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Chapter 2: Letters From Home
“I didn’t do any homework last night!” Alex exclaimed the next morning at breakfast. “What am I going to do? McGonagall’s essay was due today! I didn’t even start!”

“Well, aren’t we responsible?” Albus said sarcastically, sitting down next to her.

Kylie kicked me under the table.

“It’s okay, I didn’t do it either,” Marcus grinned, taking the seat on Alex’s other side and clamping her to his side with one arm. “So, now even if McGonagall impales us and tosses us into the dungeons to rot, at least we’ll have each other.” Alex pushed Marcus’s arm off her, laughing, but still managed to make a face.

I picked up my fork, scanning the table for any sign of Nicolai at breakfast. He wasn’t there. Had he slept in? I bit my lip. Maybe he didn’t know where the Great Hall was. I could go back and show him, but I didn’t want to look eager.

“Mail!” Clare announced.

An owl landed in front of me. It was my weekly owl from my mother. I pulled the parchment open and read her letter:

How is school going? We got your owl a bit late, I’m afraid. There was a storm out and it was delayed. We thought you’d forgotten to write. You’re looking after Hugo, I hope. Your father and Harry are off doing something, as usual. I’m suspicious, I must say. Lately, they’ve been ditching me. I miss you even more because of it. It’s nice to have some girl time, but there is always Ginny. She isn’t the same, though. I did grow up with Harry and Ron and it isn’t fair that they exclude me all of a sudden. But boys will be boys. 

Anyway, I didn’t write to complain to you. Just updating. What’s new with you? James is driving us all crazy. Won’t stop getting into trouble. Reminds me of George when he was younger. 

We think that James is actually hiding a girl, but he laughs us off every time we voice our suspicions when he leaves too late at night. Harry trusts him, though. Says he takes after his grandfather, and I guess he’s right. Harry has always been able to look after people. But it’s all Ginny talks about. Poor woman. She thinks her son is depressed and that he misses Hogwarts too much. 

I’m complaining again, aren’t I? Sorry. So, anyone catch your eye? You can tell me! Just don’t tell your father or he’ll Apparate over there and dismember the school.
We miss you.

I sighed and folded the letter up and caught Albus’s eye. He put down his own letter with a disgruntled expression.

“Is it James?” I asked, picking up a piece of toast.

“Yeah,” Albus said, licking his lips.

Kylie kicked me again.

“She didn’t even write to me. Dad did,” Albus said. “Sometimes it’s like I don’t exist.”

“You do,” Kylie insisted but then shut up, turning red.

“Thanks,” he said, looking at her. His gaze switched back to me. “I mean, read this.” He thrust the letter at me.

I picked it up, sighing and wishing that I could be at home trying to solve the problem. I always was like the glue in the family. I loved Hugo to death. In fact, I tended to act more like Hugo’s mother than his sister. My mother told me I got it from my father’s mother, Grandma Weasley.

Your mother wasn’t able to write to you, I’m sorry. She hasn’t been herself lately. I don’t think she wrote to Lily either so I’m writing to both of you. As you know, we’re having a hard time with your brother. He got into a nasty fight with another wizard and he was hexed badly. Your poor mother is worrying sick. We’re doing the best we can.
Don’t mention any of this to Lily, I wouldn’t want her thinking that anything is wrong. You’re older, you have to take care of your sister. And Ron says not to let any boys near her or Rose or he’ll hold you personally responsible. No pressure, you know how he gets. 

Anyway, Ron and I have been sneaking out after him trying to find out what he’s up to and we think he’s doing something with Fletcher but we don’t know the details. Whatever it is, it isn’t good. Just do me a favor and don’t go investigating by yourself. I know the way your mind works. Whatever it is, we’ll deal with it. Concentrate on your studies. 

Hermione is put out with us. She thinks we’re excluding her, but we really aren’t. I need someone to stay and keep an eye on Ginny, and if Ginny found out what we know or what we’re doing she might have a complex. 

I’m sorry about all this Albus, really, but we’re wondering on whether it’s better to let you and Lily spend Christmas at the school until we get this sorted out. I’d rather not have you lot in the middle of it. It’s upsetting.

I put the letter down with shaking hands and my eyes met Albus’s. “Fletcher? As in Mundungus Fletcher?” I asked with disbelief. “James is into criminal activity?”

“I dunno,” Albus said, sighing. “Sounds like it.”

“Maybe he struck a deal with him or something and he’s having a hard time paying up.”

“I dunno,” Albus repeated a bit hopelessly.

I bit my lip and looked at Kylie who looked annoyed at being left out. Alex cleared her throat. “It’s him, 8 o’clock.”

“It’s actually 8:30,” Marcus corrected.

“Whatever,” Alex said.

My head snapped up and I saw the beautiful angel creature walking toward me. Nicolai. He walked right past me without a word. I slumped in my seat, disappointed.

“Did you get Mum’s letter?” Hugo asked, appearing at my shoulder.


“She didn’t send me one.”

“Oh,” I said, frowning. “She has a lot on her mind right now, Hugo. I’m sure she just forgot.”

“She didn’t forget about you,” Hugo complained.

“Oh Hugo,” I said rolling my eyes. “Here, you can have my letter.”

“No! I want mine.”

“Now you’re being childish.”

Hugo grumbled something under his breath and I knew he didn’t mean for me to hear. “Well, I don’t really care anyway. I was just making sure that she’s alive, that’s all.”

“Hugo!” I said horrified.

He stomped away to sit with the other fifth years.

“Mum didn’t send me one either,” Lily said, sitting down and pushing her hair behind her ears. Albus dug into his food, frowning.

“Are you okay?” Kylie asked, putting her chin on her hands.

“Yeah,” Albus answered. “Why aren’t you eating? Come to think of it, Kylie, do you ever eat? You look really thin.”

Kylie colored. I had noticed, too. Ever since she started taking her crush on Albus so seriously, she hadn’t been eating right. I laughed, noticing my appetite had disappeared when Nicolai had walked into the room. That meant love, I thought to myself, and I laughed out loud.

Six pairs of eyes questioned my sanity.


When the Great Hall started to empty, we decided we should head off to class as well – well, Clare decided. We split in the Entrance Hall, heading off to our separate classes – Albus and Clare wandering towards the North Tower for Divination, engrossed in their conversation about the planetary movements of Neptune and Saturn; Kylie headed for Arithmancy alone, looking put out; Lily scampered off for Charms, calling goodbye over her shoulder; and Alex, Marcus, and I set off to Transfiguration.

I was walking behind Alex and Marcus who were throwing insults back and forth as usual. It always annoyed me a little when they started that. I mean, it was so obvious they were hot for each other, but they were both much too obstinate to admit it. I heaved a sigh as Marcus said, “At least I can swim!” and my eyes fell on a lone figure ahead of us and slightly to the right. I recognized Nicolai’s profile the second he looked to his left. He kept glancing down at something then around himself.

“Ni—” I almost called out but stopped myself, pressing my lips together. But it wasn’t enough to prevent Alex from hearing. I saw her glance behind at me then follow my gaze to Nicolai, and an impish grin spread across her face. I cursed myself for not being able to tear my gaze away from Nicolai, even for just a second. He was only a guy after all.

“Oh, Nicolai,” Alex sang, her eyes full of mischief.

“Alex!” I hissed, glaring.

Nicolai turned around, a confused look on his face. Poor guy, I found myself thinking, the hostility melting off my face. He looks lost.

“Did you call me?” Nicolai asked, pointing a finger at his chest. He was looking at me.

“No,” Alex said, dancing forward and grabbing his hand. “I did – your hands are cold!” She began to drag him back to where Marcus and I stood. “What do you have?”

“Transfiguration,” Nicolai said, shuffling through the sheaf of parchment in his hands till he found his timetable. “With – er – Professor McGonagall?”

“So do we!” Alex squealed annoyingly. She was deliberately acting perky and upbeat to tick me off. “Walk with us, Nicolai! Poor Rose is so lonely back there.”

Marcus, surprisingly, had stayed silent this whole time. He looked between the three of us, and he kept glancing down at Alex’s hand still wrapped around Nicolai’s. Alex stood Nicolai beside me and dropped his hand.

“There,” she said, stepping back satisfied. “Don’t you two look lovely? Now we better get to class if we don’t want to be late.” She spun around, took hold of Marcus’s hand, ignored his look of complete astonishment, and walked briskly away, looking back once to flash me a roguish grin.

Nicolai stood by my side, politely puzzled. “She’s very…what’s the word?... enthousiaste…no?”

“I’m going to kill her,” I muttered, starting forward, walking stiffly.

“I like her,” Nicolai commented, watching Alex. “What’s her name?"

“Alex Ducharme,” I answered grudgingly. I suppose Nicolai heard the petulance in my voice because he looked down and smiled at me. Surprisingly, I didn’t have to crane my head too far back to look back at him even though he was easily over six feet. He only had about five inches on me. Everyone always told me that I was the spitting image of my mother, although I’d gotten my father’s shock of red hair and his height, long arms and legs included. People told me I was ‘willowy’ and my dad said to consider myself lucky – he was called ‘gangly’. My friends had started calling me ‘daddy-long-legs’ back in our first year and, over the years, it had been shortened to just ‘daddy’. I hated it but it had stuck long ago. Although, no one had used it for a while now so, hopefully, they’d forgotten.

When we reached Transfiguration, Alex and Marcus had already settled into seats – and not their regular ones. Well, Marcus was in his usual seat but Alex had given up her seat at our table for the one beside Marcus, leaving our two seats empty. She caught my eye and smiled sweetly. Marcus, evidently having been filled in by Alex, smirked at me.

“So good of you to join us, Miss Weasley, Mr. Daladier,” McGonagall said from the front of the room, glaring at us with hawk eyes as Nicolai and I made our way between the tables to the only two empty seats. “Being late on your first day with us doesn’t do much for you, Mr. Daladier, I must say.”

“I apologize, Professeur,” Nicolai muttered, bowing his head. “I lost my way and Rose here”—my head jerked up at my name—“was nice enough to guide me.”

“Well, just make sure it doesn’t happen again,” McGonagall said, somewhat subdued by Nicolai’s calm tone.

Oui, Madame,” Nicolai answered.

I was just marveling at Nicolai’s ability to soothe the tiger when she turned on me. “You too, Miss Weasley!” she barked. “I never expected tardiness from you. Miss Ducharme perhaps”—“That’s true.” (Alex)—“but never you. Five points from Gryffindor.”

“What! I wasn’t that late!”

“One more word and it’ll be ten,” McGonagall retorted, turning back to the class.

I folded my arms across my chest and huffed at the table until I felt Nicolai lay his hand on my shoulder. “I’m sorry I caused us to be late and lose points,” he whispered. I could do nothing but jerk my head up and down. Nicolai’s touch was paralyzing. And cold. Alex was right, his hands were very cold. Like he’d just washed them with ice water.


The minute we left the class and Nicolai was safely out of earshot, I sank against the wall, clutching my heart. The things Nicolai’s presence did to it were scaring me. I’d never felt this way before. It was as if butterflies had taken residence in my stomach and called the ladybugs and fireflies over for a dance party. And then grasshoppers had gate-crashed.

“What’s wrong?” Alex asked, taking my hand and tugging me towards the stairs.

“Palpitations,” I managed to gasp.

Marcus laughed and reached for my other hand, helping Alex pull. “Don’t be stupid,” he said. “That’s a medical condition…you’re just in lurve with Nicolai.”

“I am not,” I said, snatching my hands back. I knew then that, even if I wasn’t prepared to admit it, I was in love, at least a little, with Nicolai because I knew what a lie felt like. And these words felt like a lie as they left my mouth.

“Sure,” Marcus said, rolling his eyes. “Just wait till Albus hears about this.”

“No,” I said suddenly, stopping. “Don’t you dare.”

“Oh, I’m really going to tell him now,” Marcus said, mirth filling his voice.

“Don’t!” I said, grabbing Marcus’s arm and spinning him around to face me. “Tell him and I’ll rip your vocal cords out of your throat and feed them to the Giant Squid.”

This statement usually had Hugo trembling, but all it caused Marcus do was burst into hysterical laughter, and slump over, clutching his middle. I let go of his arm and he slid onto the ground. I looked up at Alex, exasperated, and was infuriated to see she was laughing too.

“If you don’t stop laughing,” I said through clenched teeth, glaring at Alex through narrowed eyes, “I will tell him how you feel.”

Alex’s smile disappeared and she glared back. “You wouldn’t.”

“I would.”

“You’re not even supposed to know,” Alex claimed. “How did you find out?”

“Even if I wasn’t sure before, I am now,” I said, smug.

Marcus had stopped laughing as well and was looking back and forth between us, an interested look on his face. “Alex, you fancy someone?” he asked, getting to his feet.

“No!” Alex said so ferociously Marcus took a hasty step backwards – onto my foot.

“It doesn’t matter if you do,” Marcus said suddenly. “Everyone fancies somebody.”

“Even you?”

“Sure,” Marcus said.

“What – let me guess,” Alex sneered, “she’s all blonde and tanned with a model’s body and height?”

“Actually, no,” Marcus mused. “She’s pretty pale – I don’t think she gets out much – but she has nice freckles. And her hair’s dark. And she’s not so tall either. Shorter than me and we all know that I’m vertically challenged.”

Alex frowned, tugging on a lock of her cropped black hair. Her nose crinkled up as she stared down at her untied shoes. I tried to keep myself from smiling. I could practically see the gears working in Alex’s head as she tried to figure it all out.

“And, plus, she gets the cutest face when she’s thinking,” Marcus said, and then he was gone. Probably took a shortcut we hadn’t even noticed.

Alex continued to look puzzled. I’d never seen her stay quiet this long while talking to Marcus – ever. “Let’s go,” I said, laughing and taking hold of her elbow. “Kylie and Clare are probably waiting in the courtyard.”

We walked in silence for a while then, “Rose?”

“Hm?” The quiet had brought Nicolai wandering back into my mind. His hand on my shoulder, his breath at my ear.

“Do you think – who do you think Marcus was talking about?”


“I mean, it’s weird – very weird – because it sounds just like me,” Alex stared at me with wide eyes. “Dark hair, pale, freckles, short…”

“That and the cutest face you get when you’re thinking,” I teased, then paid the price. “Ow! You really didn’t have to pinch me that hard! You know how easily I bruise.”

"Too easily," Alex said smiling and then looking at her shoes as if lost in thought.

"You're thinking about him," I accused, ribbing her as we headed out to Care of Magical Creatures.

Alex licked her lips. "No I'm not. I could care less who he fancies." She rubbed her elbow and became suddenly interested in something else. "Oh look, there's Albus and Clare over there." She waved at them out the window overlooking the courtyard and dashed out a nearby door to meet them. I followed.

"Hello," Kylie mumbled behind me. I jumped a foot in the air and shrieked. Albus, Clare, and Alex looked over at me.

"Sorry," I said. "You gave me a start, Kylie, why did you sneak?"

"I didn't mean it," Kylie said quietly. Her eyes weren't on me, though. They were locked with Albus. Neither seemed able to look away. I gave her a push in his direction and she started and took a step back, but that made her look stupid, so she advanced forward and pulled a smile onto her face. "Hi, Albus," she said brightly.

"Hello," Albus said, blinking his striking green orbs. His lips dipped up briefly.

“Nice morning, isn’t it?” Kylie asked.

“Er, yeah, it’s all right,” Albus replied, glancing up at the overcast sky. “Have any of you seen Trent? Or Marcus?”

“Marcus was with us earlier,” I offered. “But he vanished.”

Albus made a noise of frustration and stalked off.

Kylie’s shoulders slumped. “What did I do wrong?” she groaned.

“You were talking about the weather,” Alex said, rolling her eyes.

I shot Alex a look of distaste. “No, Kylie,” I amended for Alex. “You did nothing wrong? Albus is just being an arse. Forget about him.”

“I wish,” Kylie mumbled, trudging away. “I’ll meet you at Care of Magical Creatures,” she called over her shoulder before disappearing inside.

“Poor girl,” Clare sympathized, staring after her. “She is so in love.”


"All right, all right, ov'r here," Hagrid said gruffly when we reached his cottage at the edge of the Forbidden Forest. "We're goin' t' be studyin' unicorns. Nice and easy. You lot deserve a break.”

The class cooed at the stallions, which pawed at the earth and tossed their manes. Kylie looked the most entranced out of all of us. I was entranced by something else.

Nicolai was gliding down toward us, his books under his arms. It was strange how he could walk so quickly in his too long robes and not trip over them. He had such beautiful eyes, despite the circles. He looked distressed. "I'm sorry," he said when he reached us. "I'm afraid I got a bit lost."

"No worries," Hagrid said.

"It's a bit sunny out here, wouldn't you say?" Nicolai said quietly to me.

I was so stunned that he was so close, speaking to me even, that I said nothing. My mouth fell open and I gaped.

"Rose? Are you all right?"

Kylie kicked me.

"Yes," I choked out. "I was just – um – surprised by how... beautiful the unicorns are."

Nicolai looked at them fleetingly. "If unicorns stun you into silence, I would hate to think what real beauty would do to you." He flashed me a small smile.

Kill me, I thought, unable to tear my eyes from his lips. They were pale, with only a tint of pink. Even his cheeks were the same. I found myself exploring every inch of his person: his dark hair – a bit ruffled by the wind – picked up in the breeze, and, in the sunlight, held a hint of brown; the grey of his eyes looked like a stormy ocean; the line of his jaw, his face, so angular and yet so strangely innocent and kind-looking... yet troubled. There was so much in his eyes I could not place. Like they held a secret. If I closed my eyes, I could almost hear them whisper to me... but I couldn't understand what they were trying to say.

"ROSE?" Kylie yelled. "Answer the damn question."

"What question?" I blinked, confused.

"What are the properties of unicorn hair?" Hagrid asked apparently again.

"I – uh…" I stammered, looking at the grass. For some reason, I couldn't think of anything. "I don't know…"

The class was quiet and staring at me. I blushed and looked away.

"Are you sure you inherited your mother's brains?" Kylie teased. The class sniggered and my cheeks reddened again. Being a Weasley, blushing was a genetic curse.

Hagrid cleared his throat and pointed to Albus who dutifully named all the properties. Hagrid grinned at him and clapped him on the shoulder. Hagrid had a close relationship with Albus, who was timid, shy, and his father in the flesh. His older brother, James, was more rowdy: a replacement to our Uncle Fred, who had died before I had met him.

The lesson passed by in a daze. Nicolai did not speak to me again, but rather focused his attention on the unicorns.

The unicorns. Standing there, they looked so peaceful. Like the world had stopped moving, and time no longer mattered. Things were slow, done with care, and steady. They held wisdom in their eyes.

"Aright, class dismissed... ‘cept you, Rose."

Albus looked at me and I shrugged. He walked over. "What has gotten into you?"

"Nothing!" I squeaked getting on the defensive. I balled my fists up. Why WAS I acting so irrational?

"Aright, you two, no fightin'. C'mere, Rose," Hagrid said settling himself on a tree stump. I slouched over, Albus at my heels.

"Rose, people act strange when they're in love," Hagrid mused. Albus sat down on the grass and stared up at me, unsmiling.

"I'm not in love," I said blushing.

"I never said you was."

I bit my lip and looked away.

"There's no point hiding anything," Albus said gently. "It's only us. We're like family."

"You are family," I pointed out. I looked at Hagrid. "And so are you."

Hagrid beamed. "So who's the lucky one?"

I looked away. "I don't know. I'm not even sure what I feel."

"It's the new bloke," Albus interrupted.

Hagrid nodded. "You'll figure it out someday," he said, "and when you do, I have a tuxedo for the occasion." He winked and I groaned.


"There really isn't anything to be shy about," Albus said matter-of-factly as we ascended the stairs.

"Speak for yourself, here comes Kylie," I retorted as Kylie walked into view, staring at her shoes.

Albus stopped short and glared at me, his cheeks deepening in color. His eyes grew fiery before he looked at Kylie, who had just noticed us.

"Hi," she said, her voice a bit higher than usual. She gave Albus a fleeting smile and looked at me.

“I’m going to lunch,” I made up hastily to leave them alone. Albus's eyes grew wide. "There really isn't anything to be shy about." I walked off, leaving Albus there gaping like an idiot...

...and ran straight into Nicolai who was turning the same corner as me.

He caught me by my upper arms to prevent me from falling, his eyes wide in surprise. "Are you all right?" he asked.

"Yeah," I spat a little more venomously than I intended to. I looked up at his face. "Sorry," I said, blushing deeply and looking down. "It's just not a good day for me."

"I can tell," Nicolai said with a small ghost of a smile. "Where are you headed?”

“Great Hall,” I replied, hoisting my bag further up my shoulder. “It’s lunchtime…. Want to – um – walk together?”

“I would,” Nicolai nodded, “but I’m actually going to the library. If I could find it anyway. I need to catch up on everything I’ve missed.”

“Oh, I’m going there too,” I said quickly. “Yeah, I just forgot. Heh, heh. That happens to me sometimes. I just forget.” I bopped myself of the forehead and laughed nervously, all the while thinking, What the hell is wrong with me!?

“Ah…” Nicolai smiled politely. “So, you’re…?”

“I’ll help you find it. I mean, I’ll show you where it is. I already know so I don’t have to find it.” I clamped my mouth shut. Why must I spew such nonsense!

“That would be wonderful.”

I opened my mouth to reply but then closed it again. It’d be safer if I didn’t talk. I smiled, nodded, turned myself in the direction of the library, and started walking.

Nicolai followed just a step behind me and I kept thinking he’d step on the back of my foot and my shoe would come off and I would fall flat in my face. He didn’t and I didn’t. We made it to the library and I stopped.

“Well, here it is,” I said. “The library.”

“Aren’t you coming in?” Nicolai asked, stopping as well. “You said you were coming here as well…”

“Oh! Oh, right! See? I forgot again.” I laughed nervously then, catching Nicolai giving me a strange look, stopped. “Yeah…”

Nicolai pulled open the door and gestured for me enter. “After you.”

I scurried into the library and headed for the nearest empty table, looking over my shoulder constantly to make sure he was still there. “So, what are you going to study?” I asked, dumping my bag on a chair and sliding into the seat beside it.

"Potions," Nicolai said, taking the seat in front of me. "I've never been very good at it and I have my first class after lunch....”

I blinked as I watched Nicolai pull out his Potions book and start flipping through it. He wanted to sit with me? I started to grin then forced myself to stop. How would that look? If I sat there, grinning like an idiot while Nicolai studied. He wouldn’t want to sit with me anymore. Then a horrible thought occurred to me. What if he were only sitting with me because he had no one else to sit with? He didn’t know anyone else, after all.

“Do you mind going over the most important bits you covered last month with me?” Nicolai’s voice jolted me back to reality.

“Uh – sure, no problem.” I pulled my own Potions book out of my bag and opened it to the first of last month’s lessons.

“Are you hungry, by the way?” he asked. “I mean, I’m keeping you from your lunch and you didn't eat much at breakfast... or maybe that's just how much you normally eat. I wouldn't know..."

I blushed at the thought of him paying such close attention to me, and shook my head. My own cousins hadn’t noticed the way barely even one spoonful of eggs made it to my mouth. And he had. 

[a/n]: Sorry for the long wait. I have no excuses but laziness. We won't take this long with chapter 3. Promise. It's mostly done anyway. Well, I hope you liked this chapter. Don't forget to leave a review. ^-^

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