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November was approaching rapidly.

All of the Defence Against the Dark Arts lessons that they’d missed were soon caught up. Freya clearly recalled the first class with Professor Jordan. He had removed all the chairs and desks and the room had been plunged into darkness.

"Now I would like everyone to light their wands while I give instructions," he announced, and everybody did as he asked.

"Good. This exercise is simple. It is Slytherin against Hufflepuff. You are only allowed to fire one curse each. Hufflepuff will use the full body bind 'patrificus totalus', whilst Slytherin will use the stunning spell 'stupefy'. No one will use full strength. No one speaks. The house with the most people standing wins." He looked around to see if anyone had any questions. When no one raised their hand he ordered them to put out the lights of their wands.

"When I put out the light on my wand you may begin, but remember only one curse per student...”

“NOX!” he exclaimed loudly.

The cursing began at once. Freya dropped to the floor to avoid the initial volley of spells. When they started to tail off, she crawled in one direction until she reached the wall and stood up slowly. She could hear people moving around her but couldn't make out precisely how many. How was she even supposed to know if they were Slytherins or not? Her brain was working fast... how could she tell the difference? An idea popped in to her head. She coughed loudly, ducked and heard to her satisfaction a boy letting out a ‘Stupefy’ curse. She turned quickly and saw where the beam of light came from.

"Patrificus totalus" she yelled.

At that moment light filled the classroom once more. She looked around and saw herself and her fellow Hufflepuff, Juliette Stevens still standing. Well technically Juliette was squatting, but she hadn’t been hit by a curse.

Professor Jordan was freeing everyone else from their binds.

When everybody was seated back at their desks, Professor Jordan turned to Freya and Juliette. "Miss Stevens, Miss Keen, I would like you to tell the class what you two did to keep yourselves out of harms way." He smiled at them encouragingly.

"I kind of just, uh... sat down. Then someone stumbled over my foot and I stunned them," Juliette answered

"Not bad Miss Stevens, 10 points to Hufflepuff." He turned his attention to Freya, who was now feeling a bit more confident. "And you Miss Keen?"

"I crawled on my hands and knees to the wall to avoid the first wave of spells. Then I tried to find out who was still standing with me. I coughed, figuring if it was a Slytherin they might attack so I ducked out of the way and when they fired, I hit back."

"Very good miss Keen, 10 points to Hufflepuff." He looked around at all of the students "I want you all to write me an essay on this lesson. What could you have done to better your self? What did Miss Keen and Miss Stevens do right? What else could've been done? I expect the essay on my desk a week from today."

Freya had to admit that she’d never had a better Defence professor. He was professional and structured but he wasn't too strict either. She had mentioned this to Ginny when they were studying in the library. Apparently it wasn't a very popular opinion.

"Maybe he is quite capable, but he doesn't hold a candle to Professor Lupin" She sneered, a little short tempered.

Freya didn't agree, but she wasn't too eager to get into a big discussion about it. She shrugged and went back to her potion notes. Ginny, however, pressed on..

"We’ve only had Professor Jordan for a month.. You can not think that he is better than Professor Lupin based on such short time," she stated.

"Well," Freya began, as she could see no end to Ginny’s persistency. "I just think that Professor Jordan is a bit more structured, that's all."

"You know, structure isn't everything. Professor Lupin really understood us. He..."

"Ok Ginny, whatever..." Freya said cutting her off.

"What's that supposed to mean?" Ginny asked in an offended tone.

"Don't get mad or anything ok?! To me it seems like your opinion is a little clouded, because you know him," Freya told her, trying not to sound accusing.

Ginny just stared at her for a minute, her face getting redder by the second. "Fine, if that's what you think, I’m not going to argue with you."

"I didn't ask you to." Freya was becoming a little annoyed herself.

"You know," Ginny got up from her seat abruptly. "I think I'm done with this. I have Quiddich practice in an hour anyway." She gathered her books and left the library.

Freya just sat there dumbstruck. How could Ginny get so worked up about a teacher? And what did it matter what Freya thought anyway. Even though she really liked Ginny, she found it irritating when she would only see things her own way. Sometimes that red hair and the associated temperament did her no favours.

As Halloween approached a notice was put up on the boards in the common rooms. It announced that the first Hogsmeade trip of the year would be on the day before the Halloween feast. Freya was really excited, even more so than the third years, who were going for the first time. The couple of times she had been to Hogsmeade hadn't been that great, mostly because she had been alone. Her mind momentarily drifted to Thor who would have to be left on his own all day, but she decided that she might ask Hagrid to look after him.

The main doors to Hogwarts was a popular meeting point. It took Freya a while before she spotted Luna sitting on the staircase seemingly trying to avoid the crowd. Freya dragged her up and they joined everyone else. Ginny wasn’t going with them, because she’d made plans with her boyfriend, Dean Thomas.

Luna and Freya had a great time looking through every single shop in Hogsmeade. Nearing the end of the day they headed for The Three Broomsticks, tired in mind and body, with bags full and pockets almost empty. Butterbeer was just what Freya needed before starting the walk back to the castle.

They’d just found a vacant table, put down their bags and were ready to order, when Luna jumped out of her chair, looking at something in the palm of her hand.

“I’m sorry,” she said, grabbing her bags. “Got to go!”

Freya looked at her, totally bewildered. “Wha…” she started, but Luna cut her off.

“I’m really sorry. See you tonight.” And with that she hurried out the door.

Glancing around the room, Freya couldn’t help but notice that Luna wasn’t the only one acting suspiciously. Dean and Ginny, who had been sitting at the far end of the room, were also leaving in a hurry and a couple of other students she didn’t know were looking just as baffled as she was.

For a brief moment she considered following them. It seemed urgent and maybe she could help in some way. But Luna had evidently not wanted her to come along. She knew when she wasn’t wanted. So she stayed where she was, alone, angry and confused.

After about 10 minutes of staring into space, Freya got up, deciding to head back. She bought a butterbeer, feeling it would be rude to leave without buying anything. With the butterbeer in one hand, and the day’s purchases in the other, she wandered back towards Hogwarts. As she walked, her mood gradually changed from angry to depressed. She couldn’t believe that Luna would just leave like that. Friends didn’t treat each other that way. Maybe that was the problem. Freya had fooled herself into thinking that in the last two months she had finally made some friends at Hogwarts. The fact of the matter was, they obviously didn’t trust her. And no matter how much she tried to deny it, she didn’t trust them. Not with everything anyway. But that wasn’t even what she was asking for. No one could expect to build complete trust in such a shot time. She just didn’t want to be left out of everything.
Sometimes when she joined them at the Gryffindor table, it was obvious that they changed the subject the moment they saw her. Most of the time she just brushed it aside, but it was clear that every single one in that group knew something she didn’t. And apparently they had all decided not to tell her. These were difficult times, she was aware of that, and she could understand why they didn’t just blurt out all their secrets. Voldemort’s supporters could be anywhere. But they could at least throw her a bone. Show her some good will. Show her that they were coming around. Perhaps that was the problem too. They had absolutely no intention of trusting her, ever. She was just a classmate.

The road back to Hogwarts never felt longer.
When she was about halfway there, she sat down on a big stone at the side of the road, feeling that if she took one more step she would pass out. Freya sat on that stone, watching the castle in the distance, not keeping track of the time that passed.

Someone suddenly jolted her back to reality.

“Hey sunshine, what are you sitting here for?”

Eliot Zabini was looking down at her with a smile on his freckled face. Freya immediately felt better, just at the sight of him. The sun was setting and the soft light made his brown hair shine a rich golden colour. Even when he stopped smiling, his brown eyes kept sparkling.

“Just thinking. Luna was r….” she stopped in mid-sentence when she noticed a boy standing a little behind Eliot. She recognised him as one of the chasers on the Slytherin Quidditch team, Girk Warrington, also a 5th year.
Eliot, who had followed her gaze, quickly introduced them. Then he pulled Warrington aside, and after a small discussion the big Slytherin walked away. Eliot took a seat next to Freya, looking at her with a quizzical expression on his face.

“So, what’s wrong?” Genuine concern was written on his face.

Freya didn’t know if it was the fact that he cared, the fact that he was there, the fact that she needed a friend or a combination of all three. But at that moment she just wanted to trust somebody, and Eliot seemed like the right choice.

“I just counted on someone, and I shouldn’t have,” she started

Eliot helped her up and they began walking in the direction of Hogwarts. She told him what had happened in The Three Broomsticks, and everything else that had lead up to that moment. She expected him to come with some stupid remark about Gryffindors, but he didn’t. He listened, nodded at the right moments and agreed with her when she mentioned something she felt was unjust.
At the end of her story, Eliot looked at her, as if he was debating something.

“What?” Freya asked.

He glanced sideways at her as he spoke. “I think you should talk to them. Well, Luna at least.”

“You do…?” She couldn’t hide the surprise in her voice.

“Yeah... I think it’s nice that you are willing to talk to me and all that. But it just seems like something really important happened back there.” He paused to think for a second, unconsciously ruffling his hair. “And the next time I talk to you, I would like it to be because you want to. Not because I’m your only option… I know, that sounds selfish.” He looked down at his hands, not wanting to meet her gaze.

“Eliot, come on… you know it’s not like that!” she told him, but on some level she knew he was right. Freya would never have opened up to him if she hadn’t been so upset at being ditched by Luna.

“Well, just talk to them. You’ll feel better you know…”

“Ok. Not today though.”

And with that Freya grabbed Eliot by the arm and they ran the rest of the way back to Hogwarts.

***a/n Thanks to the Fitchburg Finch Fanfiction Group and my beta Jenova!***

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