Pippa and Liv were sitting outside Fortescue's Ice Cream shop, under the unusually hot sun. They were eating their ice cream while discussing whether or not Florean, the owners' fourteen-year-old son, had given them more than they paid for or not. Pippa didn't think so, but Liv kept insisting that he had because he thought they were hot.
They were bickering over how big a scoop typically was when Naomi pulled out the third chair at their table and flopped down. "Sorry I'm late. It took longer than I thought to get money changed over in Gringotts."
Pippa was unsurprised to see that her fellow Hufflepuff had taken the time to ensure she looked her best. Naomi was wearing a fashionable peasant blouse and shorts so short Pippa knew that, if she tried to wear them, her mother would tell her that she was never allowed to leave the house in them. Liv's skirt was longer, but not by much. Pippa had thought she looked fine when she had examined herself in the mirror earlier, but compared to curvy Naomi and statuesque Liv she couldn't help but feel like she was the oddball of their group.
"What are we talking about?" Naomi asked in her Irish accent. Her hazel eyes sparkled at the possibility of gossip.
"Pip doesn't seem to think that Florean in there would give us extra ice cream to get on our good sides," Liv said. She licked the blue ice cream off her spoon, drawing the attention of some kids Pippa vaguely recognized from school.
"His parents own the place, he's probably not going to just give stuff away for free," she retorted.
Naomi leaned forward and said, "No, no. That's why he would give stuff for free. It's not like his mum and dad will fire him."
Pippa sighed and decided it was best to change the subject. "Where's your brother?"
"Mum took him to buy his first wand," Naomi said. "He is so excited about it that he couldn't stop asking me questions the entire trip over."
Pippa had received a letter from her housemate the day after her little brother received his Hogwarts letter. Naomi was a Muggleborn like their friend Lily, so this had been big news. Her younger sister hadn't received an invitation to the magical school and they all assumed that Nathan wouldn't either. It seemed like most Muggleborn students had Muggle siblings after all. Naomi had been as shocked as any of them to hear that her baby brother was a wizard.
"How's Miriam taking the news?" Pippa asked. The prospect made her anxious, having spent the better part of five years hearing about Lily's sister's reaction.
She saw that Naomi got the meaning immediately. "She isn't pleased about it, but she's mostly locked herself in her room or been with her friends. She just turned fourteen so she claims she doesn't want to be like us anyway."
"She didn't call either of you the f-word Lily gets then?" Liv asked.
Coming from Liv, Pippa would typically associate that with the swear but it was clear that she was referring to the insult Lily had thrown at her: freak.
Naomi shook her head. "I'm sure she's jealous, but part of her is probably also glad to get us both out of the house. Not only does she get her own room now but she doesn't need to deal with a preteen boy."
"How about your parents?" Pippa asked.
"They're surprised, but they're dealing with it loads better than they were when I got my letter," she said. She stole a spoonful of ice cream out of Pippa's bowl. "They're only really concerned with him leaving because it's awfully far from home. They don't know much about the bad stuff that's happening lately. I don't let them see the papers much."
It was odd in a sense, Naomi feeling like she had to protect her parents from the reality she lived with. It was something she and Liv couldn't relate to at all, having both come from magical families. Not just magical families, they both had smart parents who did their best to keep themselves updated on current affairs and enjoyed intellectual discussions over dinner. Even if Pippa had wanted to hide something big from her parents, it would have to be who-she-was-crushing-on big not people-hating-you big. "What about Nathan? How much are you telling him?"
Naomi sighed. "I don't know what to do guys. I want to protect him, obviously, but I'm not dumb enough to think I can. Obviously, people are going to hate him because of our parents and there's nothing I can do about that. But how do I keep him from getting hurt? I'm obviously going to tell him to keep his head down and that he's in no position to duel or anything yet, but what about his dorm mates or people he thinks are his friends?"
"We'll keep him away from people like Snape," Liv said firmly. "I'll look out for him if he's in Ravenclaw. If anybody says anything to him then I'll threaten to report them to Dumbledore or hex them to their hair falls out. Or both, if it's one of the idiots from our year. And you know he'd have three people looking out for him in Gryffindor."
There was no doubt in Pippa's mind that Liv meant what she said. She also knew that they could do their best if Nathan ended up in one of their three houses, but it wasn't a guarantee. "But what if it's a friend – or somebody he thought was a friend – who ends up calling him a… you know?" Pippa said. "Look at what that did to Lily."
Lily was better at standing up for herself than Pippa was, and she thanked Merlin for that. If she would have been the one being called a Mudblood by her former friend in front of half the school, she would have probably started crying or done something stupid. Lily had managed to hold her ground until later, when they had found her with red-rimmed eyes and practicing her hexes in the classroom they liked to use for homework. They had all known who she had imagined was at the other end of those spells.
It was hard to know what to say when they had found her. Naomi was the only one who really, truly understood how Lily felt being called a slur like that. They'd both been on the receiving end of it, along with other different taunts, over the years. They'd both even kept their heads high, which Pippa was endlessly impressed with. It was one thing coming from a known bigot like Mulciber or Wilkes, though. For Lily to hear it come from the person who had told her about magic had obviously stung her more than she wanted to let on.
"He – said – blood – didn't – matter!" Lily had raged. She'd even shattered a window while she was cursing and casting spells like a madwoman. Pippa didn't think she'd even noticed that though, not even when Liv had hurried across the classroom to repair it.
Her heart had broken for Lily then. She knew she would have been even more of a mess if it had been Rowena or Petra. If one of her sisters was insulted for her blood, it would be like they were insulting her too. And, knowing Naomi, she would constantly be worried that it was aimed at her brother.
"I wish I could just know what everybody's feelings were on blood purity, you know?" Naomi said. "It's easy to hate the ones who shout about it, but what do you do against the ones who pretend they don't notice parentage? What about the people who are always surprised at Lily's magical skill, but who seem to expect my mediocrity?"
"Naomi –" Pippa began, but her friend cut her off.
"It's fine," she insisted. "I know I'm no magical genius. I do fine, but I'm no Lily or Liv. But if you think I don't know that people expect me to only be so-so because I grew up thinking I was a Muggle, you're wrong."
For once, even Liv had nothing to say. When your friend told you that she was dealing with all these things, subtle and overt, that you didn't always pick up on what could you say? The only thing that seemed fitting was an apology for what she had to deal with, but Naomi clearly didn't want that.
When it was clear nobody else was going to fill the silence, Naomi asked, "Speaking of school though, have you gotten your OWL marks back?"
Pippa let out an exaggerated groan. "I got the OWLs I need for the NEWT classes I really want to take and even managed an E in Herbology." Even with the group study sessions, she had been pleasantly surprised by those marks. She started to get congratulations, but she held her hand up. "But Mum and Dad were not pleased with the number of A's I got. Especially because two of them were in Defence and Potions."
Naomi wrinkled her nose. "Ouch."
"It's not surprising." Pippa sighed. "You think they'd realize that I wouldn't do as well as the rest of them, though. Yes, Rowena got six NEWTs this year, three of them Outstandings, but I'm not in Ravenclaw for a reason!" She pointed to Liv with her spoon. "But, speaking of Ravenclaw…"
"Six O's, three E's," Liv replied promptly.
In a very similar reaction to the one Pippa had had when Liv told her, Naomi just shook her head. "If only it was that easy, huh?" she said to Pip. "I only got one O and that was in Muggle Studies. That barely even counts for me!"
"Did you at least get E's in the courses you want to take next year?"
Naomi nodded. "Not that there's as many of them as you, but yes. Enough to keep Mum and Dad off my back, too. Have you heard from any of the others?"
Pippa shook her head. "I can bet how that went, though."
"Lily giving me a run for my money, then Claire, then Aurora?" Liv said.
"Duh," Pippa said. After five years, it was pretty easy to guess how everybody would do on exams. Their results never seemed to vary that much.
Now that they had covered the necessary school updates, they progressed to more fun things, like summer romances. She had gone on a date with one of the other boys who lived in the same neighbourhood as her and Liv, one that was populated by a substantial number of witches and wizards for the size of their population. "I don't know why I let you guys talk me into it, though," she said. "I told you after the Hogsmeade date that there was no spark."
"How could you say that when you hadn't even kissed the guy?" Liv exclaimed far louder than Pippa thought was necessary, drawing glances from others sitting nearby.
"I didn't have to kiss him to know," Pippa huffed. "And I will have you know that the kiss was just as disappointing as I knew it would be when it did come." She felt oddly vindicated.
"Well, at least somebody took you out," Liv retorted. "The best I got was a Muggle boy at a party who tried to grab the girls. He should be glad that I didn't hex him into next week. I probably would have risked it if he was a wizard, but I figured breaking the Statute of Secrecy was more likely to get me expelled than just a little underage magic."
Unsurprisingly, Naomi was the one with the most interesting dating tales. "My Muggle story has a much better ending," she said. "Do you remember when I told you about that cute boy from my Muggle primary school who I ran into over Easter holidays?"
"The cute blond who had grown like five inches since you last saw him? Sure."
"Well, he asked me out and we have been having a lot of fun this summer." Her hazel eyes twinkled.
"Are we talking roller coaster fun or the kind of fun that Aurora and Sirius had during their last attempt at dating?"
Naomi leaned closer and gestured for the other two to do the same. When they had and she seemed satisfied, she whispered, "Both, but I want to talk about the latter."
Pippa's eyebrows shot up. Her she was, having difficulty getting even one decent date out of a guy to turn into a semi-serious relationship and Naomi was going all the way with a second guy.
"How does he compare to Robbie?" Liv asked.
"Better in some ways, worse in others," Naomi replied cryptically.
"That's all you're going to tell us?"
"Of course not," Naomi replied with a laugh. "Okay, now where do I begin?"
As they discussed Naomi's latest conquest in hushed voices, the remains of their ice cream melted in the sun, forgotten.
Author's Note: Six chapters for six friends, this story is now done. Thanks for reading. If you want to see more of what is to come for them, my novel The Shadows Within covers their 6th year and currently has over 50,000 words posted.