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Current Month
Dec. 22nd, 2008 @ 11:26 pm Happy holidays, [info]nema_rasa! (Hooch/McGonagall, PG)

Title: A Meeting of Minds
Author/Artist: ?
Recipient: [info]nema_rasa
Rating: PG
Length/Medium: 1,386 words
Pairing(s): Minerva/Hooch
Summary: In one of the most secured places of the wizarding world, a conspiracy takes place.
Warning(s): None.
Note: I’m not sure if this meets the prompt. Know that I tried as hard as I could!

A Meeting of Minds )

About this Entry
Dec. 20th, 2007 @ 11:13 pm Happy holidays, meteoritecrater! (Katie/Alicia and McGonagall/Hooch, Mature)

Title: Misconceptions
Author/Artist: ???
Recipient: [info]meteoritecrater
Rating: T - M
Length/Medium: 8,800 words.
Pairing(s): Katie/Alicia, McGonagall/Hooch
Summary: When Katie is injured during the events of HBP, Alicia is determined to find out what has happened. Along the way, she's forced to confront a very different problem – her own feelings for her former teammate.
Warning(s): None.
Note: As often happens, this 'fic ended up being quite different from the one I started writing. This is the story that wanted to get told. I hope you enjoy it.

Misconceptions )

LJ ||| GJ
About this Entry
Dec. 20th, 2007 @ 11:07 pm Happy holidays, meteoritecrater! (Katie/Alicia and McGonagall/Hooch, Mature)

Title: Misconceptions
Author/Artist: ???
[Error: Irreparable invalid markup ('<lj-user=meteoritecrater>') in entry. Owner must fix manually. Raw contents below.]

<b>Title:</b> Misconceptions
<b>Author/Artist:</b> ???
<b>Recipient:</b> <lj-user=meteoritecrater>
<b>Rating:</b> T - M
<b>Length/Medium:</b> 8,800 words.
<b>Pairing(s):</b> Katie/Alicia, McGonagall/Hooch
<b>Summary:</b> When Katie is injured during the events of HBP, Alicia is determined to find out what has happened. Along the way, she's forced to confront a very different problem – her own feelings for her former teammate.
<b>Warning(s):</b> None.
<b>Note:</b> As often happens, this 'fic ended up being quite different from the one I started writing. This is the story that wanted to get told. I hope you enjoy it.

<lj-cut text="Misconceptions">“Falalalaa la la la laaa!” Fred bellowed, then collapsed back into the bracken laughing. Their portable wireless leaked tinny Christmas music into the night air. Katie Bell sat by the edge of the lake, idly breaking the ice with the pointed toe of her evening shoe. She felt drunk in the firelight.

Opposite her, Angelina stood talking to Oliver, who lay like a supplicant at her feet. She looked like an Amazon queen, Katie thought. The snippets of conversation which drifted across to her were incongruous with the picture.

<i>”You reckon we should've invited Harry, Oliver?”</i>

<i>”No way. McGonagall'd have our hides if we absconded with the Gryffindor champion.”</i>

<i> “Ha! Yeah. ...Hey, did you see her hat?”</i>

“Budge up,” said Alicia, sitting down next to Katie on the rock.

“They're turning out the lamps in the Great Hall,” said Katie, pointing to the glittering lights of Hogwarts visible across the lake. Beside her, Alicia nodded. Alicia never spoke more than she had to; after three years of playing together, Katie had gotten used to it.

<i> “...wouldn't mind havin' her really <i>punish</i> me, would you, Fred?”</i>

<i> “Classy. Very classy.”</i>

<i> “George and I put the “class” in “Quidditch”. Didn't we?”</i>

<i> “'Course, then they made us take it back out again.”</i>

Alicia took a sip from a bottle of wine she'd liberated from the staff table. Then she passed it to Katie. Katie took a sip too, deliberately placing her lips where Alicia's had been, as they sat and watched the others across the flames. Tonight Katie felt that rules did not apply. She felt free and intoxicated. She also, admittedly, felt very cold.

Shivering, she moved in closer to Alicia, letting her head rest on the taller girl's shoulder.

“God, it's freezing out here. I'm beginning to wish I'd worn my Quidditch robes to the ball.”

“It'd be a look,” Alicia acknowledged. Katie giggled.

They sat in silence, then Alicia spoke again. “You're really pretty in those dress robes.”


Katie sneaked a glance at Alicia's own dress, intending to tell her that she looked pretty too. Her gown was silky, and coral pink. Beneath the halter neck her collar bones cast pools of shadow on her pale skin. Somehow the comment Katie had intended to make got caught in her throat. She took another gulp of the wine to compensate. It burned in her throat.
“Oy, Katie. Give us a drink,” said Fred, stepping into the circle of light.

Katie wiped the bottle neck with her sleeve, then passed the bottle up.

“What are you talking about anyway?” he asked. “and it better not be Cedric Diggory, cause Ang hasn't shut up about him all night.”

<i> “That's not true, Fred Weasley. And you're one to talk given... what was that?”</i>



<i>”Over there. I saw something moving!”</i>

<i> “I don't see anything.”</i>

<i> “Very funny, Angelina.”</i>

<i> “Guys, I'm serious. I saw... look! There! Look!”</i>

<i> “Oh </i>shit<i>!”</i>

Oliver came charging out of the shadows. “It's Mrs. Norris,” he explained, hurriedly casting a damping charm on the fire. Then he stamped at the ashes with his feet. By the time he'd calmed down, the night had been plunged into total blackness.

<i>”Nice one, Wood”.</i> said Fred, or possibly George.

The night was overcast, and Katie could see nothing now but the faint lights of Hogwarts in the distance, and the odd reflection off of indeterminate objects. She waved a hand in front of her face experimentally. Nothing.

<i>”Right everyone,” said Oliver authoritatively, “let's all make our way towards the castle. Er. Slowly.”</i>

<i>”Oliver, We'll break our necks!”</i>

<i> “Lumos.”</i>

<i> “Fred, no! Filch'll kill us if he finds us!”</i>

<i> “Okay, okay. Nox.”</i>

The wand light went out again, and now Katie's vision was filled with blue flashes too. Reaching out with both hands she took a hesitant step forward, then another. Somewhere to her left, she heard Angelina giggling, then a sudden “oof” as somebody collided.

<i> “Get off of me, ya oaf.”</i>

Angelina's shriek of laughter cut through the night, and soon they were all stumbling and giggling their way along the edge of the lake.

Katie collided with something solid. She reached out to steady herself and her hand met soft skin. Somebody's arm? She heard a soft gasp.

“Alicia? Alicia it's me.”

“I know it's you.”

Katie could vaguely make out a glint of light on Alicia's hair in the darkness. As she watched it, the light shifted. She felt something soft brush her shoulder.

“You okay?” Alicia asked.

Katie felt Alicia's breath warm on her cheek, and sensed the other girl's face right next to hers in the dark. <i>Tonight the rules don't count.</i> she thought again. So she kissed Alicia. She kissed her firmly, letting her tongue run along Alicia's lower lip. Then she stepped back and waited. Alicia didn't move; didn't say a word.

“Oh God. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I'm sorry,” whispered Katie.

“'m not,” Alicia replied at last.

Then her mouth was pressed against Katie's again, and where Katie's kiss had been soft and teasing, Alicia's was firm and demanding. She placed a hand at either side of Katie's face, and her tongue slid against Katie's and licked over her teeth and lips.

<i>”Falalalalaa la la la laa.</i> Fred's voice was distant, like a ghost on the wind.

In the darkness, Katie couldn't see Alicia's hands move until she felt them on her waist, on her back, on her neck, on her hip. Her own hands fluttered over Alicia's shoulders and through her hair.

“Oh Wow,” Katie gasped.

“Heh. Yeah.” Alicia's voice was almost a whisper.


Neither girl said anything.


“We're, uh, we're coming. We got lost,” called Katie finally.

Katie heard Alicia sigh softly. She moved to kiss her again, to assure her, or to apologise or maybe just because she really wanted to. Before she could move, a hand grasped her upper arm firmly and she was whirled around to face Angelina, whose wand was emitting a faint glow which lit her face.

“You found each other. Excellent. Come on, Filch is well gone by now; we'd better get back to the castle before he locks all the doors. Come <i>on</i>.”

Reluctantly, Katie turned to follow her teammate. She reached out to let her hand brush against Alicia's, but Alicia had her hands folded across her chest.
They made their way back to the castle, and up to the Gryffindor common room without meeting Filch or any of the teachers doing their rounds. Fred, George and Oliver took one staircase, while the three girls headed up the other.

“'Night, Katie,” said Angelina when they reached her dorm. Alicia said nothing, but then that was hardly unusual for Alicia.

“G'night, Ang,” Katie said, reaching up to hug her. She turned to Alicia, and hugged her too, holding her just a little longer, and a little tighter than she had Angelina. As she pulled away, Alicia brushed her lips against her ear.

“Night, Katie,” she whispered.

The next morning they sat three seats apart at breakfast as they did every other morning, and had separate classes as they did every day. That week, they trained four evenings out of seven, like they did every week. Katie studied with her friends, and Alicia hung out with Angelina. Like they always did.

At first it was just easier not to change the routine, and then it was too awkward to do anything else, because it had been too long already.

<b>Chapter 2</b>

<i>Two years later.</i>

Alicia Spinnet pulled her hair back into a high ponytail and scrutinised her reflection in the mirror. She decided she'd pass muster. She'd gotten used to being back in Muggle clothes over the summer, and it was hard to wrap her head around the fact that this time last year she'd been rushing to classes, and looking forward to the Halloween feast. It all seemed a world away. It <i>was</i> a world away.

Because here she was just Derek and Liz's youngest, back from boarding school and taking a year out to find herself before heading off to college. If she sometimes muttered odd words under her breath, well young girls will pick up these strange habits at school, won't they? She'd grow out of them soon enough, and that school certainly had taught her to be efficient with a broom. (Oh, we're just teasing, pet.)

The broom in question was not the type to which Alicia had become accustomed in her time at Hogwarts. It was a plain old Muggle sweeping brush, it belonged to the Bolgers - friends of her parents - and it was currently lying unused in the store cupboard of their corner shop. Alicia had cleaned the floors already with a swish of her wand. The day's newspapers were piled up ready for recycling, their barcodes removed. The shop was deserted, and Alicia was just waiting for the clock to hit nine and set her free.

This wasn't what she'd intended to be doing this year. Then again, she hadn't had any other great inspiration, and the money wasn't bad, even when she mentally converted it into Galleons.

The fact that she still <i>was</i> converting it back into Galleons was part of the problem, because when she went to Diagon Alley she found herself converting to Sterling. It sometimes seemed to Alicia that she found it easiest to identify home as whichever world she wasn't in at the time.


In two minutes she could lock up and meet up with David. It was their third date, and this time he'd probably expect her to kiss him for real. She didn't know yet if she would. He was fun, he made her laugh, he didn't mind that she preferred to listen than to speak, and if - as had happened last weekend – she took the notion to leave her drink on the bar and head out in the rain to watch the distant fireworks from the brow of the hill, he laughed and ran to catch up.

It was just that he didn't know about her other world. He didn't know about Hogwarts or Quidditch, and he didn't know about Death Eaters and the ever-growing threat of He Who Must Not Be Named. It was a big problem. As long as Alicia had that big problem to focus on, she didn't have to deal with the fact that David <i>also</i> didn't know about a dark night by the lake, and a girl in red dress robes.


Alicia double checked the till, then turned out all the lights and stepped out into the night, locking the doors behind her. She was heading out of the car park when a white shape perched atop the shop's giant plastic ice-cream cone caught her eye. It was an owl with a letter clutched in its beak. Looking around to make sure no Muggles were passing by, Alicia took the parchment and opened it.


Thought you'd want to know. There's been some sort of attack at the school. Katie's been hurt. We don't know how badly, but Ron reckons they're moving her to St. Mungo's in the morning. Visiting hours from 10 am.

F & G</i>

Short as it was, Alicia had to read the letter through several times before she fully understood it. She briefly wondered why the twins had sent this to her, but realised of course they'd have sent the same message to Oliver and Angelina, too. She stood rooted to the spot, trying to decide what to do. Fred and George had obviously gotten news from their brother. Would he keep them updated? Should she go find the twins and hope to get more news that way, or should she justs wait until the morning and – no. There was no way in hell she was waiting until the morning to find out what had happened. Would the Weasleys be at home, or at <i>Weasleys' Wizarding Wheezes</i>, she wondered. Making up her mind, Alicia let herself back into the shop and made a quick call to her mother, then left a message with Dave's friend Eddie, who thought he was James Bond because he had a car phone.

Ten minutes later she appeared at the gates of Hogwarts and found them locked. She pointed her wand at the bolt.

“Alohamora,” she hazarded.

The gate did not open, but instantly the piercing wail of a siren cut through the night. Alicia gave a wry little smile and waited for somebody to come and see what the fuss was. Sure enough, less than a minute later a young woman with mousy brown hair came rushing over from the eaves of the forest. Alicia didn't recognise her, but her stance and gait screamed 'auror'.

“Who are you, and what do you want?” the woman asked, pointing her wand at Alicia's chest.

“Alicia Spinnet. I'm here to see Katie Bell.”

The auror's eyebrows shot up in surprise. She did not move to lower her wand, and Alicia realised some further explanation was probably required of her.

“Fred and George Weasley told me she'd been injured,” she said.

The auror still did not seem about to relent, but another voice spoke behind her.

“What's the trouble here, Miss Tonks?”

A very familiar form emerged from the shadowy pathway behind Tonks. Minerva McGonagall moved forward, her own wand also drawn.

“Miss Spinnet?” she asked in surprise.

“Yes Professor.”

McGonagall's eyes narrowed suspiciously.

“Tell me, Miss Spinnet, how many years did you play as chaser for Gryffindor?”

“Four years, and one year reserve,” said Alicia.

“And what was the final score of the Gryffindor/Slytherin match in your fourth year?”

“170 points to 60,”said Alicia after a moment's thought.

“And what did Fred and George Weasley sneak into the common room to celebrate?”

“A bottle of fire whi- you knew about that?”

McGonagall's mouth twitched in what might have been a smile. “Yes, Miss Spinnet. I knew about that.” She lowered her wand, though Tonks kept hers raised. “I assume you came here to see Miss Bell?” Alicia replied in the affirmative. “I'm afraid Miss Bell is unconscious, and Madame Pomfrey is not permitting visitors.”

Alicia bit her lip, and considered how best to argue her case. Before she could think what to say to win the deputy headmistress over, she found herself blurting out the question which she'd been refusing to let herself even think since reading the letter.

“Is Katie going to die?”

McGonagall didn't answer right away, and panic ballooned in Alicia's stomach.

“Excuse me, Miss Tonks.” McGonagall stepped past the auror and muttered something under her breath, while her wand moved in a series of intricate loops too complicated for Alicia to follow. The gate swung open, and McGonagall beckoned to Alicia to step inside.

“The curse which affected Miss Bell was very serious, but no Miss Spinnet, we do not believe Katie will die,” her voice softened unexpectedly. “Follow me Alicia, I'll plead your case with Madame Pomfrey.”

Alicia heard the auror locking the gates once more as she followed Professor McGonagall towards the front doors of the school.

<b>Chapter 3</b>

Katie didn't look like herself. She was deathly pale, and too eerily still for somebody in a natural sleep. Alicia gazed at her in shock, as McGonagall and Pomfrey held a whispered conference behind her. She heard Pomfrey give a sigh of resignation which she presumed meant McGonagall had won.

“Fine,” said the mediwitch aloud. “But ten minutes, and that's it. It's no earthly use her staying longer anyway.” She caught Alicia's eye to make sure Alicia had understood. Alicia gave a little nod, and Pomfrey disappeared back into her inner sanctum.

“You may stay here tonight, Miss Spinnet,” said McGonagall. “When you are ready, use the fire to summon a house elf and she will show you to a spare room in the Gryffindor tower. Please do not leave tomorrow without coming to see me first.” With that, she turned on her heel and left.

Left alone, Alicia moved to Katie's bedside and sat down in the visitor's chair. She noticed in an idle way that Katie had cut her hair at some point over the summer. She reached out to push it back off Katie's face. She didn't know what to say. Weren't you supposed to talk to people when they were unconscious because they could hear?. Was that only people in comas? Was that only people in comas in soap operas? She had no idea, so she sat in silence and watched Katie sleep and felt little pulses of relief every time the girl drew breath.

After twenty minutes, Pomfrey rapped angrily on the window which partitioned her office from the rest of the hospital wing. Alicia rose, cast one last long look at Katie until the sleeping girl took one more breath, then she made her way to bed. First thing in the morning she was going to track down Ron Weasley and find out what the hell had happened.

“Tea?” Rolanda Hooch called from where she stood by the staffroom counter.

“Could murder a cup,” replied Pomona Sprout.

Hooch pulled down three mugs from the cupboard and tapped the kettle with her wand, bringing it instantly to the boil. She passed one cup of tea to Sprout, and clutched a second in her own hands. She heard the familiar sound of boot-heels clicking briskly over flagstones, and smiled as Minerva McGonagall swept in, and made straight for the third cup of tea, which Hooch had left on the countertop.

“You're running late today, Minerva,” she observed.

“Longbottom,” Minerva sighed as though the one word were explanation enough. “He'll be the death of me if he's not the death of himself first.”

“What's he done now?”

“He was trying some charm on that cactus of his,” she said, shooting Sprout a look. “Several second years ended up with stinksap in their eyes.”

“At least he's trying,” said Sprout.

“Yes,” McGonagall agreed. “Very trying.”

She slumped down into an armchair by the fire, and gave a dismissive wave of her hand. “I'm really rather fond of the boy, but with everything else we have to protect them from, I do wish the students would think twice before being so foolish about things.”

Hooch perched on the arm of McGonagall's chair and gave her a sympathetic little smile. She refrained from commenting that the deputy headmistress's standards of sensible behaviour were probably beyond the scope of most teenagers, because she knew that Minerva already knew that too.

“Rolanda was just telling me about Alicia Spinnet's grand entrance last night,” said Pomona. “Is she still in the castle?”

McGonagall shook her head. “She left early this morning. She wanted to stay and travel with Bell to the hospital, but Madame Pomfrey put her foot down. Of course, I shouldn't be at all surprised if Miss Spinnet made her own way there.”

“Poor dear, she must have been so worried about her friend.” The three of them sat for a moment in thoughtful silence. Then Sprout spoke again, and this time there was a conspiratorial glint in her eye. “You know, I happened to overhear Dumbledore telling Katie's parents that Oliver Wood contacted him several times last night and first thing this morning to try and find out what happened to her. I wonder if there's something going on there?” she smiled. “Do you think Mr. Wood might be carrying a torch for his young teammate Minerva?”

Hooch almost choked on her tea at the expression on Minerva's face.

“Well... I suppose it's possible,” McGonagall said at last. Hooch knew as clearly as she knew the Chudley Canons would come bottom of the league again this year, that Minerva was comparing Wood and his owls to the girl who'd beaten at the school gates for admittance in the middle of the night.

“I think Wood might be seeing Elinor Chiddle,” offered Hooch. “I saw them out together at Vega's last month.”

Both Sprout and McGonagall made little sounds of surprised interest. Vega's bar had for many years had a reputation as the most permissive night spot in wizarding Britain.

“Well girls, I'd better go get the greenhouses ready for my next class. See you at lunch, if I survive the Slytherins,” said Sprout, finishing her tea.

“Enjoy yourself,” called Hooch to her retreating back.

That left the two of them alone in the staffroom. Hooch slipped into the seat opposite McGonagall's, which Sprout had just vacated.

“Should be an interesting one,” she said.

“Indeed,” replied Minerva.

They sat in companionable silence, sipping their tea and watching the flames. All of a sudden, Minerva straightened and frowned at Hooch.

“Rolanda, what exactly were <i>you</i> doing at Vega's?”

<b>Chapter 4.</b>

“This is insanity!”

“This is worse than insanity. This is suicide!”

“How did we let her talk us into this?”

“Shut up before somebody hears you,” hissed Alicia. She and the twins were standing outside the rear entrance to <i>Borgin & Burke's</i>, in an empty side street off Knocturn Alley. The twins fell silent, but Alicia could see them continue to shoot dubious looks at each other when they thought she wasn't looking.

“Look, I just need you to keep a look out, okay? If anyone asks, you were testing a new product, it got away, and you're looking for it.”

“By breaking into <i>Borgin & Burke's</i>?” asked Fred.

“I'm not breaking in. I just need to get into the back yard where they keep the bins.”

She didn't wait to explain any further, but hoisted herself up onto the top of the wall and slipped down the other side.

The yard was surprisingly mundane given the nature of the shop behind which it lay. Two perfectly ordinary looking dustbins stood next to a rusted drainpipe. Alicia eyed them warily, vaguely remembering something in the paper about bins which had been enchanted to attack anyone who came near. But that had been for Muggle-baiting, hadn't it? There were no Muggles in Knockturn Alley.

Screwing up her courage, Alicia lifted the lid from the first bin. Nothing more malign issued from it than a pungent scent of vegetable peels. Borgin and Burke were obviously the kind who left it to the Waste Vanishers to sort the foodstuff from the rest of the refuse themselves. Laying the lid aside, Alicia screwed up her nose and began rifling through the top layer of rubbish for a certain piece of card. She knew it must be here, because it had still been in the display counter when she'd gone into the shop. It had lain upon an empty velvet cushion which was faded to a uniform dull green, apart from vivid patches where a necklace had obviously sat for some considerable time. When the shop assistant had seen her looking at it, he'd quickly whisked it away and into the waste paper basket. Half an hour ago, he'd emptied the basket into these bins. Alicia had been watching.

With a smile of triumph, she drew out a small square of card. On one side was written “Do Not Touch” above an impossibly high price in Galleons. Alicia eagerly turned it over. To her dismay, there was only one word written on the back of the card. It said “Maleen.” and was followed by a catalogue number. Stuffing the card up her sleeve, she hopped back over the wall to rejoin the twins.

Minerva McGonagall stepped into the library and stopped short.

“You know, Miss Spinnet, once one has graduated from Hogwarts it is customary to cease coming too school.”

Alicia looked up guiltily. “Professor Sprout said I could use the library.” It wasn't in its most technical sense true. Alicia had simply made her way to the school, and when Sprout had been passing by from the greenhouses, she'd told her she would be using the library.

“What is it you're looking for?”

“Um, nothing particular,” said Alicia.

“Try again, Miss Spinnet,” said McGonagall sharply.

Alicia bowed her head in defeat.

“I'm looking for somebody or something called Maleen and... something to do with a necklace.”

McGonagall's eyebrows rose in surprise.

“I'm not even going to ask how you found out about the necklace,” she said. “You realise of course that Professor Dumbledore is doing everything in his power to make sure Miss Bell gets effective treatment?”

Alicia said nothing.

“Have you tried cross-referencing?” McGonagall then asked unexpectedly.


Professor McGonagall actually rolled her eyes.

“We try so hard to teach you. Sometimes I think we might as well be idle.”

With a flick of her wand she summoned a huge tome which came zooming down from a high shelf and settled on the table with a thump. She pointed her wand at it again. “Necklace” she said in a clear voice. The cover flew back and pages ruffled until the book lay open on a page just over half the way through. The word “necklace” glowed green at the top of the page, followed by an impossibly long list of books written in a tiny font.

“What was the other term?” McGonagall asked.

Understanding what she needed to do, Alicia pointed her own wand at the open page. “Maleen,” she said. “M-A-L-E-E-N.”

The page glowed for a moment; when the light faded the list of book titles had been shortened to about a dozen.

“Heh! Who knew?” laughed Alicia appreciatively. McGonagall just smiled and began summoning the books from their shelves. They arranged themselves in an improbably neat pile on the desk in front of her.

“Please do not forget to return the books to their proper place when you are finished,” said McGonagall. “The school cannot be held responsible for the actions of Madame Pince should a visiting alumna fail to treat the library with proper respect.”

“Thank you, Professor,” said Alicia, and really truly meant it.

She spent the next hour skimming through each book on the list page by page, afraid to trust the indices in case she missed what she needed. Frustratingly, several of the books were about a witch named Maleen Grigg, who had written a short opera in the eighteenth century called “The Portuguese Poltergeist's Party”, which apparently contained a famous musical number about a necklace made from the teeth of a hundred house-elves. Alicia was fairly sure this could not be the necklace which had cursed Katie.

In the sixth book she found what she was looking for:

“...<i>the tale of the ring bears a remarkable resemblance to the tale of Maid Maleen and the princess's fatal necklace.</i>”

Much to her ire, the book had no more to say on the subject. Two more books yielded similarly tantalizing throwaway lines “deadly jewelry like the necklace of Maid Maleen”... “A Maleen necklace, if ever there was one...” Four books on she found what she was looking for:

<i>“...This version of the story relates how the necklace, once put about the neck of the false claimant, led to a brutal and painful death. Maleen alone was saved from this fate by the witch's spell.”</i>

She'd found it! This had to be what had happened to Katie. It would help them wake her up, she was sure of it. Grabbing the book to her chest, she hurried from the library, entirely forgetting McGonagall's injunction about the books. She rushed to the gargoyle which guarded the door to Dumbledore's office, stopping only long enough to grab a bewildered prefect and demand the password.

“Opal Fruits,” she called. As the gargoyle moved aside, she ran up the stairs and pounded on the door.

The door swung open to reveal Professor Dumbledore sitting at his desk, looking faintly surprised at her appearance. In any other circumstances, Alicia would have been nervous in his presence - especially having effectively broken into his school. Right now, however, she couldn't care less.

“Professor, I know what happened to Katie.”

“Miss Spinnet, what a pleasant surprise. Please have a seat.”

Alicia pulled up short, wrong-footed by the social pleasantries.

“Em, hello Professor,” she drew back the chair in front of his desk. Once she was seated, she launched again into the story that had brought her here. “Sir, the necklace that cursed Katie. I think it's called Maleen's necklace. Look!” Finding it easier to show than to speak, Alicia thrust the book into Dumbledore's hands. The headmaster read the page Alicia indicated with agonising slowness.

“Ah yes,” he said at last, putting down the book. To Alicia's confusion, there was a look of faint pity in his eyes.

“The story of Maid Maleen is, in fact, a fairy tale. One known even to the Muggles, as it happens.”

“I... what?” asked Alicia.

Dumbledore clasped his hands on the desk and began to speak in a slow and melodic voice.

“Maid Maleen was a beautiful princess who fell in love with a young prince from a neighbouring kingdom. Her father, alas, did not approve the match and Maleen was shut up in a tower. After seven long years she escaped, only to find that her father was gone and his kingdom overthrown. She travelled a long way, and at last found shelter working in the palace of another kingdom.

“Coincidentally, as these things so often go, it was in fact the kingdom of the father of her former suitor. He was to be married to another woman - a princess who was, unfortunately, so ugly that she kept to her chamber all day every day for fear that people would see her. When the day came for her to marry the prince, she was still afraid to show her face, and sent Maid Maleen in her place.

“As part of the wedding ceremony, the prince fastened a necklace around Maleen's neck. That night when he went to the princess's chamber, although she wore a veil to hide her face, he realised it was not the woman whom he had wed because she was not wearing the necklace. The princess attempted to have her servants kill Maleen before the prince could discover her. However, the prince cottoned on to what was happening, and in the end it was the princess who found herself beheaded. Maleen and the prince lived, as they say, happily ever after.”

Alicia stared at Dumbledore in disbelief.

“Of course,” the Headmaster continued, “the variation to which this book refers is slightly different, here the necklace is cursed and brings about death when the false bride attempts to put it on.”

Alicia sat still for a long moment, attempting to digest what the headmaster was telling her. “ A fairy tale? But what am I supposed to do with that?”

“Traditionally, I believe, one is meant to learn a life lesson.”

“What lesson?” asked Alicia. She felt the first stirrings of anger in her stomach.

Dumbledore shrugged expansively. “Possibly that only pretty girls get husbands,” he suggested. “Or that some men will recognise a piece of jewelery faster than they will see the difference between two women with veils over their heads.”

Alicia was crushed. She'd been so sure this was the key. Why else had it been written on the card from <i>Borgin & Burke's</i>. Unless of course, she realised with sinking feeling, they were simply fond of cataloguing with literary allusions.

“But Katie...” she protested feebly.

Dumbledore's face at once became more serious.

“My dear Miss Spinnet, I must assure you that Miss Bell's well-being is of the first importance to everyone involved.”

“Then how come she got hurt in the first place?”

Dumbledore gazed at her sadly. “There are things, alas, our enemies do which we cannot control. I assure you, Miss Spinnet, we are doing everything to ensure the speediest possible recovery for Katie Bell. You must trust us.”

And that, it seemed, was that. Alicia took back the book and, gripping it hard, she left the headmaster's office.

Once outside, she did not know what to do. When she'd been a student here, she'd always gone flying when she needed to clear her head. She thought about it for a moment. She'd already pushed her luck in coming to Hogwarts to use the library. What could a few more hearty shoves do?

Alicia made her way down to the broom shed and knocked once, then opened the door and went inside. She found Madame Hooch rubbing resin onto some of the old brooms whose handles had become slick and shiny with age.

“Spinnet,” said Hooch glancing up at her with her strange yellow eyes. “What can I do for you?”

“Need a broom,” said Alicia stiffly. She was disgusted to find own voice unsteady. A sob threatened to overtake the last word.

“You're not taking it out of the school?” Hooch asked.

Alicia shook her head. She watched as Hooch wiped her hands against her flying robes, leaving white chalk marks on each thigh.

“Well then,” said Hooch rising to her feet. “If Minerva McGonagall asks, you stole one while I wasn't looking.”

With that, she left the broom shed, humming softly to herself. Alicia was left to claim whichever broom she pleased. The small part of her brain which wasn't in turmoil over everything that had happened in the last two days registered amazement at how easily she was allowed to get away with whatever she liked here now that she wasn't a student.

She soared through the air over the Quidditch pitch, and remembered what it felt like to be in the air. She didn't need to think. Instinct took over. This was one thing she'd really missed over the last few months. The Muggle world had its advantages. She was prepared to admit that, even if most wizards wouldn't. It had an ingenuity and a diversity which she'd sometimes felt lacking in the wizarding approach to things. At the end of the day though, it was hard to think of anything that held a candle to being able to fly.

She let her mind drift to Katie. Up here in the darkening clouds everything always seemed somehow more removed and more distant.

Katie, Alicia thought, was a really good friend. One of her best friends. It was only natural that she should lose her head a bit when something happened to her. Okay, so the rest of Katie's friends hadn't come charging to Hogwarts, or gone rooting through bins, but then they'd all been living in the wizarding world and were aclimatised the growing threat. Alicia'd cut herself off, knowing only what she'd gleaned from friends' owls, or from reading between the lines in the Daily Prophet. It was natural that she'd have a more extreme reaction.

So far, she couldn't fault her own logic.

Feeling more confident about her own thoughts than she had in a long time, Alicia turned her attention to the Yule Ball and their private party by the lake. What had that really meant? For two years she'd avoided dealing with what had happened that night in the dark. Obviously it had been a one-off for Katie who'd never mentioned it again. <i>You never mentioned it again either,</i> whispered a voice in the back of Alicia's brain. She staunchly ignored it.

Right. So it was justs a one-off. An experiment type thing. She was dating David now, and Katie was behind her. They were friends, right?

This formulation of the state of affairs was not satisfying.

She tried again.

Okay, so maybe she found girls attractive sometimes. She could admit that. Definitely Katie was pretty. Only a blind person could fail to notice that. So what? Lots of girls probably noticed that other girls were good looking. That didn't mean they wanted to be with them romantically. Right? Right. So why had kissing Katie felt so much better than any boy she'd ever kissed.


One more time.

What if she was in love with Katie? What if she loved her, and wanted to be with her? Maybe she wanted Katie to be her girlfriend. Maybe she wanted to stand up to the world and say “I'm not a Muggle, and I'm not a pure blood, and I'm not straight, either.” Loud and proud.

She imagined telling David, and was slightly ashamed of the vicarious little thrill the thought gave her.

She imagined telling Madame Hooch or Professor Sprout and envisioned with some satisfaction the surprise and shock on their faces.

She imagined Madame Pomfrey tapping on the windows of the hospital wing, and then seeing Katie snogging her as they lay together on the hospital bed. The last thought made her swerve slightly on her broomstick.

She imagined telling Professor McGonagall... and was suddenly brought up short. The thought of telling McGonagall was like running into a solid wall of pragmatism. There would be no playing games with McGonagall. McGonagall would look straight at her, with those dark intense eyes and she would judge her. There was no way that she could tell somebody like McGonagall without it becoming serious. Without it becoming real. And then she realised she couldn't tell her parents either. And most of all, she couldn't tell Katie. She couldn't tell Katie, because then it would stop being a game she played in her head.

She flew over and back across the pitch as the sun set. She turned the problem over and over in her head. Every time, she came face to face with an imaginary Professor McGonagall, silently judging her and making the whole thing serious.

Eventually darkness closed in, and she could no longer see more than a little way in front of her. That brought back memories too. Cold and exhausted, Alicia landed, stowed the broom in the shed, and made her way back to the school. She needed to leave. She needed to tell McGonagall firmly, to her face, that Katie was just her friend, that the lead hadn't panned out, and that she'd be going to see Katie sometime at the weekend with the rest of the old Gryffindor Quidditch team. In fact, she'd even invite McGonagall to come along.

That settled in her own head, she went in search of the deputy headmistress.


There was no answer when Alicia knocked on the door of Professor McGonagall's office. The lights were on inside. Alicia knocked again, and listened hard for any movement inside. Then a door opened down the corridor to her left. McGonagall stepped out of what appeared to be a darkened classroom.

“Miss Spinnet, were you looking for me? Come inside.” She followed her into the office and gestured to a seat at the desk. “I must say, you're becoming quite a regular fixture here.”

“Not any more, Professor.”


“My theory didn't work out,” Alicia explained. “I was wrong about what happened to Katie.”

“I see,” was all McGonagall said.

“So I'll be going home tomorrow,” Alicia continued stolidly. “Back to Chichester, I mean.”

“You won't be going to visit Miss Bell in St. Mungo's?” asked the professor.

It was the opening Alicia had been looking for.

“I think Angelina's going to sit with her tomorrow,” she said casually. “And Oliver will be free to visit at the weekend. There's no point all of us crowding her.”

McGonagall looked thoughtful. “Would you like some tea?”

“No, thank you.”

Alicia watched McGonagall rise to make tea for herself, letting her mind wander while she waited. She noticed there was some chalk dust on the back of McGonagall's gown. That was strange, she thought, because she'd never known McGonagall to actually use chalk in her class. She always wrote with her wand. Alicia frowned; where had she seen chalk dust already today? Hooch. Hooch had been wiping resin from her hands.

Scarcely believing the connections her brain began making, Alicia looked again at the marks on Professor McGonagall's clothes. Sure enough, she saw that the dustmarks were handprints, pressed against McGonagall's hips and the small of her back. And, she realised with growing incredulity, there were smudges at the base of her neck, where the zipper at the back of her gown started.

“I sh-, er, I should be leaving, Professor,” she stammered.

“You're in a hurry?” McGonagall asked, surprised.

“Yes. Em, my mum. She'll expect,” Alicia lied.

“Miss Spinnet,” McGonagall called her back as she reached for the door handle. “You are a very good friend to Katie Bell. Nobody could say otherwise.”

Alicia had no intention of responding. She'd just nod and leave. Then she noticed the faint smudge of chalk on McGonagall's cheek. Perversely, she felt the urge to contradict her. Her mother always said when she got like this that 'her pride was up'.

“Yes they could. They could say lots more, and I don't care if they do. Good night, Professor.”

Alicia wasn't aware of the ground she covered as she made her way out of the school, or apparated to London, or climbed the stairs at St. Mungo's to Katie's private room. When she got there, Katie was alone and still unconscious, though she had lost the deathly stillness of that first night.

“Katie, please wake up,” Alicia begged. “I need to talk to you. Or, I think, maybe I need you to talk to me.”

Katie didn't even stir in her sleep. Alicia collapsed into the chair by the bed. Her heart was full, with disappointment and confusion. She was sick of things not being what they appeared, of teachers who weren't what they were supposed to be, and solutions that turned out to be fairy tales.

Perhaps it was because fairy tales were still on her mind that she leaned in and kissed Katie while she slept.

“Wake <i>up</i>,” she whispered, pressing her lips to the sleeping girl's. “Wake up.”

The kiss did not have quite the effect which narrative might dictate it should. Katie slept soundly on, but Alicia suddenly felt more awake than she had in a very long time. She looked intently at Katie's sleeping face.

“I love you, Katie,” she said. She said it quite loudly. There was nobody there to hear, but she still felt significantly better.

<b>Chapter 6</b>

It was almost a week later before Katie opened her eyes for the first time, and it was Fred and George who were with her when she did. Parents were summoned. Doctors ran tests. More rest was prescribed, and all visitors were refused until Katie should be well enough to receive them.

All in all, Katie had been conscious for three days before her former teammates were allowed in to see her. Katie had been amused to hear that they were taking turns to stake out the room until they were let in. At least, she was amused to hear it once the clouds of pain and fatigue had cleared enough to understand what was being said to her. She still felt faint and woozy.

It was a tribute to her friends' dedication, that first day, that even with hushed voices, and nothing but grapes and water to eat and drink, they made it feel like a party.

“We've been worried about you, Katie,” whispered Oliver, as he tied a bunch of balloons to the head of her bed.

“I think they only let us in today because they're sick of falling over us in the corridors,” Angelina confided. “Alicia hasn't been out of this place since you got here. I think they're afraid she's a homeless person hoping to permanently install herself here.” She fussed around Katie's pillows, plumping them up.

“That's Muggleborns for you,” said Fred airily. “Nothing better to do but hang around all day, skiving off work.”

Alicia hit him in the back of the head with Katie's chart, earning a little laugh from the patient.

“Hey, Katie and her giggle're back!” cried Angelina. “Who wants to celebrate with a quiet game of cards?”

As the other's squabbled over the rules of Black Jack, Katie caught Alicia's eye. Alicia smiled back at her shyly, confirming in Katie's mind that Angelina had been telling the truth. Katie gestured for her to move up closer. Alicia obeyed, and came and sat beside her, leaning against the headboard. Katie rested her head against Alicia's shoulder, and cuddled against her. Exhausted as she was, she offered up a silent prayer of thanks to anyone who would hear it that she was alive, and conscious, and with the people whom she loved.

“Tell me a story.”

Visiting time was almost over, and everyone else had left. Katie was stronger now than she had been that first night, but Alicia still thought she looked impossibly delicate.

She shifted uncomfortably. “Er, what kind of story?”

“A fairy tale,” said Katie.

Alicia cast around wildly. Stories <i>really</i> weren't her thing. Her eyes fell on a bunch of flowers which the staff of Hogwarts had sent Katie from Sprout's greenhouse, and it sparked a memory.

“Once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess called Maleen,” Alicia began. She recounted the tale as best she could from what Dumbledore had told her, embellishing it to make it longer and more filled with incident. She did the king's voice in an imitation of Dumbledore's accent, and was rewarded with a bout of laughter from Katie which then turned into a coughing fit. She left off doing the voice after that. When she reached the part about the wedding, she hesitated. She casually told how the prince put the necklace around Maid Maleen's neck, and paused when she saw Katie stiffen.

“Go on then, what happened next?” Katie prompted.

“Well, the prince went to the princess's chamber that night, but when he saw that she wasn't wearing the necklace, he knew it wasn't the woman he married.”

“That was the only way he could tell?” asked Katie

“I said the prince was handsome. I didn't say he was bright. Don't laugh unless you promise not to cough!”

Katie covered her mouth, and waited silently for Alicia to continue.

“Where was I? Yeah. The prince knew something was up. So the princess thought 'To hell with this. How did I think I was going to keep on fooling him anyway?' and she called Maleen into the chamber and said 'here's the girl with the necklace, now go away the pair of you and leave me alone'.”

“Why am I getting the feeling this isn't how it goes in most books?”

“Then the prince says 'You know, you look an awful lot like this girl Maleen I used to go out with'. And Maleen says 'I am Maleen. And while we're on the subject, how come you never came to rescue me in the seven years I was stuck in a tower eating rats and things? That's hardly true love, is it?'”

Katie laughed aloud, and Alicia broke off again, just in case. This time, however, Katie didn't cough. When she'd calmed down, she fixed Alicia with a mischievous grin.

“You know,” said Katie, “I think I know how this story ends.”


“Yup,” said Katie. “The prince, right, he says 'well, I would have rescued you, but I figured your dad might start a war or something.' And then the princess, who was a pretty nice person for all she looked a bit rough, said 'I reckon we've both had a close call not marrying this idiot'”

“But Maleen had married him,” interjected Alicia.

“In another name? No way that'd hold up in court. So the princess and Maleen both realise they've had a close call, and they unceremoniously kick the prince out telling him to apologise to the king, and send their compliments, but they'd rather have nothing more to do with his son. Instead they decide they'll go on all kinds of adventures and see the world together.”

“What happens to the necklace?” asked Alicia.

“I don't know. Monkeys steal it. The necklace isn't important. Anyway, then Maleen and the princess, right? They realise they're in love. And they kiss, and live happily ever after. The end.”

“They kiss?” asked Alicia.

“Yup,” said Katie.

“Like the Yule Ball, you mean?” There was a definite note of challenge in Alicia's voice.

Katie appeared to consider this for minute.

“There's less groping,” she said at last. “Because it's olden times.”

“I liked the groping,” said Alicia.

“So did I,” grinned Katie.

Some time later, a mediwitch did indeed come tapping on the door to inform them that visiting hours were over. However, Alicia was too preoccupied to notice if the woman was as shocked as she'd envisioned Madame Pomfrey being to find two young witches caught in a tight embrace on a hospital bed.


Vega's Bar was packed. The Wyrd Sisters' latest song was blaring from enchanted speakers, and the dance floor was thronged with young witches and wizards. By the bar at the edge of the dance floor, Alicia Spinnet was having a tequila-fueled epiphany.

“Love ought to burn, Katie,” she shouted over the noise, gesticulating for emphasis.

Katie laughed, caught up in Alicia's enthusiasm. She peppered Alicia's neck with hot dry kisses.

“I want to do everything with you,” Alicia continued. “I want to take you to dinner in Paris, and – and - and kiss you under the stars in Rome, and make love to you in a boat in Venice. <i>That's</i> what I want my great adventure to be, Kate. I don't want our love to be locked up in a tower, or - or stolen nights on a beach or hidden in a darkened classroom.”

Kate just looked at her, bewildered but entranced. It was probably the most she'd ever heard Alicia say in one go.

“We'll do all that. We will,” she assured her. “But now come and dance with me.”

She snaked her arms around Alicia's waist and pulled her close. Alicia's long hair brushed against Katie's bare shoulders as Katie leaned in to nuzzle Alicia's jaw. Alicia's breath was hot against her ear, her hands pinched gently at her dress, pulling their bodies closer together. Katie let her hands trail down Alicia's body. Her fingertips brushed over Alicia's hip bones. Alicia moaned, and kissed her fiercely. Her mouth never leaving Katie's for more than a few seconds, Alicia pulled her back into the seething mass of dancing bodies at the centre of the floor. The rest of the night was music, and lights, and touch and taste. The next day they knew they'd conquer the universe together.

In a secluded corner near the bar the two girls had just left, a woman chuckled.

“Ah, to be young and in love again, eh Minerva?”

“We were never that young,” sighed her companion. “Come on, let's leave. This music is making my ears bleed.”

They stepped out into the cool night air, and strolled away from the bar. Hooch pulled her cloak tighter about her to block out the chill.

“Think Miss Bell will make it back into school on Monday like her parents said?”

“One can only hope.”

They walked side by side, in no real hurry to get to any particular destination. They could disapparate from where ever they wanted. They continued in silence until they reached the Thames.

“Want to go home?” asked Hooch.

“Not especially.”

“Where to then?”

Minerva's mouth quirked up in a half smile. She reached out and ran the tips of her fingers against Hooch's lips.

“Let's start with a late dinner in Paris,” she suggested, “And see how it progresses from there.”

<b><a href="">LJ</a> ||| <a href="">GJ</a></b>
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