Agents of MAGIC – Hogwarts Year 6: The Ties That Bind 2.79

Tommy year 6 avie1Nicolette Ainscough sighed and cast another spell on her throat, replacing the collar with a frilly ribbon. She had spent more time trying to hide the ugly bruises on her throat than she had
packing for their return to school. Living with the Sheridans had been a completely different world for the newly disowned girl. She had never imagined a family dynamic like the one she was now a part of. She had even grown fond of Halcyon, Rose’s new baby sister.

She looked towards the bathroom door that connected her new room to that of her best friend, Ambrosia Sheridan. How about this?” The other girl could hear the doubt in her voice without even seeing the look on her face.

“It’s fine,” the blonde replied without looking up. Then, because there was a difference between being reassuring and being oblivious, she lifted her eyes from the pile of
fuzzy sweaters she was lovingly folding and gave her friend her full attention.

Her sunny brow darkened in a tiny frown. “Nicolette…” She wavered for a moment, trying to find the proper balance before finishing the thought. “It’s pretty. Just like the last one. But since it’s still not exactly normal Nic-style, you still look like you should be on the cover of some vampire novel.”

Her wand flicked and the ribbon fell to the floor. “Better a vampire novel than a strangler novel.” She laughed a bit at the absurdity of a “strangler novel”. “Maybe I’ll just wear my hair over my face.” She picked up her brush and brushed her black hair forward over her face.

“Or a beard. A beard would work.” Casting an impish grin toward the dark haired girl, Rose leaned back against her bed, the work of packing an appropriate winter wardrobe for school set aside for the moment.

“I don’t think Orlando would appreciate kissing a beard.” She returned her hair to its proper place. “Maybe I’ll just wear turtle necks for the rest of my life.” The prospect of such a monotonous wardrobe put a scowl on her face.

Half folded sweater draped across her lap, Rose sighed and ran her fingers through her hair, pulling at a curl without actually biting at it. “Collars, ribbons, turtlenecks… it doesn’t matter what you pick. It’s still going to look like you’re hiding something. At best, people are going to think Orlando gave you a really impressive hickey.”

Nicolette snorted and swept a little powder over her throat. “Quite impressive indeed.” She dropped the make-up brush into its box and placed it in the trunk that held her belongings. Between the few things in there and the things she had kept at school, she had only a fraction of what she had when the winter break started. “When are we supposed to meet the boys?” Finishing quickly, Nic sat beside the window and gazed across the yard to the house she knew her boyfriend currently inhabited.

“Whenever we’re ready.” The tiny blonde turned her attention back to packing. “Tommy’s mom knows it takes a little longer to get Halcyon ready in the cold weather so they’ll be patient for us. I promise we won’t miss the train.”

Glancing up again, she looked at Nicolette’s neatly packed box then at her own unfinished packing. “You can go on over if you’d like. My dad cleared the snow off the walk again this morning.”

There was something in Orlando’s stomach. It was not wholly like butterflies, but more like a model Chinese Fireball doing loops and attempting to roast his innards as if they were chestnuts. He was standing where he had been standing for most of the time since he had gotten to Tommy’s, by the bedroom window and staring across the way to the Sheridan’s house.

“Stop staring like that.” Tom said, chuckling to himself from behind his transfigurations book. “You’re going to burn a hole in my window.”

He set the book on his chest. “If I’ve learned anything from dating Céilidh, it’s that she’ll be ready when she’s ready. We can go back anytime today.”

Orlando sat. “Ah hivnae been this…”

“Nervous,” mused Tommy, “or excited?”

“Ahmno shuir the twa are mutually exclusive richt nou.” He stuck his hands in his pockets. Familiar little, whispering tremors flitted in the back of his mind. Foozle rubbed his throat almost absentmindedly to soothe a phantom tingle. “Ahm reddies tae be back thou.”

Something told him to look up, a smile that touched behind his forehead. Between tall naked trunks of the trees that separated the two homes he saw Nicolette standing behind a window. She reached up and gave a small wave.

Orlando gave a wave back, his face brightening with a smile. He hooked his satchel and threw the strap over his head. He pointed down at the ground outside and gave her a thumbs up.

“Lat’s gae, brither.” grinned the Scot and with a light pop and a tangle of gold and black and blue, Orlando was gone.

Nic rolled her eyes and grabbed her own bag. “See you at King’s Cross!” She flew down the stairs and out the front door. She stepped as quickly as she could without seeming too eager to cross the shared yard between her new home and that of her cousin.

Orlando smiled at his girlfriend as she approached. “Wha hello thare.” He pulled his hands out of the warm pockets of his peacoat and held his arms open wide.

Taking her place in those arms, her light sweater reacted to the temperature outside and filled out to a thick woolen lavender coat. “Must you apparate everywhere just because you can?” She raised a teasing brow.

The boy closed her up in a tight hug. “Yea,” he replied as he lifted her off the ground a few inches, “Ah dae. On fact, Tommy an A thoucht we’d juist pap us aw ower tae Hogsmeade.”

His lift earned him a squeak from the girl. “Aren’t we supposed to take the train?”

The boy planted a kiss on her as toes touched back down. “As gif the rules mattered.” He chuckles. “But nae. A teuk the floo back ivery time A wis home frae break afore.”

“Ew, no. No floo. It takes days to get all the soot out of my hair.” She wrapped her arms around him, locking them at his waist. “I suppose you can take advantage of these few hours left to apparate me.”

Tom watched the two in yard and smiled. He flicked his wand behind him, and a series of folded clothes flew through the air and landed in his bag. He scanned the room again and amidst the bludger that was chained to its plaque on the dresser. He gave a smile as he refreshed the muffling charm on it as requested by his mother and looked out the window again, this time across the way to Rose’s window. He tossed his ruck sack over his shoulder, turned on the spot, and disappeared in scarlet and gold smoke.

A second later, there was a loud *pop* and Tom reappeared in Rose’s room. “How goes packing?”

“Michael Thomas Llewelyn!” The tiny blonde extended his name into as many syllables as possible. “I could have been changing!” Blushing at the thought of such a disaster, she began throwing clothes at him.

“Don’t you ever…” A shoe flew dangerously close to his head. “do that again!”

Tom roared with laughter as he dodged the shoe. “Ambrosia,” he said as calmly as possible, “I saw you walk by the window two seconds before I came over.” He laughed again. “And it was fully clothed too I might add. I just came to see if you needed any help.”

“Well I don’t,” she told him with a pout. Then, sighing, she looked around at the mess she’d made while attacking him. Her perfectly folded piles were scattered all around his feet. “Or… I didn’t.”

“That’s your fault,” Tom said as he flopped on the bed. “So Orlando and I were talking, and we thought the best thing to do is to apparate to Hogsmeade and then rent a carriage to take us the rest of the way back to school rather than take the train.”

Those emerald eyes rolled toward the ceiling. “Why is that the best thing to do?”

“Nic.” Tom said flatly. “You and I both know how people are around blood traitors like us,” Tom said using air quotes, “Think about what it’s gonna be like for her. That’s something she hasn’t had six years to get used to like us.”

“So the four of us going off on our own is better?” The blonde shook her head. “I don’t mind apparating with you. But Tommy, you better talk to my parents about this. They’re the ones in charge.”

Tom studied his oldest friend for a few seconds. “Is there something you’re not telling me?”

“Yes. You’re not helping at all.” She pulled a skirt out from under him and lovingly packed it in her trunk.

Tom’s eyebrows arched slightly as he flicked his wand. All the clothes started to fold them selves and march single file into Rose’s luggage. “That isn’t exactly what I meant, Rose.”

With an annoyed frown, she waved her own wand to stop the march of clothes. Without the spell to guide them, they fell to the floor in untidy clumps for Rose to pick them up and hand fold them properly. “Would it even make any difference at all if I told you I thought this was a bad idea?”

Tom’s eyebrows furrowed. “It would make a difference.” He flicked his wand and the clothes in the clumps started folding themselves again. “What’s up?”

“Stop that!” She waved her wand to interrupt the spell once again. “I have to fold them the right way.”The irritated blonde pulled a sweater into her lap, unfolded it, then refolded it. “I just like to touch them, okay?”

Tom shook his head as he chuckled. “Now I know something is bothering you.”

An open window couldn’t have chilled the room more than the frosty expression that settled across Rose’s face. “I don’t see anything funny here. And I don’t trust any idea that Orlando thinks is a good idea for Nicolette. His choices lately have been a little disastrous.”

“Rosie,” Tom said trying to keep a smile on his face, “I don’t get where this is coming from.”

“Nevermind,” the blonde snapped, placing the last sweater in her trunk. “I’m sure my mom won’t mind not having to bundle Halcyon up to drag her to the train station.” She closed the lid with a little more force than normal and rose to her feet. “So go ask my dad. But Tommy, Nicolette didn’t do anything wrong. Keeping her off the train like we’re hiding, like there’s something to be ashamed of, it’s not doing her any favors.”

Tom considered this for a few moments. “Well,” he said very carefully, “I don’t think they’re ashamed. Let’s remember though the kinds of beautiful people Nic used to hang out with. Not that we couldn’t protect her from the kinds of things they would do but why mess with it till we get in school where there would be teachers to stop them.”

Rose turned her back on her friend, bending over her desk to retrieve her textbooks for her new elective classes. “Of course, Tommy,” she told him flatly. “But you still have to talk to my dad. So you might as well go find him.”

The smile faded from Tom’s lips. “Rose…”

“Check the kitchen. It’s always a good place to find him.”

Tom heaved a heavy sigh as they stood up, “I’ll be back.” He walked out of the room and slammed the door behind him.

The door creaked open again a few minutes later. Tom looked into Rose’s room and leaned against the door. “Uncle Alcander agreed.” He said softly. “Except he’s sending an owl to Professor Flitwick to meet us in Hogsmeade this afternoon and come with us back to the school.”

The blonde nodded. “That sounds good,” she told him with a smile, apparently having forgiven the slamming. “I just need a bit more time to pack… um… more sweaters.”

Tom, fully expecting to have to contend with an upset Rose, blinked for a few moments before answering. “Oh, okay.” Tom turned and opened the door again.

“You might want to let Céilidh and Danny know about the plans,” Rose suggested, looking through her drawers for more important items of clothing.

Tom nodded. “I’ll go tell Lando and Nic shall I?”

The tiny Ravenclaw smiled. “Okay. I’ll try to finish up here. I really won’t be too much longer.”

“Ok.” Tom said shutting the door wondering if he will ever understand women.

Orlando’s fingers fit between Nicolette’s. The chilly wind that creaked through the naked bare branches of the trees pushed their hair around, but neither of them seemed to notice or care about the cold. They cuddled into each other’s sides and walked a bit around the perimeter of the Sheridan’s homestead, listening to the snow crunch underfoot.

A click came from behind them, turning their heads toward the perfectly quaint one story home. Tommy was trotting down the steps. He waved and the headed toward him.

“Whit’s the guid wird, brither?”

Tom looked down at his watch and smiled. “Rosie’s gonna need a little more time.” He gave the couple a grin as he fished five galleons out of his pocket and handed them to Orlando. “It occurs to me that I never gave you all a Christmas present, we were so busy and all.” He gave another chuckle. “You two go have lunch, just the two of you. You deserve it. Rose and I will collect Céilidh and Danny and meet you in Hogsmeade in an hour or so. Uncle Alcander is having Professor Flitwick meet us there and escort us the rest of the way.”

“Oh.” The Scottish boy glanced back to the house over Tommy’s shoulder. He screwed up his mouth a moment with his eyes on one of the windows. “Yeah,” he said, nodding a little as he looked back to Tommy, “alricht. Thanks, Tommy.” He shook his brother’s hand, coins trading palms.

Tom gave Nic a wave as the two turned on the spot and disappeared.

Tom rubbed his hand on his forehead as he watched the last traces of gold, blue, and black smoke disappear into the grey January sky.

He took in a deep breath of the cold winter air as he turned and started heading back to Rose’s house hoping to get another chance to talk to her, when a voice from behind him broke his concentration.

“Oi!” His little sister called out, her breath billowing out like smoke from the mouth of a Welsh Green. “What’s this dung I hear about a change in plans about how you all are going back to school?” Her hands found her hips and all of sudden, she looked a whole lot more like their mother than Tommy could remember before.

“You forget about me in all the we’ll just apparate talk?”

Tom felt his ears burn slightly. This is the last bloody thing I need.

“Cecelia,” he said with a little bit more exasperation in his voice than he wanted, “we didn’t forget about you. I figured you were wanting to take the train back to school with Dora and Rachel.”

“Well if you had bothered to ask,” she said tersely, “I would have told you that Tonks is not getting back from her trip with her parents until late tonight so she won’t be at school until tomorrow, and Rachel decided to transfer to the Wizarding Academy of Dramatic Arts like Sully and Aeryn.”

“Blimey,” Tom said a bit ashamed. This was the second time today he had misjudged someone’s emotions. “I didnt know. What about Charlie?”

“What about Charlie?” She spat back at Tom.

“Well aren’t you two, you know…” this was a place that as a brother he really didn’t want to go, “together?”

“Oh for the…” the fourth year swelled like a bullfrog as she glared at her brother. “You never pay attention to a damn thing. You’re worse now then you were when you were studying for your O.W.L.s you prat.” She spat angrily.

“Prat?” Tom said defensively. “I have been a bit busy.”

“Well,” she grumbled, “apparently he likes dragons more than he likes girls.” She said with a sigh.

Tom resisted the urge to laugh. Partly because he knew Cecelia was upset, partly because he know she would flay him alive.

He also felt a rush of guilty happiness. Not that he was happy that she had broken up with Charlie, or Dan for that matter, but the thought of his little sister snogging anyone up to and even one of his best friends or the brother of another best friend was revolting.

“I’m sorry, Cissy,” Tom said apologetically, “I’ve been too bloody busy lately to notice things.”

“Too right you have.” She said with a great sniff, that made Tom wonder if she was just cold, or if she was fighting back tears.

Tom opened his mouth to say something comforting, but was cut off.

“And if you say anything to him about this!” she pulled her wand as she wiped a a tear that decided to go against Cecelia’s wishes and roll down her cheek. “I will curse you’re ruddy ears off!”

A gunshot-like crack echoed between the two houses and drowned out Tommy’s reply. The boom was followed by the thud of a trunk hitting the ground. “Hey, guys.” Danny said with a smile before noticing Cecelia’s puffy eyes and drawn wand. “Am ah interrupting a sibling row?”

Cecelia’s wand immediately dipped to her side. “Danny.” Her face blanched.

“Naw,” Tommy laughed, “so where’s Céilidh?” He changed the subject quickly. “I though she was coming with you?”

“Ye kin yuir hen,” Danny said with a laugh. “She hid tae finish packin’.” Glancing over at Cissy, he smiled. “Ah dinnae kin ye were gauin’ wi’ us, hen. Bit th’ mair th’ merrier.”

Cecelia shot a dirty look at Tom. “I have nothing better to do.” She said haughtily.

“Rose is in the same position.” Tom said shaking his head. “I sent Lando and Nic ahead to have a quiet moment alone.”

Danny laughed again. “Ah arranged a few o’ those last year.”

Cecelia repressed a snort.

“What?” Tom stared at his sister.

“There was a minute there last year,” she laughed a little more openly, “I thought you were two timing me with her.”

Blinking, Danny paused for a moment, then burst out laughing himself. “A’m sorry, Cissy. Bit a’m sure ye ken th’ reasons by noo.” He threw an arm around her and pulled her in
with a one-armed hug.

“Of course I know that now.” her cheeks reddened a little more. “But from most of the last term you were shut up in the tower and I couldn’t be around.”

Danny frowned. “Ye coud hiv come up. Ye’d hiv gotten past the riddle wi’ nae problem.” With his free hand he pointed a thumb at Tommy. “After aw, he manages tae and yuir the smart ane, richt?”

“Well, I did that one time remember?” She returned the frown. “Rose let me in.”

“Aye, an’ gif I remember,” he glanced at Tommy before wiggling his eyebrows, “Ye loue it whin a’m forceful.”

Tom’s expression soured. “I better never know what you mean by that.” His eyes burned holes into Danny.

Danny and Cissy both laughed. Finally pulling his arm from around the girl’s shoulders, Danny asked “Sae is gauin’ wi’ us gauntae be sae bad?”

“Never said it would be, Yank.” Cecelia winked.

Returning the wink, Danny said “Guid.” He turned back to Tom. “Sae, brither, whaur’s Ambrosia?”

“In her room.” Tom jogged his head toward the window.

The Ravenclaw nodded. “Ah’m gauntae gae up an’ say hi. Back in a bit.”

Danny walked over to the Sheridan’s house, the trees waving as he did. He knocked on the door and stood waiting on the porch.

The doors opened, letting out the warmth of the house and, as always, the scents of any number of fresh baked items. Laurenna Sheridan, Halcyon cradled in her arms, smiled at Danny as she stood to the side and let the young man enter. “Good morning, Daniel. How are your mom and the twins? And your father too,” she added with a wink, ushering him past the kitchen table to tempt him with food before sending him on his way.

“Mum an’ Da are guid, an’ the twins are adorable as ever.” Danny held out his index finger and the baby grabbed on. “Pretty much as adorable as Halcyon here.”

Laurenna laughed and gently urged Halcyon to release her grip. As soon as Rose’s housemate had use of his hand back, she filled it with a lemon poppy seed muffin and pointed down the hallway to the bedrooms. “Well, they certainly raised you right. Rose is just finishing up. Go on down. She doesn’t need to keep you all waiting any longer.”

Danny thanked Rose’s mother and gave Halcyon a little wave before heading down the hall and knocking on Rose’s door. “Rose? It’s Danny. May Ah come in?”

Rose stared at the closed door for a moment before answering, making him wait two seconds for every second his arm had been around his ex girlfriend. It was childish and she knew it, but it made her feel better nonetheless. “Come on in,” she called finally.

He opened the door and stepped inside Rose’s room. He hadn’t been there for several years and it felt weird being in her room again. He took a moment to look around before his eyes came to rest on Ambrosia. “Hey,” he said with a lopsided grin.

The sight of his smile was almost enough to make her feel bad for making him wait. “Hi Danny. All ready to head back to school?”

“Awmost. My trunk is oot wi’ Tommy an’ his sister.” He shoved his hands into his pockets. “Juist yin mair thing tae dae.”

The blonde nodded, deciding that she was really done packing. “Okay. Well, I can help you if you’d like. I’m done in here. I just need to take my trunk out.”

“Ah’ll help ye wi’ that in a minute. But first Ah need tae give ye yuir ither Christmas present.” The young man pulled what looked like a small Ravenclaw Blue velvet bag with a bronze pullcord.

Her emerald eyes lit up and a faint blush touched her cheeks. “Ohhh. I just thought… I mean you guys did the whole flying present delivery and everything…” Shaking her head, she put her hands behind her back and took a step away from him. “Danny, you’ve already given me an amazing gift…”

The lopsided grin returned to the boy’s face as he tossed the little bag to her. “Open it.”

Since she couldn’t let it drop, Rose had no choice but accept the small bag. Her fingers brushed over the velvet sides before pulling the strings to open it. Turning it over, she let two small coins drop into her hand: a knut and a… “Um… thank you…” Try as she might, she couldn’t keep the confusion out of her voice.

Danny laughed and held up his own knut. “Gif ye ever need tae call Foozle, Céilidh, or Tommy just rub the coin an’ say “A knut tae plot an’ scheme wi'” whoever ye want tae talk tae.”

“Wow.” She held the coin in her hand. “Thank you. But what if I want to call you?”

He closed his hand and opened it again. The knut had vanished and now he held the similarly sized silver coin. “That’s whit this yin is fur. It’s called a nickel, an’ it’s an American muggle coin. Wi’ it ye just hiv tae say “Call Danny.” Coorse, Ah kin say “call ‘Brosia” too.”

“So this is just… just for us?” The tiny blonde blinked as the possibilities began to sink in. Suddenly she couldn’t hug him tight enough. But she certainly tried. “Thank you,” she said again, voice muffled against his sweater.

Danny grined wide as he returned the hug. “Nae problem, hen. Ah’m surprised Foozle or Tommy hadnae thocht o’ changin’ the metal before tae change the connection.”

“You’re brilliant!” She hugged him tighter. “Thankyouthankyouthankyou!”

“They’re just communications coins, hen,” he said starting to feel a bit uncomfortable in her grip. “But ye’re welcome.”

Finally releasing him, Rose put the coins into her pocket and turned to open her overstuffed trunk. “I have something for you too. I was going to give it to yours on the train but now we’re not taking the train and you’re here and…” Blushing again she reached under a pile of sweaters and pulled out a suspiciously book shaped package.

As Rose chewed a curly lock and watched nervously, Danny pulled the white glittery wrapping off of the box and pulled out a book. Turning it over he read the title: The Architectural Works of Rowena Ravenclaw.

Before he could say a word, she was talking. “I saw this and thought of you because what you did in your treehouse is so amazing and you know she’s Scottish like you and it just seemed like something good and…” Pausing, she pushed the curl aside and gave him a tentative smile. “Happy late Christmas.”

“Ah love it.” He flipped the book open, turning to random pages. “Ah’ve always been interested in this stuff.” Tossing the book on her bed, he wrapped her up in another hug.

A soft knock at the door interrupted the pair “Alright, you two. It’s not polite to keep your friends waiting in the cold. Get going.” Despite the fact that there was something almost smug about her mother’s smile, Rose felt she wasn’t in too much trouble.

“Okay, mom. I’ll see you at Easter. Keep sending me pictures! And cookies!” Taking Halcyon from her mother’s arms, she held her sister close for a moment then included her mom in the hug. “I love you.”

Then, certain she was ready to face the upcoming term, she turned back to Danny. “Can you help me with my trunk? I kinda overpacked a little…”

“Ach, Ah forgot yuir nae allowed tae use magic oot o’ schuil yet.” He slid his school wand out and gave it a swish and a flick as he said, “Wingardium Leviosa” The truck floated upwards and Danny, grabbing his book with his free hand, steered it toward the back door.

“Only a couple more months,” she reminded him with a smile as she followed him. “Then you won’t have to worry about helping me.”

“Ah’m nae worried aboot helpin’ ye now.” he replied as they made their way to where Tommy and Cissy waited. “An’ Ah’ll still help after ye turn seventeen tae.”

Tom smiled weakly at the two as they joined him and his sister, both with ruck sacks slung over their shoulders. “Now all we need is Céilidh and we’ll be set to go to Hogsmeade and catch up with Lando and Nic.”

As though on queue, a loud crack filled the chilly air. Céilidh abruptly appeared, her tartan bag slung over her shoulder still swaying from the suddenness of apparition. Her ungloved hands were cris-crossed with several angry looking tracks of scratches. “Sorry a’m late. Wyatt didnae wantae gang in his carrier.”

The mark of Jack Frost had left Hogsmeade a soft and white scene. The patches of stone and wood from the shops and their half visible signs only complemented the serene scene, with the contrast of warm glows filling up the frosty windows. Arm in arm Nicolette and Orlando’s dark silhouettes stood out against the thick snowfall, their tracks leading from Madam Puddifoot’s out onto High Street.

“Ah ayweys like Hogsmeade in winter.” Foozle said as he gave a look around before leading them up the road toward Dervish and Banges. Only a few of the local wizards and witches were out today, but a quiet moment suited them fine. “Thare’s juist something aboot the wey it sits in the snow tha juist suits it. None o the muggle towns quite compare. Oban’s nice an aw, but it’s no the same.” He took a sip from his coffee and let its little splash of whiskey warm up his belly. “An home’s, well… home. Asides, winters oan tha island can be brutal.”

Nicolette smiled and gave him a little nudge with her elbow, careful not to take her hands from the soft brown muff she was using to keep her hands warm. “I recall how fond you are of winter.” Even the littlest mention of their first winter excursion added to the wind bitten pink of her cheeks.

“Micht be a survival technique frae grawin up in Scotland.” Orlando laughed. “O’coorse Faw is guid tae.” That devilish gold sparkled in his eyes as his eyebrows wagged. “Juist wait til we can push taegither a big auld o’ leaves. A’maist as guid fer jumping as snaw.”

Her lips pursed a little and her brows wrinkled. “There are bugs in leaves. I think I’ll pass.” She snuggled into his body a little more. “Don’t you think just because you got me in snow that you will get me to roll around in any old pile you dig up.” Her voice carried an affectionate ring as she spoke.

The Hufflepuff sipped his coffee. “Ye say tha nou,” he flashed her a little wink.

The pair trotted up the steps to Dervish and Banges, and he held the door for her. Inside they shook off the snow and let the shop’s warmth melt the chilly stiffness in their fingers. They strolled down the shop’s aisles, Orlando peeking and poking at the occasional item on the shelf.

Holding a crystal ball and gazing into it, it’s colors swirled yellow and black with whips of blue. “Reddies tae be back?” he asked, putting the ball back on its pedestal.

Nicolette also watched the smoky colors as they curled around each other. “It looks like your apparition trail.” She said, ignoring the question for a moment.

She reached out and took it from his fingers. “I suppose.” The blue overtook the black and a coppery band weaned the yellow away into a thinner thread. “There are things I am decidedly not looking forward to, but…” Her shoulders shrugged a little. “It is inevitable. I’ll be glad to have more time with you.” She gave him a small smile.

“Ah’ll be glad tae.” He smiled back. “An fer all those things yuir no leuking forwart tae, well, ye haes a wealth o fowk tae help ye throu it. No juist me, but especially me.” He gave her a little wink and turned his head to a wall painted in colorful quills.

“I know,” she set the globe back in its pedestal. The colors faded away to back into the soft snowy white.”And I am especially glad for you.” She leaned over and kissed his cheek.

“Whit aboot this?” Foozle had drawn a scarlet feather. It twirled in his fingers. “Think Tommy wad like this?”

She smiled. “As long as he never uses it for potions homework. Professor Snape doesn’t take kindly to anything but black ink.”

The pair chuckled and Foozle made a few more jokes at the expense of Hogwarts’ potions master as he paid for the quill. The clerk placed it in a nice wooden box and added some complementary gold wrapping and a little green bow.

The snow dusted across their feet outside and the huddled a little closer. The Scot rubbed his ear as the little knut in it gave a quiet buzz. “The ithers are oan thair wey,” he told her and turned up the collar of his pea coat. “We shoud me them in the center o toun.”

As the two of them walked back toward the center of town, there were three loud pops. The two turned around to see the two Llewelyns and their friends.

“All together again.” Tom grinned as he released Cecelia’s arm and his hand found Céilidh’s gloved one. “We’re supposed to meet Professor Flitwick in the Three Broomsticks.”

“Soonds guid,” said Foozle with a smile in Nicolette’s direction. She gave a nod, and he looked back to Tommy. “Lead oan MacDuff.”

The group fell in line, chatting idly as they walked through town. As they walked through the snowy streets, Tom’s eye darted toward one of the shops on the street. He nudged Orlando subtly.

“Whit” Orlando leaned in towards Tom.

“Over at Dervish & Banges,” he jogged his head to the side, “isn’t that our buddy Liam?”

The Hufflepuff glanced back the way he’d come. The dark haired boy stood there in the shadows of the old shop. “Gif by ‘friend’ ye mean ‘the lad ye awmaist punched in the coupon oan New Years’, than yes.” Orlando hadn’t noticed him before. There was a rumbling in his stomach that wondered why he seemed to be skulking about around them.

“Yeah, him.” Tom nodded. “I may just be paranoid, but it just seems like he’s been around a little too much lately.”

Liam’s eyes locked onto Tom’s for the briefest of moments before he turned and walked back into the shop.

“He bathers me.” Céilidh leaned into talk quietly to Orlando and Tommy.

Tommy nodded in agreement. “Yeah. Maybe we should start keeping an eye on him.”

Foozle nodded. “Mebbes…”

The Hufflepuff looked away, back to their small little crowd. Cissy and Danny strolled up front, chatting idly. To his side Nicolette walked with Rose, their arms tucked through each other’s.The raven haired girl’s cheeks had pinked with the chill. Her lips smiled. The pair giggled quietly to each other about something.

He caught a brief but cool glance from the blonde, her green eyes narrowing just a little as they caught him watching them. He looked away, knowing all the better that Tommy was right about things between him and Rose. Still, the happy sounds carried on just the same without a beat lost.

That was all that mattered, he thought, as he saw them approach their diminutive Charms professor standing outside the Three Broomsticks. They were together, the lot of them. Whatever awaited them beyond the gates of Hogwarts, they were together. And together they were strong. He had always known it, but to see it. To watch it happening… It was a feeling beyond description.

His lip curled in a little, private smile as he looked down to watch his feet trudge in the snow. He felt Tommy’s arm drape along his shoulders. Nicolette’s fingers slipped into his and squeezed affectionately.

This, he thought to himself, this is whit magic is…

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