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A/N




Can I give a massive thank you and tons of huggles to the brilliant GubraithianFire, who helped me enormously with a particularly difficult section of this one.



I present you with Chapter Two. I’m a little wary of this one, it seems to me that it kind of lacks interest. While doing NaNo, I was trying to chunk out as many words as possible and this is what happened… I’d love to know what you think. As always, enjoy, and please review :)


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Chapter Two.



Christmas Morning was spent in the usual manner for Tom Riddle. He received only a small card wishing him a Happy Holiday from Mrs Cole back at the orphanage he so detested, but the piles of presents at the foot of his roommates’ beds sparked no jealously in him. He had no family to speak of, and his private, secluded manner meant that those within his acquaintance were not usually considered strict friends. Riddle preferred not having to waste the little money he had on gifts which would probably be thrown out once the holiday was over.



Christmas had never been a cause of excitement in Riddle, and the fact that his birthday rested around the same time did not, as it would in many of his fellow sixth-years, fill him with anticipation, but rather a resigned kind of apprehension. These were just two more days which Riddle felt were over-commercialised.



He attended the large breakfast in polite, interested silence, and retreated back to the Slytherin common room as soon as it was courteous to do so. He spent the morning finishing the homework he had been set before the holiday, and lunch hour found him scribbling furiously in the library, while shouts of laughter could be heard from the grounds: the few who had stayed at the castle were having a snowball fight, younger students and Prefects alike.



Mere metres away from Riddle’s green-inked quill, in the biting cold of the Hogwarts grounds, Callam Vaughn received yet another snowball to the neck.



“Aoife!” He gasped, arching his back and narrowing his eyes at the girl who stood, laughing silently, opposite him. “You –”



But she was too quick for the handful of snow he aimed in her direction, dodging around a pillar and hitting him expertly between the shoulder blades with a freezing cold ball of her own. Still laughing, she leant against the wall of the Castle and pushed her wet hair off her forehead with gloved hands.


 


“Time to go in, you think?” She asked Callam, who nodded. She turned to grasp the door handle, and felt something large, wet and very cold sink down her back. She turned, her eyes full of something that seemed like anger, but was smothered somewhat with amusement.




“Sorry,” Callam grinned. “I just had to get you back.”


***



During the afternoon, the snow became so heavy that the students were confined to staying inside, and the majority who weren’t trying to sneak outside were gathered in the Great Hall, along with most of the teachers. Several large, squashy sofas had been summoned from assorted rooms around the Castle, and the atmosphere in the Hall was relaxed and sleepy, despite the dark grey clouds surrounding. All houses were mixed up among all year groups, and several games of Exploding Snap and wizard’s Chess were being played on various tables. The only person not engaged in a conversation or some kind of activity was the sixth-year male Slytherin Prefect, who appeared to be immersed in a book entitled Great Wizarding Achievements of the Eighteenth Century. He was frowning in concentration, and did not notice a girl sit lightly down beside him.



She looked at him thoughtfully for a moment.



“Tom?” She said, her head on one side.



Startled, Riddle looked up. “Yes?”



She held out a pack of cards. “Would you like to play?”



Riddle reached out and took the cards. He turned them over in his hand, wondering why she had offered.



“What do you want?” He said to her, his voice coming out colder than he had meant. She looked surprised, but did not flinch.



“It’s Christmas. You shouldn’t be doing work on Christmas Day!”



 “I wasn’t –” Riddle began, and then stopped. He put his book on the floor and reluctantly started to deal out the cards. He didn’t realise they were being watched until a throat was cleared and a shadow fell over their hands.



“Aoife? Riddle? What’s going on?”



“We’re playing cards,” Aoife said, smiling, “Do you want to join us?”



“Alright,” Callam agreed, sitting down beside her.



As the game went on, Riddle reflected on the oddity that was playing cards with two Ravenclaws he hardly ever interacted with. As his hands dealt the cards automatically, his mind wandered far away from what he was doing. It felt strange to be sitting this close to someone who had been at the forefront of his mind for months. Their hands brushed while she took the pile of cards. He looked at her, her eyes intent on what she was doing, and he felt an unfamiliar feeling in his stomach. What was this? He had become accustomed to only seeing this girl, this young woman, from a distance, and was unprepared for this sudden contact. The feelings of yearning that he had harboured for her seemed distant now; this was something else. They continued to play, and Riddle’s hands took over, as his mind stayed with his thoughts. It felt exhilarating to be near her. But it scared him. Her movements kept him mesmerised, every word she spoke, every time she laughed, he felt light-headed. But it angered him. Why was she speaking to him now, when she had made no effort previously? She must be hiding something.



“Stop.”



His voice was commanding, and Aoife and Callam did not hesitate to do as he said.



“What’s wrong?” Aoife said in a small voice.



Riddle looked her hard in the face. She did not look away, and he saw her eyes were full of curiosity and confusion, not the mocking contempt he expected to see. Was she even aware of the foreign feelings suddenly inside him that he so loathed to acknowledge?



Trying to keep his voice steady, he asked them to leave. He could not stand to feel so powerless any more. It was unnatural and he needed to rid himself of it. Callam stood up and motioned to the girl, who did not move.



“Who are you, Tom Riddle?” She whispered.



Riddle kept his expression cold. She didn’t say anything more, but got up and left, sparing no more glances for him.



***



“That was a bad idea.”



“What? You’re telling me you wouldn’t have done the same thing?”



Aoife and Callam were walking back to their recently vacated seats, at the other end of the Hall.



“It’s Christmas Eve, Callam! He’s on his own!”



“He’s always on his own!” Callam retorted angrily.



“Why are you saying this? You know that’s not how we should treat others.” Aoife stopped and looked at him. He looked down, ashamed.



“I know. I’m sorry. I just … I wanted to spend today with you.”



 Aoife’s expression softened, and they sat down in silence. The Hall was growing dark, but lights were glittering all around the room from various floating lights, positioned inside the twelve Christmas trees, hanging from streamers and nestled in branches of mistletoe. Aoife looked up, admiring the beauty of it all, and felt something warm cover her hand.



She looked down, and saw that Callam had taken her hand. Her stomach jumping to somewhere in the region of her throat, she looked up again, unsure of what exactly this bold - but not altogether unwanted - motion meant. Her eyes rested on a Christmas tree branch inches above his head, on which was pinned a sprig of mistletoe. Swallowing hard, she dropped her eyes to Callam’s. She felt giddy and reckless, a feeling she had not experienced in this quantity before. His face was half in shadow, but she saw him blink a few times, as if steeling himself to do something.



“Aoife …” His voice sounded dry. Aoife forced herself to continue looking directly in his eyes.



“Callam?”



He leant towards her. She couldn’t say she wasn’t expecting it, but as their lips collided she felt momentarily stunned. Callam pulled away, not looking her in the eye.



“I’m sorry, I …”



“Don’t apologise,” Aoife smiled, and cupped his face in her hands. He looked back at her, and for a long moment they just stared into each others’ eyes. It was hard to tell who moved towards who, but the next thing Aoife knew was that her hands were in his hair: she was kissing him, and he was kissing her, and when they finally pulled away, slightly abashed but strangely confident, she knew this would be one Christmas she would never forget.



***



The Castle was silent. Of course it was silent: it was early – very early – on Boxing Day, and who was going to be up now, when they’d not gone to bed until the early hours of this morning anyway? But there was someone. One young man was noiselessly pacing the corridor on the third floor. He was listening keenly for any sound of the caretaker, and sudden footsteps made his heart skip a beat. He let out an audible sigh of relief as he saw who it was. The Gryffindor smiled, tucking her long blonde hair behind her ears as she did so. Looking up at him through her eyelashes, she took a step towards him.



“Hi,” she whispered.



***



“You’re up early.”



Aoife yawned. She wasn’t entirely sure why she had got up, as she was still very tired after only a few hours sleep, but she had woken up, and realised there was not much point in staying in bed when there was so much to do. Christmas was over now, after all.



“May I join you?”



“Go ahead,” Aoife smiled, and her stomach seemed to flip over as Callam sat down on the sofa next to her.



“Did you enjoy your Christmas?” He asked, taking her hand and playing absentmindedly with her fingers.



“Yes, it was lovely,” Aoife replied, trying to ignore the prickling feeling spreading through the hand he held in his grasp.



“You should spend next Christmas at the Castle, too,” Callam mused, and then looked directly at her,” I liked sharing it with you.”



“Yes, I enjoyed it too,” Aoife said softly, and blushed. It was only a small hint, but it was the first mention from either of them about what had happened the previous day, and Aoife still didn’t know what to make of it.



Callam grinned, and then sighed.



“It’s all back to work today then, I assume?”



Aoife nodded, raising her eyebrows dejectedly. “Us Prefects have a lot to do!”



Callam groaned sympathetically. “Tell me about it?” He grinned. “Actually, don’t. I’ve had nothing but in-depth reports on the hard life of being a Prefect from CJ … But on a different note, have you seen the notice board?”



“What is it, more Prefect duties?” Aoife sighed.



“No,” Callam corrected her, “Hogsmeade on the weekend of the ninth coming up.”



“Oh.” Aoife blushed. She wasn’t sure what he expected her to say.



“You’ll come with me?”



Aoife looked up sharply. She saw him look slightly embarrassed, but sensed the seriousness under the question.



“Of course,” she replied. “I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”





The two of them went down to the Great Hall soon after their conversation, intending to help with the clearing of the Christmas decorations and the re-assembly of the House Tables. It was only when they entered and saw that it had all been done that they realised their mistake.



Callam burst out laughing.



“You’d think, in a school for witches and wizards, we would assume magic would be used … all the time?”



“You’d think,” Aoife agreed, grinning. They took their place at the Ravenclaw table, and started helping themselves to the otherwise untouched food already present there.



“This year has gone incredibly fast,” Callam commented conversationally.



“Yes,” Aoife agreed thoughtfully, “But from now until the end of our seventh year we’ve almost got all exams, so it’s not surprising, really…”



Callam stopped eating. “I can’t believe I’ve never asked you this before!” He exclaimed.



 “What?” Aoife replied, confused.



“What would you like to do when you leave school?” Callam asked, putting down his fork and looking at her intently.



“Well,” Aoife said carefully, “I’d ideally like to be a Healer, but I doubt that’ll happen.”



“Why?” Callam asked, interested. “I didn’t even know you were interested in being a Healer. I’m an awful friend…”



“Don’t say that,” Aoife said sharply, and then she sighed. “It takes years of training to become a Healer. I’m interested, yes, but I really don’t know if I’d have the commitment or the patience…”



“Of course you would!” Callam said encouragingly. “Go for your dreams!”



“What are your dreams then?” she retorted shortly.



 Callam didn’t reply.



“Tell me!” Aoife said playfully. “You’re not embarrassed, are you?”



“Well,” Callam said slowly, “I want to be a Quidditch play – hey, don’t laugh!”



“You don’t even play!”



“That’s why it’s so embarrassing!” Callam smiled grudgingly. “I’ve always been so scared to try out. I used to play with my brother at home all the time, but I never thought I’d be good enough to try for the team … I couldn’t stand being turned down.”



“You’re never going to get anywhere with that attitude!” Aoife exclaimed, and reddened when she realised her attitude had been exactly the same.



Callam grinned. “So we’re in the same boat really, then?”



“Yes,” Aoife agreed. “But remember we don’t really have to decide now…”

”We haven’t exactly got much time!” Callam reminded her. “We’ve chosen our OWL subjects already,…I’m assuming you did choose according to becoming a Healer?”



“Yes,” Aoife sighed, “I thought I may as well. But what I’m going to do really, I don’t know…”



“What interests you about becoming a Healer?” Callam asked.



“I don’t know, really, I just love the idea of spending my life saving others’.”



“Yes,” Callam said thoughtfully, “I know what you mean. I’ve never been able to handle the sight of blood though, really, so I’d never be able to do that!”



“What about you? Why would you like to play Quidditch professionally?”



“I just love the game. I know it’d never work, though, I’d have to have been playing for years, really, to make it. I’ll probably just do it as an aside to something else I want to do.”



“What else do you want to do?”



“I don’t know! That’s the problem. My parents always told me that if I picked subjects I wanted to do, I would end up doing a job I love. But how can that be, if the job I love needs qualifications I do not have?” Callam said wretchedly.



“Your parents are right, you know,” Aoife said fairly, “Even if you do end up doing the wrong subjects, you can go back and do another few years of schooling, or whatever you need. If I’m ever to become a Healer, there’s going to be so much more additional learning for me. We just have to be prepare to do whatever it takes to reach our dreams, I suppose.”



Callam was silent. Then he gave a soft laugh.



“You never fail to make me feel better, Aoife Murphy.”



Aoife smiled back, and their eyes locked. It was only when the bell rang that they realised how long they had spent talking, bonding, and swapping dreams.

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