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Come Together

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i. Seeing is Believing

“The way I know I have no true friends,” Dorcas said, meticulously buttering the corners of her toast, “is that I’m taking Ancient Runes alone.” 

It was the morning of September the second, and the girls were at breakfast, comparing schedules. Neither the Entrance Hall nor the Great Hall showed any sign of the previous night’s food fiasco. Even better, Doe thought, Mary had stopped complaining about Crollins and the cake she’d taken to the face sometime around eight in the morning. Bless her

“You wouldn’t be taking it alone if you’d studied with me enough last year,” said Germaine sharply. “Then Anderberg might’ve let me take it.”

Doe paused her buttering. “Would you really have taken it just for me?”

Germaine snorted. “Fuck, no.”

“Fuck you, Germ.”

From a short distance along the table, Peter called, “You’re still taking Care of Magical Creatures, aren’t you? ...Gemma?”

Germaine softened at his use of the nickname. “Of course.”

“Me too,” Mary chimed in. “I needed an easy class to balance things out.”

“You’re the worst, Mare,” Dorcas said with a smile. Mary winked at her. Although, Doe didn’t disagree about Care of Magical Creatures. “Why are you all still taking that class? It’s a terrible waste of time.”

Overhearing this, Sirius said, “I want to be a dragon trainer, so it is in fact the best use of my time.”

“The sight of you’d give even a dragon a fright, love,” said Mary. 

Fanning herself with her schedule, Sara sat down by them. Ever the social butterfly, their fifth roommate had swanned between the Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw tables since breakfast had begun; Dorcas reckoned Sara had made friends at Hogwarts before they’d even got their letters. 

“Defence first!” Sara said. “Are you excited, Doe?”

Was she excited! “God, yes! I mean, we’ve had a new professor every year and it’s only been five farty old men—“

“You liked Bellweather last year,” Germaine said. 

Doe rolled her eyes. “Bellweather? Please. He’s dead to me now. Anyway, did you hear Thorpe used to be a Curse-Breaker? I wonder why you’d give that up to be at Hogwarts. An actual Curse-Breaker — and she was some kind of prodigy too! I’m going to work so bloody hard in her class this year—“

“That’s new,” Mary said sarcastically. 

“—and if she doesn’t love me, I’ll probably die, so I’d say I’m excited—“

Sara’s smile had grown strained. “I was teasing, dear. I live with you. Crollins and Thorpe were all we talked about last night.”

Doe deflated a little, but her friends were laughing. 

“Oh, all right. Excuse me for enjoying our most practical subject. The one most useful to our awful current events, might I add.”

As the conversation turned to other, more trivial things — in Dorcas’s estimation at least — she realised the last of her friends had been silent all through breakfast. Lily was poring over the Prophet, the slice of toast in her hand uneaten. 

“Everything okay?” Doe asked, her voice low. 

Lily started and looked up. “Oh! Yes — there’s just so much to read about… Look at this. A witch’s shop in a Muggle village was vandalised. They left this…awful graffiti…” 

Dorcas skimmed the article over her shoulder, her eyes snagging on get out dirty Mudblood. She felt a reflexive pinch of anxiety: Mum Dad are they all right— Which was stupid, of course, she’d had a letter from her parents just that morning. But Doe had lived her life in an unusual limbo: her mum and dad were magic, but Muggle-born themselves. For all intents and purposes, blood purists would still think of Doe as someone to be cleansed — though, she knew, her parents were in far more danger than she. 

Lily must have noticed the worry on Doe’s face, because she said, “Sorry, there’s no point in making all of us worry.”

No,” Doe said vehemently, surprising even herself. “It’s never better to be in the dark. If–If someone comes for me, Lily, I want to be facing them, with my wand in my hand.” 

Without realising it, Dorcas had raised her voice. Germaine, Sara, and Mary were all watching closely, identical expressions of sympathy on their faces. 

“Don’t say that, Doe,” Germaine said. “Nothing’s going to come for any of us. All right?”

The force of her conviction was nearly enough to dislodge Dorcas’s knot of fear. Nearly. Silence fell; Doe turned back to her food. Lily squeezed her hand. Inhaling shakily, Doe tried for a smile. 

“Forget about it. Let’s just go to class, yeah?”

“I don’t think Lily will be coming with us,” Sara murmured. 

“What?” said the girl in question, looking over her shoulder to see the new object of her friends’ attention: Dex Fortescue. Dorcas registered the little flush in Lily’s cheeks when she spotted him. People in love — and Doe’s friends were often in all-encompassing, girlish love, however much Mary would deny it — were so adorable. 

“Morning, Lily,” Dex said. “Morning...Lily’s friends.”

“Oh!” Lily blushed deeper and introduced them all. 

Dex greeted them individually, his smile so genuine and cheerful that the girls — some of whom had been ready to play the protective best friend — exchanged knowing looks. This, Doe thought, is a good boy. She was familiar with this species herself, having fallen for several in her day — but Doe being Doe, she could never quite take the step of telling them. That was a work in progress.That was going to be her big change this year, she’d decided. 

“You lot have Defence Against the Dark Arts, right? Mind if I steal you away? I’ve got Muggle Studies,” Dex was saying to Lily. “I can walk you there.”

Over his shoulder, the girls saw Lily’s eyes widen as she considered this. It was easy enough to guess her train of thought; as Doe realised she needed a little push, Mary came to the same conclusion. Doe waved her hand insistently, go go go, stupid! Mary, of course, took a more direct approach. 

“Yes! You can walk her there!” she said quickly before Lily could answer. “Go right now. And make it nice and meandering!”

To his credit, Dex laughed, and waited for a red-faced Lily to acquiesce. The two strolled out of the Great Hall; the girls watched them go, and cooed collectively when Lily’s head dropped to his shoulder.

Icon of a quill drawing a line

“It’ll be strange to have Defence with everyone in our year now, not just the Hufflepuffs,” Germaine said, as the sixth-year Gryffindors sans Lily and Sara made their own meandering way to their first class. 

Doe, sensing an opening with some degree of self-awareness, grinned and said, “I can’t understand how our N.E.W.T class shrank. I mean, who wouldn’t take Defence? It’s only the most important—“

This elicited the expected reaction: groans all around. 

“It’s like she’s the professor,” grumbled Peter. 

“And as for why our class has shrunken, ask your blessed Bellweather,” said Mary. “I bet he failed some of the more useless students.”

“I’ve never seen you come to the defence of useless students, Mare.”

“Oh, I’m not. They deserve it. But Bellweather was a perv. I swear I caught him peeking at my chest once.”

“Hey, look on the bright side. Now we can hex Slytherins…for classwork! ” Sirius said. 

“Bloody hell. That’s a bright side for you only, Black,” said Germaine. “More importantly — Potter, how did it feel when the Harpies destroyed your precious Puddlemere?”

As the boys and Germaine argued about Quidditch, Mary fell into step beside Doe. 

“If you’re going to say a word about Crollins again—”

“Blessed Jesus and Mary! Can’t a girl complain just once? This is about my planned tragic romance.”

Doe rolled her eyes. “Does it work when you plan it?”

“Leave the technicalities alone, Doe. Look — I need your help. With boys.”

Doe looked at her friend, incredulous. The last time Mary had asked her for help in a matter even tangentially concerning boys had been in their fourth year, when she’d said, “Dorcas, do you think my tits are asymmetrical? Why are you walking away from me?!” But Mary seemed sincere, her small, glossed mouth pressed in a determined line that her friends knew was a sign: she was on the hunt. 

“What help could I possibly be to you, with boys?” Doe said. 

Mary made a gesture of frustration. “You — you know nice boys! I don’t! I just want to see someone nice for once.”

“Are you thinking of anyone in particular?”

Anyone else might’ve responded with a bashful no. Mary considered the question seriously. 

“Well… Crollins isn’t nice. And Chris Townes isn’t that nice either. And—”

“I get your point,” Doe said quickly. “I suppose I can help. I’ve tried being Lily’s wingwoman for years—”

Nodding, Mary said, “And you’re having excellent results right now, I know.”

“—so I’ll think of someone. Just, be careful.” 

“What d’you mean?”

“I mean, if I’m going to introduce you to my friends…” Doe preemptively winced, unsure how to put this delicately. “Don’t break someone’s heart just because he’s there and interested, okay?”

An unreadable expression flickered across Mary’s face; then she brightened. “Who’s to say I won’t be heartbroken?”

“I’ll believe it when I see it, love.”

They were approaching the DADA classroom, the entrance to which was clogged with socialising sixth and seventh years from the Muggle Studies class across the hall. Doe and Mary hung back, preferring to let Germaine and the Marauders push a path through the crowd. 

Suddenly, Mary pivoted Doe by the shoulder and tried — unsuccessfully — to hide her own tall frame from sight. 

“Ow, what the hell—”

“It’s-Crollins-shhh-hide-me!”

“What’s the big deal?” Doe grumbled as Mary attempted to use her as a human shield. “So you got a cake to the face, it’s not as though you suddenly aren’t lovely and fabulous.”

“It’s humiliating!”

“Well, tough—” Doe broke off abruptly, noticing what few others had, hidden in the high arches of the corridor. It was hovering, as if searching...and then it became very still, as though it were preparing to strike. 

“Mare, look up. You’re going to want to see this.”

“What is it?”

Doubtfully Mary peered around her. The two of them watched as a crusty, day-old meat pie went splat! onto Colin Rollins’s head. Caught unaware, Crollins howled and pawed at the chunks of pie in his hair. 

“It’s in my shirt!” he wailed. Mid-flail, he caught sight of the Marauders, who were now openly laughing. “Potter! Black! You’ll pay for this!”

“Reckon it’s time to get to class, Padfoot,” James said, grinning. 

“Gosh, wouldn’t we hate to be late?”

“Yes, and on the very first day—”

Doe stifled laughter of her own and pulled an awestruck Mary after them. 

“Hypothetically, the planners of this prank might be trying to target specific people,” Remus said to her with a smile. “And, hypothetically, food that’s missed its target might find a way to try again…”

“God, it sounds so ominous when you put it that way,” said Doe.

But Mary smiled back. “Do you know, I might find it in my heart to forgive you after all.”

 


ii.The Whole Boyfriend-Girlfriend Thing

Lily Evans was strait-laced. This had been a fact of her life for as long as she’d been at Hogwarts, though in primary school she had been quite the cheeky troublemaker. Energetic, her teachers had called her, wearing strained smiles. Her parents had been somewhat relieved by the change in her that magical schooling had wrought. Perhaps the distraction of magic had been enough to satisfy her boundless curiosity. She had felt that way until now, at least.

While Lily-at-Hogwarts played that role — well-behaved, self-possessed, in full control of her tenacity and temper — Lily-at-home was quite a different animal. Her mother’s serene outlook and, worse, her sister’s stiff propriety both brought out Lily’s vivacious side. And her rebellious side. And her difficult side. All three had been uncomfortably reined in this summer, what with Petunia’s horrid boyfriend around so often. Wearing a fake smile and watching her sister’s sickening love life had put things in perspective a little. Why should she always do what was expected of her? The Lily-at-Hogwarts way had started to feel too close to the Petunia way.

Lily-at-Hogwarts would date a serious, intelligent boy, like Bertram Aubrey, or Caradoc Dearborn, and focus on her studies. She would take the most difficult N.E.W.T classes she possibly could. She would tell off James Potter when he caused a ruckus. She would roll her eyes and smile at Mary’s antics. But honestly, Lily didn’t like Bertram Aubrey or Ancient Runes or turning up her nose like...like… well, like Petunia! she thought furiously. Mary was no less driven or clever for having spent the last two years kissing Chris Townes. And how awful would it be to leave Hogwarts and realise she simply could not reconcile the strait-laced choices of Lily-at-Hogwarts with a nebulous, still-forming Lily-in-the-real-world? That was her biggest fear — that she would be eighteen and dating a boring bloke and working a boring job, only because it was the thing to do. (Rather like Petunia, she thought sourly.)

This was part of the appeal of Dex Fortescue, of course. He was funny, and easy to talk to, and just plain fun. They didn’t have to talk about geopolitics or philosophy for her to enjoy his company. 

Lily Evans wanted things to be honest, and simple, and right.

This thought occurred to her as they walked to class, her head pillowed on his shoulder. Considering the first of those three desires, she blurted out, “I’ve never had a boyfriend before.”

He pulled away to look at her, slowing his pace a little. “What?”

Embarrassed, Lily cleared her throat. “I, er, haven’t had a serious boyfriend before. So I don’t really know how any of this works.”

Dex chuckled. “Oh. Lily, if my bumbling way of asking you out didn’t prove I’ve never had a girlfriend, I’m a much better actor than I thought.”

She laughed along with him, relaxing. “It wasn’t bumbling. It was sweet.”

“Sweet,” Dex repeated dryly. “Just what every guy likes to hear.”

Lily punched him on the shoulder. “Look, I’m just telling you this because I don’t want to...do things the wrong way.”

“I don’t reckon there is a wrong way.”

“Isn’t there?” She looked at him, really looked at him. She hoped she didn’t sound too nervous. But Lily wanted things to be honest, and simple, and right, and she was beginning to worry that wrong was far easier to identify than right ever was.

Dex squeezed her hip. “So long as we look out for each other, we’ll be all right, eh?”

Lily smiled. “I like the sound of that.” 

The first-floor corridor between her classroom and Dex’s was relatively empty — they were indeed too early for the morning bell. With a mischievous smile, Dex pulled her into a more secluded passageway. 

“Is this what you had in mind when you asked to walk me to class?” Lily teased.

Obviously.”

Tipping her head back against the wall, Lily hooked a finger into the knot of his tie and tugged him close. His hands came to rest on her hips just as his lips met hers. Lily allowed herself to be carried away the solid warmth of him, by how close he held her. A shiver ran down her spine. 

Was that...the sound of throat-clearing?

“Professor McGonagall,” Lily spluttered, detaching herself from Dex. “We’re so — I’m so—”

McGonagall gave her a long-suffering look. “Miss Evans, you are free to do whatever you like, but I would prefer that you not do it right outside my office.” She gave Dex a once-over and strode away.

“Oh, my God.” Lily pressed a hand to her forehead. 

“What did she give me that look for?” Dex said. “Like she’s your mum!”

They looked at each other and burst into laughter. Doubled over, Lily braced herself against her boyfriend and tried to smother her giggles, but every time she managed it she caught sight of him and began to laugh again. 

“Stop it, my sides hurt,” she gasped.

Me? You’re the one who—”

“We can go find a more convenient wall if you’d like…”

At that Dex immediately fell silent. “By all means, lead the way.”

 


iii. Thorpe

The sixth years quieted down the moment Professor Thorpe swept into the classroom, a dark-haired, vaguely familiar wizard in tow. Lily, seated next to Dorcas, could feel her friend practically vibrating with excitement. She herself had been looking forward to DADA class since Thorpe had been introduced; the witch had a formidable air even before you heard her qualifications. 

Thorpe’s dark hair was pulled back from her angular face, emphasising the severity of her cheekbones. Her wide mouth was painted a deep red — the first time, Lily thought, she had seen a Hogwarts professor wearing noticeable makeup. 

“Where do you reckon she gets her lipstick?” Mary murmured over her shoulder.

“Zonko’s,” joked Lily.

“D’you think she’d tell me if I asked her?”

“Please don’t ask her,” said Doe immediately.

“Shh!” Germaine said. “She’s looking.”

Thorpe was indeed scanning the rows of desks. The wizard had taken a seat off to the side. 

“Who’s the bloke?” Lily whispered.

“We’ll find out,” Doe said, waving at her to shut up.

“Good morning,” Thorpe said; her voice was startlingly high, though it carried the rasp of a smoker. She walked towards the first row of desks. Lily could see the Ravenclaws seated there leaning away in alarm. 

“As you know, my name is Aprylline Thorpe, and I will be your Defence Against the Dark Arts professor. Some of you may have heard…” Her dark eyes travelled over the assembled students. “...about my background. I left Hogwarts over a decade ago and have spent that time training to be and working as a Curse-Breaker. My work took me to Brazil, Poland, and Korea, and I am not exaggerating — or, indeed, bragging — when I say that I hope none of you will ever come close to the kinds of dangers I have faced.”

Dorcas inhaled; her eyes were brighter than Lily had ever seen them. Lily elbowed her friend playfully.

“But I’m neither naive nor stupid,” she continued, starting down the aisle. “Even those of you who do not aspire to be Curse-Breakers, or Aurors, or what have you, will leave this school to enter a wizarding Britain more fraught than ever. Unless you’ve been walking about with your eyes closed—” her lips twisted in disdain, showing just what she thought of that “—you will know exactly what I mean. I am of the belief that protection against the Dark Arts is the most important tool a witch or wizard can possess, now especially. I wouldn’t be here speaking to you if I didn’t.

“It is my job to prepare you for this future. Some of you may think I’m being alarmist; others might believe they do not require training against Dark magic...for their own, flawed reasons.” Thorpe’s eyes narrowed.

The class stirred at her pointed emphasis, low whispers filling the room. Lily and Doe exchanged wide-eyed glances.

“Holy fuck,” Doe whispered. “Is she implying—”

“I think she is,” Lily whispered back.

“Regardless, I expect your attention and interest every day we meet this year and the next. You’ve had a rather scrambled syllabus, what with all your different professors, so you will be playing catch-up for the first half of the year. But once that’s done, I don’t doubt that we will progress well.”

Perhaps noticing that she had the class in a mild state of shock, Thorpe smiled a little.

“I sound like a terrible taskmaster, but I promise I will be fair. We’ll be doing a lot of practical magic — and surely I’m not the only one who sees the fun in that?” Her smile widened to a full-fledged grin, and Lily caught herself smiling along. Perhaps Doe’s over-the-top enthusiasm wasn’t unwarranted.

Thorpe clapped her hands. “Enough talk. Everyone up—” 

The moment they leapt to their feet, Thorpe pushed the desks up against the walls with a wave of her wand. A Hufflepuff girl who had moved too slowly found herself whizzing along with her bench; the class erupted into laughter.

“Oh, I’m sorry!” said Thorpe. “Miss…?”

“Florence Quaille,” the girl said stiffly, extricating herself from the bench.

“Miss Quaille, my apologies. I trust that nonverbal magic is a self-explanatory phrase?”

Florence nodded.

“Tell me, what’s the benefit of nonverbal magic?”

“Well... I suppose it can catch someone off-guard?”

“Exactly! Ten points to Hufflepuff — for the answer, and as an apology,” Thorpe said with a wry smile. Florence immediately brightened. “Can someone else tell me a possible drawback of nonverbal magic?”

Doe’s hand shot up so fast, Lily barely avoided the blow.

Thorpe’s eyes landed on them. “Yes, Gryffindor in the middle? What’s your name?”

“Dorcas Walker. Some spells are weaker when performed nonverbally.”

“That’s right. Five points to Gryffindor. Now, you’ve all cottoned on to the fact that we’ll be practising nonverbal spellwork, but what say we have a little demonstration?”

At that, the wizard who had entered with Thorpe sprang to his feet and strode to the centre of the classroom. Without being told to, the students formed a ring around them. If the room had been intrigued before, it positively thrummed with anticipation now. Lily couldn’t recall the last time she had seen teachers face off against one another.

“If you’ll introduce yourself—” Thorpe said to the stranger.

He gave the students a wave and a lopsided grin. “It’s good to be back. Name’s Edgar Bones. I was in my seventh year when you lot were starting here. Went straight from Hogwarts into the Auror program, and I’ve been there ever since.”

“A real-live Auror,” Dorcas breathed. It was hard to believe that gangly, genial-looking Edgar Bones spent his days chasing Dark wizards, Lily thought — but his introduction certainly explained why he’d looked familiar.

“Yeah, he’s also Amelia Bones’s brother, so they rather cancel out on the coolness scale,” said Mary darkly.

“Stand back, everyone,” Bones was saying. “Aprylline sold herself short. She’s just about the most talented witch I’ve ever seen.”

Thorpe rolled her eyes, but she was smiling — a bright, joyful smile that made her look years younger. Lily could well imagine her traipsing across the world as a young woman in her twenties, fearless and breathless with excitement. 

The two adults took several paces backwards and bowed. Raising their wands, they stood at the ready.

“You, in the specs. Count us down,” Thorpe said.

Lily saw James Potter straighten and do as he was told. For the brief heartbeats during which Thorpe and Edgar Bones were still and James was still counting, Lily allowed herself a flash of amusement at how the professor had referred to him. Had James ever been called you, with the specs?

And then Thorpe and Bones leapt into motion. It was a strange sight indeed. Without shouted incantations, their duel looked more like a carefully-choreographed dance than a fight — although, of course, neither of them was really trying to hurt the other. 

Bones struck first, casting a silent Stunning Charm that Lily recognised by its jet of red light. Thorpe deflected it and flicked her wand so a sudden wall of smoke filled the classroom, swirling around the professor and shielding her from view. Lily lost sight of both the duellists — until a flash of turquoise made Bones cry out in surprise. Thorpe dismissed her smokescreen and tried to press her advantage against the temporarily-immobile Auror; but Bones unfroze and shot a spell of his own at Thorpe with a flourish.

“Full Body-Bind,” Doe whispered — but Thorpe warded off the curse with a dismissive gesture. 

The professor retaliated with a grin and a snap of her wrist. Lily registered the familiar spell a moment before it took effect: Edgar Bones began to clutch his sides and laugh.

“Merlin’s — sake—” he gasped; despite the Tickling Charm, he managed to lift his wand. 

The ensuing spell let out a loud bang and caught Thorpe unawares. She skidded backwards, eyes wide, and pressed a hand to her chest as if in pain.

“Call it a draw,” she said after a moment, casting a counter-charm that freed Bones.

“Not too shabby yourself,” he replied, panting only slightly.

The class burst into thrilled applause, which made Thorpe smile and Bones laugh. 

“Pair up and spread out,” she called.

Dorcas seized Lily’s wrist and began to haul her towards a corner. “We have to get started right away, I have to get this right—” she was saying, making Lily snort with laughter.

The rest of the class followed suit. Mary pointed at Sirius, taking both him and Germaine by surprise.

“Why me?” he wanted to know.

“I haven’t yet forgotten about the cake you dropped on me. Let me get a hex or two in,” replied Mary.

“Pay attention to me, Lily,” said Doe, waving at her.

“Sorry!” They stood with a few feet between them, wands aloft. 

Thorpe, weaving through the pairs, said, “Remember, you must concentrate! First one to successfully land a spell on the other earns ten points — and for goodness’s sake, don’t try anything that’ll put your partner in the Hospital Wing.”

With a deep breath, Lily locked eyes with Doe. The Stunning Spell was a good option, wasn’t it? Stupefy, she thought. Stupefy, Stupefy… 

A short distance away, someone succeeded in disarming their partner; “I heard that,” Thorpe said sharply. 

Lily swallowed and focused on her friend again. Doe really did have such pretty eyes — such a lovely, warm brown… Shit. Stupefy! Wait. What if her spell was working, but Doe was casting a Shield Charm? Stupefy! Protego?

For a split second, Doe’s eyes flitted away. Now was her chance — Stupefy! But to Lily’s surprise, she was the one jolted backwards, as though Doe had reached out and pushed her.

“I did it! Oh, Merlin — sorry, Lily."

Lily gave her a sincere smile. “It’s all right. I thought I was going to get you when you looked away for cert.”

Doe’s grin was triumphant. “Yeah, I wanted to bait you into attacking. That way I knew you couldn’t shield yourself from my attack.”

Lily couldn’t hold in a laugh. “Oh, Doe. I can’t believe you planned this out.”

“Can’t you, though?”

Thorpe, hovering nearby, had clearly overheard this explanation. She made her way to Lily and Doe, patting the — starstruck — latter on the shoulder.

“Brilliant, Miss Walker. Ten points for your execution, and I suppose your daring has earned you an extra five.”

Doe looked positively luminous. 

Thorpe, meanwhile, had turned her attention to Lily. “Miss…?”

“Evans,” Lily supplied. “Lily Evans.”

“Miss Evans, you go on the attack now. Miss Walker will try and defend.”

But before Lily had even readied herself, there was a loud thump from the other end of the hushed room. Severus had fallen to the stone floor, stiff as a board. Anthony Avery stood over him, looking just as stunned as if he had been the one struck by a spell. 

In the time it took for Thorpe to come to them and praise Avery’s work, a sullen Severus had recovered and was on his feet again — but he slouched in on himself even more than usual. Lily allowed herself to feel only the smallest stab of pity. 

“Avery?” Doe said, eyebrows raised. “Colour me surprised. He’s got rocks for brains — and that’s being generous.”

Lily hummed in response. Her friend wasn’t wrong. But perhaps Severus had been distracted, and Avery had capitalised… And there were plenty of distractions in a full classroom, weren’t there? Lily felt heat rising in her cheeks, and she turned back to Doe quickly.

“Ready?”

Icon of a quill drawing a line

By the end of class the sixth years were all flushed with exertion, and, for some, the giddy excitement of success. Lily had disarmed Doe not long after Avery had cursed Severus — although before she had, James had tripped Germaine and a Ravenclaw girl had knocked back her partner. Not that Lily was keeping score, of course… Still, there was plenty of time to improve, and it seemed they were going to have an exciting year with Thorpe.

“Did you notice how she made a point of saying she’d be teaching us for two years?” Mary said as they made note of their homework and gathered their things. “I mean, she has to know the position’s cursed. She’s got pluck.”

“She is a Curse-Breaker,” said Germaine. 

“If anyone can last two years at this place, it’s her,” Doe agreed. Germaine was grinning at her. “What?”

“Nothing. You spent all morning fawning over her, but after today I expect you’ll have to fight the whole school for her attention,” Germaine said. Dorcas only scoffed. 

“The real question is,” said Lily, “what’s an Auror doing at Hogwarts on an ordinary Thursday?”

Together they looked over at Thorpe and Edgar Bones, who was now chatting with his pretty, pert-nosed younger sister. 

“Dunno, Auror business?” Germaine offered. “Maybe he’s here to see Dumbledore.”

“Lily has a point,” said Doe. “I should think the Aurors don’t exactly have people to spare — not even to see Dumbledore, and certainly not to give duelling demonstrations to Hogwarts students.”

“If we’re speculating, I think it’s because he and Thorpe an item,” Mary said.

Doe frowned. “Don’t be thick, Mare.”

Mary rolled her eyes. “If you won’t believe me, I heard that Amelia thinks so. Well, I heard it from Chris, who heard that Amelia thinks so. I don’t hear things directly from her, of course.”

Lily shook her head, amazed. “We were in class. How on earth did you have time to gossip?”

“Please, Lily, it’s simple information-gathering. I have my ways.” 

“Do Aurors take time off to see their girlfriends?” Doe said doubtfully, her gaze flitting between Thorpe and Bones.

Mary shrugged. “I don’t know, Doe. Do Aurors fuck?”

“Oh, for Merlin’s sake, must you always be so crass—”

Lily tuned out this bickering as they strolled out of the classroom. Dex was leaning against the wall outside the Muggle Studies room opposite; he straightened and waved when he spotted her. Lily smiled back, welcoming the little flutter of warmth she felt at the sight of him. Her boyfriend. Even thinking the word felt wonderful, like...like Butterbeer on a warm winter’s day.

“Oh, he waited!” Doe said happily. “I love young love.”

Behind them, someone let out a snort. Lily turned to see James studying Dex critically. 

“Young love,” he repeated, looking down at Lily. “How dull.”

“Even you can’t burst this bubble,” she told him sweetly, and made her way to Dex.

He gave her a hug in greeting, which only served to multiply her butterflies.

“D’you want to spend some time alone next weekend?” he said.

Lily blinked. “Next weekend? But the first Hogsmeade weekend isn’t for—”

“Well, it’s a big castle.”

“O-okay…”

“Saturday, ten o’clock, head to the left-hand corridor on the seventh floor. You know that odd tapestry, with the dancing trolls?”

Frowning, Lily recalled the strange hanging from her nights on patrol last year. “I think so.”

Dex nodded. “Right around there. Look, I’ve got to go. Don’t be late!” Giving her a quick kiss, he strode away.

Lily watched him go, perplexed. “But — there’s nothing there!”

“Ten o’clock! You’ll see!” he shouted.