Sorry this is about 10 days past the "due" date for the challenge--I thought I'd post it anyway. Comments and criticism welcome, as I will probably be revising this fic in the future.
PG-13 for language
A/N: Special thanks to the Gryffindor and Slytherin on whom these OC's are based (hope you're not horrified, heh; characters tend to change to fit the story). Unbeta'd, so read at your own risk.
a harry potter story for the Dumbledore’s Grid challenge
“Bloody Brits have no sense of space.” The young auburn-haired witch flung her handbag onto one of the twin beds. “It’s a magical inn, for Merlin’s sake.”
Her companion, plumper and a bit shorter, herded their trunks through the door and dropped them to the floor with a decisive flick of her wand. “No sense of space, but a great sense of offensive words, huh?”
“Bloody. Bollocks. Bugger. Why they’re all B-words is beyond me.” The auburn one wandered over to the nearest window and peered out. “And speaking of which–bloody hell. Tami, check this out. We are so clearly not in California any more.”
Tami leaned on the sill beside her. “Amanda, I hate to break this to you, but we’ve been in London for a week.”
“And didn’t see a single undisguised witch or wizard till we walked in here,” Amanda said.
“So it’s a small island. I suppose it’s just easier having places where you don’t have to water down who you are.” Tami sat down on her bed, found a hairbrush in her bag, and pulled it through her dark hair. “Although I admit I don’t see why they bother having a whole different monetary system. You’d think it would be easier if they just used pounds and shillings like everyone else around here. It would sure be easier on visitors.”
“Drag luggage to Leaky Cauldron. Drag luggage to Gringotts’ Bank. Drag luggage back to the Cauldron.” Amanda sighed, still gazing out the window. Everyone seemed to be wearing robes. The magical symbols over the shops, and the cheerful display of levitation, of charms...everything that had been missing in Muggle London. “It’s not split like this in Los Angeles.”
Tami had unlatched her trunk and was rummaging through it. “Don’t get romantic. The only reason the Statute is lax in our part of America is because you can’t tell the wizards from Muggles in Hollywood anyway. Where were you during Magical History and Politics last year?”
Amanda turned just enough to stick her tongue out at her friend.
Tami grinned. “I’m going to do some research. Going by you, I bet there’s never been a successful Gryffindor in politics.” She shook out a full black skirt and laid it across the bed.
“You’re changing?” Amanda surveyed her own scarlet blouse and dark jeans. “I don’t think we have much that looks like the fashion out there. They’re really conservative.”
Tami shrugged and tugged off her own jeans. “Suit yourself. Maybe we should investigate the robe shops first.” Her black skirt and snug pine-green sweater were slightly more witch than Muggle.
“Then let’s go. If we don’t hurry, all we’ll see is Diagon Alley by moonlight.” Amanda snatched up her handbag and peeked briefly into the mirror to fluff her bangs. “The Muggle sightseeing was great, but I want to know what exactly is going on before we get to school.”
“That’s a nice colour on you, dearie,” the mirror said. Amanda batted her eyelashes, and the mirror gave an affronted sniff.
“Just a sec.” Tami dipped into her trunk again and came out with a brooch, which she pinned in the hollow of her left shoulder.
The serpentine ‘S’ glittered silver against the green. Amanda raised her eyebrows. “When did you pick that up?”
Tami gestured for her friend to precede her, then locked their door behind them. “You’re the one who wanted to sit through the same film twice. I found a little jeweler’s down the road from the theatre.”
“Nice addition,” Amanda whispered as they headed for the stairs.
The Leaky Cauldron’s common room was cool and subdued on this August afternoon. A few customers sat alone, and there were several small groups, mostly of older students. Amanda inhaled the mix of smells: ale, warm sweet tea, and various breads still in the kitchen.
“Want to have ‘tea’ before we head out?” Tami asked.
“Nah. I saw some café type places when we were coming back from Gringott’s. Dinner– excuse me, ‘supper’–can wait till we get back.”
They turned together and headed for the back door. No one paid much attention to them until they were passing the last table. A robed figure stepped out to block their way. With darker hair, this boy would be way too good-looking, Amanda thought. Tall but not skinny–there was muscle under the brilliant emerald silk of his robes–a narrow, fine face, and hair like a soft fall of light.
The boy looked them over, one insolent eyebrow raised. His words were just loud enough to carry in the nearly empty room (and couched in an upper-class drawl, to boot). “What are you wearing?”
Tami stiffened, and Amanda answered for her. “We’ve been sightseeing in Muggle London.” The boy’s face tightened. Oops, that wasn’t the right response.
“Really.” He didn’t even glance at her; his attention had fixed on Tami, and particularly on her brooch. “Americans, too,” he said, and Amanda couldn’t tell whether that was curiosity or disdain in his voice.
It was clear which Tami perceived. “That’s right,” she said, cool as snow. “From the color of your robes, I assume I’ve met my first housemate.” She held out a hand, staring the boy down until he took it. “Tamara Beadle, seventh-year exchange student, Slytherin House.”
He held her fingers for a moment, then dropped them. “Draco Malfoy, also Slytherin House. So it’s true.” He let his gaze drift to Amanda and back. “Dumbledore is actually opening Hogwarts to foreign wizards. As if he didn’t know we’re in the middle of a war.”
“No you’re not. Yet.” Amanda frowned at Tami, who was ignoring her as roundly as Draco was.
“You’ve had exchange students before,” she said. “From Durmstrang and Beauxbatons, right? And the way I heard it, they weren’t the problem. You have the Dark Lord’s prime target as a classmate.”
“Harry bloody Potter,” Draco said bitterly, folding his arms. “Thinks he owns the school, and does own the Headmaster.” Finally he looked at Amanda. “And you are?”
“Amanda Wesley. Sixth-year, Gryffindor House.”
Draco shook his head at Tami. “Slytherin House is the best place to be if you want to get ahead. Gryffindors are nothing but a waste of time.”
“Thank you,” Tami bit out, “but I’ll be the judge of who I can befriend, you pitiful sixth-year prat. Excuse me.” She pushed past the furious Draco, with Amanda right behind her.
“You’ll be sorry for that,” he spat after them.
“Oh, I’m sure,” Tami muttered, and then they were out in the temperate sunshine.
Amanda let out a long breath, then glanced sideways at her friend. “Was that smart, insulting him? Not that I don’t wish I’d hexed him into the next county, but if we’re supposed to....”
Tami kept walking, one hand idly adjusting the serpent at her shoulder. “I don’t intend to be ordered around by lower class students in my own House.” She smirked. “I’m sure that’ll get me at least a little respect.”
The street was more crowded than the pub had been, with students milling about, arms piled high with packages, whole families forging through the mess. A moderate breeze floated hoods and skirts, and one middle-aged wizard darted in front of them to catch the hat that had flown off his head. He missed his grab, shouted “Accio!” and the hat flew back to his head. The stunt met with laughter and spontaneous applause from several nearby children.
“Whee, it’s the back-to-school rush. What looks the least packed?” Tami scanned the shops as they walked.
Amanda pointed. Madame Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions. “British wizarding fashion, here we come.”
They didn’t stay long. There were some mother-daughter pairs shopping here, and an elderly couple looking at formal robes. Tami asked to see some everyday robes, and whistled soundlessly when they were brought out. “Full sleeves must be in,” she whispered to Amanda. “Imagine trying to get through a Potions class in one of those outfits.”
“We can always think about it and come back tomorrow,” Amanda reasoned, holding a less voluminous lavender robe up to the light. “Anyway, it’s better than the frilled corsets the Hollywood crowd is wearing this season.”
The young witch helping them (whose own ample robe did little to hide her round belly) saw them to the door. “We don’t see many international witches. I do hope you come back tomorrow.” It was clearly a saleswoman’s line. Then she leaned forward, smiling a little. “If you’re looking for something more, well, American, you might try Starspun. Down the street a ways, just past the entrance to Knockturn Alley.”
“Thanks,” Amanda told her.
As they walked away, Tami sighed. “That was productive.” She peered around. “The innkeeper–“
“– said that Flourish and Blotts is the best-stocked bookstore around. Let’s get our school shopping out of they way.” Her face lit up as she spotted the sign and steered her friend towards it.
“Wait, wait, wait, it’s past tea-time now.” Amanda deliberately dragged her feet. “Let’s do it later.” Tami tugged at her sleeve like a four-year-old. “You just want to look at the books.”
Tami just grinned and pulled harder.
There was a good deal of noisy discussion going on in this particular crowd, much of it at the high pitch of unbroken male voices. The girls wormed their way through the crowd. Tami nudged Amanda a couple of times to point out students wearing obviously Muggle clothing.
A red-haired girl ducked around a standing shelf and bumped smack into Amanda, sending her own armload of books cascading onto the floor. “Oh, no. I’m sorry.” She bent to retrieve them at the same moment Amanda did, cracking their heads together. After a shocked second, Amanda chuckled, and the girl joined in. She picked up some of the books, and Amanda stacked the remainder into her arms.
“I’m new to this store. Are the sixth-year spellbooks back there?”
The girl nodded, trying to shake her hair back out of her face. “You’re American. What House shall you be in? Or are you going to be sorted with the First-Years?”
“I’ve been Sorted,” Amanda assured her. “Gryffindor House. Apparently there’s no other place for someone with my family background.”
“Really? That sounds familiar.” The red-head smiled. “My name’s Ginny. I have to go, but I’ll see you in our common room when you get to Hogwarts.”
Ginny was already headed for the door, but she turned around and called back, “You should go by Wizarding Wheezes if you get a chance.” Someone at the door waved to her. “All right, I’m coming.”
Tami had vanished into the crowd. Amanda wandered back towards the sixth-year spellbooks. It took her a few minutes to sort through the shelves, mixed as they were after being rummaged through all day, but she managed to find everything on her list of supplies. The stack was as precarious as Ginny’s had been, and Amanda was careful not to collide with anyone as she hunted for her friend.
It was Tami’s laugh that led her to a rack of paperback books; slender, brightly colored.... “Comic books?” Amanda said incredulously.
Tami was half-choking, trying to keep from bursting into uncontrollable whooping. “Ye gods,” she sputtered, thrusting one of the books at Amanda. “Look at this.” She turned back to the rack, laugh mutating into a hiccup.
“The Adventures of Marvin the Mad Muggle.” The garish colors and the outrageous outfits on the main character made Amanda blink. “I may be sorry I’m taking Muggle Studies in this country,” she said, grinning.
“I’m sorry for you,” Tami agreed. “But I am so sending these home to L.A. Maybe I’ll see if I can buy the rights and make a movie out of it.” She smothered another burst of laughter.
“Get your books and let’s scram,” Amanda said. “You can laugh at Marvin while I eat, okay?”
It was at least another twenty minutes before they could pay and get out the door. Most people seemed to ignore them. After arranging to have their books delivered to their room at the Leaky Cauldron, the girls drifted into the late afternoon light. “I know I saw a café or sweetshop or something down that way.”
“A café is nothing like a sweetshop.”
“Both food, okay? Right now, that’s about all that counts.”
A cluster of teens were standing outside a nondescript shop, admiring something on display in the large window. Amanda glanced over, then slowed to a stop. A gorgeous racing broom hovered in its own pool of light. “Oh, hang on a sec.”
“I’m gettin’ one of those for Christmas,” a dark little Irish boy was boasting.
He could have been a carbon copy of the older boy who reached out to slap the back of his head. “Sure y’are, Donnie. Save your Sickles.”
There was a general laugh.
A tall black boy added, “Anyway, having an upgraded Firebolt won’t put you onto a team first year.”
Donnie pouted. “But Harry Potter–“
The group went still. “You wish you were the Boy Who Lived?” the black kid asked, and there was an edge to his voice. “I’m sure your mum and da would like that. ‘Yes, mum, I wouldn’t mind losing you, if it meant I could be the Gryffindor Seeker’.”
Donnie glared at him. “I do want to be a Seeker,” he said firmly.
Amanda stepped into the group. “Hey. You all look like knowledgeable Qudditch fans. I’ve been in Muggle London since I arrived. Who won yesterday?”
There was an instant babble of voices, and between volleys of statistics on the Chudley Cannons’ latest loss and the season in general, the girls learned that the Irish boy was Donnie, the lookalike his sixth-year cousin Seamus, and the black boy was Dean. He was as vocal as the rest about the game, but Amanda caught a grateful glance from him a few seconds after her interruption and wondered about it.
Tami finally started poking Amanda to get her attention. “What happened to the search for nourishment? I can see the place from here.”
“Oh, Fortescue’s,” Seamus said cheerfully. “We’ll come with you, if you don’t mind.”
“You’ve had your ices for the day,” Dean protested.
“Just showing the ladies a good time.” Seamus offered Tami his arm and led the way. Dean and Donnie followed with Amanda, while the rest of the group scattered. A good thing, Amanda thought, as they found the only empty seats at Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlor.
Seamus ordered Eyebright Ices for himself and the other two boys. “What a waste,” Dean said. “It won’t be that dark for a while yet.” Tami wanted orange sherbet, and Amanda asked the proprietor to surprise her. He winked at her and hurried off.
“I’ve never heard of American students at Hogwarts before,” Seamus prodded.
“Yeah, it’s just for wizards,” Donnie added solemnly.
Tami’s sherbet had been brought first, and she scooped up a spoonful. “Believe me, Donnie, there are plenty of witches and wizards in America. And I know you’ve had students from other countries before.”
Dean frowned. “Only for the Triwizard Tournament.”
“Which hadn’t been held for decades,” Tami finished. “Headmaster Dumbledore seems to believe in going to great lengths to extend friendship other wizards, wherever they’re from.”
“What year are you?” Seamus again.
“Merlin and Nimue. Everyone asks that.” Amanda sighed dramatically. “Sixth. And I’m wearing one of my House colors.”
“Pleased to meet you, then.” Seamus reached across the table and shook her hand. “We’ll have classes and common room together. Dean, too.”
Dean was watching Tami. “What about you?” His voice was low and curious.
“Seventh year. Slytherin.” She took a huge mouthful of sorbet.
“I thought there weren’t any pureblood wizards in America,” Donnie said, apparently wanting to correct his embarrassing comment of a minute before. “Mum said so.”
Tami choked, then swallowed. Pointing at Amanda, she said, “There’s one pureblood American witch. Enough of you Old Country wizards emigrated that we do have a few pure bloodlines, even on the West Coast. Not that it makes much difference.”
“It does here,” Dean said, with feeling.
The boys’ ices arrived, glimmering faintly in the afternoon shadows. “Those look radioactive.” Tami eyed the desserts warily.
Dean looked sharply at her, then grinned. “Wait till after we eat them.”
Amanda’s surprise was a Strawberry Fountain, a marvelous concoction of strawberry ice cream, foam, and heat-sensitive sparkles. She breathed on the slow tumbling rise and fall of the cream, and watched the specks flare in a scattering of brilliant red. “This looks amazing,” she said, and passed the proprietor an extra Sickle.
“This place is better than that Cold Stone Creamery off Hollywood Boulevard.” Tami scraped the bottom of her dish.
“Did you ever figure out how they detected wizards before they even came through the door?” Amanda took a judicious bite of her Fountain, and closed her eyes in surprised pleasure.
Tami shook her head. “Family secret. They really should share it; in an integrated city like Los Angeles, it would be a big help.”
“Just a moment.” Dean was startled. “Muggles and wizards go to the same shops there?”
“Not for everything,” Amanda made haste to add. “Muggles wouldn’t know what to make of a Potions shop, for instance, so those are usually hidden.”
“L.A. is a strange place.” Tami rested her elbows on the table, and her chin on her hands. “Almost everything crosses over somewhere. No one blinks if a robed wizard or witch walks down Sunset Boulevard. The Muggles don’t technically know anything about it, but if they paid attention, they would.”
“You’re Muggleborn.” Dean pointed his spoon at Tami.
She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Yeah, that’s right. And the Hat said I had everything I would need to thrive in Slytherin House.”
Seamus laughed. “Have you met any Slytherins?”
“I’ll assume that was meant as a compliment,” Tami said coolly. “And yes, there was this white-haired prat back at the Leaky Cauldron....”
Dean turned his laugh into a cough. “Does he know you’re Muggleborn?” When Tami shook her head, Dean laid down his spoon and turned to Donnie. “I don’t care which House you’re Sorted into,” he said. “You mustn’t tell this to anyone.”
“I won’t,” Donnie whispered, big-eyed.
Nobody said a word for the next few minutes, as the ice cream was quietly consumed. The boys’ hair, including eyebrows and lashes, were soon tipped with flecks of light. Tami watched, fascinated. “It’s like living fiber optics.”
“So you’re from Hollywood,” Dean said, finally.
“Ah-ha. The one question I was sure would be asked, and you’re the first to bring it up.” Amanda bounced in her seat. “We’ve got our own private wizarding academy right in Griffith Park, just above Hollywood.”
“Dean says there are wizards in cinema.” Seamus sounded as if he were accusing his friend of heresy. “Cinema is for Muggles.”
“What they just told us proves it.” Dean sat back, trying to look wise. “Muggles and wizards work together in Hollywood. Therefore....”
“You must have heard some names, then.” Tami sat up straighter. “I have to hear which rumors are current over here.”
“I’ll try.” Dean frowned in concentration. “Um...Sir Alec Guinness. Christopher Lee. Michael Caine. David Thewlis. Um...Johnny Depp? I haven’t gone to the cinema much the last few years.”
Amanda and Tami smiled at each other; Tami gestured for Amanda to go first. “Okay. Only one of those actors is a wizards–Christopher Lee. Johnny Depp must know something about our world, though, because of the director he works with.” The boys were looking blank. “Tim Burton. He makes movies that are all about magic. Mostly Muggle sorts of ideas about it, but sometimes he gets close.”
“A man with scissors for hands?” Dean asked slowly. “I liked that story.”
“Yes!” Tami clapped her hands. “Although Burton himself isn’t actually a wizard. He’s a Squib.”
“But Squibs can’t do anything!” Donnie was appalled.
“Not with the same magic we can,” Amanda agreed. “Burton can’t do magic with a wand, so he does it with cameras and actors and costumes.”
“Huh.” Dean looked thoughtful.
Seamus tipped his head back to see the sky. “Getting late, mate. Told me mum we’d be there before dark, and we haven’t been to the apothecary’s yet.”
Dean sighed, and got up to join the others. He paused to take Amanda’s hand. “See you in Gryffindor.” With a glance at Tami, he added in a whisper, “You might stop at Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes sometime. The twins can do just about anything, if they want to.” He tilted his head to the left, then smiled and headed down the street with his friends.
Amanda watched them go, then turned to Tami. “Weasley?”
Tami shrugged. “If you’re done....?”
Amanda scooped up the last few bits of her Strawberry Fountain.
Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes was a little hole-in-the-wall shop, squeezed between a jeweler’s and something that might have been a pawnshop, or an antiques store. The sign above the door was brilliantly painted, the letters charmed into constant motion, each coming alive to perform complex acrobatics.
Amanda blinked. “Looks like the sign for a circus.”
“Or a strip club,” was Tami’s addition, which earned her a mock slap.
The shop was a good deal less cramped inside than they expected (“Expansion charm?” Amanda wondered), though every inch of shelf and every spare corner was stacked with merchandise. Several teens were crowded around a young man with flaming red hair.
“Now then,” he was saying. “You want to be careful with this one.” The smile that slid across his freckled face was just this side of sly. He held a tiny yellow packet in the palm of one hand and pointed his wand at it with the other. Flowers burst from the end of the wand. “Bugger. Wrong wand.”
The kids laughed. The young man exhanged the fake wand for one from the pocket of his robes, and held out the packet again. “Wingardium Leviosa.” The packet floated up into the air, and he gave the wand a sharp twist. “Ingnito.” There was a tiny flash of light. A moment later, the air was full of powdery flakes, like snow, and a sweet, acrid smell. Wherever the powdery fragments touched bare skin, a clear tone rang out, making a richly dissonant music from the gathering below.
Some of the kids shouted, stretching up gleeful hands to catch the flakes, increasing the sheer volume to overwhelming. When the shower ended and the music had faded, one of the girls slapped five Galleons into the redhead’s hand. “I want ten of them.”
A shrimpy boy put his hands on his hips. “We can’t use these at home, you triggered that with your wand.”
“Fred was showing off.” Another redhead was standing behind the counter, wrapping items into parcels. “Any flame works as well. Though it does get a bit noisy when you’re that close to the blast.”
“You’ll be at school in a week.” Fred pocketed his wand, counted out more of the yellow packets, and carried them to the counter. “More fun to use there anyway. Isn’t that right, George?”
George tied the string on the last parcel. “I threw in a surprise,” he said, handing it to the shrimpy boy. A grin split his freckled face. “Send me an owl, let me know how it works.” The rest of the teens gathered up their parcels.
“They’re identical,” Amanda whispered to Tami.
“Don’t use ‘em all at once, mind,” Fred remarked conversationally, walking the kids to the door. “We only have limited stock at Zonko’s.”
Once they had left, he turned to the girls with a half-bow. “What are you looking for, ladies?”
“It’s a joke shop.” Tami’s eyes sparkled.
“Indeed.” Fred’s face was serious. “Best in Britain. What’s your preference? Sweets? Powders?”
“Trick items?” George reached under the counter. “The wands are ancient history, but we just developed these.” He flourished a handful of quills at them.
Fred selected one, along with a scrap of parchment. After writing a few words, he handed it to Tami. “Read it out loud.”
The parchment was blank. Tami frowned. “Invisible ink isn’t exactly new.”
“This is.” Fred took it back, glanced at it, and read, “Weasley is our king.”
“You wrote it,” Amanda objected.
Fred handed her the parchment and quill. “You try.”
Amanda shrugged, then scribbled something. “Hey, I can see what I wrote. Is it broken?” Fred and George grinned.
Tami took the parchment. “No, it’s working, because I sure can’t see a word on here. Oh, wait a sec.” She snatched the quill and scribbled something of her own, then held it out to Amanda.
“Nope. Nothing but what I wrote.”
“So, only the person who wrote with this quill can read what they wrote.” Tami smiled slowly. “That’s clever. Can the anti-cheating spells detect it?”
George shook his head. “Though it’s only fair to warn you that Hogwarts teachers are quite suspicious. Our legacy, I like to think.”
“Special price, today only.” Fred was all business. “Only one Galleons for a quill.”
Tami shook her head. “I’d rather have a look around before I buy anything.”
“Our pleasure.” Fred gestured to the entire shop.
“Actually....” Amanda looked from one twin to the other. “You’re Weasleys, right? Bill didn’t mention anything about the remnants back in the Old Country being so successful.”
“Oh-ho.” George’s eyebrows went up. “Don’t tell me you’re one of our crazy American cousins.”
“If Bill met you, why didn’t he tell us?” Fred asked. He walked around her, frowning over his steepled fingers. “Hmm. Has the freckles. Has red hair–“
“Watered down, but still red,” George added thoughtfully.
“–and appears to have transferred to Hogwarts.” Fred pointed a finger into her face. “What House?”
“Gryffindor.” Amanda smiled smugly. “The Hat said something about it being a family tradition. And yes, I’m going to Hogwarts for at least a year.”
The twins exchanged meaningful looks.
Amanda crossed her arms. “Why does everyone else seem so surprised about it? Some people think it’s good, some don’t, but we sure don’t seem to be the norm.”
“Malfoy knew about the transfer students,” Tami reminded her.
“Did he, now?” George’s tone was studiously neutral. “Maybe he knows someone who’s working in the program.”
Amanda shrugged. “Oh, sure. Bill didn’t even tell you guys he’d recruited me.”
“He can be a git, sometimes,” Fred offered. “He wouldn’t tell us what he was up to this summer. Not even dark hints.”
George looked from Amanda to Tami. “Anything special we can get you two? I wouldn’t spread this around, but we occasionally take on projects for people.”
Amanda pursed her lips. “You have anything that we could use to communicate–securely–over a distance?”
“Preferably undetected,” Tami added.
Fred looked her up and down. “So you *are* Slytherin. Malfoy been at you about that already?”
Tami tucked her dark hair behind her ears. “I don’t plan to be pushed around in my own House, but I’m not out to deliberately make enemies, either.”
“Friends in Slytherin and Gryffindor.” George looked skeptical, but ducked down to rummage beneath the counter. “What about these?” He laid two powder compacts on the counter and looked at his brother.
Fred picked one up and turned it over. “Sure. We could adapt the mirrors.” He opened the lid and flashed light into Tami’s eyes. “These will be tied to your voices, activated with your names.”
“Or,” George added casually, “whatever alias you choose.”
“You have any color besides gold?” Tami raised a disapproving eyebrow.
“We’ll get you silver,” George promised.
“Why not red and green?” Amanda grinned at her friend.
Tami rolled her eyes. “Because we don’t want to look like matching Christmas ornaments.” She turned to the twins and waved a dismissive hand. “We’ll think about it, thank you.”
“Was there something else, then?” Fred’s voice had acquired an edge, and Amanda was startled to see how closely he was watching Tami.
“Maybe.” The Slytherin girl’s eyes had taken on a stubborn glint. “You design these products. You must be able to detect and counter similar things. Do you carry portable spell-detectors?”
Fred looked perplexed. “What on earth for? This is a joke shop, not an anti-joke shop.”
“We’d go out of business,” George said firmly.
“Thanks, that’s all.” Tami grabbed Amanda’s upper arm and turned her towards the door. “That sherbet wasn’t very filling. Let’s go get supper at the Cauldron.”
“Wait.” George came out from behind the counter, pointing to the left of the door. “There’s a retired cursebreaker down near Knockturn Alley. He might carry old Foe-glasses, things like that.”
“Thanks,” Tami said again. She continued towards the door, but Amanda pulled back.
“Hey, what’s made you all passive-aggressive?” Amanda whispered. “Look, I won’t need spell-detectors. I think I’d like to stay and talk to my several-generations-removed cousins for a while. Is that okay? You could pick me up on your way back to the Cauldron.”
“Let me show you out.” George offered his arm; Tami ignored it, and he lengthened his stride to keep up with her as they walked out the door.
“So, cuz, how long have you known this Slytherin girl?” Fred turned to straighten the merchandise on a nearby shelf.
“Oh for the love of....” Amanda made a disgusted noise. “She came to Griffith’s Academy of Magic five years ago. And if you suspect her of something just because the Hat put her in Slytherin, you are profoundly mistaken.”
“She does act rather like a Slytherin,” Fred observed.
“Not that we couldn’t have ended up there,” George added easily, as he strolled back into the shop. He grinned at Amanda. “I’m not entirely sure it wouldn’t have been for the best.”
“But you’re in a war?”
The twins both adopted befuddled expressions.
Amanda sighed. “Look. I have a feeling there’s a lot we haven’t been told. But I would trust Tami with my life. With my secrets, with my friends’ lives, if it came to that. Okay?”
The puzzlement slid from George’s face; he looked at her with open speculation now. “We’re not exactly in a war,” he said slowly. “But....”
Amanda lost the rest of the sentence when the world tilted around her. The twins reached out to grab her arms, and after a few seconds her perception jerked back into alignment. “I’m fine.” The response was automatic, to shut them up and give herself a minute to let the impression drift into focus. When it did, Amanda lurched for the door.
The twins kept their grip on her. “Here, what’s going on?” Fred demanded.
“Dementors.” Amanda twisted, trying to pull free.
Both of the redheads stiffened. Fred turned to stare out the window of the shop, while George tilted his head, listening. After a long minute, Fred said, “I don’t feel anything.”
Amanda relaxed. “Oh, you idiots. Not now, later.” She gave one quick jerk, slipped out of their hands, and ran for the door. Confused exclamations and footsteps echoed behind her, but that didn’t matter. If this was accurate, it was Tami she would need.
The sun had dropped low by now, stretching long shadows across storefronts and knots of hurrying shoppers. Amanda bolted down the street, ignoring the occasional witch or wizard who shouted warning or annoyance as she came close to colliding with them. To the left, down the street, a cursebreaker near Knockturn Alley....
Tami stood peering into a window crowded with bright colors. Starspun, the sign above read.
Amanda flew at her. “Tami!” The word used most of the breath she had left. Amanda grabbed her friend’s shoulder for support and bent forward, breathing hard.
“What is it?” Tami shook her gently. “Hey. Did you See something?”
“Huh. Yeah.” Amanda sucked in a deeper breath. “Not sure if it’s soon...or later. Got...your wand?”
Tami pulled the lengthy ashwood rod from her skirt pocket. “That bad, huh? What are we talking about here?”
“When?” Tami shifted into defensive posture.
Amanda straightened up slowly, then reached into her handbag for her own wand. “Uh–now?” The summer evening seemed to close in around them, shadows descending sharply into darkness, the breeze suddenly ice against her skin.
Amanda turned, placing herself back to back with Tami. For a moment her own breath made a white cloud in front of her face, and then even that much of her vision faded. “Lumos!” Tami snapped, and the edges of her wandlight fell past Amanda onto the solid shadows that were gliding towards her.
“I thought Dementors didn’t roam freely in Britain,” Amanda said bitterly. “Aren’t they cooped up at Azkaban?”
“There are always renegades.” Tami took a deep breath, then shuddered. “Oh, hell, this is more than two or three.”
The breeze changed direction, tugging at her hair, her face, a long, rattling, indrawn breath. Amanda tried to breathe against it, to open her mouth and shout, but--
<–fire flashed, leaping over her head, alive. Someone screamed...Keith...still in the trees behind her–>
Amanda gritted her teeth, sucked in air that stung her nose and throat, and reached for other memories. Somewhere in the cold she could hear Tami gasping: “Expecto–Patronum! Expecto....shit, shit, shit...! Expect....”
<--the *poof* of the boggart vanishing at the end of her own wand, her father’s hug, his excited whoop–>
“Expecto Patronum!” Amanda pried her eyes open in time to see the silver-sleek dolphin leap from the end of her wand and flash through the dim air. Hooded figures scattered, and she could breathe again. “Tami?”
The only answer was ragged breathing behind her.
“Tami!” Amanda backed slowly, until her shoulders pressed up against her friend’s.
“Expecto Patronum!” The words were fierce, if low. Amanda glanced over her shoulder; a line of silver light reared up, the cobra spreading its hood before the strike.
The moment’s inattention had scattered her Patronus, and Amanda looked back into the hood and icy stink of a Dementor close enough to Kiss. All the warmth shivered out of her. She couldn’t move, couldn’t think–
<--failed, failed, before you even began to fight you lost–>
Faintly, beyond the rushing in her ears, beyond the icy edge to every sound, she heard two cracks and words shouted in unison. Formless silver blasted across her vision, sweeping the Dementor with it.
<“New faces in the equation,” Bill Weasley had said. “Whatever we can do to throw You-Know-Who’s plans out of synch.” He was looking at her. He was asking *her*.>
“Expecto Patronum!” The spell wasn’t strong, but the shadows fell back a little further. Amanda could feel Tami’s warm back against hers once again. The other voices shouted, the hooded shapes retreated, and suddenly the faded red glow of sunset painted itself across a clear sky above them.
“They’ve gone further into Diagon Alley,” Fred fumed. “Where the bloody hell are the Aurors?” He Disapparated with a crack.
“Some of them went into Knockturn Alley, too.” Tami’s voice shook slightly, and Amanda turned when she felt her friend slump against her, but George already had Tami by the shoulders and was helping her sit without falling.
“In L.A. those things hunt singly or in pairs.” Amanda’s hands were trembling, and she clenched them tighter around her wand. “They don’t act like a fucking army battalion.”
George reached into his pocket, and dropped Chocolate Frogs into both girls’ hands before unwrapping one for himself. “That’s why you can both produce corporeal Patronuses.”
“Yeah.” Amanda sat down, laid her wand across her lap, and unwrapped her Frog. “Fourth-years and above go on Dementor patrol pretty regularly.”
It tried to leap away, and George caught it. “How did you know they were coming?” he asked her.
“Saw it.” Amanda took the Frog back and bit off its kicking hind legs. Several feet away, Fred reappeared. “Are you telling me none of the British Weasleys have even a twinge of the Sight left?”
“Ha!” Fred had clearly overheard the last sentence. He walked over to them, grinning smugly. “You owe me, George.”
There were several more snaps, and about seven Aurors appeared. A middle-aged wizard shouted orders, and four of them ran for Knockturn Alley, while the rest took off up the street. One, a young witch with neon green hair, headed for the small group instead. “Wotcher, George!” she called. “Any of them move west?”
“Not that I saw.”
“No, just east and south,” Tami added.
The witch glanced at her, then at Amanda, considering. “Were you first on the scene?” When Amanda nodded, the Auror looked as if she were trying very hard not to smile. “The Ministry’s going to be pleased, after last year,” she said. “Underage witches head off Dementor attack.”
“I’m not underage!” Tami protested, through a mouthful of chocolate.
“And it was self-defense,” Amanda added.
“Is there going to be trouble, Nymphadora?” Fred asked, all innocence.
The Auror looked daggers at him. “That’s Tonks to you, Weasley. I shouldn’t think so, but stay here till we clear the Alley, all right?”
“Absolutely.” George saluted.
Tonks rolled her eyes and Disapparated.
Behind where she had been standing, between two shops, Amanda caught a glimpse of moving green and pale white. She leaned forwards, turning for a better view, but the figure was gone. She sat back slowly, watching, munching on the last bite of her Frog.
“Did you See something?” Tami whispered, scooting around beside Amanda and following her gaze.
“No. Well...not like that.” Amanda pulled on Tami’s green sleeve. “A certain white-haired housemate of yours, right over there.”
Tami scanned the area, then shook her head. “Do not even try to tell me this was aimed at us. I’m the paranoid one, and that’s beyond ridiculous.”
“Yeah, I know. But he was watching.”
“Little vulture.” Tami’s eyes narrowed viciously.
“He was right though, wasn’t he?” Amanda rubbed her eyes with tired fingers. “I guess we really have walked right into a war.” After a brief silence, she burst out, “I wanna to go home.”
Tami started laughing. After a startled moment, Amanda joined in.
The twins broke from their own conversation to look askance at the girls. “Maybe they need more chocolate,” Fred said over their heads.
“Bring it on.” Tami held up a hand. “Who knows when we’ll get our supper?”
George pulled more Frogs from his pockets.
“Armies of Dementors.” Amanda’s mouth was full of chocolate. “I’m having words with the Headmaster when we get to school. There was nothing about this in the exchange packet.”
Tami fell over, trying to catch a Frog escaping into the dusk. “It does explain why Bill came to L.A. to recruit–“ she glanced at the twins, “–students, though, doesn’t it?”
George and Fred exchanged glances. Then Fred crouched down and offered his hand to Tami, then to Amanda. “Welcome to the fight.”
ETA: because I clearly need to triple-check before posting. Egad.