Hey All! This is my first Harry Potter fic, and I'm excited to share it with you all! I've got most of it written, so please review to let me know if you all want me to continue!

I do not own Harry Potter. It would be friggin' awesome if I did.


Hazel Herrod was choking for air. Her father, Daniel, was holding her tight against his chest. Even after five years, he still had a difficult time letting her onto the Hogwarts Express. With the recent escape of Sirius Black, which had even the Muggle populace on alert, he was even more loath to let her go.

"And you will write to me every week." He stated. It was not a question.

"Yes, Dad. I will." She replied, mostly to placate him and get him to release her. It was 10:58.

"Daniel, let the poor girl go, she'll miss the train!" her grandmother, Renatta, said, pulling on Daniel's shoulder. Daniel begrudgingly agreed and kissed his daughter's forehead while she shot her grandparents a thankful look.

"Love you all! See you at Christmas!" She yelled over her shoulder.

As she boarded the train, golden-brown ponytail bouncing behind her, Daniel turned to his in-laws. "You really think she'll be safe?" He asked as he shoved his hands into the pockets of his jeans.

"Of course she will be, Daniel. Only a Muggle like you would ask that." Angus snorted as he and his wife turned and walked toward the portal back into King's Cross.

Hazel found the nearest window and waved to her father, her heart leaping into her throat as the train lurched into motion. She was off to her fifth magical year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and not even an escaped mass murderer could bring her down. She settled into an empty compartment, placing Leia's basket next to her and opening the door. Her brown tabby cat stepped out, stretched, and immediately started grooming herself while Hazel dove into a first edition of The Princess Bride, a gift from her father.

Half an hour later, the door slammed open and her classmates Fred and George Weasley, burst into the compartment followed shortly by Lee Jordan, interrupting her as she was just learning of Westley's love for Buttercup for the umpteenth time.

"Ah, Herrod, there you are!" one of the twins exclaimed, sitting down next to her and throwing an arm over her shoulder.

"You were looking for me?" she asked, not taking her eyes from the page. Leia had jumped at the entrance of the boys and curled up in Hazel's lap, glaring at them as they sat down.

"No, not really. Just an open compartment is all." The other twin said as she greeted Lee.

"Make yourselves at home, then." She said quietly, going back to her book. A second later, however, she found herself staring at her lap as the twin sitting across from her had snatched it away.

"The Princess Bride! Fred, check this out!" he exclaimed, inspecting the cover before passing it to his brother. The boys laughed, making fun of the girlish title of what was, in Hazel's well-informed opinion, one of the greatest stories ever told. She would know, too, as her father ran Herrod's Rare and Collectible Books just off of Coney Street in York, and had for many years. She helped out on breaks and over summer, and had read an impressive number of the thousands of books in the small shop.

"So it's some ridiculously sappy love story with words like 'quivering' and 'tender' and 'mayhaps'?" Fred asked, taking the book and flipping through the pages. Hazel snatched it back and held it tightly to her chest.

"It's actually much more than that, but I don't expect you lot to understand or care. Has anyone seen Allegra or Veronica yet?" Hazel rapidly changed the subject to the whereabouts of her best friend.

"Nope. Haven't seen them." Fred said simply.

"Yes we did! Allegra was snogging Eric Cahill a few cars down, been snogging all summer those two have," revealed Lee. Hazel's eyes widened at the shock that Allegra had kept something like that from her, but kept her mouth shut. That would likely explain the radio silence from Allegra all summer. She would find her friend later and demand an explanation.

"And Veronica?" Hazel inquired.

"She was in a compartment with Cedric Diggory and some other Hufflepuffs." Lee said dismissively. This didn't surprise Hazel, as Veronica and Cedric had been carrying on a flirtation since third year. In her opinion, they needed to make their minds up or she was going to spike both of their pumpkin juices with Amortentia.

"Right then, chaps, I think it's time for some top secret planning. Hazel, do you mind?" George said, motioning for her to leave.

"Not at all. You three can leave at your own leisure, I'll be fine here alone." She smirked back; "Don't worry, I won't go telling the Head Boy on you so long as you let me read in peace."

"Agreed." The three troublemakers said in unison. Hazel went back to her book, stroking Leia's fur every now and then (for the cat had fallen asleep in her lap). Eventually the trolley came by and Hazel bought some pumpkin pasties while the boys continued their hushed conversation. Leia moved back to her basket after a half-hearted attempt at getting Fred to pet her.

The sky outside seemed to darken abnormally quickly Hazel noticed as it started to downpour outside. She ignored the sound of the rain, until she was thrown from her seat as the train came to a complete and sudden stop.

"Bloody hell-?"

"Aargh, Fred, your elbow is in my gut!"

"Ow! My head!"

"Is everyone alright?" Hazel asked, pushing herself into a standing position from where she landed next to Lee. She picked up Leia's basket and, seeing her cat's eyes were wide and round with fear, closed the door to prevent an escape.

"Yeah, probably just some mild brain damage – " Fred said as he stood. Before he could finish his thought the lights flickered and went out, leaving them in near total darkness. Hazel sighed and pulled out her wand.

"Lumos," she said, illuminating the tip of her wand and providing ample light for the small compartment.

"Suppose we've broken down then?" George postulated, going to the door and looking through the glass to see what was going on. He tried to open the door, and other students had the same idea, but all of the doors seemed to be locked from the outside.

"We must've. Why else would we stop before we got to Hogwarts?" Hazel asked no one in particular as she sat back down and righted her things. As she bent down to retrieve her bookmark off the floor she glanced up at the window and noticed thin ice, almost clear in color, racing along the edges and spreading upwards onto the glass. Her breath now hung in the air as it only did in winter. She sat back down and tried not to shiver too violently.

"What is happ-?" Fred started asking, but Hazel threw her hand over his mouth to silence him. She doused the light on her wand and put a finger to her lips, letting the others in the compartment know to be quiet. Then she heard it.

A faint, almost undetectable sound was coming from the hallway, like a cotton sheet gliding against a wooden floor. It was slight, but it was there. Hazel's breath quickened and her heart started hammering against her chest as they caught sight of the hooded shadow of a dementor as it glided by their compartment. It paused outside their door and looked in, tapping its skeletal fingers on the glass, which, now nearly frozen, made a dull cracking noise that made Hazel whimper in fear. The dementor looked away down the hall as if distracted by something.

Fred slowly moved to put an arm around her shoulders and the dementor, sensing the movement, snapped its head back. Fred froze, arm in midair, as if they were playing the world's deadliest game of Merlin Says. Hazel trembled against the cold, her heart spinning in her chest now, her stomach churning. A moment more of staring and the dementor floated away. Hazel glanced about the compartment and noticed that Lee's face had gotten considerably paler and Fred and George's expressions seemed frozen on their faces.

Hazel could not think about anything else than the look on her dad's face as she walked away from him on the platform earlier that day, or the feeling she had leaving her Muggle friends and school behind, or the guilt she felt every summer lying to them. Her entire relationship with Ewan had the lump of guilt lurch in her stomach as she remembered the day last week when she had left him sitting all alone in the tea shop after breaking his heart. The gaps between her two lives seemed permanently irreconcilable.

Her mother's face, one she had only seen in pictures, swam in front of her eyes. She had never known her mother, never known what it was like to have a complete family or a mother's love. It was a gaping wound in her life that reopened every so often, usually repaired with a long walk, a warm butterbeer, and a long chat with Allegra or Veronica. But now it felt like that void would never close; she would never be happy again.

As the dementor left and the lights came back on, Hazel burst into frantic tears. Fred completed his motion and let her rest her head on his shoulder. He noticed, out of the corner of his eye, that Lee was also wiping away a few stray tears. Shooting his twin a look to make sure he was okay, Fred began stroking Hazel's back. He was more accustomed to Ginny crying on his shoulder than he'd like to admit (mainly because he and George usually caused it), so having Hazel there didn't feel horribly awkward.

After the train staggered back into motion the compartment door slid open and Percy, Head Boy and Obnoxious Git, entered.

"Was anyone in here attacked?" he asked curtly, getting straight to the point and pointing around with his wand.

"Someone was attacked?" Lee queried, having regained his composure. Hazel was still buried in Fred's favorite Zonko's t-shirt.

"No, I was just making sure no one was. Head boy duties and such," he said pompously before noticing Hazel, "Ah, take this. I have it on good authority that it helps combat the effects of a dementor…encounter." He handed Fred a bar of chocolate.

"What am I supposed to do with it? Rub it on her head?" Fred asked, feigning stupidity to annoy his older brother. Of all the Weasley boys, Percy was by far the most reactive, which made him the all-too frequent victim of Fred and George's attacks.

"No, you dolts, have her eat some. In fact, you should all eat some." Percy hissed before leaving the cabin before the twins were able to rile him up any more. He had important things to do before they arrived at Hogwarts.

Fred passed the chocolate to George, who broke it into four equal pieces and passed them around to the others. Hazel had to be coaxed, but eventually raised her head from Fred's chest and took the chocolate, nibbling on one corner and staring out the window blankly at the passing countryside.

She could feel the chocolate start to work, seemingly warming her from the inside, much like the effects of firewhiskey. She took bigger bites until her chunk was gone. Despite their efforts to get the conversation started again, the twins and Lee were met with silence from Hazel. This was partly melancholy and partly embarrassment. The four in the compartment were all friends, but Hazel had always made it a point to never let anyone see her cry, let alone the Weasley twins who were famous for taking the mickey out of everyone and anyone. When she cried, which wasn't often, she would do so in the privacy of her four-poster bed with an Imperturbable charm cast on the closed curtains.

The second the train stopped at Hogsmeade station Hazel bolted from the compartment and out onto the platform to avoid talking to the boys. She shuffled along with all of the other students toward the carriages and got into one, tuning out the conversation of the fourth-years she was sharing the ride with. After she dropped her things in the designated area she scanned the Great Hall for Allegra's ink-black hair. Catching sight of it over by the Hufflepuff table, she dashed over to her friend.

"Allegra, we have to talk!" She said grabbing Allegra's elbow and dragging her away, into the nearest girl's room.

"Hazel! What is wrong with you? The feast is about to start!" Allegra protested as Hazel pulled out her wand and locked the door.

"How could you not tell me about Eric?" Hazel demanded, pulling her hair out of the ponytail and running her hands through it.

"What's this about Eric?" Veronica said, entering the bathroom as if she hadn't a care in the world. "Oh really, Hazel, if you're going to lock the door use something that doesn't respond to 'alohamora'," She said, fluffing her chestnut hair in the mirror and responding to Hazel's look of shock. "What are we gabbing about then?"

"Allegra and Eric seem to have reconciled over the summer and someone didn't think it pertinent information."

"Oh Christ." Veronica muttered.

"I never said that!" defended the Hufflepuff, "How did you find out, anyway?"

"Fred and George and Lee. Lee actually said that you two had been snogging all summer. What's the deal? Last I heard you two hated each other." Hazel leaned against the sink, staring down her raven-haired best friend. They all three had met on the train to Hogwarts in first year, and were heartbroken they had been sorted into different houses. Hazel and Veronica went to Gryffindor, Allegra to Hufflepuff. However, this didn't affect them as much as they thought it would. They saw each other in classes and spent their free time in each other's common rooms or dormitories.

Eric Cahill was a sixth-year Hufflepuff whom Allegra had grown up with, as they lived in the same village. He was a Pureblood and Allegra, like Hazel, was only half magical. After the death of Eric's mother, Eric's father began espousing Pureblood supremacy propaganda that Eric then repeated to Allegra. He didn't agree with his father's ideals, but understood and supported his father all the same.

This drove Allegra mad and they stopped speaking for the entirety of last year, save for the occasional snarky, below-the-belt comment. And now they were together? Hazel didn't believe it.

"Yes, well, Eric came to his senses this summer. Realized his father was full of shit and doesn't deserve Eric's support. He wrote me a long letter apologizing about how he had acted and how much he loved me. How he had always loved me…." Allegra pulled on the sleeve of her uniform and used the excess length to coyly cover the smile on her face.

"We wrote you letters too. Why didn't you mention any of this? Or, hell, even respond? " Hazel asked quickly, as she could hear high-pitched first year voices ascending the stairs outside.

"Yeah, we wrote you plenty but it was like you'd fallen off the face of the earth. What gives?" Veronica pushed, standing next to Hazel as a united front. Hazel could feel her confidence bolster as the two lions stared down the badger.

Allegra let out a long sigh, as if she had been holding her breath for a long time. "I thought you would judge me for it. I mean, you two listened to all of my angry rants about Eric and helped me come up with creative ways to remove his head from his body…I thought you would say that I was being stupid for getting close to him after all he did to hurt me."

Hazel wrapped her arms around Allegra's shoulders. "I would never judge you. Take the mickey, yes, but never judge. If Eric makes you happy, I'm happy for you." She revealed, voice rising suspiciously.

"And you, Veronica?" Allegra asked, knowing Veronica wouldn't sugarcoat her answer like Hazel did.

"You're being an idiot. But when this all blows up in your face we will be right there to help you through it. There, I said it, let's go to dinner." Veronica said lazily, looking at Allegra over the brim of her horn-rimmed glasses before moving toward the door.

Allegra playfully slapped her friends' shoulders as she passed, wading through the first-years and back into the Great Hall. Professor McGonagall was just pulling out the stool and Sorting Hat as Hazel sat between Oliver Wood and Alicia Spinnet while Veronica settled on the other side of the table next to Lee Jordan.

"Hi Hazel, good summer?" Oliver asked. Hazel grinned and nodded at him as the Sorting Hat began to sing his song.

"Yeah, and yourself?" she said, angling her body toward him and away from the events on stage.

"Pretty good, yeah, got a whole new game plan this year we'll win the Cup for sure!" Oliver bragged in his Scottish brogue that many of the girls at Hogwarts found absolutely irresistible. Hazel, however, was perfectly able to resist his charms. Oliver was handsome, to be sure, but his head was stuffed with naught but Quidditch.

"Can't wait to see it." She said only half-genuinely. She didn't really care for Quidditch, or sporting events of any kind, and usually only attended the Cup games at Hogwarts.

"Ha! You've never been to an inter-house game and you know it!" Oliver scoffed.

"You've noticed?"

"How could I not?" He flirted, nudging her with his elbow. Hazel nudged him back and glanced pointedly at the head table, where Professor McGonagall was giving them a sharp look as she waited for the Sorting Hat to finish. Hazel put a finger to her lips and shushed Oliver. She noticed that the shabby-looking man in the Defense against the Dark Arts spot at the head table was also watching her closely, but with a look of wistfulness instead of the look of disapproval she received from her head of house.

All told, the sorting was uneventful. Dumbledore's speech introduced the shabby man as Remus Lupin, the new DADA professor, and cautioned against giving the dementors reasons to attack.

"Just remember: happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if ones only remembers to turn on the light." He concluded before beginning the feast. Hazel immediately reached for some mashed potatoes and a roasted chicken breast. She poured herself some pumpkin juice from a flagon in front of her, catching the Weasley twins out of the corner of her eye. They were sitting with their brother, Harry Potter, and Hermione Granger about twenty feet down the table.

She noticed Fred Weasley occasionally glancing her way, which made a blush rise on her cheeks. She finished her meal quickly, stopped to ask Percy the password, and headed up to the Gryffindor common room.

Hazel had always loved the Gryffindor common room, as it was the place at Hogwarts that most reminded her of home. She and her father lived in a small, cozy flat above his shop that they had painted in rich, warm colors and filled with old, lumpy furniture that one had to practically punch into shape before getting comfortable.

The Gryffindor common room, with its squashy furniture and roaring fireplace gave Hazel a comfortable, calm feeling whenever she entered it. It was a safe, warm place perfect for curling up with a book. After the excitement of the day and the anxiety that was still gnawing at the edges of her mind, Hazel could think of nowhere else she would rather be. Since most people were still at the feast, she was basically alone in the wide, round room. She bounded up the stairs to her dormitory, grabbed The Princess Bride and, back in the common room, settled into her favorite chair in an alcove and let the words of William Goldman absorb her thoughts.

An hour later her fellow Gryffindors started trickling in, but Hazel didn't move. No one would see her unless they were specifically looking for her, which they wouldn't be. Veronica would probably be waylaid in the Hufflepuff common room for a while yet, and none of the other Gryffindor girls would bother her.

"Still reading that rubbish?" a voice asked from above her, making her jump out of her skin. She turned and saw Fred Weasley leaning over the high back of the armchair, smirking down at her. She avoided his gaze, a blush forming on her cheeks as she muttered her assent.

"You are expertly avoiding my lustful gaze, Hazel, may I ask why?" Fred asked, moving around the chair and sitting in the armchair opposite her. He rested his forearms on his thighs and continued to stare her down. She gave in and raised her eyes to his.

"There, happy?" she said sarcastically.

"Very." He said, the smirk still playing about his lips as his translucently brown eyes gazed into her blue ones.

"Why are you staring at me?"

"Just waiting for an apology." He joked. Neither one had broken the stare yet.

"An apology?!" Hazel was genuinely shocked. What has she ever done to him?

"Yeah, you got mascara all over my favorite Zonko's shirt." He jested. A bemused look settled over her features as she sat back in the chair. She broke the gaze and picked up her book again.

"Well send me the dry cleaning bill." She muttered coolly, trying to find her page. Fred reached out and put his hand on her knee.

"Hey, I'm just taking the mickey. It's really not a big deal." He patted her knee and she shot him a nasty look. "Not one of us got through that encounter on the train unscathed. Lee ran into the loo after the feast and upchucked his whole dinner. George hasn't regained his peaches and cream coloring yet. You just had a more...immediate reaction is all."

Her face softened and she closed the book once more, "Well cheers, Fred, but it was still embarrassing. I mean, I don't think anyone in this whole school has ever seen me cry, much less blubber like a small child." She avoided his eyes again, instead looking down at her book, tracing the embossed title with her thumb as Fred continued to stroke her knee.

"Can't say that now, can you?" he smiled and she caught his eyes again, smiling in spite of herself.

"No, I guess not."

"We're alright, Herrod. We aren't going to tell anyone."

"Thanks, Fred." She whispered, putting a hand on top of his. They stayed there a moment longer, Hazel noting how warm Fred's hand felt under hers and Fred noticing how much he liked the weight of her hand on top of his.

He cleared his throat and retraced his hand, pushing himself into a standing position.

"Much obliged, Hazel." He said, giving her a small salute before shuffling away.

"Hey, Fred!" Hazel called, peering over the back of the chair. Fred stopped and looked back at her expectantly, "You never told me your side effects."

Hazel watched his eyes darken as he said, "Guess we'll just have to wait and see."