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August 2nd, 2021

Grinnell Hall

 

Dear Max,

 

Hhhhhhh feel free to say ew if you want, but... I miss you. We got back from France two weeks ago, and I know Grinnell’s quiet, but it’s been... quiet. Dad’s gone back to work, and mum’s not even around to nag since she’s been at Aunt Tori’s for the fundraiser, so it’s just been me and Gus holding down the fort. 

 

Quidditch season is starting up soon, I guess, so I’ve been practicing a bit, but not much. Did you know that Scorpius is quitting the team?? You must, he owls you for anything more important than his morning breakfast. So thanks for the heads up, traitor. I get that his OWLs are this year, and he’s already very invested in his future, which is really very admirable. But the dweeb can’t even take a break from his internship to hoopkeep for me! Like, excuse me, I made him. Ugh, if you were here then I’d at least have you to practice with, even if you’d probably just complain about my form. 

 

How’s Bulgaria? Home’s as mild and windy as ever, but I guess it’d be a bit colder in the mountains, yeah? I hope you and Teddy Lupin aren’t goading each other to do polar plunges in a lake again. Wear a proper jacket, you idiot. I know you said it’ll probably take a while to explore that castle, but I hope you finish your expedition soon. I haven’t seen you since the Cup Finals at school. 

 

Write me back when you’re back in civilization.

 

Love,

MG

 

Margot stretched her back with a yawn while quickly reading through the letter. She’d woken up early that morning, settling down to write even before the sun properly peeked over the horizon. Although light rays were now streaming in low through her open bedroom window, they were still accompanied by cool tendrils of early morning mist, and she crinkled her nose as a particularly chilly breeze blew in. It might have been the height of the summer, but mornings in Northumbria still required a bit of padding. It was a long walk to the post owls in the barn. 

 

Margot stewed in her bed covers for a good ten minutes longer before she could finally pull herself from her sheets. Shivering and sleepy, she dug through her wardrobe for warmer clothes, silently cursing her older brother for working so far away. Finally though, she carefully tucked the envelope into the pocket of an oversized old robe before slipping out of the door. 

 

The house was quiet, Margot noted. Living in a house with old wooden floors, it was always easy to track her family’s movements throughout the rooms, and as she padded down the upstairs hallway, her footsteps were noticeably solitary that morning.

 

At the bottom of the stairs she was greeted by her family’s French bulldog, Gustave, sprawled on the entry hall rug. At the sound of her approach, he immediately sprung up, his tail wagging excitedly, and he followed her as she navigated to the back of the house towards the mudroom. 

 

In the kitchen, the pair ran into one of the home’s two houselves, Pippa, whistling as she stoked the fire in the large stone cooking hearth. 

 

“Morning, Pippa. Has everyone already left?” Margot greeted with a yawn. 

 

“Good morning, Miss Margot!” the house-elf pipped, tossing a hefty log into the fireplace. “Mmmm, Missus Beauregard has stayed with Missus Malfoy for until the weekend, Pippa thinks, but Mister Beauregard flooed to London not 15 minutes ago!” 

 

Margot looked at the heavy brass clock hanging above the kitchen mantelpiece. Quarter past seven. That’d be the third time this week her father’s gone to the Ministry so early in the morning. In a week’s time, London would be hosting the European Magical Union’s (EMU) annual conference, and as an ambassador, Sebastian Beauregard and his office had become incredibly busy as of late. Margot had barely seen him since their family returned from their holiday to Aix-en-Provance last month. 

 

She hadn’t seen much of her mum lately either. Margot briefly considered flooing to Wiltshire, if only to have some other people around. But her mum and Aunt Astoria would likely be too wrapped up in event planning to offer much company. In conjunction with the conference next week, Malfoy Manor was hosting a charity art auction for the Ministry and visiting delegates. 

 

Margot wanted company, not busy work. And besides, Scorpius wouldn’t even be at home. Her studious cousin had spent most of his summer at the Ministry after earning a prestigious internship with the one and only Harry Potter at the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. 

 

Margot sighed. Maybe her best friend, Avery would write back soon. Margot sent a post three days ago asking to stay at the Warwick’s London home, but their family had also gone on holiday recently, and she was unsure if they’d returned to the city yet. 

 

Summers used to be so much more fun when Max still lived at home. 

 

“Mmm, I guess I’m off to walk Gustave then,” Margot sighed, fetching a leash from the mudroom.

 

“Pippa will have breakfast ready for when you return, Miss!”

 

------

 

Margot had to admit. The past few weeks at her family’s home had been pretty lonely, but at least it was a pretty lonely place. 

 

Grinnell Hall was the historical seat of the Greengrass family, passed down to Margot’s mother, Daphne, who along with her younger sister, Astoria, had been the last Greengrasses by name before they married. The pretty two-story grey stone manor was built on a lush green hill on the cool Northumberland coast. Margot trekked behind Gus along a trail leading away from the main house, following a high ridge that overlooked the surrounding area. 

 

From the distance, soft bleating punctuated the morning air. The Greengrass ancestors had been shepherds, and so the family had always maintained a healthy flock of sheep on their estate, along with a dozen or so heads of cattle, and the herds grazed openly on the hills to the west of the house. Three hundred yards downhill on Margot’s right began the sand dunes which marked a short stretch of beach that buffered the house to the North Sea. Though it was usually too blustery on the Northern English coast to enjoy a proper beach day, Margot frequently took Gus on walks there just to watch him yelp at the small sea creatures and bits of seaweed that washed up on shore. There was a lovely view down the coast along this ridge, and on clear days, you could see the butte of Lindisfarne from the windows on the east side of the home.  

 

The ridge trail curved left, and the pair followed it, turning away from the sea and meandering downhill towards a cluster of small buildings which housed the barn and stables. At the bottom of the hill, Margot leaned down and unclasped Gustave’s leash, and he trotted off towards the stables. Gus was terrified of the post owls, probably because his ears likened him to a very pudgy black rabbit which the owls were keen to pick up on. 

 

In the barn, Margot quickly spotted Freya quietly preening in the corner rafters. Margot blew two short whistles, and the owl swooped down without so much as a ruffle. Freya was a barn owl with a pretty heart-shaped face, the sharpest and fastest of the lot, and she had been her brother Max’s favorite when he was still in school. Margot hummed, knowing he’d probably be happy to see a familiar face from home. 

 

Freya patiently held out the carrier on her leg as Margot carefully fastened the letter. 

 

“Sorry to send you to the continent…” Margot said apologetically, sealing the carrier. Although Freya was fast, it would still take her a good few days to reach the mountains on the southern border of Bulgaria where her brother was currently camped with his team of Curse Breakers. 

 

“Just tell Max he owes you a dozen or so owl treats, yeah?”

 

Freya returned Margot’s sly smirk with a curt nip at her fingers before taking off through the barn door and into the lightening morning sky. Margot walked after her, spending a few moments watching the bird slowly sink into the distance. Max would likely keep the owl for a few days rest before sending her back, and so she knew not to expect a response until at least next week. 

 

A small kerfuffle was echoing from the stables. From the sound of it, Margot guessed that Gus was pestering the horses yet again. Though the tiny bulldog was frightened of most birds, he apparently had no fear when it came to mammals a dozen times his size. So it was absolutely no surprise at all when she found him yelping animatedly at the largest mare her mother kept in the barn. Margot hustled in quickly to fetch him before he got kicked in the face.

 

“Would you stop trying the fight the horses?” she berated exasperatedly as Gus wiggled in her arms, “You and I both know that they’re mum’s favorite kids.”

 

But the bulldog was apparently bounding with energy that morning, yipping at her feet as soon as she set him down outside. Margot thought it might be necessary to take him on a bit of a walk to cool him down. And it wasn’t like she had anything else to do that morning anyway. 

 

Together, they took a long and pleasant walk through the paths that wound through the estate. It was nice for Margot because she got some fresh air and exercise in at the start of her day. It was nice for Gus because he found some more unsuspecting animals several times his size (sheep, cows) that he could bark at. 

 

So it was not until a quarter to nine that Margot was finally lugging one exhausted bulldog back up the steep incline to the house. Gus had finally conked out after an ill-fated chase after a group of polecats, and Margot had resorted to carrying him around in her arms like a baby. Hhh. And Max called her spoiled. 

 

At the top of the ridge, Margot dropped Gus on the ground, and he barked at her happily before cantering up to the house. Margot took a few moments to regain her breath - either she was really out of season for quidditch, or they really needed to start watching that dog’s diet. 

 

As she looked out over the incoming morning tide, she spotted a small dark dot gliding in slowly towards her. She furrowed her brows, at first mistaking the owl for Freya, returning way too early to have made her delivery. But as the bird flew closer, she noted the figure was too big to be a barn owl.

 

“Oh,” Margot said with recognition, as she identified the bird to be Pel, the handsome eagle owl Avery had been gifted for her birthday last winter. 

 

Gracefully landing on the path before her, Pel blinked at Margot expectantly, holding out the leather carrier bound to his leg. As soon as she retrieved the letter, the owl wasted no time swooping over her to head towards the barn, presumably to help himself to some owl treats before making the return journey back to London.  

 

Margot ripped open the seal and read Avery’s short, hastily scribbled letter as she walked up the path towards the house.

 

Mar,

 

Sorry for the late reply. We’ve just caught a Portkey in from Stockholm this evening. You sound miserable. Pack a bag and floo to mine asap, we can go for ice cream at Fortescue’s, yeah? I’ve got post-holiday tea to spill. Nellie will greet you if I’m still asleep!

 

ADW

 

Margot let out a short whoop, passing through the kitchen threshold. Oh, thank Merlin. She was saved!

 

-----

 

August 3rd, 2021

Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlor

 

It was with annoyance that Margot reached up to wipe the dripping sweat from her brow for the third time in the past five minutes. It turned out that London had been facing a much balmier summer than the North, the hottest on record apparently, and everyone was starting to reckon the Muggles were onto something with that whole global warming idea. Behind them, the Fortescue’s storefront was packed with witches and wizards trying to beat the heat, and in the late afternoon business rush, the only seats Margot and Avery had been able to snag were outside on the patio. 

 

Despite the weather, the pair had been having a fairly enjoyable afternoon in wizarding London. They had spent most of the morning in the bright solarium of the Warwick’s South Kensington home, lazing around and catching up on Witch Weekly and Which Witch gossip columns. After lunch, at the behest of Mrs. Warwick, the pair were slowly coaxed from the permanent indentations they’d left in the plush armchairs and out into the city, finally making their way to Charing Cross. 

 

They’d spent the past few hours ambling around the stores in Diagon Alley. Hogwarts had yet to send out the supply lists for the upcoming school year, so they perused with less purpose than usual. After they made their usual stop to Flourish and Blotts for some new quills and stationery, Margot picked up some new gloves at Quality Quidditch Supply. To her delight, in one of the corner thrift shops, she had also found a vintage Weird Sisters t-shirt that she planned to send to Max as a belated birthday present once Freya had returned. Really, the most intensive part of their afternoon had come when Avery couldn’t decide between a dark blue spangled frock and a lilac tea dress for an upcoming family function. In the end, she ended up happily walking out of Twilfitt and Tatting’s with both in hand.  

 

Now the two girls had their shopping bags piled around their feet as they sat in the sun, sweating nearly as much as the ice cream floats sitting on the counter in front of them. Over the railing, the main thoroughfare of Diagon Alley swam with people. The working day was just ending for most wizards with office jobs, and throngs of people streamed by either on their way home or on their way to the pubs for post-work pick-me-ups. 

 

“Just think. That’ll be us in a few years,” Margot said, nodding towards a particularly deflated-looking wizard in St. Mungo’s robes and about seven layers of under-eye bags. 

 

“Amendment- I’ll probably end up more like her,” Avery pointed toward a frazzled witch, who’d just stumbled out of the Daily Prophet office carrying seven coffees in one hand and a precariously high pile of newspapers in the other. 

 

The friends shared a dispirited laugh. They were only half-joking, really. Due to start their sixth year and their NEWT classes in less than a months time, the two Slytherins had been increasingly pressed to consider their future careers as of late. Despite only being 16 years old, they had barely two years left before they were released into the world as full adults, and that was enough to fill any teenager with dread. Although they might be working magical jobs in the magical community, a job could still be as draining as any other, as the faces on most of the tired-looking professionals passing by reminded them. 

 

“What are you two looking so gloomy for?”

 

Rowan Selwyn, a willowy girl who styled her short, dark hair into finger waves dropped down on the seat beside them. She was one of the girls who shared a dorm with Margot and Avery at school, and she regarded the pair curiously. 

 

“Just contemplating the crushing realities of our looming adulthoods,” Margot dead-panned back.

 

“Ah, that’ll do it.”

 

Margot and Avery continued looking despondent, and Rowan chuckled breezily at them. “Come now, I’m sure your summers haven’t all been so dismal.”

 

“I’m sixteen. My life is all crisis,” Avery said, dropping her chin onto her palm.

 

“Fair enough. But I’m sure you’ve been having far more glamorous breaks than me, seeing as I’ve been stuck in London since June. What have you lot been up to? Beauregard, you were in France again, yeah?”

 

Margot hummed, “Visiting family. Mostly my cousins just took the mickey out of me for my French accent, though, so I can’t say it was really glamorous per se.”

 

“You went with your parents, right?”

 

“Yeah, we went to my dad’s mum’s.”

 

“And… your brother? He come along as well?”

 

Margot narrowed her eyes at the girl before slowly shaking her head no. 

 

“Ah, I see,” Rowan said,  swirling around the condensed liquid that had pooled on the table from their drinks. After a moment, she prodded with only the most thinly veiled interest, “...What’s Max up to then?”

 

Avery snorted into her ice cream, “Subtle. Haven’t you got a boyfriend, Selwyn?”

 

Rowan flicked water at her with a smirk, “I’m expressing friendly interest, not snogging him.”

 

Margot rolled her eyes in annoyance, but only half serious about it. Though he had graduated over three years ago, it wasn’t a secret that a number of upper-year Slytherin girls, including some of her own dorm-mates, maintained a vested interest in her older brother. For whatever reason. 

 

...Well. Margot supposed he’d been pretty popular, being the captain of the house quidditch team and all. And he did have the whole world-trotting Curse Breaker thing going for him… She guessed she had to admit - Max was objectively the cooler sibling of the two of them… probably. But she was still their house elf Pippa’s favorite.  

 

“He’s been in Bulgaria since May working on an expedition for Gringott’s,” Margot conceded as she handed Avery a napkin, “And before you ask, no, I have no idea when he’ll be back to visit.”

 

“Bulgaria? That’s quite remote... probably hard to be dating anyone, yeah?”

 

Margot wrinkled her nose, giving her friend a hard stare, “If I say he’s in a mad affair with Teddy Lupin, will you stop asking me about him?” 

 

“Oh please, Lupin and Victoire Weasley are all but engaged,” Rowan said with a matter-of-fact smirk, “Thank you for the other intel though. It’s nice to keep updated.”

 

“Why not harass the one who’s actually got decent gossip?” Margot said tiredly, jerking her head at Avery.  

 

Rowan quirked her eyebrows, turning to the girl in question, “Is that so, Warwick? What bring you to the table?”

 

Avery didn’t answer right away, instead making a production out of wiping her shirt of the water Rowan had flicked on her. But Margot knew that she was just taking some time to rile up her audience. Avery was a rather… accomplished story teller. When she really got into the spirit of things, she and Rowan could (and often did) exchange gossip for hours on end. This was especially true now given how, as Avery regaled Margot last night, she was fresh off of a summer affair.

 

“My family’s just got back from holiday in Sweden this week... We stayed with Bazzy Whitby at his family’s summer house outside of Stockholm,” Avery began casually, but pausing for a reaction, smirking when Rowan didn’t disappoint. 

 

“...Bazzy Whitby? The drummer for Nine Sickles? ...Damn, Warwick, I knew you’d have something good…  What’s your connect?”

 

“Dad goes way back with him when he was starting out with the radio business,” the girl boasted, “He gave them their first spins on his very first channel operating out of his 7th year dorm room… I guess even back then he had a good ear.”

 

Nowadays Mr. Warwick, along with Avery’s two older brothers, ran some of the most popular programming on wizarding radio. Margot had just listened to him introduce the top 40 over the wireless this morning. 

 

“...Bazzy brought his family along, too, to keep me and Daniel company, which was great seeing as I don’t speak a lick of Swedish,” Avery continued, “So, I ended up asking the eldest Whitby if he fancied being my tour guide.”

 

She paused again, pushing her long olive brown hair back before leaning forward to take a long sip of her float. She was enjoying his immensely, Margot could see.  

 

“...And…? Out with it already, Warwick.”

 

“And. So. Going to museums and cafes and record stores is fun and all, but you can only do that for so long. Our parents are out sailing all day, and eventually, you have to find... other ways to entertain yourself, you know? … And what can I say, Alastair Whitby apparently found my lips to be particularly fascinating.”

 

Avery finished with an exaggerated shrug of her shoulders, and Margot shook her head amusedly at her. Rowan was scrunching her face, trying to put a face to the name. 

 

“...Alastair… Oh, in Ravenclaw? He’s got a tongue piercing, right?”

 

“That’s the one,” Avery said cheerfully, shooting her a wink. 

 

“Huh,” Rowan said, nodding her head thoughtfully, “I had no idea he was related to punk rock royalty… although I do see the resemblance now.”

 

“He’s certainly got that patented Bazzy Whitby broodiness down,” Margot quipped, trying to remember the last time she’d seen Alastair’s eyes behind his long curtain of fringe. 

 

Rowan snorted, batting her arm appreciatively, “He’s charming! In a bad boy kind of way... So you’re together then, are you, Wickham?”

 

Avery shrugged noncommittally, “Oh. Well, no, not exactly... He’s lovely, but the tongue piercing is a bit much to deal with for a long-term relationship.”

 

Margot grinned into her float. Her best friend had never really been one for long-term relationships, period. Regardless of the other person’s tongue.

 

“Ah, I see…” Rowan said slowly, squinting her eyes at her, “Well, you know I don’t quite get your bit with... ‘undefined’ relationships… But I can respect it.”

 

“Ah, well you know I don’t quite get your bit with... ‘dating the same boy since we were literally 13’… But I can respect it,” Avery mimicked back cheekily. 

 

Rowan opened her mouth, looking ready to retort again, but instead just clicked her tongue in assent.

 

“...Touche. How’d Bazzy Jr. take it then?” 

 

Back at the dorm, Margot’s two roommates could spend nearly as much time bantering as they did gossiping, but she could tell Rowan was rather invested in the latter today. Avery was smirking gleefully as she replied - she loved winning word wars with Rowan.

 

“Oh, don’t worry, he was fine! ...Well, I suppose he kind of sulked around for a bit afterwards. But he was doing that for most of the trip anyway, so I just assumed he was back to his normal self.”

 

“Careful, Aves. He might just pick up a guitar and bang out an angry song or two about you,” Margot said cooly sipping her float.

 

“Ooh, that could be quite romantic actually,” Rowan added, “At the very least, if he gets famous like his dad you’d have bragging rights for years.”

 

“‘Oh yes, I am the ‘Bitch Who Hates Tongue Piercings’... No, I’m quite flattered Alastair would name a song after me… Sure, I’ll sign your album for you…!’”

 

Avery maturely stuck her tongue out at her snickering friends before narrowing her eyes at Margot.

 

“Maybe I’ll file my application for the Margot Beauregard Heartbreakers Association then.”

 

Rowan was still wiping tears from her eyes when she shifted her gaze to Margot.

 

“What’s all that now, Beauregard,” she said laughingly, “You break up with Ro-Ro, too?”

 

Margot furrowed her eyebrows at the slender girl before nodding her head slowly, “...Did you not know? But I thought Lucien had babbled to half the year already during that bonfire party in June.”

 

Immediately Rowan’s expression sobered as her eyes widened in understanding, “... Oh my god, I thought Zabini was joking…!”

 

“Well, his sense of humor can be a little illusive at times-”

 

“But you mean to say, that you and Roman Pucey broke up?”

 

“Well, yes.”

 

“What? How? When.”

 

Avery snorted, “She dumped him on the Hogwarts Express.” 

 

Margot shot her a pointed look, “That makes it seem so harsh. I was only trying to be direct about it. And I didn’t dump him. We had a conversation; it was basically mutual-” 

 

“Mar, you told him the relationship wasn’t worth your effort.”

 

“...”

 

“...”

 

“...Well yes, but it was only true.”

 

“Holy shit, Beauregard,” Rowan said, gaping amazedly at her. 

 

“It wasn’t in so few words,” Margot defended, “I have a small bit of tact.”

 

While it was true that her and Roman Pucey’s five month long relationship hadn’t been spectacular, at the very least, it been very reasonable. It had been her first real relationship, but she slipped into it quite naturally. She and Roman liked quidditch, both being chasers on the house team. Reasonable. He was attractive, well-dressed, and well-spoken. Reasonable. Their mums got along spectacularly well and even had tea together a few times. Reasonable

 

And that’s the way Roman liked things in his life. Reasonable. Easy. Uncomplicated. He was a year ahead of her, in the midst of his NEWT courses, but he hardly ever concerned himself with his school work. The Puceys were a very well off wizarding family, and he liked to say that his future was secured by a well-stocked Gringott’s vault. Thus, he was often perplexed by Margot’s frequent fretting over her OWL results.

 

“Mar-Mar, does it really matter if you get an ‘Outstanding’ or an ‘Exceeds Expectations’ for Transfiguration?”

 

“Seeing as Selwyn only lets in ‘Outstanding’ students for NEWTs, it certainly does.”

 

“So, you don’t take NEWT Transfig… It’s a bore of a class anyway from what I hear from Oscar…”

 

“So? And so no Transfig means no Healer school.”

 

“Would skipping that really be that big of a deal? From the way I see things, people like us barely need to work… I mean, obviously it wouldn’t be for a while, but rest assured, my family’s coffers should keep us quite content if we got married…”

 

“...”

 

“...”

 

“...”

 

“Mar?”

 

“...We… really… have got very different ideas about our futures, haven’t we?”

 

Anyone who knew Margot well knew that she’d been dead set on becoming a Healer since third year. More importantly, she had an inexplicable stubborn streak over the topic (as her mother knew particularly well). She’d thought that Roman would have known better. And honestly, was it really her fault if the boy didn’t seem to have a decent ounce of Slytherin ambition in his body? 

 

“In any case, he’s graduating this year, and we’re clearly going in different trajectories. Soon enough he’ll be taking off on his friend’s yachts on the Mediterranean, and I’ll be, oh you know... crying my way through Healer school. I just don’t think it’ll work out,” Margot said with a dull smile.  

 

“... You really are something else, Margot.”

 

“That’s what my mum said too. She was more broken up about it than I was.”

 

“Your brother hardly ever dates anyone - can you really blame the woman for getting her hopes up about you?” 

 

Margot scoffed derisively, “Max is 21. He should be taking as much time for himself as he wants. And besides. As if I’d be finding my future spouse at Hogwarts.”

 

To punctuate her point, she nodded her head toward a rowdy group of teenage boys just exiting Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes. Even from a few storefronts down, their boisterous laughter rang clear down the street. One of them, who she recognized from quidditch as Kian Wilkinson, a Gryffindor 6th year, had hung a pair of extendible ears from his left nostril. 

 

“...Fair point,” Avery said, eyeing the group of boys disparagingly. 

 

From a few streets down, the massive clock atop Gringott’s Bank began signaling the hour - 6 o’clock. The air had cooled significantly since they had first sat down, and their seats were now shaded by the lengthening shadows of the closely packed buildings. Rowan looked up surprisedly at the ringing of the clock. 

 

“Damn, it’s six already? I told my uncle I’d meet him in front of the bank on the hour,” she said, hurriedly collecting her things. She offered them a grin as she hopped off her stool.

 

“I’m sorry to hear about your break ups. But also? Congrats? Cheers to you lot for having clear 6th years ahead.”

 

Margot and Avery simultaneously lifted their glasses.

 

“Hear, hear.”

 

Rowan winked at them, “I’ll see you both at school then!”

 

“Sure. Good seeing you, Rowan.”

 

“Find us on the Express!”

 

They watched for a moment as their friend hurried from the patio and disappeared into the crowd.

 

“We should be about heading home too, Mar. Mum wants us home by 7 for dinner.”

 

So the pair gathered up their shopping bags, and together they followed the road back up to the Leaky Cauldron.

 

-----------------------------

 

 

Oh, heck. This is the first fanfic I've published in years! Next chapter with James will be posted ~quite~ soon. I hope you all enjoy as much as I've been enjoying writing it the past few months~ 

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