A/N: Oh, my god, guys. I am so sorry. There really is no excuse. You know, other than a total lack of internet access and my laptop breaking and not having a copy on my iPhone…

But really, I shouldn't even. I should have kept a copy and done this from another computer ages ago, and for that I am so so sorry. I give this to you now, unbeta'd, in the hopes that I won't have an angry mob attempt to kill me. D:

I don't own anything.

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Verity Williams started suddenly, her toothpaste dropping out of her hand and clattering to the floor with an audible thunk, and spun around on the spot, one hand still restraining her strawberry blonde hair. Her eyes darted fearfully around seemingly empty room, grazing the mirrors lining the walls, the stalls, the tiles, and the door before landing on her own reflection again. Dimly registering movement, she started again, drawing out her wand as quickly as possible before allowing her hand to drop at the sight of her own familiar face.

When had life become like this?

Hogwarts had always been a safe place— it sheltered all students from any dangers waiting outside, and goodness, there were many. The walls were not, however, capable of protecting students from each other.

With the war coming on and the supposed rise of one of the most evil sorcerers of all time, students were pressed to choose sides. And unlike the usual good versus evil battles, this war was threefold. There were the good, the evil, and the bystanders. Those who had no intent to fight the war, those who refused to believe that Harry Potter was right, that Dumbledore had been right, even when Fudge himself had accepted it.

What was even more irritating was the fact that these bystanders refused to just stand by. As the days grew darker and the war ever nearer, those who still desperately clung to their beliefs were so afraid that they were liable to attack at any given moment. Propaganda had gone up, lost in the crowd of wanted posters and rebellion flyers, stating that the only evil being done was by those who insisted on believing in the return of… well.

And it was their cause, apparently, to remove the unnecessary strain on society caused by such beliefs.

By any means necessary.

And this poison was quickly spreading inside the castle's walls. The two houses most targeted, of course, were Gryffindor and Slytherin. Their passionate outbreaks in the middle of lunchtime did not only spark retaliation from each other, but also the non-believers— the Empowerment and Betterment of Society by Ending War Discussion. EBSEWD, for short. All members of the EBSEWD party were known thereby as EBS amongst themselves and those who humored them. To everybody else, they were called the Batshit Insane Party— and each member was dubbed a BIP.

Hogwarts was no longer safe.

Verity sighed and began to repack her nighttime case. Glancing over at the hair straightener balancing precariously on the sink, she gathered it was almost done heating up. It was a gift from her mother (a muggle) before she had gotten her letter to Hogwarts— the two had many at home spa days where they would gossip about their days and such— and when she was feeling particularly upset or lonely, she would use it to straighten her hair rather than do it by magic. There was something so much more satisfying about doing something manually, she mused, turning to zip up the case and place it delicately next to the styling tool.

Eyes.

Verity shrieked and grabbed for her wand, finding the straightener instead. Without a second thought, she aimed it right at the laughing intruder's head— it fell short and whacked him in the arm instead.

"Ow!" the figure cried, rubbing his arm gingerly. "Godric damn!"

"Jesus shitting Christ, Thurman, I thought you were a BIP!" Verity whispered furiously. Martin Thurman, who was now wincing at his forearm, looked up and eyed her seriously, his green orbs glancing through his dark hair to meet her own hazel ones.

"I hope that isn't the only defense you'd put up against them," he raised an eyebrow in disbelief, mouth twitching as she rolled her eyes and looked around for a better weapon. "Pathetic!"

Verity couldn't contain a smile as Martin broke out into laughter. "Well, no students are supposed to be out of bed right now! Something I might remind you of."

"Oh, can it," he rolled his eyes good naturedly. "I bet you got the password off of… Dianne."

"How did you guess," Verity mocked, reaching a hand out expectantly. Martin smirked, grabbing it and lifting it to his mouth. Again, Verity rolled her eyes and whacked him in the face before snatching it away. Martin made a face, picking up the hot tool gingerly and returning it.

"Why do you have this crazy death trap anyways?" he asked, eyes curious as she unplugged it and rolled up the wire tenderly.

"It was a gift from my mother," she answered, refusing to look at him. His eyes softened slightly and he handed her her bag.

"What does it do?"

"Okay," Verity paused, frowning in concentration. "Um, you see these two… parts?"

"Yeah."

"Well, you stick a section of hair between them, and then close them and run them down the section slowly. And the heat keeps the hair staying that way, so that it stays straight for a while."

"Sounds dangerous," he murmured, unable to keep his avid interest hidden. Verity granted him a small smile as she started for the door, and he trailed behind her helplessly.

"Isn't everything dangerous 'round here?" she kept her tone light, but her shining eyes belied her calm exterior.

"Hey, now." Martin stopped her outside their common room, placing his hands on her shoulders. "It's alright, okay? No need to worry about those BIPs or SIPs or KIPs, unless it's a sip of water or a nap you're talking about. No need to worry about this war. You're strong, and you can protect yourself. I know it."

"But what if I can't?" she asked desperately. "This is too difficult, Martin, this war is too big, too frightening, and where would I hide? It's going to be all over the world, they said. And what if we lose?"

"Then I'll protect you," Martin whispered, brushing her hair out of her eyes so he could search them more thoroughly. "Alright?"

Verity nodded slightly, and with a touch of her lips to his cheek, she was through the portrait and out of his sight.

Out of sight, perhaps, but never out of mind.

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A/N: Okay, so…. Yeah. Review? If you want. You soooo don't owe me anything

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