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Creatures of the Wind, Part 1

Chapter Text

Creatures of the Wind

“…And these children that you spit on, as they try to change their world,

Are immune to your consultation; they’re quite aware of what they’re going through.”

 

Fred and George Weasley. Of all the terrors imaginable to Ophelia Lestrange. She had seen them making their way up to the top rows of the stadium, along with their family, Hermione Granger, and Harry Potter. Their faces were painted silver and green, for Ireland, and she wondered inwardly if they’d realized those were Slytherin colors, too.

“Oh, if it isn’t the Mademoiselle Lestrange!” one had sneered, as they dipped into mock curtseys.

“My word, they make blood-proud folk like you walk up all these stairs?”

“I would’ve thought Krum’d have to fly you up here himself!”

Draco had struck back with some slur-laced retort, leading her away by the arm while Lucius lingered back to snipe at Arthur Weasley. It bothered her, more than the teasing. She hadn’t needed his protection.

She spent the entire match glancing over her shoulder, hoping they were too distracted by the game to try and bother her again. Luckily, they seemed to have had their fill.

Afterwards, she slipped from the Malfoys’ lavish tent and disappeared into the forest, where she could be far from the noise and the crowd. It was dangerous, what she was doing. She knew that. Especially as she was unable to use magic. But she’d had enough of the family for one night. Neither Draco nor his father had seemed to notice, or otherwise didn’t care when she’d wandered off. Then again, Lucius had become rather distracted, as the match drew to a close, and she knew precisely why. Draco, for his part, was nauseating her. He had been strutting around the house like a prince for days, boasting endlessly about his box seats to the match. It had baffled her, especially since she herself had a seat in the exact same box.

At least Narcissa hadn’t accompanied them, she thought. Small mercies.          

Oi!”

She whipped around in the darkness to see the Weasley twins tailing her through the trees.

“Where are you off to, Lestrange?” one of them needled, as they trotted up on either side of her.

“Off to senselessly murder some more of our friends and family?”

“That’s what your lot do, isn’t it?”

It was more than she could tolerate. Without a word, she pushed one of them back by the chest, nearly sending him toppling to the ground. And before he could exact revenge, she burst into tears. The pair watched in stunned silence as she collapsed back against a tree, sinking to the soft moss as she wept.

One of them demanded, “Are you mental??”

“Oh, sod off!!” she shouted, throwing a handful of sticks and leaves at them.

The one she hadn’t pushed moved to retreat, tugging at his brother’s arm. “Come on, let’s get out of here.”

“Nah, you go,” he whispered, casting a wary glance in her direction, “I feel sort of… bad.”

With a scoff, his brother left, traipsing noisily through the forest. The remaining twin cautiously sat down. She noted that he seemed to have taken care not to be within arm’s reach of her.

“What do you want?” she asked pointedly, voice hitching on her tears.

He seemed surprised by the question. “I dunno. That was a bit of a disproportionate response, don’t you think?”

It made her want to scream. She wanted to call him names until he went away. Him, and everyone else who had ever called her a murderer.

And yet, somehow, he was still talking. “So, are you, er… Does that mean you’re alright, then?”

“No,” she snapped, as though it should’ve been obvious.

He shifted uncomfortably, leaves crunching beneath him.

“What have I ever done to you?” she suddenly demanded.

He shrugged, picking a twig up from the ground and beginning to peel the bark away.

“Do you honestly think I like my family?” she continued, gaining momentum, “Do you think I like the things they’ve done to people? You think I want any part in it?”

“I ‘spose not,” he allowed, flicking shreds of bark at a nearby tree. “I ‘spose you’d have to be barking mad to like all that. But how am I supposed to—”

“By asking,” she snapped, “By talking to me, for once in your life, instead of just chasing me around, everywhere, and shouting at me! You’ve been doing it for years, and I’m bloody sick of it!”

“Sorry.” He seemed genuinely chagrined. He averted his gaze, but she could just make out the color rising to his freckled face, beneath the cracked and smeared paint.

She sighed, making a very concerted effort to ease down. She took a deep, stilling breath before speaking again.

“Which one are you, then?” she asked, “Fred or George?”

“George,” he said, abruptly extending a hand towards her, “I’m George.”

The gesture shocked her, and she eyed his outstretched hand with grave suspicion.

“Oh, go on, then,” he coaxed, “Let’s call a truce.”

She hesitated for a moment, before reluctantly taking it. He smiled broadly when she did, giving it a tellingly enthusiastic shake.

“And now you tell me your name,” he encouraged, a slightly patronizing tone to his voice.

She rolled her eyes. “You know my name.”

“C’mon,” he groaned, “Do it right.”

“Ophelia.” She straightened her back, drawing herself up to her full seated height. “Ophelia Belladonna Yaxley Lestrange.”

“Blimey, you’re a mouthful, eh?” he chuckled.

The awkwardness of the remark hit them both at once, and she looked at him with an expression bordering on disgust.

George quickly cleared his throat. “I mean, er… What kind of a name is that?”

“I’m named for the constellation of the serpent-bearer.”

“Which one’s that again?”

Ophiuchus,” she nearly snapped, “Don’t you pay attention in Astronomy?”

He laughed explosively, quickly composing himself again at the sight of her expression. “Er…” he stammered, feeling the heat rise to his face, “No. No, I do not.”

She frowned. “People say you’re meant to be the sweet one.”

He shrugged, giving her a nervous smile. “Dunno about that, but I’m the handsome one.”

She cocked an eyebrow, not yet impressed. They simultaneously realized that their hands were still clasped, quickly and awkwardly releasing one another.

After a pause, he spoke again. “I really am sorry,” he offered, avoiding her gaze, “It’s just that you’re always hanging about with Malfoy, and he’s such a pompous little git. Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever even heard you speak, till you told us to sod off just now.”

“Draco’s awful,” she announced, matter-of-factly, “He’s a spoiled little brat, and most of the time, I can hardly stand him.”

George looked at her in surprise. “Really?”

“Of course! God, what must you think of me? I’ve just been stuck living with his family for so long, I’ve got no choice but to be around him all the time.”

“Right,” he nodded, returning to his twig, “’Cause your family, they’re all—”

“In Azkaban,” she pointedly interrupted, “I’ll save you the trouble of trying to be polite about it. My mother died in there, but my aunt, my uncle, and my father are all still inside.”

Again, George was caught off-guard by her candor. But this was the first time, all her life, that she’d been given the opportunity to explain it for herself.

“It’s where they belong, all of them,” she said frankly, “They’re vile, evil people, and I hate that everyone just assumes, right out, that I’m like them. Or that I want to be like them. But nobody ever talks to me about it, do they?” she mused bitterly, “Nobody ever asks. No, isn’t it so much easier to just pretend I don’t exist at all? Or, even better, take all of your anger with the Death Eaters out on me. Yes, that’s the real winner.”

When George didn’t reply, she thought to needle him a little further.

“Like you do.”

He cringed a little at the frank reminder. “Well…” he tentatively offered, “Suppose we have a go at being friends? You and me and Fred. So you’re not stuck with that git Malfoy all the time.”

She rolled her eyes dismissively. “What kind of talk is that? Honestly, I've no idea why I’m even telling you this. I know all about you and your dodgy brother, and you’re just pulling some trick. You’re going to wind up using all of this against me, sooner than later, and I won’t—”

“No, honestly!” he insisted, shifting around so he was facing her, “You’re right, we’ve been bang out of order towards you, and we had no cause for it. You actually seem like you’re…”

She watched, unimpressed, as his voice trailed off. “I’m…?”

He stammered, color rising to his cheeks again. “Well, I’ve always sort of thought that—”

He was cut short by a piercing scream, sounding from the direction of the campground. They both leapt to their feet. Through the trees, they watched as a roaring column of fire rose skyward from amidst the tents.

George took a few stumbling steps backward, eyes wide. He threw an oddly protective arm across her chest, shocking even himself. “What the hell was that?”

“Oh, no,” Ophelia whispered, clapping a hand over her mouth, “No, he’s actually going through with it, I didn’t think—”

“Wait, going through with what?” George asked, astonished, “Who— What is that?”

She looked up at him, sickened by what she was about to say. Her eyes were wide and glassy as she announced, “It’s the Death Eaters.”

His heart dropped. “What?”

She took him by the sleeve, and they sprinted for the tree line. “You need to find your family and get out of here,” she panted, “Lucius Malfoy’s the one leading the attack, and he’s got it out for the lot of you.”

“Hang on,” he ground to a halt, tugging sharply at her arm, “Are you serious?”

Yes!” she said desperately, forcing him to keep running. “He brought his mask and robes with him. He tried to hide them, but I saw them in our tent. And the rest of them must’ve just Apparated in.”

As they neared the edge of the forest, the scene at the campground became all the more horrifying. Flaming tents, people lying stunned on the ground. Parents were grabbing their children and Disapparating. And, above the frightened screams, there could be heard the twisted, occultist chanting of the Death Eaters. They were marching from tent to tent in their silver masks and tall, pointed black hoods, leaving carnage in their wake.

All at once, they pair were met by a wall of frantic people, running into the trees. George and Ophelia were the only two sprinting towards the attack. A few tried to stop them, screaming at them to turn them around, to flee, but George clasped her hand and forged a path upstream. The closer the got to the camp, the harder it became to breathe. The air was thick with smoke and scorching ember. At the edge of the forest, Ophelia suddenly ground to a halt.

“Are you mad?” George demanded, tugging at her hand, “What are you doing?”

She raised a shaking finger towards the sky.

“What?” He followed her gaze, and his face went white.

Floating in the sky above the campground was a colossal skull, composed of what looked like wisps of glittering emerald. A writhing serpent was protruding from its mouth like a tongue, twisting itself into a knot. As they watched, it rose higher and higher, a smoldering haze of greenish smoke, etched against the black sky like a new constellation.

The Dark Mark.

A familiar voice snapped George back to reality. Mr. Weasley was fifty or so meters ahead, silhouetted against the wall of fire. He was screaming his missing son’s name, whipping around wildly.

“We need to go,” he urged, tugging at her hand.

“No!” She stood her ground. “I can’t, Draco and I are meant to get back to our portkey and go home! I’m sorry!”

In a panic, he looked back and forth between her and his father, eyes finally coming to rest on hers. “Stay safe,” he said quickly, giving her hand a light shake. His voice was hoarse from the smoke, and quavering.

They winced as another explosion rocked the earth around them, sending leaves raining down from the trees above.

“Go!” she urged, trying to shove him away, “And tell your dad it’s Lucius Malfoy!”

He nodded hurriedly. “Thanks, Lestrange,” he said in earnest. With one final squeeze of her hand, he turned, and ran towards his father.

 

Chapter Text

The next time their paths crossed was a few days later, in Diagon Alley. Ophelia spotted them first, across the crowded street. They were with their family, lingering at the back of the throng. After a moment, she noticed that they kept glancing down Knockturn Alley, clearly whispering conspiratorially to one another. When they finally caught sight of her, they stopped mid-sentence.

She cast them a cautious smile. They smiled back. And as she walked over to them, their smiles only grew.

“Oi, oi,” one of them greeted. She assumed it was George, the one from the forest.

“How did you fare, the other night?” she asked.

Fred answered for them. “Everyone made it out in one piece.”

His brother nodded. “And we told our dad what you said. Apparently, the Ministry’s had their eye on old Lucius Malfoy for years.”

“’Course they can’t bloody prove anything,” Fred rolled his eyes, “Not yet, anyway. I suppose he’ll have to off a few people in front of the Minister, before they see fit to chuck him in Azkaban.”

Ophelia frowned, slightly off-put by the entire situation.

“Sorry,” George offered, “You said yourself, he’s bloody awful.”

She shook it off. “He is. And he deserves no less than the Dementors.”

“Anyway,” George continued, “This is Fred.”

“The handsome one.” Beaming, he extended a hand to her, and she politely shook it. “Georgie says you’re alright, and after you tipped us off at the World Cup, I reckon… Well, you’ve never tortured anyone to insanity, have you? So, I dunno…?” He looked to his brother expectantly.

“We just reckon you’re alright,” George finished, somewhat lamely.

She couldn’t help but be amused at their awkward, earnest expressions. It was oddly endearing. The corner of her mouth lifted into a half-smile, and that seemed to visibly please them.

“Everyone says you’re nothing but trouble,” she tentatively teased, “What makes you think I want any part in whatever dodgy business you’re involved with?”

They shrugged.

“Dunno,” George said, smiling as he looked her up and down, “You look like you could use a little trouble.”

“Speaking of…” Fred glanced around the crowded street, “Looks like the coast is clear.”

“Right,” George nodded seriously, “We’d better be off.”

“Where are you going?” she asked, trying to mask the disappointment in her voice.

“We’re trying to get into Knockturn Alley,” Fred disclosed conspiratorially, glancing over his shoulder.

She tried to contain her amusement, but failed, bursting into peals of genuine laughter.

What are you on about?” they demanded in unison, slightly offended.

“’Trying to get into’…?” she repeated, a bewildered smile on her face, “It’s a street, isn’t it? It’s not as though you have to pledge the soul of your firstborn, and carve a Dark Mark into your forehead to walk down a street!”

The exchanged wary glances.

She nodded towards the alley. “I can take you, if you’d like. I’ve had a ballgown made at Cimmerian, so I need to go and pick that up. And I thought I’d pop into Borgin and Burkes, while I’m at it, just to have a look around.”

Their faces split with excited smiles. “Yeah, alright,” Fred agreed, “Thanks, Lestrange.”

“Only…” she mused, looking them up and down, “You’re both wearing quite a bit of color, aren’t you?”

Their happy expressions dissolved entirely.

“No matter,” she shook it off, “Just stick close to me.”

Ophelia was stepping into the alley before she realized she was alone. She looked back, to see them whispering to one another.

“Oh, come on,” she chuckled, striding back to take them each by the arm, “That was a joke. Do you need me to hold your hands?”

The jerked their arms away defensively, giving her a simultaneous, “No!”

“Well, then, come on!”

As they walked, she could hear Fred chastising his brother in an audible whisper. “’Oi, oi’? What the bloody hell was that? I’ve never heard you say that, all our lives!”

“Shut up, I panicked!”

“Made you sound like a knob.”

Shut up, I said!”

“Will you keep up?” she called back to them, “I’m not joking, now, you really shouldn’t fall behind.”

The quickened their pace, flanking her as they walked. The further they progressed down the alley, the darker it became. The leering buildings seemed to draw in closer and closer, as if to fold in over them. Tighten its grip. The twins realized, rather suddenly, that it was very, very quiet. They were only meters from the hustle and bustle of Diagon Alley, and yet none of it was audible. Like this place swallowed up everything that was good and warm and bright.

People began to take notice of the trio.

“Miss Lestrange,” one man greeted, tipping his hat to her. The twins didn’t like the look of him; sallow-skinned with strings of lank hair trailing down to his shoulders. But Ophelia offered him a polite nod as they passed. The occurrence became more and more frequent, the deeper they delved. Everyone seemed to know her name.

“Blimey,” Fred marveled quietly, “You’re popular ‘round here, aren’t you?”

“Most of them have never met me in their lives,” she explained, “But they recognize me, because I look just like my father, and they want to pay their respects to the family. To be honest, I can’t stand it.”

She watched out of the corner of her eye as George stole an anxious glance down at her left forearm.

“What are you looking for?” she challenged, pulling up her sleeve, “A Dark Mark? I’m not a bloody Death Eater, you know. I thought I made that clear in the forest.”

His face reddened, and he shied away.

“The forest?” Fred elbowed at his brother, giggling, “What happened in the forest, Georgie?”

“Look—” she suddenly stopped, rounding on the pair, “I’d appreciate it if you’d stop making assumptions. My friends may be awful towards you, but I’ve never been awful towards you. No matter how many times you’ve been awful towards me.”

They exchanged glances, a little intimidated by this tall, pretty, angry, rich girl.

“So, honestly,” she realized aloud, “Who’s the one giving who a second chance, here?”

They nodded, chagrined. “Fair point.”

“Lead on,” George deferred.

She rolled her eyes, pointing up at the sign above them. “We’re here. That says Borgin and Burkes on it. Can’t you read?” She pushed the door open, gesturing for them to enter.

“What is it they’re flogging, in here?” Fred probed.

She didn’t need to answer. As soon as they stepped inside, the shop’s purpose became apparent. The space was surprisingly large, and quite dimly lit. From floor to ceiling, it was cluttered with innumerable and macabre objects.  A glass case nearby held a withered hand on a cushion, a blood-stained pack of cards, and a staring glass eye. Evil-looking masks looked down from the walls, an assortment of human bones lay upon the counter, and rusty, spiked instruments hung from the ceiling. Bookshelves lined the walls, stuffed with ominous tomes. Some looked to be bound in human skin.

“They deal in powerful antique objects,” she explained, stepping idly through the clutter as though it were the most normal thing in the world.

“To be more precise,” a nearby voice corrected, “We offer confidential valuation services for unusual and ancient wizarding artefacts, such as may have been inherited by only the best wizarding families.”

The twins whipped around to see a man standing behind the counter, stooping and oily-haired. He peered down his hooked nose at the trio with an almost ravenous intensity.

“Mr. Borgin,” Ophelia greeted politely, giving him a picture-perfect curtsey.

“Miss Lestrange,” he nodded, “Who’ve you brought with you today?”

She cast him a warm smile. “New friends, curious about our little corner of the world. I told them I’d give them the tour. And where better to begin than the very beating heart of Knockturn Alley itself?”

“Flattery will get you everywhere, Miss Lestrange,” he smiled, dark eyes glinting ominously in the low light. “Anything in particular I can help you find, today, my child?”

She strolled idly through the shop, the nervous twins following close behind her. “I’m not sure,” she replied dreamily, “Though I’d imagine you’re desperate to sell me on something, aren’t you?”

He cast her a wolfish grin, swooping in on a plinth bearing a glittering, opal necklace. The label beneath it read,

 

Do not touch! Cursed!

Has claimed the lives of nineteen Muggle owners to date

 

“Beautiful girl like you needs a beautiful necklace,” hissed Mr. Borgin, “There’s a lot of power in owning a bauble like that.”

The twins leaned in close, examining the glimmering jewels with guarded fascination.

Fred could no longer contain himself. “What does it do to people?”

Borgin chuckled darkly, bearing down on him. “That depends on how much of your skin touches it, young master Weasley.”

Just then, the door to the shop banged open, and the trio jumped in surprise. It was Arthur Weasley.

“Boys!” he scolded, “What on earth are you doing in here?”

Never for an instant had Ophelia ever felt afraid in Knockturn Alley. That is, until that precise moment. The three rushed immediately out onto the street, leaving the leering Mr. Borgin in their wake.

Sorry, dad,” the twins chorused, somewhat disingenuously.

“Ophelia was just showing us around,” George justified.

Mr. Weasley’s eyes fell to her, more baffled than anything.

“I’m sorry, sir,” she quickly interjected, “I promise, I was keeping them safe.”

“Yeah, dad,” Fred corroborated, “Nobody gave us any trouble. She’s well famous down here, like the Harry Potter of Knockturn Alley.”

She shook her head bitterly. “I told you, that’s not a good thing.”

Mr. Weasley seemed taken aback by this, looking down at her with a kind of bemused fascination on his face.

“Anyway, I apologize,” she quickly recovered, “They were going to come down here with or without me, so I thought it would be best if I walked with them.”

We were not!”

Mr. Weasley looked between the trio, blinking in confusion. “Well! I suppose that doesn’t surprise me in the slightest. But, perhaps this little adventure has run its course, now. What’s say we get back? Your mother is worried sick.”

The twins rolled their eyes simultaneously, dragging their feet as they followed their father back up the alley.

“Thanks for trying, Ophelia,” George said morosely, clapping a hand on her shoulder.

“Yeah, honestly, that was the most we’ve ever gotten to see, down here.”

She shook them off, fuming. “Your parents are going to murder me.”

When they once again reached the bright streets of Diagon Alley, Ophelia could see Mrs. Weasley standing on the corner with her children. Harry Potter was with them, huddled near the back of the throng with Ron. Molly opened her arms wide when she saw her sons appear, and they tiredly went to her.

There you are!” she screeched, “I have been absolutely worried sick! What are you thinking, running off down there, after what happened NOT THREE DAYS AGO?”

Ophelia thought to make her escape, before Mrs. Weasley could have her hauled off to Azkaban. But Mr. Weasley stopped her, catching her by the arm.

“It’s Ophelia, is it?” he asked, his tone disarmingly serene, “Ophelia Lestrange?”

“Yes, sir.”

“George told me what you said to him at the World Cup,” he explained, leading her a few paces away, “And I just wanted to thank you for your honesty.”

She stared at him in guarded surprise.

“I know it isn’t easy to recognize when the people closest to us are on the wrong path. But you seem to have managed it, and I think that shows great wisdom.”

She stammered. “Thank you, sir.”

“Now, I have to ask,” he took her gently by the shoulders, “Is there anything else you’d like to tell me?”

She looked away, mind racing behind her eyes. This was a dissonance previously unknown to her. She’d spent her entire life around people who she knew did evil things. She hated them for it. But they’d raised her, fed her, clothed her.

“It’s alright,” Mr. Weasley reassured her, “You don’t have to. As I said, I know it’s not easy.”

She spoke before she’d even realized she’d made up her mind. “It feels like the beginning of something,” she blurted, “The Malfoys are keeping secrets, and I don’t know what it is they’re planning.”

He nodded, absorbing the information. “Do you hear any names?”

“Yes,” she replied with no hesitation, “Crabbe, Goyle, MacNair, Avery, Mulciber, Wilkes. My uncle Corban, at the Ministry.” she couldn’t stop herself, “The French Travers’. And my father. They talk about my father a lot, when they think I can’t hear them. And Bellatrix and Rodolphus.”

To her astonishment, Mr. Weasley didn’t look the least bit taken aback. “It sounds like they’re getting the old gang back together,” he remarked tiredly.

“Mr. Weasley,” she added tentatively, “I really am sorry for taking Fred and George down into Knockturn Alley.”

He cast her an amused smile. “It’s nothing to worry about, my dear. It’s just like you said: they would have done it anyway, and they’re much safer with you than they are alone.”

Arthur!” Mrs. Weasely was glaring at them, hands on her hips.

“Oh, lay off her, mum,” George begged.

“Honestly, it was our fault, not hers.”

Mr. Weasley gently led Ophelia over to the rest of the family. “Molly,” he began carefully, “This young woman is Ophelia Lestrange.”

“I know who she is!”

“She was looking after the twins in Knockturn Alley—”

I know where they were!”

“Molly,” he chided softly, “There’s no harm done.”

Without another word, she turned, taking her daughter by the hand and leading her away. Harry and Ron each gave her a kind of confused wave as they turned to leave.

“Ophelia,” Mr. Weasely implored, “I hope we see you again, my dear. And don’t you let the boys get you into too much trouble.”

She gave him a warm smile. “Thank you, sir. I hope I get to see you all again, too.”

With a brisk handshake, Mr. Weasley left, trotting slightly to catch up with his family. Only the twins remained, sheepishly avoiding her gaze. At the sight of them, her warm smile melted away into an expression of disdain. With a scoff, she turned away, and made her way back down into Knockturn Alley.

Chapter Text

She was on her way to the Slytherin common room, after the opening banquet, when she heard it.

Oi!”

“Lestrange!”

She stopped dead in her tracks, looking around for the source of the furtive whispers.

Over here!”

Her eyes fell on a large suit of armor against the wall. And, to her shock, there were the Weasley twins, peering out from behind it. They smiled widely when she noticed them, silently beckoning to her. She glanced around, making sure that the other Slytherins had rounded the next corner, before approaching them. To her further surprise, she found that they’d emerged from a tunnel in the wall, behind the armor.

“What’s this rubbish?” she whispered, brow furrowed.

They shushed her aggressively, beckoning her into the tunnel. Reluctantly, she ducked inside, and it sealed behind her.

Lumos,” one of them whispered, illuminating the small space.

“Watch it!” she snapped, squinting in the bright light.

“Sorry,” he stammered, raising his wand a little higher, “What d’you think?”

“Of… A tunnel?”

“Bet you didn’t know this was here,” his brother added with a smile.

“No,” she admitted, “I didn’t.”

“We know every secret tunnel in the whole castle,” one of them boasted.

“Have you ever seen the Room of Requirement?”

She shook her head in bewilderment. “The what? No! What have you got me in this bloody tunnel for?”

They hesitated, looking at each other.

She sighed in weary resignation. “First of all, which is which?”

They each raised a hand in turn.

“Fred.”

“George.”

She rolled her eyes. “Thank you.”

“Anyway,” Fred began, “We never got the chance to properly thank you for taking us through Knockturn Alley.”

She furrowed her brow. “Your mother was rather displeased with me for that.”

They waved her off. “Bollocks.”

“She’s displeased with nearly everything we do, don’t worry about it.”

“At least we’ve come by it honestly.”

“And dad loves you! He’s been asking us loads about you.”

“I don’t know if we should be spending time together!” she suddenly blurted.

They appeared shocked and offended, demanding in unison, “Why not?”

She stammered. “Because—Because clearly, people don’t like it!”

People can get stuffed,” Fred shrugged, “We like spending time with you.”

“And admit it,” George goaded, “You like spending time with us.”

“A pair of devilishly handsome—”

“—quick-witted—”

“—unbelievably clever—”

“—famously funny—”

“Enough!” she interrupted, sinking to sit against the cool stone wall, “Enough. Does my head in.” She pulled her knees up to her chest, wrapping her arms around her legs.

They settled in either side of her, shoulders pressed tightly to hers.

“Why?” she finally asked, “What in the world makes you think you’d like spending time with me?”

After a long pause, George finally answered. “You’re different than everyone says. You’re good.”

She shook her head. “You don’t know that. I’m not.”

“Bad liar, though,” Fred acknowledged.

“Yeah, and you’re wild, like we are!” George quipped brightly, “You’re trouble!”

“And we’re always up for trouble!”

“Especially when it’s as tall and pretty as you are!”

Fred kicked his brother in the shin, very obviously.

She sighed deeply, looking back and forth between them. “You can’t mean all that.”

They replied in unison. “Why not?”

After a pause, she settled rather lamely, on, “Because.”

Rubbish.”

“We’ll go right back to bothering you, Lestrange,” George threatened.

“You’re bothering me right now!” she pointed out.

“C’mon,” he whined, “We made a truce.”

“And just think,” Fred nudged, “Every minute spent with us is a minute away from Malfoy!”

He had a point, there. A very, very persuasive point. Ophelia shook her head, a tentative smile beginning to lift at the corners of her lips. “If your mother kills me, I’ll haunt you the rest of your lives.”

Deal!”

They each extended a hand to her, and reluctantly, she crossed her arms and gave them simultaneous handshakes.

“You won’t regret this, O,” Fred reassured her, whipping her arm up and down far more aggressively than necessary.

“Yeah, we’re loads of fun!”

“Just you wait and see!”

Chapter Text

“You know I love you so bad. Like the kid at the back of the classroom who can’t do the math, ‘cause he can’t see the blackboard, so bad. You know I love you so bad. Like the kids skipping class in the bathrooms, sneaking cigarettes underneath the football bleachers, baby, so bad. Like the kids growing up to be criminals, tearing pages out the back of the hymnals for love notes, baby, so bad.”

 

It was a few days into the term before they worked up the nerve to seek her out again. The thrill of the Triwizard Tournament lingered palpably in the air, and everyone seemed to be in a constant buzz. The hallways rang with languages Ophelia didn’t understand, splashes of odd color mixed in with all the Hogwarts black.

Most of the breakfast crowd had already filtered out of the Great Hall and headed off to class, with only a few students remaining. Ophelia was among them, still seated at the Slytherin table with her bird, flipping idly through the Daily Prophet he’d brought her.

She could hear the twins approaching long before she saw them, traipsing noisily through the hall.

Turn, and face Lestrange!” one of them howled.

Ch-ch-changes!”

She cast them a dubious smile. “What?”

“Morning!” George greeted, as they sat down either side of her. She assumed it was George, as he always seemed to be the one to greet her.

The handful of remaining Slytherins scattered, muttering slurs and vitriol. Even the 1st years seemed attuned to the wrongness of it. One of the 7th year boys, Lucien Bole, walked behind them and kicked the bench they were seated on.

“Hey!” Ophelia scolded, “Watch it!”

He eyed the twins with a kind of cold fury as he passed. “Get your hair cut,” he spat.

Fred gave him double-forks, sneering, “What, and look like you?”

She had to stifle an astonished laugh.

“Blimey, Ophelia,” George remarked, “What the bloody hell is that?” He was staring wide-eyed at the velvet-black raven perched upon her shoulder. The bird simply stared back in silence, looking back and forth between them.

“This is Mischief,” she introduced, giving him a gentle stroke down the chest, “And a good morning to you, too.”

What’s this rubbish?” the bird demanded, in a flawless facsimile of human speech.

The twins each slid a few inches away from her, eyeing the bird suspiciously.

Fred looked positively disturbed. “Ophelia, what the fuck.” It was less a question and more a statement.

She laughed. “Ravens can speak, don’t you know? And he’s really, really clever. Say hello, Mischief.”

He looked between the twins in eerie silence, cocking his head side to side. He puffed up his feathers, giving his wings an odd flutter. When he blinked, his eyes went white.

“I think you’re doing his head in,” she chuckled, “He can’t figure out how there’s two of the same person, hanging about.”

Of course, you’ve gotta have some creepy, talking bird,” George laughed nervously, “There’s no way you’d just have an owl, like a normal person.”

On cue, Mischief began to hiss and screech. The imitation was flawless.

Again, the twins moved back to give him more space.

“The raven is the sigil of house Lestrange, which is probably why you don’t see more of them about, honestly. I’ve had him since he was an egg,” she explained, “The Malfoys gave him to me as a gift on my tenth birthday, and I raised him all on my own, without magic. By my first year, he was big enough to carry mail. It all worked out rather well, actually.”

They nodded in slight bewilderment. “Right.”

“I don’t know how you’ve never noticed him before,” she remarked, “In the owlery, or even in here, over breakfast.”

“Honestly, Ophelia, we don’t really look over at the Slytherin table much,” George justified.

“You can pat him, if you like,” she offered, “He’s really friendly.”

Fred reached out a tentative hand, and the bird cocked his head to look at him. “Hey, Mischief,” he cautiously murmured, running a finger down his chest, “Don’t get any ideas regarding that big, sod-off beak of yours, eh?”

Suddenly, the raven shouted, “Orange!”

Fred jerked his hand away. “Bloody hell!”

Ophelia squealed with delight, scratching him under his beak. “That’s right!” she praised, before turning to the twins, “We’ve been working on learning our colors!”

The bird suddenly hopped off of her shoulder, settling on George’s. He flinched, raising his hands in awkward surrender.

Orange!” he repeated, matter-of-factly, flicking his beak through George’s long hair.

“That’s right!” she encouraged, “Orange!”

George was beside himself. “Ophelia if you don’t get this dodgy thing off me, I’m gonna have a panic attack.”

She rolled her eyes, putting her arm out. “Come here, you big, scary thing.”

He obediently hopped back over onto her shoulder, settling in against her neck.

George made an animated show of straightening his robes and hair. “Orange,” he muttered, “Of all the bloody offensive…”

“Settle down,” she chuckled, “Hang on, why aren’t the two of you going to class?”

“Free hour,” George explained, “Perks of sixth year, I suppose.”

“Why aren’t you in class?” Fred challenged.

Before she could answer, Mischief began making a noise that sounded exactly like paper tearing.

“Alright!” she sighed wearily, picking up her mail, “Damn it all, Mischief!”

Damn it all, Mischief!” he mocked.

The twins looked to her questioningly.

“He wants me to open the mail he brought me. I think he likes the sound.” She began absent-mindedly tearing into her envelopes, setting the letters aside without reading them. “Anyway, I’ve got a free hour, as well. Advanced Astronomy meets at midnight on Monday, so we get a late morning on Tuesday.”

Damn it all, Mischief!”

She gently pinched his beak. “Hush, now, love. Anyway, why did you two come over here?”

“Oh, right,” Fred shook his head, smiling oddly, “I ‘spose we got sidetracked by your dodgy bird.”

“There’s no Quidditch on this year, thanks to the Triwizard bloody Tournament,” George lamented, “But we’re still allowed to mess about on the pitch, once a week.”

“We’re gonna head over there this evening for a spot of flying. You ought to join us.”

She laughed. “What, you want me to try out for the Gryffindor team?”

“No.” Fred seemed offended by the suggestion. “It’s just loads of fun.”

“Hang on,” she remembered aloud, “You’re Beaters, aren’t you?”

“More like human Bludgers,” George boasted, “You must’ve seen what I did to Marcus Flint’s teeth, two years ago.”

She grimaced. “Yes, that’ll be burned into my memory till the day I die, thank you.”

“Good!” Fred announced, getting to his feet, “It’s settled then, you’re gonna come and fly with us.”

She narrowed her eyes suspiciously. “What’s in it for me?”

George chuckled. “We’ll make it worth your while. Maybe give you a Quidditch lesson.”

She shook her head. “I’m rubbish on a broom.”

Bollocks!” they dismissed in unison.

“You’re coming!”

“And don’t bring that dodgy bird!”

.

.

.

 

The evening hung thick with late-summer humidity, even as the sun crept lower and lower against the horizon. Ophelia Lestrange neither understood nor cared for the game of Quidditch. But she was beginning to think that she cared for the twins, so she went. Nobody had ever worked so hard to seek her out, before. It was disarming. A part of her was still worried that the whole affair would wind up one big, elaborate prank. Why else would they be so unrelentingly interested?

But when she arrived at the pitch, she realized, to her bitter dismay, that they’d failed to mention they wouldn’t be alone. In fact, nearly the entire Gryffindor Quidditch team was there (with the notable exception of local celebrity Harry Potter), buzzing about the pitch, laughing and joking with each other. Ophelia sat alone in the Slytherin section of the empty stands, knees crossed pertly, hands laced together in her lap. She had abandoned her school uniform, and was dressed in a long, flowing black skirt and a tight, sleeveless, leather top; the forbidding neckline of which rose to her jaw. Buckles and straps crisscrossed over her chest.

When she’d dressed, she’d done so proudly. She’d been excited to spend time with her new friends. Now, she felt awkward and out of place, and more than a little resentful of the twins. Angelina Johnson and Katie Bell kept taking low passes in front of her, casting her reproachful looks. At one point, they hovered near Fred and George, and she saw them glancing over their shoulders at her as they talked.

Ophelia wished she’d brought a book or something; anything to provide a distraction. Instead, she drew her wand, and began busying herself by making the dead leaves stuffed in between the seats spiral and twirl through the air. She transfigured a few into flowers, laying them out in her lap.

She couldn’t just leave, no matter how much she wanted to. Not anymore, since they’d all seen her. She’d stand her ground, act like she belonged here. Even though she’d never felt more out-of-place.

Heads-up!”

She reacted just in time to see a Bludger hurtling towards her head. She quickly ducked, and it sailed past her. Furious, she whipped around to see one of the twins, perched proudly atop his broom. He grinned broadly as he flipped his club in his hand. The rest of the team had cleared out, leaving the twins alone on the pitch.

Without hesitation, she raised her wand to him. “Confundus!”

His broom whiplashed him sideways, and he dropped his club. “Fucking hell, Ophelia!” he shouted, struggling to regain control of his broom, “I’ll do you for that!”

She frowned. “You had your shot, and you missed, you ginger bastard! Better luck next time!”

“Oi!” his brother flew up beside him, handing him his club back. “That wasn’t funny, Fred! You could’ve killed her!”

He snatched the club away. “Oh, come off it, we’ve taken loads of Bludgers to the head, and we’re alright.”

“I suppose that explains your faces!” Ophelia called up to them.

“Bloody hell!” George laughed, clutching at his chest to feign some grave injury. “No one’s safe from her tonight, eh?”

“Yeah, you’re in rare form, Lestrange, aren’t you?”

“What’ve you got me out here for, then?” she sniped, “Just to parade me about like a new pet, in front of your Gryffindor girlfriends?”

No!” they refuted in unison, shocked and offended by the suggestion.

“What, then?” she challenged, “I can’t help feeling like I’m being made the butt of a joke, right now.”

You’re not!”

“Go down onto the pitch,” George said, “We’ll meet you down there!”

She descended the long stairs between the stands, stepping out onto the grass. They landed with more grace than she’d expected from them, jogging over to her. They were dressed in their crimson Quidditch robes; gold-trimmed and emblazoned with lions. Hard leather was bound to their forearms and shins, to protect them from Bludgers, she supposed. Their long hair was wild and windswept, brushing against their shoulders. She couldn’t help but admit, it was attractive. They looked lean and mean. Despite herself, the corner of her mouth lifted into a smile. They noticed.

“Wanna go up?” one of them asked, “We can filch you a broom.”

Her smile melted into a grimace. “I told you once, I’m rubbish at this.”

They laughed, almost mockingly.

“Come on, just try it,” one of them insisted, extending his broom out to her.

She hesitated for a moment, before announcing, “No, I won’t do it.”

He sighed dramatically, rolling his eyes. “What was the point of you coming all the way out here, then, if you’re not gonna let us teach you to fly?”

“I don’t know!” she said defensively, “You made me come out here!”

“Here—” his brother interjected, drawing his wand, “I’ve got an idea, you’ll love it. Accio Firebolt!”

Suddenly, the most exquisite broomstick Ophelia had ever seen came hurtling out onto the pitch. It shot right towards the summoner’s outstretched hand, and he caught it deftly. It was a work of art: the shaft meticulously carved from red wood, gold trim on the tips of the bristles.

The by-standing twin chuckled evilly. “Oh, this is going to be brilliant.”

“Come here,” his brother commanded, tugging her over towards him, “Get on.”

“Why?”

“What do you mean, why?” he laughed, “I’m gonna teach you to ride it. My broom’s not nearly flash enough to carry two people, but this one is.”

He set the broom floating beside them, looking to her expectantly.

“I’m wearing a skirt.”

So?” they challenged in unison.

“So, it’s not…” she stammered, “I don’t know, it’s not proper!”

Well pardon us, then, princess!” they sniped back.

“You could take it off, if you like,” one of them offered.

“Yeah, we wouldn’t mind.”

She narrowed her eyes at them as they smirked. Now they’d gone and turned it into a challenge. She took hold of the broom, hiked up her skirt, and carefully took her place astride it. The unwieldy black fabric laid out awkwardly behind her. The twin who’d summoned the broom swept it to the side and settled in behind her, wrapping one arm around her waist and gripping the shaft of the broom with his free hand.

“Which one are you, anyway?” she asked, “I’ve gone and lost track.” She was trying to tamp down her sudden and paralytic fear, but despite her best efforts, she realized her voice had quavered.

He chuckled, pressing his chest into her back. “I’m Fred.”

She turned to study his face through narrowed eyes. “No, you’re not.” It was a wild guess.

“Yeah, alright, you got me,” he admitted, “I’m George. And you’re gonna want to hold on, Lestrange.”

The moment her fingers wrapped around the broomstick, he kicked off the ground, rocketing them straight up into the sky. She tried to scream, but the sound was forced back down her throat by their breakneck speed.

“Wrap your feet over my ankles!” he shouted in her ear.

Struggling to maintain her balance, she did as he said. Immediately, he crossed an arm up over her chest, gripped her shoulder, and leaned them both down over the broom. They took off like a bolt of lightning, and he began weaving an expert slalom between the towers that encircled the pitch. The multicolored banners fluttered up in their wake, each time they passed one, and George only seemed to be inching closer and closer. She was entirely certain they were going to crash, but he just laughed and cheered.

“I hate this!” she screamed.

“What?”

I hate this!”

What??” He was mocking her.

He whipped back out over the pitch and nosed up, sending them skyward in a perfect, vertical line.

“We’re too high!” she shouted in protest, pressing her eyes shut. She had a white-knuckle grip on the shaft of the broom.

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah!”

With a wave of relief, she realized they were slowing, leveling out. The deafening rush of air petered out to silence, and they came to a hover.

“Hey, Lestrange?” he nudged, brushing her hair away from his face.

“What?” she demanded shakily.

“Oh, for fucks sake,” he chuckled, “Open your eyes.”

She shook her head frantically. “No.”

He laughed. “Do it, or I won’t take you down!”

Her heart was racing. She could hear it thumping in her ears, making her dizzy. She turned her head to the side, until she could feel his breath on her cheek. And then, reluctantly, she opened her eyes to look at him.

He was grinning broadly, chin resting on her shoulder. “Good girl,” he congratulated, giving her a light shake, “Now look down.”

“No!” she protested in a quavering voice.

“I’ll keep us up here all night, Ophelia! Don’t think for a second that I won’t!”

She did it. The pang of regret was instantaneous. For a moment, she marveled oddly at how unbelievably small Fred looked, down there. Just a tiny spot of red in the middle of the broad, green pitch.

And then, without warning, George dove for the ground. This time, she did scream. Her heart leapt into her throat, and she was worried for a moment that she may vomit. Luckily, the feeling passed. In complete and abject horror, she watched as Fred grew clearer and clearer beneath them. She could see the pair of brooms lying on the grass beside him. She could see his hand shielding his face from the dying sun, as he looked up at them. She could see his smile. She could see the Gryffindor lion on his chest. And just when she began to deeply, truly believe that George was going to kill them both, he pulled out of the dive, whooping and cheering triumphantly.

“You… You complete… Bastard!” she panted, as he wound them through a slow, leisurely downward spiral.

George couldn’t stop laughing. Chin resting on her shoulder, he pulled her up against his chest. “You earned your bloody stripes with that one, Lestrange!” he proudly congratulated, as they lighted gracefully back on the pitch.

She leapt from the broom, taking a few stumbling steps away from him. Her limbs were shaking terribly, knees threatening to give way beneath her. Fred was sprinting across the field towards them, waving his arms in the air.

“Brilliant!” he cried, voice breaking on his excitement, “Absolutely bloody brilliant, that was!”

George stepped up beside her, still clutching the broom. “Are you gonna be right?” he teased, hand hovering above her shoulder.

“Get… Stuffed…” She flopped to the grass in a spent heap. Windswept and careless and exhausted. She tried to close her eyes, but it felt as though the entire Quidditch Pitch was tilting to the side.

Without breaking his sprint, Fred plowed hard into his brother. He tackled him to the ground, knocking the wind out of him with a shoulder to the stomach, and then leapt to his feet again.

“Come on, then, it’s my turn!” He snatched the exquisite broomstick away from his twin, quickly mounting it and kicking off from the ground. His victorious scream faded into the distance as rocketed high and fast into the gradually-darkening sky.

George shook off the blow with what seemed like practiced ease, and sat up beside her. “What did you think of that, then?”

Wordlessly, she took his hand, pressing his fingers to her neck so he could feel her pulse. Even as she lay on the grass, it was still hammering at dizzying gallop.

He laughed triumphantly, giving her a gentle pat on the cheek. “That means I did it right!”

“I don’t know where you get off, George Weasley,” she laughed breathlessly, “I thought you were going to killme.”

Trust, darling,” he grinned.

She shook her head, smiling broadly. “I hardly think I trust you anymore. Not after all that.”

High above them, Fred was stringing together a series of fast, careless loops, inching closer and closer to the ground each time. Suddenly, he pulled up, and shot skyward like an arrow.

George laid down beside her, fingers laced beneath his head. Together they watched him, quietly amused, as the sun sank lower and lower.

“Anyway, you passed the test,” George suddenly announced.

She turned to eye him suspiciously. “What test?”

He shrugged. “I dunno, but you passed. So, it’s official, now. You can be our friend.”

It was something of an odd turn, for Ophelia Lestrange. Because it had suddenly occurred to her that, in that very moment, she was genuinely, truly, deeply happy. There was no modifier, no caveat, no hanging doubt. It was just joy.

“As long as you don’t dress creepy like that, all the time,” he remarked, looking her up and down.

She shook her head, grinning broadly. “No chance, George Weasley. So, you can just give that up right now.”

He rolled onto his side, still eyeing her. “What are you meant to be, anyway? A carriage Thestral?”

She turned away, because she was, of all things, blushing. “Shut your mouth.”

Finally, when Fred had had his fill, he came skidding to a less-than-graceful halt beside them. “This—” he announced, panting and holding the broomstick aloft, “Is the single greatest thing ever invented by Wizardkind.”

George and Ophelia stood, smiling and laughing.

“Well, come on, then,” she urged, “We’d better get back, before it gets dark. Snape will have your heads.”

“What?” Fred gave an animated sigh, throwing his head back in frustration. “I thought you were cool, Lestrange!”

“She is cool,” George defended, punching her lightly on the arm, “Besides, it’s not like we’re short of mischief to manage back inside.”

The trio meandered back to the locker room, stowing the three broomsticks safely in their cupboard. And then they made their way back across the pitch, and up the winding path that led back up to the castle. The windows were like shimmering flecks of gold in the twilight. It was a very inviting sight. But Ophelia had been doing some math, and there was something that didn’t quite add up.

“That broom you had me on,” she remarked curiously, “Where did that come from?”

The twins exchanged wry smiles.

“It’s far too nice to be a school broom,” she observed, “So, whose is that?”

They began to chuckle, shaking their heads.

“Honestly, Ophelia, you don’t want to know.”

“Hey!” She gave them simultaneous punches on the shoulder, to which they greatly overreacted. “Whose is that? Wood’s?”

“It’s Harry Potter’s!” Fred finally divulged, and the pair erupted into peals of self-satisfied laughter.

Ophelia stopped in her tracks, mouth agape. “It bloody well isn’t!”

It is!” they confirmed.

“But don’t worry—” Fred added.

“—it was your inheritance that paid for it!”

Chapter Text

It was deep into the night, and Fred, by all accounts, should’ve been sleeping. But there was a distinct rustling of fabric, a few feet away, keeping him awake.

“George, knock it off,” he finally scolded in a harsh whisper.

“Shut up, you’re gonna ruin it.” His voice was strained and breathy.

He frowned. “Marcus Flint!” he said cruelly, “Eloise Midgen! Percy’s knickers!”

“Will you shut up?” He flung his pillow across the room, missing his brother entirely in the darkness. “I’ve been carrying this thing around all evening, now I’ll never get rid of it.”

In the tense silence that ensued, Fred had to admit, he did feel a little guilty.

“Sorry,” he offered weakly, “What were you thinking about, then?”

“As if I’m gonna tell you, now.”

“Oh, go on,” he goaded, tossing the pillow back.

After a long pause, George answered, “Ophelia.”

Fred laughed loudly.

Lee groaned, shifting in his bed. “Go to sleep, Christ.”

After a cautious beat, Fred whispered, “Ophelia Lestrange?”

“Nah, the other Ophelia I had my hands all over today,” George sniped defensively, “Git.”

“And doing what to her?” Fred needled, enjoying the torture.

George stammered. “I dunno! Shut up!”

He giggled cruelly, rolling over to face his chagrined brother. “Reach up under that stupid skirt of hers, see what’s there.”

“Yeah. Something like that.”

“It’d take about half an hour to undo all her buckles and laces.”

George’s reply was barely audible as he mumbled, “Worth every second, though.”

Fred laughed. “I reckon she’s too tall for you, mate.”

“Get stuffed, we’re about the only ones who she isn’t too tall for!”

“Too tall, and too posh.”

“I’m gonna ask her to the Ball, I think,” George blurted, a little impulsively.

Fred laughed again, but inside, he felt a strange kind of conflict. Ophelia bloody Lestrange. George really liked her, he realized oddly. Did he like her, as well, then? She was tall, yeah, but not too tall. George was right, she was still shorter than them. A bit mental, but so were all girls. Nice face, nice lips. Pretty hair. And she seemed like she could keep up alright, even if she complained a lot.

“Oi!” George whispered, “D’you reckon I should?”

“I dunno,” he answered honestly, suddenly preoccupied with the idea of asking her himself.

After a beat, his mind was made up. “Yeah, I’m gonna do it, I think. She’s loads of fun.”

Well, good for you, then, Fred thought bitterly.

“Go to sleep, George.”

“Yeah, alright. G’night.”

“G’night.”

After a few minutes, the rustling of fabric started up again. But this time, rather than catch him out for it, Fred let his hand drift between his legs, and his mind drift towards Ophelia Lestrange.

Chapter Text

Ophelia was hidden away in a quiet corner of the library, trying to study for her O.W.L.s, when one of the twins suddenly popped out from behind a shelf. He had a dubiously benign smile on his face, hands hidden behind his back.

“Yes?” She cocked an eyebrow, peering at him from behind her book. “Can I help you?”

“Madame Lestrange!” To her shock, he produced a small chocolate from behind his back, offering it out to her. “Would you care to sample some homemade confectionary?”

She snapped the book shut, leaning forward to impress upon him, “I don’t know what sort of bollocks you’re trying to trick me into eating, Fred Weasley, but it’s not going to work!”

He stared down at her, eyes wide with fear and surprise. After a tense moment, a genuine smile spread across her face, and she began to laugh. He released the breath he’d been holding. She was a little frightening, sometimes.

“Damn!” he chuckled, withdrawing, “I really thought I’d get you with that one. Girls are all meant to be mad about chocolate, aren’t they?”

She shook her head, laughing at him. “Whatever you’ve got there, I hardly think it qualifies.”

George poked his head out from behind a nearby bookshelf, a concerned expression on his face. “Oi! Did you just try and slip her a bleeding Fever Fudge?”

Fred shushed him. “Anyway, she didn’t fall for it,” he admitted with a disappointed shrug.

“Hang on,” George realized, stepping around the corner, “You got it right, just then! You knew he was Fred!”

She nodded proudly. “I’ve got the pair of you well sorted, now.”

That didn’t take long,” they muttered in unison, a hint of disappointment in their voices.

In actuality, it was the nature of the prank that had given it away. George would never have tried a thing like that on her.

“Well,” Fred swooped back in, “If fudge isn’t your cup of tea, perhaps I could interest you in a lovely piece of—”

“Oh, get out of here!” George took him by the arm, and shoved him, laughing, around the corner. “Away with you!”

Ophelia chuckled, looking up at George with a wide smile. “Hang on, aren’t you meant to be in a class?” she asked.

He shrugged. “Couldn’t be arsed today. Too many irons in the fire as it is.”

She clapped a hand over her mouth, stifling an explosive laugh. To be so bold, so careless. “What, like product testing?”

 “Oh, at the least,” he scoffed, “Time is Galleons, Ophelia.”

 “I suppose bothering me is on the list, as well.”

“Naturally!”

“Would you care to join me, then?” she offered, gesturing to the chair beside her.

“Why thank you.” He gave her an animated bow, taking his place with a flourish. He leaned over to see what she was working on.

“Divination,” she explained.

George mimed a dry heave.

“Hey!” she scolded, swatting at him, “I like Divination!”

He made an elaborate show of pretending to vomit on her books.

“Stop doing that!” she laughed, “I’m really good at it, you know!”

“Oh yeah?” he challenged, “Prove it. Divine something for me, right now!”

“Here—” she snatched for his right hand, balling it into a tight fist. “Squeeze really hard for a moment, and then open your hand.”

 He did as he was told, looking up at her expectantly. She spread his hand open, carefully inspecting the lines. His heart picked up a beat at the feeling of her long, black-lacquered fingernails tracing along his palm, and he watched her intently.

“Hmm…” she murmured pensively, “I can tell you straight away, you’ve got Air hands, but that just can’t be right…”

“Why not?”

She smiled, glancing up at him. “You’re all fire, George Weasley.”

“Told you it was bollocks,” he laughed.

“Hush!” She took his thumb between her fingers, bending it back and forth for a moment before announcing, “You’re easy-going, but absolutely tactless.”

He shrugged. “Yeah, but you knew that already. Go on, impress me, Lestrange.”

She rolled her eyes, returning to his palm. “All of your main lines lead towards Sun Mount, so you’ll be very successful in business… But less successful gambling.”

He chuckled, trying to mask his genuinely growing interest.

“And here—” she traced her finger along his palm, “Your heart line curves towards Jupiter, so you’re meant to be very warm-hearted. But you’ve got a cross through it, so you’ll have a period of real sorrow in love.”

He furrowed his brow, trying to see what she was seeing.

Her face suddenly turned stony, and she brought his hand closer to her face. “But here…” she whispered, “Oh no, that’s… Oh, dear…”

“What?” he demanded, following her gaze.

She placed a finger on one of his lines, shaking her head bitterly. She looked up at him, a grave expression on her face. “According to this line here, you’re a complete wanker.”

He exhaled an explosive laugh, snatching his hand from her grip and pushing her away by the face. “Get stuffed, Ophelia!”

“I had you!” she cackled, tossing her hair back.

“Belt up!”

“Honestly, I’d love to do you and Fred side-by-side,” she admitted genuinely, “I think that would be a fascinating way to study inherited traits and how they undergo ch—”

He heeded, “I’ll be sick again, Lestrange, don’t push your luck!”

 She rolled her eyes. “Whatever. Hey, what’s this I hear about you trying to blag your way into the Triwizard Tournament?”

He broke into a wide grin, face full of mischief. “You heard correctly.”

She shook her head in bewilderment. “How do you think you’re going to manage that, then?”

He beckoned to her conspiratorially, and she moved closer, wearing a slightly uneasy smile. With one finger, he dragged the hair away from her ear, and then leaned in so that his lips nearly brushed against her skin.

“It’s so simple,” he whispered, “You’ll be absolutely amazed.”

The feeling of his breath against her ear sent an odd shiver down her spine. He was close enough, now, that she could smell him. Whatever it was that was so uniquely George Weasley.

“Oh, is it?” she probed, smiling.

“Two words, Ophelia,” he divulged, “Aging Potion.” He sat back proudly, arms spread wide.

She rolled her eyes, inwardly disappointed that whatever that intimate moment was had ended. “Aging Potion?”

“Shh!” he pressed a finger to her lips, eyes darting back and forth. “Don’t go broadcasting it!”

She grasped his hand, taking it away from her mouth. “Georgie,” she whispered emphatically, “That’s not going to work.”

“That’s where you’re wrong!” he insisted, leaning in close again, “It’s so pathetically simple, there’s no way anyone would’ve expected us to try it! So, there won’t be any wards up against it!”

Ophelia studied the proud, confident expression on his face with growing amusement. And, she realized, growing… Fondness? It occurred to her, with a pang, that she was holding his hand again. And their faces were very, very close together. Close enough that she could feel his warm breath on her lips.

“Merlin’s beard, Ophelia,” he realized aloud, blinking in surprise, “Your eyes are… Purple.”

The corner of her mouth raised into a half-smile. “Yeah,” she nodded, “Yeah, they are.”

“Blimey,” he smiled, “Never noticed that before.” He placed a hand on her cheek as he studied her, the warmth of it making her heart race in her chest. For the briefest of moments, she watched his gaze flit down to her lips, and then back up again.

“Hey, Ophelia—”

Mr. Weasley!”

The pair sprang apart instantly at the sound of McGonagall’s harsh tone.

“Whatever it is you’re are attempting, there, it’s going to stop, immediately,” she scolded, “Now, come on. Up. You’ve no doubt got a class you’re meant to be in.”

George scrambled to his feet. “Sorry, Professor,” he said with a guilty smile, “I was only studying.”

She cast him an unimpressed look. “May I remind you, Mr. Weasley, that Miss Lestrange is not, in fact, one of the subjects taught here at Hogwarts.”

“Sorry, Professor,” he repeated, color rising to his freckled cheeks.

“Now, get to class,” she commanded, giving him a curt nod towards the door, “And take your brother with you! I imagine he’ll be lurking around nearby, as well.”

George left in a hurry, but not before giving Ophelia a wry wink from over McGonagall’s shoulder. She smiled, despite herself, earning a stern gaze from the head of Gryffindor house.

McGonagall shook her head. “I would expect more focused behavior from you, Miss Lestrange,” she admonished, “Making friends from other houses is a noble endeavor, and not one that I mean to punish. However, I know that Professor Snape would be most disappointed in you if I were forced to take points from Slytherin house, because of the Weasley twins.”

Ophelia bowed her head. “You’re absolutely right, Professor. It won’t happen again.”

“Yes, well, see that it does not.” With a final, withering glance, McGonagall left.

Ophelia sighed deeply, returning to her book. She couldn’t, for the life of her, remember what she’d been studying, before the twins arrived. McGonagall’s interruption had been a disheartening reminder for her that, no matter how much she may come to like them, Fred and George came from a different world. And there would always be someone who disapproved. Someone who wanted them to stay away from each other.

Just as she found her page again, she felt a pair of hands clasp around her face, sweeping her head backward. She saw a flash of long, ginger hair, a fleeting glimpse of his face. And then, suddenly, a pair of lips collided with hers. Urgent, imprecise, and unbearably brief. She made a small sound of surprise. And then it was over, before she’d had time to process what was happening.

When she whipped around, she caught the briefest glimpse of George Weasley, as he disappeared around the corner. She exhaled a monosyllabic laugh, bringing her fingertips to her lips and smiling guiltily.

After that, she found she couldn’t possibly focus on studying.

Chapter Text

The following morning, as Ophelia was heading for lunch, she was stopped by a girl from Beauxbatons, with whom she shared a few classes.

“Lestrange! Your, ah…” she struggled, “Merde, comment…? Les freres, les oranges.”

Ophelia shook her head, bewildered. “My what?”

“Your, ah… Jumeaux…” She suddenly looked up brightly. “Twins!”

She blanched. “What happened?”

The girl shook her head in dismay. “They are, ah… Les vieux, à présent.”

She furrowed her brow. “I’m sorry, I’ve got absolutely no idea what you’re talking about.”

The girl pointed down the hall, insistently. “L’hôpital.”

With no hesitation, Ophelia was off, sprinting down the hall towards the Hospital Wing. She was imagining every possible injury that could’ve befallen them: Bludgers, Acromantulas, that goddamned flying car, backfired spells, misguided potion attempts—Of course. It dawned on her, all at once. Something had gone horribly wrong with their stupid Aging Potion dodge.

She skidded to a halt in the doorway, to see a dozen or so students crowded around one of the beds. All Gryffindors, all laughing. Ron, Ginny, and Harry Potter were among them. She hung back, books pressed to her chest, as of yet unnoticed by the throng. When a tired-looking Madame Pomfrey parted the crowd, Ophelia finally laid eyes on them.

Fred and George had, by some horrible miscalculation, sprouted long, grey beards. Otherwise, they seemed entirely unharmed, as they laughed and joked with the onlookers. She stifled an explosive laugh, clapping a hand over her mouth just a moment too late. Suddenly, the crowd turned, and all eyes fell to her. It was then that she took note of Angelina Johnson and Katie Bell, who were all but glaring.

Hi, Ophelia!” the twins chorused, waving. “You were right!”

“What is she doing here?” Katie sniped in a very audible whisper.

Ophelia didn’t need to hear anymore. And she wouldn’t give any of them the opportunity to gang up on her. She turned and sprinted back down the hall, just as quickly as she’d come.

They found her that night, as the crowd was filtering out of the Great Hall. Ophelia lingered near the back, heart still carrying that morning’s heaviness. Just as she was rounding the corner towards the stairs, she heard it.

“There she is, grab her!”

Without warning, someone took hold of her arm, and yanked her behind a suit of armor.

“Hey!” she yelped in surprise.

It was the twins, grinning proudly.

Indignant, she jerked her arm away. “Just what do you think you’re doing?”

Shh!”

“Never mind all that, what did you think of those beards?” Fred whispered intensely.

“Yeah, I suppose we should’ve listened to you, eh?”

She tossed her hair back, making a big show of angrily straightening her robes. “I suppose you should’ve!”

“What’s gotten into you?” George asked, taken aback.

She crossed her arms. “Tell your girlfriends to lay off!”

They laughed. “What are you on about?”

The laughter stung. “Katie Bell and Angelina Johnson!” She said it as though it should’ve been obvious.

“They’re not anyone’s girlfriends,” George was quick to defend, “Certainly not ours.”

“Anyway,” Fred interrupted, “What does it matter?”

Ophelia glared at George, who seemed genuinely frightened of her. “I don’t know,” she replied pointedly.

“Ophelia…” Fred tried to pull her into a hug, but she jerked her arm from his grasp.

Oi!”

“I have to go,” she announced, turning away in a huff. “I’ll see you later.”

Fred and George were, for once, stunned into silence.

.

.

.

 

“Nice look, Ron!”

“Go well with your dress robes, that will.”

The twins flopped down onto the couch in the Common Room, opposite Harry, Ron, and Hermione. To their great amusement, they’d just witnessed their younger brother singe his eyebrows off, trying to build a house of cards with an Exploding Snap deck.

“Hey, can we borrow Pigwidgeon?” George asked.

“No, he’s off delivering a letter. Why?”

“Because George wants to ask him to the ball,” Fred announced.

“Because we want to send a letter, you great stupid prat!”

Ron looked between his brothers, eyes narrowed suspiciously. “Who d’you two keep writing to, eh?”

“Nose out, Ron, or I’ll burn that for you too,” said Fred, brandishing his wand threateningly. “So, you lot got dates for the ball yet?”

Ron shook his head bitterly. “No.”

“Well, you’d better hurry up, mate, or all the good ones will be gone,” Fred heeded.

“Who’re you going with, then?” Ron demanded, a hint of defensiveness to be heard in his voice.

“Angelina,” Fred announced, without a trace of embarrassment. He’d decided he’d let his brother sort things out with Ophelia on his own, now that she was so angry with them. She clearly fancied George more, anyway.

“What?” Ron was taken aback. “You’ve already asked her?”

“Good point,” Fred realized. He turned his head and called across the common room, “Oi! Angelina!”

Angelina, who had been talking with Alicia Spinnet near the fire, looked over at him.

“What?” she called back.

“Want to come to the ball with me?”

She looked him up and down for a second.

“All right, then,” she shrugged, and she turned back to Alicia and carried on chatting with a bit of a smile on her face.

“There you go,” Fred grinned at Harry and Ron, “Piece of cake.”

“What about you, then?” Ron demanded, rounding on George.

“Ophelia Lestrange,” he proudly revealed.

Harry grimaced. “What, that Slytherin girl from Diagon Alley?”

Right in one.”

Hermione gasped in near horror. “Don’t joke about that!”

George sat up a little straighter, grinning wickedly. “I’m not.”

Hermione was working herself into a frenzy. “You’re really shocking!”

“You’re not going to the Ball with Ophelia Lestrange,” Ron dismissed, as though that settled the matter.

“Why not?” Fred laughed, “He snogged her once, already.”

George nodded proudly. “In the library.”

“Right in front of McGonagall, no less.”

Harry and Ron looked as though they were going to be sick.

“Not two years ago, you lot were convinced she was the Heir of Slytherin,” Ron pointed out.

George cast him a cocky grin. “Tastes change.”

“And so did she,” Fred winked.

Ron held up a hand. “Hang on, let me get this straight. You, George Weasley, walked up to Ophelia Lestrange, looked her in the eyes, and said, ‘Hey, how do you fancy coming to the Ball with me?’ and she agreed? Didn’t laugh in your face, didn’t hex you, didn’t try and stab you with any sharp objects?”

George shrugged. “Haven’t asked her, yet.”

Ron scoffed, settling back into the couch. “Figures. There’s no way you’re gonna work up the nerve.”

“I am!” he jabbed his wand menacingly towards his brother, “And she won’t do any of that dodgy stuff. She fancies me.”

Fred laughed darkly. “I dunno about that, mate. She’s a bit cross with you, at the moment. I’d watch your back.”

“Why’s she cross with you?” Ron asked dubiously, “What did you do?”

George waved him off. “She’s cross with both of us, ‘cause she’s a girl, and girls are all mental.”

Hermione bristled. “I think you mean Ophelia Lestrange is mental.”

“No, I reckon he had it right,” Ron said, “If there’s one bloody thing I’ve learned, trying to find a date to this ball… We really should get a move on, you know.  Ask someone. They’re right, we don’t want to end up with a pair of trolls.”

Hermione let out a sputter of indignation. “A pair of what, excuse me?”

“Well, you know,” Ron shrugged, “I’d rather go alone than with, I dunno, with Eloise Midgen, say.”

“Her acne’s loads better lately,” Hermione defended, “And she’s really nice!”

Fred and George laughed mockingly.

“Her nose is off-center,” Ron pointed out.

“Oh, I see,” Hermione snapped, “So basically, you’re going to take the best-looking girl who’ll have you, even if she’s completely horrible?”

“Er… Yeah, that sounds about right,” he said. Harry nodded in morose agreement.

“Ron, that’s horrible!”

“What?” He pointed at George, “That’s what he’s doing!”

It is not!” They could joke about it, but they wouldn’t stand for anyone else saying she was horrible.

Ron cast them a patronizing look. “Right. Of course not.”

“I’m going to bed,” Hermione snapped, and she swept off toward the girls’ dormitory without another word.

Chapter Text

It was the night of the Yule Ball, and Ophelia was miserable. Her date had been some pompous, Beauxbatons boy, from the French side of the Travers’ family. He was almost unrealistically attractive, with alarmingly high cheekbones, and a jawline like an ice sculpture. Long, black hair, piercing blue eyes. Sacred 28 name. He even had a brand up one side of his neck. The kind of boy the family would be delighted for her to bring home. He’d latched onto her a few weeks prior, when they’d been paired in Potions class. He had recognized her name instantly, but no matter how many times she told him, he refused to believe that there was a Lestrange in this world who couldn’t speak French. So, when the Ball was suddenly upon them, and neither a Malfoy nor a Weasley had asked her, she’d agreed to go with him.

And now, here she was. Her long, sweeping, burgundy ballgown crumpled around her as she sat, cross-legged and alone, against the back wall of the Great Hall. Augustin had long since abandoned her for some petite, blindingly-blonde classmate of his, when he discovered that she really, truly, honestly could not speak French, surname notwithstanding. So, here she remained, as the Weird Sisters swayed through some slow, romantic ballad. Clinging to a half-empty goblet of cider, watching as Fred Weasley swept Angelina Johnson off her feet on the dance floor, and Draco huddled in the corner with Pansy Parkinson, and Hermione Granger sat talking with Viktor Krum, and Cho Chang brushed a lock of perfect, chestnut hair from Cedric Diggory’s perfect, stupid face.

It had been six weeks since George had kissed her. Six weeks since their brush with old age. After that, she had hardly seen him. The few times that she did, he was with Fred, so there was little to be said about what happened in the library. It was tense, it was awkward. Not like them at all. And she couldn’t shake the feeling that he’d been avoiding her. No late-night mischief, no sneaking around in the tunnels, or covertly passed notes. She assumed it had something to do with Katie Bell, and her visit to the hospital wing. And tonight, the heartbreak (that was what she’d finally decided to label it) suddenly seemed like a hard spike in her chest that she just couldn’t swallow.

“Oi!” A toe rammed hard into her thigh.

She scowled with displeasure, looking up to see George standing over her. He was clad in a set of stunning, maroon dress robes, hair pulled back into a rakish ponytail. Her heart momentarily ached at the sight of him, but she had to hold fast to her position.

“Do that again, George Weasley, and I’ll turn your shoe into a snapping turtle.”

He seemed to consider the threat for a moment, before deciding, “You know, I think I’d rather like to see that.”

She rolled her eyes. “Who’re you meant to be here with, then?”

“Dunno about ‘meant to’,” he shrugged, “I came alone. Where’s your garcon de Beauxbatons?” His accent was atrociously throaty and overdone.

“Oh, who knows?” She sighed in frustration, “He can get stuffed, le trouillard.”

After a beat, he extended a hand down to her. “Come on,” he beckoned, “Get up.”

She cast him a dubious stare. “Why? You asking me to dance?”

He shrugged. “Yeah, sure.”

“I don’t want to dance.”

He jerked a thumb towards the door. “Well, then come and get off with me in that secret tunnel by the stairs over there.”

It wasn’t a question, it was a command. She was stunned by his candor. If it weren’t for the fact that she was already seated, she may have collapsed from the shock of it. Her first instinct was to refuse, out of some misplaced sense of propriety. But, all of a sudden, things began to make sense. And there was no point in her playing hard-to-get. He clearly wanted it, and all at once she realized it was exactly what she wanted, too. Perhaps the only thing she’d ever really wanted, all her life.

“Yeah, alright,” she agreed, offering him a long-nailed hand and letting him pull her to her feet.

He clasped it tightly as he led her from the hall. “Are you taller?” he asked, looking her up and down. His tone was far too casual, given what he’d just suggested. “You’re my height.”

“Higher heels than usual,” she illuminated.

“Right, of course,” he nodded, leading her around the corner and out of sight. He dug his fingers behind the frame of one of the nearby paintings, prying it from the wall with practiced ease. “That’s a smashing dress, as well.”

“Thanks,” she said genuinely, “I suppose it’s more your color than mine, isn’t it?”

He shrugged, helping her up into the passageway. “I suppose it is.” He climbed in behind her, tugging the portrait back into position. Faint light filtered in through the canvas, casting a dim, orange glow over the small space.

She teased, “You can borrow it sometime, if you—”

His lips were on hers before she could finish the statement, her words fading to a soft moan. His hand slid up her neck and wove through her hair, tilting her head back to meet him. Oddly, she realized, she had no idea what to do with her hands. So, she placed them lightly against his back. With a thumb on her chin, he gently opened her mouth, and she felt his tongue against her lips. Christmas cake and spiced pumpkin juice. It made her feel light-headed.

His free arm slid around her waist, pressing her stomach hard against his. She felt a low sound rumble in his chest as he bore down on her. She was struck by the urge to touch his hair, so she did. With deft hands, she loosed the ribbon binding his ponytail, and combed her fingers back through his long, fiery-red locks.

He suddenly withdrew, eyes traveling hungrily across her face. “I really, really like you, O,” he whispered.

“Yeah,” she nodded desperately, “Yeah, I really, really like you, too.”

His face flashed with a smile, and then he dove in again, more fevered and insistent than he’d been before. A soft sound rose from her throat, and he drew her in tighter.

“Mmm, hey—” she suddenly realized, shoving him back by the jaw, “Why didn’t you ask me to this stupid bloody dance?”

He made a wearily pleading face at her. “Well, I was working up to it, wasn’t I?”

She furrowed her brow. “That had better be true, George Weasley.”

“Don’t you come all narky with me,” he chided softly, tilting her head back and pressing his lips to the smooth skin of her throat. “Not when I’m doing my best to make it up to you.”

She exhaled a monosyllabic laugh, eyes falling closed. There was a warmth spreading from the very center of her; a feeling, she realized, only he had ever given her.

“Go on, then,” she goaded, “Make it up to me.”

.

.

.

 

“I can’t believe you two,” Fred admonished, “You’re absolutely bloody sickening.”

“Ahh, Freddie, don’t be jealous,” his brother chided, “I suppose you’ll just have to share me, from now on.”

The trio were seated in the Great Hall, beside the crackling fire. George was perched on the middle step leading up to the hearth, between his girlfriend’s legs, as her fingers worked through his long hair. She was weaving thick braids against his scalp, from his temples, down behind his ears. He didn’t much care for the idea of Viking braids, per se, but he loved the feeling of her fingers in his hair. The warmth of her pressing into his back. Something about it made his eyes flutter closed, and all the muscles in his body go limp. He was absolutely smitten. He had been since Knockturn Alley. And now that everything had come together, he was inclined to indulge her whatever she wanted.

Fred shook his head in dismay. “Unbelievable. You can’t work up the nerve to ask her to the bloody dance, but you can walk right up and get her to spend the night with you in a sodding tunnel?”

She wasn’t the one who spent the night in a tunnel.” George winked animatedly.

“Hey!” She kicked him lightly. “Don’t talk like that!”

He laughed, overly proud of his joke.

Fred could barely stand it. “Sickening.”

 “You’re a good sport, Freddie,” Ophelia praised, “And you’d be an even better sport if you’d let me do you next.”

“Oi!” George parried, tilting his head back to scowl at her, “Don’t you talk like that!”

Hair!” she chuckled, planting a kiss on his forehead, “Do his hair!”

Although he’d had the instinct to acquiesce, something in Fred’s gut told him that it would be a bad idea, to let her braid his hair. So instead, he replied with a resolute, “Absolutely not.”

“What the bloody fuck do you think you’re doing, Lestrange?”

The twins looked up to see Blaise Zabini standing before them, a look of horror and disgust on his face.

Ophelia didn’t even glance at him. “Sod off, Blaise,” she commanded dismissively, “It’s no business of yours.”

Incidentally, George took note of the fact that her legs seemed to tighten around him. Selfishly, he wanted to label it an act of possessiveness. He liked it.

“The Malfoys are going to hear about this,” Blaise threatened.

“Oi!” Fred snatched up a nearby fire poker, brandishing it his face. “She told you to sod off. Do you need us to clean your ears out for you?”

“Or any part of your body, really,” George shrugged, “We’re not fussy where we stick that.”

He took a cautious step back, out of reach, his expression losing some if its resolve. “They’re gonna hear about this.”

“Off with you!” Fred swung the poker at him, and he scurried away.

“Thanks,” Ophelia said genuinely.

Don’t mention it,” they chorused.

“Ahh, I’ve missed you so much,” she told them, pressing a kiss to George’s temple, “The both of you. Let’s promise, right now, that we’ll never be cross with each other, ever again. Not for the rest of our lives.”

The twins exchanged bemused glances. By now, they knew better than to do a stupid thing like bring up who, precisely, had been cross with who. So, instead, they gave her a simultaneous, “Deal.”

“Alright, good. And… There!” she announced brightly, leaning back to examine her handiwork, “That’s you done.”

George ran tentative fingertips along the braids, looking to his brother with a doubtful expression.

Fred furrowed his brow. “That’s not half bad, actually.”

Ophelia rolled her eyes. “Yes, thank you for that glowing appraisal, Freddie.”

“Honestly,” he shrugged. “I said I wasn’t gonna let you do it to me, but I think I’ve rather changed my mind. Budge up, George.” In reality, it was less the appearance of the braids, but the look on his brother’s face that had swayed his opinion. The thought of sitting between her legs while she played with his hair had become too tempting.

George stood, turning around to press a kiss to her mouth. “You could do that to me all day, gorgeous,” he smiled, “I’d never get tired of it.”

She beckoned to Fred, and the twins exchanged positions. She scooted forward, trapping him between her thighs. He could feel her breasts pressing gently into his shoulders as she settled in, and quickly tensed his legs to prevent his interest from becoming visible. George cast him an admonishing glare for it.

“Fred Weasley, you are an absolute mess,” she giggled, taking the comb from her pocket and beginning to work it through his fiery-red hair. And, just as George had, Fred felt his eyes begin to flutter closed as he leaned into her touch.

Yeah, he realized guiltily, this is good.

Chapter Text

On Christmas, Fred and George Weasley took Ophelia Lestrange into the Gryffindor Common Room for the first time. She had told the Malfoys she needed to stay at school over the break to study for her O.W.L.s. This was, of course, a lie. But she’d much rather spend her holiday managing mischief with Fred and George, than enduring an extra two weeks under her adopted family’s thumb. And, for their part, the Malfoys were more than happy to be rid of her.

The prospect of visiting their Common Room had terrified her, when they had suggested it, and she’d fought them about it all day. But after a dinner spent together at the empty Slytherin table, George had decided he’d heard enough of her excuses. He and Fred had taken her by the shoulders, and marched her out of the Great Hall, towards the Gryffindor Tower.

The Fat Lady was shocked and offended at the sight of them approaching.

The twins chorused the password. “Banana fritters!”

“Messrs. Weasley!” she scolded, clutching at her chest, “I’m afraid I simply cannot allow you inside! Not with a female Slytherin student!”

Fred wasn’t going to take it. “Let us in, you old bat, we live here!”

“Yeah, where’s your Christmas cheer?” George added, flicking at her canvas.

“No, I’m sorry,” she doubled down, flustered, “I just won’t allow it!”

“Just leave it alone! We’ll go someplace else!” Ophelia begged.

They simultaneously silenced her. “No!”

“Banana fritters!” Fred shouted, stamping his foot.

“We’ll just stay here until someone comes out!” George cautioned, “Even if it takes all night! You’ll love that, won’t you? Banana fritters!”

Fred cupped his hands around his mouth, yelling, “Banana fritters! Banana fritters! BANANA FRITTERS!”

Completely beside herself, the Fat Lady swung open, muttering under her breath about how glad she’ll be when they’re finally expelled, and rest assured, they will be expelled! George hoisted Ophelia, kicking and fighting, over his shoulder.

“And a Happy Christmas to you, too, then!” Fred sniped, giving her double forks as they stepped through the portrait hole.

The instant they were inside, Hermione Granger’s distinctive voice sounded from across the room. “No!” she screeched, “Absolutely not! Get out!”

George set Ophelia down, and she straightened her hair and clothing in a huff. Ron, Hermione, Ginny, and Harry were all seated together in the Common Room, wide-eyed and shocked. It was a fantastically comfortable space; the circular stone room adorned with banners of crimson and gold, but grounded by warm, wooden tables and bookshelves. Overstuffed sofas and high-backed armchairs were scattered about the firelit room. It felt much more like a home than the Slytherin Common Room, but as comfortable as it was, Ophelia couldn’t help but feel out of place.

“I swear, you two are the absolute limit,” Hermione continued, getting to her feet, “If McGonagall—”

“Now, you listen here, Granger,” Fred silenced her with a stern point, “Don’t you start in with that sort of talk.”

“Yeah, it’s Christmas, Granger!” George defended, “Don’t be prejudiced!”

“Me?” she demanded, “Prejudiced against her?”

Though Hermione stood nearly six inches shorter than her, Ophelia couldn’t help but feel a ripple of fear, in the face of such unyielding tenacity. It made her feel like an invader. And, by all accounts, that’s precisely what she was. A stranger in a strange land; uninvited.

She took George’s hand, turning to whisper discreetly in his ear. “I told you this was a bad idea. Let’s just go, please.”

“Yes, I think that would be best,” Hermione nodded insistently.

No,” the twins chorused.

“You’re not a Prefect,” Fred taunted, “We’re under no obligation to do what you say.”

“And as we’ve decided we’re rather keen on spending Christmas with our pet Death Eater—”

Oddly enough, Ophelia and Hermione interrupted in unison. “That’s not funny!” The two girls made awkward eye contact for a moment, before quickly averting their gazes.

Fred and George laughed. Harry, Ron, and Ginny exchanged uncertain glances behind Hermione’s back.

“Honestly,” Hermione continued, frustration mounting, “You can’t—”

“Get stuffed, Granger,” Fred dismissed, taking Ophelia by the wrist and shoving past her. “Kids, this is Ophelia Lestrange.”

He lifted her arm, waving it back and forth. She forced an awkward smile. Harry, Ron, and Ginny returned the gesture.

George stepped up beside them. “She’s the surprisingly spooky answer to every question we’ve ever asked ours—”

“We know,” Ron interrupted, exasperated, “You’ve only told us a hundred times.”

“Sounds like you’re in love, Georgie,” Ginny teased, batting her eyes dreamily at her brother.

The statement hit him like a beautiful punch in the gut, the idea blooming comfortably through his chest. But he powered through, just as glib and confident as ever.

“Maybe I am!” he announced, scooping Ophelia back up into his arms. (It seemed to be his theme for the day; she’d resigned to it.) He dipped her over the back of the couch, towards Harry. He coaxed, “Say hello to Harry Potter, Ophelia.”

She was too stunned and thrilled by George’s sudden announcement to argue with him. So, she extended a hand down to Harry, giving him a polite smile. “Hello to Harry Potter, Ophelia.”

Confused and suspicious, Harry reached for her hand.

“Ooh, don’t do it, Harry!” Fred cautioned, “Your whole head might split open, if you touch her!”

Harry rolled his eyes, shaking her hand nonetheless. “Nice to meet you,” he said flatly, avoiding her gaze, “Don’t you live with the Malfoys?”

She nodded. “Yes, that’s right. Why do you think I’m staying here for the holidays?”

Ron chuckled, and Hermione cast him a disapproving glance.

“As bad as you think Draco is, his parents are about a hundred times worse,” she explained, “And he’s worse when he’s around them. So, I’d much rather hang about here, and manage mischief with these two beautiful thieves.”

Harry’s face lit up with understanding, the corner of his mouth lifting into a cautious smile. She gave him a knowing wink.

“Aw, you hear that, Georgie?” Fred giggled, “She says we’re beautiful.”

“No,” she corrected, “I said you’re thieves.”

“Blimey, I might like her after all,” Ron announced.

Hermione scoffed in bitter disapproval.

“Alright, Granger!” George lifted Ophelia back up again, “We’re not gonna hang about with you lot if you can’t be neighborly! So, ta-ta!” With that, he carried her off towards the boy’s dormitory. “Say goodbye to the kids, Ophelia!”

She waved over his shoulder. “Goodbye to the kids, Ophelia!”

You absolutely cannot take her up there!” Hermione screeched.

Fred gasped, making a move like he was clutching for an invisible strand of pearls. “I can’t believe you, Granger!” he admonished, following George towards the stairs, “Discriminating against someone for their blood status!”

“How absolutely disgraceful!” George added, tossing his hair back in a very Ophelia-like gesture.

As they retreated, Ophelia caught a lick of Hermione’s harsh whisper. “Do you have any idea what her parents did to Neville’s parents?”

It stung. Deeply.

And it wasn’t her parents. It was her father, her aunt, and her uncle.

When they reached the top of the stairs, George kicked the door open, and dropped Ophelia down onto his bed. The dormitory was similar enough to her own, with a quintet of four-poster beds arranged in a semi-circle. But like the Common Room, everything was crimson and gold. The room was candlelit by a massive, golden chandelier. All of the other 6th year Gryffindor boys had gone home for the holidays, Lee included, so they had the place entirely to themselves.

With a flick of his wand, Fred sent his own bed sliding across the floor, and it slammed hard against George’s. She barely yanked her legs out of the way in time. They flopped down either side of her, reclining comfortably across the two beds.

“Well, that was a spot of excitement!” George exclaimed, tousling her hair.

“Don’t do things like that!” she scolded, sitting up and kicking her boots away.

Like what?”

“Like… I don’t know!” she stammered, “Use me to antagonize people? You know what you were doing! So, just don’t!”

Settle down,” they chided in unison. George threw his arms around her, dragging her back down onto the mattress with him.

“Yeah, O, what do you care what a bunch of Ickle Kiddies think of you, anyway?” Fred laughed, jabbing a finger into her cheek. She swatted him away, frustration mounting. He clucked disapprovingly, leaning over the edge of the bed to dig through his trunk.

“The two of you do my head in. Honestly.”

“Ahh, loosen your corset laces, princess, you love it,” Fred crowed, emerging with a bottle of fire whiskey.

Ophelia breathed an incredulous laugh, her melancholy forgotten. “Where the hell did you get that?”

“Same place we get everything—”

“—Filch’s office!”

“Oh my god, he can’t have that on school grounds!” she realized aloud, “He’d be in loads of trouble, if Dumbledore found out!”

“That’s why we generously took it off his hands for him,” Fred said.

“Yeah, we’re nothing if not helpful, that way.”

Fred uncorked the bottle, taking a deep pull.

“Take it easy!” Ophelia warned, “Shit!”

He coughed and gagged for a moment, before passing it to his brother with a grimace. Unfazed, George took an identically enthusiastic drink, and reacted much the same way.

Ophelia shook her head. “Unbelievable.” She snatched the bottle away from him, and poured an obscene quantity into her mouth. The twins’ eyes widened, their faces splitting with smiles. When she finally put the bottle down on the nightstand, she didn’t cough, didn’t gasp. Despite the admittedly harsh burn.

“You’re fun,” George marveled, freckled cheeks beginning to redden.

“And you’re a proper Gryffindor now, Lestrange!” Fred added, snatching a crimson and gold tie from his bedpost and slinging it around her neck.

“Never!” she gasped, feigning great offense, “Never, until the day I die!”

“Then I’ll just have to make sure you’ve got enough Gryffindor in you, to compensate.” George grabbed the necktie, dragging her down into a kiss.

Fred thrust a hand between their faces, pushing George away from her. “Alright, alright, that’s enough.”

“Now I’ve got to bring you into the Slytherin Common Room,” she announced, reclining between them again.

“Oh, yeah?” Fred laid down beside her, face lighting up at the suggestion of such fantastic mischief.

“It’s really different,” she told them, “Everything’s made of this gorgeous, rough-hewn black stone, and all the furniture is leather. We’re out under the lake, and there are windows, and they cast this beautiful blue light, it’s wonderful. Sometimes you see things swim by. Millicent Bulstrode says she saw the Giant Squid, once, but I think she’s a liar. Oh, and we’ve got loads of plants, as well, the walls are just covered in all these glorious shades of green. I love it.”

Fred grimaced. “Well, that just sounds horrible.”

She punched him on the arm. “Shut up! I think it’s beautiful.”

“Yeah, speaking of your awful taste—” George interjected, “What are you wearing?”

“How dare you!” she gasped, “You lot put this necktie on me!”

They laughed heartily. “Not the necktie!”

She bristled, looking down at her outfit, “The skirt’s red! That’s a Christmas color, Georgie! Don’t you know anything?”

He shook his head. “You’re a spooky mess.”

“Whatever.” She took his hand, bringing it to her lips. “Oh!” As quickly as she’d taken hold of him, she cast him away again, rolling over to face Fred.

“Yes?” He looked startled. “What do you want?”

“Give me your left hand!” she commanded.

“Oh, no, I wouldn’t do that, Freddie!” George cautioned, reaching for the fire-whiskey again, “She’s just gonna call you a wanker! That’s the punch line!”

“I promise, I am not going to call you a wanker,” she tiredly reassured him, “Now, give me your hand!”

Reluctantly, he did as he was told, reaching over to show her his palm. She took George’s left hand, as well, holding them up beside each other. After a moment of comparative study, she remarked, “See, this is precisely what I expected.”

What?”

“Your left hands are exactly the same,” she observed, looking back and forth between them, “Down to the last line, they’re completely identical.”

Fred rolled his eyes. “Oh, well done, Ophelia. Novel observation, that.”

“Yeah, she’s always had a keen eye, though, hasn’t she?”

“No, listen!” she impressed, “Your left hands ought to be identical, that’s where you read traits you were born with. But your right—” She switched Fred’s hands, sitting up cross-legged to study it in the light.

Watching her intently, George took another drink of fire whiskey, albeit more cautiously this time. Fred, despite his best efforts to remain glib, couldn’t help but feel intrigued. And he’d do just about anything to keep her holding his hand.

“Your lines all curve towards Sun Mount as well,” she observed, “So you’ll be like George: a great businessman, but a hopeless gambler.”

Fred scoffed. “Yeah, that remains to be seen, doesn’t it? Ludo Bagman, son of a ruddy—”

“That was your own fault, accepting Leprechaun gold! Now, hush.” She took George’s right hand to study them side by side. “You’ve both got triangles on your Head lines, and… God, star signs in Venus, of all ridiculous things.”

“What does that mean?” Fred asked, pushing himself up to sit across from her.

She looked between them, shaking her head. “It means you’re both going to come into a lot of money, all at once. Just by sheer luck.”

They exchanged smiles, entirely satisfied with this prediction.

Just as she’d done with George, she took Fred’s thumb between her fingers, moving it around. “And see, this is where you’re different. You’re a lot more hard-headed than your brother, but equally tactless.”

“Yeah, well, we knew that, didn’t we?” he chuckled, looking over at George.

“This is interesting,” she remarked, “According to your hands, you’re not going to get married.”

George laughed, rather unkindly.

Oddly enough, Fred looked dismayed.

“I’m sorry, Freddie,” she said, genuinely apologetic, giving his hand a gentle squeeze.

He shrugged noncommittally.

“But…” She traced her fingertip along one of his lines, “You’ll be loved. You’ll have one really great love affair, and it’ll last your entire life. And unlike your brother, you haven’t got any heartbreak in your future.” She smiled up at him. “Just happiness.”

He returned her smile, freckled face burning red from the whiskey. “You think?” His voice was uncharacteristically soft and earnest.

“That’s what it says here,” she confirmed, looking straight into his eyes.

“Go on, then, what else?” he probed, nodding towards his hand.

She looked back down at his palm, studying his life line. And, all at once, her happiness melted away. She held the smile on her face, trying to mask her sudden concern. But what she saw frightened her. Though his life line was thick, and swooped down to the heel of his hand, there was a strong, distinct cross near the edge of Jupiter Mount. It was then that she noticed the break, just below it. She traced her finger over the cluster of lines, smile finally fading.

Her first thought was that she’d read it incorrectly. There was just no way, it wasn’t possible. Then again, if there was one thing that Trelawney harped on endlessly…

“What?” Fred probed, craning his neck to see what she was seeing.

“Oh, Freddie, I’m really sorry, but… Oh, darling…” She shook her head, looking up at him with immeasurable sadness in her eyes. “It says here that you’re a wanker.”

I bloody told you!” George shouted, knocking her over with a pillow, “I warned you, Freddie, didn’t I? This whole thing was a ruddy blag!”

“It was not!” she defended, a self-satisfied smile on her face.

“You can get stuffed, Ophelia,” Fred fell to the bed beside her, laughing genuinely. “Anyway, I hear this whole palmistry business comes with a kiss at the end, so…”

“Oi!” George protested, arms flung wide.

Ophelia furrowed her brow. “He didn’t tell you about that.”

Fred cackled. “Like hell he didn’t! I know everything, Lestrange. Everything.”

She shook her head in dismay. “Unbelievable.” She took Fred’s hand in hers, closing her eyes and pressing her lips to his life line, to that small cluster of frightening symbols. “There’s your kiss. Wanker.”

“Ah, you’re the worst,” he teased shoving her away by the face. “Where’s that whiskey?”

Ophelia closed her eyes, a faint smile still lingering on her lips. Her fingers sought out the Gryffindor necktie, and she began to fiddle idly with it. In that moment, she decided she didn’t believe in Divination, after all. George had been right: it was a load of rubbish, the lot of it.

Fred would live to see 21, she told herself. He would. There would be no horrible accident, no sudden, grave injury. None of that morbid, Sybil Trelawney nonsense. After all, it was only a bunch of silly lines on his hand. He’d meet his great love; a love that would last for the rest of his long, happy life. He’d play Quidditch, keep away from gambling, and Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes would flourish, making them both unthinkably rich.

Yes, she told herself. Divination was rubbish.

 

Chapter Text

The following morning, she awoke with a start, only to realize that she was in the 6th year Gryffindor boy’s dormitory. Fred and George were laying either side of her, still fast asleep. She clapped a hand over her mouth, trying to no avail to stifle her explosive laugh.

“Mmm,” George began to stir, “What?”

She was astounded with herself. Sleeping here, in bed with the both of them. They’d made such a criminal of her. But nothing untoward had happened. They’d stayed up deep into the night, talking and drinking and laughing until the candles burned low. She couldn’t recall a happier Christmas, in all her life. A glance towards the window thrilled her even further: it was snowing.

“Get up!” she cried, shaking the bed, “Get up, it’s Boxing Day!”

They groaned in protest, swatting blindly in her direction.

“Get up!” She gave George a hard shove, “We’re going outside!”

           

Blissfully happy, and still sporting the Gryffindor necktie, Ophelia dragged the weary pair through the empty castle. They struggled with coats and hats and gloves, trying to keep up, stumbling along with untied shoelaces. Their heads were pounding, and they couldn’t fathom how hers wasn’t. She had spent the night out-drinking them every step of the way, and she was right as rain. It was making them more than a little resentful of her.

“Ophelia, this is rubbish,” Fred yawned, “Why can’t we go back to bed?”

Because,” she impressed, “It’s Boxing Day!”

That’s not even a real holiday!”

She sighed, taking them each by the wrist and dragging them along with her. “But it’s snowing!”

The pair continued to grumble quiet protests as she hurried them down through the castle. Their tone changed, however, when they noticed they were headed for the dungeons. Suddenly, they were wide awake, headaches all but forgotten.

The trio stopped before an expanse of blank, stone wall, and Ophelia gave the password, “Facta, non verba.”

Thrilled, the twins watched as the wall opened, revealing the Slytherin Common Room. It was precisely as she’d described it to them, down to the last detail. And, mercifully, empty.

“Come on!” she coaxed in a furtive whisper, taking them each by the hand and rushing them inside. “You’re the first non-Slytherins to set foot in here in seven centuries, did you know that?”

Brilliant,” they marveled in unison, trying to take in as much of it as possible while she whisked them through.

“No one’s in here,” she reassured them, “There isn’t a single Slytherin in this entire castle, today, save me.”

The trio sprinted up the stairs towards the dormitory, endlessly amused by their own perfect, innocent transgression. When they reached her room, she brandished her wand.

Accio cloak!”

A long, fur-lined black cloak came fluttering out of her trunk, whipping straight into her open hand. She flung it over her shoulders, buckling it across her chest. She drew a pair of fur-lined leather gloves from her pocket, hastily slipping them on.

“Blimey, you dress posh, don’t you?” George remarked, looking her up and down.

“Yeah,” Fred agreed, “Too posh for the likes of you, I reckon.”

“Come on!” She took their hands again, and whisked them back out through the Common Room.

“No, hang on!” Fred protested, trying to stop her, “I wanna mess about in here!”

“We can mess about in here later, I promise!” she urged, “It’s a beautiful day!”

“Beautiful?” George demanded in disbelief, “What are you on about? It’s snowing!”

“With all the rubbish I indulge you lot, I rather think you owe me!” she insisted, dragging them up towards the front doors of the castle.

Ophelia skidded to a halt in the stone courtyard, tugging the hood of her cloak up over her head. With a broad smile, she stepped out into the falling snow, spreading her arms wide and opening her palms to the sky. The still silence was perfect; like a delicate piece of glass she had been entrusted not to shatter.

Fred and George followed behind her, tugging at their coats and gloves.

“Yeah, lovely,” George grumbled, stepping up beside her, “A nice, freezing cold morning. What’s the point of this?”

And then she turned, and looked up at him. Her face was bright with a smile, the tip of her nose already beginning to turn pink from the cold. Thick snowflakes clung to her long eyelashes; such a stark contrast from her great length of jet-black hair. She was still breathing fast, from their sprint through the castle, exhaling wisps of white lace into the morning chill. With a quiet laugh, she reached up to shake the snow from his long hair, taking his hat from his pocket and tugging it down over his head.

All at once, George realized that it didn’t matter what they were doing outside, in the freezing cold. It didn’t matter that he’d been torn from his nice, warm bed, so early in the morning. Because she had been lying beside him, when he’d fallen asleep, with her hand cast across his chest. In that moment, George realized that his sister had been right. The truth of it was beating against the cage of his chest with an insistence that could no longer be ignored.

He loved her.

Without really thinking, without planning it, he slipped out of his gloves, tossing them carelessly to the snow. With bare hands, he pushed her hood back, and placed a palm on her alabaster cheek. She was cold; drawing all of the remaining warmth from his fingers, but he was glad to give it. He wished he could give her all of his warmth, forever.

She closed her eyes, pressing gratefully into his touch, grazing her lips against his palm. He leaned down to brush the side of his nose against hers, lingering just long enough that he could inhale her breath, feel the warmth rising from her chest.

And then he was kissing her, like he’d never kissed her before. He laid his lips sweetly against hers; for once, not trying to conquer or impress, but seeking union and closeness and the sharing of one breath, one sensation, one single, timeless moment. He heard a soft, grateful sound catch in her throat, and it made his heart pound triumphantly.

When he withdrew, he saw that she was smiling at him. Standing on her toes, she nibbled at the freezing tip of his nose, and then kissed it. For a moment, he thought about kissing her again. He thought about wrapping his arms around her waist and lifting her off her feet, or, more enticing still, pinning her beneath him on the snow. Slipping his hand up into that red, Christmas skirt; her legs would still be warm, beneath it…

But before he could act, the intimate moment they had been sharing was shattered, as a blast of snow collided with their faces.

Hah!”

Fred had thrown a snowball.

Ophelia gasped in horror, turning to face him in an eerily deliberate and collected manner. For a moment, Fred felt a burst of genuine terror spread through his chest.

Oh, fuck, she’s going to curse me. She’s going to blast me into a million pieces. They’ll have to send me back home in a shoebox.

But then she bent to scoop up a handful of snow, and with terrifying precision, hit him straight in the face.

“I knew you were a wanker!” she cried, bursting into peals of laughter.

With that, a vicious, protracted battle broke out in the courtyard. Brother turned on brother, and then turned back again. It was England against France, and then George took up arms defending his fair Lady’s honor. People shouted from windows for them to keep it down, but Fred and George sent bewitched snowballs up into their faces. Gryffindor lost points for it, but they didn’t care. They were preoccupied by their chaos and laughter, and quick, stolen kisses. Ophelia was a dead-shot with a snowball, they all came to discover. And, in the end, after she’d hit Fred with a particularly keen blow, the twins had no choice but to concede the battlefield to the fearsome, French Shieldmaiden. They tried to tell themselves that they let her win, out of a sense of chivalry. But no one really believed that, least of all her.

 

The snow in the courtyard, once a pure, unbroken expanse, had become a battle-scarred mess in the wake of all their chaos, and more and more snowballs were winding up with pebbles in them. And so, after nearly an hour of this unabashedly childish behavior, the frozen, snow-covered trio made their way back inside.

The twins had been whining about breakfast, and insisted that Ophelia join them at the Gryffindor table. And, after she’d spent the night in their dormitory, she didn’t really feel as though she had any room to argue.

Morning!” The twins flopped down on the long bench, across from Harry, Hermione, Ron, and Ginny.

Morning,” the group replied, with varying degrees of enthusiasm.

Ophelia perched gracefully between the twins, as they began stripping away their wet coats, gloves, and hats.

“What have you been doing?” Ginny giggled, reaching across the table to rest her palms against George’s icy, red cheeks.

He shuddered gratefully, pressing her warm hands against his face and rubbing them up and down. “This lunatic made us go outside,” he divulged.

“I’m not the one who started throwing snowballs,” Ophelia remarked defensively, unbuckling her lavish cloak, “I was trying to have a proper morning.”

Yeah, fair point,” they acknowledged, exchanging proud grins.

Fred leaned over and shook the snow from his long hair, all over Ophelia.

“Oh, you wanker,” she scolded, shoving him away by the cheek.

“Oi!” He pushed her back, sending her toppling into his brother’s arms. “You’d better quit calling me that, Ophelia, I swear!”

“I dunno, mate,” Ron chimed in, speaking with his mouth full, “That was the sort of thing a wanker would do.”

Ginny, George, and Ophelia laughed. Fred, however, was indignant.

“You’ll have to get used to it, I’m afraid,” Ginny giggled, “George can be sweet, but Freddie’s just mean.”

Hermione shot her a reproachful glance from behind her newspaper.

The twins sighed. “What, Granger?”

She set the paper down, avoiding eye contact with any of them. “I’m sorry,” she began, “But I don’t really find this appropriate.”

Ophelia had heard enough. She sat up straight, folding her hands atop the table. “Why?” she challenged, “Because of what my family did to the Longbottoms?” Her voice had taken on a venomous quality that the twins had never heard before. Despite themselves, a small shiver of respectful fear ran up each of their spines.

“Yes,” Hermione replied, looking her dead in the eyes.

“They’ll die in Azkaban for what they did,” Ophelia stated, matter-of-factly, “Which is a far kinder fate than they deserve. And it’s no more my fault that I was raised by the Malfoys than it is your fault that you were Muggle-born.”

Hermione shook her head. “You simply can’t compare—”

“No?” she demanded, “How many times have you been made to prove yourself better than your birth? If I had to guess, I’d say it’s about as many times as I have.”

“Ooh,” Fred remarked, “She’s got you there, Hermione.”

In a huff, Hermione rose from the table, and stormed away. Ron tried to catch her by the arm, to no avail.

“Yeah, well-handled, Fred,” Ron grumbled, “Thanks for that. We only just got her back, didn’t we?”

Harry, who had been silent up until that point, finally spoke. “What did your parents do to Neville’s parents?”

“It wasn’t my parents,” she pointedly corrected, “It was my father, my uncle, and my aunt. Rabastan, Rodolphus, and Bellatrix Lestrange. My mother, terrible though her deeds may have been, had nothing to do with that.”

“What happened?” Harry pressed.

“They tortured Frank and Alice Longbottom to insanity, by way of the Cruciatus Curse,” she explained, “The Lestranges went to Azkaban, the Longbottoms went to St. Mungos, and in one fell swoop, both Neville and I lost any hope of ever having a normal life.”

“Have you ever talked to him about it?” Ron asked.

She shook her head. “I would never presume that he’d accept my friendship. He doesn’t have any reason to.”

“You should talk to him,” Ginny suggested, “He’s really sweet, I’m sure he’d understand.”

Fred laughed. “Yeah, the thing is, Ginny, Ophelia doesn’t talk to people.”

“I talk to you!” she defended, mildly perturbed by the remark. “That doesn’t even make sense, I talk to you all the time!”

He cocked an eyebrow, casting her a confident expression. “That’s only because you find me irresistibly handsome and charming. Poor little Longbottom just doesn’t stand a chance against our French Princess.”

She frowned. “You know that’s not true, Freddie, and I hate it when you call me that.”

“It has to be true,” he argued mockingly, “If you think he’s handsome, you think I’m handsome. That’s basic maths.”

Ron coughed; a noise that sounded suspiciously like, “Wanker.”

 

Chapter Text

The weather was getting warmer, and it was nearing Exam season. As such, Ophelia had lost the luxury of her free hour. Instead, she was subjected to a weekly, mandatory study hall, under the supervision of the core subject professors. All of the fifth, sixth, and seventh years were. Luckily, it proved to be an environment which lent itself perfectly to the management of mischief.

She was hunched over her books, one afternoon, genuinely trying her best to focus on her studies. She couldn’t, for the life of her, recall why the Warlocks of Lichtenstein refused to join the Confederation of Wizards, and the fact that she didn’t care in the slightest wasn’t helping matters. Potions, Divination, and Transfiguration. Those she cared about. Why had she committed to so many subjects? Had she gone temporarily insane, at the start of the school year?

She made a quiet sound of surprise when something suddenly tapped against her forehead. She looked around frantically for the source, soon realizing that a neatly folded paper airplane had landed atop her books. After quickly ensuring that the professors were all busy with other students, she snatched it up and unfolded it.

 

I like your face

 

With a quiet scoff, she scanned the packed hall until she spotted them. They were one table over, about six seats to her left. George waved when their eyes met. Fred was staring vacantly into space, sticking quills into his hair. He had about five in there, already, and was working on a sixth. He looked like a poorly-transfigured ostrich. Smiling, she scrawled a hasty reply:

 

You’re going to get me told off

 

And then she re-folded the plane, and with a flick of her wand, sent it sailing back across the room towards him. He snatched it expertly out of the air, unfolded it, grinned, and then wrote back.

 

Maybe, but aren’t I worth it?

 

She cast him a playfully admonishing look from across the room.

 

You should just sit closer to me next time

 

By then, a few of the other students had started to take notice of what was happening, signaling their disapproval with quiet scoffs and dismayed expressions. And this time, as George was scribbling his reply, Fred yanked the parchment away and added his own message.

 

Oh, I’ll get closer, Lestrange

I am trying to study, please show some respect!

 

Ophelia had to stifle a laugh into her hand. And then she looked across the room to see Fred shaking his head sternly, the quills in his hair waving back and forth comically has he did. She wrote her reply:

 

It looks more like Georgie is studying Care of Magical Creatures

This time, as she sent the paper airplane sailing across the room, it burst into flame mid-air. Ophelia looked up to see McGonagall staring daggers at her, and instantly went red. She rounded on the twins, next. Just as Fred was carefully inserting quill number eight into his hair, they all flew straight into her outstretched hand. He jumped in surprise, hunching down over his books as though it’s what he’d been doing all along. His hair was a ruffled mess.

McGonagall crossed the room to lean down between the cringing twins. She whispered something to them, and they groaned audibly, throwing their heads back in frustration. When she started towards Ophelia, her heart leapt into her throat. Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck.

“I warned you once, Miss Lestrange,” she admonished, gesturing severely with her wand, “And now, it’s five points from Slytherin.”

She bowed her head. “I’m sorry, Professor.”

McGonagall strode away, shaking her head in dismay.

“Fine work, Lestrange,” Lucien snarled from across the table.

“Shut your mouth,” she spat, flipping angrily through her book.

A few seats down, Blaise Zabini was scowling at her.

.

.

.

It was the final stretch of the school year, and Ophelia’s O.W.L.s had come and gone. She’d passed every test she took, with O’s in Potions, Charms, Divination, Arithmancy, Transfiguration, Defense Against the Dark Arts, and Astronomy. Her only W’s had been in Herbology, Care of Magical Creatures, and History of Magic. It was enough to advance to N.E.W.T.-level courses in every subject.

It felt as though a weight had been lifted from her shoulders. Classes were done for the year, the days growing longer, and the final task of the Triwizard Tournament was only a few days away. It was late afternoon, and Ophelia and the twins were lounging in the grass, near the edge of the Black Lake. A massive, white-flowered tree extended out above them, the waning sunlight filtering through the leaves and blossoms to cast dappled shadows across their faces. The Durmstrang ship bobbed and swayed in the distance, the occasional dubious ripple moving across the dark water.

It was drowsily, luxuriously warm; perhaps the first day like it they’d had all season, and the trio had abandoned any notion of school uniforms. Ophelia was in rare form, they’d teased, forsaking her typical long, black dresses for a pair of tight red tartan pants, and a sleeveless t-shirt bearing the Vampire Lestat logo. Fred had remarked that he didn’t even know she had legs, underneath those dreadful skirts. George reassured him, rather lewdly, that she did.

Fred was a chaotic ball of energy; standing on his head in the grass, climbing up into the tree to shake flowers down onto George and Ophelia, or splashing out to sift through the sand in the shallow water of the lake. Mischief was chasing him back and forth, swooping down upon him. The pair bickered endlessly.

“Sod off, Mischief!” Fred scolded, swatting the raven away as he tried to snatch at some shiny bit of nonsense he’d fished out of the lake.

Sod off, Orange!” the bird sniped back, lighting gracefully on a tree branch.

“I’m Fred!” he insisted, jabbing a thumb into his own chest, “Fred! Say ‘Fred’!”

Orange!

He threw his hands up. “I’m absolutely through with your rubbish.”

You’re rubbish!”

“I’m gonna stuff you and mount you on my mantlepiece!” he threatened.

The raven spread his wings in a territorial display, squawking, “Get stuffed!”

Ophelia was reclined against the broad truck of the tree. “Mischief,” she softly admonished, “You leave Freddie alone, now.”

The bird paid her no mind, instead screeching loudly and taking off to chase his newly-elected playmate back towards the lake.

George lay with his head in his partner’s lap, eyes closed blissfully as she combed her fingers through his long hair. He was trying to slip into that comfortable place the two of them seemed to share, but there was an odd and inescapable tension between them, that evening.

The previous night, he had told her, rather impulsively, that he’d loved her. They’d been laying in the Room of Requirement, after a particularly memorable experience together, and he whispered the earnest admission to her in the darkness. At the time, he’d considered it a very well-thought-out plan. It was only in hindsight that he’d realized he’d acted rashly.

She hadn’t said it back. Her reluctance made sense, especially after she’d explained it to him.

“That word just scares me, Georgie,” she’d murmured, “Think of the kinds of people who say that to me. The people I’ve spent my whole life saying it to.”

“Yeah,” he squirmed uncomfortably, “But I’m not them, am I?”

“Of course not, darling,” she’d reassured, “I’m just not sure I know what the word even means. And you deserve nothing less than my complete sincerity and conviction.”

They’d held each other for a long while afterwards, and for a time, George had actually been afraid he’d cry. But he supposed she was right. And he didn’t want to force her into saying something she wasn’t ready for. He loved her, after all.

So, here they remained; laying together in silence, wrapped in the warmth of the setting sun. And he was left wondering if the tension between them was something he’d manufactured on his own, or if she was feeling it, too. He wanted to talk about it, he wanted to fix it. But he was worried he’d said too much already.

“What are you thinking about, Georgie?” she probed, giving him a gentle shake.

He blinked a few times, gazing up at her. She was smiling warmly, and the soft light filtering through the leaves and blossoms cast a kind of halo around her head. Spring looked good on her, despite her protests to the contrary.  

“Thinking about chucking you into the lake to raise the giant squid from its winter slumber,” he grinned broadly, “Weighing the risk and reward.”

Her smile said she didn’t believe him. But the way she leaned down to press soft kisses to his closed eyes said she knew the truth, and didn’t mind the sweet lie.

“You’re so dear to me, Georgie,” she whispered, “Truly.”

She laid down on her side, resting her cheek against his chest. She could feel ice-cold guilt creeping across her heart. And, oddly, she was struck with the urge to tell him she loved him. She was almost certain she did. She’d never cared for anyone so deeply in all her life. Never had someone care this way for her, when he had no real cause to. It had to be love, didn’t it?

“Ophelia, I hate your bloody bird!” Fred announced, flopping down beside them. Mischief settled on his shoulder, and began flicking at his hair with his beak.

“No, you don’t,” she confidently dismissed, rolling onto her back, “Look at you, you’re thick as thieves.”

Orange!”

“I am not orange, you dodgy thing!” He flicked the raven in the chest.

Mischief squawked indignantly, fluttering his wings. “That was bang out of order!” He said it in Ophelia’s voice.

“Mischief!” she coaxed, sitting up.

The raven stilled, turning to her and blinking placidly. George, inwardly annoyed by Fred’s seemingly constant need for attention, shifted over to lay his head in her lap.

She commanded, “Say ‘Freddie.’.”

He cocked his head, clicking his beak softly.

Fred-die!” she repeated, enunciating slowly, “Come on, you’re clever enough to learn this. Freddie!”

The trio waited with bated breath, the anticipation building. Mischief looked back and forth between Ophelia and Fred, clearly thinking hard.

“Freddie.”

The trio erupted into excited cheers, startling the bird. He fluttered down onto George’s chest, peering down his beak at him. He began mimicking the sound of a person snoring.

“He’s not sleeping, love,” Ophelia laughed, giving him a stroke down the back.

The raven tilted his head side to side, examining George’s face with quiet intensity. “Freddie.”

Ophelia and Fred dissolved into a fit of laughter, but George was indignant.

“No!” he corrected, “I’m George!”

“Orange.”

“Close enough!” Fred praised, scooping him back up, “Alright now, say ‘get stuffed, Malfoy!’”

Ophelia panicked. “No! Absolutely not!”

“Get stuffed, Malfoy!” George chanted, laughing, “Get stuffed, Malfoy!”

“Don’t you dare teach him that! You’ll get me thrown out on to the street!”

“Then I suppose you’ll just have to come and live under our floorboards,” George announced decisively.

“What are you lot going to do, all summer?” Fred prodded, a hint of cruel delight in his voice.

The pair exchanged sad glances. Ophelia laid back down on the grass, and George forced a half-smile, taking her by the back of the neck and pressing a kiss to her temple.

“Ooh, struck a nerve, have I?” Fred teased.

“Shut your mouth, Fred,” she scolded, resting her head on George’s shoulder.

“It’s not like you can just pop ‘round ours, of an evening, is it?” he remarked idly, “And I don’t imagine the Malfoys would be very pleased with the two of us showing up on weekends, to brighten their doorstep.”

She cast him a reproachful glance. “What makes you think you’d even be invited?”

“Ooh!” He clutched dramatically at his chest. “You wound me, darling! I swear, if it—”

“Hey, Fred?” George snapped, “Can’t you shut up?”

Fred gave his brother the forks, standing in a huff. “Whatever. The two of you are so bloody—”

George kicked his leg out as he walked by, and Fred stumbled over fantastically. Ophelia stifled a laugh into his shoulder.

Fred popped back up, dusting himself off dramatically. “Oi, I’ll do you for that, mate!”

“Oh, you’ll do no such thing,” Ophelia chided, reaching over to grab him by the collar of his shirt, “You’re being so loud, Fred. Can’t you just come over here and be still for a while?”

He couldn’t be angry, he realized. Not when she was urging him to keep close, and be calm. So, he did what he was told, and laid down beside her. The trio settled in against one another, gazing up through the leaves and flowers overhead.

“You know,” Ophelia announced softly, “You two are the only friends I’ve ever had. The only friends I’ve ever picked for myself. And I think I’m going to miss you more than I can bear.”

 

Chapter Text

Nothing happened the way it was meant to. She had been so happy, sitting between the twins up in the stands, watching the dark maze with thrilled anticipation. Harry would step out first, he’d be the one to win, they all knew it. The air was electric with excitement, as they chattered away, laughing and joking with one another. Lee was sitting with them, bickering endlessly with Ophelia. It always gave the twins a laugh, to watch the two of them go around in circles with one another. For their part, Fred and George had been taking bets all week, and were awaiting the conclusion of the task with an air of proud, easy confidence.

And then came the loud pop of a Portkey, and Harry materialized on the grass before the maze. For just a moment, before the crowd erupted into cheers, Ophelia could hear the terrified raggedness in his breath. She registered that the Triwizard Cup wasn’t the only thing he was clinging to. And then Harry was screaming. And then people in the stands began to scream. And then the trio realized why.

George clasped a desperate hand to the back of Ophelia’s neck, pulling her tight against his chest, shielding her from whatever was to come. She could hear him murmuring something panicked and repetitive, hear Fred doing the same as he rose to his feet.

“Who is that?” she demanded, knowing full well what the answer was, “George, who is that? Who’s that with Harry?”

“It’s Cedric!” he frantically announced, and that seemed to finally make it real, “Oh my god, it’s Cedric, its Cedric. Fred, that’s Cedric.”

“Is he—?”

Fred threw his arms around the two of them, holding them close. “No! I don’t know! I don’t know!”

And then Harry’s voice rang out, over the noise and panic. “He’s back! Voldemort’s back!”

.

.

.

 

The ride back to Platform 9 ¾, Ophelia did not sit with the rest of the Slytherins in the front car. Instead, she proudly shared a compartment with Fred, George, and Lee Jordan. Though the weight of what had happened at the Tournament hung heavily over everyone, the quartet did their best to keep their spirits up. They played game after game of exploding snap; which, she learned, was a rather dangerous undertaking when it involved the three of them. The boys kept winging cards at each other, trying to get them to pop. Luckily, it didn’t work every time.

All of a sudden, the strangest thought occurred to her. And if she didn’t ask right then, the curiosity would eat away at her all summer. She looked between the twins, brow furrowed. “Who was it you were blackmailing?”

Lee laughed. “Oh my god, all this time, and you never told her?”

“Honestly, O, it doesn’t even matter,” Fred dismissed, “It wasn’t anything important. Not now, anyway.”

George nodded morosely. “We’ve given up on all that, at this point.”

They didn’t want to tell her. It wasn’t anything a French Princess would understand.

“Hey!” she swatted for his cards, “Out with it!”

“Ophelia,” George murmured, glancing up at his brother, “C’mon, leave it alone.”

“No, I want to know!” she insisted, “You two never tell me anything!”

“All right, all right,” he conceded, “It was Ludo Bagman.”

“Bagman?” she giggled in disbelief, “About all that Leprechaun gold rubbish?”

Yes.”

“Oh my god, I might’ve known. But that was your own fault!” she laughed, “Who takes Leprechaun gold as payment?”

It stung a bit, to hear. The twins exchanged morose glances, biting back on knee-jerk retorts. It must be nice for her, they thought, never to have to worry about money. Never having felt the anxiety of trying to scrape by on whatever you could get your hands on.

“These poor sods,” Lee chuckled.

“Hey, I dunno what you’re laughing about,” Fred snapped, “He skinned your dad just as badly as he did us”

“Yeah,” Lee allowed, “My Muggle dad, not me. I reckon I’m just smarter than the rest of you.”

George continued, “Anyway, we thought if we just wrote to him, and told him he’d made a mistake, he’d cough up. But nothing doing. Ignored our letter.”

“He didn’t make a mistake, darling,” she assured him, “It was all just a blag, wasn’t it?”

“Yeah, well, we know that now, don’t we?”

“In the end, he turned pretty nasty,” Fred informed her, “Told us we were too young to be gambling, and he wasn’t giving us a damn thing.”

“So, we just asked for our money back,” George explained.

“Let me guess,” she added, “He said no.”

“Right in one,” Fred confirmed.

She giggled, shaking her head.

“Ophelia, that was all our savings,” Fred reminded her, more than a little wounded.

“’Course, we found out what was going on, in the end,” George said, “Turns out, Bagman’s in big trouble with the goblins. Borrowed loads of gold off them.”

“And that’s never a good position to be in,” Fred added.

“A gang of them cornered him in the woods after the World Cup and took all the gold he had, but it still wasn’t enough to cover all his debts. So, they followed him all the way to Hogwarts to keep an eye on him.”

“Apparently, he’s lost everything gambling,” Fred explained, “Hasn’t got two Galleons to rub together. And you know how the idiot tried to pay the goblins back?”

“Oh no, how?”

“He put a bet on Harry bleeding Potter,” Fred told her, “Put a nice, big bet on him to win the tournament. Against the goblins.”

 “Oh, and I’m guessing they didn’t count that as a win, did they?” she realized aloud.

“Nope,” said George, shaking his head, “A draw. The goblins play as dirty as him. So, he had to run for it. He did run for it, right after the third task.”

“While we were all sitting there, trying to make sense of the corpse on the lawn, he was sprinting off into the forest to disapparate.”

George sighed deeply. “So, anyway. That’s us, now. Back to square bloody one.”

“I could help, you know,” she offered, looking between them in earnest, “You don’t need Ludo ruddy Bagman.”

Fred shook his head, cringing slightly. “Ophelia—”

“No, honestly!” she insisted, “I don’t know why you haven’t told me until now. How much did you lose? It wouldn’t even be—”

“Ophelia,” George murmured, shame and frustration mounting.

“What? I can help! Money’s not—”

“Yeah, O?” Lee interjected, “Maybe stop. I really don’t think they want help.”

She finally took a good, hard look between their faces, and noticed their bitter, awkward expressions. They wouldn’t meet her gaze. It seemed an oddly heavy topic, for them.

“I’m sorry,” she said, a bit bewildered, “I didn’t mean anything by it. I just want to help, is all. It’s your dream.”

George took her hand, pressing his lips to her knuckles. “Never mind, beautiful.”

She gathered her brow. “Why not? It’s only—”

“We’re not taking your money, Ophelia,” Fred finally announced, in a voice that was disarmingly quiet and vulnerable.

She knew, by his tone, that it would be best not to argue further. “Alright,” she nodded, “Alright, I’ll leave it alone. I’m sorry.”

It didn’t make sense to her, no matter how she tried to look at it. They were her best friends, and they had a desperate need of something. Something she just happened to have more than enough of. And yet, they wouldn’t take it. Wouldn’t even talk about it. It preoccupied her, even as the quartet sank back into laughter and teasing and all of the beautiful things that existed between them.

George held her close, leaning his cheek down onto the top of her head. It wasn’t her fault, he understood that. It was like she’d come from an upside-down world. All the money he’d ever wanted for, growing up, and none of the love. He decided, then and there, that he’d rather have love.

They tried to keep smiling, as the journey wore on. But each lurch of the train sent a bolt of minor panic through their hearts. Their time together was quickly coming to a close.

Chapter Text

When they arrived at King’s Cross station, the goodbye was just as painful as they’d feared. Fred stood watch outside the compartment as George and Ophelia shared final, desperate, fevered kisses. They whispered back and forth sweet, meaningless promises and naive expectations.

She wove her fingers through his long hair, trying to remember every single detail. The glimmer of mischief in his hazel eyes. The sound of his laugh, the smell of his skin. The way his lip curled back on one side, when he was about to say something devilishly funny. The way he would glance down at her lips when he was thinking of kissing her.

What would it be like, when they saw one another again? Would the summer months spent with their respective families form a rift, or would the absence only make hearts grow fonder? There was no way of knowing, and it filled them both with so much fear. George most of all. It felt so wrong, to send her back to those people. It felt like sending her straight to Voldemort.

They clung to those final moments, savoring each touch, each glance, each whisper. They smothered their worry as they fixed each other’s hair and clothing. They swallowed the sadness building in their chests, as Ophelia threw her arms around Fred’s neck, pressing kisses to each of his cheeks, and whispering soft, earnest thanks. They ignored the precipice they were balanced upon as they walked through the train, pinkies covertly linked. And when they neared the door, George released her. Just as they’d planned. He stepped up beside his brother, exactly the way he was supposed to. And then, Fred and George walked away without looking back. Without a smile or a spoken goodbye. And, just as they’d planned, Ophelia did not watch them leave.

The Malfoys were waiting, impatient as ever. Draco had already found his way to them, and the regal-looking trio eyed her scornfully as she approached.

Lucius greeted her with a curt nod, giving her a simple, “Ophelia.”

“Uncle Lucius,” she replied with a polite smile, “Aunt Narcissa.”

Narcissa cast her an uneasy glance. She put her hands on her son’s shoulders, tugging him closer. It made Ophelia instantly anxious.

Wordlessly, Lucius took her arm, and they disapparated.

When they re-appeared inside Malfoy Manor, Narcissa brightly addressed her son, “Go on and put your things away, my dear. We’ll have tea, shortly.”

Ophelia turned to follow him up the stairs, but Lucius caught her by the arm.

“Not you,” he snarled, pointing to the sofa, “Sit.”

Draco cast her a rueful, haughty glance as he disappeared around the corner. He would doubtlessly linger and listen in on whatever was about to happen. Anxiety mounting, Ophelia did as she was told, lowering herself to the sofa and crossing her legs pertly. Lucius and Narcissa stepped up, towering over her.

“What have I done this time?” she pointedly asked. It was the twins’ boldness, spoken in her voice. She immediately regretted it.

Lucius made a face like she’d just thrust something foul-smelling beneath his nose. “Do you realize,” he began venomously, “The letters we’ve been receiving since Christmas?”

“No,” she said, lamely.

Narcissa, clearly unable to stand the drama and subterfuge, suddenly snapped. “Those Weasley boys, you stupid, stupid girl! How dare you disgrace the name of our family that way!”

Ophelia felt the heat rising to her face, felt her heart begin to hammer furiously. “I haven’t done a damn thing to disgrace the family! They’re Sacred 28!”

“Oh!” Narcissa exhaled a mocking laugh. “Yes, how silly of me! They’re Sacred 28!”

“They are!” she argued.

Blood traitors, that’s what they are!”

“Don’t you call them that!”

Silence!” Lucius interrupted, “After all we’ve done for you, all the sacrifices we’ve made, as a favor to your heroic parents, and this is how you repay us? By humiliating the honorable names of Lestrange and Malfoy?”

She rolled her eyes, becoming more and more emboldened by the second. “Yes, I’m sure it was a massive sacrifice, having to go all the way to Gringotts to scrape out the Lestrange vault every time you felt like some—”

Her words were cut short by a cry of pain, as her head whipped to the side. Her aunt had slapped her across the face.

How dare you!!” Narcissa shrieked.

“Don’t pretend like you don’t!” Ophelia shouted, jumping up to tower over her, “My parents going to Azkaban was the best thing that ever happened to you! The name of Malfoy no longer second-best to Lestrange; all the money you could ever dream of, as if you didn’t have enough already! And all you had to do was give me one of your bloody eight bedrooms. Yes, what a strain it’s been!”

“Which one of them are you taking to bed?” Narcissa demanded, grabbing a fistful of Ophelia’s hair and yanking her down, “Or is it both of those filthy little beasts?”

“Maybe it is both!” Ophelia shouted, wrenching from her aunt’s grip, “You’ll never know!”

“You won’t have Draco, now,” Narcissa announced, as though it was the most hurtful thing she could’ve said. “I would die before I see him married to such a vicious little creature as you.”

“Good!” she spat, “I’d die before I’d marry such a spoiled little monster!”

Her aunt moved to strike her again, but Lucius caught her by the wrist. “Now, now, Narcissa. Perhaps there are other ways to teach this lesson.”

With a wave of his wand, he forced his niece back down onto the couch. It felt as though he’d dropped a heavy weight onto her chest, and it suddenly became difficult to breathe.

Lucius leaned down so that his face was very close to hers. “You listen to me, girl, and you listen well,” he began, blue eyes shining with quiet rage, “You were born better than this. And by my wand, we have raised you better than this.”

“It would remain to be seen that you haven’t,” she countered, clutching at the bruise rising to her cheek. She could feel it throbbing with each beat of her heart.

Lucius cast her a venomous smirk. “I can see that all of the arrogance and disrespect of that wretched family has already wormed its way into you. And after only a few short months.” He stood, drawing himself up to his full height. “I hope you do get close to those boys. I hope you come to love them with all of your heart. Because the Dark Lord is coming. He will be here within days. And rest assured, he will see to it that you are there to watch them die.”

Chapter Text

That night, Ophelia lay awake in bed, staring up at the ceiling. She was waiting. Counting down the minutes, until she was sure that her aunt and uncle had long since fallen asleep.

She had a plan.

A part of her was afraid that the Dark Lord would arrive sometime in the night, entering the house of his own accord and settling in for a long stay. She knew it was inevitable. But the whispers said that he was still in Little Hangleton, lingering near the place of his birth. Perhaps checking in on his alleged horcruxes. Maybe making more. It would certainly mesh with what Lucius had said. But she pushed the thought from her head, trying to focus on the details of what she was about to do. It was the details that would trip her up, if she weren’t careful.

When the clock struck one, she flung back the covers, still fully dressed, and crept downstairs. Her wand was securely tucked into her coat pocket, out of habit, but she knew she’d be unable to use it. The broom shed out in the back garden was locked. But Fred and George had seen to it that she didn’t need magic to get past it. She produced her set of Muggle lockpicks, already well-worn from so much practice. And in less than a minute, she was inside. With a victorious smile, she stowed her collection of thief’s tools. The twins had made damn sure she knew what she was doing, before they parted ways for the summer.

Draco’s Nimbus 2001 looked as though it had been made for her to ride. Sleek and streamlined; black wood, trimmed with gold. That is, until she attempted to mount it. Brooms had never obeyed her, not for as long as she’d been trying to ride them. And now, she didn’t have Georgie to cling to. But with a little luck, and a lot of careful effort, she managed to kick off from the ground. Her long, black coat billowed out behind her as she nosed upwards, rocketing high and fast into the night sky. She had to stifle the urge to scream; holding on for dear life, for fear of being thrown from the broom.

It would take her the better part of an hour to fly from Wiltshire down to Devon. Perhaps less, given the unexpected power of this broomstick. Though it was summer, the night air was chilly; amplified by the great speed at which she was traveling. She was grateful for her coat. Far below, the occasional glimpse of Muggle England was visible through the lingering wisps of fog. Glittering lights reflected in the rivers; the fast, multicolored blur of automobile traffic.

It didn’t take long for city lights to peter out to dark, rolling hills, and that’s when she knew she was getting close. She’d never been to the Burrow before, but the twins had told her all about it. She knew it was on the outskirts of South Devon, in the middle of a great, open, green field. If you reach Ottery St. Catchpole, you’ve overshot. She could find it, if she was smart.

Just as panic was beginning to thump in her chest at the sickening notion of having become lost, she saw the Lovegood’s house. It stood atop a small hillock; an odd, black tower in the shape of a chess rook. A faint light flickered out from one of the windows, and she marveled briefly at what Xenophilius could possibly be up to at this hour.

As soon as she’d passed it, she nosed downwards, cautiously leaning back to slow the breakneck speed of the broom. And when the Burrow came into view over the hill, her heart rate picked up. It was exactly as they’d described it; a towering mishmash of architecture, seeming to be multiple homes all stacked together. She could count at least three smokestacks. The twins’ room was on the very top. It was easy to remember, because they’d complained about the ghoul in the attic, making noise just above them.

All of the windows were, mercifully, dark. She slowed to a crawl, afraid she’d bump into the house if she weren’t careful. Gently floating up to the highest window, she leaned in close to peer inside. She could see two occupied beds, and that was a good sign. Just then, the broom took on a life of its own, and her forehead smacked hard into the pane of glass.

She cursed under her breath, fighting to regain control as her leg slammed into the sill. “Bloody fucking… Broom! Of all the rubbish—”

Suddenly, the window flew open, startling her terribly.

“Is that… Oh my god, Ophelia?” It was Fred.

“Hi,” she greeted in an anxious whisper. She clutched the broom tightly, trying to maintain her precarious hover. “Where’s Georgie?”

He seemed mildly offended. “And a pleasant evening to you too, then!” he whispered back, “What are you doing?”

“Suppose I just missed you too much,” she smiled.

“It’s been hours, you lunatic!”

“Invite a girl in, will you?”

He rolled his eyes, giving her a reluctant smile. Drawing his wand, he cast Muffliato. Then, with a confident hand, he reached out and took hold of the broom, tugging her closer, keeping her steady.

“You’re bloody hopeless on a broomstick, O, what are you thinking?”

“I’ve honestly got no idea.” Somewhat recklessly, she slung her leg over the broom to perch delicately on the narrow shaft. But Fred’s presence emboldened her. Reaching out to cling to his shoulder for support, she ensured, “Have you got me?”

He chuckled quietly, placing his other hand on the broom, framing her hips. “Yeah, I’ve got you. Get in here.”

She stuck her feet in through the window, sliding down and landing gracefully between his arms. For a moment, she looked up into his face. It was so alarmingly close to hers. She watched as his eyes flitted down to her lips for the briefest fraction of a second, before he cleared his throat, averting his glance. With a wry and secretive smile, she ducked beneath his arm, and he pulled the now-still broom in behind her.

“Georgie!” she whispered intensely, rushing over to his bed and shaking him, “George Weasley, wake up!”

He grumbled sleepily, tugging the blanket tighter.

George, the house is on fire!” she giggled, shaking him harder.

“Sod off, it is not,” he groaned, swatting vaguely in her direction.

“He’s been throwing a moody since we left King’s Cross,” Fred grumbled, stepping over and yanking his brother’s blanket away.

“Oi!”

“George, your dodgy girlfriend just came in through the window on a broomstick, and you missed it. Get up.”

He sat up, rubbing his eyes and blinking. “Quit being a wanker, Fred, she did not.”

Her lips were on his before he could process what was happening, knocking him back down onto the bed.

“Mmm!” he withdrew, taking her face in his hands, “Where the hell did you come from?”

She grinned broadly. “Suppose I just missed you too much!”

He laughed. “It’s been hours, you lunatic!”

“Hang on,” Fred exclaimed, finally realizing what it was he was holding, “Is this Malfoy’s Nimbus 2001?”

She looked to him, smiling proudly. “Yeah, it is. Nicked it from the garden shed behind the house.” The twins gaped as she held aloft her case of lockpicks. “Learned from the best, didn’t I?”

George wrapped her in a tight embrace, laughing lustily as he dragged her down onto the bed with him. “That’s my girl!”

“Blimey, Ophelia,” Fred stammered, examining the broom with wide eyes, “I think I may be in love with you.” He immediately chastised himself. Stupid, Fred, stupid, stupid, stupid. Why would you say that?

“Yeah, well, you can get stuffed, because she’s all mine!” George cajoled, pressing kiss after kiss to her face. He stopped suddenly when she winced. “What was that for?”

“Sorry,” she said softly, bringing a hand to her cheek.

“Hang on a tick.” He took his wand from the bedside table and sent a small orb of light into the air. They finally got a look at the bruise darkening beneath her eye.

“What the bloody hell is that, Ophelia?”

“You didn’t have that this afternoon!”

“I know, I know,” she said sheepishly, covering it with her hand.

Fred strode across the room, the exquisite broomstick now forgotten, and sat down beside them on the bed. He gingerly took her hand away, and the pair swore in unison.

“Did the Malfoys do that to you?” George probed.

She reluctantly nodded. “Narcissa.”

“I’ll kill her,” Fred announced, “I mean it, I’ll fly over there right now and kill her.”

Ophelia rolled her eyes.  “Oh, come off it. It’s not the first time it’s happened, and it certainly won’t be the last.” Oddly, she realized that Fred was still clutching her hand, holding it in his lap. Even stranger still was the fact that none of them saw fit to put a stop to it.

“It looks nasty,” George remarked, tilting her head into the light to examine the bruise more closely. It was darker around the edges, centered around the knife-edge of her cheekbone.

“She was wearing some big, stupid ring,” she murmured.

Fucking hell!”

She shrugged. “It’s neither here nor there.”

“What did she do that for?” George asked.

A guilty smile played across her lips. “Apparently Blaise made good on his threat, and he’s been sending letters to the Malfoys since Christmas.”

Fred shook his head. “Unbelievable. I should’ve shoved that fire poker right up his—”

Wait,” George interrupted, tentatively beginning to laugh, “Wait. You get smacked up for messing about with us, and so the first thing you do after is steal a broom to come and mess about with us?”

She considered it for a moment. “Well, when you put it that way… Yes.”

The trio burst into peals of laughter. She could feel Fred clutch her hand a little tighter, and wondered briefly if it was something she should acknowledge aloud. She decided it wasn’t, instead silently returning the gesture. He reacted instantly, running his thumb across her palm in a move that, if she didn’t know better, she might have labeled as possessive. In an odd way, she found it thrilling.

“Do they hit you a lot?” Fred asked tentatively.

She shrugged. “Sometimes. I was asking for it, anyway, running my mouth like that. The two of you have turned me rotten, I swear.”

“Do they hit Draco?” George asked, paying no mind to her excuse.

“No,” she shook her head, “They would never.”

The twins exchanged concerned glances.

“You know that’s not… I dunno, that’s not normal, O,” George cautiously pointed out.

“We’ve never gotten smacked up by our parents.”

“And if anyone ever deserved it, it’s the two of us.”

She shrugged. “They’re not my parents. Besides, it’s just as well. Thanks to you, maybe I won’t have to listen to any more rubbish about marrying Draco.”

What?”

“Oh, yeah,” she nodded, “Have I never told you? All my life, that’s all I’ve heard. ‘Someday, you’ll marry Draco.’ ‘Behave yourself, or we won’t let you marry Draco.’ Like my perfect little pure-blood children will be the prize the Malfoys get for raising me. Makes me sick.”

Fred cringed. “This gets fucking worse.”

George was baffled. He thought back to the train, how he’d been comparing their childhoods, and this only cemented his conclusion. It didn’t matter how much money you had, not when you got smacked up at home and forced to marry people you hate.

“That’s all a bit wrong, isn’t it?” he grimaced, “You’re related.”

“Alright, Georgie,” she chuckled, a hint of condescension in her tone.

“It’s not funny, O,” Fred argued, “You are!”

She gave them a cautiously disbelieving look. “You’ve got to be joking.”

“No!”

“You and Draco are related!”

“How do you not know that?”

No, you don’t underst— My god, we’re related,” she exclaimed, gesturing between the three of them.

After a beat, they refuted, “We are not!”

“Oh, yes, we are!” She was shocked by their naiveté. “Your parents are related to each other; my parents were related—”

Fred interrupted, “Hey, that’s not funny.”

“We’re Sacred 28, the three of us,” she told them, “How can you not know that?”

They shook their heads in bewilderment. “What?”

“Oh my god, you’re serious.” She sighed. “Honestly, I’m not surprised your parents never talk about it. It’s only the really bad ones who care about this sort of rubbish. Genealogy and blood status and all that.”

“What are you on about?”

“The Sacred 28 are the recognized pure-blood Wizard families,” she explained, “And we’re all from the same line.”

“Like who?”

She thought for a moment, counting out on her fingers. “Lestrange and Yaxley, Weasley and Prewitt, er… Black, Malfoy, Longbottom… Kingsley Shacklebolt is in there with us, along with the Crouches, Millicent Bulstrode, Marcus Flint, Pansy Parkinson, that bighead Augustin Travers… Oh! And Ollivander. I could probably name them all, still, but those are ones you’d know.”

“No Potters?” George realized.

She shook her head. “One of Harry’s ancestors fought for Muggle rights in the Wizengamot, so they never made the list.”

“What about us?” Fred asked, visibly offended, “That’s not fair, why do we still have to be on your dodgy list?”

“It’s not my list! And I don’t know why you’re on it. But my side of the family has always called you blood-traitors.”

“And proud of it,” Fred announced with a scoff.

“These days, it doesn’t really mean anything, being Sacred 28,” she told them, “Not for now, at least. But I think it’s going to come to matter again, soon.”

A tense silence fell over them, as the twins absorbed this new information. She was right, their parents had never talked about this. The phrase had been familiar, but the hadn’t really understood what it meant until she explained it.

“Freddie!” George suddenly exclaimed, and his brother quickly and anxiously released Ophelia’s hand. “We’ve got some Nosebleed Nougat about, haven’t we?”

“Yeah,” he corroborated, grateful for the change of subject, “I’m sure we do, why?”

“Might be able to get that bruise to go down!”

He leapt to his feet, grinning broadly. “Oh, yeah! That’s a bloody fair point!” He crossed the room and dropped to his knees, prying up one of the floorboards. Beneath it was a hidden compartment, stuffed with all manner of Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes prototypes. Skiving Snackboxes, Peruvian Instant Darkness Powder, and innumerable flasks and phials, the dubious contents of which she couldn’t even begin to guess at.

Fred emerged with a single, wrapped candy, and returned to the bed. The nougat was two-toned; half orange, and half purple. He broke it in two, silently deliberated for a moment, and then handed her the orange half.

“Thank you, darling.” She took it with a grateful smile, and popped it into her mouth.

“Oh, dammit, Fred!” George suddenly exclaimed, snatching the remaining half of the candy from his brother.

She gave the pair a startled look. “What?” As if on cue, her nose began to gush with blood.

“Sorry!” Fred cried, “Oh, bollocks! Sorry, sorry, sorry!”

“Oh, you prat!” she sputtered, trying to stem the flow with her hands.

“I’m sorry!!” Panicking, he tore his shirt off, pressing it over her face.

“You’ve only gone and given her the wrong half, haven’t you?” George cried, choking back laughter.

Ophelia pressed the shirt to her nose, trying in vain to stem the flow. “You bastard!” she giggled, voice muffled by the fabric, “You absolute bastard!”

Fred was positively beside himself. “I said I’m sorry! George, gimme that!” He swatted for the remaining half of the nougat, but his brother jerked it out of reach.

“You’ll have to try harder than that!” he taunted, waving it in the air, “Look at her, Fred, she’s gonna bleed to death!”

Ophelia extended a hand. “You’d better give it here, Georgie, or I’m gonna bleed on you!”

He finally conceded. “Alright, alright! Since you threatened nicely!”

She swiped the chunk of purple candy from his hand, and shoved it into her mouth. And as quickly as it had come, the bleeding stopped. And with it, the bruise faded from her cheek. She dropped Fred’s shirt from her face, and the pair chuckled at the sight of her. Windswept from her long flight, and now comically bloody.

“Did it work?” she asked, lightly fingered her cheekbone.

“Yeah, it worked,” George laughed, taking the bloodied shirt from her and tossing it back to Fred.

“That’s more of you than I’ve ever seen before, Freddie,” she teased, looking him up and down. Every inch of him seemed to be covered in freckles, just like his twin.

“Yeah, get stuffed, Ophelia.” He rolled his eyes, but made a concerted effort to tighten every visible muscle.

With a wave of his wand, he cleared the blood from his shirt, slipping it on again. He repeated the process on her, removing every trace of his mistake until only the memory of it remained.

“Bloody convenient, that,” she remarked, “You lot being able to use magic, now.”

They rolled their eyes, replying in unison, “’You lot,’ she says.”

“Besides,” George laughed, “It may be convenient, but you’re the one who’s bloody!”

Ophelia cast him an unimpressed look. “Do better, George.”

Fred grimaced, shaking his head bitterly. “Merlin’s Beard, I said I was sorry.”

She placed a hand gently on his cheek. “It’s alright, Freddie,” she reassured him, “Honestly, I’m not as delicate as all that. You ought to know that, by now.”

“Anyway,” George interjected, tugging her back into his arms and leaning against the headboard, “What’s happening over at Death Eater Central?”

Her response was hesitant, the mood instantly turning sour. “The Dark Lord is due to arrive there any day, now,” she revealed, “I think he’s still in Little Hangleton, with Wormtail and a handful of others. My uncle Corban, and McNair and Mulciber and the rest of the ones that dodged Azkaban. It’s just me and the Malfoys around there, for now.”

“But you think he’s coming?” Fred asked, sitting cross-legged beside them.

She nodded. “I know he is. The Malfoys are getting the place ready, locking it down. I just don’t know when he’ll arrive.”

“Blimey,” George breathed, holding her a little tighter, “So… You’ll be there. With him. In the same house, in the same room, even.”

“Yes,” she confirmed, not without an odd pang of fear. There was something about saying it aloud that she found so jarring.

“Tell our dad,” Fred urged, “Tell the Ministry, tell someone.”

She murmured some soft, hurried negation. “The Ministry’s being infiltrated. And I haven’t got anything to tell your dad, not yet. Everyone knows that the Dark Lord’s headed for Malfoy Manor, everyone with a memory, anyway.”

“But you’ve got to do something, O,” George pressed, craning his neck to look down at her.

“Yeah,” Fred added, “Ah, you ought to kill him in his sleep! You could! Think of how cool that would be.”

She furrowed her brow. “You don’t know what you’re asking me. It’s not as simple as all that.”

Why not?” they asked in unison.

She shook her head, floored by their benign ignorance. But honestly, it shouldn’t have surprised her. After all, these were the boys who followed her like lost children into Knockturn Alley, and did nothing but behave suspiciously while they were down there. These were the boys who conflated “Slytherin” with “Death Eater”, until she taught them otherwise. The boys who had spent their first days together sneaking terrified glances at her left forearm. But despite their innocent naiveite, she cared for them. Deeply. It was just another reminder that they came from vastly different worlds.

“He’s the most powerful dark wizard of all time,” she said, “You’ve no idea the things he’s done, the things he’ll just keep doing. I’ve absolutely no hope at all of standing up to him alone.”

 

 

She stayed with them for hours, talking and laughing in the soft glow cast by George’s wand. The mood lightened, and it began to feel rather like Hogwarts. The three of them, all piled onto the same bed, entirely wrapped up in their own world. They sank closer and closer together as the night wore on, eyelids beginning to fall, a comfortable heaviness settling into their bones.

Around 4:00, they finally fell asleep. Ophelia lay between the twins, with George wrapped around her from behind. Fred lay across from her, and he stayed awake for much longer than George and Ophelia. He was close enough that he could sense her beside him, even in the darkness. He could smell her hair, feel the warmth of her breath against his face. He wanted to reach out and touch her. He wanted to wrap his arm around her waist and settle in against her. He wanted to feel her breathing in his arms. He wanted to feel her heartbeat beneath his palm.

But he held back. For once, boundary and sense won out. Instead, Fred let his eyes fall closed, and his mind run wild. And that night, he dreamt of her; grateful that neither she nor his brother could see what he was seeing.

Just shy of two hours later, Ophelia awoke in a panic. The first thing she saw when she opened her eyes was Fred’s face; very, very near to hers. She took note of the fact that his hand was extended out towards her in a position that couldn’t possibly have been natural. George was still draped over her from behind, his hand resting lightly on her chest.

“Georgie!” she whispered urgently, sitting up and shaking him, “Georgie, I’ve gotta go!”

“Eh?” He rubbed his eyes, struggling to sit up.

“I’ve gotta go! It’ll be light soon; the Malfoys will notice I’m missing!”

“Oh, fuck,” he exhaled, working desperately to shed the lingering heaviness in his limbs. He slapped an open hand on his brother’s face. “Fred, get up.”’

He cried out in surprise, jerking violently. “The bloody hell was that for?” he demanded loudly.

George and Ophelia simultaneously shushed him.

From the other room, they heard Ron’s sleepy shout. “Merlin’s beard, it’s day one! Shut up!”

“It was the damn ghoul, wasn’t it?” Fred shouted back, rubbing bitterly at his cheek.

“Oi! I bloody well know the difference between the ghoul’s noise and you two in there, doing—”

IF I HAVE TO GET OUT OF BED TO SETTLE THIS, YOU’LL BE SORRY!” It was Molly.

Stupidly, Fred opened his mouth to offer some kind of retort, but Ophelia clapped a desperate hand over it.

“Is it worth it?” she whispered, “Honestly?”

“He’ll try to lick you,” George warned, all too casually.

She yanked her hand away, giving Fred a reproachful look. He grinned wickedly.

“Come on, then,” she urged, “Pretend like you’re gentlemen, and help me out the window.”

Fred set the broom floating outside, holding it tightly in both hands.

“When will I see you again?” George asked, helping her don her wraithlike coat.

“I don’t know,” she answered honestly, giving him a quick kiss, “But I’ll do my best, I promise.”

“Write to me!” he implored, tugging at her sleeve as she ducked between Fred’s arms.

“I will!” she giggled, trying to shed him.

“Every day!”

“Yeah, I don’t think she gets it, George,” Fred remarked smartly, “Are you gonna miss her?”

Ophelia leaned in to press a quick kiss to the edge of Fred’s jaw. “Don’t lie, Freddie,” she teased, “You’ll miss me, too.”

It was with deep satisfaction that she watched the color rise to his freckled cheeks, his eyes darting down to her lips and then away. “Go on, then, get out of here,” he dismissed.

With a wry smile, she stepped up onto the windowsill, gingerly climbing onto the broom. The morning had brought with it a slight chill, though she could feel a warm wind blowing in from the East, ahead of the rising sun.

“You got it?” Fred asked, his tone revealing a hint of the compassion he seemed so desperate to hide.

“Yeah, I’ve got it,” she replied, “Thanks, Freddie.”

George shoved his brother out of the way, taking a dangerous lunge through the window to wrap his hand around the back of her neck. He pulled her into a rough, fevered kiss, tongue meeting hers through parted lips.

“Come back soon.” He said it like it was a command, pressing his forehead against hers.

She closed her eyes, savoring the feeling. “I will.”

With that, she turned from the window, and shot skyward.

 

Chapter Text

“Oh, you’re gonna murder me with this,” George moaned, pushing his hips up into hers.

She exhaled a short laugh. “You should be so lucky.”  

The night was deep and dark, and Draco’s broom leaned against the window of the twins’ bedroom. Fred was off somewhere else, and the pair had jumped on the exceedingly rare occasion. It was the first time they’d gotten to do this since Hogwarts.

He hadn’t entered her; not yet anyway, and he was drawing it out. She sat astride his hips as he reclined on the bed, propped up on a pillow. Eyes shut, she moaned in desperation and let her head fall back. In the time they’d been together, George had perfected the art of torturing her. And, he found, he liked nothing better. If they’d been thinking, they would have hurried things along. But it was too much fun to linger like this. So that’s precisely what he was doing when, without warning, there came a telltale CRACK as Fred apparated into the room. She jumped, and whipped around to see him staring at them, open-mouthed. George was unfazed. He didn’t even look up.

With a tone of mild annoyance, he sniped, “Sod off, Fred, we’re busy.”

Fred swallowed hard. His throat was suddenly extremely dry. “’S my room too,” he replied vaguely.

“Three’s a crowd, Fred, sod off!”

Ophelia said the words without thinking, and without really knowing why. “No, it’s alright.”

They both gaped at her. “What?”

Fred’s heart leapt into his throat.

Ophelia was suddenly more nervous than she could ever recall being. Her heart galloped in her chest as she stammered, “It’s—I mean, I—” She looked down at George. “No, nothing. Never mind. Sod off, Fred.”

“Did you just bloody say it’s alright?” he asked, incredulous.

Her cheeks reddened. “Never mind, I said!”

Fred swallowed hard, trying to think of something to say. “Ophelia, I dunno what—”

“Oh, come on!” she sighed in frustration, looking between them, “We all know Fred’s gagging for it.”

“I am not!”

She gave him a dismissive wave. “Pull the other one, Freddie. Besides, don’t act like neither of you ever thought about it!”

The silence was tense, and far too long for her comfort. But then, Ophelia felt George’s length jerk up against her opening, felt his legs twitch, and a quick heat flared up in the very center of her.

“I suppose I have, yeah,” George finally conceded with a shrug, “Why? Have you?”

Ophelia felt a little like she was being made fun of, but after all, she’d started this. She stammered, “So what if I have? You’re both just… I don’t know! Shut up, you’ve thought about it, too!”

He seemed to consider it for a moment, before giving her a quick nod. “Yeah, alright. I’m game.”

Fred blanched. “What are you on about?”

“You heard the lady, Fred!” he exclaimed, “The invitation has been extended!”

He shook his head, eyes wide. “You absolutely can’t be serious.”

George and Ophelia exchanged glances, quickly auditing each other’s reactions, before they both looked to Fred. In unison, they replied, “We are.”

Fred was overwhelmed. He could feel a rush of heat overtake his face, and had the strangest instinct to run from the room. But he couldn’t deny that he’d thought about it as well.

“No, what?” he stammered, “If anyone ever found out—”

That’s what you’re worried about?” his brother mocked, “You?”

George,” he pressed, “If anyone ever found out, we’d be in loads of trouble. Like real trouble.”

“Oh my god, Fred,” Ophelia groaned, exasperated.

“I’m serious!” he insisted, “We’ve always known where the line is, and how far we can step over it. But this—”

“Yeah, there’d probably be jail time,” George rolled his eyes.

Ophelia chimed in, “Straight to Azkaban, the lot of us.”

“The least they could do is put us in adjoining cells!”

She laughed genuinely. “I wouldn’t want to be anywhere near you!”

“We’d all be expelled from Hogwarts!” George cried, holding her in his lap as he sat up.

“Possibly executed!” she exclaimed, taking his face in her hands and pressing their noses together.

“Oh, definitely executed,” he murmured, snaking his arms up her back in a fevered, possessive move, “It’ll be off with your pretty head, Lestrange!”

He dipped to take one of her breasts in his mouth, laughing lustily as he did. She ground her hips down against his length, feeling it tease at her opening. His head fell back, a desperate groan tearing from his throat. The corner of his mouth lifted into a half-smile as he looked over at his brother.

“But Freddie… What a thing to die for, eh?”

Fred had already given in. His resolve had crumbled at the sight of Ophelia’s breast in his brother’s mouth, because that was the moment he could no longer keep from wondering what it would be like to taste her himself. He needed to know what it was like to feel the warmth of her skin beneath his fingertips, feel the touch of her tongue against his. As offended as he’d been by the suggestion, she was right: he was gagging for it. But how to begin? How in the world to bridge that seemingly insurmountable gulf between them? He couldn’t think. Couldn’t breathe. It was all too much at once. His chest felt tight, and his head was beginning to swim. So, slowly and silently, he sank to the floor, leaning back against the dresser. He’d stay over here, for a while, he decided. Until he could work out what to do.

“Just…” he stammered, “Just give me a minute.”

 It was no easy feat, to shock Fred Weasley. But, with an odd rush of pride, Ophelia realized she’d managed it.

 “You don’t get a minute!” George mocked, “We were here first, and we’re perfectly content to carry on without you. Come on—"

She giggled as he pitched her off sideways and laid her flat on her back, kissing her stomach and chest. He took her left nipple into his mouth, sucking for a moment before letting his teeth come together. Glancing across the room, Ophelia took note of the fact that Fred’s hand had drifted down between his own legs. His eyes were wide and glassy, head leaned back against the dresser. The thought occurred to her instantly: I knew he was a wanker. She had to choke back the urge to laugh.

“Oi!” A wry and smiling George grabbed her by the chin and turned her back towards him, “Don’t look at him, he can join in if he wants! Until then, you’re all mine.”

He took her lightly by the throat and dove in for a ravenous kiss. She laughed into his mouth, reaching between them to try and slip him inside her.

He chuckled. “Aren’t you eager.”

His face was suddenly between her legs, tongue flicking back and forth across her clit. Unable to help herself, she took a handful of his shoulder-length, fiery-red hair and drew him in tight against her. He laughed- a muffled, lusty sound, and plunged his tongue into her with all the fervor of a starving man. She felt the illusion of control, but this was his game, and he was winning- as usual.

“Alright, you stop that, now,” she begged, tugging at his hair, “Come up here and fuck me properly.”

He mumbled something in reply, but it was entirely unintelligible with his face pressed between her legs. She squealed with laughter at the sensation, trying to kick him away, but he held fast. He slipped his arms up under her hips, wrapping his hands around her narrow waist. Her struggling only made him laugh harder, which made her fight harder.

“God damn you, George Weasley,” she whined, her voice catching in her throat as she resigned to it. While he was distracted, she peeked across the room at Fred, whose hand was moving ever faster across his prominent bulge, and gripping ever tighter. She was struggling to concentrate, at the mercy of George’s skillful ministrations, but she did all she could to show him he was wanted. A subtle move of her arm towards him, the slight opening of her hand. Almost gaping at her, he shook his head. The motion was so subtle it was nearly imperceptible, but it was there, and it seemed to carry so much finality.

Meanwhile, George was absolutely paralyzing her with pleasure. It wasn’t long before Ophelia lost control. She let her eyes roll back into her head, with two hands wrapped in his hair, as he sucked and tongued and moaned, driving her higher and higher.

“Oh, Georgie…!” she gasped, feeling her limbs begin to twitch, “Don’t you dare stop!”

He murmured wordless encouragement, holding her tight against his face. The vibration of his voice sent her over the edge. Her back jerked into an extreme arch. She gasped his name, cried out in wordless adulation, frozen in his firm grasp. It lasted half a minute- her pleasure only amplified by the knowledge of her audience. And when she was finished, and she could feel George smiling between her legs, she opened her eyes to find Fred standing mere feet from the bed, a blank, vaguely overwhelmed expression on his face.

“Bloody hell, Fred,” George exclaimed in shock, clutching animatedly at his chest, “Decided to join in the fun, have you? It’s about time.” He leaned down again, wiping his face on her thigh.

“Hey, stop that!” Ophelia scolded, finally getting a foothold on his shoulder and shoving him away. “You be sweet!” She watched in amused satisfaction as he fell backwards, nearly rolling off the bed.

“Pull it out, then,” George taunted glibly, popping back up, “Let the lady get a good look.”

“You don’t have to do a damn thing he says, Freddie,” Ophelia reassured him, scooting over to sit on the edge of the bed, “He’s not in charge arou— Mmm!”

Her words rose to a stifled cry as Fred’s lips suddenly collided with hers. It was sloppy, imprecise, and over almost instantly.

“Oi!” George scolded. “Be a gentleman!”

“Sorry!” he gasped, withdrawing quickly, “Sorry, O, that was bang out of order, I dunno—”

This time, it was his turn to be cut short. Ophelia grabbed him by the collar of his shirt, tugging him back down into her. His hands found her cheeks, and he had to anchor himself to stop his head from spinning. Oh god, this is really happening. He made some small sound of surprise, at the sudden touch of her tongue against his lips. She breathed a short laugh, eyes traveling across his face.

“Mouth open,” she coaxed with a smile, parting his lips with a thumb on his chin.

When her tongue slipped against his, a sound tore from his throat that he did not recognize. He found it oddly humiliating, but she seemed not to care. She dove into him as though to drink from his mouth, forcing him closer. He slipped his hand beneath her hair, taking her gently by the back of the neck.

“Come here,” she demanded breathlessly, running her hands up his torso, beneath his shirt. He helped her tug it off over his head, discarding it across the room with no ceremony. They were both so hard and lean. They would almost be more believable as Chasers, if it weren’t for their battle scars. Only Beaters get hurt like that. She hooked a finger through his belt loop and yanked him towards her, pressing her lips to his freckled chest, over and over. She breathed deep through her nose, because he smelled almost exactly like his brother. Almost. But there was some small, indescribable difference. Something undeniably, uniquely Fred.

There was some strange instinct in him, screaming at him to say something to her. Tell her how beautiful she was, or how long he’d wanted this, and how badly. But, for the life of him, he didn’t know what to say. And for once, that was something he cared about.

“Lay down,” she suddenly commanded, “And why are you still wearing so many clothes?”

Wide-eyed and silent, he did as he was told. He reclined on the bed in a daze, shaking fingers fumbling with his belt buckle. She laid down between his legs, and with practiced hands, she unbuckled his belt, undid the fly. And then, in an eager, graceful motion that would stick in his memory for the rest of his life, Ophelia reached into Fred’s pants and her fingers snagged the thick shaft, springing it free.

It almost hit her in the face when it popped out. His cock was identical to George’s- long and startlingly thick, uncut and jutting out above round, virile balls from a mass of wiry, copper hair. She couldn’t help herself. She squeezed him in her hand, leaning in to run her tongue up the underside of his shaft.

When she took him into the warmth and wetness of her mouth for the first time, his cock jerked violently. He put a hand on her shoulder, then quickly retracted it.

“Oh…” Fred exhaled a shuddering moan, “Oh…!”

George, who had been watching silently from the other side of the bed, suddenly spoke up again. “That’s her name, Fred, good memory!”

“Sh-shut your mouth!” he stammered, frantically unsure of what to do with his hands.

“Come on, get rid of this,” she coaxed, tugging his jeans the rest of the way off. She ran her hands covetously up his bare legs, before diving back in again.

George shuffled up behind her, wrapping his fingers beneath her hipbones and hauling her up onto her knees. She squealed, laughing around Fred’s length. The sensation made him cry out in shock, and sent one of his knees up into her ribs.

“Ow!”

“Ah, fuck, sorry,” he panted, hands hovering awkwardly above her.

She withdrew for a moment, looking up at him with those massive, violet eyes. Her lips brushed lightly against his cock as she spoke. “If you say sorry for one more bloody thing, Fred, I swear I’ll never fuck you again.”

For a moment, he was absolutely terrified. A million thoughts raced through his head at once: Is she serious? Oh hell, I’ve gone and made her angry. Wait, she was planning on doing this again? But now she’s not? I ruined it, god dammit, I ruined everything! But then he saw the smile spread across her face, heard her beautiful laugh come bubbling up from her chest, and he knew it was alright.

“This isn’t like you at all, Fred,” his brother remarked smartly, “Honestly, I’ve never seen you act like such a—”

“Belt up.” He delivered a hard kick to his brother’s hip.

George doubled over in pain, laughing uproariously. “There he is,” he chuckled, straightening back up. He resumed the stroking of his cock against Ophelia’s opening. Pressing in, and then retreating, over and over again.

Ophelia was quivering with anticipation. All of the laughter had distracted her, for a moment, because it felt just like normal. Only now, the three of them were naked. She had Fred’s cock in her mouth, while George teased her so cruelly from behind. The realization left her momentarily lightheaded. Moans escalated, subtle movements became so much more stimulating. She increased the enthusiasm with which she was servicing Fred, and his entire body seemed to respond.

Finally, George decided he’d had enough. Slowly, he began to push his way inside her. Her voice rose, eyes falling shut. Her tongue vibrated against Fred’s cock, and he threw his head back and groaned.

“Damn,” George breathed, “You’re always so tight after you come.”

She exhaled a short laugh. “So that’s why you do it, then.”

He slapped an open palm on her ass. “Shut it.”

All at once, he began to fuck her. Slow and deep. Purposeful. It was pleasure like she’d never known, feeling her lover take her from behind while his brother held gentle handfuls of her hair and pressed his cock deep into her mouth.

Breathlessly, George asked, “Fuck, how good is this?” Despite himself, he couldn’t help but go faster. Harder. This was the most exciting thing he’d ever done.

Both Ophelia and Fred simultaneously moaned pleasurably. He laughed. He’d been in control this entire time. It was his game, after all, and he was winning.

“Hey, I have an idea,” George said aloud, never losing his rhythm.

“I don’t believe this is happening,” Fred stammered, eyes closed, voice straining and breaking as Ophelia worked him closer and closer to orgasm.

George groaned, pounding into her, “I said… I have… An idea.”

“W-what’s your idea, Georgie?” His hands hovered above her awkwardly.

He suddenly slipped away, leaving her maddeningly empty.

She whipped around. “Hey! Put that back!”

“No!” He slapped her on the ass again, gesturing towards his brother. “Get up there!”

“I don’t have to do what you say!” She stuck her tongue out at him.

Shocking as ever, he swooped down and licked it.

She gasped in near horror. “Of all the ghastly things you’ve ever done, George, I swear!”

He laughed, digging his nose to her cheek and giving her a forceful kiss.

More out of indignation than anything, Ophelia crawled up to sit astride Fred’s hips. She could feel his cock pressing up between her legs, hot and insistent. It pulsed against her, desperate for attention. He looked up at her with wide eyes, freckles standing out against his flushed cheeks. George had been right, it was so unlike him to be tentative. He was usually the more confident of the two, the more brazen. He spoke first, said what he wanted. Took what he wanted. This was an oddly endearing turn, she had to admit. But perhaps this was the one area where Fred had been surpassed, and that she attributed to George’s sweetness. It was something Fred had never quite been able to capture.

He gave her an awkward smile. “H—Hi.” Stupid, Fred, stupid, stupid, stupid.

She returned his smile, running her hand up the back of his neck, weaving her fingers through his hair. “Hi, Freddie.” She pressed her lips to his, and he moaned gratefully.

Hah!” George cackled, “She had your knob in her mouth!”

“George, you hypocrite!” she cried.

Fred scowled, wrapping his arms around her possessively, and craning his neck to look at his brother. “You better shut up, George, or I’ll put it in your mouth!” Despite the characteristic bravado in his voice, she could feel him shaking.

“Idle threats.”

“Hey,” she whispered in his ear, “Ignore him, that’ll drive him mad.”

“Yeah,” he breathed, quickly turning back to her.

 “Have you ever done this before?” she gently probed, running her fingers through his long hair.

“No,” he admitted, realizing how lightheaded he suddenly felt, “It’s just that George got to you first, so…”

She smiled warmly, color rising to her cheeks. It was precisely what she’d expected to hear. She pressed a few soft kisses to his throat. “Well, you’ve got me now.”

“Yeah,” he murmured, eyes fluttering slightly at the touch of her lips, “I ‘spose I do.”

She pressed down onto his hard length, rolling her hips back and forth. Just once. Just enough to thrill him. She leaned down again, resting her forehead against his.

“Fred,” she breathed, “I want you inside me.”

He squeezed his eyes shut, swallowing hard. “Yeah.” It was the only thing he could think to say. How in the world was he supposed to tell her how desperate he was for it? How long he’d been aching to hear her say those exact words to him? How many times he’d dreamed of this?

She took it slowly, for his sake. Hands braced on his shoulders, she rolled her hips forward, feeling him line up against her opening. And then, slowly, she began to roll back again, taking him inside her for the first time.

God, that’s a wonderful trick, he marveled, vaguely distracted by it. He realized she’d likely honed that particular skill on his twin brother, but for some reason, he didn’t care. He was inside her, that’s all that mattered.

She took him in inch by inch, his legs tensing up as she did. He exhaled a shuddering moan, arching his back until he bottomed out inside her. She tightened around him, and he moaned again, fingertips pressing into her thighs. He fit perfectly, pulsing insistently against her tight walls. She sat up a little straighter, slid her hands down to his chest, and began to roll her hips back and forth.

Fred’s eyes fluttered and fell closed, his mouth agape as he held onto her hips. It was a feeling beyond anything he could’ve imagined. He didn’t understand the geometry of what she was doing, but it worked, fuck, did it ever work. Sounds he didn’t even recognize rose from his own throat, and it seemed only to spurn her onward.

“Oh, fuck,” he panted, trying to slow her, “Oh fuck, Ophelia, I don’t know how long I can—”

He didn’t have time to utter the warning, and he was momentarily afraid of what was about to happen. In the second before it happened, time seemed to slow for Fred. Everything became sharper, clearer. The softly pulsing light from George’s wand, the sound of nighttime insects through the open window, the comfortable weight of his partner on top of him. His body betrayed him entirely, ignoring every command he was trying to give it. And then he came. Hard.

His back arched, head thrown backwards. He cried out, something that could’ve been her name. Even he wasn’t sure. But never in his entire life had he felt… So… Good. Like fireworks had gone off in the pit of his stomach. And no matter what he did, he just couldn’t get deep enough. No matter how hard he held her to him. His cock jerked rhythmically, and he poured himself into her. It had never been like this before, not when it was just him, by himself. It was beyond anything he could’ve expected.

She watched him, in awe of what she’d done. She watched as his face froze in an expression of pure ecstasy. A vein in his neck stood out sharply, beads of sweat clung to his freckled cheeks. She bore down on him hard, fingertips digging into his chest as she rode out his orgasm. It was an incredible thing to behold, and she did so almost reverently.

When it was over, she collapsed forward, pressing a lingering, imprecise kiss to his mouth. His arms wrapped around her back, holding her close.

“Fuck, I’m sorry,” he whispered; body still shaking as her lips trailed down his neck. “Honestly, I dunno what happened.”

“You’ll just have to make it up to me,” she announced decisively, combing her fingers through his hair. He sheepishly returned her smile, grateful that she seemed to have taken it in stride.

Just as Ophelia began to wonder what had happened to George, she felt his hand on her back.

“Yeah, that’s perfect, Freddie, keep her right there.”

He knelt on the bed, knees either side of his brother’s thighs. The pair gasped in unison as they felt something slipping against the place where they were joined.

“Oh, fuck.” With a thrill, Ophelia realized what George intended to do. She had to work hard to keep from tensing in excitement, as that would only make things more difficult.

“George, don’t you dare,” Fred cautioned, craning his neck to look at him.

“Why not?” he taunted, slipping a finger in beside his brother.

“Oh, fu—” He moaned at the sensation. “It’s weird! And besides, you’re gonna break her in half, trying a stupid thing like that!”

“No, he’s not,” she panted desperately, as he began to work his finger in and out. She had absolutely no proof that this would work, or even that it was possible, but she suddenly needed him to try.

“What? Hang on—” Fred protested weakly, beginning to give into it, “No, we’re not gonna fit!”

She gave him a fevered nod. “Yes, you will! Oh, fuck!”

George had retracted his hand, and replaced it with something else entirely. She reached up and gripped the headboard, and Fred laced his fingers with hers, staring intently into her face as they traversed this strange barrier together.

It was painful. She felt as though she were being stretched to the point of splitting in two, just as Fred had warned. But mixed in with the sting was an urgent, inescapable pleasure. It wasn’t something that ever would’ve occurred to her to do, but she found it thrilling beyond description. Now that the idea had been planted in her, and it had become a requirement that needed to be fulfilled. Both of them, inside her, at once. Where they belonged.

In that moment, it was the only thing in the world that made perfect sense to any of them.

Her head swam with fevered desire, anticipation building up in her like steam trapped beneath a cauldron lid. She pushed through the pain, voice rising in pitch and volume.

Suddenly, there was something like a release; a sharp, slick jolt of pleasure, and she realized he’d done it. He’d made his way inside. The trio paused, panting in each other’s arms. Ophelia had never in her life felt so deliciously full. She was stunned beyond words, her voice edging from her throat in short, shuddering gasps. Desperate fragments of syllables. George’s hands moved to her lower back, and she realized he was quivering. For some reason, it was a detail that thrilled her.

In a series of jerky, imprecise movements, George spread his knees wider, settling into the position. Beneath her, Fred was gasping in disbelief. It was as though they were afraid to move. Afraid to lose this thing they’d only just discovered.

“Are… Are you alright?” Fred asked in earnest concern.

She couldn’t speak. Her throat was dry when she swallowed. So, she just nodded, fast and insistent.

“You’re sure?” George breathed.

Yes!” she finally managed, voice breaking, “God, yes!”

“Okay,” he gasped, “Alright, that’s good.”

He started slowly, careful not to withdraw completely, for fear of being unable to re-enter her again.

Fuck,” he exclaimed in a breathy whisper, “Oh my god, Fred, I can… I can feel you… Your… Heartbeat.”

“Yeah,” he panted, eyes pressed shut, “Fuck, I can feel you, too.”

For Ophelia, the pain was beginning to melt away. And so, in a moment of boldness, she squeezed, pressing the twins against each other. Their cries were simultaneous, and ecstatic. Each tightened their respective holds on her, and George, emboldened, increased his pace.

Fred was beginning to harden again, she could feel it. She mumbled some incoherent expressions of encouragement to him, tossing her wild mane away from her face.

Fred reached up and combed it back, taking a gentle fistful of her hair and holding it tight against her head. It was sweet, it was considerate. But there was a hint of selfishness to it, as though he just wanted it out of his way. The combination was so quintessentially Fred. She gazed down into his hazel eyes, overcome with the desire to kiss him. So she did, plunging her tongue deep into his open mouth.

Without warning, his cock suddenly sprung free from her, rearing high. George withdrew as well, and she gasped at the emptiness. Her body gave a kind of involuntary shudder, as though it were screaming for them to get back in there, and finish what they’d started.

“Goddammit,” Fred grumbled, reaching down and desperately trying to re-insert himself to no avail. He couldn’t reach, didn’t really know what he was aiming for, in the first place. “Of all the stupid— Dammit—”

“Oh, sod it all,” George exclaimed in exasperation, swatting his brother’s hand away, “Wasting time, that’s what you’re doing. Here.” Abandoning all convention or propriety, he took firm hold of Fred’s cock, and slipped him back inside of their lover.

It was an odd act; a strange, unanticipated violation of an implicit rule. As if Fred and George had ever minded the rules; implicit or otherwise.

But nobody seemed to care. He’d done a necessary thing, he’d put them back together again, where they belonged. And then he re-entered her as well, much more easily this time, and their lovemaking resumed. Tentatively, Fred and Ophelia began to move with him.

It was a sensation beyond description. All maddening friction, and slick, blinding pleasure.

They found their rhythm, for however short a time. And then George began to break. He planted one of his feet on the mattress, pulling Ophelia back and forth by the hips, working himself deeper.

“Oh fuck,” he panted, his thrusts growing more desperate and imprecise, “Oh fuck, Fred, I’m fucking coming, do you want me to—I can pull out, if you—”

“No!” he gasped urgently, “No, I don’t care, just do it!”

Oh my god!” He thrust hard, one final time, holding himself in deep penetration as he came. He collapsed forward, bracing against the headboard. They could feel his legs shaking, his entire body tense as a bowstring. He groaned and shuddered each time his cock spurted within her.

Ophelia was beside herself. Her eyes fluttered closed and she bore down on them hard, so acutely aware of each jerk of George’s member inside her.

Fred was gasping, unable to pause his thrusts. Oddly, he felt George’s hand fall against his as it rested on Ophelia’s back. But he didn’t mind. They were already touching in far less acceptable ways. He laced their fingers together, and George gave it a tight squeeze before withdrawing.

Fred and Ophelia shuddered as he slipped from them, collapsing beside them in an exhausted heap. Mouth agape in stunned silence, Ophelia reached down and touched his face. He took her hand and brought it to his lips, eyes pressed shut in disbelief.

“Hey, come here.” Still gripping her hair, Fred flipped them over and forced her into a kiss. Ophelia moaned into his mouth, her eyes rolling back and falling shut. He spread his knees between hers, and drove down into her with a kind of forceful yet fumbling brutality. She gasped in shock, wrapping her legs around his.

Fred, it seemed, had found his confidence

It lasted much longer, this time. Thrust after mind-numbing thrust, he wore on, shaking the bed. She cried out in time with him, reaching up to comb her fingers through his hair. Their eyes locked, violet and hazel.

“Oh ffffuck, Freddie,” she moaned, fingertips pressing insistently into his chest.

“Here…” George murmured, slipping a hand between her legs. He found her clit with practiced ease, beginning to press fast, insistent circles. Her body responded to it instantly, and she gasped, arching up into Fred.

“I don’t need your help,” he panted defensively, continuing his unrelenting rhythm.

“I never said you did,” George countered, “But since there are two of us, we may as well put the extra limbs to good use. Besides, I don’t think O minds.”

Ophelia shook her head frantically. “Don’t you dare stop.”

“See?” Grinning and self-satisfied, George swooped in and plunged his tongue into her open mouth. She accepted it gratefully, and she could feel him smile against her lips. And then Fred took advantage of the grip he had on her hair, and steered her back into a kiss of his own. She was suddenly impossibly tight around him, to the point that it was becoming difficult to draw himself in and out.

“Oh my god,” she moaned, color hot on her cheeks, “Oh my god, I’m going to come, don’t stop!”

“Yeah?” Fred encouraged, thrusting harder.

“Yeah, I’m—Oh fuck, fuck, fuck!”

Her back jerked to an extreme arch, and Fred suddenly felt something he hadn’t expected. She was tightening rhythmically around his cock, squeezing the life out of him.

“Oh my god, Ophelia, what the fuck? What—Oh god!” It was mere moments before he succumbed to it, plunging himself hard and deep and following her over the precipice. His vision went dark, and it was a moment before he realized his eyes were closed. It was better, this time, in some way he couldn’t articulate. Maybe because she was right there with him, sharing in it completely. Maybe it was because he felt like he was in control. She had one hand around the back of his neck, one hand gripping at his chest, and she was looking up at him with those fantastic, violet eyes like she was dying a beautiful death and she didn’t mind at all. He fell into her, pressing his lips to hers in an act that was imprecise and fevered. She tasted different, all of a sudden. Like something in her had changed. Like he’d been the one to change it.

Panting, they gazed into each other’s eyes. Some connection had been formed between them, something they couldn’t name. But they could feel it. They could sense it in the air.

“Oi!” George chuckled, wiggling his hand as it remained trapped between their bodies, “Lemme go!”

Reluctantly, Fred withdrew, falling to the vacant side of the bed. And, all at once, they were still.

Through the open window, they could hear the sounds of insects from outside, and the summer wind rushing across the green-blanketed fields. The curtains occasionally billowed out into the night, whipping against the pane.

The reality of what they’d just done to one another was beginning to sink in. It had started so slowly, and then it had all happened so fast. There was no shame or regret from any of them, just shock and confusion that they didn’t know they all shared. The trio lay together in silence for a time, arms pressed gently against one another’s. The occasional aftershock of pleasure would run through their bodies, causing them to suddenly twitch. Their skin gleamed with sweat in the low, orange light of the bedside lamp.

Finally, Ophelia broke the silence. “So,” she cleared her throat, “This is what we’re doing now, is it?”

After a pause, Fred cautiously probed, “Is it what you want? The… Both of us?”

She considered it for a moment before announcing, “Yeah. I mean… Yes. I think it’s good. More than good, I think this is what we’ve been meant to do all along. I… I just can’t imagine leaving either of you out, now. Not after… That.” She craned her neck to look at her lover. “Georgie?”

He nodded hurriedly, still catching his breath. “Yeah, I agree with Ophelia.”

Fred stared at the ceiling, contentment welling up in his chest. “Yeah, me too.”

“Not just for fun,” she impressed, “Not just… I don’t know, not just in bed.”

They nodded, shifting a little closer to her, hiding their proud smiles.

“I have to ask,” she tentatively began, looking between them, “Have you ever… Have you ever done anything like that before? Just… Just the two of you?”

No,” they replied in quick unison.

She nodded pensively, trying to gauge if they were lying. She supposed if they weren’t willing to tell her the truth now, after what they’d just done, they never would be.

The twins knew what she was asking them. It was that frightening “I” word creeping up on the conversation; that incontrovertible taboo that, inwardly, they were both a little afraid they’d violated tonight.

“I hardly think this qualifies as… You know.” Fred announced, gracefully skirting the issue, “Not if you’re in the middle. I think we ought to draw a line through that right now, not under it.” He punctuated his statement with a very final-looking gesture of his hand.

“Yeah,” George nodded uncomfortably, “We didn’t do that for each other, you know. We’re in this for you.”

“Alright,” she gave a brisk nod, “I’m not putting a ban on it, I just want to be clear where we stand right now.”

We’re putting a ban on it,” they replied in unison, laughing nervously.

“I suppose we’ve always just done everything together, since birth,” George mused, “So it only makes sense that we do this together, too.”

“Do you together,” Fred chuckled.

“It just feels more right.”

Fred nodded in agreement. “Yeah, exactly.”

“So long as you don’t mind.”

“No,” she chuckled, “You’ll hear no complaints from me. I… I’ve cared about the both of you for a long time, now. And I want nothing more than to be with the both of you.”

Again, they smiled proudly, moving in closer.

“But I won’t stand for any jealousy,” she announced, looking between them, “I mean it, that sort of rubbish is right out. We’re going to keep this fair. What one gets, the other gets, end of story.”

The twins exchanged wry grins, laughing darkly.

Immediately, she realized the unintended loophole of her ultimatum. She slapped a palm to her forehead, bursting into bright peals of laughter. “No, that doesn’t mean you can turn it into a contest!”

“Too late!”

“Yeah, O, you really should know better than to say a thing like that to us!”

She shook her head. “Oh, bollocks, I’m bloody in for it now, aren’t I? You’re going to wear me into the mattress.”

You’ve got no idea.”

“Sod it,” she sighed, shaking her head and laughing. “Sod it all. Well, I suppose you should both come over here and hold me, then. Seeing as you both just fucked me half to death.”

It was the invitation they’d been waiting for with bated breath. It was ridiculous, given what they’d just done to one another. But it still seemed as though they needed permission.

Without hesitation, they folded in on her. George laid his head on her shoulder, draping an arm over her bare stomach. Fred rolled onto his side and propped his head up on his hand, weaving his fingers in with hers and bringing them to his lips. He wanted to just look at her face, for a while. Try and come to terms with what had just happened.

It felt right, for all three of them. There was no tension, no awkwardness. No reticence whatsoever. Just quiet, easy comfort.

“I love you,” she whispered, feeling her stomach flip at the admission. She pressed her eyes shut, dreading their response. Even worse, dreading that they would be silent.

But their reply was simultaneous, and absolutely thrilled. “I love you, too.”

 

The following morning, they saw her off with so many kisses and final, feverish touches. Sweet, thrilled whispers in each other’s ears, promises and thanks. Nobody wanted her to go, but she had to. They knew that. And they’d see her again, soon enough. Now, she had double the reason to brave the flight over.

After she left, George was eager to go back to sleep, falling gratefully back into bed. It was early, yet, and they’d had such a long night together. Maybe, if he drifted off quick enough, the memory would bleed into his dreams. But Fred was having none of it.

“Hey!” Fred threw himself down beside his brother, “What are you doing? You can’t sleep!”

“Why not?” he groaned, covering his head with a pillow, “I did most of the work, last night, I’m knackered.”

“Yeah, exactly!” Fred pressed, “So, you’ve gotta tell me how to do all that stuff.”

“What are you on about? What stuff?”

“All that—” he stammered, “I dunno, all that stuff she likes!”

He laughed, rolling onto his back and taking the pillow away from his face. “You managed fine. Remember? I’m surprised she was able to sit on that broom.”

“You did that to her, not me,” he argued, giving him a hard shove, “With your hand, and… Your mouth, in the beginning.”

“It just takes practice,” he yawned, “Which I’m sure she’ll be more than happy to indulge you. You reallyought to be concerned with how to get those blasted corsets off her. It’s like a Triwizard task, getting that girl undressed.”

Fred was more than a little impressed by his brother. “You can do that?”

“Mmm-hmm,” he confirmed, eyes falling closed again, “And lace her back into ‘em again, after. Took me ages to get the hang of it.”

Fred hesitated for a moment. He didn’t know why, not after what they’d just done. “Were… Were you her first?”

He smiled, thinking back to their night in the tunnel. “Yeah.”

“And she was yours?”

“You know she was, you prat.”

Fred furrowed his brow. “Hang on, how many times have you—”

“A lot.”

Fred sputtered in disbelief. “How? Have you got a bloody Time Turner I don’t know about?”

“Nah,” he breathed, “Just fewer hours of sleep.”

“Come on,” Fred groaned, suddenly acutely aware of how much he had to learn, “Give me something to work with, here, I don’t want her to get bored.”

George laughed. It was funny to see his brother get all flustered like this, and a part of him was really enjoying having the upper hand, for once. “We’ve done it one time, mate, I don’t reckon she’ll get bored anytime soon. Besides, she’s fancied you for a while.”

Fred’s face went red. “What?”

“Yeah.” George nodded sleepily, rolling back over. “Touching your hands all the time. Never thought she’d just come right out with it like that, though. That was a shocker.”

He was bewildered. “What?”

“Yeah.” He closed his eyes. “Just lemme sleep a while, and I’ll tell you all about it.”

Chapter Text

Come tonight, as early as you can manage. Love you.

                                                                  F & G 

Don’t dress spooky!!

 

An invitation like that couldn’t possibly be ignored. She did precisely what they said, leaving almost dangerously early in the evening. As soon as Lucius and Narcissa had closed their bedroom door, she was off; creeping barefoot through the manor, and out into the garden.

When she arrived at the Burrow, Fred leaned out the window to greet her with a kiss. “Go down onto the lawn,” he whispered.

She was stunned by the request. “What?”

“Just do it!” George urged, peering over his brother’s shoulder, “We’ll meet you down there!”

She landed just in time to see them tiptoeing out the front door, fully dressed and clutching one of their Cleansweep Fives.

“What’s all this, then?” she demanded in a whisper.

They had to chuckle. It was always amusing, to hear her repeat their own mannerisms back to them with her posh, received pronunciation.

“We’re going out!” George announced, pressing a kiss to her mouth.

“What do you mean, ‘out’?” she asked, heart sinking a little. She’d been looking forward to an extra-long night in bed with them, trying out this new, exciting thing of theirs.

Out!” they insisted in unison, pointing vaguely across the field.

She groaned. “I don’t like ‘out’.”

Of course, she doesn’t.”

“Why can’t we just stay here?” she begged, “I promise, I’ll make it worth your while.”

No!”

“We’re celebrating!”

“We’re going out!”

She looked between them in confusion. “Hang on, celebrating what?”

“We’ll tell you when we get there!” George insisted, “It’s not far.”

“Alright!” she conceded, throwing her hands up, “Alright, out it is, then.”

Brilliant!”

Fred held up his broom. “Who do you fancy flying with, then, me or him?”

She hesitated for a moment, before announcing, “Georgie.”

He laughed triumphantly. “That’s my girl!”

Tentatively, she turned away from them, and slung her leg back over Draco’s broom. Steeling herself for another ghastly flight. Suddenly, a kind of scuffling noise broke out behind her. She whipped around just in time to see George sprawl out on the ground beside the Cleansweep.

“No, hey, don’t you dare!” he protested, trying to scramble to his feet again.

Laughing, Fred leapt astride the Nimbus 2001.

“Hey!” Ophelia protested in a harsh whisper, trying to shove him away, “Not you, I said George!”

“Too late!” He wrapped a vice-like arm over her chest, clapped a hand over her mouth, and kicked off the ground. Sure enough, she screamed as they shot high and fast into the night sky.

He did everything in his power to frighten her, on the short flight through the countryside. Whipping back and forth at breakneck pace, shooting skyward and then plummeting back down again. It was only a few minutes before they landed, near the edge of a narrow strip of forest, but by then, Ophelia was windswept and terrified. As soon as they touched down, she stumbled away from him, nearly tripping in the process.

“I can’t believe you’ve done this!” she scolded, bracing against a nearby tree, “You’re such a wanker, Fred! I’m going to be sick!”

“No, you’re not,” he dismissed with a wave.

She shook her head, breathing deeply, trying to clear the nausea. Fred stashed the broom up in the tree branches, and then, grinning, stepped up behind her. He slipped his hand beneath her cloak, letting it come to rest between her breasts. Her heart was pounding.

“My word,” he remarked wryly, nipping at her earlobe, “Did I do that to you?”

“You’re the worst, Fred Weasley.”

He spun her in his arms, pressing her chest hard against his. Rough and sure. Nothing like he’d been the other night. “Are you trying to wind me up?” he chuckled, nosing her chin back to kiss her neck. Just like George did, she realized, but not quite.

She couldn’t help but succumb to it. The newness of having his lips against her skin; how he put his hands on her in ways her boyfriend’s brother had no business even thinking about.

“Just the worst,” she murmured, laying her lips against his. She could feel him laugh, tugging her closer still.

George came skidding to a graceless halt beside them, and the pair released one another. He leapt from his broom in a huff. “Fred, you knob!” he all but shouted, “I can’t believe you’ve done this!”

“He nearly killed me, Georgie!” Ophelia giggled, running over and clinging to him dramatically, “He’s such a wanker!”

“I did not nearly kill you,” he refuted, “You’re still in one piece, aren’t you?”

George shook his head in dismay, wrapping a protective arm around her shoulders. “Unbelievable.” He tossed his broom up into the branches alongside the Nimbus 2001.

“Alright, let’s go,” Fred commanded, “We’ve got a short walk, yet.”

They flanked her, each taking hold of her hand and leading her into the darkened woods. There was a narrow, but well-worn path through the trees, and they followed it.

“Where are we going?” she pressed.

You’ll see.”

“Can’t one of you cast Lumos, or something?” she needled, straining her eyes to see in the dark.

They laughed knowingly. “No.”

“Why not? I feel like I’m going to smash my face on a tree.”

“Hey, you’re being annoying,” Fred scolded, jabbing a finger into her cheek, “Knock it off.”

Indignant, she fell silent. A few short minutes later, they emerged from the trees behind a squat, brick building. The air smelled like hops and fantastic, roast meat. The windows shone invitingly in the darkness, the sound of lively chatter drifting out into the summer night. A country tavern.

“What on earth is this?” she asked, a hint of a laugh in her voice.

“A pub!”

“One we’re not meant to know about—”

“—and definitely not meant to be in!”

“Why ever not?”

Just then, they stepped around to the front of the building, and she understood why. A line of automobiles sat, dark and still, near the door. Ophelia gaped in shock.

“Is this a Muggle place?” she asked in a harsh whisper, looking between them.

Shh!”

“It’s a Muggle place,” George confirmed, “So keep it in under your hat, yeah?”

“We can’t go in there!” she protested.

They laughed. “Why not?”

When they pushed the door open, it was like the entire place chorused in greeting.

“There they are!” the barkeep shouted.

“Arthur’s boys are back!”

“Where have you lads been hiding?” one of the patrons asked.

School,” they answered in unison, closing the door behind them.

“That’s good,” the barkeep nodded, “Need to get your education, now.”

“How have you lot been?” Fred asked the room.

He was met by an uncoordinated cacophony of answers, and the chaos seemed to please him.

The twins shed their coats, hanging them on hooks by the door. George slipped Ophelia’s cloak from her shoulders, planting a kiss on her cheek in the process. A true gentleman. Not the type to steal a girl and fly off with her.

“Oi!” Fred exclaimed, looking her up and down, “I told you to dress normal!”

“This is normal!” she argued, “Besides, you said not to dress spooky, and I didn’t!”

To her credit, she had, in fact worn color. Her skirt was made up of extravagant folds of red tartan; the hem falling above her knees in the front, and down to her ankles in the back. Even her strapless corset top and knee-high boots were brown leather, rather than her typical black.

Normal means, like, jeans and a jumper,” Fred needled, “Not drowned Victorian pirate.”

“I have jeans and a jumper,” she defended.

“Oh, yeah?” He didn’t believe it for an instant.

“I do! Tight, black jeans, and an oversized black jumper with these thick, red stitches, and great big holes torn through it.”

He grimaced. “It’s a good thing you’re pretty.”

“It’s a good thing you’ve got long hair!” she sputtered indignantly, “I think it’s confused me into thinking you’re handsome!

“Hey,” George scolded, yanking his proudly-grinning brother a few paces away, to exchange harsh whispers.

Looking around, Ophelia took note of the fact that the three of them were the youngest in the packed building, by at least 25 years. And, to her further discomfort, she realized that she was the only girl. And then she noticed the lightbulbs, overhead, and became instantly hypnotized.

“Ophelia!” Fred called out, “Do I have to be nice to you?”

She smiled. “You’ve never been nice to me before, why start now?”

He turned back to George. “See?”

“I can handle the likes of him, Georgie,” she reassured, stepping over to kiss his cheek.

“Oh, you’re gonna handle me,” Fred snarled playfully, taking her hand and placing it somewhere it had no business being, in public.

“Get out of here, you,” she giggled, shoving him away.

At that, even George laughed. “Alright, come on.” He threw an arm over her shoulders, and pressed a kiss to her cheek. They led her over to the bar, through a crowd of happy, drunken greetings.

“Now,” the barkeep began, leaning towards them, “You’ll have to remind me which is which.” He was a kind-looking man, with a cloud of thinning white hair and deep smile lines on his face.

The twins grinned wickedly.

“I’m—”

“—Fred. And I’m—”

“—George.”

Ophelia giggled. To her sheer delight, they’d introduced themselves backwards.

The barkeep shook his head. “You’ll have to set me straight on that about a hundred more times tonight, I’m afraid. And who’s this you’ve brought with you?” He looked her up and down, smiling curiously.

“This is Ophelia,” George introduced.

“She’s our girlfriend,” Fred added, clasping her hand and holding it up into view.

The barkeep laughed. “And where are you from, luv?”

“Er… I live in Wiltshire,” she self-consciously admitted.

“Wiltshire!” He whistled in surprise.

“Far cry from our quiet little hamlet,” one of the bar patrons chimed in, “How long are you in town, then?”

“The whole night, if we’re lucky.” Fred winked lewdly, much to everyone’s amusement.

“She’s a witch,” George added, “She flies down here on her broomstick, of an evening, to see us.”

Ophelia gasped, looking up at him in shock.

“Now, lads,” the barkeep scolded, “That’s not a very nice thing to say about your young lady, is it?”

The twins just laughed.

“Anyway, what do we have to do to get a drink, around here?” Fred grinned, “I’m gasping!”

The barkeep laughed. “Go on and find a place to sit, if you can. I’ll bring ‘em over.”

Thanks, mate!” the twins chorused, dragging Ophelia away from the bar again.

They settled around a small table in the back corner; as quiet a place as they’d be able to find, amidst all the revelry.

Ophelia leaned across the table and whispered, “I thought you told me to keep it in my pocket! What was all that witch stuff?”

“They’re all so drunk, they’ll forget by morning,” George confidently dismissed.

“Besides, Muggles really do think witches fly around on brooms, you know,” Fred informed her.

“So, that’s the sort of joke a Muggle would make?” she asked, still unconvinced, “He just thought you were being mean to me?”

“Right in one, darling.”

She blinked in confusion, trying to make sense of it all. “How do you know about this place, anyway?”

Dad.”

“We tailed him here, once.”

“Tells mum he comes here for work research, but that’s a load of rubbish.”

“I’m sure it is good research for him, though,” she realized, “Being around them like this. Hang on, how are we meant to pay for things, here?”

Fred drew a wad of paper bills from his pocket, tied together with twine. “We traded with Lee for Muggle money! Look!”

He unwound the twine, laying out a few of the bills. They were strange colors, with little numbers and symbols in the corners. Each one bore the same, unmoving drawing of a woman. There was something extremely unsettling about the way she just stood there, staring.

“Who’s she?” Ophelia asked.

“That’s their Queen, Lee says.”

For some reason, she found that so strange. “They have a Queen?”

Yeah!”

“Mad, isn’t it?”

She delicately picked up one of the bills, inspecting it closely in the low light. “Paper,” she marveled, “I don’t understand, how can they be worth anything if they’re made of paper?”

“It’s beyond me, love.”

“Oh, hang on, I’ve got this, here—” Fred dug through his pocket again, producing a crumpled scrap of parchment. Ophelia recognized Lee’s handwriting.

 

1 Galleon --- about 5 pounds

1 Sickle --- about half a pound

(don’t bother with Knuts)

One beer shouldn’t cost more than 5 pounds!!

Don’t be stupid!!

 

She was baffled, trying to do the math in her head. “So, hang on, you’ve got about 10 Galleons worth of Muggle money, here. How…?”

They grinned broadly. “How did we come up with 10 Galleons of drinking money, you ask?”

“Yes!” She hadn’t wanted to be indelicate, especially considering the way this conversation had gone last time. But she was desperately curious.

“Well…” George looked to his brother, a wry smile on his face.

“…we’ve come into some money.”

“What?”

“Harry gave us his Triwizard winnings.”

“Said he didn’t want them, after what happened to Cedric.”

What?” Her face split with a broad, excited smile. “You’re joking! That’s incredible!! When did that happen?!”

“Ah, you only just missed it, as well!” George told her, “It was right after you left us on the platform!”

“He pulled us aside, and just handed us this massive sack of Galleons!”

She tentatively asked, “How… How much was it?”

A thousand.”

“No!” she gasped.

Just then, the barkeep arrived with three massive mugs of dark beer. Fred quickly swept their Muggle money from the table, bundling it up again.

“Specialty of the house,” he announced brightly, setting them down on the table, “Anything else I can get you, while I’m up?”

“I think we’re alright, thanks!” Ophelia said graciously, just desperate for him to leave so they could continue their conversation. He gave her a nod and a wink, and then disappeared again.

“A thousand?” she repeated in a whisper, leaning forward intensely, “That’s everything you lost and more! That’s wonderful, darlings!”

“And that’s not all,” Fred divulged, positively quivering with excitement.

“What?” She demanded, absolutely thrilled.

“We put a down payment on a shop,” George revealed.

The sound she made was unlike anything they’d ever heard before. She shrieked with pure delight, nearly launching herself across the table to grab them. They had to reach out and take hold of their beers, to keep her from knocking them over. She wrapped her arms around their necks, pressing their faces tight against hers. They laughed proudly, savoring her reaction to their big reveal.

A few of the bar patrons craned their necks to get a look at the commotion, smiling but confused. It wasn’t often they had a girl in their midst, much less one so loud, young, or pretty.

“I can’t believe it!” she exclaimed, something between a scream and a laugh, “Oh, I knew you’d manage it!  I’m so proud of you, my darlings! You’re so absolutely magnificent, I don’t even know what to do with you!”

“Celebrate with us!” Fred commanded.

“Let us get you so bloody wankered that you can’t walk straight, and then take us to bed!”

“I will!” she laughed, kissing them back and forth, twice each. “I’ll do anything you say, I’m so happy for you!”

Finally settling back into her chair, she held her drink aloft.

“To Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes!” she exclaimed, “And it’s brilliant and beautiful proprietors!”

Here, here!”

She listened intently as they told her all about it. It was in Diagon Alley, across from Madame Malkins’ and Quality Quidditch Supplies. A big space. They knew it was a bit early to start paying for a shop, especially since they still had a year of school left. But it had become available, all of a sudden, and they felt they needed to snatch it up while they had the money, and before someone else did. They’d start moving things over, here and there, whenever they could. There was a flat up above, and they planned to move into it just as soon as the school year ended. And then, with a little luck and a lot of hard work, they’d have it up and running before the end of next summer. They couldn’t, in good conscience, send all the little Hogwarts kiddies back to Filch empty handed, could they?

It was a beautiful plan, she told them. Beautiful and perfect, just like they were. Apparently, she and Lee were the only ones who knew, so far, and she swore she’d keep their secret until she died.

But, at the same time, she couldn’t help but feel a whisper of betrayal. They’d take Harry’s money, but not hers. She didn’t understand it. And she had a lot more money than Harry, after all. But, of course it was different. Taking her money might make it seem like that’s why they were with her in the first place. Or maybe it was because she was a girl, and they couldn’t accept money from a girl. Either way, it didn’t matter. It was done, and no good would come of her bringing it up. Let it lie, she told herself. Just be happy for them. It’s not about you.

Some bright, cheerful singing broke out among the patrons, and the trio listened as people took turns leading Irish pub songs. Ophelia sat between the twins, their arms around her. The more they drank, the closer they drifted together. They traded kisses back and forth between them, lingering for just a little longer each time. They were happy. All the hard edges of life had been worn away, all the dark corners of the world illuminated by love and laughter. Ophelia didn’t look at the clock. Didn’t worry about when she’d get back, or what sort of a state she’d be in when she did. The Malfoys could beat her bloody tomorrow, for all she cared. Nothing in the world would tear her away from this place, these people. This perfect moment in time.

And then, after she was a few drinks in, the twins were amused to notice that she’d begun to sing along with the rest of the patrons. Quietly, to be sure. They were the only ones who could hear her. But she knew the songs.

“Where’d you learn all this?” Fred teased, digging his elbow into her ribs.

She shrugged, going a bit red. “I don’t know. I like singing.”

They exchanged wry smiles. “Oh, do you?”

Just then, a rousing, group performance of Wild Rover came to an end. Someone in the crowd shouted, “Alright, what’ll we have next? Who’s up?”

“She is!” George shouted, taking her hand and waving it in the air.

Ophelia nearly spat out her mouthful of beer. “What?” she demanded, coughing and choking.

The entire bar cheered, the crowd parting to make a path for her.

“No, Georgie, I don’t want to!” she protested, as he dragged her to her feet.

“Yes, you do, you vainglorious little thing,” Fred laughed, scooping her up and carrying her up through the bar to tumultuous applause.

He set her on the counter, beaming up at her. “Go on, then, do it for us,” he coaxed.

George stepped up beside him, “Haven’t we earned it?”

The entire pub fell silent, waiting with bated breath for her response.

“Say please,” she commanded, casting them a haughty expression.

Fred took her hand, pressing a kiss to her knuckles. And then, accompanied by the entire bar, he shouted, “Please!”

With a wry smile, she took him by the chin. “Beg.”

The entire bar laughed, chorusing, “No!”

But that’s not what Fred and George said.

“Alright!” she conceded, throwing her hands up, “Alright!”

Everyone clapped and cheered; the twins each pressed kisses to her hands. She waited for a moment, until it got quiet again, and then she began.

            “On Raglan road—”

More cheers, mixed in with quiet murmurs of approval. Fred waved his hand behind him, shushing them insistently. All the while, never taking his eyes off her.

She smiled, color rising to her cheeks as she continued, “—of an autumn day,

            I saw her first, and knew,

            That her dark hair would weave a snare that I might one day rue.

            I saw the danger and I passed along the enchanted way.

            And I said, ‘Let grief be a fallen leaf,

            At the dawning of the day’.”

The twins beamed up at her, entirely captivated. They had never heard her sing, before. Didn’t know she could. And she could. Beautifully. The song wasn’t as lively as the ones everyone else had been singing, not by far. But you could’ve heard a pin drop in the moments when she stopped to breathe.

            “On Grafton street, in November, we tripped lightly along the ledge,

            Of a deep ravine where can be seen the worth of passion’s pledge.

            The Queen of Hearts still making tarts, and I not making hay.

            Oh, I loved too much, and by such, by such,

            Is happiness thrown away.”

            Gradually, the patrons began to sing along. Much more softly this time, no shouting or cheering.

            “I gave her gifts of the mind, I gave her the secret sign.

            That’s known to the artists who have known,

            The true gods of sound and stone.

            And word and tint, without stint, I gave her poems to say.

            With her own name there, and her long, dark hair,
            Like clouds over fields of grey
.”

            She reached down again, placing a hand on each of their cheeks. Beaming. Enamored.

            “On a quiet street, where old ghosts meet, I see her walking now.

            Away from me so hurriedly, my reason must allow,

            That I had loved, not as I should: a creature made of clay.

            When the angel woos the clay, he’d lose his wings,

            At the dawn of day.”

Cheers and applause erupted, all around her. The kind, old barkeep clapped her proudly on the back. But it was Fred and George who she found herself captivated by. They were radiant, the way they were looking up at her. George beckoned to her, and she leapt down into his arms, and into his kiss.

“You’re not Irish, are you, luv?” someone shouted.

100% French!” the twins announced, and she buried her reddening face in her hands.

Everyone laughed.

“Well, we’ll give you a pass, this time!”

“Alright!” she shouted above the noise, “I’ve sung for my supper, now take me to bed, or lose me forever!”

Don’t have to tell us twice!”

The bar patrons laughed, toasting this odd trio of youngsters. Drunk and happy, George scooped her up into his arms, and made for the door. Fred dug through his pocket for a moment, before tossing a wad of Muggle banknotes up onto the counter. He didn’t even count it. He bid everyone a hasty goodnight, snatching their coats from the hook by the door. And, with that, they were off.

             

“Thank you,” she exhaled, falling to the pair of beds, “Thank you for bringing me along, that was wonderful.”

“Liked that, did you?” George teased, laying down beside her, “We knew you would.”

Fred flopped down on her other side. “Yeah, there’s a greedy little songbird, buried under this foulmouthed raven.”

She smiled, closing her eyes. The bed was tilting beneath her, and she was a little afraid of rolling straight off the edge.

“You’re perfect, do you know that?” she said softly, “You make me forget myself. I feel like I’m someone else, around you. Someone good.”

“Hey,” Fred jostled her lightly, “You are good, what are you on about?”

She opened her eyes to look at him, and he smiled. He was beautiful, gazing down at her like that, his long hair still windswept from their flight back to the Burrow.

“Are you real?” she breathed, reaching up to run her fingertips along his cheek.

He laughed softly, bringing her hand to his lips. “Are you drunk?”

She smiled guiltily, covering her face.

Fred kissed her, then, his heart pounding in his chest. She sank into it gratefully, combing her fingers through his beautiful hair. And as his hand slid up over the clasps on her corset, he hoped he could remember all the things George had told him.

Chapter Text

A week later, he arrived at Malfoy Manor. Narcissa burst into her room in the middle of the night, waking her just as she was falling asleep.

“Get up,” she hurriedly commanded, “And get dressed.”

Ophelia sat up, rubbing her eyes. “Why?”

“The Dark Lord is here,” she divulged in an intense whisper, “And so is your family.”

She was stunned. “My… What?”

Get up.”

She whisked from the room as quickly as she’d come, leaving Ophelia to dress alone.

Mischief was awake on his perch, wings fluttering anxiously.

“You alright, love?” she gently asked him.

He puffed up his chest, hopping back and forth. “Bad boy.”

“I know,” she reassured him, giving him a gentle stroke, “There’s a bad boy downstairs. You just stay here, my love, and keep quiet. Alright?”

He clicked his beak in understanding, trying to settle into his perch.

Fighting through her fear, Ophelia slipped into a floor-length black dress with a plunging neckline, putting on a set of steeply high-heeled boots. She gave her face a cursory examination in the mirror, running her fingers hastily through her hair, before turning away.

To her further shock, Draco was standing in her doorway. The dark green suit he was wearing had clearly been donned haphazardly, as it sat slightly askew. His eyes were wide with fear, face even paler than usual.

“Did you hear?” he asked, voice quivering faintly. Clearly, any animosity he had once born her for spending time with Fred and George had suddenly evaporated. Once again, they found themselves together, and unwillingly thrust into the dark, terrifying world of their forbearers.

She nodded hurriedly, stepping up to straighten his suit. “Yes, I heard.”

“What are we supposed to do?”

Ophelia shook her head. “Bow when you see him,” she whispered, “Only speak when spoken to, and address him only as ‘My Lord.’ Don’t draw your wand for any reason. And don’t give him any cause to doubt your loyalty.”

“How do you know all that?”

“Snape,” she explained, “I asked him, once, what it was like to be in his presence.”

“And?”

She took him by the arm, leading him towards the stairs. “The most important thing he told me is that you should never ever get used to him. If you let yourself become comfortable, you’re beyond anyone’s reach but his.”

Humming with fear, arms linked, the pair descended the spiraling staircase towards the main hall. And then they saw him, and the visceral fear laid them out with an apocalyptic wave.

He was tall and skeletally thin, with a chalk white face that resembled a skull. Blue veins snaked along the edges of his face. His nose was flat with slits for nostrils, and he lacked any hair or discernable lips. His vivid red irises were bisected by vertical, cat-like pupils. And when his gaze fell to Ophelia, and he smiled, exposing oddly-spaced, pointed teeth, she felt as though a spike of ice had been thrust through her spine. Those ravenous, evil eyes followed the pair with a kind of sickening pride as they made their way towards him. He opened his arms to them, and she saw that his wand seemed to adhere to his bony fingers by its own volition, through his hands were open.

“Children,” he hissed proudly, beckoning to them. His voice was high and cold. “Come.”

Ophelia’s vision narrowed to a pinhole. It felt as though all of the happiness and life had been sucked straight out of her. Nevertheless, her fear forced her to release Draco’s arm, and approach him. She curtseyed deeply, averting her eyes.

“My Lord,” she greeted, “It is an honor to have you in our home.”

Before she knew what was happening, he was upon her. She had to stifle the urge to scream as his hands made contact with her shoulders. He drew her into an awkward, frigid embrace, wrapping his arms around her back and pressing her momentarily to his chest.

He smelled like death. Disease. Rot. Evil. She could feel the bile rising in the back of her throat.

Then he took her chin between his bony fingers, eyes traveling greedily over her face, as though she were a prize he’d long been owed. It felt like the very hand of Death itself had taken hold of her.

“Yes,” he said with a faint smile, “You have the look of your hero father. A proud, Lestrange face.”

She spoke, it seemed, through no will of her own. As though some instinct in her were fighting tooth and nail to keep her alive. “You honor me, My Lord.”

He relinquished his hold on her casually, almost dismissively, and turned to Draco.

She released the breath she did not realize she had been holding, finally able to take in the rest of the room. The Malfoys were standing in the corner, watching with wide eyes as the Dark Lord examined their son. To Ophelia’s surprise, they did not seem proud. Rather, trying desperately to mask their terror.

A voice sounded from beside her. “Ophelia.”

She turned to see a trio of people standing in the doorway. Two men, and a woman. Regally clothed, but frightening to behold. And then she realized who they were.

“Rabastan?” she asked tentatively, taking a half step backwards.

He smiled, an almost sickly expression, and approached her. It was then that she saw, for the first time, what others had been describing to her all her life. She was the spitting image of him. Or, rather, she would have been. But 14 years in Azkaban had taken a very visible toll. Regal cheekbones had become ashen and gaunt, pointed chin looking narrow and bony. His long, black hair had sprouted streaks of dull, frazzled grey. Deep violet eyes were sunken into his face, dark-ringed with years of ground-in fear and worry. It was easy to see where she’d inherited her height from, as this man towered over even her. And every inch of skin she could see was covered in arcane tattoos, save his face. Even his ringed fingers bore cruel, twisting runes. The Dark Mark writhed on his left forearm, as black as they day it had been placed.

He was but an echo of the Rabastan she’d heard so many stories about. A pale shadow.

“Let me look at you, girl,” he coaxed, in a voice that was deep and gravelly. He took her face in his hands, examining her with pride. “My daughter. A Lestrange, through and through.”

Ophelia held her silence. She felt no connection to this man, no warmth or love. No revulsion, either. No hatred. She found herself entirely indifferent to the fact of his existence.

“What’s the matter?” he asked, furrowing his brow, “Not happy to see me?”

She blinked, trying to formulate a response. She could sense a twinge of genuine hurt in his voice. “I’m only surprised. This is the first time I’ve ever met you.”

He smiled weakly, pulling her into an embrace. “But it’s not the first time I’ve met you. And I’ve been dreaming of you for 14 long years, wondering what you looked like. Hoping.”

It felt as though a corpse was pressed against her. Her arms hung lamely at her sides, not returning the embrace.

“I look like you,” she observed flatly.

He made a sound almost like a laugh. “I know you do.”

Her aunt and uncle stepped up beside them. Bellatrix looked like Narcissa’s skeleton, dipped in wax; her flyaway black hair pulled into a hasty updo. A single lock of silver descended from the part of her hair, framing her face. Her lips were painted bright red; heavily-lidded eyes shining black as they took in the sight of her. Though she was very small-statured, she had the look of a rabid animal, balanced dangerously on the brink of some unhinged attack. Unpredictable and wild.

Rodolphus looked very much like his brother; extremely tall, and heavily tattooed, with handsome features long-since withered. His hair had gone almost completely grey, however, and he wore it combed back from his face. Salt-and-pepper stubble was scraped along his axeblade jaw. His earlobes were stretched wide, hanging with large, silver plugs.

Before they could greet her, the Dark Lord spoke to the group, “Now, my loyal friends, let us sit. We have much to discuss.”

As if on cue, Severus Snape strode through the front door with a bang. His black cloak billowed out behind him like a wraith.

“Ahh,” the Dark Lord greeted, in a voice like a serpent’s hiss, “Severus. Just in time.”

“My Lord,” he greeted, falling to one knee before him.

“Rise, my loyal friend,” he commanded, “Rise and join us.”

The throng of Death Eaters made their way into the Malfoy’s formal dining room, the stunned Draco and Ophelia following behind them. Voldemort took his place at the head of the long, ebony table, beset on either side by Bellatrix and Rodolphus. Rabastan sat beside his brother, beckoning to Ophelia.

“Come, child,” he invited with a sickly smile, “Your place is up here, with your family.”

Snape sat to her right, casting her a stony, unreadable glance. The Malfoys were seated across from her in a visibly worried trio, the rest of the Death Eaters taking their places furthest away from Voldemort. The snake, Nagini, wound her way between the legs of the table and chairs, as if patrolling for any whisper of dissention.

The wide, warm hearth beside them sat unused, and instead, the room was dimly lit by a slew of ornate candelabras, all of the dark wood gleaming with silver trim. The walls hung with portraits of vulpine, blonde faces, wrapped in furs and jewels. A bowl of dusky, glittering fruit lay in the center of the table; cursory and untouched. There were no table settings. This was not a meal.

“Now,” the Dark Lord began, opening his arms wide, “Let us take a moment to celebrate our great achievement, this evening. For today, Azkaban prison has been liberated.”

The table rippled with low, triumphant laughter, and Ophelia applauded along with the rest of them.

“The names of Lestrange, Rookwood, Mulciber and Travers will live on in infamy,” he congratulated, “You have proven that your loyalty cannot be bought, and I assure you that your suffering shall not have been in vain. Your losses, grave though they have been, shall pale in comparison to the rewards.”

Amidst the celebration, Ophelia caught sight of the Malfoys as they exchanged worried glances. She felt the snake slither across her foot, and she had to suppress a shiver.

“And we have two new additions to our ranks,” the Dark Lord announced, “Draco Malfoy and Ophelia Lestrange.”

The table applauded once more. Her father clapped a proud hand to her shoulder, and she forced a smile. She and Draco locked eyes, and she took note of the fact that he was barely making an effort to maintain appearances. His fear was visible. Palpable. Ophelia was worried for him.

“May they serve our cause as well as their parents,” Voldemort heeded, before adding, “Or better.”

Again, the Malfoys squirmed in their seats. Narcissa reached out to clasp her son’s hand, giving it a gentle, reassuring squeeze.

“You honor me, My Lord,” Ophelia replied, bowing her head, “I only hope I can meet the exemplary standard set by my family. May you never have cause to question my undying loyalty to you.”

“That’s a good girl,” her aunt crowed, “You’ll do us all proud, someday.”

The Dark Lord smiled, seemingly pleased by this display.

Good, she told herself, good. Just stay alive.

“And now, my friends,” Voldemort announced, “To work.”

The Death Eaters straightened up, leaning towards him in rapt attention.

“This will serve as the primary location for our operation, from now on,” he informed them, “This room shall be our meeting hall, and I will personally remain here for the foreseeable future.”

“And we are honored by it, My Lord,” Lucius interjected, voice quavering lightly. He was almost cowering. Ophelia was astounded to witness it.

“As you should be, my slippery friend,” Voldemort scowled, before continuing, “You all have your tasks. You know what you’re meant to do. You know the thing we seek.”

A few Death Eaters chuckled ruefully, exchanging knowing glances.

“All that we do now hinges upon our ability to retrieve it,” he reminded them, “Without it, we cannot hope to proceed.”

“Let me get it for you, My Lord,” Bellatrix implored, reaching out to touch his hand, “There are ways that it can be done, if only you’d allow it, I can—”

“That’s enough, Bella,” he lightly admonished, removing her hand from his, “You have your task, and you will do it.”

She bowed her head, shrinking back. “Yes, My Lord. Of course.”

Voldemort stood, eyes travelling hungrily across the faces of his followers. When his gaze passed over Ophelia, it took every ounce of her will not to shy away. But she held her ground.

“Bring it to me,” he hissed, “And let us finish this, once and for all.”

“Yes, Lord,” the table responded in unison.

“Go.”

Ophelia followed suit as the Death Eaters stood, bowed, and began to make their way to the door.

“Not you, Severus,” he commanded, “Nor the Lestranges. You’ll stay and have a word with me.”

Ophelia’s heart leapt into her throat as she sank back into her chair. Draco cast her a terrified glance as he slipped from the room.

Lucius was lingering in the doorway. “My Lord,” he offered tentatively, “Perhaps it would be most appropriate if I—”

“I don’t want you, Lucius,” Voldemort snapped, “You’ll know when I want you, because I will tell you that I want you!” With a strong-armed wave of his wand, he slammed the heavy, double-doors in his face.

Bellatrix cackled obscenely, leaning out over the table towards her husband.

“Ophelia,” he beckoned to her, “Come here.” The sound of her name in his voice made her stomach turn cold.

Her father gave her a proud, insistent nod. She stood, stepping gracefully around the table and kneeling beside his chair. My god, stay alive, just stay alive. She bowed her head. “Yes, My Lord?”

He took her chin in his hand, tilting her face up towards him. “Lucius has been whispering to me, child,” he hissed, “Telling me of the friends you’ve made at Hogwarts.”

Her voice quavered, a hot wire of fear snapping in her chest. “My Lord?”

“Mudbloods and blood-traitors, he says, children of our old enemy, the Order of the Phoenix.”

Bellatrix jeered, Rodolphus and Rabastan scoffing in disapproval.

“I’ve heard nothing of the Order of the Phoenix, My Lord,” she was quick to defend.

“And you’ve been listening, have you?” he probed.

It was a snap judgement. Whether it was right or wrong, she could not say. But it was the only thing she could do to survive. “Yes, My Lord. Listening and learning. In service to you, always.”

His lip curled back to reveal his pointed teeth. “Are you trying to lie to me, girl?”

The terror coursing through her body was unlike anything she’d ever felt before. She raised her hands to him pleadingly, fascinated to see that they were not shaking. “No, My Lord!” she begged, “I’ve thought only of your return, and how best to serve our noble cause!”

“My Lord,” her father interjected politely, “If I may, the girl is simply frightened.”

“As she should be,” Rodolphus added sternly. It was the first time she’d heard him speak, and his voice was low and gravelly.

Rabastan nodded in agreement. “The Order’s trust in her could be used to great advantage.”

Voldemort sneered down at her, eyes traveling greedily across her face.

Survive this night. Stay alive.

“There have been whispers, My Lord,” she implored, “Whispers through the darkness, since the traitor Sirius Black made his return.”

Bellatrix spat, disgusted.

“The Malfoys have raised me well, My Lord, but for all of their nobility, they are blind to the most valuable resource we have at our disposal!”

“And what would that be, my dear?” he hissed.

Trust, My Lord. And our ability to manipulate it.”

He seemed to consider this for a moment, face twitching slightly. “Lestranges do not make good spies,” he observed, “Your bloodline is too loyal for deception. You wear your allegiance on your sleeves.”

Rabastan moved to kneel beside his daughter, putting an arm around her shoulders. “Ahh, but you see, My Lord, she is not only a Lestrange, but a Yaxley. And as you surely recall, both her mother—”

“Rest her soul,” Rodolphus murmured, eyes downcast.

“— and her uncle Corban remain the single most loyal and effective agents ever to serve our cause.”

My mother was a spy? she silently marveled.

The Dark Lord rounded on Rabastan, then, sneering down at him.

Snape, who Ophelia had entirely forgotten was present, due to his silence, finally spoke. “My Lord?”

“Severus,” he acknowledged, “Tell me, what do you make of this?”

“If I may,” he offered, “The Weasley family does seem to have developed a remarkable affinity towards the girl. Two of the sons in particular. And, if she is willing, I have no doubt that they will… Divulge, certain information to her.”

“You’ll take responsibility for this, will you?”

“I will.” The words rolled off his tongue with effortless confidence.

Voldemort turned back to her, eyes narrowed and dangerous. “What do you think, little one? Shall we give you a chance?” he goaded.

Ophelia nodded intensely, tongue paralyzed with fear.

His voice suddenly rose to a shout. “You answer me when I speak to you, girl!

“Yes, My Lord!” she rapidly amended, cringing away.

“If she proves useless,” Snape offered casually, “You can always simply… Kill her.”

Rabastan scrambled with his panic, tightening his grip on his daughter. “I’m certain it won’t come to that, My Lord, she has the blood of Slytherin in her veins! She will be loyal to you!”

Voldemort silenced him with a glance, and he slunk back.

“In this very room are assembled the most loyal and heroic of our kind,” he mused aloud, “It is only by their aid and counsel that I have managed to return. Tell me, girl: can I count you among them?”

The words seemed to stick in her throat. The effort it took to say them was exhausting. “Yes, My Lord.”

His lip curled back, his eyes taking on a ravenous quality. “Hold her.”

On cue, her father placed a hand on the back of her neck, gripping tightly. Rodolphus knelt beside them, taking her left wrist and extending her arm out toward Voldemort.

She knew what was about to happen. It was hurtling towards her like a runaway train. Deafening. Unstoppable. She could but watch, and submit to destruction.

He drew his wand, resting the tip against the smooth skin of her forearm.

Survive, she told herself, survive this night.

The voice slid through his lips as an evil hiss. He seemed to relish the words, relish the act itself. “Cauterio Morsmordre.”

It felt as though someone was forcing a white-hot wire into her veins. She could feel it snaking through her flesh, burning its way into her forever. But she did not make a sound. Survive, god damn you, survive!

An image was beginning to materialize upon her skin. A knotted snake, emerging from the gaping mouth of a human skull. It spanned from the crook of her elbow, down to her wrist. The Dark Mark. His mark. It hissed painfully, thin wisps of black smoke rising from the brand.

And with that, Ophelia Belladonna Yaxley Lestrange became a Death Eater. The Mark would remain on her arm until the day she died.

She had time for neither mourning, nor panic. Voldemort took her by the throat, dragging her up off the ground. Her feet were nearly dangling, the tips of her toes just brushing against the floorboards. His face was inches from hers, she could smell his fetid breath.

“The Order of the Phoenix,” he rasped, “Who they are, what they know. You’ll tell me what they’re plotting, what they’re thinking. I want to know where they meet, where they keep that Potter boy.”

“Yes, My Lord,” she whimpered, voice strangled by his grip on her.

“I want to know… Everything.”

“As you command, My Lord.”

His tongue flicked out from between his teeth, nearly touching her cheek. “And if you betray me…” he whispered venomously, running his free hand possessively across her face, “I will see that you suffer to your dying breath.”

“Yes, My Lord,” she tried to nod, “I would expect nothing less.”

With one final sneer, he released her. She fell hard, crumpling in a heap on the floor. And before she could look up, Voldemort and the snake had disapparated into a cloud of black smoke.

She took heavy, shuddering gulps of air as her father and uncle helped her to her feet. They scrabbled at her arm, holding it up for their own inspection. Rodolphus was murmuring some low, indistinct praise, bearing down on her. Bellatrix crossed the room in a flash.

“Yes!” she quivered with excitement, “Yes, yes, yes!” She bent to drag her tongue across her niece’s tattoo, and Ophelia recoiled in horror.

“Get back,” Rodolphus tiredly commanded, shoving his wife away by the chest.

“Come, my child,” her father coaxed, leading her towards the door, “Let’s show them all what true loyalty looks like.”

Ophelia was drained. Weakened, disoriented. It took both her father and her uncle to help her across the room. Where had Snape gone? she wondered vaguely, had he left with Voldemort?

When Bellatrix shoved the doors open, the remaining Death Eaters turned to face them in shock.

“She’s a true Lestrange, now!” her aunt cackled proudly, jerking her niece’s arm out to display the Mark.

Ophelia was distantly aware of the Malfoys astonished faces, the worried glances they exchanged with one another. The clandestine whispers. All of the Death Eaters seemed to be marveling at her, faces split with triumphant smiles.

From beside her, her uncle began to rhythmically stomp his foot. Her father joined in, then, beginning to hum a low, static tone. The other Death Eaters followed suit, getting to their feet, stomping and clapping, adding to the feral rhythm. Ophelia looked between their ravenously smiling faces, each of their cruel eyes fixed on her.

She jumped when her father suddenly began to sing. “Nothing from nowhere, I’m no one at all. Radiate, recognize, one silent call. As we all form—”

One dark flame!” the room chorused. Deafening. Cacophonous.

Her chest tightened, and she shrank back slightly with the shock of it. It was becoming harder and harder to mask her panic, in the face of this strange, evil ritual.

Her father smiled widely, repeating, “As we all form—”

They were louder this time, as they chorused, “One dark flame!”

Rodolphus raised his arms like a worshipper, and over the surging rhythm, cried, “Incinerate!”

As one, the Death Eaters chanted, “Love! Your hate! Your! Faith lost! You! Are now! One! Of us!

Rabastan took her by the wrist, hoisting her left arm high and cheering. The atmosphere became unhinged; the savage and hungry lot screaming and celebrating in a single, writhing mass. Ophelia was being sanctified in the untamed, pagan rite of her forbearers. It terrified her. She wanted to scream at them to stop the chanting, stop the singing. It was building up in her chest like steam, trapped beneath a cauldron lid. But they just kept going and going, growing louder and louder.

Love! Your hate! Your! Faith lost! You! Are now! One! ONE OF US!”

As she scanned across the sea of anathema, the one face that stood out to her was Draco’s. He did not clap. He did not cheer. His was an expression of pure sorrow. He met her tired gaze with glassy eyes, lips parted just slightly, brow furrowed. And in that moment, her heart ached for him. She wanted to comfort him, to tell him that it would be alright. She could take this, and she’d teach him to be strong, too. But all eyes were on her. And she had to maintain this carefully crafted illusion. So instead, she threw her head back and screamed, hoping desperately that they would mistake her tears for triumph.

 

When the clock struck two, her body seemed to move of its own accord. She stood, making her way towards the door.

Her raven was still anxious. “Come on, Mischief!” he mimicked in her voice. “Come on, Mischief!”

“Alright, you can come,” she conceded, beckoning to him. He landed deftly on her shoulder, settling in gratefully against her neck.

Like a ghost, she drifted out into the back garden. Broke into the shed, took the broom. She was not dressed for flying, far from it. Barefoot, still clad only in her long, black dress, she kicked off from the ground. Mischief kept good pace, flying beside her. The skin on her chest and back stung with the cold as she rode west, but she paid it no mind. All she could feel was the pain in her left forearm. A dull ache, rippling through her skin.

The snake was still moving. Twisting and writhing, like a living thing had burrowed into her flesh. The jaw of the skull was opening and closing, like it were gnawing away at her. A fog settled over her mind, reducing her focus to that small patch of skin. She could almost hear it ringing in her ears; an ever-present taunt.

Vaguely, she became aware of the fact that she was floating outside of the twins’ window. It was agape, they were beckoning to her. Mischief was sitting on the sill, screeching at her insistently.

“Ophelia!” George scolded in a harsh whisper, waving his hand in front of her face, “Hello?”

She blinked a few times, trying to clear the haze.

“Sod it all…” Fred took a dangerous lunge out of the high window, taking hold of the broom and yanking her towards them. “George, hold this.”

He tried to wrangle her into his grip, but she wouldn’t lift her left arm away from her chest, no matter how hard he tried to coax her into putting her arms around him. Finally, he just wrapped his hands around her waist and lifted her inside, setting her carefully on her feet. George pulled the broom in behind her.

“Are you mental?” Fred demanded, rubbing her hands between his, “What do you think you’re doing? You’re freezing!”

George was preoccupied by her facial expression. She had a thousand-yard stare; eyes unfocused and glistening. It sent a bolt of genuine fear through his chest. Something about this entire situation was very, very wrong.

“Ophelia?” he coaxed, dropping the broom and taking her face in his hands, “Hey, what’s happened?”

She was afraid to speak. Afraid that, if she opened her mouth, she would just scream and scream.

Bad boy!” Mischief kept repeating, “Bad boy!”

“What’s he on about?”

She pressed her eyes shut, swaying dangerously. Their hands were so warm against her skin. So warm.

“Ophelia!”

She looked up at him as though she’d never heard the name before, didn’t know what it meant.

“Wake your parents,” she finally murmured.

What?”

“Have you gone ‘round the bleeding twist?”

She clutched her left forearm to her chest, and cast them an earnest, pleading look. “Wake them, please. Right now.”

George’s eyes darted to her arm, and he clapped a hand over his mouth. “Oh my god.”

“What?” Fred followed his gaze. “Oh, fuck.”

All at once, it seemed, the sadness and fear she’d spent the night tamping down came bubbling to the surface. She began to weep openly, that evil mark pressed tight against her chest.

“Georgie,” she whimpered, reaching for him.

“Oh, love,” he said weakly, pulling her into his arms. “Oh, no.”

She tried to focus on his warmth; pressing her cheek to his chest, to hear his heartbeat. It was getting faster and faster.

“Let me see it,” Fred demanded, though there was a hint of reverent fear to be heard in his voice.

“What’s wrong with you?” George sniped, tugging her closer, “Go get mum and dad.”

“George—”

Goddammit, Fred, go get mum and dad!”

He turned and sprinted from the room. From the hall, the sound of soft, panicked voices could be heard. Lights came on. And then Arthur and Molly appeared in the doorway, clad in their nightclothes.

“What on earth is going on in here?” Molly sputtered, voice high and shrill and angry.

Still clinging to Ophelia, George looked up at his parents. When they saw the tears on their son’s face, their hearts plummeted.

“Dad,” he announced weakly, “The Death Eaters, they… They put it on her. The Dark Mark.”

Mr. and Mrs. Weasley gasped. Molly whimpered a soft, “Oh no!”

“It wasn’t the Death Eaters,” Ophelia corrected, looking between the startled faces of the Weasleys. “It was Voldemort.”

Chapter Text

By the time Dumbledore arrived, they had managed to coax her down into the sitting room. George all but had to carry her. Arthur and Molly were dressed, and a teakettle was whistling brightly atop the stove. Molly had lent Ophelia one of her hand-knitted shawls to wrap around her shoulders, given the inadequate nature of her dress. She sat on the sofa, flanked by the twins. They bestowed the occasional, gentle touches upon her; squeezing her hands, brushing the hair back from her face. Her silence disturbed them. The way her gaze seemed focused on nothing in particular disturbed them. They could not see the inferno raging behind her eyes; like a bonfire with the sound turned down.

 Ron and Ginny hung back by the door to the kitchen in their pajamas, watching the proceedings with wide eyes. They whispered intently to one another, ignoring their mother’s repeated commands to return to bed.

Mischief was out in the coop, with Pigwidgeon and Errol. She was glad, at least, to have been able to take him out of that horrible place. Even if it was only for a few hours.

Ophelia moved to stand when Dumbledore entered, but he bade her to sit with a calm wave of his hand.

“My dear girl,” he began, peering over the rims of his half-moon spectacles, “I am so sorry this has happened to you.”

She nodded gratefully, the words sticking in her throat.

He knelt, extended an upturned palm towards her. “May I?”

Reluctantly, she lifted her arm from her chest, and everyone laid eyes on the Mark for the first time. The entire room gasped. Beside her, George made a sound that tore at her heart. But Dumbledore remained calm. He took her wrist gently in his hand, carefully turning her arm side to side to inspect the brand. She winced when his fingers traced along the oddly pulsing edge of the skull.

He nodded, twinkling blue eyes meeting hers. “Lord Voldemort placed this upon you himself.” It was not a question.

She swallowed hard, nodding in confirmation.

Something in Dumbledore’s eyes changed, then. Some indescribable quality of his gaze seemed to sadden immeasurably. “Yes,” he remarked, distantly, “You can always tell a forgery. Your aunt Bellatrix was fond of placing them, during the last war.”

Impulsively, Fred took her free hand in his, squeezing tightly. “What’s going to happen to her?” he asked.

Dumbledore stood, making his way to a high-backed chair opposite the sofa. “The Mark itself will have no further ill effect, Mr. Weasley,” he said, taking his seat, “However, it will provide Voldemort nearly unfettered access to our mutual friend, Miss Lestrange.”

“But…” she interjected, pausing to choose her words carefully, “It also gives me access to him.”

Dumbledore gave her a mildly surprised look.

“Hang on.” George held up a hand. “What are you on about?”

She straightened up, steeling herself against what she was about to suggest. “The Dark Lord has tasked me with the infiltration of the Order of the Phoenix—”

Fred, George, Ginny, and Ron all spoke in unison. “The what?”

“—and I’ve told him that I would.” she finished, “But I want you all to know, truly, that I have no intention of doing anything of the sort. I’d die, before I’d sell you out to him.”

“The Order doesn’t exist anymore, Ophelia,” Molly reminded her, distributing levitating mugs of tea about the room.

“No?” challenged Dumbledore, a mischievous twinkle in his eye as he surveyed the room.

“If it doesn’t, then it should,” Ophelia stated plainly, “Because war is coming.”

Arthur, who had been silent till this point, finally spoke. “It… It feels like it did last time,” he nodded pensively, clutching his mug tightly.

“Ophelia,” Dumbledore gently implored, “What did you see tonight?”

He was testing the waters. Testing her resolve. She could see it in his eyes. But she answered with no hesitation. “There’s been a mass-breakout from Azkaban.”

Arthur sat further forward in his chair, listening intently. “Has there, really?”

“Yes,” she confirmed, “It’ll be on the front page of the Daily Prophet in the morning. Bellatrix, Rabastan, and Rodolphus Lestrange are at Malfoy Manor now, along with Rookwood, Dolohov, Mulciber, Travers, and three others I don’t know. Wormtail comes and goes, and so does Snape.”

The silence in the room was disturbingly final.

“Love,” Fred murmured, horrified, “That’s your family.”

She shook her head, looking to Dumbledore. “No, it’s not.”

Dumbledore met her gaze, eyes twinkling. “No, indeed.”

“He’s planning something, Professor,” she continued, unwavering, “He’s trying to find something. An object, I don’t know what, yet. But if I can give him reason to trust me, then I can find out.”

He understood. He saw the unblinking resolve in her eyes, tinged with so much sadness. The careful way she clutched at her forearm, shielding it from view. Hers was a Lestrange face, but the heart that hammered in her chest was not a cold, black, Lestrange heart. And, with a sinking feeling, he realized that she was absolutely right.

The Mark was as a knife thrust through her future, and it filled him with so much heavy regret to witness. But with its placement, he knew as well as she did that she had been left with only two options: die fighting for him, or die fighting him. And she had made her choice.

“Alright, Ophelia,” Dumbledore said softly.

“What? No!” Molly stammered, “Albus, she’s a child!”

It dawned on the twins simultaneously. “Hang on!”

From the doorway, Ron and Ginny exchanged furtive whispers.

“I’m the only one who can do this,” Ophelia insisted, eyes fixed on Dumbledore, “I was born to do this, I know it.”

“That’s rubbish, Ophelia!” George interjected.

“Yeah,” Fred corroborated, “You’ve no idea how dangerous—”

“I know better than either of you!” she interrupted, standing up and rounding on them. Perhaps it had been more forceful than she’d intended, judging by their startled expressions. But their ignorance was beginning to frustrate her. “It’s my family! It’s happening in my home, in the place I grew up! And it’s my Mark, on my arm! That makes it my choice!”

The twins looked chagrined, eyes downcast.

“He put his hands on me, tonight!” she impressed, shaking with an uncomfortable blend of fear, anxiety, and resolution, “Voldemort put his hands on my skin, he touched my face!”

“Don’t say the name,” Ron weakly insisted from the door.

“I’ll say it all I want!” she sputtered in disbelief, “He lives in my house, Ron!”

The room was silent for a long time, until Arthur finally murmured, “It’s too great a risk, Ophelia. No one would ask this of you.”

“My god, I’m offering!” she argued, turning and flinging her shawl away, exposing her arm for all to see.

At the sight of it, the room fell silent as a crypt. Molly clapped a hand over her mouth.

“Please,” she begged, dropping to her knees, fresh tears threatening to cascade down her cheeks, “Don’t make me bear this in vain. Let it mean something.”

All eyes turned imploringly to Dumbledore, to talk sense into her, to stop her. But he merely deferred, extending a hand towards the trio on the sofa. “The war that’s upon us will be fought and won by their generation. For good or evil.”

The twins shifted uncomfortably, as though they’d suddenly realized some horrible truth.

After a pause, Arthur announced, “He’s right.”

“Good,” Ophelia stood, trying desperately to mask the whisper of fear that was stealing silently across her heart. “What do I need to do?”

Dumbledore stood, drawing his wand. “My dear Molly,” he implored, “I hope you won’t mind some additional company this evening. But, unfortunately, we cannot afford to wait.” A graceful flick of his wand sent a quartet of silver-white phoenixes soaring through the air, and they flapped through the window and out into the night.

She nodded, sadness etched into all the lines on her face. The conversation seemed to have aged her. “Of course not, Albus,” she conceded, “I’ll put another kettle on.”

“Ophelia, I’m sorry.” Fred reached out to her, and she returned to the sofa. He wrapped her in his arms, pressing her cheek to his chest. He was shaking. George draped the shawl back around her shoulders, leaning down against her back.

“Tell me you still love me,” she pleadingly whispered, so softly that only her lovers could hear her.

Their response was simultaneous, and without hesitation. “I still love you.”

“But I’m scared for you,” George admitted.

She turned to look into his eyes. “Just promise you’ll never be scared of me.”

“Yeah.” He nodded, meeting her gaze with an intense, resolute expression. “Yeah, I promise.”

On her way back into the kitchen, Molly ushered her two youngest back towards the stairs, whispering fervently, swatting them away. Ron tore from her reach, stepping confidently into the sitting room.

“Hey,” he called out.

Ophelia straightened up to face him.

“It…” he hesitated, “It’s a good thing, you’re doing. For Harry. For all of us. So, thank you.”

She nodded. “You’re welcome.”

The front door suddenly opened with a bang, startling everyone in the house.

“Severus,” Dumbledore greeted, “I apologize for the lateness of the hour, my friend, but I’m afraid we’ve no time to lose.”

Ophelia was stunned beyond words. Snape strode over to the sofa, gazing down his hooked nose at Ophelia. The twins held onto her a little tighter, looking to Dumbledore for confirmation.

“You stupid, stupid girl,” he muttered, shaking his head. He was stern, every bit the Death Eater in appearance. But she could hear a definitive sadness hanging in his voice. Something in his gleaming, black eyes conveyed so much guarded sorrow.

“You…” she quietly stammered, “You were right there, why didn’t you help me?”

“There was nothing I could’ve done,” he replied softly, a hint of something like guilt stealing across his face.

Dumbledore stepped up beside him, extending a hand to Ophelia and helping her to her feet. “I’ve called upon Alastor, Sirius, and Kingsley,” he explained, “In the meantime, you know what you must do.”

“I do,” Snape confirmed, nodding solemnly.

“Arthur?” Dumbledore called over his shoulder.

He popped his head out from the kitchen. “Yes?”

“I hate to impose any further, my good man, but could we possibly make use of your garden shed for a few hours?”

He nodded. “Of course, Albus. Have at ‘er. Just mind the re-fridge-ator, it’s rather delicate.”

Snape began to lead Ophelia towards the front door, the twins frantically trailing behind her.

“What are you doing?” Fred demanded, trying to step in front of Snape.

“Relax, my dear boys,” Dumbledore soothed, motioning for them to stay behind, “Your friend is in the most capable of hands, I assure you. Sit and talk with me, a while.”

On their way to the shed, they bumped into Mad-Eye Moody, who had just apparated onto the front lawn.

“Professor,” she greeted, taken aback.

He looked down at her, one eye swiveling wildly in its socket. “Not your professor, and I never have been,” he gruffly replied, “Never seen you in my life, but I know a blasted Lestrange when I see one.”

“Alastor!” Dumbledore beckoned from the doorway, “It’s quite alright, now, there’s no need for alarm!”

With an angry growl, he turned, and hobbled off towards the house.

When they’d reached the shed, Snape cast a ball of white light into the air, closing the doors behind them. Under different circumstances, the place would’ve fascinated Ophelia. It was cluttered with innumerable Muggle artifacts; things she could neither name nor recognize. Odd machines, glass and metal pieces whose functions she could only wonder at. For a moment, she tried to determine which of these things could possibly be the re-fridge-ator.

But tonight was not the night. She stood back from Snape, watching as he shed his cloak and hung it on a shelf that housed what might’ve been children’s’ toys. She backed into a corner, still clutching her arm to her chest.

“What are we doing out here?” she asked, shakily.

“Dumbledore has asked me to train you in the art of Occlumency,” he finally explained, drawing his wand, “A necessary skill for a spy.”

“A spy like you,” she interrupted, needing the confirmation.

He gave her a stern look, and she slunk back, silenced.

“The goal of Occlumency is to close your mind to any potential intrusion,” he told her, “The opposing skill is known as Legilimency, wherein the practitioner attempts to penetrate into the mind of their target.”

“Bellatrix is an Occlumens,” she remarked rather lamely, searching for some handle on the moment.

“Correct,” he confirmed, “As was your mother. The Dark Lord, however, is both an Occlumens and a Legilimens. Perhaps the most powerful Legilimens alive today. And you’ve put yourself in the very dangerous position of now having no choice but to deceive him.”

“Something you’ve been doing for decades.”

He did not acknowledge the remark, instead rolling up his sleeves and brandishing his wand. She found herself momentarily distracted by his Dark Mark. It was the first time she’d ever seen it.

“I will now attempt to penetrate your mind,” he telegraphed to her, “And you will attempt to resist me. Legilimens!”

It happened before she could ask him how. It felt as though a dull knife was being thrust, slowly and painstakingly, into her mind. Her body straightened, muscles tense as bowstrings. She knew that her eyes were wide, but her view of the shed had suddenly been eclipsed by a barrage of her own memories.

She saw a flash of her father’s face, on the morning he was arrested. He had been young and handsome and regally clothed, his jet-black hair hanging to his waist. He was crying, reaching out for her, trying to shove the Aurors away.

She saw Draco, age nine, snatching dangerously for her perfect, delicate, blue-speckled raven’s egg; his father doing nothing to stop him.

She saw McGonagall approaching her with the Sorting Hat; felt the anxiety as though it were happening to her all over again. She heard the Hat whisper its secret questions in her ear. And then she felt the wave of relief as it crowed, “Slytherin!” Her chest swelled with pride, and she thought of her parents.

And just as quickly as he’d invaded her, Snape withdrew. She fell to her knees, gasping, clutching at the sides of her head.

“You made no effort whatsoever,” he sneered down at her.

“You never told me how!” she argued, stumbling to her feet again.

“Close your mind!” he commanded, “Resist me! Legilimens!”

This time, Lucius and Narcissa were standing over here as she sat, paralyzed and confused, on the sofa.

Your mother is dead,” they told her, “She died this morning, in Azkaban.”

She felt as though she should weep, but the tears would not come.

She was a hero,” they said, “And hers will be a hero’s grave. She’ll rest in the hard stone of the island. Pray you never lay eyes on it.

The memory twisted and stretched, and suddenly she was retreating into the forest outside the campsite, at the Quidditch World Cup, tailed by the twins.

“Where are you off to, Lestrange?”

“Off to senselessly murder some more of our friends and family?”

“That’s what your lot do, isn’t it?”

“Oh, sod off!”

Again, Snape withdrew, and again, she toppled over.

“Stop!” she begged, struggling back to her feet.

“You’re not trying,” he chastised, pacing back and forth across the shed, “The Dark Lord will not be so obvious in his attempts as this. Legilimens!”

What had, until this point, been a mere annoyance, suddenly became a twisted and evil violation. This time, he forced his blunt blade deeper than ever before, and what he found there made her recoil in panic.

Accio Firebolt!”

George was kicking off from the ground, in the middle of the deserted Quidditch pitch, whooping and laughing as he held her to his chest. Beneath them, Fred shouted and cheered, waving his arms in the air.

You earned your stripes with that one, Lestrange!”

The memory shifted, and for the first time, Ophelia began to try in vain to push Snape away.

I really, really like you, O.”

“Yeah, I really, really like you, too.”

George was slipping his hand up her bare thigh, beneath the folds of her wine-colored ballgown. She pressed her lips to his long neck. He laid her back onto the cool stone floor of the tunnel, tugging haphazardly at his belt.         

She thrashed against Snape’s presence in her mind, desperately trying to shed him.

All at once, she was lying on a bed in the Burrow with the twins, laughing and joking as the night grew deep and dark. Draco’s broom leaned against the window, the curtains billowing inward on the low, summer wind. Fred was making every effort to touch her, his fingertips lingering against her skin for longer and longer each time.

And then, the memory twisted once more.

“George, don’t you dare.”

“Why not?”

“Oh, fu— It’s weird! And besides, you’re gonna break her in half, trying a stupid thing like that!”

“No, he’s not!”

She saw her own hand clutching at the headboard, felt Fred’s fingers wrapped in her hair.

Ophelia was furious. She began to really and truly fight, but only succeeded in stamping her foot. It knocked her off balance, sent her cascading to the floor of the shed, but still, Snape did not withdraw.

“So. This is what we’re doing now, is it?”

“Is it what you want? The… Both of us?”

“STOP!”

Something like a burst of flame suddenly flared up in her mind. The memory was rent apart, splitting and scattering away from them, just as the twins folded in around her.

Ophelia found herself back in Arthur Weasley’s shed, kneeling on the ground, panting, clutching at her head. A fury the likes of which she had never known was suddenly building up in her chest. It was hot, it was insistent. It made her feel powerful. She looked up to see Snape, backed up against the shelf, clinging to it for support. His eyes were wide with disbelief.

Without thinking, she drew her wand, winding up for a strong-armed wave.

Expelliarimus!” He sent it spinning from her hand before she could cast, snatching it deftly from the air.

“You…” she fumed impotently, “You have no right! No right at all!”

“You stupid, stupid girl,” he breathed, shaking his head in dismay.

“What I do is my own business!” she shouted, anger boiling over.

Not anymore.”

“Give me my wand back!”

He raised his wand to her. “Silence!”

She slunk back against the wall opposite her teacher, pulling her knees up to her chest. He strode across the room, bearing down upon her.

“Do you think you love them?” he sneered mockingly, “Is that it?”

“I don’t think anything!” she snapped, “I love them, and they love me!” Even in her ears, it rung like a hollow cliché.  She hated this. Hated having to defend something he had no right to know about in the first place.

“Then I hope you’re happy, because you’ve put them in grave danger by coming here tonight!”

She was quick to argue, gaping at him in disbelief. “I had nowhere else to go!”

Silence!”

Again, Ophelia withdrew. Like a beaten dog.

“You have risked everything,” he impressed, even as she shook her head in defiance, “Yes, everything that it has taken me decades to build. You’re vulnerable, you’re arrogant, and you’re exceedingly careless!”

She opened her mouth to protest, but he paid her no mind.

“Because you’re a stupid little girl, and you waste your time on stupid little boys! If your father knew, if your mother—”

She couldn’t hear another word of it. “I don’t care!”

 “But the Dark Lord will!” The back of his hand tore across her cheek, snapping her head to the side. At the moment of impact, the light he’d cast suddenly went out.

Ophelia gaped in shock, ears ringing uncomfortably in the sudden darkness. Her eyes began to water instantly, as a clean, biting sting rose to her cheek. It was far from the first time she’d been struck, but there was something so completely unexpected about the fact that Snape had hit her. She blindly raised her hand to her face, feeling a hot, pulsing bruise beginning to form. Her first instinct was to argue; stand up and scream that he couldn’t hit her, she’s a student! Maybe she’d hit him back, maybe she’d kill him. Wrap her hands around his throat and squeeze until he stopped fighting.

Wordlessly, Snape re-cast his spell, illuminating the cramped shed once more. She was prepared to throw herself upon him, as soon as she had a clear line of sight. But as the light rose towards the ceiling, she saw that something about him had changed, some imperceptible quality to his face. To her shock and confusion, his anger seemed to have climaxed when he hit her, and then abruptly diminished. It left her entirely disarmed. He exhaled sharply, shaking his head in dismay. She watched in stunned silence as he backed up against the wall and sank to the floor. It was far from his typical, commanding demeanor. He rubbed wearily at his temples. It was a long, long time before either of them spoke.

“As it happens,” he said softly, “We may yet be able to use this to our advantage.”

She tried to swallow the hot stone of anger and humiliation in her throat. “How?”

He grimaced. “It will not be easy. It seems you’ve done everything possible to see to that fact.”

“I never thought it would be easy,” she spat.

“You will need to create a permanent barrier in your mind,” he explained, “Keeping the things you’ll allow the Dark Lord to access completely divided from the things you must hide. You must create a false depth, lightly shielded, so that he believes he is accessing your secrets.”

She nodded pensively, understanding beginning to dawn on her. “But in reality, he’s only seeing part of the truth.”

“Precisely.” The sadness in his voice had returned, leaving her puzzled. “You must come to believe that you a different person entirely, and show him only the elements you’ve curated to be most believable to him. I can teach you what he is most easily taken in by. The things he wants to see, when he breaks into your mind.”

“And I can keep them safe that way?” she hurriedly asked, “I can keep him from knowing about…?”

His reply was stern, emphatic. “No. He will have to be shown your connection to them, that can no longer be avoided. To attempt to hide it entirely is too great a deception, even for the most gifted of Occlumens.”

The strangest thought occurred to her, then. To say it aloud, to give it tangibility, was a dangerous prospect. But she decided she had nothing left to lose. And she wanted him to hurt. “This happened to you.” It was not a question, it was a statement.

He closed his eyes, head falling back against one of the shelves. Slowly, his thin lips turned down, into a kind of grimace. But it lingered for only a moment, and then it was gone.

 “The Dark Lord is incapable of understanding love. He does not acknowledge it as a motivator, and refuses to believe that it is a force that has the power to destroy him,” Snape murmured, “But the Dark Lord is wrong.”

She stared, wide-eyed at her teacher, absorbing with rapt attention all that he was conveying. She didn’t need Legilimency to know that she had been correct in her assumption. It had happened to him.

“But the ones you love will be targeted,” he heeded, “And it is for that reason that you must keep them close.”

He stood, then, with what appeared to be great effort, and Ophelia followed suit. He raised his wand to her once more.

“Again.”

“Can’t I just rest a moment?” she plead, lightly fingering the welt he’d raised to her cheek. The pain had reduced to a dull but persistent throb.

“The Dark Lord isn’t resting,” he impressed, “And you have no more time to waste. We go again. And this time, focus on blocking me from seeing the things you need to keep most guarded. The damning conversation you just had with Dumbledore, for example.”

She nodded resolutely, straightening up. “Alright.”

Legilimens!”

 

 

Early that morning, Snape apparated her back to Malfoy Manor. She was exhausted, only just clinging to consciousness as they materialized in the back garden. The edge of the horizon was just beginning to lighten; the sky above them still black and perforated by stars. The grass beneath her bare feet glistened with dew. It was uncomfortably cold, she realized. For a summer morning.

He released her arm, making sure she was steady before he stepped back. She clutched at Draco’s broom, looking up at him with heavy eyes and a heavy heart. Her body was weak, but her mind was strong. Through hours of hard work in that curiosity-packed shed, they’d built defenses around all of the thoughts and memories that she held most precious.

The work was far from over. They’d pick it up again, the next time they could. But in the meantime, she would be protected. Hopefully.

He drew her wand, brandishing it in her face for a moment. And then he flipped it over with a flourish, pressing it into her palm.

“Thank you, Severus,” she murmured.

Silent and unreadable, he took her by the jaw, tilting her face to the side to examine the bruise he’d given her. With a tap of his wand, he removed it entirely. She could feel the pain and swelling abate instantly, and she blinked up at him in surprise.

Without a word spoken to her, he disapparated.

She hadn’t had the chance to say goodbye to Fred and George, either.

Turning towards the garden shed, she was startled to discover they’d been witnessed by a pair of the Malfoys house-elves. She didn’t know their names, didn’t care to. They gazed up at her, wide-eyed and silent, frozen mid-gardening.

Ophelia straightened up and strode over to them, thrusting the broom into one of their hands.

“Put that back in the shed,” she ordered.

“Yes, Mistress Ophelia!” the elf squeaked, curtseying awkwardly as she struggled with the unwieldly broomstick.

“And if you breathe a word of this to anyone, I’ll see you stuffed and mounted.”

“Yes, Mistress Ophelia!”

Without so much as a downward glance, she crossed the lawn towards the house. At the door, she stood on tiptoe to peer through the window before stealing silently across the threshold. She felt like a thief in her own home, creeping up the stairs, hoping desperately not to be noticed. When she reached her room, she had to open the door with excruciating slowness, lest the sound give her away. The tiredness in her limbs throbbed and ached, protesting against her unrelenting caution. But once she was inside, and the door had been safely closed behind her, she felt as though she could finally exhale.

She collapsed to the bed, still fully clothed, just as the sun peeked over the horizon. It shone cruelly through her window, but she had no will to stand and close the curtains. Instead, she turned away, pulling the blanket up over her face. A dull headache was beginning to take shape behind her eyes. It throbbed persistently, demanding her attention.

The memory of the previous night felt oddly detached, as though someone had described it to her, rather than having experienced it herself. For a moment, she wondered if it had even happened at all.

Her dress was filthy, she fretted vaguely; still smeared with the dust and grime of Mr. Weasley’s Muggle shed. But it would have to wait. For now, she needed to sleep.

Before she drifted off, the tattoo on her arm gave one more sickening pulse. She could still hear it ringing faintly in her ears.