Vulnerability

"To share your weakness is to make yourself vulnerable; to make yourself vulnerable is to show your strength."

Phoenix Lancaster is just as extraordinary as she appears, she is a muggle-born metamorphmagus, and she has never had a quiet life. Thanks to her courageous and troublesome best friends, Fred and George Weasley.

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37. A Warning From The Hat


Angelina Johnson had tackled her boyfriend in a close embrace on platform nine and three-quarters. All Fred could do was hold her as she kissed him, swore at him and swear she'd curse him if he ever went a week without talking to her again. When she released him, Fred was left rather red faced as members of the Order, including his mother, Sirius (disguised in his Animagus' form as a great, big black dog), Lupin and Mad-Eye had been watching their displays of affection.

"Well," began Lupin after Angelina had hurried off to say farewell to her parents and find a compartment for the seventh years. "Look after yourselves."

"Yeah, keep your head down and your eyes peeled," Moody advised gruffly. "And don't forget, all of you – careful what you put in writing. If in doubt, don't put it in a letter at all."

"It's been great meeting all of you," beamed Tonks, giving both Hermione and Ginny a hug goodbye, and a wink at Phoenix. "We'll see you soon, I expect."

The familiar sound of the warning whistle reverberated around the station, Phoenix thought miserably that it would be the last time she would hear that whistle. Merlin, she felt sentimental.

"Quick, quick!" called Mrs. Weasley, she was hugging them all at random, kissing her children's heads quickly. "Write… Be good… If you've forgotten anything we'll send it on… Onto the train, now hurry!"

George took Phoenix's trunk with a chivalrous smile, she smiled in return and picked up Silvano's cage, waving goodbye to everyone on the platform. It was an incredibly nostalgic feeling being back on the Hogwarts Express. The sound of the hissing pistons, the sights of parents hugging and kissing their children goodbye, it was something she had previously took for granted before but now she was savouring every small detail of the morning.

"He shouldn't have come with us," Hermione exclaimed once the train exited the platform. Phoenix knew she was talking about Sirius, and was undecided as to whether or not Sirius coming had been a wise idea or not.

"Oh, lighten up," Ron responded, hoisting up his trunk and Pigwidgeon's cage. "He hasn't seen daylight from months, poor bloke."

"Well, can't stand around chatting all day," proclaimed Fred, "We've got business to discuss with Lee. See you later!"

"What business?" Phoenix asked the twins curiously after they were out of earshot of the fifth years.

"About the shop!" boasted Fred.

"Have you told Angelina about your plans to leave?" asked Phoenix, a knowing smirk tugging at her lips.

"Of course not," Fred said brightly, "she'd murder me!"

The journey to Hogwarts was bittersweet but enjoyable nonetheless. Angelina, Alicia and Lee had joined the twins and Phoenix as per usual. They had all laughed and joked about their summer's; Phoenix and the twins had to tell a little white lie about their summer, they said they had spent the majority of it at the Burrow, obviously keeping the Order of the Phoenix a secret to themselves.

"Oh I've missed you guys," sighed Lee, looping an arm around Alicia's neck, causing her to squirm and smack Lee's stomach in retaliation. "I have had one lonesome summer!"

"You've been Barbados all summer!" Alicia exclaimed, narrowing her green eyes at Lee enviously. "You can't complain about your summer when you've been in a beautiful country! Try getting dumped."

Alicia and Jason's relationship had been rather rocky over the summer, Alicia had grown frustrated after Jason had failed to make plans to visit her during their time off school. When he finally did decide on a date to visit Alicia, he and Alicia's father had clashed heads an awful lot. Alicia Spinnet cared a lot about her family and valued her father's opinion highly, so she knew if her father did not like somebody, there was a valid reason behind it. It caused a lot of tension during Jason's trip, they bickered a lot over Jason's sly comments about her father. When Alicia had attempted to discuss the subject seriously with Jason, he had simply said he didn't see the point in a relationship anymore.

"You always have me Alicia," Lee encouraged a rather downcast Alicia with a playful wink. "Oh, come on Alicia, it's our last year, you can't be moping around about some boy!"

"It's easy for you to say Lee!" Alicia spat back, her eyes darkening dangerous. "You just find someone else to snog and you're over whoever you were snogging last!"

Lee furrowed his brows, "Surprisingly Alicia, I do have feelings–"

"–oh, that's rich coming from you!" said Alicia. "I doubt you even possess feelings."

"I do having feelings Alicia," countered Lee. "Don't be so narrow-minded."

"Narrow-minded?!"

"Guys," Fred chuckled nervously, confused as to whether Lee and Alicia (who had always had a great and carefree friendship) were really arguing.

"I was just saying, you can't let a stupid guy ruin your year," Lee huffed. "I don't want to argue with you Alicia, but everything happens for a reason, maybe you and Jason weren't meant to be."

Alicia opened her mouth but stopped herself, catching Angelina's imperious gaze.

Phoenix frowned, she didn't like seeing her friends argue, she had only ever seen Angelina argue with Fred and George when they aggravated her. Never, in her whole seven years at Hogwarts, had she seen Lee Jordan get even remotely riled up (unless it was to do with Quidditch), he was laid-back and carefree and did not care for arguments. But Phoenix supposed that Alicia must have rubbed Lee up in the wrong way with her comments about his apparent lack of feelings.

"Did you hear?" Angelina asked following a few moments of a rather unpleasant silence. "Malfoy and Pansy Parkinson got made Prefects!"

Phoenix laughed, "Merlin, Malfoy is going to be more awful than usual, Pansy will be as stuck-up as ever."

"Detention for you Lancaster," snarled Fred, doing a rather superb impression of Malfoy's sneer. "For breathing."

"Which reminds me," began George, looking between Angelina and Alicia. "Which one of you is Quidditch Captain?"

"You didn't tell him?" exclaimed Angelina, glaring harshly at her boyfriend and Phoenix.

"You knew?!" said George, looking torn between annoyance and amusement.

"Of course I did," grinned Fred. "I'm the boyfriend."

"And you Pixy?"

"Of course I did," said Phoenix, mimicking Fred's rather matter of fact tone. "I'm the best friend."

"You have been betrayed, George!" Lee proclaimed dramatically, "By your brother and your girlfriend! I for one think you should punishment your girlfriend –" Phoenix raised an eyebrow, "–she must snog me!"

"Never!" called Phoenix. "You are way out of my league Lee."

"I assure you Nix," Lee urged, bowing deeply. "You are the one whom is out of my league. Now pucker up!"

Phoenix put her hand over Lee's puckered up lips, grinning as she did so. "Oh, I haven't missed you Lee."

"Well congratulations Angelina!" beamed George. "I could not think of anyone as fierce and terrifying as you! Perfect fit for Captaincy!"

"Is that a compliment?" Angelina asked, smiling. Phoenix could see Angelina almost glowing with pride, and no wonder, Angelina Johnson had always been passionate about Quidditch and being Gryffindor Quidditch Captain evidently meant the world to her. "I can't wait for Quidditch again! Though we'll have to array try-outs for Keeper as soon as possible. Perhaps this Friday."

"Let's hope we get someone as half decent as Oliver," said Fred, clapping his hands together. "Don't tell Oliver I said that, he doesn't need his head to get any bigger."

"Neither do you," coughed Angelina.

The rest of the journey back to Hogwarts passed as usual, games of Exploding Snap, her and George sharing of Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans (Phoenix had consumed a vomit flavour bean, much to George's amusement) and discussions of their last and final year.

"I can't wait to learn about Patronuses," mused Phoenix after they all had changed into their school robes. Darkness had fallen outside, the lamps in their compartment had illuminated magically, Phoenix's stomach turned in excitement, she couldn't wait to return to Hogwarts. The thought of strolling through the old, lamp-lit corridors was comforting, she even missed Peeves and his loud cackles and songs.

"I can't wait for the feast," yawned George, patting his rumbling stomach. Apparently, half a dozen Cauldron Cakes', sandwiches prepared by Mrs. Weasley, cheese and onion pasties and a box of Sour Apple Bites was not enough for George Weasley, "What I would give for a chicken and leek pie right now."

The Hogwarts Express began to slow down, the great pistons chugging to a halt at Hogsmeade station. Phoenix could see from her window that Hogwarts was beautifully illuminated by various lights about the castle. As she always did, Phoenix opened the compartment window, unlocked Silvano's cage with a wave of her wand and allowed for her graceful owl to stretch his wings and fly towards the Hogwarts' Owlery.

The seventh years exited the train, all chatting animatedly about Quidditch and in Alicia's case, Jason.

"I just don't get it," she mumbled. "At Hogwarts, he was so caring and funny but as soon as we were together outside of school he was all moody and judgemental."

"Who knows," Angelina shrugged, swinging her dark hair over her shoulder. "Perhaps he changed under stress? He was in a different country after all, round people whom he had never met before. Maybe he's one of those people who take their emotions out on others?"

Alicia shifted uncomfortably, "Now I feel guilty if that was the case."

"Don't feel guilty," said Phoenix, giving Alicia a pat on the back and a comforting smile. "You and Jason just weren't meant to be, if he wasn't willing to open up to you about his feelings then maybe you just weren't right for one another–"

Phoenix froze as they reached the carriages that led them away to the castle. Usually the carriages seemed to move of their own accord but in front of the carriages stood large skeletal, winged horses. Phoenix had read an awful lot in regards to Thestrals but nothing could have prepared her for the real thing. They had a rather ghostly appearance; their dragon-like face seemed to glow ominously from the lit lanterns from outside the station. The eyes seemed to captive her, they were large, white and glittery and stared back at Phoenix's pale skin, almost as they were reading her very carefully. Unlike Abraxan's, the Thestral's wings were vast, black and leathery. They appeared to be fleshless with a sleek, translucent coat, their bones clearly defined by their pellucid skin. Despite their dark appearance, Phoenix could not help but appreciate and admire their underlining beauty.

Perhaps reliving the memory of her mother's death had triggered her ability to see Thestrals, who could only be seen by those who had seen death. She still couldn't quite believe it. She had not even considered the idea that she would be able to see them after her vivid night terror.

"You can see the Thestrals, can't you?"

Angelina's voice seemed to come from miles away.

"Yeah," Phoenix muttered, blinking rather slowly. "Can you?"

"No," sighed Angelina. "I remember Hagrid told us that they pulled the school carriages, I wasn't sure whether you'd be able to see them this year or not."

"They're kind of beautiful in a terrifying sort of way," Phoenix observed before shaking her head, forcing herself to tear her eyes away from the Thestrals. "Well, let's get back to Hogwarts."

"Who is that pink lady?" Lee Jordan called, leaning over Angelina to stare obnoxiously at the staff table.

In the very middle of the staff table sat Professor Dumbledore, wearing wine coloured robes sprinkled with glittering stars and a matching hat. Phoenix frowned at the sight of the woman whom sat next to him. She was a vision of pure pink. Her curly, mousy brown hair, it looked prim and proper underneath a fuchsia Alice band, matching her fluffy cardigan perfectly. She looked awfully short and stout, her face was broad and rather wide, making her appear almost toad-like. Fred and George sniggered at the sight of her.

"Merlin," said George. "You'd be able to spot her from miles away."

"Reckon she'll let me borrow her cardigan?" grinned Lee. His attention was then caught by Professor Grubbly-Plank, a substitute Care of Magical Creatures teacher, taking the seat at the very end of the table where Hagrid usually sat. "Where's Hagrid?" Lee muttered, looking rather disgruntled at the sight of the substitute, he had always enjoyed Hagrid's company and his antics.

Phoenix and the twins shared a fleeting look, Hagrid, another member of the Order, was away on a mission. Fred and George had discovered this piece of information very early into the holidays through the Extendable Ears, but had been prevented from finding out much else by Mrs. Weasley discovering the joke product.

The doors to the Entrance Hall opened and a long-line of terrified looking first-years entered, trailing behind Professor McGonagall nervously. In the Head of Gryffindor's hands she held a stool which carried the ancient and frayed Sorting Hat. The first-years lined up in front of the staff table as Professor McGonagall placed the stool in front of them.

The hall remained silent. Then the rip around the Sorting Hat's brim opened and the hat began to sing:

In times of old when I was new
And Hogwarts barely started
The founders of our noble school
Thought never to be parted:
United by a common goal,
They had the selfsame yearning,
To make the world's best magic school
And pass along their learning.
'Together we will build and teach!
'The four good friends decided
And never did they dream that they
Might some day be divided,
For were there such friends anywhere
As Slytherin and Gryffindor?
Unless it was the second pair
Of Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw?
So how could it have gone so wrong?
How could such friendships fail?
Why, I was there and so can tell
The whole sad, sorry Slytherin,
'We'll teach just those
Whose ancestry is purest.
'Said Ravenclaw, 'We'll teach those whose
Intelligence is surest.
'Said Gryffindor, 'We'll teach all those
With brave deeds to their name,
'Said Hufflepuff, 'I'll teach the lot,
And treat them just the same.
'These differences caused little strife
When first they came to light,
For each of the four founders had
A house in which they might
Take only those they wanted, so,
For instance, Slytherin
Took only pure-blood wizards
Of great cunning, just like him,
And only those of sharpest mind
Were taught by Ravenclaw
While the bravest and the boldest
Went to daring Hufflepuff, she took the rest,
And taught them all she knew,
Thus the houses and their founders
Retained friendships firm and Hogwarts worked in harmony
For several happy years,
But then discord crept among us
Feeding on our faults and houses that, like pillars four,
Had once held up our school,
Now turned upon each other and,
Divided, sought to for a while it seemed the school
Must meet an early end,
What with duelling and with fighting
And the clash of friend on friend
And at last there came a morning
When old Slytherin departed
And though the fighting then died out
He left us quite never since the founders four
Were whittled down to three
Have the houses been united
As they once were meant to now the Sorting Hat is here
And you all know the score:
I sort you into houses
Because that is what I'm for,
But this year I'll go further,
Listen closely to my song:
Though condemned I am to split you
Still I worry that it's wrong,
Though I must fulfil my duty
And must quarter every year
Still I wonder whether Sorting
May not bring the end
I , know the perils, read the signs,
The warning history shows,
For our Hogwarts is in danger
From external, deadly foes
And we must unite inside her
Or we'll crumble from within
I have told you, I have warned you ...
Let the Sorting now begin.

Applause broke out throughout the hat, though, for the first time in Phoenix's memory, it was penetrated with murmurs and whispers.

"Rather strange," remarked Angelina. "I've never heard the hat giving warnings before."

"Relevant though," mused Fred. "In light of recent events."

Professor McGonagall's harsh stare cut into the muttering students and silence was recalled in the Great Hall. She gave one last sweeping look before returning her attention to the long scroll of parchment in her hands and read out the first name.

"Abercrombie, Euan."

Euan looked petrified as he stumbled towards the stool and the Sorting Hat. The hat fell down right over his head, Phoenix remembered the Sorting Hat doing the same to her all those years ago. There was a moment of silence while the Sorting Hat considered Euan for a moment before the hat yelled:

"Gryffindor!"

There was a loud roar and cheer from Gryffindor House as Euan Abercrombie, blushing brilliantly, joined their table.

The first-years continued to be sorted into their houses, cheers and appreciative applause could be heard from each of the four tables. 'Zeller, Rose' was the last to be sorted in Hufflepuff. Phoenix's stomach growled in hunger as Professor McGonagall cleared away both stool and Sorting Hat. Albus Dumbledore got to his feet, beaming around at his students, arms open wide in welcome.

"To our newcomers," called Dumbledore, his voice as calming and welcoming as it had always been. "Welcome! To our old hands – welcome back! There is a time for speech-making, but this is not it. Tuck in!"

Laughter and appreciative applause broke out around the Great Hall at his words.

"Finally!" George groaned as plates of food appeared magically before them. "I've been looking forward to this all summer!"

Phoenix piled up her plate with creamy mash, her favourite vegetable pie and a few pieces of buttered bread. Merlin, she loved the Welcome Feast.

"So, that Sorting Hat's song was rather strange," said Alicia. "Makes it sound as though it wants us to get all Chummy with the Slytherins."

"Makes sense though," Phoenix reasoned, "as Dumbledore said last year we are 'only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided'."

Fred frowned. "That's rather difficult when the vast majority of the Slytherins are all narrow-minded little fuck heads who call you a… you know,"

"Louis Burke is quite nice," commented Phoenix reasonably, Louis was in the year below Phoenix, he was someone who kept to himself and was not particularly fussed with people's blood status, which Phoenix was quite thankful for. "The Greengrass sisters too! Plus, Andromeda and Cecilia were both in Slytherin!"

"So, there are two or three nice Slytherins," Fred grunted through a mouthful of gammon. "I'll work with the nice ones, but the others can eff off."

Phoenix thought that was the fairest statement she'd get out of Fred Weasley. Perhaps uniting with the Slytherins when most had spent the past seven years calling Phoenix a Mudblood did not really sit well with Fred.

"So where is Hagrid you reckon?" Lee asked, once again craning his neck to peer at Professor Grubbly-Plank.

"Perhaps he's ill?" reasoned Alicia.

"Maybe he's quit?" suggested Angelina. "But I doubt he would, he loves his job as a teacher and grounds keeper. Plus, he does live in the Grounds after all, he'd at least come to the Welcome Feast."

"Who knows," shrugged George, evidently trying to shimmy away from the subject of Hagrid's whereabouts. "I'm more intrigued about the pink woman."

"You and me both George," grinned Phoenix, nudging his arm playfully. He grinned back at her and wrapped an arm over her shoulder, pulling her closer for a kiss on her temple.

Alicia was frowning in concentration, staring at the witch dressed in pink. "I recognise her from somewhere…"

"Where?!" Lee asked at once.

"My father works for the Ministry. A few years ago, he worked for the Improper Use of Magic Office," explained Alicia, still frowning at the staff table. "I remember he would prattle on about his Head of Office. 'Ministry Hag' he would say, and I distinctively remember him calling her a pink balloon–"

"Ah Douglas Spinnet," grinned Lee. "What a hero–"

"I can't remember her name for the life of me!" Alicia exclaimed, grabbing her blonde hair in frustration. "But I suppose her name isn't that important – but, what I definitely remember is that she got promoted to Senior Undersecretary to the Minister for Magic–"

"She must be all chummy with Percy then," Fred said darkly.

"Probably," said Alicia indifferently. "But what I'm thinking is; Fudge wants to spy on Dumbledore, remember all the bollocks the Daily Prophet has been writing all summer? Fudge wants to keep an eye on Dumbledore, probably think he's too senile to run the school without supervision."

"For once Alicia," grinned Lee. "You're making sense."

"Shut it!"

As all the students had finally finished their dinner and the chatter around the hall began to increase, Dumbledore rose to his feet gracefully. At once the talking around the hall ceased, all heads turned towards the Headmaster.

"Well, now that we are all digesting another magnificent feast, I beg a few moments of your attention for the usual start-of-term notices. First years ought to know that the Forest in the grounds is out-of-bounds to students – and a few of our older students ought to know by now, too." Phoenix looked at the twins as they sniggered silently, remembering in their third year how they had tried to sneak into the Forbidden Forest but had (unfortunately) been caught by Hagrid.

"Mr. Filch, the caretaker, has asked me, for what he tells me is the four-hundred-and-sixty-second time," Dumbledore hummed in amusement, "to remind you all that magic is not permitted in corridors between classes, nor are a number of other things, all of which can be checked on the extensive list now fastened to Mr. Filch's office door."

"Remind me to purchase everything on that list when we go to Hogsmeaede," George whispered to Fred.

"We have had two changes in staffing this year. We are very pleased to welcome back Professor Grubbly-Plank, who will be taking Care of Magical Creatures lessons; we are also delighted to introduce Professor Umbridge, our new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher."

"Dolores Umbridge!" said Alicia in an undertone. "That's the name!"

Lee snorted. "Now she remembers."

"Tryouts for the house Quidditch teams will take place on the–"

But Dumbledore stopped. He was looking at Professor Umbridge, his eyebrows slightly raised. Umbridge had cleared her throat, apparently for the second time, with a girlish 'hem, hem' that made Phoenix's stomach turn in dislike. She stood up, clearing her throat again for no apparent reason, but seemingly she intended to make a speech.

Dumbledore, polite as always, was only taken aback for a split second before he sat down in his high golden chair, looking intriguingly at Professor Umbridge. Other members of staff were not as patient as Dumbledore, who had never been interrupted during a speech before. Professor Flitwick looked between Sprout and McGonagall, as though expecting one of them to let him in on the joke; Professor Snape's eyebrows were raised, his sneer expressing his already apparent dislike for Dolores; Professor McGonagall's lips were thinner than Phoenix had ever seen, even after all the years of being Fred and George's head of house; Professor Sprout's eyebrows looked in danger of disappearing into her bushy hair.

"Thank you, Headmaster," Professor Umbridge spoke in the most high-pitched and girly voice Phoenix had ever heard, "for those kind words of welcome."

"I don't like her already," muttered Fred, frowning at Professor Umbridge as she cleared her throat once again ('hem, hem').

"Well, it is lovely to be back at Hogwarts, I must say! And to see such happy little faces looking up at me!" She simpered. Phoenix raised an eyebrow, the students of Hogwarts didn't exactly appreciate being spoken to like a small child, Merlin, this woman was going to be in for a shock. "I am very much looking forward to getting to know you all and I'm sure we'll be very good friends!"

"That's likely," said Fred and George together, grinning in a mischievous way that plainly told Phoenix that they were already brewing up some ingenious plan to mess with Umbridge in any way possible.

Another 'hem, hem' could be heard, and Phoenix rolled her eyes at the noise. She had barely known Dolores Umbridge for five minutes but she could tell that her girlish, sweet aura was a clear act, a rather poor one at that.

When Umbridge spoke again, her girlish voice had vanished, replaced by a dull monotone.

"The Ministry of Magic has always considered the education of young witches and wizards to be of vital importance. The rare gifts with which you were born may come to nothing if not nurtured and honed by careful instruction. The ancient skills unique to the wizarding community must be passed down the generations lest we lose them for ever. The treasure trove of magical knowledge amassed by our ancestors must be guarded, replenished and polished by those who have been called to the noble profession of teaching."

"Every headmaster and headmistress of Hogwarts has brought something new to the weighty task of governing this historic school, and that is as it should be, for without progress there will be stagnation and decay. There again, progress for progress's sake must be discouraged, for our tried and tested traditions often require no tinkering. A balance, then, between old and new, between permanence and change, between tradition and innovation…"

Even Phoenix, who could sit and listen to Professor Binn's most boring drones was struggling to keep her attention and make sense of what exactly Umbridge was talking about. Merlin she shouldn't have napped on the train, she was too tired for boring speeches. The usual silence that occurred during Dumbledore's speeches did not hold on for Umbridge's speech, students were giggling and whispering as the noise level slowly rose. The only people who seemed to be paying any attention were the teachers and a handful of students.

"…because some changes will be for the better, while others will come, in the fullness of time, to be recognised as errors of judgement. Meanwhile, some old habits will be retained, and rightly so, whereas others, outmoded and outworn, must be abandoned. Let us move forward, then, into a new era of openness, effectiveness and accountability, intent on preserving what ought to be preserved, perfecting what needs to be perfected, and pruning wherever we find practices that ought to be prohibited."

Dumbledore clapped politely as Umbridge sat down. The staff followed suite, Phoenix chuckled as she noticed Professor McGonagall clap her hands once before setting them back down on the table, looking very unimpressed by Umbridge's speech. A handful of students joined in, most had not yet realised that Umbridge's speech had ended and before they could begin to applaud, Dumbledore stood up.

"Thank you very much, Professor Umbridge, that was most illuminating. Now, as I was saying, Quidditch tryouts will be held–"

"Illuminating is certainly fitting!" Angelina appeared to be seething.

"I'm so tired I could barely comprehend what she was saying," groaned Phoenix, gripping at her dark raven hair.

"You two were listening?" asked Fred incredulously. "I switched off after the second 'hem, hem'."

"Of course," said Angelina waspishly. "The speech itself was a load of shit but there was some rather important shit hidden in there."

"I doubt that," scoffed Fred.

"No, really," Angelina urged her boyfriend, grabbing his arm. "Long story short, we have a Ministry Spy at Hogwarts. One who wants to interfere."

"Interfere?" Fred repeated. "That doesn't sound good."

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"Really you two?" Phoenix asked in astonishment, noticing the sign that they had pinned up on the noticeboard. "Hermione will hang you both by your ankles!"

"I'd like to see her try," smirked Fred.

"She would!" argued Phoenix, as she and the twins clambered about of the portrait hole.

"Wouldn't!" called George, slinging his arm around Phoenix's shoulder and kissing her cheek. "Hermione has a certain soft spot for us and our pranks, I think she's rather impressed by the magic."

Phoenix pursed her lips – Hermione was admittedly rather impressed by the brains that went into the twins' products, but she wasn't about to tell the twins that.

Professor McGonagall handed out their timetables as usual during breakfast. Phoenix couldn't help but be relieved when she saw her first lesson was a free period, followed by double Ancient Runes, Charms and Transfiguration. At least she didn't have Snape or that Umbridge woman to deal with just yet.

"What a relief!" Phoenix exclaimed, her hair turning bubblegum blue. "First day back and no Snape!"

"It's a miracle!" cried Lee Jordan, who was her rather rambunctious Potions partner (Phoenix tried not to think about how she would miss Cedric in her Potions lessons but Merlin, she couldn't help it).

"Free period," said George, observing Phoenix's timetable. "Definitely am going to spend that with you," he said with a wink.

"George," Phoenix scolded, her hair and cheeks burning pink. "Free periods are for studying!"

"I will study," grinned George, his brown eyes glistening in an intriguing sort of way. "And the subject is you."

Phoenix burned red as Fred, George and Lee all roared with laughter.

"You are unbelievable!"

"Unbelievably gorgeous," reasoned George, placing a quick but tender kiss on her lips.

"Fuck off!" Phoenix laughed, pushing her boyfriend away.

George obliged, winking at his girlfriend as he and Fred got to their feet.

"We can hear our dear brother and his friends complaining about their timetables," said Fred, slapping his hands together, "perfect opportunity to sell some Skiving Snackboxes!"

"Good luck!" Phoenix and Lee called back to the twins.

Phoenix sat with George during her free period in an empty Gryffindor common room, she was attempting to read through her copy of Futhark Magic: A Study of Ancient Runes but George kept distracting her, either by throwing her a wink, kissing her or messing with her hair.

"George!" Phoenix exclaimed, letting out a giggle as George wrapped his arms around her. "What's gotten into you?"

"Can't a man just want some loving from his girlfriend?" George asked, puckering up his lips to her.

"Looks like you'll have to wait Georgie," Phoenix teased, turning her head away from her boyfriend, grinning. She stood up, still smiling innocently at George, as she made her way to collect another book from her table. George followed closely behind, grabbing her waist with ease and pulling her towards him.

"I'm not waiting too long," mused George slyly. Phoenix turned in his arms, peering up at him, admiring his handsome freckled face.

"Good things come to boys who wait George," Phoenix smiled, blushing slightly as she met his eyes, which gleamed mischievously.

His large hands cupped her face gently, making Phoenix's insides coil wonderfully, "How long do you think you could go without kissing me?" George asked, his voice was a whisper as he kissed her forehead. "An hour?" He kissed her eyelid. "A day?" He kissed her nose. "A month?" He kissed her cheek. "A year?" He kissed the corner of her mouth so teasingly yet tenderly that Phoenix let out a groan of annoyance at the very back of her throat.

"George…" she giggled as his lips continued to kiss everywhere on her face, apart from her lips. "Stop teasing me!"

"What do you want me to do then?" He asked, knowing grin edged upon his face, "go on, say it."

Phoenix pouted, her bottom lip jutting out. "I-I want you to kiss me," she stuttered slightly as a blush crept from her face to her hair.

George's hands moved from her face to her waist. He smirked as she stood on her tippy topes to cup his face between her small hands, her heart hammering behind her ribcage.

"Gladly."

And then he kissed her. She was not yet used to George's kisses. Her stomach still flipped, her heart still pounded and her hair remained pink each time their lips met. Merlin, she was lucky, she thought as the hands rested upon her waist tightened, pulling her even closer to him as their lips brushed together; Both of them savoured the bliss moment of solitude.

Her hands trailed downwards to his neck, she could feel his pulse quicken as he deepened the kiss, his tongue sweeping across her bottom lip. It made her stomach feel as though it was on fire as she suddenly became aware of just how amazing his hands felt against the thin material of her shirt and how lucky she was that George Weasley was all hers.

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