1

"Oh, I don't know, I've never been good at defence, I'll just utterly humiliate myself."

"But that's why you should join," Leyal insisted, sitting down. "It's the perfect opportunity to learn."

Emma joined her, heaving her bag onto the table with a sigh.

"You know exactly the type that'll turn up for this sort of thing," she said miserably, gesturing at the flier in Leyal's hand. "And then there'll be me in the corner still figuring out my left and rights."

Leyal shook her head fiercely and flattened the flier on the table, smoothing out the folds so her friend could see. Rin sat across them, flicking idly through the Daily Prophet, by all accounts not paying them any attention, but Leyal knew her well enough and could almost see her ears twitching.

"It's only Professor Flitwick," she said, pointing. "You like him, and he knows how clever you are at Charms so you don't need to worry about looking stupid."

Emma followed her finger and read out loud.

"Hogwart's Duelling Club

Improve your dueling skills and practice among your peers under Professor Flitwick's strict guidance.

Open to Sixth and Seventh years only.

Fridays at 6pm

Dungeon five."

"And I talked to Professor McGonagall," Leyal continued hesitantly, pointedly avoiding Rin's gaze. "She said Professor Dumbledore started it up again because of the current climate."

"The 'current climate'," Emma said quietly, eyes still glued to the flier, although she was no longer reading.

"Yes, he thought it… prudent."

Leyal bit her lip, and observed her friend. She sat curled over the table, the ends of her short blonde hair brushing the flier Leyal had so urgently snatched that morning from the breakfast table. She looked particularly small just then, in the lantern light, as if she would rather like to curl up even further, if the table wasn't in the way.

Rin's gaze was heavy on the side of Leyal's head. They hardly ever made mention of Emma's blood status. It was unusual enough that the Slytherins were friends with her at all, without talking about it too. Rather, everyone else seemed to find it unusual. Leyal thought it was very simple- you only had to meet Emma to know why.

"Don't you think it might be useful?" Leyal prodded, resting her hand on the other girl's shoulder.

"I suppose you're right," she said, disconcerted. "With everything that's been going on…"

Emma's gaze crept up the table from the flier to the paper Rin was reading, held aloft. They had only a moment to take in the front page, the headline, the blurred picture of a street that was blown apart, before Rin slammed the paper back down. They jumped.

"The internationals," Rin said calmly, laying out the paper neatly. "A more relevant read."

She then ran a finger down the page, pointedly stopping when she reached the East Asia section. Leyal was sure there was nothing there that Rin didn't already know.

"What do you think, Rin?" Emma asked, leaning forward with an earnest expression. "Do you think I should join?"

Leyal finds herself watching for an answer too, not breathing. Rin's jaw clenches uncharacteristically, chewing her words, and her porcelain skin is marred by the tiniest of lines between her brows. But when she lifts her head and shakes back her hair, her face is smooth.

"I think you didn't take Defence," she said firmly, "and the NEWTs you did take are giving you enough trouble."

The two of them deflated, Emma nodding miserably, and Leyal opened her mouth in rebuttal, but before she could argue, Rin smacked down the international page, over the flier.

"Read this instead Shafiq," Rin said with a frigid smile. "Like I said, more relevant."

She taps her finger twice and brings Leyal's attention to the Middle East section. Her cheeks flush red and she glares at Rin, who stares stonily back. Emma has missed the hidden meaning and peers over with curiosity to read, unaware of the tension between the two Slytherins.

Leyal hated it when she did that. Rin had been doing it a lot lately, reminding her that neither of them belonged. She didn't know if it was because of the 'current climate', or the fact that they were Seventh Years, and nearly done with Hogwarts- but it was clear Rin wanted a clean break, to go back to her family in Japan and leave all of this behind. Leyal wants to do the same, she thinks.

Leyal shoved the paper back over to Rin, and pulled out a Transfiguration textbook instead.

There was a strained silence for a few minutes, when a sound of crashing and cursing erupts behind them and they look up. Mia rounds the corner, scowling fiercely behind her.

"Stupid first year," she snarled. "Serves them right for not paying attention."

Leyal peered through the shelves and sees a poor Hufflepuff scrambling to pick up the mess of books all over the floor.

"Mia," she said disapprovingly.

"It really wasn't my fault!" Mia exclaimed. "And they're so small this year, you don't notice them unless you look down."

She slumps into the booth, unceremoniously shoving Rin's paper aside and the associated tension with it, and bumps the ruffled girl until she shuffles along and makes room.

"You'll never believe the mess I'm in," she huffed. "Remember that smarmy Ravenclaw Seeker? The one that kept winking at me all last game? Well he came onto me after practice."

The girls gasped and leaned forward.

"What did he say?" Emma asked, eyes wide.

"Something about private lessons, teaching me how to handle a good broom."

They winced.

"What did you do to him?" Rin inserted, eyes glistening with interest.

Mia narrowed her eyes and grit her teeth in a rather alarmingly feral smile.

"I broke his nose and left him strung up by his ankle in the playing field."

Leyal and Emma gaped, while Rin sat back with a slightly satisfied smile.

"Practice ended hours ago!" Leyal hissed. "He's not still out there?"

"It's freezing outside!" Emma moaned, pointing at the window which rather conveniently was lined with frost.

Mia shuffled in her seat and gave them a disgruntled look.

"He would be," Mia addressed Leyal, disappointed. "If McGonagall hadn't found him."

Leyal leaned back in disbelief. Something told her Slytherin was no longer in the lead for the House Cup.

"Of all teachers.. well what did she do?"

"60 points from Slytherin, and a months worth of detention."

Leyal sat up straight in indignation.

"That much!" she burst, "didn't you tell her what he said?"

Mia hid a smile at Leyal's change of tune.

"Well I did," she admitted. "And he's got detention too. But, well... I might have chucked his wand into the Lake."

The girls turned to her in shock, even Rin.

"And he might have been blue when she found him... and he could also be short a toe."

There was a moment of silence before they burst into conversation, voices overlapping with various degrees of distress. Mia flapped her hands at them and shushed them fiercely, and they finally fell quiet when Madam Pince arrived to give them a fiersome glare before ghosting away.

"He deserved it!" she insisted, checking over her shoulder. "Who did he think he was, coming on to me? Filthy half-"

Leyal kicked her under the table.

"Halfwit," she said hastily, glancing at Emma. "Filthy halfwit... he had it coming. Besides it was only his pinky toe. Anyway, McGonagall's making me find the prick's wand myself, tomorrow morning. The muggle way."

Her face soured in disgust.

"She's making you dive for it?" Emma asked in disbelief.

Mia nodded miserably.

"She said I'll have an hour to find it myself, and if I do, however many minutes are left, she said she'll give in points back to Slytherin."

"Wow," Emma half-laughed. "Almost like she wants you to win back the points."

Leyal smiled to herself. Professor McGonagall did seem the type.

"Well I'd better. Avery will have my head. He's always moaning I lose more points than I win in Quidditch." Mia sighed, looking around the table. "That's my evening. What were you talking about before I came?"

Before Leyal can speak, Emma informs her dejectedly of the duelling club. To Leyal's surprise, Mia matches Emma's miserable expression, and picks up the flier.

"Oh for God's sake," she exclaimed, crestfallen. "My detentions are on Fridays!"

There is a tiny twitch of relief, and Leyal sits back. She didn't mean to be, but Mia was such a big personality, and so volatile- she was sure if Mia could go, dungeon five would be reduced to rubble. And Leyal rather wanted to learn, and wanted Emma to learn too. Besides, the club looked like it would be mixed, and Mia was not the sort to cooperate with other Houses, and she rather didn't want to be stuck watching her back or having it in whatever fight they'd end up in.

"That's a shame," Emma commiserated, although Leyal suspected she wished she had detention too. "Did you really want to go?"

"Of course! The midget-" "Professor Flitwick!" "-is a duelling champion. You're so lucky."

Emma blinked in surprise as Mia handed her back the flier.

"Really, a champion?"

"You wouldn't think it would you?" Mia said, nodding sagely. "I bet that worked in his favour, people underestimating him."

"Right," Emma murmured, looking down at the flier in a new light.

Leyal smiled quietly. She'd have them both there tomorrow evening, she's sure of it.