V. Lobelia for Malevolence
Relations between Romilda and Ginny Weasley and their group of friends became somewhat volatile over the next few days, especially when Harry generally ignored Weasley, and was with Romilda every free moment they shared. When they weren’t doing homework near the fire with Romilda leaning up against Harry’s chest, a book in her lap with Harry’s text resting carefully on their left knees, they were in the library writing essays or eating meals together.
Romilda’s giggling group of friends would often sit nearby, whispering to themselves, and when Romilda finished her work, she would often join them, passing notes to one another or doing each other’s hair. She loved how Harry’s eyes would often fall on her when he looked up and they’d share a small smile before she went back to quiet gossip and pedicures and he to his NEWT-level courses.
She tried to be particularly kind to Thomas at meals, especially considering that it seemed the entire school knew of her fight with Ginny.
The night before Quidditch tryouts, the two had a rather spectacular argument in the Gryffindor common room, sending NEWT-level students out the portrait hole to the library or up to their dormitories where they could spell their beds silent.
“That doesn’t look good,” Harry murmured against her ear as he ran his ink-stained hand through her mass of curls. She found she couldn’t mind, especially since she’d made certain the ink was dry. It was left over from Transfiguration class earlier that week, it seemed.
Romilda had been using her Ancient Runes flashcards. She and Astoria had made them their third year and they were properly illustrated and color-coded according to country of origin and when they were first created. She doubted Granger, with all of her tabs and study habits, had cards as useful as hers. Romilda had even seen Granger eyeing them a few days before, which made her feel smug for the rest of the day.
She might be vain and delight in gossip, but she had every intention of earning seven or eight OWLs at the end of next year.
Just because Rosa claimed she was useless didn’t mean she actually was.
Romilda felt Harry shift uncomfortably behind her. “Go on,” she said quietly. “I’ll tell you what happened if you want.”
Harry kissed the back of her head and, making sure not to upset her seat, slid off the side of the chair before quickly dashing up to his dormitory. Romilda smiled fondly after him, and then turned back to the argument that was still in its quiet stages, though every few minutes either Thomas or the Weaslette would raise their voice.
She eyed them speculatively and then smiled mischievously over at Louise who was playing gobstones with Fenella as soon as the conversation became audible to those sitting around them.
“He’s my friend,” Thomas was saying. “A close friend.”
“Harry’s my friend as well,” Ginny refuted, brushing her hair over one shoulder so it would stay out of the way. “He spends nearly every summer at my house.”
Thomas closed his eyes for a long moment before opening them again. “Be that as it may,” he said firmly, “Harry is my friend and Vane is his girlfriend.”
“What does that have to do anything?”
“It means that if Lavender were to go off on you, and Seamus were dating her—sorry, Lavender,” he added quickly when he noticed her watching the conversation, “I’d expect him to reel her in a bit and make sure you were alright. It’s what friends do.”
Ginny glared furiously at him. “I was making certain she had his best interests at heart.”
“No, you weren’t,” Thomas said angrily back. “You were accusing her of being after him because he’s supposedly the Chosen One.”
“She is only interested in him for that reason,” Ginny countered.
“Well, then, that’s Harry’s concern and not yours.” He took a deep breath. “And any idiot can see they both fancy the other completely.”
“Who wouldn’t fancy Harry?” Ginny seethed. “He’s famous, wealthy, a hero—“
“Well, clearly you do,” Thomas said in a deadly low voice.
Romilda eyed him more closely wondering if they were going to split in public. That would be an interesting development.
“Dean,” the Weaslette wheedled, making Romilda feel slightly ill. “Everyone fancies him. Seamus probably fancies him.”
Thomas blinked at her before putting that thought aside. “Yes, but you’re the only one who started a verbal spat with Vane—and I know you started it, so don’t even bother denying it. What am I to you? Am I supposed to make Harry jealous? Or am I someone to just pass the time until he begins to notice you? What?”
Ginny didn’t answer but instead looked firmly at her Quidditch-calloused hands.
“Why do I even bother?” Thomas said, resigned, before getting up from the couch. “It’s over, Ginny. It’s just over.”
“Dean—you can’t—Dean!” Ginny shouted desperately, her voice rising as she got up. “It’s not—it’s nothing.”
“How can you say it’s nothing? I have more self-respect than that.”
Ginny looked startled.
“I’d rather have a girlfriend who wanted to be with me and not my friend,” he emphasized. “Muggle, witch, it doesn’t matter, but honestly, Ginny. I’m not someone you can use like a chess piece. I’m a human being.”
“I know that, Dean. Of course I know that!”
“Do you?” he asked quietly, and she didn’t answer.
Romilda supposed she couldn’t.
“Just—fine. Like I said, it’s over.”
The two of them were barely speaking to each other come the tryouts for Quidditch practice two Saturdays later. Ginny Weasley had taken to doing her assignments with Granger of all people, the two whispering between themselves, while Ron Weasley complained that there were too many witches about.
Harry, of course, spent most of his waking moments with Romilda except when she and her friends were gossiping in the girl dormitories. Occasionally, Ginny would hang at the edge of the crowd if there were more than just fourth years, trying to listen in on anything Romilda could tell her about Harry, but Romilda would quickly change the subject and begin speaking of someone else.
Quidditch tryouts were a nightmare. Everyone it seemed was interested in trying out for the team, even if they couldn’t fly on a broom or if they weren’t Gryffindors, which made Romilda feel ill. She’d somehow managed to snag a seat next to Lavender Brown and near Granger of all people and casually watched from the sidelines.
“What, can’t fly, Vane?” Granger asked archly.
“It would ruin my smooth hands,” she responded coolly, wondering to herself if she should place another order for almond-butter for her skin. Winter was coming up and the air would soon turn dry. It might be better if she did, and Harry, it seemed, loved the smell of almonds on her.
“Yes, of course,” Brown agreed, nodding solemnly, her eyes never leaving the pitch. “There are spells, of course, to counteract it, but your hands just aren’t as smooth with them.”
“Pureblood soft,” Romilda quoted happily, dissolving into giggles with Brown.
Granger huffed. “Well, I think that’s one of the most ridiculous ideas I’ve heard.”
“That,” Brown replied, “is because you have a writer’s bump from your quill.”
“Hmm, the Chasers are starting up,” Romilda noted as a group of first years tried to fly around the pitch. She wondered how often they had been on brooms before. Maybe just the first lesson? She really couldn’t recollect.
“Aren’t you worried?” Brown whispered to her, and Romilda looked at her, startled.
Brown titled her head toward the pitch. “Ginny Weasley. She was Seeker last year.”
Romilda sighed. “I remembered. Didn’t seem to be much reason to go to the games if Harry wasn’t playing. I really don’t understand what’s so fascinating about a sport where Bludgers fly about trying to kill the players.” She ran a hand through her wayward curls. “Thank the gods Roland never played.”
“He works at the Ministry, doesn’t he?” Brown inquired casually.
She nodded. “Yes. He’s an Unspeakable. Does something in the Department of Mysteries that he can’t talk about.”
“He must have been so upset when the battle occurred there last spring,” Brown said sympathetically and Romilda eyed her, wondering what angle she was coming from. Her large brown eyes were wide and guileless, however, so she answered.
“Tense, certainly. The clean up, I understand, took weeks. Fortunately, Roland had been working there for a few years so he had less work to do than the newer Unspeakables.”
Weasley was now flying around the pitch proudly, her curtain of ginger hair flying behind her. Romilda squinted at small form. No matter what she said publicly, she would be a lot happier if Weasley stayed far away from the pitch whenever Harry was on it. Unfortunately, she couldn’t control tryouts and she knew on merit Weasley would probably gain one of the coveted places on the team.
With it getting windy so soon Romilda wouldn’t be able to properly chaperone practices, and she didn’t want to appear like an overbearing girlfriend who didn’t trust Harry. It was best to give him some distance and hope that someone she knew would make it on the team as well and could report any and all of the Weaslette’s suspicious activities to her.
Part of her wondered if she wouldn’t feel safe until Harry graduated and he was away or until she had an engagement ring on her finger.
She might have to start using the almond butter more frequently. Rings could cause small calluses to build up and, although she never had any intention of taking such a precious piece of jewelry off, she could not abide the thought that her hands might be slightly marred.
Maybe if she indulged twice a week it would make her hands soft enough in two years.
The Chasers were soon chosen and, of course, Ginny Weasley was one of them. She came up to the stands with the other two Chasers, Bell and Demelza, happily enough, and sat down next to Granger.
Romilda deigned not to glance at Weasley, though she pulled Demelza into the seat next to her. “You,” she said happily, “deserve a pedicure. My treat.” She smiled warmly at her friend and would have hugged her if she didn’t smell like an old Quidditch jersey, which she was unfortunately wearing.
“Lovely lady,” Seamus Finnegan greeted her and she smiled openly at him and Thomas.
“Didn’t make it?”
“Apparently not,” Thomas said stiffly, not looking at Weasley.
Taking out her wand she cast a discreet air freshening charm on Demelza, Seamus, and Thomas’s clothes, but didn’t pay Ginny the same courtesy.
“You’re a keeper,” Seamus complimented and she laughed openly at the wink he sent her.
Granger rolled her eyes.
Romilda hoped that Granger’s nose would soon start to scrunch up at the smell and that perhaps, if she was very lucky, Harry would notice it. Sometimes she really wondered how the hat had put her in Gryffindor.
After another hour, the Beaters were selected and now Ron Weasley was going against McLaggen for the position of Keeper. She hadn’t actually met McLaggen, not officially, though some of her friends giggled about his strong biceps.
Sitting back, she eyed him critically, trying to decide whether he was attractive or not. His hair was slightly wiry and he wore a superior expression on his face, but, then again, Romilda often saw one on her face when she looked in the mirror. It was only natural, and McLaggen had the pedigree to back it up. He was rather slim, tall, and radiated over-confidence that could make any girl’s head swim.
She even felt slightly light-headed herself, but she quickly glanced away.
Yes, she decided, McLaggen was attractive. She looked back and noticed that as he was flying into position he seemed to be staring rather pointedly at either Granger or Weasley.
She narrowed her eyes. Granger. He was eying Granger with that look in his eyes. She swallowed. Well, anyone who found Granger attractive—including the famous Viktor Krum—lacked suitable intelligence and taste. Suddenly, no matter his confidence or masculine charm, Romilda decided that McLaggen couldn’t be that attractive after all. She’d certainly steer any of her friends away from him if they ever fancied him.
Maybe he only fancied Muggle-borns, she briefly thought before her eyebrows arched in wonder. Maybe he only fancied practice with Muggle-borns.
She glanced at Harry. Fortunately, as he hadn’t been brought up in pureblood society, he wasn’t aware of that particular institution. Sometimes she wondered at the complete gullibility of Muggle-born students. Promises, promises, promises. They meant nothing unless given to a pureblood or Half-blood witch.
That James Potter actually married his Muggle-born wife was far from the norm. It was almost as if he hadn’t read the handbook on being a pureblood heir. Romilda supposed he was honorable, then. Romantic even—like Harry.
The thought brought a smile to her lips as she leaned back and watched as the three new chasers, who had apparently flown out of the stands while she was thinking, were trying to get the Quaffle into the hoops. There really must be better ways to spend time than watching such an inane sport, Romilda thought.
She was probably destined to have a brood of Quidditch playing children. At least they wouldn’t ruin her figure any more than offspring less inclined to die by flying Bludger.
Perhaps it was an insanity peculiar to most of wizarding kind. She frowned. She didn’t like the thought of Harry possibly being insane.
At least it didn’t seem to be catching.
Brown was now out of her seat, cheering for Ronald Weasley, which made Romilda smile. She’d seen the long looks Granger cast Weasley, but it appeared she had a rival for his affections. He wasn’t all that fanciable, in Romilda’s mind, but she could potentially see the attraction.
“Confundus,” she heard muttered and a moment later, McLaggen veered the wrong way, missing a goal.
Her head snapped over at Granger who was looking more flushed than she should in the September wind. Romilda bit her lip and looked over at Harry who was just calling an end to the trials. Thinking for only a moment, she raised her wand, and letting out bright purple sparks in the middle of the pitch before casting Sonorus on herself, she called out, her head thrown back, “Sorry to interrupt, but a Confundus was just cast on one of the players. McLaggen, I think.”
She glanced at Granger who was now a bright scarlet, her hands clenched so tightly that her wand was visibly trembling.
Looking back up, she caught Harry’s surprised eyes. “Fair play and all that,” she explained before sitting down quickly again. She gulped before sitting down, casting Quietus on herself so the rest of the pitch would no longer hear her breathing nervously.
Not good, definitely not good, she thought. She might have just cost Harry’s best mate a place on the team and had memory evidence of his other best friend of actively and willfully cheating. Granger could potentially be suspended for it if it were an actual Quidditch match.
Brown stared down at her, her mouth open in shock, before quickly sitting down again. She glared at Granger who now had her wand hidden partially up her sleeve.
A whipping of the air about her signaled Harry’s arrival and Romilda looked up at her boyfriend nervously. He was gorgeously sweaty and windswept, but now was clearly not the time to entertain such thoughts. “I heard it cast. Granger, I think. It was quiet but definitely there, and then McLaggen flew in the opposite direction.” Her large eyes met Harry’s resolutely. “I know he’s much better than that. And, well,” she paused, emitting a breath, “I don’t really care for Quidditch, but it obviously means a great deal to you, and I know you wouldn’t want anything interfering. So.”
“Poor Ron,” Brown moaned under her breath and Romilda placed a hand firmly over hers, offering the little comfort she could in such a nasty situation.
“He could still get it,” she mused as Harry moved over to Granger and demanded her wand. The three Chasers were crowding around them as well as McLaggen and Weasley. She supposed they didn’t need another witness of the Priori Incantatem. “He blocked all five of his goals, so he’s clearly—talented.”
Brown nodded, and then cast a malicious glance at Granger.
She really had it coming.
McLaggen’s face was red in anger, his arms crossed emphasizing his arm muscles. Granger had clearly lost any chance with him, though that might have been an advantage in the situation.
“Hermione, how could you?” Weasley erupted and Granger sank further into her seat.
Harry shook his head. “Tomorrow afternoon, McLaggen, Ron. We’ll have the tryout again then once all of this is sorted. Sorry about the delay.”
Ron Weasley muttered something and McLaggen slapped Harry on the back. He briefly staggered forward at the strength in it. “It still might be the Slug Club after all. Right decent of you, Granger being your friend and all.” He sneered at her. “I don’t think Uncle Tiberius or Minister Scrimgeour will be happy to hear of this,” he snarled importantly at Granger.
If possible, she appeared to wilt even more at the comment. Clearly, McLaggen had several important connections and, if Granger was half as ambitious as she appeared, a career in the Ministry of Magic might have just been dampened before the matter reached the ears of the Hogwarts Staff.
Everyone was murmuring among themselves and Harry came back to Romilda, placing a hand around her waist and assisting her to her feet. “Off to McGonagall. You’ll have to give your side, Romilda.” She leaned against Harry’s sweaty Quidditch robes, not really caring how they really needed to be washed, but instead allowing the masculine scent to roll over her senses. It was strangely arousing.
She almost wished that Creevey were around with his camera as she wondered what kind of a couple they made, Harry in his Quidditch uniform and herself wearing casual Autumn robes that kept the cold out while looking elegant. He never seemed to be where she needed him when a picture was required.
“Harry, please,” Granger was quietly begging behind them. “This could ruin my academic career.”
Romilda rolled her eyes. She really should have thought of that before she had confounded McLaggen, who was swaggering alongside them.
McGonagall was difficult to find as it was a Saturday, and quietly Romilda found herself relating what she had seen and heard before Harry took over his part of the story. Professor McGonagall sat at her desk with her back ramrod straight and her eyes piercing, never leaving the speaker, and she listened intently as each of the witnesses confirmed McLaggen’s spectacular miss and the Priori Incantatem they had seen Harry perform.
Granger had taken a seat directly in front of the desk and when everyone was finished speaking, McGonagall surveyed her closely. “I am very disappointed in you, Miss Granger,” she began quietly.
“Fortunately, this is only Quidditch tryouts and not an actual game,” she began, “otherwise you would have been suspended if not expelled if there were any hint of any previous wrongdoing. Nevertheless, rigging the tryouts in favor of your friend,” her eyes flicked to Ron Weasley who was blushing a deep red and clearly incensed that Granger would ever think of doing such a thing, “will not be tolerated. I hereby strip you of your status as prefect,” —Granger gasped and began to cry. Ginny came up to her and placed a hand on her shoulder, but McGonagall just continued— “no matter your academic performance in the future, you are banned from the Head Girl position as well as all Quidditch matches played at Hogwarts in the future.” She took in a deep breath. “And detention for six weeks with the professor of my choosing.”
“It was just—just a try out.”
“Hogwarts does not tolerate any form of cheating, Miss Granger. As I know you’ve read the Hogwarts charter, I would have assumed it had made a greater impression on you, but clearly not.” She began to rifle through her papers and took out what looked like a class dossier. Her eyes scanned it quickly before she nodded on imperiously. “Miss Vane,” she said. “If you would be so kind, would you send your sister Rosa to me? I find myself in need of a new Gryffindor prefect.”
Romilda swallowed once, and nodded her head. Rosa would adore being made prefect, her father would adore it, and they’d most likely forget the small part Romilda had in her sister getting such an honor. “Of course, Professor,” she responded and she was suddenly glad that Harry’s arm was still wrapped around her. She could feel his strength cradling her protectively.
“Shower,” she murmured to Harry as they exited the room. “You need to relax.”
He pulled her more closely to him. “I can’t believe she—“
“Shh,” Romilda said softly. “I know. It’s over and done.”
Harry pulled her into an alcove and waited as the rest of their babbling entourage passed them before burying his face in her hair, holding her flush against him. Romilda wrapped her arms securely around his neck and just breathed in his musky scent, knowing he needed this.
“She’s going to blame me, you know,” Harry finally said against her hair and Romilda shrugged.
“It doesn’t matter if she blames you. It’s her own fault—she did it, not you.” She pulled away from him and gently held his head between her hands, rubbing her thumbs against his cheeks. “You did nothing wrong, Harry Potter. Absolutely nothing.”
“No,” Romilda cut him off. “You’re Quidditch Captain. It’s your team. They depend on you for honesty and fair play when they don’t get it from the Slytherins—and please do win against them otherwise I have to give Pansy a full body massage, and I’d much rather receive one, otherwise I’ll have to listen about the virtues of Malfoy as Seeker, which I have heard quite enough of already.”
Harry quirked his lips in a half-smile and Romilda beamed up at him. She’d made him smile, just a bit, which is what he needed.
“Now I need to go find Rosa,” she sighed. “Both of the perfect Vanes—prefects. I will never hear the end of it.”
Rushing up to Gryffindor tower, she found Rosa in a back corner, writing what looked like a letter to her boyfriend.
“He hasn’t asked you yet?” Romilda asked, taking the seat opposite. She was startled when Harry slid in next to her, as she thought he would instantly want a shower. As it was, she was going to have to change out of her robes and at least cast a freshening charm on her hair as some of the smell of worn leather had rubbed off on her.
Rosa looked up, her bright blue eyes showing her surprise. “He will ask; it’s just a matter of time.”
Romilda nodded sagely. “The long version or the short version?”
“The shorter of the two.”
“Granger was caught rigging the Quidditch tryouts and has been stripped of her title as prefect. McGonagall would like to see you.”
Rosa’s head snapped up and she eyed her sister cautiously. Her curls were arranged artlessly on the top of her head, falling elegantly down her neck to her slim shoulders that every witch would die for and, of course, which Rosa had naturally. Her face was slim and delicate, her nose a soft little curve that would look too small on anyone else’s face, and she exuded both confidence and elegance whenever she entered a room.
Her pretty pink lips opened and it was several moments before any sound came out of them. “Granger—cheated? Hermione Granger?”
Romilda folded her hands. “Yes. Hermione Granger. I heard her cast a Confundus charm on McLaggen so that Weasley would get a place on the team.” Her cheeks tinted a slight pink. “I might have reported it.”
Rosa glanced over her shoulder at McLaggen, who was sitting among several of his friends and loudly regaling them with the story of Granger’s fall from grace. “Why?”
“She clearly fancies Weasley.” Romilda sat back against her chair, where Harry’s arm was casually draped. “I assume it was a bid for his attention.”
It appeared all of the information was too much for Rosa. “Ronald Weasley.”
“Hermione fancies him?” Harry put in, looking utterly confused.
“Has since around the time of the Yule Ball, I’d imagine. I heard her talking with Ginny Weasley—“
“Does your mind store anything but gossip, Milly?” Rosa said cruelly, though with a hint of fondness in her voice. “Sometimes I do wonder.”
“Wonder then,” she snapped back. “Professor McGonagall is waiting for you in her office.”
Rosa eyed her for a minute, before nodding. Quickly picking up her things, she said a brief goodbye and rushed out of the common room.
Romilda sighed as she watched her go. “Harry,” she said sweetly, and he turned to her. “If you ever call me ‘Milly’ . . .”
“Right,” he said quickly, instantly sitting up. “No ‘Milly,’ then.” The gleam in his eye made her nervous.
VI. Iris for Messages
When Professor Snape taught Potions, Romilda found that she never cared for the subject. At first she had tried to study hard to please him, but when she discovered that despite her best efforts, all she would receive was a sneer and a begrudging mark, she decided that she would quietly go about her work and not care what Professor Snape would ever think of her.
His opinion did not matter anyway. She’d never even heard of the surname ‘Snape’ before.
Slughorn, however, was a surname she was familiar with. She knew that he collected students, it appeared, into a very select group called the Slug Club. Her mother’s brother had been one of his favored students, and she would just have to position herself so that when she was a fifth or sixth year, she would be invited. It was rare that anyone beneath NEWT-level Potions was recognized in this way—Uncle Atlas had written her a long scroll in reply to her query—though, of course, the Weaslette had been singled out. Something about a Bat Bogey Hex. Pansy assured her she never wanted to be on the wrong end of that particular jinx.
Harry, of course, had lunch with the professor on the Hogwarts Express, and when an owl came from Professor Slughorn later that afternoon inviting him to supper, she wasn’t surprised.
“Can’t go,” he murmured, looking a little too joyful at the prospect. “Detention with Snape.”
She grimaced at him.
A moment later, five other owls flew into the common room. Granger received one and she stopped her sniffling in a corner for a moment to unravel it, before making a rather undignified sound that resembled a meep. Clearly Slughorn had deigned to notice her. It wasn’t at all unexpected. Granger, whatever her faults, was the top student in her year, although Romilda believed she rather lacked creativity.
She would probably go. Granger could never deny an authority figure, except when it came up with bullying Harry into founding a covert Defense Society she’d heard whispers about, so she’d of course attend. McLaggen would be there, telling the story of her disgrace, so it should be properly humiliating for her. If Slughorn lived up to his reputation, then it would most likely be her last invitation to the prestigious club. The potential contacts would all shrivel up into nothing and she would become a parlor joke in years to come whenever the previous members met. Anonymity was better than notoriety, in Romilda’s view. Clever and unnoticed was preferable to the ruin that might come of her future career.
Briefly Romilda wondered if the stress would affect her marks at all.
It was a terribly vindictive thought, but she made a mental note to watch Granger over the next two years and discover just what the far-reaching affects of this day would be. And to think, if she hadn’t been brave and ambitious enough to sit among Muggles and wait for Harry’s arrival, this all might never have happened.
Granger would have confounded McLaggen, Weasley would have made the team, and she would spend her afternoons giggling with friends instead of wrapped up in Harry’s strong arms.
She really was the luckiest girl in wizarding England.
The second owl landed on Ginny Weasley’s shoulder, almost upsetting her pygmy puff, and Romilda rolled her eyes when she remembered that she had been in the train compartment as well. A Bat Bogey Hex, no matter how impressive, wasn’t reason enough to be invited to an exclusive gala in Romilda’s mind.
It was about intelligence, the future, bloodlines in most cases, connections. Weasley lacked the cunning to be truly smart, her future was marred by her lack of wealth and her status among purebloods as a blood traitor, and she had no connections at all to speak of, unless you counted her twin brothers and their successful joke shop that Romilda was secretly fond of. She and her friends had visited it when buying school supplies that summer and had made a pact to each buy a love potion, just in case they had a chance to use it.
Briefly she wondered if the Weasley twins would ever develop a potion that would get rid of freckles. Ginny certainly needed it. Her freckles clashed horribly with her hair, but then again that might make her more attractive, which was something that Romilda couldn’t have happen. Hopefully the idea would never occur to Fred and Joseph.
Romilda’s original back up plan had been to use the love potion on Harry if her first venture didn’t work. Now there really was no need for it, and it sat underneath a pile of clothes in her trunk.
It was such a shame as well. The bottle was so pretty, it should be on display, but all products from Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes were banned.
Sometimes she thought she should just set Filch up with someone so that he wouldn’t take his frustrations out on the student body. Then again, she’d never heard of anyone who would willingly date even an attractive Squib.
She casually glanced over from her Charms essay as the Weaslette unrolled her invitation. Her lips were pursed, giving them slightly more color than she naturally had, and Romilda noted that she wasn’t really wearing any make-up at all. Not even lip gloss. She was bound to get chapped lips within a few months.
Ginny glanced up at Harry who was already scratching out a polite refusal and tying it on the owl’s leg. Harry gave no outward sign as to whether he was going or not, so Weasley was sure to attend for a chance to see him.
At least, this one time, she would be disappointed. Harry would be locked up in detention with Snape and Romilda would be dutifully waiting for him when he arrived back at Gryffindor Tower.
Two more owls flew quickly up toward the boys’ dormitory. McLaggen surely and perhaps Longbottom again.
The fifth owl was the smallest and, cooing softly, it landed on Romilda’s shoulder, surprising her. She glanced at it before quickly looking over at Harry, who hadn’t noticed. He was too wrapped up in his Potions textbook, which Romilda had noticed was becoming a regular habit of his.
Perhaps he was trying to impress Professor Slughorn, she thought to herself.
Taking the note she quickly opened it and gasped. She had been invited to Slughorn’s supper that night.
Romilda couldn’t believe it. How had she captured Professor Slughorn’s attention?
She quickly put the note down and looked over at her boyfriend, who was engrossed in his book again. “Harry,” she whispered, placing her hand on his arm.
He looked up at her, and she handed him the note.
“Does this say what I think it says?”
Harry glanced down at it and then looked up at her, startled. “If it’s an invitation to supper tonight, then, yes, it does.”
She nodded once and swallowed away her nervousness. “All right, then.” She borrowed Harry’s quill and wrote a quick acceptance before handing it back to the owl. “Are you fine with this, Harry?” she finally asked, meeting his bright green eyes that looked at her in confusion.
“Fine with it?”
“Yes, fine with it.” When he gave no reaction to her words, she sighed and closed the book in his lap. “The only reason he’s invited me is because of that rather spectacular argument I had with Ginny Weasley and because, well, I’m your girlfriend. Rosa hasn’t been invited, so he’s not interested in the Vanes, and my mother died in childbirth and was only a minor heiress, though I am the default Clearwater heir. My inheritance is nothing compared to some.” The Greengrass sisters, for instance, she left unsaid.
“Oh.” His rough hand clasped hers and he pulled her closely to him. “I thought you were ambitious, Romilda.” A smirk played on his lips and she kissed it away.
A shiver of desire swept through her. “Terribly,” she quipped.
“Then I’d expect you to grab this—opportunity—with both hands and use all your ambition, confidence, and cunning to keep it.”
Romilda smiled against his lips. “Thank the gods,” she murmured.
He quirked an eyebrow at her.
“You seem to like me just the way I am without any false humility.”
“Milly, I can see through plots and unravel plans for my death.”
She glared at him when he used her nickname but he just laughed softly at her expression.
“Although your motives are still a mystery, I’ll probably have it figured out by the end of the year, and I wouldn’t have a girlfriend I didn’t completely fancy.”
“Then I guess I’m in luck then.”
His hands landed in thick curls and he pulled her closer again for a soft kiss. She liked how tentative Harry was, how he was learning everything with her as she was with him.
She knew from gossip that Chang had snogged him beneath the mistletoe last Christmas or something as cliché as that, but that was just once, and Chang was weepy all last year. Rosa took particular delight in cataloguing all of Chang’s faults as Davies had asked Chang out before his mind had turned to Rosa.
It wasn’t necessarily because he initially preferred Chang more, but that he and Chang were both Ravenclaws and closer in age than he was with a Gryffindor he rarely spoke to. How he and Rosa met was anyone’s guess, but they’d been nigh inseparable ever since.
Rosa even had spent part of the last summer with the Davies family.
“Why does only your father connect you to Vane?” he asked quietly, picking up on her subtle speech earlier.
Romilda sighed. “Roland and Rosa are my half-siblings,” she explained to him. “Actually, that’s not true. Rosa is my half-sister, and Roland is her half-brother. He’s the product from their mother’s first marriage, but my father’s heir. My mother was from a family of little importance, unlike theirs.”
“I’m sorry,” he murmured against her lips, but she only shrugged.
“It doesn’t matter. We’re all motherless now. Only Roland ever knew his mother. There are pictures of her everywhere at home. She was beautiful, like Rosa, but with blonde hair that fell about her face like silk. Father’s marriage to my mother was political, to secure a male heir for the line, but they had little me instead.”
“I’m still sorry.” His eyes filled with sadness and she gently touched the mourning band around his arm.
“It was so long ago. I’ve known nothing else.” She paused. “Now, what to wear. It says ‘semi-casual.’ I couldn’t possibly look any less presentable than the four other students in this house.”
Harry laughed against her and her face twisted into a smirk. “My nails are pearl so it wouldn’t do to clash. Would a dress be too much, do you think? Black is currently in vogue among purebloods, but that might be too unoriginal if Zabini is going.” She tensed. “Zabini. Oh well.”
“I’d love to see you in a black dress,” Harry commented casually, his fingers running up her bare arm.
“Would you now?”
“Most certainly. Why wouldn’t I? You looked so fanciable when we met, you in those black slacks and blouse-thing.”
She leaned back in mock-outrage. “Blouse-thing?” she accused loud enough for those around her to hear. “It was a vintage Ilythyia,” she teased and he smirked up at her.
“A vintage Ilythyia.”
“Yes, vintage. One of her original designs back in the seventies. Worth its weight in Galleons, Harry.”
“Can it weigh anything, a blouse-thing like that?”
She laughed happily at him before hopping away from him, running her hands through her wild curls. “A black dress it is then,” she commented and, with one final look over her shoulder at him, she ran up to her dormitory to start attacking her trunk and find something suitable to wear.
Harry wouldn’t be at the supper but he would see her either before or after, and she had to make certain she looked prettier than Weasley when she showed up in her second hand things.
When she finally descended from the dormitories to go to the dinner, Harry was already at his detention, so she briskly walked through the common room in a black dress with deep gray accents and out the portrait hole. She was one of the last to arrive, strangely enough as she wasn’t planning on being fashionably late, and was immediately seated and served a roasted partridge.
“Miss Vane,” Slughorn began. “I can call you Romilda, can I not? Such a lovely name.”
Romilda nodded, picking up her utensils delicately while trying to ignore the heated glances Zabini was sending her way. If she didn’t know any better, she would almost say that Zabini either found her fascinating or fancied a snog in a broom cupboard after supper.
“Well, everyone is talking about you, the professors as well. One of the top in your year and such a social butterfly. One wonders how you find time to do both; and not only that but you have captured the attention of The Chosen One.”
She coolly continued to cut a piece of meat and placed it daintily in her mouth.
“And is that almond I detect?” he continued as he stared at her.
Romilda nodded once. “Yes, it’s my personal scent. I use almond butter on my hands to keep them smooth.”
“How curious, how wonderfully curious,” he stated happily.
“Forgive me, Professor, but what’s curious?” Romilda asked.
McLaggen glared daggers at Granger when she opened up her mouth to speak.
“Why, it’s only that we briefly studied Amortentia at the beginning of NEWT-level potions. You are, of course, aware of Amortentia?”
She had to bite her lip, thinking about how well she knew about love potions in general. “Of course. The most powerful love potion there is?”
Granger interrupted, ignoring the loathing look McLaggen was sending her way. “It does not create real love, of course, just an obsession. It is rumored to smell different to every person—“
“—and has a multi-layer scent of what a person finds most attractive,” Romilda cut her off, her eyes flashing. “Yes, Granger, I am aware. Why is this curious, then?”
Slughorn summoned a little book into his pudgy hands and flicked through to the back. It looked rather ancient and had a deep green color. Romilda suspected that it added pages whenever it ran out. It was a rather handy magical object for a man such as Professor Slughorn, who had taught for years.
“I am most interested in what my NEWT-level students smell when exposed to Amortentia,” he explained, “and I make a list, a memento if you will.”
Romilda nodded. “Now, Miss Granger smelled freshly mowed grass, new parchment, and—“ His eyebrows rose a great deal “—never mind the last scent.”
Granger turned bright pink and looked away from the table. Ginny Weasley, Romilda noted, was looking at her in concern.
“Mr. Potter, however, smelled treacle tart, a broomstick handle, and almond. Most curious, most curious.”
He snapped the little book shut and banished it back to wherever it normally rested. “Is it young love, then? Are you, perhaps, the future Mrs. Harry Potter, young lady?”
“Well,” she blushed purposefully, taking delight in how sour Ginny Weasley’s face suddenly looked, “I think it might be a bit too soon for that sort of speculation. It’s only been a fortnight.”
“Of course, of course, how silly of me. Much too soon, of course. Mr. Potter is not of age himself, so naturally it is too soon to seriously start thinking of matrimony, but in the future, my dear, you wouldn’t be adverse to the idea, would you?”
Romilda paused for a moment, deciding how to answer, before taking a long drink of the claret in front of her. Locking eyes first with Zabini who was regarding her with cool interest, she gave him a predatory smile, and then turned back to Slughorn. “Far from it, sir. Unlike some witches of my generation whom I could name,” she paused tactfully and circled the rim of her glass with her finger, displaying her signet ring for everyone to see, “I am not deceitful when I decide I want something—or someone. I have nothing to hide.”
The sound of shattering glass met her ears and she turned slowly to see that Ginny Weasley’s hand was now bleeding and the shards of her water glass were imbedded in her rather inferior dress.
“So sorry,” she murmured and Granger quickly took out her wand to banish away the glass and to heal the wounds.
Romilda sat back and began to casually play with her necklace. She rather wished Harry were here to see what a pretty sight she made and wondered just how predatory he would get after hearing her give a speech like that.
Her cunning often brought out the harsher edges to his character and it secretly thrilled her. If he was anything like this now, she could just imagine how magnetic he would be when they grew older.
“Not to worry, not to worry,” Slughorn was saying, but Romilda wasn’t paying attention.
Instead, her eyes were locked rather fiercely with Zabini’s. After a few minutes, she looked away.
“Well, Romilda,” Slughorn began, “that was rather brave of you to admit.”
She shrugged casually and noticed that Marcus Belby appeared to be salivating over her and not the meal. What a dreadful little thing he was, she thought to herself.
At least Longbottom was there and he was giving her a thin and unsure smile. She grinned brightly back at him to set him at ease.
“Not brave,” she countered, turning to Slughorn. “Just honest. It’s rather difficult not to be around Harry.”
“Fascinating,” Slughorn breathed. “So Mr. Potter values honesty?”
“Yes. As long is one is honest with him, then he’ll be more accepting, as far as I’ve found. He knows what game I’m playing and where I want it to go. No secrets.” She shrugged. “I daresay it intrigues him. He thinks I should have been sorted into Slytherin, however.”
“You would have been a great addition to my old house, Romilda,” Slughorn complimented her and she tilted her head in a brief nod in recognition. “And, if I might inquire, where is this ‘game,’ as you call it, going?”
“To the wedding altar, naturally, Professor.”
Someone to Romilda’s right fumbled their silverware, and Romilda rather suspected it was either Granger or Ginny. Ginny, after all, didn’t have a glass to shatter and she hadn’t been supplied with another one. That might have been a wise decision on Slughorn’s part, she mused.
“It’s a bit soon for that, after all,” she added while politely accepting sorbet to clear her pallet. “I am, after all, in my fourth year, my elder sister isn’t even properly engaged as of yet.”
“Your sister,” Slughorn mused. “I don’t believe she’s in my class.”
“No, Rosa isn’t,” Romilda said slightly smugly. Rosa was horrible with anything that did not involve a wand. She would be independently wealthy enough, though, to afford all the potions she would ever need once she left Hogwarts.
“And her beau?”
“Roger Davies,” she supplied. “He graduated Hogwarts last year and now works at the Ministry for Magic.”
“Ah, an old family. Very proper. Miss Granger,” Slughorn began and Romilda’s eyes met Zabini’s once again as Slughorn tried to discover what exactly dentists were.
“Vane,” Zabini later purred at her as they were leaving Slughorn’s private rooms at the end of supper. “How utterly fascinating you have become.”
Romilda arched her eyebrow. “I thought I was lighting candles for my future husbands, according to you.”
“Not anymore. You’re playing a different sonata, I’d imagine.”
“Yes, I’d imagine so.”
Longbottom, bless him, had stopped to wait for her and Ginny Weasley and Granger were just a few steps away from him down the hall, waiting for their friend, Romilda imagined.
“I think I agree with Potter for the first time in my life,” he said quietly. “You should have been in Slytherin.”
She smirked at him, but said nothing.
“I am my mother’s only child and legal heir,” he continued.
“And wealthy, I presume, once you light her candle?”
He tilted his head and she admired his pureblood mannerisms. Wizarding customs and body language always soothed her, no matter the situation. She felt at ease among her own kind.
“You know where to find me,” he murmured, and then turned on his heel toward the Slytherin dormitories.
Romilda stared blankly after him. “Longbottom,” she said quietly and in a moment he was at her side. “Were you listening?”
She shook her head. “That’s not what I meant.” She smiled softly up at him. “It’s just—did he just propose a potential marriage if I break up with Harry?”
Longbottom shifted nervously and brushed his sandy fringe away from his watery eyes. “I think—“
She shot him a serious look.
“Yes,” he amended decisively. “He did. Unofficially, of course.”
Romilda breathed in deeply. “That was unexpected. Last time I spoke to him, he accused me of planning to marry wealthy wizards and have them die mysterious deaths.”
She slowly began walking toward Gryffindor Tower, Longbottom right beside her. Lost in thought, she let him guide her through the corridors and up the moving stairs. Granger and Weasley must be somewhere behind them, but she didn’t actively think about it.
Zabini had just asked her to marry him in not so many words. Blaise Zabini, the son of the most beautiful witch in all of Europe and one of the more attractive wizards Hogwarts had ever seen, admired her cunning and her brazen honesty.
Over the years, Pansy had insisted he was silent, watchful, and most likely asexual, but judging by the way his eyes had been devouring her, she rather doubted the last assertion.
She was fourteen and had received the first marriage proposal of anyone in her year and, more importantly, before Davies had asked Rosa to marry him.
Romilda laughed happily at the thought, Longbottom looking at her as if she had gone mad.
“Don’t mind me,” she said softly. “Something funny just occurred to me and I couldn’t contain my mirth.”
She soon found herself in front of the Fat Lady and, giving her the password a little too joyfully, swept into the common room and found Harry patiently waiting for her in an armchair by the fire. Slinking up to him, she tilted her head to the side and quietly watched him until he noticed her a few moments later.
A slow smile spread over his face as his eyes swept her from head to foot, and she felt rather happy at her choice of dresses. “Does it pass muster?” she teased as he drew her down on top of him and kissed her hair gently.
“Most definitely.” He drew away. “And why are you so happy, my Milly?”
Her face darkened a bit. “Don’t call me ‘Milly.’”
“I like it.” He shrugged. “It suits your gentler side that you’d like to pretend doesn’t exist.”
“I don’t have a gentle side.”
He ran his hand up the side of her face and buried it in her hair. “I prove my point, Romilda. Now, what makes you so happy?”
“It appears that Zabini rather likes strong-willed, cunning witches and—in not so many words—asked me to marry him if I should ever pull myself away from you.”
Harry pulled back, horror in his eyes. “And?”
She sat back and tilted her head coquettishly. “And Rosa has been going on for a year how it will be ‘any day now’ that Davies will sweep her off her feet and propose to her. I’m her little sister and somehow, quite by accident, I got an unofficial marriage proposal. It’s hilarious and does wonders for my vanity.”
He relaxed at her words and pulled her closer again. “Well, he can’t have you.”
“Of course he can’t. I know this, you know this, Zabini knows this. It’s still flattering.”
Harry laughed in the back of his throat. “Your vanity doesn’t need any more encouragement.”
She leaned down and whispered in his ear, “My vanity always needs encouragement. I am a Vane after all.”