I’ve left my window open so I can hear the thunder.
It’s echoed and boomed all day long, through every class, the sporadic rumble so deep it sounds like a fissure opening up to split the earth in two. And though I tried to pay attention to each lecture (it is the first day, after all), my gaze kept cutting to the windows, my eyes tracing the blurred familiarities of the grounds through the distorted, rain-soaked glass. I was hoping to catch a flash of lightning — a cracking, sizzling burst — that would be faster than my eyes could follow, but I’d know it was real from the glowing imprint that would momentarily stain my retinas, a fiery streak dancing in front of my gaze whether my eyes were open or closed.
It would happen, and my breath would catch, and my vision would dance.
And I’m lying here, tucked away in my four-poster, the curtains around my bed drawn closed only so the wind that finds its way through my open window will make my curtains billow and sway, like a royal blue jellyfish, velvet-finished and stitched together with silver stars.
One arm curled beneath my head, I hold the other up in the dark so I can run my fingers against the flowing curtains, the velvet rolling and ebbing like the softest sea. The fabric glides along my palm before falling away when the wind leaves my bedside.
And then the velvety ocean is parting down the middle, Dom’s silhouette pushing its way past the curtains to climb through the dark, her knee catching my shin, a hissed swear word issuing from me and one back from her, her hands swatting for me to shove over and make room for her.
Dom makes herself comfortable and whispers, “Couldn’t sleep with all the racket outside.”
I frown, “I’m sorry. D’you want me to close the window?”
She shrugs lightly, “Nah, it’s fine. Probably wouldn’t have been able to sleep anyways.”
Dom pauses, her fingers playing with a loose thread on the blanket between us, “What was up with you asking Rose about cursed scars this morning?”
I freeze, and then overheat immediately as I feel like I’ve been caught in something.
She continues, smirking slightly, “What, are you trying to study up on Al’s family history now that you guys are a thing? Think knowing about Uncle Harry’s scar will earn you some points?”
I shove her shoulder lightly (but her comments about her Uncle’s scar has my mind scattering off in several directions), “Al and I aren’t a thing, we’re — I’ve no idea, actually.”
Dom fixes me with such a look I can see it through the darkness, “Josie, c’mon. I’ve already seen the way you look at him. Did you see the way he was looking at you?”
I blush, and I’m thankful that it’s so dark, “I mean, I don’t know. We haven’t really talked since the party. What about that girl you said he was seeing?”
I can hear the mischief in her voice, “That didn’t seem to stop you earlier when you landed a smooch on him in the Entrance Hall.”
I groan quietly, throwing an arm over my eyes, “I wasn’t thinking. I’m terrible.”
Dom snorts, “You are not. Really, Jose, I don’t think Al would be after you if he was already seeing someone. He’s good people.” She pauses, speculative, “Maybe they broke up before the end of the summer, or something. Like you and Jude, apparently.”
“We weren’t ever together. Not really, anyway.”
She gives me another look that makes its way through the dark, “Yeah, okay.”
I try to change the subject from me, “You sure were giving Parker a hard time last night.”
Dom shrugs, unconcerned, “That’s because Parker’s an idiot.”
“Nothing. Hey, you still haven’t told me about how you ended up in Matt Belkin’s lap at Al’s party.”
She groans comically and I giggle as quietly as I can, smiling the whole time as she tells me about how after I ‘unceremoniously ditched her the second we got to the party’, she just had to find a way to keep herself entertained. Dom’s a wonderful story teller, she never leaves out an important detail or forgets to make herself the heroine of the story.
And the night slips by like this, our whispers and laughter mixing in with the wind, discussing everyone and everything we can think of, grinning like loons at the prospect of spending our Seventh Year (the best year yet) together. Our hopes and desires for the coming year being carried out on the back of the wind to churn and scatter through the crisp night air.
Eventually, heavy lidded and throats scratchy from whispering for so long, Dom slips out between my curtains to fall with an audible thump on her own bed, and I sink into my plush pillow and soft blankets, the thunder now sounding a lot like applause for this wonderful, just perfect year we’re about to have.
Autumn really seems to have been a stowaway on the Hogwarts Express, for as soon as we settled into the castle, the air turned crisp, the skies blustery and wild, and Dominique Weasley — whose heart beats to the tempo of leaves crunching beneath her shoes, and who has long since established that her Spice Girl name would be Pumpkin — could not have been happier.
“It’s so cold!” Dom squeals as her breath huffs out in a cloud in front of her. She laughs like a lunatic and points at the tendrils of opaque air curling away from her.
Tugging the collar of my cloak closer to my neck, I pull the sleeves of my blue Ravenclaw jumper further down over my hands, bouncing on the balls of my feet a little to keep warm, as fifteen or so of us wait under the arches of the covered walkway across from the greenhouses to stay out of the torrential downpour that’s been drenching the castle on and off for the past week.
“S’great, Dom,” I mumble at her, squinting through the rain at the green-tinted windows of Greenhouse Six, wondering if I can see people packing up their stuff — signaling the end of their lesson — or if they’re moving around wildly to avoid a dangerous plant.
Unable to tell if it’s time to make a mad dash for it, my eyes drift past the edges of the greenhouse, gaze attempting to discern the details of the blurred landscape through the veil of rainwater falling down lazily over the lip of the archway.
I sigh contentedly. The sound of raindrops against cobblestone will forever be associated with stormy days at Hogwarts, patch-worked together with the worn texture of the coziest armchair in Ravenclaw Tower, and the feel of a lazily sipped butterbeer, warming you up from the tip of your tongue to the ends of your toes. Under this archway, with the curtains of rain all around us, I feel insulated, protected, and like I could spend all day leaning against a pillar with my eyes closed, just listening.
“Dani, you idiot,” Davis calls to Daniella Dawson - fondly dubbed Double-D in our Fourth Year, for various reasons - startling me out of my reverie, “Where’s your cloak?” he asks, striding up to our group huddle with his arm around Eloise’s shoulders. She’s wearing his Ravenclaw scarf.
Dom smirks smugly over at me — she’s all bundled up in her cloak, as well as sporting bright blue mittens knitted for her by her grandmother — and Daniella sighs, arms crossed over her Hufflepuff oxford and tie, “I didn’t bring it.”
Denise Laineman looks over from her conversation with Anna Fairchild, her expression sympathetic, “Oh no! You forgot it at home?”
Dom’s smirk get smirkier as Daniella flushes a little, “No, I have it, I just left it in the dorm.”
Davis laughs, and Daniella’s friend Rashida nudges her with her elbow, “Go on, tell ‘em why.”
She huffs, her chin tilting up, “Because, my schedule does not support lugging around a giant cloak all day.” We’re all looking at her with slightly condescending, amused smiles, so she goes on, “See, I started the morning in Charms, which is always stuffy, and then I go to Potions which is literally boiling and bubbling, and — and steaming, so I just figured I could go without —”
Davis shoves her shoulder good-naturedly, an easy grin on his face, “But you need it now, Lazy.”
Daniella keeps her head held high (though the effect is ruined a bit by the wind whipping her hair into her face) as she says, “I’ll make do.”
Davis rolls his eyes and grins at her before turning to whisper something in Eloise’s ear, whose lips twitch up at the corners, her gaze still on her dorm mate. The sounds of an argument echo off the barrel ceilings of the stone walkway, and I can’t help but smile a little at the sight of a very harassed-looking Rose Weasley, striding over to us with half a dozen rolls of parchment tucked under her arm, and an equally distressed Head Boy Henry Renner taking long strides to keep up with her.
Rose is, undoubtedly and irrevocably, the boss.
“Henry, listen, I understand that you’re squeamish about confrontations, but that doesn’t mean —”
“Weasley, c’mon, this isn’t squeamishness, this is me trying to stop an all-out war —”
“Really, don’t you think that’s a little dramatic?”
Henry puts an arm out in front of Rose so she’ll stop walking, a few meters away from the rest of us (who are all watching with unabashed interest), “Weasley. Rose. Think about this for a second. You’ve put the Gobstones Club and the Wizarding Chess Club in the same room at the same time, don’t you think that’s bound to get out of hand —”
“It’s chess and gobstones, Henry. The members of those clubs don’t know how to get out of hand.”
Henry puffs up, obviously offended, “You’re generalizing again, Weasley, we’ve talked about this. You can’t use your preconceived notions of ‘geeks’ and ‘jocks’, or whatever other stereotypes you prescribe to, to form your decisions. It’s honestly quite —”
Rose’s eyes are filled with fire, and the six-inch height difference between them seems to shrink by the second, “Well what would you have me do, Renner? There isn’t enough space, alright? We’ve got twenty-two new clubs petitioning to be formed, and those are just the ones we’ve vetted to be safe and unoffensive and studious enough for the faculty to give the okay to, and you’re on me about games that take place on boards, Henry. They’re small and portable, and it’s perfectly reasonable to put two like-minded groups in the same area. Hey, it might liven things up a bit in the otherwise fatally dull world of chess and gobstones. And no,” She says, heaving, finger pointed in Henry’s wide-eyed face, “I am not trivializing the importance of extracurriculars to the health and well being of our students. So,” She takes a moment to calmly tuck her hair behind her ears and to tug the bottom hem of her jumper down slightly, “If you’re so hamstrung on the required space for board games, you can very well put them outside for all I care.”
Rose turns on her heel and leaves a gobsmacked Henry behind her as she walks over to the rest of us, all silent and slightly awed.
“Josie, dear, hold these for me for a second?” She passes the rolls of parchment into my arms before bending down to dig through her bag. I cut my gaze over to Dom, who shrugs bewilderedly. Davis’ mouth is a bit agape as he stares at Rose, his brows twisted in confusion.
“Rose?” I say quietly, as conversation strikes up around us again, “Everything alright?”
“Peachy,” she murmurs distractedly, pulling out her Transfiguration textbook.
Dom scrunches up her eyebrows, “Rose, we’re about to go into Herbology.”
Rose stares down at the cover of A Guide to Advanced Transfiguration with blank eyes before shaking her head, “Of course. Right. Sorry, these first couple of weeks have been more hectic than I expected.”
Dom’s expression softens, “It’ll all smooth out soon, don’t worry.”
Rose smiles up at her as the the door to Greenhouse Six opens, and we all have to quickly move to the side to avoid the Sixth Years darting for cover.
It’s in this chaotic moment that Jude, Parker, and Scorpius sprint over to us, cloaks flapping behind them as their running steps echo loudly in the walkway.
Jude shoves a hand through his hair when he reaches us, relieved, “Thank merlin we weren’t late.”
I smile up at him, “Close call, Wood.”
He winks back at me, pulling the strap of his school bag further up his shoulder.
We all turn to make a run for the greenhouse door when we come up behind Daniella at the very edge of the archway, obviously steeling herself to get soaked in the short distance to Greenhouse Six.
“Dani,” Jude says, confused, “Where’s your bloody cloak?”
Daniella shoots daggers at Jude, and his eyebrows shoot up to his hairline. He’s not used to such treatment from Daniella Dawson.
“I forgot it, okay?” She snaps, before tentatively putting her book bag over head.
Jude shakes his head before grabbing her arm, making her turn around, “Don’t be stupid,” he murmurs, pulling out his wand and tapping Daniella on the forehead, “Impervius.”
She blinks at him, blushing before grinning up at him, “Oh, thanks Jude! You’re a genius.”
Jude lights up under her praise, and the rest of us exchange a look.
Parker taps his foot impatiently, “We get it, Dawson, he saved you from having the whole class see your bra through your white shirt. Huzzah. Can we go now?”
Daniella blushes even further before hightailing it to the greenhouse, and Dom smacks Parker on the back of the head, “Don’t be a prick, Parker!”
Parker rubs the back of his head as we make a break for the door, grumbling, “You were all thinking it.”
The inside of Greenhouse Six is warm and cozy, the rain pattering against the glass roof so pleasantly that most of the Seventh Years are smiling as they sit down at their tables. Vines climb up every wall, the air thick, and it feels sort of like we’re researching in the Amazon or something.
“Okay, gang!” Longbottom claps his hands to stop the chattering and shuffling, “Who’s excited to be back for their second week of NEWT-level Herbology?”
There’s a very half-hearted murmuring in response.
“Great!” Longbottom exclaims, undeterred, “So, I know you’ve all had very exciting summer holidays where you didn’t want to think about Herbology at all, and your first week back’s always a bit distracting, but I’m hoping that at least some of you completed the assigned reading about the Sopophorous plant?” He trails off hopefully, but there’s an embarrassed pause where only a few students nod or murmur that they did. He clears his throat, “Right, well, no matter. I’ll just summarize a bit for you, shall I? It is important to understand the basic anatomy — or phytotomy — of the Sopophorous plant, because if you can harvest the bean it produces, it has just wonderful properties that Potioneers make great use of —”
The door to the greenhouse bangs open, and Al Potter sprints inside.
“Albus!” Professor Longbottom exclaims, surprised and dismayed, “You’re nearly fifteen minutes late.”
Al stands, dripping wet, at the front of the class, and a few students titter, “I know, I’m really sorry Professor. It won’t happen again.”
Longbottom sighs, and gestures down the rows of desks for Al to take a seat, “Come and see me after class, alright?”
Al nods quickly, and makes his way swiftly to an empty chair at the back, his gaze catching mine as he walks by and causing my cheeks to flush instantly. He smiles slightly and I flush even more.
Once Al is settled at his table, Longbottom tries to get back in his rhythm, “Right, so, the Sopophorous plant. It likes to grow in quite dark, marshy areas, and I’ve taken the liberty of growing and repotting several of these plants for you to work with today.” He smiles at all of us like this is a real treat, so I try to smile back, “And as I said, the bean has all kinds of important uses, as I’m sure you’re aware of from your own Potions lessons, and we will be collecting these beanpods today. If your plant doesn’t have any beans ready to be harvested, you’ll be pruning the Sopophorous plant instead. Mind the stems, they’re rather fragile. You’ll find the beanpods near the base of the leaves, alright? Get in groups of three or four, the plants are on the counter along the back.” We all get up, either looking around for a group or making our way back to collect a plant. “Wear your dragonhide gloves!” Longbottom shouts over the din, “They aren’t strictly necessary today, but it’s good practice to always wear your gloves when dealing with magical plants.”
Dom tugs on the sleeve of my jumper, “Want to work with the lovebirds or with Rose and Scorpius?”
I scoff, standing up to gather my things, “Rose. Obviously.”
Dom laughs, calling, “Sorry Davis, Eloise! Josie’s decided she hates you and never wants to see your faces ever again.”
Davis rolls his eyes and ushers Eloise towards Parker and Jude.
Smiling, I thunk my things down on Rose and Scorpius’ table, pulling a chair over to sit across from Scorp, “Hello love. How’re things?”
He smiles, chin propped on his hand, “Lovely, thanks. Rose is off getting the very best plant she can find. She wants the one with the most pods.”
Laughing, I say, “Thank god she did the reading, I totally forgot about it until Longbottom mentioned it.”
There’s a bit of shouting from where the plants are lined up in the back, “Rose, for merlin’s sake, just pick one. You’re holding up the line!”
Scorpius and I grin at each other as Rose and Dom’s raised voices carry them all the way back to our table, Rose’s face mostly hidden by an enormous plant in her arms.
Dom plops down next to me, nose wrinkled, “Let’s hurry this up. This thing smells bloody awful.”
“That’d be the mooncalf dung Longbottom’s used to fertilize it.” Rose says casually, pulling on her gloves.
Dom’s nose scrunches up even more, “Terrific.”
The lesson carries on in this way, with Rose diving bravely into the removal of the pods, while Scorpius collects the beanpods from Rose, I do a bit of pruning, and Dom takes notes on the whole process, leaning her chair back on two legs to put as much distance between the Sopophorous plant and her nose as possible.
“Rose,” I say, a thought just occurring to me, “Do I patrol outside tonight if it’s still pouring rain?”
She shakes her head, “No point, really. You’d just do the Entrance Hall and the surrounding hallways. But if it looks like the rain’s let up, it really would be best for you two to spend a bit of time outside, even if it’s fairly quick.” She bites her lip apprehensively, as if expecting me to be upset with her for wanting me to do my job.
I nod and smile, “Of course, makes sense.”
“How did your patrols with Eric go last week? I don’t think I’ve been able to talk to you about it.”
That would be because Rose has been running around all week like Hogwarts has caught fire and only she can put it out, but that’s not totally unusual. She loves being busy.
I shrug, “It’s been okay. Not as good as patrolling with you, of course,” Rose winks at me with a grin, “But he’s a bit — I’m not sure how to put it, exactly.”
Eric’s a shirker. On our first patrol together, he suggested we split up to finish more quickly, and I gladly agreed. But when our paths crossed again, he was leaning against the side of the greenhouse I’d left him at, smoking. And I’m not much of a stickler about that kind of thing, but I’m not exactly thrilled at the prospect of having to cover our entire route alone while he hangs out by the greenhouses.
I’m not about to snitch, though (Rose would positively destroy him for not taking his Prefect duties seriously), so I finish, “He’s alright. I’m sure we’ll get into a good rhythm eventually.”
Rose nods at me, smiling, “Absolutely. You get along with everyone, Jose.”
“People pleaser,” Dom mutters under her breath, and I shove her so she nearly topples out of her chair. She sticks her tongue out at me, so I do it back, which leads to a few solid minutes of making funny faces at each other before Scorp tells us to knock it off. We dissolve into giggles, but do as we’re told.
I get back to pruning the Sopophorous plant, the gentle sound of rain so relaxing that we all commit to our tasks happily. Rose chatters on a bit about wanting to study later on in the evening, and I glance up a few times to see Al working with Brett Lannerman and Matt Belkin, their smiles easy as they talk and harvest Sopophorous beans.
Dom catches me looking, and I blush before glancing down quickly. I raise my pruning shears to snap off a rather sad looking branch, holding the branch in one hand and the shears poised around the branch in the other, when someone elbows me sharply in the back. My hands around the branch and the shears instinctively tighten, but I’ve been knocked off balance and I end up cutting into my finger rather badly. At first it doesn’t feel like anything as I inspect my finger, just a rather grotesque looking gash cut deeply across the soft underside, but then the blood starts to pool to the surface and spill over, and it stings painfully.
Rose gasps, calling over for Professor Longbottom as I use my other hand to clutch my bloody finger tightly. I look around me to see who could have bumped me, but all I see behind me is Li Wei working alone, his table perfectly tidy and his bowl full to the brim with Sopophorous beans. He doesn’t even look up as Longbottom comes sprinting by him.
“Miss Deetrin! Oh no, where are your gloves?”
I grimace at him, very aware of the class gathering around us as the blood starts to seep through the cracks of the fist I’ve made around my finger, dripping down my wrist and staining the cuff of my jumper. “I forgot to put them on, sorry Professor.” I’m feeling quite embarrassed, but also a little dazed as I look down at all the red covering my hands.
Longbottom’s got a hand to his forehead, looking awkward, “I’d fix it myself but I’ve never been great at healing spells. Erm,” he looks around at all the faces that’ve formed a bit of a misshapen circle around us, and Rose starts to say she can take me to the Hospital Wing when Al lays a hand on her shoulder.
“Don’t worry about it, Rose, I can take her. I’ve already finished.”
Rose opens her mouth to protest, and Dom is uncharacteristically quiet while Al smirks slightly, “Seriously. You’re barely halfway done, and it’ll go even slower now that Clumsy here has gone and hurt herself.”
A few people laugh and I smile as I say, “Rude,” but I’m thankful he’s lightened the tension as Rose’s shoulders relax. "But honestly, I can just go myself. It's just a little cut."
But Al's shaking his head with that look in his eyes, "Better safe than sorry. Wouldn't want you to faint or anything on your way there."
Longbottom’s nodding as Al talks, “Yes, that’d be great, thanks Albus. Off you go, quickly now.” He hands me a clean rag and I wrap it tightly around my finger.
Rose smiles sympathetically, “I’ll pack up your stuff for you, alright?”
I grin at her as Al places a hand on my lower back to guide me out of class. Davis, Eloise, Parker and Jude all give me varying degrees of sympathetic smiles as I pass by them. I look behind me to catch a glimpse of Dom, but she’s still just standing there, looking like she’s seen a ghost.
“What did your poor hands ever do to you?” Al wants to know with a crinkly-eyed smile as we make our way up towards the Hospital Wing.
I laugh, feeling better as I breathe in cool air, “Oh, tons. Spilled coffee, lost quills. Poked me in the eye.”
Al laughs a little, and I feel like grinning. “Be more careful, alright? Broken beer bottles, sharp shears. I’d hate to see what you use against them next.” He’s smiling, but his brows are pulled up a little in concern.
His hand hasn’t left the small of my back, which means we’re walking rather close together. He’s just — so tall, and his shoulders are so broad.
“But if I stop hurting myself, how would you be able to swoop in and save the day?”
Al looks away, and then leans in conspiratorially, smile crooked, “I didn’t volunteer to take you to the Hospital Wing to be the hero.”
He shakes his head, and so swiftly I feel like I might’ve imagined it (but would my heart be beating this quickly if I had?), he presses a kiss against my hairline. He pulls away and keeps walking without missing a step.
I look at the side of his face as we walk, but he’s staring resolutely ahead.
“Why’d you come and talk to me at your party?” I ask, the words a relief to be rid of. They’ve been stored underneath my tongue since he handed me that beer on that balcony.
For the first time that I can remember, a slight flush reaches his cheekbones. He shrugs, and tries to say easily, “I guess I’ve just been a bit — curious about you, or something.”
“You’ve been curious?”
“Yeah.” I’m staring at him so intensely I feel like I might bore a hole straight through him, so he goes on, “Well, okay, so,” He uses his free hand to rub at the back of his neck, his lips pressed together for a moment before he goes on, “My brother fancied you for a bit, right?”
I blush so deeply it eases some of his tension and he grins teasingly, “He fancied you for awhile, actually. And I’d kind of thought it was sort of weird, right, my brother fancying this girl in my own year that I didn’t even know. How’d he come to the conclusion he was so into you when I’m not even able to form an idea about who you are?”
I don’t say anything, but I’m feeling mortified to be hearing about James’ silly crush on me through his own brother. So I smirk a little to even the playing field, “You’ve really thought about this, haven’t you?”
He gives me a look, nudging me with his shoulder, “You asked.”
I bite my lip to keep from laughing, “You’re right. Go on.”
My teasing has brought back some of the tightness in his shoulders, but he goes on, “So — So I knew that you’re best mates with some of my cousins, which was also a bit strange for me, y’know? You were kind of everywhere. And then I saw you at the party and you just had this look on your face —” He cuts off, shaking his head with a small smile.
I nudge him, my own lips turning up, “What?”
He shakes his head again, eyes smiling as he looks at me, “Nothing. Anyway. I guess I just realized that I’d never gotten to know you, and I figured that I should. So I did.”
We’ve stopped walking. I can’t help but notice just how handsome he is — and not in a typical way, either. I mean, his face has got great symmetry and it’s angular and all that, but it’s also interesting. Like the light dusting of freckles along the bridge of his nose, and how expressive his eyebrows are. The shocking depths of his green, green eyes.
“And?” I finally ask, my hands still clutched in front of me, the rag splotched with red.
Al reaches up to tuck a lock of hair behind my ear, “I’m glad that I did.”
The air is thrumming between us.
“You’re — you’re just so — ” I can’t finish the sentence.
Al smiles, “So are you.”
The bell rings as we’re in the Hospital Wing, and Al tells me apologetically that he’d better get back to Herbology so he can explain his tardiness to Longbottom. He presses a swift kiss to my cheekbone before loping off, and it doesn’t occur to me until after he’s gone to ask why he had been late.
Madame Pomfrey fixes my finger in an instant, and I’m grateful that she sends me on my way so swiftly as it’s lunch time and I’m positively starved.
I’m halfway to the Great Hall, happy faces of all ages jostling around me to get to lunch, when I spot Dom walking towards me. She looks better, but not exactly normal.
“Dom!” I call, raising a hand above the crowd, and she smiles slightly, just one corner of her lips turning up as she nears me.
“All fixed?” She asks as she hands me my school bag, turning around to walk with me to lunch.
I show her the proof as I sling the bag over my shoulder, my finger held proudly high, “Not even a scratch. Sad, really, I’d have liked something to show off at meal times. A battle wound, if you will.” I’d hoped my lighthearted spirits would brighten her expression, but she just looks at me curiously.
“Dom, what’s wrong with you?”
“Nothing, I — I’m just glad you’re alright.”
I tilt my head to the side as I look at her, barely even noticing the people around us now, “Yeah, it was a close call. Nearly lost the finger, Pomfrey said.”
Dom looks queasy, and I put a hand on her shoulder, “Dom, I’m kidding. Honestly, I’m fine. I should thank whoever bumped me, really, for getting me away from the bloody awful smell of the preposterous Sopophorous.”
Still, she says nothing, her hands kneading the fabric of her mittens.
I stop walking, and so does she. “Hey. I just rhymed two ridiculous words. You love that.”
She nods faintly, starting to walk again, “Yeah. It was funny.”
“Are you — have I done something to upset you or something?”
“No. No, of course not, I’m just confused, I guess.”
“Okay. About what?”
She stops walking again, and we’re nearly at the entrance to the Great Hall, I can see everyone sitting down to enjoy a good meal, and Dom pulls me out of the current, her expression oddly serious.
She looks me dead in the eye, “You said someone bumped you?”
I nod slowly, feeling a little freaked out, “Yeah. Felt like an elbow to my back or something.”
Dom chews on her lower lip, “Well, that’s the thing, Josie. No one bumped you. There wasn’t anyone behind you.”
What she’s saying doesn’t make sense, so I laugh a little, eyebrows furrowed, “What do you mean?”
She steps closer, eyes wide and disbelieving, “I mean, it looked like someone bumped you. Your body jerked forward, like, totally out of your control, and your shears slipped. But there wasn’t anyone walking behind you.”
I just blink at her, and she rushes on, cheeks flushed, “Seriously, it was like you convulsed away from something behind you, but there wasn’t anything there.”
“So, maybe my back spasmed or something?”
She doesn’t sound convinced, and I’m standing here, watching her conflicted eyes stare blankly as the happy babble of conversation behind us dies away slowly, the stream of students walking gaily by becoming a light trickle.
Dom’s hair has started to frizz from the moisture in the air, her cheeks rosy from the cold. She looks delicate and small, hidden beneath all her layers of autumn clothes. But suddenly her expression loses its concern, fixing itself into something harder, with slightly narrowed eyes and a chin jutting out, “Or maybe it was Li.”
I choke on a laugh, “What? No.”
Dom crosses her arms, her weight shifting onto one leg, “Why not? He was the only person behind you, and you said he was acting weird on the train, right?”
I’m gaping at her, “Yeah, weird, Dom, not psychotic.”
She shrugs, her eyes taking on a determined gleam, “Maybe he thought you saw something in his trunk and panicked.”
I can’t get my thoughts to run in a straight line, “So — so, what, he waited for the perfect moment to jinx me into slipping with the shears as a — as a warning?”
“Or like a threat.”
Dom has always had a certain flair for the dramatics. I’ve never seen anyone connect dots — that are more like distant points of light, galaxies apart — faster or more bizarrely than her.
I rake a hand through my hair, “Dom, think about what you’re saying. It’s insane. It’s Li Wei, not some — some scary mafia hit wizard or something.”
She’s chewing on her lower lip, not listening to me at all, “I just wish I could’ve seen more when it happened. It was just so fast.” She trails off, gaze darting everywhere before she lights up, snapping her fingers and pointing at me, voice excited, “I’ve got it, a Pensieve! Yes, perfect, then we could slow down what we remember, really be able to tell what’s going on —”
“A Pensieve? What century is this? Where in the world would we even find one?” I shake my head, feeling like I’m in a weird dream, “It doesn’t matter, because this is insane, you’re a psycho, and I’m hungry. I’m also completely fine, Dom, it was just a little cut on my finger.” I put an arm around her shoulders, guiding her towards the Great Hall. I give her a little squeeze, “But thanks for caring enough to want to tar and feather a fellow student for me.”
“I’d do a lot more than that,” She grumbles, and I smile. “I’m still keeping an eye on him, though. Maybe ask around a bit, see if he’s been giving anyone else the creeps.”
I roll my eyes, “Leave the poor guy alone. He doesn’t need you snooping around - he’s obviously stressed out enough as it is.”
Dom scoffs, tossing her hair over her shoulder, “I do not snoop. I detect. I look for clues.”
“Right, right, so when you thought Louis was seeing that girl,” I say as we sit down at the Ravenclaw table, “What was her name again?”
Dom narrows her eyes as she puts food on her plate, “Fiona Barton.”
“That’s right, Fiona Barton.” I pour myself a glass of pumpkin juice, “So when we thought that they were dating, you’re saying you didn’t go through his trunk for evidence?”
Dom huffs, placing a hand to her chest, “I was not snooping. That’s called being a good big sister. Barton could’ve been leading him astray for all I knew.”
“But they weren’t dating, were they?” I ask with a small smile.
She rolls her eyes before mumbling, “No.”
“They were just studying together?”
More eye rolls and mumbling, “Yes.”
“So you’ll leave Li alone, because you’re obviously unbalanced?” I prompt, raising an eyebrow at her.
Dom sighs, “Yes, fine. You never let me have any fun. Why am I even friends with you?”
“Because no one else will have you,” I say helpfully.
She grumbles some more as she eats, but her words are lost as her mouth gets fuller. I shake my head indulgently at her before looking up and down the Ravenclaw table for the rest of our friends. Parker and Jude are sitting with the rest of the Quidditch team up the table, and Davis and Eloise have just walked in, hand in hand. I glance around and see Rose and Henry having a hushed but heated discussion at the Gryffindor table while Scorpius sits awkwardly next to them, and there’s Li Wei, half way down our table, eating alone with a book spread out in front of him.
And though I don’t agree with Dom that Li Wei’s out to get me, as I studiously look him over, I can’t help but shiver as I think back to Herbology, and just how much it had felt like someone had been right behind me.
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