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It Started with Ginger by apexeditor8

Format: Novel
Chapters: 6
Word Count: 42,335
Status: WIP

Rating: 15+
Warnings: Contains profanity, Scenes of a mild sexual nature, Substance abuse

Genres: Humor, Romance, Young Adult
Characters: Albus, Dominique, Fred II, James (II), Lily (II), Rose, Scorpius, Teddy, OC
Pairings: Rose/Scorpius, OC/OC, Other Pairing

First Published: 07/13/2019
Last Chapter: 11/23/2019
Last Updated: 11/23/2019

Summary:

Ah, the gilded age of 17. James and Margot’s futures are bright, promising… and terrifyingly imminent.

 

Their final years at Hogwarts have been passing by in a blur of Quidditch-school-friends-more Quidditch just to keep up with it all, and only now  you're saying that it's alright to slow down and… live a little? ...take a nap? ...flirt??

 

Please hold for yet another existential crisis.

 

James (II)/OC

A story about a firecat, a Herbology Club, and a lot of growing up.



Chapter 1: Chapter 1: Margot
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August 2nd, 2021

Grinnell Hall

 

Dear Max,

 

Hhhhhhh feel free to say ew if you want, but... I miss you. We got back from France two weeks ago, and I know Grinnell’s quiet, but it’s been... quiet. Dad’s gone back to work, and mum’s not even around to nag since she’s been at Aunt Tori’s for the fundraiser, so it’s just been me and Gus holding down the fort. 

 

Quidditch season is starting up soon, I guess, so I’ve been practicing a bit, but not much. Did you know that Scorpius is quitting the team?? You must, he owls you for anything more important than his morning breakfast. So thanks for the heads up, traitor. I get that his OWLs are this year, and he’s already very invested in his future, which is really very admirable. But the dweeb can’t even take a break from his internship to hoopkeep for me! Like, excuse me, I made him. Ugh, if you were here then I’d at least have you to practice with, even if you’d probably just complain about my form. 

 

How’s Bulgaria? Home’s as mild and windy as ever, but I guess it’d be a bit colder in the mountains, yeah? I hope you and Teddy Lupin aren’t goading each other to do polar plunges in a lake again. Wear a proper jacket, you idiot. I know you said it’ll probably take a while to explore that castle, but I hope you finish your expedition soon. I haven’t seen you since the Cup Finals at school. 

 

Write me back when you’re back in civilization.

 

Love,

MG

 

Margot stretched her back with a yawn while quickly reading through the letter. She’d woken up early that morning, settling down to write even before the sun properly peeked over the horizon. Although light rays were now streaming in low through her open bedroom window, they were still accompanied by cool tendrils of early morning mist, and she crinkled her nose as a particularly chilly breeze blew in. It might have been the height of the summer, but mornings in Northumbria still required a bit of padding. It was a long walk to the post owls in the barn. 

 

Margot stewed in her bed covers for a good ten minutes longer before she could finally pull herself from her sheets. Shivering and sleepy, she dug through her wardrobe for warmer clothes, silently cursing her older brother for working so far away. Finally though, she carefully tucked the envelope into the pocket of an oversized old robe before slipping out of the door. 

 

The house was quiet, Margot noted. Living in a house with old wooden floors, it was always easy to track her family’s movements throughout the rooms, and as she padded down the upstairs hallway, her footsteps were noticeably solitary that morning.

 

At the bottom of the stairs she was greeted by her family’s French bulldog, Gustave, sprawled on the entry hall rug. At the sound of her approach, he immediately sprung up, his tail wagging excitedly, and he followed her as she navigated to the back of the house towards the mudroom. 

 

In the kitchen, the pair ran into one of the home’s two houselves, Pippa, whistling as she stoked the fire in the large stone cooking hearth. 

 

“Morning, Pippa. Has everyone already left?” Margot greeted with a yawn. 

 

“Good morning, Miss Margot!” the house-elf pipped, tossing a hefty log into the fireplace. “Mmmm, Missus Beauregard has stayed with Missus Malfoy for until the weekend, Pippa thinks, but Mister Beauregard flooed to London not 15 minutes ago!” 

 

Margot looked at the heavy brass clock hanging above the kitchen mantelpiece. Quarter past seven. That’d be the third time this week her father’s gone to the Ministry so early in the morning. In a week’s time, London would be hosting the European Magical Union’s (EMU) annual conference, and as an ambassador, Sebastian Beauregard and his office had become incredibly busy as of late. Margot had barely seen him since their family returned from their holiday to Aix-en-Provance last month. 

 

She hadn’t seen much of her mum lately either. Margot briefly considered flooing to Wiltshire, if only to have some other people around. But her mum and Aunt Astoria would likely be too wrapped up in event planning to offer much company. In conjunction with the conference next week, Malfoy Manor was hosting a charity art auction for the Ministry and visiting delegates. 

 

Margot wanted company, not busy work. And besides, Scorpius wouldn’t even be at home. Her studious cousin had spent most of his summer at the Ministry after earning a prestigious internship with the one and only Harry Potter at the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. 

 

Margot sighed. Maybe her best friend, Avery would write back soon. Margot sent a post three days ago asking to stay at the Warwick’s London home, but their family had also gone on holiday recently, and she was unsure if they’d returned to the city yet. 

 

Summers used to be so much more fun when Max still lived at home. 

 

“Mmm, I guess I’m off to walk Gustave then,” Margot sighed, fetching a leash from the mudroom.

 

“Pippa will have breakfast ready for when you return, Miss!”

 

------

 

Margot had to admit. The past few weeks at her family’s home had been pretty lonely, but at least it was a pretty lonely place. 

 

Grinnell Hall was the historical seat of the Greengrass family, passed down to Margot’s mother, Daphne, who along with her younger sister, Astoria, had been the last Greengrasses by name before they married. The pretty two-story grey stone manor was built on a lush green hill on the cool Northumberland coast. Margot trekked behind Gus along a trail leading away from the main house, following a high ridge that overlooked the surrounding area. 

 

From the distance, soft bleating punctuated the morning air. The Greengrass ancestors had been shepherds, and so the family had always maintained a healthy flock of sheep on their estate, along with a dozen or so heads of cattle, and the herds grazed openly on the hills to the west of the house. Three hundred yards downhill on Margot’s right began the sand dunes which marked a short stretch of beach that buffered the house to the North Sea. Though it was usually too blustery on the Northern English coast to enjoy a proper beach day, Margot frequently took Gus on walks there just to watch him yelp at the small sea creatures and bits of seaweed that washed up on shore. There was a lovely view down the coast along this ridge, and on clear days, you could see the butte of Lindisfarne from the windows on the east side of the home.  

 

The ridge trail curved left, and the pair followed it, turning away from the sea and meandering downhill towards a cluster of small buildings which housed the barn and stables. At the bottom of the hill, Margot leaned down and unclasped Gustave’s leash, and he trotted off towards the stables. Gus was terrified of the post owls, probably because his ears likened him to a very pudgy black rabbit which the owls were keen to pick up on. 

 

In the barn, Margot quickly spotted Freya quietly preening in the corner rafters. Margot blew two short whistles, and the owl swooped down without so much as a ruffle. Freya was a barn owl with a pretty heart-shaped face, the sharpest and fastest of the lot, and she had been her brother Max’s favorite when he was still in school. Margot hummed, knowing he’d probably be happy to see a familiar face from home. 

 

Freya patiently held out the carrier on her leg as Margot carefully fastened the letter. 

 

“Sorry to send you to the continent…” Margot said apologetically, sealing the carrier. Although Freya was fast, it would still take her a good few days to reach the mountains on the southern border of Bulgaria where her brother was currently camped with his team of Curse Breakers. 

 

“Just tell Max he owes you a dozen or so owl treats, yeah?”

 

Freya returned Margot’s sly smirk with a curt nip at her fingers before taking off through the barn door and into the lightening morning sky. Margot walked after her, spending a few moments watching the bird slowly sink into the distance. Max would likely keep the owl for a few days rest before sending her back, and so she knew not to expect a response until at least next week. 

 

A small kerfuffle was echoing from the stables. From the sound of it, Margot guessed that Gus was pestering the horses yet again. Though the tiny bulldog was frightened of most birds, he apparently had no fear when it came to mammals a dozen times his size. So it was absolutely no surprise at all when she found him yelping animatedly at the largest mare her mother kept in the barn. Margot hustled in quickly to fetch him before he got kicked in the face.

 

“Would you stop trying the fight the horses?” she berated exasperatedly as Gus wiggled in her arms, “You and I both know that they’re mum’s favorite kids.”

 

But the bulldog was apparently bounding with energy that morning, yipping at her feet as soon as she set him down outside. Margot thought it might be necessary to take him on a bit of a walk to cool him down. And it wasn’t like she had anything else to do that morning anyway. 

 

Together, they took a long and pleasant walk through the paths that wound through the estate. It was nice for Margot because she got some fresh air and exercise in at the start of her day. It was nice for Gus because he found some more unsuspecting animals several times his size (sheep, cows) that he could bark at. 

 

So it was not until a quarter to nine that Margot was finally lugging one exhausted bulldog back up the steep incline to the house. Gus had finally conked out after an ill-fated chase after a group of polecats, and Margot had resorted to carrying him around in her arms like a baby. Hhh. And Max called her spoiled. 

 

At the top of the ridge, Margot dropped Gus on the ground, and he barked at her happily before cantering up to the house. Margot took a few moments to regain her breath - either she was really out of season for quidditch, or they really needed to start watching that dog’s diet. 

 

As she looked out over the incoming morning tide, she spotted a small dark dot gliding in slowly towards her. She furrowed her brows, at first mistaking the owl for Freya, returning way too early to have made her delivery. But as the bird flew closer, she noted the figure was too big to be a barn owl.

 

“Oh,” Margot said with recognition, as she identified the bird to be Pel, the handsome eagle owl Avery had been gifted for her birthday last winter. 

 

Gracefully landing on the path before her, Pel blinked at Margot expectantly, holding out the leather carrier bound to his leg. As soon as she retrieved the letter, the owl wasted no time swooping over her to head towards the barn, presumably to help himself to some owl treats before making the return journey back to London.  

 

Margot ripped open the seal and read Avery’s short, hastily scribbled letter as she walked up the path towards the house.

 

Mar,

 

Sorry for the late reply. We’ve just caught a Portkey in from Stockholm this evening. You sound miserable. Pack a bag and floo to mine asap, we can go for ice cream at Fortescue’s, yeah? I’ve got post-holiday tea to spill. Nellie will greet you if I’m still asleep!

 

ADW

 

Margot let out a short whoop, passing through the kitchen threshold. Oh, thank Merlin. She was saved!

 

-----

 

August 3rd, 2021

Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlor

 

It was with annoyance that Margot reached up to wipe the dripping sweat from her brow for the third time in the past five minutes. It turned out that London had been facing a much balmier summer than the North, the hottest on record apparently, and everyone was starting to reckon the Muggles were onto something with that whole global warming idea. Behind them, the Fortescue’s storefront was packed with witches and wizards trying to beat the heat, and in the late afternoon business rush, the only seats Margot and Avery had been able to snag were outside on the patio. 

 

Despite the weather, the pair had been having a fairly enjoyable afternoon in wizarding London. They had spent most of the morning in the bright solarium of the Warwick’s South Kensington home, lazing around and catching up on Witch Weekly and Which Witch gossip columns. After lunch, at the behest of Mrs. Warwick, the pair were slowly coaxed from the permanent indentations they’d left in the plush armchairs and out into the city, finally making their way to Charing Cross. 

 

They’d spent the past few hours ambling around the stores in Diagon Alley. Hogwarts had yet to send out the supply lists for the upcoming school year, so they perused with less purpose than usual. After they made their usual stop to Flourish and Blotts for some new quills and stationery, Margot picked up some new gloves at Quality Quidditch Supply. To her delight, in one of the corner thrift shops, she had also found a vintage Weird Sisters t-shirt that she planned to send to Max as a belated birthday present once Freya had returned. Really, the most intensive part of their afternoon had come when Avery couldn’t decide between a dark blue spangled frock and a lilac tea dress for an upcoming family function. In the end, she ended up happily walking out of Twilfitt and Tatting’s with both in hand.  

 

Now the two girls had their shopping bags piled around their feet as they sat in the sun, sweating nearly as much as the ice cream floats sitting on the counter in front of them. Over the railing, the main thoroughfare of Diagon Alley swam with people. The working day was just ending for most wizards with office jobs, and throngs of people streamed by either on their way home or on their way to the pubs for post-work pick-me-ups. 

 

“Just think. That’ll be us in a few years,” Margot said, nodding towards a particularly deflated-looking wizard in St. Mungo’s robes and about seven layers of under-eye bags. 

 

“Amendment- I’ll probably end up more like her,” Avery pointed toward a frazzled witch, who’d just stumbled out of the Daily Prophet office carrying seven coffees in one hand and a precariously high pile of newspapers in the other. 

 

The friends shared a dispirited laugh. They were only half-joking, really. Due to start their sixth year and their NEWT classes in less than a months time, the two Slytherins had been increasingly pressed to consider their future careers as of late. Despite only being 16 years old, they had barely two years left before they were released into the world as full adults, and that was enough to fill any teenager with dread. Although they might be working magical jobs in the magical community, a job could still be as draining as any other, as the faces on most of the tired-looking professionals passing by reminded them. 

 

“What are you two looking so gloomy for?”

 

Rowan Selwyn, a willowy girl who styled her short, dark hair into finger waves dropped down on the seat beside them. She was one of the girls who shared a dorm with Margot and Avery at school, and she regarded the pair curiously. 

 

“Just contemplating the crushing realities of our looming adulthoods,” Margot dead-panned back.

 

“Ah, that’ll do it.”

 

Margot and Avery continued looking despondent, and Rowan chuckled breezily at them. “Come now, I’m sure your summers haven’t all been so dismal.”

 

“I’m sixteen. My life is all crisis,” Avery said, dropping her chin onto her palm.

 

“Fair enough. But I’m sure you’ve been having far more glamorous breaks than me, seeing as I’ve been stuck in London since June. What have you lot been up to? Beauregard, you were in France again, yeah?”

 

Margot hummed, “Visiting family. Mostly my cousins just took the mickey out of me for my French accent, though, so I can’t say it was really glamorous per se.”

 

“You went with your parents, right?”

 

“Yeah, we went to my dad’s mum’s.”

 

“And… your brother? He come along as well?”

 

Margot narrowed her eyes at the girl before slowly shaking her head no. 

 

“Ah, I see,” Rowan said,  swirling around the condensed liquid that had pooled on the table from their drinks. After a moment, she prodded with only the most thinly veiled interest, “...What’s Max up to then?”

 

Avery snorted into her ice cream, “Subtle. Haven’t you got a boyfriend, Selwyn?”

 

Rowan flicked water at her with a smirk, “I’m expressing friendly interest, not snogging him.”

 

Margot rolled her eyes in annoyance, but only half serious about it. Though he had graduated over three years ago, it wasn’t a secret that a number of upper-year Slytherin girls, including some of her own dorm-mates, maintained a vested interest in her older brother. For whatever reason. 

 

...Well. Margot supposed he’d been pretty popular, being the captain of the house quidditch team and all. And he did have the whole world-trotting Curse Breaker thing going for him… She guessed she had to admit - Max was objectively the cooler sibling of the two of them… probably. But she was still their house elf Pippa’s favorite.  

 

“He’s been in Bulgaria since May working on an expedition for Gringott’s,” Margot conceded as she handed Avery a napkin, “And before you ask, no, I have no idea when he’ll be back to visit.”

 

“Bulgaria? That’s quite remote... probably hard to be dating anyone, yeah?”

 

Margot wrinkled her nose, giving her friend a hard stare, “If I say he’s in a mad affair with Teddy Lupin, will you stop asking me about him?” 

 

“Oh please, Lupin and Victoire Weasley are all but engaged,” Rowan said with a matter-of-fact smirk, “Thank you for the other intel though. It’s nice to keep updated.”

 

“Why not harass the one who’s actually got decent gossip?” Margot said tiredly, jerking her head at Avery.  

 

Rowan quirked her eyebrows, turning to the girl in question, “Is that so, Warwick? What bring you to the table?”

 

Avery didn’t answer right away, instead making a production out of wiping her shirt of the water Rowan had flicked on her. But Margot knew that she was just taking some time to rile up her audience. Avery was a rather… accomplished story teller. When she really got into the spirit of things, she and Rowan could (and often did) exchange gossip for hours on end. This was especially true now given how, as Avery regaled Margot last night, she was fresh off of a summer affair.

 

“My family’s just got back from holiday in Sweden this week... We stayed with Bazzy Whitby at his family’s summer house outside of Stockholm,” Avery began casually, but pausing for a reaction, smirking when Rowan didn’t disappoint. 

 

“...Bazzy Whitby? The drummer for Nine Sickles? ...Damn, Warwick, I knew you’d have something good…  What’s your connect?”

 

“Dad goes way back with him when he was starting out with the radio business,” the girl boasted, “He gave them their first spins on his very first channel operating out of his 7th year dorm room… I guess even back then he had a good ear.”

 

Nowadays Mr. Warwick, along with Avery’s two older brothers, ran some of the most popular programming on wizarding radio. Margot had just listened to him introduce the top 40 over the wireless this morning. 

 

“...Bazzy brought his family along, too, to keep me and Daniel company, which was great seeing as I don’t speak a lick of Swedish,” Avery continued, “So, I ended up asking the eldest Whitby if he fancied being my tour guide.”

 

She paused again, pushing her long olive brown hair back before leaning forward to take a long sip of her float. She was enjoying his immensely, Margot could see.  

 

“...And…? Out with it already, Warwick.”

 

“And. So. Going to museums and cafes and record stores is fun and all, but you can only do that for so long. Our parents are out sailing all day, and eventually, you have to find... other ways to entertain yourself, you know? … And what can I say, Alastair Whitby apparently found my lips to be particularly fascinating.”

 

Avery finished with an exaggerated shrug of her shoulders, and Margot shook her head amusedly at her. Rowan was scrunching her face, trying to put a face to the name. 

 

“...Alastair… Oh, in Ravenclaw? He’s got a tongue piercing, right?”

 

“That’s the one,” Avery said cheerfully, shooting her a wink. 

 

“Huh,” Rowan said, nodding her head thoughtfully, “I had no idea he was related to punk rock royalty… although I do see the resemblance now.”

 

“He’s certainly got that patented Bazzy Whitby broodiness down,” Margot quipped, trying to remember the last time she’d seen Alastair’s eyes behind his long curtain of fringe. 

 

Rowan snorted, batting her arm appreciatively, “He’s charming! In a bad boy kind of way... So you’re together then, are you, Wickham?”

 

Avery shrugged noncommittally, “Oh. Well, no, not exactly... He’s lovely, but the tongue piercing is a bit much to deal with for a long-term relationship.”

 

Margot grinned into her float. Her best friend had never really been one for long-term relationships, period. Regardless of the other person’s tongue.

 

“Ah, I see…” Rowan said slowly, squinting her eyes at her, “Well, you know I don’t quite get your bit with... ‘undefined’ relationships… But I can respect it.”

 

“Ah, well you know I don’t quite get your bit with... ‘dating the same boy since we were literally 13’… But I can respect it,” Avery mimicked back cheekily. 

 

Rowan opened her mouth, looking ready to retort again, but instead just clicked her tongue in assent.

 

“...Touche. How’d Bazzy Jr. take it then?” 

 

Back at the dorm, Margot’s two roommates could spend nearly as much time bantering as they did gossiping, but she could tell Rowan was rather invested in the latter today. Avery was smirking gleefully as she replied - she loved winning word wars with Rowan.

 

“Oh, don’t worry, he was fine! ...Well, I suppose he kind of sulked around for a bit afterwards. But he was doing that for most of the trip anyway, so I just assumed he was back to his normal self.”

 

“Careful, Aves. He might just pick up a guitar and bang out an angry song or two about you,” Margot said cooly sipping her float.

 

“Ooh, that could be quite romantic actually,” Rowan added, “At the very least, if he gets famous like his dad you’d have bragging rights for years.”

 

“‘Oh yes, I am the ‘Bitch Who Hates Tongue Piercings’... No, I’m quite flattered Alastair would name a song after me… Sure, I’ll sign your album for you…!’”

 

Avery maturely stuck her tongue out at her snickering friends before narrowing her eyes at Margot.

 

“Maybe I’ll file my application for the Margot Beauregard Heartbreakers Association then.”

 

Rowan was still wiping tears from her eyes when she shifted her gaze to Margot.

 

“What’s all that now, Beauregard,” she said laughingly, “You break up with Ro-Ro, too?”

 

Margot furrowed her eyebrows at the slender girl before nodding her head slowly, “...Did you not know? But I thought Lucien had babbled to half the year already during that bonfire party in June.”

 

Immediately Rowan’s expression sobered as her eyes widened in understanding, “... Oh my god, I thought Zabini was joking…!”

 

“Well, his sense of humor can be a little illusive at times-”

 

“But you mean to say, that you and Roman Pucey broke up?”

 

“Well, yes.”

 

“What? How? When.”

 

Avery snorted, “She dumped him on the Hogwarts Express.” 

 

Margot shot her a pointed look, “That makes it seem so harsh. I was only trying to be direct about it. And I didn’t dump him. We had a conversation; it was basically mutual-” 

 

“Mar, you told him the relationship wasn’t worth your effort.”

 

“...”

 

“...”

 

“...Well yes, but it was only true.”

 

“Holy shit, Beauregard,” Rowan said, gaping amazedly at her. 

 

“It wasn’t in so few words,” Margot defended, “I have a small bit of tact.”

 

While it was true that her and Roman Pucey’s five month long relationship hadn’t been spectacular, at the very least, it been very reasonable. It had been her first real relationship, but she slipped into it quite naturally. She and Roman liked quidditch, both being chasers on the house team. Reasonable. He was attractive, well-dressed, and well-spoken. Reasonable. Their mums got along spectacularly well and even had tea together a few times. Reasonable

 

And that’s the way Roman liked things in his life. Reasonable. Easy. Uncomplicated. He was a year ahead of her, in the midst of his NEWT courses, but he hardly ever concerned himself with his school work. The Puceys were a very well off wizarding family, and he liked to say that his future was secured by a well-stocked Gringott’s vault. Thus, he was often perplexed by Margot’s frequent fretting over her OWL results.

 

“Mar-Mar, does it really matter if you get an ‘Outstanding’ or an ‘Exceeds Expectations’ for Transfiguration?”

 

“Seeing as Selwyn only lets in ‘Outstanding’ students for NEWTs, it certainly does.”

 

“So, you don’t take NEWT Transfig… It’s a bore of a class anyway from what I hear from Oscar…”

 

“So? And so no Transfig means no Healer school.”

 

“Would skipping that really be that big of a deal? From the way I see things, people like us barely need to work… I mean, obviously it wouldn’t be for a while, but rest assured, my family’s coffers should keep us quite content if we got married…”

 

“...”

 

“...”

 

“...”

 

“Mar?”

 

“...We… really… have got very different ideas about our futures, haven’t we?”

 

Anyone who knew Margot well knew that she’d been dead set on becoming a Healer since third year. More importantly, she had an inexplicable stubborn streak over the topic (as her mother knew particularly well). She’d thought that Roman would have known better. And honestly, was it really her fault if the boy didn’t seem to have a decent ounce of Slytherin ambition in his body? 

 

“In any case, he’s graduating this year, and we’re clearly going in different trajectories. Soon enough he’ll be taking off on his friend’s yachts on the Mediterranean, and I’ll be, oh you know... crying my way through Healer school. I just don’t think it’ll work out,” Margot said with a dull smile.  

 

“... You really are something else, Margot.”

 

“That’s what my mum said too. She was more broken up about it than I was.”

 

“Your brother hardly ever dates anyone - can you really blame the woman for getting her hopes up about you?” 

 

Margot scoffed derisively, “Max is 21. He should be taking as much time for himself as he wants. And besides. As if I’d be finding my future spouse at Hogwarts.”

 

To punctuate her point, she nodded her head toward a rowdy group of teenage boys just exiting Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes. Even from a few storefronts down, their boisterous laughter rang clear down the street. One of them, who she recognized from quidditch as Kian Wilkinson, a Gryffindor 6th year, had hung a pair of extendible ears from his left nostril. 

 

“...Fair point,” Avery said, eyeing the group of boys disparagingly. 

 

From a few streets down, the massive clock atop Gringott’s Bank began signaling the hour - 6 o’clock. The air had cooled significantly since they had first sat down, and their seats were now shaded by the lengthening shadows of the closely packed buildings. Rowan looked up surprisedly at the ringing of the clock. 

 

“Damn, it’s six already? I told my uncle I’d meet him in front of the bank on the hour,” she said, hurriedly collecting her things. She offered them a grin as she hopped off her stool.

 

“I’m sorry to hear about your break ups. But also? Congrats? Cheers to you lot for having clear 6th years ahead.”

 

Margot and Avery simultaneously lifted their glasses.

 

“Hear, hear.”

 

Rowan winked at them, “I’ll see you both at school then!”

 

“Sure. Good seeing you, Rowan.”

 

“Find us on the Express!”

 

They watched for a moment as their friend hurried from the patio and disappeared into the crowd.

 

“We should be about heading home too, Mar. Mum wants us home by 7 for dinner.”

 

So the pair gathered up their shopping bags, and together they followed the road back up to the Leaky Cauldron.

 

-----------------------------

 

 

Oh, heck. This is the first fanfic I've published in years! Next chapter with James will be posted ~quite~ soon. I hope you all enjoy as much as I've been enjoying writing it the past few months~ 



Chapter 2: Chapter 2: James
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

August 8th, 2021

12 Grimmauld Place

 

“Uh oh. Dad, I think a stray Malfoy followed you home from the Ministry again,” James called from the top of the stairs, spotting a familiar platinum blonde head seated at the dining room table. 

 

His brother Albus turned to James as he cantered down the staircase, his withering gaze intensified by the bright emerald hue of his bespectacled eyes. “Very funny, James. I invited Scorp for dinner.”

 

“Oh no, and he’s trekked in another Slytherin, too. Godric, we may have an infestation on our hands,” James declared with a horrified look, though he didn’t bother hiding his jovial tone. Reaching the pair, he reached out and ruffled the two boys’ hair, knocking their heads together.

 

“Only joking, Scorp,” James said, flashing the younger boy a broad grin as he came around the other side of the table. “But really, isn’t your mother missing you? I think I’ve seen you around more than Lily this week.”

 

“She’s been busy setting the house up for the fundraiser tomorrow...” Scorpius began explaining. Scorpius’s dad been appointed the Senior Finance Secretary under Aunt Hermione at the Ministry just last year. The Malfoys had graciously accommodated a number of events in their stately home in Wiltshire since then, and Mrs. Malfoy was quickly becoming an adept hostess.

 

“...I doubt she’s remembered anything that doesn’t concern seating arrangements,” Scorpius finished with a sheepish smile, as he patted down his mussed hair. 

 

The boy had been Albus’s best mate for five years now, and despite James’ best welcoming efforts (usually consisting of good-hearted teasing), it had taken almost all that time to get Scorpius to a semblance of comfortability with the rest of the Potters.

 

He was a rather quiet kid and probably one of the most serious people that James had ever met (which James usually liked to point out by more or less following this script: “You gotta lighten up, Scorp, you’re more serious than I am,,” “...” “...and it’s my middle name!” “...”). But James also knew that he’d been a genuine friend to Al through the years, which always meant a lot given the crowd their last name usually attracted. 

 

“Oh, yes,” Ginny Potter said, coming up the kitchen stairs carrying a tray of warmed bread and butter. “I meant to ask you, Scorpius, does your mother need more art donated for the auction?”

 

Ginny set the tray on the table in front of the boys, before whirling around and taking a hefty pot of bolognese from James’s dad, Harry, who’d followed her up from the kitchen. “We’ve still got that portrait of Walburga in the attic, and you know how I’ve been meaning to get rid of it for ages now.”

 

Harry chuckled as he sunk down on the seat next to James. “I doubt anyone would want her, Gin. If anything, she’d probably cause an international diplomatic crisis.”

 

Ginny narrowed her eyes and clacked her tongue in annoyance. “Well, it was worth a shot.”

 

“I’ll ask mum if she’d like any additional portraits, Mrs. Potter,” Scorpius said amicably.

 

Ginny smiled at him. “Actually, we’ve also got some nice landscapes by Cassiopeia Black that I’m sure people would actually like having…”

 

“Have you seen your sister, James?” his father asked, turning to him.

 

“Oh yeah, she was in her room on her Muggle mobile with Indira Natarajan when I passed by. She said she’d be down for dinner.”

 

As if on cue, his younger sister’s slender form appeared on the bannister just above them. 

 

“Lily,” his mother called as she began dishing out long lengths of pasta from the pot with a pair of tongs, “Come sit.”

 

Lily sidled up to Ginny to peer at the contents of the pot, and James noted the two redhead’s increasing resemblance. Lily had recently cut her hair to match their mother’s shoulder length bob, but in a richer, darker red than Ginny’s ginger orange hair. His sister also had gone through a rather explosive growth spurt at the beginning of the summer and was now nearing their mother’s height.

 

“Oooh, yum,” Lily said, before plopping down next to Albus and snagging a roll from his plate. Albus, having long ago resigned to his fate as the middle child, only rolled his eyes and took another from the tray and began buttering it. 

 

Albus really had always been the most patient of the three Potter children, a disposition he shared, among many other things, with their dad. Most people described the 15 year old as a perfect carbon copy of the teenaged Boy-Who-Lived, and they’d be nearly right. Albus had inherited the Harry Potter classics - striking green eyes (along with terrible eyesight) under a mop of incurably messy jet-black hair. But he hovered a few inches shorter than Harry’s tall and slender frame, and instead of a lightning-shaped scar, his forehead was dotted with the faint freckles that marked his Weasley side. 

 

James himself also tended more towards his father’s features. The 17-year-old was (proudly) the tallest in his family, gaining a hair of an inch on his dad just this past summer. His hair was not as dark as Harry or Albus’s, but it was a rich dark umber color, which warmly complemented the hazel eyes and freckled skin he inherited from his mother. His dad had once told him that he had his namesake grandfather’s long nose, which was met with much delight as James Sirius regarded James I as a personal hero. 

 

Idle chatter bubbled up around the table as the family tucked into their dinner.

 

“How was work today, dad?”

 

Harry heaved a sigh, “Busy. The conference has got most of the ministry in a scramble, and the department’s got its hands full coordinating auror guards across London.”

 

“At least you’re taking a break from raids,” Ginny quipped.

 

“Honestly, dealing with dementors might actually be easier than appeasing angry diplomats. At least I know how to banish dementors.”

 

James laughed. It was rare to see his dad be flustered by anything these days. After fighting in a war and leading raids against dark wizards for over 20 years, the head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement knew the best line of defense and exit strategy for everything. Everything, apparently, except political diplomacy. But James supposed that was more Aunt Hermione’s forte. 

 

“Oh, that reminds me, Scorpius, could you please remind me to send a memo to Robards tomorrow? He needs to be transferred to the Belgian entourage.”

 

The blonde boy managed to mumble a yes through a mouth full of bread. 

 

Down the table, Ginny and Lily were discussing preparations for the social events surrounding the conference.

 

“...Would I have time to go home change between the gala and the auction?” Lily was asking. 

 

“Probably not, so just wear comfortable shoes for both?”

 

“Ugh, I haven’t got any that match the blue dress though…”

 

“What about those white flats I got you last summer?”

 

“Those are actually really pinchy. I might just keep the extra pair in Rose’s purse - she finally figured out that extension charm...”

 

James turned back to his brother and Scorpius sitting across from him. The two were just showing Harry the schedules and supplies lists Hogwarts had sent that morning. 

 

“By the way, Scorpius. I heard you made Prefect. Congrats!”

 

Scorpius colored slightly at the echoes of congratulations from around the table and smiled, “Oh, thank you very much.”

 

“D’you know who else got it?” James asked, attempting to twirl the remnants of his pasta on his fork. 

 

“Uhm, I’m not sure who else in Slytherin. Probably…” Scorpius turned with a questioning gaze at Al, “...Miranda Fawcett?”

 

“Mmm, she’s got the best grades of the Slytherin girls by far,” Al nodded in agreement. “Rose made Gryffindor prefect because of course. And Louis made Ravenclaw because of course.”

 

“I think Gemma’s also got it for Ravenclaw,” Scorpius added. 

 

“Wow,” Lily said with a low whistle, “Al, your friends are nerds.”

 

Al laughed, “Tell me about it. At this rate, I’ll have to sit with your friends on the ride to school.”

 

“Nah, they’d probably not wanna sit with such a loser,” Lily quipped, and Albus stuck his tongue out. 

 

“Al’s basically lined up to be Slytherin quidditch captain after Roman Pucey graduates this year though,” Scorpius piped up, grinning at his friend. “...now that I’ve quit the team,” he added cheekily.

 

Albus turned pink and furrowed his brows, “What are you on about? Did you forget that Margot exists?”

 

Scorpius chuckled in response. 

 

“What? She’s a year ahead and is our cleverest chaser.”

 

“Yeah,” Scorp rolled his eyes, “But MG’s gunning for Head Girl next year, and she’s likely to pass on captaincy in favor of it.”

 

“Ohhh,” Albus said with a nod of comprehension. “Well, there’s still the Edgecombes...”

 

And so the rest of dinner at 12 Grimmauld Place passed the same way in clinking forks and pleasant chatter. Around 8pm, Scorpius politely excused himself, and after Harry had gently talked Ginny down from basically forcing Walburga’s portrait on the boy, he stepped into the kitchen fireplace to floo back to his parent’s home in Wiltshire. 

 

“See you tomorrow, Scorp,” Al said, and his friend waved back before disappearing in a burst of green flame. 

 

Albus and James were on dish duty that night, as Kreacher had been feeling rather unwell the past few days. The elderly house-elf had been confined to his bed by Ginny for most of the week, but his absence at least had the unexpected perk that Ginny could set her children doing household chores for once. 

 

James and Al didn’t mind much. As they worked side by side in front of the wide copper sink, they sang along to some of their parent’s favorite tapes. James had enchanted an old cassette player with a permanent sonorous charm, and the Weird Sisters’ Do the Hippogriff reverberated loudly in the cavernous space of the basement kitchen. 

 

“Can you dance like a hippogriff nanana nanana nanana flying off from a cLIFF NANANA NANANA NANANA.”

 

The brothers howled along with Myron Wagtail’s screeching vocals, splashing water everywhere. During the bridge, James made the unwise decision to use the sink’s sprayer hose as a prop for an impromptu guitar solo, and both of the boys ended up thoroughly soaked by the time they had finished cleaning. 

 

Sitting on the warm stone in front of fireplace, Albus giggled, pointing to a stray strand of spaghetti stuck in James’s dripping hair.

 

As his brother reached up to pick it out, Albus started, “James…?”

 

“Mmm?”

 

“Do you think… you’re gonna move out after you graduate this year?” 

 

James blinked at his brother surprisedly for a moment before turning his gaze toward the fire. After a few seconds, he said in contemplative tone, “...I’m not sure, Al… I barely have an idea of what I wanna do after Hogwarts.” 

 

“What do you mean? Aren’t you still thinking about going pro?”

 

Playing professional quidditch had been James’ dream since he was old enough to get on a broom, as Albus well knew. 

 

“That was the plan… But I’m not sure. It’s getting a lot more competitive, and loads of the British teams scout for players internationally now,” James sighed. 

 

Albus only nodded, knowing James had more on his mind to unload. 

 

“I know I’ve got connections with mum, but I wanna get into a squad of my own accord, you know? Work my way up from a minor league or reserve team or something, instead of being scouted because someone wants a Potter on the roster.”

 

Al hummed in agreement, knowing the feeling well. The Potter name in the wizarding world had given the siblings tons of privilege growing up, but as they got older, it became increasingly frustrating not to know where their successes were coming from. They never could be too sure about the value of their accomplishments as individuals under the weight of “The-Boy-Who-Lived”.

 

“I don’t know if I’m good enough to get in if it was just on pure talent,” James said quietly, staring into the flames. 

 

Al looked at his brother for a moment, before leaning sideways slightly to bump his shoulders. “From a quidditch-captain-to-be’s perspective… I think you’re a brilliant keeper.”

 

James broke out into a smile, punching his arm teasingly, “Oh, so you have let Malfoy inflate your head then! What happened to my sweet and humble Al? Is this what the prospect of power does to you Slytherins?”

 

Al broke out into laughter, waving his hands in defeat, “I take it back, I take it back!”

 

“You know I’d love to see your face if one of the Edgecombes actually gets the badge instead of you…”

 

“Merlin take me…”

 

The pair lapsed into a beat of silence. Then, “Hey Al? You know if I do move away, for quidditch training or something, I’d still come visit you and Lily and mum and dad all the time?”

 

“Yeah, I know… It’s just…”

 

“...Yeah, I miss Teddy when he’s away on trips, too.”

 

“It was so weird going from seeing him almost every day to seeing him like, three times a year,” Al said. Then, laughing, “Professional quidditch is only marginally a more real-person job than literal wizard Indiana Jones, so please promise me you won’t disappear on me.”

 

“Pinky swear. And if he’s not back from Bulgaria by September, we’re gonna take a portkey and drag him back from those mountains ourselves,” James declared, holding out his finger. 

 

Smiling, Albus linked his pinky with his brother’s. 

 

“Deal.”

 

------

August 9th, 2021

Malfoy Manor

 

Despite all the cool things about having Harry Potter as a father, James thought, decidedly the least cool thing about his life (at least how it felt at the moment) was being obliged to attend ministry parties.

 

His parents had been shuffling him, Al, and Lily to various official events all afternoon. James’ feet ached from the pinchy set of dress shoes he’d picked out to wear with his tux. And he’d lost track of how many different officials’ hands he’d shaken, how many times he’d been asked about his NEWTs and his post-graduation plans, how many times he’d been called “a handsome young man” (okay, that last one wasn’t so bad).

 

To his parents’ credit, they had mostly held off on dragging the kids to the Ministry’s extensive schedule of events this past week, with Harry usually opting to attend the galas and dinners alone, or occasionally with Ginny if things weren’t too busy at the Prophet. But as it was the last official day of the EMU conference, all of the Potters were due for an appearance. 

 

At least, James conceded, he had it marginally better than Rose and Hugo. He looked toward the huge crowd of people gathered toward the front of the Malfoy’s ballroom, trying to make out Rose’s distinctive mane of bushy red hair in the throngs. 

 

His cousins were essentially the first kids of wizarding Britain, and they had stuck faithfully to their mother’s side for most of the evening. James couldn’t exactly tell if it was because of filial loyalty or if they genuinely couldn’t escape the retinue of aurors and politicians that surrounded Minister for Magic, Hermione Granger, but James admired their fortitude regardless. 

 

James continued scanning the ballroom, hoping to spot one of his siblings. He’d been whisked away nearly an hour ago by the enthusiastic Finbar Quigley, Head of the Department of Magical Games and Sports, after he’d learned of James’s interest in professional quidditch. James had only managed to extricate himself moments ago, after making several half-hearted promises to look into the trial dates for Quigley’s former team, the Ballycastle Bats. 

 

As his eyes wandered around, James recognized a few familiar faces dotted throughout the room. His father stood a little ways off, speaking to Former Minister Kingsley Shacklebolt and another tall middle-aged woman James didn’t recognize. James also noted a few acquaintances from Hogwarts - Oscar Belby, a Slytherin in his year whose mother was on the Wizengamot; Eleanor Cooper, who played chaser for the Ravenclaw quidditch team and whose father was a Head Obliviator; and Lorcan and Lysander Scamander, sitting with Aunt Luna and Uncle Rolf, who was Head of the Magical Creatures Department. Unfortunately, Albus and Lily seemed to have wandered off long ago, and James crinkled his brow in annoyance. 

 

For the most part, James stuck with his siblings during these types of events. He would have usually invited his cousin and best friend, Fred Weasley, along for company, but since that incident where Freddie unleashed a niffler on one of Aunt Hermione’s fundraising dinners last year, he had been banned from attending official ministry events indefinitely. 

 

Admittedly, it hadn’t been one of Freddie’s most well thought out schemes, but Uncle Rolf had been able to stun the creature fairly efficiently, only shortly after it had collected its twelfth belt buckle. However, the long-standing ban remained, and now James was left to stick out the pleasantries and pageantry alone. He mentally kicked himself. He ought to have at least invited Lewis or Archie… 

 

In an effort to look a little less misplaced, James accepted a flute of effervescently bubbling liquid from a waiter before wandering towards the open set of double doors that led outside. A pleasantly cooling breeze hit him shortly before he stepped out onto the large balcony. 

 

Extending out the back of Malfoy Manor, the terrace offered a lovely view of the elaborate gardens that surrounded the chateaux-style home. A glassy reflecting pool surrounded by dozens of snowy white rose bushes glinted with the bright house lights, and further back in the garden atop a walled maze, the ghostly figure of a white peacock glowed in the pale moonlight.

 

The balcony itself was nearly as quiet as the gardens. Most guests had begun gathering inside for the start of the auction, but spotting the unmistakable brick red of his sister’s hair, James sighed in relief. 

 

Gathered around in the corner by the balustrade were Lily, Albus, Scorpius, and a pretty blonde witch who James recognized as Scorpius’s cousin, Margot Beauregard. Lily was holding a small bundle in her arms, and the others were clustered around her, speaking in quiet tones.

 

Curious, James approached the group slowly. Scorpius spotted him first and nodded towards him, causing Albus to turn around and wave him over. 

 

“Hey, you got away from Quigley,” Albus said, congratulatory. 

 

“I think I accidentally signed my soul away to the Ballycastle Bats for my freedom though,” James sighed wearily.

 

 “James!” Lily whispered excitedly, “Come look at what Aunt Luna gave me for my birthday.”

 

His sister’s birthday had just passed two days ago, and knowing Lily’s magizoologist god-mother’s track record, the “present” was likely to be something that was alive, furry, and possibly a little dangerous. 

 

James could feel the creature before he even got a good look at it - the air immediately surrounding the group was about 10 degrees warmer than the cool night air. Curious, James peered over Albus’s shoulder to get a better look.

 

“...Is that... a cat?”

 

Lily beamed, holding the tiny bundle out for James’s inspection. Swaddled up in a woolen blanket, a small feline animal was sleeping. Its fur was a most peculiar coloring, a blazing bright orange James had never seen on a creature before. Wrapped around its curled form was a bushy tail, larger than its whole body and ringed with deep red stripes. 

 

“It’s a firecat,” Lily said proudly, “Aunt Luna found an abandoned litter on her trip to Hokkaido.”

 

“What’s a- ...is it... glowing?”

 

Lily had shifted slightly away from the light of one of the ballroom windows, and it became quite apparent in the evening shadows. The kitten was giving off the faintest orange glow, reminiscent of the embers of a cooling fire. 

 

“Mhmmm,” Lily said adoringly, “She’s only a kitten, but apparently their fur is supposed to get much brighter when they get older. They’re supposed to be able to give off much more heat too.”

 

James had already started warming considerably in the creatures’ presence. 

 

“Leave it to Aunt Luna to gift you a literal walking fire hazard… and bring it to you during a ministry event.”

 

“Oh, they’re quite safe as long as they’re trained properly!” Albus piped, “Aunt Luna promised mum she wouldn’t burn the house down… as long as we keep her away from the curtains for a few months.”

 

James laughed incredulously, “And mum went along with it?”

 

“How could she say no to that face?” 

 

Albus grinned with a vague nod, and James was unsure if his brother was talking about the firecat, their sister, or both. Most people already found it difficult to say no to Lily Potter. The 13-year-old was brimming with too much charm for her own good, and that coupled with the adorable orange face now sleepily blinking up at the group - James could see why his mum didn’t have a chance.  

 

Lily was cooing gently and slowly rocking the thing in her arms. 

 

“James, Aunt Luna says it looks like me!” she whispered proudly and a little smugly, “She said it’s funnier and cuter when pets look like their owners... Well, unless their pet is a changeling. In which case 'you must immediately call her or Uncle Rolf, to take preventative actions against getting carried away by fairies'… Anyway, don’t you think it looks like me?”

 

James laughed, “It’s very cute, Lils… And very… uh, red.”

 

He heard a small snicker to his left and glanced over curiously. 

 

Margot Beauregard was perched on the balustrade. James had almost forgotten she was there - her trailing grey dress and pin straight posture nearly made her pass for one of the Malfoy’s garden ornaments.

 

But her nose was buried in an enormous and explosively colorful volume - ‘Fantastic Beasts of East Asia by Luna Scamander’, it said in glaring yellow script . It was the latest edition, and James presumed it had been gifted along with the firecat. 

 

Margot barely passed him a glance when she looked up at his sister, “Apparently firecats are quite popular pets at Mahoutokoro, Lily. Mrs. Scamander writes that ‘they’re a cost-effective way to heat the dorms.’”

 

Albus and Scorpius both snorted at this.

 

“Wouldn’t it be warm enough there already, with the school being on an actual volcano and all…?”

 

They exchanged bemused looks, but Lily had already started prattling excitedly at the mention of bringing her new pet to school

 

Oooh, I hadn’t even thought about Hogwarts..! My roommates would love her! And Alice is always complaining about how our room is too cold in the winter. She could sleep in the middle of our beds... like a furnace, but cuter…!”

 

As if on cue, the cat hopped from Lily’s arms and began pacing the center of their huddle, blowing little puffs of white smoke from its mouth. Every time its long tail swished past James, he noted that it did actually feel like he were standing next to a small furnace. In the coolness of the night, the creature’s warmth felt quite comforting. The others must have thought the same, as they all hushed for a few moments, admiring the creature’s movements. 

 

“I’ve decided to name her Ginger by the way,” Lily said with finality after a beat of silence. The cat blinked up at them and mewed. Somehow James doubted that was for approval, but Lily grinned anyway. 

 

“Aw see, she likes it!” 

 

“Don’t you think she’s hungry, Lily?” Albus said, looking at her amusedly, “Did Aunt Luna tell you what to give her?”

 

“Oh shoot, no she didn’t…”

 

“That’s alright, I can go fetch her. I see her right there by the banquet table…”

 

Albus was peering in through one of the windows. Aunt Luna was on the other side of the ballroom, loitering by the desserts and holding a tubular glass contraption that James had learned to recognize as one of her patented Blibbering Humdinger Detectors. 

 

He grinned to himself, comforted in knowing that his Yorkshire pudding would be Humdinger-free tonight.

 

“Scorp, d’you mind coming with? Maybe we’ll be able to grab something from your mum’s kitchens…” Albus said, making to head inside.

 

“Oh, yeah, sure… We could ask one of the house elves or something...?”

 

------

 

While they waited for the two younger boys to return, Lily, James, and Margot walked Ginger down to the lower gardens. Glow worms had started appearing in the grass, and the group entertained themselves by watching the cat pounce after the tiny light beetles. Ginger was surprisingly fast for her tiny size, springing across the garden with ease, and soon enough, Lily was chasing after them too, laughing as she ran with her new pet. 

 

That left James alone with Margot on the lawn, and the two of them lapsed into a silence long enough that it began to make him jittery. Unconsciously, he was bouncing on the balls of his feet as he thought of a thing to say, making the pinchiness of his dress shoes worse. 

 

James rarely had trouble talking to people - his parent’s older friends often told him that he had the liquid charm of his other namesake, Sirius Black. 

 

But he only knew Margot vaguely from playing quidditch against her or through the passing comments he’d hear from Al or Scorpius... He knew that she was one of Scorpius’s only two cousins... that she was a prefect in the year below him for Slytherin house... and that her dad was in the ministry, as she frequently made appearances at these parties. 

 

And that was about it.

 

Margot had always given off the distinct impression of being a little... straight-laced, and James, a well-known prankster and rabble rouser, figured it was best to keep out of her hair during these kinds of events. So despite James’s usually outgoing nature, he had to admit he found her a little intimidating to talk to. 

 

“So. You’re getting recruited by Ballycastle then?”

 

James started out of his thoughts and looked over at the girl in surprise. She’d sat down on a bench, her gaze still out across the garden, following Lily and Ginger as they traipsed into the rose bushes. James had been standing there pondering if Margot would even talk to him, and yet, she’d spoken so casually in a way that he couldn’t. 

 

He hadn’t noticed he’d been gaping until she cleared her throat, snapping him out of his reverie. 

 

“Oh, sorry, did you not want to talk about it?” she said politely, suddenly meeting his eyes, “I know those kinds of deals can be a little hush-hush... And my mother says I’m always a bit too forward with people.”

 

“Huh? Oh no. No, sorry… It’s just… We’ve never talked before... I don’t think,” said James, unsure why he was babbling.

 

Margot nodded understandingly, “We could just sit and continue to not talk if you’d like.”

 

She smiled at him amicably, but there was a slight lilt to her voice, and James couldn’t quite tell if he was being made fun of or not. 

 

“No, no! We should talk! Let’s… Sorry.”

 

James hoped the high collar of his dress shirt would mask the flush creeping up his neck. Pausing to let his tongue unwind itself, he shot her his best grin and stuck his hand out.

 

“Hi, I’m James. What was the question again?”

 

“Margot,” she said, taking his hand and giving it two good shakes, “I was asking if you’d gotten scouted already. You mentioned it earlier.”

 

“Scouted for quidditch? Oh, Merlin, no…” James laughed incredulously, “I could only wish I was getting scouted this early. Mr. Quigley was just suggesting I look into Ballycastle’s tryout schedules.”

 

“Oh, I see…” Margot said, nodding her head, “...Well, I’d be unsurprised even if teams were calling after you already.”

 

“Ah well, I’m not that good. Mostly the League just waits for people to come to them nowadays, you know,” he rebutted easily.

 

James was used to frequent praise, and some would say he even basked in it, but he knew when it was deserved and when it wasn’t. His hand was on the back of his neck now, feeling the warmth from the blush. 

 

Margot hummed, her gaze trailing from his again, “D’you have any teams you’re looking into? Other than Ballycastle.”

 

“Oh- well, the Bats aren’t actually my first choice… But I’m not exactly sure where else I’d like to look,” he replied sheepishly.

 

“But I’m sure you’ve got favorites in the league?”

 

James smiled. “Well yes... I mean, you probably know from Al that our family’s a little nuts for the Chudley Cannons nowadays. After the Harpies of course, but I can’t exactly play for them, though I suppose I could try wearing a ginger wig to tryouts.”

 

“Oh, they’d never know the difference,” Margot deadpanned, and James, a bit surprised she’d volleyed the jest, flashed her a grin. He was glad that the subject was on quidditch, a topic for which he had a nearly inexhaustible amount of words, no matter who he was talking to. 

 

“Falmouth and Puddlemere both have really solid programs for keepers, so I’d love to get to train with them, too,” he continued more confidently now, “But they’re really competitive to get into, and any half-serious keeper’s probably gonna be going after the same spots.”

 

Margot nodded thoughtfully, “Bell and Llewellyn… They’re graduating, too… Are they trying for pro as well?”

 

“I’m not sure about Natalia,” said James, before scrunching his nose in displeasure, “But Caleb… definitely.” 

 

Margot only smirked, well aware (as the rest of the school populace) of the enmity that simmered behind his words. 

 

Three out of the four starting keepers from the house teams would be 7th Years come September. And James begrudgingly knew that they were all rather good. Natalia Bell, Ravenclaw’s keeper, was as clever as she was nice. Her mum had played with James’ dad back at Hogwarts, and in the few classes that she and James shared, they got on quite well. 

 

However, the same could not be said about Caleb Llewellyn. As both keepers and captains for their house teams, James was often compared to the Hufflepuff, much to their mutual displeasure. Probably largely because of this, the two had developed a bitter rivalry on the quidditch field and an even fiercer one off it. 

 

“...How’s Slytherin looking this season by the way? I hear you’re in the market for a new keeper.”

 

James was partially eager to change the subject, but also partially eager to do a little probing. 

 

Aside from the Hufflepuff drama, the Slytherins were their biggest competition on the pitch. But even though he lived with Al, his brother tended to be… extremely secretive about his own house team. James hadn’t even gotten a flash of a training regimen all summer, and he only just found out about Scorpius’s departure last week. Slytherin’s notorious secrecy only fed into James’s natural curiosity, and it wasn’t just because Gryffindor had lost the House Cup to them last year (he swore). 

 

Margot laughed. 

 

“Are you offering? I’d love to tell Scorpius that we’ve replaced him with James Potter.

 

James chuckled, the effortless evasion in her response not lost on him. But he decided to play along anyway. 

 

“No, thanks. I’m on contract with the Gryffindors for a while longer.”

 

“Mm… If you ever change your mind, we’ve got competitive salary and full benefits.”

 

“That’s tempting,” James laughed, “All we’ve got is the occasional free dungbomb from Fred when Weasley’s overstocks.”

 

“Well, how could anyone say no to that?”

 

James grinned at her, deciding that the girl wasn’t as uptight as he thought at all. He wasn’t sure if Margot was being intentionally funny, but he liked her frankness regardless. 

 

“...We’re probably pulling someone up from reserves,” she conceded after a moment. 

 

“Ah!” James said, surprised and happy at the small crumbs she’d thrown him, “Who?”

 

“-Is he weeding Slytherin team secrets from you?” came Al’s voice suddenly from the terrace above them, “We’ve only gone 10 minutes, MG, I thought you were stronger than that.”

 

Margot rolled her eyes as Albus and Scorpius came around the stairs to meet them. 

 

“Oh no, I’ve accidentally divulged that we are, in fact, getting new keeper to replace Scorpius. How could I have been so loose-lipped?”

 

“Don’t underestimate him, MG. He’s been ‘casually hanging out’ in my room all summer trying to sweep for my playbook.”

 

“Hey, no I haven’t-!”

 

(He had.)

 

“Anyway, listen, Margot,” Albus plowed on, turning his nose up slightly, “These Gryffindors, they’re desperate for the Cup. And remember - we’re defending our Slytherin Pride.”

 

“...”

 

“...”

 

“...God, your Pucey impression has gotten scary good.”

 

The three Slytherins let out simultaneous snorts of laughter, and James knew there was a joke in there somewhere that was completely lost on him. He unsurely laughed along, glancing between the three, until his eyes landed on the small saucer of steaming red liquid that Scorpius held in his hands. 

 

“What’s that? And where’s Aunt Luna?”

 

“Aunt Luna’s busy extracting Humdingers from the berry cobbler. But she said to give Ginger steamed milk and hot peppers.”

 

“Okay…”

 

“So we raided the spice cupboard and found a can of pickled jalapenos and a jar of cayenne powder…”

 

“...And you mixed it in with the milk?” 

 

“Are you sure that’s what she meant for you to do?” 

 

“Well… She didn’t elaborate much.”

 

The two 5th year boys exchanged looks and shrugged. The steam from their volatile concoction blew towards James and began to make his eyes sting.

 

“Uhm-” he began, rubbing his eyes and coughing, but he was interrupted with a tiny mewl from their feet. 

 

Ginger had bounded back across the garden and was now pawing eagerly at Scorpius’s feet. He paused for a moment, looking around at the others in the group, but only Albus gave him a small, hesitant shrug.

 

Tentatively, the blonde boy knelt down and carefully placed the bowl in the grass. The firecat only stopped to give it a cursory sniff before enthusiastically sticking her entire face in the piping hot liquid. 

 

“Oh-”

 

“Wait-!”

 

"What-"

 

“Ginger!” Lily gasped, immediately dropping to her knees to check on the cat. She had only just rejoined the group now, belatedly realizing her playmate had abandoned her in the hedge maze. 

 

A second of astonished and horrified silence passed.

 

And then, Ginger looked up at them with a small pip, her tail swishing happily behind her. She looked positively horrifying, her tiny face dripping with viscous, blood red liquid. But she seemed perfectly content, dipping her head once more to lap enthusiastically at the milk. 

 

“She… likes it?” Albus said confusedly, despite being the one who created the horrifying concoction. But this was going much better than anyone would have expected from five teenagers and a small fire-breathing mammal at that they had been given little to no information on. 

 

“Uh… Yeah, that works, I guess?” James said unsurely, “...But maybe… we should go double check with Aunt Luna.. just in case...”

 

Hums of agreement sounded around the group but no one made a move as they were all transfixed by the strange little creature. The firecat was draining the milk bowl with surprising speed and voracity. 

 

“By the way, MG,” Scorpius said, suddenly, “Aunt Daphne’s looking for you, you know.”

 

“Hm?” Margot said distractedly. She was studying Ginger intently, as if looking for signs that the cat may burst into flames at any second, which James found highly relatable. 

 

“You’re meant to help her and my mum hand out bidding cards.”

 

“Oh... Oh damn - I’d forgotten… I should go before she blows a can...”

 

“She’s in the atrium.”

 

“...Can you lot manage?”

 

James noticed that she’d more directed the question at him than at the group in general, and belatedly, he realized that as the eldest, he was technically the one in charge here. Admittedly, he mourned the loss of the only other NEWT student in case of anything disastrous happening, but Ginger seemed to be… fine... So instead of voicing this, he just produced his wand from his back pocket and gave it a little reassuring wave. 

 

He could handle this, he meant to express, but Margot just raised her eyebrows at him. 

 

“I’ll find Mrs. Scamander on my way in and send her out.”

 

With that, she said hasty goodbyes to everyone before picking up her the long skirts of her gown and disappearing around the corner and up the balcony stairs. 

 

A few minutes ticked by, and their small group waited for Ginger to finish her strange meal over idle chatter about the upcoming year. Lily was trying out for quidditch, Scorpius was taking nine O.W.L.s, Albus was already exhausted from just listening to them…

 

Then from inside the ballroom, Aunt Hermione’s steady, amplified voice wafted out to the gardens.

 

“Firstly, I would like to thank everyone for this past week of communication, compromise, and camaraderie. It has been a pleasure working amongst such esteemed colleagues and friends…”

 

Ginger was nearly at the bottom of her bowl now, and James allowed his mind to wander a bit as he listened to the opening remarks. 

 

Not that Aunt Hermione’s speech was boring or anything - she was actually an excellent speaker. But it was just, whenever James saw his aunt nowadays, he couldn’t help but think about her face last Christmas when that niffler pulled some crown jewels clean off of the Queen of Norway’s neck. 

 

The memory automatically brought a smile to James’s face, and vaguely he wondered what Freddie was doing at the moment. Likely messing around in the Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes workshop back in London… Working on some new joke sweets or fireworks... and probably in significantly more comfy shoes than what James was wearing, too… 

 

“...with representatives from not only over 30 different countries, but also participation from 15 non-human delegations, I am happy to say that this year’s conference has also been the most inclusive in recent history...”

 

There was a lull in the speech as Aunt Hermione paused for a round of applause, and James absentmindedly clapped along. 

 

As he did, he heard the tiniest sneeze. 

 

He looked down at Ginger. The cat was lightly rubbing her face with a tiny paw, apparently having accidentally gotten a bit of pepper milk in her snout. Honestly, James had been wondering how she had managed not to do that earlier - Ginger’s face was totally soaked in red, and it was now staining her paws, too.

 

Despite the visual, Lily cooed at the sight, squishing her face with her own hands.

 

“Aw, that’s so cu-”

 

But then, Ginger let out a second, much louder sneeze. This time, tiny sparks flew from her mouth, and they all sprang back to avoid the tiny embers threatening to ruin their expensive dress shoes. 

 

“Well that’s - um -” James said, flinching in alarm as the third sneeze ricocheted from the tiny creature, eliciting smoke and a few tongues of actual fire, “-a problem.”

 

Despite being in the midst of a violent sneezing fit, Ginger alone seemed to be having a grand time. She began bounding towards Lily, as if asking to be picked up again, and his sister panickedly hitched up her skirts, leaping away from yet another scorching sneeze. Unfortunately, the cat seemed to take that as a game, pouncing after Lily and into the garden. 

 

Into the garden filled with many, many flammable bushes. 

 

Suffice to say, it only took moments for the situation to dissolve into complete chaos. 

 

Not twenty seconds later, James found himself sprinting past Albus (who was busy beating embers from his trouser leg), as he ran headlong into the hedge maze after his sister and the firecat. Inside, from the sound of Lily's panicked yells, he was quite certain that Ginger had already set fire to a few small topiaries. As he readied an aguamenti charm on his lips, James reflected that it might have been better for Aunt Hermione to have extended that blanket ban on most of her nieces and nephews, and not just Freddie.

 

He just hoped the Norwegian Royal family wasn’t in attendance again. 

 

-------------------------------

 

Hello! I hope you enjoyed this first introduction to James. Dunno if you can tell, but he is one of my favorite characters to write :) Also, yes, in this au, the Norwegian Royals are wizards. Not exactly important, but just for fun.



Chapter 3: Chapter 3: Margot
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

September 1st, 2021

King’s Cross Station

 

Margot couldn’t shake the sense of foreboding at the start of the new semester. 

 

Just last Monday, Freya had returned bearing updates from Max’s trip, some Bulgarian candy, and a very cool dragon tooth charm. And although Margot had happily attached the charm to her broom and munched on the sweets while she was packing earlier this week, she also knew they were peace offerings from an apologetic brother. 

 

Max hadn’t been able to return to England to see her off to school this year. His expedition had found a network of tunnels beneath the castle they were exploring, and while it was a very exciting discovery for the team of Curse Breakers, it also meant extending their trip by another month, at the very least. 

 

Margot tried not to be too disappointed, but it was the first year since she started at Hogwarts that her brother would not be accompanying her to King’s Cross. Standing now with her mother on the crowded platform, Margot suddenly missed him terribly. 

 

“Margot darling, do try to chin up. You’re going to school, not Azkaban.”

 

Margot looked over at her mother, who was carefully scanning the crowd for Malfoys. Daphne Beauregard was a tall and exceptionally well-groomed witch, who carried an air of privilege like a luxury handbag. She had wavy blonde hair, pin straight posture, and the signature Greengrass eyes, a pale jade hue that Margot, as well as Max and Scorpius, had inherited from their mothers. She looked particularly chic and airy today in a fluttery set of sky blue robes - very apt garb to combat the incessant heat that had yet to let up over London. 

 

“Oh, there’s Astoria. Come along, Margot.” 

 

Margot had little choice but to follow her mother deeper in the jostling crowd of students and parents filling Platform 9 ¾. They had arrived early to the station 15 minutes ago, as per her mother’s usually impeccable timing, but it was now closing in on 11am, and Margot had about 10 minutes to board the train and find her seat. She had yet to see Avery, but she suspected that her best friend would probably breeze in only a few minutes shy of departure, having waited until the very last moment to make her way across the city to King’s Cross. 

 

“Hey, Daph. Margot, good to see you! You look lovely,” Astoria smiled softly, embracing her niece. 

 

Margot grinned. She had always got on well with her aunt, and her mom used to frequently joke that she was practically raising another Astoria. Aside from their similar features (dark, ash blonde hair and ski slope noses), the two shared the same bookish disposition and blunt personality. But Margot didn’t mind the comparison at all - she thought Aunt Tori was brilliant. 

 

In her youth, Astoria Greengrass had left home at age 17 on a wicked independent streak, dated and married Draco Malfoy amidst the negative sentiment that tarnished his family after the war (much to the ire of her moderate parents), and helped painstakingly restore Malfoy Manor to the elegant polish it had today. Nowadays, when she wasn’t organizing ministry parties, she researched art, and she was widely regarded as one of the premier historians for British wizarding art. 

 

Having both been frequent subjects of Daphne’s well-intentioned but incessant nagging (about hair, clothes, posture, life choices, etc.), she and Margot bonded frequently over coping and dissenting strategies. 

 

“Excited for school, Mar?” she said, “You’re starting your NEWT coursework this year, right?”

 

“Ugh, don’t remind me, Aunt Tori,” Margot groaned. 

 

“Your niece has decided to take six NEWTs this year,” her mum tutted, half proud and half exasperated, “I keep telling her she can get away with half that if she followed her dad into the ministry…”

 

At this, Margot rolled her eyes, and her aunt grinned at her, “Ah, but Margot doesn’t want to work with those government fuddy duddies at International Relations, Daph... She’d rather work for the medical fuddy duddies at St. Mungos.”

 

Margot only crinkled her nose, used to her aunt’s teasing.

 

“What are you taking then? What’s that Healer course load like?”

 

“Erm… Herbology, Potions, Charms, Transfig, Defense…” Margot said, listing off on her fingers, “And Care of Magical Creatures. For fun.”

 

The two Greengrass sisters exchanged glances, and Margot’s mum mouthed, “For fun!” with a scandalized look on her face.

 

Well, it had sounded fun to Margot when she had done her consultation with Professor Selwyn last year. Old Hagrid’s classes were always filled with more hands-on activities than actual homework. But looking now at the amount of classes she had listed on her hands, she was already beginning to falter at her chosen course load. It was going to be a long, long two years. 

 

“Sebastian at work today?” Aunt Astoria asked, and Margot’s mother nodded, rolling her eyes.

 

“Honestly, you’d think with the summit over and done with, things would have died down a bit, but his office is still completely swamped…”

 

“Mmm, Draco couldn’t get away from the office today either...”

 

In truth, Margot’s father had offered to take the day off of work to see her off to school. He knew she was a bit glum about her brother’s absence, but he was also preparing for an upcoming business trip to France, and Margot kindly vetoed the idea. The two had said their goodbyes that morning at Grinnell before departing separately for London.

 

As her mum and aunt prattled on, Margot looked around cursorily for her cousin. Aunt Astoria had been standing with a dark ebony trunk emblazoned with the initials S.H.M. in shining silver cursive and a large brass cage containing Scorpius’s great grey owl, Atlas, but the owner of said trunk and bird was nowhere in sight.

 

“Where’s Scorpius, Aunt Tori?” 

 

“With the Potters,” she replied, inclining her head a little ways down the platform.

 

Of course. 

 

The massive group of people were hard to miss, even in the crowded station. There was an overabundance of red hair in a variety of vibrant shades as the Potter/Weasleys massed together in an informal and rowdy family reunion, preparing to send a whole army of their children back to Hogwarts. Honestly, it often felt like half of the school was a Wotter with how prolific the clan seemed to be. 

 

Margot easily picked out her cousin’s tall platinum blonde head in the mass of people. He was standing with Albus, whose messy black locks were also an outlier in the sea of red, and the pair were bearing identical looks of concern. 

 

On the ground next to them, a freckly girl who Margot recognized as Al’s cousin, Rose Granger-Weasley, was crouched down talking to a rather teary-looking Lily Potter. The third year was sitting on a trunk, her arms crossed, her nose bright pink, looking very much in need of a tissue. As if on cue, Scorpius reached into his pocket and produced a handkerchief, which he handed to the glum-looking girl. Margot furrowed her eyebrows and wondered what that was all about, taking a mental note to ask Scorp later. 

 

“Actually, I better go fetch him… The train’s due to leave soon,” Aunt Astoria said. She was looking at the large clock face mounted on the wall behind them - five minutes to departure.  

 

Astoria reached over and gave Margot a quick hug.

 

“Good luck on your new semester, Margot. I know you won’t need it,” she said with a smirk, “Daph, I’ll be over later this week for tea?”

 

“Mhmm, see you then, Tor.”

 

“Bye, Aunt Tori!”

 

The blonde witch gave the pair a parting smile before hustling Scorpius’s luggage towards the crowd of Wotters. 

 

“I better get on now too, mum…” Margot said slowly, bracing herself for the litany of pre-departure reminders and quibbles that were due for her every September 1st. 

 

“Yes, you better,” her mum said, peering at the front cart of the Express, which had sprung to life and was now steadily chugging white steam from its chimney. 

 

“Have you got everything? Trunk? Wand? Owl?”

 

Margot nodded, holding out and slightly rattling the cage that held Freya. Margot had decided to take her along this year, as she was planning on owling Max from school. Her dog Gus, understandably, preferred the green hills of Grinnell to the Slytherin dungeons and would be staying at home with her parents. 

 

“Alright, let’s see...” her mum said, taking a deep breath, “Remember to take your vitamin potions three times a week… Properly hang those dress robes I packed… And please use that planner I got you - it’s meant to remind you about your rounds and exams… Also, remember to write to your cousins - you’re supposed to be keeping up with your French… Brush your hair out before you go to bed… And darling, please stand a little straighter - you know I hate it when you slouch. Oh! And keep. Your. Cuffs. Pressed.”

 

Daphne punctuated the last point by staring pointedly at the sleeves of Margot’s white linen shirtdress, which she had pushed up to her elbows in the heat. Nodding resignedly and knowing that silent compliance was her best bet at the moment to make a hasty escape, Margot pulled the sleeves down and began rolling them up in a neater fashion. 

 

“Oh, and I know how much you like playing quidditch, but do try not to fall off your broom this year, Margot.”

 

Margot smirked, thinking of last year’s Cup final. “I’ll try… but I do really need to go now, mum. I’ll miss the train.”

 

“Alright,” her mum nodded before reaching out and squeezing her arm, “Margot.”

 

“Mmm?”

 

“When Eustace gets home from Bulgaria, I’ll have him come to your next match, okay?”

 

Margot let out a tiny laugh. Her mother was the only person left in the world who still called Max by his real first name. But she appreciated the sentiment nonetheless, nodding gratefully and allowing herself to be pulled in for a hug. 

 

“Okay. Be good. Do well. Love you.” 

 

“Mhmm. Bye, mum. Love you.”

 

Margot untangled herself from her mother’s embrace and pulled her luggage (lightened with a Feather Charm, of course) onto the train. She stuck her arm out of the door for one last wave before turning and disappearing down the corridor in search of a free compartment.

 

-----

 

September 1st, 2021

Hogwarts Express, Meeting Compartment 1

 

“Alright, everyone, take a seat. I’m taking roll call.”

 

The Head Girl, Caroline Jordan, had a loud, authoritative voice that carried well over the chatter of the crowded compartment.

 

Margot was already sitting in one of the back booths with the other Slytherin prefects and waited idly as the rest of the students scrambled to find seats and squeeze together on the benches. Looking around the room, she noted a number of familiar faces and acquaintances from prefect meetings last year. 

 

Her potion’s partner, Dom Weasley, was seated across the aisle with the other 6th year Ravenclaw, a clever bespectacled wizard named Felix Stretton, and a fairy-ish blonde boy who resembled Dom, presumably a relative. Roy Fawley, a broad 7th year with dusty freckles who played beater for the Hufflepuff quidditch team, had just sat atop a very irate Jack Cresswell on a bench two booths up, much to the amusement of Rose Granger-Weasley and a pretty Ravenclaw girl with long sandy brown hair - both new prefects this year. Margot herself was wedged between Scorpius and Camila Buchanan from the year above, who, as Margot was just finding out, had very pointy elbows. 

 

Up at the front of the room, Caroline had begun roll call with a booming voice and excellent enunciation.

 

“Alright, Gryffindors first… Molly Weasley?”

 

“Here,” called a red-head from the front row.

 

“Archibald Longbottom..?” 

 

“Present.” 

 

Archie Longbottom grinned sheepishly from his place next to Caroline as she powered through the list. The Head Boy was sitting on top of a table leaning forward with his hands clenched very tightly together. In contrast to the Head Girl, he looked a bit peaky and dazed, as if he were unsure how he got into this position, but nevertheless, he greeted the car full of prefects with a warming smile. 

 

Caroline had gotten to the Slytherins now.

 

“... Oscar Belby?”

 

“Here,” called Oscar’s voice, directly behind Margot.

 

“Margot Beauregard?”

 

“Here,” Margot said, giving a cursory wave. 

 

Margot glanced out the window as she lowered her hand. They’d left London about an hour ago, and the Hogwarts Express was now quickly speeding through the countryside outside of Cambridge, but they would not arrive in Hogsmeade until past nightfall. For a few moments, Margot watched wheatfields and patches of trees whiz by before the train banked left, and she slowly slid into Scorpius. 

 

“Ay, watch it,” he said to her jokingly. 

 

Margot gave him an appraising glance. Scorpius, as usual, was dressed smartly, wearing a light button up shirt and his hair parted neatly to the side. Her eyes landed on his collar, where he’d already pinned his prefect badge, the tiny snake embossed on the emblem looking as though he’d spent a good couple hours polishing it last night. Margot smirked. 

 

“So Scorp, what d’you think about your very first prefect meeting so far? Everything you’ve ever dreamed of?”

 

“It’s been a bit boring so far, but we’ve only been here ten minutes, Mar.”

 

“Don’t worry, it’ll get much duller soon.”

 

Scorpius grinned at her, “Still aiming for Head Girl next year?”

 

“Are you still aiming for Head Boy the year after?” Margot quirked a challenging brow at her cousin.

 

“Fair enough,” he conceded with a shy smile. The pair fell silent and watched the compartment for a moment.

 

“...here!”

 

“Caroline Jordan? Oh- that’s me, here!” Caroline said brightly, and a wave of chuckles rounded the room.

 

“Roy Fawley…”

 

“...Yea? Oh. Present.”

 

“...I can’t believe Fawley is really a prefect,” whispered Scorpius from beside her, “He always seemed like a bit of a thickhead on the pitch, if I’m gonna be honest…”

 

Margot snickered, “Nah, Fawley’s alright. He’s actually loads better than Jack Cresswell from my year. I think he spent more time trying to snog in broom closets himself than the people we were supposed to be catching last year.”

 

“Eugh.”

 

“Yeah, poor Eloise just started to go on rounds by herself to avoid getting constantly propositioned to.”

 

Scorpius crinkled his nose in distaste, “I’ll make sure to give the heads up to the girls in my year.” 

 

Margot nodded in agreement. “What’s the deal with the new fifth years? Anyone of note?”

 

Scorpius glanced around the room.

 

 “Uhmm… Well, you know Miranda from our house…” he said, inclining his head back towards the booth behind them where the other half of the Slytherin prefects were crammed in.

 

“...Dunno much about the two Hufflepuffs to be honest, but I’m in model EMU with Gemma McDougal - she’s in Ravenclaw and is quite nice…” Scorpius gestured to the pretty brunette girl at the front. 

 

“...The other ‘Claw is Louis Weasley, who’s the brother of your mate, Dom...”

 

Margot smirked, glancing at the silvery-haired girl across the aisle. She wasn’t exactly sure if Dom was more a mate or a frenemy - the Ravenclaw was as competitive as she was pretty - but Margot let it slide without comment as Scorpius prattled on.

 

“...You know Ren’s sibling too, actually… He’s Kai’s brother.” 

 

The tall Gryffindor boy leaning against the compartment door did indeed bear a striking resemblance to Kai Yamasaki, Margot’s fellow chaser on the Slytherin team, even down to the goofy, lopsided smile playing at his lips. 

 

“Huh, I didn’t know he had a brother,” she commented amusedly. 

 

“Mhmm,” Scorpius said with an affirmative grin, “...So all’s left is Rose, but you obviously know her. She’s brilliant.” 

 

Margot hummed in agreement as she followed her cousin’s gaze to the girl in question. Rose’s mum, Hermione Granger, was every high-achieving teenage witch’s role model, and all accounts said her daughter was a red-headed carbon-copy of the famed Minister for Magic. 

 

“By the way, Scorpius,” Margot said, suddenly remembering the scene from King’s Cross, “What was wrong with Lily this morning? She looked quite upset on the platform.”

 

“Ah,” Scorpius said, nodding with a small smile, “You remember the fire cat fiasco from the fundraiser?”

 

“Mhmm…” she said slowly. The adorable creature had scorched nearly half a dozen of Uncle Draco’s favorite rose bushes after she’d left the group that night. 

 

“Well, apparently Lily’s been on a trial run the past few weeks trying to convince Mrs. Potter to let her keep the cat, trying to train it and everything. But I guess it didn’t work out in the end... And Mrs. Potter was adamant that it couldn’t come to school with Lily. I couldn’t quite tell because she was sniffling a lot, but I think they sent it back to the Scamanders yesterday morning…”

 

“Oh, poor Lily...” Margot said, feeling sorry for the girl. Lily had positively cooed over her new pet as soon as she laid eyes on it. To be honest, Margot had liked the cat too. Ginger had really been very cute. But on the other hand…

 

“That’s probably for the best though right? Would Hogwarts even allow a student to keep a firecat?”

 

Scorpius looked thoughtful for a moment, “Well... we’re allowed to keep cats… And it is technically a cat…”

 

“...That’s also flammable,” Margot finished. 

 

Despite themselves, the pair broke out into grins. It really was kind of a silly creature to gift to a thirteen-year-old girl, in retrospect. 

 

At the front of the room, Caroline had finished checking the roll-call and was now clapping her hands together to gather attention.

 

“Okay, you all, pipe down. Me and Archie need to run through introductions for the fifth years and general housekeeping, and the faster you all quiet, the faster we can get done and you all can go back to your compartments for lunch.”

 

At those words, the train car immediately fell to an intent hush. 

 

“Okay, great! Archie, take it away.”

 

The golden haired boy started, wiping his sweaty palms on his trousers and standing up. 

 

Oh, bless him, Margot thought. 

 

He flashed everyone a winning smile before taking a deep breath and starting, “So first things first, welcome back, everyone. I hope you all had restful summers. As Caroline said, I’m your Head Boy, Archie Longbottom of Gryffindor House, and I’m gonna be going over the general duties and expectations for prefects…”

 

And so the next hour passed with little fanfare for Margot. At some point, Scorpius had pulled out a little notebook and began taking notes, but he’d been too absorbed in scribbling down the procedures for docking house points that Margot hadn’t even bothered taking the mickey out of him properly. Though she usually didn’t mind prefects meetings, this first one always ran twice as long with twice as much bureaucracy as normal. 

 

So she unabashedly joined in the collective sigh of relief when Caroline finally said, “So getting to our last point…”

 

From the front of the car, Ambrose Hill let out a celebratory whoop and Caroline graced him with a jesting round of applause.

 

“...As I was saying, our last order of business today is signing up for rounds. We’re changing it up a little bit this year and letting you choose partners and rotations on a quarterly basis…”

 

The cart buzzed with interest.

 

“...Your partner can be any other prefect, regardless of house or year, as long as you do your rounds together… and this is meant to encourage you guys to get to know each other better, sure... but above all it’s about cooperation and teamwork, so choose wisely.”

 

Margot rolled her eyes, knowing she’d end up doing her rounds with Lucien Zabini anyway. Her fellow 6th year Slytherin was the textbook definition of tall, dark, and handsome and had an inclination towards the dramatic and avant garde, but he was witty and got on quite well with Margot. They had made highly effective patrol partners all throughout last year. 

 

“...Alright, that’s about it, you all can come up and sign up for rounds on this sheet and then you may go.”

 

There was a mad rush to the front of the car as two dozen prefects made a beeline for the sheets to grab the best spots. Margot peered around her booth to the next one over to ask Lucien which slots he had free, but when her eyes met his, they were… apologetic?

 

“Oh no,” she said, annoyance already bubbling up in her voice.

 

“Hear me out, ok?” Lucien started quickly, taking Margot by the shoulders and walking with her to the front of the room, “I know we have a long-standing system, but. But. I’m trying to snog Roy Fawley before he gets too distracted by Quidditch season.”

 

Margot blinked at him.

 

“So I need to make a move soon, as in now, as in I need to ask him to Hogsmeade during this month of rotations…”

 

“...You want to ditch me so you can snog a boy?”

 

Lucien nodded seriously, looking at her with earnest eyes.

 

“I’ll make an Unbreakable Vow to return to you as soon as business is taken care of, I swear.”

 

Margot opened her mouth to retort something scathing but Lucien interrupted her, “And I know you’re a reasonable witch who also drives a hard bargain, so I’ll throw in a gift box of Laduree macarons in too - you’ll have them by owl post by the end of the week.”

 

“Right, if you think it’s that easy-!”

 

But Lucien grabbed her cheeks, effectively shutting her mouth, as he flashed her a wide grin. 

 

“Thanks for understanding my carnal needs!”

 

And with that he dived into the crowd towards the burly Hufflepuff, leaving Margot to gape after him.

 

Well.

 

She never liked that slimy traitor anyway. 

 

She shook her head, needing to clear her thoughts. Okay, a partner. She needed a new partner. That was doable - she got on with plenty of the other prefects well enough. Scorpius would probably pair with one of his 5th year mates, but maybe someone else from Slytherin or Eloise or even Dom… She scanned the crowd, running through a list of possibilities in her mind.

 

“Hey Margot, could I borrow you for a sec?”

 

Margot turned around to the kind face of Archie Longbottom. His nerves had simmered down since the beginning of the meeting, and his cheeks were now significantly less red than before. He’d actually ended up doing a pretty good job of speaking and directing alongside Caroline, and Margot could understand McGonagall’s choice in making him a Head. The boy had a very endearing kind of charisma. 

 

“Oh, yeah, sure… What’s up?” Margot said, turning away from the frenzy of the sign-ups. 

 

He pulled out something from his shoulder bag and held it out to her expectantly. It was a letter, with Margot Beauregard written across the back in the clumsy handwriting of a teenage boy. Margot wrinkled her brows, confused.

 

“Uhm…”

 

Archie cocked his head and suddenly looked at her, wide-eyed.

 

“Oh no, it’s not from me!” Archie laughed. His cheeks, as well as his ears and neck were reddening again. “It’s uhm. Its from my dad. Professor Longbottom? He’s got terrible handwriting I know…”

 

“Oh!” Margot said, her mouth dropping open, “What for…?”

 

She gingerly took the letter from Archie, a bit more relieved but still a little bit puzzled. The first day of school hadn’t even started, and she was already getting a summons from a teacher? Frowning, she broke the seal.

 

Ms. Beauregard, 

 

Would you kindly meet me in my office at Greenhouse 3 next Tuesday afternoon after classes end? I have some academic matters I would like to discuss with you.

 

Professor Neville Longbottom

 

“Academic matters…?” Margot mouthed, perplexed.

 

“That probably sounds a lot worse than how he meant it,” Archie laughed sheepishly, “I’m sure it’s not anything bad, Margot.”

 

“I would hope not,” she replied, casting him a weary smile. 

 

It definitely shouldn’t be bad, Margot told herself. Herbology was one of her favorite subjects, and she had gotten top marks on her OWLs last year. She liked to think that she was one of Professor Longbottom’s best students, at least for her year… 

 

He was probably going to ask her to do some tutoring, she concluded. Although that was probably good news, she also couldn’t help the tiny cry in her head. This was already shaping up to be an exhaustingly busy year, and she hadn’t even stepped foot in Hogwarts yet. Between classes and quidditch and tutoring and prefect duties… Oh. Prefect duties. Rounds. 

 

“Hey Archie, thanks for delivering this…” Margot said, and the Head Boy bobbed his head politely. 

 

Her heart sank as she looked around the room and realized it had nearly emptied as she and Archie had been talking. 

 

Margot looked up hopefully at the Head Boy, as he stooped over to collect his things on the bench. He hadn’t gone up to the sign-up sheets yet either, though...

 

“You wouldn’t happen to need a partner for rounds this quarter, would you?”

 

“Hmm?” Archie said, looking up. “Ah no, I actually already promised Felix I’d patrol with him this month and signed us up beforehand… Sorry… We can partner next quarter, if you’d like?”

 

“Ah, that’s alright, don’t worry about it…” Margot glanced anxiously at the sign-up sheet. 

 

“Okay,” Archie said cheerfully, calling over her shoulder at Caroline, who had sat down at a booth to review the fifth year’s timetables, “You all set here, Caroline?” 

 

When the Head Girl looked up and gave him a thumbs up, he gave Margot one last smile, before slinging his bag over his shoulder, “See you around, Margot!”

 

Archie turned to leave, and Margot flew to the table at the front of the cabin. Her eyes glided down the list until she landed on the lone empty slot to fill her name in. She traced across the paper to the Partner column with a dreadful feeling in her gut.

 

Oh. 

 

Oh no.

 

Margot trudged out of the meeting compartment to find Mr. Broom-Closet-Enthusiast himself, Jack Cresswell, still lingering by the door. His dark hair was slicked with gel, his jacket collar was popped, and a smirk was playing on his face.

 

“Hey, partner. Looking forward working with you.”

 

The semester was definitely off to a rotten start. 

 

-------

 

September 1st, 2021

Hogwarts Express, Compartment 8C

 

“Salazar, it took you long enough. We’ve been starving,” Avery’s voice spilled out of the compartment as soon as Margot unlatched the door. 

 

Inside, Avery and Rowan were spread out on a bench each, with a pile of magazines and empty sweets wrappers on the floor between them. Avery’s long brown mane of hair was tumbled out beneath her as she lay with her head hanging upside down over the seat, reading a copy of Which Witch. Rowan was sitting opposite Avery, her long spindly legs folded beneath her as she sampled color changing lipstick from a magical makeup catalog. 

 

“You don’t look like you’re starving,” sighed Margot tiredly.

 

At the tone of her voice, both witches looked up at her with concern.

 

“What happened to you?”

 

“Which man do we need to hex?”

 

Margot leaned against the frame of the door, pinching the bridge of her nose.

 

“At this point, I wouldn’t care if you just started firing away indiscriminately.”

 

The two Slytherin girls looked at each other, and then looked at Margot with raised eyebrows. 

 

“Come on, let’s head up to the dining car. I’ll fill you in on the way.”

 

------

 

September 1st, 2021

Hogwarts Express, Dining Car

 

“He waited for you after the meeting just to goad you?” 

 

“More specifically, he waited for me just to let me know which broom closets are, in his opinion, the most private and discrete.”

 

“That’s heinous.” 

 

“Right? As if I’d ever.” 

 

Margot scoffed, annoyedly chewing on her sandwich. The three girls were tucked into a booth in the train’s small dining car. Because of Margot’s meeting, they had avoided the height of the lunch rush, and there were only a few other stragglers scattered around the tables, mostly other prefects who’d been in the meeting as well (but luckily no Jack Cresswell). 

 

“I’m sure you could switch out with someone else if you wanted. What about Longbottom? He’s a bit of a pushover,” Avery supplied. She was sitting across from Margot and Rowan, dipping chips into a chocolate milkshake. 

 

“Okay, first off, that’s vile,” Rowan said, gesturing to Avery’s choice of snack. But the girl just began dunking the chips more fervently, fully immersing each one and swirling it around in the drink, looking straight into Rowan’s eyes as she ate. Avery’s intense sweet tooth and tooth-rotting creations were things Margot had learned not to bother commenting on over the years. 

 

“...Eugh, anyway. Secondly, if she switched, Margot would miss out on a valuable teaching opportunity. If he wants to hang out in a broom closet so badly, then just lock him in one the next time he harrasses her.”

 

Avery raised her eyebrows and gave a little nod of acquiescence. “Yeah, can’t complain about that plan.”

 

Margot laughed, “I’m not too worried - I’m more than capable of handling myself if he tried something. It’s just… ugh, more of a nuisance than anything? I know all my patrols with him will just be a waste of time.”

 

“At least it’s only for the quarter.”

 

“Yeah, but those are still precious hours of my life that I could be spending, I dunno… not associating with a grimy creep?”

 

“Yeah, got us there.”

 

“Moral of the story, men suck.”

 

“Hear, hear.” And the three clinked their glasses. 

 

“... Wait, Selwyn, you have a boyfriend.” 

 

“All the more reason for me to agree,” Rowan retorted, “Besides, me and Jordan are more in a partnership of convenience.”

 

Margot looked curiously at her friend. Rowan looked quite indifferent, but she had been together with fellow Slytherin, Jordan Killick since 3rd year. When she wasn’t hanging out with Margot and Avery, she spent nearly all her time with him. In fact, Margot was surprised he hadn’t turned up yet. 

 

But as if on cue or a highly effective case of ‘speak his name…’, the door to the car rattled open, and two tall Slytherin boys strolled in, spotted the group huddled together in the corner, and unceremoniously dropped down into their booth. 

 

Margot glowered at Lucien who’d taken a seat next to Avery.

 

“Well? Did you get your date, traitor?”

 

Lucien smirked at her, his narrow, cat-like eyes twinkling with amusement.

 

“I’m working on it. Patience Beauregard, Rome wasn’t built in a day, etc. etc…” he drawled, “Fawley did agree to be partners this quarter though, so thanks for your compliance.”

 

“What’s this about?” Jordan said, looking curiously between Lucien and Margot. He was a lanky, serious-looking wizard with a curtain of sleek black hair and few words. He’d squeezed in on the other side of Rowan, his arm tossed across her shoulders.

 

“Lucien dumped Margot to admire Roy Fawley’s rippling biceps during his prefect rounds.”

 

“They are quite toned,” Lucien said, making to steal a chip from Avery’s plate. 

 

Margot smacked his hand, glaring at him. “And do you know who I got stuck with instead?”

 

“Ouch...”

 

“Jack Cresswell.”

 

“Oooh. Really?” Lucien said, having the decency at least to look genuinely apologetic. 

 

“We’ve already got it handled though,” Avery mediated, “We’re locking him in a broom closet.”

 

“Oh, well in that case…” Lucien shrugged, taking a handful of fries and happily munching on them.

 

Margot glowered at him, “...Those macarons better be on the table in front of my breakfast by Friday morning, Zabini.”

 

“I’ll buy you the biggest set my owl can carry,” he said cooly, patting her cheek (thankfully with his non-greasy hand).

 

“How have your summers been by the way?” Avery proffered cheerfully, attempting to steer the conversation.

 

“Same as always, no?” Lucien grinned, “I mean, I can guess what you lot have been up to…”

 

“Those two have probably spent the whole summer rubbing noses or whatever you’re into these days…” he jibed, nodding at Rowan and Jordan, “Warwick, you’ve likely been spinning a summer fling into a tizzy, and Beauregard’s obviously been rubbing elbows with the ministry elite.”

 

“...”

 

“Mhmm, yup.”

 

“More or less.”

 

At this point the sixth years had known each other long enough to the point of near perfect predictability.

 

“And you? Getting to know a new step-mum?”

 

“Mhmm. Milan. My dad’s new wife has an atelier there,” Lucien said casually, “The city is great, but the trip was a bit of a drag, actually…” 

 

“Oh, why?”

 

“My dad wouldn’t stop riding me about my exam results - I mean honestly, it was one ‘Exceeds Expectations’, and is it my fault that Selwyn’s sister is such a hardass about the prerequisites for her NEWT classes?”

 

“Try growing up with her,” Rowan said unsympathetically, and then after a pause, “Also, I don’t think she likes you.”

 

“That’s so unfair, she’s our Head-”

 

Rowan’s older sister, Professor Cordelia Selwyn, was a sharp and intimidating witch who had taken over Transfiguration classes at the beginning of their third year. Last year, after the retirement of Horace Slughorn, she had also been promoted to Head of Slytherin House. Despite her relatively young career, Professor Selwyn was already widely regarded as one of Hogwarts’ toughest teachers, demanding only the best from her pupils, which most unfortunately for Lucien, included the steep prerequisite of an ‘Outstanding’ OWL to gain admittance into her NEWT-level classes. 

 

“...All I’m saying is that if she was willing to give me this prefect’s badge, she should be willing to give me a little leniency…” 

 

Nearly everyone else in the group laughed. Professor Selwyn was not known to be lenient to anyone.

 

“Lucien, she didn’t even let me into her class, and I’m her sister…” 

 

“Well, of course not. That’d be nepotism,” he said matter-of-factly, “She passed Jordan though… and Margot too, right?”

 

“Yeah,” Margot said curtly, “But that’s because we spent revision week actually studying instead of snogging Conor Valentin in the library.”

 

“... Alright, that may have been a reasonable trade-off,” Lucien conceded, after a moment of thought.

 

“You should have just multi-tasked, Lucien,” said Avery breezily, “Thrown in a line like, ‘Hey Conor, d’you mind if I turn your two lips into tulips…?’”

 

And the table dissolved into a chorus of giggles and groans. 

 

------------------------------------------------

 

Hello, thank you for reading! As a heads up for the next update, I am preparing for a big move this week (to a new country!) and then doing training for a new job! This is super exciting stuff for me but it might also mean a slight delay in the next chapter. I've already got it written - it just needs to be edited some, but I will hopefully find a little down time in between to have it up before the end of the month. Until next time :)



Chapter 4: Chapter 4: James
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September 5th, 2021

Quidditch Pitch

 

James heaved a big sigh, leaning heavily on the railing as he reviewed the results of the last two hours of quidditch tryouts. The air that hung over the pitch was balmy, and the afternoon sun was beating on his back as if it were still mid-July. 

 

He admitted, it was a bit early in the year for quidditch tryouts. Classes hadn’t even started yet, due to commence tomorrow following the long weekend the students had been granted after they had arrived at Hogwarts late last Wednesday. But James had wanted to get the jump on the other teams this year. Their first scrimmage against Ravenclaw was at the end of the month, and their first official game, against Slytherin, would come only a few short weeks later. And while quidditch had always been important to James, this season... Well. This season really mattered. 

 

“So, what’s the prognosis, doc?” Fred Weasley said peering over James’s shoulder at his notes, before slowly wrinkling his forehead in confusion.

 

“...James, mate. Is this in English?”

 

James flipped up his writing pad and whacked his cousin on the arm with the clipboard with an exasperated sigh. He would have usually played along with Freddie’s antics, but the long, hot, and stressful afternoon of trials had left him feeling a little on edge. And sure, he hadn’t had the best penmanship, and his notes may have been a little haphazard as he scribbled observations about the players, but it’s not like Freddie could talk. 

 

“The last time I borrowed your Charms notes, they looked like they’d been written by the disembodied hand of a troll,” James shot back. 

 

Freddie barked out a laugh, rubbing his arm, “Alriiight, someone’s touchy today. Please... interpret these holy symbols for us ignorant proles.”

 

James shot him a withering look, but followed him down on the grass to sit with the rest of their team anyway. 

 

“What are you thinking, James?” came the rich Scottish lilt of Lewis Wood, a tall and slim boy with a tall and slim nose, who was a chaser along with Freddie, as well as being one of James’s closest friends. Next to him sat the team’s third chaser, Kian Wilkinson, a brawny 6th year with bushy eyebrows and a jocular disposition, who was looking expectantly up at James. The final member of the huddle, Naomi King, a 6th year beater who had a tongue as sharp as her aim, was fanning her neck with her long, high ponytail. 

 

“Okay, we should start with choosing a second beater, since Naomi probably has some insight, and then we can move onto the seeker…” James said, shuffling his papers around, trying to decipher how 1-hour-ago-James decided to organize his thoughts.

 

“You also noticed I held short trials for keepers and chasers… Me, Fred, and Lewis are leaving this year, so I want you two especially,” he said, glancing at Naomi and Kian, “To help pick out a couple promising people for the reserve squad.”

 

“Yessir!” Kian grinned saluting James, and he offered a small smile back after finally locating his notes on the beaters and scanning them. 

 

“So as far as beaters go, it’s pretty much down between Jenson Peakes and Jackson Park… They were basically shot for shot in the target practice tests… Peakes does have more power since he’s bigger, but Park is only in 3rd year so he’s got room to grow… Thoughts? Naomi?”

 

Naomi held out her hand for the clipboard, but it took the girl quite a few minutes to decipher James’ untidy scrawl. James unhelpfully tried translating, but he was having trouble too, as he unfortunately overlooked the two candidates’ rather similar names when he made the ill-fated decision to only refer to them by their initials. Naomi eventually gave up with an exasperated sigh, tossing the clipboard to the grass.

 

“Never mind the notes. I already decided during trials that I want Park,” the girl said with conviction.

 

“Why’s that?”

 

“Peakes already developed his own style which I dunno would work with mine, and I’m partial to someone more… pliable,” she replied with a smirk. 

 

Although she’d been two years younger than her last partner, Naomi’s decisive personality had her calling the shots in the beaters’ strategies since nearly the moment she joined the team two years ago. James learned over time that it was best not to dispute his strong-willed teammate. Anyway, as a wise and perceiving captain, he generally trusted his players’ judgement, especially when they were holding a bat, like Naomi was at that moment. 

 

So, he just nodded, adding, “It’ll be good to have someone younger on the squad to stick around longer anyway... Any objections?”

 

“Nay!”

 

“Alright, moving onto seeker... This one’s tougher…” James said, pausing. Seekers were the hardest players to score objectively since their role was so distanced from the main gameplay. “I think the ones with the flying skills for the position would be Hopkirk, Doge… and Potter.”

 

James pinked slightly. It was hard keeping objective about family members, especially when he had so many floating around the school, but he also felt a flush of pride thinking about Lily’s tryouts. His sister had always been a fair player, but he could tell how hard she’d been practicing recently from the marked improvement in her flying today.

 

“I think we should eliminate Hopkirk,” Lewis said, “Gweneth did well, but she’s graduating with us this year and won’t do these two any good next year.”

 

Nods of agreement bobbed around the circle. “Right, so between Doge and Potter, they’re both really decent flyers and both very quick too…”

 

James stopped, not wanting to say something that wasn’t objective. After a few beats, Kian slowly eased into the silence.

 

“This might be crazy…” he started, looking apprehensive, “But I think we should use Isla as the seeker.”

 

Nearly everyone in the group turned to look at the chaser in surprise, quite a few glancing sideways at James for his reaction. 

 

“Not that Lily wasn’t good!” Kian blurted quickly, “The opposite actually! She was the best in the chaser tryouts, so I thought we should keep her on reserves to train her up for next year. She’d be brilliant to play with as a center…”

 

Kian looked helplessly at Lewis, imploring him to jump in and help him. The older boy looked thoughtful, nodding his head, “She’s fast… If you want to run our plays next year, you’ll need that for my position…”

 

“...Actually, I’ve been practicing the Gryphon Formation with her for center, Lewis,” Fred pitched in helpfully, “She was quite good at that barrel roll you do...”

 

Like many of the Wotters, Lily had spent a number of afternoons this summer in the sun-soaked field behind the Burrow, playing scrimmage matches with their cousins. Often playing as chaser with Freddie, she’d even given James the slip the few times they’d played against each other, using her smaller frame and speed to get goals past him. 

 

Kian was looking apprehensively at James, anticipating his response. He chuckled internally, realizing that his extended silence had probably put the boy even more on edge. 

 

“I agree,” James said, finally granting some respite to the boy. 

 

“Lily’d fit best as a chaser, after she gets more training. And more pressingly, Isla would make a solid seeker for this season. If we improved her technique a bit, she might be faster than Elena last year…”

 

As he continued talking, James had to stop himself from laughing aloud when he saw Kian let out a visible sigh of relief. James wasn’t known to be the easiest of Quidditch captains, the sport being one of the most serious things the otherwise easy-going 17-year-old considered in his life, but he didn’t think he was that intimidating... was he? 

 

In the end, they decided to add Jackson and Isla to the main squad this season, retaining Lily and an aspiring 5th year keeper, Siobhan Finnigan, as reserves for the next. He knew Lily would be slightly disappointed that she didn’t make the starters, and James was disappointed he wouldn’t get to play with his little sister in matches this year, but he also played enough quidditch to know that objectively, it was a sound decision. 

 

“Hey, Kian,” James called to the younger boy, who’d just finished wrestling a bludger back into its place in the quidditch trunk. The team was just about done tidying up the pitch after announcing the results to the hopefuls. 

 

Kian looked up towards him. “What’s up, James?”

 

“That was a keen call today. About the seekers. Be a little more confident in your instinct, yeah?”

 

Kian flashed him his brightest grin. 

 

“Yessir!”

 

-------

 

September 5th, 2021

Entrance Hall

 

The din of a packed Great Hall and the unmistakable and tantalizing smell of Sunday roast dinner greeted James and his teammates as they trudged through the school’s front entryway. The sun had been low on the horizon by the time he’d emerged from the locker rooms, his dark brown hair dripping from a fresh shower, and now, James’s stomach grumbled in protest of the long afternoon he’d spent on the pitch. It propelled him forward toward the clattering plates and the long tables heaped with food, but before James could step into the Hall, from behind him, a lofty voice called.

 

“Oy, Potter!”

 

James slumped defeatedly, and from beside him, he heard Freddie scoff with annoyance. He’d gone almost the whole week, but he supposed his strain of good luck had to end at some point. With a push of effort, James turned around slowly, squaring his shoulders and jaw as he did. 

 

“Llewellyn,” he said, dripping with mock-pleasantry, “Have a good summer?”

 

The broad-chested, golden-haired Hufflepuff was swaggering toward the group, looking much like a preened cockatoo as he was trailed by Roy Fawley and Reuben McLaggen, the two beaters on his quidditch team. 

 

“Yeah, it was alright,” Caleb said with a cocky smirk, “I spent the off season at the Catapults training camp, actually.”

 

James rolled his eyes. Caleb spent every summer at the Caerphilly Catapults training grounds - his family had practically built the Welsh quidditch powerhouse - but he never missed a chance to remind James of the fact. 

 

“Finally gotten around to signing a contract with them then?” James dead-panned.

 

“I’m taking a look around the market first,” Caleb said, meeting his eyes challengingly, “You and I both know how good the Falcon’s keeper program is… Puddlemere’s alright too, I suppose, even though they’ve got Wood running the show.”

 

Caleb glanced at Lewis mockingly, and the tall boy responded with a chilling glare. Lewis also came from a family of quidditch greats (probably much to Caleb’s ire). His parents and his older sister had all gone pro at some point or another, and his father was renowned former keeper, Oliver Wood, who now worked as one of the coaches for Puddlemere United.

 

Beside Lewis, James bristled. Knowing Llewellyn, he’d meet him trial for trial for every team he expressed interest in just to spite him. James’s stomach turned, and this time, it wasn’t from the hunger. As much as it pained him to admit, Caleb did have better connections than him, and it made James anxious for the coming year.

 

Of course, the Hufflepuff immediately took notice of this and regarded him with a haughty smile. 

 

“Not to worry though, Potter. The Catapults are still on the table. They do have one of the strongest squads in the league, and the head coach says I would have a promising future with them.”

 

“Oh, I’m sure that was very reassuring to hear from daddy,” Fred jabbed, smirking, “I reckon he’s bound by parental obligation to say that sort of thing.”

 

“And remind me again what does your father do, Weasley? Makes fart jokes for a living?”

 

Actually he runs an extremely successful multi-million galleon company, thanks for asking,” Fred shot back, holding his hand up for a high-five from James, who gladly obliged. 

 

Caleb was reddening. “Listen here Weasley, I know you’re probably too busy stuffing dungbombs up your nostrils to read the news, but the Catapults have won two league championships in the last five years. You don’t get that kind of record without talent on your squad, but of course… You lot probably wouldn’t be familiar with that sort of thing, would you?”

 

Caleb looked around appraisingly at the Gryffindor team, letting out a mocking laugh. 

 

“I hear you were holding try-outs today, Potter. I hope you finally got a seeker who can spot a Snitch when it’s fluttering at the tip of her nose. And at Cup Finals no less,” Caleb tsked. 

 

James laughed cheerlessly, “You mean the Cup Finals that Hufflepuff got locked out of last year?”

 

The smile slid off of Caleb’s face. “Your dweeb brother may have made some lucky catches last season, but if you think that Slytherin or any other team can save you from Hufflepuff whooping your ass in the Final this year-”

 

“Ah, so you’re saying that we’re the team to beat,” James smiled, “That’s so sweet of you, Llewellyn…”

 

Caleb was beet red now, his eyes flashing with anger. He looked just about ready to sock James in the face, and likely would have... had Archie Longbottom not come down the grand staircase at that exact moment. 

 

“What’s going on here?” he said in an authoritative voice that James only ever heard when his friend was in Prefect Mode™. 

 

“None of your damn business, Longb-”

 

Caleb turned angrily, the spitting remark halfway out of his mouth until his eyes landed on the HB pinned to Archie’s shirt. 

 

The Head Boy regarded him with hard eyes and a set jaw, as he shifted just so. The polished badge caught in the candlelight, like an unspoken warning. 

 

“Go on…?”

 

Slowly, the Hufflepuff looked between Archie and James, resentment flaring in his eyes as James flashed him his most irritating grin. After a moment, however, Caleb seemed to make a decision, and he ticked his head in annoyance before plastering on a pleasant smile. 

 

“It’s nothing, Longbottom… Just catching up with Potter about his summer.”

 

“Right,” said Archie, looking thoroughly unconvinced, “Well, I’m sure you and James will have plenty more opportunity to ‘catch up’ on the quidditch pitch this year.”

 

Behind Caleb, James and Fred let out whoops of amusement, but Archie shot them a rather chilling warning glance before he continued. 

 

“...You’d best head in, Llewellyn... Fawley, McLaggen,” he said, inclining his head toward the door, “Go ahead, before all the popovers are gone.”

 

With a final glare at James, Caleb grunted to his two cronies, and the trio disappeared into the Great Hall. 

 

Archie approached the group of Gryffindors with an exasperated look on his face.

 

Really, James? It’s been five days, and I already walk into you and Llewellyn on the brink of a fist fight in the entrance hall…”

 

But James hadn’t a trace of remorse on his face, instead looking positively gleeful. Behind him, the rest of the squad looked as though Christmas had come early. 

 

“Archie, you beautiful man, if I ever take the mickey out of you for being a prefect ever again, feel free to jinx me…” James said, looping his arm around his friend’s shoulder, but Archie shrugged it off. 

 

James, I’m serious. You’re a 7th Year now... What would the first years think if they saw two of the house team quidditch captains dueling before dinner… Merlin...”

 

James grinned at him jovially, “Not to worry, Arch. As Llewellyn pointed out, we were just exchanging pleasantries about our holidays...”

 

“James.”

 

“...”

 

“...”

 

“...Sorry,” James said finally, buckling under Archie’s hard expression. His friend was still set on Prefect Mode, and he braced himself for the chewing out that he’d probably need to endure before the Head Boy had said his piece. 

 

To his surprise though, Archie just sighed and said, “...Remember what McGonagall did to Hadrian Cootes our second year?”

 

And immediately, James sobered up.

 

Hadrian Cootes. One of his god-brother, Teddy’s mates. Former Gryffindor captain and star chaser before James even made the team. Got into a small argument about technique with one of his beaters which turned into a half-joking 10 second duel on the pitch. McGonagall grounded them both for the rest of their final season, and Gryffindor came in dead last in the Cup that year. 

 

The headmistress had ruthlessly strict conduct code for quidditch players, including a no-tolerance policy for fights, even silly ones like that. James hadn’t even played a scrimmage this year yet, and the thought of no more quidditch… He paled.

 

“Ah, did you have to mention that, Archie, look what you’ve done to the poor boy…” Freddie said sympathetically, patting his shoulder, “James, mate… It’s alright… You can breathe…”

 

“It was just a reminder… I want to see you guys do well this season just as much, you know...” Archie defended, but he looked hesitantly at James.

 

It was always quite eerie for his friends to see the affable boy’s humor clam up so quickly. Truthfully, only quidditch had the power to do that. 

 

“Archie, I’m very sorry for having dragged you into it,” James said suddenly, taking his friends’ hands and looking at him sincerely, “But thank you for intervening - I’m very lucky to have you as a friend.”

 

Archie sputtered at the sudden declaration, the sharpness in his previous tone already lost, “That’s- uh- that’s alright, James...”

 

Lewis was chuckling, shaking his head at the exchange, “Alright, settle down, captain… McGonagall hasn’t dragged you hollering off the pitch yet…”

 

“Aww, mates, let’s hug it out,” Freddie interjected with a grin, not even pausing before he swallowed the pair in a bear hug.

 

“Oy-!”

 

---

 

“By the way, Archie, that was preeeetty awesome!” Kian said, after the group had finally steered their way towards the Great Hall, “I’ve never seen Llewellyn shut up that quickly before.”

 

“R-really?” 

 

Archie was hooked on either side by Fred and James as they made for the Gryffindor table. Now that he had simmered back down to his usual mild-mannered self, his friends didn’t fail to notice to pink blush creeping up on his cheeks. 

 

“Yes, really! When you were like, ‘What’s going on here?’ - did you see the look on his face? I know you’re still a bit cross with us, Arch, but that was well done, Mr. Head Boy, well done…!” Freddie said with a wicked grin, clapping the boy hard on his back and inciting a few pained groans in response. 

 

“Actually, my personal favorite was ‘Before all the popovers are gone’. That was quite cheeky that was…” 

 

Lewis was walking ahead of them and tossed a wry smile over his shoulder before cooly adding, “...Now tell me, Archie, how long did you spend polishing that impeccable badge of yours last night…?”

 

By the time the group arrived at the table, it was with a very red-cheeked Archie Longbottom in tow. James wasn’t quite sure how the boy put up with them honestly, except for the fact that he was an immensely good sport, but ringing true with his words earlier, he was exceedingly glad he did. 

 

Soon, Kian and Naomi bid them goodbye to find their respective groups of friends, and the four 7th year Gryffindor boys settled down to an empty spot on the bench. As the boys filled their plates with roast, Fred regaled Archie about their encounter with Llewellyn before he arrived, slightly dramatized as per the usual Fred Weasley tale. 

 

“... and so after I told him I could basically buy his sorry ass, he had the gall to bring up the last Cup Finals that his team didn’t even play!” 

 

Archie raised his eyebrows and looked at James, who confirmed with an exasperated nod. Bringing up the Finals last year was a low blow. So, of course it was right up Llewellyn’s alley. 

 

During James’s 6th year and first season as quidditch captain, the Gryffindor team (unlike the Hufflepuffs) had pulled in a strong and consistent showing throughout the year and were the favorites to win going into the Finals. It was a tough match against a very capable Slytherin team, who were well-known for their tricky and illusory flying skills. 

 

But James had been solid on the hoops and Gryffindor had pulled ahead. However, while performing a particularly elaborate play, one of the Slytherin chasers - Margot Beauregard - fumbled on a barrel turn and fell off her broom, before she was narrowly caught by one of her teammates. The Gryffindor seeker, Elena Entwistle, had been so distracted by the drama that she hadn’t noticed Albus zooming straight past her as he dived for the Snitch. 

 

Needless to say, James had taken the loss hard, but it only served to add fuel to his campaign this year. He never did get a straight answer from Al whether that fall had been intentional or not, either… But James thought it best not to dwell on it too much. He knew the Slytherins could put in a scary amount of commitment to their plays when they wanted to. 

 

Fred was scoffing, “I dunno where Llewellyn gets off acting so smug… as if Ravenclaw didn’t score 30 points on him in one go last year…”

 

“Well, I suppose you wouldn’t understand his position, Freddie,” James quipped, and his friends looked at him curiously, “As a fellow keeper, I can say it’s completely necessary to leave the hoops unattended to demonstrate a Wronski Feint once in a while…”

 

The boys snorted into their Yorkshire puddings at the memory. 

 

Fred continued, chortling, “All I’m saying is that he hasn’t got grounds to talk about Elena when Albus got the jump on his seeker last year, too… Lucky catches, my ass…”

 

“That’s right!” James exclaimed, suddenly remembering something, and the boys looked at him in surprise. “That prick called Al a dweeb…” 

 

James narrowed his eyes, shoving an angry mouthful of potatoes in his mouth. “‘-nly I’m allow’d t’do that…”

 

“...You truly show affection in the strangest of ways, James,” Lewis said, slicing himself a wedge of pumpkin pie. 

 

James only shrugged. Sibling dynamics were meant to be complex. 

 

------

 

September 6th, 2021

Greenhouse 4

 

“Oh. Shit,” James whispered with a sudden realization, as soon as he settled into his seat for his very first class of the year, Herbology. When Archie and Lewis turned around from the bench up to peer at James, they found him looking in panic at the empty seat next to him. 

 

“...Something wrong, James?” Archie prodded. 

 

James looked up at his friends in sheer distress. 

 

“Quick - can one of you switch seats and be my partner?”

 

Archie and Lewis looked at each other hesitantly. James had many talents… but Herbology wasn’t one of his strong suits. 

 

“Please?”

 

At the sound of voices coming up the path to the greenhouse, James began paling quickly, looking as though he would cry if one of them didn’t act soon, and so Archie sighed and began collecting his pack from beneath the table.

 

“Hurry, Archie,” James cried, “...please.”

 

When the boy finally dropped down next to him, James released an exaggerated sigh of relief. 

 

“Wait - ah, James, no -” But it was already too late. James had leaned over to plant a sloppy kiss atop Archie’s golden-haired head. 

 

“Ugh…” the boy groaned, wiping his forehead in disgust. 

 

“Thank you,” James said earnestly, taking the bewildered boy by the shoulders, “Thank you.”

 

“Mind telling us what this is all about, James?” Lewis said, watching James’s dramatics with a disparaging look, “...and don’t tell me this is about pulling up your ‘Acceptable’ from last year.”

 

The boy looked understandably peeved - he’d just lost his claim to the best bench partner in the class, after all. Archie had inherited his dad’s brilliance for Herbology. 

 

“Uhhh…” James started smartly, but was interrupted by a particularly chatty entrance at the front of the room. 

 

Into the greenhouse walked a large group of Gryffindor and Ravenclaw girls, led by Samantha Haywood, who was in the midst of recounting a funny holiday story to the crowd. The outgoing and pretty witch was probably the most popular person in their year. She was friendly, charming, and absolutely impossible to disentangle yourself from once she had locked you into a conversation. This James could attest to, having made the mistake of being her Charms partner in 4th year, which was also the same year he’d gotten a Howler from his mum for getting one too many detentions for talking in class. He grimaced at the memory. 

 

Moving from the chattering blonde, James’s gaze involuntarily wandered right. 

 

The sudden flip in his stomach warned him before his eyes even registered the willowy silhouette and sheath of red hair tucked neatly behind freckled ears. 

 

Piper St Claire, Sam’s best friend and fellow Gryffindor. 

 

By habit, his eyes lingered around her heart-shaped face and button nose longer than they should have. And as if sensing the gaze on her, Piper glanced his way, her blue eyes widening at the contact with his. 

 

Shit. 

 

Shit. Shit. Shit. 

 

James forced his gaze down and repeated his mantra in his head, but it was no use. The group of girls began to move from the door towards the empty benches on the far side of the room, most unfortunately passing right by his and Archie’s bench. 

 

James’s neck was burning hot by the time the group neared them. Tugging his shirt collar as far up as he could, he looked up when Piper hesitated next to him. 

 

“Hi, James,” she said expectantly.

 

“Hey… Piper,” James said, straining to keep his voice even.

 

“...I guess… We’re switching up bench partners this year, huh?” she said, glancing at Archie seated next to him.

 

“Oh, uh. Yeah… Archie’s asked me to tutor him this semester, so...”

 

James gave her a small apologetic shrug, steadfastly ignoring both the sharp jab to his side from an annoyed Archie and the snort of derisive laughter from an amused Lewis. 

 

“Sorry,” he finished quickly, hoping she didn’t notice them. He hated his friends, sometimes. 

 

“Oh no… That’s… that’s alright…”

 

“Thanks for understanding.”

 

“Yeah, sure…”

 

“...”

 

“...So, umm… How was your summer, James?”

 

“...My summer? Oh.. Uhm, it was alright... Quidditch conditioning, family stuff… Usual.”

 

“Oh. That’s good.”

 

“...”

 

“...”

 

“...How about you? How was the rest of your summer?” James was pushing the words out now. 

 

“Oh... Yeah, it was alright. Me and my sisters went to Dorset after- um…well… We… uh… you know...” 

 

Piper trailed off, looking as though she wanted to say more, but mercifully she didn’t. James dropped his gaze down to the desk, rubbing his scarlet neck.

 

Yeah, he knew.

 

“Piper!” Sam’s voice called like a saving bell for the pair. She had set her bag on a bench across the room and was gesturing her friend to the empty seat beside her.

 

“I’ll see you later, Piper,” James said, finishing the conversation for her. 

 

The red-head only gave one last awkward nod before she shuffled away towards her friend, and James let out a breath he hadn’t realized he was holding. 

 

A rumbling chuckle sounded in front of him, and he looked up to see Lewis regarding him with much more humor and understanding than before. 

 

“Mate, if you ever need to clear a room fast, replay that conversation for them - people will flee out of sheer secondhand embarrassment.”

 

“Thanks, Lewis.”

 

“So, that’s still happening then, huh?”

 

James sighed, “Actually, more accurately it’s not happening… We called it quits in July.”

 

Lewis clacked his tongue cheekily, “Mhmm, for how long?”

 

James gave him a withering glare. “For good this time, alright?”

 

Archie, at least, had the tact to look a little more sympathetic as he gently said, “James… To be fair, that’s what you said the last time you broke up, too…”

 

“No guys…” James heaved a sigh, “It’s like, for good, for good this time…”

 

His friends continued looking at him incredulously, although he couldn’t exactly blame them. 

 

James and Piper had been on an on-again off-again relationship since 5th year that had been taking them, as well as their friends and really, any casual onlookers on a wild roller coaster of emotions. In fact, they’d broken up and gotten back together so many times, James was pretty sure there was a column in the Hogwarts newspaper dedicated to it. 

 

To be clear, James really liked Piper - she was nice and easy to talk to, and he found her hair quite pretty. But she also had a virulent streak of indecisiveness that plagued their relationship. James often felt as though he were a slightly gaudy dress in her closet that she was unsure whether she wanted to wear out or toss. In the past, he’d had been dumped for as little as a sandwich crust (no, really), but as per this most recent split...

 

“... I broke up with her,” James said. 

 

“What?” Lewis and Archie said in surprised unison. James had always been the dumpee in their relationship. 

 

“Well,” James amended, “I guess she had been pretty wishy-washy about us all summer… But I’d been the one to say it in the end.”

 

His friends gaped at him. 

 

“... I’ve got quidditch this year to worry about… If it’s gonna be like always... I can’t keep on with this relationship when I need to focus on getting recruited.” 

 

“That’s…” Archie started after regarding him for a moment, “That’s really good, mate.”

 

James nodded his head in reassurance, partially for himself, too, “Yeah…  I think it’s for the best.”

 

A slow, wry smile spread across Lewis’s face. “Our Jamsie is finally growing up.”

 

James rubbed his neck. “That’s uhm. That’s why I needed one of you to sit here. Since we were Herbology partners last year, I figured she’d try to… yeah,” he trailed off.

 

Lewis hummed, looking at him appraisingly, “Well, in that case, I suppose I could let you borrow Archie for the term.”

 

He reached out and ruffled James’s hair (eliciting a very irate, “Hey!” from the latter) before turning around and unpacking his things from his rucksack. 

 

James smiled after him and tilted his head toward Archie. 

 

“...It was also ‘cause I wanted better marks this semester,” he told the blonde, laughing when Lewis tossed him the bird over his back. 

 

-----------------------------------------------------------

 

Hey! I'm back! Life update is that all went well with the move! If you didn't know, I've moved to Seoul very recently, and I'm settling into my new job and apartment and city now. I find my new home quite inspiring, and I've been itching to write more recently. Thank you for waiting patiently, and I hope you enjoyed this chapter :)



Chapter 5: Chapter 5: Margot
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

September 7th, 2021

The Dungeons 

 

“You just left without me?”

 

Lucien was panting slightly as he jogged up to Margot, Rowan, and Jordan in the dim hallway. They had nearly reached the Potions classroom for their first lesson of the day. 

 

“You were too busy fraternizing at the Hufflepuff table, and we weren’t going to be late for Potions on behalf of your love life,” Rowan explained evenly.

 

“I wasn’t fraternizing - I needed to ask Fawley where he wanted to meet for rounds tonight.”

 

Margot smirked at Lucien, “Perhaps at the prefects’ office. Where we all always meet for rounds.” 

 

The boy shot a look at her, “Well, I was just making sure he remembered that, obviously. Fawley’s not the brightest boy, you know.”

 

Rowan snorted, “Right. Well, whatever you call it, I’m not aiming to get a detention from Cauldwell the first day. Cordelia writes to uncle about every single one I get, that hag.”

 

Lucien sniffed at them as the group walked through the classroom doorway.

 

“...You all made it on time alright though, didn’t you?” he grumbled moodily, but no one bothered to respond. 

 

The Potions dungeon was only half full, despite there only being a few minutes to spare until the hour. Margot suspected that a few of the Gryffindors might stroll in late from breakfast, but other than that, the scarce dozen or so in the room represented all of the students in their year that had carried on to NEWT-level. 

 

But this didn’t surprise her much. Professor Cauldwell had a terse demeanor which tended to intimidate many of the younger students. While it was true that the man did have a low tolerance for trivialities, Margot thought that mostly, he seemed like he just wanted to end class and go back to sleep, which she could respect. 

 

As Rowan and Jordan settled down onto an empty bench immediately to the right of the door, Lucien elbowed Margot’s side, looking at her expectantly.

 

“Partner with me?” 

 

Margot smiled at him warmly. 

 

“No.”

 

Lucien scowled, “Oh come on, I’m halfway decent at this class, you know.”

 

“Oh-ho. Doesn’t feel great being ditched, does it?” Margot said, challengingly.

 

“...The macarons are on their way alright?”

 

“And I’ll be sure to enjoy them when they arrive, thanks… but I’ve already got a partner, remember?”

 

She nodded her head at the blonde already seated at the front of the room. Lucien tsked, looking annoyed. 

 

“Oh, right… You’ve got that blood pact with Weasley.”

 

“We have an established system, which I like to honor unlike some people…”

 

“Fine. It’s your loss, Beauregard,” Lucien rolled his eyes, “I’ll start working on my eulogy for when you finally die of boredom sitting next to Ms. Goody-Too-Shoes.” 

 

He turned and wandered down the aisle a ways before dropping down onto an empty seat next to an indifferent-looking Alastair Whitby. Meanwhile, Margot trekked up to the first bench immediately facing Professor Cauldwell’s desk. Dom always had a propensity for picking the prime ass-kissing seats in class. 

 

“Alright summer, Weasley?”

 

The girl didn’t respond for a moment. She was carefully writing headings on a very elaborate outline in neat blocky script. Questions to clarify on summer assignments a section read with about two dozen bullets listed beneath. 

 

Margot gaped. Although she hadn’t exactly skipped the readings they’d been assigned over break, she’d also just skimmed Hesper Starkey’s anthology on antidotes. That had been months ago, and she’d mostly been using the hefty volume for a bit of shade while sunning on the French Riviera. 

 

After a few moments, the Ravenclaw looked up at Margot, nodding in acknowledgement.

 

“Beauregard,” she finally said, “Yeah, it was alright. I did some shadowing at the Serious Bites ward at Mungo’s.”

 

“Oh. How’d that go?” Margot sat down on the empty stool next to her, and slowly began unpacking her things. 

 

“It was both fascinating and deeply horrifying,” Dom said after considering a moment, “And you? I expect you did something similar?”

 

“Oh, um,” Margot balked. 

 

She was suddenly faced with the realization that she’d spent most of the summer rather unproductively. Before the end of last term, Professor Selwyn had given her a long laundry list of recommendations to stay competitive for Healer school, securing an internship chief among them. But between travelling and sleeping and socializing, the summer months had quickly sped by, and now back at school, Margot was reminded that she had the Dominique Weasleys of the world to compete with. 

 

“Er- actually,” she said, scrambling for something decent to save face, “I… went to France. To accompany my dad on a trip.”

 

Dom furrowed her eyebrows.

 

“On a diplomatic trip? You’re planning to go into International Magical Cooperation?” she said confusedly, “Since when?”

 

Both Dom and Margot had been quite vocal about their similar intentions to pursue magical medicine in the past. 

 

“Oh, I’m not,” Margot said as smoothly she could manage, “I was just testing the waters… My mum’s been nagging me about it, you see…” 

 

Margot was relieved to say that that was all almost completely true. 

 

“Oh, I see. Didn’t like it much then?” 

 

Margot shook her head quickly, avoiding meeting her bench mate’s eyes.

 

“I think I’ll stick to healing… for now…” 

 

Dom nodded brusquely, fortunately not picking up on Margot’s reddening ears. 

 

“You did the summer reading though, right?” she said expectantly, “I expect you had some hang-ups about Starkey’s stirring theory, too… I was actually hoping we’d be able to compare notes…”

 

The Ravenclaw began busily rifling through her stack of notes, and Margot chanced a glance back at Lucien, who’d been casually discussing the Weird Sisters’ 30th anniversary concert with a much more lively-looking Alastair. As his benchmate animatedly described Myron Wagtail’s surprise transfiguration into a bat at the climax of This is the Night, Lucien caught Margot’s panicked expression and smirked. She hated feeding into Lucien’s ego, but she was starting to think that perhaps she would have been better off accepting his invitation. She had forgotten how exhausting it was to keep up with Dom when she wasn’t busy concentrating on a brew. 

 

Luckily, before Dom could find the length of notes she’d been scrounging around for, Margot was saved by the timely arrival of Professor Cauldwell. 

 

The Potions professor was a petite wizard with cat-like features and an inclination for black clothing and dangling earrings. Today, he strolled into class in a trailing turtleneck tunic paired with a wide brimmed hat stacked with many thin, silver chains. Margot suspected that he was trying to make somewhat of an impression on the first years who’d have their first class with him next session. 

 

Reaching the front of the room, Cauldwell perched atop his desk and peered at the 6th years appraisingly.

 

“Welcome to your first day of NEWT-level potions,” he said, his dark eyes sweeping across the room. 

 

“As I hope you are all aware, this class represents a level far and above any of your previous Potions coursework. The brews will take longer, the theory will be more complex, and my expectations will be higher, am I clear, Wilkinson? Hill?”

 

He locked his gaze toward the back of the room, where Kian Wilkinson and Ambrose Hill had been attempting to discreetly slip into the room, bringing with them the unmistakable aroma of freshly fried bacon. 

 

“Yessir,” the two Gryffindors said quietly, stumbling onto the nearest empty worktable, and Professor Cauldwell sighed, rubbing the bridge of his nose. 

 

“I’m sure you all did the summer reading thoroughly. Today, you’re meant to have a pop quiz to test your comprehension,” he continued, and Margot tensed. From around the room came the nervous shuffling of stools as her classmates squirmed at the news. Beside her, Dom alone leaned forward in anticipation. 

 

“...Fortunately for you, my Kneazle woke me up at 4am this morning, so I didn’t have the energy to write the test,” the wizard drawled, not even batting an eye to the collective sigh that swept across the room. He flicked his wand and on the board behind him, ingredients and instructions for the Wiggenweld Potion appeared in a messy scrawl. 

 

“This should be something that you all came across in your readings this summer. You’ll find additional instructions and background in your texts, page 309, and ingredients are in the cupboard shelf marked 6th Year NEWT.”

 

He nodded toward the wooden cupboard door in the far corner of the room before continuing.

 

“This is a fairly straightforward brew, and if you add everything in the correct order, you should have a passable potion done in about an hour and a half. I want samples stoppered and labelled with both partners’ last names on my desk. You may go whenever you’re finished.”

 

Margot, along with most of the other students, had already begun rifling through their textbooks and skimming through the instructions. She was relieved - she had at least heard of the brew before. The Wiggenweld Potion… an antidote for magically-induced sleep… 

 

Beside her Dom was still attempting to collect her crestfallen expression at the cancellation of the pop quiz. Cauldwell cleared his throat, and the students’ eyes snapped up in attention.

 

“You lot may have gotten off easy today, but next Thursday is a theory lecture on antidotes. You’d do well to brush up on that reading you’ve obviously done, right Wilkinson?”

 

“Right, sir!”

 

Cauldwell nodded, looking nearly amused. 

 

“Right. I’ll be in my office, grading papers,” he said, although since it was only two days into the school year, Margot supposed this was typical Cauldwell speak for ‘taking a nap’. 

 

“Come get me if you need me to avert any major disasters,” he paused, looked at the class pointedly, “Please don’t need me.”

 

The Potions professor gave the class one last terse nod and disappeared through his adjoining office door in a sweep of black fabric. After a slight nudge, Dom finally began setting the fire for their cauldron, and Margot hurriedly left her for the ingredients cupboard, in search of Horklump juice and Flobberworm mucus.

 

It seemed to Margot that Cauldwell had the right idea - she wanted to catch a nap before the afternoon session, too.

 

-------

 

September 7th, 2021

Charms Classroom

 

Margot’s eyes drooped as she fought to keep her thoughts and vision unfuzzed. Although Professor Everard’s bright personality usually kept her attention, she hadn’t gotten that nap in, and not even his booming voice could punctuate the early afternoon haze that had settled over the Charms classroom. In the row in front of her, Reuben McLaggen had begun blatantly snoring, and Lucien was attempting some complex wandwork beneath his desk to transfigure his nose into a pig’s snout. Given Lucien’s history with Transfiguration, Margot couldn’t see how this was a great idea, but she was too drowsy to intervene otherwise. 

 

At the front of the room, Professor Everard continued prattling on about the NEWT syllabus - it had been more of the same speech they’d been given every class these past two days. More homework. Higher standards. More responsibility for self-study. Margot was beginning to suspect that Headmistress McGonagall had written and distributed a script for all of the professors. 

 

Her eyes had blinked almost completely shut when a small triangle of paper landed in front of her. She stared at it blankly for a moment before flicking her gaze at the sender. Avery was looking at her intently from the next desk over, and Margot picked up the note and slowly opened it. 

 

Cauldron meeting this afternoon after classes? Pretty pretty please?

-A

 

Margot furrowed her eyebrows at the note before looking up at Avery and sternly shaking her head. Her friend was the editor-in-chief of the little-known Hogwarts newspaper The Cauldron, and she’d been unsuccessfully trying to rope Margot into the staff for years. Margot had learned that the best approach was to shut the girl down immediately, and if necessary, harshly. 

 

Just then, a second note landed on her desk, and Margot rolled her eyes at Rowan, who was seated directly behind Avery and had joined in her pleading looks. 

 

I’m bringing cauldron cakes and your favorite dandelion tea to the meeting. Be there or be square, Beauregard.

-R

 

This was… Slightly more tempting. Rowan served as Avery’s managing editor at the newspaper and was nearly as persistent about recruitment, too. Now that Margot thought about it though, she was fairly sure the two were the only permanent staff. Writers more or less phased out, usually depending on which friends they’d had been able to ensnare for the semester, but those two were the mainstays of Hogwarts journalism. 

 

Not that that exactly said much. From what Margot’s gathered over the years, newspaper meetings more or less consisted of soliciting gossip from the school’s house elves, that is, whenever the pair weren’t bickering. Unsurprisingly, The Cauldron’s biweekly issues didn’t exactly pull the greatest readership, but according to Avery, “Circulation matters less, so long as the truth is out there for those seeking it.”

 

The truth, evidently, consisted of leaked dinner menus for the upcoming week and updates on the current status of James Potter and Piper St Claire’s on-and-off relationship. 

 

Avery and Rowan found it puzzling that investigative journalism never appealed to Margot. 

 

I’ll pass on this one, lads.

-M

 

The two read her response with a huff. Avery began scribbling on the parchment furiously, while Rowan backed her up by throwing Margot a hard glare.

 

PLEASE! We need a sports writer :(

-A

 

...

 

I really can’t come this afternoon. I’ve got that meeting with Longbottom, remember? Why don’t you two go harass some 3rd years or something… 

-M

 

Rowan scoffed at Margot’s note, but Avery looked more thoughtful. 

 

“Third years…” Margot saw her mouth, nodding her head slowly and turning to whisper something into Rowan’s ear. 

 

Glad to have a respite from the barrage of notes, she turned back to the very important task of not falling asleep during lecture. Ten seconds later though, Margot found herself sighing with annoyance as another paper triangle ricocheted off her forearm and nearly landed in her inkpot.  

 

Intriguing suggestion, Beauregard. We’ll investigate the matter further. 

-A+R

 

Margot inked her quill with a little more force than necessary. At least the upside to this was that she’d become peeved enough to overcome her drowsiness.

 

Great. Good. Save me some cauldron cakes after the meeting, if you’re so inclined to show your gratitude.

-M

 

In front of her, Reuben McLaggen began emitting little piggish snorts.

 

-----

 

September 7th, 2021

Greenhouse 3

 

“Oh, Margot! You’re here!” 

 

Professor Longbottom started as he came around the corner, nearly dropping the large earthen planter in which he’d been carrying the largest snargaluff plant Margot had ever seen. 

 

Attempting to avoid further solicitation from her friends, Margot had come down to the greenhouses immediately after Charms ended, settling down on an empty table to begin a Transfiguration essay while she waited for Professor Longbottom to finish with the 5th years in the next greenhouse over. Now though, she had half risen from her seat, watching nervously as the professor attempted to rebalance an extremely wobbly pot in his arms. 

 

“Do you need help with that?”

 

“Oh no, that’s quite alright, thank you…” 

 

Miraculously, the herbologist managed to right the planter, however, not before the motion had begun to upset the delicate plant. The brambly, thorny roots which grew from its stump-like body twitched with agitation, and the green pods clustered around the base pulsed ominously. 

 

“Although I suppose I better set this guy down before it gets any ideas...”

 

Margot watched as the professor quickly walked over to a nearby shelf, ducking his head as an itinerant root swung around and nearly poked him in the eye. 

 

Longbottom’s well-known involvement in the Second Wizarding War had given him a hero status that made him a popular teacher at Hogwarts, especially among the female student body. But one wouldn’t immediately guess it from looking at him. 

 

He was a stocky wizard with a kind, round face, honey blonde hair, and pink cheeks, sun-kissed from the many hours spent working in the greenhouses. Habitually rumpled in appearance, Margot knew him to be a rather scatterbrained and clumsy person… but an exceptionally brilliant and knowledgeable herbologist nonetheless. In fact, he was one of her favorite professors, and she had fostered her talent for the subject under his tutelage.

 

“Right, so. If you’ll follow me...” he said, turning with a smile after replacing the snargaluff carefully. He made to head into his office, and Margot quickly gathered her rucksack and followed him. 

 

“Thanks for coming down to speak with me this afternoon - I’d have spoken to you earlier, but I needed to prepare fertilizer for the mandrakes this weekend… I hope I’m not keeping you from anything?”

 

Margot shook her head and mumbled mostly to herself, “Nothing I didn’t want to miss.”

 

“What was that?”

 

“Nothing,” she said, offering a quick smile before stepping through the glass-panelled doorway. 

 

Margot been in the herbology professor’s office just once before - organizing some journals for extra credit in 4th year. Attached directly to the greenhouse, it was a bright, sunny room that smelled pleasantly of vanilla pods. On the wall facing the door was a hefty wooden shelf, decorated with a potted mimbulus mimbletonia and an assortment of large framed photographs. 

 

The biggest one showed three children -  Archie, the Head Boy, perhaps a few years younger in the photo; Augusta, who was a Hufflepuff in Margot’s year; and a younger girl who Margot only vaguely recognized but resembled the other two well. In the panel next to it, Margot spied a younger Professor Longbottom amongst a grinning group of young adults standing underneath a banner that read ‘Dumbledore’s Army’. It was a photo she’d seen a few times in history books, and she knew that if she looked more closely, she’d find more than a few of wizarding England’s most famous faces in the crowd.

 

Professor Longbottom gave her a small smile as he settled into his desk immediately in front of the shelf. Realizing she’d been staring, Margot quickly sat down on the worn, but comfortable arm chair in front of him. 

 

“What was it you needed, Professor? Did you want me to do some tutoring or something…?”

 

Longbottom laughed good-naturedly, shaking his head and leaning back in his chair, “No, no… What I wanted to discuss is something you’ll probably find a lot more interesting.” 

 

He paused though, furrowing his brow thoughtfully. 

 

“Although, now that you mention it, I should set Thomas up with one… maybe Finnigan, too… I don’t know how she set that water lily on fire…” he began mumbling to himself and quickly scribbling on a spare bit of parchment.

 

Margot politely waited for him until, suddenly remembering himself, he stopped and looked up at her with a sheepish smile.

 

“Anyway, that’s not something we should concern ourselves with now, is it? No… Actually, I was wondering if you’d be interested in doing an extra credit of coursework as a research assistant for me, Margot.”

 

“Oh. That’s unexpected.”

 

Margot’s words fell out of her mouth before she even realized she was saying them, but luckily, Longbottom took it in good humor, looking at her in surprise for only a moment before bursting into laughter. 

 

“Not at all!” he said earnestly, shaking his head, “I’ve been on the lookout for some help in the greenhouses since last semester actually, since we opened up the new greenhouse, it’s been a lot to manage… And you’re one of my best students. Actually, it’s quite opportune, because I’m starting a new project this year that you might find particularly interesting…”

 

Margot curiously watched as he began shuffling through a stack of herbology journals on his desk. 

 

“Aha.”

 

Locating the text he’d been looking for, Professor Longbottom leaned forward and offered her a post-noted copy of The Journal of Magical Flora and Fauna from this past summer. Her interest sufficiently piqued, Margot flipped to the marked article.

 

“A few months ago, while surveying a rather remote patch of rainforest in the Amazon, a group of South American herbologists discovered a new kind of fast-growing medicinal sugarsap,” Professor Longbottom explained, “As you may remember, the more common European variety produces a sap that’s got a mood-altering effect that’s important for numbing balms and anesthetic potions… and we’re hoping this species will have similar usefulness...”

 

Margot nodded vaguely. They’d done a unit on medicinal plants last year which had been one of her favorites amidst the dense O.W.L. coursework. 

 

“I’ve been lucky enough to receive a few cuttings of Amazonian sugarsap from some of my Bolivian colleagues, and I was hoping to try and start a grove  at Hogwarts for closer study. Professor Everard has kindly been helping me with some weather charms this summer and we’ve improved on the rainforest habitat in Greenhouse 5 quite a bit… I’ve already cleared enough space for a dozen or so saplings, if all goes well! But it’ll be quite a bit of work to do it, so I’ll need some help reading and compiling research, collecting data, and doing some hands-on work with the plants… And of course, if we get good results, a paper would be expected on the research, but we probably won’t have to worry about that until next year...”

 

Professor Longbottom was rambling a bit now, and Margot was slowly shifting her focus from him to the article that lay open on her lap. 

 

A potentially exciting and significant find for magical medicine...

 

“Don’t feel obligated to say yes, of course! I understand 6th year must be incredibly busy for you… Just this morning at breakfast, Augusta, my daughter- you must know her, right-? She’s a 6th year too… Well, she had us all pulling out our hairs trying to fit N.E.W.T Divination into her timetable… But anyway, what I’m saying is, if you’ve got a few hours free every week, I’d love to have your help!” 

 

Margot looked up at him, her brain trying to process and prioritize as quickly as it could. On one hand, her schedule was getting a little painful to look at. But on the other hand...

 

“Correct me if I’m wrong, Margot, but you’re still interested in Healing right? From what my wife tells me, St. Mungo’s looks very positively on any practical or research experience from its Healing Program candidates.”

 

...She had the Dom Weasleys of the world to compete with. 

 

“I’ve got Friday mornings free?”

 

------

 

September 10th, 2021

Quidditch Pitch

 

“Listen, Pucey, I know you love me, but we’ve spent the entire day together… Did you really have to call a meeting the first week back?” Kai Yamasaki, a tall, broad-shouldered 7th year moaned as he dramatically dropped onto the bleacher in front of Margot. 

 

It was Friday afternoon, and Margot had just about survived her first week of Hogwarts without any major disasters. Although, she supposed, that remained to be seen, as she was now sitting in front of her ex for the first time since their breakup last May. 

 

Roman Pucey looked good, she noted, though that was hardly surprising. If the Slytherin team captain was meticulous about anything, it was his looks. His inky hair was neatly combed, his shoulders squared, his practice kit impeccably pressed. 

 

It was petty, but Margot looked down at her nails, suddenly annoyed that she was not looking nearly as tidy. She’d spent the morning filling planter boxes with different fertilizers for Professor Longbottom, after which she’d had a practical lesson for Care of Magical Creatures - two hours of dissecting and dilligently documenting the contents of a giant hippogriff pellet. (“To get you back into the groove of things!” Hagrid had said most cheerfully whilst pulling an intact ferret skeleton from the hairy mass). 

 

But perhaps that all didn’t matter, Margot thought, because for the entire 10 minutes that they’d been sitting on the bleachers, Roman had yet to actually look at her directly.

 

“Gryffindor and Hufflepuff have already finalized their lineups this season,” Roman said, once again conspicuously passing his gaze over the top of her head as he surveyed the team, “I need to confirm my choice of keeper with you all.”

 

5th year Vivian Edgecombe snorted, “We know, you’re pulling up Nott from reserves last year.”

 

“Can we go now?” her identical twin sister and fellow beater, Valentina, piped up from beside her. 

 

Roman narrowed his eyes at the two, “Even though we’re not holding formal tryouts this year, all the departments need to approve any new starters.”

 

A collective groan swept across the bleachers. Next to her, Albus Potter, the team’s seeker, put his head in his hands in embarrassment. 

 

“Ugh, don’t tell me you’re still on that this year, Ro,” Kai said in exasperation, “It’s… so uncool. If the other house teams ever found out… I’d be properly humiliated.”

 

“Departments make the meetings run more smoothly, Yamasaki,” Roman said curtly, flipping through his clipboard. 

 

But they really didn’t, thought Margot. 

 

Historically, sure, the Slytherins liked to handle things a bit more... bureaucratically than most, even when it came to quidditch. Rather than just the captain or co-captain, there’d often be people delegated to handle equipment or develop plays or set up practice schedules, etc. etc. It was just the way they liked to organize things. 

 

However, it had only been under Roman’s captaincy that he decided to actually name formal departments, like they were some bloody Galleon 500 company. Margot had a feeling that Roman just liked having a figurehead role without really doing all that much work. She was surprised he hadn’t asked them to start calling him CEO Pucey yet. 

 

“Shall I bring out the Powerpoint?” Margot quipped, glad to have made use of something she’d learned from Muggle Studies.

 

“What’s a Powerpoint?” Kai said blankly. 

 

“Oh, it’s a kind of picture show business Muggles use to spiff up their meetings…”

 

Roman blatantly ignored them both.

 

“... As I was saying, I was thinking about adding Nott to replace Scorpius. But I need analysis with regard to the upcoming season. Intelligence Department, please outline your observations.”

 

“...”

 

“...Intel.”

 

“...”

 

“Kai.”

 

“Okay, okay… Give me a moment to collect my notes… I haven’t made a ‘powder point’ or whatever MG says it’s called, so don’t expect much...”

 

Kai was, in fact, the only member of the ‘Intelligence Department’, but it wasn’t like they needed anyone else really. His job was to sneak around the other house teams’ practices and take notes surreptitiously. But truthfully, the outgoing and funny chaser had befriended so many players on the other squads that they usually just let him hang out at their practices outright anyway. 

 

Margot was unsure if that was strategy or just Kai being Kai. 

 

“Ahem, ahem.”

 

The boy in question had stood up and was making a show of clearing his throat. He’d also pulled out a pair of square-frame glasses from somewhere, and they now sat daintily atop his nose as he pretended to shuffle through a clipboard. 

 

“Mmm, let’s see here…” Kai began in a drawling voice, and Margot felt a bubble of laughter already making its way up her throat. 

 

“Hufflepuff: Two new starting chasers this year. Angus Flume, from their reserves, who’s quite alright, despite having the name ‘Angus’, and a newbie, Lysander Scamander, who I’ve noted here to be… ‘a decent flyer, with absolutely bullocks quaffle handling technique’...”

 

Margot gracefully snorted into her hand and Albus began inadvertently shaking the bench trying to contain his laughter. Roman alone looked displeased. 

 

“Yamasaki. 20 sets up and down the bleachers when you’re done with your report.”

 

“Oh come on, for what? I haven’t even brought a practice kit today…”

 

“Insubordination. You’ll do it in your school uniform. Now finish the report.”

 

Kai mumbled something incoherent under his breath before clearing his throat and continuing with his regular voice, albeit a little quickier and snippier. 

 

“Two new chasers means we’re in need of more info on their offensive line, but the problem is, Llewellyn’s closed all practices to team members only this year, so Fawley can’t even get me in anymore.”

 

“Oh, wow, Llewellyn’s actually getting serious this year, huh?” Albus remarked, scrunching his nose, “Only we used to do that…”

 

“Well, we’ve got the first scrimmage with them this year at least… We could just keep an eye out then?” Margot supplied. 

 

“I suppose it’ll have to do,” Kai said, nodding, “...As for Gryffindor, I went to their tryouts last Sunday. No changes to the chaser lineup, obviously, but they recruited for a new beater, Jackson Park, and a new seeker…”

 

“Lemme guess, Lily Potter?” Valentina said, smirking at Al.

 

“Surprisingly, no. A 5th year named Isla Doge,” Kai replied, looking puzzled, “Smallest Potter is on reserve squad, reportedly being groomed for center chaser next year.”

 

Albus gave a hum of confirmation, “Lily’s been drilling formations all summer with my cousin Freddie... I’ve gotta fill you in on that later, by the way, MG, we might need to come up with some new defensive maneuvers...”

 

Albus and Margot were in the ‘Strategic Department’, which meant that they worked together to come up with the majority of the team’s plays. Being a chaser, Margot obviously had the on-field experience for offensive tactics, but Al had a surprising affinity for strategy as well. As the team’s seeker, his eagle-eye view of the pitch allowed him to watch games just like a diagram from one of his playbooks. 

 

“Ravenclaw’s actually looking a bit peaky this year…” Kai was saying, “They’re set to have their tryouts tomorrow morning, but they’re replacing more than half of their squad, including both of their beaters and two chasers…”

 

“Oooh… condolences to Nora Davies.” 

 

A hum of agreement echoed through the group. A four-opening tryout sounded like a nightmare, and no one would be envying the Ravenclaw team captain this weekend. 

 

“Anyway, that’s all I’ve got for now,” Kai said, making to sit down, but Roman cleared his throat loudly before the chaser could even touch the bench. Kai eyed the captain carefully before slowly straightening himself.

 

“Right… I mean… I guess I’ll go run... in my loafers now….”

 

“Guess you will, yeah,” came Roman’s immediate, apathetic reply. 

 

Kai scowled at his fellow 7th year but started toward the stairs anyway. Normally the boisterous boy would have protested a bit more, but Margot figured he didn’t want to rack up even more sets of stairs that day - Roman did not appear to be in the best of moods and those uniform shoes looked rather uncomfortable. 

 

Then again, Kai Yamasaki was never one to show much restraint. 

 

“Merlin, you’re such a prick.”

 

The low mumble was barely audible. Margot just caught it as Kai passed beside her and nearly laughed, but she tried to save a neutral face out of solidarity with her fellow chaser. Unfortunately, their captain had the ears of a hawk. 

 

“40 sets, Yamasaki!” 

 

Roman’s cold, uncompromising tone rang after the boy as he began jogging, but, to the rest of  the team’s amusement, his eyes failed to catch the double birds Kai flipped him halfway up the stairs. 

 

Or perhaps Roman just chose to ignore him. Supposedly, Margot’s two fellow chasers were rather good mates, having shared a dorm, classes, and quidditch practices for years now. But given their absolutely polar personalities, she never understood how the two of them actually put up with each other (especially in Kai’s case). 

 

Despite the steadily devolving state of the team, Roman plowed on with the meeting. He was looking at Margot and Albus expectantly now. 

 

Well, more accurately, he was looking at Al only. 

 

“Strategic Department, what’s your analysis of the new lineups? Potter, report,” he said purposefully. 

 

Oh. So that’s how it was gonna be. 

 

Al paused for a moment, exchanging a glance with Margot - they always did their departmental reports together. Always.

 

But Roman’s pointed tone was even enough to get the perpetually disinterested Edgecombes to prick their ears. Margot felt two identical pairs of eyes on the back of her head, as they shifted slowly from her to the captain, calculating. She groaned internally, knowing that if they didn’t already, the Edgecombes would ensure the entire house would know the exact (and awkward) state of her ex-relationship by dinnertime. 

 

Great. Thanks for making it weird, Roman. 

 

After a beat of tense silence, Al cleared his throat awkwardly and began, his eyebrows furrowed. 

 

“Well… our focus for now should be on Gryffindor, as we’ve got our first match with them next month…”

 

Clearly overcompensating for the mood he had wrought upon the group, Roman hummed loudly, as if Albus had imparted the most sage of analyses instead of stating a baseline fact.

 

Albus shot him a puzzled look before continuing, “Er… Right. Which is a problem, given how they’re the strongest team offense-wise…”

 

“Naturally.”

 

“...Weasley, Wood, and Wilkinson consistently outscored our chasers last year...”

 

“Right, right...” Roman nodded, his eyes trained earnestly on the team’s seeker, but evidently not noticing Al’s increasing annoyance with his constant interruptions.

 

“...And so we’d especially need to work with the new keeper on developing speed to help neutralize Wood whilst the other two go head to head with our wings...”

 

“Of course-”

 

“Actually, captain-” Al paused, a ghost of smirk creeping onto his features, “...For that I’d like to turn the podium over to our on-the-ground tactician... for a more informed analysis of the chasers’ strategies. Why don’t we ask MG?”

 

Roman balked a bit, and a strand of hair detached from his impeccable coif, falling across his forehead. 

 

“...Sorry?”

 

“Margot, captain?” Albus repeated innocently, slightly inclining his head towards her, as if to remind Roman that she indeed existed, “She’s in the Strategic Department, too.”

 

“...”

 

“...”

 

“...Right, of course. Beauregard. Analysis,” Roman said stiffly, after a few moments.  

 

Finally, Margot made eye contact with Roman for the first time since breaking up with him on the Hogwarts Express five months ago, and she was proud to say her ears were significantly less red than his. Fighting a smirk, Margot cooly pulled from her memories of last season without missing a beat. 

 

“Well, Gryffindor’s offensive line is primarily based on physicality…”

 

Thank Merlin for Albus Potter. Afterall, small, petty victories were still victories. 

 

------------

 

September 19th, 2021

The 4th Floor Prefect’s Office

 

Margot tsked impatiently, checking her watch again. 

 

10:15pm. 

 

Cresswell was officially fifteen minutes late for their rounds that evening. Sighing, she walked over to the large wooden table where the prefect’s logbook lay open and grabbed a quill. 

 

19.09.21

10:15pm - Rounds partner absent. Again. MGB

 

Exiting the prefects office and turning down the corridor for the Grand Staircase, Margot wondered why she’d even stuck around that long tonight. Last weekend, she had waited even longer for Cresswell, but he never showed. She had ended up patrolling by herself, finishing much later than usual as a result. It had been nearly 1am by the time she could return to bed, which was bad in and of itself. However, they had also pulled a particularly rotten timeslot for the quarter - the late Sunday night patrol. Needless to say, Margot was in a decidedly terrible mood for her Monday classes the following day. 

 

But Margot didn’t have patience for a missing patrol partner tonight. Professor Selwyn had assigned a three-foot long essay on human to furniture transfiguration, and Margot still had about 10 more inches to write when she returned to the dorms. Not to mention, she had a few more studies to skim for a literature compilation Professor Longbottom had asked her to make. 

 

She sighed and hopped up the stairs quickly. On the bright side, she wouldn’t have to deal with Jack Cresswell’s skeevy company tonight. And if she walked quickly, she could zip through the floors and be back in the Slytherin common room before midnight. 

 

But there was the matter of navigating through Hogwarts’ twisting maze of corridors by herself that night. She couldn’t quite admit that she was scared - she was a perfectly capable witch and plenty familiar with the prefects’ patrol route. But as she reached the seventh floor landing at the top of the stairs, she felt a little... ill at ease. 

 

In front of her stretched a long, wide corridor which she knew ran along the southern side of Hogwarts and eventually led to Gryffindor Tower in the far west wing. Placed sporadically along the wall were spacious alcoves which housed assorted portraits, statues, and suits of armor, as well as mounted torchlights - the only source of illumination in this part of the castle. However, the niches were so deep that barely any light reached the hall. On a school day, this corridor probably received plenty of student traffic, but now, past curfew on a Sunday night, darkness and silence had settled into the cavernous space. 

 

Margot shook her head, collecting her wits. Seven floors, and she’d be back in her room with tea and a box of macarons. 

 

“Lumos.”

 

-----

 

Margot had made it nearly halfway to Gryffindor Tower when a loud clatter followed by a series of smaller pops echoed through the hall. The unexpected sound made her nearly jump from her shoes as it bounced hollowly around her.

 

Knees knocking slightly, she warily peered around in the darkness for the source of the noise. It had sounded slightly distant, and she glanced back the way she had come. At the last turn, she had passed a disused Charms classroom. It was, in fact, one of the only rooms in this stretch of hallway. 

 

She exhaled a shaking sigh, knowing she’d have to investigate. Couldn’t she have a quiet patrol night, just this once?

 

“Hello?” Margot said, swinging the door open quickly, casting her illuminated wand about the room. 

 

The room was still, but the desks were stacked together to one side, making strange shadows on the walls. There was a slightly acrid smell lingering in the air, as though someone had accidentally burnt their brew in potions class. 

 

She pointed her wand up to the large lantern hanging from the ceiling. 

 

“Incendio.”

 

The classroom was suddenly bathed in warm orange light, and Margot immediately felt ten times better away from the dimness of the corridor. Once more, she looked carefully around the classroom, but it was empty. Just the desks, some dusty chairs cluttered about, and a stray bit of parchment or two. 

 

Oh, well. Except for that.

 

Laying on the floor at the center of the room was what seemed to be a twisted up scrap of metal. Curiously, Margot walked over and bent down to inspect it, balancing on the balls of her feet. 

 

It was the remnants of a tiny canister. The crunched up thing had been decorated with rather colorful packaging, but nearly all of it had been scorched off. She could just barely make out a wiggly, electric green ‘W’-

 

“Oh, there you are, Beauregard.”

 

Margot lost her balance and tumbled back onto the floor at the sudden intrusion. Groaning, she craned her head to see the leering figure of Jack Cresswell leaning against the doorway. 

 

“What in Merlin’s name are you doing laying on the floor?” he said, eyeing her with a smirk, “Although I’m certainly not complaining about the view.”

 

Margot didn’t hold back her disgusted scoff as she quickly picked herself up off the ground and brushed off her skirt. 

 

“Cresswell. Nice of you to show up,” she said, sending him a chilly glare. 

 

“You’re welcome,” he retorted smugly, “Although, I saw you marked me as absent in the log book. We’ll have to change that once we get back to the office.”

 

“You were fifteen minutes late and didn’t even bother showing up to our last patrol,” she snapped.

 

“I preoccupied with an appointment.”

 

Margot snorted, “In a broom closet?”

 

He smiled gaily at her, “For future reference, if you need me, you can find me at my office. Third floor, east wing. The cupboard next to the reference section of the library.”

 

She only rolled her eyes and pointed to the canister.

 

“Did you see anyone in the corridor? I think someone’s been clattering around here.”

 

“Mmm, not a soul until I set my eyes on you, babe.”

 

“Don’t call me ‘babe’,” Margot said stonily, but she’d already turned her back to the pug-nosed boy. Her eyes gazed around the classroom contemplatively. 

 

It hadn’t taken her very long at all to walk back to this classroom… and if Cresswell hadn’t seen anyone either...

 

“...Margot? What are you looking at? There’s no one in here,” Cresswell said bemusedly, “...And it’s almost 11.”

 

After a lingering moment, she finally looked back at him, “...Right. Let’s go.”

 

Back in the hallway, the pair began making their way once more to the west wing. Although she was no longer navigating the dark castle alone, Margot couldn’t tell if her situation that night had gotten better or worse. 

 

“By the way, I hear you and Pucey called it quits.”

 

“...”

 

“Well?”

 

“...”

 

“Oh, come now, Beauregard, we all heard Lucien Zabini’s ‘special announcement’ at that bonfire party over the summer…” he said with that insufferable grin of his, “And word on the street is that you and Pucey nearly strangled one another at quidditch practice the other day-”

 

“-Cresswell, let’s this straight,” Margot interrupted cooly, “You’re my patrol partner for this quarter. That means I walk around the castle with you for two hours every week for two months. We can talk about house point deductions. We can talk about curfew violations. We can talk about switching out of this bloody awful rotation. But by no means am I obligated to talk to you about my personal life.”

 

Cresswell clucked his tongue against his cheek, “I only wanted to offer you my condolences about the break up… And my congratulations.”

 

“...Sorry?”

 

“Well, now that you’re unattached, I can officially extend my invitation. If you’re ever feeling lonely… perhaps in need of a post-breakup rebound, just know I’m always available and willing.”

 

“...”

 

“...”

 

 “... Cresswell, you’ve been a prefect for an entire year - don’t you think it’s about time to start acting like one? Stop being such a creep.” 

 

She shot him a repulsed scowl before picking up her pace to walk slightly ahead of him. They were nearly done with the seventh floor. Six more floors. Six more floors. Suddenly remembering her conversation with Rowan and Avery on the Express, she began racking her brain for the nearest broom cupboards and the strongest sealing charms she knew. 

 

“Ah, it’s such a waste, Beauregard… You’ve got a great pair of legs… Not to mention your-”

 

Margot skittered to a halt in the corridor before slowly fixing her grip on her wand. 

 

As a prefect, she knew that it was against school policy to use magic on other students outside of class hours. But on the other hand, as a woman, she also knew that some messages, such as “Don’t objectify me” and “Please shut your mouth right now” sometimes needed to be conveyed more... viscerally. 

 

With a Tongue-Tying Curse on her mind, Margot turned around to face her troll of a patrol partner, only to find him... already in the middle of a panicked scream?

 

Cresswell was screaming bloody murder with one hand clutched firmly against his nose. The other was unsuccessfully attempting to beat away the largest bat Margot had ever seen, which seemed intent on dive-bombing his head. 

 

“Alright, Beauregard, I’m sorry, make it stop!” he was crying in a muffled voice, “Seriously, make it stop!” 

 

Margot was speechless, “But I didn’t..-”

 

She’d been half-joking about cursing him, in all honesty. 

 

Desperately, Cresswell lifted his hand from his nose to slap the creature away, but when he did, Margot watched in amazement as two more bats emerged from his bulging nostrils to join the assault. Cresswell let out another panicked shriek, which was certain to have woken half of the wing up, but Margot could do nothing but clasp her mouth in astonished laughter at the scene. 

 

Cresswell looked up at her furiously.

 

“Help. Me.”

 

And Margot very nearly didn’t. 

 

She’d loved to have just chalked this up to divine intervention putting a foot down on blatant misogyny and just called it a day. But after glancing down and catching the sheen of her prefects badge, Margot sighed and began brainstorming how to steer Cresswell and his three new friends to the Hospital Wing.

 

At the very least, it gave her an excuse not to finish her rounds for tonight. 

 

-------------------------------------

 

Hello all~ Thank you for keeping with this. Life is so busy, so I find it hard to find time to sit down and write! I've been focusing on my artwork lately since its Inktober, but NaNoWriMo is next month, so hopefully, I'll be able to get ahead on my writing for this again soon ~~



Chapter 6: Chapter 6: James
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

September 20th, 2021

Great Hall

 

James grinned contentedly at the popping and flashing sparks that burst overhead, filling the Great Hall with a cacophony of bangs and colors as the unsuspecting students breakfasted that morning. Ducking to avoid a glittering gold rocket that just narrowly whizzed past his head, he poured himself another glass of pumpkin juice to congratulate himself on a job well done. 

 

“No better way to start a Monday than with pyrotechnics, I always say,” Fred said, dropping down on the seat across from him. He brought with him the distinctive sulphuric smell of explosives as he pocketed his wand with a discreet glance at the professors’ table. 

 

There were only two professors present at breakfast that morning - Professor Everard, who was looking up at the spectacular display with the boyish mirth of a five-year old, and Professor Selwyn, who was looking much less humorous as she pointedly eyed the pair of Gryffindors. 

 

“James - you sure Selwyn didn’t see me sneak off to the antechamber?” Freddie asked, but he didn’t look particularly concerned. He had begun vigorously piling his plate with french toast and sausages, emptying nearly half a jug of syrup over the heap. 

 

“Nah, she’s just walked in a minute ago,” James replied with a grin, buttering his toast, “Everard might’ve spotted you, but you know how he is - a bit of a finger wag here, a tsk there, ‘But I must admit, that was an excellent piece of charm work there, Weasley. Simply superb colors.’”

 

Fred looked smug. It was no secret that his cousin was a favorite of the Charms professor. 

 

“I’ll give you credit for the idea to adapt those leftover Wheezes fireworks though, mate,” he said, shaking a sausage at James before shoving it in his mouth, “Cut our work down by half.”

 

James crinkled his nose, moving his plate away to avoid the small bits of food that flew out of his cousin’s mouth as he talked. 

 

“Alright, but if Selwyn asks, leave me right out of it. Repeat after me, ‘James Potter is innocent.’”

 

“Well, that’s a confession if I’ve ever heard one,” came a weary voice from behind him.

 

James turned around, beaming widely.

 

“Archie! And how is our radiant Head Boy this morning? Come, we’ve saved you a seat,” he said, patting the bench beside him. Archie obliged, but it was with an exasperated sigh that he sat down with them at the table.

 

“James,” Archie started in his Prefect Voice, eyeing the boy in question warily, “Do you mind telling me why two of my prefects never completed their rounds past the Gryffindor corridor last night?”

 

James pulled a puzzled face, innocently sipping his pumpkin juice, “Haven’t got a clue, Arch. Why’s that?”

 

Holding back a grin, Freddie was a little bolder.

 

“Shouldn’t that be the kind of thing you’re supposed to keep track of, HB?”

 

Archie’s expression darkened, “And that’s exactly why I’m asking. Last night’s entry in the prefect logbook reads, ‘Emergency trip to the hospital wing. Partner inexplicably attacked by bats.’”

 

James snorted out his pumpkin juice. Fred choked on a sausage. 

 

Archie plowed forward, “Now reading that this morning, I thought, now why does that sound so familiar..? Who’s favorite hex involves bats again…?”

 

James tried to give the best look of innocence he could muster while nearly hacking out a lung. The Head Boy’s eyes flitted unamusedly between his two friends before landing squarely on a piece of a sparkler that had landed in a nearby bowl of fruit. Reaching over, he picked out the scorched wrapper and held it out to the pair incriminatingly.

 

“But I’m sure this has nothing at all to do with those fireworks you’ve been sneaking out to test in that abandoned classroom, does it?”

 

James and Freddie fell silent and exchanged guilty looks from across the table, as Archie regarded them expectantly. After a few moments of silence, he sighed. 

 

“Listen… I’ll admit, 90%% of the time, the stuff you pull is harmless and funny. But McGonagall’s already called me in last week to talk to me about reigning you two in a bit more, after Freddie’s stunt with that fake Sorting Hat… I still dunno how you got the Sword of Gryffindor to come out of it that way...”

 

He paused looking worn-out and tired as he surveyed them. Two 17-year-olds, on the cusp of their young adulthood (made even more evident given how Freddie had neglected to shave that morning), looking as guilty as a pair of toddlers with their hands stuck in a cookie jar. 

 

“I’m still trying to figure out this Head Boy thing, you know. And I’m trying my best to get a handle on things, but you lot don’t exactly make it easy…”

 

Archie leveled his wide, honey brown eyes on the pair of them, and James and Freddie shifted uncomfortably under his heartbreakingly earnest gaze. 

 

Most people incorrectly presumed that by being mates with the Head Boy, Hogwarts’ two most notorious troublemakers would have it made for them, pulling off daring acts unencumbered and unscathed every time. But the truth of the matter was… Archie Longbottom was a master of subtle emotional warfare. 

 

As had been increasingly evident since their friend had been made a prefect their fifth year, Archie was quite possibly the greatest obstacle that two teenage pranksters would face in their young lives. The boy had a moral compass as pure and golden as the hairs on his head, and more dangerously, he knew exactly how to tug on each and every one of James and Freddie’s heartstrings. 

 

“...Could you please cut me a bit of a break? You’re… well, you’re my best mates, after all.”

 

James sometimes thought that if given a Time Turner and about 20 minutes, Archie might have convinced Voldemort himself to renounce the dark arts and walk himself into a cell in Azkaban. 

 

But since the only atrocity James and Fred had ever committed towards wizardkind was once vanishing Professor Trelawney’s wig clear off her head, it only took about five seconds for the pair of them to crack, blurting out simultaneous apologies. 

 

“I’m sorry, Archie-”

 

“You’re totally right-”

 

“I’m responsible for the bats-”

 

“-And we confess to the fireworks too-”

 

“-We willingly subject ourselves to whatever punishment you see fit for us-”

 

“Seriously, fire away on the detentions- “

 

“-You could give us double if you want-”

 

“-Triple even-”

 

“-Whatever you think is right, Archie-”

 

“-Sir.”

 

It was small wonder that James and Freddie’s already hefty detention records had grown exponentially massive as of late. James could safely guess that about half of those slips had been written by none other the Head Boy himself. 

 

But, James supposed, that was probably for the best anyway. Though he was often teased for being the killjoy of their rowdy gang, Archie was kind, and at least he had a sense of humor, which was more than he could say about some other prefects in the school (ahem, ahem, looking at you, Cousin Molly).

 

Archie had been maintaining a well-composed face, even as Fred went on full genuflect on the floor next to him, still muttering his apologies like a prayer. 

 

“Alright, alright…” Archie said with a small shake of his head, “The most serious matter is about the prefect. I don’t know what got into you two, but you know better than to fire magic at other students. You’re lucky Madame Pomfrey has seen more than her fare share of Bat Bogey Hexes… though she said she hadn’t seen one that nasty since Mrs. Potter attended school…”

 

James fought to keep the proud smirk off his face, though the urge quickly evaporated at Archie’s next words.

 

“I have to give you five Friday night detentions in a row.”

 

James and Freddie gulped, but held their tongues. Admittedly, it was a bit harsher than they were expecting, but they had invited Archie to punish them as he saw fit, after all. 

 

“And as for the fireworks…” 

 

James braced himself as Archie continued, but his friends eyes softened as they looked up at the flashing colors above.

 

“...Don’t worry about them. They’re a pretty... energetic start to the week,” he finished with a small amused smile. 

 

Just then, impeccably timed, another firecracker whizzed into a jug of milk thoroughly soaking a group of third year girls and sending surprised shrieks echoing through the hall. 

 

James nearly choked sucking in the laugh that bubbled up in his chest. But to his surprise, a snort of laughter came from Archie as he caught the chaos unfolding down the table. Archie caught himself, quickly slapping a hand over his mouth, but it was too late. His unexpected response had already set Freddie off, and soon enough, the three were sniggering loudly over their toasts like proper teenage school boys. 

 

When they had settled down, Archie looked at his friends seriously, his eyebrows slightly furrowed. 

 

“...I know I gave you a lot of detention… Was that too harsh?” he said after a beat, unsurely. As was often the case, Archie’s confident Head Boy persona vanished as quickly as it came. 

 

But sensing his friend’s apprehension, James quickly shook his head.

 

“Not at all!”

 

“Perfect amount of harshness, Head Boy! We love a good disciplinarian!!” Freddie added enthusiastically.

 

Archie flushed gratefully, “Oh. Well in that case, I’ll add on an extra detention for the fireworks.”

 

Archie laughed a full chortle as James and Freddie sputtered at their teas. It seemed the Head Boy had been learning more from the two of them than they’d thought. 

 

“Only joking…!” he said with a beam, “It’s a bit of a pants time, but I checked on James’s calendar that Fridays from 7-10 won’t interfere with quidditch… and I’ll ask Hagrid if he can take you two?”

 

Despite himself, James cracked a smile. What other prefect would mind his quidditch practice schedule?

 

“Archibald Longbottom, do you know I’m in love with you? You’re the most brilliant and gracious Head Boy that’s ever walked these halls,” Freddie said ebulantly, taking the blonde boy’s hands in his. 

 

Archie only shook his head with a smile, retracted his hands carefully, and poured a glass of orange juice for himself. As he munched on a piece of toast, he looked up at the two of them thoughtfully.

 

“By the way, you guys are coming this afternoon right?”

 

He threw them an expectant look, and James stopped pouring his coffee, racking his brain for whatever he may or may not have agreed to do. Across the table, Freddie had an identical deer-in-the-headlights look on his face. 

 

Archie deflated a bit, “You forgot.”

 

James frantically shook his head, “No, no, of course not! ...But we might... need... a small reminder…” 

 

Archie blinked at them.

 

“...The Herbology Club? The one that I’m trying to revive this year? I mentioned it on the train ride.”

 

Now that he thought about it, James did remember Archie buzzing excitedly about the club over lunch in their train compartment a few weeks back. Neville Longbottom had been president of the Hogwarts Hebological Society during his school years, and as his dad’s biggest fan, Archie had been positively beaming as he relayed his plans. 

 

It’s… very difficult to say no to Archie when he’s worked up like that. Besides, the conversation quickly turned into the results of the British and Irish Quidditch League Cup soon after, and the half-hearted agreements had all been too easy to sweep away. Until now. 

 

“Oh… yeah… right...”

 

That Herbology Club…”

 

Archie looked between James and Freddie’s reluctant expressions and cast his eyes down, sighing into his plate. 

 

“I mean, you don’t have to join…” he said softly, “But I’ve done all the paperwork and fliers already… and Dad was really excited to hear about it.”

 

The wide-eyed look that Mr. Boy-Next-Door The-Goodest-Human-To-Walk-The-Earth Archie Longbottom gave them next was well-timed, nearly immaculately so. Suddenly, James could think of nothing but mental images of kicked puppies. And he couldn’t bear to disappoint Archie twice in one sitting. 

 

“Of course we’ll join,” he blurted, kicking Fred beneath the table, “Right, Freddie?”

 

“Sure thing,” Freddie said, eyes watering.

 

“Where are we meeting again?”

 

-----

 

September 20th, 2021

Greenhouse 3

 

James watched with mild concern as Archie, with a great heave, moved the last of the large earthen planters off of the workbench and under the table. 

 

“There! All finished,” he said with a satisfactory nod, despite his heavy breaths. 

 

As he leaned on the wooden table, James noted with a smile that his friend could nearly pass as Professor Longbottom nowadays. Golden haired and broad shouldered, Archie was looking a little more casual than usual, with his rolled up shirtsleeves and dirt-speckled work apron a dead ringer for the Gryffindors’ chronically disheveled Head of House. Archie looked nearly as confident in the greenhouse, too. Afterall, he’d grown up alongside the greenery that now surrounded them. 

 

“Shall we get started?” he asked brightly, looking around at the assembled club members. 

 

James supposed, as he sunk down to sit on the bench, that might have been putting it a bit more formally than necessary. The attendance for the meeting was… meager to say the least.

 

“I thought you said Lewis was coming to this, too?” Freddie hissed from beside him. 

 

James gave a small shake of his head, “He said he had a study group Monday afternoons. And that unlike us, ‘he doesn’t owe Archie about two dozen favors.’”

 

Freddie scoffed quietly, “...Prick.”

 

Aside from him and Fred, the only other person who had shown up to the meeting was a mousy boy with freckled cheeks and a wide buck-toothed grin. 

 

“Harry Creevey,” the boy said with a frantic wave of his hand, “First year Gryffindor.” 

 

Archie smiled at him, “Nice to meet you Harry. I’m Archie, that’s Freddie, and next to him is James.”

 

Harry nodded enthusiastically.

 

“I know!” he said, turning to James with wide eyes, “I’m named after your dad. My family regards him most highly.”

 

James flushed slightly, nevertheless returning Harry’s smile; over the years, he’d gotten quite used to declarations like these. 

 

“Thanks, Harry,” he offered, “My dad regards your family very highly as well.”

 

The tiny boy froze looking as though he might faint, and after a few moments, Freddie kindly reached over, waving a hand over his face to make sure he was still responsive. 

 

“T-thank you very much!” Harry finally sputtered out with an endearing nod, “I’ll write my dad to tell him straight after this!”

 

“Oh- ah, don’t worry about it...” James said, rubbing the back of his neck sheepishly.

 

A beat of silence passed between the group, making the scant attendance of the meeting more pronounced. Despite this though, Archie cleared his throat and began the meeting cheerfully enough. 

 

“Uhm, so first of all, I just wanted to thank all of you for coming today! I know that it’s our inaugural meeting, so our numbers may be a bit small, but I’m sure given a few weeks and a little bit of elbow grease, we’ll be able to get the word out about our new organization!” 

 

He looked around at them with a warm smile, and Freddie stomped his feet with a loud whoop. 

 

“Herbology Club, ra, ra, ra!” 

 

James supplemented the cheer with a couple loud thumps against the wooden table, and Harry joined in with eager applause. 

 

Archie beamed and nodded bracingly, “Thanks guys. I’m very glad to be surrounded by people who share my enthusiasm for Herbology.”

 

“Yeah, we love Herbology,” the club members recited back to him, offering nervous chuckles and uneasy smiles.

 

...Twenty minutes into the meeting, it had become quite evident that Archie had, in fact, assembled the least herbologically-inclined students in the castle for his club. After some preliminary discussions that were both awkward and painful, they had summarized that: 

 

1) Harry had had a grand total of two Herbology classes thus far and had only come after eavesdropping on their conversation in the Great Hall this morning.

 

2) Freddie, who hadn’t taken Herbology since 5th year, could only really remember their last unit on magical vines - a lesson that James vividly recalled resulted in Fred nearly strangling Lewis with a Venomous Tentacula.

 

3) James, despite sharing a bench with Archie, had been paying very little attention to the past few NEWT Herbology lessons on carnivorous trees (And although he didn’t voice it out loud, the truth was that he’d been actively avoiding looking to the front of the room during lectures because Piper’s seat was directly in front of the chalkboard). 

 

Archie’s initially bright and hopeful disposition gradually dropped with each passing moment. Now, he was looking a bit dumbfounded at the motley crew in front of him, slowly coming to terms with the fact that he was the only person in the room who could tell a puffapod from a shrivelfig. 

 

“We’ve, uh, we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us, huh?” Archie said scratching his head with a good-natured laugh that ended up sounding a little more hollow and desperate than James was sure he intended. 

 

“-Professor? I’ve finished with… oh. Hi, Archie.”

 

The four members swiveled around to peer at the newcomer. Standing at the doorway of the greenhouse, looking half puzzled and fully misplaced, was Margot Beauregard.

 

“Uhm…” she said, glancing back at the greenhouse number above the door, as if checking if she’d gotten her location right. Disregarding this, Archie had gotten a hopeful glimmer in his eyes at her appearance.

 

“Hi Margot! Are you here for the Herbology Club meeting?” Archie asked, although she very clearly was not. 

 

“Oh... No, I was looking for Professor Longbottom. I was hoping to return some books,” she said indicating the fat stack of research volumes she carried in her arms. They all looked massive and dense and made James exhausted just glancing at them. 

 

“...Oh. He’s not in that office today...” Archie replied, maintaining his welcoming smile. 

 

“Ah, well…-” Margot said, shifting on the balls of her feet, “D’you know where I can find him?”

 

“Gryffindor Head’s office, second floor,” Archie said almost immediately in that compulsively helpful way of his. 

 

“Oh! Thank you. I’ll head there now. See you around!” Margot gave him a grateful smile, and giving the group one last cursory nod, she quickly turned to leave.

 

Archie widened his eyes, realizing his mistake of being a bit too nice a beat too late.

 

”Oh. Damn, wait, hang on- Margot!” he called a bit desperately after her. 

 

Already halfway out of the door, she nonetheless turned back at him, “...Yeah?”

 

“Uhm… Don’t you wanna know what we’re doing?”

 

Margot blinked at him. 

 

“Well, you just said - Herbology Club meeting right?”

 

Archie nodded eagerly, “It’s our first meeting ever.”

 

“Oh, congrats!”

 

“Thank you.”

 

“...Well, have a good meeting then!”

 

Archie sputtered at the terse girl, before circling around the workbench and half-following after her. Meanwhile, James was desperately trying to stifle his laughter at his friend. He didn’t know whether he should have been offended that Archie was so desperate to recruit any other members that were not him, Freddie, and Harry, but that was all overshadowed by the amusement of this poor girl’s obvious aversion to the idea.  

 

“Wait- You’re- you’re the Herbology student assistant right? You’re helping my dad with his research?”

 

Margot nodded slowly as she lingered by the door, clearly knowing where this was headed. 

 

“I know you kind of happened on us on accident but… Do you maybe have any interest in joining us? We meet in this greenhouse on Mondays at 4.”

 

She shifted a bit, adjusting the books in her arms awkwardly. Slowly, her eyes wandered away from Archie, surveying the strange and sad crew assembled around the table, growing more and more hesitant with each passing member. As she briefly met his eyes, James could see that at that moment, there was nothing the girl would have liked less than joining the Herbology Club. And he absolutely couldn’t blame her. 

 

“Erm-”

 

“-I just thought, since you’re obviously rather good at the subject... I mean, we’ve just started out, and I’d really really love to have some more experienced students in the club.”

 

James could only see the back of his head, but he could tell from the tone of his voice that he was offering her one of his endearing wide-eyed half-smile, half-grimaces. Unfortunately for Archie, Margot appeared to be more resistant to this emotional barrage than James and Freddie were this morning.

 

“That’s really flattering, thank you, but I’m gonna have to say no,” she said firmly, shaking her head, “My schedules a bit packed at the moment, and I don’t think I have time for any more commitments. I’m just starting my NEWTs, you see...”

 

“Ah, of course... I completely understand,” Archie said, sounding slightly crestfallen but empathetic, “My sister’s a 6th year, too...”

 

“I’ll spread the word around my Herbology class though, if you’d like.”

 

“Oh, okay. That would be nice of you. Thanks, Margot...”

 

“Sure. Uhm, these books are getting a bit heavy, so I’m gonna head back to the castle,” Margot said, once again already scooting out of the door, “Good luck!”

 

“We’ll be here if you change your mind!” Archie called after her, but she was already gone.

 

Archie returned to the workbench with slumped shoulders. 

 

“...That was a bit pushy wasn’t it?” he sighed, after a moment.

 

Freddie let out a chortle he’d been keeping in along with James, “Yeah, well you nearly vaulted over the table after her, Arch... You fancy her or something?”

 

Archie raised his eyebrows in surprise, “Margot? Nah, she’s not really my type… She’s brilliant at Herbology though. Dad would have been elated if she joined…”

 

“Yeah, alright, mate…” Freddie said, tossing him a wink, but before Archie could protest, he reached out clapping him on the back heavily, “Anyway, who says we need her? You’re the only Herbology nerd in my heart, buddy.”

 

Archie regarded him with furrowed brows for a moment, before sighing, “Thanks, Fred… Anyway, I was thinking that maybe in the next week, we could each look up one herbology related topic we’d like to know more about…? It’ll help with figuring out activities and projects I think…”

 

And so the club meeting resumed without much more incident or interruption. Despite this, James found his eyes wandering through the translucent greenhouse wall. Outside, he could see the uphill path leading towards the castle that Margot had disappeared up on not long ago, and he became pensive, thinking about last night’s incident in the Gryffindor corridor.

 

Later, when the group was heading back to the Great Hall for dinner, James pulled Archie aside, waving Fred and Harry ahead of them. 

 

“Do you mind if I have a word? I’ve been meaning to mention something about that prefect in the hospital wing…”

 

------

 

September 25th, 2021

Gryffindor Common Room

 

“Morning, Captain.”

 

James looked up briefly from his notes to find Lewis’s watching him from the foot of the boy’s dorm stairwell. He was in his shorts and trainers, presumably on his way for his usual weekend run before he’d run into James, who was camped out in front of the Common Room fire. 

 

“Hey, Lewis,” James said distractedly, reaching for his second alternate playbook. He knew he had scribbled down that modified Hawkshead formation somewhere after he’d gotten home from that Harpies game with his mum last month… But it wasn’t in his main or first alternate book… 

 

As he searched, he heard Lewis stroll across the room towards him, stopping just in front of the coffee table which was now piled with James’s entire collection of quidditch strategy materials. 

 

“I see you’ve been busy this morning,” Lewis said, picking up a roll of formation diagrams that had fallen to the floor and replacing it on the table. 

 

James remained fully immersed in his notes, flipping through his playbook fixedly.

 

“...Mate, have you gotten any sleep at all?” Lewis asked with mild concern.

 

“...Yeah, ‘course I have.”

 

It was true, technically, James thought.

 

But… in reality, he had gotten just the barest minimum of sleep last night. He and Fred had gotten in later than expected from detention. After cleaning out the thestral enclosures, Hagrid had insisted they come in for tea and post-holiday catch-up time, and so it was well past curfew by the time they’d finally waddled back to the dorms.

 

Then, James had lain awake in bed for several hours more with a belly full of rock cakes and a creeping kind of anxiety. He’d only gotten a few hours of sleep before his nerves woke him up again that morning far before dawn. Unable to settle his mind, he had been left with nothing to do but to pad downstairs to the Common Room, find a chair in front of the fire, and immerse himself in his playbooks. 

 

Lewis studied James for a moment, noting his tired eyes, red-tinged and ringed with dark circles, and shook his head with a sigh. 

 

“What’s gotten into your head?” he said, perching himself on an arm of a couch, “You don’t even get this nervous before normal quidditch games. And today’s a scrimmage match.”

 

“It’s nothing,” James said rubbing his eyes and throwing him an evasive smile, “I just thought I’d map out a couple new plays for you to try out… In case you lot were feeling cheeky... I mean, when better to experiment than a scrimmage match? Since today doesn’t matter much anyway? And who says I’m nervous? You know sometimes I just like to be prepared..-” 

 

“James,” Lewis said, interrupting him with a hard stare. James abruptly quieted under his friend’s penetrating expression. 

 

“You know you get exceptionally chatty when you’re anxious?” Lewis muttered, resolutely taking the playbook out of his hands and setting it on the table, “Merlin knows it’s already difficult to get you to shut up normally… Now what’s this all about?”

 

James blinked at Lewis and then slowly looked down at the playbook before flinging himself back in his chair with a muffled sigh. 

 

“...Everything,” he said, looking up at the tapestry-lined ceiling. 

 

“Ah, there’s our dramatic Jamsie.” 

 

James raised his head, inclining it slightly at the chaser. Lewis was leaned back against the couch with his arms crossed, regarding him cooly with just the ghost of an amused smile. 

 

“Don’t you feel kind of… different this year? It’s our last season. I feel like everything needs to go perfectly this year. And not just for the Cup either...”

 

“Mmm. You’re saying that because of recruiters?”

 

James heaved a sigh, rubbing his temples, “Kind of. I dunno if it’s just me psyching myself out cuz of that, but I feel off. It’s officially the start of quidditch, and I should be happy, but I feel like I’m going to throw up. That can’t be a good sign, can it?”

 

Lewis looked thoughtful for a moment, trailing his eyes across the coffee table - the plays, the schedules, the diagrams, the game summaries accumulated over who knows how many years, all painstakingly annotated with James’s small untidy scrawl. 

 

“I dunno what your nerves are trying to tell you, James, but you’ve played a solid four seasons on the pitch up until now,” he said decidedly, “From hard work - not signs or luck or anything. So you should listen to that instead.”

 

James blinked at the bracing advice, before offering a small smile, “...Thanks, Lewis.”

 

“And as for the recruiters… they’re a few extra people in the stands for a couple games. Don’t let it affect you more than it should.”

 

At this, James rolled his eyes half-amused, “You know, I’ve been trying to tell myself the same thing for ages now, but somehow it never sounds as convincing and easy as when you say it...” 

 

Lewis was one of the most level-headed people James had ever met in his entire life. Never once in all the years they’ve played together had he seen the boy anything but cool as a cucumber on the field. For that, he was thankful. Lewis’s calm demeanor was often a steadying presence for the team. 

 

“Dunno how you do that by the way... I mean, you must be thinking about recruitment this season too?” James mused. 

 

With his family background and skill level, Lewis Wood was like fodder for the professional League. And truth be told, James was secretly glad he didn’t play the same position as him. His friend was the best chaser in the school by a long shot.

 

Lewis only hummed, looking into the fire crackling in the Common Room’s large hearth. 

 

“It’s just quidditch,” he shrugged.

 

James let out a bark of laughter, “Don’t let your dad hear you say that.”

 

Lewis only rolled his eyes dismissively, pushing himself up from the couch to loom over James once more.

 

“Anyway, our game today is against Ravenclaw, James. They just started their practices last week - quit worrying so much.”

 

“Yeah, I know…” James muttered, looking down. When Lewis put it that way, he was starting to feel a bit silly about the the whole thing. But at least he was a little less anxious now.  

 

“I’m gonna go on a run, but you should get some rest. We’ve still got four hours until the match.” 

 

James grimaced, turning to look at the old grandfather clock at the far corner of the room. It was just about 6:30am but he realized he’d been up for a few hours already. 

 

“Go back to bed and take a nap. I’ll see you at breakfast later.”

 

“Yeah, alright. See you, mate.”

 

------

 

September 25th, 2021

Grand Staircase

 

James hopped down the stairs two at time, hurriedly adjusting his jersey, which had awkwardly scrunched up beneath his arm guard, as he went. 

 

James had taken Lewis’s advice and clambered back into bed for an extra hour of sleep before the match, but that hour had accidentally stretched to three, his body undoubtedly protesting against his fitful rest last night. While he did feel much more refreshed, he was now running very very late.

 

He hurriedly checked his watch and groaned. He had barely enough time to snag a piece of toast in the Great Hall before absolutely booking it to the locker rooms. Today may have only been a scrimmage match, but it was the start of the season, and thus, the team was still completely obligated to listen to one of his famous pre-game pep talks. 

 

On the second floor landing, he finally decided to forgo the steps all together, swinging his long legs over the bannister and sliding down, much to the amusement (and ire) of passers by. After speeding past a group of awestruck first years, quickly reciprocating a high five from his cousin Lucy, and nearly toppling over a bust of Barnaby the Elder, James was happy to report that he stuck the landing.

 

Standing now in the Entrance Hall, he took a quick moment to collect his breath (and also to bask in the cool trick he just pulled). He’d just made a mental note to regale Freddie after the game, when from behind him, a soft voice called his name. 

 

“James?” 

 

James tensed, his easy mood evaporating as quickly as it had come. Stiffly, he turned around to see Piper St Claire blinking at him curiously as she descended the stairs. 

 

James’s first thought was that he was glad he stuck the landing. But his second thought was that he should go. Right now. 

 

“Hey, Piper,” he said, clearing his throat, “Did I pass you on the way down the stairs? Sorry if I startled you…”

 

She wrinkled her brow in confusion, and James felt a flush creeping up his neck and into his ears. 

 

“Uhm, anyway, I’m actually on my way to the pitch right now,” he said hastily, gesturing to his quidditch uniform, “So I gotta run… But it was nice seeing you!”

 

Quickly, he turned to leave, but before he could make his escape, Piper quickly reached out and snatched his wrist. His motor control shut down temporarily, anchoring him to the ground.

 

“James,” she said, keeping a gentle hold on him, “I was actually  hoping to get a word with you.”

 

“Erhm,” James said, looking down at her hand and feeling the heat spread to his cheeks, mentally cursing his Weasley genes. 

 

“... Please? It’ll be quick.”

 

Piper looked up at him earnestly with her wide blue eyes. From a window on the second floor canopy, rays of late morning light began to stream in, illuminating the pretty highlights in her dark auburn hair. 

 

“O-okay,” he found himself saying, despite the time. 

 

“Thank you.”

 

She granted him with a grateful smile, slipping her hand down from his wrist to clasp his hand. 

 

“I’ve really wanted to say something since that day in Herbology… I’m sorry I haven’t been able to tell you until now…” she began in that melodic voice of hers. 

 

James only looked at her blankly, his mind stuck on processing his feelings about the current hand-holding situation. Piper didn’t seem to notice much though as she continued, soft, whispery and song-like, and James found himself inexplicably transfixed.

 

“...It’s funny, actually, we’ve got three classes together this year, but I feel like I haven’t seen you ages…”

 

A summery breeze blew in from the entryway, swirling Piper’s perfume in a diffuse cloud around them. Distinctive and flowery, it brought a wave of nostalgia washing over James. 

 

“...and we didn’t talk at all for most of the summer…”

 

Piper’s hands clasped tighter, cool and dry in his clammy palms. She gently pulled him towards her. 

 

“...Anyway, what I’m trying to say is… I miss you, James.” 

 

James’s mind was whizzing away. Hand-holding. Lilac. Pretty hair. I miss you.

 

Piper quirked her head at him expectantly, “...James? Uhm… I… wanna get back together. What do you say?”

 

Ding

 

The clock tower on the seventh floor began signaling the hour, and James’s senses came whooshing back into him all at once. Quidditch. The scrimmage. He had a scant thirty minutes to the coin toss, and he was in the Entrance Hall. 

 

Holding his ex’s hand. 

 

Like a toy crane, he unceremoniously dropped Piper’s hand, taking a step away from her. She flashed him a confused, hurt expression, and he felt a small pang, his heart willing him to take it back. Nevertheless, he shook his head with a small sad smile.

 

“Piper… I don’t think that’s a good idea. We’ve uhm, we’ve broken up like five times already. I said over the summer that it was time to put it to rest… and I still think that’s probably for the best.”

 

Piper said nothing, looking at him for a moment with watering eyes before ducking her head down, her long hair falling like a shut curtain in front of her face. James thought he heard a tiny sniffle. 

 

“... Piper?” he said, hesitantly. 

 

Silence. His palms got sweatier.

 

“Are you uhm- are you alright?”

 

No answer. 

 

“Erm- I could… walk you to the Great Hall… or to the Common Room..?” he said, against his better judgement.

 

More sniffles. 

 

“...Or I could go find Sam…?”

 

No answer. The clock ticked. 

 

“...Er- uhm. I’m really sorry, Piper...” he said after a few moments, truly meaning it, “But I really have to go... I’ve got uh... a scrimmage…”

 

He felt dumb saying it like that and even dumber about leaving a girl just crying in the entryway. But really not being able to think of much else to do about it, James turned, biting his lip as he shuffled towards the doors. 

 

“M-my parents split up this summer.”

 

He stopped in his tracks and slowly turned around. Piper was looking at him now, nose red, tear tracks down both cheeks, and still looking pretty despite it all.

 

“Sorry?”

 

“My parents,” she said a bit more clearly now, wiping her cheek, “They divorced. Two weeks after we broke up.”

 

James blinked at her with wide eyes. If he felt horrible before, well, he felt like a total monster now.

 

“...Oh, Piper, I’m so sorry. I didn’t know,” he said. 

 

He hesitated for a moment before crossing the short distance back to her. Feeling a bit helpless, he reached out an enveloped her in a hug. He held her like that for a moment, the drumming of the blood through his ears resonating with the ticking of the clock above them.

 

The redhead sniffled into his chest, “I wanted to talk to you really badly after. I was so used to telling you everything, and you always listened to me so patiently. But then I couldn’t anymore, and the entire time we’ve been back at school you’ve been avoiding me, and it all made me miss you so much more.”

 

James released her, shuffling his feet awkwardly. It was true that he had been avoiding her a bit - in his last letter, Teddy had advised him that breakups necessitated distance for a while, if you wanted them to stick but… . 

 

“…You can still talk to me,” he said haltingly, not quite sure if his head was agreeing with his mouth, “...if you need an ear.”

 

Piper looked up at him with her watery blues, a miniscule hopeful smile raising the corner of her mouth.

 

“Really?”

 

“Sure... I mean, we might be broken up,” he quickly clarified, “...But we’re still friends, right? Friends can talk to each other.”

 

“Oh. Yeah. Right,” she dropped her eyes down to the ground again. 

 

“Uhm, hang on, here…” 

 

James fished out his wand from the back pocket of his uniform trousers and with a small wave, he conjured a handkerchief and handed it to her. 

 

“Listen, I really really need to go. My match starts in 20 minutes, and I haven’t even retrieved my broom yet. But, uhm, find me in the Common Room later tonight. We’ll talk, okay?”

 

Clutching the handkerchief, Piper gave him an infinitesimal nod, “Yeah, okay.”

 

“Alright, I’ll talk to you later then,” James said, his gaze lingering on her apprehensively before his feet began shuffling restlessly again. Tick tick tick the clock thrummed high on the seventh floor tower.  

 

“Thanks… James.”

 

“...Yeah, no worries.”

 

--------

 

September 25th, 2021

Quidditch Pitch

 

The scrimmage... was not going as well as expected.

 

It was an exceptionally windy day, with lukewarm gusts blowing down from the mountains, sending ripples over the Great Lake, and unwittingly pushing the players this way and that across the quidditch pitch. Quaffles and bludgers careened wildly out of target, and the Snitch hadn’t been spotted since the beginning of the game, leading everyone to wonder if it hadn’t just been completely blown away with the wind. 

 

And James… James wasn’t feeling great. He was windswept to his bones. He had to keep banking his broom to the right to even stay in front of his hoops. But more than that though, he wasn’t in his usual game headspace. 

 

Although he had left Piper back in the castle over an hour ago, James’s mind kept wandering back to their conversation in the Entrance Hall. 

 

Had he been too harsh? She’d been crying... Had he not been harsh enough? He’d basically necessitated that they’d see each other again... Most importantly, had he made the right decision?

 

As a result, he’d been a great deal more absent-minded during the match than usual. Luckily, the combination of the wind and Ravenclaw’s two rookie chasers meant that he hadn’t had too much heavy traffic to defend against. Gryffindor was actually up by quite a large margin, thanks to Lewis’s calculating technique and Freddie’s brute strength throwing arm. But that hadn’t prevented his teammates from picking up on James’s less than stellar performance. 

 

“What’s with you?” Lewis called, sidling up to him after a fumbled play, “The wind’s pretty pants, but you just dropped that last quaffle without even trying to pass it to anyone, mate.”

 

“Yeah, sorry about that…” James said, wincing apologetically.

 

“Did you not go back to sleep after I explicitly told you to get some rest?” 

 

“No, no, I did. That’s why I was late to the locker rooms, actually…”

 

Lewis narrowed his eyes at him scrutinizingly, “Then what in Merlin is wrong?”

 

James didn’t respond, instead sweeping his eyes around the pitch evasively.

 

“How’s Isla doing with the Snitch?” he asked.

 

Lewis studied him silently, before jerking his head upward, “...She’s working on it.”

 

James peered up, squinting his eyes against the wind and sun. Far above them, he could see their new seeker bobbing slowly over the pitch, having been driven upward to escape the brutal gusts and to find a clearer vantage point of the field. 

 

“Hell yeah, Wilkinson!” Freddie’s voice rang, carried to them with a blast of wind.

 

Down the pitch, Kian had just intercepted an itinerant pass that had been meant for James’s younger cousin, Louis (one of the new Ravenclaw chasers) but had flown about 20 feet from target. 

 

“Just give her some time - she can sort it out herself,” Lewis said, tossing James one more look before speeding off to assist the play, “But get your head in the game until then, will you?”

 

It took James a confusing second to realize Lewis had been talking about their seeker and not the ‘her’ that had been plaguing James’s mind the entire game. 

 

But they could still be friends. And friends should be there to support each other. 

 

Groaning, he shook his head in a feeble attempt to clear his thoughts. Lewis was right. He really needed to get a grip. He steered his broom yet again to recenter his position and tried to focus on the gameplay. 

 

With Gryffindor on the offensive, mostly everyone was on the far side of the pitch, and James had to squint to see the action. During normal matches, his cousin Lucy typically worked as the game commentator, her cheery voice booming over the pitch and providing him with constant updates as he patrolled his hoops. But as this was only a scrimmage, there was no commentary and really, barely any spectators in the stands. 

 

James recognized a few faces lingering in a nearby set of bleachers - Kai Yamasaki, a Slytherin chaser who seemed to constantly lurk around their practices; Lily and a couple of her third year friends; and to James’s amusement but not at all surprise, a very bouncy-looking Harry Creevey, decked out in a massive Gryffindor scarf that was much too warm for the weather. 

 

Seeing James look over in his direction, Harry bounded up excitedly, waving both arms over his head, his scarf fluttering wildly around him. James cracked a smile and gave a small wave back. At least Harry still probably thought he was cool, even if he made questionable relationship decisions. 

 

Freddie punched in an easy goal, sailing clear past the Ravenclaw keeper, Natalia Bell, while she’d been momentarily distracted when her ponytail blew straight into her eyes. After picking up the quaffle, Ravenclaw began their offensive, now making their way quickly back down his end of the field.

 

James took a deep breath, his eyes attentively tracking the movement of the quaffle. Cooper to Weasley to Scamander, back to Weasley again, as Lorcan swerved to avoid a bludger that James’s beater, Naomi King had expertly lobbed through their formation. As Louis flew into the scoring zone, James quickly racked his mind to remember the Weasley cousin scrimmages they’d played in Grandmum Molly’s back garden this summer. Louis tended to pitch right...

 

Quickly, James moved towards the far right hoop as Louis released the ball, clearly aiming for that same direction. But just then, another strong gust blew across the stadium, and the quaffle warbled off course. It was now tumbling toward the center hoop…

 

Acting on reflex, James quickly jerked his broom back, throwing out his arm sideways… and just barely catching the throw. But he had grabbed the ball awkwardly, and his wrist throbbed with pain as he threw the ball back to a waiting Kian. 

 

James wrinkled his forehead in annoyance. He was certain that he’d sprained it, which was a pretty quick fix, but he made a mental note to walk up to the Hospital Wing to get it seen to by Madam Pomfrey immediately after the game. He needed to be in his absolute best shape, especially since they had another scrimmage scheduled against Hufflepuff next weekend. 

 

The chasers continued whizzing back and forth across the field, their heads ducked down against the wind as they tried in vain to battle against not just the opposing team, but also against the unforgiving elements. James was also hunkering down in his post, with his throbbing arm tucked against his stomach, growing gloomier by the second. 

 

He was frustrated with himself. It hadn’t been smart to throw his arm awkwardly like that. If he were in a better headspace, he could have just as easily kicked the quaffle or batted it away with his broom… As his mum always drilled into his head,”The best quidditch players are the ones who protect themselves from injury.” It might have been a bit of a mum-ism, but Ginny Potter had seven years of professional quidditch experience on him, and James knew better than disregard her advice. 

 

Suddenly, James caught a fast movement directly above him and looked up. Isla was now speeding down to the pitch in a steep angle, her face scrunched up in concentration as her hair and robes fluttered ferociously behind her. Following her line of sight, James spotted the unmistakable golden flash of the Snitch hovering just above the base of his left goalpost. James’s eyes trailed Isla excitedly - the Ravenclaw seeker, Nora Davies, had caught on and was now speeding after her, but she was a good 30 meters behind. Finally, they could finish this hellish scrimmage and go back to the castle. 

 

Then, somewhere off to his right, James heard the distinctive heavy thunk of a beater’s bat. He immediately tensed, hoping Isla was still on her guard for bludgers despite now being in a full spiral towards the Snitch. Apprehensively, he turned, his eyes searching, ready to call out a warning to his seeker... Only to find the bludger careening towards him instead. 

 

For the second time that day, James’s motor control shut down for a moment. The bludger was too close, too fast to throw himself out of the way, and he hastily tensed his body, trying to anticipate the blow… 

 

But it hit him dead-on in the gut, knocking all the air out of him and throwing him backwards. His arms windmilled desperately, but the wind made it nearly impossible to regain his balance, and before he knew it, he was tumbling off his broom. As a last ditch effort, James shot out his injured arm to clutch at the handle, but as the full weight of his body bore down on his wrist, he cried out in pain, instinctively letting go. He plummeted toward the ground.

 

Merlin, his mum was so going to kill him.

 

----------------------------------------------

 

Great news everyone- I've found a lovely cafe near my new apartment where I can sit with the intention of working on this story, which on rare occasions, actually does get fulfilled. This is my favorite chapter so far I think  :O) - thanks for reading!



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