Okay. This is started out as one-shot tying in with the crossover/AU world that started out in "Harry Potter and the Digimon Frontier" (so long ago…), but it eventually turned into what's looking to be a two- or three- part story because it's too long. I'm this writing for two reasons. One, the Third Floor Corridor is having a summer crossover fan fiction contest that I really, really want to enter, and two, because I'm in the planning stages of the third installment of that series, currently dubbed Childlike, and feel like I need a little practice to get back into the old grove.

Important Timeline Notes: This story is taking place at the same time as the events of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. SPOILER WARNING HERE NOW, ONLY ONE! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED! HERE THERE BE SPOILERS! However, the timeline is slightly different because of the events of the original fan fiction that started this mess. In this time, Harry's sixth year at Hogwarts was taken up with the events of the original HP/DF crossover, with the events of Half-Blood Prince occurring in his seventh year. The second fan fic, Yin, took less than a month, so it is nestled safely between the end of HBP and the beginning of DH. All stories are available on my account should you wish to review, though I would do so with caution and care - I wrote the first chapter of HP/DF almost three years ago, after all, and my craft has improved greatly since then.

The Short version of that is: This story actually takes place during the events of Deathly Hollows, but Harry and Co. are 18 and actually skiving off their job training. That said, Harry is not going to appear in this fic. We got to see what he's up to in the book. There are certain inconsistencies with this timeline…like Neville being at school…that you're just going to have to take in hand as part of this story.

Disclaimer: I own neither Digimon Frontier nor the Harry Potter franchise, nor do I own anything related to either original work. However, the Japanese system of wizardry and original characters such as Kenkyo, Hakaishi, Mizuki and Mr. Ryokucha were all created by me, so I would prefer that you ask before you use them.


Chapter 1: Summer and Fall


Malfoy Manor - England

Draco Malfoy sucked at the end of his quill and sank over his parchment, stuck somewhere between actually trying to concentrate and trying to look like he was concentrating. Honestly, at the moment, he didn't really want to focus on much of anything - he was so tired from the constant use of Occlumency that the only thing he had in his head now was the dull buzzing of white noise.

He wanted to write a letter. No real reason, at least, none that had prompted the action itself. He wanted to do it just because it was…dare he say it?…normal. Everything in his home, everything in his life, had been turned upside-down in the past year, and none of it had been 'for the better' as far as he could see. If anything, at least around the home base, things had taken a turn for the worse.

Potter had gotten away last week. Draco had not been there for the chase - appearing at school with battle scars would raise unwanted questions - but he had witnessed the aftermath. The Dark Lord's rage. The fury. The punishments, torture and humiliation poured down on his follower's heads even as they groveled at his feet, blinded by his power…

For the first time in his life, Draco was actually found himself wishing he was at school, where he had a little prestige, where at least Crabbe and Goyle would listen to him, where the Dark Lord wasn't. Anything to get away from the familiar hell-hole that his home had become, its walls dripping with the disgusting ooze of servitude that so many around him waited eagerly to lap up…

Lurching backwards with a physical jerk, Draco's Occulum defenses immediately shot back into place, blocking out those thoughts before they could leak out into the surrounding house. For a moment, his muscles remained taunt and his breath hitched, and for a few moments he almost expected his father or the reigning Lord to storm through his bedroom door and show him exactly what kind of trouble those kind of thoughts could bring down upon his head.

When no such spirit of vengeance and rage appeared, he relaxed again and returned to the letter. So far, after an hour of work that he had told his mother was an essay on the benefits a rich pureblood heritage could bring, he had composed only one line:


Weather's as gloomy as ever…

Which, now that he really thought about it, was a pretty stupid way to begin a letter anyway.

Growling, Draco snatched up the parchment in one hand and his wand in the other, lighting a corner of the page on fire and deriving great satisfaction from the scorched remains. Senseless violence was always a spectacular way to deal with frustration.

His annoyance temporarily relieved, he brought his mind back to the task at hand. Summoning a new sheet of parchment was easy enough, as was replacing the ink, but it still left him with the conundrum of how, exactly, to begin the letter.

It wasn't a though he were writing to Crabbe or Nott or even Pansy Parkinson. Kimura was not a subordinate who required looking-after, nor a childhood acquaintance and friend of the family, and most certainly not a somewhat attractive pureblood girl who was just the sort he was supposed to be interested in. For that matter, Kimura wasn't even a pureblood. Not really.

Kouichi Kimura had been a transfer student from a Tokyo school of magic who had been sorted into Slytherin during Draco's first year. At first glance, he did not seem to fit the Slytherin standard at all - he was shy to the point of muteness, emotional, submissive and hesitant to express his own wants and desires. Actually, at the start, Draco had been rather annoyed with him - he felt that any person who could acted like a goodie-two-shoes even when out of sight of a teacher belonged in Hufflepuff, especially if they didn't have the skin tough enough to deal with the rigors of the day.

But Kimura had surprised him with a sort of inbred tenacity - a loyalty to the old ways of Japan, a strength of character behind quiet eyes and, as strange as it was, a strong devotion to his friends and family.

Either way, Draco had almost enjoyed the foreigner's company. And, after everything that had happened that year…and just last month…Draco felt like he owed him a simple letter, at the very least.

Even if it was going to be hell to write.

"Damn you, Kimura," he muttered, leaning back over the parchment again. "I sure hope you appreciate this…"

Shibuya Shrine - Tokyo, Japan

Kouichi Kimura scanned his eyes over the thin parchment, double-checking every stroke and connection before satisfied that the spell was, indeed, intact. Spreading the page out flat on his work desk, he lifted the olivewood wand from the desk and tapped the ink three times.

For a moment, the words on the newly-inked scroll glowed softly with iridescent colors. But then his wand jerked suddenly, and the ink ate through the rice paper like an acid, leaving a dark stain on his desk.

"Shimata…" he swore under his breath, snatching up the bottle of bleach that sat beside him. Despite all the tricks and teases that potions were capable of, Muggle chemicals still seemed the most effective on such 'accidents.'

Kouichi scowled a bit as he doused the spot in bleach, turning his eyes to the olivewood wand in his hand. It had, until the previous month, belonged to the man he considered his surrogate father, the priest and teacher who had practically raised him. As it was oriental tradition that the father's wand would pass to his son, the olivewood wand been passed to Kouichi after his teacher's murder. The local wand-maker had agreed - by the standards of a Japanese wand, it belonged to him.

But the wand didn't seem to agree.

It was humming in his hand now, as though reminding him that he wasn't its master and could never wield it no matter how much he wanted. Kouichi frowned again and placed it back in the decorative box on the mantel place.

The force of its objections had gotten so bad that Kouichi had begun to use a substitute during his sessions with the students. It wasn't as though he could shirk off in his duties, after all - Hakaishi-sensei had left him not only his wand, but his title and his position as an educator of the next generation of Japanese wizards. Following in his teacher's footsteps was everything that Kouichi had dreamed of as a child, everything he had worked for since he came of age. He couldn't just abandon it now, not when it was all finally in his grasp and not because of a wand that would not cooperate with him.

The sound of large, rushing wings met his ear, and the sacred crows in the back room began squawk as a single chorus. Kouichi shook his head and turned to the window, lifting his arm for Izumi's tawny brown Tobu or his brother's silvery-grey Yurei…

And nearly lost his balance when something exceptionally large and heavy landed there instead.

The crows squawked again, though this time it sounded more like they were laughing at him and his surprise. With a light grunt, he pushed with his legs to lift his arm again and came face-to-face with a large eagle owl. It glared at him and hooted in a low baritone, rustling his wings to show exactly how much it hated to have its feathers ruffled. It hopped a little close to his elbow and stretched out on leg, displaying the curled parchment letter that had been attached with a green string.

The corners of Kouichi's lips turned up in recognition. He pulled the string, easily undoing the bow, and caught the letter in one hand before walking the eagle-owl to a solitary perch in the back. The crows squawked and squealed in protest - they had never been fond of the strange 'guest,' even when his visits had been regular - but the great raptor ignored them, leaning down to the water dish with an air of regal dignity.

Kouichi returned to his writing desk, turning the slightly curled envelope over in his hands. His fingers ran across the green wax sealing it shut with a familiar family see - a peacock, sitting on the top of an M, its long neck and feathers stretched down over both sides. The ink, the wax, the seal, everything save the parchment itself was a glistening emerald green, and even the simple page seemed to radiate a kind of regality that befitted royalty.

Draco-kun always had a spectacular eye for detail.

Careful to keep the wax intact, Kouichi slipped the letter open and revealed the rows of neat green script that adorned it. The smell of potion ingredients combined with the shrine's natural scent of incense, taking him back momentarily to his schooldays, working over a fire in the rear room with his friends, trying not to mess up any more than was possible…

Shaking himself out of his daze, he turned his eyes to the letter and read.

" Kimura

"You better appreciate this. This damn thing was like hell to write."

Kouichi's smile widened just a bit.

"Summer hols are as uneventful as ever. Our special guests are still around and don't look to be leaving any time soon. No big surprise there, Father has always been willing to extend a hand of hospitality to old friends…"

Kouichi paused again her, but this time his grin faded. Draco-kun was always very careful in his letters, masking his actual intentions, just in case anyone got a hold of it. Though he was right, it was no surprise that Voldemort and his Death Eaters were still living out of Malfoy Manor, but it did make him worry…

"It is far too crowded here lately. I'm actually starting to miss school. At least one could get a little privacy there, on occasion. Father wants me to go into the Ministry. Maybe I will, but not right now. Right now, I think that staying at home is more important.

"I trust your work is a dull as ever. Probably swarming with brats, as well. Honestly, I will never understand what made you take up teaching…"

A light mewling drew Kouichi's mind away from the letter. Yugure, his five-year-old black cat, had leapt up on his table and was sniffing at the burn, which had nearly been worn away by the bleach. She was much bigger than your average housecat, about the size of a small wildcat cub, but as gentle as a kitten. As over-protective of him as ever, she followed him everywhere, and was a favorite companion of their younger students.

The priest smiled and held the parchment out to his cat. "What do you think, Yugure-chan? Is Draco-kun being as good as he's saying?"

Yugure sniffed it, looked her master in the eye, and mewed at him. He shook his head and clicked his tongue. "Yeah, I didn't think so either…"


Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

Despite all of the changes and torments that had happened over the past month, at least one thing managed to remain the same: History of Magic was proving to be the most boring and most useless class in the entirety of the Hogwarts curriculum.

Ginny Weasley sighed, sucking on the end of the sugar quill she had snuck in from the last Hogsmeade trip. She glanced around the class with a bit of a sigh. Without the Muggle-borns and most of the half-bloods, not to mention everyone who had dropped the class after their O.W.L.s, it was nearly empty.

All thanks to the new rules put into place by the Dark Lord and those damnable Carrows.

She scowled down at her knuckles, still red, raw and sore from the punishment she'd received two nights ago for speaking out during Dark Arts. Snape and the Carrows had ruined Hogwarts, and they'd only been in charge for two weeks. It made her sick to think of what the rest of the year was going to be like.

Some seventh year this was turning out to be…

Her eyes drifted back to the parchment that was supposed to contain her notes, but was instead scattered with the doodles that had sprung from the real quill she'd been using before she picked up the sugar one. A golden Snitch chased a Quaffle up one side and down the other, leaving a trail of glittering stars and sparks behind them. A gagged lightning bolt crashed out of a cloud in the upper corner, arcing down towards the middle of the page. And in the very center, there was a face - a familiar face with dark hair and haunting eyes that had slipped from her hand as if by magic…

A ringing tone met her ears, indicating the end of class and jarring her from her dreams. Ginny jerked back in her seat, ripping half of the spun sugar quill off in her mouth, the moist bottom end sticking to her chin. She scowled, wiping her face on her sleeve, and stuffed the parchment into her bag before taking off in route to the Gryffindor dorms.

She couldn't think about him. Shouldn't think about him. It was over, it had been over for months, and they were in the middle of a war, for crying out loud. He was a hero, their hero, the only hope that the wizarding world had left…

And she was in love with him, despite her best efforts.

"Mollycoddle," she snapped at the Fat Lady when the portrait opened its mouth to ask for the password. The large woman in pink frowned at her, looking rather put-out at being addressed in such a disrespectful fashion, but swung open to reveal the Gryffindor common room.

Ginny pushed into the room and barely looked at the few bunkmates she still had as she stormed up to the seventh-year girls' dorms. Gryffindor house had been hit the second hardest by the Ministry's new persecution of Muggle-born wizards, with Hufflepuff getting it the worst of all. All of the Muggle-borns were gone, either taken in for 'questioning' or spirited away into hiding, along with those half-bloods that couldn't quite account for their ancestry. Classmates that Ginny had known for years had vanished, apparently dropped from the face of the Earth, and her family name was branded with a manifest that was almost worse - she couldn't walk down the hall without hearing the whispered words, Blood Traitor

She threw her bag into the wall, where it sank beside her bed, and felt a little better at the outpour of aggression. She threw herself onto the bed and closed the curtains up tight, blocking out all the light she could. It was a hot day, the kind of fall day that was trying desperately to remember what summer was like, and the air trapped within the heavy velvet soon became almost suffocating, but Ginny paid no mind at all.

In fact, she almost enjoyed it.

Now alone in the privacy of her own seclusion, she peeled off the heavy black robe and uniform-grey sweater vest, tossing them to the side. They fell between the headboard and the wall, slipping out of her reach, and would be hell to go after later, but at the moment she could care less. She shed her shoes and stockings, unbuttoning the top four of six buttons on her shirt to reveal the white bra underneath and give her a little more room to breathe.

Her daily 'self-disrobing' ritual complete, she stretched out in the heat the was now almost comfortable, like lying in a very dry sauna. Yawning languidly, she poked one mostly-bare arm out of the curtains and reached under her bed for the book she knew she kept there.

Her fingers brushed over the familiar, worn leather and grabbed hold, pulling it up onto the bed with her. She flipped it over onto its spine so that it flopped open in front of her, reaching for her wand. "Lumos."

The tip of the wand burst to life, lighting up the little crevice with a glow similar to moonlight. It was just enough light that she could now clearly see the book that had opened before her - a scrapbook that she had put together herself this summer, trying to remember.

There she was, the day she first arrived at Hogwarts as captured by Colin Creevey's camera. She looked so small…so young. Her mother had done her hair up in pigtails that day, never listening to the arguments that Ginny hated pigtails and always would. Actually, the only reason Colin had taken a shot of her at all was because she'd been trailing after Harry and he'd missed. He'd given it to her a few years later, during one of their Dumbledore's Army meetings.

The thought of their old group made the corners of her mouth turn up just slightly, and she flipped through the book until she found the picture she had thought of. It was a group picture of the DA at Christmastime during her fourth year, when the Room of Requirement had been decked out in lush greens and reds and silvers, the dancing wizard decorations creating glittering sparkles that fell over them like snow.

The group had been reborn recently, with new members. A lot of the original group had already left Hogwarts, but Neville Longbottom - bless him, she'd never be quite sure how he'd done it - had returned the moment he heard of the condition Hogwarts was in, and had set up a secret base in the Room of Requirement, especially for the DA. It was different, and yet…it was good. The last shred of good that was left in a school completely overrun by the Carrows.

She raked her eyes over the picture, pausing on each face. There was Katie Bell, she had been one of her closest friends on the Quidditch team before graduation, teaching her most of the tricks her brother marveled over so much…Justin Finch-Fletchley, who hadn't made it home from his vacation last summer, either dead or in hiding for his Muggle heritage…Lee Jordan, now plotting some secret radio show with the Order, she had no idea how he thought it was going to work…Luna Lovegood, the best friend she had left at Hogwarts now, with her arm curled around Neville's neck in a way that seemed to make the boy nervous…Padma and Parvati Patil, whom she hadn't heard from since they left Hogwarts after Dumbledore's death…her brother George, still with his ear, laughing with Fred, as always, she doubted even the Death Eaters could change that…

And there, in the center, just to the left of where her fourth-year self was standing, was Ron, trying to be subtle as he linked arms with Hermione, and Harry. The three of them seemed to look directly up at her as they grinned, full of hope and strength and the confidence that what they were doing was truly great…

She wondered, just for a moment, if she would ever see them again.

Ginny shook herself, adding in a mental slap for good measure. No, no, she couldn't think like that! She would see her brother again, and Hermione, and Harry. As long as the three of them, Gryffindor's Golden Trio, managed to stick together, they'd be back. They would make it through this, just like they'd made it through everything else, and they would come back and help them free their school, their second home, and everything would be normal again.

Maybe even better than before.

She could dream.

She flipped through the thick pages of the scrapbook again, trying to lose herself in the memories. She came to a stop on a picture she had almost forgotten, a picture of her, in her fifth year, hand-in-hand with a blushing boy with brown hair that she almost didn't remember.

His name quickly caught up with her, and it brought a little grin to her face. Tomoki.

Out of all the guys she'd gone with during her period of trying to 'forget' Harry, only Tomoki Himi and Dean Thomas had ever gotten close to actually getting her 'over' him.

Tomoki had been an interesting one, with some new ideas, all of which might have had something to do with some obscure Japanese custom she wasn't familiar with, but the new experience had been…nice. Though was a year younger than she, he had never acted as immature as the guys in her own year always did, though he was very shy. He'd given her an anonymous present at Christmas and hadn't owned up to it until Valentine's day. But he'd always been kind and polite and thoughtful - a great guy.

Just not the one she'd wanted.

They'd broken it off about two months after the exchange program was over, mutually deciding that long-distance relationships never really work out. She'd started dating Dean soon after that, and was just starting to think that she was finally over her childhood crush when they had a falling out. Then Harry had finally…

Again, she shook herself. It was over. Over. They both knew it had to be. She couldn't keep thinking about him that way, she just had to…to be here, to support him in any way she could.

And find something, anything to get her mind off of him.

Her eyes drifted back to the photo and the little smile returned again. Re-buttoning her shirt, she 'Nox'ed the light of her wand and climb out of bed, searching for parchment and a quill. She and Tomoki were still good friends, and she hadn't written him for a while. It felt long over-due.

It had been a long time since she'd had contact with anything - or anyone - 'normal.'


Rainbow Bridge - Odaiba-ku, Tokyo, Japan

A light chill ruffled through the air, borne by cool air laced with moisture from the seaside. It seemed to emphasize what a bitterly miserable night it really was.

Kouji Minamoto scowled, lowering the Omnioculars from his eyes a moment and pulling the Squad jacket more tightly around him. The knee he was kneeling on was sore and his neck ached, but he kept both tense to avoid looking down for whatever reason.

He never had liked this particular watch post, perched high atop one of the supports of the Rainbow Bridge that connected the artificial Odaiba island with the rest of Tokyo. The bridge created a natural slipstream, which made it dangerous to control the broom required to reach it if Apparition was not possible, and the constant moving and creaking created enough vertigo to kill anyone's appetite, even without gazing down at the dark waters of Tokyo Bay that splashed far below.

Though, he contemplated as he looked out over the skyline with his natural eyes, it was not the worst spot in the world. If nothing else, he could at least take comfort in the bright lights that the bridge gave off. The lights chased away the darkness, keeping the suffocating shadows of the night at bay, and kept him alert enough that falling asleep, and thus, from the platform to his death, was unlikely. Light was his ally, his strength, it supported him when nothing else would.

Even in the very depths of a night that felt like it was never going to end.

A light hoot and a flash of grey skimming just above the water caught his eye. His owl, Yurei, swooped in low, close to the bridge, and pulled up to join him, flaring his wings against the updraft. Kouji held out his arm for the bird to land on, not taking his eyes off the city.

"I was wondering when you'd be back," he muttered in a gentle tone.

Yurei hooted softly and turned his head to one side, holding out his leg and presenting the note that was attached to it. Kouji smiled a bit and stroked the bird's neck before taking the rice-paper note.

He unrolled it with one hand, spreading it out over his knee. It was written in pencil, hastily scribbled in the familiar script of his squad leader, Mizuki: "Suspected D.E. sighted. Report solo. Don't die."

A light chill ran down Kouji's spine. The Japanese branch of Voldemort's Death Eaters - a cult-like gang known as the Kokushibyou - had been increasingly active in the past month or so. Ever since the Japanese Wizarding Council had suspended relations with the English Ministry because of suspicion that the so-called Dark Lord had covertly taken over, there had been more and more reports, more and more attacks. The Department of Magical Defense was overwhelmed.

Because of a lack of manpower, the Exorcism Squad now had to be diverted from their usual task of monitoring and controlling demons and changed into a kind of 'special ops' group that handled whatever problems came their way.

Another sigh escaped Kouji's lips, turning the parchment over for the address. Yurei cooed sympathetically, leaning up against his owner and nuzzling his shoulder. The young man smiled just a little, absently rubbing the bird's feathers as he wrote out a new note.

"Yurei, I don't know what I'd do without you," he said gently, setting the bird down on the barrier and brandished his new note. "I need you to take this to Nii-san, okay? Let him and Mom know I'm going to be a bit late for dinner tonight."

Yurei hooted in understanding, remaining still as the young squad member attached the note. Kouji pulled a couple of owl treats out of his pocket, rewarding Yurei for a good night's work, and sent him off to his mother's home. He watched as the owl disappeared into the night, looping in and out of the well-lit bridge, and waited until he was out of sight before he moved again.

Kouji turned on the spot, disappearing from his post. There was a moment of almost suffocating darkness and pressure, then he reappeared on the corner of a grimy back alley in one of the run-down districts left in Odaiba after the development bubble burst.

He tensed immediately, glancing around for any sign of intruders or disruptions. There was nothing. Not even a Muggle on the street to question his presence. Despite this, his training dictated that he remain tense, especially since he didn't know what could be lurking around any of the corners.

He took a moment to draw his bokken out of the hidden pocket inside of the lining of his jacket, gripping the familiar leather-bound hilt with each finger separately before he removed it. A familiar tingle ran down his arm as the wooden sword's enchantments connected with his inner magic, channeling the energy out into the world around him. It was not as versatile as a wand, but it would serve his purpose tonight just as it had on every other patrol.

On patrol, he didn't need a wand. He needed a weapon.

He gripped the wooden sword in both hands and began to move, slowly and deliberately. The magical field that spread from his body around the sword had stretched and expanded, just like it was supposed to, until it created a sort of magical radar that detected anything with even the hint of magic for ten meters around him. It wasn't a perfect detection system, but it did increase his own physical abilities to a level most martial artists couldn't even dream of.

His caution limits his momentum to only a few steps per minute, making it past an entire block in about fifteen of said minutes. The first block had nothing, not even a little blip against his 'radar,' which made him nervous. The second block picked something up – a trail of magic, somebody casting spells as they moved – and it lead him into a back alley.

Kouji's body tensed even more as entered the dark ally. He automatically counted the remains of a dozens spells, thrown in all directions, and that was only accounting for the scorch marks and debris that he could see in the darkness. He tapped his sword against the wall and muttered a spell under his breath, shifting it from a harmless wooden practice rod to a sharp, dangerous silver sword.

He moved to the piles of broken boxes in the far right side corner of the dead-end alley, where the magic seemed to be concentrating. Nothing moved, nothing happened, not even as he drew close. The young swords man kept his body tense as he planted one foot on a small box and heaved his body up over the crate to see the other side.

He stopped. He stared. He swore under his breath. "Shit."

The call had come too late.

Two bodies, obviously dead, lay crumbled in unnatural positions against the wall. It seemed to be a couple – a man and a woman, young, maybe college-aged, a bit older than him. Their hands had been bound behind their backs and they had their knees folded up underneath them – despite the ways that they had fallen, he could tell that they had been lined up specifically for an execution.

And there was no doubt in his mind about who had done it.

Above them, on the brick and mortar wall of the low-rise building, someone had posted a message that could only be for the officers of magical defense: the picture of a skull, with the kanji for 'death' replacing its eyes, and a large snake slithering from its mouth. The paint was neon green and obviously enchanted, as it glowed and flickered like the street sign of a broken-down diner.

Kouji swore again and dropped back to the ground, changing his bokken back to its original form and pulling out his wand. He paused just long enough to run the wand along the kanji on the inside of his jacket – sending out magical alert for the nearest investigation squad – before he began the annoying task of blocking the crime scene from Muggle witnesses.

It was going to be a late night. And he just knew he was going to hate every damn minute of it.

Shibuya Gakuen High School - Tokyo, Japan

Tomoki Himi yawned, discreetly popping a crick out of his shoulder and turning his head to look out the window. Literature had never been his best subject – his mind wrapped easily around numbers and codes and the all of the things he could translate into functioning formulas and programs, but long books had always left him feeling baffled and dizzy.

He glanced to the clock and was mildly annoyed to discover that he still had a full half-hour left until literature class – and school in general – was over for the day. He couldn't wait to get to the shrine for wizarding training, seventh-years were finally learning how to create living animals out of thin air.

His foot bounced awkwardly under the too-small desk, radiating his nervous tension and creating just enough of a vibration that a certain envelope – made of heavy parchment – slipped out and fell into his lip.

Tomoki glanced down at it, and the sight almost instantly brought a smile onto his face. He scooped it up and bent over the desk to avoid drawing attention to himself, carefully wiggling the flap of the envelope loose to get at the letter inside.

Reading over it for the hundredth time, his smile grew a bit bigger and bigger with each passing word. He always knew there was a reason that he kept Ginny's letter with him at all times. Just the idea that a friend he hadn't seen for so long had finally taken the chance to write to him could lift any dark mood that settled over him, even if she wasn't his girlfriend anymore.

It seemed like so long since he'd had any contact with anyone from that oh-too-short tip to Hogwarts. Reading the letter felt like, just for a moment, he could go back…

By the time he looked up again, it was only because the teacher – and the bell – had finally announced the end of the school day. Slipping the letter away, he jumped up with the rest of the class and bowed, thanking the teacher for their lesson, before finally being allowed to race out into the courtyard.

The crispness of fall still had an undertone of summer to it.

To Tomoki, it smelled like freedom.