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Disclaimer: I don’t own what you recognize. And there is some Henry IV action in here, with all credits to William Shakespeare, and Mean Girls belongs to Paramount Pictures.

 

 





 

“You’ve never seen Mean Girls?” Mia screeched, sitting up so fast that her normally tanned skin looked a little red.


 

“Jesus fuck, Mia, will you speak in an inside voice?” Flynn snapped, even though we were all outside, enjoying a warm fall day under the huge beech tree by the lake. In some stroke of good fortune all of us apart from Scorpius had a free period, and so naturally we were sprawled over our bags and jackets, speaking in lazy phrases and blissfully disregarding the amount of work that we really should have been catching up on.


 

“Well, I’ve seen it,” said Albus, crunching a couple of leaves in his hand and letting the remains crumble to the ground, “and I thought it was next to rubbish.”


 

What?” Mia shrieked, somehow louder than the first time, and even Milo winced at the noise.


 

“It didn’t make sense!” Al insisted. “Why was the resolution of the story that the mean blonde one gets hit by a car and then everything is fine?”


 

“Are you serious?” Mia cried, evidently more distraught about this pop-culture defamation than the T she had just received on her Potions practical. “You have no taste! No class! No style!”


 

“No estrogen.” Flynn corrected, and Mia finally relaxed back against the large trunk of the tree, pulling a face at him.


 

“Wasn’t that movie about the girl that, like, lies to everyone and becomes really mean just to be cool?” Milo asked, and a rare hint of disdain marred his words. He was always dramatically adversed to anyone compromising moral character for popularity, a topic that had certainly caused its fair share of strife between him and Flynn.


 

“No, the moral of the movie was to never pretend to be less smart than you are just for a guy to like you,” Mia said piously, and Albus rolled his eyes discreetly.


 

“So then what sort of strategy are you using to convince Michael Corner that he’s anywhere near as fit as you?” I asked smoothly, and although I expected her to become put out by my words she just laughed slightly.


 

“Oh, God, I’ve moved way beyond the likes of him, darling. I’m actually talking to someone else, now.”


 

“Who?” asked Al, a little bemused, seeing as she had been excited about Michael only a couple of days ago.


 

Mia bit her lip slightly, but it wasn’t exactly her normal seductive look. She was chewing on it, as if somehow nervous to reveal her boy of the week, even though she was always overly eager to announce her potential partners.


 

“Spit it out,” Flynn barked after a moment of quiet, his mouth already set in a scowl.


 

“William Davies,” Mia finally admitted to us, and I couldn’t help but gasp.


 

“Didn’t he and Ana Clearwater just break up a few weeks ago?” Milo clarified, and Mia shrugged guiltily.


 

“Yeah, are you sure you’re not...you know…” I struggled, trying to maintain my sensitivity while appealing to Mia’s rationale (who was not usually very rational to begin with), but unfortunately Flynn didn’t read the mood as well as I had.


 

“The rebound?” Flynn supplied harshly, and Albus elbowed him.


 

“No, I really don’t think I am,” Mia said earnestly, and I could tell she actually believed it, which was all the more concerning. “I asked him the same thing and he swore that wasn’t what it was. I don’t know, I think he could be different.”


 

“Well, don’t come crying to us when he dumps you to get back together with Ana,” Flynn snapped, even more nastily than his previous statement, and Milo and I both shot scandalized looks at him.


 

“Why would you say that?” Mia asked after a wounded pause, and even though she was clearly upset I could tell she was trying to remain calm.


 

“Because I am so fucking sick of hearing how sad and heartbroken you are over some guy that you knew would treat you like shit anyways.” Flynn hissed, his eyes almost disappearing under the anger of his dark brows.


 

Mia’s mouth dropped open, and in an instant her hurt turned into the kind of unforgiving rage she rarely displayed.


 

“You’re one to talk!” Mia snapped. “You treat everyone like absolute rubbish and then you act surprised when people don’t like you!”


 

“At least my reputation isn’t built on a pile of discarded boyfriends!” Flynn shot back


 

Mia stood up, absolutely fuming over us. “Fuck you, Flynn. You are inconsiderate, rude, and vile, and I’m not putting up with it anymore.”


 

Flynn opened his mouth to retort something but Albus and Milo both scrambled up before he could; the resident peacemakers.


 

“Can you both just-”

 

 

No. And anyways, we have to get to Mermish.” Mia said hotly, and without further ado she stalked away with Milo and Albus trailing behind her, muttering weak goodbyes to Flynn and I, who had another free period after this one.


 

We sat there in a weighted silence for a moment, as Flynn’s heavy breathing returned to normal and I stared out into the vast glimmering lake, trying to figure out what to say. It had gotten a bit breezier, and I rubbed my hands absentmindedly over the bare skin of my arms, trying to warm myself up against the temperature drop.


 

Flynn glanced at me, and then away again. After a moment he sighed and shrugged off his sweater, wrapping it around my shoulders like a reluctant blanket.


 

“C’mon, Flynn,” I said quietly after he had sat back against the tree again, pulling the warm fabric tighter around me. “You know Mia. She really and truly believes that these guys will change for her.”


 

“Why can’t she learn from her mistakes?” Flynn complained, but I could hear real notes of frustration in his voice. “Then the rest of us wouldn’t have to deal with it.”


 

“She does learn,” I said. “She just trusts too fast. And, frankly, it’s better she trust too much than not at all.”


 

“I guess,” Flynn muttered, and I took it as an opportunity to lean to the side and fully look at him straight on.


 

“Don’t jump down my throat, but...do you have feelings for her?”


 

I’d expected him to immediately become defensive, but strangely enough he only exhaled slowly before speaking.


 

“I mean, I’ve thought about it before - who hasn’t?” He cast me a sidelong glance to check if I understood what he meant, and I did. It was impossible for us all to hang out all of the time and to have not thought about what it would be like to couple off with someone. Even I was guilty of wondering what it would be like if Albus and I dated, or of imagining hooking up with Flynn.


 

“But, no,” Flynn concluded. “I don’t feel like that - it’s just not right, you know?”


 

“Yeah,” I told him. “I know.”





 

 

“He definitely has feelings for her,” I said confidently, even as Al shook his head in adamant disagreement. We were in his dormitory working on a Herbology write up that we’d been assigned, and I had sidetracked us by bringing up the battle that had occurred earlier.


 

“He absolutely doesn’t,” Al insisted. “You know him and Mia, they’re always goading each other-”


 

“But why would he care so much who Mia goes out with?” I pressed, shifting slightly so I was more cross-legged on his plush mattress. “And he was especially mad that it was someone as good as Davies, because he feels threatened-”


 

“Look, you have to admit it’s a bit annoying to hear about Mia’s new boyfriends every week,” Al said pointedly, and I sort of shrugged at that because it bothered me in a different way than him. Every guy wanted Mia, and sometimes I couldn’t help the twinges of envy that passed through me, where I wished guys liked me or lusted after me or put in even an ounce of the effort that they put in for her.


 

“But he was just so angry-” I tried to say, but Albus shook his head again.


 

“Flynn is always angry,” Al reminded me, in that calm and ordered manner he always seemed to exude, and I pouted slightly, trying to think of a better way to make my argument.


 

“Who’s always angry?” someone remarked casually from the door, and I yelped in surprise, nearly sending all of the Herbology notes we had been going over onto the floor.


 

“Slughorn,” Al replied without missing a beat, and I felt myself relax. “He’s always going off on us in NEWTs.”


 

“See, that’s why I didn’t take that class,” Flynn said smartly, even though in reality Slughorn had told him under absolutely no circumstances would he be able to enroll in his course. “Couldn’t be arsed to go through all those head pains.”


 

“Wise, mate,” Albus smirked at him, and Flynn shrugged, flinging his school bag onto his bed and sliding off his shoes in the same movement.


 

“Hey, have you talked to Mia yet?” I asked Flynn innocently, even though Al shot me an indignant look.


 

Flynn stared at me until his face curled up into something unpleasant. “Wait - what the hell are you doing here?”


 

I immediately grew defensive. “What, I can’t hang out with Al, who happens to be my best friend too?”


 

“What?” Flynn’s face contorted again, this time into confusion. “No, you wanker - it’s thirty minutes past curfew!”


 

“Oh, shit,” I swore, glancing at my watch to double check his accuracy. “If Sinistra catches me out again this semester she’ll have my head!”


 

“I blame you for distracting us from Herbology,” Albus said smoothly, his eyebrow flicking up like the smug prat that he was, and I shot him a harried look as I stuffed everything I could manage back into my bag.


 

“It’s Scorpius on duty tonight, you should be fine,” yawned Flynn, collapsing onto his bed like a rag doll. “Go quick.”


 

“That’s who was on duty last time,” I muttered, but with a quick wave goodbye I took off through the door and made my way out of the eerily green dormitory in record time. And, even though I probably looked like some overly-anxious First Year going to classes on the first week of school, I absolutely sprinted through the corridors and up the staircases until I reached the Seventh Floor and let myself slow down.


 

I was only a few turns away from the Ravenclaw Common room when I heard the noise. It was low, in the cadences of whispers, and as I neared the broom cupboard in the middle of the corridor it only increased in volume.


 

“Who’s out there?” I think someone whispered, and although I couldn’t hear the response I kept approaching.

 

 

"Er, hello?" I asked to the empty hallway.


 

Get...now,” was all that I heard in response, and so I took another hesitant step forward until I was right in front of the cupboard.


 

“Is someone in there?”
 

 

Get in!” the voice sounded, louder than ever before, and without thinking I slowly reached for the handle, but before I could do anything the door swung open and an arm yanked me in so quickly that I didn’t even have time to yell for help.


 

“What the hell?” I hissed as the door slammed shut, my eyes searching the darkness for faces or figures or anything - God I was stupid, investigating something as sketchy as that by myself.


 

Fuck,” someone swore, and then, “Burke?”


 

Potter?” My eyes began to adjust, and as they did I found myself lodged in between not one but two people.


 

“Jesus,” James Potter groaned from my left, his head hitting the wall behind us with a dull thud. “You have this uncanny ability to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.”


 

I wasn’t anywhere!” I whispered hotly. “You pulled me in!”


 

Because we had to!” he whispered back, just as heatedly.


 

“Well, I’ll just leave you to it, then.” I tried to back out of the cupboard, but the boy on my right grabbed my wrist, preventing me from leaving.


 

“Actually, Filch is coming this way, so we’re stuck here for a little bit.” he said, and then noticed my confusion. “‘Lo. Fred Weasley.” He stuck out his hand, but I merely stared at it, rather bewildered. It wasn't as if I didn't know who he was - everyone knew who he was - it was that I had never been so live and up close to him. His eyes were as dark as coal, but the way they darted across my features made the seem almost as bright and as lively as fireworks; his shoulders were broad and hair was short and curly, and for a strange second I was overcome with the urge to run my fingers through his locks, just to see how it would feel.


 

“Cat got your tongue, Burke?” Potter asked rather aggressively, as if something I had just done offended him.


 

“Cornelia,” I took Fred’s outstretched hand and shook it slowly. His grip was firm and slightly calloused, and I held onto his hand a moment longer than I should have.


 

“I thought your name was Nellie,” Potter said abruptly from my other side.


 

“It’s a nickname,” I rolled my eyes, finally turning away from Fred.


 

“Why don’t you go by Cornelia, then?”


 

“Because I don’t.”


 

“So, then, Nellie - I can call you Nellie, right?” Fred Weasley scooted slightly closer to me. He was grinning again, and his white teeth shone in a stark contrast against his skin.


 

“Er, yeah. Sure.”


 

“Right, so then, Nellie - I’ll just ask what we’ve all been wondering: are you really as clever as James says you are?”


 

“Never said she was clever, mate,” said Potter immediately, and even though he was clearly annoyed I could tell that Potter was the most relaxed when he was with his cousin.


 

“Then what did you say?” Fred asked innocently, settling back into the wall.


 

Potter shrugged, indifference rolling off of his shoulders. “Called her witty.”


 

“Are you sure? Because I seem to remember a ‘clever’ thrown around somewhere in there.”


 

“Nope,” said Potter easily, in the same light tone.


 

“And, why were you talking about me in the first place?” I broke in. There was a twinge deep in my stomach for a moment - Potter had been talking about me - but I pushed it back down before I could fully acknowledge it.


 

“Because James is intrigued by you,” said Fred, just as Potter said, “Because you’ve been a right pain in the arse.”


 

“Well,” I said hotly, and my breathing quickened slightly, although I had no idea why, “you’ve been a…knotty-pated fool!”


 

Both of them gaped at me, Fred with his mouth slightly open, Potter with a less than subtle hint of revulsion.


 

“What in Godric’s name is that supposed to mean?” Potter asked finally.


 

“It’s Shakespeare,” I told him disdainfully. “You know, reading? You ought to try it sometime. I hear it makes you smarter.”


 

“If it makes you smarter, what’s your excuse?”


 

“James!” Fred chastised before I could bite back with anything else. “That is no way to speak to a Ravenclaw, much less to Nellie Burke, my new friend!”


 

“Yeah, James,” I said, and Fred slung his arm around my shoulders and beamed at me. With anyone else, I would have been bothered by such a physical and bold action, but with Fred it felt natural, as if it were a second nature. He had a certain way and charisma about him that made you feel like you knew him for three years rather than three minutes, and I couldn’t help but feel comfortable in his presence.


 

“I don’t like you two all buddy-buddy,” James said sullenly, but Fred only grinned wider as he released me.


 

“Filch is gone. I’m going to go check the-” Fred cast a glance towards me. “The, er, thing.”


 

“Godspeed,” James nodded. With a salute, Fred tumbled out of the broom closet with the grace of an elephant, pulling the door shut with a bang so loud that even the Bloody Baron would be interested enough to come investigate.


 

We were enveloped in silence, the kind that sort of seemed to float around and then settle around the air as a solid, preventing any coherent thought or topic to come to mind.


 

“So,” James said conversationally, with no preface at all. “That’s your thing,”


 

I frowned. “My what?”


 

“Every Ravenclaw has some nerd thing going on. And I guess yours is Shakespeare.”


 

“Fuck off,” I said moodily, shifting slightly away from him as I scowled to myself.


 

“Not saying it’s a bad thing,” said James, with that same demeanor. “Just, you know. A thing.”


 

“So, liking something is a thing now?”


 

“Pretty much, yeah.”


 

“Then what’s your thing? Being an arse?”


 

“Precisely,” James drawled, and even though he probably couldn’t see it I rolled my eyes anyways.


 

“Speaking of things, what is Fred checking on?” I echoed Fred’s words, my nose wrinkling slightly.


 

James grinned a little. He settled back against the wall I was leaning on, his forearm so close to mine that I swear I could feel the heat it radiated.


 

“You ask a lot of questions, Burke.”


 

“No more than you. What is it?” I pressed on, undeterred by his comment.


 

“Nothing you should be concerned with. In fact, you can leave now.” His smirk grew wider. “I reckon the coast is clear.”


 

“No,” I said stubbornly. “I want to know what you’re doing.”


 

“Well, we can’t always get what we want, now, can we, love?” James clucked his tongue admonishingly.


 

“No, we can't, which is why I’m not leaving.” I countered.


 

“Witty,” James commented, and I think it was sarcastic but I didn’t really care either way.


 

“I daresay you can upgrade me to clever.” I said drily.


 

“I’ll consider it.” said James, and then looked down towards the floor and chuckled slightly before he glanced back up. “You know, you really are as stubborn as a stale Cauldron Cake.”


 

I was about to respond with something equally insulting, but something about his wording made me freeze and replay them in my head, trying to figure out what was off about it until it finally hit me.


 

“Wait,” I pronounced slowly after a moment. “Was it you?”


 

“Was it me what?”


 

“Who put a Cauldron Cake by my bedside? When I was in the hospital wing?”


 

“Now, Cornelia,” James Potter drawled, but the sound of it was taunting and unhurried, like he had all the time in the world to answer me. “Why on earth would I do that?”


 

“Nellie,” I said immediately. “Answer the question.”


 

Potter kept on grinning that lazy, presumptuous half smile I had come to expect. “You really don’t understand how unrealistic instant gratification is, don’t you?”


 

“Maybe I do, because I’m still not leaving,” I told him stoutly, my eyes darting across what I could make of his face to try and discern his expression, but it was futile in this position.


 

“Maybe that’s what I wanted in the first place,” said James, his voice low, and without warning the air was bursting with a new sort of energy - it wasn’t fiery or furious like normal, but slow and building, crackling with a strange anticipation that seemed to make the muscles in my lower abdomen clench together and my breath catch in my throat. “For you not to leave. This could all just be reverse psychology.”


 

“If that’s the case, then I will go.”


 

We were facing each other fully now, and through the faint light from the crack in the door I could finally make out the details of his face: the outline of his jaw, the slight angle to his nose, a scar above his right eyebrow, so thin that I’d never noticed it before.


 

“But maybe that’s what I really wanted,” James murmured. “Maybe this whole conversation is a ploy to get you to succumb to my bidding.”


 

“Maybe I don’t care.” The words left my mouth before I had even registered them as a conscious thought.


 

“What does that mean?” whispered James. His heat was enclosing me, wrapping around my senses until my thoughts were warped and my throat was dry.


 

“It means that maybe I don’t want to leave,” I whispered back, and in that moment I swear our gaze was eternally locked, like I couldn’t have looked away even if I’d wanted to.


 

But then of course, with perfect comedic timing the door burst open, and there was Fred Weasley, flanked on either side by Jase Knightly and Scorpius.


 

“I got caught.” Fred said simply.


 



 

Scorpius was tactful enough to wait until we were almost back to Ravenclaw to bring it up.


 

“So, do you want to tell me what you were doing in a broom cupboard with James Potter and Fred Weasley?” he asked, but even though his words were laced with mirth I could tell there were undertones of real confusion.


 

“Believe me, I was not there by choice,” I replied. “How’d you find Fred, anyways?”


 

Scorpius snorted. “When we walked past he just pretended to be a statue against the wall. Not all that hard to miss, really.”


 

Even though I had only known him for a brief three minutes, it seemed like just such a Fred thing to do that I couldn’t help but laugh. “What do you think he was up to? They wouldn’t tell me.”


 

“Trying to rig one the suits of arms to do the jig, I reckon. A few of them kept sort of barking out orders and stomping their heels really aggressively.”


 

“God,” I laughed again, but it trailed off a little too early, and Scorpius glanced over to me.


 

“What's on your mind?”  


 

“Nothing,” I said quickly. “Hey, have you started that Transfiguration essay?”


 

But as Scorpius began talking about the various laws of Vanishing large objects, I wasn’t thinking about anything to do with schoolwork or classes. No, I was thinking about the way Potter had slowed his stride to brush past me purposefully, and how he had murmured, “Sleep well, Cornelia,” so low that I had barely heard it, before he turned a corner and disappeared into the darkness of the night.


 


 

Author’s Note: Again, so sorry for the sparse nature of this chapter - it was completely necessary for the ones that follow, and I think the next 3-4 will really let the story take off. Please still review!  


 

Up next...A story of corridor interactions, Hamlet, and hot commodities.

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