A prominently tall spire speared the partly cloudy sky over Hogwarts, the darkly blue night was void of light and dotted with stars. Silhouettes stirred on the uppermost level of the Astronomy Tower and voices trailed on the howl of distant wind. Professor Aurora Sinistra stood in front of a planetary model made of spun glass spheres and rings of polished metal, addressing the small group of students around her. Off to the side stood a pair who were engaged more in each other than the class.
"I don't see anything wrong with it, myself." Arthur was a Hufflepuff, a third year wizard with lightly brown skin which darkened in the shadowy tower. "Quite scary actually."
"How can you be frightened by something so nonsensical?" Olmeir was a Ravenclaw and a fourth year, combed black hair framing his pale, moonlit face.
"'Dark' and 'inexplicable' do tend to go hand in hand." Arthur gestured with one hand and let the other hang in his pocket.
Olmeir made a face but continued looking forward. "Look at it logically; to 'eat' death would be to remove death by taking it into oneself."
Arthur faced the professor as well, so as to not draw attention to their hushed exchange. "Like you 'take into yourself' far too many woggleberries?"
"My ultimate weakness." Olmeir shrugged and smirked. "Honestly, does that not sound more like a suicidal healer than a cohort of… well, you know."
"Sounds like someone who didn't pay attention in school," Arthur spoke partly as a joke and partly not; after all, a medic that died to revive someone was honorable, perhaps, but not very effective.
"Yes, well if Death Eaters took classes at midnight, then maybe they would have an excuse."
"Or maybe they would just pass out." Arthur nodded to his left and Olmeir turned to see one of their classmates droop their head, pop awake, and then drift back into standing slumber. They looked at each other afterward and they had to quiet their laughter. Olmeir covered a chuckle with his hand and Arthur coughed artificially, grinning.
"Arthur," Professor Sinistra called loudly and the class froze, including Arthur. Only his eyes moved in the sudden stillness. "Is there something funny about the Great Rift?"
"No, but we're about to lose a Hufflepuff to sleep deprivation." Arthur held his hand toward the snoozing witch, hoping to divert some of the trouble onto her.
"I will handle that." The dark skinned witch produced her wand and with a flick, the young lady vanished. "And you will see me after class."
Great. Arthur stuffed hands into his gold-lined pockets and glared at Olmeir, whose grin dried as he turned to face the professor. Arthur listened to the rest of the lecture closely afterward, out of guilt at first. Yet gradually the topic began to interest him. It was still early in the year so the information was general, yet Arthur was intrigued.
It reminded him of his second year; Astronomy caught his fancy then as well. Stars and constellations, galaxies and distant planets, they were equally as magical to him as the spells and charms he had learned. Arthur's cloak fluttered in the wind and he paid attention, not saying another word until the class let out sometime later.
"We are adjourned," Aurora said while nodding to her students, pointed hat tipping at the motion. "Don't forget your star chart for next session."
"Until next time, Arthur." Olmeir departed with the rest of class, falling into the file of cloaks headed for the stairs.
Soon Arthur was alone with his instructor, who both stepped forward and gestured for him to come closer. The young wizard complied silently, walking through sweeping shadow and wondering what was to be his punishment.
"You have taken to the stars, haven't you?" Sinistra's hazel eyes scanned him kindly in the dark and her voice was no longer the dagger that had silenced the class.
"Yes ma'am," Arthur spoke politely and wondered what this had to do with him talking during instruction.
A smile curled her lips softly. "Then I have something you may like to see." She raised a finger and a twinge of sternness returned. "Score perfect marks next session, and I will show you."
"Might I ask the significance of perfect marks, Professor?" he asked, his voice betraying of curiosity.
Aurora scoffed. "Worthiness, of course. It wouldn't do for me to reveal this sort of secret to an inferior student." She shooed him with a wave of her hand. "Now be off, and gather your housemate from the courtyard."
"I will, Miss Sinistra," Arthur spoke while turning around. "Have a good night."
He walked toward the stairway, and from his vantage atop the tallest tower, could see the distant glow of sun brimming softly against the dark. Or morning. Arthur smirked and descended the stairs tiredly; the movement making him realize just how long he'd been up. He was getting used to it though, and as Sinistra could tell, he enjoyed studying the stars.
Olmeir had called it impractical, for what use was knowledge about the patterns of objects millions upon millions of miles away? Arthur found it hard to believe a student of magic would think that way but as he came to the bottom of the stairs, he left that thought. He needed to find the witch that Aurora had cast out of class.
Where did she say, the courtyard? Which one?
After a trek through the innards of the castle, Arthur finally reached the entryway courtyard, the cold of early morning chilling the sweat on his brow. He wiped his forehead while looking around for the Hufflepuff girl. The young wizard started to call her name, then sighed realizing he didn't know it. Instead he continued to walk and scan the quad.
Ramparts, no. Bushes, no. Trees, n-
There she was, her cloak tangled in a tree, hanging several feet from the ground by her upper body.
Must be a great dream.
Arthur jogged over from the cobblestone to the grass where it was confirmed, yes, she was still asleep.
"Hey!" No response.
He groaned before looking around, grateful to see nothing but trees and the walls around the yard. Arthur didn't want to be blamed for putting this girl here or whatever it would look like to someone else. He puzzled on how to get her down, immediately throwing out hitting the cloak with a spell: she would drop to the ground quite hard. Lifting her wouldn't work either; there was no way he could lift high enough to get her arms out of the cloak.
"Hello." A tiny voice intruded his problem-solving. "Who are you?"
He looked up to see the girl looking down at him casually, as if this situation were perfectly average. "Arthur," was all he managed to say, dumbfounded. "And you?"
"Penelle," she chirped.
"Nice to meet you, Penelle," Arthur uttered, exasperation creeping in his voice. "Now, as you may realize, you are hanging from a tree."
"And the view is terrible." Penelle's feet dangled freely.
Obviously freeing herself was not high on Penelle's priorities. To speed things along, Arthur stepped forward and raised his hands. "Do you mind if I touch you?"
"What?" Penelle screamed and kicked at him. "You pervert!"
He rolled his eyes, exactly what he wanted to avoid. "So I can get you down," he elaborated.
"Oh, that's fine, I guess," she spoke suspiciously and ceased swinging her feet.
Taking that as good enough, Arthur grabbed Penelle's waist firmly and lifted. She was thin and he had some muscle but still there was some strain with lifting a whole person. Penelle wiggled her arms out of her sleeves as she rose out of her tangled cloak and struggled along with Arthur to free herself. Arthur stumbled backward and tried to lower the witch smoothly to the ground.
He failed. His legs buckled and his back slammed into the ground with Penelle using him to break her fall. She gasped and clung to his shoulders until the world quit tumbling, at which time Arthur looked up to meet her blue eyes, the same color as the brightening dawn sky.
"You okay?" Penelle asked, smiling and making Arthur's heart flutter. Her face was all he saw and her blonde hair tickled his face.
"Ya…" Arthur's voice trailed, Penelle's closeness causing a loss of words. "We should get to the common room," he managed.
"Oh, you're right!" Penelle jumped to her feet and brushed grass from her skirt while Arthur got up as well. She looked at him and tilted her head. "You sure you're alright?" Penelle spoke after seeing Arthur holding his shoulder.
Arthur glanced over at Penelle as they started for the castle. "Yeah, I just need to-" He caught her eyes, she smiled clumsily, his thoughts scattered. "…work it out," Arthur finished quietly while massaging the soreness from the fall.
They were silent the rest of the way through the castle, nothing but footfalls sounding between them. All of the school would be asleep by now anyway, so they were just being courteous by not talking. At least, that's what Arthur told himself. He didn't know about Penelle, but he had wanted to say something more to her. However, every time he looked at her she was either looking away, distant, or looking right at him, causing their gaze to catch awkwardly. Arthur looked ahead and didn't bother trying to further the conversation. His legs buzzed with fatigue and his thoughts had begun to blend.
I just need some sleep.
They reached the kitchen hall and luckily his faculties remained enough for him to knock on the barrel in the right manner to open the Hufflepuff basement and enter. Once inside the common room, furnished with yellow and orange, Penelle waved goodbye and skipped off through shafts of pale light beaming in the windows, the wizard and witch going their separate ways.
Arthur stepped through a circular doorway and closed the door behind him before pulling off his cloak in the dark. He threw it on the desk beside his bed and did the same for his vest and tie. Next, Arthur prepared for tomorrow by laying out his quill, parchment, and Defensive Magical Theory textbook on the desk. While doing this, he realized an envelope resting atop his notes from potions class. He had to bring it to his face to see the address in the dark.
To: Arthur Vaerum
From: London, England - Evelyn V.
Upon seeing the name Arthur felt a rush to open it, despite his increased need for rest. He fished his redwood wand out of his cloak then climbed into bed before opening the envelope with one hand and pointing at the letter with the other. Arthur whispered and a faint glow bloomed from the tip of his wand. In the pale light, he could tell the letter was written with through a conversation charm.
How have your first few months of this year been? I am sure you are used to the routine by now, my how you've grown. I remember sending you off on the train for your very first year. You were a mess, such a jumble of excitement and nervousness. Yet when you came back you were so knowledgeable and glad to have gone. You even showed me a few tricks I'd forgotten, remember that? That was a great year for your father and I also.
Speaking of your father, oh Arthur, maybe I shouldn't tell you this... I got into some trouble and your father scarcely managed to get me out of it. The house was damaged and your aunt- that isn't important. Still you should know your father went missing a few days after that. I'm sure everything will be fine; his brothers are looking for him in the countryside.
Oh, now you might worry. Please don't worry, love. Focus on your studies and stay out of trouble.
Your loving mother, Evelyn Vaerum
Don't worry? Arthur extinguished the light of his wand and folded the letter absently, his mind still caught by what his mother had said. Questions flooded his thoughts and he had to push them away, knowing he didn't have the answers and that he would be absolutely no good tomorrow if he tried to find them instead of getting to sleep.
Or today, he corrected himself, having already seen first light. Soon after, he slept, still wearing his button-down and slacks.