Disclaimer:All belongs to the fabulous J.K. Rowling, I'm just playing with them.
On her second day at Hogwarts Poppy Pomfrey learnt a lifelong lesson. Her surname would hinder her lot in life. Being muggleborn she would struggle to rise above the ranks. Of course she disagreed with such prejudice but it was the way of the wizarding world. During her adolescence she had dreamt of a pureblood sweeping her off her feet. Now, years later, older and dare she say wiser, she knew that was not a bulletproof solution.
Hidden away at Hogwarts, Poppy had managed to forget the competitive ways of the wizarding world and just focus on what she loved – her need to help. She had also managed to escape the pomp and titles but in doing so had failed to realise just how prestigious her fellow colleagues actually were. Now, at Flitwick's birthday party, surrounded by witches and wizards renown and far more accomplished than she, it was finally coming to light.
The elite were gathered and they all had blood ties.
Carefully batting away a fluttering fairy, Poppy sipped her drink and observed the game of portal in progress between Deputy Headmaster Kenny, seer Cassandra Vablatsy and quidditch player Joscelind Wadcock. She noticed Professor Kenny scratching his ear and knew he would be folding yet again. How much could a seer see?
"I haven't lost quite so many coins since I foolishly challenged our transfiguration professor to a game." The deputy chuckled.
"You should have done your homework, Professor. Cedrella took Min under her wing years ago."
The voice came from Poppy's left. A tall, dark-haired witch was fighting to hide a smirk behind her smoking cocktail.
"Emmaline!" Vablatsy's eyes sparkled with delight. "It's good to see you, dear."
"Aunt Cassie, grandmother said she thought you'd be here."
The two embraced and the young witch Emmaline conjured a stool to continue to watch the game.
"And how is Vesta keeping? I spoke to her only last week through the floo."
A sad smile tugged at the corner of Emmaline's lips.
"Quite well all things considered."
Poppy tried not to eavesdrop but they were conversing quite openly.
"When you mentioned Cedrella, you weren't referring to Cedrella Black were you, Miss Vance?" Was there a note of incredulity in Professor Kenny's voice?
"The one and only." There was no hiding Emmaline's smirk this time. "How much did she take you for, Professor?"
The deputy's cheeks had turned quite pink. "Not nearly as much as she could have, clearly."
Even to a muggleborn it was well known that Cedrella Black had been quite the successful gambler back in the day and emptied many a Gringotts account along the way. Rumour had it that at one point she even owned Twilfit's share of Twilfit & Tatting's. Poppy recalled reading an article about how her glory days had ended only when Septimus Weasley had come along and domesticated her was how the journalist had phrased it.
After losing yet another round, Kenny excused himself stating he had no wish to go begging Dumbledore for another raise. Emmaline took his place and Poppy wandered on hoping the esteemed portal player herself, Minerva McGonagall, would deem to grace them with her presence.
Poppy was well aware of her inquisitiveness. Some may even say she was nosy. Her grandmother described her as a curious. However you phrased it Poppy liked to know a lot about everything. When it came to Minerva McGonagall she knew very little about the witch. Of course she had picked up on the subtle hints but Minerva was far from open and despite her best efforts she had had very little success in befriending her colleague.
She snagged another drink from a passing house-elf and once again cast her gaze about those gathered. A smile crossed her face at the sight of the guest of honour unsteadily posing for pictures. Two beautiful witches either side leaning in to kiss his rosy cheeks. She suspected there would be more than a few visits from fellow colleagues tomorrow. Luckily she had brewed a whole cauldron in anticipation.
"Can you imagine the scandal if the Board of Governors were privy to his dealings."
"I'm sure they've already succumbed to his devilish charms. How else did he land his Hogwarts position?"
"And here I thought old Dumbledore had a soft spot for small statured wizards."
Turning fully, Poppy cocked an eyebrow at the unfamiliar man. She was taken aback by how handsome he was. A flash of his pearly whites would make any woman weak at the knees.
"Axel Jupiter, how do you do?"
Shaking the proffered hand she barely managed to stammer her name.
"Pomfrey?" His brow creased in thought. "No, it doesn't ring any bells."
"I'm the medi-witch here at Hogwarts."
Before she could explain further a long legged woman wound herself around Mr Jupiter. Leaning in close and caressing his chest the blond-haired beauty purred into his ear.
"Axell darling, must wee stay much longerr?"
Poppy's gaze followed the path the lady's hand made, starting just below Jupiter's jaw line, down his chest and ending considerably lower. Mr Jupiter cradled the wandering hand and kissed the bejewelled knuckles.
"Madam Pomfrey, may I introduce Véronique D'argent? Vee this is Poppy Pomfrey, medi-witch of Hogwarts."
The beauty turned and surveyed Poppy from head to toe and back up again. It was quite apparent that she was not pleased with what she saw. Poppy felt her cheeks go red, she had dressed in what she thought to be a pretty blue robe and had managed to tame her curls somewhat. However, it was clear that very few could hold a candle to Véronique D'argent. Obviously the woman was more veela than witch. Her robes clung to her body like that of a second skin.
"Enchanté." The part veela offered the barest touch of her fingertips whilst Poppy fought the urge to curtsy.
Turning back to the wizard, D'argent whispered something in French. Jupiter's answer must not have pleased her for the beauty flicked her flaxen hair over her bony shoulder, turned on her high heel and marched off.
"My apologies, my fiancé..."
Poppy tried to wave off his concerns but he persisted.
"She's none too pleased with me at the moment. With good reason I suppose." Jupiter ended with a sigh.
They lapsed into silence for some time until Jupiter seemed to come to himself and with a shake of his head he cast a dazzling smile in her direction once again.
"I'm sorry. She's one of my many weaknesses," he chuckled. "So Madam Pomfrey, how long have you worked at this fine establishment?"
Banishing her empty glass Poppy was unsure what to make of Axel Jupiter. Why was he standing in this corner conversing with her? He could have his pick of any witch or wizard, surely?
"I came to Hogwarts last Christmas, so almost a year and a half ago."
"Settling in well? Dumbledore isn't being too much of a bear, is he?" Jupiter wiggled his eyebrows comically.
"Never," she giggled. "Everyone has been very nice and made me feel very welcome. Besides, Hogwarts hasn't really changed that much since I was a girl."
"No," he agreed wistfully. "It never does."
"Which house were you in?"
"The only one that counts." He paused for dramatic effect with a devilish glint in his eye. "Gryffindor."
"On behalf of Helga Hufflepuff I simply must protest."
"Could be worse I suppose."
Before she could respond to his teasing Horace Slughorn interrupted.
"Axel, Axel, Axel, haven't seen you around these neck of the woods for quite some time."
"Ah Horace, how are you, old chap?"
A great deal of male backslapping occurred and empty chit-chat until Slughorn said something which caught her attention if only for the unusual tone in which it was uttered. In all the years Poppy had known Slughorn she had never witnessed him quite so genuinely sympathetic.
"She's been and gone, my friend. The finest bottle of crystal ice on the table. '29 I believe."
Jupiter heaved a great sigh and gave a half-hearted smile.
"I suppose it was a long shot. Her spies will no doubt have alerted her to my presence as soon as I set foot on British soil."
If Poppy was not mistaken there was a hint of bitterness hidden in Jupiter's self-deprecatory tone. Even more disconcerting, Slughorn grew more considerate. They both seemed to have forgotten her company.
"Actually I don't think that's the case this time."
"No? Tell me, Horace, is she getting on well here at Hogwarts? Has she finally settled?"
His voice cracked on the last word so Slughorn placed a consolatory hand on Jupiter's shoulder.
"She spends more nights than not away from the castle nowadays."
Jupiter turned on Slughorn and held his arm tightly.
"He isn't...? Tell me he hasn't...? I swear if he's...She's chosen to live here! Work here. For all intents and purposes this is her home!"
"Calm down man," Slughorn soothed. "You're jumping the wand. No, no, I believe, though have not yet confirmed, Spear has recruited her."
From her vantage point Poppy could see the range of emotions play out upon Jupiter's face. Confusion dawned to realisation, leading to disbelief and ending in anger.
"I'll kill him!"
The rage bubbled through him as she witnessed tiny sparks of magic shoot from his fingertips. Who on Earth were they talking about? Slughorn held Jupiter by the lapels and negotiated in a forced whisper.
"No you won't, Axel. There's no need to act in haste. You know what Minerva is like, she has a will of her own."
Poppy must have made a sound in the face of such an unexpected revelation because both wizards turned in her direction, piercing her with their gaze. Slughorn recovered first, clearing his throat and smoothing down the front of Jupiter's robes. Jupiter took a few deep breaths then smiled apologetically, adorably ruffling the back of his head.
"Madam Pomfrey," said on a cough. "Where are my manners? Forgive me, that is no way to behave in the presence of lady. Horace?"
"Yes, yes. Of course, Poppy please forgive us. Let us all just forget about it. Best not to mention it at all." Slughorn was rambling.
She could but nod silently. Questions on the tip of her tongue she dare not ask. She snagged another drink from a passing house-elf and promptly gulped it down. The wizards swiftly excused themselves, each going their separate ways.
As the night wore on Poppy was introduced to various dignitaries, cousins, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters. Normally she would have loved mingling with the people she only read about in the magazines. To her they were another world, another species but for all she tried she could not shake the image of Jupiter so desperate, so angry; the suggestion that Minerva was avoiding him. Aloysious Spear? Slughorn? Minerva's night-time excursions and trips to St. Mungo's.
Poppy knew should leave well alone but she was haunted by a memory. It was well past midnight, two weeks after having moved back to Hogwarts, and feeling a little homesick and perhaps out of her element she donned her slippers and robe and decided to go for a walk about the castle. Her feet led her to the kitchens, a familiar sanctuary from her youth. She slipped quietly passed the portrait, not wanting to disturb any sleeping house-elves, only to come up short at the sound of voices. Keeping to the shadows Poppy spied them bathed in the light of a single candle. They were in love. There was no mistaking it. Minerva sat on the edge of the table smiling deep into the eyes of Albus Dumbeldore who had a hand either side of her on the tabletop trapping her close.
Poppy was shaken from her musings by the cheers that accompanied the arrival of the Headmaster. Standing back Poppy observed the wizard, he was polite and cheerful, greeting all but his eyes carefully took in his surroundings. He caught her watching and tipped his hat. It wasn't until he caught sight of the bottle of crystal ice that his shoulders tensed and his forehead creased.
Poor Dumbeldore, how had they gone from candlelight kissing to...this?