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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29. Green-Eyed Monster

A cold and wet February faded into a warm yet windy March. Ron Weasley's birthday had passed and not without an amazing gift from Fred and George (though it had turned Ron's hair temporarily to a bright and vibrant green for several hours). NEWT lessons had only gotten tougher (plus homework had piled up) and Apparition lessons had seen vast improvements with most students successfully Apparating every time. Phoenix had also been attending her weekly consultations with Madam Pomfrey and with great results. The matron had prescribed her a potion to take every two days in order to calm her mind and prevent her from having any more nightmares.

"How are you feeling this week Phoenix?"

The bright eyed and currently vibrantly purple haired witched twirled her wand between her fingers, staring absently out of the window of Madam Pomfrey's rather stuffy office.

"I'm okay," Phoenix sighed, flexing her fingers and casting a look around the office, "All of the homework and Apparition lessons are getting to me a little, but the potion helps me to sleep,"

"No nightmares?"

"No nightmares."

Madam Pomfrey looked pleased. She gave Phoenix her weekly potion and then dismissed her from her office. George had kindly waited for Phoenix outside the hospital wing so that they could walk down to breakfast together.

"How was the meeting?" George asked as the two of them made their way down a spiral staircase.

"Same as usual really," Phoenix told him, fiddling with the latches on her bag, "since the potion helps me sleep a lot better, I hardly have nightmares so there isn't really much else to comment on."

George looked rather sceptical, noticing as he did Phoenix's rather pale blue eyes that were almost grey, "Are you sure? No flashbacks? No headaches, migraines or anything?"

For a fraction of a second, Phoenix remained stationary. She had thought that perhaps the intense nausea had been caused by the enormous stress she had been feeling recently was solely down to overwhelming thoughts of her NEWT lessons and the upcoming end of year exams. She had not for a second considered that it also could have been due to what had happened all those weeks ago. But she did not want to concern George with this, so she smiled warmly at him and pinched his side playfully, "Don't you worry your pretty little mind about me Georgie,"

"I always worry about you, Pixy."

It was lucky perhaps that they had just reached the doors to the Great Hall because Phoenix's hair was now a brilliant pink.

They joined Fred, Lee and Angelina who were sat at the Gryffindor table and who had already dug into their breakfast. George and Phoenix had barely took their first sip of morning pumpkin juice when Alicia came racing through the large oak doors.

"What a load of waffle."

Phoenix arched an eyebrow as Alicia Spinnet chucked a magazine onto the breakfast table, her green eyes glaring harshly at cover of Witch Weekly before she dropped on the bench beside Angelina.

"What's up Leesh?" smirked Lee, "find out that yours and Jason's star signs aren't compactable?"

"No," Alicia replied, before frowning. "Well, according to this issue, Capricorns and Cancers are a match made in hell but that's not what's annoyed me!"

"What's wrong then Alicia?" Angelina asked, shooting a glare across at Lee who looked as though he was stealing himself to question Alicia further on the topic of star signs.

Alicia snatched up the magazine and opened it to the very central page.

"This!"

"Harry Potter's Secret Heartache?" Fred snorted, "Don't tell me Ginny's sent him another Valentines Card."

"Oi," snapped Ginny, who was sitting a few seats down from them, her face rather red. "Are you asking for another Bat-Bogey Hex, Frederic?"

Fred shuddered.

Phoenix and George shared a look of amusement before their eyes traced down to peer at the article, where a colourful photograph of Harry had been stamped beside the title 'Harry Potter's Secret Heartahce'.

A boy like no other, perhaps - yet a boy suffering all the usual pangs of adolescence, writes Rita Skeeter. Deprived of love since the tragic demise of his parents, fourteen-year-old Harry Potter thought he had found solace in his steady girlfriend at Hogwarts, Muggle-born Hermione Granger. Little did he know that he would shortly be suffering yet another emotional blow in a life already littered with personal loss.

Miss Granger, a plain but ambitious girl, seems to have a taste for famous wizards that Harry alone cannot satisfy. Since the arrival at Hogwarts of Viktor Krum, Bulgarian Seeker and hero of the last World Quidditch Cup, Miss Granger has been toying with both boys' affections. Krum, who is openly smitten with the devious Miss Granger, has already invited her to visit him in Bulgaria over the summer holidays, and insists that he has "never felt this way about any other girl."

However, it might not be Miss Granger's doubtful natural charms that have captured these unfortunate boys' interest.

"She's really ugly," says Pansy Parkinson, a pretty and vivacious fourth-year student, "but she'd be well up to making a Love Potion, she's quite brainy. I think that's how she's doing it."

Love Potions are, of course, banned at Hogwarts, and no doubt Albus Dumbledore will want to investigate these claims. In the meantime, Harry Potters well-wishers must hope that, next time, he bestows his heart on a worthier candidate.

"Why does this make you so angry?" George, who was in pearls of laughter along with Fred and Lee, questioned Alicia, "it's a joke."

"Because Hermione's our friend!" Alicia huffed, "if an article like that appeared about Phoenix, wouldn't you be angry?"

Phoenix arched an eyebrow at her friend before her eyes flickered towards the twins and Lee.

"Well yeah, but the article is written by Rita Skeeter so I wouldn't be too concerned because that women lives in a world of her own," said Fred.

"Hang on…" Angelina began, taking the magazine out of Fred's hand and reading through it again (though Phoenix didn't see why the article needed any more attention – it was so terrible). "How is Rita interviewing Pansy Parkinson when she's supposed to be banned from the grounds?"

"Dunno," shrugged Lee, seemingly unperturbed, "Pansy could have figured out a way to sneak out of the grounds to see her,"

"Don't think Pansy's smart enough to do that," muttered Phoenix so that only Fred and George heard her.

"How can she get away with this?" Alicia exclaimed in anger, scooping beans onto her plate messily before, quite suddenly, she dropped the spoon, her eyes wide in realisation.

"Thanks Alicia," beamed Fred as he flicked off several beans that had landed on his shirt.

"Has Hermione read this yet?" Alicia asked, sounding suddenly panic-stricken, "Oh gosh. She has to know! People are going to be cruel to her after this–"

"She's read it Leesh, don't panic. Someone in her Potions class had given it at her," Phoenix reassured her friend with a smile, "Hermione isn't too fussed it, you know what she's like – couldn't give a damn what those Slytherins think about her. She's more intrigued as to how Rita and the Slytherins are communicating and I can't help but agree with her."

"Do you reckon Fred would like this?"

Phoenix frowned at the floral patterned jumper as it slowly flashed different colours.

"You're joking right?" she snorted, looking incredulously at Angelina. "Fred would never in his life wear that jumper, even if you paid him a thousand Galleons."

"That boy is impossible to buy for," grumbled Angelina as she forcibly placed the hanger back onto the clothes rack.

Angelina had persuaded Phoenix to assist in helping with Fred's birthday present and had dragged her into Gladrags Wizardwear. The twin's birthday was fast approaching and Fred's girlfriend had yet to purchase him a gift.

"How about a lovely checkered shirt? Checkered would look nice on Fred." Phoenix suggested, checking the label and smiling a little, "It's also charmed so that it screams when it gets too smelly… interesting."

Angelina titled her head to the side, considering this before shaking her head. "No," she said simply, continuing to flick through the shirts on the hangers, "it doesn't go with the watch I got for him."

"Like Fred cares about whether or not things match,"

Phoenix could tell that Angelina agreed with this statement but the dark skinned girl ignored her anyway – Angelina never liked to admit that she was wrong.

"What did you get the twins Phoenix?" Angelina asked instead, turning her nose up at a mustard coloured wizard hat.

Phoenix smiled mischievously and tapped the side of her nose before winking at Angelina, "it's a surprise."

Seventeen years old and Fred and George Weasley were yet to mature. Phoenix was currently glowering at the twins, who were trying to stop their snorts of laughter as she stomped her feet in the midst of a tantrum.

"Just because you two are now of age does not mean that you can do whatever you want–" Phoenix was scolding at them, her eyes flashing red and her hair turning the colour of fire.

Fred and George had somehow successfully managed to transfigure all of Phoenix's socks (how they managed summon her socks was a mystery to her) into fluffy, multi-coloured bunnies. Each of the bunnies were patterned as her socks had been and were all hopping gleefully around the Gryffindor common (much to the surprise of Gryffindor House).

"You haven't even said Happy Birthday to us Pixy," George said with a smirk. "I think we should be the ones who are angry, not you."

"I haven't got any socks!" Phoenix practically growled, crossing her arms over her chest while Fred and George's eyes sweep down to look at her bare feet.

"And what pretty little feet you have," Fred grinned.

Phoenix had to control herself not to throw every curse she knew at the grinning birthday boys.

They, rather reluctantly, transfigured the bunnies back and returned her socks (though they now smelled horribly and were covered in fluff, leaving her no choice but leave them to be washed by the House Elves).

"I have half a mind not to give you your presents," Phoenix said with a glare as she followed the twins up to their dormitory, their presents hidden in her schoolbag. "My feet are freezing," she muttered, glaring down at her feet, where the cold stone floor of the boy's staircase made her wish longingly for her favourite pair of fluffy slipper socks.

Fred threw an arm over the scowling witch's shoulder with a large grin spread across his face, "We'll give you a sock each if it means that you will give us our presents."

"Alright," she smiled as George held open their dormitory door for his brother and Phoenix. "Well then, Happy Birthday." She smiled at the twins, handing them both their presents (which were much more neatly wrapped than their Christmas present had been since she had recently taken to practising her gift wrapping skills).

"Wow Pixy," George exclaimed, rotating the gift in his hands to inspect the young girl's wrapping. She had used a pastel blue wrapping paper and accompanied it with a glittering sliver bow. "Cecilia didn't wrap this, did she?"

"Of course not," Phoenix dismissed. "I've been practising my skills at gift wrapping."

Fred, who had wasted no time in ripping the wrapping paper and bow off of the present, had let out a low whistle as he peered down at a long, black velvet box held in his hand. Phoenix had decided, since the twins were of age, that she would give them a more extravagant and sentimental gift than she had for Christmas and previous birthdays. She beamed excitedly at the twins as Fred waited for George to rip the wrapping paper off of his present.

"I know it's a little bit of a step of away from the usual Zonko's products but uhm," she blushed slightly as the twins held up the long chains of their necklaces.

"You might think that necklaces are a little girly but you see…" she pointed to a sort of dog tag on Fred's necklace, where the words 'Weasley's Wizard Wheezes' were inscribed into the metal. Attached to this engraved metal, was a white opal. Inside the gemstone, the colours blue, purple and green flickered amongst the smooth white surface. "I attached an opal to the necklace because… well… it's magical abilities help to bring protection and it is also the stone of inspiration and, according to the books that I've found on Crystal Magick, it enhances creativity and imagination. I thought it would… you know… with the store and all…"

George's eyes widened, his fingers brushing lightly over the stone while Fred was gazing down at the stone, as though mesmerized.

"I did get you some Zonko's products as well if you'd prefer them," Phoenix said quickly. "It was a bit of a gamble because I don't usually get you something like this but I wanted it to be special after all you're not seventeen every day–"

She was cut off by two bone crushing hugs.

"Don't be thick–"

"Come off it Fred, Pixy couldn't be thick if she tried–"

Phoenix staggered slightly under the weight of the two Weasley boy's.

"But Fred is right. Don't be thick Nix–"

"Yeah we love the necklaces–"

"Not girly at all–"

"Never knew you were one for such sappy gifts Nix–"

The bright blue haired Metamorphmagus groaned loudly, trying her best to signal to her friends the amount of discomfort she was feeling but her groan turned into a shriek as two pairs of lips smacked her cheeks.

"You two are going to kill me," she squeaked.

"Oh right," chuckled Fred as he and George finally released their struggling and brightly blushing friend. She pouted lightly at the two redheads, rubbing her cheek where George's lips had left a burning sensation upon her face.

"I'm glad you liked them," Phoenix grinned brightly as the twins slipped the chains over their heads and tucked the dog tag and opal gently underneath their shirts, "Now, could I have those socks you promised me?"

The Weasley Twins birthday, which was also ironically April Fool's Day, was a day that all Hogwarts Professors most feared. It was the day that Fred and George decided to wreck the most havoc. So Phoenix, knowing full well that the castle would be anything but quiet, remained beside the lake, her heavily annotated copy of Advanced Potion-making placed on the grass beside her, the heat blazing down upon her.

"Twilight Moonbeams…" Phoenix muttered to herself, flicking through the pages of her tattered book in search for the potion, "Another love potion… Thanks Snape."

"Professor Snape seems to have a penchant for wanting his students to make love potions,"

Phoenix actually dropped her book at the sound of George's voice. The seven hundred page book almost landed in the bank of the lake, but with a lazy flick of George's wand, the book froze two inches from the water's surface.

"George!" She exclaimed, hand on her chest and blushing brightly in embarrassment, "you know I hate it when you jump on me like that. Whenever you or Fred are around I need at the very least five minutes to prepare myself."

George smiled handsomely, lounging beside his best friend, once again flicking his wand so that Phoenix's potions book glided easily through the air towards them, "But surprising you is my favourite thing to do," George said with a sly smile, "The way that you drop whatever you're holding is adorable."

Phoenix very nearly blushed, "You think I'm adorable George?"

"You know I do," George said confidently, only making Phoenix's hair turn bright pink.

She could feel his eyes upon her so she turned to look at him only to see him peering curiously at her, "Why does your hair turn pink every time that I compliment you?"

"What?" Phoenix spluttered nervously, turning her hair consciously to a pale violet, "No it doesn't."

"Yes it does, watch," George said, "you look so cute Phoenix,"

Her hair turned a pale pink, "No I don't."

"You look amazing with any hair colour."

Her hair turned a much deeper pink, "Please stop."

"You look beautiful today Phoenix."

She bit her lip, her hair now a deep, deep pink. Her cheeks were burning almost as harshly as the sun, her eyes looking anywhere but at her best friend.

"Do you find it awkward that I compliment you?" George asked curiously, his fingers curling around a lock of her hair, "if you do then I'll stop."

"No," Phoenix said with a coy smile, "even if it did, would that stop you?"

"Course it wouldn't," George laughed, "You look too cute when you blush."

"George!"

"Sorry, couldn't resist," he chuckled as Phoenix glared at him, the corners of her lips turning upwards into a soft smile.

"The reason why I get so flustered when you compliment is because… well…" Phoenix began, ringing the sleeves of her cloak nervously, "I don't really get compliments from people and for them to actually, you know, mean it."

George's brown eyes softened as he looked down at Phoenix, "You deserve so much more than you believe Pixy,"

"Back at you George."

"I'm serious Phoenix," She looked at him, amusement in her eyes but was met with one of George's most sincerest looks that made her heart feel as though it was sure to explode, "Anybody who treats you otherwise don't deserve to know you."

Phoenix bit her lip to prevent herself from smiling like an idiot, "You're really sappy sometimes Georgie," she smiled, slapping his arm playfully, "But it means a lot so thank you, loser."

George chuckled, laying back lazily against the grass, "No problem loser."

The Easter holidays were a bliss to say the least. Phoenix, being the responsible one, had completed all of her homework very early on in order to spend the two weeks off in utter relaxation. Fred and George however had very much forgotten about the fact that they were assigned many, many pieces of homework.

After another one of Phoenix's appointments with Madam Pomfrey (which Phoenix had to admit were now getting rather repetitive), she was making her way down to the Great Hall for dinner. Fred and George had said that they would be waiting for her when she got out of the Hospital Wing, but considering the fact that the twins were in detention she had highly doubted that they would be waiting for her.

"Fhoenix!"

Oh bloody –

"Jerome," Phoenix had only just reached the doors to the Great Hall when she heard Jerome's thick accent from behind her. He was striding towards her confidently, a certain spring in his step. Phoenix raised an eyebrow at him. "Thanks for the chocolate," she said politely, she was too tired to be anything but nice to Jerome right now and besides, Phoenix Lancaster was never one to hold a grudge, "and the flowers."

"Et ez no problem Fhoenix," Jerome spoke huskily, reminding Phoenix very fondly of George's morning voice, "I am very sorry ef I ave upset you in anyway,"

Phoenix smiled slowly at the handsome Beauxbaton student, "Don't worry about it Jerome," she said kindly, waving his apology away, "it was months ago."

"Thank you Fhoenix," Jerome swooped low, almost causing Phoenix to shriek in surprise, as he took her small hands and kissed both of them, making her blush in both surprise and embarrassment.

"I'll see you later Jerome," Phoenix coughed uncomfortably, "enjoy your dinner."

Her eyes scanned the Gryffindor table for her friends.

"Shit."

Fred and Lee were staring gobsmacked at Phoenix, Angelina's looked utterly confused and George Weasley's eyes were unmoving, staring so intensely at Phoenix that it made her stumble in her step.

"What on earth was that?" Angelina was the first to question Phoenix as she approached her group of friends.

"Jerome apologised," Phoenix said simply, scooping some mashed potatoes onto her plate, "I didn't want to cause a scene so I accepted it."

"But–" Fred began, but Phoenix shot him a murderous look that cut through his words like a knife.

"No buts!" argued Phoenix, ignoring Lee's immature giggle, "Fred, would you please pass me the sausage casserole?"

Phoenix wouldn't have exactly called her accepting Jerome's apology them 'talking again' but her friends begged to differ. She was not, as Angelina very often said, going out of her way to talk to Jerome. She did however notice over the Easter holidays how often Jerome seemed to pop up everywhere she went. Whenever she, Fred and George were sat beside the Black Lake, soaking in the sun, Jerome would stroll over to them, completely ignore the twins and talk to Phoenix until he was blue in the face. As soon as he would leave, Fred would immediately begin to run his mouth about Jerome and George would join in enthusiastically.

"He is so ignorant," Fred would say, glaring at Jerome's retreating back.

"If we curse him now we could blame it on those first years."

"George!"

Jerome was annoying her to say the very least.

A few weeks before the Third Task was due to take place, Fred and George asked Phoenix to accompany them for a trip to the Owlery so that they could send another letter to Bagman. Phoenix knew that they only asked her to tag along so that they could use Silvano but she was happy to come along anyhow, especially since they were in the midst of an argument concerning the subject of the letter and Phoenix always loved to watch the pair squabble.

"Maybe we should tell him if he doesn't pay back, we'll send our secret weapon his way–" Fred was saying.

"Don't get me involved in this," Phoenix warned him, though she doubt that he was listening to her.

"–that's blackmail, that is, we could get into a lot of trouble for that–" George reasoned.

"–we've tried being polite; it's time to play dirty, like him. He wouldn't like the Ministry of Magic knowing what he did–"

"I'm telling you, if you put that in writing, it's blackmail!"

"Yeah, and you won't be complaining if we get a nice fat payoff, will you?"

Phoenix rolled her eyes, pushing open the Owlery door so that it banged open. The three of them froze in their tracks. Harry, Ron, and Hermione were stood beside the large Owlery window, frozen like a deer in headlights.

"What're you doing here?" Fred and Ron asked simultaneously.

"Sending a letter," said Harry and George innocently.

"What, at this time?" Phoenix and Hermione said in chorus.

Fred beamed mischievously at his brother and his best friends, "Fine – we won't ask you what you're doing, if you don't ask us," Fred said, discreetly shoving the sealed envelope into Phoenix's hand.

"Well, don't let us hold you up," Fred grinned, bowing to the trio and pointing towards the door to the Owlery.

The fourth years however, remained stationary.

"Who're you blackmailing?" Ron interrogated his brothers, his eyes narrowed.

The bright grin that had been glued to Fred's face only seconds earlier had vanished. George glanced at Fred before smiling gingerly at Ron.

"Don't be stupid, I was only joking."

"Didn't sound like that," said Ron, raising an eyebrow.

Phoenix fiddled with the seal on the envelope, peering up the Owlery to see if she could spot Silvano.

"I've told you before, Ron, keep your nose out if you like it the shape it is. Can't see why you would, but–"

"It's my business if you're blackmailing someone. George's right, you could end up in serious trouble for that."

Silvano flew down gracefully from his perch. He settled himself on Phoenix's shoulder, nibbling affectionately at her ear. Phoenix ran her finger over his smooth feathers, smiling when he made a soft cooing noise.

"Told you, I was joking," said George. He gently took the envelope from Phoenix, his fingers lingering over hers for a few brief seconds that seemed to last a lifetime, before he attached the letter to Silvano's leg, "you're starting to sound a bit like our dear older brother, you are, Ron. Carry on like this and you'll be made a prefect."

"No, I won't!" Ron challenged.

George let Silvano nibble at his finger before he carried him over to the window. Silvano ruffled his feathers importantly, before taking off. George then turned to grin at Ron.

"Well, stop telling people what to do then. See you later."

"George's there no need to be so defensive," Phoenix began, "You too Fred, you're both so–"

"Come on Pixy," George said cheerily, picking Phoenix up and easily throwing her over his shoulder, "Farewell!"

The common room that evening was considerably less crowded than usual. Angelina and Phoenix were finishing a twelve foot essay for Ancient Runes. Crumbled pieces of parchments were burning in the fire, all of which had been thrown angrily by Angelina.

"I can't wait until the end of year exams are over," Angelina breathed heavily, setting her quill onto the floor and leaning back in relaxation, "How long until the Final Task now?"

"A little under a month," Phoenix replied, rubbing her eyes and yawning. "I hope it's a Hogwarts victory, even though Fleur is a lovely person, I cannot stand the smug look on Jerome's face."

Angelina gave a snort of laughter before she said, "have you noticed how jealous George has been lately since you and Jerome are on speaking terms again?"

"George isn't jealous."

"Oh, he is," Angelina insisted, "Fred told me."

"Really?

"Don't tell Fred I told you though," Angelina said, looking rather alarmed. When Phoenix nodded, Angelina added, "Fred said that George is always talking about how you deserve better than Jerome and how George always goes red in the face from repressed anger when Jerome talks to you."

George Weasley… jealous? It couldn't be. How on earth could he be jealous? George Weasley was not the jealous type. And what was there to be jealous of? It wasn't like Jerome was taking up copious amounts of her time nor was he even remotely taking Phoenix away from him. He was simply stopping her in the hallways for a few brief moments. Perhaps, Phoenix thought humorously, George was jealous of Phoenix. Maybe George wanted Jerome all to himself. But Phoenix highly doubted this. The thought however almost made Phoenix laugh out loud.

Phoenix was perplexed as to how George could be jealous of the Jerome situation. Unless…

"You don't think–"

"He likes you? Oh I'm positive Miss Lancaster," Angelina answered with a confident smile.

"How sure?"

"When have I ever been wrong Phoenix?"

Phoenix could not deny that Angelina Johnson had never been wrong.

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