I woke up to a string of curses being muttered carelessly from the bed behind mine in the dormitory.
“Merlin’s greasy beard, where in the shit are these fucking pieces of leather glued together by particles of fucking magic and bloody enchanted thread?”
“Rose?” I croaked, my voice scratching through my unstretched vocal cords. I was pretty sure I sounded like a merman. “Shut the fuck up, will you?”
“I would if I could find my fucking Quidditch gloves!” she hissed back, continuing to rummage through her things. I heard our other four roommates begin to shift in their beds, clearly being disturbed by Rose’s monologue and search for her gloves. Rose noticed; I watched her shadow on the floor briefly pause before hearing her say a little more clearly, “Sorry, girls…I promise I’ll be in and out—I just can’t find my—”
“Gloves. We got it, Rose,” Cecily cut in a bit sharply.
I heard a sigh so deep it had to belong to no-nonsense Irene. “Did you check the bathroom, Rose? You tend to leave your Quidditch shit in there.”
“Yeah, I did, Irene. No luck there…”
Silence ensued, punctuated once again by random noises of Rose searching through her belongings or softly uttered “fuck me in the arsehole”’s.
“Rose, it’s six fucking A.M.,” stated Millie, clearly pissed.
“Actually, it’s five til. Don’t blame me, blame James,” Rose said bitterly. “Wanker.”
“A hot wanker at that,” Cecily muttered.
I heard our four roommates begin to murmur in agreement. “I guess I can’t argue with you there,” Millie replied, sighing. “Abs of steel. And his eyes—”
“This is disgusting! Shut up! You guys are supposed to help me hate on him because of this stupid 6 A.M. practice!” Rose snapped.
I heard the sound of a pillow being thrown angrily against a bed. “Rose, have you ever heard of the spell Accio, Rose’s Quidditch gloves?” our third roommate, Iris, spat. Thwack. Gloves met Iris’s hands, which then threw the gloves at Rose. I could tell from the sound that, had not Rose been an amazingly trained Quidditch player, the angry throw could have bruised or made her fall.
“Erm. Yes. That was quite stupid of me…Thanks, and sorry, Iris,” Rose said quickly. “I’ll bow out, then—wish me luck surviving this!”
Unenthusiastic grunts were the response. “Don’t die, Rose. Make me proud,” I murmured, already shifting back into the warm, warm sheets.
“Yeah…Wait—why aren’t you getting up?” Rose questioned, pausing at the doorway and lowering her voice.
My head was so heavy with sleep that I couldn’t even form a coherent thought other than a hazy question mark. “D’you mean?” I asked blearily.
She moved toward my bed so I could hear her better. “You have patrols this morning,” she hissed. “Prefect patrols? Remember what those are? You said the other day that they started at 6 in the morning.”
I felt as if a lightning bolt had struck my every nerve. “Well, fuck me.”
Rose ripped the blankets off of my body, and I cowered into the fetal position. “Come on, Bex. The Prefect life didn’t choose you; you chose it.”
“You were just waiting to use that on me, weren’t you?” I muttered back, now jumping up and tripping into my robes.
“Ever since that fateful day before fifth year,” she replied, and finally exited the dormitory.
Merlin. I couldn’t believe I had forgotten about patrols this morning. I headed straight for the bathroom. After I was done with the toilet, I hurriedly brushed my teeth, washed my face, and stared back at the mirror. An olive face with a few red, bumpy stress zits and panicked brown eyes glared back at me. I glanced at my slightly wavy brown hair and quickly braided it back into a hasty milkmaid’s braid, fingers stumbling over each other messily. “You’re so fucking late,” I breathed, watching my mouth form the horrible words.
I couldn’t afford to be late to this. I wanted to be Head Girl next year so much that it hurt; I needed every extracurricular position I could get in order to even have a chance of being accepted to Healing school in the next couple years. So, accordingly, my future depended on a domino effect of achievements: first, becoming Prefect in fifth year, then sixth year, then getting Head Girl, and not to mention upholding my grades to be fit for Healing school…and then, obviously, O.W.L.s and N.E.W.T.s…I suppose I wouldn’t have to try so hard for Prefect if I had even an ounce of hand-eye coordination and had gotten a spot on the Quidditch team, but what can you do.
A minute later, I skidded out of the dormitory and began to run to the second floor corridor I had been assigned to. Come to think of it, I had no idea who I would be patrolling with; Professor Ingle had asked whoever who was willing, out of the sixth year Prefects, to volunteer. Of course, I volunteered just to make it perfectly clear that I was intending on giving Head Girl a go for next year…for better or worse.
My heart was exploding in my ears as my stomach gave a clenching twist as I ran. This is why skipping breakfast never works for me; I was too accustomed to my daily feast of toast, tea, and a muffin in the Great Hall. Minutes later, I was bounding down the stone hall leading to the actual assigned corridor. As I rounded the corner, I slowed into a brisk walk, not wanting to look totally idiotic in front of—
Albus? “Er—” Even this sad excuse for a word was swallowed by my wheezing cough as I turned away from Al to hack up my lungs into my shoulder.
When I was done, I turned back around, only to find him to have walked into my arms’ reach. He, unlike I, looked well put-together; the only way you’d think it was six A.M. and not ten was by his tired-looking eyes. His Ravenclaw-navy tie was crisply laced around his neck, outlined by a clean white shirt. Even his hair was its usual state of messiness, not at its wild Quidditch levels. “I didn’t know you volunteered. But wait—where’s Professor Ingle?” I asked quickly, my mind bouncing in a million different directions, similar to my heaving chest. I was still a ‘little’ breathless from the sprint.
Albus snorted. “Probably still sleeping. I went to his office there—” he pointed to the offending door down the hall “—and he had written instructions on a piece of parchment that was tacked to the door.” He paused to take the piece of parchment out of the inside of his robes, then glanced up and down at me. “By the way, are you okay? You look very—windswept,” he finished kindly.
I braced my hands on my hips and looked into his face, my own mouth collapsing into a grin. “Ha, nice save. I had completely forgotten about this until…” I trailed off, smiling again as I watched his emerald green eyes crinkle from a smirk. His eyes were very bright and friendly.
Wow, I definitely needed breakfast. Or a sharp blow to the head. “You know what, I’ll tell you the, ah, thrilling story in a second—just read that first.”
Al nodded and shifted towards me so we could both see what Professor Ingle had written. Our shoulders brushed together while he unfolded the parchment. He felt pleasantly warm, reminding me from the bed I had forced myself from. I resisted the urge to lean into him. “To Miss Rebecca Faxton and Mister Albus Potter: Thank you for volunteering for this patrolling post, though I have no idea why you would do such a thing at this absurd hour. The reason I’ve asked for Prefects to patrol this morning in the first place is because there have been some complaints of the ghosts ‘accidentally’ causing some messes early in the morning, and thereby affecting the mornings of students like yourselves. So, please patrol floors two through five for two hours, as classes begin at eight A.M. I will, clearly, not be joining you. Regards, Professor Killian Ingles,” Albus finished. He peered down at me, raising his eyebrows. I stared at his mouth as one of its corners pulled up into a grin.
What. Are. You. Doing. I hitched up my gaze to his eyes a millisecond later, willing myself to invent something to say. “So, not too bad, eh?” Okay, better luck at being witty next time. Or even intelligent.
“Yeah. Shame it’s for two entire hours though.” He hadn’t moved away this whole time, and instead flicked his gaze from one of my eyes to the other. I felt a hint of adrenaline punch my stomach.
Hungry. I’m definitely hungry. For food.
I swallowed, the brightness of the lanterns suddenly pricking my peripheral vision and snapping me back into the task at hand. I stepped away, casting my gaze toward the open corridor, and took a few steps forward. “Might as well get started,” I said, sounding more alert and generally with-it than I felt. I hate not sleeping. Or eating. I glanced back at him, my right foot stretched out ahead of the other. “Ready?”
Al smiled, and I felt like my digestive tract was being jinxed with a dancing spell. “Ravenclaws are always ready. Get it? Alliteration. Muggle grade school paid off.”
I rolled my eyes. “Don’t tell me you’re going to start talking about the match.”
“Of course I’m going to start talking about the match, Bex!” he replied, laughing. He was now in step with me. “I’m the bloody captain! And I’m going head-to-head with my—“
“Brother,” I cut in. “Yes. Do you write the morning announcements with these taglines, or are you just compulsively aware of them?”
We looked at each other, and that second of time froze itself. It was just us two nerds rooted in the stone floor, exchanging smiles over a conversation full of jokes that ninety-nine percent of the school wouldn’t appreciate or would think were lame. I felt a mad urge to step closer and put my hands on his shoulders, toned from Quidditch and all lean under his robes.
“Neither—have you heard of Rita Skeeter?”
I blinked. The moment was over. Albus had already turned towards the source of the noise, eyebrows stretched upwards in surprise. I too turned and whipped out my wand simultaneously.
It was Peeves. The poltergeist was already zooming away from us, clearly thrilled with how well his evil plan had turned out. “Is that…” Albus said chokingly.
“An everlasting rainfall of Thestral dung?” I replied. I watched the mud-brown cascade of excrement pour down from the stone ceiling in mild disgust. “Yep.”
We stepped nearer each other almost involuntarily, transfixed at the sight of the dung. We were shoulder-to-shoulder once more. Maybe it was my steadily building anger-borne adrenaline that made me tilt my head close to his and mutter, “Aren’t you glad I wore perfume today?”
Somehow, Al and I managed to stop whatever jinx Peeves had put on the dung, cleaned all the literal shit up, and made it back to our respective dorms a few minutes before class was to start to change, as our clothing was now foul-smelling. I still am not sure how it took the better part of two hours; that’s Peeves’ pranks for you. Oddly, we emerged onto the Transfiguration corridor for our joined Gryffindor/Ravenclaw 8 A.M. class at the exact same time, coming from our different common rooms.
Al smirked as we strode towards each other. “Fancy that. Those who clean up shit together are on time together, I suppose.”
“How poetic. Give Shakespeare a run for his money, yeah?” I said, laughter breaking through my words.
His eyes crinkled in response. He turned to open the Transfiguration door. I glanced down at my watch: 8:03. Could be worse. Head still turned down, staring at the shining clockface, I collided with Albus’ torso, my head knocking into his chin sharply.
“Agh—erm—Open the fucking door.” I pulled away and looked into his face. He was suppressing a laugh.
“You underestimate my chivalry,” he whispered in a mock-lofty voice. “After you, Bex.” He slowly creaked open the Transfiguration door.
I was immediately greeted with the severe, piercing gaze of Professor McGonagall. “So very kind of you and Mr. Potter to grace the class with your presence,” she said sharply. Her eyes flew to Al, clearly searching for any discernable trace of wrongdoing in his expression.
“We were on patrol,” he replied, handing me the parchment we were reading earlier. I walked towards Professor McGonagall and handed it to her. Her eyes slid rapidly down the note.
“Thestral dung. Jinxed by Peeves,” I whispered as loudly as I dared. I heard a muffled snort of laughter from someone in the class (probably Dominique), but Professor McGonagall thankfully didn’t seem to notice or care. She looked up, her eyebrows raised in what could only be described as a mixture of surprise and reserved pity. Professor McGonagall flicked her eyes back to Al and nodded.
Abruptly switching gears, she leapt back into the lesson, walking briskly towards the front of the classroom. We took that as our cue to find our seats. “As you know, I have your exams graded and ready to pass back to you all.” She uttered a spell just as Al and I sat down; exam papers began to fly towards the appropriate student. “Some were quite good. Exceptional, really. Others”— she paused, eyebrows contracting—“will require serious revision to come back with a passing grade for the class.”
I slipped into the seat beside Rose’s just in time to see Rose’s grit teeth framed by a grimace before she unleashed her red hair from behind her hair, making an effective curtain to mask her face. Well, that’s not good. Frowning slightly at what this might mean for Rose’s mood later, I flipped over my own essay to glance at the grade. Exceeds Expectations. I’ll take it; this was a N.E.W.T. class, after all.
During the entire class, as I was taking notes, I couldn’t help but notice markedly different behavior from Rose: she was taking notes.
Rose Weasley. Taking notes.
Rose. Weasley. Taking. Notes. Which is a form of paying attention. During a class.
The rest of the hour passed quickly due to my heightening incredulity at the productivity happening beside me. I was so used to Rose doing anything but actual schoolwork during a class that I was sluggish in my own note-taking. Which is also unheard of.
No one else in the class was slacking off, though. Sixth-year N.E.W.T. Transfiguration was, to put it delicately, hard shit. In past years, even O.W.L. year, I had been able to get the hang of a spell within the class time, but this year was different. The only way I could perform an incantation correctly even once was by practicing on my own for a couple of hours. That, on top of all the other homework we were being assigned, made all of our schedules completely full. I don’t know how people on the Quidditch team did it.
I zoned in on the final five minutes of the lesson, when Professor McGonagall was assigning a 4-foot essay on human transfiguration. I flipped to the chapter in our textbook on the topic, as I had completely not paid attention during class—and it was forty-odd pages!
Grimacing, I made my way out of my seat as the rest of the class whizzed by me, making me dead last. My foot was barely five inches from the classroom threshold, the previous student’s robes already swishing out of sight, when I head McGonagall’s crisp voice.
“Faxton—a word, if you please.”
I slowly turned around, utterly confused. “Erm—" I stepped forward cautiously; McGonagall remained rooted in her prim stance by her desk. Her expression was completely unrevealing. Deciding I’d rather not guess, I asked slowly, “Regarding—?”
She cut me off by flicking her wand; the ancient oak door swung creakily for a long moment, betraying its heavy weight, and then swiftly clicked shut.
Professor McGonagall stared at me calculatingly before breaking the silence. “You did quite well on the exam, Faxton.”
I was not expecting that. At all. “Erm—really?” I asked, genuinely surprised. I mean, I had only gotten an E on it. “It was a low pass score, Professor.”
There was a shadow of a smirk on McGonagall’s face as she replied, “That may be so, Faxton, but keep in mind—that was the first examination of the academic year for a N.E.W.T.-level course.” She looked at me appraisingly over the rim of her spectacles as I stood there, smiling slightly at the rare compliment. “Your exam performance,” she continued as she turned away to search something on her desk, “coupled with your amicable demeanor with your peers, allows me to make the judgment that you are fit to tutor a few select students of mine.”
I beamed in the seconds she was still turned away at her desk. First off, the very fact that she was even approaching me with this was enough to send me over the moon. And then there’s the little thing that she’s one of the Heads of Houses…and a very respected witch in the Transfiguration field…
My heart started swelling with hope—maybe there was a chance that I could make it to Healing school after all!
A sudden ruffling sound brought me out of my reverie; I switched my full-on-beaming grin to a slight smile. “Here we are—the list of students I was mentioning,” McGonagall said. She paused and then stared at me in an almost-glare. “Perhaps you will realize the importance of what I’m asking you to do after hearing these names.”
Well, that’s not ominous at all.
Her eyes returned to the scroll of parchment as she started to read the names aloud. “James Potter, Fred, Roxanne, and Rose Weasley.”
My grin was wiped clean off of my face.
McGonagall glanced up at me, her lips set in a thin line. Reading my shocked face, she continued, “Yes, Faxton. I am asking you to tutor the four most crucial members of the Gryffindor Quidditch team.”
Tutor the Keeper and Captain, right Chaser, left Chaser, and center Chaser? I was speechless. My mind, however, was dictating a dissertation.
I actually really liked teaching—it always felt incredible to help someone else learn, and as a bonus, teaching solidified my own understanding. McGonagall’s list of students, though, made things complicated; teaching my peers is fine, but when those peers are friends, people can get testy. Competitive natures are unleashed; egos are hurt, but that somehow makes them even stronger; and friendships are put to test. Classic example—Rose getting pissed that anyone knows more about magic than her. James getting pissed about the exact same thing. And based on those two, I can only assume that this hotheadedness is present in the rest of the Wotter clan.
Bottom line: the Wotters are my family, and Rose is my best friend. Was it really worth it to put most of my most important relationships in my life at risk?
It might sound overdramatic, but that’s how important they are to me.
Some of my consternation was probably showing on my face—I tend to be an open book, anyways—because McGonagall’s expression morphed into a rare one of pity. “I understand what position this puts you in, given your social circle. However…” She paused, and looked at me sternly. A silent understanding seemed to be exchanged between us. “It’s for the best—not just for my House team,” she added hastily, “but for their own lives. Their careers.” She left a pointed silence.
She meant James and Rose’s sports careers. No pressure or anything.
I sighed. I already felt overwhelmed, but I think I had decided what I was going to do from the moment McGonagall had told me what she was requesting of me. “I would be pleased to be James, Fred, Roxanne, and Rose’s Transfiguration tutor.”
McGonagall looked barely surprised; I don’t blame her, given how close I am with the Wotters. So this was more of a test, then. As if in answer to that thought, she gave me a rare smile. “Excellent, Faxton. First session will be tomorrow afternoon at three o’clock—no time to waste.”
I smiled tightly. “Yes, Professor.” She nodded, and I considered myself dismissed.
As I rounded the corridors throughout the castle on my way back to Gryffindor tower for the remainder of our free period, I was starting to feel more and more trepidation about what I had just signed up to do…and the worst that could happen. I rolled my eyes at how ridiculous I was being—it would take a hell of a lot more than Transfiguration to break four 6-odd-year friendships. But what if my tutoring didn’t work, and I cost them their careers?
At that moment, I felt the warmth of sunlight on my right cheek. I looked over and found myself next to a huge, open window overlooking the Quidditch pitch.
And guess who was playing—during the only free hour we had during the day, no less! (I didn’t want to know how the younger students, like the fourth years, were able to practice this early in the morning. Some tinkering by James, I was sure.)
I huffed out a chuckle at the universe’s timing and leaned my shoulder against one of the sides of the gray stone window. I watched seven scarlet bullets whip through the air, fast as ever, as they worked through team formations. I saw a head of unruly black hair fly in a dramatic circle and stop suddenly; a whistle sounded. Little captain speech, I assume. Play resumed about five seconds later, and I was once again privy to the team’s insane talent.
That’s it. I’m going to make them the best damn Transfiguration students McGonagall has ever seen.
“Trying to send them some vibes to improve their horrid form, eh?”
Butterflies attacked my stomach. “Albus,” I greeted, not even turning around. His smirk was palpable in the silence. I finally turned my head towards him, locking eyes. Sure enough, he was smirking an eye-crinkled smirk at the Quidditch scene below. But I saw a competitive fire in his eyes too. “Gryffindor’s on fine form today, mind you,” I told him.
He rolled his eyes. “Ha! Good joke, Bex. Who needs Healing school when you can just start your own stand-up at the Leaky? Give the people what they want—nay, what they need!” As he was speaking, he had come progressively closer to the other side of the window…and I had become progressively more and more out of breath from laughing. Me, doing stand-up. Right.
I laugh way too easily.
I composed myself enough to choke out, “Your immature humor is too much for me today, Al.”
“Well, why’s that?”
“It’s been a bit of a rough morning,” I muttered, focusing on the Gryffindor team again. Seconds later, we both groaned and winced as a Chaser—likely Roxanne—swerved and narrowly avoided a collision with a Bludger.
“Looks like they’re having a rough one, too,” Albus chortled. I whipped my head around to glare at him and maybe even fake-yell at him, but the words died in my throat when I saw the way he was leaning against the window and how the sunlight perfectly lit up his face, his jawline sharply casting his neck into the shade. In other words, he looked like he was straight out of a Witch Weekly photo advert. This wouldn’t be nearly as funny if he wasn’t featured in paparazzi pictures in that magazine every other week.
Hey, Merlin? Yeah, Bex here. When did I start liking Albus Potter? Please send answer by priority owl.
“I see your glare, Transfiguration Queen,” he said nonchalantly, though his gaze hadn’t moved from the Quidditch pitch.
Ugh, shit. “Hardly a queen,” I said, half-laughing. Alright, how was I supposed to stop this from developing into a wildfire if Albus thinks what I think he’s thinking?
“McGonagall only talks to star student royalty in private, didn’t you know?”
Breaking news—a wildfire has broken out in rural Scotland. Attempts to contain it are ongoing. “Oh, please! She was telling me about how I needed to write more legibly in my exams from now on,” I invented wildly. “Hardly royalty, you idiot.”
He finally met my eyes and sauntered over to me until there was roughly a foot between us. “You’d be a terrible journalist, Bex—making up stories really isn’t your thing, is it?” He smiled. “Truth looks better on you. I think I know what’s going on, anyway,” he said confidently.
Annoyance cut through my panic. “Oh, you do, do you?” I said testily, crossing my arms. “And what would that be? Some conspiracy theory, I’m sure?”
He laughed. “There are no conspiracy theories in Quidditch, darling. Just strategy.” He crossed my arms, mirroring me. “And I think I’ve just figured out one of the Lions’ biggest flaws.”
“Think what you’d like, Albus,” I said quickly. “You’re being ridiculous. Good night.”
He raised his eyebrows. “Bex, it’s 9:30 in the morning. Our free period.”
A/N: Hey everyone! Yeah, this took me forever to update right lol! But it's here. I hope you enjoyed this chapter :)
PLEASE REVIEW!! What do you think will happen next? What do you think Albus will do in light of what he ~thinks~ he knows? I know we didn't get to see a lot of the characters in this chapter, but don't worry--they're coming up! :)
Have a wonderful day! Thank you for reading! See you in the next chapter :) xx
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