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I ended up being half an hour early for breakfast on the first day of term. I was so irritated and sick of my friends when I woke up that I decided to defy Lancaster tradition and actually get up when my alarm went off, leaving the dorm before Fauna had even put her socks on. I knew she’d be really mad at me, because getting mad at petty things is something Fauna Chang can be quite good at, but I didn’t really care. I didn’t want to hear another word about Albus Potter’s eyes in my entire life. The night before, I’d got so fed up of answering questions about him that I’d told them all that I hadn’t made eye contact with Albus once and his eyes could have been, like, yellow for all I knew, even though I knew full well that they were a sort of hazely-green.

The Great Hall was pretty quiet when I got there. I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. I mean, on one hand, it’s nice because there are less people to stare at you but, on the other, it’s horrible because you’re a lot more obvious in an empty hall. I made it to my seat at the Hufflepuff table without tripping once, which was a bit of an achievement seeing as I was convinced that the six Slytherins at the leftmost table were glaring at me.

I’d no sooner put four slices of toast onto my plate than Scorpius took the seat opposite me.

‘Hey,’ he said. ‘Fauna’s angry at you, you know.’

I looked up at him over my pumpkin juice. ‘What, is she up already?’

‘Yeah. I think she’s mad at me too because neither of us waited for her and…’

‘She’ll be over it by Herbology.’

The two of us sat in silence for a moment while he grabbed a piece of toast and a pot of strawberry jam.

‘So,’ he said. ‘Are you going to tell me what went on yesterday?’

Of course he’d known that there’d been more to it than I’d been letting on. In terms of him and his skills of reading people like books, I was probably the equivalent of, like, a child’s alphabet picture book or something. Slim with little substance. And full of helpful, colourful diagrams, like the epic tomato-colour blush that spread across my face just as he asked me what had gone on.

‘Uh…’ I set down my toast. ‘Not much, to be honest. Albus stuck up for me and I said I’d help him out with his History of Magic work in return.’

‘Oh,’ Scorpius said. ‘Cool.’

‘Mega,’ I nodded. I wanted to tell him about the ensuing, spur-of-the-moment kiss and how I’d had it up to here with everyone in my dorm, but somehow the words wouldn’t come out and it just seemed so much easier and neater to eat toast instead. But it wasn’t like Scorpius asked me much else either, which was sort of odd.

‘You don’t like him, do you?’ I asked, once I’d put away two slices of toast.

‘Er, no,’ he said, rolling his eyes. ‘He’s full of himself.’

I felt a bit of my earlier irritation creeping back. ‘He’s actually really nice,’ I said. ‘I didn’t think he was stuck up, anyway.’

Scorpius shook his head and frowned down at his toast. ‘It’s complicated, Flora.’

I didn’t want to press any further, because falling out with Scorpius on the first day of term would not have been a good idea and, besides, falling out with him on any day of the year really sucks.

Luckily, though, I didn’t have to press further, because Fauna joined us at that moment. She gave me a funny look, settled into the seat next to Scorpius, and helped herself to toast.

‘You okay, Flora?’ she said.

‘Peachy,’ I said, trying to prove how good a friend I was by passing her the butter before she’d even asked for it. She took it with a smile.

‘Seen Albus yet today?’ she asked.

I knew she was kidding, but I felt like I was going to scream if everyone kept talking about Albus.

‘Nope,’ I said. ‘But we’ve got Potions second. Maybe we’ll see him then.’

‘Mega,’ Fauna grinned. ‘He’s such a dish.’

Scorpius gave Fauna a really dirty look.

‘Hey,’ Fauna elbowed him. ‘I’m allowed to fancy him.’

‘He’s up himself,’ Scorpius scowled. ‘And you are so not.’


‘Your Aunt used to go out with his Dad, it’s weird…’

‘That is so not weird! It was centuries ago!’

‘It’s weird, Fauna.’

‘Not my kind of dish anyway,’ I said quietly. ‘My kind of dish has apple crumble in it.’

‘When’s your first study session with him, Flora?’ Fauna asked, ignoring both Scorpius’ indignation and my weird comment.

‘I dunno,’ I said. ‘Can I eat my toast now?’

‘You’ll have to introduce me,’ Fauna winked. ‘It’d be very mega. Mega mega.’

‘Don’t waste your time,’ Scorpius said bitterly. ‘I bet he’s got a girlfriend. Half of Hogwarts is obsessed with him.’

‘Well, not me,’ I said, although my mouth was so full of toast it came out a bit more like ell ot e. I swallowed the toast, took a gulp of pumpkin juice, and then faced my two best friends. Scorpius, who was glaring at the table, and Fauna, who was sporting a devilish grin. ‘I’m just going to help him with his homework, simple as. I mean, it’s pretty mega,’ I said, as a concession to Fauna. ‘But, you know, academic.’

‘Ooooh, academic,’ Fauna laughed. ‘Well, we’ll keep an eye on it. Won’t we, Scorp?’

Scorpius dropped his glare in an instant, replacing it with an unconvincing smile. He wasn’t fooling anyone; I knew he pretty much hated Albus and wouldn’t even give him the time of day.

‘Sure,’ he said. ‘We’ll be watching. Like hawks.’

True to my predictions, Fauna had forgotten all about being annoyed with me by Herbology, and we were back to our usual chirpy selves by the time we got to Potions. Potions was a lesson we used to have with the Ravenclaws, but now this was the first N.E.W.T year and all, there were only fifteen of us in the class and it was a mixture of all the houses. There were the three of us and Lucy from Hufflepuff, two Slytherins, Four Ravenclaws and two Gryffindors, and, yes, one of those Gryffindors was Albus. But he sat at the back of the class and we sat kind of near the front because we’re squares, so thankfully Fauna didn’t get many opportunities to nudge me and wink at me and stuff every time me and Albus were within a metre of each other.

But at the end of Potions, when we were all milling outside in the corridor on our way to break, someone tapped my shoulder and I turned around and saw Albus with the other Gryffindor, who I think was a girl called Eustace Finch.

‘Hey, Flora,’ he said. ‘Are you busy this afternoon?’

Even though he hadn’t been talking, I sensed Scorpius going very quiet beside me. Fauna, by contrast, let out a nervy giggle.

‘Nah, I’m not,’ I said.

‘Do you want to meet in the library? Say, four? I won’t keep you long,’ Albus smiled.

‘Of course,’ I smiled back, while Fauna continued to giggle and Scorpius continued to impersonate a rock either side of me. Then Albus waved cheerily and walked off, Eustace Finch in tow, and then Fauna took me by the elbow and turned me on the spot so we could walk off in the opposite direction. Scorpius took a while to follow.

‘I think he likes you, Flora,’ Fauna whispered conspiratorially. ‘He’s smiled like that every time he’s seen you!’

‘Maybe he’s just a nice guy,’ I shrugged.

‘Maybe he’s showing off,’ Scorpius said bitterly.

‘Oh, give it a rest, will you?’ Fauna said, as she linked her arm through mine. ‘You haven’t even given the poor boy a chance.’

‘Yeah, Scor,’ I said, because, actually, I did agree with Fauna on this one. ‘He’s sound.’

‘Oh, whatever, fine,’ Scorpius said. ‘I’ve got Arithmancy now, I’ll see you two later?’

And then he turned and walked off in the direction Albus and Eustace Finch had gone.

‘Hey!’ Fauna called after him. ‘It’s break!’

But he didn’t turn around, just put his arm through the other strap of his rucksack and walked off like he meant business. Me and Fauna looked at each other.

‘Weird,’ Fauna said.

‘He’s always been weird,’ I said.

Not really much happened for the rest of the day. Lessons, lunch, then more lessons – nothing really that eventful, unless you count the fact that I accidentally set fire to the cup of water I was working on in Charms. I don’t really know how you can set fire to water, but apparently I can do it. It’s why I’m really good at History of Magic and Runes and Divination and stuff that doesn’t really need magic, which I suppose is really typical considering I’m muggle-born and stuff.

Fauna walked me to the library at four, which I thought was pretty nice of her, because I was getting a bit nervous even though it was just Albus and I knew he was nice and stuff. I’d realised that we hadn’t really specified which bit of the library we were going to meet in, and the library is kind of mega as libraries go and I was worried about turning up in the wrong place. But he was there, by the door, idly staring into space, and Fauna gave me a little encouraging wave and a smile and said she’d see me at teatime before she turned and went back down the stairs again.

‘Hey,’ Albus said, when he caught sight of me dithering around by the entrance.

‘Hi,’ I said. ‘So what do you want to do today?’

He shrugged. ‘I hadn’t really thought of it. You’re the tutor.’

We went into the library. As we went through the door, our schoolbags kind of bashed together, and there was a bit of an awkward moment where the momentum of my bag kind of put me off balance and I almost walked into him.

‘Basics,’ I said, once I was walking in a straight line again. ‘Start with the really basic stuff, I guess. Oh, not like that!’ I added, when I realised I might have offended him by implying he was stupid or something.

‘No, that’s a good idea,’ he said. ‘I need to cover the basics.’

We found a spare table on the leftmost side of the library with four seats. He took the seat nearest the wall and I took the one opposite, leaving an empty chair on either side of us.

‘Maybe we should cover essay structure?’ I suggested.

‘Oh, yeah, of course,’ he said. ‘Great idea! I hate essays.’

‘Just takes a bit of practice,’ I said, flipping open my folder. Unfortunately, I was a bit too enthusiastic in flipping it open, and a load of my notes went flying out across the table and onto one of the empty chairs. Albus laughed as I dived out to catch them.

‘Right, okay,’ I resurfaced, clutching a handful of paper, and noticed that he’d already got parchment and a quill out like he was going to take notes. ‘Oh…’

‘I’ll forget it if I don’t write it down,’ he smiled. ‘Fire away.’

I wasn’t quite sure if I had the ammunition to, er, fire away, so I thought as hard as I could and then the first O.W.L History of Magic lesson we’d had last year popped into my head.

‘Essay structure is probably, like, the first thing to think about,’ I said, hesitating a bit to see how he reacted. But then Albus nodded encouragingly and I continued. ‘So we’ve got two essays to cram into two hours in the exam, right? So it’s, like, sixty minutes per essay.’

He scribbled this on the parchment and I felt myself blush. It was pretty chuffing good to have someone actually listening to you and paying attention for a change who isn’t your mother, and anyway mothers are practically obliged by law to listen to all the crazy things you say so that doesn’t really count. Anyway, so, Albus started making notes, and I went on, well, teaching him.

‘But you’ve got to take ten minutes out of that, right, because you need five minutes at the start to plan, five minutes at the end to proof-read. I mean, I actually have to take about ten minutes to proof-read because my handwriting is like the handwriting of a geriatric donkey on acid…’

Albus gave me a vaguely quizzical look as I trailed off into silence.

‘Wow,’ I said. ‘Well, anyway. First, look at the question. Really look. Kind of helps if you underline important words and stuff?’

‘Like what?’

My face burned again. ‘Um, how about…to what extent does Flora Lancaster say silly things?’

He laughed at me, although not in an unkind way. ‘Should I copy that down?’

‘Go for it,’ I said, fiddling with the corner of my parchment in a vague attempt to distract myself from what felt like two candles held to my face. Okay, so, I may be really good with snacks and pretty decent at History of Magic, but I think my true talents lie in embarrassing myself.

‘Important words…’ he mused. ‘I guess, um, Flora, Lancaster, silly?’

‘Probably,’ I said. ‘Okay, so, then you need to plan your structure. You need to figure out if you agree or disagree first, right? So then it goes introduction, disagree, agree, conclusion, whatever. Basically, whichever side you can argue strongest comes second. It’s supposed to be a balanced debate but it’s totally biased because you get to pick a side right from the start.’

‘Okay,’ he said, writing the vague points of what I’d said on his parchment. 'So…introduction.’

‘Where you sum up the question, define any of the words, whatever.’

‘I guess I’d define silly.’

‘Sure. If you like.’

‘And then…well, I suppose I’d agree first. Then I’d disagree. Then I’d conclude.’

‘If you think you’ve got more evidence for disagreeing with the question, then, sure.’

‘Of course I’ve got more evidence,’ he said. ‘I don’t think you say silly things at all.’

There was a weird little silence and my face went all red and hot again with embarrassment.

‘So I suppose I’d reiterate that point in my conclusion,’ he said, after the silence had gone on for a little too long.

‘Wow,’ I said. ‘Yes.’

‘Wow indeed,’ he said, eyebrows raised, as he scribbled something about a conclusion onto his parchment.

‘And…that’s kind of it,’ I said. ‘Done and dusted…dusted, hoovered and wiped down with a damp cloth.’

There was another weird little silence.

‘Okay, that was a silly thing,’ he laughed, and all the awkwardness seemed to evaporate at once.

‘Oh, don’t try and flatter me,’ I said. ‘I’m like, the epitamy of silliness-’

‘You mean the epitome.’

‘Er, yeah.’

‘Compared to a lot of girls in our year, Flora, you’re not really that silly.’

I realised that we were really getting off-topic and had sort of abandoned the whole History of Magic thing, but I felt I’d probably done enough teaching for one day and had to stop before my brain turned into a roast dinner.

‘Huh? Really?’

‘Well, you know what I mean,’ he shrugged. ‘A lot of girls in our year just go on and on about, well, Witch Weekly stuff. But you’re kind of above all that. I think that’s nice.’

I instantly thought of Tabitha and Georgina and, to a lesser extent, Fauna and Lucy. And to be honest, I didn’t feel like I was much different from any of them. I even wore lipgloss and had a poster of Myron Wagtail next to my bed and all.

But then I remembered that Myron Wagtail is, like, really old these days, and it’s really uncool to like the Weird Sisters when you’re a twenty-first century witch. And I remembered that Tabitha and Georgina and Lucy and Fauna all liked this guy called Johnny Glimmer, who sang in a band called Modernism and was really cool and stuff. But I didn’t like twenty-something Johnny Glimmer and electronica, I liked Myron Wagtail, who had big glasses and an intellectual beard and wrote really clever poetry and wore corduroy trousers when he performed on the Weird Sisters reunion tour. And everyone knows that grown-up girls like Fauna wear lipstick and nobody wears lipgloss anymore because apparently it’s a menace when you want to kiss boys. Which isn't something I do a lot.

So I think I sort of got the gist of what Albus was saying.

‘Well, um,’ I shuffled my notes, just so I had something to do. ‘Thanks.’

‘Cool. Anything else I should know about, um…essay structure?’

‘Don’t think so,’ I shrugged.

‘Are you going to set me homework?’ he smiled.

‘Ha! No,’ I smiled back. ‘But if you ever want practise, I’ll make up some questions for you.’

‘That sounds good.’

The session evidently over, we packed away our things and then stood up, and I wasn’t sure whether to dismiss him like a Professor would or leave the library with him like a friend.

‘Thanks, Flora,’ he said. ‘I really appreciate this.’

‘Don’t mention it,’ I said, and then we walked out the library together and parted at the staircase; him to Gryffindor tower, and me to the Hufflepuff common room.

a/n: sorry for the delay in updating! It's been a mega mega mad month with art school interviews and such, so this chapter has been stagnating for ages. I thought I'd use this author's note to tell you about the (un)official playlist I sort of made for this fic, which I've listened to solidly throughout writing and has been really mega for inspiration. It's a bit long, but the essential tracks are Flaws by Bastille, When I Go by Slow Club, Mis-shapes by Pulp, Since Yesterday by Strawberry Switchblade, Ask & Accept Yourself by The Smiths, Best Friend by The Drums and Wetsuit by The Vaccines. Um, wow, that's a bit hipster as story playlists go. But they're all great tunes and I most heartily reccomend them to you all~
Thanks for reading & I hope you enjoyed it!

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