"What the - Phoebe!? What on earth are you doing!?"
They were arguing again. Phoebe Ellis and Hermione Granger; the two greatest bickerers in Gryffindor, beside Hermione and Ron Weasley, that is.
Phoebe rolled her eyes. "Hermione," she said impatiently, "being Head Girl doesn't mean you can order everyone about."
Hermione blinked in surprise, then she recovered herself and glared.
"Well, excuse me," she said, in a voice laden with sarcasm. "I guess I'm letting all this power go to my head!"
"I guess you are," Phoebe said, in a bored voice, and turned back to labelling her star chart for Astronomy, ignoring Hermione completely. Hermione flounced out, offended.
"Phoebe," laughed Ella Rodriguez, "one day you're going to drive her insane, you know."
"I'm working on it," Phoebe muttered darkly. She stabbed so viciously that it punctured the parchment in front of her.
Ella's yellow-gold eyes danced in the firelight. "You've really got to control that temper of your, Phoebes," she admonished mockingly. "I thought poor Hermione was going to explode."
"She'd probably be more relaxed," Phoebe said viciously. "Stupid, uptight bitch."
Glancing up, Ella realised that Phoebe was more than a little pissed off with Hermione, right now. Lately the insults bouncing backwards and forwards between the two had become more intense, the tension more pronounced. It wasn't just Phoebe's fiery temper, it was Hermione's Little Miss Good Girl act that angered the red-headed Phoebe.
"Hey," Ella said soothingly, "she annoys everyone. Just ignore her; I don't know why you let her see that she's gotten to you."
"Yeah, and I don't know why Ron bothers with her."
"Please don't tell me you like Ron Weasley."
"Not like that," Phoebe said loftily, tossing her long, red hair over her shoulders. There was a faint blush colouring her cheeks, though. "I just think it's a shame that someone so nice ended up with someone like Hermione Granger."
Ella watched, partly amused, partly envious of that long, red, wavy hair. What she wouldn't give to have hair like that. Her own hair was a dark, curly brown that bounced whenever she walked.
Phoebe's hair matched her temperament almost as good as Ginny Weasley's matched hers. Ella knew, though, that Phoebe could be as brave and as kind as everyone else, but her devil-may-care attitude often made people think she was just a callous bitch. Often, it was an accident. More often, she did it just to piss people off. Unbeknownst to everyone else, though, Phoebe did indeed fancy Ron Weasley rotten. But that was a secret she would take to the grave, because Ron was way too infatuated with Hermione.
Ella had been placed in Slytherin; her cunning and sharp wit secured her a place in the darkest of houses, and she was none too pleased about it. Though she didn't care much what other people thought of her, Ella just wished people would see beyond the Slytherin badge on her robes, to the person behind. Like that would ever happen, and besides, people were only friends with their own kind. At least she had Phoebe.
Then there was Serena Peterson, the typical Hufflepuff; blonde-haired, blue-eyed and so incredibly kind, she was almost a doormat. Almost, but not quite. If Serena believed in something, she'd fight, tooth and nail, for it. She'd been selected for Prefect because she was wonderful to the first years, and most other people knew they could ask her things without feeling stupid.
Alana Donahue, a Ravenclaw with porcelain skin, and eyes and hair as black as coal, was the cleverest of the four. Her logic was usually infallible, and when anyone argued with her, she could baffle them with just one sentence. Not that she was especially vindictive; she just thought arguments were pointless, and so usually tried to head people off before they could start.
Now, Ella turned to her own homework – a nasty essay on the composition, effects and Ministry classification of Veritaserum – and tried to concentrate on it. She couldn't, however, get a pair of bright green eyes from her mind, and it wasn't long before she realised she'd read the same sentence five times over. Frustrated, she put down her quill and ran a hand through her hair.
When Phoebe looked up, it was to find Ella frowning down at her parchment.
"What's wrong?" Phoebe asked her, her earlier annoyance with Hermione melting away.
"Hm? Oh, nothing ..." Ella sighed, and glanced out the window.
She'd only recently begun 'having feelings' – to coin a clichéd phrase – for Harry Potter, even though, in a fit of rationality, she'd remembered she was a Slytherin and that Harry – and everyone else, for that matter – despised her house. Tragic, really, that she couldn't go five minutes without thinking of him. No, not just tragic; practically heartbreaking. Yes, the dramatic adjective suited the occasion perfectly.
So when Harry and Ron walked into the Library – looking like they meant business – Ella jumped out of her seat as though she'd been burned, and left, without so much as a backward glance.
Completely baffled at her best friend's erratic behaviour, Phoebe turned to find Harry and Ron heading over to her.
"What is this, the Inquisition?" she asked, though it was hard to tell if she was joking or not.
"Not quite," Harry said grimly. "Have you said something to Hermione?"
"Oh," Phoebe grimaced, cursing Hermione's inability to keep anything to herself. "We got into an argument, that's all."
"Yeah, well," Ron began, "it's just that she's upset about something and we wondered if you had something to do with it."
It was funny, but Phoebe actually had to concentrate on what he was saying, rather than just gazing at his lips and wondering what they would feel like on her own. She shook her head to clear the thought.
"She kept bugging me," Phoebe shrugged. "I was trying to do my Astronomy star chart, and she kept telling me to help her with some third years. I mean, where does she get, off ordering me about like that?" she added irritably, her anger returning in a second.
Harry glanced at Ron, who shrugged and looked back at Phoebe, turning clear, blue eyes to meet deep, brown ones, where they locked – just for a split second, and then quickly glanced away.
"Well, if that's all," Harry said, "we'll leave you to finish your homework. See you later, Phoebe," he added, standing up.
"Yeah, bye," Ron said, and he and Harry left.
If it wasn't for the fact that she couldn't stand Hermione, Phoebe would probably have apologised to her. As it was, there was a lot of tension in the air between them, and whenever they came face to face, Phoebe just wanted to hex Hermione into oblivion. Or punch her in the face; either way it was not conducive to establishing a friendly environment between them.
It wasn't just that Hermione was clever, and let everyone know it, or that she was generally an okay person – well, with anyone who wasn't Phoebe Ellis, that is – but the fact that she and Ron were going out seemed to eat a hole in Phoebe's stomach whenever she saw them together. It irritated her beyond belief, because she knew that, no matter how hard she tried, she'd never have Ron to herself.
Hermione had gotten there first, and there was nothing Phoebe could do about it.
With Phoebe in the Library, and Ella disappearing around the castle in order to avoid Harry, Serena found herself alone, with an hour of Transfiguration notes stretching out infinitely in front of her.
Eventually, she decided to sit outside; it was a nice day and it would be peaceful just to sit by the lake – even if she was going over human transfiguration.
Unfortunately for Serena, sitting by the lake proved to be a monumentally bad idea.
There were a gang of Slytherins messing about, ten feet from where she sat. They didn't notice her sat there, thankfully, and Serena was able to enjoy twenty minutes of blissful peace.
Eventually, someone sauntered over to her spot, their shadow falling over her.
"What are you doing here?" a voice said haughtily.
Serena looked up and rolled her eyes.
It was Draco Malfoy, a sneering, smirking blond from Slytherin. Serena had always thought Malfoy to be a total prat, and on the few times that she'd had the misfortune to come across him, she'd been proved right. Malfoy hated everyone but his own reflection, and he was so convinced of superiority. So obviously, fate has seen fit to make him gorgeous. The irony of it made Serena wonder what chance nice people like her had against people like Malfoy.
"Last time I checked," Serena said, not even bothering to look at him, "that was none of your business."
"Last time I checked, you were a stinking Mudblood," Malfoy sneered. "Oh, look at that – you are!"
His friends laughed loudly, as though their ringleader had said something extremely witty. Serena couldn't see what was so funny, except that Pansy Parkinson had a loud, braying, horse-laugh.
"Malfoy," Serena said, annoyed, "do all these clever insults help disguise the fact that you're so lacking in other areas?"
Malfoy's pale face took on a faint, pink tinge in anger. He tried his usual sneer, but didn't quite manage it, owing to the fact that a grimace of rage was already in place.
"I think," he stated venomously, "you're forgetting to whom you are speaking."
Serena stared at him in disbelief; she knew the Malfoys were an old family, but honestly, who talked like that anymore? Just because Malfoy was an arrogant prat didn't mean he had the right to speak to her like that.
"Oh Malfoy, I know exactly who I'm talking to," she said pleasantly. "A condescending, little ferret, hiding behind his big, bad name."
And she stood up, stalking away from the stunned group by the lake, her heart pounding loudly in her ears with anger.
Once she was in the Entrance Hall, she stopped and leant against the wall. Why did people pick on her because she was Muggle-born? It wasn't like she'd asked for it. She took a trembling breath. She was so angry she was shaking. If Malfoy followed her in here and saw her shuddering like this, he'd probably think she was scared of him, and that was so far from the truth … She shook herself to get him out of her system.
So she had no excuse when his face kept popping up in her head.
It was funny, really, how one could become so fixated on something that they were hardly aware of their surroundings.
Alana, sitting in the Quidditch stands, and watching the Ravenclaw Quidditch team practice, realised she'd barely registered a thing, except that Oliver Wood, the new Quidditch coach and referee, looked damn good on a broomstick.
Seeing a few other people staring at her oddly, Alana went back to reading her book. It was an interesting story about a young witch on the trail of her father's murderer, while time ran out for her brother, an ex-Auror whose enemies were out for vengeance. "A fast-paced, exciting read," an excerpt on the back cover stated. Well, it might be, but Alana couldn't concentrate much, for reasons that were becoming clearer to her by the second.
It wasn't long before the Quidditch practice ended, and Alana heaved a sigh of relief. Her boyfriend, Damien Church, played Chaser on the Ravenclaw team, and he was a sports fanatic, to say the least. So usually, Alana attended their practices for moral support, and because it was hard to resist Damien's big, hazel eyes when he turned them on her.
She picked her bag up, stuffed the book inside it, and heaved it onto her shoulder, thinking of the Charms essay that was still waiting for her up in her dormitory. She began planning the first paragraph in her head while leaving the Quidditch stands.
As she passed the broom shed, a voice behind her said, "Hi, Alana. Damien keeping you in the stands again?"
Alana whirled around quickly, coming face to face with Oliver Wood. After being seriously injured playing for Puddlemere United, his dreams of playing big-time Quidditch had come crashing down. So, to console himself, and to keep him in the wizarding sport circles, he'd applied for the job of referee at Hogwarts. And currently, he was the source of Alana's awkwardness.
"Oh, hello, Professor," she said, looking down at her hands. If she looked up, it would be into his eyes, and they were brown. Alana had a thing for people with brown eyes.
"That makes me feel ancient," Oliver laughed ruefully. "Call me Oliver."
"I didn't think it was common practice to call teachers by their first names," Alana said, glancing up and catching Those Eyes on her.
"Well, I wouldn't say I'm a teacher. Would you?"
"You're still part of Hogwarts staff."
"So is Filch, but you wouldn't call him Professor," Oliver countered good-naturedly.
"Alright, Oliver," Alana said at last. "Is that better, sir?
"Much," Oliver said, a faint smile quirking his lips.
Alana remembered that smile, even as she said goodbye and went back up her dormitory, even as she started her Charms assignment, and even as she sat down to dinner, staring up at the High Table and watching the smile in action.
When Damien kissed her after practice, she was thinking of Oliver. Her boyfriend seemed to notice something was up, and he pulled away, a frown creasing his forehead.
"What's wrong?" he asked, tenderly smoothing an errant strand of black hair from Alana's eyes.
"Oh, nothing," Alana said, giving him a reassuring smile. "Just thinking about homework."
Damien shook his head, almost exasperated. He knew how important homework and good grades were to his girlfriend – she was a Ravenclaw to the last, after all – but he wished she wouldn't think about it while they were kissing. It was sort of insulting that she thought about school stuff when they were together.
Alana worried how easily that lie had spilled from her tongue; she was never usually such an adept liar, but it seemed her talents were branching out this year, to say the least. And it always had something to do with Oliver, whenever she lied to someone.
That didn't worry her half as much as it should have done.
Ella was currently having a major headache.
Merlin, she thought despairingly, what must Phoebe have thought about me rushing off like that? What must Harry have thought?
It figured that she'd end up fancying Harry Potter, of all people, just as much as it figured that she'd be the only Slytherin who'd want to tolerate him. Why on earth Phoebe couldn't have fallen for him, Ella would never know, but that just seemed to be the vein her life was going lately. Down the toilet with spectacular sound effects.
Relax. Her rational side took over, and she felt her panic melting away. You'll explode if you don't relax, and then everyone would know something was wrong after all. And after she put on such a good show for her housemates, too.
Only seconds later, she heard a voice in her ear. For a second she thought it was the voice in her head – formerly known as a conscience, but she was a Slytherin, and they couldn't possibly have a thing called a conscience. Then she realised no voice in her head had ever sounded so soothing and laced with an undertone that made Ella shiver with anticipation.
"You're blocking the corridor," Harry said, eyeing her oddly.
"I know," Ella said, automatically regaining her haughty exterior. Slytherins were always composed, no matter what the interior was going through.
"Mind moving?" Harry said stiffly.
"I suppose I'll have to."
She stepped backwards, just as a gang of third-years left the Great Hall. She and Harry were separated for a few seconds, until the younger students had passed by.
"I cause havoc so effectively, don't you think?" Ella asked, not wanting to leave. She tried a smile, and was relieved when Harry seemed to relax as she did so.
"Some people have a knack for it," he nodded. "Guess we have something in common."
"Shock, horror! A Slytherin and a Gryffindor have something in common. What next, I wonder?"
"Maybe the sky will fall, and hell will freeze over."
"Must you be so dramatic?" Ella laughed. She was enjoying this conversation, and revelling in the fact that she'd made Harry smile, however slightly.
"Of course. It keeps things interesting, you know." Harry watched her laugh, admiring the way her yellow-gold eyes twinkled, and her delighted smile, and her pretty, coffee-coloured skin, and the flush of freckles across her nose …
She noticed him staring, but refrained from pointing it out. After all, if his attention was diverted, that gave her a chance to study him without him noticing.
Harry's eyes were really the most noticeable thing about him. His scar was intriguing, yes, but his eyes seemed to catch you and pull you in, even behind his glasses. And his hair, standing up in all directions, was just waiting to have her fingers run through it.
"I know what you mean," Ella said eventually, figuring the silence had gone on long enough. "What's life, if not interesting?"
"I have to …" Harry began, trailing off when he had no idea what he was going to say. "Homework. Essays, and stuff."
"Yes, I am aware what homework is," Ella smirked. If she wasn't much mistaken, she wasn't the only one who had trouble getting coherent sentences out.
"Right. Well … see you later." Harry flushed slightly, gave her a goodbye wave, and left.
Leaving Ella very much disappointed in his wake.
Draco was still in his Quidditch robes; he was sitting in the Slytherin common room, musing about the Hufflepuff girl he'd challenged earlier, and he hadn't had a chance to change into his school robes yet.
He had thought that picking on a lone Hufflepuff was the perfect distraction from his housemates' questions. They kept asking him why he hadn't gone home for the holidays, why he was so quiet all of a sudden, why he didn't seem interested in anything remotely Death Eater-related. So fobbing them off with silly excuses and diversions had, naturally, been the only way out.
And the Hufflepuff girl was just there, he thought. What else could I do?
He felt slightly guilty for contesting the girl; after all, she had only been sitting by the lake, enjoying the sun and going through notes, or something. But his own selfish needs far outweighed the twinges of his conscience, so he had to admit that it was the perfect distraction.
The girl had been pretty, in an innocent sort of way – golden hair, dark blue eyes that shone fiercely when Draco had argued with her, lightly tanned skin, enhanced even more by the yellow sunlight – and he'd originally thought that picking on such an easy target was sure to bore him and his fellow Slytherins.
How wrong he had been.
Whatever her name was, the girl was a pretty forceful personality, striking blows in Draco's ego that affected him more than they should have. He was insulted at her suggestions – as though he, a Malfoy, was lacking in anything!
But she was a filthy Mudblood, Draco remembered quickly. Why should he care what she thought of him, even if some of what she'd said had struck home, somewhat?
She'd pay for her smart remarks, Draco decided, glowering at the fire in the hearth. She'd pay dearly.
Ron wondered how he and Hermione could have grown so far apart in so short a time. It seemed like only days since they'd gotten together, yet they'd had their latest argument just ten minutes ago. It was such a stupid thing to fight about, too, and that made Ron all the more ashamed of the things he'd said.
Things had changed indefinitely, and he didn't know what was worse; finding out that he no longer loved Hermione, or that he was already starting to think about somebody else.
He couldn't help it, though; Phoebe wasn't exactly the opposite of Hermione, though she was a lot less even-tempered and not quite as ambitious as Hermione was. But there was something so refreshingly different about Phoebe, that Ron couldn't help being drawn to her.
Hermione was going to kill him if she found out that he liked someone else. Although … well, she had been writing novel-length letters to Viktor Krum, and even though she said it was all one-sided, Ron wondered if this was the whole truth, and nothing but.
And even if it wasn't, what would happen then?