Broadschool Learning Revolution
Chapter 2 – The Calm Before The Storm
By Thursday, everyone more-or-less settled back into routine. Classes were in full swing, and aside from those few who were taking new subjects, the majority of the Sixth Years felt as if they had never been away.
Beatrice was one such student. Despite the differences in her timetable now that she was studying NEWTs rather than OWLs, none of her subjects were entirely new to her, and she'd quickly fallen back into the rhythm of late nights finishing essays in the library or Common Room.
The only subject she had yet to have a lesson in that year was Potions. She sighed as she found her name on the seating plan stuck to the wall outside the classroom. Great. She was sat just about as far away as she could get from Nathan, who was the only other Ravenclaw in their class, and was right at the front of the class in the middle of a large group of rather rowdy Gryffindors.
And, to top it all, she was going to have to share a cauldron with him.
To her dismay, she'd found they were sharing all their classes this year, but so far she'd been able to avoid being seated too near to him – at least not without out the presence of her friends nearby.
She stiffened as she felt someone sidle up beside her, stubbornly refusing to acknowledge the strange warmth and sense of rightness she felt when he causally looped an arm around her waist in mock affection. She didn't need to turn her head- she already knew who it was.
"Ah, Miss Messina, I see you've seen the new seating plan."
She resented his nonchalant tone. If she hadn't known their surly Potions professor would never stand for it, she'd have suspect him of bribing their teacher to seat them together, although why he'd want to sit next to her when he professed to loathe her was beyond her.
"Oh, is that what this is? Nah, I was just admiring the brickwork!" she easily returned, making no effort to mask her scorn as she turned to look at her rival, his hand slipping back to his side from where it had rested against her waist.
Benedick cleared his throat as his now-free hand reached up to absently pull at his earlobe.
"Well, you have to admit, it is rather remarkable how much magic is embedded in those walls." He slung back, ignoring her sarcasm.
"Indeed." She rolled her eyes. "It makes you wonder how you can be around so much magic and yet you seem to possess very little." Her tone was patronising, but her eyes sparkled with barely supressed mirth as he drew up to his full height and puffed his cheeks out his indignation.
"I resent that!" Benedick exclaimed. "I'll have you know-"
"-If you two are quite finished?" they both froze in horror at the silken voice behind them. "It may have escaped your notice, but your class started five minutes ago, and unless you very much want to spend the next week IN DETENTION, I suggest you both have a FLAWLESS Deflation Draught on my desk by the end of the lesson without another word from EITHER of you until you are DISMISSED at the end of CLASS. Do I make myself clear?" Snape drawled, allowing his anger to bleed through into his otherwise calmly-spoken words.
"Yes, Sir." They muttered in unison as they hurried into the classroom; Beatrice flushed bright red with embarrassment whilst Benedick's face had turned even more pale than usual.
It seemed one thing that wouldn't change this year was their Potions lessons, and for once, an entire class passed without a word from either of them.
Friday evening of the third week back saw Alec, Theresa, Sarah and Nellie tucked away in the library, surrounded by towers of books that none of them were pretending to understand, frantically trying to complete their Charms essays.
They'd been working most of the afternoon, and for a while it seemed that every half hour or so, one of them had a minor break through, and after five minutes were spent trying to reword it in four different ways, the others quickly caught on.
However, just before seven, after nearly an hour had passed without a word from any of them as the desperately search their volumes for anything that might help them link their last point – curtesy of Sarah – back into the original question, all but Theresa were beginning to despair.
"Urgh, I give up!" Alec exclaimed as he allowed his head to flop forwards to face-plant onto the page that he'd been struggling to focus on for at least the last four minutes.
"Me too!" groaned Nellie.
"Maybe we are better leaving it there for tonight"
"Who are you and what have you done with Theresa?!" Alec shot up to exclaim, forgetting to whisper and so earning himself a glare from Madame Baron, the librarian on duty.
"Sorry!" He stage-whispered at her before turning back to his friends.
Theresa was pulling a face at him.
"Haha, very funny." She dead-panned. "I just think we've covered all we can for tonight!"
Nellie leaned over the table and locked eyes with her. Nearly a full minute later, she straightened abruptly with a loud gasp, ignoring the glare directed at her from behind the Madame Baron's desk.
"YOU HAVE A DATE!"
Theresa blushed furiously.
"It's not a date, we're just-"
"Oh, it is so a date!" Nellie squealed excitedly.
"Oh, Theresa, why didn't you say? I can't believe he finally asked you!"
"Um… what? Who? What's happening?" Alec looked around at his friends blankly as they babbled, not quite keeping up.
He? Who was 'he'? Asked her what?
"Roderick finally asked Theresa out!" Sarah squealed.
Alec hadn't seen her so excited since the night she'd discovered that the House Elves knew how to make madeleines. He was so entranced by the sight that he didn't properly comprehend her words until Theresa spoke.
"Nell, it is not a date! Seriously! We're just going to be working on an Arithmancy question we were both stuck on, nothing remotely date-like."
"Oh, sure, because two Ravenclaws who are so utterly in love sitting and discussing their ideas for the future isn't the slightest bit romantic!" Nellie retorted, her voice dripping with sarcasm.
"Oh, stop it Nell! We are not in love! And how many times do I have to tell you; there is far more to Arithmancy than just 'discussing the future'! If I'd wanted to do that then I'd have taken Divination! It's entirely mathematical, and –"
"-and blah-duh-blah-duh-blah-duh, whatever alright, I know chemistry when I see it and you two have it."
"We don't- Oh I give up!" Theresa swept her things into her bag, rising abruptly. "Sarah, I'll see you later. Night, Alec."
"Night." Alec mumbled, still slightly confused as to what had just happened.
He was distracted from his thoughts, however, when he noticed the teasing smirk on Sarah's face as she sat staring at Nellie.
"So, you know chemistry, huh?"
Alec was startled to her a sultry, suggestive tone creep into Sarah's tone as she repeated Nellie's words back to her.
Nellie's eyes narrowed suspiciously.
"Okay." Sarah settled back in her seat, a picture of innocence.
She waited until Nellie had taken a sip of water from the glass she had just conjured.
"So, Nell, how's Peter?"
Nellie coughed and spluttered as she struggled to swallow the water, resuming her glare. Sarah laughed gleefully and even Alec allowed himself a brief chuckle at seeing his friend in such a state. He hoped they'd be seeing more of this teasing side of Sarah, especially if the results were always this funny!
"What do you mean? How should I know?" Nellie demanded one she regained her voice.
"Oh, nothing, just wondering since, you know, you know chemistry. You have Potions with him right? That's kind of like muggle chemistry, isn't it?" Sarah was all innocence again.
Nellie's eyes narrowed again and Alec could have sworn he heard a low growling noise from her direction before she turned back to her books, muttering darkly under her breath.
When Benedick had sauntered up to them that morning as she and Myrna were finishing their breakfast and preparing to go and meet Donna, Beatrice had been fully prepared to ignore him, but something in his posture gave her pause.
His usual arrogance was missing from his stance, which to her shrewd eye looked more a careful mask than the usual easiness with which he moved. Not that she'd been analysing the way he walked or anything. Absolutely not!
Her momentary hesitation lasted just long enough for Benedick to reach them, and after a quick glance at the teacher's table to ensure they were unobserved, slip into the seat opposite.
For only the fourth time that Beatrice and Benedick had been in each other's presence since starting Hogwarts, neither of them were the first to speak. Instead, it was Myrna who managed the first words.
"It seems the great Gryffindor seeker has lost his sense of direction!" She leaned over the table slightly, ignoring the split second that Benedick's eye-line flickered below her face before re-meeting her gaze, blushing ever so slightly, and lowered her voice to a mock whisper; "The Gryffindor table is over there!" She pointed behind him.
Shooting her a withering glare, he turned his attention to Beatrice.
"So, um, you going to the party tonight?"
Beatrice's eyebrows raised for the second time since she'd spotted Benedick heading their way. Since when did he struggle with words?
"Why wouldn't I be?" she asked, genuinely confused at the question that had come seemingly out of the blue.
"Oh, erm, no reason, just wanted to know if, uh… If I should take a headache potion beforehand! You know, if I'm gonna have to listen to you all night, then at least I can be prepared!"
Beatrice unconsciously frowned a little as she absorbed his words. It was far from unusual for them to say such things to each other – in fact it would have been more unusual had he not said it! But she couldn't deny that something inside her sunk slightly at his jibe.
"Oh, yeah, right." Was all she could manage before standing abruptly and spinning round to exit, missing the mirroring frown that now creased Benedick's forehead as he realised he'd offended her.
"So, uh, you're going tonight then?" Myrna asked gingerly, unfamiliar with being either alone or polite to her best friend's rival, but uncomfortable with the tension around them that somehow felt different to normal.
"Uh, yeah!" Benedick looked up, surprised at being broken out of his thoughts. "Are you? I mean I know you don't really do Quidditch, but..."
"Yeah, Beatrice invited me." She replied, casually 'forgetting' to mention that they were only going as friends, instead enjoying Benedick's attempt at masking his surprise at the implication.
It was common knowledge among their year group that she gay, but she was a little amused that he would believe it of Beatrice with such little prompting. Then again, it had been over a year since her friend - who was as good as a sister to her - had shown an interest in anyone...
"Oh! Right, well, good for you!"
There was an awkward pause as they both struggled to come up with something that might be of interest to the other.
"Do you know who else is going?"
"I think all my Gryffindors are! I'm hoping Alec might even bring that new girl he's been hanging out with."
Oh, that would be wonderful! She seems so nice, maybe she can draw him out of his shell a little! I mean after last year and everything..."
"Yeah, exactly. Do you know her well then, this new girl?"
"Sarah Postern. Not really, just from seeing her in the Common Room. She seems close with Theresa so I wouldn't be surprised if Donna knew her though! Why don't you come ask her? I'm meeting with her in a few minutes." She offered, also "forgetting" that Beatrice would be there too.
"Yeah, yeah okay! See you there then!" He stood hastily, just as McGonagall approached, having spotted his red tie amongst the sea of blue.
"Sorry, sorry, I'm going." He muttered as he saw her standing behind him, beating a rapid retreat back to the Gryffindor bench.
Myrna smiled to herself. Today might be quite entertaining after all!
Heaving her book-laden bag onto her shoulder, Theresa ducked her head in silent thanks as Roderick gestured for her to proceed him out of the library.
Their study session had gone well. If they stayed on track, they were likely to finish their Arithmancy project a whole fortnight before it was due in! A remarkable feat really, given how challenging the material was, but Theresa was far from being relieved that the complicated sums would soon be over.
A (rather large) part of her wished she hadn't used the project as an excuse to spend time with her introverted partner, as despite him seeming to enjoy working together as much as she did, she was still struggling to come up with a reason to intrude on his treasured solidarity at any other time.
Lost in thought as she reached the door, she absently reached out to the handle, just as Roderick did the same.
They both withdrew their hands rapidly, teach taking a step back so that their bodies faces each other, although both their heads remained ducked in an effort to hide a blush.
A moment of awkward stuttering and false starts later, Roderick was holding the door open for Theresa to pass through in front of him, hoping he didn't notice she was holding her breathe as her arm gently brushed his chest on the way past.
Starting back towards Ravenclaw Tower, Roderick forced himself not to keep his hands from fidgeting as he kept in step with his beautiful partner.
The air around the buzzed in anticipation of the conversation that they both wanted, but neither quite knew how to start. For all her people skills, when they weren't discussing school work Theresa always found herself strangely lost for words around Roderick Peterson.
As they were about to turn off from the main corridor into the series of smaller ones that lead to their destination, she opened her mouth to revert back to her new favourite Arithmancy topic, but was a loud crash from one of the other turnings further down the corridor – the one that lead in the direction of tonight's highly anticipated but exclusive quidditch party.
Loath as she was to end her time alone with Roderick – even as silent as it was – their inner Prefects, that truth to be told wasn't an entirely new instinct to either of them, the only difference was now they had been given the power to act on it, halted them both in their tracks.
Thinking it was simply an overly excited party goer who may or may not need help getting back to the relevant dormitories, they wordlessly agreed to investigate.
Exchanging a worried glance as a loud but indistinguishable shout echoed down the corridor, immediately followed by a flash that would have been blinding had it not been around a corner and quite a way down the hall, they quickened their pace in harmony.
Half way through the short process that is involved in walking around a corner, a large, alcohol-scented body collided with Theresa's, knocking her back into Roderick and all three of them to the floor.
Quickly giving herself and Roderick a quick once-over to check for visible injuries, Theresa righted herself and turned to face her assailant, recognising him instantly.
Slytherin. Their year.
His girlfriend, Alicia, was in the year below them, but Theresa knew her fairly well – partly because the fourth and fifth year Ravenclaw girls shared a bathroom, and partly because it was a well-known secret that Theresa's mother was a medi-witch and had passed down her love of healing spells to her daughter.
Narrowing her eyes in distaste, Theresa drew strength from Roderick's presence to stand her ground against the burly Quidditch player whose frame practically filled the rings he guarded on the pitch.
To her surprise, rather than trying to pick a fight as per usual, the drunk oaf wobbled slightly as he turned on his heel and began meandering in the opposite direction, muttering under his breath as he went.
"Well that could've been worse." Theresa murmured to Roderick once Theo was out of hearing range.
"Indeed. Are you hurt? That was quite a fall you took." Roderick replied, his tone morphing from bemusement into concern as he noticed her absently rubbing at the base of her back.
"Oh, no! Well, a little, but it's only a bruise. What about you? I fell right on top of you, I'm so sorry!"
Sensing he wouldn't get away with claiming to be completely unscathed, Roderick admitted to a slightly sore leg, but insisted he didn't need the help of any healing charms or ointments to make it back to the common room.
"I'm sure it'll be fine tomorrow." Noticing the minor disappointment that he didn't think even Theresa was aware flickered across her eyes when he refused her help, he hesitantly added; "But thank you. Theresa."
Theresa could have sworn her heart stopped for a moment. Did he just call her- Surely not? The excessively formal, probably-calls-his-parents-Mr-and-Mrs-Peterson Roderick had just used her first name!
Interpreting her stunned silence for aversion to his use of her name, he quickly began tripping over himself to apologise, but was stopped in his tracks when Theresa looked up to meet his gaze.
"No, no, I- I liked it. You're welcome. Roderick."
Sharing a tentative but heartfelt smile, they quickly fell into step again as the made their way back to the common room in a now comfortable rather than awkward silence, all memories of shouts and crashes and flashing lights forgotten.