Chapter 1 : the inseparable trio
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"Glen is staring at you again." Devorah whispered into her best friend's ear, glancing over her shoulder at the dark-haired boy sitting a couple of desks behind them. His eyes were glazed over as he started at Nora's back persistently, and his potion stood half-finished in front of him. Devorah rolled her eyes as she watched him practically drooling and absently threw porcupine quills in her cauldron.
Nora, on the other hand, was concentrated on doing her potion right and couldn't be bothered to pay attention to her lovestruck ex-boyfriend. To be perfectly honest, she couldn't care less that he was staring at her and while she sympathized with him, his incessant attention was getting on her nerves. It had been one of the two reasons she had broken up with him. The other being that she just couldn't be bothered with a boyfriend. They required too much attention; attention she wasn't willing to give and would much rather waste on school work or something else productive. "Let him stare." She whispered to Devorah, feeling her eyes on her.
Devorah shrugged and smiled when she saw her potion turning a violent shade of purple. Just like the instruction said.
Nora's potion was a warm shade of brown, which meant she was a stage ahead of Devorah. Her natural competitive genes kicked in and she stopped paying attention to the people around her and started to work seriously. Professor Slughorn was sitting behind his desk at the front, paging through a thick book — "The biography of Radley Farnsworth send from the man himself! He was once my student, you know." — and occasionally popping a piece of crystallised pineapple in his mouth. He wasn't paying attention to them at all, which was short-sighed, no matter how you looked at it.
Nora puffed out a breath and narrowed her eyes as she tried to remember what was the next ingredient. She could always look in her textbook, but she liked to challenge herself and memorize all the ingredients early, so she wouldn't have to worry. It was a nice way of learning. It stayed with her and last year when she'd taken her OWLs, she had hardly needed to revise.
And then a ball of parchment hit her head. She dropped a handful of skinned shrivelfig in her potion and cursed. Her hands clenched and she glanced at Devorah, who was staring at the ball that had fallen between them with curiosity. She nodded her head, silently telling her to open it. Nora sighed and grabbed the ball, unwrapping it. She smoothed out the wrinkled parchment and she and Devorah leaned over it. Her eyes rolled automatically when she recognised Glen's messy handwriting and she straightened, having no desire to read whatever pathetic excuse for a love letter he had thought up this time. She pushed it towards Devorah, who was reading it with hungry eyes, letting out soft chuckle or two.
She decided that the best way to deal with the situation was to ignore Glen, who was anxiously waiting for her to show a flicker of emotion or even turn and look at him. She did none of those things and instead focused on finishing her potion. Her grades her way more important than Glen's shallow feelings towards her.
"Well, at least we know he has no future in poetry." Devorah said with another chuckle as she pushed the parchment towards Nora and returned her attention on her potion. Nora smirked and watched as the potion turned from pink to orange. Glen was definitely not Ravenclaw material. It was surprise Nora had agreed to date him at all. She usually had high expectations for her boyfriend's intelligence. But what Glen lacked in intelligence, he made up for with easy charm and welcoming personality. Until he got jealous, that is. Then he became a pain in the arse.
"Two minutes until lesson's over." Professor Slughorn said, bringing the attention of the students on himself once again. There was an outburst of groaning and worried muttering and the students all started moving faster and with more enthusiasm. Nora wasn't worried. She grabbed a jar of wormwood and poured in her potion until it became a bright, sunny yellow; the colour that matched the book description perfectly. A sweet aroma wafted in the air and she breathed in with a smile. She had successfully won herself another O. She grabbed the empty vial Slughorn had given her and filled it with her potion. She was the first one to hand her sample to Slughorn, who accepted it with a smile that stretched his pudgy cheeks.
"My, my, wonderful! Wonderful, my dear." He said as he observed the bright colour. He uncorked the vial and sniffed the potion and his smile widened. "It's perfect. Take twenty points for Gryffindor, miss Weaver. I'll be seeing you on Saturday, won't I, miss Weaver?"
Nora's face fixed into a polite smile. "Of course, Professor." She'd find some excuse not to go later. She turned around and returned to her desk where Devorah was pouring potion in her own vial. Her potion was just a shade darker than Nora's but still brilliant. Nora gave her the thumbs up and started gathering her things. When Devorah returned, Nora pushed her books quickly towards her hands.
"Quick, before Glen catches up to us." Devorah smiled in amusement, blue eyes twinkling merrily, but did as she was told. Once she had everything in her back, Nora spun on her heel and marched out of the classroom without looking back.
Devorah quickly caught up to her and looped her arm with hers, chuckling. "Poor bloke. He looked like someone had stolen his broom from him."
"It's not that far off." Nora said. "I mean, he did see me as more of an object that he had control over than a person."
"He's an arse." Devorah said firmly and effectively ended the subject of Glen Galloway.
"I'm starved." Nora said. She was glad that they had lunch now, otherwise she'd have to go through Arithmancy with an empty stomach. Devorah groaned sympathetically and patted her stomach.
"You guys!" Nora and Devorah both stopped and turned around. Joy Conrad was speeding towards them, her cheeks pink from the cold weather outside and her hair a mess from the violent wind. She had Care of Magical Creatures instead of Potions and Professor Kettleburn didn't seem to realise that by having his classes outside, he got sick kids from his class every week. "OhmygodIhateKattleburn!" She said that all in on breath as she halted in front of them, then she doubled over and rested her hands on her knees as she tried to catch her breath.
Devorah and Nora exchanged fond looks and helped Joy to stay upright. She leaned heavily against Devorah, who was the stronger of the too and breathed heavily into her shoulder. "My life sucks. I hate it. I hate Care of Magical Creatures. I suck at it. I'm quitting."
"Have I ever told you how ironic your name is?" Devorah said casually and gently pushed Joy forward so they started walking towards the Great Hall again. Joy nodded slowly, her head still on Devorah's shoulder and swallowed thickly, and loudly.
"Yes, several times. I still think that his is some sort of a revenge towards my parents for naming me Joy. I mean, seriously, that is just cruel." Joy shook her, her brow furrowing in disapproval. She vented about her name and the injustice of it all at least once a day and her friends were used to it. Parents seemed to be quite the fan of ironic names, because they had a boy in their house whose name was Sirius Black and he was the furthest thing from serious one could get. Or maybe as Joy liked to say, that was karma's way of getting back at them for being excessively creative. But instead of screwing up the parents, it screwed up the kids instead. "Anyway. I got attacked by a niffler." She spat, her hand going to the silvery chain hanging around her neck. "It nearly killed me. See — " She pushed down the neck of her turtle neck shirt and revealed three angry lines across her throat.
Devorah and Nora winced in tandem and leaned closely to Joy's neck to inspect her injuries.
"Yeah, I know. It hurts like a bitch too. I have to go to the hospital wing to get it cleaned before I get an infection. Those things have some dirty claws. Sharp, too." She pushed her turtle neck back up and Devorah and Nora straightened. Joy sighed and lifted her head from Devorah's shoulder, though she was still leaning on her. "You guys are going to wait for me, right? Save me some lamb chops before those Neanderthals eat them all, will you?" She detached herself from Devorah and the girls saw that they were standing by the grand staircase. The Great Hall was on their right, the doors were wide open and the girls could see that half the school was already there, dining happily.
Nora's stomach grumbled. Devorah and Joy both turned to look at her and she shrugged. Hey, she couldn't control her stomach when it was hungry.
"Well, I should go before Nora's stomach starts eating itself." Joy muttered and headed up the stairs with a smirk playing at the corners of her lips. Nora stuck her tongue out at her back, but Joy seemed to have seen that, because she flipped her the bird without turning around. Nora and Devorah chuckled and shook their heads in unison, watching Joy fondly until she disappeared up the second story staircase.
"Well, let's go eat before my stomach actually starts doing weird stuff." Nora said. Devorah nodded in agreement and they both headed towards the Great Hall.
"I smell like toothpaste." Joy announced as she joined them on the Gryffindor table. She did, indeed, smell like minty toothpaste. She made a face and readjusted the neck of her sweater uncomfortably. "It itches. Madam Hugh said that the healing paste was quick but this is ridiculous." She paused. "And it itches."
"We got that." Devorah said as she pushed a plate of cool lamb chops towards their displeased friend. "Here, eat that. It'll make you feel better."
Joy's face did brighten at the sight of her favourite meat and she was quick to slap a few spoonfuls of mashed potatoes on her plate before she attacked her dish with fervour. Nora smiled and chewed her brussels sprouts contentedly.
"Hey, guys, are we going to Hogsmeade this Saturday?" Joy asked after she swallowed a mouthful of lamb and potatoes. "'Cause I'm kinda running out of chocolate and since we missed the last one, I thought we should go."
"Wait, Saturday." Nora said, remembering she had to attend a Slug Club meeting. "Oh, yes, I'm definitely going."
Devorah and Joy paused and looked at her. She was the lazy one out of three of them and she disliked walking around a lot, especially in the cold weather. So her reaction was startling, to say the least.
"Slug Club." She said simply to their incredulous stares and they both understood.
"Right." Devorah said and sighed. "Well, then we're going. I'm not staying here alone. 'Sides. my stash of sweet is getting smaller, too and Valentine's day is nearing. I'd need my sugar high if I'm going to live through that day alone again."
Nora and Joy exchanged a look. Devorah was the most romantic out of three of them, which didn't say much, since both Nora and Joy didn't have a romantic bone in their bodies. She wanted a boyfriend, but unfortunately many guys were afraid of going out with an independent, outspoken and opinionated girl for long periods of time.
"Well, it's decided then." Joy said as she stabbed another lamb chop with her fork. "We're going to Hogsmeade."
"Oh, thank god!" All three girls blinked when a blonde girl plopped down on the bench next to Nora. She looked a lot like Devorah, though her hair was a lighter blonde and chopped short, and she was a couple of inches taller and curvier. "My friends refuse to go because of the weather and I need, I mean really, really need, to go to Gladrags Wizardwear. It's a fashion emergency."
Devorah sighed deeply. "Fine."
"You're the best sister ever." Micah exclaimed and blew her a kiss. She smiled at Nora and Joy before she stood up and went to join the seventh year girls again. Devorah stabbed her eggs viciously and muttered something under her breath. Devorah tolerated her sister to some extent, as long as they didn't have to spend prolonged time together. A whole day with her at Hogsmeade would be a testament to Devorah's will power.
"Well, isn't that just perfect?" She asked with a shiny smile, her voice dripping with sarcasm.
Joy bumped her shoulder with hers. "Cheer up, mate, we're totally going to ditch her at some point anyway. She'll find someone to hang out with. Now, let's enjoy the food before we have to go back to studying again."
Lunch was over twenty minutes later and the three girls trudged towards their next glasses unenthustiasically. They had different classes. Devorah had Muggle Studies, Joy had History of Magic and Nora had Arithmancy. Those were the only classes they didn't share.
"Well, I'll see you later, yeah?" Nora said. Her class was on the first floor.
Devorah and Joy nodded.
"Have fun." Joy said with a smirk.
"You too." Nora responded, mirroring her expression.
Joy shrugged. "I'd get some much needed sleep, probably. So, yeah, I'd be having fun. You, on the other hand, you'll be racking your brain for an hour, trying to predict your future in the hardest way possible."
"Well, at least I'd be racking my brain. Giving it some exercise, you know. You should try it sometime."
Joy rolled her eyes and grinned, not at all offended. "Yeah, yeah. We better be going. Binns won't notice if I'm late but the same can't be said about Vector and Chamberlane."
Devorah paled. "Good God, no." She turned around and speed walked towards the stairs. Joe and Nora shared a chuckle at her expense before their parted.
Nora met with Cornelia Hart on her way to the Arithmancy classroom. The dark-skinned girl grinned at her as soon as she saw her and slowed her pace so Nora could catch up to her. "Hey, partner." Cornelia greeted. They sat together in Arithmancy and were frequently paired together in projects. "Ready for an hour of pretending to understand what Vector's babbling about?"
"As ready as I'll ever be." Nora replied with a grin. Cornelia returned it and they walked inside the classroom together. The class was pathetically small but that wasn't surprise to anyone. Advanced Arithmancy was notoriously difficult and only the most brilliant students managed to get to NEWT level. Out of ten students, six were Ravenclaws(Cornelia being one of them.), two were Gryffindors(one of them being Nora, the other Courtney Levesque) and two Slytherins(Chester Blackwell and Magnolia Lancaster). No one was surprised that no Hufflepuffs had advanced to NEWT level. There had been only one Hufflepuff girl before but her career choice — Magizoologist — didn't require Arithmancy and she had dropped it.
Nora and Cornelia took their sits on the third desk on the left row and took out their books and charts they hadn't had the time to finish the last time. While they chatted, the rest of the students piled in the classroom and took their seats. Professor Vector followed them a minute later, the door slamming behind her as she stormed inside in her usual imposing manner.
Professor Vector was a tall witch in her mid-thirties with sharp, stern features and even sharper personality. She was really strict and had very high expectations of her students, especially the ones that attended Advanced Arithmancy classes. She gave them plenty of complicated homework and didn't accept any excuses if someone happened to submit it later than the due date. She could be annoying with her cutthroat attitude but she was a good teacher. Nora liked her. Sometimes.
"Hello, everyone." She greeted in her rich voice as she stood before her desk at the front of the classroom. "We'll be finishing the charts from the last lesson. I hope you've all read the chapters I assigned you, otherwise you won't be able to finish this."
She looked satisfied when she didn't notice any nervous twitching that might indicate someone hadn't done their homework. She nodded and leaned against her desk. "Well then. Let's begin."
"What is wrong with you?" Nora asked as she walked through the door and saw Joy sitting on her bed with a letter in one hand and a bottle of Firewhiskey in the other. She fixed her hazy blue eyes on Nora and thrust the letter in her direction. Nora took it, raising an eyebrow as her friend took a generous swing from the bottle, and started to read.
I wanted to write to you before, well, before it was too late. Tomorrow at breakfast, you're going to get an envelope. That envelope will contain an invitation. Invitation to my wedding. I wanted you to be prepared, that's all. I don't believe you knew about our engagement, Jaliya didn't want you to know. Despite everything, I would be glad if you did come. Your parents will coöperate and excuse you from school for a couple of days, if you agree.
It would mean a lot to me if you came.
"Seriously?" Nora asked, blinking at the letter. "They're marrying? But they just got together. Or well, recently."
"Eight months ago." Joy said dully as she drank from the bottle again. "Eight months and they're engaged. They're marrying. He's marrying my sister." She let out a breathless laugh, void of humour or warmth. It was one of those sounds Nora hated with passion. Joy's eyes, previously fixed on nothing in particular, moved to meet Nora's. Joy could school her features in a calm mask but her eyes said it all. She was heartbroken. "Can you believe it?"
"I'm so sorry." Nora said, moving to sit on the bed across from Joy. Joy snorted and tipped the bottle in Nora's direction.
"Cheers to that." She said sarcastically and drank from the bottle again. She wiped her mouth with her sleeve when she was done and stared at the letter in Nora's hands. "He wanted me to be prepared. He should have told me they were engaged." She rolled her eyes. "In fact, he should have told me he'd dump me for my sister. I'd have loved to be prepared then."
"He's a prat." Nora said furiously, crumbling the letter in her hands. "He's not worth this, Joy."
"That is something I've been myself for the past eight months, darling." Joy replied. "I thought it'd worked, you know. But seeing this — " She gestured to the letter. "Well, it broke my heart all over again. I hate that he has such a control over me." She punched duvet angrily. "I hate it!"
"I know." Nora said soothingly. Nora didn't know, but she tried to understand. She had never experienced the love Joy had with Dante. The man had Joy convinced that he was her soulmate, the one she was meant to spent the rest of her life with. He had been the perfect boyfriend. Joy had fallen so hard. She had fallen in way that was not safe for her or her heart. But he had broken it. He had broken up with Joy nine months ago, telling her that she was too young and that they wanted different things in life. It was true that he was six years older than them, but that had never bothered him before. He had been the one to approach Joy first, he had taken the first step, knowing that she was young.
He was an arsehole, plain and simple. A scumbag that wasn't worth Joy's tears and pain. Of course, words alone couldn't stop Joy from feeling the way she did. So Nora stayed quiet. She reached out and took Joy's hands in hers, offering her silent consolation.
The corners of Joy's mouth twitched up in a small, grateful smile and she offered the bottle to Nora.
"We have classes tomorrow." She said idly as she took the bottle from Joy's hand.
"I know, Devorah." Joy's said with a roll of her eyes. "So what?"
Nora eyed the bottle in her hands and thought of the long tiring weeks that she had to live through the past few months and shrugged her shoulders. "Eh, what the hell." She drank from the bottle and felt Joy squeeze her hand tightly.