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         “I’m bored,” Ron announced.

         “Do your homework,” Hermione shot back.

         “I did.”

         “Do it over.”

         “Why?”

         “Because you didn’t do half of it right. No harm in trying again.”

         “Hermione, it’s Saturday. Most of the house isn’t even up yet. And it’s our first weekend here. No one has homework first weekend here. Why should I? I’m not a bookworm like you.”

         “What’s so wrong with being a bookworm?” Hermione demanded, shutting her charms book and glaring at Ron. “At least I have a promising future!”

         “Who cares?”

         “I do! I want to be able to pick my own job when I get out of school. You’re not going to be able to unless you tighten up some. The only things you can do are ... Oh, that’s right. The only thing you can do is Quidditch!”

         “What’s wrong with Quidditch?” Ron complained, offended now.

         “Everything! It’s barbaric! A pointless pastime!”

         Ron’s face turned red and he got up, biting his lip almost hard enough to draw blood. He hurried from the common room before he could say something he would regret. Hermione just went back to her book, but Parvati found Ron at Wizard Rayne’s door a few minutes later. She didn’t say anything, just squeezed his hand.

         “Long time no see, Master Reg,” she greeted, sliding into the office when Rayne opened the door.

         “Well, my dear, you don’t take alchemy,” was his smooth answer. But the corner of his mouth twitched slightly the way it always did when he was amused.

         “Hey, I’ve been wondering for a while now – how come you do alchemy? Doesn’t really go with dragons, does it?”

         Reginald Rayne shrugged slightly. He was stocky man in his late thirties, with poster boy blonde hair and blue eyes. Behind his partially rimless glasses, his right eye bore three claw-type cuts – only a few of his many scars of trade. His hands belied his trades too – both as a dragon specialist and as an alchemist. He was the sort of person who took everything in stride and never lost his cool.

         And Ron and Parvati would know. They had spent most of the summer with him.

         “I never really planned to do alchemy,” he replied after a moment of thought. “That’s the family trade – it just happened. Studying dragons was my rebel streak.”

         “Funny,” Ron said with a straight face. “I never thought of you as having a rebel streak.”

         Parvati giggled. “Don’t mind him, Master Keeper. He says every little thing that comes to mind.”

***

         Keilana studied the bit of chalk she had stolen from one of the classrooms. She bent over and drew circles on the ground, then began hopping from one to another.

         “Never thought Slytherins played hopscotch.”

         She turned slightly on one foot, cocking her head. “It always gets my brain working. Ronald, isn’t it?”

         “Ron,” the redhead replied a bit peevishly. “Ron Weasley.” He leaned against the wall and folded his long arms, looking at her curiously. “You’re Malfoy’s girlfriend, aren’t you?”

         “Keilana Crowe.”

         “Unusual name. Pretty though.” Ron slid down the wall and, settling against it, crossed his legs Indian-style. He watched her silently for a moment. “My sister played a lot of hopscotch. She was friends with all the Muggles kids around our house, and they played all kind of street games like that. Me and my brothers played Quidditch whenever we could get away with it.”

         “I didn’t start playing Quidditch till this summer, but I really like it now.”

         “Really,” Ron said in a tell-me-more tone.

         “You can’t quite beat the sensation of flight.”

         “Right on.”

         Ron didn’t say anything else, and Keilana kept hopping from circle to circle. To her amazement, somehow it didn’t bother her to converse with this Gryffindor. With the exception of Harry, she had found Gryffindors altogether too cocky, too arrogant, and entirely too conceited. While Harry wasn’t abrasive either, every time he saw her, he either disappeared straight off or escaped as quickly as he could. Unlike most of her fellow Slytherins, Keilana was fairly friendly outside her house, and Harry’s apparent hostility offended her.

         To give him the benefit of the doubt though, life had become more than crazy after the failure of Keeper Abraxas’ latest experiment. Keilana and Draco were no longer your ordinary Titans. But the results of the explosion were so confusing the pair had yet to sort them out. And Keilana hadn’t exactly been normal before that either.

         Keilana reached the end of the trail and spun to skip back. Despite all that had happened, she had really liked Draco’s supposedly deceased grandfather. He was fairly weird and downright freaky, but he was fun to be around, and those parts of August had been enjoyable.

         “So why did you pick Slytherin?” Ron asked suddenly.

         “What? Well, the hat picked it.” She saw immediately that he didn’t believe her. “I don’t know why, really. I’m smarter than your garden-variety wizard, but I think my evil ambition outweighs my brain.”

         “Don’t seem very evil to me. This is the longest conversation I’ve ever had with a Slytherin.” Ron grinned lopsidedly. “Aside from beating up a couple guys my sister was thinking about dating.”

         Keilana couldn’t suppress a giggle. “So I’ve heard.”

         He looked surprised. “You have?”

         “I’ve been with Draco a little over a year now. He keeps up with strange things.”

         Ron got up. “Mind if I try my foot at that?”

         Keilana laughed outright this time. “Go ahead.”

         He started at the end opposite her and slowly worked his way through the circles. “I never really did this kind of thing. Quidditch is much easier to play – less to remember.”

         “At least once you have the form down. You play keeper, right?”

         “Yep.”

         “Yep?”

         “You’re one to talk. You sound like an American. What do you call them? Rednecks?”

         Keilana pouted and replied with perfect British inflection. “I am not a redneck. I’ve hardly any color in my skin at all.”

         “But you don’t usually sound British,” Ron said, muffling a laugh. “Did you grow up anywhere around here?”

         “I don’t know, really,” Keilana replied with a meek shrug. She was surprised that she had no qualms about admitting that to him. “I don’t remember much of anything before last summer.”

         “Amnesia?”

         “Yeah. Lady Malfoy took me to St. Mungo’s a couple times, but the healers can’t figure out what’s wrong with me. I guess this is the kind of thing that happens when you become a Death Eater.” She gasped and covered her mouth. “Oh, Morgana. Ron, please—”

         “I won’t tell anyone,” Ron promised, rolling his eyes. “You’re in Slytherin, and you’re Malfoy’s girlfriend. I’d actually be kind of surprised if you weren’t a Death Eater. Is Malfoy one too?”

         Keilana nodded before she could stop herself, but his eyes were downcast, concentrating on the circles, as though hadn’t seen her movement. But by the swirl of anger in his aura, he had heard her silent assent.

         “So we’re on a first-name basis already?” he asked, and a sudden change came to his mindstream. Surprise, then confusion and a fair bit of horror.

         “Would that bother you?” Keilana inquired coyly.

         Ron’s gaze came up, that lopsided grin curling his mouth. “It might be fun to try out.”

         “In that case, you can call me Kei.”

***

         “Ron, what’s up with you?” Hermione said when he reappeared in the common room. Though still annoyed, she looked a little concerned. “You look like you walked through a ghost.”

         “Crazy – absolutely crazy,” he muttered more to himself than in reply to her question. “Utterly impossible.”

         “What are you talking about?”

         Ron just shook his head and headed upstairs. Harry was leaning against the window, and he jerked in surprise when Ron exclaimed over his presence. The curtain flattened against the wall as Ron walked over.

         “What were you doing?”

         “Just watching the view, but I won’t tell Mione what I saw. Wish I could get that close to her,” Harry continued enviously, ignoring Ron’s grimace. “I can’t get within five feet of her without feeling like I’m going to be sick.”

         “What’d you do this summer, mate?” Ron asked with a half-laugh.

         Harry tried to grin, and he ended up with something of a smirk. “You don’t wanna know.”

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