“This is insane!” hissed Flynn. “You know what? No. I take it back. You are insane.”
“I’m not!” I whispered hotly, from beside him. “I just want to know what’s going on, and I know Albus won’t agree to go out with Katria!”
“Why wouldn’t he? Katria’s fucking fit!”
“Is Al really the type to look past someone’s personality?” I countered, and even though Flynn knew I was right, he pressed on.
“Convincing him to go out with her would be a lot easier than what we’re doing right now!”
“Well, we’re already here, so we might as well just follow through with it!”
“Oh, no,” I could see Flynn shake his head, even through the thickness of the dark. “I’m not doing anything. The second I think someone’s coming I swear to Merlin I’ll sacrifice you to save myself.”
“Fair enough,” I conceded. I adjusted my position slightly from where I was crouched in the shadows of a third floor unicorn tapestry, and my knee bumped against Flynn’s slightly, earning me a murderous glance in return.
It had been my idea to try to catch Scorpius out on his Prefect patrol with Jase Knightley, a Slytherin year-above who Scorpius had been friends with since Second Year. Jase was always bragging about his latest flings and hookups, and I knew that Scorpius would easily feel inferior to him and blurt out the name of his girlfriend just to prove himself. I obviously couldn’t tell Albus about the devil’s deal I struck with Katria, and since both Mia and Milo were absolutely crap at keeping secrets (one time, I told Milo that I kissed Henry Mulligan and he proceeded to accidentally magnify his voice and repeat it for the entire Great Hall to hear), I was left with no choice but to enlist Flynn Klein, King of Complaining, to help me spy on my cousin.
“Time?” The King himself grunted quietly, letting his head fall back against the marble of the wall with a dull thunk.
“Eleven-oh-eight. Should be any minute now.”
Flynn snorted but said nothing more in response.
“I just don’t get why Katria had to pick Al!” I whispered after a moment, frustrated. “She’s never shown any interest in him before! ”
“I mean, everyone’s at least a little in love with Al,” avowed Flynn, and I couldn’t help but agree with him. Al’s quiet charisma had not gone unnoticed amongst the female population of Hogwarts, and he had quite the following of girls who had mistaken his naturally kind and inclusive nature for something more. “Why didn’t you just ask Scorpius if he’s dating anyone? Seems a lot easier than this mess of a plan.”
“He wouldn’t have told me,” I said ruefully. “If he hasn’t told us now, he sure won’t just come out with it.”
“Bloody hell, Nellie,” Flynn groaned, but he didn’t press it any further as he knew there was at least some grain of truth in what I said.
“Well, now we have loads of time to catch up, just the two of us!” I exclaimed brightly, beaming at what I could see of him in the darkness.
“Great,” he monotonised. “Just what I wanted.”
I shot Flynn a look, and after a moment of pretend annoyance he finally smirked, pulling me close so that I could rest my head on his shoulder. This was not unusual for me and Flynn, or for me and any of my friends, really. We were all so close that touching didn’t seem especially intimate anymore.
“Any secret girlfriends I should know about?” I asked, glancing up at him and then down to my watch again. 11:09.
“Nah. You know me,” Flynn replied easily, and I did. He had never been the type to date anyone for more than a couple of days, instead choosing to solely partake in random drunk hook-ups with girls that he wouldn’t recognise the following morning. He was practically the opposite of Mia: she fell in love with a new guy every week without fail, and he only pretended to believe that true love existed when he was trying to get a girl into bed. “What about you? Anyone special over the summer?”
“This summer?” I asked incredulously. “You mean, when I lived with Mia Templeton for two months?”
“Okay, fair,” Flynn acknowledged. He had seen Mia in action with men just as much as I had. “But, Nellie, I’m telling you - this is your year.”
“My year for what?”
I was expecting him to say something positive or encouraging, like your year to shine, or find true love - but I really shouldn’t have been surprised that he came out with: “Your year to stop being such a bloody nerd and become cool like me!”
“Since when has getting rejected by half of our year translated to being cool?” I retaliated, and as Flynn began to argue back I heard footsteps at the end of the corridor.
“Shh!” I sat up immediately, pushing myself off of Flynn and almost smacking him in the head in the process. “Someone’s coming!”
“If they close in, I’m out,” Flynn warned, and I shushed him again as the voices grew louder.
“...can’t believe Hiddleston assigned us such a long essay so early in the year.“ That was Scorpius - I’d be able to discern his voice from others in a room full of a hundred people - and now I just needed him to come nearer, close enough that I could Confound him a little without him seeing me...
“I know,” the second voice groaned, and as soon as I heard it my mouth dropped open. “We haven’t even been back for three weeks yet!”
“That’s not Jase!” Flynn hissed. “You twit, Nellie, did you mix up the rotation?”
“No, I swear I had the right date-”
“Well, clearly you didn’t, which means all of this was for-”
“Shut up!!” I clamped my hand over his mouth, just as the people in the corridor abruptly stopped talking.
“Did you hear that?” asked Scorpius, hushedly.
“Hear what?” his partner asked, and her voice sounded so familiar that I could nearly place it - just nearly.
“Back there,” said Scorpius, and I could hear his footsteps carefully approaching our hiding spot.
“I’ll check the other side,” his partner said, and as Scorpius neared closer to the tapestry I thought, please, please turn around and walk away, hoping that maybe, in the years that we had basically been brother and sister we had developed some type of telekinesis communication connection. But before I could put it to the test, in a true Slytherin fashion Flynn shoved me from behind, hard, causing me to lose my balance and tumble right out from behind the tapestry and onto the feet of my cousin.
“Nellie?” Scorpius asked, aghast, as I scrambled to back away from him. “What are you doing here?”
“Erm,” I said, collecting myself off of the floor which as much dignity as I could manage. “We were just-”
“We?” he interrupted, looking rather alarmed.
I glanced behind me, right as the tail of Flynn’s cloak was flitting around the corner.
“The royal we,” I revised quickly. God, was I going to murder Flynn later. “Which is me. And me - I - am...out for a walk.”
“A walk?” repeated Scorpius skeptically, just as Rose Weasley came around the corner, and I felt like smacking myself because of course the voice belonged to Rose.
“Nellie?” she peered at me. Her eyes were a deep brown, but as the light from Scorpius’s wand hit her irises I could see there were miniscule flecks of gold reflecting, too. “What are you doing here?”
“Walking,” I smiled sheepishly at her. “I’m really sorry to disturb you, I’ll just be going back to my dorm then-”
“Weasley will probably deduct points,” Scorpius shot a look of disdain at his partner. “She doesn’t have a soul, see.”
“And Malfoy will probably give you a detention,” remarked Rose instantly, her voice smooth and confident as if she were answering a question in class, “since he clearly doesn’t possess the mental capabilities for compassion and empathy.”
“How about no one does anything and we just pretend that this never happened?” I suggested rather loudly over the sound of Scorpius telling Rose to go shove a broomstick into a very unsightly place, but as I did I could hear new footsteps, from the opposite direction that Rose and Scorpius had come from.
“Who is that?” Rose whispered, argument forgotten momentarily.
“Oh,” I peered through the darkness, and then relaxed my stance slightly. “No, it’s fine. It’s probably-”
But as the figure neared closer, I could plainly see that it was not Flynn Klein, returning to help me like the good friend he was, but Professor Aurora Sinistra, the shrewd Deputy Headmistress and Astronomy teacher.
“Professor Sinistra,” Scorpius spoke, as she stopped directly in front of us. “What are you doing here?”
“I was passing by and I heard voices,” said Sinistra. With her long neck and thin features she rather resembled some sort of bird, and it only took a few seconds for her to zero in on me. “Ms. Burke, what brings you out of the comforts Ravenclaw Dormitory on this evening?”
“Sleep walking?” I guessed. Sinistra sent me a severe look before turning to Rose and Scorpius.
“And, Ms. Weasley, I don’t recall you being on the patrol list for tonight.”
“Jase Knightley asked me to switch,” explained Rose quickly, and then shot a glare towards Scorpius. “Conveniently left out who I would be patrolling with.”
“Like I would’ve come if I had known you would be my partner,” Scorpius bit back, and I could tell Rose was going to respond, but Sinistra stepped forward.
“That’s enough. Detention tomorrow night, Ms. Burke,” she said sharply. “Now, I suggest you get back to your dormitories. All of you.”
“But, Professor,” Rose protested, as Sinistra turned away from us, already starting down the hallway again. “We haven’t finished our rounds-”
“Patrols are over!” Sinistra called as she rounded the corner.
“Really nice going, Weasley,” Scorpius snarled, sending Rose a look so vicious that I automatically stepped in between the two of them.
“Die in a hole, Malfoy,” replied Rose sweetly in response, and then turned to me. “Rotten luck getting caught. See you in Herbology tomorrow?”
“Of course,” I said warmly, giving her a slight wave as she disappeared in the direction that Sinistra had.
“So, let me get this straight,” Scorpius said mildly as we began walking in the direction of my dormitory. “You can spew off witty insults in a second, quote obscure Shakespeare passages in any conversation - but yet, when you get asked what you’re doing out of bed the first thing that comes to mind is to say sleep walking?”
“I don’t think well under pressure!” I protested, rather weakly. I was still scowling from Sinistra’s brief arrival, and internally cursing Flynn’s cowardice in every language that I knew.
“Oh, I know,” said Scorpius, trying not to laugh. “Remember that time you tried to throw a Quaffle at Adam but you missed and hit the window? And when your mum came in to see what the noise was, you told her a baby dragon had flown into the glass?”
“I remember,” I said rather shortly, not wanting him to continue, and I knew Scorpius would understand why. After a pause, he seemed to realise his mistake, glancing at me a few times to try to catch my gaze in an attempt to convey some sort of apologise with his eyes, but I kept my eyes faithfully trained straight ahead, and after a moment he turned away and thankfully lapsed into silence for a minute or two.
“Bullocks,” said Scorpius suddenly, just as we were nearing the moving staircases. “I forgot my Potions book in the Prefect lounge.”
“I’m sure it’ll be there tomorrow morning,” I said, and then smirked. “Like a Prefect is going to steal someone’s book-”
“I really need it tonight,” pressed Scorpius, stopping at the base of the staircase. He glanced around, to the left and then to the right quickly, and when he met my gaze he seemed unusually urgent. Not like he had just forgotten his book, but like he was late for something important. So, even though a sense of doubt at his words gnawed at the lining of my stomach, I told him good luck and gave him a half hearted wave as he disappeared around the corner, leaving me to stare at the spot where he had just been, utterly cold from the topic at hand and the lack of success of my mission.
“Well, what did you think would happen?” asked Beck. Mia tutted in agreement beside her, and I glared at them both irritably.
“That I would figure out who Scorpius is dating and not get caught out of bed after hours?”
“Too easy,” Beck smirked, shaking her head, and I made a face at her before returning to my tomato soup. After the disastrous attempt to spy on Scorpius, I’d caved and filled Beck and Mia in on my predicament. Beck promised not to say anything and Mia swore to only drop three hints a day to Scorpius about his deception, which was about as good as I was going to get with her.
“Well, I guess you’re gonna have to try and actually get Albus to go out with Katria,” said Mia rather unsympathetically. Beck didn’t even try to hide her derisive giggle.
“I will do it,” I said rather fiercely. My hair was in a tight ponytail from Quidditch, the elastic pulling at my scalp, and I undid it with one pull, feeling the relief that came with the simple action.
Mia glanced behind her and then faced Beck and I again, smiling that impish smize that only she could pull off. “Well, here comes Albus now,” she said slyly. “Hit him with your best shot.”
“I don’t need him to fall in love with her,” I said quickly, as Al, accompanied by the other three boys in our group approached us. “I just need him to take her to Hogsmeade. That’s all Katria said I had to do.”
“Easier said than done,” Beck warned sagely, and I hissed something rather rude just as the four boys reached us our group.
“Hola, ladies,” said Milo brightly, slowly lowering his gangly frame down onto the bench that Beck and I were sitting on.
“What’re you guys all whispery about?” asked Flynn with slightly narrowed eyes. He hated to be left out of anything, whether it be a small joke or a side conversation, and would stop at no lengths to unmask the topic at hand.
“Hogsmeade,” I said, rather clippedly. I was still quite annoyed at Flynn for acting so selfishly the night before, and as he looked back at me he gave me a sheepish grimace: the most of an apology I would get. “Who we’re taking.”
Al wrinkled his nose. “Isn’t that still a few weeks away?”
“Well, some of us like to plan ahead,” said Mia, with that air of superiority she somehow managed to pull off so well.
“Not you,” Scorpius retorted. “Don’t you usually tell every guy that asks you ‘maybe’ and then pick someone, like, an hour before the gates open?”
“No,” Mia said, obviously offended, and then paused. “Oh. Actually, yes. I do.”
“That’s just cruel,” Flynn shook his head. “At least I never have a problem getting a date, since I’m clearly superior to all other males at Hogwarts-“
“Last year, you asked out twelve girls before one of them finally said yes,” Mia scoffed.
“But they did say yes,” Flynn leaned back easily and gave her a pointed look. Scorpius snorted.
“Who are you going with, Scorpius?” Beck asked, and I shot her a glance of gratitude for helping me with my subtle interrogation before leaning in slightly, anticipating his answer.
But Scorpius only grinned and slung his arm around Al. “Me and Al are going to go on a date. Finally taking the next step in turning our friendship into something more.”
“We got closer over the summer,” Al nodded seriously. “Much closer.”
“Well, I for one would love to see the two of you together,” Flynn remarked. “Two of Hogwarts most eligible bachelors off of the market means more of the wealth for Flynn.”
“Did you just call us eligible bachelors?” Al looked mildly amused, and Flynn merely shrugged.
“What about you, Milo?” asked Mia. “Who’re you going to bore with fungi trivia this year?”
But Milo, in a way only Milo could truly ever pull off, was staring off into space intently, his mouth slightly ajar and curved up into a distant half smile.
“Milo,” Al said, and then again, louder. “Milo!”
Milo jumped in his seat slightly, and then focused back in on us, beaming as brightly as he usually did. “Sorry, I was just thinking about my own demise!” he exclaimed. “What were you saying?”
We all stared at him.
“Hogsmeade trip,” said Flynn finally. “Who we want to take.”
“Oh,” Milo frowned. “Well, I hadn’t really thought about it yet-”
“Sorry,” Scorpius held his finger up. “Milo, mate, can we go back to what you just said?”
“That I don’t know who I’m going to take?” asked Milo, rather perplexed
“No, that you were thinking about your own demise?”
“Oh. Yeah!” Milo nodded vigorously, as if nothing were out of the ordinary.
“And, why is that, exactly?” I asked, and then regretted it instantly. Milo’s mind always wandered into the most bizarre of places, and sometimes it was better to just let him be Milo on his own.
“Well, Scorpius said ‘gates,’ which made me think of the Gated Longhorn Dragon, which made me remember that they can kill humans in twelve different ways, and then that made me think about which way I would rather be killed by!”
“I followed that,” said Beck serenely.
“And, which is your preferred way to die?” Albus asked mildly.
“Electrocuted,” Milo replied instantly. “Beats getting beaten to death by your own severed limbs.”
“It sure does,” Albus said gravely, then stood. “I’ve got to go the library for a minute. See you all at Potions?”
Mia nudged me quite obviously above the table, and I quickly said, “Do you want company?”
“Nah,” said Al simply, already walking away. I briefly considered chasing after him, forcing him to spend time with me, but soon thought against it. I would see him in Potions - plus, we would have tea later, so it wouldn’t be hard at all to drop some careful hints about Katria.
But talking to Al soon proved difficult, and I couldn’t successfully get him alone until we were leaving our rather late dinner. Everyone else was still in the Great Hall, enjoying a luxuriously long dessert before turning in for the night, but since Al was on nightly patrol and I had detention, we had bid the others goodnight a few moments ago. There was silence in between us as we went along, but it was a contended quiet, as it always was with Albus. He wasn’t the kind to fill gaps in conversation with meaningless chatter like my brother Adam or Mia, and normally I wasn’t either, but right now I had an agenda to fulfill.
“Sooooo,” I drew out the vowel, twirling my hair around my finger. “Who’re you going to take to Hogsmeade?”
“Nellie, I have no idea,” said Al. “It’s in, like, five weeks.”
“Well, yeah, but you have to ask someone one to two weeks beforehand, so it’s really only like three!” I exclaimed, my overdone enthusiasm
Al shot me a weird look. “Who’re you thinking about going with, then?”
“Unimportant,” I brushed his question aside, sidling a little closer to him. “But, what do you think of Katria?”
“Katria?” Al repeated, wrinkling his nose. “Katria Stevens?”
“Yeah!” I exclaimed brightly, and oh God it sounded so fake even to my ears, but I was already smiling so now I had to keep it going, even though I probably looked like a fucking Jack O'Lantern or a hyena or something.
“Why?” asked Al, looking rather alarmed, and that was when I knew exactly what to say. Al valued attractiveness, as did all teenage males, but above all he valued character and good intentions, and if he was under the impression that Katria had suddenly acquired a soul or undergone some sort of quest for self-improvement, his perception of her would shift unconsciously.
“She’s-” I fought the urge to vomit, “changed a lot this year.”
“Hm,” said Al, and then again, with his eyebrows furrowed tightly. “Hmm.”
And even though he changed the subject to my detention, citing that I would be late if I didn’t head over soon, I knew that I had successfully planted the seedling of an idea in his mind.
I arrived in the Transfiguration classroom at nine o’clock sharp, rather proud of my readiness in showing up on time. Over the years, Mia’s tardiness had certainly rubbed off on me, and I had unknowingly adopted her poor time management habits and was now actively working to reverse them. My fantastic punctuality was wasted, however, seeing as the classroom was completely empty with no signs of Professor Hiddleston or any other students. Sighing loudly - I so could have had time for a bit of pudding - I threw my things down at one of the desks in the front and perched myself on the table adjacent. I wasn’t upset about the detention, necessarily - I wasn’t a do-gooder like Rose Weasley (or Scorpius, for that matter) - but I did feel a bit internally angry at myself for slipping up so early in the semester. I’d only had three detentions last year, one of which was a direct result of Moose making us have a midnight practice, and I didn’t exactly fancy the idea of beating that score.
The door creaked open, and a polite greeting to Professor Hiddleston was about to curl off of my tongue when I realised who exactly had just entered the room.
Of course I had to be doing a detention with Albus’s older brother, and for a split second I wondered if my punishment was simply having to endure hours on end with James Potter’s insufferable personality. If it was, I knew I wouldn’t make it out alive.
“Oh. It’s you,” Potter spat, not even attempting to hide the disdain that marred his words.
“Astute observation,” I remarked drily, refusing to face him and instead focusing my attention on Professor Hiddleston, who had entered the classroom behind Potter and was now filling two large buckets with a soapy water stream from his wand.
“Welcome to detention,” Hiddleston droned, conjuring two sponges. His voice always had a nasally sort of quality to it, as if he’d had a head cold for about a decade. “You will be hand-scrubbing the floors of this classroom. We transfigured mice today and there are droppings everywhere.”
I wrinkled my nose at the floor - which I only now discovered was indeed coated in little splotches of poop - but didn’t say anything to outwardly give away my displeasure.
“Now, give me your wands. They will be sent back to your Common Rooms and will be in your dormitory by the time you are completed with your task.”
Potter handed his to Hiddleston with no hesitation whatsoever, and then met my reluctant gaze for the first time since I had cursed him out in the Quidditch Library a week or so ago. His scrutiny was impassively cold, and although normally I would have shrank away from such an irate and hostile expression, I squared my shoulders and shot him a similar look back until he turned away and retreated to the far corner of the room, grabbing a bucket in the process.
“How long will we be here?” I asked Hiddleston rather sourly, taking a bucket and a sponge as well. The words came out rather unkindly, and I was thankful that Hiddleston was so used to his own monotony that he didn’t seem to notice when anyone else’s tone of voice differed.
“Until you’re finished,” Hiddleston smiled blandly. He adjusted his thick black frames, interrupting their descent down his long, slightly crooked nose, and after a nod and a quick, “Get to it, then,” he had slipped back out the door, leaving the two of us alone together.
It could have only been about a minute of quiet, as Potter stared unmovingly at his bucket and I stared at mine, but the silence was deafening. As it pressed itself into my eardrums, I found myself opening my mouth to start a conversation. Perhaps I was more like Adam and Mia than I thought: silence like that just made me feel uncomfortable, in an indiscernible sort of way.
“What did you do?” I asked quietly. It wasn’t friendly, exactly, just a rather cynical, we’re in the same boat sort of question. I half expected him to ignore me completely, but after a moment and a faint sigh he responded.
“Fred Weasley and I got caught trying to dilute the drinking water with fainting fancies.” He barely glanced in my direction when he spoke, instead choosing to hunch over the ground and begin to scrub.
“Then where is he?” I asked, picking up my sponge as well. The floor was made of old hard wood panels, and many of the droppings had become smeared inside the thin grooves of the oak.
“Administration learned long ago to never put us in detention together.” Potter still refused to look at me, but now a breath of humour laced in between his words.
We worked in silence for a few moments, until his curiosity triumphed his pride like I was certain it would.
“What’d you do?” he grunted, his back still turned away from me.
“Out after curfew.”
“And what were you doing out after curfew?” Now his tone was lilting and suggestive, and I balked at the connotations.
“Nothing!” I protested, my voice squealing slightly, and Potter snorted. He never took his eyes off of the floor, but even so as he spoke again his smirk was easily discernible from my vantage point.
“Knew it would be something tame.”
“You know what, Potter?” I snapped, strangely offended by the implications that I was disciplined or docile, just like he had insinuated on occasions before this one. “This would be a whole lot more pleasant if we didn’t speak.”
Potter straightened up, finally facing me full on. I had never noticed it before, but eyes were a curious color, light, almost, and strangely as they pierced mine I found them almost too intense to look into. Like they were trying to peer into my soul, to analyse me by only my expression. Like they could see something inside of me I didn’t want them to.
“My thoughts exactly, er...” Potter paused, as if about to retaliate with my name, but instead simply stood there with his mouth slightly ajar.
“You don’t even know my name?” I asked, and then snorted. “Typical. To be expected, really, from someone as self-obsessed as you-”
“I know your name, Burke,” he glared at me with somehow more ferocity than before, perhaps having to do with the way his eyebrows narrowed and jaw squared out. “I’d have to be pretty oblivious not to, considering you’re my brother's mate. Just don’t know what to call you.”
“Nellie,” I said, before I could stop myself.
“Nellie?” Potter repeated, thinly veiled disgust apparent. “Sounds like the name of a horse.”
I glared frostily at him and turned away, more determined than ever before to finish my work quickly, but as I went to wet my sponge once again, something caught my eye: Potter’s side of the room was entirely sparkling clean, as if it had never been filthy in the first place.
“How did you-?”
“Always duplicate your wand ahead of time, sweetheart,” Potter drawled, somehow managing to sound extremely bored and infuriatingly patronising at the same time. “Aren’t you meant to be a Ravenclaw?”
And without so much as another glance in my direction, he strode out of the classroom.
Disclaimer: I do not own anything you recognise.
Note: A couple apologies: I am sorry for the lengthy time it took me to update - finals season definitely took a toll this semester. But I am home for break for a month and have the next few chapters mostly written! Also, apologies for the length of this chapter. In my mind, it serves as sort of a bridge piece - too long and fluffy to add to the chapter next, but too short for me to be fully satisfied with it. Anyways, THANK you for your absolutely wonderful reviews! Everytime I get another one it makes me immediately return to my story and work harder at it. Keep reviewing, please!
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