So does anyone take me seriously when I deem a story as a "one-shot"? Because apparently I can't keep to it lol. I wasn't going to expand this story, but I just kept thinking about it and just had to do it. I looove Harry Potter and of course Paily and I just kept thinking of how they could've met in this universe and what they might be good at it, etc. etc. My plan is to do a chapter for each year, leading up to their 7th year. All the girls are in the same year, with Emily being the oldest. This chapter provides a bit of back story on how Paily met and next chapter will focus on a day during their 5th year. Please R/R and enjoy :) -ASE

Fourth Year:

The Badger meets the Serpent

"Please Spence? It's not like I'm asking you to write my essay or anything."

"No, you're just asking me to rewrite your essay!"

Emily Fields made her way into the Great Hall, honing in on the noises of her squabbling friends. It was always the same, or at least had been for the past three years, and even if they didn't always sit at the same place, Emily knew that she could count on Hanna and Spencer's bickering to provide the location of their whereabouts. Making her way over to their table (the far end of the designated Gryffindor table, closest to the Hall doors), she sat down heavily next to Hanna who was sitting across from Spencer and Aria. Emily poured herself a bowl of cereal and milk and began eating, watching as Hanna did her best to convince Spencer to help her.

"It's just one question!"

"That's not the point Hanna! You should've paid attention instead of making googly-eyes at that greasy-haired Gryffindor boy!"

"He does not have greasy hair! And how do you even know that? You're not even in our class!"

"You just told me, that's how!"

Emily turned her attention to Aria, who was flipping through a book.

"What's up, Aria?"

"Oh hey, Em!" Aria said, slightly startled, "I didn't even realize you were here!"

"They've been going at it for a while, huh?" Emily asked. She figured Aria had tuned out their squabbling soon after it started, as usual.

"Well you know those two. Of course Spencer always backs down in the end," Aria claimed and true to her words, Spencer had finally grabbed Hanna's scroll to look over her answers. Beaming, Hanna looked at her other two friends.

"Good morning Em! Ready for double potions today? I know I will be, here in a sec," Hanna indicated, nodding towards Spencer.

"Keep talking and I'm going to send you to class with an empty scroll," Spencer muttered, as she pulled her wand out to scan Hanna's homework.

"Aw, I'm only kidding. Besides, who here is smarter than you when it comes to this kind of stuff?" Hanna asked sweetly and as much as Spencer knew that Hanna was just trying to keep on her good side, she couldn't help but puff up in pride. Aria rolled her eyes.

"Is it double potions today? I completely forgot. Lucky I did my homework, I guess," Emily uttered listlessly, before going back to her cereal. Hanna and Aria exchanged looks, wondering what was wrong with their friend. Even Spencer looked up from her corrections.

"Emily, what is it?" Spencer asked. Emily looked up at her friends, all of their faces showing concern.

"I'm sorry guys, I don't mean to be so down."

"Hey, don't worry about us. What's going on? Is it your dad?" Hanna asked, grabbing Emily's hand when she nodded. "I'm sorry Em."

"He's ok, he just got called out again. The ministry is dispatching only the highest qualified Aurors to track down some rogue wizards," Emily explained to her friends.

"How long?" Aria asked.

"Not sure yet. Guess 'til they're found. He says that he will be back in no time," Emily answered. Her father, Wayne Fields, was a high-ranking Auror, often in charge of training new recruits, but every so often he was called to oversee and participate in the capture of wizards that were deemed more dangerous than the average wrongdoer. In fact, Emily's mother and father had started dating as Aurors-in-training, fresh from their graduation from Hogwarts. Her father had told her that he had always had a crush on her mom, Pam, when they were students in Hogwarts, ever since she out-cursed him in Defense Against the Dark Arts when they happened to have been paired up. Emily always liked hearing that story.

"Your dad's the best, Em. He's captured so many dark wizards already," Hanna assured. "Those guys will be surrendering in no time when they realize who's coming after them." Emily smiled.

"Hanna's right," Aria agreed, "And we're here for you, for whatever you need."

"If you want to skip today, I'll be sure to take extra notes," Spencer added helpfully. Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws had Charms class together, later that afternoon.

"Oh please. You already take extra notes," Hanna scoffed, "You've got notes on your notes! You even take notes on our notes!"

"Excuse me, but I'm trying to be supportive of Emily right now!" Spencer snapped. "And you don't even take notes!"

"Guys, please!" Emily laughed. "I really appreciate it, thanks." Emily smiled at all of them, glad that she could tell her friends what was bothering her. She was still worried about her father, she always will be when he's gone, but she was grateful to have a support system that cared about her. "So, double potions after breakfast? What do you have Spence?"

"Care of Magical Creatures…with Slytherin. Ugh, they're the worst. Maybe we should just do your dad a favor and get rid of the whole lot of them," Spencer grumbled.

"Wasn't your sister a Slytherin?" Aria asked, puzzled.

"My point exactly!" Spencer cried out, making the other girls laugh. "I'm the first one in a while that's been sorted into Ravenclaw. Good thing it was Ravenclaw, I couldn't take it if I was another Hastings Slytherin."

"So your family has only ever been sorted into Ravenclaw or Slytherin?" Hanna asked. Spencer nodded. "Creepy."

"Easy for you to say! You don't have the burden of the Hastings name crushing your very soul," Spencer complained. "You three have it so easy," she sighed wistfully.

"Um, Muggle-born here!" Aria reminded her, waving her hand in Spencer's face. "Classes with Slytherins are terrible! At least one of them has to make some snarky comment about my heritage."

"They can't all be bad…" Emily started, but was cut off sharply.

"Really? Even I get crap from them and you know my mom's a full-blooded witch!" Hanna cried out. "At least you and Spencer are treated with some kind of respect."

"But Gryffindors and Slytherins are always at each other's throats. They can't all be fullbloods, that's just not probable," Emily reasoned. "Besides, there has to be at least one decent Slytherin."

"If you're talking probability, then yeah, I'm forced to agree with you," Spencer reluctantly conceded. "Otherwise, I'd say hell no. You always see the good side, Emily. It's the Hufflepuff curse." Emily just sighed. She didn't think it was a bad thing, being empathetic and understanding. She didn't necessarily interact with many Slytherins, didn't really have any Slytherin friends actually, but the limited interactions she did have the green-and-silver house were at least civil.

"Speaking of probability…any chance you might, probably, get back to looking over my essay?" Hanna asked sweetly. Spencer gave her an incredulous look.

"Han…that's not even…" Aria began.

"Whatever, you know what I mean!"

Emily went back to her thoughts, thinking about when the girls had all met each other. She and Hanna Marin had always known each other, or at least it seemed that way to them. Their parents knew each other from school. Hanna's mother had started her career as a curse-breaker for the Goblins at Gringott's, and she was a friend of Pam's during their years in Hogwarts, although both belonged to different houses (Ravenclaw and Gryffindor, respectively). They often practiced DADA counter-curses with each other, with Pam crediting Ashley with the spell she used to out-curse Wayne. She didn't meet Hanna's father, a Muggle, until she moved from curse-breaking to working in the Goblin Liaison Office. He was a lawyer who worked for the Goblin's in the Muggle-world, and although his knowledge of the Wizarding World was limited, he fell in love with and married Ashley. Pam and Ashley kept in touch over the years, and after both girls had been born, play dates for both girls were set-up whenever possible. Not too long before Hanna received her letter from Hogwarts did her parents begin to fight more, finally resulting in their divorce. It had been Emily that Hanna would confide in and be consoled by throughout her parents' ordeal, and Hanna enjoyed the stability of the Field's home where she was always welcome. They both met Spencer during this time, when Ashley sought Wizarding counsel and received the very best in Veronica Hastings. Upon learning that they both had daughters the same age, Hanna was introduced to Spencer who in turn was introduced to Emily. It wasn't until they boarded the Hogwarts Express that they met their final member, Aria Montgomery, whom Spencer befriended when she happened upon her being bullied by some kids who were taunting her about being Muggle-born. The girls were eager to accept her into the group and they had been inseparable since then, even after The Sorting.

"Hey Em? Emmily!"

Shaking herself out of her reverie, Emily looked up. The girls had all gathered their stuff and seemed to have been waiting on her to do the same.

"You ready to go?"

Emily looked down at her barely eaten cereal.

"I'll catch up. You guys go ahead."

"Are you sure?" Spencer asked. "I can wait around if you want. Hagrid usually gives us a little leeway since the trip to his hut takes a bit."

"It's ok, promise. I'll see you later!" Emily waved good-bye to the girls, was briefly squeezed by Hanna in a tight hug, and returned to eating her breakfast after they left. She didn't want to dwell on her father leaving and so her thoughts turned instead to the girls' discussion about Slytherins. Looking across the Hall to the Slytherin table, she watched the students who were still sitting around either finishing up their meals like she was currently doing (or supposed to be doing) or chatting with friends. She hated that her friends were discriminated against, whether because of house or heritage, but it was also no secret that Gryffindors and Slytherins loathed each other completely. Even if there was a decent Slytherin in the mix, she doubted they would be friendly to a Gryffindor. She had had plenty of classes with Slytherins, as it was unavoidable, over the years and although she never went out of her way to befriend any of them she was always very nice to anyone, house loyalties aside. Hufflepuffs were usually the ones to have friends across all houses, not just their own, as they truly believed in giving anyone and everyone a chance. This didn't mean they were pushovers, but they did give loyalty to those who earned it from them.

She found herself staring at one girl in particular, with reddish-brown hair that was French braided down her back, who seemed to be trying to finish her meal as another girl chatted with her. She'd seen the girl before, every now and then in classes and even on the Quidditch Pitch when she would go cheer for her house and friends. The other girl looked up from her own cereal bowl, locking eyes with Emily for a brief moment. Embarrassed at being caught staring, Emily blushed and ducked her head quickly to stare at her food. When she looked up, the girl was eating her food and nodding to whatever the other girl was saying. Eating quickly, Emily finished and grabbed her stuff to head over to the dungeons for Potions Class not noticing the girl she had locked eyes with watched her go.

"Why was the goody-goody 'puff watching you?"

Paige shrugged as she munched on her cereal.

"I don't know, Pru," Paige uttered after she swallowed her food. "Aren't you the one interested in Legilimency? Go pick apart her mind, not mine."

The other girl, Pru, scoffed.

"Yeah, but she has to be staring at me in order for me to 'pick apart' her mind, and she was most definitely staring at you. You two know each other? Never pegged you as a 'puff lover," Pru remarked mockingly.

"Oh please. She looked at me and I happened to look at her. You're acting as if we both shouted our undying love to each other across the Hall or something," Paige drawled, rolling her eyes at her best friend and taking another bite of her cereal. To be honest, Paige did know her, or at least knew of her. She had noticed her since their first class together, Transfiguration, their first year. Emily Fields.

"Whatever. I know that girl. Emily Fields, right? Her and her band of misfits are always running the halls together," Pru noted flippantly. "She's friends with those mudblood Gryffindors and that neurotic Ravenclaw."

"Look, don't say that word around me. And neurotic Ravenclaw? You'll have to be more specific than that," Paige grunted, taking another bite of her cereal.

"You know who I'm talking about!" Pru snapped, "That obnoxious Hastings girl. There's no way she's related to Melissa. Ugh, I can't stand her," Pru fumed, hearing but not acknowledging Paige's refusal to hear the word mudblood. It was just a word, anyway, and Paige could be so touchy.

"Yeah, isn't Hastings the one who's always outscoring you on the pitch?" Paige asked. Paige and Pru had both made the Slytherin Quidditch team their third year, due to the large amount of Slytherin players that had graduated; Paige was the Keeper whereas Pru was one of the three chasers.

"Like you're one to talk! You're the one who lets her!" Pru retorted, slightly miffed.

"Yeah, I 'let' her. Hastings is pretty good, considering she just made the Ravenclaw team this year, but need I remind you, I'm the top ranked Keeper-two years in a row. What's your excuse?" Paige responded sweetly. Pru glared at her. "C'mon, you know I'm just messing with you. Hastings is quite obnoxious," Paige replied, extending an olive branch to her friend.

"She's always trying to be the teacher's pet. Too bad you beat her to it in Care of Magical Creatures huh?" Pru said smiling, glad that Paige wasn't goading her anymore. It was no secret that Hagrid tended to favor Paige a bit more than the others—Paige stayed after every class and even helped Hagrid on weekends to take care of his creatures, especially the aquatic ones which she had become quite skilled at handling. Her natural talent combined with her desire to work hard meant advanced, independent courses and of course, the occasional preferential treatment.

"Well you can't be good at everything, Merlin knows she tried…all those Ravenclaws, really. Hastings may be a pretty good Quidditch player but when it comes to getting her hands dirty anywhere else, she draws the line," Paige explained, shrugging. "I just don't mind getting dirty."

"You're such a guy, Paige! So are you going to stay after class today? Wait, of course you are," Pru said, answering her own question. "You always make me come to lunch alone on Mondays!"

"Quit your whining, it's not like you have to sit by yourself. I'm just gonna go to the cove where Hagrid keeps some of the injured Black Lake creatures. I'll check on them to make sure they're ok and I'll be here to keep you company and listen to you yap it up," Paige said, to which Pru punched her playfully on the arm.

"Fine, but don't make me wait too long."

Emily was scribbling furiously in her notebook, trying her best to keep up with Professor Snape's lecture. Maybe it was the lag she felt from breakfast earlier, but it seemed as if he was zooming right through the lesson and seconds later they were asked to make an antidote, in groups luckily. Catching the eye of Aria and Hanna, and throwing an arm around Lucas before he was grabbed by someone else, Emily walked them both over to where her friends were seated.

"Thank Merlin that Snape doesn't randomly choose our groups," Hanna declared, a little too loudly for Emily's taste.

"Shhh! Just be grateful and keep your mouth shut!" Lucas whispered, before Emily could say anything. Lucas Gottesman was also a Hufflepuff and he and Emily tended to pair up in class. Much like anyone who wasn't a Slytherin, Lucas was terrified of Professor Snape.

"He's right, let's just get to business. Whose cauldron are we using?" Emily asked, scanning her notes for which potions they could choose from.

"The bottom of mine is still melted through, after last week's disaster. Mom said she'd send one through the post by the end of the week," Hanna announced.

"Here, just use mine," Aria offered, pulling hers out from under the desk. "So what are we brewing?"

"Well Professor Snape gave us a few options as to which antidote we could brew up," Lucas began, peering over at Emily's notes and cross-referencing them with his own.

"Let's make a love potion!" Hanna cried out excitedly.

"Han, what part of antidote made you think a love potion was the obvious choice?" Aria inquired. "You always want to brew a love potion, you can't just brew up a love potion!"

"Sorry! Just trying to keep things interesting. Maybe we can feed it to Snape and…" Hanna started, but trailed off when she caught the Potions Master scowling at her. Quailing under his look, she dove into Emily's book. "So what ingredients do we need? I'll get them!"

"What do you think guys? Here's an Antidote for Common Poisons, let's just do that. Um, Han, go grab all of this, ok?" Emily said, pointing to the list. "Don't forget the bezoar!" she yelled at the blonde's retreating form.

"I'll watch her," Aria sighed, quickly following her friend. Emily and Lucas started setting their station up, making sure the flame was lit and the cauldron was in its place. Thinking earlier about their conversation, Emily wondered what Lucas might have to offer.

"Hey Lucas, I was wondering, do you have any friends that are Slytherins?" Emily asked, as she adjusted the temperature of the flame. Lucas looked up at her from his notes, not entirely sure why Emily was asking him that question.

"Not really. But to be fair, I am beyond terrified to be around them," Lucas answered.

"Why terrified?" Emily asked, looking over to check on Hanna and Aria, who seemed to be struggling over something. She looked back at Lucas.

"I guess I'm not terrified, I'm just more than slightly intimidated. Where is this coming from?" Lucas asked, noting that Emily seemed to not want her friends around for this discussion.

"Nowhere, really. It's nothing," Emily shrugged. She watched the other two walk over, hands full of ingredients.

"Aria tried to take the bezoar from me!" Hanna said indignantly.

"I did not, you grabbed the wrong thing!" Aria objected. They laid the ingredients out and looked to Emily.

"Alright, let's do this."

Emily opened the doors, enjoying the sunlight that streamed down upon her as she walked out onto the grounds of Hogwarts. Professor Snape ended up letting their class go a little earlier than usual, a rare privilege he offered to practically no class, but no one dared questioned his dismissal. Emily suspected it might have to do with more than one groups' cauldron being destroyed that afternoon. She stepped to the side to allow a group of first years to run through, fresh from their first flying lesson, smiling as she remembered her first time on a broom. It wasn't anything too wild, but she was happy that she managed to float above the ground a bit on her first try. Crossing the enormous lawn, Emily turned towards the direction of Hagrid's Hut where Care of Magical Creatures was held. She usually met Spencer halfway while the other two waited for them in the Great Hall for lunch. Emily enjoyed walking outside after being pent up in the dungeons for such a long time, that by midyear it was just another habit. Taking her time, Emily made her way down the footpath but stopped when she caught the sight of someone running. She checked quickly to make sure the person wasn't being chased, and upon finding no one, watched the person disappear from her sight. Emily was almost certain it was a girl although she was less certain as to the identity of that girl. Whoever it was happened to be in pretty good shape, running that fast and non-stop. She thought she had caught the glint of reddish-brown hair, which piqued her curiosity. Could it be that girl from breakfast? Looking towards the area that the girl disappeared, Emily pulled her wand out as she contemplated whether she should investigate.

It was a well-known fact in the girls' little group that Emily could not get lost. Each of them excelled at a certain subject, more so than the others, and for Emily it was Charms. She was so good at Charms that by her third year she was already making her own spells, either by tweaking already existing spells or coming up with new ones entirely. For instance, in class they had learned about a spell that would always point one's wand north, simply by saying "Point me". Emily figured out a way to make her wand point to any direction she desired, but more specifically towards anything she wanted. If she ever happened to be stuck somewhere, she could have her wand point her towards an exit. Or, like now, if she wanted to investigate something that piqued her interest, she could have her wand point her to the direction of her current curiosity. Laying her wand flat on her upturned palm, Emily watched it spin around until it pointed her towards the direction of the Black Lake. Deciding that she had some time before classes officially let out, Emily made her way towards the large body of black water.

It was common knowledge that the lake was not in fact, black, but rather there were parts of the lake that were so deep, people on the surface could only see black spots. Stories of students spotting the Giant Squid were endless, whether it was from the tiny freshmen fresh from their journey across the lake on their first night at Hogwarts, or upper classmen that hung around the shores. She remembered a classmate of hers, Noel, bragging about how he actually touched one of the Giant Squid's tentacles, but no one really believed him. The lake wasn't too far away, but it was quite a walk from the front of the school.

As much as Emily didn't want to, her thoughts drifted back to her parents and her father. Class was good for keeping her mind focused elsewhere, but now that she was alone she had no external reasons keeping her from dwelling on her father's soon-to-be absence. She was very proud that her father was regarded so highly and had a prominent position that was recognized all across the Wizarding World, but sometimes she wished that he had a different job, one that required him sitting behind a desk, preferably indoors. Many of her parents' stories kept her on the edge of her seat, wide-eyed and clutching her favorite stuffed-toy that was given to her by Hanna (a shark, she called it) when she was a little girl, gasping whenever her parents recalled how they barely escaped a dark wizard's evil curse, or managed to escape a booby-trapped hideout just in the nick of time. Thinking about it now, she wondered if they had slightly exaggerated their escapades, and if not, it made her feel even more worried that those things would happen to her father now, and what if he was just a second too slow? She didn't really want to think of those kinds of scenarios anymore.

Emily reached the shoreline, looking out at the vast black surface that appeared to be endless as it met the horizon. The weather was warm, the sun bright as its rays were absorbed by the calm surface of the lake. Emily knew there was more to the Black Lake than just the Giant Squid, with some students convinced that there was actually a colony of Merpeople living in there as well. The Black Lake was off limits to students, as far as recreationally, but she did hear about certain clubs using the shallow shores for different purposes. Hanna, as part of her Herbology extra credit, had to collect samples of different plants that could be found in the lake and she ventured about knee-deep in the water to acquire the samples she needed. She told the girls the water was quite cold, the bottom was mushy, and she swore she could feel "lake-critters" rubbing up against her legs. Hanna loved Herbology, but she was not a fan of being in the muddy water.

Making sure she was still headed in the right direction, Emily did the spell again, and watched as her wand pointed her to the right. It looked like she was being pointed towards a wooded area, the outskirts of the Forbidden Forest where it met the shoreline of the lake. As a staunch believer in following the rules, Emily almost turned around because she knew that the forest was off limits to all students, but a part of her reasoned that if she stayed in the area between the edge of the forest and the shore of the lake, she would technically not be in the Forbidden Forest. She really wanted to know where that girl had run off too and her stubbornness in finding what it could be would not be deterred by a forest. Even if she was kind of scared of what might be in there…she walked on, careful to not step foot outside of the sandy shore onto the thin strands of grass. The shoreline she thought was endless actually looked to be obstructed, as there were huge rocks placed close to the shoreline that blocked the view. Emily continued to walk, noticing that there was a small path worn around the rocks and she saw that the shoreline curved sharply inland making what appeared to be a decently sized cove, or pocket, of water. It looked like a pool, with only a few creatures privy to the privacy of the pool.

It didn't take Emily long to notice that in addition to the sea creatures, there was the girl she had followed wading in the middle of the water. She knew that girl, or at least recognized her. She was definitely the girl she had locked eyes with during breakfast. Launching herself quickly behind the rocks, Emily peered around them to take a better look at the girl. She hadn't been noticed, as the girl seemed to be talking out loud, whether to herself or to the creatures Emily wasn't too sure. It was soon apparent that the girl was in fact talking to the creatures around her, more specifically what appeared to be a pretty decent sized turtle. It looked to be about as long as Emily was tall and Emily wandered how the creature even made its way through the small channel that connected the cove to the lake. She figured there must be a bigger opening under the water. She watched the girl swim back towards the shore, finding a spot where she could both stand and where the turtle could still comfortably swim. The girl pulled her wand out (from where, Emily wasn't exactly sure) and began waving it around the turtle who was swimming lazily around her. Emily watched as the reddish-brown haired girl grabbed the shell of the turtle gently, talking soothingly as she did, and maneuvered it so that it stayed still. The turtle didn't seem to be anxious, in fact it watched patiently as the girl moved her wand slowly above its front left flipper. Although she couldn't see too much, Emily saw that a huge chunk of the turtle's flipper seemed to have been bitten off. Faintly, very faintly, Emily's ears picked up on the soft tones that were coming from the girl as she sang to the turtle.

She's…singing to it? Emily thought, her eyebrows quirked in confusion. Taking her eyes off the girl, she looked at her wand and its placement and noticed that the flesh on the turtle's flipper was actually scarring at an incredibly fast rate and suddenly, Emily realized what she was doing. She's healing that turtle! Emily thought, smiling widely. That's amazing… Emily stayed like that for a bit, watching as the girl patched up the turtle. She looked at her, the girl's reddish-brown hair still in the French braid but soaking wet from the water. The girl was wearing a simple t-shirt, with the rest of her uniform abandoned on the sand. Emily thought she was pretty and admired that someone would spend their time doing something like this, healing wounded animals, and she even appreciated how the top the girl was wearing looked like a second skin on her because of the water. It was clinging to her arms, arms that looked petite, but strong and further down, Emily couldn't help but notice how tight the shirt clung to the girl's chest…

With that, Emily fell, not realizing that in her scrutinizing (appreciating) of the healer girl, she had lost her footing as she tried to move closer. She emitted an "eep!" before she hit the sand and she heard a splash as the girl in the water turned around to look at her. Jumping up quickly, Emily brushed herself off and tried to make eye contact with the other girl but blushed and looked away when her own eyes locked with the narrowed eyes of the other.

"I'm so sorry! I didn't, I mean, I wasn't trying to spy on your or anything, I just saw you and—no, it's not like I was following you, well I did, but then I saw what you were doing and I didn't want to interrupt and I thought maybe I could watch you—not like, watch you in a creepy way but, but I thought it was cool what you were doing, and…and I'm sorry!" Emily gushed, her apology coming out as a jumbled mess of words, panic and guilt. She chanced a glance at the girl, who was still watching her skeptically, to which Emily couldn't really blame her, and she wished now more than ever that she could disapparate (even though she could hear Spencer's nagging reminder that you can't apparate or disapparate on Hogwarts' grounds!). They stood in silence for a bit and Emily used it to catch her breath, inhaling deeply.

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to bother you, I just thought what you were doing was really cool. My name is Emily Fields, what's yours?" Emily asked, the skittish, panic-ridden voice she had used only moments before replaced by a calmer, collected voice that her friends' often joked made both boys and girls swoon. It was this confidence that Paige was unprepared for, as she was more than willing to stare down the girl who had interrupted her work, Emily Fields or not. Blushing, she ducked her head, silently cursing herself for being such a girl.

"Um, it's McCullers. Paige," the other girl stammered, thinking there was no way she could sound more like an idiot, "Just call me Paige." She looked at Emily, who was beaming at her, and blushed again. Dammit, what the hell is wrong with you! Paige thought.

"Well it was very nice to meet you, Paige McCullers. I hope that I didn't mess you up or anything," Emily expressed sincerely, walking closer to the water.

"No, no. Not at all," Paige assured her, finally looking at Emily. She had always been intrigued by Emily, although she was never entirely sure why. The girl was smart, especially in Charms class, and she seemed to be very friendly to everyone. Maybe Paige always just wanted to be her friend, and why not? Paige's eyes honed in on the yellow-and-black crest that was embroidered on Emily's robes. Oh, that's why. It wasn't like she didn't have any friends outside of Slytherin…well, that wasn't exactly true. She'd get so much crap from her fellow Slytherins, especially from her best friend, Pru. Looking down, Paige caught site of a tiny stream of red dripping down Emily's palm, which was hanging by her side.

"Hey, it looks like you cut yourself," Paige exclaimed, pointing to Emily's hand. Emily looked at her hand, surprised.

"Crap. Guess I should've been paying more attention," Emily said, wiping her hand on her robes and thinking next time she shouldn't be such a creeper.

"Here, I can help. Let me look at it," Paige said, as she walked onto the shore towards Emily not noticing the way Emily blushed and looked away from her as she emerged from the lake. Paige was all business at this point. Putting her wand in her mouth, and biting lightly on it to keep it in place, Paige motioned for Emily's hand to which Emily acquiesced. Paige held her hand lightly in her own two hands, her left thumb resting on Emily's fingers as her right thumb brushed away the sand and blood from the wound on Emily's palm. Goosebumps lined Emily's arms as she was caressed by Paige, which she was sure was meant to be taken as a soothing gesture, considering that Paige seemed to be a healer of some sort. She caught the light scent of the lake from Paige, mixed with a more subtle aroma she couldn't quite place, which she assumed was the girl's own natural smell. Whatever it was, it was making Emily light-headed and she tried her hardest to stare down at the ground when she realized just how close Paige was to her, with her top plastered onto her skin from the water. Letting her go with her right hand, Paige grabbed her wand.

"Don't worry, it's not that deep. Looks like you caught the jagged edge of a rock, s'all," Paige assured the black-haired girl, taking Emily's refusal to look up as a sign of discomfort due to the wound. She pointed her wand at the cut on Emily's palm, muttered an incantation, and both girls watched as the skin healed. "There you go, good as new."

"Good as new? I'd say better! Thank you very much," Emily exclaimed, her enthusiasm causing Paige to duck her head again.

"It's no big deal. Just happens to be something I don't completely suck at it," Paige confessed, her head still down.

"Hey, you did a good job and I'm thanking you for it," Emily said softly, smiling when Paige looked up at her and nodded.

"Well it was a pleasure, Ms. Fields," Paige said, bowing formally and causing Emily to giggle.

"I guess I better leave you alone now. I'm sure you didn't plan on having to heal up a clumsy Hufflepuff," Emily observed. "Guess I'll see you around?" Emily didn't want to go, but she was sure the girl, Paige, was completely annoyed at her intrusion and was just being nice to make her feel better. Wait… "Aren't…aren't you a Slytherin?" Emily asked out loud. She knew the girl was, remembered seeing her in the Great Hall at the Slytherin table, wearing Slytherin robes.

"Yeah, I am. Surprised?" Paige asked, her voice losing the lighthearted-joking from before. Emily could sense that a wall was being erected between the two and she wanted to stop that as soon as possible.

"No, I'm sorry. It's just that, my friends were just talking about how there couldn't be a nice Slytherin."

"Like they're ones to talk. I've met plenty of mean Ravenclaws and even nastier Gryffindors," Paige muttered darkly. And this is why she didn't have any friends outside of Slytherin. She knew that Gryffindors were always quick to judge, but she had always heard that Hufflepuffs gave everyone a fair chance. Paige was actually kind of hurt.

"Hey, I know we just met, but please listen. I didn't agree with them, I know that Gryffindors and Slytherins are always fighting. I didn't think they were being fair, but you usually don't think to be fair when you've been bullied by a certain group of people," Emily said slowly, defending both herself and her friends. Paige had to agree with her, even if it was silently. "And now I know that I was right."

"Right about what, exactly?" Paige asked, still somewhat annoyed at the conversation.

"Well you're nice."

"Not all the time."

"So? You're nice to me even though I intruded on something private. You even healed me. I knew that Slytherins couldn't all be mean," Emily continued. "Or, I guess I should say, couldn't be mean all the time."

Paige looked at Emily, who couldn't help but smile at her small play on words.

"You don't have to go, you could stay here for a bit. I've never talked with a Hufflepuff outside of class," Paige offered, hoping that Emily would stay.

"Ok, but I'm not just a Hufflepuff and you're not just a Slytherin. We're Emily and Paige," Emily said, liking the way she said their names together, even if she wasn't quite sure why. Paige, too, liked the way she said their names together like that. Emily and Paige. Maybe she could finally be friends with Emily Fields. That's all she's wanted, right?

"First thing's first, are you not cold? You need to get dried off!" Emily declared, joking but not really joking, because although she was beyond confused about her feelings about the matter, she knew for certain that she just couldn't handle being around a soaking wet Paige anymore.

"I'm fine, really."

"No, I insist! I can do it," Emily said pulling her wand from inside her robes and pointing it at Paige, who looked at her suspiciously.

"How do I know you're…"

"I let you heal me, remember? We can use this as a trust building exercise." Please, Emily pleaded silently, just let me do this!

"Trust building?" Paige echoed, not quite sure what Emily meant. Was it just her, or was Emily acting kind of strange?

"Sure. You healed me, I dry you. C'mon, let me charm you," Emily replied, throwing an exaggerated wink at Paige who couldn't help but laugh at her antics.

"Ok, fine. Only because I know you're the best when it comes to charms," Paige said without thinking, which made Emily cock her head to the side.

"How do you know I'm the best?" Emily asked, momentarily distracted.

"Umm, I just remember Flitwick always complimenting you in class, s'all," Paige muttered. "Are you gonna get me dry or not?"

With a wave of her wand, Emily managed to get rid of all the water clinging to Paige, which meant that her clothes fit a bit looser and also made Emily a little less light-headed. She was glad that she had followed Paige here, thinking that she and Paige were going to be great friends. Needless to say, neither girl made it to lunch that afternoon, and both made it to their next class with just seconds to spare. Both girls ended up getting chewed out by their best friends, but both girls knew it was totally worth it. And it wasn't until Emily snuggled into her bed that night, thinking about her afternoon with Paige, that she realized she hadn't been sad since meeting her.