Six months earlier.
“Nell!” She pretended not to hear him.
“NELL!” She kept her head buried in the book.
“Don’t make me send a Howler over there!” She rolled her eyes, and briefly glanced up over the top of her book. “Whatever.” That red-haired git of a Weasley, somehow had grown handsome in a silly sort of way in his sixth year. He was still tall and gangly though. And he had a stupid name. Festivus. “Can I help you with something?”
Festivus’ companion, who up until that point had been eying Nell’s friend sitting next to her, chimed in, “Oh, I think he needs a lot of help.”
“That’s certainly true, my dear, but I come with the noblest of intentions. See, I read in a book once–”
She cut him off. “YOU? Read a book??”
“Don’t get too excited. Bewitching Witches and Ways To Woo Them. Brilliant, if I do say so myself. It says that the only thing women want to do is to talk about themselves, and that the greatest gift you can give them is your ear.”
His friend wise-cracked once more, “I don’t think there’s a big enough box to fit those things. Unless you plan on dropping her off of the side of the Tower and letting her use them as parachutes!”
“Shut up, Ollie. Can’t you see that I’m winning her over with my charms? If you–” Nell interrupted him. “Oh, I’ve seen you cast charms. And I think I’d rather hear that Howler than watch that again. If you must know, I’m currently researching the edge cases surrounding exceptions to Gamp vis-a-vis the substance-form dichotomy, specifically concerning the influence of mind altering spells such as the Confundus Charm and Geas.'”
Nothing. Just a blank stare. She rolled her eyes. Gryffindors.
Festivus blinked a few times. Ravenclaws.
“Cool! Well. I just got done putting a little something special in the pumpkin juice. So forgive me if I’m not impressed by your less lofty pursuits.”
“Go away before I Geas YOU. I’ll make you think Ollie here is prettier than I am!”
Ollie couldn’t resist the obvious joke. “You know, I’d like it if you made Helena think the same thing!” Helena blushed furiously. Nell feigned a look of confusion. Festivus gave Ollie a sharp jab in the ribs with his elbow.
Git, Nell thought.
Git, Festivus thought.
Ollie was busy thinking about Helena.
Helena was busy thinking about–“Watch it, here comes Headmaster Gag-Me,” Festivus whispered under his breath, breaking the awkward silence.
“Good morning Festivus, good morning Grumblechook! I trust you had a productive summer!” Headmaster Gagwilde strode in, interrupting the conversation with his usual dramatic flourish.
Grumblechook Ollivander rolled his eyes: he hated his name. His mother said it was an old family name, but he secretly suspected that she lost a bet with her brother-in-law. “Ollie” was just fine as a nickname. While Festivus and Ollie had a perfunctory conversation with the Headmaster, Nell briefly pondered wizarding genealogy.
It was long rumored that Godric Gryffindor had an illegitimate child with Galath Ollivander hundreds of years earlier. That child continued the Wizarding tradition of the time: “One family, one child,” and for centuries perpetuated the Ollivander name and bloodline by having male child after male child after male child. That is, until Genevieve.
The Ollivander bloodline had to be preserved, for obvious reasons. But so too did the Ollivander name; it was good for business, after all. As it so happened, their distant cousin had given birth to a baby boy: Garrett Goyle. Sadly, the mother had died in childbirth, and the father had abandoned her months before that. So it was that Garrett Goyle became Garrett Ollivander. He eventually married Brunhilda Nott. and the Ollivander name endured. And Genevieve Ollivander married Septimus Weasley, and the Ollivander bloodline endured.
False-brother and false-sister had their respective children on the same day: Festivus Weasley and Grumblechook Ollivander, and the two have been virtually inseparable ever since. By blood, they were not even cousins. But despite this, people called them “the twins”. They did everything together. They were so close that they often finished each other’s–
Nell’s concentration broke, and she looked up. Festivus had scooped up a particularly disgusting looking plate of sandwiches and offered one to Nell and her companion. She grinned. “No, thank you. Really. Did the house elves make that sandwich? Or did you make it out of house elves?”
“Who can tell, anyway, with last year’s crop? Well, I’m off to go stuff my face. Enjoy!” And with that, Festivus departed. As he walked away, he turned back over his shoulder and called back to her, “Oh by the way, steer clear of the pumpkin juice!”
Helena was still blushing. “You know, I don’t… I don’t think you’re pretty. I mean. No. I don’t mean you’re not pretty. I mean. Oh. I, uh…” She blushed even harder, and looked down at the table, stammering.
“Helena. Helena. It’s okay. Really.” Nell put her hand on Helena’s. “Really.”
Her hand stayed there. For a brief moment, she looked directly into Helena’s eyes, and smiled the smallest of special smiles.
Perenelle du Marais’ parents were healers. Making people feel better was in her blood, and it came to her naturally. “This world is a broken place,” her father reminded her, constantly. “It is our role to fix it.” Every day, she reminded herself of her goal, and strived to wear the mantle her father had passed down to her.
Because they were healers, the accident was all the more tragic. Perenelle had a sister, once. A sister who, like her, was so full of light, and wanted nothing more than to be just like her father, and fix the world. A sister upon whom she doted, and who adored her. Wizards are preternaturally resilient, but even mundane things can take their lives, if help is far enough away, or the condition is serious enough.
Sadly, modern techniques such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation were unknown to wizards in the 15th century. Lungs filled with water were notoriously difficult to treat. Her parents tried desperately to coax the liquid from her, but to no avail. In her desperation, Perenelle transfigured the water into a different Substance. She knew that if the transfiguration broke, it would be instantly fatal. Perenelle had barely finished her first year, and struggled mightily to maintain her Magic. Her parents knew better than to hold out false hope, even though she screamed at them in rage, imploring them to help her, even as her Will faltered. As she held her sister in her arms, she poured everything she had into it, and more.
It was not enough.
Her parents passed in her fifth year, victims of Dragon Pox. She would later learn that a cure had existed for centuries. The world was saturated with stupid, senseless deaths. The world was broken, and she intended to fix it. Even if she had to break it first. Over the years she had heard whispers, old tales of artifacts and Gods from a bygone era, stories of lore beyond reckoning. In the summer of her fifth year, she left her native Alderney and travelled the old world. She visited the marble edifices of Alto Alentejo. She saw the tombs of Egypt. She spoke with the wraiths of Białowieża. She was still young, so young, and thus collected no more than whispers, murmurs. But there was one murmur that rose louder than the others.
The mass of students in the Great Hall murmured. Another Dark Lady to teach Battle Magic? But Morganna was one of the best professors that Hogwarts had seen in generations!
Headmaster Gagwilde stood at the podium at the forefront of the Great Hall, delivering his beginning-of-the-year address with the affected, eccentric pompousness the students had grown to know and love. “Yes, it is true. Our beloved Professor LeFay has departed Hogwarts, leaving us with a vacancy. Fortunately, Professor Ollerton was doing a bit of adventuring in Poland over the summer, and convinced a new Dark Lady to share her lore with us. Witches and gentlewizards, allow me to introduce you to our newest Battle Magic professor, Miss Baba Yaga!”
Any student who had been drinking pumpkin juice immediately spewed it from their mouths in a fantastic synchronized spit-take, prompting waves of laughter to ripple through the Great Hall. Baba Yaga? Headmaster Gagwilde was famous for his jokes. This had to be one of them.
Festivus Weasley and Grumblechook Ollivander, for their part, were particularly proud of their ingenuity. Comed-Tea in the pumpkin juice? Classic! Helena Ravenclaw, who had been smiling almost uncontrollably to herself prior to this, looked over at Perenelle. Normally, she too would be grinning, despite herself, at another one of Festivus’ stupid pranks. But instead, she had the Look. That look that Helena had come to recognize from their years together at Hogwarts. Long years, spent watching. It was the same look Nell had when you asked her about her parents. Or her sister. Her Dark look.
“Nell? Are you…” Helena considered putting a hand on her shoulder, but thought better of it. Nell blinked a few times, and the smile returned to her face.