It's hard, transferring to a new school; even harder when you're trying to adjust to a new country at the same time, as he was finding out. England was…well, different. The weather, the money, the language, the food—everything, it seemed, was strange and new here.

Dean hated it.

Why they'd had to leave America in the first place he still didn't understand—they'd lived perfectly happily in Lawrence for his entire life. And, okay, he got that his mom being offered this new job at Oxford was kind of a big deal; but considering Dean didn't make friends easily, tearing him away from the ones he had managed to come by seemed pretty unfair. All the more so because he'd only had one year left of school, anyways. Couldn't his parents just have waited—left him behind—something?

Sam didn't help matters, either. Certainly he tried to be sympathetic, but his younger brother was both more social and more intelligent than he was, and never seemed to have trouble fitting in. Even coming in at Hogwarts, where most kids had known each other since first year, Sam was already well-liked among both his fellow students and his teachers. As proud as he was of his younger brother, Dean couldn't help feeling more than a twinge of resentment that Sam was suffering so much less than he was.

It wasn't all bad, of course; there was Quidditch, now that he'd successfully earned a place on the team—and there were the girls. That was one area where Dean could definitely gloat over Sam, who invariably turned into a tongue-tied, blushing mess whenever confronted with a girl he had any sort of romantic feelings towards. Dean's good looks got him halfway, and then all it took was a bit of smooth talking—for a while, anyways. He didn't have any illusions about any of his relationships. It was the one thing that hadn't changed from back home. Girls would date him for a while, because he was attractive and had the whole jock thing going, but inside he knew he would never, ever be "the one" for any of them. He seemed born to play the role of the first boyfriend, the prom date (if they even had prom here, which he was beginning to doubt), anything that could be looked back on fondly but distantly one day by the girl and whoever she'd eventually ended up with. At this age, however, when most relationships didn't last particularly long anyways, all it meant was a constant source of variety.

So, he was popular—but the only person he was actually close with was his brother, and Sam had his own friends to hang out with. Well, it could be worse, he supposed. Besides, all he had to do was suffer through one year, and then he'd be out of there. He could go wherever he wanted after that; back to America, probably, since it wasn't like he'd have any particular relationships tying him to England. Aside from his family, but hell—uncle Bobby back in the States was practically a second father.

The group he was with, mostly made up of his teammates and their girlfriends and boyfriends and a few of their friends, started laughing, so he faked a grin as well and tried to pretend he'd been listening to the joke. "I mean, does anyone actually like him, besides his sister?" Bela asked. Shooting a glance at Dean to see if he noticed, she ran her fingers through her hair; apparently she wanted him today, then. They'd been on and off ever since the beginning of the year, one minute all over each other and the next in such mutual hatred they could hardly bear to be in the same room. The last breakup had been a few weeks earlier, over something so stupid he'd already forgotten it. Seeing the way Bela was looking at him Lisa, the girl he was currently going with, put an arm around his waist and leaned her head against his shoulder possessively.

He had no idea who they were talking about, so he just shrugged noncommittally and hoped someone else would say something. Here Gordon stepped in, saying, "Tell me about it—he just reads all the time!"

"Not even normal books, either—all this weird Muggle stuff," Bela said disdainfully. Dean was suddenly glad he'd never mentioned to her the fact that his mother was both a Muggle and a literature professor.

"And he's been here since first year, but I don't think I've ever seen anyone talk to him, except that freaky sister of his—"

"Oh, don't even pretend, Gordon," said Bela, rolling her eyes. "You've been trying to get into Anna's pants for, like, three years. You're just mad because she keeps rejecting you."

"Whatever!" Gordon shoved her so that she conveniently fell onto Dean's lap, where Lisa helped her hurriedly back up.

A cruel smile played across Bela's face, and she pulled out her wand, saying, "Watch this, it'll be hilarious…" After surreptitiously checking to make sure Dean was watching, she muttered a spell under her breath.

The target of the spell was a slim boy with dark messy hair in a Ravenclaw uniform, its blue matched by his bright eyes. Though the hall was crowded he was obviously alone, staring down as if not wanting to make eye contact with anyone as he made his way down the corridor. Bela's well-aimed spell caught the books he had clutched tight to his chest and caused them to tumble to the ground in a mess of papers. He looked around half-heartedly to see who was responsible, as if he were used to such treatment and acted more from instinct than out of an actual desire to find out who'd done it, and crouched resignedly to start picking his things up again. Although it caused an obvious roadblock as the same number of people attempted to get through a smaller space without slipping on anything, no one stopped to help him.

Bela and Gordon high-fived, and rest of the group laughed. Lisa, Dean noted, was one of the few who didn't, looking as if she didn't find anything particularly funny about the whole thing, but she remained silent. He felt a surge of gratitude for someone sharing his sentiments, and thought vaguely that he'd be sorry when they inevitably broke up. She was nice. Especially contrasted with Bela, who he'd probably end up going back to once Lisa realized they weren't right for each other.

Anxious to move the subject away from the blue-eyed boy before something more serious happened, Dean pretended he'd forgotten the updated Quidditch schedule and asked Gordon when their next practice was. This prompted a confident discussion of how Gryffindor would undoubtedly slaughter Slytherin in the upcoming match, and soon Bela's victim seemed all but forgotten.

The bell rang to signal the end of class, and Dean hurried to join the mad rush of students racing to be the first to the Great Hall. Before he was out the door, however, Professor Crowley's voice rang out, "A word, please, Mr. Winchester!"

Heart sinking, Dean slunk back to the Transfiguration teacher's desk. The paper he'd received back that class, crumpled into a ball in the bottom of his bag as if by hiding the dismal mark he could make it go way entirely, seemed to weigh his arm down far more than a few mere sheets of parchment ought to. "Yes, sir?" he asked, meeting the man's eyes briefly before deciding it best to focus his gaze on the floor.

"I hardly think I need remind you, Mr. Winchester, of your frankly abysmal report on human transfiguration, or, indeed, of your total failure to complete the assigned task during the lesson."

"No, sir."

"If this were an isolated incident, I might be willing to overlook it. However, ever since the beginning of the year you have consistently failed to meet the expectations of the course. While I realize you may be having some trouble adjusting"—though the words here seemed designed to be sympathetic, his sarcastic tone implied the exact opposite—"this is simply unacceptable for a N.E.W.T. level student."

"Yes, sir," said Dean glumly. Yet another instance where his brother would have managed to one-up him, if he'd been in the same situation; Sam was practically a genius, already in the top five of all his classes, whereas Dean was struggling just to scrape passes in most of his.

"If you intend on passing this course, I suggest you seek help outside of class time. I, of course, would be happy to assist," he offered grudgingly, obviously hoping Dean didn't take him up on the offer, "or you could seek another student to tutor you."

"I'll do that, then, sir," said Dean, who didn't particularly want to do either. He figured maybe he could just get Bela to give him a few tips—because even though she might have a certain tendency towards bitchiness, she was both hot and rather intelligent, when she bothered to try—just enough so that he didn't fail completely.

However, it seemed Professor Crowley had other ideas. "Fine. I'll see if Castiel Novak can spare any time for you. Come see me after your last class tomorrow."