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“I am never taking advice from you again…ever!” I snapped at Louis as I stomped into the dormitory.  I dumped my bag on the ground and turned to face my cousin where he was sprawled on his bed reading a letter.  Will looked up from his copy of Quidditch Quarterly to watch as I continued to rant.  “Even if I was considering jumping off the astronomy tower because I wanted to fly without a broom and you said ‘mate, I really think this is a bad idea because you’re just going to fall to your death,’ I still wouldn’t take your advice, because your advice stinks!”

“What the hell did I do?” Louis exclaimed, sitting up and looking from me to Will with a confused expression on his face. 

“There are plenty of girls that will go out with you, just ask one of them,” I mimicked.  “Well now Mary won’t leave me alone!  Our date was awful, I haven’t asked her out again since and yet she keeps following me around like she’s my girlfriend or something!  What if Lucy thinks she is my girlfriend?”

“Are you still going on about Mary?” Justin asked as he came through the dormitory door.  “Bloody hell Al, just tell her it’s over already.”

I glared at Justin, angry words bubbling up in my mind, however I couldn’t justify shouting at him because he had, after all, warned me against the whole ‘ask someone else out’ debacle.

“How do I even do that?” I groaned, flopping down on my bed and staring up at the red material draped there.  “I really don’t want to make her cry, I hate it when they cry.”

“Ugh, I know!” Louis agreed.  “You never know what you’re supposed to do!” 

“I’m still pissed at you,” I growled, propping myself up on my elbows to glare at my cousin.

“Well I hate to say it…” Justin continued.

“Then don’t,” I grumbled.  Justin ignored me and continued.

“But you got yourself into it so you’re going to have to get yourself out of it.  Be honest, just sit her down and say she’s very nice but you just want to be friends.”

“Nothing like a cliché,” Louis smirked.

“Oi, what did I say about not taking your advice?” I snapped.

“Make sure you don’t go jumping off the astronomy tower,” He responded, the smirk still on his face.

Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it), Mary was not difficult to find.  She and her friends followed me out of the Great Hall after dinner that evening.  I’d spent most of the meal watching Lucy laughing with Hawthorn, but Mary was kind of hard to miss when she called out to me.

“Hi Albus,” She said, waving at me and causing her friends to giggle uncontrollably.

“Oh, Mary, erm hi,” I said, stopping where I was in the Entrance Hall.  “Uh, do you have a second?  I just want to talk to you about something.”  The friends giggled again and Mary beamed at me.

“Sure,” She said.  “I’ll see you guys later,” She added to her friends, who all quickly ran up the marble staircase, giggling as they looked over their shoulders at us.

“Look Mary,” I started, feeling like I was going to throw up.  This was the worst thing I had ever had to do, how could I just be so hurtful and cut her off like this?  I opened and closed my mouth a few times as I tried to remember what it was that Justin had suggested I say.  Can’t I just keep ignoring her? I thought desperately.

Just then, I heard a familiar laugh float through the doors to the Great Hall.  I glanced up and saw Lucy at the Gryffindor table.  She was laughing, he head slightly tilted down and to the side, her brown eyes twinkling and her long hair catching the candlelight from above as it draped over her shoulder. 

“Mary, look you seem really nice an all, but I don’t really feel the same way about you that you seem to feel about me,” I said, surprising myself with my sudden eloquence. 

“But you asked me out,” Mary said, her face falling.  “I thought we had a good time.”

“I know,” I replied, “And I’m really sorry about that, I probably shouldn’t have asked you out at all.”

“But…but…” Mary’s bottom lip quivered and her eyes looked abnormally glassy.  Please don’t cry, please don’t cry!  I thought to myself.  “Is there someone else?” She asked, startling me with how angry she sounded.

“Well, sort of,” I started.  Wait, this is none of her business, she doesn’t need to know about Lucy!  “But that’s not really it.  I just wanted to be honest with you.”

“Well maybe you should have thought about that before you asked me on a date!” Mary snapped, but before I could respond, she turned on her heel and stomped up the stairs.

“She doesn’t look too impressed,” James said from where he suddenly appeared at the doorway to the Great Hall.

“Girls are really complicated,” I said with a sigh.

“You’re preaching to the converted mate,” James laughed, walking over and slapping me on the back.  “If the snogging wasn’t so great I think I’d give them up altogether.”

“I’m so sorry!  My watch stopped working and I didn’t realise what time it was!” Lucy threw herself down into the chair opposite me in the library.  She was breathing heavily and her cheeks were pink from exertion.  “I just ran all the way from the Owlery, oh my goodness I’m so unfit,” She gasped.  I raised my eyebrows at her trying to hide my smile, she just looked so cute.  She looked up at me and giggled before reaching down for her bag where she’d dropped it on the floor.

We’d been meeting together to study a couple times a week and the plan to get to know Lucy better was working brilliantly.  When her friends weren’t around, Lucy seemed to warm up to me and was willing to talk more openly.   Sometimes the books even sat forgotten on the desk as we joked around and told each other stories from our lives.  I was amazed at how easy she was to talk to, I’d always been a bit awkward around girls that weren’t my relatives or on the Quidditch team, but with Lucy I found myself relaxing and telling her all sorts of things about myself.

“So how did you go with the table on common magical pests and methods of control?” Lucy asked as she arranged her things on the desk.  I smiled and handed her the piece of parchment I’d been looking over when she’d arrived.  Lucy took it and smiled down at the neat columns I’d drawn.  I found myself trying extremely hard on my Care of Magical Creatures homework, hoping that my diligence might somehow impress Lucy.  I watched her now as she compared my table with her own, making an occasional note or crossing out the odd word.

“So do I pass, professor?” I teased as she handed it back to me.

“It’s really good,” She said, “you’ve done a great job.”

“As good as yours?” I asked, to which Lucy immediately blushed and became very focussed on fiddling with her quill.  One thing I had learnt from studying with Lucy was just how humble she was.  She was an absolute genius at anything to do with animals, and yet if I tried to compliment her on it she would get all embarrassed and try to change the subject.  It was so sweet, and I wondered vaguely how she would react if I tried to tell her how beautiful she was. 

“Did I ever tell you about the time James and I found plimpies in the stream behind our house and decided to keep them as pets?” I said, hoping to coax Lucy back out of her self-consciousness.  It seemed to work, she looked up at me, curiosity in her eyes.

“No, what happened?” She asked, leaning forward to rest her elbow on the table top, her hand supporting her chin as she watched me.

“Well we couldn’t think of where to put them and they need to be kept in water so we filled up the bath tub and put them in there.”  I said, delighted to have her full attention.  “I was about six or seven I think, and we left them in there and then kind of forgot about them.  That is until mum went to give Lily her bath, she was so cross that she made us take them all back to the stream and then we had to clean the entire bathroom and do the dishes by hand every night for a month!  Lily thought they were great though and wanted to get in and play with them, I remember James saying ‘Oh c’mon Mum, they’re like bath toys that are alive!’  She really wasn’t impressed.”

Lucy laughed and shook her head.  “You guys are hilarious. Phil used to get into trouble all the time when we were younger.  Simon was the sensible one trying to stop him and Alice would back Simon up; but when I came along, Phil knew he had an ally.  Of course I was just joining in because I wanted to be part of whatever they were doing, so I would do just about anything Phil told me to!”

“You’re the youngest, right?” I asked.  Lucy nodded.

“Yep, Alice is three years older than me and the twins are five years older.  I cried so much the day Alice left for Hogwarts, I was convinced they’d all deserted me.” Lucy smiled sadly.  “The boys were already in sixth year by the time I started, so things had changed quite a bit by then.”

“Do you miss having them around?” I asked.  I’d worked out that Lucy’s older sister Alice had finished Hogwarts the previous year and Lucy was the only one left at school now.

“A little bit, but to be honest the independence is nice.  The boys in particular were so over protective, Phil would always start acting like Dad if I showed interest in a boy, I’m pretty sure he thinks I’ve never even kissed…” Lucy blushed bright red again and stopped talking.  She looked down at the table top as though it was the most interesting thing she’d ever seen.

I realised my heart was beating a little bit faster than usual and found myself suddenly curious about just how many boys Lucy had kissed.  Obviously there was McMillan, but a girl as pretty as Lucy had to have been kissed by other boys, right?  I was dying to ask her, but I wasn’t sure I had the guts to do something like that.  Anyway, she’d probably get pretty suspicious about why I’d want to know about her kissing history so I kept my questions to myself. 

“So should we double check our homework with the information in the text book?” I asked casually.  Lucy looked up, her cheeks still a little pink but her expression relieved as she realised I wasn’t going to dwell on what she’d been talking about.

“That sounds like a good idea,” She said, reaching for the text book in front of her.  It just so happened that I’d had the same idea and was reaching for the same book at that moment.  My hand landed on top of Lucy’s and we both looked down in surprise as we touched.  I felt an unusual swooping in my stomach and the room suddenly felt a lot warmer as I stared at Lucy’s delicate hand underneath mine.  It felt so soft and small and not at all unpleasant, but I soon realised her hand was trapped under mine and she was going to wonder what was going on if I didn’t do something soon.

“Oh…um…sorry,” I mumbled, pulling my hand away.  “I thought it was my book,” I added stupidly, looking across the desk for my own copy of the text. 

“That’s ok,” Lucy mumbled, and for a second I thought she sounded as embarrassed as me.

I kept my pinkie promise to Rose that I would wait for the right moment to get back at McMillan, despite the fact that every time I saw his stupid face I wanted to hex him to high heavens.  My appropriate moment came along about two weeks after Lucy had burst into the common room in tears.  It was a Thursday morning and we were just escaping from the North tower after Double Divination when Trelawney called Lucy back.  For a moment I considered waiting for her, but when she waved Hawthorn on, saying she’d catch up, I couldn’t see a way for me to hang around without looking a bit clingy and obsessive.  We were about three quarters of the way back to the common room when I got an idea.

“Oh, I’ve left my quill up in the North tower,” I said, stopping and pretending to check the pockets of my bag.  “It’s the one Lily gave me for my birthday last year, I’d better go back and get it.”  Before Jane and Louis could respond, I turned and slipped around the corner, back the way we’d come.  I was hoping to run into Lucy halfway, and then we would be able to enjoy a leisurely walk back to the common room, alone.

Al Potter you crafty devil you.  I was congratulating myself when I heard voices coming from the next corridor.  One voice in particular sounded very familiar and not at all happy.

“We don’t have anything to talk about Michael,” Lucy said, her voice tense.  Suddenly I was on alert as I approached the end of the corridor. 

“I know you’re angry at me, but can’t we discuss this?” Even though I couldn’t see them yet, I imagined McMillan’s slimy face to match his slimy voice.

“There’s nothing to discuss,” Lucy snapped back as I turned the corner.  She was standing about ten feet away, her back to me, and facing McMillan who was about another six feet away from her.

“Please, if you’d just let me explain – ”  McMillan tried again, but I wasn’t about to let him get his hands back on Lucy, not if I could help it.

“She said she doesn’t want to talk to you McMillan,” I said, walking over to stand next to Lucy, interrupting the stupid prat’s excuses.  His face showed surprise for a moment before rearranging into a sneer.  Lucy gave a small jump in reaction to my voice and her eyes flittered up to me very briefly before turning back to McMillan.  I may have imagined it, but she seemed to stand a little taller after that.

“This is none of your business Potter,” McMillan said, it what I could only assume was supposed to be a threatening tone.  I simply glared back at him before responding. 

“Oh but you’re wrong there McMillan.  You attack any friend of mine and it automatically becomes my business,” I said.  I wanted so much to hex him, to punch him, to throw him out the window even, but I remembered what Rose had said about upsetting Lucy.

“Attacked her?” McMillan gave a mocking sort of laugh as though it was all some sick joke.  I clenched my fists tighter, trying to remember why I shouldn’t pummel his face into a pulp.  Out of the corner of my eye I saw Lucy look my way again for a moment; it was enough to keep me rooted to the spot.  Unfortunately, McMillan wasn’t done yet.  “What sort of lies has she been telling you Potter?”  He said.  “She comes running in with some story about being attacked and you drink up every last word of it don’t you?  Like a good little lap dog!”

“Lucy’s not a liar,” I replied, almost laughing myself.  Did he really think he knew anything about her?  I had ignored her for four years and I still knew she had serious problems when not telling the truth.  “I know for a fact that she’s a hopeless liar and even if she wasn’t, I’d still believe her story completely.”  I wasn’t sure why I’d added that last bit, but when I looked out of the corner of my eye again and saw Lucy’s lips tilting upwards into the smallest of smiles, I felt a surge of courage and I felt myself give a little smile too.  I’m not sure if it was in response to this little exchange or if he simply realised Lucy wasn’t buying into his routine, but McMillan decided to drop all pretence of being the nice guy.

“I thought you were meant to be smart Potter, but I suppose even the son of the ‘chosen one’ can fall victim to the wiles of a teasing slag!” He snarled.  My anger reached boiling point and just like the day Lucy had sat in front of me, crying as she tried to explain what McMillan had done to her, flashes of white exploded behind my eyeballs.  I knew that this was the most appropriate moment I was ever going to come across to teach McMillan a lesson, and I whipped out my wand, pointing it straight at his face.

“Apologize to Lucy right now,” I was surprised at the growl that came from somewhere deep in my chest, it was so threatening and I was amazed that I could actually sound that menacing.  McMillan looked stunned for a moment, but I simply stared at him, daring him to run away because when he did I was going to send every jinx and hex I could think of his way.  There was a slight movement next to me and I saw Lucy slip her hand inside her robes, no doubt reaching for her own wand.  If I hadn’t been so furious I probably would have smiled; Lucy had told me enough about her upbringing that I realised she’d be thinking up a few hexes of her own right about now.  McMillan glared at me a moment longer and then decided he wasn’t going to back down.

“Why should I?” He snapped.  “It’s true, she was all over me and then suddenly she’s smacking me round the head and telling people I was attacking her?  Sounds like the definition of a slag to me!”

Stupefy!  The word flashed through my brain, the first spell I could think of, but before I could open my mouth to speak, a flash of red light flew from the tip of my wand and hit McMillan, causing him to turn stiff and fall to the floor.

Holy mother of Merlin, did I do that?

I stared at the collapsed form of McMillan, lying stone cold unconscious on the floor.  My mind reeled with what had just happened; I hadn’t spoken, I’d simply thought of stunning him and suddenly there he was, stunned and crashing to the ground.

Did I just do a non-verbal spell?  How the hell…

I felt something soft and warm pressing gently on my wand arm, which was still outstretched towards where McMillan had been standing.  I realised suddenly that it was Lucy and I forced my brain to focus on keeping calm.  She’d been through enough in the last five minutes; the last thing I wanted was to upset her further.  I lowered my arm and turned to face her, her eyes were wide and probably matching the look of shock in my own.

“Are you ok?” I asked.  I didn’t care two knuts if McMillan was half dead, Lucy was the one I was worried about.  She nodded but didn’t speak before we both turned to look at the unconscious boy lying in the hallway.

“Stunning spell?” Lucy asked, her voice sounding oddly calm, as though she were just asking me a question in class.

“Um…yeah,” I said.

“I can’t believe you can do non-verbal spells,” The fact that she sounded impressed was not lost on me, but I struggled with the smile tugging at my lips; I didn’t want her to think I was insensitive.

“Neither did I; I mean James has been trying to teach me but normally I struggle with it.  I guess I was just so angry…” I let my voice drift off, not really sure what else to say.  It was true, James had tried a few times to teach me non-verbal spells but the truth was that I was hopeless at it.  My anger was really the only explanation I could come up with.  I continued to stare at Lucy who, whilst looking shocked still seemed to hold an expression of hurt on her face, no doubt from the horrible things McMillan had said.  When I remembered them, I was sorely tempted to go and kick him as hard as I could, but I held on to my anger and focussed on Lucy instead.

“I’m sorry he said those things about you,” I said.  “He’s a complete git and he had no right to call you such disgusting name; and you need to know that nobody else thinks that about you.”  Surely she knew that right?  McMillan had to be seriously unhinged to call someone as sweet and caring as Lucy a… well he was wrong, that was for sure.

“Thanks,” She whispered, and I noticed her eyes had gone all glassy, the way Lily’s used to before she’d start crying for something.  I wanted to reach out and hug Lucy, to hold her in my arms and kiss her and tell her how I felt about her, that she was beautiful and she shouldn’t believe anything a moron like McMillan said, but I couldn’t seem to make the words come out.

And then suddenly, Trelawney was there, gaping at McMillan and shrieking to know what had happened.  When Trelawney turned away, I realised that Lucy was still holding her wand.  Acting on impulse, I snatched it from her hand and shoved it, with my own, into my pocket.  Lucy looked at me but didn’t ask what I was doing or try to get her wand back.

“I did it Professor,” I said before Trelawney could blame Lucy in any way.  “I stupefied him because he was calling Lucy nasty names.”

But Lucy wasn’t so on board with that plan.  “He was just trying to protect me Professor,” She said quickly.  “It’s my fault, I should have just walked away from McMillan because I knew he was angry at me and I shouldn’t have given him the opportunity to say what he did.” 

No Lucy, your mistake was going out with him the first place, but he still had no right to say those things, I thought to myself.

To her credit, Trelawney actually looked slightly sympathetic at our excuses, though she wasn’t about to let this one pass.

“Right, the two of you need to go straight to the Headmistresses office,” She said, her voice less of the breathy ‘mystical’ voice she uses in class and more strict, the way a teacher usually sounds. “You will both need to explain to her what happened.  I will revive this young man and join you shortly.”  There was no point in arguing, I was going to have to go to see the headmistress, but I didn’t like the fact Lucy might get punished too.

I took a few deep breaths as I walked, surprised to discover my anger had all but subsided.  My only concern now was that Professor Sprout realised this wasn’t Lucy’s fault.  It was a good thing I’d had the sense to hide her wand before Trelawney saw it.  Remembering that I still had her wand, I reached into my pocket and pulled it out, handing the small piece of wood to Lucy. 

“Here,” I said.  “Sorry I took it off you like that, I thought she might suspect you’d done it if she caught you holding your wand like that.”  Lucy took the wand from me and smiled.  Her fingers brushed against mine for a second, and my heart skipped a beat.  “And I figured it was easier to just shove it in my own pocket, I didn’t think you’d appreciate me shoving my hand inside your robes.”  I rambled, not really thinking about what I was saying. 

Oh sweet Merlin, did I just say that?  And after everything she’s been through with McMillan.  Potter you are a complete and utter git!  I scolded myself.  I shoved my hands in my pockets and stared at the floor, fighting off inappropriate images that seemed to pop to mind, images that involved me and Lucy pressed up close together, kissing her while one hand stroked her hair, the other inside her robes…

Albus!  Get it together!  Bloody hormones.

“Thank you.  For standing up for me back there with Michael; it was really nice of you to do that,” Lucy said, interrupting my internal argument.  I looked up at her in surprise.  Really nice?  I couldn’t believe she would think that it was even necessary to thank me, did she really think I was still the jerk who had ignored her?  Weren’t we friends?

“He was treating you like dirt, and that wasn’t right,” I said. “You’re my friend, and I believe in looking after my friends.”

Lucy nodded and we fell into silence as we continued towards the headmistresses office, though I couldn’t help but notice she still looked upset.  Probably mulling over McMillan’s insults.

“Do you know the password?” I asked Lucy when we got to the stone gargoyle that guarded Professor Sprout’s office.

“Not a clue,” Lucy shrugged.  We both stared at the gargoyle for a moment.  “I guess we just wait for Trelawney,” Lucy suggested, but before I could finish, the Gargoyle began to move, exposing the spiral staircase that led to the office above.  With a shrug, I stepped onto the nearest step and Lucy followed.  When we reached the door at the top, I knocked and we were greeted with a pleasant ‘come in’. 

“Mr Potter, Miss Bell, please take a seat,” Professor Sprout said once we were inside.  Lucy and I shared another look before sitting in two chairs opposite the large wooden desk.  “Katherine says you were sent by Professor Trelawney, would you care to elaborate?”

Lucy looked at me in confusion, obviously she had no idea who Katherine was either.

“Well Professor,” I began, “I, um, well I hit Michael McMillan with a stunning spell in the corridor, near the North Tower.”

“A stunning spell?” Professor Sprout looked surprised, but to her credit she didn’t let it faze her.  “You do realise Mr. Potter that using magic in the corridors is prohibited at Hogwarts?”

“Yes Professor,” I said.

“And stunning your classmates is generally frowned upon as well,”

“Yes Professor.”

“So Miss Bell,” Professor Sprout turned to look at Lucy.  “Where might you fit into this?”

“It was sort of my fault, Professor,” Lucy said, her voice shaking a little bit.  I wondered how many times she’d been sent to the Headmistresses office.  It was possible she’d never even been in here.  “Michael and I were arguing,”

“He was harassing her Professor, he called her…”  I looked at Lucy, whose eyes had widened in surprise again.  “Well he said some not nice things,” I finished lamely.

“And you took it upon yourself to punish him?” Professor Sprout raised her eyebrows.

“Yes Professor.”

At that moment, the door behind us opened and Trelawney walked in with McMillan, who was conscious once more, but looking a little wobbly on his legs.  I bit back a grin.  McMillan and Trelawney sat down and filled in their parts of the story.  Michael didn’t say much at first, but Professor Sprout didn’t look too pleased with him. 

“So Mr McMillan, did Miss Bell cast any spells or use magic in any way during your…altercation?” She asked, once the story had been regaled again. 

“No Professor,” Michael grumbled.

“Mr Potter, you agree that Miss Bell did not perform any magic?”

“Yes Professor.”

“Thank you.  Miss Bell, you are free to go,” Professor Sprout opened a drawer in her desk and pulled out a piece of parchment, which she wrote on rapidly.

“But Professor…” Lucy protested.

“You will take this note to Professor Binns, it excuses you for being absent from class.”

“But Professor,” Lucy said again.

“Thank you Miss Bell,” Professor Sprout handed the note to Lucy, a look of finality in her eyes.  Lucy took the note and stood up, giving me one last look before she left the room.

“Mr Potter,” Professor Sprout said once Lucy was gone.  “You claimed that Mr McMillan said some rather unsavoury things to Miss Bell.  The fact that you were not willing to repeat them in front of Miss Bell and that you believed they warranted such a strong act of magic suggests that it was not something we approve of students at our school saying.”  Out of the corner of my eye I noticed McMillan squirming, even though Professor Sprout had her eyes on me.  “I asked Miss Bell to leave in order to spare her any further embarrassment.  Could you please tell me exactly what happened?”

“Of course Professor,” I replied, biting back a smile as I gave my recount of what had happened, sparing no detail.  When I was finished, Professor Sprout’s eyes were dark.

“Thank you Mr Potter.  As you are aware, using magic in the corridors is strictly prohibited.  Therefore, you will serve detention on Saturday evening. And I do not want to hear of this happening again, is that understood?”

“Yes Professor,” I said.  Professor Sprout handed me a note like the one she had given Lucy and dismissed me from the office.  I stood up and wordlessly left the room, but once I was out in the corridor again I let myself smile, because I knew McMillan was going to get so much more than a stunning spell to the chest today.  And I knew this because when she handed me the note, Professor Sprout had winked at me.

AN: Ten points if you know who Katherine is! (hint: the clue is in the corresponding chapter of Aminal Magnetism)

Now I tried, really, really hard to hold back with my speedy updates because I'm worried I'm going to run out of chapters before I can write them all.  But I finished another chapter last night so I thought I'd reward myself by posting chapter 7...I hope you liked it.  Please leave a review if you have time, I'd really love to hear what you guys thought of this chapter, and your reviews really do motivate me when I'm writing.

And as's your preview for the next chapter, in which we're off to Hogsmeade once more!

I had to give Justin credit, he was exhibiting incredible self-control on his date – he hadn’t even tried to hold Gwen’s hand.  If I was even fortunate to go on a date with Lucy I probably wouldn’t be able to keep my hands off her.  Yes you would, because you would treat her better than McMillan, I reminded myself.  The whole spying plan became rather boring and soon, we were all bored to tears with what Justin and Gwen were doing…or rather not doing! 

“These two are like watching paint dry,” I grinned at Lucy after ten minutes of watching them look at the Scrivenshaft’s window display.  “I mean it’s just quills and ink, how interesting can it be?”

“You’re such a boy,” Lucy laughed quietly, shaking her head mockingly at me.

“Well that’s a nice change, you usually call me a girl,” I teased, giving her what I hoped was a flirtatious smile. 

“That’s because you act like a girl,” Lucy smiled back briefly, but quickly focussed on Justin and Gwen again.  For a moment I thought she was blushing, but as the cool winter air tickled my own cheeks I realised it was probably just the cold making her look a little pinker than usual.


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