Sunday, May 17th, A. D. 1713
Edwin groaned. Insulted by the brightness of the morning sun, his eyes refused to open more than a squint.
"Edwin, can you hear me?"
"No," he said flatly. "I can't hear a thing."
The feminine voice harrumphed. There was a sound of footsteps, then, in whispered, exasperated tones: "He'll be fine—although I ought to kill him myself! To pull a stunt like that!"
"Easy, Dilys," a young man's voice said. "If you've only now realized that Edwin Potter pulls stunts like that with almost predictable frequency, I'm sorry but you simply haven't been paying attention."
"But he could have blown up the Astronomy Tower! Professor Littlefield is practically begging Professor Everard to expel him—and I can't say I blame her. And why must you always take his part?" the young woman asked. "I expect Basil to defend him—he always finds amusement in whatever mayhem Edwin instigates. But you, Thomas? I should think a Ravenclaw would demonstrate a bit more prudence in such matters."
"And I should think a Hufflepuff of all people would show a bit more loyalty to her friend. Honestly, Dilys—"
"Give up while you still can, Thomas," Edwin said, "you're never going to win." He tentatively opened his eyes and took stock of his surroundings. As he surmised, he was in the hospital wing. It was a warm late-spring morning. Birds were singing. Through the windows Edwin saw a parade of gleaming white clouds drifting lazily through the blue sky. At the foot of his bed his two friends—a short, heavy-set boy and a petite girl with her golden hair in ringlets, stood arguing.
"Aha," the boy said. "Lazarus awakes." He approached Edwin's bedside. "And with all of his limbs still attached. Well done, Mr. Potter."
Edwin grinned. "Thank you, Mr. Wildsmith, you're quite welcome. I assume I have Miss Derwent to thank that I'm all in one piece?"
"She insisted on helping Madame Scevington re-grow your eyebrows," Thomas Wildsmith said. "She got them a bit too close together, I'm afraid."
Dilys Derwent elbowed her Ravenclaw friend.
"What about the Slytherins?" Edwin asked.
"The one we like is asleep in the next bed." Thomas gestured, but when Edwin turned his head, all he could see was a curtain pulled to give each patient his privacy.
"And Black?" The name came out as if it tasted foul on Edwin's tongue.
"He walked away with not so much as a splinter," Dilys said in a tone that added, "and it serves you right."
Edwin cursed. Simultaneously, the same curse was uttered on the other side of the privacy curtain.
"Ah," Dilys said, "it seems your accomplice has decided to rejoin the living as well. Good morning, Basil."
Basil Parkinson mumbled something not entirely intelligible. Thomas wheeled away the curtain to include him in the conversation.
"Morning, Basil," Edwin said, looking across at his pug-faced friend. Basil's fingers fumbled around his bedside table for his spectacles. He put them on and looked around.
"I told you he'd never fall for it," Basil said resignedly. "Rigel Black may be many things, but gullible is not one of them. He knows what a unicorn horn is supposed to look like. He's a bloody seventh-year, after all."
"What I want to know," Thomas said, "is how you two got hold of an Erumpent horn in the first place."
"You won't have to lie about things you don't know, Thomas," Edwin said.
"I said five minutes!" a shrill voice interrupted. Madam Scevington, the Hogwarts matron, bustled into the room, an exasperated expression on her face. "You've taken at least ten. Now, off you go. Mr. Potter and Mr. Parkinson need their rest." She hastily shooed Thomas and Dilys out and pulled the great double doors of the hospital wing shut behind them.
She eyed her two patients with an air of disdain. Over the past six years she had patched up these two black-haired boys more than any other students in recent memory. "If Professor Everard doesn't expel the both of you after this…," she muttered.
"Well," Basil sighed once Madam Scevington had returned to her office, "the Dashing Miscreants strike again."
Edwin chuckled. "Do you suppose they'll still call us that in twenty years?"
"Why not?" Basil said. "It's what they've called us ever since we came to Hogwarts."
"I beg to differ, Basil. They called us 'miscreants.' I added the 'dashing' bit myself."
"So you did, so you did. Of course, people weren't used to students from all four Houses becoming such close friends."
"You forget, Basil, we became friends before we were ever sorted. That first night in Hogsmeade, before we even got in the boats. Remember?"
"Well, I had known Thomas for ages—our fathers work together in the Ministry. We'd have been friends regardless."
"And Thomas grew up in the next village over from Dilys…"
"And Dilys fancied you," Basil grinned.
"We were only eleven," Edwin scowled. "Nobody fancied anybody."
The doors of the hospital wing swung open. In walked a solitary figure, a tall white-haired wizard in sweeping robes of black and gold.
"Headmaster," Madam Scevington called, rushing to greet him at the door.
"P-Professor Everard!" Edwin and Basil said together. They both sat up in their beds.
"Mr. Potter, Mr. Parkinson," the headmaster nodded to both boys in turn. "Madam Scevington, I wonder if I might have a few minutes with these boys?"
"Of course, Headmaster." Madam Scevington scurried away.
Professor Everard gazed down at the two. Edwin attempted to present a face devoid of expression. He envied the way that trick came naturally to his Slytherin friend in the next bed.
"I have spoken to your Heads of House," the headmaster said. "Professor Littlefield and Professor Dimsdale agree that fifty points should be taken from your respective Houses for the damage you've inflicted upon the Astronomy Tower."
The boys hung their heads, but said nothing.
"Given that you have already succeeded in inflicting corporal punishment upon yourselves, we have decided that further whipping will not be necessary. You shall, however, both spend detention with Professor Littlefield repairing the damage until she is satisfied that her classroom and observatory are once again in perfect working order."
The headmaster paused as if expecting words of protest at his punishment. He seemed pleasantly surprised to hear none.
"Owls have been sent to your respective families apprising them of last night's…activities. And, of course, a full report of this incident will be added to your already prodigious personal records."
"Yes, Professor," Edwin whispered.
"It is only fair to inform you that I have reached my limit with your reckless antics." He held up a single bony finger. "One more infraction—one prank, one explosion no matter how small, one mouse stolen from the Transfiguration classroom—and I shall wash my hands of both of you. I care not how influential your fathers may be nor how respected your family names. Are we clear?"
"Yes, Professor," the two boys said in unison. The headmaster wheeled around and exited the hospital wing as abruptly as he had entered.
There was a long silence, at the end of which Basil said, "I don't know if we'll make it another year—even with Black graduated."
Edwin sighed. "To tell you the truth, Basil, I'm not sure I'll be coming back at all next year."
Author's note: This is just a kernel of an idea about some characters and a setting that may or may not take off. I'll finish this story (about 3-4 chapters total) and then decide if it's worth going further.