Dom departs to go mingle in the Great Hall, Matt muttering something about having to finish a History of Magic essay. I am left on my own to go to the Hospital Wing.

Madeline is in my house, my year, and even on my Quidditch team, but I've yet to properly befriend her. We have a pleasant acquaintance: if (or rather when) she's having difficulties in Herbology, I will help; if I get in trouble for something Matt or Dom did, she will defend my innocence. I'd like to get to know her better, seeing as she hasn't yet made many friends here in the UK, but she always seems to be wrapped up in a novel or unwinding by the common room fire. Fortunately, a friend of Madeline's is our fellow Quidditch teammate, Kendall; I'm good friends with the latter, so if I ever feel like bumming around with Madeline, I can invite the both of them. Or perhaps I'm just overthinking things like always.

After entering the Hospital Wing, I approach Madeline's bed only to find that she's—of course—reading a book. I clear my throat to grab her attention, rocking back on my heels with the flowers behind my back. My palms are beginning to get sticky from the plant stems.

Madeline looks up quickly and when she sees that it's me, she smiles brightly. "Chris?"

"Hello," I respond quietly, smiling back. "I brought something for you...hopefully it'll make you feel better."

I can clearly see the burning curiosity behind her round green eyes. She cocks one dark eyebrow, her interest obviously piqued. "Really?"

I anticlimactically reveal the now-disheveled purple bouquet with a small, sheepish grin. I look up from the floor to see her face, which is emotional beyond words. She splutters for a reaction, lightly bouncing in her hospital bed, seemingly searching for the right words.

Both our heads quickly turn to one of the windows by Madeline's bed, having heard several loud yelps from outside. I approach the large arched window and chuckle when I'm met with the scene below: four Ravenclaw boys are sat on the wilting autumn grass, laughing hysterically, pointing to a group of thee Ravenclaw girls not too far away. Each of the girls is panicking, all of their hair now an absurd shade of green. One of them sprouts a neon green moustache and begins to angrily march towards the boys.

"Ravenclaws," Madeline sighs, causing me to turn my attention back to her. "Easily the best sense of humour."

I put my free hand to my heart, feigning a wounded expression. "But I thought Gryffindor was the funniest," I sniffed.

She gives me a look. "I'm in Gryffindor so I'm allowed to make fun of it."

"Fair enough," I reply with a light laugh. It's only when it's left my mouth that I realise the laugh sounded terribly girly; I gruffly clear my throat, trying to make up for the feminine slip.

Madeline's gaze, which has slid back to the flowers, does not escape my notice.

"Ah, right. Where should I put these?" I ask, glancing around the room for a vase of some kind.

"Here, you can just use this..." She gestures to a tall, empty glass on her bedside table at the exact moment I spot it. "I can't believe someone actually brought me flowers..."

"Can you hold these for a moment?" I murmur, handing them to Madeline.

She closes her eyes and deeply inhales the scent of the flowers, opening her eyes and crinkling her nose slightly when the strong, spicy-sweet aroma hits her.

I wipe my palms on my robes, trying to get the stems' stickiness off, but I just end up getting lint stuck on my hands instead. I fish around in my robe pockets until I find my wand, positioning it so the tip hovers over the rim of the glass.

"Aguamenti," I order with a flick of my wand. A stream of water flows from the tip of my wand into the glass, creating a pleasant bubbling sound against the bottom and sides. I then take the bouquet from Madeline and place it neatly inside the makeshift vase, a bit proud of myself.

"They're beautiful, Chris," she gushes. "Thank you so much."

"No problem, Madeline."

"Please call me mom calls me Madeline when she's mad at me," she says, grimacing.

"I get what you mean. My mum only calls me Christopher when I'm guilty of something," I reply with a nervous laugh. "Anyway, I should probably let you get back to your book, then."

"Sure. And thanks again," Maddy repeats as I turn around. I give an awkward little wave in goodbye.

So with the flower business now taken care of, I decide to go seek out Dominic in the Great Hall.

As I make the short trek to see Dom, my footsteps echoing subtly off the castle walls, I can't help but remember how uncoordinated I was during my first year here. I can't even begin to count how many times I got lost in these hallways. I still do get lost...more often than I'd like to admit. So, other than the routes I take to get to class, I tend to stick to several main locations: the Gryffindor common room, the Viaduct Courtyard, the Transfiguration Courtyard, and the Quidditch pitch. I tend to shy away from the Grand Staircase as, even though this is my second year here, it still confuses me at times.

As the Grand Staircase crosses my mind, I pass the marble staircase in the Front Hall, a personal favourite of mine for its pure Muggle simplicity.

From the entrance, I can see that Dom's sitting at the Slytherin table, chatting up a small group of girls all from different houses. He's got his tie loosened and his feet propped up on the bench, casually taking the first bite out of a crisp red apple. The girls laugh loudly at something he's said as I begin to walk towards the table.

"Hey, Chris!"

My head snaps towards where the girl's voice came from, my eyes locking onto the nearest end of the Gryffindor table to see a waving Victoria McDonald. I can't tell why she would call me over, as we don't know each other very well, despite being in the same year and house; we've had conversations in the past, but we've never really bonded on any level. Victoria's very friendly and seems to be on good terms with almost everyone in school, always with a group, a laugh always on her lips.

"Victoria," I greet when I reach her, nodding in her direction with a smile. "Afternoon."

She's sitting with a cluster Gryffindor girls who, over time, I've assumed to be her closest friends; two I recognise as being Anthea Dedworth and Freya Muldon, who are in our year.

"Do you know anything about what happened to Maddy d'Arca yesterday?" Victoria asks quietly, eagerly, looking at me with wide blue eyes. The rest of the girls lean in marginally, their stares locked firmly on me.

"Ehm...a Bludger hit her?" I answer, scratching the back of my neck.

"Well, we know that," she replies with an impatient sigh. "But seeing as you're on the team, you must know some details..."

"I really don't," I argue. "We were at practice, Chambers released the Bludgers from the trunk, and one of them locked onto Madel—Maddy. She couldn't shake it off, so, being a Beater, I went after them both...eventually she just crashed into one of the stands, and the Bludger finally caught up to her while she was hanging by a beam. She fell down and we took her to Madam Pomfrey. That's all I know."

Victoria nods thoughtfully.

"Why are you all talking about it?" I wonder aloud. "I mean, she only got hurt playing Quidditch. Happens all the time."

She leans in conspiratorially, lowering her voice a notch. "Yes, but haven't you noticed? She hasn't healed at all since it happened...I reckon something's going on."

"I'm sure it's nothing," I dismiss with a small wave of my hand.

Victoria doesn't look convinced but shrugs nonetheless. "Whatever you say." She turns back to her group of friends, deciding to change the subject to Charms homework. I take this as my cue to leave.

I turn my back to the group of chattering girls to look for Dom, but he seems to have gone someplace else, so I am once again left on my own.

The wind outside suddenly gives a hollow wail; I look up to the Great Hall's ceiling to see that the sky has clouded over, replacing the sun with a thick blanket of grey. I clutch my robes tightly when I feel a chilly draft float through the hall, encircling my ankles and giving me gooseflesh. I silently thank Merlin that I don't have Quidditch practice today.

All of my homework for the week is done, so there's no point in studying; I don't feel like lounging around and being useless, so I've no purpose to return to my common room or dormitory. With a chuckle I remember Matt—more specifically, I remember his futile effort to complete his History of Magic essay by tomorrow. The poor git. I should probably go help him. After one last glance to make sure Dom has left, I exit the Great Hall, making to climb the marble staircase of the Front Hall.

On the journey to the tower, the weather quickly transitions from cold wind to harsh rain. Even though I'm only on the fifth floor and well within the castle, I can still faintly hear it pounding on the roof and walls. It gets louder as I approach the entrance to the tower. There is a window at the end of the hall, and through it I can see that the sky has gone dark with the storm; sheets of rain pummel the window, violent and then more violent. I climb the tower's spiral staircase two steps at a time.

When I arrive at the entrance to Matt's common room, the eagle knocker on the door seems to come to life, shaking its head and ruffling its bronze feathers. Matt thinks it's cool, but I still maintain that the thing is creepy as hell. Its glazed metal eyes meet mine, and it opens its beak to speak.

The voice that leaves the knocker's mouth is breathy and musical. "If you could look infinitely far forward through space and time, what would you see?" it asks.

"The back of my own head," I answer, grateful that Matt had randomly shared that information with me last month. Sure enough, I can hear the quiet gears of the door unlocking, and it swings open a second later.

"Oi, Matt?" I call as I enter the common room, the stone under my shoes turning to plush blue carpeting.

"Over here, mate," comes a voice from my right. I turn to see him look up from an unrolled parchment, dipping his raven quill in a small pot of blue ink. He's sat on a brown loveseat with his school supplies strewn chaotically across a small coffee table in front of him. His coal-black hair is sticking up in all directions, even more unruly than usual.

"Just thought you might want some help with your homework," I say, making my way over to him with my hands in my robes' pockets. There are more than a few other Ravenclaws hanging about in here, but they're mostly unsurprised to see me, as I've made a habit of barging into their common room to find Matt in the time I've been at Hogwarts. "I finished my essay on the Medieval Assembly of European Wizards last week, so perhaps I could be of some assistance here." I gesture to the mess of Matt's notes lying before me.

He leans over and grabs the sleeve of my robes, roughly tugging me down to sit next to him. "Thank you," he says fervently. "I can't even remember the name of the bloody thing and now I have to write a three-foot essay on it by tomorrow and I've only got ten inches done!"

"Not to worry," I assure him, clapping him on the shoulder. "I'm here."

A/N: Does this chapter sound a bit awkward to you all? I wrote it with a much different structure in mind this time. I'm trying new things. So let me know if it sounds a bit...forced.

Forgive me for the delay! I know I said it would take a while, but I didn't know it was going to take quite this long. I had the chapter ALMOST finished, and then I had some medical issues and had to stay in the hospital for a few weeks. But I'm back now, so we're all good.


PS: I know the story is starting out slow, but I promise there's a plot subtly unfolding here! It's your job as a reader to try and figure out what it is! (Hint hint, review...)