III. & IV.

III. Snowdrop for Hope

Romilda smiled happily when Harry lifted her down onto the station platform.  She had never thought he was the chivalrous type, but she couldn’t help but secretly love it when his hands encircled her waist and he lifted her down the foot and a half to the ground.

As a child she had never thought much of having a ‘knight in shining armor.’  She was too much of a realist for that.  She knew pretty dresses and affectionate glances were for Rosa and Rosa alone, while she was locked in the nursery during parties and other important events.  She was never trotted out, as Rosa was, to show off to other pureblood families or members of the Ministry for Magic.  She was an afterthought, if ever that, too shameful to fully look upon or allow others to gaze upon her.

The only parties she ever attended were the ones her friends gave and personally invited her to.  Astoria had wondered once why she never had a public birthday celebration as Rosa did, and Romilda could only smile sadly before changing the subject about the latest fashion style in Witch Weekly.

Now, though, she had discovered that she didn’t mind having such a gallant wizard lifting her down from trains.

The night was crisp and dark and the lanterns formed a halo around Harry’s black hair, darker than hers and soft beneath her fingers.

She thought they would make almost as striking a couple as Rosa and Davies, if Davies ever proposed.  The thought made her smile brighten.

Students swarmed around them and Harry’s arm came around her waist, pulling her tightly against him.

“Firs’ years! Firs’ years!” the booming voice of the groundkeeper called, but Harry led her away toward the horseless carriages. 

She’d always wondered about the carriages—being horseless, that is. Sometimes she thought she saw hooves pawing at the ground or she felt breath against her cheek as she approached them, as if there were invisible horses, but she knew little of magical creatures.

Granger and Weasley were, of course, waiting for Harry.  She really wished they hadn’t bothered, though that would be too much to hope for.  Fortunately, a few other people were waiting as well.

“Hello, Harry,” a girl with protuberant silver eyes said dreamily. 

Romilda glanced over her in shock.  Her waist-length dirty-blonde hair was straggly at best and she had her wand tucked behind one ear.  If that weren’t bad enough, she had a necklace of butterbeer caps around her neck, and didn’t seem to blink at all.  She swallowed.  She supposed this was the Loony Lovegood that she’d heard so much about. 

She heartily approved.  A female friend like this could not remotely be a threat to her—unlike Ginny Weasley or even Granger, who unfortunately looked halfway pretty when she decided to do something about her hair, which she suddenly realized was brown.  Romilda blinked a few times.  Brown hair.  Harry, it appeared, liked dark hair.  At least it was a lighter brown than her black curls.

As if sensing her thoughts, Harry’s arm tightened around her and she realized her gaze must have lingered too long.  She really needed to remember that she didn’t need to actively strategize, according to Harry, though that wouldn’t stop her from being watchful.

“Hi, Luna,” Harry answered.  “Do you know Romilda?”

Romilda held out her hand and smiled politely.  Luna, after a moment’s pause, took it and shook her hand firmly.

“Thank you for the ballet slippers,” she said airily, and Romilda swallowed.  A few years ago, she had come across them in her sister’s trunk of all places and had seen the name written into the heel of them.  She’d sent them by owl the next morning with a short note, and hadn’t really thought of them since.  Clearly Lovegood remembered.

“No worries.”  She shifted uneasily under Luna’s unblinking gaze.

“Carriages,” Harry commented before dragging her into one and settling her beside him. 

A moment later and Weasley was getting in with, thankfully, Luna Lovegood.  Granger huffed on the pavement.  “I’ll just find Ginny or Neville,” she said to herself before taking off again.

“So,” Weasley began, and Romilda noticed he was shying slightly away from Lovegood, “Romilda Vane.”

She nodded.

“Rosa’s sister?”

Romilda grimaced and said nothing.  No one ever knew her as just Romilda, but as Rosa’s sister.  She just wished that her sister was in a different house or that she was instead.  Then perhaps she would finally stop living under Rosa’s imposing and perfectly beautiful shadow.

Weasley didn’t seem to notice.  “Rosa’s a good sort.  Doesn’t gossip as much as Lavender or Parvati.  Pretty.”

“Are you trying to say something?” Romilda questioned, not liking the unflattering comparison to herself.

He blinked.  “No, not really.”

“She’s taken,” Romilda supplied.  When Weasley looked at her confused, Romilda rolled her eyes at him.  “Rosa.  She’s dating Roger Davies, and Father naturally approves the match.”  She glanced out the window as the carriage began to move.  If she looked right in the moonlight, Romilda could almost see a half-shimmer in front of another carriage before it was gone again.

Harry’s fingers entwined with hers, and she squinted.  No, still nothing.

The mystery, it seemed, would remain unsolved tonight.  Perhaps Roland would know.  He was, after all, an Unspeakable.

Not that he could tell her anything, and she wouldn’t ask Rosa for the world.

“They’re thestrals,” Lovegood’s dreamy voice said and Romilda turned to her, shocked. 


Lovegood nodded.  “I hadn’t realized you could see them.”

Romilda looked at Harry questioningly, only to see him staring back at her avidly. 

“You can’t see anything pulling the carriages, can you?” he asked quietly and she shook her head, her hair falling about her face.  If she weren’t so confused, she would have thought to lift her head slightly to show off her eyes to better advantage.

“No.  Just a shimmer sometimes in the moonlight.”

“My mistake,” Lovegood commented before looking out the window again.  “You were staring so avidly that I was certain you’d seen death.”

“I—“ Romilda began, but she was lost for words.  She absentmindedly brushed her hair behind her ear. 

“What a lovely necklace,” Lovegood said, leaning forward to better inspect the pearl.  She reached out and touched the small pearl and then smiled dreamily at her.  “Is it to keep Death from walking near you?”

“I don’t know,” Romilda answered.  “It was a gift from my brother just before I came to Hogwarts.  It has protection spells on it, at least.”

Lovegood nodded.  “A death stone.  I hadn’t heard of any still being in existence, but it’s beautiful craftsmanship.”

Romilda bit her lip, uncertain how to reply.

Weasley strangely was the one to break the tension. “So, you and Vane.”

Harry nodded, and Romilda smiled up at him, arching an eyebrow at him in question.

“Hermione’s not happy about it.  Says she’s worse than Parvati with a new piece of gossip.”

She is sitting right here,” Romilda replied scathingly, “and don’t worry, there’s nothing interesting about you to gossip about.”

His ears flushed pink, and she smiled to herself.  Hopefully that would put him in his place around her. 

She glanced at Harry nervously.  He liked her being honest, she told herself, and he probably didn’t want her to pretend.  Well, she was not pretending and being herself, and that meant sticking up for herself when boys were prats.  Such as now.

Harry glanced between them, but said nothing, a calculating look in his eye as his gaze lingered on Romilda’s face.  She stared back at him, having nothing to hide, and his features softened as he found whatever he was looking for. 

Lovegood was staring at her unblinkingly—again.  “It was rather rude, Ronald,” she said as she turned her gaze to Weasley. 

Romilda had to stifle a gasp.  His mother really had been cruel naming him that.  It was worse than Ginny, whatever that stood for.  Sometimes she wondered if the Weasleys had any pureblood pride at all.

Harry, unfortunately, was loyal, so she’d probably have to invite them to the wedding unless they eloped.  Weasley would probably be best man unless she could convince Harry that Roland would be the better choice.  Well, Ginny wouldn’t be in the wedding party at all, no matter how much she was cajoled on the subject.  She’d had her wedding party picked out since she was twelve.  Granger also didn’t make the cut, unless Harry specifically asked for her to be included.  She would then be the lowest ranking bridesmaid.

Perhaps he’d want a small wedding, though, she thought to herself.  That would be much more like Harry.  She could even see him wanting to elope.  Her father wouldn’t stand for that sort of thing, of course, but by the time she graduated, he would probably willfully forget that she existed so maybe he wouldn’t really mind at all.  As long as Roland was one of the witnesses she didn’t really mind.  She could even put up with Weasley if that were the case, but she was getting ahead of herself. 

She and Harry hadn’t been out on a date yet and weren’t official.  They’d also only just met earlier that morning.  Thinking about ivory colored wedding invitations was for her seventh year, not her fourth.

Romilda sighed.  She really wished that the Prophet had kept rumors to a minimum and not spread them as if they were fact.  She was only fourteen and successfully sustaining a relationship for two years while Harry was in Hogwarts and then managing to keep it for two years after would be a challenge.  If everything had originally gone to plan, it would have been half a year before Harry left, when his interest was still fresh.

Part of her wondered if she should have waited until after Christmas, but then she’d have Ginny Weasley and the rest of Harry’s giggling admirers to contend with.  The entire situation was just a sticky mess.

At least Pansy could serve somewhat as a guide.  She’d managed to snag Malfoy her fourth year and now, a year and a half later, they were still together despite everything.  She could even watch her sister a bit, who had captured Roger Davies’ interest at the beginning of his seventh year and now a year later was guiding him into thoughts of marriage subtly. 

Fleur Delacour hadn’t managed that.  Then again, she wasn’t quite certain Delacour wanted Davies after the drooling fool he’d made of himself at the Yule Ball if gossip were to be believed.

She eyed Weasley speculatively, remembering how humiliated he was when Delacour refused his invitation two years ago.  That had kept the gossip going in Gryffindor house for a full week, and she’d been fortunate enough to see the exchange.

Romilda glanced at her nails and wondered if Harry would mind if she painted them something other than the clear nail varnish she was currently wearing.  She was rather fond of a dark forest green, but he might prefer something more understated.  Lightly tinted pearl-pink perhaps.  A shade off from clear to give her nails a nice shine and draw attention to her long pianist fingers.

She wondered if Harry might like to hear her play at some time.

“Does anyone know whatever happened to Delacour?” she questioned the quiet carriage, not looking up from her nails.  They were a little too short for her liking.  She might have to spell them slightly longer, but that could produce unhealthy nails.

Someone squeaked and Romilda looked up to see a blushing Weasley.  If she ever thought blushes didn’t become her, she was nothing compared to the Weasley clan.  It clashed with their ginger hair.

“Fleur,” Harry began, “is engaged to Bill Weasley.”

Romilda glanced at him, startled.  “Really?”

“Yes.”  He nodded.  “Last I remember, she was discussing the color of bridesmaid dresses for Ginny and her little sister, Gabrielle.”

“Oh,” she responded.  Perhaps she could trade that information to her sister.  She knew that Rosa would be happy to hear it.  No matter her beauty, she was slightly insecure knowing the part-Veela Delacour was out there and living somewhere in England.  Pureblood witches just couldn’t quite compete with that.  “What color then?”

“Gold,” Weasley responded with a faraway look in his eye and Romilda smirked.  It appeared that Delacour’s allure still affected Weasley despite her engagement to his brother.  She wondered how this Bill felt about it, or if he noticed at all.

“How old is Gabrielle?  She seemed quite young at the Second Task.”

Harry shrugged.  “Nine or ten, I’d assume.”

Interesting, but not worthy of major currency in gossip.  If she were slightly older then there could be the potential of Weasley falling under her allure as well.  She mentally shrugged.  Perhaps in a few years.

The carriages rattled to a stop and Harry was the first to exit, lifting Romilda down again until they were barely a breath apart.  Romilda gazed up into his eyes and wondered how she never realized Harry was quite this intense.  The limited gossip there was about his brief and ill-fated romance with Chang never led her to believe that he could be like this.  He and Chang had only gone on one date, on Valentine’s Day the year before, and from what witnesses said it hadn’t gone very well.

Rosa had been there with Roger and said that Chang had ended up in tears.  She thought that Harry was rather unstable trying to date her, but Romilda suspected she was slightly bitter that Davies had asked Chang out before he fancied Rosa.

Her sister was so easy to read at times.

She felt her hair stir and reluctantly turned around to the empty space in front of the carriage and her eyes narrowed trying to see these “thestrals.”  She had never heard of them, but she knew that something was there.

“Do you want to pet him?” Harry asked quietly in her ear and she glanced back, biting her lip nervously.  She nodded.  Carefully, Harry took her hand and reached out with it until she felt a skeletal and furless wing under her fingertips. 

She gasped.  “They’re real.”

Harry laughed next to her and kept his hand gently on hers as she began to pet the wing.  “Of course they’re real.  Just because you can’t see her doesn’t mean they don’t exist.”

“Is it—Is it like a Pegasus?” she asked in awe and she could feel Harry nod against her shoulder.

“A bit.  They’re furless and look skeletal.  Reptilian, I guess, but they’re winged horses.”

“And you have to have seen death?” she questioned again.  “Death himself or someone die?”

Harry’s hand fluttered in shock against her.  “Someone die,” he clarified and Romilda nodded.

“I’m sorry you can see them,” she murmured before turning her face so her nose brushed against Harry’s.  “Your godfather?”

“Cedric,” he admitted. 

She entwined their fingers and with one last stroke to the invisible wing, she pulled their hands back.  Glancing back at him coyly, she led him away from the not-quite-horseless carriages, up the front steps and into the entryway.  Students mingled around them and she waved happily when she saw Demelza and Astoria.

Rosa saw her with Harry and her eyes narrowed as she took in their linked hands.  Well, it was only a matter of time before she found out, Romilda supposed.  Allowing Harry to choose where they sat, which unsurprisingly was near Granger, the Weasleys, and Longbottom, she settled in next to him and turned to the front of the Great Hall, waiting for the Sorting Hat to be brought out as well as the new first years. 

Granger narrowed her eyes at Romilda pointedly, especially when Harry threaded an arm around her waist.  She then turned her gaze to where Ginny Weasley was sitting with Thomas.  They were not a good-looking couple in Romilda’s opinion.  Thomas was too—She looked at him more closely.  He was handsome, with dark skin and dark hair, but he was too tall for Ginny’s height and far too thin in comparison.  Her red hair and freckles just looked wrong next to him.  He needed someone with either brown or blonde hair, someone who was more lithe, to truly offset his own features.  Once they broke up, which she was certain she would as this was the Weaslette in question, she’d look out for someone appropriate for him.  She assumed he was a friend of Harry’s, so he was free game for her matchmaking skills, once she was Harry’s firmly established girlfriend.

It was the least she could do after Ginny made free with his feelings in order to place herself close to Harry.

Maybe one of her half-blood friends wouldn’t mind dating a Muggle-born, or she’d have to begin watching the other Muggle-borns around her to see if any found Thomas attractive.

That, however, was for later.

She loosely twirled her hair into a loose knot at the back of her head as she waited and, taking out her wand, speared it through her mass of riotous curls after murmuring a quick spell to keep her hair and more importantly her wand in place.

Smiling, she noticed that Harry was watching the movement avidly, his eyes fixed on her thin fingers and the strands of hair that fell around her face, framing it perfectly.  The style was casual as her wand was involved as a hair adornment, and yet it was elegant.  It was also simpler to put her wand in her hair where she could easily access it instead of the folds of her horrible skirt.

“As bad as Luna,” Granger muttered under her breath and Romilda gazed at her evenly before turning her gaze to the Ravenclaw where she saw that Lovegood had her wand tucked behind her ear.  She would have snorted, but she didn’t want to undermine Lovegood who had defended her to Weasley.

She passively watched the Sorting, only paying half attention to the hat’s song, but she eagerly cheered for every student sorted into her own house, and had a bit of a silent competition with Pansy in Slytherin and Astoria Greengrass in Ravenclaw to see who could cheer the loudest.  The tradition had begun her second year when she and Astoria had made a bet about how many purebloods would be sorted into their respective houses with Astoria’s older sister serving as judge, and Pansy, not understanding the purpose of the bet, had begun to cheer as enthusiastically as they were.

Now they just liked to show the other two participants up.

Harry was a little startled when, with the second student sorted into Gryffindor who was a Macmillan, Romilda jumped from her seat and began actively cheering, her hands pumping the air much to the small boy’s embarrassment.  By the end of the sorting, Granger appeared to have sorted out the pattern to her cheers and stared at her firmly.

“That’s a little prejudiced, don’t you think?” she snapped at Romilda who didn’t even blush.

She glanced back at Slytherin to see Daphne scribbling on a piece of paper before she held it up, declaring Astoria the winner.  Both Pansy and Romilda groaned before she turned back to Harry who was watching her curiously.

Romilda pouted before serving herself some steak stew that had just materialized before her with the rest of the feast.

Weasley and Finnegan were gaping at her and she smiled prettily at Finnegan.  He was a half-blood, true, but a smile and a coy glance could win the approval of Harry’s dorm mate unless the rumors were true and he preferred wizards.  Still, it couldn’t hurt.

“You only cheered loudly for purebloods,” Granger stated and Romilda nodded.

“An old game Astoria Greengrass and I have been playing since our second year,” she explained casually, shrugging.  “The houses get roughly the same amount of students and Slytherin usually gets more purebloods than most, but the rest are almost evenly distributed.  We wanted to see whose house would get more and it’s turned into a cheering contest.  I won last year though,” she added to cheer herself up.  “We really need to add a Hufflepuff,” she said thoughtfully a moment later and grinned unrepentantly at Harry.

Granger sighed in exasperation but said nothing more.

Harry smiled back at Romilda and lightly tucked a lost curl behind her left ear.

“I don’t believe we’ve met,” Finnegan addressed her and Romilda turned another bright smile at him.  “Seamus Finnegan.”

Seamus.  She would have to remember that.

“Romilda Vane, of the House of Clearwater,” she greeted in response with a nod of her head, accidentally dislodging the curl Harry had tucked away a moment before.

“Ah, Rosa’s younger sister,” he commented, though his face became serious at the strained look on Romilda’s.  “Lovely to meet you.  You’re even prettier than your sister,” he complimented, bringing the smile back to Romilda’s face.

“Thank you,” she murmured and leaned against Harry’s shoulder.

She saw the Weaslette’s eyes flicker at the action and smiled privately to herself before turning back to her stew.  Part of her wondered if a confrontation would eventually happen before them.

“So, Harry,” Finnegan began, drawing closer.  “How long have you and Romilda been friendly?”

Romilda laughed quietly at the question, trying to restrain her mirth but failing.  She didn’t know that boys could gossip.  Roland had certainly never shown any interest in it, but Finnegan was friends with Harry, though she’d never thought they’d been particularly close especially given the beginning of last year when Finnegan hadn’t believed Harry’s assertion that You-Know-Who was back. 

She mildly noticed that everyone around them was listening avidly and the rest of the hall was sneaking glances at Harry and gawping at him.  The Chosen One frenzy really was more than a little vexing, and did not work for her.  Rosa had primarily ignored Harry for five years and she was hoping that since Rosa had Davies, she would not take an interest in Harry.  She did not want to have to compete against her perfect sister.

“Half a day,” Harry responded casually, cunning flashing in his green eyes before it receded again. 

Romilda sighed.  Harry was more perfect than she ever could have imagined before their first real conversation on the train.  They were both Slytherin and Gryffindor hybrids, and could recognize the benefit of that in one another.

She tried to repress a smirk.  Perhaps Rosa and the Weaslette didn’t stand a chance.

Dumbledore’s speech, in Romilda’s mind, was rather depressing and perhaps a little too sensationalized.  They knew that You-Know-Who was back and of course the wards had been strengthened and they shouldn’t be careless.  They weren’t unintelligent, Romilda thought to herself, and she didn’t like the way the announcement made Harry tense beside her.  It was completely unnecessary.

He didn’t need any more reminders that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named was returned. 

She huffed, and allowed Harry to lead her out of the hall without looking back at the Headmaster, whose right hand was strangely blackened.  He really should go to St. Mungo’s to have it seen to, she thought to herself.  Dumbledore really wasn’t getting any younger and should try to take better care of himself.

“I never knew you were so chivalrous,” she commented when Harry gave her his hand to help her through the portrait hole. 

Ginny, who was nearby, huffed at her comment and Romilda briefly wondered why before she decided that nothing about the Weaslette but her obsession with Harry was remotely important or interest-worthy unless it could make for juicy gossip.  She was not above helping to spread completely verifiable facts that made any rival for Harry’s affections look less than good.

If only she were as horrible looking as Eloise Midget.

“Ah, there’s Ursula,” Romilda said happily and instantly grabbed Harry’s hand, dragging him closer to her friend.  Ursula was a rather pretty girl with red-gold hair that Romilda had never seen down, even when Ursula got ready for bed or was in the shower.  She and Astoria had a running bet on how long Ursula’s hair actually was, but it was still a mystery to them.  “Ursula,” she greeted.  “Pansy is still dating Malfoy.  I have a witness.”  She gestured to Harry who blushed under Ursula’s scrutiny.  “Malfoy spent most of the trip to Hogwarts with his head in Pansy’s lap while she stroked his hair.”  Romilda gave her a meaningful look.

Ursula gasped before turning to Harry.  “You saw it?”

Harry looked startled at being addressed while she and Ursula gossiped, but he nodded quickly.  “Yes.  They seemed rather—cozy.”

Ursula looked between the two of them with a speculative glance before nodding.  “One manicure is yours, Romilda,” she stated seriously.  “Do you want it tonight or next weekend?”

Romilda glanced at Harry out of the corner of eye.  “Now I think.  Choose the color, Harry?” she asked prettily, holding out her delicate hands for his inspection.

“Er,” he began before Ursula cut him off.

“Blue, green, purple, pink, pearl, I think I have gold—“


Ursula didn’t seem to realize it was a question, and nodded decisively.  “Pearl it is, then.  Say ‘goodnight’ to Potter, Romilda,” she stated clearly before a moment later, she dragged Romilda toward the girls’ dormitory.

Romilda glanced back at Harry and smiled weakly, waving at him before she disappeared up the stairs.

She smiled to herself when she saw Harry wave back to her.

IV. Almond for Promise

Romilda was out of bed a full hour and a half before breakfast and stretched in front of the mirror, watching as her leg muscles flexed beneath her silk pajama bottoms.  Her legs were rather shapely and she thought they were one of her best features, but of course with Hogwarts regulation oxfords and those horrible socks, they were rarely on display. 

Her nails were now a pretty pearl color that shimmered in the morning light.  It was not as bold as she would normally like, but understated in a way that would compliment Harry’s personality.  Harry needed someone who would compliment him.  Draw him out a bit and shield him from others, someone who was strong and had her own personality that could withstand his aura as the Boy-Who-Lived and The Chosen One, while not trying to grab the attention needlessly.

Dark green and blue nail varnish could come later when they were more comfortable with each other—and she could do understated.  She didn’t mind it.  She just preferred not do be understated at all times.

She walked into the shower room and pulled her chemise over her head, letting it drop wantonly in the middle of the bathroom floor.  None of the other girls would be up for half an hour and she knew they wouldn’t dare step on her clothes.  There would be hell to pay if they did, which little Louise had learned their second year.

Sighing as warm water cascaded around her, Romilda carefully washed her hair and combed it beneath the shower spray to remove the tangles.  She ran her hands over her body, lingering over the slight imperfections of her form.

She sighed.  She would never be as beautiful as her sister, and she was too young, not fully developed and, more importantly, not quite a woman.

Romilda only hoped that she could hold Harry’s interest enough as her body and mind continued to mature.

Stepping out of the shower, she wrapped a towel around her and smiled when she noticed the silent house elves had removed her clothing, most likely folding it beneath her pillow.  House-elves were useful like that.

She frowned.  Granger, she knew, was a trumpeter of house-elf freedom for some unfathomable reason.  She really hoped Harry didn’t share those views as she intended to have at least one house-elf when she established her own home. 

Her dorm mates were beginning to stir when she reentered the room and she quietly slipped into her pressed uniform, lamenting at the length of the skirt and the style of the button-down shirt. If she didn’t have to wear her Gryffindor tie—and, truly, whoever thought ties would look good on adolescent women was clearly already senile—she would leave the top unbuttoned which might be able to save the outfit.  Barely.

She snatched a piece of parchment and penned a quick note to her brother about lighting a candle for the deceased in Harry’s place.  Folding it up and sealing it with wax, she slipped it into her pocket, hoping she could find a free moment during the day to send it with one of the school owls.

Hand-drying her hair with a towel, she watched as it formed into curls.  She smiled at her reflection and began her morning routine, making sure to use only the minimum of make-up, though she used an ice pencil just under her eyebrows to highlight the arch of her bone.  A dab of almond flavored gloss and a ribbon around her hair to keep it contained in a low and loose ponytail, and she was ready for the day.

She glanced at the clock.  There were only fifteen minutes before breakfast started. 

Looking about the room she searched for something to read, and finally settled on this year’s Ancient Runes textbook.  Starting early could only help her, given the number of Runes she had to know on sight.

Skipping down the stairs, she entered the common room, looking around for an empty seat and taking one near the fire.  Fortunately it wasn’t lit.  Winter fires were a little too overzealous and dried out her hair, causing her curls to lose their form, and she had too use more conditioner on them to keep them healthy.

She didn’t particularly care for anything that wreaked havoc on her curls, which were already difficult to maintain, especially with the length of her hair that fell down her back.

Fire was a menace.  Patil, who said that Gryffindor perfectly corresponded with the fire element, clearly spent too much time with Trelawney. 

That women really needed to learn the beauty of the word “make-over.”

Warm hands threaded through her hair and she looked up, smiling at Harry who was standing over her, the calculating look in his impossibly green eyes again.  “And what exactly are you scheming about this fine morning?” he murmured as he leaned down and kissed her gently in front of the whole common room.  She arched up into the soft pressure against her lips and was secretly glad that she had slipped her almond gloss in her pocket.  Almond was her signature scent.  She used almond bath oil and almond gloss imported from Israel and a girl always needed moist lips when there were handsome wizards to kiss her.

She sighed out as Harry pulled away.  Her second kiss in just two days—and her entire life. 

“Nothing much,” she responded and Harry smirked at her.

“Somehow I doubt that,” he commented and glanced down at her unread book that was still closed on her lap.  “Well, it clearly wasn’t Ancient Runes.”

Her lips curved into a half smile and she quickly banished the tome to her bed.  She’d have time after she received her schedule to go get whatever books she would need for the first morning of classes.

“Where are Granger and Weasley?” she asked sweetly, wondering at their absence.  Granger, she noted, was across the room, reading a book that must have been drying out her skin unless she used the proper magical moisturizer.  Somehow Romilda doubted it.

Harry sighed and took the armchair next to her, interlacing their fingers yet again.  Romilda rather liked this developing pattern.

“We had another argument when they saw my mourning band after I took off my robe,” he explained, and Romilda sighed.

“It’s only natural you should be in mourning,” she commented quietly.  “It would be disrespectful not to remember the dead, especially those who are beloved.”

He kissed the back of her hand and caressed it with his thumb for a few long minutes before he examined her nails.  She hadn’t had them magically grown, but she refused to let Ursula file them down any shorter than they already were.  They were barely respectable for a pureblood witch who should use a wand for everything so as not to break her nails.

For some reason Professor Sprout refused to believe this excuse for not working with plants in Herbology.

“So, that’s what color ‘pearl’ is,” he murmured as he looked at the creamy white that covered her nails.  The varnish was magical and bewitched to last two weeks without chipping before melting off in her sleep.

Perfect non-hassle solution for nail color and it only cost a sickle a bottle.

Witches who charmed their nails different colors to mimic varnish wound up destroying their cuticles, and were simply too cheap to bother speaking to on a regular basis unless necessary.  Having seen the state of Ginny Weasley’s cuticles, she rather suspected that the pink she favored was a spell and not varnish.

She should have spent her pocket money on a decent bottle instead of that ridiculous puffskein that she appeared to have acquired over the summer.  Puffskeins, in Romilda’s mind, were unacceptable pets.  That she didn’t have her own familiar while her sister had an owl was immaterial.

Hedwig was a much prettier owl, anyway, in her humble opinion, although she doubted anyone who really knew her would call her ‘humble.’

Harry touched her signet ring gently with the pad of his thumb, and a shiver ran down her spine at the strangely intimate action.

If Harry noticed, he didn’t mention it.

Romilda happily allowed Harry to lead her down to breakfast, and sat down beside him.  She noticed that when Granger and Weasley joined them a few minutes later, none of the friends spoke to each other.

The argument must have been worse than she originally thought.

When McGonagall came around with their schedules, she half-listened in as Harry sorted out his NEWT-level classes with the professor.  Her ears pricked up when she heard that Harry wanted to be an Auror.  She shouldn’t be surprised, really.  She just preferred, if everything went well, not to have to worry about becoming a widow before she turned thirty.  You never knew what could happen when Dark Wizards started casting Unforgivables.

Professor McGonagall stopped before her and started when she noticed who was sitting next to Harry.  “Miss Vane,” she greeted, glancing down at Harry’s arm that was around his waist, which was becoming another one of his habits that she couldn’t bring herself to mind.  Shuffling through her schedules she pulled Romilda’s out and handed it quickly to her. 

“Thank you,” Romilda said before glancing down at it.  She frowned.  She had Herbology first.  If her nails were chipped because of some fanged shrub she would be most displeased.  Nothing was worse than ruining a manicure because of strange plants that wizards should never have bred and fostered.  At least she had Arithmancy that afternoon.

“Free period,” Harry said happily before looking over her shoulder.  “Why are you frowning?”

“I just had a manicure last night,” she said, but Harry still looked at her, confused.  “I might ruin my nails in Herbology.”

Granger snorted into her porridge.

She walked with Harry back up to the common room and quickly got her dragonhide gloves and her Arithmancy textbook for later that afternoon. 

“Herbology,” Ursula commiserated, fully understanding her dark mood. 

Romilda nodded.

“So, has Potter officially asked you to be his girlfriend yet?”

Romilda just stared at her perfect nails dolefully, not wanting to answer the question in her present mood.  Hopefully the bewitched varnish would actually hold.  It wasn’t supposed to survive maniacal plants, only simple flowers that most witches favored.

“Cheer up,” Louise said, entering the conversation.  “Maybe Potter will let you teach him how to fix your nails later this evening.”

The thought brought a smile to her face and, before heading out of the portrait hole with her friends, she gently kissed Harry, loving the awed expression such a simple gesture could put on his face.

Davies never looked that besotted when Rosa properly snogged him.

Romilda only hoped that Harry’s interest would increase and not burn brightly but quickly.  Only time could tell, and she wasn’t willing to play coy deliberately and lead him on, especially when he had successfully unraveled her ultimate goal.  Such action could be detrimental and more harmful than a passionate week that turned into nothing.

If that happened, she could always try and rekindle the flame later, while making certain that the Weaslette never had her chance.

Whispers followed her through the halls of Hogwarts, showing that her closeness to Harry had been noticed.  Students craned their necks, trying to get a better look at her, and speculation was always just out of her hearing, which her friends told her was about The Chosen One and their relationship.  It appeared the story of them having met only the previous morning was also making the rounds as a few Hufflepuffs had asked her about it before Herbology started, and she had quietly answered, having nothing to hide.

Her nails magically survived the period and she sighed in relief, spelling the dirt away from her dragonhide gloves before packing her bag and leaving the greenhouses.

Unfortunately, the Weaslette had decided to wait for her.  Whoever showed her the fourth year schedule would have to answer to a very angry Romilda as soon as she discovered their identity.  She didn’t care for people who betrayed her, even if unintentionally.  She got that enough from her own loving family.

“Weasley,” she greeted before swiftly walking past her, though of course Ginny had to fall into step beside her.  “I didn’t know you had an interest in Herbology.”

The Weaslette tossed her hair, which caught the morning sunlight, glittering brightly.  It almost hurt Romilda’s eyes.  She hoped Harry had the same reaction to it, though given his close friendship with Ronald, she rather doubted it.

“Harry,” Ginny began, “is a friend of my family’s.”

Romilda had to refrain from snorting.  That was the most innocuous beginning to a potential witch-fight she thought she’d ever heard.

Ginny sighed and glanced over at Romilda.  “I met him when I was ten, known him since I was eleven.  He’s my mother’s seventh son, Ron’s best friend, and except for my brother Percy, he’s all of my other brothers’ younger brother.  Especially the twins, come to think of it.”

Romilda didn’t know who this Percy was.  She wasn’t quite sure she cared.  The only Weasleys that interested her were Ron as he was Harry’s best friend, Ginny who was a rival, and this Bill who managed to get Delacour engaged to him.  The rest were all Kelpie under the bulrushes as far as she was concerned, and very few people’s opinions mattered to her other than her own.  Ginny Weasley’s thoughts certainly didn’t.

“As such we know him better than anyone else, even his own relatives.”

That was a bold statement if ever Romilda had heard one.  She wondered if they—and the Weaslette more specifically—had any idea of the cunning and understated ambition in Harry’s eyes.  Romilda had only really known Harry for about a day, but she had watched him and she had seen emotions and secrets within his gaze that she believed few could decipher.  Given time, she may come to know him better than anyone else could ever hope to dream.

The thought brought a smirk to her lips.

“Whatever you’re trying won’t work,” Ginny continued on breezily.  “Harry fancied Cho for years and within a matter of weeks he could barely look at her.  You won’t understand him.  He hates anyone interfering in his life except his closest friends.  He has enough adoring fans without adding you to the mixture.  And if you hurt him, my brother’s a curse-breaker and knows a fair bit of hexes, I’d imagine, from his line of work.”

Romilda paused a moment, uncertain which aspect of that declaration to address first, but Ginny just continued on.

“You’re not helping him, either.  Sirius died last spring.  Harry needs to move on, get over it, like he did with Diggory.  You making him that ridiculous armband will just have him wallowing in grief for several more weeks.”

“Harry is not wallowing,” Romilda bit out, stopping in mid step and turning to a rather startled looking Weasley.  “He is in mourning.  There is nothing wrong with it.  It’s natural and he needs to be allowed to heal at his own pace.  Why is everyone trying to control him?  He lost his godfather.  He was killed in front of his eyes.  You just don’t ‘get over it,’ as you so nicely put it.  How heartless are you?”

She crossed her arms angrily and glared at the Weaslette.

“Heartless?” Ginny whispered darkly.  “You’re the one who only wants him because he’s The Chosen One.  You just happened to be waiting for him to arrive, sitting primly on your trunk and looking at your own reflection as you fixed your hair.”

Romilda felt as if she’d been slapped.  “Don’t be ridiculous. I’m not the one who decided when I was ten I wanted to marry the Boy-Who-Lived and made no secret of it,” she hissed viciously back, purposefully forgetting that she had decided the same exact thing when she was eleven.  She didn’t know what the Weaslette’s reasoning was but Romilda knew that despite how selfish her own reasons were she wasn’t pursuing Harry for his fortune or fame.  She had also had genuinely fancied him since second year, and had cried the night of the Yule Ball when he went with Parvati Patil.  “Do you think your little ‘charade’ with Thomas has anyone fooled?  Do you honestly think Harry doesn’t know?” she viciously shot back, delighting openly in the wounded expression on the other girl’s face.

“How—what?” she gasped, and Romilda smiled smugly to herself.

“You heard me.”  She turned and walked away, heading for the castle, but Weaslette quickly caught up with her.  Their audience appeared to be following them and, without thinking about it, Romilda followed the crowd toward the dungeons.  Perhaps someone had Potions next.

“How could he possibly—who would tell him such a thing?”

Romilda snorted elegantly, a trick she’d learned from her sister.  No matter how much Ginny play-acted, Romilda knew it was the truth.

The Weaslette’s eyes narrowed.  “You told him.”  Her voice was deadly, and those around them who hadn’t been listening but were in hearing range, turned quickly toward the argument.

Romilda looked at her manicured nails, feigning disinterest in the conversation.  “It’s common knowledge,” she defended lightly before her dark eyes flashed back to Ginny.  “The entire female population of Gryffindor knows at the very least.”

You told him,” Ginny reiterated.

Romilda smiled sweetly at her, not denying it this time.  “Just explaining the finer points of female interactions when it comes to boys.  It’s not my fault we were discussing you, as well as the general population of adoring fan girls.  I must say, Weasley, I don’t think it helped your cause that you got his best friend Granger in on your little scheme.”  She paused and then said with genuine wonder, “You’re not even denying it.”

“I’ll always be there,” Ginny threw back at her.  “I always have been and I always will be.  At the end of each year, he’ll come to the Burrow and I’ll be waiting.  He’ll just lose interest in you as quickly as he gained it.  You’re nothing but a secondhand version of your older sister.”

Half-sister, Romilda wanted to bite out, but she held her tongue.  She felt a warm presence beside her and was glad to see that it was Astoria, who perhaps had just come from Potions.

“Better than a third-rate copy of Potter’s own mother,” Astoria loudly shot back at Ginny, a thin sneer on her otherwise beautiful face.  “Do you honestly think that his longing for his mother is so great that he’d fancy let alone marry a girl who could look so much like her but never hope to be her?  It would be like rubbing salt in an open wound.  You could never compare to her, never be what he needed, and he’d resent you in the end.”

She wrapped an arm protectively around Romilda’s waist and pulled her away.  “Come,” she murmured, “there’s nothing here for us.”

Romilda allowed herself to be led away from the Dungeons and didn’t pay attention to too much around her as she was led back to Gryffindor tower.  Her thoughts were jumbled and confused, and she didn’t want to think.  She just wanted to rest, recharge herself, and be ready for lunch and Arithmancy that afternoon.

Someone whispered a word near her and she felt herself being guided through the portrait hole, Astoria’s arm still wrapped firmly around her.  She didn’t notice everyone staring at the odd group of Ravenclaws and Gryffindors who were now leading her over to a large armchair.

“Is she in shock?” she heard Louise say from somewhere, and part of her wondered if somehow she just might have been.  “I’ve never seen anyone in shock before?  Can words send someone into shock?”

“It was a low blow.  Comparing her to Rosa and finding her wanting.”

“Next time I see Weasley I’m going to hex her!” Louise again. 

Rough hands were on the sides of her face and she leaned into the familiar touch. 

“What happened?” Harry asked anxiously and she looked into his impossibly green eyes and forced a smile, trying to shake the overwhelming feelings of inadequacy.  She probably looked pale.  Pale did not look attractive with her large eyes and black curls.  Whoever thought Snow White could be beautiful with lips of a red, red, rose, skin as white as snow, and hair as dark as night obviously had never studied female complexions very well.

“Weasley happened,” Ursula explained, and Romilda felt Harry brush strands of curls away from her face.  “She was waiting outside of Herbology and—well—”

“She accused her of being an adoring fan and the like, and then said she was hurting you because of your godfather,” Louise quickly put in.  “Not quite certain what she meant to be honest.  Romilda said she was heartless and you needed time to mourn.  It degenerated from there and ended with Weasley saying she’d always be there in the end and that Romilda was a second-rate copy of Rosa.  She’s been like this ever since.”

“Greengrass put Weasley in her place, though,” Ursula added, “calling Weasley a third-rate and inferior copy of your mother who could never live up to your ideal of Mrs. Potter.  Brilliant comeback, Greengrass,” she complimented.

Harry’s strong hands continued to brush softly against her face, and slowly Romilda became more aware of everything around her. 

“Mother was beautiful,” Harry agreed quietly, “and Ginny could never compare.  You’re right, Greengrass.  Thank you.”  He smiled warmly at Astoria who looked genuinely shocked at Harry’s gratitude.

Granger was hovering behind Harry and Romilda looked away, not wanting to see another unfriendly face until she was herself again.  Rosa, fortunately, was not in the common room, though Romilda was certain she would hear of the encounter by the end of the day.

Harry looked speculatively at the girls crowding around them before his gaze landed on Astoria.  “Follow us?” he murmured before Romilda felt strong arms helping her up from the chair and helping her up the stairs toward the boys’ dormitory.  She let her hand trail against the rough hewn stone, delighting in its roughness and soaking in the sensations of a thousand years of memories imprinted on the stones.  Her maternal grandfather had been a magical mason and sometimes she believed that she might have inherited his ability to listen to stones, although they never quite murmured to her as family stories said they did to him.

She found herself in a room at the top of the tower with five canopied beds and realized it must be Harry’s dormitory.  Romilda looked at him with a question in her eyes and he simply indicated a bed near a window.  She sat down on it tiredly, her back against the pillows.

Astoria hung in the doorway and hesitated before she quickly walked over to Romilda’s side and took her hand.  “You’re beautiful,” she murmured encouragingly before tucking a stray hair behind Romilda’s ear.  “I would die for curls as unrestrained as yours, so wild and free.  They’re nothing to Rosa’s that look like they’ve been charmed into sleekness.  Yours are so natural.”

Harry came up on her other side and sat down next to her, his fingers entwining with her free hand before he rested his head against the side of her temple.  “I never really even noticed Rosa and she’s been in my classes for five years,” he whispered softly before he began to trace circles on the back of her hand.  “I see your manicure survived Herbology.”

“Yes.” She smiled at him and then kissed his cheek softly.  “Thank you.  Rosa’s always been the favored daughter, the more beautiful one,” she tried to explain, although she felt that it somehow fell short.

He kissed her lips softly again and she could feel the smile against them.

She felt Astoria shift away from them, probably looking anywhere else than at Romilda and Harry.  Romilda pulled away after a moment, not really wanting to embarrass her friend. 

A thought crossed her mind, and she turned to Astoria.  “You have a wicked tongue,” she stated in realization.  “Pansy says I’m horrible, but that was pure genius.”

“My sister is in Slytherin,” she commented back.  “It had to rub off on me sometime.”

Harry pulled Romilda against his chest and she settled happily against him.  “What else did she say?” he questioned.

Romilda shrugged.  “Nothing I didn’t anticipate.  I didn’t quite expect it to be so public and so soon.  She thinks you’re wallowing and need to get over Sirius’s death.”  She lightly touched the black armband that Harry was wearing on his shirtsleeves, his robe discarded somewhere else.  “The rest was simply territorial.”

Astoria sniffed.  “She has no basis for being territorial.  It’s not like she’s ever dated Potter.”

“You missed that part,” Romilda said darkly, leaning further back into Harry’s embrace.  “Harry,” she stated self-importantly, “is the eighth Weasley.  He does not like anyone interfering in his life except for his closest friends.  I’m interfering, by the way.”

Astoria sniggered at Romilda’s mock-contrite tone.  “With her plans.”

“—which she didn’t deny.  Far from it.”  Romilda sighed.  “It’s been less than twenty-four hours and it already starts.”

Harry unwrapped one arm from around her waist and began to stroke it through her pulled back hair.  “Greengrass, give us a moment?” he asked quietly and Romilda looked at him in surprise, catching his green gaze and seeing a sliver of cunning rush through them, almost as if it were a flash of blue-green before resettling into the familiar color of spring grass.  His lips were so close to hers and she could feel the tension building between them.  “It just occurred to me,” he began lightly, “that I haven’t given you an ‘official’ reason to be territorial.”

Catching his tone of voice, she smiled mischievously at him. “You have kissed me,” she teased back, “and your arm is always around my waist.”

He cocked his head slightly.  “True, but I think you need a slightly better reason.”

“A better reason than a territorial wizard?” she gasped and tilted her head back so that her wayward strands of curls would fall away from her eyes.

“Well, as a territorial wizard, I think it would be in my best interest—“

“Of course,” Romilda agreed, smiling beguilingly at him.

He smiled back at her.  “It would be in my best interest if you were my girlfriend.”

She cocked her head to the side.  “I think I could live with that,” she murmured, her eyes traveling despite her better judgment to his lips.

“I thought you might.”

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