The Great Hall was full to bursting with dinner in full swing.
When Evan came through the doors, a number of heads followed his movement but his rekindled spirit didn't allow it to bother him. With a glance around, he felt as though the number of eyes following him was slowly subsiding.
Evan spied Harry, Hermione, and Ron seated together and made a beeline for them.
When he arrived, there wasn't space for him to sit without forcing himself between two people. Yet if they shuffled, he could fit on either side of them.
"Mind if I sit?"
"Actually, we do m-"
Ron's words were cut off by a quick, hard elbow.
"Sure," Harry said, moving closer to the redhead. When Ron didn't move, Harry gave him a withering look before conceding.
"Sorry," Evan said, as soon as he'd sat and made eye contact with Harry. "I've been a moody git. I was self-absorbed in all that I'd lost and not looking at the bright side or how my actions were hurting those around me."
He paused and spoke words that he didn't fully believe yet but was at the burgeoning beginnings of belief. "I'm going to win this tournament, put an end to Riddle, and ensure we live together this summer."
He felt foolish saying it, and more than a little arrogant but he held his chin up defiantly. These wouldn't be idle words. Survive, end Voldemort, and make a new life for himself. Those were the goals.
"It's okay," Harry said after a moment. "It can't be easy being here… But we'll help you win. And being rid of the Dursleys would be brilliant."
"Will be brilliant," Evan corrected. "You will be living with me. Snuffles too, if we can swing it."
While he didn't know exactly how they could convince the Ministry of Sirius' innocence, it was a dream he'd not been able to make a reality. This time he would. For all of them.
"Sorry for earlier," Hermione said, looking at him before lowering her chin. "You've been dropped here and–"
"It's okay," Evan said, cutting her off. "We've all had better days. Besides, it was something I needed to hear."
"But I was–"
"The best of friends in my old world. I'm sure we'll be good friends here. For a long time."
Harry's eyes darted between them but only a frown crossed his lips as he spoke.
"Do you want us to help after supper?" he asked. "As soon as I finish my potions essay, I'm good."
Hermione's attention turned away from Evan and she gave Harry a dazzling smile.
"I've not even started it," Ron said, before forking his mouth full of chicken. "Bloody menace that one. Just did two last week. Why'd he have to assign another one?"
Evan couldn't help but smirk. Nothing felt more at home than Ron complaining about Snape.
"Attention everyone. Attention."
Everyone's gaze was drawn to McGonagall, who was standing at the forefront of the room.
"This evening marks a momentous occasion," she began after the hall fell silent. "While we've been privy to our resident ghosts and their origin in the castle, Hogwarts' records state the Grey Lady is to be House Ravenclaw's ghost in perpetuity. Unlike others, her life and deeds have not featured in any edition of Hogwarts: A History."
While Harry and Ron turned to look at Hermione, Evan's attention was pulled to Helena. She glided through the air and stood beside the Deputy Headmistress.
"It is my distinct pleasure to re-introduce her to you now. For she is none other than Helena Ravenclaw. The daughter of our famed founder Rowena Ravenclaw."
There were more than a few jaws lowered in awe as the whole assembly was stunned. Then all at once, a hushed chatter broke out from the Ravenclaw table.
"The daughter of a founder?!"
With his gaze fixed on Helena, Evan paid attention to none of it. Was this what she had meant?
McGonagall's wand appeared in her hand and a staccato clang brought the hall's attention back to her.
"At her request, she will now address our assembled students, faculty, and guests."
As the Deputy Headmistress moved away, Evan thought there was an extra bounce of pride in her step.
The Grey Lady dipped her head at the Transfiguration Mistress and then spoke. "Long have I been in these hallowed halls and long have I kept my silence. I did not wish for the attention, the questions, nor for anyone to seek me out just for my last name and familial relationship. Yet here I am, addressing Hogwarts, and the contingent from Beauxbatons and Durmstrang.
"It is not that I have changed but rather how Hogwarts has forced this change. And I must begin by dispelling the legend of the founders. The four founders were people like you, me, and countless others who have walked these halls. They bled, they loved, and, yes, they left a legacy that has endured millennia. But having accomplished one legendary thing does not mean they were great and legendary their entire lives. They were human and fallible."
Evan looked around. Things were different in this world and this was something that would never have happened. This was truly a new world.
"Yes, Godric was bold, courageous and a fearsome warrior. A stalwart friend, big, brash, gregarious. And yes, my mother had no peers in magical theory. Centuries have passed between those that could have kept up with her intellectually."
Helena paused, slowly casting her gaze from the Ravenclaws to the Slytherins. "Salazar was the kindest-hearted man you could imagine. He cared deeply for all magical blood. Generous and gentle lest you act maliciously against his charges. Yet as wrothful as he would get, it paled to Helga. The fiercest founder."
Murmurs broke out across the hall as she spoke. None louder than her revelation about Salazar.
"It was Helga who held everyone together. Her unending spirit and undying love of Hogwarts was what made Hogwarts– Hogwarts."
What made Hogwarts–Hogwarts? Evan's eyebrows furrowed.
"The magical world of their time was fractured. Battles. Assassinations. Blood feuds. Hoarding of even the most basic of magical knowledge. History has watered down how brutal it was. How close to catastrophe we were. Witch hunts weren't Wendelin the Weird enjoying herself being burnt at the stake.
"No. It was an arrow through the chest as you walked out your front door to collect eggs. An axe in the back while you were at the market buying a potion ingredient. Whole families, clans, exterminated. And worst of all, the destruction of magical fauna and creatures."
Everyone was deathly quiet as the grim picture took hold in everyone's mind.
"The outlook was bleak. Wizarding Britain at a tipping point. Already some, like the Veela, had left. Others secluded themselves, like the leprechauns. Yet against this rising tide of disunity, four young magicals banded together. But it wasn't the prowess of Godric, the cunning of Salazar or the brilliance of Rowena that made it happen. No, it was–"
"Helga Hufflepuff," Evan said under his breath as Helena spoke the same. As the words crossed her lips, she glowed with pride, admiration and love.
"Her indomitable will and sheer stubbornness kept them together. Made it happen."
The Hufflepuff table was in a fervour. They looked at each other with pride and when they looked around, Evan would swear their chins were a little higher.
"I won't bore you with a long lecture of all the struggles and trials the founders faced but let it be known they were many and the likes of which I bet would break each and every person assembled save one."
Helena did not speak his name aloud, but the long, lingering look at him left no doubt that she was speaking of Evan Potter.
"You sit here knowing you will be fed, knowing your families are safe at home and that you'll be celebrating Yule together this year. You sit here without wondering about having Godric storm in, his sword drawn, red with the blood of the outriders of the approaching muggle army, asking for more volunteers to ensure Hogwarts stands for another day. Or whether Helga, Rowena and their students could keep the wards up whilst wizards bombarded them and a potion-enraged dragon crashed into them, trying to turn this hall into ash and brimstone."
The picture was terrifying, though a part of him wished he could see Godric mid-battle, in all his glory. Yet, he'd seen Hogwarts' wards fall to an army. He'd faced a dragon before. Each was terrifying and both at the same time?
"It wasn't until Salazar's great beast had matured that the griffin patrols could stop their never-ending patrols. Where they could stop sleeping in shifts, ever vigilant for approaching enemies, ready to rouse the castle at a moment's notice," she paused and looked up at the night sky. She shook her head and focused. "It's too easy to be a student now. It's too comfortable eating the endless supply of food, knowing you're safe– your families are safe– and studying at your leisure.
"Your world is so comfortable that you've invented issues, found ways to fracture society. But it is not in these times of ease that we grow. It is in the tough times. Crucibles build character. Harrowing experiences strengthen and harden you. Great peril bonds those who struggle together," Helena lowered her chin and brought it side to side slowly.
"It is a blessing that you do not live in times of great peril. That there are no harrowing experiences. Yet it is sad to see the Hogwarts of today. It lacks unity. And what is worse is the lack of conviction."
Evan looked out over the hall and let his mind wander back through his Hogwarts years. The divisiveness of the houses, for the House Cup and especially the Quidditch Cup. He thought of the bullying and distrust. Even when the Triwizard Tournament had come, it wasn't Hogwarts versus the other schools. There were two champions and a divided school.
From his quick jaunt down memory lane, Helena was right. Only at the very end was there unity. Only after they'd been subjected to harrowing experiences and were in their greatest peril.
"While I cannot fix your disunity with a lecture nor bestow upon you great conviction, I can open a path for you all to walk. For this year we have a unique opportunity. A Tri-School tournament. An opportunity for Hogwarts' students to be unified in purpose, a chance to show their ingenuity, strength and companionship. An opportunity to put aside childish rivalries, to bury grudges, and ensure a Hogwarts victory."
Murmurs broke out across the room once more and many eyes turned to Evan.
"I have said more than I had planned and will end with a simple announcement. The Hogwarts Common Room will be reopening on the 3rd floor, just past the library. It is a place for anyone and everyone wearing a Hogwarts uniform to congregate, quietly study, brew potions and practice spells. It is where your Hogwarts Champion will begin to prepare for The First Task, tomorrow evening."
After meeting her eyes, Evan ducked and shook his head. Leave it to Helena to dictate what he's doing two nights in a row.
Whatever her final parting words were, Evan missed them, too lost in his own thoughts. Helena had done as she'd said. Now it was his turn. Though not before there would be ample discussion about the words of the daughter of one of Hogwarts Founders.
The air was cold but thankfully the clouds had yet to release their heavy payload.
As Evan flew through the sky, he felt the cold trying to bite through his clothing but it was of little consequence. And even if the skies did unleash their fury, he would press on to fly with Victoria.
When he arrived she was already running drills, Evan waited patiently for her to finish and then acknowledge him.
Waiting and watching wasn't a chore. To see her fly so wonderfully reminded him greatly of the Quidditch World Cup. The pace and precision were leagues ahead of where he had been when he last played.
She was superb.
"Have you come to fly around or train?" Victoria asked when she deigned to fly over to him after running through the drill an even dozen times.
No greeting, no warmth. Just right to the point.
"You have to fly to train," he answered cheekily.
She shot him a withering look, flipped her hair and leaned forward, to fly away.
"W- wait!" Evan cried out. "Sorry, I- I just haven't thought about it much." Victoria stopped and looked back at him over her shoulder.
"I've been adjusting and trying to figure out life here. Then Helena's gone and made things more complicated and…"
Evan trailed off and ran his hand through his hair before rubbing the back of his neck.
"I've jumped from one dangerous adventure to another since I hit the magical world. And I'm in a new one now," he shut his eyes and exhaled. "I love flying, I loved playing quidditch but haven't ever thought about playing it professionally. Truthfully I don't even know what kind of magical professions there are beyond quidditch, teaching, curse breaker, auror, healer, owning your own shop or working for the Ministry."
She stared at him, slowly turning around on her broom to face him, her lips still unmoved.
"Once I thought being an auror would be for me but I've had enough of fighting and solving mysteries." Before continuing, he noticed her eyebrows rise at his comment. "Working for the Ministry will never happen nor for the goblins."
After his recent breakout from Gringotts on dragonback, he was never going to voluntarily make a deal with a goblin if he could help it.
"Teaching and healing….they don't excite me when I think about them. Then there's opening a shop. It might not be too bad but dealing with the public every day?" he shuddered.
Victoria nodded firmly.
"Do you know more? Like what else there is, what else people do?"
She shrugged. "The same as muggles. Accounting, research, sales, factories, business, politics…"
"And have you always wanted to be a quidditch player?"
"Since the first time I flew," she said without delay.
Evan nodded and then took a second to gaze up at the night sky. As he did so, the first few raindrops fell on his cheeks. "It's starting to rai–." But before he could finish a flash lit up the sky and thunder let out a booming clap all around them.
With just a shared glance, they took off, descending and making their way back towards the castle and black lake. But just as they were clearing the stadium, lightning struck a tree between them and the castle.
"This way!" Evan called out, turning back towards the stadium.
He banked sharply and dove under the quidditch stands. When he'd landed, Evan pulled the covering back. The bottom of the stands had a tapestry charmed to absorb contact. When you were right at it, it was like pulling back a hanging rug.
"In here," he said, as Victoria followed after him, slipping between where the two of them met, right at the corner.
Inside the structure, they were out of the pelting rain and safe from the storm.
"Sorry," he said, rubbing his bare arms for warmth. "The changing rooms are locked but I knew we could shelter here."
She looked at him in a way he couldn't decipher then slowly nodded.
Putting his broom down on the dirt floor, Evan pulled out his wand and dried himself before casting a warming charm. He turned his attention to Victoria, who had put her broom down but didn't have a wand out.
After she'd given her assent, Evan cast one on her.
The two stood there and only the sound of the storm could be heard
"Have you brought many girls here?" Victoria asked after a moment.
Evan opened his mouth and tilted his head. "Have I what?"
"This isn't where you take girls?"
He looked left then right. "Here? Whatever for?"
She looked at him as if he was saying something particularly dumb. "Take a girl out for a fly, then someplace private…"
Glancing down from her deep brown eyes, he focused on her lips as his brain connected her words with her meaning. "I didn't bring you here to snog!"
Victoria stared at him for a moment before she gave him a minute nod. She looked down and made to grab her broom.
Realising what was happening he felt like an imbecile. "I haven't brought anyone here before," Evan said quickly. "It was wet, there was a bad storm and I wanted to keep talking to you."
Her hand let go of the broom and Victoria slowly stood back up. Her weight was on her left leg, away from him, and her arm holding the other.
"I was mad and upset about something but really enjoyed flying with you," Evan began.
She nodded. "I know. You come alive on your broom. Like me."
He scratched at his jaw, not sure how to take that but he assumed it was a positive. She wasn't about to leave. "It's not been easy but flying and quidditch has always been my escape. It had been so long and it felt so good. Flying after you…and then you said I couldn't be a Seeker and I just got upset."
Opening his mouth, he didn't know what to say. Why had he reacted like that?
Had he been extra sensitive to her criticism because it was Victoria? Because he was attracted to her? Did he even like her like that?
He hadn't dated since he broke up with Ginny. Not because he didn't like her but because of the war. And she wasn't an option here. Four years younger and stuck at Hogwarts for a few years while this was his last.
"But you're from another school," he said. "What happens when you leave? You live in another country– and not a close one."
Victoria shrugged," Portkeys or an international floo."
"Err. Yeah.. But that's only for dating," he ran his hand up and down the back of his neck. "I don't think I'd move to Bulgaria. I like you and all but–"
"But what?" she asked. "You can live here or anywhere in Europe. I can stay in Bulgaria when I play for the national team but I have offers to play for English clubs."
Victoria looked at him, her chin held high. "If things get serious, it can work."
Yeah. Cool. Just moving to another country. "If we get serious…"
As the words left his mouth her earlier words struck a chord in his brain. "When you play for Bulgaria."
"As their Seeker."
Shutting his eyes, he dropped his head back and ran his hand across his face.
"You're the Durmstrang Champion too?"
He lowered his head and looked at her. Really looked. As if he was truly seeing her for the first time. She was nothing like the sallow young man Ron had gushed about when Durmstrang had first arrived.
Victoria lacked his curved nose and she wasn't duck-footed while on the ground. She had his dark hair and thick black eyebrows but they looked good on her. She looked good. Beautiful, pretty, with her hair mussed and slightly parted lips.
"You'd be okay dating while competing against me?"
He knew the answer before he'd asked but he felt like he needed to stall for time, so his brain could reboot.
Victoria Krum. Not Viktor. His mind wasn't processing it all that well.
"Karkaroff won't like it but he doesn't like much," she said with a sniff. "I'm seventeen and you're the first one I've pursued."
"Wait, really?" Evan blurted out.
Seventeen. Gorgeous. And a quidditch phenom. There was no way.
"I was too focused on Quidditch for boys and then I became famous…"
Evan nodded thoughtfully.
"So you really want this?" He rubbed the back of his neck. "Us?"
With a roll of her eyes, she stepped towards him. "Every quidditch professional learns the charms to ward off rain and lightning."
"Oh," he whispered quietly, looking down at her lips as she gazed up at him, her head tilted back.
Victoria placed her hand on his chest and pressed herself forward. But just before their lips touched, Evan leaned back.
"Do you not find me attractive?" she said.
"It's not that… At all….it just feels sort of…sudden? Shouldn't we…I don't know….talk about this more?"
A small grin grew on her face as she slowly started leaning in again.
"But shouldn't we?" Evan persisted, leaning back again.
Victoria fell back onto the flat of her feet. "You like me. I like you. We'll make this work, or we won't'."
He peered down at her for a second. Maybe it was that simple.
Victoria placed a finger on his lips. "I am not one for words, Evan. Actions yes, words no."
"Sod it," Evan whispered.
He leaned forward and that was all the invitation that Victoria needed.
Their lips met, his hand snaked around to the back of her head and they continued until they separated for a breath. With their foreheads touching, they looked at each other.
"Wow," Evan said, his lips brushing hers as he spoke. "Actions yes, words no, indeed."
In response, she kissed him again, pressing her lips harder.
The two were lost in their own world, under the quidditch stands whilst a storm raged around.
AN: Thanks to Petrificus Somewhatus, Nauze & Taliesin19 for the beta help. Always appreciated.
Slow updates falls at the feet of increased work responsibility and being busy in life, generally. I'm enjoying writing it so I'll keep lugging away as time permits.