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Harry Potter and the Dark Order - The Next Generation (asterin)

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Offline Reigning King

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Harry Potter and the Dark Order
The Next Generation

King Kade - Reigning from the North

Character limits kill my vibe...

Offline Reigning King

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The London King’s Cross station was as crowded as ever, bustling with people who bumped shoulders carelessly on the way to their differing platforms.  Among them, a small family of red-haired children ducked and dodged their way through the throngs of strangers.  Unlike the many travellers who stopped to look down at their ticket or look around themselves in lost puzzlement, these folks knew where they were headed.  Or rather they should, as they were headed there in quite a hurry.  For any other family passing through King’s Cross, this day might have been just like any other.  For the quick-footed gingers who hopped and skipped their way past the platforms, this day was a rather important one.  A poor day for a late start and an even poorer day to be forgetful. 

“Every year we’re late, Ronald.” The woman who hissed at her husband in hushed tones wore a stylish coat that fluttered behind her as she walked.  Her brown hair was pulled back into a bun and the practical shoes beneath her were a trendy, albeit vintage, choice. 

“Take it up with your son.” The woman’s red-haired husband said, gesturing to his red-haired children. 

“What?” The boy in question inquired innocently.  “It was an accident.”

“Once is an accident, four times is just ridiculous.” His older sister chimed in, hustling forth at the front of the herd alongside her mother. 

“I suppose now would be a bad time to mention that I forgot my Ancient Runes textbook too…” Her brother returned bashfully, avoiding his mother’s angry stare and looking instead to his sympathetic father. 

“We don’t have time for this.” She said impatiently, straightening her hair as her family stopped alongside her in between Platforms Nine and Ten.  “Off you go.” With an impatient wave of her hand, her daughter aimed her trolley for the brick wall of the Platform, running straight through it.  “You too,” she added, as her son hurried after his sister.   Taking her husband by the hand, the couple followed their children through the wall.  As their heads passed through brick and steel their bodies followed them out onto an entirely different Platform hidden within King's Cross station.

Platform Nine and Three-Quarters. 

The Platform was less crowded by the time they had arrived, one of the few benefits to being late.  Some among their humble brood might have argued in favour of lateness, but no convenience was worth the grief of their mother’s sour mood.  While some parents preferred to linger in London’s busy King’s Cross station until the Hogwarts Express finally left, other’s had already situated their children and crept out early.  Most likely in an attempt to avoid the traffic getting out of the car-park.  Luggage trunks were being loaded into their compartments while children stuck their heads out from the windows, bidding final words of farewell to their loved ones.  Fortunately, among the ranks of those who preferred to wait, their own loved ones had made sure to drop anchor and await the final ship in their colourful fleet. 

“See?” One little girl said matter-of-factly to her cousins and their parents.  “I told you they would make it.”  She rushed forward, red hair trailing after her as she found the side of her friend of the same age and same crimson-stained colouring.  The rest stepped forward from behind her.  They met each other on the muddy brick of Platform Nine and Three-Quarters with smiles and open arms, embracing each other all in turn.  Messy brown hair and dilly-dallying children were forgotten as the reputedly prompt Intelligence Analyst for the Department of Magical Law Enforcement kissed the cheeks of her friends and siblings by law.  She saw them often enough, at holidays and family gatherings; on the weekends for tea and in the summer months as they took turns watching one another’s rambunctious offspring.  Yet there was always something extra special about their annual meeting on Platform Nine and Three-Quarters, watching their children board the Hogwarts Express. 

“Ginny…” She breathed as she wrapped her arms around her friend. 

“Hermione…” Her sister by law said into her ear in return.  The chin that had been resting upon the brunette’s shoulder jerked up suddenly as she pulled away, calling over Hermione’s shoulder, “Lily!”  They pulled away from their embrace so as to each regard their youngest with a stern glare they had each learned from their own mother’s before them. 

“Hugo has not said a proper goodbye, yet.” Ginny pointed out to her daughter, who had been attempting to subtly slip away with her favourite cousin.  “Get back here and give your mother a kiss, young man.” She scolded the boy at her daughter’s side playfully, a smile tickling at the corners of her mouth.   

“Be good, alright?” Hermione said to her son, who reluctantly approached her as she crouched to fuss with his hair, messy and bushy like hers.  Every year she had to bend down a little less, soon he’d be as tall as her.  Later, he would probably turn out taller. “I don’t want to get any owls from the school this year.”

“I’ll try my best, mum.” Her son told her, batting aside her busy hands but smiling all the same.

“You had better.” She said as she righted herself, though not before finding one more thing over which to worry.  “Oh, don’t take those on the train with you like that.”  Hermione tisked as she looked down at the messy collection of school supplies Hugo cradled in his arms.  Various things he had forgotten and forced his parents to go back for when they had left the house this morning, his wand among them, balanced clumsily in his freckled hands.  “Give those to James,” She advised, gesturing to one of Hugo’s older cousins.  “He has room in his book bag.”

“You always say that…” Hugo muttered from behind a grumpy scowl. 

“Because it’s always true.” The voice that chimed in belonged to the lanky teenaged boy who stepped up behind Hugo, throwing an arm around his shoulder.  Looking to his Aunt Hermione, one dark brow quirked over the other as he flashed her a cheeky wink.  It was a little inside joke of theirs.  After all, his aunt had been the one to give him the simple leather book bag she had picked up from a muggle second-hand shop.  Though, before wrapping the present for Christmas, she had sewed a particularly deep pocket into the lining of the bag with her own skilled hand, ensuring that there was always room in James Potter’s bag for his careless cousins’ things. 

“Give it here, then.” James said to his cousin, offering open hands in which Hugo began to pile an assortment of belongings. 

“Where’s your father?” Hermione asked her nephew as her husband approached to tussle the hair on their son’s head she had just finished fixing.

When he did not immediately answer, his mother did so on his behalf saying, “he’s a little tied up with work.”  While her lips might have spoken one truth, her eyes told another, one which Hermione at once recognized. 

“Are the two of you fighting again?” She pressed, stern eyes once more on James. 

“We’re not fighting.” James answered as he wrapped Hugo’s robes into a tight ball and shoved them into his book bag.  “I’m just not speaking to him ever again.”

“Oh, James…” The young man’s aunt might have gone on, if not for the train sounding its horn, steam pouring forth from the head car. 

“See you, mum!” Hugo called from over his shoulder, waving to his father as he raced off to board the train, hand in hand with his cousin, Lily. 

“Look after my son, will you?” Hermione said to her nephew with a sigh, a laugh on her lips which fell still at James’ words. 

“I will,” he answered quietly.  “Look after my dad?”  His father, Harry Potter; the Boy-Who-Lived; the Chosen One, her very best friend.

“I will, sweetheart.” She told him, touching his face tenderly. 

“Don’t forget to write,” his mother said next, stepping forward to lay a kiss against her eldest son’s cheek.  James held his mother as she kissed him again and again, then offered her a smile, one that reminded Ginny of her own mother’s warm grin.  “And watch after your brother!” She called to his back as he hurried towards the train. 

“And tell Hugo we’ll send Errol with his textbooks!” Hermione joined in. 

“And be safe!” Ginny hollered at last, waving her arm as her eldest boy boarded the Hogwarts Express, wheels turning, bound for the Great School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

James adjusted the strap over his shoulder, his book bag feeling considerably heavier, even if it really wasn’t, now that he was carrying half of his cousin Hugo’s personal effects. Turning away from the window as his mother and aunt faded into the distance along with the station, he began his quest through the various cars.  He found his friends at last near the rear of the long line, sitting across from one another on the cushioned seats of the passenger compartment.  They both lifted their heads and smiled at their friend when he arrived.  He didn’t close the doors behind him but instead left them open.  After all, there was one of them who was still missing.  In anticipation for her arrival, James took the last window seat beside his cousin, Fred Weasley the second.  The two were only a few months apart in age, but you would think they had once shared a womb for how alike they were in manner if not necessarily appearance.  They bumped shoulders as James slipped off the strap of his book bag and made himself comfortable.  Leaning back, he propped his feet upon the armrest of the occupied spot across from him, folding his hands across his middle. 

“So, what are we talking about?” James asked his mates with a cat-like smirk. 

“Quidditch.” Fred answered easily. 

“Again?” James complained, pulling a face.  “You’ve got to get out of your head, mate.”  He went on, looking to the boy across from him, Asher Wood.  “You do this every year.  You’re thinking about it too much.”

“That’s easy for you to say,” Asher returned moodily.  “You made the team First Year.  You’re a natural like your dad…” His voice trailed off as he crossed his arms over his chest and looked out the window with a frown. 

“Me?”  James retorted with a quirked brow.  “My dad isn’t the Captain of the Scottish National Team.” There was a laugh in his voice as he nudged at Asher’s knee with his foot, prodding forth a bright, quick grin from his friend, which was enough for now. 

“Then why aren’t I any good?” Asher whined, the smile lingering in his eyes. 

“You’re plenty good,” Fred assured his friend.  “It’s like James said, you’re just overthinking it.”

“You’ve been practicing all summer, Wood.” James reminded him, joining his cousin in their shared efforts to cheer up their best mate.  “This is the year, I’m sure of it.”

They might have gone on to provide further reassurance to their friend, but they were interrupted by the presence of the fourth and final member of their little Gryffindor clique. Bright orange curls bounced around Lucy Weasley’s round face as she ducked into the passenger compartment.  She held a book in her hands, likely getting a jumpstart on the Year’s assigned reading, and wore a pleasant, measured smile on her face.  As always, she looked like a girl on a mission.  As always, she wasted no time, skipping straight over pleasantries to boss around the boys. 

“There you are.” Lucy said, bringing her hands to her hips as she fixed her cousin James with her gaze.  “Hugo gave you a Fanged Frisbee to put in your bag and now he’s looking for it.” 

“Why?” James asked, still slouched in his seat. 

“He insists he just wants to show it off to his friends, but only because I told him that aerial-apparators aren’t allowed on the train.” She explained as she set down her book and bags.

“Well, then he can wait until we get to the school.” James returned with a shrug. 

“They aren’t allowed at school either.” Pausing in her efforts as she shuffled about her possessions in the overhead bins, she turned to her cousin and tisked at him, shaking her head.  “You should know that, James.  You’re a Prefect.”

“Why bother learning the rules when I have you to remind me of them?” He joked in return, a charming toothy grin painted across a sarcastic sneer. 

Lucy sneered right back before turning away from her friends to slide the doors of their passenger compartment closed.  As she did, a hand slipped between the threshold, holding the handle as a new face stepped into view.  It wasn’t a new face, at least not really, but certainly a different one.  With a compassionate pressing of her lips, Lucy told the classmate before her, “I’m sorry, here’s all full.”

“My mistake,” she replied quietly as pretty blue eyes flicked to the leggy, reclining boy spread out across both sides of the compartment.  As James met her wandering gaze, sitting up in his seat, a distantly calling voice pulled the river-teal pools of her eyes from his, following the sound of squeaking, rolling wheels.

“Anything off the trolley, dears?”

The pretty stranger stepped away from the door, allowing Lucy to slide it shut as she continued along the length of the car.  For a while, no one said anything.  As Lucy took her seat and straightened out her skirt, she looked up at her friends to see all three of them watching after the closed compartment door with slack jaws and vacant stares.  She looked between her three friends before reaching across the middle and snapping her fingers in her cousin’s face across from her.  Fred blinked and rubbed at his eyes, knocking elbows with James, who stirred and kicked at Asher across from him.  With the spell broken, the boys were now looking to each other, already knowing that they were each thinking the same thing.  Thick as thieves, they all shared one brain and that brain was rolling her eyes at her friends as she reached for her book, returning to the comfort of it’s pages. 

“Who was that?” Asher asked, the first to break the silence. 

“That was Nimue Brooks.” James answered at once. 

“Wha?” Fred asked, looking to his cousin with a furrowed brow.  “That was Nutty Nim?” Fred pressed in disbelief. 

“Looks like the summer was better to some of us than others.” Lucy noted, the irritation in her voice the same every time the boys started talking about girls.  “Can we not start on this?” She pleaded, her brows folding together.  “What were you talking about before?”

“Quidditch.” Asher answered.

“Blimey, Wood.  Again?”

King Kade - Reigning from the North

Character limits kill my vibe...

Offline Reigning King

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The Great Hall in Hogwarts Castle was filled, as always, with the noisy cacophony of children talking and laughing over their supper meals.  The spread was traditional as with every Welcome Feast.  With the First Years sorted into their respective Houses, relieved of the nervous knots in their stomachs, it was time for hungry children to eat.  They always ate too much the first night, not realizing that at Hogwarts there is always more than enough to go around.  This year, especially, was an exciting one.  Few students had missed the giant elephant or his intimidating, long tusks stomping about the school grounds.  If they had, then surely they had noticed the airship hovering over the Black Lake and the resplendent, glowing red balloon that held it aloft.  At any rate, those who did or didn’t  were all being informed of such wonders now, particularly by those who had astutely observed not only such formidable steeds but the caravan of students they were each towing. 

The announcement came when it was expected, sharing information with the larger group who had gossiped across their plates enough to know what their Headmistress would say before she said it.  Professor Minerva McGonagall rose from her seat at the head table and approached the podium at the front of the hall.  Her pointed hat was positioned just so atop her head, not a stitch of her elegant robes out of place.  It was hard to tell just how old Professor McGonagall was, but she was old enough to have taught Transfiguration at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to this particular litter of students as well as their parents, and their parents before them.  If she was aging at all, she was doing so with the utmost grace.  With all the poise of her years, she looked over her shoulder to Professor Knotts who nodded to his superior before raising his glass and tapping his wand against its edge.  The tinkling noise that echoed from the Charms Professor’s wand spread across the Great Hall and resonated in each student’s ear, easing them steadily into a hush.  Only once the silence was so absolute that Headmistress McGonagall wasn’t made to raise her voice, did she finally speak. 

“Another September at Hogwarts, another start to the new school year.” She had the cadence of a politician, the sort of manner which belonged at the head of the room, her words heard over the noise of all others.  “But this one, will be different from any other for all of you.”  With a subtle gesture, the Headmistress waved her wand.  At her muted incantation, the floor before the podium opened up into a silvery-blue pool from which a decorous tower of plated gold began to rise.  “This year, Hogwarts has been chosen by the International Magical Council to host the Triwizard Tournament, as one of three competing schools.”  Even as she spoke, the students for whom the words were meant had already started whispering as much to their peers who sat pressed against one another down the long hall. 

“Please join me in welcoming the students of Mahoutokoro School of Magic and their Headmaster, Kocho Rector Isamu.”  As Headmistress McGonagall spoke, she gestured towards the far end of the Great Hall where the doors swung open on a heavy gust of wind that carried with it soft, pink cherry blossoms.  For a moment, the room fell into a stillness inspired by wonder, until the students of Mahoutokoro, one of the oldest of the Great Wizarding Schools, flooded through the doors and tranquility gave way to thrill.  The Japanese students of magical learning poured into the Great Hall, the ones in front wielding katana swords and the ceremonial garb to match.  They swung the blades of their weapons with expert precision at the floating blossoms, which burned up into leaves of licking orange flames with each touch of their sacred steel.  The humble population of Hogwarts pupils reeled back at the display, gasping and oo-ing at the impressive performance.  As they reached the top of their march they swept past the head table as they gathered instead around an empty one that had appeared next to House Slytherin on one side of the hall.  Headmaster Asu Isamu paused before the podium to bow respectfully to Headmistress McGonagall before joining his pupils. 

As Professor McGonagall held her arms out, the young faces that watched her eagerly turned to her with renewed interest, excited for what new marvel she would usher forth.  The applause that had chorused out for the students of Mahoutokoro fell faint as with a secret smile she said, “and to our friends from Uagadou School of Sorcery and their Headmaster, A Kimsingi Akingbade.” It was not children who entered the Great Hall next, but rather beasts.  Led by a large lion with a heavy mane, they sauntered into a sea of stunned curiosity and whispered fascination.  All manner of antelope, cheetah and even a lumbering rhino followed into the room after the handsome, regal lion who marked their path.  The fanged predator stopped before the Headmistress’ podium, a knowing twinkle in its eye that contradicted its bestial body.  Tilting back it’s head, the lion let out a roar.  At the sound, the various creatures within the Hall began to transfigure, changing into upperclassmen and teachers, the last of which to return to his corporeal form being the lion, Headmaster Babajide Akingbade.  He extended his arms and smiled up at Headmistress McGonagall as he climbed the steps of the dias to embrace her. 

“It is good to see you again, my friend.” Headmistress McGonagall whispered into the animagus’ ear.  He smiled at her with his broad, toothy grin as they pulled away from the coil of their tangled arms.  Headmaster Akingbade followed his transfiguring students to the empty table next to Hufflepuff House on the opposite side of the hall to the warriors from the Mahoutokoro School of Magic.

As the cheers for the animagi of Uagadou began to settle, the Headmistress of Hogwarts stepped around her podium, coming to stand beside the jewel-studded tower of gold that had risen from the floor of the Great Hall.  Clasping her hands and writhing them together in front her, she went on to tell her hall of children before her, “the Triwizard Tournament is not a game of sport, but a great honour.  Not only for the winning school, but for their champion as well.”  Pulling her wand from her sleeve, she tapped against the unyielding tower, making the gold melt away to reveal a stone goblet from which cerulean-blue flames climbed.  “If you should wish to put forth your name for the tournament, you must write it upon a piece of parchment and place it within the Goblet of Fire before this hour on Thursday night.” The chorusing of children's whispers picked up throughout the hall as students talked excitedly with their peers about the prospect of eternal glory.  When their Headmistress deigned to raise her voice at her next words, they fell quiet once again to listen. 

“I will implore you not to enter your name without careful consideration. The Triwizard Cup is among the highest esteem, kept by the winning school for three years, as a reminder of their excellence.  However, such victory is only achieved by conquering three tasks which are known to be… dangerous.”  Looking out across the keen young faces that beamed back at her, Professor McGonagall couldn’t help but find a familiar pair of brown eyes in the crowd.  She knew those eyes; they were his mother’s.  There was enough of his father in him, that much was certain, but his eyes belonged to the sweet, freckle faced student Headmistress McGonagall had taught as a girl and then fought alongside as a woman.  Within herself, secretly, she willed him not to do that which she knew he would. 

“Have heart and protect each other.” Headmistress McGonagall told her students.  “As of this moment, the Triwizard Tournament has begun.” As the collective anticipation within the Great Hall erupted into a riotous ovation, three Gryffindor boys leaned in close to hear each other over the noise. 

“Can’t do it right away, they’ll be too many people…” Asher Wood muttered to his friends, shoulder to shoulder with James. 

“Later tonight?” Fred Weasley suggested, leaning across the table with the end of his tie dangling in the pudding. 

“Prefect.” James said lamely, lifting a finger to answer the question that his mates hadn’t thought to ask.  “I have to read the First Years a bedtime story and tuck them in.” He pointed out sarcastically.

“Tomorrow, then.” Asher suggested next. 

“You lot aren’t really thinking of entering that tournament, are you?” Lucy asked, leaning in next to Fred, though being careful not to drag her robes through their dinner. 

“Of course we are.” James answered back obviously, with a shrug and a slight shake of his head. 

“It’s just about when to do it,” Fred explained, propping himself with one hand against the table so that he could better face Lucy.  “See, because you don’t want to go when it’s crowded, but you also don’t want to go when it’s not.  Best to have a bit of an audience, right?” The grin Fred wore as he explained his logic to his cousin was not shared by Lucy, who looked on at her three, silly friends with an unimpressed roll of her eyes. 

“I don’t think it’s a good idea.” She groaned.  “It’s really dangerous.  A girl died in the tournament before last, six years ago.”

“Well, then you’ll finally be rid of one of us.” Asher said in a joking tone, picking at the food that had gone cold in his plate.

“That isn’t funny, Wood.” Lucy returned bitterly.  “I’m being serious.”

“Uncle Harry won and he was only in Al’s year when he did it.”  Fred countered cleverly.  “I mean, if he can do it…”

“Yeah, Uncle Harry won… and someone died, Fred.” She pointed out incredulously.  “I think you’re missing the point.”  Since she seemed rather unwilling to be swayed, James took it upon himself to comfort his cousin, ever the calming breeze to the raging storm. 

James’ hand found Lucy’s and patted it gently in the way his grandmother always did with all her grandchildren.  It was one of their favourite things about the wrinkled, wizened woman.  James hoped it had also become one of his cousins’ favourite things about him.  He waited until her eyes met his before telling her, “there’s hundreds of students, the chances of one of us getting picked are slim.”

“It’ll be one of us, I can tell.” Fred quipped stubbornly.

“And how’s that, Fred?  You can see the future?” James asked.

“Maybe,” he said back at once.  “I’m just sayin’ that I’ve got a feeling.”

Moving his hand from Lucy’s to the bowl of pudding in the middle of the table, he plucked Fred’s tie from the mixture and slapped the slippery dessert against his forehead.  Fred fell backwards in his chair as the cousins around him chorused taunting fits of laughter.  Grinning from ear to ear, James asked, “and what about that?  Did you have a feeling about that?”  Though Fred pouted and grumbled, even as his sister reached for his face to smear sticky, sweet custard into his hair, he was laughing right along with them.  Fred was always good for a laugh.  The important thing was that Lucy wasn’t worrying anymore, or at least she was doing so more quietly. 

“Besides, even if one of us was picked,” he continued, their heads still leaned in close together.  “We would have you in our corner, which means we’d stand a better chance than anybody.” James found his cousin’s eyes and gave her a smile, the same smile he had always given her from the time they were very little.  There had never been a shortage of things to smile about in the glow of their golden childhood.

“Yes, I suppose you’re right.” Lucy said, returning James’ smile with one of her own. 

King Kade - Reigning from the North

Character limits kill my vibe...

Offline asterin

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Among the bustling families bidding their children goodbye, stuffing goods into bags last minute and squeezing in an extra hug and well-wishes, a lone figure slipped through and boarded the Hogwarts Express without a hint of fanfare. Even her luggage was minimal--a single black messenger bag hanging from her shoulder and a small suitcase in the other hand.

As she stepped through the corridors, her blue eyes wandered out the windows, sweeping over the sight of parents waving to their children. It was the only send-off she’d ever known, from the first day she’d stepped through to Platform Nine and Three-Quarters. She remembered the grueling trip to the station, a mixture of taking a chain of trolleys and walking, dragging along a tattered suitcase with a bad wheel, and yet so full of anticipation that she couldn’t be deterred. Over the years, however, her enthusiasm when it came to the Hogwarts Express had withered up. After all, whether it was taking her to or from Hogwarts, there hadn’t been anything good for her to look forward to. Still, she’d always preferred being Hogwarts-bound than homeward by an overwhelming margin.

The last time she had boarded the train heading towards London, she had been filled with the familiar sense of dread. In a similar scene merely in reverse, small children had rushed off the Hogwarts Express, yelling farewells to their schoolmates as they rushed off into their parents’ arms. Older children had followed at a distance, keeping their pace casual so as to keep their precious dignity intact. Still, when they reached the sides of their families, they were pulled into tight embraces and hearty pats on the back, welcomed home for a few precious months before they would have to leave again.

Of course, what were a few, precious short months for the others always had felt like an eternity for the teenage girl.

As usual, she had been the last student off the train, her dark lined eyes kept downcast as she heaved her luggage after her. Unlike the others, she hadn’t looked around as she shuffled off, making her way towards the exit with a contradictory mixture of briskness and reluctance. If she didn’t hurry, she would miss the trolley and be forced to wait an hour at the station for the next one. At the same time, missing the trolley meant that she didn’t have to go back to that house for another hour. Just as she had been debating the mirthless conundrum, what was an unmistakably familiar voice had called out to her.

“Nimue! There you are.”

Doubting her ears, the girl had turned, a rare, disbelieving smile spreading on her lips. “Morgana?” she’d uttered, looking upon the raven-haired woman who had walked up to her. “What...what are you doing here?” It’d been unlike her to show up expectedly--their first couple of meetings had been more random, but by then Nimue had known when to expect her.

“I’m here to pick you up, of course,” Morgana had explained oh-so-easily, her smile wide. “What do you say to spending the summer with me and my family?”

Despite the way her own lips had started to spread into a matching grin, Nim had still hesitated. “ grandmother…”

“It’s all sorted out for now--I’ll explain in the car.” The older woman had given her a wink as she linked her arm through hers, and this time, Nimue had let out a laugh of astonishment and relief. Despite having studied magic for the entire school year, that moment itself had felt more magical than any other. What she hadn’t known at the time, however, was that that moment had only been a taste of what was to come.

For the first time, she’d almost wished that the summer would never end--and yet, the feeling that welled up from deep within her now was not reluctance, dread, or even the weary knowing that she had grown accustomed to harboring. It wasn’t because she imagined that the taunting and the bullying would miraculously stop, no, but because for the first time, she knew they were wrong. She had a place at Hogwarts just like any of them, and despite what she had been told for five long years, she had a rightful place in Slytherin. She knew where her place was now, she knew who she was and what she was meant to become. And it all started now.

As she picked her way through the aisle, she kept her eye out for a certain group. They were never difficult to spot, what with them always crowded together and usually a little boisterous to boot--and yet, none of them came into view. What she did see, however, were two others she often looked for.

The two fourth-year boys sat close to the window in the compartment, together as usual. Unfortunately--and somewhat predictably, they weren’t alone. Three other fourth year boys were in there with them, Gryffindors by the look of it, though they weren’t present to have a friendly little chat or share snacks. “Thought you’d finally given it up, Squib,” one boy taunted, sneering at the dark-haired boy who held his tongue. “I guess daddy bribed your way through for another year, eh?” When the blond boy looked up, eyes flashing angrily in defense of his friend, the jeering went his way.

“Oh, wot’s this? Got somethin’ to say?” another boy crowed, looking at his friends with mock excitement as he leaned in close to the pale-haired boy. “Mates, he’s got something to say!”

She threw the door open in a sharp movement, sending the door sliding and banging loudly against the frame. All of the boys jumped, and the three whirled around to see who was standing there. “You lads best leave,” she uttered simply. The three Gryffindor boys looked from her to each, their expression a mixture of resentment and confusion. She could practically hear the gears in their heads spinning furiously as they tried to figure out why she seemed so familiar--but Albus didn’t need much time at all to recognize her.

“Nim,” he breathed, breaking the spell.

The bullies gave a start, at once realizing that the older student in front of them was indeed the third Slytherin outcast. “It’s Nutty Nim!” one hissed, and the boys tumbled out of the compartment one by one, calling back empty taunts and threats as they rushed down the aisle. She didn’t watch them go, stepping inside the compartment and sliding the door shut before she slouched down into the seat next to Albus, propping her feet up on the cushions of the bench across from her.

“Thanks for that,” Scorpius began, a hint of an apology in his voice, to which the girl only raised and dropped a shoulder. “But blimey, you look so different, I barely recognized you,” he chattered blithely, the relief apparent in the way his posture drooped.

She cocked her head at the remark, turning her piercing blue eyes his way. “Is that an insult, Malfoy?” she tossed back tartly. Instantly, he stiffened with panic as he scrambled to explain.

“N-no, I only meant that you look nice!” Desperately, he turned to his best friend for support. “Doesn’t she look nice, Albus?” Albus too froze up for a moment, only to level a glare back at the blond boy, knocking his foot sharply against his.

“Don’t get your knickers in a twist, I’m just joking with you,” she remarked playfully, an amused curl at the corner of her lips. Scorpius let out a sigh of relief, returning her sharp smile with a wide one. The Malfoy boy was in ill-fitting robes as usual--in the start of his third year, he had practically swam in his robes, but now, a year later, it was clear that the same robes were growing a bit short. Of course, Nim had been in the very same boat until this moment, where she presently sat wearing brand new robes that weren’t too loose or tight or patched up. She understood the vague stench of shame that came along with every single one of those second-hand robes, but she also understood how much more the pity stung. So she turned to Albus, changing the subject before her chance could float away. “Surprised your brother didn’t keep the Gryffindors out of your hair,” she commented. “I assume he’s around.”

“You know how my cousins are. They’re always running late. He’s prolly still on the platform waiting for them,” he muttered, jerking his chin towards the platform outside.

“Ah,” she uttered the sound, casually glancing out the window. It was just then, however, that she saw the unmistakable cluster of gingers rushing towards the entrance of the express. With them, of course, was a certain dark-haired haired boy. She turned her gaze away and down to the purse at her side, rummaging through it--at first contemplatively, then more urgently, her brows furrowing. “Be right back, lads, I think I might’ve dropped something,” she uttered the excuse, leaving the younger boys behind as she stepped out of their compartment and hurried down the aisle.

Of course, she hadn’t dropped anything. It was just a convenient excuse to loop back down along the train’s length, once more in pursuit of the group she was looking for.

After all, she had an impression to make.

The Welcome Feast was as extravagant as ever. The new First-Years were wolfing down the food, as was to be expected--but what was not to be expected was Nim’s absence from their hungry ranks. It was known that Nimue, despite her attempts to be discreet, often ate portions that would’ve suited a first-year’s awe than someone who knew what the Welcome Feast was like. Luckily for her, it seemed that all the excitement that surrounded the Triwizard Tournament allowed such details to slip by relatively unnoticed. As the two foreign wizarding schools made their entrances and Headmistress McGonagall began the speech regarding the tournament, every student watched on with rapt attention, breaths held in excitement. Nimue too looked on with keen interest, just like the rest, but her thoughts lay in a slightly different trajectory.

Then again, perhaps it was not any different than the thoughts running through all those who dreamt of entering their names into the drawing, hoping for the honor and glory of representing their school and possibly winning the Cup. As the hall erupted into thunderous applause, her blue gaze flicked to the Gryffindor table all the way across the hall. It wasn’t easy to see with the distance, but she could make out the sight of a certain group of boys with their heads bent close in conspiracy. Of course, he was going to enter the drawing--and he would be chosen, just like his father before him. He would make a mark in history, but so would she.

The sound of whispers and giggles caught her ear, and she brushed away her thoughts for a moment, turning to a familiar sight: Dahlia Parkinson, Lucerne Greytwig, and Rowan Crow sitting together, shooting furtive glances her way with insufferable smirks painted on their pretty faces. “Does she think that a new set of robes and a makeover can change what she is?” Lucerne remarked, her words in a purposefully loud whisper.

“Maybe her muggle family finally stumbled into some money,” Dahlia ‘whispered’ back, and the trio watched her in gleeful anticipation. She knew what they were expecting from her--an angry glower, a quick turn of the head back away, as she tried to ignore their little insults. Instead, she met their gazes steadily, and then--she smiled mockingly, her eyes dancing with genuine amusement. As their smug expressions turned into annoyance, she looked away, the very picture of calm confidence. Let them talk. They didn’t know a thing. Her fingers curled around the wand in her pocket, though it wasn’t out of frustration or anger.

“It’s yours,” Morgana had told her, her eyes aglow with conviction as the wand had floated from its velvet inlaid box, settling into Nimue’s hands just so. “It always was meant to be yours. It’s your birthright.”

Truly, she felt it to be so. The wand seemed to sing to her, the core within it leaping to life at her touch, speaking to her in a way her first wand had never done. Welcome home, it seemed to croon, I’ve been waiting for you, and Nim knew that somewhere, a part of her had been waiting, too. The task awaiting her, the things that were expected of her now--they were not going to be easy, but with her new partner at her side, she knew she would not fail.

The feast carried on into the evening, but when at last desserts were finished and the first years had tired themselves out, the students of each House were dismissed, the prefects keeping a mindful eye on the first years. She trailed the young students, eager to be out of the hustle and bustle. While the shared dormitory wouldn’t necessarily be a quieter place, the sooner she got to it, the more time she would have to herself.

However, she made her way towards the stone wall that would reveal their common room, she caught sight of a certain student hiding from view--or at least, he seemed to think he was hiding from view. She glanced about--no one else seemed to have noticed. The first years were too excited or exhausted, while the prefects were busy keeping them under control. Of course, once the main group of students came, it wouldn’t take long before someone to pick up on the fact that a Gryffindor was in their midst.

Quietly, Nimue discreetly crept up to the intruder, crossing her arms above her chest. “Well, well, I didn’t know that the Gryffindors were lending us a prefect,” she began. Before he could blurt out an excuse, she took a hold of his sleeve, pulling him a little more securely behind the pillar. There was no use in telling him that he shouldn’t be here--he knew that well enough. If anything, as a non-Slytherin student, he wasn’t supposed to even know where the Common Room was located. Not that she was surprised, of course--seeing that James Sirius Potter was Albus’ older brother. Despite being the same year and in quite a few classes together, they’d never been friends--no, he was always galavanting with his cousins and choice friends, most of them all Gryffindors. Still, they were far from strangers, most often meeting over the plight of his younger brother, maintaining a curious quid-pro-quo relationship. Well, this year, things were going to be different between them--that much was decided. “Looking for your Al, as usual?” she asked, though the answer was clear enough. She glanced at the stream of students a moment before she looked back at the other sixth-year. “He’ll be along soon, but you really oughtn’t stick around,” she remarked, giving him a meaningful look. “I’ll pass on a message, if you want.”

.。*゚+.*.。bury me in the stars +..。*゚☾+

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The dungeons of Hogwarts Castle were a dreary place on the best of days.  Unlike Ravenclaw House, whose common rooms were in the Astronomy Tower, or Hufflepuff House, next to the kitchens, the Slytherin House common rooms were found in the belly of the castle.  Beneath the Black Lake, a labyrinthian collection of catacombs connected to the school.  It was here that Salazar Slytherin famously chose to board his choice students.  It was a place that rarely saw anyone save for Slytherin students and those others looking to pick a fight with them.  One such exception to this rule, lingered amidst the pillars which held the underbelly of the lake above aloft.  Though his vantage point was relatively discrete, the intensity with which he scanned the passing faces was not.  In fact, the out-of-place Gryffindor student was so distracted in his endeavor, he hadn’t noticed the snake slithering up to his back behind him. 

“Well, well…” she began in a melodiously coy tone. James turned around sharply at the sound, not recognizing the voice but recognizing the girl to whom it belonged.  Nimue Brooks, or as she was better known by her peers, Nutty Nim.  She had approached him before but never so brazenly.  When she tugged him behind a pillar by his sleeve, he could do little else than permit himself to be dragged along at her will.  It was the closest she had ever come to touching him in the years they had been classmates, and for the briefest of moments, James forgot how to breathe. 

“Looking for your Al, as usual?” Nim asked, and James only nodded mutely in return.  She knew of course, like everyone else did, that Albus was James' younger brother.  In the times when he needed it most, she had been there to protect him on more than one occasion.  For that, he was grateful to her and showed her the kindness that so few others did.  However, there had always been rules to their engagement, unspoken laws written into the stone of their youth.  He liked her well enough, but kept to the strict code of their acquaintanceship.  The way she spoke with him now was a clear violation of that contract.  Yet, James found that he was glad for it. 

“I’ll pass along a message, if you want.” She went on, speaking more words to her Gryffindor classmate in just a few minutes than in their five years of knowing each other. 

“Uh, yeah…” he started, stumbling over his own tongue.  “Okay, just tell him not to forget to write a letter to mum.”  Nimue nodded at his words, but it wasn’t until she met his gaze again and lifted her brows expectantly that James realized he had been staring.  Bashfully, he looked down at his feet and scratched at his hair nervously.  Without the dark kohl lining her eyes, the blue of their shine was more resplendent than James had remembered.  When she turned from him, starting towards the Slytherin common rooms, he found his feet carrying him after her. 

“Wait!” He called.  As she turned around he offered her a shy, crooked smile as he asked, “would you do me a favour?” When she squared herself to him and lifted her chin invitingly, he went on asking, “would you try to convince him not to put his name into that bloody Goblet?” There was a laugh on his voice that carried his words forth to her, and the quirk of his lip was returned with one from Nimue in equal measure.  Once more, she nodded. 

“Thanks,” James said to her. 

“Don’t mention it.”

True to typical fashion, James arrived late for his morning class on the first day of school.  Having received a thorough tongue-lashing from Lucy upon returning to the Gryffindor Common Room the night before about the responsibilities of a Prefect, he had felt obligated to make himself useful this morning.  More from guilt than charity, James Potter had gotten an early start to the day making sure that the First Year students of his House found their way to their first class, which in turn made James late for his own.  Racing down the halls, his feet thundered against the stone floor of the Hogwarts corridors, his book bag flying behind him off one skinny shoulder.  His feet skidded to a halt a few strides before the doors to the Greenhouse and the Herbology class that was already underway within.  Taking a moment to steady his laboured breathing and straighten his messy robes, he entered the classroom and slipped into the open seat next to his cousin while the Professor’s back was turned.  Fred shot him a smile as he watched James get settled.  Looking around the room, he pulled out his quill and parchment like everyone else, electing to borrow from Fred’s ink-pot instead of pulling out his own for the sake of catching up quickly. 

“Good of you to join us, Mr. Potter.” Professor Longbottom said from the front of the class, turning away from the blackboard and twisting a piece of chalk in his fingers.  There were many teachers among the staff at Hogwarts who were strict and even disciplinarian in their manner with the students.  Professor Neville Longbottom was not one of those teachers.  He was dressed in attire more befitting a lesson of a theoretical nature on this day, but his pupils knew that this was just a first-day-formality.  For now, the Herbology Professor only had one twitching plant tucked in his breast pocket and only a bit of dirt on the knees of his trousers.  As the days and weeks went on, that would surely change.  Fortunately for James, his laid-back attitude towards his attire also extended towards the punctuality of his students. 

“We’re taking notes on properties of magical plants at the moment,” he explained helpfully as he offered James a patient smile meant for him alone.  “Start from here and borrow the notes from the top of the class from Ms. Weasley,” he suggested, gesturing to the blackboard. 

“Thank you, Professor.” James said, words rushed.  “I’m sorry I was just…”

“You can tell me all about it later, over tea.” Professor Longbottom told him, interrupting him with that same patient smile.  “Yes?” He pressed when James did not immediately respond. 

“Yes, Professor.” James parroted in a low voice, feeling the heat crawling up his neck as his peers turned to cast their scornful or mocking gazes in his direction.   Something else that Professor Longbottom was particularly casual about, was the blatant favouritism that he so openly displayed for his friend’s son.  James turned his eyes down to his notes, brown hues only flicking up to the blackboard as Professor Longbottom wrote out the white, chalk words, avoiding all others that might be looking his way. 

“By the way,” a voice said from beside James, distracting him.  “He means Lucy.” She told him, leaning across the aisle that separated their desks.  Straight, flowing red hair cascaded down her shoulder and she tossed it behind her with an elegant wave of her hand as she smirked at her cousin and gestured towards the front of the classroom where her other cousin, Lucy Wesley, sat beside Asher.

“Thanks, Nic.” James said quietly to his cousin.  Most of the students in the Greenhouse were chatting amongst themselves at a low volume.  Professor Longbottom didn’t mind if the children in his classroom talked, so long as they copied the notes.  “I can always count on you,” he added with a sarcastic jeer.

“You know, none of the Ravenclaw First Years got lost this morning.” She went on, looking down her nose at her cousin and fellow Prefect.  “Most of them didn’t even need my help.”

“Is there a point to this, or are you just trying to make me feel bad?” James asked, eyes on the blackboard so as to keep up with Professor Longbottom’s quick short-hand scrawl.  When he looked back to his cousin across the aisle from him, her glowing gaze was still upon him.  Her quill moved before her hands, which were crossed over her chest, of its own accord, keeping up with the notes.  It was a trick she refused to teach any of her cousins or friends, one that few Professors allowed. 

“What?” James pressed upon noticing her stare. 

“Does Longbottom give your extra credit work when you take tea?” She asked. 

“What? No.” James replied incredulously. 

“Does he help you study, or give you practice tests?” She interrogated further. 

“He’s one of my dad’s mates, we just talk about school and quidditch and stuff...” James explained quickly, without stopping to wonder why he felt so obliged to explain himself at all.  “What are you on about?” He asked her. 

“Last year, Longbottom’s class was the only one I didn’t score perfect.” The red-haired Ravenclaw said, her shoulders relaxing and her stare becoming more soft.  Dominique Weasley was a curious blend between a person who never had to try to want for anything and someone who tried too hard and wanted too much.  Here, in the hallowed halls of Hogwarts, she always kept her cousin at arms length.  He accepted her clever jabs and snide smirks, allowing her to pretend as if she didn’t insist on sitting next to James at every Christmas with their grandparents. 

“Well, I don’t have a perfect score…” James pointed out. 

“True, but you’re an idiot.” Dominique reminded him in a condescending tone. James pretended to laugh and opened his mouth to say something he thought was clever, but he wasn’t given the chance to get the words out.

“Freak!” One of the girls sitting in the desk row behind Dominique hissed loudly.  She was turned all the way around in her chair, staring down the girl who sat behind her, Nimue Brooks.  It was loud enough to draw the attention of more than a few students sitting nearby.  As the two girls glared at one another, the Slytherin girl, one of Dominique’s friends, seemed to twitch, growing uncomfortable beneath Nimue’s stare.  By contrast, the blue eyes that bore down on the fussy girl sitting in front of her only seemed to grow more and more intense. 

“Say something, Nic.” James instructed his cousin, reaching across the aisle to nudge her in the shoulder.  “Say something, or I will.”

Rolling her eyes and sighing out loud, Dominique turned from her cousin and reached for her friend, choosing the lesser of two embarrassments.  “Let it go, Pipa,” she whispered to her Slytherin classmate as she tugged on the sleeve of the girl who sat behind her. 

“Something wrong, ladies?” Professor Longbottom called from the front of the classroom. 

As the girl turned away from her fellow student of Slytherin House, something in Nimue’s face seemed to change all at once.  Like the flipping of a switch, or the breaking of a spell, her deadly expression suddenly fell slack.  In a voice that was at once too calm and too pleasant she said, “fine, thank you.”  As though nothing had happened at all, she went back to her notes, dipping her quill in the black ink at the corner of her desk.  The strange girl went back to her schoolwork and the peers that surrounded her eventually turned back to their own conversations, all but one.  James watched on, curiosity furrowing his brow.  Her brown hair was no longer kept in messy braids but instead smooth and wound into an elegant plait across the crown of her head with careful intention.  Black liner no longer ringed her eyes in careless strokes, but instead rouge was dusted with calculated liberty upon her cheeks and lips, decorating her porcelain skin.  The clothes she wore were not tatty and dirty but new and pristine.  She was no longer the type of girl to look down at her feet but instead meet the eye of those who dared to address her.  Whatever had happened in her mysterious world over the summer, it had left her different in more ways than one.  So much so in fact, that it was hard to see the girl she used to be from behind the shine of such pretty pageantry.  It was a shame, really.  After all, James had taken quite a shine to Nimue Brooks in their Third Year.  It was with only a passing disappointment that he observed that the girl he had once known might be gone for good. 

“Bit of a rocket now, isn’t she?” Fred remarked, leaning in elbow to elbow with his cousin.  “In a scary sort of way.”

“I guess she’s changed.” James agreed passively, turning his attention back to his Herbology notes. 

“Nutty Nim,” Fred muttered as he turned back in his seat, squaring himself to his schoolwork like his cousin.  “Who’d have thought.”

“Yeah, who’d have thought.”

As class ended and the students began filing out of the room, James made sure to catch up with Nimue in the corridor.  She didn’t really have any friends in their Year and so she never had a reason to wait around, always the first out the door and on her way to her next class.  She turned at the sound of his approaching feet as he asked, “hey, you alright?” The answer she gave him was the sort that he had expected.  They both knew he was just trying to be nice.  That’s all James was ever trying to do. 

“Do you know if Al…” He didn’t even get the chance to finish his question before she was answering him. 

“Divination.” Nimue told him. 

“Thanks,” James said. 

“Don’t mention it.” Nimue replied. 

King Kade - Reigning from the North

Character limits kill my vibe...

Offline Reigning King

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Climbing the winding staircase up the North Tower to the Divination classroom.  It only took a few questions to a few Fourth Year students, his cousin Rose among them, to be pointed in his brother’s direction.  He found Albus out on the battlements of the tower, sitting along it’s ledge with notebook and pen in his hand.  Walking over to him, James stopped a few paces away from where his brother was perched and slipped his hands into his pockets.  Albus didn’t look up from his paper but continued to write before scratching at the words and tearing the page from where it was bound with the others.  Sighing, he crumpled it up and shoved it into a stray pocket of his school bag which had a few more folded and wrinkled pieces of parchment, earlier drafts.  With a little smile that tickled the corner of his mouth, James watched his little brother as he continued to ignore him, taking his pen to the page once more. 

“Is that the letter for mum?” James asked. 

“Yes.” Albus answered moodily. 

“You know it doesn’t have to be anything special,” James reminded Albus, taking a cautious step towards him.  “She just likes to know we made it to school safe.”

“I’ll just send another owl.” He suggested, waving a dismissive hand at his older brother. 

“You know dad will only take letters from Alas.” James said, his tone unyielding but patient all the same. 

“You’re damn owl always pecks at my letters.” He countered, finally lifting his gaze to his brother with a look like he was ready to fight. 

“Well, once we get Thorn a set of wings we won’t have to worry about it.” Stepping forward to close the space between them, James reached out a hand for Albus’ bent knees and the horned lizard that rested upon them.  Usually, Albus’ pet was kept in the inner pockets of his robes but like its master, the reptilian companion did enjoy a good breeze.  James turned over his hand and dragged his knuckles gently along the many pointy, horned ridges along the lizard’s back.  “I’ll wait while you write.” He said, stepping around the pillared points of the stone tower, sitting against the edge of the alcove next to Albus.  “Keep it short, you can always write her another letter later.” James instructed as he made himself comfortable, leaning his elbows against his knees so that he could still watch his younger brother beside him. 

They sat in silence together for a time before James spoke up again, asking, “so, are you thinking about entering your name for the Tournament?”

“Can you imagine that?” Albus asked in return, a sarcastic snorting laugh accompanying his words.  “The Slytherin Squib, Triwizard Champion…” He looked up from his letter to meet his brother’s gaze, only to find that James wasn’t laughing but rather studying his brother with concern in his round, brown eyes.  “I’m not entering.” Albus told him, the laugh falling from his voice and replaced instead with his usual gloomy cadence.  “I’m not stupid enough for that.  Though, I expect you and your friends are.”

“That’s fair.” James replied with a nod, looking down at the stone floor between his knees.  After all, entering the Tournament, especially after hearing the stories their father had told them of his own experience, was both stupid and reckless.   

“You’ll probably be picked too, no doubt.” Albus remarked, a note of inexplicable jealousy in his whiny voice. 

“What makes you say that?” James asked. 

“Famous, Potter.” He spat mockingly.  “Of course, it’ll be you.”

“You’re a Potter too, you know.” James reminded his little brother. 

“Not like you.” Albus pointed out quietly, setting aside his pen and ripping out the most recent page of his notebook.  Instead of crumpling the page in his hands, he held it out for his brother who rose from where he was seated to collect it from Albus’ pinched fingers.  With careful hands, James folded the page and tucked it away in his book bag before moving to help Albus gather up his things.  Taking his ink-pot in hand, he held the small jar beneath his nose for a moment before stoppering it.  Something that his brother did not fail to notice or remark upon, with a disgusted roll of his tongue.  “Yuck, how can you stand that?” He asked, taking the ink-pot from his older brother who stood above him and slipping it amongst his things.  “I hate the smell of ink.”

“Really?  I quite like it, actually.” James said in his naturally cheerful tone. 

“You’re a strange bird, Potter.” Albus noted as he hauled his book bag over his shoulder and found his feet beneath him. 

“That makes two of us, Potter.” James replied, a smile on his face, one that was very nearly returned. 

The Great Hall was just as Fred had predicted, crowded but not too crowded.  The tables had been stacked along the sides of the hall, benches arranged so that students might sit and watch their classmates enter their names into the Goblet of Fire.  It had become a place for the students of Hogwarts to congregate, gossiping or studying, taking quiet inventory of the classmates who made the march to the stone Goblet, casting their names into the blue flames.  They all gathered in groups, finding strength in their numbers or egging on the bravest members of their respective cliques.  One by one, students stepped up to the glowing, stone Goblet, a sort of subtle ceremony in each parchment cast into the cerulean fire.  When a particularly rowdy collection of Gryffindor boys entered the Great Hall, all eyes turned their way.  They were a rather notorious band of jokesters, members of the extensive Weasley-clan in both a familial and honorary sense.  They stepped up to the Goblet, all striding forward in pace with one another.  In their hands, they each held a slip of parchment upon which they had written their names. 

“Ready?” Fred asked his friends. 

“Together?” Asher suggested.

“Together.” James agreed. 

In unison, the three boys all stepped forward and raised their arms, dropping their names into the Goblet of Fire.  The ripped edges of their pages burned up, making the blue flames surge a little higher.  The Hogwarts students stumbled back on the same shared step, grinning from ear to ear and looking between each other.  The deed had been done.  They had officially put forth their names for the Triwizard Tournament.  For a moment they all stood still, watching the glowing light that emanated from the stone chalice.  It was left to fate now, though Fred still maintained his certainty that it would be one of them chosen as the Hogwarts Champion.  James was less convinced, doubting his cousin’s convictions.  After all, what were the chances?

“What do you think the first task will be?” Fred asked, the first to break the silence. 

“We’ve got more important things to worry about.” James pointed out, putting a hand upon Asher’s broad shoulder and giving the muscle a friendly squeeze. 

“Quidditch try-outs?” Asher guessed, turning to meet his friend’s smiling face. 

“Quidditch try-outs.” James confirmed. 

“We’ve still got a week,” Fred said next, putting a hand on Asher’s other shoulder.  “Let’s get you on the pitch first thing tomorrow.”

“Thanks, guys.” Asher said in a quiet voice, smiling at his friends as they turned and guided him from the Great Hall, each with a hand upon one of his shoulders. 

“Flint will run the drills from our practices, so we’ll go through them with you.” James explained as the boys sauntered from the Great Hall as gracelessly as they had entered. 

“We’ll be the ones running ‘em, so we’ll make sure to go easy on you.” Fred offered helpfully. 

“The trick is not to get distracted…”

“And keep to the position Flint gives you…”

“And try not to get in his way…”

“Or ours…”

King Kade - Reigning from the North

Character limits kill my vibe...

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Standing outside the heavy wooden door, the dark-haired girl rapped out against it in an impatient rhythm. After a few moments it was opened by a wide-eyed boy, Max Felide, whom she strode past and into the dorm room. “Guess who I saw earlier, prowling outside the entrance,” she started, announcing her presence to the two boys in the two beds in the far corner.

Scorpius looked up from the books he had been arranging, while Albus turned from the window that displayed the murky depths of the Black Lake, eyes narrowed. “No,” he spat the word under his breath, at once knowing exactly what she meant.

As they watched, Nim pitched backwards, allowing herself to hit the awaiting mattress of Albus’ bed. “Yes,” she confirmed as she looked up at him, smirking. The younger boy glowered, displeasure curling at his lips as he fidgeted with his hands. “He wanted to remind you to write a letter to your mum, so that he can send it along tomorrow,” she clarified.

“It’s not even the first day, and already he’s breathing down my neck,” Albus complained, stepping away from the window to pace along the length of his bed. “Write a letter? Nothing’s happened, what am I supposed to write?”

“Why don’t you write that, then?” Nimue quirked her brows, smiling slyly. “There’s nothing to write about, mum. Love, Al.”

“Yeah, that’ll go well,” the boy muttered darkly, before his tone turned more whining. “This is such a bloody pain.”

Scorpius, who was usually the first to comfort his friend, was very quiet, as he often was when it came to the subject of mothers. It hadn’t been much more than a year since his mother had passed away, finally succumbing to the curse that had been passed down in the Greengrass family. While Albus had attended the funeral and took care to support his friend when he needed it, at times he could be too wrapped up in his head to remember what might remind Scorpius of the hole in his life. Of course, the nature of how Nim felt about her lack of parents was different from the young Malfoy boy, she was plenty quick at recognizing the hurt that this subject could cause if it continued to be drawn out.

“Then why don’t you write about all the idiots clamoring to enter their names into the Goblet of Fire?” she remarked derisively, choosing to steer the conversation in a direction that would serve her needs and hopefully distract the boys at hand from their mothers. “I can’t imagine why anyone would be so foolish,” she scoffed.

“But it’d be such an honor, if you’re chosen to be a champion,” Scorpius spoke up immediately, as she had expected. “And if you win--”

“If, if, if,” Nimue interrupted, her tone sing-song. “I don’t like games of chance. Not only that, how bird-brained d’you have to be to risk your neck for a planned event in school?” she continued flippantly. “Everyone acts as if one has to make their mark in life here and now. We should have loftier goals, ambitions actually worth betting it all on--and some silly competition isn’t it.” She fixed Albus, who had been silent the whole exchange, with a look, her blue eyes boring into his. “Don’t you think so too?”

There was a moment of stillness before Albus’ conflicted expression settled. “Yeah,” he agreed with a note of finality, letting out a brooding sigh as he came to sit on the bed. His horned lizard scampered about on his shoulders, and she reached up to poke it playfully, though it appeared unamused by the prodding.

Scorpius, who she knew was not going to argue the subject further when the two other members of their trio were against him, also joined them on the bed, sitting cross-legged so he could scoop his tabby cat into his arms. For a while there was silence between the three, with only the sound of Pandora’s purring vibrating through the air. Then Scorpius spoke up, having noticed something amiss. “Where’s Emrys?” he inquired.

She took a breath, debating what to say for a moment. When the answer had come to her she turned to the boys, a strange smile playing on her lips. “Home,” she answered simply.

“Home?” Albus echoed, his brow furrowing. His confusion was understandable--after all, he knew what she thought of ‘home.’

“You heard me,” she rolled her eyes, sitting up before getting to her feet. Albus and Scorpius didn’t press the matter, knowing that Nim was not one to be persuaded into divulging things once she’d deemed them to be her little secret. “Alright, I’m off--I’m assuming that even you two aren’t dull enough to get lost tomorrow morning?”

“We know where we’re going,” the dark-haired boy snipped back with mock annoyance. “We’re fourth years now. No need to baby us.”

“Right,” she drawled, only to reach out and ruffle his hair into a mess. As he began his protests, she gave them one last smirk before leaving them be, leaving their dorm and heading off to her own room.

All conversation halted for a tense moment as she stepped through the door, four pairs of eyes landing almost accusingly on her. Instead of withering under their gazes, she brushed them off with an irreverent smile. “Don’t me mind me, girls,” she commented before she headed to her assigned bed and busied herself with putting away her things, ignoring their insistent stares. She wasn’t going to lose any sleep tonight, no. While Nim had never had any interest in Quidditch, common sense dictated that one should be well rested before a match--and well, whether anyone else knew it or not, the game was on.

True to a player who intended to succeed no matter what, Nimue rose early the next morning, making sure everything was in picture perfect place before she left the dorm room. While she had taken her own brand of care when it came to her appearance in the years prior, having taken a fancy to bold eyeliner and messy plaits, the look she was now going for was something quite different. When she stepped into the Greenhouse for her first class, her steps sure and back straight, she was the very picture of a young heiress. As she walked towards the desks towards the front of the room, her blue eyes flicked to the glass of the greenhouse, taking in the vague reflection of herself. With her poise and her hair pulled back and plaited up just so, she looked very much like her aunt. The thought brought a quick smile to her lips before she even realized it.

As Professor Longbottom gathered the attention of his students to his blackboard, Nim couldn’t help but steal a look around the room. He wasn’t here--but well, perhaps that was to be expected of him. Indeed, fifteen minutes into class, James Sirius Potter snuck into the room. It did not escape the girl’s notice, seeing that the only empty desk available was two rows in front of where she was seated, but neither did he manage to hide his absence from the professor, who only greeted him with a good natured familiarity.

While the other students were engaged in quiet, scattered conversation, Nim had not opened her mouth since class had started. This was nothing new, of course. The only people who might bother to make small talk with her were currently in Divination class. Seeing that their courses had never aligned, the dark-haired girl had never had much of a reason to whisper with classmates or send around charmed notes. Of course, there was always one form of interaction she could count on.

The girl seated in front of her, Pipa Starling, had spent the past five minutes trading petty comments about Nimue with the girl sitting next to her, Madeline Lee. When she’d grown quiet, it’d been enough of a warning for Nimue, who had suffered through her antics for more than a few years by now. It was a subtle movement at the corner of her eye--a slight twisting of the body, a hand sneakily drawing a wand--but this time, unlike all the times before, when Pipa turned with her wand in her grasp, a hand lashed out like a striking serpent, catching her wrist. Blue eyes glared up to meet startled brown ones, but before Pipa could hiss for her release, Nimue did just that, letting her go. “Go on, then, make your move,” Nim dared her, at first garnering a stunned expression from the girl which quickly turned to anger. Pipa’s lip curled with contempt, the grip on her wand tightening--but Nimue was not yet quite done speaking. “But once you do,” she continued, her eyes hard as she slipped her hand into the pocket of her robe, where her wand waited. “It’ll be my turn. We’ll see how much ill-intent I can muster for you, Starling,” she intoned menacingly, her gaze intent on the girl glowering at her.

“Freak!” Pipa snarled, jutting her chin at her, her wand clutched tight. Nim did not draw her wand, only goading her own with her chilling gaze. This wasn’t the first time Nim had glared at her. After all, it was all she’d really done whenever she’d been the target of her snide comments and petty jinxes. This time, however, the cutting light burning in her eyes held a real threat, and she saw something she could’ve never even imagined before--Pipa Starling, the proud Slytherin pureblood, seemed to shrink from under her gaze.

“Let it go, Pipa,” a whispered voice entered the fray--Dominique Weasley, tugging instantly at Pipa’s sleeve. Still, the girl resisted, her pride keeping her in place despite the unease that was clearly starting to fill her up.

When Professor Neville Longbottom called out to them, however, the Slytherin girl turned away quickly, loath to seem anything but the clever star student she liked to be seen as. Nimue, too, met the professor’s asking gaze with nothing short of a pleasant smile, as if Pipa had only been asking her for a spare quill. Then she went straight back to copying down the properties of fluxweed, pretending that she didn’t feel the eyes on her--a pair of which she knew belonged to a certain Potter.

The night sky was heavy with dark clouds as she crept down the halls. Periodically, through the paned glass she could glimpse dim flashes sparking in the midst of those clouds, crackles that had yet to form into lightning quite yet. It was easy to tell, however, that a storm was beginning to brew. That was perhaps the only thing she ever missed about that house--being able to fall asleep to the sound of raindrops tapping out their steady rhythm on the glass of her window. While the sounds of the lake were more than calming, it could not quite compare to the sounds of a storm. Growing up, she’d found that whenever it rained or stormed, she felt a little lighter; when the wind howled and the rain came pouring down, it would feel as if the elements were expressing all the things she could not. She could only hope that it would start to rain before she would have to sneak her way back into her bed, but for now, there were more important things for her to worry about.

The Library was still when she stepped inside--to be expected, as the hour was late. Still, she had no intentions of getting caught wandering when all students were meant to be in bed, and so she moved cautiously in the dark, taking note of her surroundings as she made her way to the great fire place. She stood before it, her gaze briefly flicking to the windows near her as a flash split the sky off in the distance. A crooked smile formed at her lips, but before she had the chance to wait for the next strike, the fireplace in front of her came to life, an image of her aunt’s head forming up out of it. “Aunt Morgana,” she greeted, a flush of warmth filling her at the foreign word. Aunt. She’d never once had the occasion to use it before this summer.

“Nimue, love,” came her familiar voice, lilting just so. “You’ve been well, I trust?”

She nodded, eager to see pride glinting in the older woman’s eyes. “Haven’t had a spell go haywire, even once.”

“That’s my girl. Didn’t I say that you shouldn’t doubt yourself?”

“You did,” she admitted, pausing before she returned a question of her own. “And Avalon?”

“Asleep, if she knows what’s good for her,” Morgana replied with mock severity, as if she suspected that her young daughter might yet be awake to eavesdrop.  “Again, I’m sorry about Emrys,” she then continued, giving her a wry smile. “I promise, I’ll send him back to you as soon as I can.”

Nimue uttered a quiet chuckle, shaking her head. “No, that’s alright. I’m glad he can keep her company,” she said, affection warming up her voice. When the summer had come to an end, little Avalon had been crushed to have to let her new cousin go, utterly inconsolable until Nim had offered to leave Emrys in her care as a living memento of her. The pure white corn snake had been her constant companion since her third year, but the gaping hole of loneliness that had been at the center of her heart had been filled enough for her to part with him for the moment. “He’s not being difficult, is he?” Nimue asked, brow creasing with some concern.

“He’s been nothing but patient. It’s Avalon who won’t leave the poor thing be,” her aunt remarked, and both women shared a quick laugh at that. However, they couldn’t afford to spend too much more time on simple well-wishes and chatter. Morgana’s expression grew more serious as she went on. “Now, the drawing…” she began, her voice equal parts cautious and determined.

“Tomorrow,” Nim supplied promptly.

“Good. Soon I’ll be able to send you the details for the first task--and the day the setup will begin. Now, before then...”

Before then--yes, Nimue knew what she had to do. “I’ll try,” she started, only to stop herself. No, try wasn’t the right word. “I will,” she corrected herself, squaring her shoulders neatly and holding her head high, mimicking the woman before her.

“That’s right,” her aunt nodded, offering her another smile, though it seemed oddly weary. “Everything has to go as planned.” The words were muttered seemingly for Nimue, but the way her eyes were distant made it sound more as if she was speaking to herself.

“Are you alright, Aunt Morgana?” Nim ventured at once, studying the lines on her face. Was it her imagination, or did it seem like dark circles were ringing her aunt’s eyes? “You don’t look well.”

“No, no, it’s nothing,” the older woman waved the notion away, but her chipper attitude now appeared somewhat forced. “Don’t trouble yourself. I’ve just had my hands full since you’ve left, darling.” She cleared her throat, and Nim knew that the conversation was over. “I’ll be in touch soon, Nimue. Until then--you take care of yourself.”

“You too,” Nim returned, a smile back on her face. “Tell Uncle Armand I say hello--and to Avalon and Emrys too, of course.” Morgana nodded, and once they’d exchanged their farewells, the fireplace went dark and silent. Not a second afterwards, however, a sound caused her to give a jolt, her eyes wide with alarm as she looked up.

That sound--that was the library door.

Quickly, she darted behind the nearest shelf of books, a hand over her mouth. Was it the groundskeeper? Being caught lurking about at nighttime was bad enough, but that was the least of Nimue’s worries at the moment. The timing--it was too close for comfort. Had they heard her speaking to Morgana? Worse, had they heard from the start? Her jaw tightened at the grim thought, and her fingers curled about her wand. If so, things were about to get far more stickier.
« Last Edit: September 20, 2020, 10:45:46 PM by asterin »
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After supper, while all the students were making their way towards their respective dormitories, James was crossing the Castle, headed for Greenhouse Four.  He probably should have been with the other Prefects of his House, sticking close to the First Years in case they needed any help finding their way.  The first week was always the most challenging for the eleven year old students.  For many of them, it was their first time away from home for so long.   They had new surroundings, new friends and a new routine.  Then again, James had stumbled his way through his first year without anyone holding his hand.  Of course, he had Teddy but he had been sorted into Hufflepuff House rather than Gryffindor and had his own responsibilities to attend to as Head Boy.  His fellow Prefect, Lucy, may give him a lecture on the subject of responsibility later but it would be easier to face an angry Lucy than a disappointed Professor Longbottom should he skip tea-time in the Herbology Greenhouse.

Flowers, vines and leaves brushed against his shoulders as he meandered past the various pots and planters.  Some things he recognized while others were foreign.  James took only the standard Herbology classes each year, favoring advanced Charms and Potions classes, much to Professor Longbottom’s continued disappointment.  His grades were good enough but as his father so often liked to point out, they could always be better.  Between his duties as a Prefect, Quidditch and keeping an eye on his siblings and cousins, James didn’t have much time left in his days for extra studying.  He would make time for this though, as there was nothing Professor Longbottom so loved as to take tea in the evenings with his favourite student. 

James found the Herbology Professor in his office, located at the very rear of the Greenhouse.  He stood over a sink that was crowded with plants, pouring hot water into a teapot.  Announcing himself, James uttered a quiet, “good evening, Professor.” 

The Head of Gryffindor House turned at the sound of his voice, a smile stretching the stubble that lined his lips across his face.  “How many times must I tell you,” Professor Longbottom said as he took the teapot in hand and carried it over to the small table upon which cakes and biscuits had been set out.  “When it’s just us, you can call me Neville.”

“Just once more, Professor.” James returned with a smirk as he shrugged off his book bag and took his seat. 

“Right then,” Professor Longbottom said as he sat across from his friend’s son and flattened a napkin across his lap, a silent cue for James to do the same.  With a wave of his wand, the desserts and dishes began moving about the table of their own accord.  The plate lifted from where it rested against the tablecloth and passed around to the various assortments of cookies and scones, receiving a generous dollop of cream before finding their way to its porcelain surface and landing again before James.
“How are your classes?” Professor Longbottom asked as he and the student across from him both collected their forks and began to break apart their pastries into bite-sized pieces.

“They’re alright,” James answered with a shrug.  “I expect that Professor Ironwood’s class will be another year of suffering but I think I’ll manage.”

“Well, you let me know if he gives you any trouble and I’ll have a word with him.” The Herbology Professor assured his favourite pupil.  “And your family, how are they?” He asked next.

“They’re well, mum got that promotion at the Daily Prophet and Lily got placed in a Third Year Charms Class since she did so well on her exams last year.” James answered conversationally, pausing to shovel sweets into his waiting mouth.  “Al spent all summer in his room, so I’m not really sure what’s going on with him…” There was a certain thoughtfulness to his words as he looked past the man across from him, eyes roaming the shelves that cluttered Professor Longbottom’s office. 

“What about your father?” James knew that the question was coming, but he dreaded having to give the kind-hearted man before him an answer, honest or less so.  “I suppose he’s rather busy with the election campaign.” When James did not answer, but instead kept his head down, brown eyes on the cakes he pushed around on his painted plate with a fork, Neville Longbottom tilted his head to the side and watched the young man before him in a more studious manner.  It was no secret for those who knew the Potters well, that James had grown more distant from his father since he had first announced his intention to run for the High Office of Minister of Magic. 

“He’s fine.” James finally said, quietly and with his gaze still down at his plate. 

“James?” Professor Longbottom pressed, gentle in his manner.  “What’s troubling you?”

“Can I ask you something, Professor?” The young man spoke up, his eyes lifting to the man who sat across from him before flicking away again shyly.  At his encouraging nod, James went on saying, “you were friends with my dad since he was a boy, you know him well…” He seemed to take a moment to gather his courage before finally asking the kindly Professor before him, “do you think he’s a good person?”

“Why are you asking me this, James?” Professor Longbottom inquired, his tone soft in spite of the concern furrowing his brow. 

“I’m just…” His voice trailed off as he slumped back in his chair.  “I’m not so sure he is, anymore.”

“James, look at me.” Professor Longbottom told the boy who sat at his table.  When James’ brown eyes, so like his mother’s, found his own, he offered his friend’s son the same patient smile he always did.  “Sometimes, good people do bad things.” The Herbology Professor explained sagely.  “What matters is whether those things were done for the right reasons or the wrong ones.” 

“How do you tell the right ones from the wrong ones?” James asked next.

“I think deep down, everyone knows the difference.  The important part is to listen to that voice inside that tells you when something is right and believe the people you love when they tell you that something is wrong.” Professor Neville Longbottom watched as James Sirius Potter mulled this information over, spinning round inside his busy mind.  Twisting his expression into a lighter, happier one, he reached behind him as he leaned on the rear legs of his chair and plucked a glass sphere from a nearby table.  Holding it out before James, he raised his eyebrows invitingly and watched the young man take the peculiar magical object from him as he turned it over in his hands, observing the small red cloud within.  “That is called a Remembrall.” Professor Longbottom explained.  “The smoke turns red when you’ve forgotten something.  It’s almost always red these days and the thing is, I can never figure out why.” The last he offered with a shrug and a laugh, one that was returned though quietly.  “It’s very hard to remember what we have forgotten.” Folding his hands against the table before him, he fixed the young Mr. Potter with a meaningful stare.  “Remember that your father has suffered much.  Remember that he tries his best to keep you safe.  Remember that he loves you.”

For a moment, James remained silent.  When he did open his mouth again, it was to utter only one word.  “Sugar,” he said nonchalantly, gesturing with Professor Longbottom’s Remembrall and setting it on the table before him. 

“Sorry?” The Herbology Professor returned with a quirked brow. 

“I take sugar in my tea.” James explained, his lighthearted smirk painted across his boyish features.  “That’s what you forgot.”

“Merlin’s Beard, you’re right.”

The large wooden doors of the Library creaked loudly in spite of the careful hands that pushed against them.  With steps made upon the tips of sock covered toes, someone inched into the room as the doors closed heavily behind him.  He soldiered on in spite of the way he cringed at his own noisiness.  There was a candle hovering over his shoulder, following him as he padded his way further into the darkness of the book lined shelves.  He was dressed in his pyjamas, no robe or slippers to shield him from the chill of the autumn evening air.  A willow-wood wand was tucked away in his pocket, but he didn’t bother to reach for it as he cast his gaze about the room, looking between the stacks with worry furrowing his brown brow. 

“Nim?” He hissed in a whisper.  “Nim, are you in here?”

As the words left his lips, a figure up ahead stepped out from behind a bookshelf into the central aisle of the Library.  She too donned only her pyjamas, though she had the good sense to collect a robe as well before climbing out of bed on this night.  Instead of her braids, well groomed or otherwise, her dark hair was down around her shoulders, messy just like that of the boy who stood across from her.   There was no candle or illuminated wand to light her way in the shadows of the late hour, only the flashing lights of the storm outside.  It was lightning that set the Library aglow, revealing both parties who ought not be out of bed.  Her next words were a question that James himself had been wondering.  What was he doing here?

“Professor Ironwood is walking the corridors looking for you,” James explained on whispered words as he stepped closer, the candle over his shoulder following closely until Nimue’s face was visible in the sphere of its flame.  “I think one of the girls in your room ratted you out.” He watched her lips purse and her blue eyes roll around in her head before asking a question of his own. “What are you doing here?”

“I was looking for a book.” Nimue replied plainly. 

“A book?” James repeated with an eyebrow quirked in disbelief. 

“In the Restricted Section,” she said next.  The words made James’ expression soften into one that matched his smirk and knowing nod.  That much, made perfect sense. 

“I’ll ask Flint to look for it later,” he suggested.  The Head Boy of Gryffindor was ever receptive to a requested favour.  Of course, he would want something in return.  “But you should get back to bed before you get caught.”

The pyjama clad Hogwarts students slipped out of the Library and started down the halls, each one of their steps falling in pace with the other’s.  The candle followed in their wake, dimly illuminating the darkened Castle between the flashes of lightning shining through the windows. They took the nearest set of stairs, taking care to choose one less inclined to changing.  As they rounded the next corner, an echoing set of footsteps sent them both ducking behind the nearest stone-carved statue.  James flattened himself against the wall and blew out the flame of the floating candle that followed him.  It was only in the stillness of the dark as they both held their breath that James realized how closely Nimue was pressed up against him. 

Professor Ironwood, Head of Slytherin House, came striding down the hallway, the end of his sleeping cap bouncing behind him as he hurried.  The pale light of the lumos spell emanating from the end of his wand passed over the statue behind which the two students hid without ever touching them.  They waited until the Professor’s footsteps faded into the distance before at last exhaling against one another, bumping hands and laughing awkwardly as they manoeuvred out from their shared hiding place.  James straightened his t-shirt as he glanced down the corridor and watched the light from Professor Ironwood’s wand disappear around another corner at the far end.  Breathing a sigh of relief, he uttered quietly, “that was close.” When he turned to look at Nimue, he found that she was no longer standing beside him. 

The curious girl had wandered her way towards one of the paned glass windows fixed into the stone of Hogwarts Castle, overlooking the grounds.  In silence, his feet carried him towards her.  She didn’t turn to him as he approached but instead looked out the window, watching the storm that made the Womping Willow Tree outside dance and sway in the violent winds. James leaned one shoulder against the stone wall, following her gaze, though brown eyes favoured the delicate droplets that raced down the glass to the swirling storm clouds beyond.  It was hard to say for how long they stood their silence with one another, each mesmerised in their own way by the thunder and all that it brought with it.  In the quiet of the late hour, upon an exhaled breath, both James and Nimue uttered the same four words in unison. 

“I love the rain…” They said.

With a start, they both turned to one another.  Nimue cast her blue eyes to the floor beneath her slippered feet before she could see the smile as it spread across James’ face.  For a moment, neither one said anything to the other, until at last she raised her eyes to those that watched her.  This time, she held them there.  This wasn’t the first occasion upon which James had found Nimue skulking the corridors of Hogwarts in the middle of the night.  It wasn’t even the first time he’d caught her in the Library trying to break her way into the Restricted Section.  It had never been like this before, though.  There was plenty different about Nimue, but perhaps there was something different about James as well.  It had been years, after all, since he had looked at the quirky Slytherin girl before him the way he was looking at her now.  Nimue wasn’t the same as she had been then, or it might be that this was secretly who she had always been from the start.  Either way, James found that he was very much interested in finding out. 

“We should go.” James interjected nervously into the quiet.  When Nimue blinked at him, her expression tightening, he went on to explain, “Ironwood might come back.” As the spell broke and she shifted her weight beneath her, tucking her hair behind her ears, James tried his best to end this particular moment before he had the chance to dwell upon it for too long.  “I’ll go that way and head him off, I can make up a good excuse for being out of bed.” Being a Prefect did have its advantages.  “That should give you enough time to make it back to the dormitories.”

She gave him a nod and he smiled at her as he said, “goodnight, Nim.”

“Goodnight, James.” Nimue returned.  “And thanks.” She added with a small, secret smile of her own.

“Don’t mention it.” He told her. 

The Prefect, James Potter, had come to be exceptionally skilled in the art of a white-lie in his short time in the aforementioned role.  Thus, it was without fuss or incident that he crossed paths with Professor Ironwood on the way back to the Gryffindor dormitories, offering an innocent enough explanation and delaying the Head of Slytherin House for long enough to give Nimue the head start she needed.  He knew she had made it back without getting caught.  Not because of some special talent for Divination but rather because of the peculiar piece of parchment he had tucked into his pant line under his shirt before entering the Library.  His father had called it by the name illustrated upon its folded front, The Marauders Map.  Apparently, his grandfather had made it with the help of Teddy’s own dad and their friends while they had been in school.  James’ father had gifted it to him in his first year, a secret he had kept from even his cousins.  After all, there were quite a number of them and James had to keep an eye on them somehow.  The only exception to that rule being his cousin Fred, whose father had also been in possession of the Map for a time.

James reclined in his bed, the Map laid out upon his bent knees while his friends slept in the beds next to him.  The candle that hovered over his shoulder illuminated the careful footsteps pacing within the Slytherin House dormitories, the name next to them reading Nimue Brooks.  Eventually, the inky footprints slowed and stopped, indicating that she had at last climbed into bed.  After checking that she had made it into bed before Professor Ironwood had circled back towards the Slytherin common room and dormitories, James began to fold up the charmed parchment.  He paused however, when another name on the Marauders Map caught his attention.  Unfolding the creased paper once more, he leaned into watch a pair of footsteps move down the main corridor and into the Great Hall.  The name alongside the moving ink read, Neville Longbottom.

“What are you doing out of bed, Professor…” James mused quietly to himself in the darkness of his room. 

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The rain continued to pelt the windows as she hurried back towards the dungeons. The lightning would illuminate the treacherous path from time to time, showing glimpses of the portraits--the people within mostly asleep. “Causing trouble again, lass?” one called as she passed, eyeing her as he lifted a feathered mask.

“You didn’t see me,” she whispered sharply in reply.

“Oh, aye, aye,” the man in the painting droned sardonically, but she was already turning the corner. Even though her steps had been sure and quick, she couldn’t help but hold her breath and slow down to a creep as she neared Professor Ironwood’s office. James had told her he would stall him, but that didn’t mean he had been successful. Luckily, the room proved to remain silent and still, and she continued down the corridor, towards the wall that would take her to the common room.

“Ambition,” she hissed at it, though not without a roll of the eyes. Every year, the password assigned to the room for the first two weeks would be one of the core traits of their house, likely in consideration of the first years bumbling about. She hurried through as the wall opened up before her, revealing the empty Slytherin common room. It was still dimly lit with the green lanterns above, though the lights were turned to burn low. When she’d first seen the grand spacious den with green lights and the windows looking out into the Black Lake, it had put her in awe. Things were a little different six years in, but even now, whenever she stood alone within it, it was difficult not to feel even the smallest amount of reverence.

Quietly, she padded down the grand staircase that led to the dorms, finding her way expertly through the dark until she reached her room. As she crept through the room, all four lumps beneath the covers appeared to be at rest, but she could tell one lump was trying a little too hard. Nim, however, didn’t bother saying anything to Odelia, who seemed to be holding her breath, waiting for her to get into bed. After all, she knew that every one of them would’ve done the deed if they’d only been given the chance. Instead of slipping straight into bed, however, she approached the dark glass that showed the water beyond. The last bed was often considered the least desirable, seeing that it was most boxed in and cramped to boot, but Nim had never minded. It was the one that had the most lake exposed in the glass, after all. She pressed a hand to the cool glass, looking up towards the far surface of the lake. Even from these depths, she could see when lightning was brightening the world above. She paced along the wall-length window, humming to herself as she watched the way the underwater plants swirled and swayed whenever the lightning would flash.

But to think that she would run into James tonight--in the library, no less!

Truthfully, perhaps it shouldn’t have surprised her. After all, this had been far from the first time he had somehow managed to stumble across her when she was out and about at nighttime. He just seemed to have an uncanny talent for it, almost as if he knew when she was out of bed. Of course, some things could be chalked up to coincidence, but well… This seemed to be more of a pattern. When he had called her name, she had been almost certain that he had overheard her conversation with her aunt--after all, how could he have known it was she who was in the library? But she had seen Professor Ironwood stalking the halls with her own two eyes, and Odelia clearly seemed uncomfortable right now, so…

Her steps came to a sudden halt, her dark brows furrowing. No, there was something not quite right about that. Even if Professor Ironwood didn’t sleep within the commons like the students did, his office and quarters were in the dungeons. Of course, the dungeons weren’t password protected, but for James to have overheard a roommate of hers snitch on her, it would mean he would’ve had to be in the vicinity--quite far from Gryffindor Tower, that was to be sure. And then for him to circumvent the Professor and find her first? Well, it wasn’t impossible, of course, but highly improbable.

Curious. Curious, indeed. The brooding frown reflected in the glass loosened up into a crooked smirk. Well, that was just one more thing she was going to have to achieve through some charm. But for now, she would have to get some sleep. After all, tomorrow was going to be a big day.

The breakfast table was aflame with the excited chatter of students from all three schools--the selection of the champions was finally going to take place in the evening. First, however, they would all have to get through a day of classes. Even with the frenzy, the students looked up from their meals and gossip as the Owl Post came swooping in, carrying packages and letters for the students.

When an owl made a bee-line for the table the Slytherins sat around, no one batted an eye--but when it dropped the parcel it carried in its talons straight into the hands of Nimue Brooks, her fellow students’ surprise was palpable. Even Nim herself appeared to be caught off guard. From a ways down the table, she could see Scorpius and Albus crane their heads, curious but not wanting to leave their seats and make a scene. Of course, they weren’t the only ones looking.

“Who would send her mail?” she heard a Dahlia whisper, inspiring a wave of sniggers. Everyone knew that Nutty Nim didn’t get mail. Why, there wasn’t a soul in the wizarding world who’d care to. Still, it was unmistakably addressed to her, in fine, flowing ink. She almost didn’t want to open it there, with everyone staring, but her own curiosity won over. Calmly, she tore through the wrapping paper, revealing the box underneath. It was light in weight--so light, it almost felt empty. Still, when she opened the small box, the corners of her mouth lifted into a smile, causing those around to try and lean in as inconspicuously as possible. Those who did, immediately flinched back, for what lay within the box were not chocolates or some other trinket, but the long, winding shed of a snake. While they weren’t strangers to serpents or strange ingredients, it wasn’t something to be expected at the table. The spreading whispers of ‘creep’ and ‘freaky-odd’ didn’t seem to reach the girl, however, who lifted out the small note tucked within.

Dear Nim, it began in handwriting that was not quite as graceful as the penmanship that had decorated the outside of the parcel. Emrys had his first shed with me. He looks so shiny and pretty now! He’s very happy. I thought about keeping the shed, but mum said you might have more use for it in potions class. I miss you so, so much. Emrys says he misses you too. Please write back soon!


Near the name, the young girl had drawn a squiggly creature that was presumably meant to be Emrys; at once, Nimue ducked her head, hiding the grin brightening her face behind her hair. Quickly, she folded the note back up, tucking it carefully back into place into the box. As she did, however, her searching gaze finally caught sight of something else hidden underneath the shredded paper that served as bedding for the shed. An envelope. The letter within, Nim knew, was sure to match the flowing handwriting of the packaging, and she did not dare take it out in the presence of others. Closing up the box neatly, she tucked it into her school bag, at last looking up to meet the pressing stares of her fellow students with a wordless but challenging quirk of the brow. One by one, the pairs of eyes fell away, the conversation returning to who would be chosen as the Hogwarts Champion.

Nimue, of course, did not join in. It wasn’t a conversation they would’ve included her in even if she’d been inclined to, but unlike them, the huge issue of the day was not a mystery to her.

After all, she knew exactly who would be chosen. It was already decided--not by something as pithy as fate or destiny, but as these things often went--by corruption and tampering.

Though the day must have crawled by for the other elated students, for Nim, it went by quickly, until they were all filing into the Great Hall once more. The energy in the air was near electric as the students took their seats, tongues wagging madly as they looked up to where Headmistress Minvera McGonagall stood with the other two Headmasters.

“Settle down, please,” the Headmistress announced. A single look was all it took for the Mahoutokoro students to instantly quiet, sitting with their backs straight and their shoulders squared. The rest of the students were quick to follow, their eyes aglow with anticipation.

“We know why we’re here--it is time for the champion selection,” the wizened witch continued in a measured tone, pacing up to the giant goblet that sat, engulfed in blue flame. At a wave of her hand the lights dimmed, and before their very eyes, the blue fire that had been towering up from the goblet flared red. The students let out collective gasps, and from the flames a single piece of parchment came floating down before the Headmistress plucked it from the air.

“The Uagadou champion is--” she began, looking down through her spectacles. “Adroa Zuluka!”

Immediately, the table of Uagadou students roared with approval, hooting triumphantly as a young man rose to his feet in one smooth motion. He was tall and handsomely built, his expression unreadable as stone as he strode forward to where Headmistress McGonagall shook his hand, gesturing for him to stand to the side to await his fellow champions.

Once again, the Goblet of Fire glowed red, and another fated name was handed down to the Headmistress’ waiting hand. “Next. the champion for Mahoutokoro,” she continued after a brief pause and a squint of her eyes--the handwriting appeared to be smaller than she had perhaps expected. “Kirigiri Sayaka!”

Amongst the applauding students, a petite girl broke into a wide smile, flushing with embarrassment. Her friends clapped and offered her encouragement, gently pushing her forth as she stepped out shyly. She quickly made her way to the Headmistress as if she was afraid to keep her waiting, and she took the extended hand with both hands, bowing deeply before she was released and sent off to wait next to Adroa, her absolute opposite in almost comical extremes.

And at last, the time had come for the final selection. Everyone seemed to be collectively holding their breaths as the Headmistress once more turned to the Goblet and it obliged, offering up the promised champion. “And last, the Hogwarts champion,” she began, but this time, when the Headmistress of Hogwarts gave a moment’s pause, it was not for the sake of handwriting. “James Sirius Potter!”

The Great Hall burst into cheers and applause, most noticeably from the Gryffindor table. At the eager hands of his friends and cousins, the young man was urged up from his seat, looking rather stunned and dazed, his gaze darting about as if he was waiting for someone else to step up. It was a silly thought, Nimue thought as she watched, casually applauding. After all, there was only one James Sirius Potter, and he had been the only real choice the Goblet of Fire had been given. Everything had to go to plan--

--just the way his father had planned it.
.。*゚+.*.。bury me in the stars +..。*゚☾+