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September 7th, 2021

The Dungeons 

 

“You just left without me?”

 

Lucien was panting slightly as he jogged up to Margot, Rowan, and Jordan in the dim hallway. They had nearly reached the Potions classroom for their first lesson of the day. 

 

“You were too busy fraternizing at the Hufflepuff table, and we weren’t going to be late for Potions on behalf of your love life,” Rowan explained evenly.

 

“I wasn’t fraternizing - I needed to ask Fawley where he wanted to meet for rounds tonight.”

 

Margot smirked at Lucien, “Perhaps at the prefects’ office. Where we all always meet for rounds.” 

 

The boy shot a look at her, “Well, I was just making sure he remembered that, obviously. Fawley’s not the brightest boy, you know.”

 

Rowan snorted, “Right. Well, whatever you call it, I’m not aiming to get a detention from Cauldwell the first day. Cordelia writes to uncle about every single one I get, that hag.”

 

Lucien sniffed at them as the group walked through the classroom doorway.

 

“...You all made it on time alright though, didn’t you?” he grumbled moodily, but no one bothered to respond. 

 

The Potions dungeon was only half full, despite there only being a few minutes to spare until the hour. Margot suspected that a few of the Gryffindors might stroll in late from breakfast, but other than that, the scarce dozen or so in the room represented all of the students in their year that had carried on to NEWT-level. 

 

But this didn’t surprise her much. Professor Cauldwell had a terse demeanor which tended to intimidate many of the younger students. While it was true that the man did have a low tolerance for trivialities, Margot thought that mostly, he seemed like he just wanted to end class and go back to sleep, which she could respect. 

 

As Rowan and Jordan settled down onto an empty bench immediately to the right of the door, Lucien elbowed Margot’s side, looking at her expectantly.

 

“Partner with me?” 

 

Margot smiled at him warmly. 

 

“No.”

 

Lucien scowled, “Oh come on, I’m halfway decent at this class, you know.”

 

“Oh-ho. Doesn’t feel great being ditched, does it?” Margot said, challengingly.

 

“...The macarons are on their way alright?”

 

“And I’ll be sure to enjoy them when they arrive, thanks… but I’ve already got a partner, remember?”

 

She nodded her head at the blonde already seated at the front of the room. Lucien tsked, looking annoyed. 

 

“Oh, right… You’ve got that blood pact with Weasley.”

 

“We have an established system, which I like to honor unlike some people…”

 

“Fine. It’s your loss, Beauregard,” Lucien rolled his eyes, “I’ll start working on my eulogy for when you finally die of boredom sitting next to Ms. Goody-Too-Shoes.” 

 

He turned and wandered down the aisle a ways before dropping down onto an empty seat next to an indifferent-looking Alastair Whitby. Meanwhile, Margot trekked up to the first bench immediately facing Professor Cauldwell’s desk. Dom always had a propensity for picking the prime ass-kissing seats in class. 

 

“Alright summer, Weasley?”

 

The girl didn’t respond for a moment. She was carefully writing headings on a very elaborate outline in neat blocky script. Questions to clarify on summer assignments a section read with about two dozen bullets listed beneath. 

 

Margot gaped. Although she hadn’t exactly skipped the readings they’d been assigned over break, she’d also just skimmed Hesper Starkey’s anthology on antidotes. That had been months ago, and she’d mostly been using the hefty volume for a bit of shade while sunning on the French Riviera. 

 

After a few moments, the Ravenclaw looked up at Margot, nodding in acknowledgement.

 

“Beauregard,” she finally said, “Yeah, it was alright. I did some shadowing at the Serious Bites ward at Mungo’s.”

 

“Oh. How’d that go?” Margot sat down on the empty stool next to her, and slowly began unpacking her things. 

 

“It was both fascinating and deeply horrifying,” Dom said after considering a moment, “And you? I expect you did something similar?”

 

“Oh, um,” Margot balked. 

 

She was suddenly faced with the realization that she’d spent most of the summer rather unproductively. Before the end of last term, Professor Selwyn had given her a long laundry list of recommendations to stay competitive for Healer school, securing an internship chief among them. But between travelling and sleeping and socializing, the summer months had quickly sped by, and now back at school, Margot was reminded that she had the Dominique Weasleys of the world to compete with. 

 

“Er- actually,” she said, scrambling for something decent to save face, “I… went to France. To accompany my dad on a trip.”

 

Dom furrowed her eyebrows.

 

“On a diplomatic trip? You’re planning to go into International Magical Cooperation?” she said confusedly, “Since when?”

 

Both Dom and Margot had been quite vocal about their similar intentions to pursue magical medicine in the past. 

 

“Oh, I’m not,” Margot said as smoothly she could manage, “I was just testing the waters… My mum’s been nagging me about it, you see…” 

 

Margot was relieved to say that that was all almost completely true. 

 

“Oh, I see. Didn’t like it much then?” 

 

Margot shook her head quickly, avoiding meeting her bench mate’s eyes.

 

“I think I’ll stick to healing… for now…” 

 

Dom nodded brusquely, fortunately not picking up on Margot’s reddening ears. 

 

“You did the summer reading though, right?” she said expectantly, “I expect you had some hang-ups about Starkey’s stirring theory, too… I was actually hoping we’d be able to compare notes…”

 

The Ravenclaw began busily rifling through her stack of notes, and Margot chanced a glance back at Lucien, who’d been casually discussing the Weird Sisters’ 30th anniversary concert with a much more lively-looking Alastair. As his benchmate animatedly described Myron Wagtail’s surprise transfiguration into a bat at the climax of This is the Night, Lucien caught Margot’s panicked expression and smirked. She hated feeding into Lucien’s ego, but she was starting to think that perhaps she would have been better off accepting his invitation. She had forgotten how exhausting it was to keep up with Dom when she wasn’t busy concentrating on a brew. 

 

Luckily, before Dom could find the length of notes she’d been scrounging around for, Margot was saved by the timely arrival of Professor Cauldwell. 

 

The Potions professor was a petite wizard with cat-like features and an inclination for black clothing and dangling earrings. Today, he strolled into class in a trailing turtleneck tunic paired with a wide brimmed hat stacked with many thin, silver chains. Margot suspected that he was trying to make somewhat of an impression on the first years who’d have their first class with him next session. 

 

Reaching the front of the room, Cauldwell perched atop his desk and peered at the 6th years appraisingly.

 

“Welcome to your first day of NEWT-level potions,” he said, his dark eyes sweeping across the room. 

 

“As I hope you are all aware, this class represents a level far and above any of your previous Potions coursework. The brews will take longer, the theory will be more complex, and my expectations will be higher, am I clear, Wilkinson? Hill?”

 

He locked his gaze toward the back of the room, where Kian Wilkinson and Ambrose Hill had been attempting to discreetly slip into the room, bringing with them the unmistakable aroma of freshly fried bacon. 

 

“Yessir,” the two Gryffindors said quietly, stumbling onto the nearest empty worktable, and Professor Cauldwell sighed, rubbing the bridge of his nose. 

 

“I’m sure you all did the summer reading thoroughly. Today, you’re meant to have a pop quiz to test your comprehension,” he continued, and Margot tensed. From around the room came the nervous shuffling of stools as her classmates squirmed at the news. Beside her, Dom alone leaned forward in anticipation. 

 

“...Fortunately for you, my Kneazle woke me up at 4am this morning, so I didn’t have the energy to write the test,” the wizard drawled, not even batting an eye to the collective sigh that swept across the room. He flicked his wand and on the board behind him, ingredients and instructions for the Wiggenweld Potion appeared in a messy scrawl. 

 

“This should be something that you all came across in your readings this summer. You’ll find additional instructions and background in your texts, page 309, and ingredients are in the cupboard shelf marked 6th Year NEWT.”

 

He nodded toward the wooden cupboard door in the far corner of the room before continuing.

 

“This is a fairly straightforward brew, and if you add everything in the correct order, you should have a passable potion done in about an hour and a half. I want samples stoppered and labelled with both partners’ last names on my desk. You may go whenever you’re finished.”

 

Margot, along with most of the other students, had already begun rifling through their textbooks and skimming through the instructions. She was relieved - she had at least heard of the brew before. The Wiggenweld Potion… an antidote for magically-induced sleep… 

 

Beside her Dom was still attempting to collect her crestfallen expression at the cancellation of the pop quiz. Cauldwell cleared his throat, and the students’ eyes snapped up in attention.

 

“You lot may have gotten off easy today, but next Thursday is a theory lecture on antidotes. You’d do well to brush up on that reading you’ve obviously done, right Wilkinson?”

 

“Right, sir!”

 

Cauldwell nodded, looking nearly amused. 

 

“Right. I’ll be in my office, grading papers,” he said, although since it was only two days into the school year, Margot supposed this was typical Cauldwell speak for ‘taking a nap’. 

 

“Come get me if you need me to avert any major disasters,” he paused, looked at the class pointedly, “Please don’t need me.”

 

The Potions professor gave the class one last terse nod and disappeared through his adjoining office door in a sweep of black fabric. After a slight nudge, Dom finally began setting the fire for their cauldron, and Margot hurriedly left her for the ingredients cupboard, in search of Horklump juice and Flobberworm mucus.

 

It seemed to Margot that Cauldwell had the right idea - she wanted to catch a nap before the afternoon session, too.

 

-------

 

September 7th, 2021

Charms Classroom

 

Margot’s eyes drooped as she fought to keep her thoughts and vision unfuzzed. Although Professor Everard’s bright personality usually kept her attention, she hadn’t gotten that nap in, and not even his booming voice could punctuate the early afternoon haze that had settled over the Charms classroom. In the row in front of her, Reuben McLaggen had begun blatantly snoring, and Lucien was attempting some complex wandwork beneath his desk to transfigure his nose into a pig’s snout. Given Lucien’s history with Transfiguration, Margot couldn’t see how this was a great idea, but she was too drowsy to intervene otherwise. 

 

At the front of the room, Professor Everard continued prattling on about the NEWT syllabus - it had been more of the same speech they’d been given every class these past two days. More homework. Higher standards. More responsibility for self-study. Margot was beginning to suspect that Headmistress McGonagall had written and distributed a script for all of the professors. 

 

Her eyes had blinked almost completely shut when a small triangle of paper landed in front of her. She stared at it blankly for a moment before flicking her gaze at the sender. Avery was looking at her intently from the next desk over, and Margot picked up the note and slowly opened it. 

 

Cauldron meeting this afternoon after classes? Pretty pretty please?

-A

 

Margot furrowed her eyebrows at the note before looking up at Avery and sternly shaking her head. Her friend was the editor-in-chief of the little-known Hogwarts newspaper The Cauldron, and she’d been unsuccessfully trying to rope Margot into the staff for years. Margot had learned that the best approach was to shut the girl down immediately, and if necessary, harshly. 

 

Just then, a second note landed on her desk, and Margot rolled her eyes at Rowan, who was seated directly behind Avery and had joined in her pleading looks. 

 

I’m bringing cauldron cakes and your favorite dandelion tea to the meeting. Be there or be square, Beauregard.

-R

 

This was… Slightly more tempting. Rowan served as Avery’s managing editor at the newspaper and was nearly as persistent about recruitment, too. Now that Margot thought about it though, she was fairly sure the two were the only permanent staff. Writers more or less phased out, usually depending on which friends they’d had been able to ensnare for the semester, but those two were the mainstays of Hogwarts journalism. 

 

Not that that exactly said much. From what Margot’s gathered over the years, newspaper meetings more or less consisted of soliciting gossip from the school’s house elves, that is, whenever the pair weren’t bickering. Unsurprisingly, The Cauldron’s biweekly issues didn’t exactly pull the greatest readership, but according to Avery, “Circulation matters less, so long as the truth is out there for those seeking it.”

 

The truth, evidently, consisted of leaked dinner menus for the upcoming week and updates on the current status of James Potter and Piper St Claire’s on-and-off relationship. 

 

Avery and Rowan found it puzzling that investigative journalism never appealed to Margot. 

 

I’ll pass on this one, lads.

-M

 

The two read her response with a huff. Avery began scribbling on the parchment furiously, while Rowan backed her up by throwing Margot a hard glare.

 

PLEASE! We need a sports writer :(

-A

 

...

 

I really can’t come this afternoon. I’ve got that meeting with Longbottom, remember? Why don’t you two go harass some 3rd years or something… 

-M

 

Rowan scoffed at Margot’s note, but Avery looked more thoughtful. 

 

“Third years…” Margot saw her mouth, nodding her head slowly and turning to whisper something into Rowan’s ear. 

 

Glad to have a respite from the barrage of notes, she turned back to the very important task of not falling asleep during lecture. Ten seconds later though, Margot found herself sighing with annoyance as another paper triangle ricocheted off her forearm and nearly landed in her inkpot.  

 

Intriguing suggestion, Beauregard. We’ll investigate the matter further. 

-A+R

 

Margot inked her quill with a little more force than necessary. At least the upside to this was that she’d become peeved enough to overcome her drowsiness.

 

Great. Good. Save me some cauldron cakes after the meeting, if you’re so inclined to show your gratitude.

-M

 

In front of her, Reuben McLaggen began emitting little piggish snorts.

 

-----

 

September 7th, 2021

Greenhouse 3

 

“Oh, Margot! You’re here!” 

 

Professor Longbottom started as he came around the corner, nearly dropping the large earthen planter in which he’d been carrying the largest snargaluff plant Margot had ever seen. 

 

Attempting to avoid further solicitation from her friends, Margot had come down to the greenhouses immediately after Charms ended, settling down on an empty table to begin a Transfiguration essay while she waited for Professor Longbottom to finish with the 5th years in the next greenhouse over. Now though, she had half risen from her seat, watching nervously as the professor attempted to rebalance an extremely wobbly pot in his arms. 

 

“Do you need help with that?”

 

“Oh no, that’s quite alright, thank you…” 

 

Miraculously, the herbologist managed to right the planter, however, not before the motion had begun to upset the delicate plant. The brambly, thorny roots which grew from its stump-like body twitched with agitation, and the green pods clustered around the base pulsed ominously. 

 

“Although I suppose I better set this guy down before it gets any ideas...”

 

Margot watched as the professor quickly walked over to a nearby shelf, ducking his head as an itinerant root swung around and nearly poked him in the eye. 

 

Longbottom’s well-known involvement in the Second Wizarding War had given him a hero status that made him a popular teacher at Hogwarts, especially among the female student body. But one wouldn’t immediately guess it from looking at him. 

 

He was a stocky wizard with a kind, round face, honey blonde hair, and pink cheeks, sun-kissed from the many hours spent working in the greenhouses. Habitually rumpled in appearance, Margot knew him to be a rather scatterbrained and clumsy person… but an exceptionally brilliant and knowledgeable herbologist nonetheless. In fact, he was one of her favorite professors, and she had fostered her talent for the subject under his tutelage.

 

“Right, so. If you’ll follow me...” he said, turning with a smile after replacing the snargaluff carefully. He made to head into his office, and Margot quickly gathered her rucksack and followed him. 

 

“Thanks for coming down to speak with me this afternoon - I’d have spoken to you earlier, but I needed to prepare fertilizer for the mandrakes this weekend… I hope I’m not keeping you from anything?”

 

Margot shook her head and mumbled mostly to herself, “Nothing I didn’t want to miss.”

 

“What was that?”

 

“Nothing,” she said, offering a quick smile before stepping through the glass-panelled doorway. 

 

Margot been in the herbology professor’s office just once before - organizing some journals for extra credit in 4th year. Attached directly to the greenhouse, it was a bright, sunny room that smelled pleasantly of vanilla pods. On the wall facing the door was a hefty wooden shelf, decorated with a potted mimbulus mimbletonia and an assortment of large framed photographs. 

 

The biggest one showed three children -  Archie, the Head Boy, perhaps a few years younger in the photo; Augusta, who was a Hufflepuff in Margot’s year; and a younger girl who Margot only vaguely recognized but resembled the other two well. In the panel next to it, Margot spied a younger Professor Longbottom amongst a grinning group of young adults standing underneath a banner that read ‘Dumbledore’s Army’. It was a photo she’d seen a few times in history books, and she knew that if she looked more closely, she’d find more than a few of wizarding England’s most famous faces in the crowd.

 

Professor Longbottom gave her a small smile as he settled into his desk immediately in front of the shelf. Realizing she’d been staring, Margot quickly sat down on the worn, but comfortable arm chair in front of him. 

 

“What was it you needed, Professor? Did you want me to do some tutoring or something…?”

 

Longbottom laughed good-naturedly, shaking his head and leaning back in his chair, “No, no… What I wanted to discuss is something you’ll probably find a lot more interesting.” 

 

He paused though, furrowing his brow thoughtfully. 

 

“Although, now that you mention it, I should set Thomas up with one… maybe Finnigan, too… I don’t know how she set that water lily on fire…” he began mumbling to himself and quickly scribbling on a spare bit of parchment.

 

Margot politely waited for him until, suddenly remembering himself, he stopped and looked up at her with a sheepish smile.

 

“Anyway, that’s not something we should concern ourselves with now, is it? No… Actually, I was wondering if you’d be interested in doing an extra credit of coursework as a research assistant for me, Margot.”

 

“Oh. That’s unexpected.”

 

Margot’s words fell out of her mouth before she even realized she was saying them, but luckily, Longbottom took it in good humor, looking at her in surprise for only a moment before bursting into laughter. 

 

“Not at all!” he said earnestly, shaking his head, “I’ve been on the lookout for some help in the greenhouses since last semester actually, since we opened up the new greenhouse, it’s been a lot to manage… And you’re one of my best students. Actually, it’s quite opportune, because I’m starting a new project this year that you might find particularly interesting…”

 

Margot curiously watched as he began shuffling through a stack of herbology journals on his desk. 

 

“Aha.”

 

Locating the text he’d been looking for, Professor Longbottom leaned forward and offered her a post-noted copy of The Journal of Magical Flora and Fauna from this past summer. Her interest sufficiently piqued, Margot flipped to the marked article.

 

“A few months ago, while surveying a rather remote patch of rainforest in the Amazon, a group of South American herbologists discovered a new kind of fast-growing medicinal sugarsap,” Professor Longbottom explained, “As you may remember, the more common European variety produces a sap that’s got a mood-altering effect that’s important for numbing balms and anesthetic potions… and we’re hoping this species will have similar usefulness...”

 

Margot nodded vaguely. They’d done a unit on medicinal plants last year which had been one of her favorites amidst the dense O.W.L. coursework. 

 

“I’ve been lucky enough to receive a few cuttings of Amazonian sugarsap from some of my Bolivian colleagues, and I was hoping to try and start a grove  at Hogwarts for closer study. Professor Everard has kindly been helping me with some weather charms this summer and we’ve improved on the rainforest habitat in Greenhouse 5 quite a bit… I’ve already cleared enough space for a dozen or so saplings, if all goes well! But it’ll be quite a bit of work to do it, so I’ll need some help reading and compiling research, collecting data, and doing some hands-on work with the plants… And of course, if we get good results, a paper would be expected on the research, but we probably won’t have to worry about that until next year...”

 

Professor Longbottom was rambling a bit now, and Margot was slowly shifting her focus from him to the article that lay open on her lap. 

 

A potentially exciting and significant find for magical medicine...

 

“Don’t feel obligated to say yes, of course! I understand 6th year must be incredibly busy for you… Just this morning at breakfast, Augusta, my daughter- you must know her, right-? She’s a 6th year too… Well, she had us all pulling out our hairs trying to fit N.E.W.T Divination into her timetable… But anyway, what I’m saying is, if you’ve got a few hours free every week, I’d love to have your help!” 

 

Margot looked up at him, her brain trying to process and prioritize as quickly as it could. On one hand, her schedule was getting a little painful to look at. But on the other hand...

 

“Correct me if I’m wrong, Margot, but you’re still interested in Healing right? From what my wife tells me, St. Mungo’s looks very positively on any practical or research experience from its Healing Program candidates.”

 

...She had the Dom Weasleys of the world to compete with. 

 

“I’ve got Friday mornings free?”

 

------

 

September 10th, 2021

Quidditch Pitch

 

“Listen, Pucey, I know you love me, but we’ve spent the entire day together… Did you really have to call a meeting the first week back?” Kai Yamasaki, a tall, broad-shouldered 7th year moaned as he dramatically dropped onto the bleacher in front of Margot. 

 

It was Friday afternoon, and Margot had just about survived her first week of Hogwarts without any major disasters. Although, she supposed, that remained to be seen, as she was now sitting in front of her ex for the first time since their breakup last May. 

 

Roman Pucey looked good, she noted, though that was hardly surprising. If the Slytherin team captain was meticulous about anything, it was his looks. His inky hair was neatly combed, his shoulders squared, his practice kit impeccably pressed. 

 

It was petty, but Margot looked down at her nails, suddenly annoyed that she was not looking nearly as tidy. She’d spent the morning filling planter boxes with different fertilizers for Professor Longbottom, after which she’d had a practical lesson for Care of Magical Creatures - two hours of dissecting and dilligently documenting the contents of a giant hippogriff pellet. (“To get you back into the groove of things!” Hagrid had said most cheerfully whilst pulling an intact ferret skeleton from the hairy mass). 

 

But perhaps that all didn’t matter, Margot thought, because for the entire 10 minutes that they’d been sitting on the bleachers, Roman had yet to actually look at her directly.

 

“Gryffindor and Hufflepuff have already finalized their lineups this season,” Roman said, once again conspicuously passing his gaze over the top of her head as he surveyed the team, “I need to confirm my choice of keeper with you all.”

 

5th year Vivian Edgecombe snorted, “We know, you’re pulling up Nott from reserves last year.”

 

“Can we go now?” her identical twin sister and fellow beater, Valentina, piped up from beside her. 

 

Roman narrowed his eyes at the two, “Even though we’re not holding formal tryouts this year, all the departments need to approve any new starters.”

 

A collective groan swept across the bleachers. Next to her, Albus Potter, the team’s seeker, put his head in his hands in embarrassment. 

 

“Ugh, don’t tell me you’re still on that this year, Ro,” Kai said in exasperation, “It’s… so uncool. If the other house teams ever found out… I’d be properly humiliated.”

 

“Departments make the meetings run more smoothly, Yamasaki,” Roman said curtly, flipping through his clipboard. 

 

But they really didn’t, thought Margot. 

 

Historically, sure, the Slytherins liked to handle things a bit more... bureaucratically than most, even when it came to quidditch. Rather than just the captain or co-captain, there’d often be people delegated to handle equipment or develop plays or set up practice schedules, etc. etc. It was just the way they liked to organize things. 

 

However, it had only been under Roman’s captaincy that he decided to actually name formal departments, like they were some bloody Galleon 500 company. Margot had a feeling that Roman just liked having a figurehead role without really doing all that much work. She was surprised he hadn’t asked them to start calling him CEO Pucey yet. 

 

“Shall I bring out the Powerpoint?” Margot quipped, glad to have made use of something she’d learned from Muggle Studies.

 

“What’s a Powerpoint?” Kai said blankly. 

 

“Oh, it’s a kind of picture show business Muggles use to spiff up their meetings…”

 

Roman blatantly ignored them both.

 

“... As I was saying, I was thinking about adding Nott to replace Scorpius. But I need analysis with regard to the upcoming season. Intelligence Department, please outline your observations.”

 

“...”

 

“...Intel.”

 

“...”

 

“Kai.”

 

“Okay, okay… Give me a moment to collect my notes… I haven’t made a ‘powder point’ or whatever MG says it’s called, so don’t expect much...”

 

Kai was, in fact, the only member of the ‘Intelligence Department’, but it wasn’t like they needed anyone else really. His job was to sneak around the other house teams’ practices and take notes surreptitiously. But truthfully, the outgoing and funny chaser had befriended so many players on the other squads that they usually just let him hang out at their practices outright anyway. 

 

Margot was unsure if that was strategy or just Kai being Kai. 

 

“Ahem, ahem.”

 

The boy in question had stood up and was making a show of clearing his throat. He’d also pulled out a pair of square-frame glasses from somewhere, and they now sat daintily atop his nose as he pretended to shuffle through a clipboard. 

 

“Mmm, let’s see here…” Kai began in a drawling voice, and Margot felt a bubble of laughter already making its way up her throat. 

 

“Hufflepuff: Two new starting chasers this year. Angus Flume, from their reserves, who’s quite alright, despite having the name ‘Angus’, and a newbie, Lysander Scamander, who I’ve noted here to be… ‘a decent flyer, with absolutely bullocks quaffle handling technique’...”

 

Margot gracefully snorted into her hand and Albus began inadvertently shaking the bench trying to contain his laughter. Roman alone looked displeased. 

 

“Yamasaki. 20 sets up and down the bleachers when you’re done with your report.”

 

“Oh come on, for what? I haven’t even brought a practice kit today…”

 

“Insubordination. You’ll do it in your school uniform. Now finish the report.”

 

Kai mumbled something incoherent under his breath before clearing his throat and continuing with his regular voice, albeit a little quickier and snippier. 

 

“Two new chasers means we’re in need of more info on their offensive line, but the problem is, Llewellyn’s closed all practices to team members only this year, so Fawley can’t even get me in anymore.”

 

“Oh, wow, Llewellyn’s actually getting serious this year, huh?” Albus remarked, scrunching his nose, “Only we used to do that…”

 

“Well, we’ve got the first scrimmage with them this year at least… We could just keep an eye out then?” Margot supplied. 

 

“I suppose it’ll have to do,” Kai said, nodding, “...As for Gryffindor, I went to their tryouts last Sunday. No changes to the chaser lineup, obviously, but they recruited for a new beater, Jackson Park, and a new seeker…”

 

“Lemme guess, Lily Potter?” Valentina said, smirking at Al.

 

“Surprisingly, no. A 5th year named Isla Doge,” Kai replied, looking puzzled, “Smallest Potter is on reserve squad, reportedly being groomed for center chaser next year.”

 

Albus gave a hum of confirmation, “Lily’s been drilling formations all summer with my cousin Freddie... I’ve gotta fill you in on that later, by the way, MG, we might need to come up with some new defensive maneuvers...”

 

Albus and Margot were in the ‘Strategic Department’, which meant that they worked together to come up with the majority of the team’s plays. Being a chaser, Margot obviously had the on-field experience for offensive tactics, but Al had a surprising affinity for strategy as well. As the team’s seeker, his eagle-eye view of the pitch allowed him to watch games just like a diagram from one of his playbooks. 

 

“Ravenclaw’s actually looking a bit peaky this year…” Kai was saying, “They’re set to have their tryouts tomorrow morning, but they’re replacing more than half of their squad, including both of their beaters and two chasers…”

 

“Oooh… condolences to Nora Davies.” 

 

A hum of agreement echoed through the group. A four-opening tryout sounded like a nightmare, and no one would be envying the Ravenclaw team captain this weekend. 

 

“Anyway, that’s all I’ve got for now,” Kai said, making to sit down, but Roman cleared his throat loudly before the chaser could even touch the bench. Kai eyed the captain carefully before slowly straightening himself.

 

“Right… I mean… I guess I’ll go run... in my loafers now….”

 

“Guess you will, yeah,” came Roman’s immediate, apathetic reply. 

 

Kai scowled at his fellow 7th year but started toward the stairs anyway. Normally the boisterous boy would have protested a bit more, but Margot figured he didn’t want to rack up even more sets of stairs that day - Roman did not appear to be in the best of moods and those uniform shoes looked rather uncomfortable. 

 

Then again, Kai Yamasaki was never one to show much restraint. 

 

“Merlin, you’re such a prick.”

 

The low mumble was barely audible. Margot just caught it as Kai passed beside her and nearly laughed, but she tried to save a neutral face out of solidarity with her fellow chaser. Unfortunately, their captain had the ears of a hawk. 

 

“40 sets, Yamasaki!” 

 

Roman’s cold, uncompromising tone rang after the boy as he began jogging, but, to the rest of  the team’s amusement, his eyes failed to catch the double birds Kai flipped him halfway up the stairs. 

 

Or perhaps Roman just chose to ignore him. Supposedly, Margot’s two fellow chasers were rather good mates, having shared a dorm, classes, and quidditch practices for years now. But given their absolutely polar personalities, she never understood how the two of them actually put up with each other (especially in Kai’s case). 

 

Despite the steadily devolving state of the team, Roman plowed on with the meeting. He was looking at Margot and Albus expectantly now. 

 

Well, more accurately, he was looking at Al only. 

 

“Strategic Department, what’s your analysis of the new lineups? Potter, report,” he said purposefully. 

 

Oh. So that’s how it was gonna be. 

 

Al paused for a moment, exchanging a glance with Margot - they always did their departmental reports together. Always.

 

But Roman’s pointed tone was even enough to get the perpetually disinterested Edgecombes to prick their ears. Margot felt two identical pairs of eyes on the back of her head, as they shifted slowly from her to the captain, calculating. She groaned internally, knowing that if they didn’t already, the Edgecombes would ensure the entire house would know the exact (and awkward) state of her ex-relationship by dinnertime. 

 

Great. Thanks for making it weird, Roman. 

 

After a beat of tense silence, Al cleared his throat awkwardly and began, his eyebrows furrowed. 

 

“Well… our focus for now should be on Gryffindor, as we’ve got our first match with them next month…”

 

Clearly overcompensating for the mood he had wrought upon the group, Roman hummed loudly, as if Albus had imparted the most sage of analyses instead of stating a baseline fact.

 

Albus shot him a puzzled look before continuing, “Er… Right. Which is a problem, given how they’re the strongest team offense-wise…”

 

“Naturally.”

 

“...Weasley, Wood, and Wilkinson consistently outscored our chasers last year...”

 

“Right, right...” Roman nodded, his eyes trained earnestly on the team’s seeker, but evidently not noticing Al’s increasing annoyance with his constant interruptions.

 

“...And so we’d especially need to work with the new keeper on developing speed to help neutralize Wood whilst the other two go head to head with our wings...”

 

“Of course-”

 

“Actually, captain-” Al paused, a ghost of smirk creeping onto his features, “...For that I’d like to turn the podium over to our on-the-ground tactician... for a more informed analysis of the chasers’ strategies. Why don’t we ask MG?”

 

Roman balked a bit, and a strand of hair detached from his impeccable coif, falling across his forehead. 

 

“...Sorry?”

 

“Margot, captain?” Albus repeated innocently, slightly inclining his head towards her, as if to remind Roman that she indeed existed, “She’s in the Strategic Department, too.”

 

“...”

 

“...”

 

“...Right, of course. Beauregard. Analysis,” Roman said stiffly, after a few moments.  

 

Finally, Margot made eye contact with Roman for the first time since breaking up with him on the Hogwarts Express five months ago, and she was proud to say her ears were significantly less red than his. Fighting a smirk, Margot cooly pulled from her memories of last season without missing a beat. 

 

“Well, Gryffindor’s offensive line is primarily based on physicality…”

 

Thank Merlin for Albus Potter. Afterall, small, petty victories were still victories. 

 

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

 

September 19th, 2021

The 4th Floor Prefect’s Office

 

Margot tsked impatiently, checking her watch again. 

 

10:15pm. 

 

Cresswell was officially fifteen minutes late for their rounds that evening. Sighing, she walked over to the large wooden table where the prefect’s logbook lay open and grabbed a quill. 

 

19.09.21

10:15pm - Rounds partner absent. Again. MGB

 

Exiting the prefects office and turning down the corridor for the Grand Staircase, Margot wondered why she’d even stuck around that long tonight. Last weekend, she had waited even longer for Cresswell, but he never showed. She had ended up patrolling by herself, finishing much later than usual as a result. It had been nearly 1am by the time she could return to bed, which was bad in and of itself. However, they had also pulled a particularly rotten timeslot for the quarter - the late Sunday night patrol. Needless to say, Margot was in a decidedly terrible mood for her Monday classes the following day. 

 

But Margot didn’t have patience for a missing patrol partner tonight. Professor Selwyn had assigned a three-foot long essay on human to furniture transfiguration, and Margot still had about 10 more inches to write when she returned to the dorms. Not to mention, she had a few more studies to skim for a literature compilation Professor Longbottom had asked her to make. 

 

She sighed and hopped up the stairs quickly. On the bright side, she wouldn’t have to deal with Jack Cresswell’s skeevy company tonight. And if she walked quickly, she could zip through the floors and be back in the Slytherin common room before midnight. 

 

But there was the matter of navigating through Hogwarts’ twisting maze of corridors by herself that night. She couldn’t quite admit that she was scared - she was a perfectly capable witch and plenty familiar with the prefects’ patrol route. But as she reached the seventh floor landing at the top of the stairs, she felt a little... ill at ease. 

 

In front of her stretched a long, wide corridor which she knew ran along the southern side of Hogwarts and eventually led to Gryffindor Tower in the far west wing. Placed sporadically along the wall were spacious alcoves which housed assorted portraits, statues, and suits of armor, as well as mounted torchlights - the only source of illumination in this part of the castle. However, the niches were so deep that barely any light reached the hall. On a school day, this corridor probably received plenty of student traffic, but now, past curfew on a Sunday night, darkness and silence had settled into the cavernous space. 

 

Margot shook her head, collecting her wits. Seven floors, and she’d be back in her room with tea and a box of macarons. 

 

“Lumos.”

 

-----

 

Margot had made it nearly halfway to Gryffindor Tower when a loud clatter followed by a series of smaller pops echoed through the hall. The unexpected sound made her nearly jump from her shoes as it bounced hollowly around her.

 

Knees knocking slightly, she warily peered around in the darkness for the source of the noise. It had sounded slightly distant, and she glanced back the way she had come. At the last turn, she had passed a disused Charms classroom. It was, in fact, one of the only rooms in this stretch of hallway. 

 

She exhaled a shaking sigh, knowing she’d have to investigate. Couldn’t she have a quiet patrol night, just this once?

 

“Hello?” Margot said, swinging the door open quickly, casting her illuminated wand about the room. 

 

The room was still, but the desks were stacked together to one side, making strange shadows on the walls. There was a slightly acrid smell lingering in the air, as though someone had accidentally burnt their brew in potions class. 

 

She pointed her wand up to the large lantern hanging from the ceiling. 

 

“Incendio.”

 

The classroom was suddenly bathed in warm orange light, and Margot immediately felt ten times better away from the dimness of the corridor. Once more, she looked carefully around the classroom, but it was empty. Just the desks, some dusty chairs cluttered about, and a stray bit of parchment or two. 

 

Oh, well. Except for that.

 

Laying on the floor at the center of the room was what seemed to be a twisted up scrap of metal. Curiously, Margot walked over and bent down to inspect it, balancing on the balls of her feet. 

 

It was the remnants of a tiny canister. The crunched up thing had been decorated with rather colorful packaging, but nearly all of it had been scorched off. She could just barely make out a wiggly, electric green ‘W’-

 

“Oh, there you are, Beauregard.”

 

Margot lost her balance and tumbled back onto the floor at the sudden intrusion. Groaning, she craned her head to see the leering figure of Jack Cresswell leaning against the doorway. 

 

“What in Merlin’s name are you doing laying on the floor?” he said, eyeing her with a smirk, “Although I’m certainly not complaining about the view.”

 

Margot didn’t hold back her disgusted scoff as she quickly picked herself up off the ground and brushed off her skirt. 

 

“Cresswell. Nice of you to show up,” she said, sending him a chilly glare. 

 

“You’re welcome,” he retorted smugly, “Although, I saw you marked me as absent in the log book. We’ll have to change that once we get back to the office.”

 

“You were fifteen minutes late and didn’t even bother showing up to our last patrol,” she snapped.

 

“I preoccupied with an appointment.”

 

Margot snorted, “In a broom closet?”

 

He smiled gaily at her, “For future reference, if you need me, you can find me at my office. Third floor, east wing. The cupboard next to the reference section of the library.”

 

She only rolled her eyes and pointed to the canister.

 

“Did you see anyone in the corridor? I think someone’s been clattering around here.”

 

“Mmm, not a soul until I set my eyes on you, babe.”

 

“Don’t call me ‘babe’,” Margot said stonily, but she’d already turned her back to the pug-nosed boy. Her eyes gazed around the classroom contemplatively. 

 

It hadn’t taken her very long at all to walk back to this classroom… and if Cresswell hadn’t seen anyone either...

 

“...Margot? What are you looking at? There’s no one in here,” Cresswell said bemusedly, “...And it’s almost 11.”

 

After a lingering moment, she finally looked back at him, “...Right. Let’s go.”

 

Back in the hallway, the pair began making their way once more to the west wing. Although she was no longer navigating the dark castle alone, Margot couldn’t tell if her situation that night had gotten better or worse. 

 

“By the way, I hear you and Pucey called it quits.”

 

“...”

 

“Well?”

 

“...”

 

“Oh, come now, Beauregard, we all heard Lucien Zabini’s ‘special announcement’ at that bonfire party over the summer…” he said with that insufferable grin of his, “And word on the street is that you and Pucey nearly strangled one another at quidditch practice the other day-”

 

“-Cresswell, let’s this straight,” Margot interrupted cooly, “You’re my patrol partner for this quarter. That means I walk around the castle with you for two hours every week for two months. We can talk about house point deductions. We can talk about curfew violations. We can talk about switching out of this bloody awful rotation. But by no means am I obligated to talk to you about my personal life.”

 

Cresswell clucked his tongue against his cheek, “I only wanted to offer you my condolences about the break up… And my congratulations.”

 

“...Sorry?”

 

“Well, now that you’re unattached, I can officially extend my invitation. If you’re ever feeling lonely… perhaps in need of a post-breakup rebound, just know I’m always available and willing.”

 

“...”

 

“...”

 

 “... Cresswell, you’ve been a prefect for an entire year - don’t you think it’s about time to start acting like one? Stop being such a creep.” 

 

She shot him a repulsed scowl before picking up her pace to walk slightly ahead of him. They were nearly done with the seventh floor. Six more floors. Six more floors. Suddenly remembering her conversation with Rowan and Avery on the Express, she began racking her brain for the nearest broom cupboards and the strongest sealing charms she knew. 

 

“Ah, it’s such a waste, Beauregard… You’ve got a great pair of legs… Not to mention your-”

 

Margot skittered to a halt in the corridor before slowly fixing her grip on her wand. 

 

As a prefect, she knew that it was against school policy to use magic on other students outside of class hours. But on the other hand, as a woman, she also knew that some messages, such as “Don’t objectify me” and “Please shut your mouth right now” sometimes needed to be conveyed more... viscerally. 

 

With a Tongue-Tying Curse on her mind, Margot turned around to face her troll of a patrol partner, only to find him... already in the middle of a panicked scream?

 

Cresswell was screaming bloody murder with one hand clutched firmly against his nose. The other was unsuccessfully attempting to beat away the largest bat Margot had ever seen, which seemed intent on dive-bombing his head. 

 

“Alright, Beauregard, I’m sorry, make it stop!” he was crying in a muffled voice, “Seriously, make it stop!” 

 

Margot was speechless, “But I didn’t..-”

 

She’d been half-joking about cursing him, in all honesty. 

 

Desperately, Cresswell lifted his hand from his nose to slap the creature away, but when he did, Margot watched in amazement as two more bats emerged from his bulging nostrils to join the assault. Cresswell let out another panicked shriek, which was certain to have woken half of the wing up, but Margot could do nothing but clasp her mouth in astonished laughter at the scene. 

 

Cresswell looked up at her furiously.

 

“Help. Me.”

 

And Margot very nearly didn’t. 

 

She’d loved to have just chalked this up to divine intervention putting a foot down on blatant misogyny and just called it a day. But after glancing down and catching the sheen of her prefects badge, Margot sighed and began brainstorming how to steer Cresswell and his three new friends to the Hospital Wing.

 

At the very least, it gave her an excuse not to finish her rounds for tonight. 

 

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

 

Hello all~ Thank you for keeping with this. Life is so busy, so I find it hard to find time to sit down and write! I've been focusing on my artwork lately since its Inktober, but NaNoWriMo is next month, so hopefully, I'll be able to get ahead on my writing for this again soon ~~

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