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 Snow fell from the grey, Norwegian sky. Liv Johannessen smiled to herself and closed her sapphire eyes, basking in the beauty of the winter wonderland around her as snowflakes clung to her fair eyelashes and ran down her pale cheeks. A puffin fluttered onto the bench beside her and she ran her cold fingers along its back, not needing to open her eyes to feel its presence. The creature leaned into her touch.


 "You're a friendly little one, aren't you?" she cooed, smiling.


 It waddled closer to her and hopped into her lap. Giggling, she brushed her icy blonde hair behind her ear and continued stroking the sweet bird. Animals often were attracted to her, but rarely did they lay down in her lap.


 The unique duo sat there for a long while, enjoying each other's company. Then, Liv heard yelling. The puffin stiffened beneath her fingertips.


 "What in the world?"


 Suddenly, the puffin clambered to its feet to flew away. Frowning, Liv decided that she needed to find the source of the raised voices. Snow crunched beneath her feet as she trod towards the din. The castle stood behind her, growing further and further away with each step.


 As she neared the ocean, the yelling was becoming much louder. Her bright blue eyes scanned the grey, cerulean, and white horizon. Finally, she found was she was looking for. Emitting a gasp, the witch stared at the scene in horror.


 "Think it's funny now, do ya?" a large boy boomed, his leg raised. He stomped on the boy beneath him. "You think I'm the joke? You're the damn joke, Kanerva!"


 The dark-haired boy on the ground could not answer, as his face was buried in the snow. He guarded his head with his hands and made wretched hacking sounds as his assailant landed each blow.


 "Maybe you'll learn - "


 "Stupefy!" Liv exclaimed, running towards the giant boy. Her black walnut wand was pointed at him. As he lost consciousness and tumbled into the snow beside his victim, she rushed closer to the scene. Worry swam in her eyes as she leaned over the lanky boy. "Are you okay?"


 He spat blood into the snow and grimaced as he sat up. "I've been better."


 "He has always been a bully," she said, gravely, glaring at the other boy. "We have to get you to Fru - "


 The boy shook his head. "No, no. It's just bruised ribs, I think. I'd rather not explain the whole thing."


 "But he was hurting you!"


 The boy shrugged. "I'm used to it."


 "Well, you shouldn't be!" she insisted, wordlessly healing his injuries.


 "You can perform wordless magic?" the boy asked, amazed. He stretched. "I don't think I felt this good before he beat me up."


 "Good. We ought to go before he wakes up."


 The boy nodded and scrambled to his feet. "I'm Akseli, by the way. Sixth year."


 Liv smiled, walking close to him. She did not realize how tall he was until he stood. "Liv. Seventh year."


 They walked in silence until they reached the same bench where Liv had been sitting before. As she sat, he scratched the back of his neck and sat too. "It was quite a nice day before all that happened. The puffins are out."


 "They're lovely, aren't they?" she asked, remembering the small friend that she had made just before she heard Akseli and the bully.


 "They are," he agreed, chewing on his lip. "You know, I've seen you before but I suppose it's strange we've never spoken."


 She brushed a snowflake from her nose. "It isn't very strange at all, if I think about it. Not many people talk to me."


 "No one talks to me either," he said with a sigh. "Thanks for - well, back there."


 "Of course. It was the right thing to do."


 He laughed. "Yes, but that doesn't mean anyone else would've done it - so thanks."


 A shiver ran down her spine. Her warming charm was no match for the freezing air. "I need to learn better warming charms."


 "I don't think there's a warming charm in the world that can contend with Norwegian winters," he chuckled. After a moment, he scooted closer to her and wrapped an arm around her. "I suppose body heat can help, though."


 Liv's face became a soft shade of pink. "I always wondered how the puffins stay so warm. They're incredible little birds, really."


 "I've read Muggle books on it. Their feathers are waterproof," he explained. "I don't know how that helps with the air temperature, though."


 The blonde nodded, a small smile on her lips. Akseli's warmth only made the winter day more enjoyable, and the longer that she sat with them, the more she wondered if it had been fate. Very few explored the grounds much during winter. Perhaps, she was meant to meet him.


 "Do you know why nobody talks to me?"


 He frowned and shook his head. "I can't imagine why someone wouldn't want to. You're quite lovely."


 Blushing, she murmured, "I don't have the same ambitions that you'd expect from someone at Durmstrang, I suppose. I want to work with animals. They've always seemed to like me a bit more than people do."


 "Something tells me you'd be quite good at it." He bit his lip. "No one talks to me because I fell off the ship in my second year. Everyone thinks I'm cursed now."


 Liv gasped. "That was you?"


 Akseli sighed and pulled his arm away. "Yes."


 "But how would that curse you? That's just silly."


 Suddenly, his expression was bright again. "Do you really think so?"


 "Of course!" Her voice grew smaller. "Is that - is that why Wallin was hurting you?"


 He nodded, grimly. "He said something about me falling off the ship and I said I would've taken him with me if his parents hadn't paid for one of the luxury compartments."


 Liv frowned. "Well, that wasn't very nice, either, but he still shouldn't have beat you up the way that he did. I could hear him from all the way over here!"


 Akseli opened his mouth to respond, but before he could, the castle doors sprung open. With her dress pulled up to her knees, Professor Lindgren waddled out into the snow and shot the two of them a glare. Her beady black eyes and tight silver bun spoke volumes about her character, and understandably, almost everyone was terrified of her. The Charms professor pointed at them, her stiletto fingertips perfect arrows in their direction.


 "Mister Kanerva, Miss Johannessen, it's far too cold for you two to be outside. In with you!" she barked. As the two students got to their feet, she continued. "Have you two seen Mister Wallin? There was word that he may be gallivanting the grounds instead of serving his detention."


 Liv opened her mouth to speak, but Akseli interrupted her. "Yes, by the cliff. He attacked me and I had to stupefy him."


 Professor Lindgren held her mouth in a firm line. "Well, it sounds that you'll be serving detention too, then, Mister Kanerva. Meet me in my office tomorrow at two o' clock. I'm sure I'll have quite a nasty consequence for using a dueling spell outside of class."


 "But - " Liv started, not wanting someone else to be punished for her actions.


 Akseli shook his head and squeezed her hand. Her face nearly became scarlet.


 "Now, to the castle!" she shouted again. "Go on, then!"


 Liv followed Akseli, passing Professor Lindgren. She looked over her shoulder, desperately wanting to confess that she was the one that had used a spell outside of class. Nevertheless, the dark-haired wizard squeezed her hand again and she fought the urge. They walked inside the giant double doors and they magically closed behind them.


 "You should've said it was me!" Liv hissed.


 "I owed you one," he replied, airily.


 She bit her lip. "But - but you have detention now. Detention with Lindgren."


 He laughed. "I suppose I'll get over it." Realizing that he was still holding her hand, he pulled away. "But um - I was wondering if maybe - we could - I don't know - maybe watch the puffins together?"


 Liv's eyes widened. Boys had certainly noticed her, but never had one asked her on a date before. After all, she was not the type of witch that went to Durmstrang Institute. She was a dreamer, a lover of animals, and everything else that the ambitious witches and wizards of Durmstrang loathed.


 "I mean, I'm sorry, I just - "


 "No!" she interjected, smiling. "I-I would love to."


 He raised his eyebrows. "Really?"


 "As long as I don't have to stupefy Wallin again. I really hate using spells on people."


 Akseli snickered. "Deal."


 Before the situation could get any more awkward, the double doors flew open and Professor Lindgren charged through them, her fingers curled around the neckline of Wallin's robes. He kicked his legs and shouted in protest. Her gaze shot towards Akseli and Liv.


 "Mister Kanerva, Miss Johannessen, you two really are just trying to get in trouble today, aren't you? Back to your dormitories before I give you both detention! That would be double for you, Mister Kanerva."


 The two of them went their separate ways, both glancing over their shoulders at the other. Liv's stomach flipped with each step that she took. For the first time in seven years, she did not regret who she was.

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