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By the time September 1st arrives, two more Ministry officials have been slaughtered. The Prophet stated that the release they were given was too grisly to share, and exclusive interviews with the people who found the bodies reaped nothing really worth the effort they took to read. 


Fortunately, the few headaches I’ve been having barely bother me and with enough retail therapy, I decided to be a good friend and pick up that dress Emma was after and gift it to her. I’m not trying to be manipulative, but once she sees how sweet I’m being, she’ll totally feel bad about being such a bitch. 


But even without the headaches, sleeping has been difficult lately, to the point where I can count the amount of hours I’ve slept in the past week on my fingers alone. But I don’t have time to dwell on that. At school, I can pay someone to make me draughts. The sooner classes start, the better. 


Most importantly, I can’t have Emma looking like shit at the first social of the year. I have standards that need to be upheld, and being a part of my inner circle means you have to look amazing all the time. I don’t need to know her size - charms are so easy I could do them in my sleep - but I went a size up. Just to be sure. Magicking material out of nowhere is not the kind of spell work I want to be doing in my down time.


After settling the bill for my stay and dropping a hundred Galleons on Elijah as a tip, I get a taxi to King’s Cross. Today’s outfit is a classic, and I don’t plan on ruining my gorgeous new Chelsea boots in today’s torrential downpour. I have to change out of them for my school shoes, but since the platform is when Hogwarts Weekly makes it’s official annual debut, I need to be looking at least good. And after last year’s influx of Witch Weekly reporters, I need to be looking nothing less than perfect. I have standards to maintain, after all. Even if I’m in passing, I have to look amazing. 


Since I can’t really use magic outside of school, a Sleekeazy potion has tamed my hair for now. The jacket I’m wearing - an old-school pilot’s jacket, re-lined with Puffskein fur - is my only real waterproof coat, and it’s not even really waterproof, but you won’t catch me wearing one of those stuffy little outdoor coats with a hood. 


Fashion comes first, and who even needs a hood when umbrellas exist? I’m not about to ruin my hair just because of practicality. 




All it takes to convince my driver to put my vintage Louis Vuitton trunk on one of the sad, rickety trolleys is the flourish of two fifty pound notes. I stuff them into one of his chubby little hands and strut away as best I can with a wonky wheel. 


Much like my trunk, my overnight bag - the matching keepall - has an Undetectable Extension Charm and my initials - M. A. B. stamped on it. Of course, there’s Feather-light charms on both, which is like, totally essential, considering the fact I’ve crammed an entire year’s worth of outfits into my trunk - not to mention all of the party dresses - and my entire skincare routine is carefully stacked in the bottom of my holdall. 


Making my way through to Platforms Nine and Ten with this stupid broken trolley is a task and a half, and by the time I get to the brick wall that conceals the truth about the wizarding world from all the oblivious Muggles milling about, I’m actually grateful I’m dumping the trolley soon. 


I slide through the brick wall unnoticed - the only time in my life I think I ever do go unnoticed - just to be greeted with the blinding flashes of no less than six cameras. I’m a little caught off-guard, but as soon as they realise I’m not a Weasley, or worse, a Potter, they complain loudly, a few even going so far as to mutter about a waste of film. 


Of course, if this were for an international magazine and not just the pathetic excuse of a publication Witch Weekly thinks it is, this piss-poor attempt at paparazzi might actually be pleased to have my face on their film. But these are also probably the very same people my father fired, who then gave him the charming nickname of Dipshit O’Donnell, so it’s probably for the better that they don’t know who I am. 


What can I say? He was bound to step on a few toes when he reformed the Prophet. 


I can still remember the discussion my parents had about it when we were all still playing the part of Happy Family. Mamma had asked him why he had done it - how he knew her business relied on people not knowing the truth, or something like that - and the only wisdom my father ever imparted to me wasn’t even given to me directly. 


“Muggles cut out their infections. Why can’t I?” 


Because that’s what they were - what they made Witch Weekly become - a disease to journalism. 


The sounds I heard had told me that challenging my father for Mamma’s sake would be a complete miscalculation. Not that there was evidence come the morning.


And in turn, Mamma had done just that once I was at Hogwarts. Father had been the infection and we had cut him out. I had done similar, and shedded the awful family name he had given me - Marina - and replaced it with my middle name, Aurora. 


Good riddance. 


“Bianchi,” A voice calls, drawing me out of my spiralled thoughts. I look up and see Lysander, who is casually propped up against a pillar, next to his twin brother Lorcan. 


And for once in my life, I can tell the two apart. Where Xander’s dark brown hair looks like it hasn’t been cut since Easter, Lorcan is now sporting an attempt at a buzzcut and small hoop pierces his right earlobe. He’s quick to shove a carton of Muggle cigarettes into the pocket of his leather jacket and light one with the tip of his wand. 


Normally, I’d be pleased to see Xander. His presence means that Ryan isn’t far off, as the two are rarely apart, but the fact that he’s probably been in contact with him, when I haven’t, only serves to irritate me more. 


“Xander.” I say with a tight smile. 


“Hey,” he replies, no doubt noting the tension in my shoulders. “Want me to take your case on?” 


“That’d be great.” I reply, incredibly conscious of Lorcan’s eyes on me. 


As soon as Xander is gone, my full force turns on the other Scamander. What attractiveness he held before has gone - gone with his hair and the silver hoop in his ear. 


“Very brave of you to try and bring punk back, Scamander,” I say, carefully reaching for my phone in my jacket pocket and checking the group chat. No new notifications. 


“Well,” he says, slowly taking a drag of his cigarette, “You’ve already cornered the market on pretentious bitch.” 


Pretentious bitch? That was me trying to be nice. I’ll show him pretentious bitch. 


The smile I cast his way clearly throws him for a loop as he straightens up, inhaling a little too quickly to truly be calm. I approach him slowly, my keepall securely in my hand. If anyone looked too closely, they’d see the whiteness of my knuckles in comparison to their usual olive tone, but that’s the only physical giveaway of my anger. He presses his back against the wall as I come up close, so close I’m almost inhaling the smoke he exhaled, and I take the lowest shot I have today. 


“At least now we can all tell you and Lysander apart.” 


His face solidifies. 


His hand moves too quickly - so quickly my instincts take over - but it was all in vain -- it was just for another sudden drag of his cigarette, but he’s already clocked my movement and all I can do is watch as his face turns from muffled horror to that pitiful concern I can’t stand and my legs -- my legs are taking me away as quickly as they can to the nearest carriage in the hopes that I might --- I might just find somewhere to recover alone.


I shut myself in the sad excuse for a toilet this train has and throw myself down on the closed lid, willing myself to pick up the pieces. Perhaps the lack of sleep I’ve had is finally getting to me. Not that anybody can know that. I take a few deep breaths - the kind Mamma always insists I use when I meditate - and calm myself. I’m not sure how long has passed by the time I find the courage to leave the bathroom, but nobody is waiting for me outside, so I assume it wasn’t long. 


I head to my compartment, the one me and the girls have been using since second year and get settled down, reading a copy of Vogue to pass the time. The first person to arrive is Emma, her overnight bag in one hand and her cat carrier in the other. Captain Pudgekin’s reaction is instantaneous - he’s hissing as if his life depends on it. 


“Merlin,” Emma says, throwing her jacket over the carrier once she’s set it down, “why does literally every animal hate you?”


I shrug and continue leafing through the glossy pages, dog-earing the ones I want to go back to later. Quite why animals hate me is beyond me, but it’s been a problem for my entire life. Mamma’s prized Bengal, Bastet, ran away when I was barely walking. Not that she’d let me forget that. 


Emma quickly snatches my attention back as she drops a stack of magazines that she’s dug out from the bottom of her handbag. 


“The extension charm holding up alright?” I say over the top of my magazine, nodding towards her tan leather bag. 


“What? Oh, yeah.” She pauses for a moment, looking around and lowering the blinds to the train’s corridor a little before she speaks again. “I have a question for you.” 


I carefully close the copy of Vogue and place it on my lap. Emma’s rarely serious with me - in fact, we’re all rarely serious with each other. Not in this concerned way her expression is contorted. 


“I did some reading,” she says, gently perching on the bench next to me, “And I found out that Wizengamot lady was your great-aunt.” 


Her intonation rises, as if she’s thinking of it as a question, but the declaration is there. The jab at me is in there too - why didn’t I trust her enough to share in the first place? 


“What? How is that relevant?” I scoff, opening my magazine again and raising it between us as if it’s a physical Protego. 


“Maybe someone --”


“Look,” I start, shutting her up before she has a chance to start this stupid train of thought, “I met her like once, when I was like five years old, so I barely even know her, and she’s worked as a member of the Wizengamot for like fifty years or something stupid, so I think she’s got her fair share of haters.” 


“Who has her fair share of haters?” A voice comes from the opening doorway. Standing in all her glory is the last quarter of my friendship group, the very quarter I haven’t seen since summer started  - Vari Arumin - not that I’m particularly close with her. It was take her or not, and she latched on to Emma as if her life depended on it during our second year. And I’m not getting rid of Emma just because Vari needs her to live and breathe. 


Plus, it had helped me win the best times in the showers in our dorm - four beats one. Paris never stood a chance. 


“Omigosh,” Emma squeals, greeting Vari as if she’s been infected by a Bouncing Bulb and immediately sits down. Vari’s owl screeches as she puts it’s cage down. She carefully pulls a bright scarf out from her bag, like one of those Muggle magician wannabes, throws over it over the cage and the feathered bastard immediately shuts up. 


At least Tessa doesn’t own a fucking animal. 


“Look here, I kept all my copies of Witch Weekly for you --” Emma says, gesturing towards the stack she pulled out of her bag. My attention slips from the conversation as my head begins to pulse again. 


Of course I would get a headache on the first day of school. I reach into my handbag and pull out my black silk sleep mask. Neither Emma or Vari are paying any attention to me, so I close my magazine and lay back across the bench. Tessa will just have to sit on the other side until I wake up. 


I can just about hear their conversation - Vari is telling Emma all the details of her cousin’s marriage while Emma makes those noises to prompt her every so often. 


Judging by the glazed look she had in her eyes before I closed mine, she’s not actually processing any of this. Not that she really needs to - Vari doesn’t need much of an invitation to start talking about literally anything.


I doze off slightly, only to wake when the train slams to a halt. I’m more conscious of the emerald around my neck burning my skin than the movement of the train, and despite knowing the jolt is coming, I fall off the bench and end up sprawled across the compartment floor. 


“Omigosh-” Tessa’s voice is unmistakable, as she drops what must be a book, in shock. 


By the time I have my eye mask off, Tessa has her wand out, pointed directly at the overhead shelf where Xander put my trunk earlier. 


And my trunk is levitating inches away from my face, the emerald is so hot against my skin, I think it might’ve burnt the skin beneath it.


“Did you just do that… nonverbally?” Vari says, her wide eyes on Tessa’s wand. 


It’s Tessa’s turn to widen her eyes, and she flicks her wand in what must be an attempt to force a Wingardium Leviosa out in sheer concentration. But judging by the look on her face, she’s channelling constipation. 


“Alright, don’t shit yourself,” I grumble, pushing my suitcase out of the way as Tessa’s spell stops it from falling to the ground and onto my toes. “The feather-weight charm I put on it at the end of last year is still holding up. It’s not like it would’ve hurt.” 


Tessa, Vari and Emma share what they must think is a sly look as I carefully stow my trunk on the luggage rack. I brush down my jacket and my skinny jeans for composure and sit back down, digging out a new fashion magazine from my overnight bag. I reach up, disguising my discomfort with the necklace as just anxiety and fiddle with it once the train starts up again. To my surprise, once I’ve found the emerald, it feels like a Dementor has sucked the warmth from it. 


We sit in silence - and by that, I mean I gave the girls a sufficient death glare should they dare attempt to talk - for the next three hours as the sky darkens. As the sun is setting and Hogwarts grows closer, I can feel myself properly settling back into my true form. 


A little longer passes - the night is almost out in full force and Hogwarts must be less than an hour away - and someone knocks on our compartment door. Emma, who is sat closest to the door, lifts the blinds slightly and immediately squeals. 


“Ryan!” She breathes, immediately catching my attention. I have a split second to make up my mind - do I stand my ground and yell at him for being, quite possibly, the worst boyfriend in the history of boyfriends, or do I act like nothing is wrong? My decision revolves around whether or not we have company - I can’t let anyone see that Ryan and I are having problems.


Before I’ve made my decision, Ryan opens the door and lets himself in. 


And for a brief moment, I’m taken aback by just how damn good he looks. His skin is bronzed - no doubt from the fortnight his family takes in Monaco every August - and his usually butter-blond curls have turned platinum in the sun. He’s already in his Hogwarts uniform, all neatly pressed by his mother, no doubt. His tie hangs neatly around his neck, pressed up to the top buttons. 


That’s unusual. 


My eyes flicker over to something on his lapel. Something shiny. 


Head Boy. 


I haven’t forgiven him, but this development means my boyfriend is the Head Boy of the entire school. 


The lovestruck smile I summon is almost authentic. 


His eyes gloss over my friends and settle on me. I have to do something to make up for my lack of enthusiasm when he entered, or everyone will know. I’m up in a split second and Ryan, ever intuitive to my moods, has his hand on the small of my back when I’m within his reach, pulling me towards him for our traditional start of year kiss. 


The start of many for this year. 


The year where I can rule over the school. 


It doesn’t take much to turn his chaste kiss into the whole nine yards - his hand is tangled in my hair, pulling me towards him as if we could become one - in just seconds. 


“Missed me, huh?” He says when we break apart for air, that classic smirk he wears so well is only emphasised by his bronzed features. I wrap my hand around his bicep to steady myself and he immediately flexes it. For a brief moment, everything is perfect. 


This was what I missed all summer. Ryan’s presence has always had something intense about it - he’s taller than most of the students and with the muscles of a Greek hero - which is enough to scare a lot of people, students and teachers alike. 


The Head Boy badge and the power that comes with it - just amplifies it all. I’m not trying to read his aura, but the hint of scarlet red is there, oozing off him like he was born with it. 


It takes just a split second for me to remember the fact that this is the first time I’ve seen him since the end of June. Or heard from him, for that matter. But I’ve made my decision. 


“Mmmph,” he mumbles, his attempt at saying something to the other girls is cut short as I pull him down for another kiss. It doesn’t take much on my part for us to enter dangerous territory, I just push myself into him and he gets the message. 


“We’ll be back in a bit.” He says, sliding the compartment door open, grabbing my hand in his and pulling me through the open doorway. I quickly swipe my uniform from my bag, because this is looking like I need an excuse. 


The only private space we can get is the toilet, which isn’t the worst place we’ve fucked, by far. He pulls me past the Slytherin Quidditch team’s compartment, but I only catch a dash of ginger as we go by. 


“I’ve missed you so fucking much,” he mumbles into my ear and our lips are quick to meet again, but in the privacy of the toilet, his hands slip up under my crop top and a teasing fingertip runs along the cup of my bra. 


But this time I’m the one to pull away first, not Ryan. He’s a little surprised - his hand that’s tangled in my hair relaxes ever so slightly. Nothing that I’d usually notice, but since he’s not pulling me towards him, something is obviously going on in his head. Maybe he knows I’m still mad at him for this summer. 


“What’s the matter?” He whispers, his lips inches away, still damp from our kissing session. 


And in that split second, my self preservation kicks in. I can’t survive this hellhole without Ryan - especially not now he’s Head Boy. I love him too much to kick up a fuss, and if I try to pick a fight with his whole disappearing act, then I could end up on the losing side. 


“Nothing,” I reply, grabbing his collar and pulling him down for a kiss. “I missed you, you idiot.” 


His smile is nothing short of dazzling. “I missed you too.” 


I suppose I could find it within myself to forgive him. 


Not that I’ll forget. 

By the time I’m back in my compartment, the trolley lady has already been past. Vari and Tessa are comparing Chocolate Frog cards while Emma brushes her glossy black hair. Ryan had left the toilet before me, leaving me just enough time to compose myself before heading back out into the tragedy that is the Hogwarts Express. Fortunately nobody was waiting for the toilet to be free. Even if there was, my Hogwarts uniform is now on, so it would’ve just looked like I stepped in there to change. 


“Took you long enough,” Emma says, taking a small handheld mirror out from her overnight bag and double checking her makeup. “Lily came by, absolutely drenched.” 


Drenched? We’re on a moving train, for Merlin’s sake. How did she get drenched?


Emma takes one look at my raised eyebrow and shrugs, bringing a large fluffy brush laden with powder up to her nose. 


“How does my makeup look?” I ask, quietly taking the seat next to her. 


“Looks fine,” she says, reaching up and wiping a little bit of lipgloss off the corner of my mouth. “You guys couldn’t wait ‘til after dinner?” 


The masquerade doesn’t take much, a cheeky smile, a little tilt of the head and I force some colour into my cheeks. 


“I just missed him, ok? Summer sucks, like, so bad. I’m so far away from everyone else.” 


She makes a soft sound of agreement. “I can’t imagine being that far away from everyone. But at least it’s somewhere interesting.” 


Like the Italian countryside in a literal Unplottable mansion is somewhere ‘interesting’. Playing blackjack with House Elfs gets old. Fast. They don’t even have that much to bet! 


Might as well change the subject. 


“Has Molly come by yet?” 


“Nope,” Emma replies, opening up a copy of Witch Weekly. “Ohmigod-- Did you hear?” 


“Hear what?” 


“Weasley and Scorpius broke up.” 


Referring to literally any of the Weasley spawn as just that isn’t our normal way of communication - there’s so many of them, their grandparents must’ve fucked like rabbits. But Scorpius - who was in what had to have been the most turbulent relationship going - identifies the offending Weasley child. 


“No way? They broke up?” I say, grabbing the magazine off her. I don’t care much for gossip, least of all Weasley gossip, but Scorpius is a Slytherin, and Slytherins are family. No ifs, no buts. I didn’t rebuild our house from the ashes of the Second Wizarding War to not form some sort of community. 


“Yeah, apparently they had this big fight at the Weasley barbeque at the end of summer. So bad that people thought there was a banshee on the loose.” 




Of course, Tessa and Vari probably already know all this, especially if it’s been posted on the Hogwarts Weekly Instagram page. 


Merlin knows, they’ve got to find someone to obsess over when I’m not around. There’s enough of the Weasley kids that there’s no shortage of news. 


“Oh, and apparently Professor Lupin and Victoire are engaged! How cool is that!” 


Thinking about my professors, even worse, thinking about their lives outside of school, is not a thought I wanted to have to suffer with. 


“I’m sure someone, somewhere, is pleased,” I mutter, picking up my keepall and opening it to search for my face mist. Honestly, La Mer is a blessing. “How long til we get to Hogwarts?” 


It’s too dark outside to see anything, so Emma checks her phone. “Any minute now.” Her voice softens to a whisper, so quiet, the only giveaway to Tessa and Vari that she’s saying anything is the slightest movement of her lips. If they were paying attention. “I hope we’re safe here.” 


She must mean those stupid murders. 


“Well, if you don’t count the staircases, we’re perfectly safe.” I whisper back, with a roll of my eyes. Her eyes widen in alarm, realising I heard her, and with that, the Hogwarts Express shudders to a halt. 


Tessa jumps up in delight. Out of us all, she’s probably the one who’s happiest to be back here. 


Like this isn’t going to be another year of academic torture. 


For all her enthusiasm though, Tessa has bagged us one of the first few carriages available. The only thing I think I’ve ever been on time for in this damn castle is the Welcome Feast. Molly, Lily and Scorpius are quick to jump in with us, filling up the carriage to capacity. Professor Weasley, one of the Care of Magical Creatures professors, slaps the side of our carriage and we’re off. 


Enchanted carriages, moving classrooms and a forest holding deadly creatures. What’s not to like about Hogwarts? 


“So, Scor,” I say, adjusting my blazer slightly. “A little birdie told me that you and Rose aren’t together anymore. Is it true?” 


Before he has a chance to open his mouth, Molly’s chimed in. “Merlin, yes. I’ve had to deal with Lucy telling me all about Rose’s whining and crying. Like I want to deal with that.” 


Scorpius blushes the same shade Lily’s been since he jumped in to join us. 


“Yeah, I realised ages ago that we were really just together because everyone expected us to be together. I’m not sure if I actually liked her.” He says, rubbing the back of his neck. 


“Well, I definitely don’t like her, so feel free to complain if you need to.” 


“Good luck,” Molly looks like she can’t decide whether or not to throw a shoe at me or to laugh. “She’s a Prefect now.” 


Of course she is. If Professor Longbottom had given anyone other than Rose Weasley, I would have had him committed to St Mungo’s. And people say we’re the worst house for nepotism. But honestly? Has anyone ever looked at Gryffindor these days? 


No, Miss Goody-Two-Shoes Weasley was the only obvious candidate for Prefect in Gryffindor. I pity whoever has to roam the halls with her on patrol. 


“Can’t say I didn’t see that coming. Twenty Galleons on her snitching about the back to school party.” I say, eyes fixed on Molly, as she’s the only one here with that kind of money to spare. Between her Herbology skills and knack for Potions, Molly’s side hustle is going well. A fair few students were brewing draughts and elixirs last year, but were slowly put out of business because Molly’s were more reliable. 


She laughs, as if trying to deny her interest, but the slight nod of her head when nobody else is looking tells me that the bet’s on. 


The rest of our journey doesn’t take long, and as our carriage pulls to a halt outside the grand entrance and the castle looms over us, I can’t help but feel like something is going to go terribly wrong. 


“Come on,” Emma says, grabbing my arm and pulling me out of my daze. “You’re blocking the way.” 


I murmur an apology and take the stone steps up two at a time to catch up with the others. I have to take a moment to catch my breath and listen to the ongoing conversation between Scorpius and Lily so I can jump in. 


“What, you think he’s going to resign from the team?” Lily asks, her voice quavering. 


“Probably. It’s his seventh year, and he’s Head Boy. Xander’s passed on the captaincy, hasn’t he?” Scorpius replies before racing off ahead to talk to Molly.


Lily’s face turns to anguish as she stops in her tracks, making me walk straight into her back. 


“Alright?” I ask, nodding towards Scorpius. 


“You don’t think Elliott would get rid of me?” She asks, fiddling with her blazer sleeve as the crowds of other students slowly gain on us. Elliott Masters, one of our Chasers from last year, must’ve been made Captain by Professor Hunt. 


“Are you kidding me?” I laugh, grabbing her hand in mine. “He’d be crazy if he did.” 


Not to mention, I would literally skin him alive if he kicked Lily off the team. Even more so if he replaced her with with his little brother, who is now a second year. 


“Yeah but…” Lily starts, now chewing on her blazer sleeve. I grab it quickly and pull it out of her mouth. 


“No buts! I can have a word with him if you want?” I pause, taking in her expression. Elliott and I are at least acquaintances, but I’ve never had to have a one on one conversation with him before. If he knew what a shower was, I might be more willing to get up in close quarters, but anyone can smell the boy from a mile off. 


She nods slightly as we enter the Great Hall and head to our table, hand in hand. Lily’s Sorting was a source of contention for nearly everybody - some of the Weasley crew outright disowned her, some of them keep her at arm’s length and Molly, of all people, was the first person to start clapping when the hat announced its decision. Since her Initiation, Lily has been one of my few favourites alongside Scorpius. A mischievous spirit can get you far in this house, and while I don’t like to endorse the use of the Weasley’s prank products, some of the things she’s come up with to get revenge on her own brothers have been nothing short of genius. 


“Oh!” She exclaims as we sit next to each other, facing the three other house tables. I’ve sat on this side of the table for the last five years, without failure. Something about sitting on the other side unsettles me. “What can you tell me about Divination?” 


Oh Merlin. How do I begin to explain Divination? No, I can’t do that. That’s way too big of a question. 


“I don’t wanna put ‘Lawners out of a job, Lils! You’ll probably have her tomorrow anyway.” 


Deflating in her seat, Lily turns back to the table and our gathered group. Tessa already has a blank piece of parchment out - either she’s taking notes, or she’s waiting for the first drop of Hogwarts Weekly. I catch sight of Paris a little ways down the table, talking with the seventh year girls. Our eyes meet, and she’s the first to look away. 


Damn straight. 


A herd of baby firsties trot into the Hall, led by Professor Weasley and a few moments later, the stragglers are brought in by the lumbering form of Hagrid. After some weird song about inter-house unity, the Sorting begins. I take notes on who goes where, with seventeen Hufflepuffs, sixteen Ravenclaws, twenty one Gryffindors and just fourteen new Slytherins. I jot down the new Slytherin’s names, as if I do decide to have Initiation this year, then I need to know everyone’s names. 


Flitwick starts his back to school speech, right as words begin forming on Tessa’s piece of parchment. 


I have to applaud the Charms work - the text spills across the page as if the reader is uncovering some sort of ancient treasure. But the content remains the same - absolute trash. I’m willing to bet someone’s already mentioned my little episode on the platform earlier and that’s what’s coming up now. 


I try and keep my ear out for Flitwick’s speech - it’s probably much more interesting than the garbage gossip that’s about to start. 


“And we should all stand together in times like these--” 


My ears stop working as I notice the teacher’s table behind Flitwick. Between Professor Lupin and Professor Clearwater, where Professor Sinistra sat last year, is an empty chair. Before I have much of a chance to dwell on it, Flitwick speaks. 


“Our new Astronomy teacher has not yet returned from research, but we are expecting him in the late hours tonight.” 


No. What? Where’s Professor Sinistra? She was the entire reason I’m taking this stupid subject as a NEWT! I can’t bel--


“Oh my god, Louis Weasley is a slut!” Tessa half whispers, half yells across the table, shoving the parchment into Emma’s face. There’s a picture of Louis and one of Ravenclaw’s now graduated Quidditch players kissing at Platform 9 & ¾. 


Guess I did miss out on some gossip while I was hiding. At least it’s not me that’s being written about for now.


The whispering across the hall makes it too difficult to tell what’s being said - everything starts melting together into sounds that just don’t process. Molly, who is sat exactly opposite me, quickly pours something into her goblet and swaps it with my own, giving me a quick wink, and when dinner appears on the table, I’m one of the first to grab some pumpkin juice and down whatever Molly put in there. 


It tastes delicious, and the familiar feeling of an Invigoration Draught lifts my senses. Ever the businesswoman, I don’t doubt that Molly is already working out what to charge me for that. 


I barely notice the time passing, and Ryan is the one to nudge me out of my stupor. 


“Hey hon,” he says, planting a kiss behind my ear. A gentle reminder of what we got up to earlier. “I gotta show the firsties down to the dorms, but I’ll be free after that?” 


I turn to him, my eyes glazed through and when they focus on him, his face flashes with recognition.


“Really? We’re ten hours into the first day and you’re fucking out of it already?” He hisses, a hand clamped around my wrist. “Who gave it to you?” 


I shrug and swing my legs over the bench and stand up. I’m not throwing Molly to the wolves. I haven’t yet and I won’t. 


“It doesn’t matter. I needed something for my head.” It feels like every word is snatching energy I need to do other things - to breathe, to walk - 


“- Like I haven’t heard that one before,” He hisses into my ear beside me. He starts as if he’s going to continue, but I’ve forced myself up and I’m already walking away. He can listen to his own self-righteous preaching. Like he didn’t take things while he was doing his exams. 


I walk as calmly as I can down to the common room, past the gathered crowd of Hufflepuffs tapping some barrels like idiots and into the comfort of the Slytherin Dungeon. 


“I’m heading to bed,” I call to Molly and Lily as I walk past. I can’t sit up here and pretend that everything's ok while my hands are shaking like this. Someone’s going to notice. 


I grab my pyjamas out of my keepall and brush my teeth while someone showers. I’m so thankful that nobody else is down here yet - Tessa and the others are probably discussing the gossip with some other Slytherins. I change into my pyjamas and quickly head back to my four-poster bed. Swathed in deep green curtains, a matching bedspread in satin awaits me. I kick the fluffy grey blanket to the floor and launch all the decorative pillows overboard, closing the curtains with a swish of my wand. 


Only once I’ve cast my version of Muffliato - where the buzzing is replaced by fake sounds of me sleeping -  do I let the sobs out. 


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