After all, I’ve helped you celebrate forty three of them before,” they state.

“Of course, sir,” Filius confirms as he approaches his desk, “but we had dinner last night since you said you would be out of the building today.”

Tonks’ face drops before they can catch himself. Plastering on a neutral face, “Did I?” he questions as if it will save the act.

Filius chuckles, shaking his head as he passes the orb back, the smoke fading into nothingness. “Tonks,” Filius greets, not a hint of bad will in his voice.

Tonks shakes their head as they shift back to themselves, pink hair and all, just in a set of the headmaster’s robes instead of their school uniform. “Happy birthday, Professor,” she cheers, wrapping her arms around her favourite professor the second he steps up on his platform. “Did bring you a present,” she announces, flourishing her hands for dramatic effect.

“I hope not a rendition of the Seventh Years,” Filius chuckles, jokingly locking the windows with a wave of his wand.

“Gods, no,” Tonks scoffs, “don’t like a single one of them, cocky bastards, each and every one of them, besides fifty-five is no one hundred.” Tonks circles the podium until she is on display in front of the entire class, winking at Mallyn and the twins in the back row before turning back towards the professor. “No, this is much more simple,” she announces, “you may pick my hairstyle for the remainder of the day.”

“Oh, really?” Filius cheers, “Fantastic!” He rests his elbows on the slanted top of his podium, contemplating his choices. He wiggles his pointer finger, summoning Tonks closer. “I’ve always enjoyed that feathery one you do, but Ravenclaw blue if you please,” he whispers, winking at her.

“Who knew you were a wild one, sir,” she teases. Tonks leans away from the podium and scrunches up her face, willing her hair to change. Her scalp seemingly sucks back in the shaggy strands of hot pink hair along the sides of her head, leaving an inch strip along the top and her sideburns but the color shifts into vibrant blue with hints of black hidden within. The class claps wildly, no longer shocked by the sudden change in appearance as they were when the disguise of their headmaster vanished within a blink. “Well?” she questions, waving her hands around her head.

Filius smiling widely at his pupil, nodding his head, “Absolutely wonderful!” He watches joyfully as she spins around once, showing off all angles of the unique design. Filius glances at his desk, noting the time on the small clock. “Sorry to say,” Filius sighs, “but you best be getting back to your class.” Tonks pursers their lips, pouting.  “Unless of course you want a refresher on First Year charms,” Filius offers. 

“As fun and useful,” Tonks snorts, “as levitating has proven, think I’ve got it under lock.” Tonks turns and faces the class, “I bid you adieu,” Tonks declares with a bow, winking at Filius over her shoulder. They raise up and prance down the aisle, tapping heads as she goes.

Mallyn catches Tonks’ hand as they pass, pulling her down to ear level. “Can we talk later? Meet me at the library during lunch?”

“As long as you’re paying,” Tonks jokes, winking as she retreats. “Oh, and nice addition to your outfit,” they remark, nodding her head at the colorful paint splatter tights beneath Mallyn’s stockings, courtesy of Tonks’ own wardrobe.

Filius taps his wand against the edge of the podium. “Now that that excitement is over, today we will be working on The Mending Charm, also more commonly referred to as the Repairment Charm,” he announces, “it can be used to seamlessly repair most broken inanimate objects with very few exceptions.” Professor Flitwick wordlessly summons the empty teacup and saucer from his desk, shattering the teacup with a single touch to the rim, the shards falling to the saucer with a delicate cling. “But the base charm is Reparo and is done like so,” he states, waving his wand around the pieces. The class watches as the teacup reassembles itself as if it had never been broken in the first place. “It is an incredibly useful and practical charm that we have Orabella Nuttley to thank for when she used it to repair the Colosseum in seventeen fifty four when the historic spot, for Muggle and Magical communities alike, was chosen as the finishing line in a recorded magnificent broom race from Aberdeen, Scotland to Rome, Italy between the famous Torquil McTavish and Silvio Astolfi, both amazing fliers, professional quidditch players even way back then if you can believe it, and government representatives and supporters gathered there to await their arrival, however, just as the pair were spotted in the clear night sky, a clash broke out between the fans and during the fight, an explosion was set off, leaving the Colosseum in absolute ruins, but fortunately for all involved, Missus Nuttley stepped forward, took the initiative and repaired a few columns with the spell she had invented a few years earlier, and amazed, as they should be, the present ministers asked her to teach them how to perform it, and with the quick work of all involved, the damage to the Colosseum was completely undone by the time the Muggles woken up by the sound of the explosion arrived.” Filius glances around the room, mostly making sure everyone is still awake. “Origin year...Lucy?” he inquires, never one to set his students up for failure for their end-of-year exams.

Lucy perks up, “Seventeen fifty-four.”

“Excellent,” Filius cheers. He looks around, settling on the desk directly in front of him housing a singular student. “Last name of the creator...Kenneth?”

Kenneth freezes, searching his mind for the name spoken less than five minutes ago. “Nuttler?” he offers, knowing it does not sound quite right.

Filius shakes his head lightly but keeps his smile in place. “Nuttley,” he corrects. He thinks for a moment, tilting his head as he considers his options. “Ten points to anyone who can tell me a proper modification of the spell,” he declares. From the far side of the room, a pale hand shoots into the air. “Mister Pucey?” Filius calls, having expected it at this point, the boy always more than willing to show off his talents.

“Custodibus Reparo,” Adrian states matter-of-factly, confident that his magic schooling is years ahead of most, if not all, of his classmates, save for perhaps Cassius or Cedric.

“Very good,” Filius says, nodding his head once. “Are you capable of using it?”

Adrian shrugs, the action clashing with the self-assured expression on his face. “If I had a broken clock,” he claims.

Filius raises his wand and summons the clock off his desk, breaking it with a single tap of his finger as he had done with the teacup. The springs erupt out of the back of the timepiece as Professor Flitwick levitates the object to Adrian and Cassius’ table. “Give it a go,” Filius encourages.

Adrian removes his wand from his robe, pointing it at the broken clock. “ Custodibus Reparo ,” he states, waving his wand once. The springs tuck themselves back within the metal structure, the ticking resuming immediately and catches up to present time due to the enchanted mechanisms constructing the clock.

Filius summons the clock back to him, inspecting the item. “Excellent,” he reports after a moment of deliberation. “Twenty points to Slytherin, ten for answering, ten for demonstrating,” he declares with a curt nod. “Anyone else?” he questions, scanning the students for any interest.

Iris raises her hand, confident in her ability to answer the question, but not in the ability to perform it. The cordial professor nods, encouraging her to speak. “Lignum Reparo,” she states, “repairs broken or damaged wood.”

“Excellent, ten points to Hufflepuff,” Filius states. His eyes scan the room again, “Final call?”

Elfy’s hand shoots into the air at Alicia’s insistence. “Speculo Reparo repairs glass, specifically windows,” she says.

“Gonna need to remember that one,” Fred snickers, sticking his hand out from under the desk for George to slap.

Filius nods, “Ten points to Gryffindor, now can anyone tell me the benefit of modifying charms and spells?” he questions, waiting a moment to allow anyone to speak up and answer his question before answering it himself. “It allows for more careful handling, such in this case, if you were to simply use Reparo on that clock, there is no guarantee that your wand would recognize the complex magic that goes into creating it in the first place, or in cases of windows, one spell to repair the fractures in the wood, another to ensure the glass is stabilized to prevent it from simply shattering the moment a light breeze hits it,” Filius explains. He raises his wand and summons a collection of teacups from the cupboard beneath the last of the windows in the row on the far side of the room, each of the twenty small porcelain cups shattering into three equal pieces as they reach the students’ desks. “Now I would like everyone to try with the broken teacups I have placed in front of each of you, but please no touching them, blood makes me quite queasy and I do not fancy spending my birthday in the infirmary no matter how lovely Madam Pomfrey is,” Filius instructs, watching carefully as students test their skills, “remember visualization and intention!” 

Fred leans back casually in his seat, pointing his wand at the teacup and repairing it in one try. “Used it plenty of times before,” he shrugs as Mallyn struggles to repair her teacup, her mind elsewhere.

George leans over, snatching Fred’s teacup from his desk and tossing it into the air, levitating it with ease. “Mum would be so proud to know her punishments have actually paid off,” he teases. The teacup falls from the air as he retracts his wand, Fred reaching out and catching the teacup before it can hit the ground. 

Mallyn huffs, trying again to no success, the word of the spell slipping from her mind as the frozen image of Tonks’ face from her nightmares reappears behind her eyelids.

Fred reaches across the desk and wraps his hand around Mallyn’s own, guiding her wand to touch the edge of one of the shards of her teacup. “Reparo,” he instructs. She repeats after him, the pieces rattling against the table only to fall flat the second his hand leaves hers. “What’s up with you?” he murmurs, raising his own wand and fixing the teacup while their professor’s back is turned to assist Theo and Tyson.

“Haven’t been sleeping,” Mallyn mumbles as she leans forward against the table, resting her chin on her hands as she glares at the teacup.

“Or eating,” Lucy mumbles as she squints at her own teacup, willing the final piece to remerge with the others.

George perks up, leaning forward to look at Mallyn and Lucy. “Not literally, right?” he whispers, his eyes wide.

“Exaggeration,” Mallyn confirms with a small smile. 

Filius climbs back up to his podium, surveying the room. “That everyone?” he questions, checking that all the teacups are back in one piece. “Excellent,” he cheers. He raises his wand and summons all the cups, sending them back to the cupboard with a wave. “Best be off to your next class,” he states, the door springing open. The First Years filter out, some wishing the professor goodbye and a happy birthday as they filter out of the classroom.

Mallyn allows herself to be herded amongst the class, mindlessly moving in time with other footsteps until the crowd begins to disperse as they near Professor Binns’ classroom. She tugs on Fred’s sleeve, pulling him to a stop with her. “Cover for me if Professor Binns wakes up enough to notice I’m missing?” she gently pleads.

“How?” Fred laughs, glancing over his shoulder to wave George into the classroom.

“Slouch in your seat, raise your voice,” she teases, slipping her bag higher up on her shoulder and holding the bag to her chest to avoid the items within from rattling against each other.

Fred wiggles his eyebrows, his fingers poking her arms. “Where are you going?”

Mallyn leans back, just enough to lessen the blow of Fred’s prodding pokes. “That’s for me to know and you to wonder about,” she mocks, quoting his own words back to him.

“Be careful?” he murmurs, his eyes searching for a sign of her birthday gift.

She moves her left arm, allowing her robe sleeve to slip past her wrist to reveal the trinket hanging from its chain, the metal links winding multiple times over her wrist to keep it in place, engulfing a good sliver of her arm in gold metal. “Got tired of it hitting my stomach,” she whispers, confirming that she has in fact kept the promise she made a week ago to never take it off outside of her room. “Please?” she pleads.

Fred makes a show of bringing his index finger to his face and tapping it against his lips, contemplating his choice. “See you at lunch?” he questions.

She shakes her head, her hair secure at the base of her skull for once, “Meeting Tonks.”

“‘Figuration?” Fred pesters, his mind racing as to what she could have planned, surely nothing as devious as what he would get up to.

Mallyn nods, “I’ll be there, don’t think anyone’s absence slides past Professor McGonagall like Professor Binns.” She turns her head to the side, ducking into her shoulder to hide her yawn.

Fred untangles her arms from around her bag and slings it over his shoulder. “Maybe put down the books and try using the library for its intended purpose: taking naps,” he teases as he retreats into the classroom.

Mallyn watches as he props her bag up to appear as if she were slumping against the table. “I’ll be sure to pass your definition along to the Matron,” she whispers before turning on her heels. She allows the magic of the castle to guide her, having accepted that it knows best, always finding the best ways around with the least amount of people.

Mallyn waits a few feet from the entrance to the library, watching for Matron Pince to return to her office before she slips in the far door and weaves her way to the back of the library, careful to avoid any of the occupied tables. She sinks into an empty seat at the farthest table in the back, hidden between a series of bookshelves and glass cases, the library returning the books to her that she had left half-finished last night. Mallyn reaches around the top of the book and feels for the indent between pages, flipping it open to the small stack of parchment acting as her bookmark. She traces her finger over the diagram on the page, reminiscent of Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, the images of man and beast overlapping on the page, differences in measurements and characteristics in small print off to the side, thin lines connecting the words to the image. Mallyn tilts the book forward, the image of the man disappearing leaving only the drawing of the werewolf mid-transformation in place, terror evident in the pained expression on the lycanthropes' face. Tilting the book, it compels the pages to shift, showing the stages of transformation, step by excruciating step. Shaking her head, she pushes the book close and away from her, selecting the next closest one and flipping open to a page with a similar diagram, except the diagrams shift to show the process of the transformation with the aid of the Wolfsbane Potion. The expression on the face is more relaxed as the stages progress until a drawing of a wolf is staring at Mallyn, golden eyes unblinking as the wolf observes. Mallyn’s eyes scan over the page, rereading the notes on the page that mention the transformation is still painful, the shifting of skin and bones impossible to be completely painless, but if the potion is taken for the full week leading up to the full moon, it allows for the human side to remain instead of clashing and ultimately losing to the wolf which is what typically causes such a violent transformation, very few ever willingly giving into the wolf, the most notable case being Fenrir Greyback. Mallyn shuts the book and reaches for another, the face of a monster glaring at her on the cover, the imagery courtesy of Greyback’s short stint under auror control a few years prior before he escaped and fled into the night. She flips open the book, starting over from the beginning with the horrid story of his own introduction to lycanthropy at the age of six when his village sacrificed him to the creature they believed to be an angry god that terrorized their remote village every full moon unless placated with a sacrifice, only for him to be changed at the precise perfect time on the October night of the Harvest Blood Moon during the total lunar eclipse and return to the village that was once his home and terrorize them himself every night of the month until they were all either turned or dead at his hands. 

“Not even two months in and you’re skipping?” Charlie calls from the end of the row. Mallyn quickly closes the book and tucks in under others, pulling open a book on defensive charms in front of her as he approaches the table.

“History,” she explains as he takes a seat across from her.

“Fair enough,” he sighs, remembering how painfully tedious Binns’ lectures could be. He slouches in the chair, settling once the two are at the same height.

“How did you ever become a Prefect?” she scoffs, leaning back in her chair, “What are you skipping?”

His hair free of any and all constraints today, the ginger curls bounce as he shifts in his seat. “Nothing, this is my quidditch captain class time, came here to research new plays,” he shrugs.
Mallyn leans forward, resting her elbows on the table. “New plays in a library with nothing new from the last decade including the dust?” she inquires, her disbelief evident in her tone.

Charlie rolls his eyes but leans forward to avoid raising his voice any louder than absolutely necessary. “Avoiding Penny, she keeps trying to get me to ask her to the ball, as friends which she has heavily emphasized,” Charlie tells Mallyn, raising his eyebrows as he looks around, jokingly checking for any sign of the blonde. Charlie wiggles his finger, summoning Mallyn closer. “Promise me when you’re older you will never hound anyone like her.” Mallyn nods her head, silently agreeing to his words. He leans back, crossing his arms against his chest. “Doubt you’d be able to, she’s a special breed, wants to be a reporter for The Daily Prophet, actually think she’ll make a good reporter, just wish I wasn’t her latest subject,” he mutters. Mallyn cocks her eyebrow, wordlessly questioning his statement. “She picks a new interest every twelve months like clockwork, latches on to it, analyzes it, learns everything she can about it, writes a report, I’ll be sure to share hers on me when I get it in three weeks.”

“Three weeks?” Mallyn asks.

Charlie sighs as he tilts his head back and forth to the side, his hand reaching up to rub at the side of his neck. “I was the one that found Beatrice, her little sister, stuck in a portrait last year, one of the Vault Curses, felt like I had to do my part in getting her out, so Penny and I ended up spending a lot of time together researching, she read into my motives as interest.”

“And you had to make an announcement,” Mallyn interjects, “Bill mentioned it.”

“Are you trying to collect all of us?” Charlie teases. Mallyn blushes but manages to shake her head. “Want to come grab lunch?” he questions as he stands up from the table.

“Tonks is supposed to meet me here,” Mallyn explains, checking the enormous clock hovering in the center of the room. “I’m sure her pockets are filled with biscuits and sweets,” she tells him, knowing more often than not Tonks’ pockets contain at least one snack along with a few odds and ends.

“A well-rounded diet,” Charlie chuckles. 

“I’ll have a big dinner, promise,” Mallyn says, holding his eyes. 

Charlie squints, accessing her for a moment. “Hold you to it,” he declares before turning and leaving

Mallyn slumps in her seat, “You and Fred both,” she mutters to herself. She pulls on the corner of Greyback’s biography but finds herself unable to open it, just watching as he bares his teeth to the camera, all the visible ones filed into points to match his four fangs. Unable to sit still any longer, Mallyn gathers up her piles of books and returns them to the nearby cart, and flees the eerily quiet room, pacing the length of the corridor outside the library as she waits for the time to pass. 

Tonks sneaks up to Mallyn, wrapping her arms around her waist and hoisting her off the ground. Tonks sets the First Year down at her insistence. The second her feet are on solid ground Mallyn turns around to face Tonks. “Alright, Little Gremlin, I’m here, I’m queer, what do you want to talk about?” Tonks teases, poking Mallyn’s cheeks.

Mallyn chews on the inside of her cheek as her eyes dart around the corridor, quickly filling with students looking to use the library during lunch. “Can we walk?” she questions, knocking her head towards the closest set of double doors at the end of the corridor.

“I can, can you?” Tonks snickers, waiting for Mallyn to laugh. “Oh, serious,” they murmur, taking in the expression on the young girl’s face as they walk. “Seriously, are you okay? You look like you’re about to pass out,” Tonks whispers, knocking their elbow into Mallyn’s side.

Mallyn focuses on continuing forward, ignoring her heart’s pleas to flee and leave things as is. “Your roommate-”

Tonks shakes their head, cutting Mallyn off, “Don’t have one.”

Mallyn’s head whips up, “What?”

Tonks loops her arm through Mallyn’s to guide her forward. “Castle got tired of moving me back and forth so I have my own little cubby in the Common Room, think it used to be a broom cupboard, but don’t quote me on that, hate to piss off her stubborn majesty,” Tonks explains, waving their finger around, “still won’t let me enter any of the fourth-floor bathrooms after an unfortunate incident during my third year.” Tonks loses herself in a memory for a moment before remembering the arm around hers. “Sorry, you were going to say something?”

“There’s this mandatory bonding night for the Slytherins,” Mallyn says, hesitating as she considers her next words.

“Believe I’ve heard rumors of that, think it’s Lila and Dougie’s attempt at mending burned fences that they really don’t know much about since they’re both from new families,” Tonks remarks.

Mallyn inhales deeply, “Your roommate, who’s not your roommate,” she stutters, her mind moving faster than her lips would ever be capable of keeping up with, “the...”

Tonks’ face hardens, “Chiara,” she states. Mallyn nods her head once, her bottom lip between her teeth. “Who said what?” they interrogate.

“Well, it was movie night, horror movies and somehow we got on the topic about the forest, or of the forest, and Jaden brought up there was an attack by a werewolf, then his blonde Pureblood boy, think he’s a Seventh Year, he has a couple cousins, but he and her just kept going back and forth arguing whether or not he bit someone, and then Lee, not my friend, the Prefect, called her a Veela and said she was a monster no matter what and then it just descended into a fight about poor dating choices and the Wizarding War and then everyone just started arguing about who is a Pureblood and who isn’t and the list and then Merula said I might as well be a, you know, with how little I knew because I kept asking questions, I was just asking questions because I don’t know anything about anything here, but all I could think about was how Jaden just kept saying that Chiara wasn’t a monster and she wasn’t bitten that night, but she never denied she was a werewolf and I just wanted to know if you were okay and then I couldn’t find you on Sunday or yesterday.” 

By the time she gets all the words out, Mallyn’s chest is moving rapidly as her lungs attempt to get enough air to calm her down. Tonks pulls them to a stop then grabs her shoulders, squeezing tightly. “First of all, breathe,” they whisper, exaggeratingly demonstrating her own steady breathing, earning a bitter laugh from Mallyn that manages to break the pattern of her rapid breathing before she can hyperventilate. “Second of all, I’m fine, I’m always fine, it’s kinda my thing, besides the whole shifting appearances,” she says with a wink. Tonks looks around before turning their attention back to Mallyn. “Third of all, they need to learn not to talk about things that aren’t their business,” they state plainly.

“You haven't denied it,” Mallyn whispers, waiting for Tonks to speak up, to tell her they got it all wrong, but Tonks does not, just continues to watch Mallyn carefully. Mallyn inhales sharply, “Because you don’t like to lie,” she chuckles, tears building up in the corners of her eyes, “especially not to naïve stupid little First Years who know nothing.”

“You are not stupid,” Tonks murmurs, tilting Mallyn’s head up with a gentle knuckle to her chin.

“Naïve?” Mallyn questions quietly.

Tonks laughs, short and low, “Think that’s kind of a built-in thing for twelve-year-olds,” she murmurs. Tonks looks around, surveying their new location, somewhere deep within the castle, their legs having continued moving as they talked. “If it makes you feel better, I promise I’m more dangerous than her, she has never been without the Wolfsbane Potion since starting at Hogwarts and never will be, and plus, I mean, my temper is kinda legendary,” Tonks laughs, bumping her elbow into Mallyn’s to show that everything is okay, quickly easing the girl into a laugh of her own, “must be the Black in me, the only bad we are by nature is bad-tempered, helped lead to certain reputations.” Laughter other than their own reaches Tonks’ ears, her anger returning tenfold.

Mallyn’s eyes widen, “Tonks, your hair is turning red,” she whispers, watching as the hair on her friend’s head grows longer and redder.

“Is it?” Tonks spats, a huff escaping them.

“It’s supposed to stay blue, it’s Flitwick’s birthday wish, remember?” Mallyn reminds Tonks. Her hair shifts back to blue, but instead of the feathered mohawk, it shifts into a puff on the top of her head, mimicking the shape of an open flame. “I’m kinda expecting you to grow horns right now,” she jokes, hoping to put her friend at ease.

As if the universe has grown bored of the usual pace, fate intervenes to spice things up, steering Merula and Tulip towards a collision path with Tonks and Mallyn.

Merula scoffs, rolling her eyes at her friend. “I just don’t understand why you keep reapplying that horrible color to your hair,” she mutters.

“Gryffindors don’t own the color red, Merula,” Tulip sighs as she plays with the end of her braid.

Tonks rounds the corner, leaving Mallyn behind to catch up. “Hey, Snyde, got a bone to pick with you!” they call, stomping towards the pair. 

Merula rolls her head casually as if Tonks had simply called her name. “Is that one of those Muggle phrases you’re so fond of?” she questions over her shoulder. Her violet eyes bore into Tonks’, hiding her surprise when they flash red to match their hair, a few shades more vibrant than Tulip’s.

“Yeah,” Tonks scoffs, “along with mind your fucking business.” Tonks stops just short of Merula, forcing her to turn around to be able to see her properly. Merula begrudgingly turns around, Tulip following her cue as Mallyn comes to a stop behind Tonks. “Or did you forget the last time I told you to watch what you say about my friends?” Tonks states, her eyes scanning Merula, sizing her up, and noting her wand secure in her bag.

“I can assure you whatever I said about your dear little,” she states, leaning to the side to stare at Mallyn. Tonks defensively steps in front of her, forcing Merula to speak to her instead, “Gremlin, is it? The Halfblood just took it too serious, all fun and games at the monthly Slytherin bonding nights,” she states, her painted lips curling into a sinister smile.

Tonks steps even closer, lowering her head and voice to speak to Merula. “Should I also remind you what happened the last time someone accused Chiara of being a werewolf?” Tonks’ eyes flit to Tulip, wondering how the Ravenclaw has fallen so far in such a short time since only last term when she had been instrumental in keeping Chiara’s status a secret when Ismelda and Merula sought to out her to win a magazine contest.

“Oh,” Merula coos, pushing her lips forward in a pout, emphasizing the dark purple hue of her lipstick, “coming to the monster’s defense, are we? Thought that was your boyfriend’s thing.”

Before Tonks can correct the honorific, Charlie climbs through one of the openings in the wall next to the group, saddling up next to Tonks, only sparing a glance to Mallyn over his shoulder. “Thought my ears were burning,” he chuckles. “Is there a problem?” he questions, addressing the most level-headed member amongst them, Tulip hesitating to answer as her dark eyes dart back and forth between Merula and Tonks.

“Nothing I can’t handle,” Tonks grumbles.

“Where’s your worse half?” Charlie asks Merula, trying to assess the situation and plan for whether he needs to worry about Ismelda popping up with her wand drawn.

“Poisoning kittens as we speak,” Merula snarks, “I don’t know and I don’t care, not my job to keep track of her.”

“Too bad,” Tonks mocks, “make things a lot easier on you if she were around to try and slip me a love potion.”
Charlie and Tulip tense, knowing that if Ismelda were around, Tonks would be on the ground for bringing up her former infatuation with Lee and the poor choices that stemmed from it.

Merula scoffs, “As if, I prefer your meaningless comebacks to having a lovesick freak follow me around, rather use the Killing Curse on myself.”

“Would think a witch such as you claim to be would know that wouldn’t work,” Tonks states, “then, of course, the Unforgivables aren’t what you have an affinity for, but I’m sure Ismelda would be more than willing to give you a hand or I have no doubt that you could cook up a wicked poison, get the job done in no time.” Mallyn and Tulip inhale sharply at the same time, surprised to hear the insinuating remark slip from Tonks’ lips, but Charlie remains still, only his eyes moving as he watches, waiting for the sign to step in, but Tonks beats him to it. “ Immobolus ,” Tonks states plainly, two bolts of white flashing in quick succession from the tip of her wand peeking out of the sleeve of her robe. She bends down and picks up the creature frozen in time, its eyes staring blankly ahead, unable to move. Mallyn steps backwards, recoiling at the idea of the glistening black snake having been so close to her without noticing. “Unless you’ve finally figured out how to make Mooregmagog here poisonous, I strongly suggest he follows the same as you and keeps to himself,” they declare as she shoves the snake into Merula’s frozen hand, the pair holding each other’s eyes as they continue to stare daggers at each other. 

Tulip wiggles the creature out of Merula’s grip, wordlessly undoing the spell and allowing the small garden snake to crawl up her arm, Mallyn watching in horror as she does.

Charlie knocks his shoulder into Tonks’ breaking the trance. Tonks pushes through the space between Merula and Tulip, stomping down the hall, her heavy boots creating echoing thuds with each step. Charlie sighs, but follows after Tonks, leading Mallyn by a firm grip on her wrist.

Merula recovers from the weak extension of the Binding Spell just as Charlie and Mallyn catch up to Tonks. “That’s right, run off with your little girlfriend!” she screams, her fists clenching and unclenching at her side.

“Not a girl!” Tonks yells, sticking her middle finger in the air as she continues down the corridor.

“Oh, I forgot!” Merula screams as she watches the retreating trio. “Not as if you remind everyone every second of the day that you’re little, well, not miss special,” she chuckles, “wouldn’t want to get your pants all twisted, that’s your cousin's job there, innit?”

Tonks whirls around, Charlie stepping in front of her and wrapping his free hand around Tonks’ wrist to keep her from rushing back down the corridor. “Keep your mouth shut!” Tonks screams over Charlie’s shoulders, “And spread the word to your little Pureblood buddies to do the fucking same!” 

Charlie guides the way towards the main part of the school, knowing a bigger audience will immediately calm Tonks down at least enough for her hair to return to blue. He twists his arm, checking the time on his wristwatch.

“Come on, got to get to class,” he mumbles, steering them towards the main staircases.
Tonks rips her wrist from Charlie’s grip, “I don’t have a fucking class!”

“Then come to mine, Rakepick’s having us duel today and you have energy and anger to burn,” Charlie states, leaving no room for argument. Tonks grumbles under her breath, sulking away to the Great Hall to find any remaining food. Charlie leans back against the wall, closing his eyes and sighing, his fist opening and closing steadily by his side. 

“Charlie?” Mallyn questions. He peaks at her out of the corner of his eye, releasing his grip on her when she holds up her arm. “Why do you do that with your hand?” she asks, gesturing to his other hand, having noticed him doing the same thing other times.

“It’s calming, it’s the same rhythm as my heart,” he explains. He reaches out and wraps his hand around her wrist again, pressing her palm to his chest. She closes her eyes, focusing on the steady thumping of his heart, flexing her other hand to the beat. She opens her eyes and sees that her hand matches his, moving in time to the beat of his heart. “I have to report this,” he sighs, dragging both his hands over his face.

“Nothing worth reporting, LeLe,” Tonks declares as she rejoins them, a chicken wing in hand with another jutting out from between her lips, “just preparing for the rest of our lives.”

“LeLe?” Mallyn questions with a snicker.

“Charlie, Weasley,” she says, emphasizing the single syllable in each word, anger still lacing her words.

“You are not allowed to call me that,” Charlie preemptively states.

“Why not?” Mallyn questions, her brows furrowing.

Tonks finishes her first wing, disappearing the bone with a simple flick of her wrist. “Same reason you can’t call me, Dora or Nym, haven’t earned it,” she says, her features noticeably calmer, her hair returning to the former state of the Charms Professor’s request. “You gotta go, love McGonagall but she’s a stickler for rules, especially when students show up late,” Tonks says, tapping the back of Mallyn’s legs with the toe of her boot.

Mallyn’s lips shift to the side, hollowing out her cheek as she tries to process the sudden change. “Have fun in DADA, don’t kill anyone, I guess,” she murmurs, toying with the chain beneath her sleeve.

“Try my hardest,” Tonks laughs as she finishes off the second chicken wing, the bone disappearing into thin air a moment later.

Charlie sets his hand on his best friend’s shoulder, “And if that doesn't work, I’m great at coming up with alibis,” he teases with a wink, sending Mallyn on her way with a nod of his head and Tonks with steady pressure on her shoulder.

Chapter Text

A large gray owl swoops down from the sky, dropping a large light brown parcel to the ground in front of Angelina, kicking up dust from the dirt trail leading back towards the main building from Herbology Greenhouse One. She digs the short heels of her flats into the grass to avoid tripping over it completely. Lee scoops down and picks the package up for her, dropping down to one knee to present the bundle to her as if she were a princess. Angelina rolls her eyes at the gesture but accepts the package with a quiet thank you. “Oh,” she murmurs, tracing the cursive lettering on the top with her right index finger while her left thumb strokes over the return address in the corner.

“Weird time for a delivery,” George murmurs as he scans the sky for any other owls, but finds the afternoon sky bare of any other signs of life as well as clouds, the space above them an empty dull blue as the sun begins its descent.

Angelina perks up with a large smile, “My mum always gives me my birthday presents exactly twenty-four hours before my birthday so that I can fully enjoy them,” she tells her friends. Her attention turns back to the package in her grip. “Wonder how she figured it out,” Angelina murmurs, doubtful that the stoic Professor Sinstra left behind a how-to guide on all things Wizarding including the postal system with her parents before departing after her short-lived visit to their home in Southwark where she broke the news that their youngest daughter was a Witch with automatic acceptance to the official Wizarding school for all the little Wizards and Witches in the UK then promptly fled the urban area with a wave of her ornate wand, leaving the three to blink at the empty space until Angelina managed to shake herself out of the trance long enough to reach out and grab her invitation from the coffee table.

Fred nudges Angelina’s arm with his elbow, “Well, open it,” he encourages with a small but genuine smile.

Angelina sits down on the ground, the other six following suit and sitting around her in a circle. Angelina drags her nail under the seam, popping the stripe of tape securing the fold. The stiff brown paper falls to the sides to reveal a neat pile of deep red velvet fabric with a matching red leather-bound journal sitting on top. Angelina hands off the journal to Alicia then reaches out to pinch the shoulders of the dress and unfurls it, holding it in front of her.

“That’s gorgeous,” Alicia murmurs as she lightly drags her fingers along the fabric, appreciating the detail in the ornate floral design, small beads crafting it in its entirety, “you should wear it tomorrow.”

Angelina shakes her head, “Too fancy for class.”

“Tomorrow?” Mallyn questions, checking her mental calendar to figure out what she is missing.

“Free dress?” Lee says incredulously as if Mallyn should know the meaning behind the two words put together.

Mallyn looks around the group, searching for matching signs of confusion on any of their faces. “Free dress?” she asks when she realizes that she is the only one not on the same page.

“Last Friday of every month? No stuffy uniform? Ringing a bell?” Lee teases, poking Mallyn’s knee.

Realization dawns on her and her friends at the same moment. “The last Friday of last month was my birthday,” she quietly murmurs.

“When’s everyone else’s birthday?” George quickly questions to make sure the mood does not drop too far.

“Twenty-first of March,” Lee answers as he leans back to lay down, resting his hands behind his head.

“No way, mine is the twenty-ninth of March,” Alicia laughs, her smile revealing the single dimples in either of her full cheeks, the small divots hidden amongst the series of curves following the ends of her lips that seem to stretch all the way to the creases around her eyes.

Lee shoots up, “Perfect, we can just turn that entire week into a birthday celebration!” he cheers, thrumming his fingers on his legs. He leans over and bumps his shoulder into Lucys’, “What about you?”

“Eighteenth of February,” Lucy states as she looks around her group of friends, smiling at how far they have come in such a short amount of time.

Fred and George share a look, “First of April,” they proclaim together with matching smirks.

“No way,” Alicia laughs, her face contorting in disbelief.

“Way,” the twins confirm, although their smiles do nothing to prove their truthfulness.

“I want that confirmed by your mother,” Mallyn and Angelina declare together. The group laughs at their joint response, Mallyn blushing while Angelina keeps a steady gaze on the twins.

“Will Charlie do?” George questions with his eyes on Mallyn.

“No,” Mallyn states, shaking her head, “I don’t doubt your ability to rope or blackmail him into conning us.”

Angelina surveys the group with a shake of her head, “My God, friends with four Aries and an Aquarius, going to be burnt out by end of term,” Angelina mutters. “Good thing there’s you,” she declares, poking her toe into Mallyn’s calf, “I’d never survive alone.” Mallyn raises her eyebrows, unsure of the exact significance of astrology, her knowledge severely limited to the fact that she is a Libra and that her sister, mother, and father are all Capricorns. “You’re a Libra, natural diplomat,” Angelina explains, “my aunt’s into astrology.”

“What’s your sign?” Lucy asks, the concept of astrology new to her as her parents prefer the logical and explainable, neither a big fan of the more arguably spurious courses available at Hogwarts.

“I’m a Scorpio, typically defined by their empathetic and transformative natures, I have the words on my bedroom wall back home, right above my desk,” Angelina says, although she has yet to accept the words true to her character.

“Anything like a scorpion?” Alicia questions with a tilt of her head.

Angelina nods, “It’s the symbol.”

“What about Aries?” Lee asks, his curiosity in the subject officially piqued.

“Rams,” Angelina states before turning her attention back to Mallyn and Lucy. “Libra is a scale, like the justice system, it’s actually only one of three of the signs that doesn’t have a living thing as its symbol, Sagittatus is bow and arrow and then Aquarius is a jug of water.”

“Oh, idea!” Lucy exclaims suddenly, drawing all attention to her. She blushes profusely, not meaning to have interrupted Angelina. “We should do something different for dinner tomorrow so you can wear your dress,” she murmurs, the idea of a nice quiet dinner away from the Great Hall on the forefront of her mind.

Fred leans forward and pokes Angelina’s knees. “And then you can write about it in your fancy new journal,” he teases.

“Oh,” she laughs, dragging her thumb along the side of the journal, rapidly flipping the pages. “It’s just a little tradition, my dad is a writer, fiction, and is always encouraging me to write about anything and everything, says you never know where inspiration for the next great novel might come from, but I find it a little,” she murmurs, scrunching up her nose, “I just think if I can’t remember it on my own then it really can’t have been that important, you know? Like I’m never going to forget the first time I flew or my first recital,” Angelina muses, her words dropping off as she notices the flustered expressions on the other girls’ faces. “Did I just put my foot in my mouth?”

“Mallyn journals, so do I,” Lucy says quietly with a shrug.

Angelina turns to her roommate, searching for reassurance in her beliefs but finds none. Angelina frowns, “I’ve never seen you,” she murmurs.

“Are you forgetting our beds have curtains?” Alicia teases, hoping to lighten the mood.

“If it makes you feel better, I don’t journal, never even picked up a quill before the first of September,” Lee jokes.

“Great,” Angelina deadpans, barely holding back her desire to roll her eyes, but does so knowing that Lee is only trying to make her feel better.

“Can we talk about plans at dinner? I’m dying to get out this,” Fred grumbles, tugging his tie completely free of his body and flinging it at George’s face.

“You’re already halfway out of uniform,” Alicia states, gesturing to his jumper and robe on the ground next to him.

“Yes, but the final fifty percent is the most vital,” he grumbles as he pops the top three buttons of his shirt to reveal pale freckly skin, “swear they purposefully make these shirts itchy.” 

“Could always wear a vest underneath it,” Lucy suggests.

“And rob my skin of the rash it has so carefully accumulated over the past two months?” Fred scoffs, “Never.”

“Any idea what’s for dinner tonight?” Lee asks, his stomach rumbling.

Fred shakes his head, his quick-growing hair now nearly in his eyes. “My in with the kitchens plunked out,” Fred grumbles, “Bill won’t tell us anymore after we protested the kidney pie the other night.”

“The posters were very clever,” Alicia laughs, picturing the charmed sheets of brightly colored parchment that had begun to fall from the ceiling as students had begun to trickle into the Great Hall for dinner on Monday.

“The spelling on the other hand...” Lucy teases since the writing on the posters was large and understandable even with the occasional missing and backwards letters.

Fred scoffs and pushes himself off the ground. “Molly would slap your hands with her very best spoon for that,” Fred declares, jokingly putting his nose to the air, “she takes great pride in our education.”

“Which is why it sends a special thrill through his brain to purposely misspell things,” George tells the group as he slaps the back of Fred’s closest calf before he pushes himself off the ground and tosses Fred’s tie and jumper over his brother’s shoulder. “I’m just a horrible speller, but have the better handwriting,” he shrugs as he tugs his own robe off and slings it over his shoulder. George and Fred both bend over, helping all four girls off the ground with steady hands while Lee scrambles over himself trying to do a handstand.

“Fred’s is right horrible, can’t read it half the time,” Mallyn laughs as she brushes off the back of her robe and skirt.

“Ah-ha!” Fred exclaims, pointing his finger at Mallyn, “You finally admit you try to cheat off me!”

She swats away his hand, “I do not, I just check your papers to make sure you’ve actually put words on the page.”

“Gonna start charming the ink invisible if Snape criticizes my craftsmanship one more time,” Fred grumbles.

Mallyn inhales too quickly, accidentally snorting. “Give him less of a headache,” she teases.

“So you’re who we have to thank for his particularly sour mood this week,” Angelina states with a roll of her eyes, the earlier berating from the Potions professor, over her simply mistaking the jar of butterfly wings on the classroom shelf for a moth’s as the Pompion Potion calls for and nearly ruining it, still fresh in her mind.

“He hasn’t been any more grumpy than usual, has he?” Lee says as he has not personally noticed a difference in the professor’s abysmal teaching or social habits.

“Caught him yelling at a couple of Fifth Years for carving up pumpkins in the Great Hall when I went to the loo earlier,” Mallyn murmurs, “God forbid one of us actually manages an accurate version of the potion, may offer us up before Halloween.”

“Why pumpkins?” Angelina questions suddenly. “I mean, why not squash?” she elaborates when her friends stare blankly at her.

“Or brussels sprouts?” Alicia offhandedly suggests.

Lee snorts, “We’d all lose fingers trying to carve faces into brussel sprouts.” 

“We have magic,” Fred says, leaving off the duh and yet it still hangs in the air around them.

“Carving them is ninety percent of the fun,” Mallyn defends as she ducks into the building, grateful for the warmth from the lanterns.

“Is it really? Never done it before,” Alicia says, “but maybe with the whole being a Witch thing my mama will come around.” Alicia purses her lips, thinking to herself for a moment. “Are there any Wizard specific traditions?” she questions. “My dad hasn’t said much, but he’s not really big on any holiday, we barely celebrate his birthday.”

“Are there any specific Muggle traditions?” George questions.

“Carving pumpkins is both, obviously,” Angelina declares with a tilt of her head, “plus costumes.”

“Cider?” Lucy questions, practically tasting her mother’s fresh spiced apple cider that she makes every fall like clockwork.

“Both,” the group confirms with simultaneous nods.

“Scaring people is a given,” the twins declare and with a wave they depart, the Gryffindors winding their way up to the upper levels of the castle while the two Slytherins work their way down to the sublevels.

“Bobbing for apples?” Mallyn quietly suggests, careful of her volume in the otherwise empty corridor. Lucy shakes her head, never having heard of the tradition. “Ah-ha,” Mallyn proclaims, quickly looking around to make sure she has not drawn unwanted attention to them, heeding Charlie and Tonks’ warnings of Filch and Mrs. Norris lurking around the corridors for stragglers and his fondness for threatening corporal punishments even well before curfew. “Muggles one, Wizarding World zero,” Mallyn whispers as they turn the corner towards the Slytherin hallway.

“Magically enchanted candles,” Lucy retorts as she holds her wand up to the wall. “Adentes fortune ivat,” she commands, pressing the tip of her wand to the stone. The wall ignores her request as it does every single time the password switches to a command in a language other than English. “Mallyn,” she whines, pushing out her bottom lip.

Mallyn rolls her eyes, but pulls her wand out of the internal pocket of her robe and points it to the wall. “Audentes fortuna iuvat,” she states, careful of her pronunciation while trying not to laugh at the meaning of the phrase, much better suited for Gryffindor Common Room than the Slytherin one in her mind, but then again no one asked her or would even care about her opinion on the matter given her current status with the house. 

Mallyn steps through the door with Lucy on her heels. “Why do they keep choosing non-English passwords? Not all of us had private tutors in French and Latin and other impossible languages, swear the next one is going to be Mermish and just have us blindly screeching at the wall,” Lucy mutters as they cross the quiet common room, their door opening wordlessly for them as they approach it. “Although English is actually one of the hardest languages to learn if it’s not your first, considering that most if not all the rules have exceptions, my dad had a hard time with it,” she murmurs as she moves toward her bed, collapsing backwards on it and letting her legs dangle over the side. Raising up on her elbows, Lucy watches as Mallyn tugs open the door to her wardrobe, thumbing through her clothes. “And as far as it goes, Wizarding World wins in any circumstance, that’s a given, but we’re talking about Halloween traditions. What about stringing nuts and hanging them in doorways?”

Mallyn turns to look at Lucy over her shoulder, “I’ve heard of stringing popcorn and cranberries at Christmas.”

“Must be a locational thing, I’m sure things in London are all posh and fancy,” Lucy teases, tossing a stuffed bear at Mallyn.

Mallyn catches the stuffed animal, holding it tightly in her arms to her chest as she approaches Lucy’s bed. “You act like I grew up sticking my finger out when sipping tea and calling for limousines to take me to school,” Mallyn murmurs as she hands the stuffed animal back to Lucy.

“Didn’t you?” Lucy laughs, combing her nails through the bear’s brows and trying to smooth the rough hair to lay flat above the dark soulless plastic eyes.

“No,” Mallyn laughs as she sinks into her bed, staring at her wardrobe across the room. “What do I wear? What did other people wear?”

Lucy thinks about it for a second, knowing that she is just planning on wearing jeans and a jumper, grateful for the chance at something other than her skirt. “Well, what did you wear on non-uniform days back at…” Lucy questions, blanking on the name of Mallyn’s old school.

“Saint Mary’s,” Mallyn fills in for her, pausing for a moment to laugh, “And we didn’t get free dress days, think they were trying to save the nuns from heart attacks, I’m sure they considered making us wear full-length skirts at one point with the upper girls rolling theirs up all the time.”

“What about that jumper you wore the other day? The blue turtleneck one, it’s really pretty, matches your eyes,” Lucy suggests, mentally trying to think of everything she has seen Mallyn wear outside of her uniform, but comes up with a series of plain solid long sleeves that she thinks must remind Mallyn of her unitards for dance.

Mallyn shakes her head, her dark hair moving in ripples from the small movement. “I don’t want to risk ruining it, God knows I decide to wear it and suddenly Prfoessor Snape decides tomorrow’s the day he wants to demonstrate some especially horrid potion that stains or Sickleworth picks me as his favorite for the day and shreds it,” Mallyn mutters, throwing her hands up in the air to run them through her hair then quickly bringing them down when the act reminds her too much of her mother.

Lucy swings herself off her bed and moves to stand in front of her wardrobe, quickly selecting her outfit for tomorrow then leaving the doors wide open, “Welcome to look through my stuff, but I think getting out this dungeon will give you the perfect answer unless the wardrobes have suddenly become sentient and will start giving us advice, which would great.”

“Sure one like that exists somewhere in the Wizarding World,” Mallyn laughs. She looks around the room, a lightbulb going off in her mind. “I’ve got a better idea,” she declares, “let’s go to the kitchens and make cookies for Angelina.”

Lucy’s face contorts into a slight frown. “I don’t think we’re allowed in the kitchens, we’re not house elves,” she states, chewing on her bottom lip, “or castle elves, in this case, I guess.”

A smile grows on Mallyn’s face, “I have an in,” she whispers. Mallyn moves to the center of the room and looks around before opening her mouth and calling out, “Timpkins?”

A light crackle fills the air as Timpkins pops into the room, “Miss Mallyn summoned Timpkins?” he questions as he wipes his hands on the front of his gold tunic, smearing flour all across the fabric then wordlessly disappearing it.

“I did,” Mallyn confirms, smiling down at the kind creature. “This is Lucy,” Mallyn introduces, waving her hand behind her, Lucy pushing up on her tiptoes to wave at the house elf.

“Timpkins knows this of courses, Timpkins, all elves, know all beings within their homestead, pleasure to make yous acquaintances, Miss Lucy,” he greets with a curtesy. “What can Timpkins be doing for yous today?”

“It’s our friend's birthday tomorrow and we wanted to make her cookies,” Mallyn tells him, putting on her sweetest smile.

The elf smiles up at Mallyn, his joy radiating off of him. “Timpkins can get yous cookies,” he eagerly agrees, rapidly nodding.

“Would we be able to make them?” Mallyn asks, questioning whether or not she should bother trying to bat her eyes.

Timpkins shakes his head, his ears momentarily hitting himself in the face from the force. “No, no, students cannot cook, not at Hogwarts, that is our job to feed and clothe and protect especially from the large flames of the kitchens,” he mutters, repeatedly shaking his head over and over.

“Uhm, okay,” Mallyn murmurs, trying to calm the elf down, “can you make a batch of double chocolate chip cookies and have them brought to dinner? It’s for our friend, Angelina Johnson.”

Timpkins nods rapidly again, his smile reappearing. “First Year Gryffindor,” he declares then does his best impressions of a lion that makes the girls laugh. “Timpkins is on it, platter be delivered to Miss Angelina with the nightly puddings,” he declares proudly. Timpkins smiles at Mallyn then taps his wrist, “Timpkins must goes now,” he announces and then disappears with a snap.

“Cute little creatures, house elves, aren’t they?” Lucy laughs as she moves back towards her bed.

“Do you have one?” Mallyn asks while flipping through the sparing amount of clothes hanging in her wardrobe.

Lucy scoffs, “Gods no, my family might be magic, but not old magic.” Mallyn turns to look at Lucy over her shoulder, silently questioning her by raising her eyebrows, coughing when Lucy does not notice her silence. “Oh, house elves can’t be bought or paid, they’re tied to the bloodline or house of whoever managed to trick them into servitude,” she explains, hovering her pillow above her stomach with a steady hold on her wand.

Mallyn frowns, her heart aching at the idea of such kind creatures being treated so horribly. “What about the house elves here, Timpkins, the others?” she murmurs, sitting on the floor to properly feel the sorrow of the information presented to her.

Lucy sits up and crosses her legs under her. “Bound to Hogwarts itself by duty and loyalty,” she explains, “what we know as house elves started at protectors, warriors, and over time as Wizards and Witches became more capable of protecting themselves and the land, the need for the house elves in that sense diminished and began to fulfill other roles, they’re genetic cousins of goblins, you know? Part of why their speech isn’t quite the same as ours, English isn’t their natural language, Elvish is, just like how Mermish is the language of Merfolk, except of course it doesn’t cause pain quite like the merpeople’s.”

“Do goblins have their own language too?” Mallyn asks as she holds up her pale blue jumper, inspecting it for any flaws, but thankfully finding none. She cannot imagine what she would do or what could happen if she had to attempt to try to repair it herself. Mallyn hangs it back in her wardrobe, setting it aside for weekends only.

“‘Course, it’s what’s printed on the coins,” Lucy explains as she continues to hover her pillow above her, “I’ve only heard it spoken once when I was five and my parents took me to Gringotts with them, it’s real low and guttural, reminds me of German, both sound angry no matter what they’re saying, not that I can understand it anyway, Bill might since Curse Breakers are required to know at least five languages, spoken and written, Goblinense is a common choice since Gringotts holds the largest number of goblin employees out of any institution within the Wizarding World.”

Timpkins pops back into the middle of the room, smiling at Lucy before spinning around to find Mallyn leaning against the door of her wardrobe. “Miss Mallyn, The Baron ises here, he is wanting to speaks to you,” Timpkins informs the girls.

Mallyn and Lucy look around, searching for any sign of the Slytherin ghost, watching as he glides through the stone where the door lies unopened. The Baron approaches Mallyn, clearing his throat before gliding to a stop. “I heard Mister Timpkins here say he was on his way down to speak to you, I spend much of my time in the kitchens, the aroma is to simply well, die for,” the Baron laughs full-heartedly causing a few droplets of the dark gray ooze to drip off of his hands, but disappear before they can hit the ground. “I had a peculiar question for you,” he states rather plainly, staring directly at Mallyn as if no one else is in the room.

“For me?” Mallyn questions in disbelief despite being the only person in his line of view.

He confirms with a slight nod, “Something that I have spent much time pondering since our first meeting all those many weeks ago when the school year began.” The Baron takes a moment to survey the room, noting that no personal changes have been made as of yet besides the addition of the singular mirror between the two wardrobes, wondering if it is a sign of the girls’ hesitation to accept their place within Slytherin. “If I may, and fully feel free to tell me I am out of place, I promise to you that your refusal will not hurt this old man’s feelings,” The Baron states slowly, waiting for a sign from Mallyn to continue. She hesitantly nods, her eyes revealing her anxiety at the prospect of whatever question she cannot even begin to prepare herself for. “Have you ever died, or more precisely given the wonder that is modern medicine in the Muggle world as I understand it, have you ever died and then been resuscitated? Since obviously, you are not dead at this given moment in the uncertainty that is time itself, unless of course, you are hiding your ability to walk through walls as well as your overall coloring astutely well,” he states, hoping his joke will lessen the seriousness of the entire situation.

Mallyn internally balks at the question, or rather insinuation, for a moment before composing herself. “Not that I'm aware,” she answers plainly, ignoring Lucy’s questioning gaze through The Baron and the concern on Timpkins’ face, completely missing his twitching fingers at his side. 

“Hmm,” he murmurs quietly to himself, “more and more to wonder about.” The Baron composes himself and bows politely to Mallyn, “Hope I have not held you lovely ladies up,” he states then turns to Timpkins, “nor you, kind sir, I offer you many thanks for entertaining my inquiries.”

“You’re welcome?” Mallyn murmurs. The Baron bows to Mallyn again before turning and offering another bow to Timpkins then Lucy then turns to leave, one ghostly foot in the wall. “Wait, why?” she calls after The Baron’s retreating form.

The Baron pauses literally with one foot in the room and one foot out, turning his head towards Mallyn. “I have simply never met a person alive capable of seeing ghosts outside of those like myself,” he answers with a kind smile, her confusion understandable.

Lucy shoots off the bed, stumbling a bit as her foot gets caught in her bedspread then falling to the floor in front of her bed. “Why can we see you? I know Hogwarts is a place of significance in Wizarding history and all that but,” Lucy says as she climbs off the floor.

The Baron turns his full attention to Lucy as he retreats fully into the room, “The thing all ghosts of Hogwarts have in common besides being dead is that when we died, we left business of the utmost importance unfinished, but I must behest you to not to be going around and asking any about their particular unfulfilled business, it is a highly personal and sensitive topic for most.”

“Most?” Mallyn questions.

“Some may be more than willing to share their story, the more sociable of the bunch typically,” The Baron states, his face dropping for a moment as he loses himself in a memory. Unwilling to offer up his own story, he forces on a blank face and thinks his way through the other ghosts that call Hogwarts home, a majority in the same predicament as himself, if not more so, until he thinks of some of the more vocal members. “For example, Gerald Villalobos, he can often be found in the farthest back right corner of the library, he was a scholar of Arithmancy in his time but he died before he had the chance to publish his life’s unfinished work, so he is currently still working it whenever he is able to coerce, pardon, convince a student into transcribing his ideas, however verbose they may be, he is nothing else if not a perfectionist, I believe a Fifth or Sixth Year Hufflepuff is currently undertaking the ever most arduous task of consolidating his words as well as making sense of it, imagine they will not last long as the secondary credit is up to at least hundred and twenty names by my last count, but I am sure it will reach the thousands before Gerald ever gets around to allowing it to be published, but considering he never manages to keep one assistant around for too long, I believe it will be a long time before that ever even becomes a reality, they quickly grow tired of his rants,” The Baron explains. He glances up, searching for the invisible source calling him away, finally pinpointing it to the feeling in his gut that arises whenever Peeves begins his almost ritualist mischievousness. “Afraid I must be off, dinner is starting soon, I can smell the biscuits from here,” he states, dipping his head to the occupants of the room. “Again, many thanks to you Mister Timpkins for allowing me to accompany you,” he says to the house elf. “Ladies,” he states as he bows once more before disappearing from the room.

“Baron,” the girls call to the empty space.

Timpkins clears his throat lightly, drawing the girls’ attention to him. “Timpkins has comes to inform you that the cookies ares mostest excellent, all students sure to be mostest jealousness,” he proudly declares, his eyes and smile beaming.

“Thank you, Timpkins,” Mallyn and Lucy tell him. He disappears back out of the room with the many things to be done before dinner can be served on his mind.

“Look at you rolling with the punches,” Lucy teases, raising her eyebrows.

Mallyn sighs deeply, “As long as they’re not real ones, I think I’ve got it down pat now, as my dad says.” 

Chapter Text

Wandering down the ever-impressive aisles with their constantly changing stock, Mallyn stops at the last section of the bookshelf that Matron Pince has instructed her to find, supposedly home to one of the books she is looking for, although even the Matron did not seem entirely sure that it would still be there, grumbling under her breath about the library forgetting that she is supposed to be in charge and has the tendency to rearrange to its own liking without informing her. Mallyn reaches into the tight front pocket of her coat, searching for the small sliver of parchment with the title and location printed in the Matron’s small neat handwriting that Mallyn is on the hunt for while reaching up. Her fingers grasp only empty air as she fumbles around for ‘Fiction from Facts: The Magical Origins of Muggle Parables and Fables’. She huffs and swats her hand around, still only managing to grab ahold of air. Mallyn grumbles and looks up to find the book a few inches above where her hand is. Pushing up on her toes, she finally grips the small but thick book firmly in her hand and pulls it down, the weight surprisingly familiar in her hand. She stares down at the plain leather cover with small gold lettering then back up at the now empty space. Frowning, she shakes her head to try and rid herself of the odd feeling that she should have been able to reach it no problem, instead focusing on the appearance of the book, the plain cover and thin pages leaving no room to mistake what book the words within plan on debunking. 

Professor Snape pauses at the end of the aisle, his eyes narrowing at the sight of the lone First Year. “Something bothering you, Miss Smyth?” Severus questions as he stares at the girl from the end of the aisle, his lips terse beneath the hook of his nose. 

Mallyn’s head pops up, plastering on a smile. “Just feeling a little off today, sir,” she murmurs, looking back at the spot a good two inches above her reach where the book had been and yet her mind had felt as if she should have been able to reach it with no problem.

“Early curfew starts soon,” he announces before moving away in a sweeping motion, his cloak hitting the edge of the closest bookcase.

“Of course, Professor,” she murmurs as she quickly tucks the note back into her pocket and moves down the aisle, stepping around the professor to hurry out of the library with the single book in her hand, the book behind the desk making note of its departure. 

Mallyn rushes down the hall, checking her wristwatch as she moves, keeping a steady pace to ensure she makes it to the Slytherin Common Room before nine to avoid a detention, especially from Filch. She only slows to a brisk walk as she nears the Great Hall and spots Charlie’s unmistakable head of curls a few feet from the entrance. Slowing to a leisurely walk then ultimately stopping a few feet from the closest staircase to watch as students filter into the room, the majority of the girls in gowns and tiaras, their dates in matching Muggle suits from every era. Mallyn smiles at the notion that even little Witches with the Magical world at their fingertips grow up wanting to be princesses.

Looking every bit the blue-eyed belle of the ball, Penny passes by in full gown reminiscent of the Victorian Age, her hair falling down her back in perfect golden blonde ringlets, highlighting her exposed shoulders and collarbones. Her gloved hand stretches out to rest on Charlie’s shoulder. “Save me a dance?” she questions before moving away to enter the Great Hall, Professor McGonagall inspecting her attire with a tight smile as she passes.

Charlie weaves his arm around Tonks’ waist and he turns his head to place his lips near Tonks’ ear. “Don’t you dare leave my side,” he grumbles to Tonks as he tightens his grip around her waist.

Tonks’ head dips backwards as they laugh wildly. “And leave this dragon without its tamer? The world would never survive, LeLe,” she teases, pinching his side.

Mallyn approaches the pair, her eyes widening to an almost cartoonish extent as she takes in their costumes. Wild golden curls along with two small black horns protrude out of Tonks’ head, matching the multiple rough ridges resting along the side of Tonks’ cheek and jawbones, glittering gold scales surrounding them and extending down her neck. “Wow,” Mallyn exhales, her eyes flitting over to Charlie. His tailcoat suit glimmers under the light, the real pewter dragon scales sparingly woven into the Gryffindor red fabric catching the light and reflecting it back on ten different spots on the stone wall. “Wow,” she quietly praises.

Charlie tugs on Tonks’ waist, twirling them to show off their costumes, including the charmed tail extending through the back of her plain black flared pants, the gold scales protruding from just above her tailbone blending in seamlessly to the pewter scales crafting her top, a simple silhouette to cover the necessities as Professor Flitwick referred to it when he was assisting them in the creation of their costumes. “One more time?” Charlie teases.

“Wow,” Mallyn proclaims to appease his request.

Tonks leans forward, winking as she taps Mallyn’s nose with the long black claw extending out of their index finger, matching the claw hanging from the curve of her belly button. “See you around, Little Gremlin,” Tonks whispers before she and Charlie move towards the Great Hall, his grip tightening as they pass Penny, who stares longingly while sipping sparkling punch out of a small porcelain saucer.

“Tonks, Mister Weasley,” Minerva greets as they pass her just within the entrance of the Great Hall. Her grey eyes find Mallyn, watching in awe as students filter into the Great Hall. “If you wanted to sneak in, I believe you missed your chance with Miss Haywood and the plentiful coverage of that skirt of hers,” Professor McGonagall remarks, good humor tugging at the corner of her lip. Any hint of a smile dies on her face as a group of Sixth and Seventh Year girls quickly scurry past her, “That many other young ladies seem to be sorely missing,” Minerva murmurs to herself. She forces the disasters waiting to happen from her mind, residing to believe her students to be smart enough to think of using a Sticking Charm and to also manage at least a subpar success at it. “Good night, Miss Smyth, best get back, the clock for your curfew will be ringing in a moment,” Minerva murmurs.

“Good night, Professor,” Mallyn mumbles, watching as more students go into the Great Hall, only a few sticking to the typical dress robes of days past. Minerva clears her throat, drawing Mallyn’s attention back to her. “Sorry, I’m going,” she murmurs, backtracking down the corridor in order to see more of the costumes as she leaves until she backs into a solid mass. Bracing herself for what she can only assume after the multiple incidents is what she deserves over a grievance with the universe itself from a past life, she glances down and double checks that her shoelaces are in a tight knot then emotionally prepares herself up to face the worst of the worst. A light and friendly laugh draws her attention over her shoulder, relief washing over her. “Kelsey,” she greets as she turns around. Her gaze flicks to the squares of paper on either side of her waist then to the arms around it, following them all the way up to the head occupying the space above Kelsey’s. “You must be Abrahm,” she states, extending her hand to him. He reaches out and shakes it then quickly returns to his former stance with his arm around Kelsey’s waist, his fingers toying with the underside of the pale neon green gathered fabric constructing the ruffles of the sleeves of her gown.

Kelsey laughs, patting his forearm, “No, this is Peter, I broke up with Abrahm ages ago, he said I only ever came to see him when his roommate was around and I prefer maturity to insecurity,” she murmurs, turning and craning her neck to look him in the eyes.

“In his defense, he wasn’t entirely wrong,” Peter murmurs as he slots his lips against hers, his hand snaking up from her waist to lay against her neck, his forearm holding her body against him.

“Housemate,” she quietly reminds him, “not my fault it took you so long to notice me.”

Peter laughs lightly, placing a light kiss on the tip of her nose. “I always noticed you, was going to ask you out and he beat me to the punch by an hour,” he teases.

“Liar,” she whispers, her eyes flitting back and forth from his dark blue eyes to his lips, granting him a quick peck before turning back to Mallyn. “In his defense, I never expected him to notice me all,” she tells the younger girl who is watching the pair incredulously, realizing that Slytherins and Hufflepuffs seem to be a fairly regular pairing contrary to how Lucy made it seem on their first night in the castle.

“How could I not?” Peter murmurs with a shake of his head as he lets his hand drop to rest against her hip, toying with the gleaming neon green fabric between his fingers.

Kelsey laughs. “Different houses, different years, different classes,” she lists off, counting the grievances on her fingers, the silver hue of her nails glittering under the candlelight.

“Sparkling personality, beautiful features, incredibly talented,” he counters, pushing down her fingers until her hand forms a fist and wrapping his own hand around hers. Kelsey blushes at the praise. She turns in his grip, pushing up on her toes and connecting their lips, Peter easily giving in to her wishes. Mallyn blinks frantically, unable to tear her eyes from the spectacle. 

“Miss Paxton, Mister Yardley,” Minerva calls, but her words go unheard by the intended audience. She forcefully clears her throat, successful in drawing their attention away from each other.

Kelsey lowers herself back onto flat feet, blushing as she tucks herself under Peter’s arm. “Sorry, Professor, Mallyn,” she murmurs as Peter presses a kiss on the crown of her head, “young love and all that.”

“Certainly something,” Minerva mutters to herself, urging the pair to enter the Great Hall with a sweep of her arm then turning her attention to the only First Year in the vicinity. “Miss Smyth,” she sternly warns, flicking her eyes to the direction of the Slytherin quarters.

“I’m going this time, promise,” Mallyn states, stepping backwards.

“Catch you later,” Kelsey calls over her shoulder, her laugh permeating the air above the light orchestral music as Peter twirls her away and back to him in a quick move.

When she is unable to see anything other than blobs of colours, Mallyn turns around to walk forward, yelping as a hand wraps around her upper arm and pulls her into an alcove. Her mind races, trying to remember a single thing Ayush told her. Blindly reaching, she grips the wrist of her assailant and tugs with all her might, but instead of flipping the person over her shoulder, she only manages to pull them further toward her, both bodies colliding as they tumble towards the floor. The second her back hits the hard surface of the ground, she does not bother letting the pain soak into her bones, focusing only on getting away. She scrambles backwards until her back hits the closest wall. 

“Ow,” her attacker laughs in one of the most common and recognizable noises she has heard in her short time at Hogwarts.

Mallyn pulls her wand out of her stockings, lighting the previous dark corridor with a simple flick of her wrist and a quiet mutter, “ Lumos .” A bright white light erupts from the tip of her wand, revealing Fred laying on his back a foot lengths away from her. “You scared me!” she scolds, reaching over to slap his chest, her fingers digging into his shirt as she tries to steady her heart. She leans back against the wall to let her body rest even as her heart continues to rapidly beat, hammering against the confines of her chest.

Fred sits up, propping himself up on his elbows. “About to show you the view of a lifetime and you repay me by attacking me,” he teasingly scoffs, reaching behind him to rub at the back of his head.

She pushes at his arm with her foot, “You pulled me into the dark!”

“Worried about the...” he says, pausing as he tries to think of the character’s name he overheard Angelina and Elfy talking about in the Common Room the night before, “...Boogey monster-man?”

“Prefer that,” Mallyn murmurs, her fingers digging into the thin fabric of her tights.

“To?” he questions, wondering what could be worse than the supposed creature of nightmares that Muggle children are raised on to keep them in line. She cocks her eyebrow, forcing the memory of Merula and Ismelda barking at her to rise to the forefront of his mind amongst the constant glares from other members of her own house whenever she chooses to sit at the Gryffindor table for meals. “Oh, sorry,” he mutters, pulling his eyes away from her, “didn’t think about that.”

“So your idea of a great view in a pitch-black corridor?” she questions, surveying the poorly lit corridor, bare of all light except for the light emitting from the tip of her wand and the moonlight streaming in from the windows. “Wait, Lumos Maxima ,” she murmurs, stretching out her arm to extend the glow of her wand, silently reminding herself to thank Tonks later for teaching her the modification of the spell. “Why are all the lanterns out?” she murmurs, flicking her wrist again, brightening the light to illuminate the end of the corridor. 

Fred looks around, not thinking anything of it, he shrugs, “Don’t know, must’ve just gone out.”

“They’re enchanted not to, it’s in the first chapter of ‘Hogwarts: A History’, I thought you’d said you’d read it,” she whispers, “I don’t like this, we should go back, get Professor McGonagall, Filch even.”

Fred retrieves his wand from the floor and raises it, pointing it at the closest lantern and reigniting it with a simple whisper of his favourite spell, “ Incendio .” He climbs off the floor and offers her his free hand, pulling her up with a gentle tug. He pulls her along, relighting each lantern as they go. He stops at the end of the corridor, spinning around and inspecting his work. “See, it’s fine,” he says, bumping his elbow into her side. He knocks his head to the side, urging her ahead while glancing down the corridor again with narrowed eyes, pushing her ahead before she can notice that the lanterns at the opposite end of the corridor are already out again. “I was headed to the library to find you when I saw you talking to Charlie, helped them with their costumes, you know, Charlie and Tonks couldn’t have done it without us, me, George, and Lee,” he rambles, purposefully distracting her as they move farther down the corridor, successful in preventing her from noticing that the third and seventh corridor they pass are darker than the sky beyond the windows to their right, “took all five of us to stabilize the charm on his jacket and her tail.”

Before Mallyn can ask any questions, Lee comes into view, his legs swinging over the edge of the narrow staircase between two pillars, his shoelaces hanging over the sides of his trainers. “Come on, everyone’s waiting for us,” he calls, waving them towards the top of the extremely tall staircase.

Mallyn looks behind her at the empty corridor, only now noticing the slant of the floor that sent them higher into the castle than she could have ever realized while making the journey, “I don’t think we should be wandering around. What if we accidentally activate a curse? I don’t want to end up in a painting,” she whispers, tugging on Fred’s sleeve.

“Make a real pretty one though,” Lee counters from above, winking at her. She rolls his eyes at the comment as she follows Fred up the stairs rather than risking a trip to the dungeons all alone. “Come on, it’s just up ahead,” Lee says, racing ahead. He steps up to a door, knocking seven times before it pops open and he disappears inside. She follows Fred inside, smiling at George as she passes, then smiling even more when she spots Angelina, Alicia, and Lucy sitting on a decorative blanket with the theme seeming to be anything with a small correlation to Gryffindor including small red and gold hearts hanging off the corners lays in the center of the otherwise empty room.

“About time, what’d you have to do, pull her out of the Restricted Section?” Alicia teases, patting the empty space on the blanket next to her in invitation. Mallyn takes a seat, crossing her legs in front of her and glancing around the room for a hint as to why they are here.

Fred snickers, “As if she’d break the number of rules it takes to get in there,” he teases as he lays down next to her, daring her to argue otherwise. Mallyn huffs and raises her hand to flick his ear, but does not dispute his idea. He smirks, crossing his arms behind his head. “Surprisingly, she left the library early of her own free will, before curfew at that, caught her outside the Great Hall trying to sneak in,” Fred states.

Mallyn scoffs, “I was not-” 

“Moment away from having Tonks transfigure her into a puff of smoke to get in,” Fred interjects, silencing her argument.

“Was not,” she pouts, not appreciating the false reputation he is crafting of her.

Fred tugs her backwards by the hood of her coat, wrapping his arms around her to hold her against him to prevent her from wiggling out of reach as he slaps a hand over her mouth. “Shh, I am trying to tell a story here,” he whispers, holding her captive so he can finish his story. She rolls her eyes at him, but relaxes into his grip, residing to at least see what he can make of their short adventure. “Made the mistake of grabbing her hand without a formal announcement, didn’t realize she expects a queen’s greeting every bloody time, oh, she punched and kicked and spit, even tried a nasty hex or two, Merlin, the words that shout out of her mouth, almost didn’t make it out alive, almost think I’d fare better going up against a Sphinx like Rakepick,” he mutters then sighs dramatically. “But here we are, little bruised, little sore,” he declares, releasing her from his embrace to sit up. She turns around and hits his arm while laughing. 

“That’s what she said,” Lee snickers, punching Fred in the arm. The twins laugh as they punch Lee back in either arm.

“What?” Alicia, Angelina, Lucy, and Mallyn question at the same time.

“Nothing,” George says, shaking his head.

Mallyn pivots to face the boys, “Before I try and come up with some of those creative phrases you mentioned,” she says, poking Fred in the stomach, “like to tell us what we’re doing here?”

Fred looks around the room, surveying the blank canvas of the stone walls. “Spotted this last time we went flying,” he explains, gesturing to the room.

“You were flying? Outside of our lessons? When? How?” Angelina asks, knowing they are nowhere near close enough to the quidditch pitch to be able to spot the ceiling from their lessons even if they caught a glimpse of a reflective glare. 

“Charlie loaned us his broom,” Fred shrugs, but the Gryffindor girls stare at him, waiting for the truth, knowing for a fact that Charlie does not let anyone, especially the twins, touch his broom, evident of his emotional explosion in the Common Room last month when the twins merely tried looking at it while holding their Charms books. 

“We broke into the broom shed,” Lee beams, proud of the three of them for getting past all of the charms placed on both the shed and the brooms themselves. 

“You’re going to get expelled before the year is over, all three of you,” Angelina mutters with a shake of her head, but a teasing smile.

“Then who would provide entertainment?” George questions, nudging Lee in the ribs. Lee shoots off the blanket, walking the perimeter of the room before disappearing into the darkness of the farthest corner.

Mallyn lays back, brushing her hair out to lay flat behind her like Alicia. She tilts her head to look at Fred, catching him already staring at her. “You’re going to be expelled then killed by your mother for making her have to homeschool you again,” Mallyn states, raising her eyebrows. 

“Never,” Fred mouths, winking at her before turning his attention to the ceiling, the girls following suit.

“Tada!” Lee exclaims as he tugs the heavy rope to pull back the deep red velvet curtains on the ceiling slowly revealing more of the night sky through the entirely glass-paned ceiling.

“Wow,” all four girls murmur in agreement.

“What is this? I mean, is this for Astronomy?” Angelina questions as her eyes rapidly dart around the ceiling, attempting to take it all in but failing and ultimately focusing on the small sliver of the moon.

“Used to be, but Sinistra prefers her classroom or the tower,” Lucy explains, “apparently thinks the glass interferes, as if a telescope isn’t multiple layers of glass.”

Alicia bumps her shoulder into Mallyn. “What are you looking for?” she whispers, not wanting to disturb the others.

“Me, I guess, my constellation,” Mallyn murmurs, unable to find a single pattern in the individual lights scattering in the clear night sky. 

Fred’s eyes scan the stars, searching for the supergiant Epsilon Pegasi. “Pegasus, right? There you are, right there,” he says, directing Mallyn’s gaze to a particular point in the sky, the brightest of the fourteen that constructs her constellation, Enif making up the muzzle of the mythical horse. 

Angelina props herself up on her elbows to be able to see Fred, “You know astrology?”

“Spend a lot of time on the roof back home, it’s great, we’re literally in the middle of nowhere, can see everything,” Fred explains. He moves his hand, directing their eyes to another set of constellations as he traces the pattern with his wand, a faint red glow hanging in the air for a few seconds. “That’s Andromeda, Tonks’ mum’s constellation,” he murmurs, continuing to move his wand across the sky until all of the constellations he knows are glowing in gold above them, “Aries, Pisces, Aquarius.” Fred pauses for a minute, then his finger moves over a bit, tracing another symbol, Lacerta. “You know Kellan? He’s a few years above us,” he murmurs, “they claim his birthmarks are hidden under his hair, doubt he has them otherwise he’d keep his head shaved, don’t blame him entirely, even I wouldn’t want a lizard on my head unless it was a cool one like the Muggle ones that change colours, we don’t even have ones like that, ones that can turn themselves invisible sure, but not camouflaging one.”

Mallyn‘s eyes move across the night sky, pausing on her own. “I just realized I don’t know what Ellie’s is,” she murmurs, looking at the other stars as if she could sense which one holds significance to her sister. “Wonder if my mom would even tell me,” Mallyn mutters to herself. 

“When’s the last time you wrote to her?” Alicia asks, staring at the stars and trying to make sense of the individual stars to no avail considering that Astronomy is her lowest class.

“Day before my birthday,” Mallyn murmurs, toying with the zipper on her coat. She turns away from Alicia to face Fred. “You know Tonks’?”

Fred shakes his head, “Never has mentioned it, never seen it.”

“You guys should have constellations too, you have Black blood,” Mallyn murmurs as she traces her birthmarks.

“Good luck trying to figure them out,” George snickers. 

Mallyn sits up to stare at her two friends. “Can I try?” she genuinely asks. 

“What?” Fred snorts, accidentally swallowing his own quick breath, sharing a look with his twin. George knocks his head towards Mallyn, “You realize we have freckles everywhere , right?”

“Oh,” she gasps, the others laughing at her blush. 

Lee kicks his legs up, propelling his body off the blanket. “What was with Warrington today? Swear I caught him glaring at you ten times,” Lee says.

“Found out I got the cookies for Angelina for her birthday and not him,” Mallyn murmurs, still scanning the night sky for any sign of answers. 

“He has a birthday?” Fred snickers, “Just assumed they all magically appear eleven years old and trained in all things how to be a proper rotten Slytherin Pureblood.”

“It was last week, the twenty-fifth,” Lucy answers for Mallyn whose focus is elsewhere.

Alicia sits up, “Did he ask for cookies?”

“Demanded them,” Mallyn scoffs, twirling her hair between her fingers.

“She told him if made him cookies he wouldn’t like what I put in them,” Lucy says, barely holding back a smile. 

“We should get going, better to try and sneak back before people start leaving the ball,” Angelina states, making the first move and pushing herself off the blanket. 

Alicia follows suit, offering a helping hand to Mallyn and Lucy. “Still can’t believe we don’t get to attend for another two years, did you see some of their dresses? It’s all Aleah and Saarah have been talking about all week,” she muses, dreaming of elegant gowns with beautiful designs as the boys scramble backwards off the blanket.

“I counted nineteen princesses,” Mallyn says as she grabs a corner of the blanket, taking a few steps to meet George in the middle. 

Angelina shakes her head, “Mhm, no, Zak is a queen, she will correct you, crown or no crown,” she states as she helps Fred with the other side of the oversized knitted blanket, the two meeting up with George and Mallyn to consolidate the blanket into a small square, the little heart dangling to the sides.

“Eighteen princesses and one queen,” Mallyn amends as Fred tucks the blanket under his arm.

“Definitely want to go as more than a princess,” Lucy muses. 

“A queen?” Lee flirts as he pulls open the door, sticking his head into the hallway to check. He waves his hand behind his back, urging them all to follow.

“No,” she lightly laughs, shaking her head. “Something fun, like a pirate,” Lucy announces as a moment of deliberation. 

“Cut them some slack, only had a two months heads up,” Alicia whispers, peering back and forth down the corridors.

“What about a dragon? Know a thing or two about it now,” Fred suggests, slinging the blanket over George’s shoulder.

Lucy turns around, waving her hands to grab everyone’s attention. “We should start planning now, do a group costume!” 

“Animals,” Fred proposes. 

“Solar system,” George says. 

“Wizard chess pieces,” Lee declares. 

“And go around smashing each other to bits all night? Hmm, wonder why you like that idea,” Angelina

Lucy surveys the group, counting them up in her head. “Enough of us to form a quidditch team,” she suggests. 

“That’ll be year ‘round for us by then,” Fred declares, wrapping his arm around George’s neck and digging his knuckles into his hair. George pushes his twin off, laughing as he chases after him and Lee.

The girls laugh to themselves as they hang back, watching the three boys duck and jump to touch different points on the walls. “I like the idea of just wearing pretty dresses, never really gotten to before, never had a reason,” Lucy says, knowing the other girls at least got their chances for dance recitals whereas karate and taekwondo matches require robes even stiffer than the ones traditional wizards wear. 

“You should find one for the End of Year ball over winter holiday if you plan on going, I might just transfigure my birthday dress into a full-length one,” Angelina suggests, “or maybe Elfy will have something to borrow.”

“How is she?” Lucy asks.

“Sweet, but quiet,” Angelina says after a moment of deliberation. 

“Doesn’t hurt that her mum’s a Muggle clothing designer,” Alicia adds, her jealousy often peeking up at the sight of the clothes within her roommate’s wardrobe and trunk. 

Fred jogs backwards until he is walking alongside the girls, “Get along great with Kenny,” Fred adds. 

“Has he approved that nickname?” Mallyn questions, knowing their affinity for using unapproved nicknames, the talent for stepping on toes and putting their foot in their mouths having landed them quite a few detentions for it so far. 

George smirks as he drapes the blanket over Fred’s head, “Not yet.” 

“It’ll grow on him,” Fred shrugs, tugging the blanket into his arms.

Angelina sits up, “Just say his actual name, it’s only two syllables, same as the nickname, Ken-ney, Ken-neth,” she says, demonstrating the amount by quietly clapping her hands, careful not to be too loud as to not draw any attention to them as they move towards the main part of the castle.

“Don’t-care,” Fred claps back, tilting his head either way. 

“It’s seven letters,” Lee jokingly complains, flopping backwards dramatically. 

“So very long,” Fred murmurs, placing his hand over his heart.

“My name is eight, four syllables,” Angelina states.

“My name is six letters and you manage just fine,” Mallyn adds. Mallyn looks around the corridor, checking that all the lanterns are still lit. “Saw Kelsey before I left, she was a paper doll,” she murmurs, careful of how close they are to the Great Hall.

“Do Witches even get paper dolls growing up?” Angelina questions

“Of course, but different than the Muggle version, they construct themselves and can walk and talk,” Lucy tells them, having had a few of them herself growing up.

Mallyn gasps, “That’s horrifying.”

“Trauma is practically a birthright, they usually get us from the get-go after all that’s how we get our magic,” George says offhandedly.

“What?” everyone but Fred questions.

Fred waves them all to a stop in an alcove. “If the process of being born isn’t terrifying enough, it’s usually another act that draws it out, defense mechanism, not always, but just has to have strong emotions,” Fred explains, “our cousin, weird little kid, shy, his uncle dropped him out the window and he just bounced down the yard. Your parents never told you guys why you have magic? Ever tell you guys the first time you displayed magic? I was only a day old.”

“What’d you do?” Alicia asks.

“Pushed me out of the bloody crib, selfish git, wanted the whole crib to yourself,” George mutters, shoving Fred to the floor. 

Fred rolls away from George then quickly pushes himself off the floor, darting out of his reach just in time to avoid the edge of George’s trainer. “Don’t act like the victim here, you floated then pushed me right back without even touching me, took the whole thing,” Fred argues, pointing an accusatory finger at his twin.

“Should’ve caught yourself,” George counters, swatting Fred’s finger away.

“I levitated my mom’s necklace off the wall, liked to chew on it, wasn’t speaking yet, didn’t realize why it was on the wall,” Lee offers up.

“Why do we stop being able to do that?” Angelina questions.

“You can relearn it, we work on it later, wordless casting,” Fred says, demonstrating a small act of such by extinguishing and relighting the closest lantern. 

“Okay, but why doesn’t a milkshake appear because it’s what I’m craving?” Mallyn questions.

“You learn the difference between what is a necessity and what isn’t,” Angelina rationalizes, “when you’re little everything seems like the end of the world.”

“Wanna stick with us?” Lee questions, gesturing to the staircase that leads up to the Gryffindor Common Room.

“You guys got silk bed sheets?” Lucy questions. The Gryffindors all stare at each other then shake their heads. “Think we’ll stick to the dungeons,” she quietly laughs, tugging Mallyn along with her with a sturdy grip around her elbow.

Chapter Text

Fred intertwines his arm around Mallyn’s, dragging her forward while George walks backwards, animatedly describing the precise thrill of adrenaline that courses through him when riding a broom or swinging a bat when Mallyn abruptly digs her heels into the flooring, forcing the twins to stop. “I’m sure it’s great and all, I just don’t think I’m quite ready to risk another trip to the infirmary,” she murmurs, unhooking her arm from Fred’s, “I promised Professor McGonagall it wouldn’t become a habit.”

George steps forward, frowning at his friend. “We’ll be there every step of the way, pinky-promise you won’t fall,” he says, looping his pinky around hers then tugging on her hand, contemplating whether or not one of them will need to resort to picking her up in order to speed things along in order to not miss the match.

“You have to come,” Fred declares, “Lee got the gig.”

Mallyn laughs, waiting for the punchline to the joke that never comes. “He actually got it? He’s announcing?” she questions, “How’d he’d convince her of that?”

“He was the only one that showed up,” Fred says, mischievousness pulling at his lips and the corners of his eyes.

Mallyn looks around the corridor, searching for a reason to get out of going. What little practice she had witnessed was boring to the point that she cannot imagine even with commentary that it will be much better. “What about Kenneth?” she questions, spotting their roommate’s mess of light brown curls at the top of the staircase as he climbs into the Gryffindor Common Room. The painting of the Fat Lady swings shut behind him, her voice audible as she talks about the latest drama between paintings with the knight in the neighboring portrait. 

The twins follow her line of sight, waving at the Fat Lady as she lifts her wine glass to her lips. “We invited him, he said no,” Fred shrugs.

“How come he gets to say no?” she complains.

“Because he’s boring,” Fred argues, having fallen asleep mid-talk with him more than once since term began. 

Mallyn fights the urge to cross her arms against her chest, but cannot help the way her plump lips curl into a perfect pout.  “I can be boring,” she murmurs.

“Don’t think you could be boring if you tried,” George promises, booping the end of her nose.

She glances down the hallway, “There’s going to be no seats left, it’s nearly noon.”

“Won’t be a problem as long as we make it before the start,” Fred states, raising his eyebrows in a silent dare. 

Mallyn surveys her options, ultimately rolling her eyes and taking a step forward that quickly turns into two then a dozen as Fred and George lead the way out of the school. Like many things in their lives, in a joint effort, they hold the door open for her to pass by under their arms, the pair talking about different plays that they hope to see either team attempt. Mallyn tugs the zipper on her jacket as high as she can, effectively blocking the harsh November wind from hitting the lower half of her face. The wind whips her hair around her head, covering her eyes and blocking her vision almost completely, only glimpses of green grass and blue sky sparingly making it through. The twins laugh as she stumbles around, offering her guiding hands towards the bleachers. Mallyn jumps to a stop when a hand appears out of nowhere, holding a Slytherin scarf inches from her eyes. She pushes her hair out of her eyes, smiling as best as she can when she recognizes the hazel eyes staring back at her. “What happened to not messing with your hair?” Mallyn questions, her surprise evident on the upper half of her face at the fact that the bottom inch of Jaden’s hair is now emerald green.

“It’s hair chalk, it’ll wash out in the shower,” she explains. Jaden wiggles the scarf in front of Mallyn again, quickly wrapping it around Mallyn’s neck when she nods. “Look at that, we’ll make a snake of you yet,” Jaden teases before she steps towards the bleachers to their right, moving up the makeshift steps two at a time to claim her spot next to Kamala at the top.

George and Fred lead Mallyn away from the set of bleachers that the Slytherins have claimed, streamers of green and silver already curling around the posts and flying in the wind, then past the bleachers full of students of all ages adorning attire of red and gold. The twins make a beeline for the smallest set of bleachers, currently hosting a few professors politely chatting as they wait for the match to begin. Fred leads the way, darting up the few sets of stairs to land next to Lee who is talking to Professor McGonagall, her features stern as the words coming out of her mouth. “You must remain unbiased, Mister Lee, no personal judgements, just the plays as they come, “ she instructs. 

George drops down next to Fred. “Think he’ll make it past this game?” he whispers, a smile tugging on his lips.

“He’ll make it all the way to graduation if McGonagall wants a quidditch announcer,” Fred quietly remarks. Minerva tilts ever so slightly, glaring at the closest of the gingers.

“What did you two do?” Mallyn whispers, her eyes following Lucy as she climbs up the bleachers and takes a seat next to her.

“Why do you assume the worst?” George questions.

Mallyn rolls her eyes, “As someone once said, you came out of the womb with fireworks in your hands.”
“Merlin, don’t quote Percy,” Fred mutters, shaking his head.

George mutters under his breath, “Just sounds wrong, wronger than when they come out of his tense little face.”

Charlie races out of the Gryffindor tent on his freshly polished broom, circling the pitch once before flying up to the scoreboard table. “Hey, managed to wrangle her up here,” he greets to the twins, balancing on his broom as he reaches out to pat their shoulders. “Try and stay in your seat this time, yeah?” Charlie teases, reaching out and booping the tip of her nose. He grins widely and winks once, before pulling his goggles down, the brown leather strap creating a clear divide in his wild hair. He sticks his hand into his robe, digging around in the depths of his inner pockets then finally withdraws his hand, proudly presenting a crudely wrapped granola bar to Mallyn before racing off. Mallyn watches as Charlie points his wand at his own head, his lips moving as he casts a spell. He drops his wand to the ground where reserve Gryffindor Beater Taylor Gillespie, who Mallyn recognizes from the first creatures meeting back in September, is waiting on the ground to catch it. Charlie leans forward and grips his broom. Looking around, he lifts his left hand, pointing his index finger to the sky then jerking it forward, the other six Gryffindor players pushing off and zooming around the pitch, the Slytherin players doing the same as Charlie and Ayush fly to meet Hooch in the middle.

“There’s Flint,” Fred points out, his finger darting around as the player with short dark hair moves around, his hands raising off his broom handle to encourage the crowd, “right monster on and off the field,” Fred mutters.

Mallyn leans forward, squinting at the fast-moving blur, “You know, his family-”

“No, no, we’re not going back to that, no more genealogy, no more twisted family trees,” Fred mutters, reaching around George to flick Mallyn’s ear. “I-do-not-want-to-know,” he states. 

She recoils from the impact, her hand shooting up to protect her sore ear from further pain then retaliates, the two continually flicking each other on the sides of their heads until George pushes both of them away and lays down on the bench to keep them apart. “Beater if I ever saw one, don’t know why he’s playing Chaser,” he remarks as he rests his head down on Mallyn’s lap.

“Seniority, Flint’s only a Third Year,” Lee murmurs. George cranes his head to look at his roommate. “Rath is a Seventh Year,” Lee states, pointing out the blonde hovering near the backside of the field, surveying both her teammates and opponents. Mallyn swipes George’s binoculars from his chest and angles them in the direction, twisting the dials on the side until Erika’s face comes into focus. With her bangs out of the way, the light of the early afternoon sun high in the sky glints off the balls of her eyebrow piercing as well as the multiple piercings adorning her ears. Lee’s finger darts across the sky, pointing out the other Slytherin Beater, “Goulding’s in Fifth.”

“Questionably,” Fred remarks, watching the players move around through his binoculars, focusing on Flint more than anyone else.

“You act as if you won’t be six-three by then,” Mallyn remarks, rolling her eyes at him.

“And you’ll be stuck right here,” George teases, raising his hand to hover slightly over her head.

Mallyn scoffs, letting the binoculars fall back to rest against George’s chest. “I won’t always be this short, just need some time to catch up,” she mutters.

Lee leans forward, resting his elbows on the table in front of him, “It isn’t necessarily a bad thing, could work in your advantage if you want to play, smaller body, faster player, make a good Seeker, Chaser.” 

“Me? Play quidditch?” she laughs.

“You’re a natural on the broom,” Lee shrugs before turning his attention back to the start of the match.

The fourteen players race around the field, doing a final courtesy lap before remeeting high in the air in the center of the pitch, either team hovering on either side of Hooch. She raises higher into the air, stopping at the top edge of the hoops. She presses her wand to her throat. “Everyone ready?” she rhetorically questions. She raises her hands, the bleachers wobbling at her command, shooting twenty feet off the ground as students grip onto the wooden slats for support as they settle mid-air. Mallyn sends Fred and George a glare for failing to mention the bleachers would rise even higher for the actual game, but they ignore her as they cheer wildly. Madam Hooch surveys the settings, raising the stands a little bit higher then lowers her hands, the players zooming away from the center as they begin the starting steps of their plays.

“And they’re off!” Lee exclaims, the Amplifying Spell on his vocal cords exaggerating each noise. “The first match of the nineteen eighty-nine, nineteen ninety school year is officially in full swing as Slytherin Chaser Marcus Flint, oh, he is zigging and he is zagging, avoiding a near hit from Gryffindor Beater Jonas Calhoun,” Lee exclaims, already forgetting about the charm propelling his voice to everyone in the arena, his hands flying in the air. The players move around the pitch, but Mallyn’s eyes stay on Charlie, watching closely as he hovers near the farthest Gryffindor goalposts, carefully accessing the field.

George mutters under his breath, sitting up to properly watch the game. Mallyn and Lucy slide over, squishing in as close to the boys as they can to have the best views possible, trading Lucy’s omnioculars back and forth. “Don’t know how he does it,” he remarks.

“Searching for that tiny little thing,” Fred says with a shake of his head. “Not for us, like our goals nice and big, body-sized,” he states, patting George on the back.

Lee shifts in his seat, nervously fidgeting with the edges of the scorecards. “Gryffindor Seeker Charlie Weasley waits anxiously just within the perimeter of the field, his eyes scanning for any sign of the Golden Snitch like a lion in the savanna ever on the prowl while Slytherin Seeker Terence Higgs is actively moving around, both players searching for the slightest hint of gold in this beautiful Scottish afternoon sky,” Lee announces, glancing to Professor McGonagall for approval. She nods ever so slightly, her eyes betraying her distrust in the boy. “Gryffindor Chaser Zak Goldman and Slytherin Chaser Brandon Heath seem to be ducking it out over the Quaffle, anxious to score the first goal for their team, but it doesn’t do anyone much good if they keep the Quaffle between the two of them, it’s a team sport in case you forgot!”

“Mister Jordan!” Minerva scolds.

Lee’s head jerks towards her, “What? It is!”

“Keep your commentary to the actual plays,” she sternly instructs.

“I would if I could Professor,” he whispers, his voice still amplifying across the field. “But no one’s actually playing!” he exclaims directly towards the players, a few rude gestures making their way to his eyes through the binoculars.

Minerva rests her hand on his shoulder, pressing him back down, “Give them time, Mister Jordan.” 

“Fine,” he huffs, settling into his seat. “No one has done anything to earn points or get a penalty, so we’re just waiting,” he narrates, “the Chasers are chasing and the Keepers are waiting, Seekers are waiting, the audience is waiting!” The audience waits patiently, more or less, until Jennifer Pearson swings around the post, holding her bat in one hand, leveraging her weight on the other, to send the Bludger straight into the side of Flint’s helmet, “Oh! That looks like that would’ve hurt if his head wasn’t thick! Slytherin Chaser Marcus Flint is shaking off the nasty hit he just took from Gryffindor Beater, nice one, Pearson!”

“You cannot take sides, Mister Jordan!” Minerva reprimands as she mentally works her way through other potential announcing candidates, including herself at the very bottom of the list.

“But I’m a Gryffindor and Slytherin’s suck,” Lee exclaims, his hands flying wildly through the air. “No offense, Lucy and Mallyn,” he attempts to whispers but fails.

“Oh God, we’re gonna get harassed,” Mallyn mutters, sinking down in her seat.

“You say that like we already don't,” Lucy mutters, following suit and trying to make herself as small as possible.

“Now we’re talking!” Lee blurts out. He shoots off the bench, leaning forward on his hands to get as close as possible. “Slytherin Captain and Keeper Ayush Huffman signals to his Seeker, as if scrawny Third Year Terence Higgs can keep up with Gryffindor Seeker and Captain Charlie Weasley as he races across the field, flying higher and higher in pursuit of the near-invisible Golden Snitch, a favourite of amateur and professional Seekers everywhere to chase after the golden streak it leaves as it races through the air,” Lee narrates, recounting each play as it occurs, “all while all three Gryffindor Chasers are lining up, ready to attempt the first score of the season and it’s good! Ten points to Gryffindor!” Gryffindor students and fellow supporters cheer loudly, a small explosion of confetti sounding off from somewhere in the Gryffindor crowd. “Near hit to Gryffindor Seeker Charlie Weasley from Slytherin Beater Ayers Goulding, scary thing that boy, trust me when I say you don’t want to find yourself alone in a corridor unless you’re looking to cut some stone,” Lee remarks.

Professor McGonagall sighs, “Mister-”

“Honest antidote, Professor,” he says, holding up his hands as if they are the problem here and not his mouth. “Gryffindor Chaser Katrina Downes is spiraling down after a direct hit from Slytherin Beater Erika Rath’s hit to her broom, bet she’s glad for that extra padding right about now,” Lee cracks, earning a stern glare from Minerva. “Good thing all four teams got new padding this year,” he says, backtracking his snide remark. “Gryffindor Chaser Cara Zelley races to the rescue, executing a near-perfect modified Starfish and Stick maneuver, using her skill to catch her fellow Chaser rather than a quaffle before any proper damage can be done to anything more than her esteem. Nice save! New starting Gryffindor Keeper Oliver Wood stops the shot from Slytherin Chaser Hannah Wakefield!” Lee exclaims. “But Slytherin Chaser Brandon Heath sneaks up and scores two goals in rapid succession, twenty points to Slytherin,” he defeatedly mumbles, slumping into his seat.

“Into the amplifier, dear,” Minerva quietly teases, her finger tapping out a steady beat against her opposite wrist.

“Twenty bloody points to Slytherin!” Lee exclaims, crushing the handle of the paper amplifier on the table that Alicia made for him. His friends duck their heads while they cover their ears from the feedback of the spell. “Ouch! Slytherin Chaser Brandon Heath takes a nasty hit to the side from Gryffindor Beater Jonas Calhoun just as Gryffindor Chasers Cara Zelley and Zak Goldman both score goals, twenty points to Gryffindor, putting them in the lead!”

“Narrowly,” Lucy points out, elbowing Mallyn to get a reaction from her. 

“So bloody cold, don’t understand how they’re playing,” Mallyn mutters, removing her hands from her pockets to sit on them.

“You have got to master the Warming Charm,” Lucy sighs, pointing her wand at Mallyn, “ Calidum Corpus .” Lucy smiles as the relief visibly washes over Mallyn, warmth seeping past her coat and jumper to settle against her skin, “or get used to the cold, we live in literal dungeons.”

Fred shifts anxiously in his seat. “What happened to the over seven hundred ways to foul in Quidditch? Haven’t seen a single one yet,” Fred mutters.

“Mister Weasley, give them time, sooner or later, someone always breaks the rules,” Minerva states, carefully alternating between watching the field and Madam Hooch as she hovers above the players.

“Just want to see some action,” he complains.

“Talk of the devil and he shall appear,” Mallyn murmurs, pointing her finger to the far side of the field as she holds the omnioculars in her other hand, angling the lenses towards Charlie, tapping the side to increase the magnification. 

Fred and George scramble for their binoculars, focusing on their older brother as he begins to move, carefully avoiding other players as he casually circles the pitch.

Lee rises from his seat, “Slytherin is in possession of the Quaffle, currently passing it back and forth between their members in what appears to be a Parkin's Pincer,” he narrates, the entire audience watching as Hannah and Marcus trap Zak in between them as Brandon flies directly towards Zak while Katrina and Cara try to draw some of the heat away from their teammate by knocking into the Slytherin Chasers, “executed successfully on this field many times during Skye Parkin’s reign here only a few years ago, rumor has it, Slytherin Chaser Brandon Heath learned it from Miss Parkin herself, a potentially historical move for inter-house relations here at Hogwarts.”

George leans across the space, jokingly placing his mouth next to the amplifier. “Not a rumor if it’s true, Lee,” he snickers before sinking back down to his seat. Minerva shakes her head at the statement, having heard it out of the eldest of the Weasley sibling’s mouth more times than she can count since he began his career at Hogwarts in ninety eighty-three.

“Gryffindor Seeker Charlie Weasley-” Lee recounts, watching anxiously as Charlie bobs and weaves around members of his own team, offering advice. 

“You don’t have to use their full names every time, Mister Jordan,” Professor McGonagall points out. 

“Good practice for these two next year,” Lee shrugs while keeping his attention on the field. 

“Very well,” Minerva sighs.

“Gryffindor Seeker Charlie Weasley races across the field with the Golden Snitch insight, how does he do it?” he asks incredulously. 

“Skill, Mister Jordan,” Minerva answers with a proud smile, her hands anxiously gripping her robes.

Charlie darts up then over, following an invisible path only he seems to understand, dipping underneath the bleachers then remerging empty-handed, hovering near the base of the Gryffindor bleachers, his eyes scanning the sky.

“How much longer?” Mallyn asks, peeking over George’s shoulder at the small clock ticking away in front of Lee.

Five heads swivel to look at her in disbelief. “It’s barely been an hour,” George scoffs.

“We haven’t even gotten to fifty points on either side yet,” Fred mutters with a shake of his head. 

“This is nothing, academic quidditch matches either end at four hours or when someone catches the Snitch,” George explains to her while keeping as much focus on the game as possible, “professional games can last twenty-four hours split into two days now, used to be no limit.” George pauses for a moment, looking at her, “Have you not read ‘Quidditch Through the Ages’ yet? You borrowed it from Charlie a month ago.”

Mallyn shakes her head, “Not yet, but I did finally make it through ‘The Noble Sport of Warlocks’.”

“Leave it to you to pick the older, more boring version,” Fred murmurs under his breath, the hint of a smile tugging at the corner of his lips. 

She reaches around and flicks Fred on his back for his comment. “And you said I couldn’t be boring if I tried,” Mallyn teases, bumping her shoulder into George.

Fred leans forward, “Ron got a copy of ‘Flying with the Cannons’ for his last birthday, you can borrow it.”

“You can’t offer up your brother’s book for borrow,” Mallyn scolds. 

“‘Course he can, we’re older, plus I’d like to see little Ronny try and stop us,” George murmurs as he shoots out of his seat, cheering wildly as Charlie races past them, flipping upside down on his broom and letting go of the handle, supporting his weight with his legs, his ankles locking one over the other. He stretches his body as far as he can, finally clasping his fingers around the fragile wing of the Golden Snitch, the small golden ball snapping free of the free beating piece. Charlie chucks it, repositioning himself to race after the falling prize before Slytherin Seeker can make it from across the field. “Go Charlie! Go!” George yells, waving his hands recklessly in the air, smacking Fred a few times as they compete for the space to express their excitement.

Professor McGonagall cannot find it in herself to scold him, shooting off the bench and cheering for her home team amongst the students as Charlie races down towards the ground, stretching his arm out until he feels the cool metal against his fingertips.

“Charlie Weasley has caught the Snitch! Gryffindor wins!” Lee exclaims as Charlie wraps his fist around the Snitch, holding it proudly above his head.

George wraps his arms around Mallyn’s head, holding her to his chest. “We’re going to have to bring you along for each game, start complaining and we win!” he cheers. 

“No, no, don’t say that,” she mutters, shaking her head. She looks around, hoping no one is close enough to have overheard the declaration, knowing it would not be taken in the goodwill that it was given in.

Fireworks explode overhead, surprisingly unassociated colours of orange and purple instead of red and gold lighting the mid-afternoon sky.

Charlie races towards the professors’ bleacher, hovering just in front of the announcement table. He reaches over and flips the points to show the true score of the game, one hundred and seventy to twenty. “Those would’ve gone off no matter who won?” he asks the twins, focusing on their lips.
“Yep,” they confirm as their eyes sparkle in the glow of the lights coloring the sky in streaks of color.

“Guy Fawkes night requires a lot of fireworks,” George shrugs. 

“Therefore it is our second favourite holiday right behind New Years’,” Fred says matter-of-factly, making sure to emphasize his pronunciation so that Charlie can clearly read his lips.

George smiles at his big brother, “Just getting a head start for our first one at Hogwarts.” 

“All day?” Charlie sighs. The twins nod together. “Tomorrow too?” he questions. They nod again. “No heads up?”

“You have known us for eleven years,” George scoffs.

“That is heads up enough,” Fred points out.

George leans forward to rest his elbows on his knees, “What do you want, a sign?” 

“‘Charlie, do not take off your Muffling Spell’ in big block letters on the banisters of your bed,” Fred says, holding up his hands as he speaks, expanding the invisible sign with each word.

“You two need to learn the art of subtly,” Charlie grumbles, watching as another firework explodes just over the horizon of the castle.

“Let us know when you do,” Fred states as he watches Professor McGonagall levitates herself down to the ground, attempting to end the explosions alongside Professor Flitwick.

“And we will gladly follow suit,” George adds, sharing a proud grin with his twin as he wraps his arm around his neck. 

Charlie sighs while glancing around. “I gotta go check on Wood, he’s a bit of a fanatic and doesn’t take well to letting the other team score any point, caught him trying to spank himself last year after losing to Ravenclaw, which was both concerning and weird for everyone involved,” he mutters. He surveys the bleachers then salutes to the group and flies away. Hooch lowers the bleachers to the ground, allowing the students to sprawl out across the field, small groups diverging from the whole as they make their ways back to school, watching the fireworks as they go.

The twins and Lee race down the steps, energetically reviewing the match, making suggestions on the plays, and voicing their criticisms. Fred knocks his head towards the Gryffindor bleachers, his attention zeroing in on Percy sitting alone on the first bench. “He comes to every game, sits in the first row, and then keeps his nose in a bloody book the entire time,” Fred tells his friends, leading the way towards his older brother. “Percy!” he calls as they approach.

Percy’s head pops up, “Did we win?” he questions casually as he glances around, just now noticing the fireworks.

“Charlie caught the Snitch,” George confirms.

“Good,” Percy declares as he closes his book and tucks it back into his bag. He raises his hand to his face, studying his wristwatch closely. “Oh, it’s not even one,” he murmurs to himself, “perfect, gives me time-”

“You planning to actually watch the games when it’s all three of us out there making up half of the team next year?” Fred asks, crossing his arms over his chest as he looks down at Percy.

“If,” Percy corrects. He stands up, carefully setting the strap of his bag on his shoulder, securing it against his side with a steady grip on the rough canvas.

“When,” the twins correct.

Angelina and Alicia hop off the stands, weaving through the small crowd on the ground to reach the others. “Anyone know what’s going on there?” Angelina questions as the pair join the others. She knocks her head towards the small group of students, including Bill and Brandon, huddling around Professor Rakepick at the center of the pitch.

Everyone’s attention turns to the group, watching as Patricia unrestrainedly moves her hands as she talks to the small gathering of six, five Sixth Years from three of the four houses and Bill composing the group. “Professor Rakpick has assembled a special tutoring group for those who want to take Advanced DADA next year, Bill is her assistant,” Percy states.

“Bill wants to be a Curse Breaker like her,” George boasts, glad that his eldest brother is paving the way by ignoring their mother’s pleas to take a position at the Ministry, Charlie sure to follow in either a professional quidditch career or finding some sort of job that allows him full-time access to his favorite fire breathing subject.

“More like with her,” Fred snickers, bumping his elbow into his twin’s side.

“What?” Mallyn questions, her brows furrowing as the image of Bill standing over Jocelyn pops into her mind.

“Think old Billy’s got the hots for teacher?” Lee questions, raising and lowering his eyebrows in rapid succession, creating a little dance across his forehead. 

George loosely wraps his arm around Lee’s shoulder. “Tale as old as time,” he dreamily sighs, bursting out into laughter a moment later.

“How would you know?” Lucy asks.

Fred snickers, “Mum’s got quite the collection of Muggle novels in her closet.” 

Angelina groans as a shudder works its way through her body. “Ugh, what did we say about TMI about our parents?” 

“Can you really blame him though?” Alicia murmurs, staring in awe as the professor continues her story of great conquest, bits and pieces about a particularly difficult feral herd of entirely male hippogriffs in South America reaching their young ears.

“Yes,” Angelina scoffs, “she’s crazy, she-”

“Is awesome,” the boys laugh, watching as she wordlessly summons her broom to her and mounts it backwards. She rises into the air, demonstrating an evasive maneuver that none of them have ever seen before, requiring her to practically mold her body to the handle as she hovers a few feet off the ground then disappears from sight as the Invisibility Charm takes effect.

“He beat out Brandon Heath for the chance to be her personal assistant,” Percy tells the group as he patiently watches the surrounding students follow her instruction to try the act themselves. Bill summons his broom with a simple raise of his hand then angles it as Patricia had, mounts it in one swift move while ducking his feet inside the bristles due to his height. 

Brandon steps up and completes the task in a single fluid movement, demonstrating the precise skills that got him the position of Chaser for the Slytherin house team. “That’s the Ravenclaw’s boyfriend, right? The one with red hair?” Alicia questions.

“Don’t get them started on other people with red hair,” Angelina mutters while watching the only girl, Rowan Khana, in the group attempt the trick with more grace than she would have thought possible given her difference in build to the others in the group or any of the quidditch player she has seen.

“I just don’t get it, six people, six!” Fred exclaims, throwing his hands up, “Six different people, including Flitwick, have asked us if Marley Thomm is our sister or cousin, she doesn't even have the right shade of red, and her nose is small and rounded, they might as well be asking if Tulip is our cousin! Marley doesn’t even have a similar surname!”

Mallyn laughs, “Do you know how marriage works?” She watches intently as the remaining three students, Ben Cooper, Andre Egwu, and Talbott Winger, attempt the move in rapid succession, handling it with ease that can only come from previous practice and innate skill.

Fred drapes his arm over Mallyn, “Proposing to us and Charlie all in less than three months?” 

“You’re really determined to make it into our family tree, aren’t you?” George teases as he mimics his brother’s stance. 

Mallyn shrugs out from under their arms. “First of all, the question was directed towards Fred-”

“We’re a matching set,” George states. 

“Can’t separate us,” Fred clarifies.

“Many have tried,” George adds. 

“Many more will,” Fred suggests. 

“But none will succeed,” George declares with a slight nod of his head.

Fred frowns for a moment, watching as Percy sulks away, Marley jogging away from her friends to catch up with him. “That’s it, no more redheads!” Fred exclaims, moving towards them. George reaches out and grips Fred by the shoulders, pulling him back to the group.

Alicia laughs lightly, “Think you’ll have to talk to Professor Dumbledore about that,” she murmurs. 

“Not if I wait on the train-” Fred states. 

“Fred Weasley,” Angelina scolds, cutting him off before whatever crazy idea he can come up with can fully formulate and escape his mouth.

“What?” Fred questions, mocking her irate tone. 

“You can’t change students' hair on the train, we’re not even technically supposed to use magic except at school,” Lucy points out. 

“Who said anything about magic?” Fred questions, a sense of trouble settling over the group. 

Mallyn raises an accusatory finger at Fred. “You try to forcibly shave someone’s head, someone’s going to lose an ear,” she states. “Knock on wood,” she murmurs, tapping the closest plank with her knuckles.

“What?” The twins and Lee question.

“Oh, it’s a Muggle expression to avoid jinxing yourself, don’t want anyone to actually lose an ear,” she explains, wondering to herself if there are any sayings within the Wizarding World she should familiarize herself with.

Fred shrugs, “They won’t if they cooperate.”

“We have our ways,” George states, not setting any of their nerves at ease.