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September 1st, 2021

King’s Cross Station

 

Margot couldn’t shake the sense of foreboding at the start of the new semester. 

 

Just last Monday, Freya had returned bearing updates from Max’s trip, some Bulgarian candy, and a very cool dragon tooth charm. And although Margot had happily attached the charm to her broom and munched on the sweets while she was packing earlier this week, she also knew they were peace offerings from an apologetic brother. 

 

Max hadn’t been able to return to England to see her off to school this year. His expedition had found a network of tunnels beneath the castle they were exploring, and while it was a very exciting discovery for the team of Curse Breakers, it also meant extending their trip by another month, at the very least. 

 

Margot tried not to be too disappointed, but it was the first year since she started at Hogwarts that her brother would not be accompanying her to King’s Cross. Standing now with her mother on the crowded platform, Margot suddenly missed him terribly. 

 

“Margot darling, do try to chin up. You’re going to school, not Azkaban.”

 

Margot looked over at her mother, who was carefully scanning the crowd for Malfoys. Daphne Beauregard was a tall and exceptionally well-groomed witch, who carried an air of privilege like a luxury handbag. She had wavy blonde hair, pin straight posture, and the signature Greengrass eyes, a pale jade hue that Margot, as well as Max and Scorpius, had inherited from their mothers. She looked particularly chic and airy today in a fluttery set of sky blue robes - very apt garb to combat the incessant heat that had yet to let up over London. 

 

“Oh, there’s Astoria. Come along, Margot.” 

 

Margot had little choice but to follow her mother deeper in the jostling crowd of students and parents filling Platform 9 ¾. They had arrived early to the station 15 minutes ago, as per her mother’s usually impeccable timing, but it was now closing in on 11am, and Margot had about 10 minutes to board the train and find her seat. She had yet to see Avery, but she suspected that her best friend would probably breeze in only a few minutes shy of departure, having waited until the very last moment to make her way across the city to King’s Cross. 

 

“Hey, Daph. Margot, good to see you! You look lovely,” Astoria smiled softly, embracing her niece. 

 

Margot grinned. She had always got on well with her aunt, and her mom used to frequently joke that she was practically raising another Astoria. Aside from their similar features (dark, ash blonde hair and ski slope noses), the two shared the same bookish disposition and blunt personality. But Margot didn’t mind the comparison at all - she thought Aunt Tori was brilliant. 

 

In her youth, Astoria Greengrass had left home at age 17 on a wicked independent streak, dated and married Draco Malfoy amidst the negative sentiment that tarnished his family after the war (much to the ire of her moderate parents), and helped painstakingly restore Malfoy Manor to the elegant polish it had today. Nowadays, when she wasn’t organizing ministry parties, she researched art, and she was widely regarded as one of the premier historians for British wizarding art. 

 

Having both been frequent subjects of Daphne’s well-intentioned but incessant nagging (about hair, clothes, posture, life choices, etc.), she and Margot bonded frequently over coping and dissenting strategies. 

 

“Excited for school, Mar?” she said, “You’re starting your NEWT coursework this year, right?”

 

“Ugh, don’t remind me, Aunt Tori,” Margot groaned. 

 

“Your niece has decided to take six NEWTs this year,” her mum tutted, half proud and half exasperated, “I keep telling her she can get away with half that if she followed her dad into the ministry…”

 

At this, Margot rolled her eyes, and her aunt grinned at her, “Ah, but Margot doesn’t want to work with those government fuddy duddies at International Relations, Daph... She’d rather work for the medical fuddy duddies at St. Mungos.”

 

Margot only crinkled her nose, used to her aunt’s teasing.

 

“What are you taking then? What’s that Healer course load like?”

 

“Erm… Herbology, Potions, Charms, Transfig, Defense…” Margot said, listing off on her fingers, “And Care of Magical Creatures. For fun.”

 

The two Greengrass sisters exchanged glances, and Margot’s mum mouthed, “For fun!” with a scandalized look on her face.

 

Well, it had sounded fun to Margot when she had done her consultation with Professor Selwyn last year. Old Hagrid’s classes were always filled with more hands-on activities than actual homework. But looking now at the amount of classes she had listed on her hands, she was already beginning to falter at her chosen course load. It was going to be a long, long two years. 

 

“Sebastian at work today?” Aunt Astoria asked, and Margot’s mother nodded, rolling her eyes.

 

“Honestly, you’d think with the summit over and done with, things would have died down a bit, but his office is still completely swamped…”

 

“Mmm, Draco couldn’t get away from the office today either...”

 

In truth, Margot’s father had offered to take the day off of work to see her off to school. He knew she was a bit glum about her brother’s absence, but he was also preparing for an upcoming business trip to France, and Margot kindly vetoed the idea. The two had said their goodbyes that morning at Grinnell before departing separately for London.

 

As her mum and aunt prattled on, Margot looked around cursorily for her cousin. Aunt Astoria had been standing with a dark ebony trunk emblazoned with the initials S.H.M. in shining silver cursive and a large brass cage containing Scorpius’s great grey owl, Atlas, but the owner of said trunk and bird was nowhere in sight.

 

“Where’s Scorpius, Aunt Tori?” 

 

“With the Potters,” she replied, inclining her head a little ways down the platform.

 

Of course. 

 

The massive group of people were hard to miss, even in the crowded station. There was an overabundance of red hair in a variety of vibrant shades as the Potter/Weasleys massed together in an informal and rowdy family reunion, preparing to send a whole army of their children back to Hogwarts. Honestly, it often felt like half of the school was a Wotter with how prolific the clan seemed to be. 

 

Margot easily picked out her cousin’s tall platinum blonde head in the mass of people. He was standing with Albus, whose messy black locks were also an outlier in the sea of red, and the pair were bearing identical looks of concern. 

 

On the ground next to them, a freckly girl who Margot recognized as Al’s cousin, Rose Granger-Weasley, was crouched down talking to a rather teary-looking Lily Potter. The third year was sitting on a trunk, her arms crossed, her nose bright pink, looking very much in need of a tissue. As if on cue, Scorpius reached into his pocket and produced a handkerchief, which he handed to the glum-looking girl. Margot furrowed her eyebrows and wondered what that was all about, taking a mental note to ask Scorp later. 

 

“Actually, I better go fetch him… The train’s due to leave soon,” Aunt Astoria said. She was looking at the large clock face mounted on the wall behind them - five minutes to departure.  

 

Astoria reached over and gave Margot a quick hug.

 

“Good luck on your new semester, Margot. I know you won’t need it,” she said with a smirk, “Daph, I’ll be over later this week for tea?”

 

“Mhmm, see you then, Tor.”

 

“Bye, Aunt Tori!”

 

The blonde witch gave the pair a parting smile before hustling Scorpius’s luggage towards the crowd of Wotters. 

 

“I better get on now too, mum…” Margot said slowly, bracing herself for the litany of pre-departure reminders and quibbles that were due for her every September 1st. 

 

“Yes, you better,” her mum said, peering at the front cart of the Express, which had sprung to life and was now steadily chugging white steam from its chimney. 

 

“Have you got everything? Trunk? Wand? Owl?”

 

Margot nodded, holding out and slightly rattling the cage that held Freya. Margot had decided to take her along this year, as she was planning on owling Max from school. Her dog Gus, understandably, preferred the green hills of Grinnell to the Slytherin dungeons and would be staying at home with her parents. 

 

“Alright, let’s see...” her mum said, taking a deep breath, “Remember to take your vitamin potions three times a week… Properly hang those dress robes I packed… And please use that planner I got you - it’s meant to remind you about your rounds and exams… Also, remember to write to your cousins - you’re supposed to be keeping up with your French… Brush your hair out before you go to bed… And darling, please stand a little straighter - you know I hate it when you slouch. Oh! And keep. Your. Cuffs. Pressed.”

 

Daphne punctuated the last point by staring pointedly at the sleeves of Margot’s white linen shirtdress, which she had pushed up to her elbows in the heat. Nodding resignedly and knowing that silent compliance was her best bet at the moment to make a hasty escape, Margot pulled the sleeves down and began rolling them up in a neater fashion. 

 

“Oh, and I know how much you like playing quidditch, but do try not to fall off your broom this year, Margot.”

 

Margot smirked, thinking of last year’s Cup final. “I’ll try… but I do really need to go now, mum. I’ll miss the train.”

 

“Alright,” her mum nodded before reaching out and squeezing her arm, “Margot.”

 

“Mmm?”

 

“When Eustace gets home from Bulgaria, I’ll have him come to your next match, okay?”

 

Margot let out a tiny laugh. Her mother was the only person left in the world who still called Max by his real first name. But she appreciated the sentiment nonetheless, nodding gratefully and allowing herself to be pulled in for a hug. 

 

“Okay. Be good. Do well. Love you.” 

 

“Mhmm. Bye, mum. Love you.”

 

Margot untangled herself from her mother’s embrace and pulled her luggage (lightened with a Feather Charm, of course) onto the train. She stuck her arm out of the door for one last wave before turning and disappearing down the corridor in search of a free compartment.

 

-----

 

September 1st, 2021

Hogwarts Express, Meeting Compartment 1

 

“Alright, everyone, take a seat. I’m taking roll call.”

 

The Head Girl, Caroline Jordan, had a loud, authoritative voice that carried well over the chatter of the crowded compartment.

 

Margot was already sitting in one of the back booths with the other Slytherin prefects and waited idly as the rest of the students scrambled to find seats and squeeze together on the benches. Looking around the room, she noted a number of familiar faces and acquaintances from prefect meetings last year. 

 

Her potion’s partner, Dom Weasley, was seated across the aisle with the other 6th year Ravenclaw, a clever bespectacled wizard named Felix Stretton, and a fairy-ish blonde boy who resembled Dom, presumably a relative. Roy Fawley, a broad 7th year with dusty freckles who played beater for the Hufflepuff quidditch team, had just sat atop a very irate Jack Cresswell on a bench two booths up, much to the amusement of Rose Granger-Weasley and a pretty Ravenclaw girl with long sandy brown hair - both new prefects this year. Margot herself was wedged between Scorpius and Camila Buchanan from the year above, who, as Margot was just finding out, had very pointy elbows. 

 

Up at the front of the room, Caroline had begun roll call with a booming voice and excellent enunciation.

 

“Alright, Gryffindors first… Molly Weasley?”

 

“Here,” called a red-head from the front row.

 

“Archibald Longbottom..?” 

 

“Present.” 

 

Archie Longbottom grinned sheepishly from his place next to Caroline as she powered through the list. The Head Boy was sitting on top of a table leaning forward with his hands clenched very tightly together. In contrast to the Head Girl, he looked a bit peaky and dazed, as if he were unsure how he got into this position, but nevertheless, he greeted the car full of prefects with a warming smile. 

 

Caroline had gotten to the Slytherins now.

 

“... Oscar Belby?”

 

“Here,” called Oscar’s voice, directly behind Margot.

 

“Margot Beauregard?”

 

“Here,” Margot said, giving a cursory wave. 

 

Margot glanced out the window as she lowered her hand. They’d left London about an hour ago, and the Hogwarts Express was now quickly speeding through the countryside outside of Cambridge, but they would not arrive in Hogsmeade until past nightfall. For a few moments, Margot watched wheatfields and patches of trees whiz by before the train banked left, and she slowly slid into Scorpius. 

 

“Ay, watch it,” he said to her jokingly. 

 

Margot gave him an appraising glance. Scorpius, as usual, was dressed smartly, wearing a light button up shirt and his hair parted neatly to the side. Her eyes landed on his collar, where he’d already pinned his prefect badge, the tiny snake embossed on the emblem looking as though he’d spent a good couple hours polishing it last night. Margot smirked. 

 

“So Scorp, what d’you think about your very first prefect meeting so far? Everything you’ve ever dreamed of?”

 

“It’s been a bit boring so far, but we’ve only been here ten minutes, Mar.”

 

“Don’t worry, it’ll get much duller soon.”

 

Scorpius grinned at her, “Still aiming for Head Girl next year?”

 

“Are you still aiming for Head Boy the year after?” Margot quirked a challenging brow at her cousin.

 

“Fair enough,” he conceded with a shy smile. The pair fell silent and watched the compartment for a moment.

 

“...here!”

 

“Caroline Jordan? Oh- that’s me, here!” Caroline said brightly, and a wave of chuckles rounded the room.

 

“Roy Fawley…”

 

“...Yea? Oh. Present.”

 

“...I can’t believe Fawley is really a prefect,” whispered Scorpius from beside her, “He always seemed like a bit of a thickhead on the pitch, if I’m gonna be honest…”

 

Margot snickered, “Nah, Fawley’s alright. He’s actually loads better than Jack Cresswell from my year. I think he spent more time trying to snog in broom closets himself than the people we were supposed to be catching last year.”

 

“Eugh.”

 

“Yeah, poor Eloise just started to go on rounds by herself to avoid getting constantly propositioned to.”

 

Scorpius crinkled his nose in distaste, “I’ll make sure to give the heads up to the girls in my year.” 

 

Margot nodded in agreement. “What’s the deal with the new fifth years? Anyone of note?”

 

Scorpius glanced around the room.

 

 “Uhmm… Well, you know Miranda from our house…” he said, inclining his head back towards the booth behind them where the other half of the Slytherin prefects were crammed in.

 

“...Dunno much about the two Hufflepuffs to be honest, but I’m in model EMU with Gemma McDougal - she’s in Ravenclaw and is quite nice…” Scorpius gestured to the pretty brunette girl at the front. 

 

“...The other ‘Claw is Louis Weasley, who’s the brother of your mate, Dom...”

 

Margot smirked, glancing at the silvery-haired girl across the aisle. She wasn’t exactly sure if Dom was more a mate or a frenemy - the Ravenclaw was as competitive as she was pretty - but Margot let it slide without comment as Scorpius prattled on.

 

“...You know Ren’s sibling too, actually… He’s Kai’s brother.” 

 

The tall Gryffindor boy leaning against the compartment door did indeed bear a striking resemblance to Kai Yamasaki, Margot’s fellow chaser on the Slytherin team, even down to the goofy, lopsided smile playing at his lips. 

 

“Huh, I didn’t know he had a brother,” she commented amusedly. 

 

“Mhmm,” Scorpius said with an affirmative grin, “...So all’s left is Rose, but you obviously know her. She’s brilliant.” 

 

Margot hummed in agreement as she followed her cousin’s gaze to the girl in question. Rose’s mum, Hermione Granger, was every high-achieving teenage witch’s role model, and all accounts said her daughter was a red-headed carbon-copy of the famed Minister for Magic. 

 

“By the way, Scorpius,” Margot said, suddenly remembering the scene from King’s Cross, “What was wrong with Lily this morning? She looked quite upset on the platform.”

 

“Ah,” Scorpius said, nodding with a small smile, “You remember the fire cat fiasco from the fundraiser?”

 

“Mhmm…” she said slowly. The adorable creature had scorched nearly half a dozen of Uncle Draco’s favorite rose bushes after she’d left the group that night. 

 

“Well, apparently Lily’s been on a trial run the past few weeks trying to convince Mrs. Potter to let her keep the cat, trying to train it and everything. But I guess it didn’t work out in the end... And Mrs. Potter was adamant that it couldn’t come to school with Lily. I couldn’t quite tell because she was sniffling a lot, but I think they sent it back to the Scamanders yesterday morning…”

 

“Oh, poor Lily...” Margot said, feeling sorry for the girl. Lily had positively cooed over her new pet as soon as she laid eyes on it. To be honest, Margot had liked the cat too. Ginger had really been very cute. But on the other hand…

 

“That’s probably for the best though right? Would Hogwarts even allow a student to keep a firecat?”

 

Scorpius looked thoughtful for a moment, “Well... we’re allowed to keep cats… And it is technically a cat…”

 

“...That’s also flammable,” Margot finished. 

 

Despite themselves, the pair broke out into grins. It really was kind of a silly creature to gift to a thirteen-year-old girl, in retrospect. 

 

At the front of the room, Caroline had finished checking the roll-call and was now clapping her hands together to gather attention.

 

“Okay, you all, pipe down. Me and Archie need to run through introductions for the fifth years and general housekeeping, and the faster you all quiet, the faster we can get done and you all can go back to your compartments for lunch.”

 

At those words, the train car immediately fell to an intent hush. 

 

“Okay, great! Archie, take it away.”

 

The golden haired boy started, wiping his sweaty palms on his trousers and standing up. 

 

Oh, bless him, Margot thought. 

 

He flashed everyone a winning smile before taking a deep breath and starting, “So first things first, welcome back, everyone. I hope you all had restful summers. As Caroline said, I’m your Head Boy, Archie Longbottom of Gryffindor House, and I’m gonna be going over the general duties and expectations for prefects…”

 

And so the next hour passed with little fanfare for Margot. At some point, Scorpius had pulled out a little notebook and began taking notes, but he’d been too absorbed in scribbling down the procedures for docking house points that Margot hadn’t even bothered taking the mickey out of him properly. Though she usually didn’t mind prefects meetings, this first one always ran twice as long with twice as much bureaucracy as normal. 

 

So she unabashedly joined in the collective sigh of relief when Caroline finally said, “So getting to our last point…”

 

From the front of the car, Ambrose Hill let out a celebratory whoop and Caroline graced him with a jesting round of applause.

 

“...As I was saying, our last order of business today is signing up for rounds. We’re changing it up a little bit this year and letting you choose partners and rotations on a quarterly basis…”

 

The cart buzzed with interest.

 

“...Your partner can be any other prefect, regardless of house or year, as long as you do your rounds together… and this is meant to encourage you guys to get to know each other better, sure... but above all it’s about cooperation and teamwork, so choose wisely.”

 

Margot rolled her eyes, knowing she’d end up doing her rounds with Lucien Zabini anyway. Her fellow 6th year Slytherin was the textbook definition of tall, dark, and handsome and had an inclination towards the dramatic and avant garde, but he was witty and got on quite well with Margot. They had made highly effective patrol partners all throughout last year. 

 

“...Alright, that’s about it, you all can come up and sign up for rounds on this sheet and then you may go.”

 

There was a mad rush to the front of the car as two dozen prefects made a beeline for the sheets to grab the best spots. Margot peered around her booth to the next one over to ask Lucien which slots he had free, but when her eyes met his, they were… apologetic?

 

“Oh no,” she said, annoyance already bubbling up in her voice.

 

“Hear me out, ok?” Lucien started quickly, taking Margot by the shoulders and walking with her to the front of the room, “I know we have a long-standing system, but. But. I’m trying to snog Roy Fawley before he gets too distracted by Quidditch season.”

 

Margot blinked at him.

 

“So I need to make a move soon, as in now, as in I need to ask him to Hogsmeade during this month of rotations…”

 

“...You want to ditch me so you can snog a boy?”

 

Lucien nodded seriously, looking at her with earnest eyes.

 

“I’ll make an Unbreakable Vow to return to you as soon as business is taken care of, I swear.”

 

Margot opened her mouth to retort something scathing but Lucien interrupted her, “And I know you’re a reasonable witch who also drives a hard bargain, so I’ll throw in a gift box of Laduree macarons in too - you’ll have them by owl post by the end of the week.”

 

“Right, if you think it’s that easy-!”

 

But Lucien grabbed her cheeks, effectively shutting her mouth, as he flashed her a wide grin. 

 

“Thanks for understanding my carnal needs!”

 

And with that he dived into the crowd towards the burly Hufflepuff, leaving Margot to gape after him.

 

Well.

 

She never liked that slimy traitor anyway. 

 

She shook her head, needing to clear her thoughts. Okay, a partner. She needed a new partner. That was doable - she got on with plenty of the other prefects well enough. Scorpius would probably pair with one of his 5th year mates, but maybe someone else from Slytherin or Eloise or even Dom… She scanned the crowd, running through a list of possibilities in her mind.

 

“Hey Margot, could I borrow you for a sec?”

 

Margot turned around to the kind face of Archie Longbottom. His nerves had simmered down since the beginning of the meeting, and his cheeks were now significantly less red than before. He’d actually ended up doing a pretty good job of speaking and directing alongside Caroline, and Margot could understand McGonagall’s choice in making him a Head. The boy had a very endearing kind of charisma. 

 

“Oh, yeah, sure… What’s up?” Margot said, turning away from the frenzy of the sign-ups. 

 

He pulled out something from his shoulder bag and held it out to her expectantly. It was a letter, with Margot Beauregard written across the back in the clumsy handwriting of a teenage boy. Margot wrinkled her brows, confused.

 

“Uhm…”

 

Archie cocked his head and suddenly looked at her, wide-eyed.

 

“Oh no, it’s not from me!” Archie laughed. His cheeks, as well as his ears and neck were reddening again. “It’s uhm. Its from my dad. Professor Longbottom? He’s got terrible handwriting I know…”

 

“Oh!” Margot said, her mouth dropping open, “What for…?”

 

She gingerly took the letter from Archie, a bit more relieved but still a little bit puzzled. The first day of school hadn’t even started, and she was already getting a summons from a teacher? Frowning, she broke the seal.

 

Ms. Beauregard, 

 

Would you kindly meet me in my office at Greenhouse 3 next Tuesday afternoon after classes end? I have some academic matters I would like to discuss with you.

 

Professor Neville Longbottom

 

“Academic matters…?” Margot mouthed, perplexed.

 

“That probably sounds a lot worse than how he meant it,” Archie laughed sheepishly, “I’m sure it’s not anything bad, Margot.”

 

“I would hope not,” she replied, casting him a weary smile. 

 

It definitely shouldn’t be bad, Margot told herself. Herbology was one of her favorite subjects, and she had gotten top marks on her OWLs last year. She liked to think that she was one of Professor Longbottom’s best students, at least for her year… 

 

He was probably going to ask her to do some tutoring, she concluded. Although that was probably good news, she also couldn’t help the tiny cry in her head. This was already shaping up to be an exhaustingly busy year, and she hadn’t even stepped foot in Hogwarts yet. Between classes and quidditch and tutoring and prefect duties… Oh. Prefect duties. Rounds. 

 

“Hey Archie, thanks for delivering this…” Margot said, and the Head Boy bobbed his head politely. 

 

Her heart sank as she looked around the room and realized it had nearly emptied as she and Archie had been talking. 

 

Margot looked up hopefully at the Head Boy, as he stooped over to collect his things on the bench. He hadn’t gone up to the sign-up sheets yet either, though...

 

“You wouldn’t happen to need a partner for rounds this quarter, would you?”

 

“Hmm?” Archie said, looking up. “Ah no, I actually already promised Felix I’d patrol with him this month and signed us up beforehand… Sorry… We can partner next quarter, if you’d like?”

 

“Ah, that’s alright, don’t worry about it…” Margot glanced anxiously at the sign-up sheet. 

 

“Okay,” Archie said cheerfully, calling over her shoulder at Caroline, who had sat down at a booth to review the fifth year’s timetables, “You all set here, Caroline?” 

 

When the Head Girl looked up and gave him a thumbs up, he gave Margot one last smile, before slinging his bag over his shoulder, “See you around, Margot!”

 

Archie turned to leave, and Margot flew to the table at the front of the cabin. Her eyes glided down the list until she landed on the lone empty slot to fill her name in. She traced across the paper to the Partner column with a dreadful feeling in her gut.

 

Oh. 

 

Oh no.

 

Margot trudged out of the meeting compartment to find Mr. Broom-Closet-Enthusiast himself, Jack Cresswell, still lingering by the door. His dark hair was slicked with gel, his jacket collar was popped, and a smirk was playing on his face.

 

“Hey, partner. Looking forward working with you.”

 

The semester was definitely off to a rotten start. 

 

-------

 

September 1st, 2021

Hogwarts Express, Compartment 8C

 

“Salazar, it took you long enough. We’ve been starving,” Avery’s voice spilled out of the compartment as soon as Margot unlatched the door. 

 

Inside, Avery and Rowan were spread out on a bench each, with a pile of magazines and empty sweets wrappers on the floor between them. Avery’s long brown mane of hair was tumbled out beneath her as she lay with her head hanging upside down over the seat, reading a copy of Which Witch. Rowan was sitting opposite Avery, her long spindly legs folded beneath her as she sampled color changing lipstick from a magical makeup catalog. 

 

“You don’t look like you’re starving,” sighed Margot tiredly.

 

At the tone of her voice, both witches looked up at her with concern.

 

“What happened to you?”

 

“Which man do we need to hex?”

 

Margot leaned against the frame of the door, pinching the bridge of her nose.

 

“At this point, I wouldn’t care if you just started firing away indiscriminately.”

 

The two Slytherin girls looked at each other, and then looked at Margot with raised eyebrows. 

 

“Come on, let’s head up to the dining car. I’ll fill you in on the way.”

 

------

 

September 1st, 2021

Hogwarts Express, Dining Car

 

“He waited for you after the meeting just to goad you?” 

 

“More specifically, he waited for me just to let me know which broom closets are, in his opinion, the most private and discrete.”

 

“That’s heinous.” 

 

“Right? As if I’d ever.” 

 

Margot scoffed, annoyedly chewing on her sandwich. The three girls were tucked into a booth in the train’s small dining car. Because of Margot’s meeting, they had avoided the height of the lunch rush, and there were only a few other stragglers scattered around the tables, mostly other prefects who’d been in the meeting as well (but luckily no Jack Cresswell). 

 

“I’m sure you could switch out with someone else if you wanted. What about Longbottom? He’s a bit of a pushover,” Avery supplied. She was sitting across from Margot and Rowan, dipping chips into a chocolate milkshake. 

 

“Okay, first off, that’s vile,” Rowan said, gesturing to Avery’s choice of snack. But the girl just began dunking the chips more fervently, fully immersing each one and swirling it around in the drink, looking straight into Rowan’s eyes as she ate. Avery’s intense sweet tooth and tooth-rotting creations were things Margot had learned not to bother commenting on over the years. 

 

“...Eugh, anyway. Secondly, if she switched, Margot would miss out on a valuable teaching opportunity. If he wants to hang out in a broom closet so badly, then just lock him in one the next time he harrasses her.”

 

Avery raised her eyebrows and gave a little nod of acquiescence. “Yeah, can’t complain about that plan.”

 

Margot laughed, “I’m not too worried - I’m more than capable of handling myself if he tried something. It’s just… ugh, more of a nuisance than anything? I know all my patrols with him will just be a waste of time.”

 

“At least it’s only for the quarter.”

 

“Yeah, but those are still precious hours of my life that I could be spending, I dunno… not associating with a grimy creep?”

 

“Yeah, got us there.”

 

“Moral of the story, men suck.”

 

“Hear, hear.” And the three clinked their glasses. 

 

“... Wait, Selwyn, you have a boyfriend.” 

 

“All the more reason for me to agree,” Rowan retorted, “Besides, me and Jordan are more in a partnership of convenience.”

 

Margot looked curiously at her friend. Rowan looked quite indifferent, but she had been together with fellow Slytherin, Jordan Killick since 3rd year. When she wasn’t hanging out with Margot and Avery, she spent nearly all her time with him. In fact, Margot was surprised he hadn’t turned up yet. 

 

But as if on cue or a highly effective case of ‘speak his name…’, the door to the car rattled open, and two tall Slytherin boys strolled in, spotted the group huddled together in the corner, and unceremoniously dropped down into their booth. 

 

Margot glowered at Lucien who’d taken a seat next to Avery.

 

“Well? Did you get your date, traitor?”

 

Lucien smirked at her, his narrow, cat-like eyes twinkling with amusement.

 

“I’m working on it. Patience Beauregard, Rome wasn’t built in a day, etc. etc…” he drawled, “Fawley did agree to be partners this quarter though, so thanks for your compliance.”

 

“What’s this about?” Jordan said, looking curiously between Lucien and Margot. He was a lanky, serious-looking wizard with a curtain of sleek black hair and few words. He’d squeezed in on the other side of Rowan, his arm tossed across her shoulders.

 

“Lucien dumped Margot to admire Roy Fawley’s rippling biceps during his prefect rounds.”

 

“They are quite toned,” Lucien said, making to steal a chip from Avery’s plate. 

 

Margot smacked his hand, glaring at him. “And do you know who I got stuck with instead?”

 

“Ouch...”

 

“Jack Cresswell.”

 

“Oooh. Really?” Lucien said, having the decency at least to look genuinely apologetic. 

 

“We’ve already got it handled though,” Avery mediated, “We’re locking him in a broom closet.”

 

“Oh, well in that case…” Lucien shrugged, taking a handful of fries and happily munching on them.

 

Margot glowered at him, “...Those macarons better be on the table in front of my breakfast by Friday morning, Zabini.”

 

“I’ll buy you the biggest set my owl can carry,” he said cooly, patting her cheek (thankfully with his non-greasy hand).

 

“How have your summers been by the way?” Avery proffered cheerfully, attempting to steer the conversation.

 

“Same as always, no?” Lucien grinned, “I mean, I can guess what you lot have been up to…”

 

“Those two have probably spent the whole summer rubbing noses or whatever you’re into these days…” he jibed, nodding at Rowan and Jordan, “Warwick, you’ve likely been spinning a summer fling into a tizzy, and Beauregard’s obviously been rubbing elbows with the ministry elite.”

 

“...”

 

“Mhmm, yup.”

 

“More or less.”

 

At this point the sixth years had known each other long enough to the point of near perfect predictability.

 

“And you? Getting to know a new step-mum?”

 

“Mhmm. Milan. My dad’s new wife has an atelier there,” Lucien said casually, “The city is great, but the trip was a bit of a drag, actually…” 

 

“Oh, why?”

 

“My dad wouldn’t stop riding me about my exam results - I mean honestly, it was one ‘Exceeds Expectations’, and is it my fault that Selwyn’s sister is such a hardass about the prerequisites for her NEWT classes?”

 

“Try growing up with her,” Rowan said unsympathetically, and then after a pause, “Also, I don’t think she likes you.”

 

“That’s so unfair, she’s our Head-”

 

Rowan’s older sister, Professor Cordelia Selwyn, was a sharp and intimidating witch who had taken over Transfiguration classes at the beginning of their third year. Last year, after the retirement of Horace Slughorn, she had also been promoted to Head of Slytherin House. Despite her relatively young career, Professor Selwyn was already widely regarded as one of Hogwarts’ toughest teachers, demanding only the best from her pupils, which most unfortunately for Lucien, included the steep prerequisite of an ‘Outstanding’ OWL to gain admittance into her NEWT-level classes. 

 

“...All I’m saying is that if she was willing to give me this prefect’s badge, she should be willing to give me a little leniency…” 

 

Nearly everyone else in the group laughed. Professor Selwyn was not known to be lenient to anyone.

 

“Lucien, she didn’t even let me into her class, and I’m her sister…” 

 

“Well, of course not. That’d be nepotism,” he said matter-of-factly, “She passed Jordan though… and Margot too, right?”

 

“Yeah,” Margot said curtly, “But that’s because we spent revision week actually studying instead of snogging Conor Valentin in the library.”

 

“... Alright, that may have been a reasonable trade-off,” Lucien conceded, after a moment of thought.

 

“You should have just multi-tasked, Lucien,” said Avery breezily, “Thrown in a line like, ‘Hey Conor, d’you mind if I turn your two lips into tulips…?’”

 

And the table dissolved into a chorus of giggles and groans. 

 

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

 

Hello, thank you for reading! As a heads up for the next update, I am preparing for a big move this week (to a new country!) and then doing training for a new job! This is super exciting stuff for me but it might also mean a slight delay in the next chapter. I've already got it written - it just needs to be edited some, but I will hopefully find a little down time in between to have it up before the end of the month. Until next time :)

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