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So, Listen... by Toujours Padfoot

Format: Novel
Chapters: 18
Word Count: 55,293

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Strong Language, Strong Violence, Scenes of a Sexual Nature, Substance Use or Abuse, Sensitive Topic/Issue/Theme, Contains Spoilers

Genres: Fluff, Romance, Young Adult
Characters: Fred, George, OC
Pairings: Other Pairing

First Published: 08/08/2011
Last Chapter: 12/02/2011
Last Updated: 08/07/2013

Stunning banner by justonemorefic@tda  ||   December 2011 featured story at TGS

A series of snapshots providing insight into the (at times nonexistent) relationship between Fred Weasley and Hollis Wright.

Beta'd by the lovely TenthWeasley.
Runner-up for Best Hogwarts in the 2011 Golden Snitch Awards

Chapter 14: November 1990

“Let me see your letter,” a bossy voice demanded. I stared at the girl with pigtails and round glasses, frowning slightly as I slid my letter back into its envelope. Unlike the older students, first years frequently received evening post well into the first few months of school. Therefore, while the majority of students went about eating their dinner as usual below the masses of twinkling candles and enjoying a pleasant Thursday evening, Delphine Hornby and I were once again accosted by enormous owls carrying words from home.

I glanced warily at Mum’s tidy script, not wanting to share its contents. I didn’t even want to think about what I had just read myself, much less allow her to see. “Why?”

“So that we can compare popularity points. Everyone knows that the more letters you get from home, the more everyone here will like you.” She shuffled her four envelopes importantly, beaming. “One from Mum and Dad, one from Aunt Doreen, one from Doreen’s nephew on her other side of the family, Theodore; and finally, a lovely long one from Celestina Warbeck.”

I let my fork drop onto my plate of steak and kidney pie, mouth agape. “What?” Manners shoved quickly aside, I reached across the table and ripped the last letter out of her hands. Flipping it right-side up, my elation fell. “It says return to sender.” I shoved the envelope back at her, disappointed. “This is your letter. You must’ve gotten the address wrong.”

“Fickle owls,” she grumbled. “But just think, Hollis – she could have touched this. I mean, she had to have, right? People like Celestina Warbeck always check their own post.” I wasn’t sure which resources she had gathered these facts from, and I raised a skeptical eyebrow.

“She can’t have received it at all, though. It says ‘return to sender’ right there in massive red ink –”

“So, anyway,” she went on loudly. “I don’t like to be boastful, so let’s talk about your letters instead. Just two, I see? Tut, tut. Come on, then. Let’s see them.”

“They’re just from my mum and gran, asking if I’ve gotten settled in yet and if I find all the subjects interesting.” This wasn’t particularly true. While Gran had indeed wanted to ensure that I was finding Hogwarts to be every bit as warm and welcoming as she promised it would be, Mum’s concerns were rather different. She was more than a little alarmed at the lack of maths and science classes on the syllabus. You should discuss finding a tutor for algebra, at least. Ask your Head of House, I’m sure he or she will be very understanding. Normal education is important and you need to know more than magic tricks to get along in the real world.

I was growing increasingly worried that she was going to pull me out of Hogwarts and plunk me back into a Muggle school. She had always assumed I would want to go to a Muggle school, despite the fact that I displayed all of the usual signs of magic from a young age – making the neighbor’s dog fly, making my lima beans disappear. Making all of my vegetables disappear, pretty much…

This past July, she and I set about purchasing my uniform and school supplies for St. Gabriel’s, the school she had attended as a girl. She was in the middle of ironing a long pair of socks for me, happily reminiscing about her old rugby team, when my Hogwarts acceptance letter dropped through the post slot onto the living room floor and smashed all of her dreams to bits.

I reflected on Mum’s recent letter again: her assumption that Hogwarts would of course acknowledge Bonfire Night and her subsequent surprise when they did not send us home to celebrate with our families for the day. Over and over her letters turned out to be questions with an increasingly agitated tone to them, and no matter how satisfactory I tried to make my returning letters, she was unmistakably shaken. On the whole, she believed that I would be much better off in a school like St. Gabriel’s, with those horrid tartan skirts and the rigid collars…

Gran wasn’t worried, despite the fears I confided in her. She just doesn’t understand. She doesn’t know much about our world, Hollis. And it was then, when she said our world, and not her world – as in Gran’s – that I realized I could never leave Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry – not for Mum, not for anything. Magic had not chosen my father, but it had chosen me. Somewhere along the way, Mum would just have to accept it.

Delphine was still talking, trying to raise her already-shrill voice so as to be heard over an ongoing correspondence between Percy Weasley, an older red-haired boy, and Orchid Strauss. “Are you finding everything all right?” he inquired, bending over her in a superior sort of way as she tried to focus on picking her waffles to shreds. “I’m going round and asking all the first years, so don’t be shy. But I thought perhaps you needed some special attention –”

“I’m fine,” she growled, her eyes darting furtively about the Great Hall. “Go away.”

Percy didn’t seem to hear her. “Because, if you recall, I’ve already found you wandering about the corridors a half dozen times, lost. I think that it would do, in these hours of great lapse in judgment, to always keep within eyesight of another person. Or perhaps I should ask McGonagall if we could get you a whistle. That way, you won’t be –”

“I’ve only gotten lost twice!” Delphine bragged, her voice so screeching that I clamped my hands over my ears. I watched her lick the back of her spoon, miffed yet again that I had found myself trapped in Hufflepuff with her. Stupid Sorting Hat.

“I’m full, so I’ll just trot off to the common room now,” I announced quietly, slipping sideways off the long wooden bench.

“Me too!” Delphine replied cheerily, stumbling off the bench as well to hurry along after me. I gave an audible groan. Delphine wasn’t always so bad, I supposed, but her shoes made click-clacking noises when she walked and she was forever drawing the notice of Peeves the poltergeist. Getting stranded in a corner with Peeves floating by was not an ideal situation, and it happened often with trouble-prone Hornby hanging about.

“Changed my mind,” I chirped, spinning around and walking in the opposite direction toward the Entrance Hall. “I’m going outside."

Delphine caught up with me, breathless and with her eyes sparkling. “Me too!”

I ground my teeth together but said nothing, passing Filch on my way out the door. For a November evening, it was still relatively sunny out. The last vestiges of autumn warmth funneled down between several lone clouds, sunlight dappling through the tree leaves in spots of pale green. Not many people occupied the Great Lawn, but Delphine and I immediately recognized one of the figures as being the very last person either of us wanted to run into. He was squatted on the ground next to one of his friends, fingers threading through the grass as if in search of something he’d just dropped.

“Oh, no.” Delphine grabbed my elbow, meaning to steer me back into the castle. “Not them, they’re horrible.”

I shielded my eyes from the overlarge red sun that was situated at just the right angle to blind me, trying to see who else accompanied the small, skinny boy I was looking at. The way we were staring at them seemed to attract their attention, apparently, and my eyes nearly fell out of my head when I caught sight of the ginger-haired boy’s mate turning around.

They were exact copies of each other, right down to the mussed, dirt-streaked hair and the pale freckles splashing across their noses and cheeks. Strolling leisurely our way, the young boys maintained a rather shifty demeanor, eyes radiant with mischief. They both grinned conspiratorially at Delphine, who let out a sharp hiss and stepped behind me to hide.

“Cheers!” The greeting was spoken simultaneously, their hands shoved deep inside suspiciously bulging pockets in their robes. They continued on their merry way and were less than five feet beyond me when I couldn’t help but –

“Holy cow!” I blurted, my mind reeling back to September and meeting one…or perhaps both of them…on the train. “There are two of you!”

“And there’s only one of you,” one of the scrawny boys responded as they wheeled around. “Which means that you’d better bugger off before we take away your House Points.”

“Why would a cow be holy?” the other remarked, scrunching up his face in thought. “That doesn’t even make any sense.”

“You didn’t know there were two Weasleys in second year?” Delphine gave an arrogant sniff, obviously gratified that she knew something I did not. “By the way, Weasleys, I asked Professor Sprout personally and she assured me that second years do not have the authority to dock points from people. So the ten points you tried to deduct last week don’t count.” She crossed her arms and stuck her nose up in the air, triumphant.

The twin on the left was fumbling in his pocket, cocking his head sideways and grimacing unintentionally due to the harsh rays of sunlight flooding his field of vision. I wondered what he was doing in his pockets.

I soon found out.

He tossed something in our direction and Delphine plugged up her nose, hopping around in a state of utter madness. “Disgusting!” she choked, fanning one arm in front of her face. The way that she was flapping her black sleeves reminded me of bats, and despite the pungent odor steaming from a round, vomit-green ball resting innocently in the grass, I couldn’t help but smile. “Horrid!” she wheezed, pointing her wand at the pair of cackling boys. “Two hundred points from Gryffindor!”

Delphine’s menacing stance of battle, however, only provoked more peals of laughter.

“You dunderhead,” one of them sniggered, leaning against his brother for support as though this was all a grand old riot. “You’re holding your wand on the wrong end.”

Delphine examined her wand for a moment, just long enough for the Weasley on the right to chuck another Dungbomb at her shoes. “No, I’m not. The handle’s right here, I’ve – hey!”

“When in doubt –” one of them sang.

“Dungbombs are always appropriate,” the other finished. They proceeded to clap each other on the backs in mutual congratulations, doing a strange little tribal dance that reminded me of a hinkypunk my gran once discovered in her garden shed.

“Now I smell all rotten,” Delphine complained. “You stupid swines.”

The boys paused their mirth long enough for one of them to say (with a swagger than indicated he fancied himself loads wittier than he really was), “Well that explains it, then.”

Delphine’s mouth pulled down in a perplexed frown. “Explains what?”

The Weasley twins exchanged sly looks, both of them gangling and awkward with so many knobby elbows and knees that they didn’t quite seem to fit themselves. “Why no one ever wants to sit next to you. It’s because you smell like dung.” They both crowed at this, thinking themselves infinitely clever.

“Leave her alone,” I declared boldly. I was feeling quite powerful – it could’ve been all the putrid gas mingling with oxygen in the air. “You specky gits have nothing better to do than throw Dungbombs – which I might add are banned from Hogwarts – at my friend here?” Delphine’s head snapped up at the mention of the word ‘friend’, and a lopsided smile began to form on her previously enraged features. “Shoo! Or else!”

“Oooh, they’re banned!” one of them teased in a lofty, girlish voice, and they both started pulling obscene facial expressions. “What you going to do? Tell on us?”

“Yes,” Delphine shot back, her pitch so high that dogs in Australia could probably detect it. “I will tell Professor Dumbledore myself, and I will have you buffoons expelled. I will also tell Professor McGonagall, and Professor Snape, and Mrs. Norris, and –” she racked her brains, trying to think of any other intimidating figures with clout she might not have mentioned. Just as we were all distracted, watching Delphine attempt to formulate vicious threats inside her head, the giant double doors of the castle pushed open and out walked Cedric Diggory.

There was nothing Delphine could do to hide it. She’d fixated herself on the poor second year boy from the moment she laid eyes on him in the common room; presently, it looked like her knees were about to buckle in a swoon.

“Diggory?” one of the Weasleys chortled. “Predictable choice. I dunno, though. They say Hufflepuffs are pretty useless, eh, George?”

“Too right you are,” the other responded cheerily. “I have it on very good authority that their intelligence is on the same level as trolls.” Beside me, Delphine was balling up her hands into fists, and the boy named George danced away from her like a pogo stick. “Don’t get offended at me. These are just facts. I mean, badgers. Really. Your House is represented by a badger. I don’t understand how you lot can sleep at night with such a sorry mascot.”

“Well I don’t understand how you lot made it past your first year when you’re surrounded by such idiots.” Delphine’s hands were on her hips now. “With what’s-her-face who always has her head shoved inside a book like she’s trying to eat it, and Flea Jordan, and –”

“Come on, Delphine,” I ordered, linking my arm in hers. Lifting my jaw imperiously at the boys, I spun on my heels and narrowly missed colliding with a tree. I pretended not to hear their snorts of laughter.

“I really do not like them,” Delphine said as we made our way down a steep hill toward the gamekeeper’s hut. “They think they’re so funny.”

“Well, they are a little bit funny.” Delphine gave me a wounded look, and I quickly amended, “But they’re nutters, yeah. Definitely nutters. We should keep clear of them.” Tossing my head over my shoulder for a brief second, I noticed that the twins had already scampered off to join their friends.

The shy-looking girl with blonde hair did indeed have a book in her hands, true to her reputation. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted Cedric making towards her as if he wanted to say hello, but she kept walking along, absorbed in her book, easily ignoring him due to the raucous shouts of the Weasleys and Lee Jordan (who had nicked a Quaffle somehow and was trying to do fancy Quidditch poses with it). Cedric stood there for several perplexed moments before he ran a hand through his hair and went off to join one of his mates. Delphine stared after him longingly, memorizing his hair with her eyeballs.

I was so busy thinking about Delphine and her tendencies to get possessive about boys she had positively no chance with that I missed my footing on the rocky slope and dove through the air, tumbling head-first into Hagrid’s vegetable patch.

A behemoth of a dog with drool trickling from its jowls padded over to me, sniffing curiously. “Ouch,” I grumbled, rubbing a tender spot on my scalp. Come this time tomorrow, I would have a lump the size of an egg there. “Stupid rocks.” I scowled at the hill I’d just fallen down. “You’d think that the staff could have done something about those. It’s downright dangerous, and the adults have a responsibility to keep us safe.”

Delphine nodded gravely. “You could have died.”

“Yes, I could have.” Brushing the dirt off my clothes and feeling both embarrassed and highly peeved, a second snout poked between two pumpkins. It was long and purplish and attached to a slim face with fur like lilac peach fuzz. Its eyes were set far apart, like a fish’s, and they reflected a green color from the foliage it was obscured in. I remembered a book of Gran’s I once found, with pictures. The graphorn’s eyes absorb the colors of their environment. If they’re standing next to a red wall, their eyes will become red. If they’re in a forest, their eyes will flicker between browns and greens and yellows.

My lips parted in wonder and I reached forward with one tentative hand, feeling the tight little knobs on the back of its head. The graphorn had to be only months old, since its horns were still so underdeveloped. Just a little foal… I was gripped with a sudden desire to keep it, to take care of it and watch it grow.

“What is it?” Delphine asked. The pitch in her voice startled the baby graphorn and he retreated a few steps.

“It’s a graphorn.” I stroked its neck where the fleece was thick, grey, and curly, trying to soothe its skittishness. “Look at its hooves and fur, Delphine. It’s so clean. Someone’s been taking good care of it, but I don’t see how that would be allowed at Hogwarts. Graphorns can grow up to be extremely violent, after their horns are fully grown. You have to keep them separated from each other in high-security paddocks, or else you’re basically asking for a blood bath.”

“Huh.” Delphine examined the creature, disinterested.

“Fancy how it got here...”

Just then, a deep, bellowing voice called out, “Edgar!” Footsteps shook the ground, pillaging my way. In two swift seconds, the graphorn foal and I were completely thrown into shadow due to someone enormous blocking the sunlight. My eyes traveled slowly up twin boots the size of small boulders. “Edgar?”

Hagrid finally noticed my presence, and his beetle-black eyes traced my arms to the graphorn. It nuzzled me with its nose, making a strange noise not unlike a purr. “These aren’t allowed at Hogwarts,” I mused quietly. Hagrid simply stared, his expression sinking. I tilted my face back, grinning mischievously. “Do you have any more of these?”