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"And what do you see, Miss Bianchi?" Professor Jenkins asks, gesturing to the crystal ball between us.

 

The pounding in my head hasn't given up for the last two days and it's not getting any better as I try and focus on the clouded crystal. I try to remember the words my mother has successfully chanted into my soul: let it come to you.

 

Thirteen years of being told that mediation is the answer to everything and I can't focus for shit.

 

Great.

 

I take a moment to control my breathing. In. Out.

 

Nice smooth movements in an attempt to regain focus. The tea leaves will come later, or even better, I'll be asked to read a palm. Anything over the crystal ball.

 

"Miss Bianchi?" He prompts. "I do have other students to examine, I'm afraid."

 

"Sorry." I open my eyes and fix them back on the crystal ball, but I can feel them slide out of focus completely and something inside of me cracks.

 

I'm watching the scene, but not through my own eyes. It's like I'm hovering above my body, an omniscient presence overlooking the scene.

 

Despite thirteen years of 'meditation', eleven of knowing I come from the strongest Seer lines in Italy and three years of officially studying Divination at Hogwarts, I have not learnt how to channel this.

 

No.

 

I will not channel this now, so instead I recount one of my nightmares. There's probably some truth in them anyway. 

 

"A forest, a large dog - no, the Grim - a glistening dagger and so much blood - there's purple robes-"

 

I wince at the memories. They feel so real. Almost tangible. Like they're a blink away from actually unfolding. Somehow, my mind has always blurred the lines between what's real and what's a dream. My eyes open and with a shiver, I return to seeing the world through them.

 

Professor Jenkins nods solemnly and takes a minute to jot something down.

 

"Alright," He says, placing his roll of parchment to the side, "Now for palm reading."

 

At least this isn't trying to summon something to me. He lays his hand across the table, palm facing the ceiling, and I take a moment to examine it.

 

"A patchy life line, you've been susceptible to many illnesses throughout your life," I run my fingernail down the line, "Especially in your childhood. Head line is entirely straight, very practical and thorough in your work - Nothing particularly special about your heart line. Gives and recieves in equal measure. A deep relationship line, have you been in one relationship your entire life?"

 

He chuckles, "I met my husband here at Hogwarts. He was in Hufflepuff and I was in Ravenclaw."

 

"No distinguishable fate line, but nothing to worry about. A gentle health line - perhaps you are looking after a loved one or arranging their care or are you sick yourself?"

 

"My mother - she's dying."

 

"Aren't we all, Professor," I reply before diving back into the reading, "No Simian line, but it's rare so nothing to worry about either. And one solid bracelet line indicates a moderately healthy future ahead."

 

I close his hands into his palm and smile. "Is that all?"

 

His tense expression from the crystal-reading is gone, a warm smile remains. "That was splendid, Miss Bianchi."

 

I take my leave and return to the common room. I'll have to wait for Tessa to come out later, her last name is Holloway, so she's a little way after me. Instead, Emma greets me as I'm heading down to the dungeons.

 

"Hey hon," She says, the loose waves she's pressed into her hair bouncing as she climbs towards me, "You all done with Divination?"

 

"Yup, only Defence, Astronomy and Muggle Studies left. Have you seen Ryan?"

 

"Last I heard, he was up in the library, revising."

 

The library. Anyone who knows me will know that I outright refuse to go in there. I don't like books at all. Ryan thinks it's stupid. I think books are stupid.

 

"Alright, thanks. We on for a study sesh tonight?"

 

"Of course. I need all the help I can get in Defence, babes."

 

She smiles and heads up the stairs with a wave. I don't tell her there's not much point in me being present for any kind of Defence revision, I'm awful at the spells and I'm even worse at the theory. I think I stopped paying attention in Defence about three years ago.

A few people greet me as I walk through the common room and a few move out of the way for me as I hurry by.

 

Since we all have our Defence practical tomorrow, we're studying as a team in the dorms. I'd prefer a trip to the prefect's bathroom instead, but we only ever use that to prepare for a party, which are few and far between this year.

 

"Oh my Godric," Vari says as I cross the threshold, "I have the biggest stress pimple coming up! It's like a fucking volcano."

 

"That's actually disgusting," Paris, the only girl in the dorm who isn't a member of my inner circle, says from her bed. Scrolls of parchment, charmed to stop rolling up, litter her emerald green bedspread.

 

Vari isn't discouraged in the slightest. "It's like they have no respect for my skin! Who decided to launch such serious exams at us such a young age! I want to hex them! I'm sixteen, not twenty-six." She flaps her hands in an attempt to dry the paste she's got dotted across her forehead and chin.

 

"Right, well, I'm going to have a nap. We're doing Defence practical stuff after dinner," I say, undoing my tie and hanging it over the foot of my bed. I peel up the covers down and slide in for a snooze.

 

For once, I don't have nightmares. In fact, I don't even dream. But when Tessa wakes me, something doesn't feel right.

 

"Any luck with Sophia?" Tessa asks Emma as we walk up from the dungeons together.

 

"No, I think Moore is the biggest bitch out there," Emma sighs. "She's purposefully not letting me use the Intermediate Runes book just because she thinks I'll get a higher score than her."

 

"And all the other ones are being borrowed?" I ask, feigning interest as I attempt to assemble another forkful of food.

 

"Yeah. Madam Pince says she's never seen so many students ask after the same book."

 

"Well, I'm sure we can get you a copy before your exam babe," I smile.

 

"My exam is tomorrow afternoon," Emma wails, "Right after Defence. I don't see how we're gonna get it from her."

 

We settle down on the Slytherin table and start tucking into dinner, but it's cut short by a large flock of owls storming into the hall. I've never liked owls and they've never liked me, but one drops a copy of the Evening Prophet on Tessa's empty plate and zips out.

 

I don't think much of it until Tessa smacks me on the arm. Hard.

 

"Oh my god," She whispers, so quietly I'd think she was talking to herself. "Aurora, look!"

 

"What?"

 

She shoves the front page of the paper into my face.

 

AZKABAN BREAKOUT.

 

"Wait, what?" I exclaim, a few people turning to look at me.

 

I don't give a shit about the headline, instead, I'm interested in the tiny print beneath that reads: written by Murphy O'Donnell.

 

"What's my father doing writing about Azkaban?" I say quietly.

 

"That wasn't my point, 'Rora. Look." She jabs her finger onto the headline for emphasis. "This is bad. Like, really bad."

 

I shrug. "We're at Hogwarts. Safest place in the world, right?"

 

Emma nods emphatically, but Tessa starts reading the article aloud.

 

"Following riots at the prison, the security was breached and three high-profile murderers broke free." She stops to gasp. "Oh my god, Aurora that's so bad. What if one of them is like, a Voldemort fan?"

 

"Tess, babe, I'm sure they're not. You'll be fine."

 

Not only is Hogwarts perfectly safe, nobody would dream of hunting down one Muggleborn who lives in the middle of fucking nowhere.

 

"That's alright for you to say. Nobody can get near you in Italy. Nobody would dare touch the sacred house of Bianchi." It's hard to ignore the bite in her words. She continues reading to herself. "Following the Dementor Ban of 1998, Azkaban has successfully seen the number of attempted breakouts decrease until last night wh-"

 

"Put that away will you?"

 

My head immediately perks up.

 

He's here?

 

"You're gonna put me off my dinner."

 

Tessa scoffs but crumples up the newspaper and stuffs it in her bag.

 

"Hey babe," Ryan says, making space for himself between Tessa and I. He gently cups my cheek and kisses me. "How was the exam?"

"Boring. A bunch of crystal gazing and palm reading, like that's a challenge." He smiles at me and serves himself dinner. "How was strategy planning?"

 

"Good. I think we're gonna dethrone Gryffindor this year. Especially with Lily on our side."

 

Lily Luna Potter, our resident Quidditch prodigy, is definitely our winning card this year. Tiny, agile and equipped with the best broom out there, Gryffindor doesn't stand a chance against her Seeker skills.

 

I'm not the most interested in Quidditch - when Ryan starts talking about the Falcons I usually just zone out - but Hogwarts Quidditch is another matter. At least they can help us win the House Cup. And it helps that my boyfriend is Quidditch Captain.

 

"I should hope so babe. I can't wait to see the look on Potter's face when we do," I say with a wicked grin. Watching Potter get beaten by his very own flesh and blood will be satisfying.

 

Ryan laughs and kisses me on the cheek again. Emma, who sits opposite us, makes a face, but says nothing. Just because she's allergic to committed relationships doesn't mean I am. In fact, Ryan and I have been together since my thirteenth birthday and I wouldn't have it any other way. None of the boys in my year are actually handsome enough to even be considered competition and Ryan is just that great.

 

All around academic genius, star Quidditch player and without a doubt the hottest guy at Hogwarts, it's hard to argue my point. His honey blond curls are always styled like he just got out of bed, his dark brown eyes make him seems so mysterious and alluring. The grin he gives me back is nothing short of devious. I don't doubt that he has something hidden up his sleeve for Potter. When Ryan hits a bludger, it finds its mark.

 

"I've got to discuss things with Xander," He says, nodding towards where Xander and Molly Weasley sit further up the table. "Will you be alright?"

 

"I'll be fine hon," I say, brushing my thumb across his knuckles. "The girls and I are doing Defence revision after dinner, exam's first thing."

 

"Well, I've got an idea for you," He says, voice lowering as his lips get closer to my ear. "How about you do your exam and afterwards you can do some revising on me?"

 

I have to laugh, but he captures me for another kiss and deepens it until Xander wolf-whistles. All it takes is a soft wave of my wand and he's wearing his pumpkin juice. My group laughs, oblivious to the fact I was responsible, and I slide my wand back up my shirt sleeve.

 

"You've got to stop doing that," Ryan whispers in my ear, so quietly I think he's talking to himself.

 

"Where's the fun in that?" I reply, batting my eyelashes at my boyfriend. He gives me a small smile, but it doesn't feel right. He turns away and says nothing more on the matter and we eat in silence. He kisses me on the cheek and says a quick goodbye before heading to Xander's spot further up.

 

"I swear he's the weirdest guy out there," Vari says as she places her cutlery down. "Anyway, are you guys ready for this cramming session?"

 

Emma and Tessa grin together. I can't bring myself to smile alongside them, not with the strange throbbing feeling I'm getting in my forehead. Despite my best efforts, my headache is back.

 

They continue without me, chattering away about counter-jinxes and shield charms. We're quick to head down to the dormitories together and Vari has sheet masks lined up for all of us, forcing us to relax for twenty minutes before we start attempting to fill our brains with Defence knowledge.

 

Unfortunately for me, the girls don't stop talking and my headache only grows, pulsing above my right eye like a new bruise. I'm barely there for the entire revision session, my eyes start seeing purple stars and white flashes an hour into it and I decide to fold early.

Where sleep has helped before, it doesn't now.

 

Instead, half of my vision is goes in the blink of an eye during the exam, my own hand vanishes along with it. The pounding is insistent, unrelenting, as the gong signals for the exam to end, I can't tell if it's actually ending or if the headache has reached my ears. We meet up outside the Great Hall to walk back down to the dormitories together, but Emma pulls me aside.

 

"You alright?" She asks, brushing my dark waves behind my ear.

 

Every word is more effort than it should be as I speak. "What? I'm - I'm fine. Nothing wrong. Are you ready for Astronomy?"

 

"You sure? You look terrible hon."

 

"I'll be ok." Judging by the look on her face, she doesn't believe me. "Stress, you know?" I add.

 

She makes a soft 'awww' sound and loops her arm in mine to walk back to the dormitory. I insist on taking a nap, if only to get away from the shadows in my vision and when I collapse on my bed, I'm out like a light.

 

Vari is the one to wake me for dinner before Astronomy. Each bite is slow and calculated but my lungs drown in dread every time I inhale. Between the three girls, they keep me awake and Emma even helps me fix my sleep-smudged makeup. By the time the Astronomy practical comes around, I look considerably better than I feel. My vision is almost entirely back to normal and the pounding in my head has lessened slightly with two shots of Firewhisky.

 

Halfway through my planet chart, the nausea hits like a rogue bludger.

 

"Are you alright?" One of the examiners asks as I grab hold of the balcony edge for a little stability.

 

I nod my head slightly and return to my telescope. Darkness blankets the world around the tower and the quiet scratching of quills is the only thing to be heard. I'm halfway through readjusting my telescope to look at Mars when the headache comes back with a vengeance.

 

Purple dots cloud my vision as the spot above my eye screams with pain.

 

I have to breathe.

 

I have to get through this.

 

Then I can get back. Sleep. Rest. I fumble for the balcony again and force out breaths. In, out. In, out. People are probably staring. Professor Sinistra, who's hunched over in the doorway, looks worried. Half of her face is missing, but the half I can see is riddled with concern.

 

I have to get through this. I can get through this.

 

I open my mouth to tell the examiner I'm fine, but nausea bubbles up and greets me halfway.

 

Instead of speaking, I turn my head over the balcony and throw up.


"Jesus Christ, Aurora, you sure know how to make us all worried," Tessa says the next morning.

 

The girls have greeted me in the hospital wing and since my mysterious sickness has gone, I'm cleared for the Muggle Studies exam later on today. We walk to the Great Hall together and I can hear the whispering about me from the passing students.

 

"She threw up in her Astronomy exam."

 

"Right off the tower they say."

 

"Apparently she was drunk. Can you believe that? In the middle of her OWL exam and she's hammered. Bishop said he could smell alcohol the entire exam."

 

We sit together and make a point to ignore the copies of Hogwarts Weekly in the hands of Gryffindors and Hufflepuffs. A few select Slytherins read it and Tessa is one of them. I catch the headline before she crams it in her bag: Bianchi's Astronomy Foul!

 

I do my best to stop rolling my eyes and an owl replaces Hogwarts Weekly with the more dignified Daily Prophet.

 

I don't bother to read it - the news is always depressing - but when Tessa releases a string of swear words that would make the Gryffindor Quidditch team shit themselves, I turn to her.

 

"What is it?" Emma asks.

 

Tessa lets the headline speak for itself.

 

MINISTRY MAGNATE MURDERED!

 

Beneath the headline sits a picture of an elderly woman in plum robes, a distinct silver W stitched upon the breast.

 

Unbeknownst to the girls, it's my great aunt.

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