OWL EXAMS ARE RIGGED!
Oh Godric, no.
What has she done?
“Add this onto my bill,” I say, not even looking at the server as I throw myself down in one of the unsanitary corner booths.
I do my best to skim-read the entire article. Those absolute brats at the Daily Prophet have the audacity to mention my mother by name. The very name that we share. Fucking hell, why is she like this.
As always, she only cares about herself.
Tessa places my sundae in front of me, but I’ve lost my appetite. Salazar, I don’t even want to be seen right now.
Why do I have to have the most dramatic mother around?
I sink into my seat, completely uncaring about the amount of disgusting liquids that have been around here, and wish I could just disappear.
Of course, when does the universe ever let me get my way?
“Aurora Bianchi?” The familiar voice of Louis Weasley draws me out of my own self-pity. I’ve got to pull my shit together. I sit up, brush some invisible dirt off my shoulder and ruffle up my roots for some volume.
“Louis! What a surprise!” I say, leaning up to air kiss him on the cheek. “What are you doing here?”
“I could say the same for you, Bianchi,” He says, flashing us with his typical blinding grin. “I’m waiting for my dad.”
“Oh, cute,” I say, staring at the sweet treat in front of me. “Are you excited for sixth year?”
“Of course! I hope you’re in Muggle Studies with me, Aurora.”
Ah, Muggle Studies. A tentative bond formed between Louis and I as we teamed up to make Professor Lupin’s life absolute hell in third year. I can see the twinkle in his blue eyes as he laughs.
“Wouldn’t miss it for the world, Lou.”
“Of course, I’d drop out if you weren’t continuing,” he says, winking.
I can’t help the slight flush of pink that rises to my cheeks. It’s always like this when he turns on the Veela charm. Fortunately, it’s gone as quickly as it appeared and I regain composure of myself.
“Flattery will get you nowhere, Louis.”
“Au contraire. It gets me everywhere, Bianchi.” He winks again before dropping some Galleons on the counter to pay for his cones, and flashes us both a wave before disappearing again.
Where a grin would usually sit on Tessa’s face, she looks sullen.
“I thought you liked him,” I tease, finally helping myself to a spoonful of my melted sundae.
Something flashes in her eyes and she takes a bite out of her cone. It’s a tactical move, she knows I hate it when anyone talks while eating.
“Mm, I don’t know. I think I’ve grown out of it.” She says after a while, dabbing the corners of her mouth with a napkin.
I can’t help the internal sarcasm that bubbles to the surface. Sure, and I’m a Hungarian Horntail.
I push my sundae away and pay quickly for our ice-creams, ushering Tessa onwards.
“What else do you need?” She asks.
I’m not doing Potions any more, so I don’t need a new cauldron. I don’t need more textbooks, I don’t need fresh uniform. I don’t need anything.
Will I still buy things? Of course.
“What about you?” I ask after a while.
“I need some new shirts,” she pauses, “but -”
“If Flourish and Blotts won’t take the bursary, then what are the odds Madam Malkin’s will?” She says, biting her lip.
“Fuck a bursary.” I sling my arm through hers. “I’ll get them for you.”
“You don’t have to,” she flushes, taking a sudden interest in her ballet flats.
“Of course I do,” I reply, tugging her towards Malkin’s. “You’re my friend.”
If she’s going to stay my friend, she has to actually wear things that fit. So I guess this is just one of those mandatory expenses.
“Thanks, Aurora,” She says as we cross the threshold. “My boobs have just appeared out of nowhere this summer.”
I can’t help but notice it now that she’s mentioned it, but I keep my mouth closed. She’s quick to find a pack of shirts in her size and hands it to me sheepishly so I can pay.
“Where next?” I ask as she takes the bag from the server.
“I need some owl treats.”
Owl treats? Owl treats? I cannot believe my shopping time has come to buying treats for a flying rat.
We head to literally every single store in Diagon Alley - even though Tessa has no money, she has absolutely no problem spending mine - and eventually we’re back at the Leaky Cauldron by lunchtime.
We split our books between us and I dump my half upstairs while Tessa orders us both a sandwich.
The hickey on her neck is still screaming for my attention, but we’ve passed the point where I can comfortably confront her about it. I don’t get much time to think on it before Emma slides into the booth beside Tessa.
“Ew, what are you eating,” She says, eyes full of disgust as she looks at our sandwiches. It’s one of those attempts at Muggle hipster cuisine - avocado, chicken and melted cheese. It’s alright, but I’ve had better. “My stomach churns just looking at that.”
“What about that weird juice cleanse you tried in fourth year?” I say, pointing my crust at her.
“I thought it would help me lose weight!” She exclaims. “Have I -- Ohmygodricwhat is that on your neck Tessa?”
Tessa turns bright red as she spits out her water in shock, clamping a hand over the bruise immediately.
“Do you want a drink?” I ask Emma as I stand up. My head is beginning to pulse, a low dangerous throb that’s all too familiar.
“Aurora! It’s still early!” Emma exclaims as Tessa mops up her water.
“It’s happy hour somewhere,” I reply, shrugging.
“White wine spritzer then. Not too strong.”
I walk up to Elijah and flash a smile. He’s probably heard her order already - the place is literally barren - and I just gesture to the Ogden’s Old bottle that’s fixed to the wall.
I walk back to the table with our drinks on a tray and place it down with a clatter. A fresh glass of water for Tessa spills a little as I drop it. She takes it, sipping it in an attempt to avoid Emma’s relentless questioning.
“How have you been, Emma?” I ask, handing her her wine glass.
“Good. Things are finally settling down for my sister and her magic, I can’t believe she’s going to be coming to Hogwarts next year!”
“Captain Pudgekins?” I prompt.
“Oh, he’ll be fine. Dad’s enchanted his medication so he’ll heal faster.”
I don’t actually care about that stupid cat, but a front is a front. Tessa makes a sympathetic noise that sounds authentic, but she hasn’t dealt with that stupid cat ruining her clothes, shitting on her bed and leaving the insides of dead mice on her pillow.
How Emma manages to think Captain Pudgekins is the cutest thing on this planet since Pygmy Puffs is beyond me.
“I didn’t miss clothes shopping, did I?” Emma squeals, reaching into her handbag.
“Of course not, Ems.” I reply, downing what’s left of my firewhisky in one. We wouldn’t go shopping without her, that’s for sure.
“Oh, amazing. I’ve been eyeing up this cute little dress fr --”
My head throbs suddenly and insistently, as if someone’s just put a hot poker through my eye. It takes all I have in me to not scream in pain as the feeling continues. I close my eyes for a second and try to breathe through it.
I can only hear half of the conversation the girls are having, one part of me focused on my breathing and one part just refusing to hear anything but screams of anguish.
“Are you alright, Aurora?” Emma asks. My eyes are closed, but I can feel the warmth of her hand before it comes into contact with my skin. Nevertheless, I jolt when her hand reaches my cold forearm. The screaming in my head stops, the relentless question silences.
“I’m fine,” I reply, picking up my handbag.
The question rings in my head for a few moments more: Where is it? Where is it?
Where is what?
“Shall we?” I say, trying to compose myself.
“Of course.” She replies, beaming. There’s nothing Emma loves more than a good shopping spree.
We take a cab from the front of Leaky to Oxford Street and start on the cheaper stores. Not that I want to be seen with people who are toting about a Primark bag, but Emma has an Undetectable Extension Charm on her own bag, so we can stuff everything we don’t want to be seen with in there.
Some parties just call for cheap clothes for these two, especially since they’re not on the same budget I am. That and anything held by the Gryffindors just becomes an absolute shitfest of cheap Butterbeer and Muggle lager. You’ve got to leave before it gets messy, and you never know how long the Quidditch boys have been having predrinks for.
Emma fills a basket with cheap tat, including some ‘fairy lights’ for her bed. Something about charming them to not work on electricity. Whatever.
Tessa simply browses, occasionally fondling an item of clothing and telling us that “It’s nice!”.
As if anything that’s worth less than hundreds is actually decently made.
“It’s like, a hundred percent polyester.” I counter. I can see the tackiness and piss poor sewing. “Charging more than ten pence for this is a crime against fashion.”
Tessa recoils and shuts her mouth. At least at Madam Malkin’s I paid for decent quality. Emma approaches us at a breakneck speed.
“Did you see what the gossip account posted?”
I can’t help but roll my eyes. ‘Hogwarts Weekly’, our school’s newspaper turned Instagram account over the holidays, is notorious for featuring every single step of my academic and personal life. It’s a miracle I don’t live in Godric’s Hollow any more - all the reports over the summer seem to come from there.
“Let me guess,” I sigh, “it’s about me?”
Emma hesitates. “You know?”
“Yeah,” I reply, curling a tendril of hair around my index finger, “I saw in Fortescue’s.”
“Ew! What were you doing in there? I feel so bad for you, ‘Rora.” Emma says, gently putting a hand on my arm. “How your own father could publish that, let alone on the front page.”
“It’d be more out of character if he considered any sort of loyalty towards his ex-wife, Ems.”
Emma frowns and returns to the racks of clothes. I don’t follow the gossip account - I refuse to be seen even going near it, even though it features me so prominently. Once we get back to school, the posts will start circulating via charmed pieces of parchment, since technology doesn’t work around school.
“Godric, what was her mother on.” I can hear Tessa whisper, giggling to Emma. “Do they know money can’t buy her good grades?”
I bite my tongue, turn my back to the pair and pretend to look at one of the fluffy jumpers. I’m right here!
We mill through a few more shops and after so many I lose count, we reach a muggle boutique named Sixth Avenue and Emma finally hits gold.
“Oh-my-Salazar!” She squeals as we walk up an escalator. “That’s it. That’s the dress.”
In front of us stands a navy skater dress with scalloping on the neckline. It’s not bad - Emma has the best taste out of all of the others - but my style is easily the best out of all of us. They know they can’t upstage something I wear, so Emma gives me a little glance. I nod slightly and she glides towards the dress.
“Come to mama,” she says quietly with a sigh of delight.
Tessa rolls her eyes, which is something new. She’s always loved coming to parties with us, and she loves shopping even more. Azkaban be damned, she had no problem using my money to buy her flying rat the most expensive treats going.
I stroll over to where Emma is fondling the dress and watch as her eyes bulge at the price.
“There’s no way this is in my budget,” she mutters, “Dad would kill me.”
I’m still fuming that she’s even gossiping about me behind my back. I pretend to be interested in something shiny in the corner and walk off. Tessa is quick to fill my spot.
Not that she’s gonna be much help, she’s literally poorer than Emma. The two of them couldn’t even buy a second hand broomstick.
I mill around for five minutes and hit the jewelry section. A lot of it is cheap tat - all just coated copper - but some of it is actual silver. Not that I’d wear silver. It’s gold or rose-gold, depending on the day, thank you very much. I know my house colours are silver and green but silver just doesn’t look right with my skin. Gold makes me glow.
I check the time on my phone. Somehow, we’ve wasted nearly five hours browsing crappy Muggle fashion chains. Granted, I can’t exactly just drop five grand in front of Emma and Tessa without them looking extremely put out, so I’ll save my trip to Mayfair for the future.
When I’m alone.
I swan towards the girls, my handbag bumping against my leg. “Dinner?”
Tessa nods eagerly, Emma a little less so. She seems distraught at the fact she’s not going to get this dress. They have to jog slightly to keep up with me, but I pay it no mind as I step out onto the street to hail a cab. The journey is quiet - Tessa and Emma can’t gossip with me in such close presence and the driver makes no attempts at conversation. We get dropped off on the same corner I arrived on yesterday afternoon and I try to join the others in an attempt at being friendlier than my ice-cold reception earlier.
“How’s life?” I ask, falling into stride with Emma, as if earlier wasn’t enough information to keep me satisfied.
“It’s alright.” She says slowly, measuring her words. “Olivia is as difficult as always, really.”
I make a fake noise of sympathy. I can’t relate, and I’m only pretending to so that she feels bad for gossiping earlier. We arrive at Leaky shortly after, as I’m sure Emma sped up her walking speed so she didn’t have to continue this clearly pointless conversation.
To my surprise, there’s actually a few people in here.
And to my horror, sat at the bar, tapping out some obnoxiously off-timed beat, is Nolan Wood.
“Bianchi,” He says tersely, giving us a small nod as we approach.
I don’t even acknowledge him by name, instead I just nod back. I don’t have the energy for pleasantries right now. Instead, Tessa greets him with a warm smile.
“Nolan! How are you?”
He seems obviously offended by my snub, but talks to Tess as if I’m not there. Like I’m missing out on much. He’s just another Weasley in my eyes, he spends so much time with them.
“I’m good. Meeting the boys for drinks.”
For a start, they’re all underage and clearly look it, so how Elijah is serving them is beyond me and second of all, they literally all live in Godric’s Hollow! Why can’t they just meet in Potter’s back garden? Salazar knows it’s big enough.
They have a makeshift Quidditch pitch in it, I’m sure they can accommodate the collective ego of - and I quote Potter here - the Gryffinbros.
I flick my hair over my shoulder and settle down in the booth we were in earlier on. Conveniently, it’s the furthest away from the bar, where Nolan is sat.
Emma is quick to trot after me, but Tessa continues chatting for a few minutes more.
“Everything alright?” Emma asks.
“Yeah, I’m fine.” I reply, pretending to browse the menu. “Why do you ask?”
“You look like you’re about to poison Tessa.”
I do my best at a noncommittal shrug. “I don’t really care. She can fraternise with that idiot if she wants. Who knows, maybe she’ll actually lose her virginity.” I say slowly.
Emma sighs. Nolan Wood is a well-known manwhore, but she’s always crusading against my use of the word. She picks up the drinks menu and settles on a blueberry smoothie.
Tessa eventually rejoins us, sliding into the booth beside Emma. I have my bag protecting my side, so it makes sense. I don’t want anything to do with her right now.
“Have you guys decided?” She asks breathlessly.
Emma looks towards the menu. “I’m not really feeling that hungry.”
Emma and her weird diets. She’ll probably eat a few scraps of table bread, but she doesn’t exactly eat much.
Tessa takes a menu from the booth beside us and browses it herself.
“I’ll have the house special soup.”
Well, at least her sense of being cheap has kicked in.
I settle on a small salad with non-fat dressing and a smoothie too. I’m barely peckish right now, and even if I was, I wouldn't want to go near another heavy Leaky meal.
Elijah comes over and takes our orders quite promptly as the charm above the door tinkles.
The door opens and we all turn to look at the latest person to step foot into Leaky.
Carrying several Muggle shopping bags stands none other than Fred Weasley and my least favourite person on the planet, James Sirius Potter. He peels his shades off and takes in the room. I can tell he’s even more underwhelmed than I was, and for a moment I enjoy it.
Then he spots us, tucked away in the corner.
“Alright, Bianchi?” He yells across the room.
Oh Godric. Why does he have to be like this. I slide down the tired leather of the booth so I don’t have to acknowledge him. He’s not getting that out of me today.
But apparently that was the wrong choice. I can see him approach us from the corner of my eye, walking over the pub floor in that stupid strut of his.
“I said, alright, Bianchi?” He repeats, placing his sunglasses on the table.
I roll my eyes as I look up to him with all the scorn in the world. If only that was enough to take this idiot down.
“Bianchi. Didn’t think I’d see you around here.”
“Figured your mum was successful in transferring you to Beauxbatons. Guess not.” He sneers.
“What with her ranting on at the Ministry about how the OWL exams are biased because English isn’t your first language.” I can feel the disdain in his body as he sighs. “I’m not surprised she’s grasping at straws like that to blame anyone but you for your results.”
If I had less self-control, I might’ve thrown my smoothie in his face. But fortunately for both of us, I actually have some. I take a second and compose myself before striking back.
“It’s not even my first language and I still speak it better than you, Chamberpot.”
Fred whistles slightly, smacking James in the chest with the back of his hand. “She got you good there.”
“And if you two vermin wouldn’t mind, we’re in the middle of our conversation. Shoo.”
Louis, who has just arrived, approaches us and pulls Potter back towards the bar. Freddie is quick to follow, succumbing to our death glares.
It’s not like I don’t get along with Gryffindors. I just can’t really get along with most of the Weasley’s. Lily and Louis are the exceptions, mostly because we all like fashion. Lily is a little juvenile in her taste - everything, and I mean, everything - she owns is pink. Even her broom has little pink decorations on it.
I’m not against pink as a colour, but I much prefer to keep my palette neutral.
No, Potter and I have not got along since the very first day we met. September first of our first year of Hogwarts, I had pushed him into the Great Lake while we were approaching Hogwarts.
That was one of the only times our rivalry ever got physical. Since third year, our shared classes were put with the other houses and we only ever saw each other in Muggle Studies, which is no place for a wand, so jinxing him was out of the question. We regularly have altercations over the school year - once he somehow managed to get a ton of mice into our common room. We’re still not sure how he managed that.
“Anyway,” I continue, turning to Emma, “What are you even studying this year?”
“I’ll be doing Charms, Transfiguration, Potions, Ancient Runes and Defence.”
“Oh thank God!” Tessa says, a chewed up mouthful of her sandwich in plain view.
“For the love of Merlin, have some manners!” I hiss.
She flushes and ducks her head. Had we been at school, I might’ve hexed her mouth shut. Especially since she was so keen to use it against me earlier.
Instead, I turn to Emma and smile. “Ancient Runes? Surely that’s going to get even more difficult? Is She-Who-Will-Not-Be-Named in there?”
“No word yet,” Emma replies, shrugging. Tessa has shrunk further back into the corner of the booth. “But I think so.”
I glance towards the bar as Emma addresses Tessa about her workload and watch as Elijah serves Potter a pint.
For some strange reason, I can hear the boy’s mutterings up at the bar.
“Imagine having a mother as crazy as that.”
“Shh. She’ll hear you.”
“Who cares? She’s literally the spawn of Voldemort, she doesn’t care what we say about her.”
“I think spawn of Voldy is a bit far, James. Her father is bad enough. Did you see him rip into the attempt at Goblin-Centaur summit? You’d think with all these weird murders they wouldn’t have to breach the Ministry for a story.”
Footsteps approach them, and there’s three smacks on the back of the boy’s heads.
“What have I told you about bitching about Aurora?”
I can’t help but smile as Louis returns to his seat. This is why we’re friends. Because at least he puts his idiot cousins and friends in line.
“It’s not our fault she’s such a bi-”
“Earth to Aurora?” Tessa asks, waving her hand in front of my face. Something in my head is telling me to just reach over for my fork and -- no. That wouldn’t be good.
The darkness stays inside me.
“Yes?” I say, tossing my waves over my shoulder again. “What’s up?”
“I was thinking about Divination this year. What do you think we’re gonna study?”
Emma, who has since dropped Divination, takes out her phone and takes a sudden interest in it.
“Not sure. Won’t be much of a challenge though, knowing Trelawney.” I say, picking at the skin around my cuticles. “Oh, I didn’t get us manicures! We’ll have to do that another time.”
Tessa forces a smile and turns back to her empty dinner plate.
We sit together and the girls actually properly catch up with one another while I check my Instagram. Naturally, Ryan has left incredibly thirsty comments on my latest picture.
A little while later, a figure approaches us, their hand resting on the table.
“You mind?” Louis Weasley asks, and I look up. On his flank stands Nolan and Freddie.
“What happened to your other darling cousin?” I drawl.
“Ah, James had to go back home. Curfew.”
“What a shame.”
If Louis noticed my insincerity, he overlooks it. “Anyway, can we sit?”
“Of course,” Tessa says, invading our conversation. What’s got into her all of a sudden? First she wasn’t interested and now she can’t get enough of him? She forces Emma to budge up and Nolan slides in, much to her distaste. Louis slides in next to me, and Freddie after him.
“How can I help you, Louis?” I ask, taking a sip of my smoothie through my straw.
“I wanted to apologise for Jamie’s behaviour.”
I cock an eyebrow. Potter obviously doesn’t know this is happening. We have never apologised to each other, and he clearly has no involvement this olive branch that Louis is extending to me.
“And we want to invite you to the back-to-school party.”
“Since you’re apologising, I guess we have no choice but to attend.” I say, grinning. Anything to piss off Potter.
Louis smiles back, melting my glacial attempt at a smile with his Veela light. I glance around the rest of the table, everyone is entranced. All I feel is a slight warmth to my cheeks. It takes a moment for Louis to realise and I watch as he tries his best to extinguish it.
His blue eyes sparkle all the same, though.
“So, what are you guys up to?” Emma asks, pushing herself as far away from Nolan as humanly possible while still remaining seated.
“We were just getting stuff for this year,” Nolan says, “Jamie’s insisting we all get our brooms serviced, and -- OW! What was that for?” He shoots a glare over the table at Freddie. “I just got a new one from my dad’s co-worker for my birthday, and I still needed some -- Ow! Can you stop standing on my toes?!” He nearly yells.
Louis laughs. “Everyone’s bound to find out that Jamie’s the Captain at some point, Freddie.”
Fred grumbles and chugs his pint, standing and heading directly to the bar, where Elijah already has a second one ready.
“You mean, Longbottom promoted Potter to Captain?” I scoff, “After the disappointment of that last game?”
Nolan doesn’t say anything and just shrugs.
“He was really pulling out the stops last year helping Lorcan out,” Louis says, with an attempt at a valiant save that Gryffindor could’ve used in their last match.
“That just means he’s a kiss-ass.”
“Your entire house is based on being kiss-asses, Bianchi.” Nolan interjects.
“Actually, it’s called ambition, Wood. Not that you’d know anything about that.”
He scoffs, and I continue pushing. I know this is going to hurt his pride.
“If you had any, you’d have that captain badge over Potter.”
“Hey!” Louis intervenes. “Jamie deserved that fair and square.”
Nolan leans back, sips on his drink and simmers quietly.
“What are we talking about?” Fred asks as he takes a perch at the end of the bench.
“Potter’s-” I start.
“We were actually just discussing what we’re taking for NEWTs!” Tessa says, jumping into the conversation like she’s actually a key player here. I shoot her a glare but the damage is done.
“Oh, I’m gonna be doing Care of Magical Creatures, Charms, Potions and Muggle Studies.” Fred says. Muggle Studies is quite a strange thing for him to be taking, but he was half the reason Potter and I stayed out of each other’s hair in the class. “What about you guys?” He asks.
“I’m going to be doing all the things I need to become a Healer,” Tessa says, her beam is infectious. Fortunately, I’m immune.
“Astronomy, Muggle Studies and Divination.”
Fred laughs, and it coaxes a smile out of Nolan. “Nobody's surprised that you’re doing Divination, Bianchi.”
“And what’s that supposed to mean?” I say pointedly over the rim of my glass.
Freddie pales under my glare. “I just meant - like, everyone knows who your mum is.”
“Especially after today,” Nolan laughs, spilling half his beer across his lap.
“Well, at least we’re equally known,” I say, narrowing my eyes at him. “Your father is the Keeper for England and everyone would rather meet him than you.”
Nolan pales as Freddie guffaws and spills his beer all over the table.
“And on that note, gentlemen, I’m heading to bed.”
It’s barely ten, so everyone knows that I’m bailing just so I can have the last word. Louis and Freddie stand up to let me slide out of the booth and I head straight to the bar, where Elijah is pretending to look busy.
“How can I help you?” He murmurs, picking up another class and polishing it.
“Another Firewhisky. And can I ask you not to allow anyone from my table to add to my tab?”
“Certainly, ma’am.” He slides me a fresh drink and assures me the tab is technically frozen until I say otherwise. I wave goodbye to the group, who seem anchored in their conversation and head up the stairs to my room.
I don’t sleep for a while - I have to go through my entire night time routine of removing my makeup, bathing, coating myself in moisturiser and putting on fresh pyjamas. I nurse my Firewhisky in bed and decide to take a glance at my textbooks. I shake the contents of the Flourish and Blott’s bag out onto the bed. A small piece of paper comes out - I pick it up to look at it, and it’s Tessa’s shopping list.
But I’m not interested in the shopping list.
I’m interested in the words on the back, which seems to be a short note.
I can’t wait to see you again, my love. You looked incredible in that yellow dress. I couldn’t take my eyes off you all night.
The handwriting looks familiar, but I can’t quite place it. It’s a mystery for another day, so I stash it in the back of my copy of Advanced Tarot. The fact that Tessa has a secret lover who writes her notes is something I can use against her, but by the time I’ve finished my Firewhisky and my nightmares are clawing their way back into my mind, I’ve forgotten.
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