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Zsuzsanna E. Maverick

you've used me in my entirety as the cobblestones to your throne.

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Zsuzsanna E. Maverick

It is easier to fall for anything than to stand for something.

 

The sky was a kaleidoscope, burnt orange and lilac bleeding into the dying cerulean. Beneath the dark of her eyelids Zsu could still see the sunlight, basking for as long as she could stand before the hum of idleness became too overwhelming. It’d been at best two weeks since she’d been cornered by the Ravenclaw, but internally she knew every single increment of time down to the very millisecond. She had kept far more than her distance, wanting to cast herself as a mere figment, an eventual faceless blur that was nothing more than an afterthought. It was not so hard being unseen, they did not know how intimate she’d become with being invisible in plain sight.

 

Lashes fluttered and gaze fell easily upon the Gryffindor whose ways had become a source of interest for exactly seventeen days. Isobel cut a pretty figure by the lake, lips pulled into a bare line, skin taunt against the angles of her face. When she’d been sculpted by the hands of whatever deity she may or may not pray to they made no show of waste. They were children, yet the Hufflepuff was certain Isobel would only blossom into a young woman that was severe in her beauty. The glint off the lake set Zsu in motion, the bundle of flowers wishing to spill from her arms fragrant and fresh, the pearls of dew in their petals collecting and dampening her robes with each step.

 

She was soundless as she approached, each step careful, each movement minimum. She moved with a purpose, her eyes unwavering from their target, her face relaxed with a smile readily available. There was no need to draw attention, no need for anyone to recall anything amiss should they happen to glance their way. Isobel. Isobel Blake.

 

"Let me make this clear, then: I don't like you. I don't want you around me. I don't care if you admire me. Just leave me alone."

 

Ah, yes, now it all seemed to make sense really.

 

The Gryffindor had this silly idea that her words were some sort of weapons, that they could pierce and maim; that they were of true substance –venomous even. How naïve, how puerile. To think in this realm of magic where things truly did go bump in the night that a witchling’s barbs in English would be wounding. Zsu supposed Isobel had yet to put away her childish thoughts and ways, and she had not faulted her year mate then when they had dueled. Now? Well, now they had come to an impasse.

 

With one last step Zsu was upon her target, eyes slanting just slightly as they traced the curve of her outline. She leaned down, making certain that no shadow was cast before she gave a quiet, breathy, “Hello.” The Hufflepuff slipped to her knees then and carefully laid the gathered bouquet in a circlet around the Gryffindor, her fingers deft and swift. Nodding in quiet satisfaction, her eyes slipped up to Isobel, “I thought it fitting to shower you with flowers Isobel, although I apologize if they do not quite complement. It is a feat to try to find treasures when one had beheld something priceless.” Her fingers curled around a stem seemingly at random, slowly breaking up and to eye level and allowing her eyes to flicker briefly to it.

 

Cypripedium reginae,” she started, her thumb gently caressing the deep wine of the labellum, “or Lady’s Slipper. Capricious beauty.She paused, humming to herself before allowing her expression to soften exponentially, “Are you familiar with the Language of Flowers?”

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Isobel Blake

Fall had descended upon Hogwarts, and the lakefront was still in its solitude.

 

Crumpled leaves blanketed the grounds like snow, but the weather was unforgiving, and the novelty was not enough to prevent most students from withdrawing indoors. The castle seemed to grow warmer and more cheerful as the conditions worsened, full of hot cocoa and crackling fireplaces and laughter that echoed down the corridors. Even on the few days the sun made a lazy appearance, few students had a reason to shiver outside in the biting cold, and so the castle seemed full to bursting -- all the quiet places Isobel usually haunted were full of other people.

 

And she was doing her best to avoid them.

 

Avoid… him.

 

He who must not be named.

 

It was pathetic. Isobel felt like a rope that was beginning to fray, like she was on the precipice of a bitter end, a breaking point. Her thoughts had been rioting the past few weeks, loud and violent no matter how hard she tried to snuff them out. And she had been trying -- doing everything she could to distract herself, to avoid thinking about what was making her feel so… so…

 

Guilty.

 

No, worse. Ashamed.

 

That was what it was, wasn’t it? That horrible churning in her stomach, the vile ache in her chest, the shadow of thought that had stolen her sleep, her appetite, and warped her general dissatisfaction into something acute and painful. And then he had to show up and make it worse, tell her that she was dead to him, and... she had actually cried over it. Over him. Stupid... stupid... Emmett. Emmett, who hadn't deserved what she'd done to him.

 

She was just tired of it all. Tired of herself, and her damnable pride.

 

She knew she had to apologize, but she didn't think she could. Even if it would make herself feel better.

 

There was some comfort she'd found in nature, despite the weather -- not the forest, which she was avoiding for obvious reasons -- but something calming about the quiet of the lakefront; perhaps that it felt so removed from all the drama of the past month and the chaos of her emotions. She had to hold onto her parchment so it didn't whip away in the wind, and it sometimes drizzled on and off even on days where the sun was out, but it was worth it for the way her thoughts seemed to quiet when she could make it out there. 

 

She felt somewhat awed by the way the sunset scattered across the ripples of the lake, the hypnotizing way the sky's colors reflected and danced on water. Isobel stared deeply out at the horizon, her books forgotten before her, the subtle pull of the waves luring her in like a velvet caress, so subtly Isobel hadn't even noticed she'd lost herself.

 

She was rooted in the ground, still, forgotten, like she had slipped into some liminal twilight dimension that calmed the twisted torrent of guilt within her and replaced it with an eternity of calm and quiet. 

 

And then a whisper.

 

Isobel sucked in a breath, crashing back down to reality, and felt disappointment seep into her bones as the cold and guilt set back in. She blinked as she looked around her, realized it was darker now and she should have gone inside ages ago, only -- Zsuzsanna. What was she doing here? And what was she doing?

 

No. Isobel was too tired to care. If Zsu thought she would blush and shuffle awkwardly at the compliments and flowers, she had caught her two weeks too late. She was spent.

 

And so she tilted her head at the Hufflepuff, matching her gaze with a haughty expression. "No, unfortunately, I don't speak flowers." She almost scoffed at how stupid it was. "I do speak English, though -- do you? Because I distinctly remember telling you to leave me alone." She narrowed her eyes, like Zsu was nothing more than a spec of dirt.

 

She wasn't in the mood for Zsuzsanna, not now, not ever. Isobel shoved some of the flowers that lay around her, feeling caged in by the circle, and started packing up her belongings and ignoring the Hufflepuff.

 

She was done. She'd said so, and she meant it. She couldn't deal with this right now.

Edited by Isobel Blake

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Zsuzsanna E. Maverick

It was as if a switch had been flipped.

 

Like the sudden ripples in otherwise calm and cool waters, Isobel went from one spectrum to another. Zsu could see the layers as they quickly began to reconstruct, as the chains in the Gryffindor’s armour linked and strengthened. She watched as all the thoughts flittered across the lines of the girl’s face, as the emotions coloured her skin. She watched as Isobel decided on playing pretend, a tilt that allowed the dark curtain of hair to shift over the crisp line of her shoulder and trail down her back.

 

The Hufflepuff was unmoved, her eyes instead upon the petals of the flower within her hand. It was not as if she had not heard the words directed at her, ones that meant to pierce, nor that she did not notice the disdain reflected in Isobel’s pupils. She sighed quietly, the sound lost in the breeze, carried away to another time and place. When the Gryffindor made to get up, however, Zsu’s fingers whipped out and enveloped a delicate, pale (in comparison, but of course) wrist. “I most certainly do speak English,” her voice was quiet, gaze completely unwavering from the flower within her grasp, “though forgive me if some things escape me, the language is neither my native nor secondary.”

 

She hummed, allowing her fingers to release Isobel’s wrist if only to let them ghost over the girl’s knuckles. “Now then, I’ll be giving you two options, and please feel free to pick which you’d prefer.” Zsu looked up then, pupils haloed with a pitch blackness that seemed to swarm whenever a stray beam of light touched down, “You may stand, and listen to what I’ve come to tell you. Or you may instead sit beside me as you were. Regardless of your choice, you’ll heed me, but please make sure that you understand whichever position you so choose, it’ll be within your best interest to keep to it.” Her smile flashed her teeth just slightly, and for a moment she almost seemed vulpine.

 

Ah, what a silly trick of the light.

 

While she waited for the other girl to choose her preferred posture, she replaced the Lady’s slipper, righting the circlet that had been so rudely disrupted.  Feeling satisfied, the Hufflepuff removed another flower, this one a velvety purple that was an iota away from being ebony. She inspected it carefully, turning it over with a calculated sort of laziness. Of course there was not a doubt in Zsu’s mind that Isobel would remain here, outside, with her. What a curious idea that was, really and truly.

 

“This one,” she began, her voice soft as she held the flower up for her companion to see, “is Arum Palaestinum. Solomon’s Lily. The smell is atrocious, but it is a type of florae that is very, very fascinating. It is used actively for remedies and the leaves are eaten after they’ve been treated, yet every single part of this plant has a toxin.” Her laugh was bright, sharp against the quiet and woven with something old and almost bittersweet. Almost.

 

“I was fond of you Isobel; the way you moved, effortlessly commanding particles within the air to part for you. The way you spoke: with an unmistaken regality that could only be crafted and never quite learned. The way you looked: like a timeless vision that bequeathed a restless longing to all those that laid eyes upon you.”

 

Her lips paused, and she swallowed the rest of her words, finding that suddenly Isobel was unfit to hear them. Instead she gave a gentle shake of her head, replacing the Solomon’s Lily and grabbing three more in its stead. She held them up, her gaze intense as she locked onto the Gryffindor’s, uninterested in allowing anything else to ruin the other girl’s focus. “Don’t blink.” She said, her eyes slanting and her voice a husk full of promises should the Gryffindor even think to disobey. Chocolate fingers splayed, stems comfortably nestled within the webs of her hand. Senecio Ficoides, clusters a silvery pistachio, Your looks freeze me.”  Viola Tricolor var. Hortensis, an electric purple on the outskirts that became a deeper shade towards its’ center, You occupy my thoughts.”

 

The last two drifted from her hand, slowly, as if time feared what would come next –as if it wanted to warn the lamb that had thought to slip into the abandoned skin of a wolf. It did not matter, the Hufflepuff pressed on, the remaining flower now cradled within both of her palms. Her eyes did flicker away then, from her prize, from her prey, the stark white of the tiny buds mesmerizing to her as she breathed out, “Conium maculatum. You will be my death.”  Her eyes snapped to Isobel, chin lifted just slightly so that the shadows could veil away all that she did not want to be seen as it danced across her face. There was something curling in her belly, something seductive whispering in her ears and slithering up her spine, “I thought the world of you, but now I know that you are but a phantasm. A fickle, silly thing that does not know that there are lines which should never be crossed.”

 

The Hemlock slipped from her grasp, its impact loud as it demolished the flowers it landed upon, quick embers flaring and licking up, up, up in a wild roar before dying out within a millisecond. The wisps of smoke twined hungrily towards the Gryffindor, sliding against the elegant length of her neck before dissipating and becoming nothing more than a mere figment of imagination.

 

“Tell me, Gryffindor, your chivalry –has it been misplaced? Lost in belly of the beast that is the Forbidden Forest? Murdered, perhaps, in the curtained corners of a corridor?”

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Isobel Blake

Isobel rolled up her parchment carefully, not particularly hurried, not understanding that she was an unwilling and unknowing fly about to be caught in the spider's web and she ought to run if she could. Her mind was elsewhere, like it had absconded back to the castle, some animal instinct causing it to flee from the girl beside her. And so she continued to pack up calmly, closing her textbooks, appreciating the creak of their spines and the satisfying muted thud the pages made as they clapped together.

 

Maybe she could stop by the hospital wing before dinner and say she was having trouble sleeping. Maybe there was some spell or charm that could trick her into slumber, into drifting off at night when all she could do was burn holes in the lush red velvet and gold brocade of her four-poster bed. She'd had a horrible headache that hadn't gone away ever since that night, this dull ache behind her eyes and throbbing in her temples, and she was just... tired.

 

On the edge.

 

Something was going to give. She just wasn't sure what.

 

But as she made to get up, almost having forgotten that Zsuzsanna was there, a dark hand reached out and ensnared her with a violent gentleness. 

 

Isobel recoiled inwardly, felt her pulse beat rapidly against the fingers that tightened against her wrist, the feeling of skin on skin something so unusual and strange to her. Her eyes found Zsuzsanna then, really noticed her, as if all this time she'd just been some strange music playing in another room and now she was a symphony before her.

 

Isobel wanted to protest at the invasion of privacy, wanted her to know English wasn't her first language either -- but something about the slow way Zsuzsanna was speaking gave her pause. This wasn't right. Something was wrong here. Zsuzsanna was always bright smiles and low hums in the throat, playful teasing and eyes that saw too much, not... whatever this was. 

 

But then she was letting go of her, and goosebumps erupted across Isobel's arms as her dark fingers brushed her knuckles.

 

Isobel had thought she would feel relief at the release; she was wrong. Zsuzsanna's eyes bored into hers and Isobel only hesitated a moment before she allowed her gaze to darken to match, blue sparks burning in brown eyes. She wouldn't be spoken to like this -- wouldn't allow Zsuzsanna to unnerve her with whatever flowers and dramatics and intensity she'd thought to bring.

 

And she -- she had brought them, all the way out to the lakefront at sunset, when it felt like they were the only two people in the world.

 

This was planned?

 

Isobel smiled lazily, staying where she was sitting. "My, what big teeth you have," she said in monotone as Zsuzsanna attempted a threatening smile. All of this drama -- to what end? "If you wanted to talk to me, you could have just asked." Her smile widened. "I don't like being told what to do."

 

But though she hated herself for it, she was undeniably curious. Isobel always had a gnawing need to know, to understand -- and Zsuzsanna was a mystery. This, with the flowers, was some unknown game the Hufflepuff was playing. And Isobel wasn't going to be played for a fool.

 

A toxin?

 

Her guard slammed up, fiercer and more determined than before; Zsuzsanna was angry. She could see it now -- the lethal grace of her movements, the flowers. Something had happened. Only... what?

 

But before Isobel's mind could go to work unraveling what was already unfolding before her, Zsuzsanna had continued to speak, and she was swept up in the current.

 

Zsuzsanna had been fond of her -- Isobel tensed, but she was too alert and on edge to blush. Had. Past tense. This was what Isobel had hoped for all along -- that when she had snapped at Zsu in the dueling chamber, the Hufflepuff would finally understand that she wasn't worth it and that she should just leave her alone. That she would stop complimenting her when she was clearly not a good person and didn't deserve the praise -- but... but this? Zsuzsanna hadn't been angry like this back then.

 

Was it....

 

Oh, Merlin.

 

Oh no.

 

No, no, no no no no no no no.

 

She watched, hypnotized, paralyzed, as Zsu continued her speech, placing the flowers around her. She couldn't know. She couldn't -- had Emmett said something now, after all this time? Isobel hadn't thought he would want to say anything to anyone, had thought he would be too proud to admit what had happened to him, what she had done, but...

 

He had thanked her. Zsuzsanna. He had waved to her in the corridor.

 

And now she was here and she was deadly in her furious glory.

 

When the guillotine dropped, when the flowers flared and burned around her, Isobel gasped in fright but not surprise, unable to move -- caught.

 

And the smoke cleared, and Zsuzsanna was before her, and her words wounded.

 

Isobel smiled wanly again. She knew. She'd known. Things just kept getting worse.

 

"That's a nice parlor trick." Her voice was flat. "I'm just so sorry that I couldn't live up to whatever grand expectations you had of me -- if you 'thought the world of me', it was all in your imagination. We're strangers, Zsuzsanna." 

 

It was true, and yet, somehow it wasn't. Her eyes flickered to and away from the Hufflepuff's. 

 

She swallowed.

 

"And -- I know." 

 

A hushed, broken confession. 

 

"I know, okay? I crossed a line. I'm -- I --" She swallowed again. "I'm sorry."

 

She couldn't look at her, but she could say it, maybe, to the girl who she'd wronged but was not Emmett.

 

A bitter end.

 

"So do your worst." She didn't realize how dramatic she was being. She was in far too over her head, a twelve year old who felt like she had the world upon her shoulders.

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Zsuzsanna E. Maverick

“Your inability to be honest is tedious, Isobel, so please excuse your ego for the rest of our time together.”

 

The Hufflepuff’s voice was not unkind, but she was uninterested in this pitiful attempt of parlée with the porcelain façade of the Gryffindor’s. Polite society with all its rules and regulations, with its code of conducts and its morals and principles. All of these lambs and cubs, conforming and going about their daily lives as though they were some sort of elite beings because they had a structure to adhere to. Nothing but ill-gotten, temperamental sods that had the privilege of being themselves because consequences to them were never direr enough for growth.

 

She sighed quietly, completely ignoring the other girl as she took in what remained of the florae she’d brought with her.  Zsu’d been careful with the spell, wanting to limit the destruction, wanting to contain every single millisecond of her time with Isobel. She’d bid her time, waited patiently, kept the embers smoldering in her veins. She was meticulous; a well-oiled machine whose clogs always gleamed regardless of the time that lapsed between usages. She couldn’t afford to indulge like others, couldn’t dally and allow others passed the drawbridge and the mote. She had thought that perhaps..

 

Well, there was truly no use thinking about what was now lost, what was now proven to have been an awful idea.

 

The whispers in her head became a steady hum, the turmoil in her heart something far more wretched than the blade Behati had sharpened against the spinous processes of her spine. She had not meant to coddle this darkness, had not meant to harbor the ugliness that was secreting from her pores and giving fragrance to the  air around her, but she had had to accept her own sin. Had to acknowledge that she had willingly armed others and had allowed such a cruel trespass, that she could’ve kept Emmett from harm’s way if only she’d done as she always had. Been who she’d always been.

 

The slow trickle of words and the subtle shift in the weight of the air tickled her, a few notes of laughter slipping out without a smile to accompany them. And then she was within Isobel’s space, palms on either side of the severity of the girl’s cheekbones, hovering so that the warmth of the Gryffindor’s breath fluttered against her. The Hufflepuff’s eyes slipped to watch the lips of the felled Goddess, pondering, pondering. She moved closer still and she swore she could feel the softness, swore the pricks of electricity were already dancing and working their way into her system. There was not a true name for the scarce distance between them, for even a particle seemed too large a thing.

 

It would be nothing to kiss her, right here and now, the stars and the moon and the magic the only things to bear witness. It would be nothing to linger, to feel the racing pulse of Isobel’s reverberating in her bones, a hypnotic melody to conjure whenever the Hufflepuff should have trouble sleeping. It would be nothing, nothing, so she instead pressed her lips on either corner of the Gryffindor’s mouth, gentle but lazy so that it could not be written off so easily. “I thought to kiss you,” she whispered, her words as tepid as the amusement in her eyes, “but then I realized I’ve already tasted your treachery.” Her smile was sanguine as she released the other girl, returning to her kneel and eagerly picking up three more flowers.

 

A sinewy branch covered with a plethora of tiny bulbs a deep pink, Unbelief, betrayal. Judas Tree. Cercis Siliquastrum.”

 

Masses of white veiling a tiny branch beneath, Deception. White Cherry Blossoms. Prunus Serrulata.”

 

She hummed, tilting her head as she cast the first two flowers aside, picking another up in their stead and quickly braiding the stems with the other flower she’d yet to give name to. “One is sorry when they accidentally step on your toes, or are unintentionally brazen in their speech.” Zsu’s eyes twinkled, mirth stretching across her face a she looked at the Gryffindor with heavy lids, “One is sorry when they have another confess to them their feelings yet cannot reciprocate. Isobel, I could name you a billion things in which a person could be truly sorry for but-”

 

Her fingers stilled and she wrinkled her nose playfully at the crown resting in her palm, reaching out to brush a few inky tendrils behind the shell of Isobel’s ear before nodding in satisfaction. She did not care if the other girl flinched, placing the crown on top her head and nodding her head in satisfaction a she marveled at how well it seemed to complement. The brilliance of the blues on the petals was dazzling against the natural duskiness of Isobel’s palette. “Echium vulgare. Bugloss. Falsehood. Tradescantia. Spiderwort. Esteem, not love. You are not sorry Isobel, you’ve completely blown passed the gates and wandered into territories that would render apologies as nothing more than what they are –an excuse.”

 

Zsu allowed her hands to fall into her lap, head tilted as she coolly regarded the other girl. “We are strangers because that is what you wish to be, because it makes it easier for you to parade about. You think that being untouchable allows you some sort of immunity and it does not. Your flaws are still glaringly opaque and your arrogance as foolish and as simple as those you think beneath you. You betrayed your lover for what? You hurt Emmett for what? Prestige? Vengeance? Glory? Immaterial things that glitter in the dark? Well,”

 

She clapped, the boom of it ricocheting off nothing and everything, the echo speeding through the leaves of the Forbidden Forest and beyond, “Even trash can shimmer, Isobel. The properties are not what make treasure unique, those are inconsequential –it is instead the thought of its value that makes it precious. So, speak to me now witchling, I am listening. I am waiting to hear why you’d so easily discard someone so special. Why you, at such a tender age, would take part in something so timelessly diabolical that the stirring of its dust should’ve choked and dissuaded you.” The pearliness of her teeth flashed once, twice, thrice before her eyes became slits, the pupils a bottomless abyss, “Hurry now, my patience with you is wearing terribly thin.”

Edited by Zsuzsanna E. Maverick

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Isobel Blake

Irritation flared within her, a spark that kindled at Zsuzsanna's dismissal, but she bit down on it, hoping to snuff it out before she snapped at the girl. Isobel was being honest. She was opening herself up in a way she hated, in a way that left her exposed, rubbed raw, and Zsuzsanna was looking down on her for it. It made her angry, a restless, painful sort of frustration. She wanted to glare, to say something to drag Zsu off her high horse, but...

 

But she had told her to do her worst. Maybe that meant being insufferably holier-than-thou, and maybe putting up with it would be her punishment. Isobel knew she had done wrong. It wasn't like she needed Zsuzsanna to tell her that. She... she was trying. 

 

And so she took a deep breath to calm herself, exhaled slowly, and watched the Hufflepuff as her attention drifted to the ruined flowers around her. It was strange, in a way, how still the night was, how when Zsuzsanna was quiet, they could have been mistaken for two girls suspended in time. Isobel was not stupid enough to forget her wariness, but with the moon glowing on the water, the silence that surrounded them, the night felt... immense. Like what was passing between them didn't matter so much at all.

 

But then Zsuzsanna laughed and smiled, and she was before Isobel, and her world tilted on its axis.

 

She was paralyzed by the spider’s venom, caught now in her web, held in place by two hands flat and warm and foreign on her face. Zsuzsanna had blocked out the moon and stars and become the only thing that Isobel could see, and it felt as though the girl could see her, was looking at her in a way no one had ever looked at her before. 

 

She recoiled, leaning back as though she'd been burned.

 

"What are you doing?" she hissed, eyes dark and frantic. But Zsuzsanna only glanced down at her lips, and suddenly, Isobel knew.

 

It was though time had stopped, abruptly and without warning. Her heart was beating so violently she thought it would shatter her rib cage. And with a gentleness that made her heart ache, Zsuzsanna pressed her lips to each corner of hers.

 

Isobel could barely breathe. Her mind had been silenced, her thoughts stolen with the soft caress. And then Zsuzsanna spoke, and she finally understood the intimacy of a knife to the throat.

 

“I thought to kiss you, but then I realized I’ve already tasted your treachery.”

 

Isobel let out a breath that was half-sob as she was released, and crawled back on her hands to put space between them. Emotions were rampant within her, twisting and chaotic, and she didn't know where to begin, what to think, what to feel. She was overwhelmed, like Zsuzsanna was a force of nature that had shredded through her defenses and left her reeling.

 

How cruel, to be looked at like that and discarded like she were nothing. 

 

She didn't know what to say. If she was supposed to say something. Tears were hot and painful in her eyes, unshed but gleaming, and she watched Zsuzsanna pick up more flowers through a blurred gaze -- more, like she had an infinite stash of them, like nothing important and earth-shattering had passed between them. She watched as Zsuzsanna made her a crown out of them, thought to adorn her with insults as she laughed at her, rubbing salt in the wound she had just made.

 

A tear spilled out and rolled down her cheek, followed by another, and Isobel brushed them away angrily, her eyes never leaving Zsuzsanna's as she spoke.

 

Finally, finally, the endless waves of Zsuzsanna's diatribe let up.

 

Isobel opened her mouth, but emotion clogged her throat, and it took her several moments before she could form words. When she did, they weren't kind.

 

"So it's my turn now?" Her voice was flat, and she nodded absently. She let out a breath that sounded something like laughter. "Are you sure you want to hear my excuses?" The word was sharp and bitter on her tongue. "You didn't seem particularly interested before."

 

How dare Zsuzsanna say her patience was wearing thin, when it was her who had sought out Isobel, her who had cornered her, her who had kissed her.

 

"Emmett isn't my -- my lover. How in the world did you think that?" A brittle laugh. She didn't know how to explain her complicated feelings about Emmett to Zsuzsanna, and she didn't want to. That wasn't her business. But if the Hufflepuff thought Emmett was some kind of prince charming, she was in desperate need of a wake up spell. "Once again, you've cooked up some fantasy that you're holding me accountable for. That's hardly fair, Zsuzsanna." Isobel sneered at her, genuinely angry. She wasn't hiding it. She wouldn't have been able to even if she'd tried. "You think Emmett is special? You really don't pay attention, do you? He's a bully. He's cruel. He enjoys hurting people. He does things just because he thinks it's funny to get under someone's skin. He makes people cry and he laughs about it. You think he'd be sorry for all this, like me? If it had been me in the forest and not him? He'd think it was funny. He wouldn't be sitting here crying about it."

 

Isobel took a breath, steadying herself, but more tears were spilling down her cheeks, and the anger and embarrassment buoyed her. "Do you know what blood purity is?" She wasn't sure if Zsuzsanna was muggleborn, but she didn't wait for her to answer. "It's this horrible poison in the wizarding world, the idea that people who come from wizarding families are better than those who don't. Only it's so much worse than that. Muggleborns have been killed for it. Wars have been fought over it -- thousands upon thousands of people have died over it. And it's still happening today. It is dangerous. And Emmett thought it was funny to go around calling muggleborns a... slur, making them cry, bringing up hatred that is thousands of years old just so he could enjoy making people feel bad. And I told him it was serious. I told him it was wrong. I tried to get him to understand --" She didn't know if Zsuzsanna knew that Emmett was a muggleborn. Even now, even after everything, she wouldn't say it. "But he didn't care. It only made him want to say it more. So he did."

 

Another deep breath. But the floodgates had been released, and Isobel was powerless to stop the words as they tumbled from her. "He hurt Behati. She... she came to me, so upset, and asked me to help her. I don't... you should have seen her." The look Behati had given her in the potions classroom, full of tears and anger, still haunted her.  "It wasn't supposed to be so serious, just a way of making him stop, because his detention hadn't made him care, so we thought if we got one over on him he'd... give it up. But then..." Isobel's lip began to quiver, and she took in a ragged breath. She was only twelve, and she looked it in that moment. And just like that, the anger left her as suddenly as it had come, and she was left burnt out and hollow. "It just... it started to seem so wrong. And I did it anyway. But I... I stayed with him, in the forest. He... he wasn't in any danger. And I didn't take his wand, and I wouldn't have let anyone else take it if I'd known they weren't going to give it back the next day. And I know I shouldn't have let them take it at all."

 

She looked away, unable to face Zsuzsanna for what she had to say next. "I am sorry. I'm sorry for the way we used you and your trust. I know you don't think that means anything, but it does to me. I don't.... I don't know what else to say. I don't have anything else to offer you. I know it was wrong. Emmett is not a good person, but I still don't think he deserved what we did to him. And I... regret it." She swallowed, but it was dry and painful. "A lot."

 

It was relieving, in a way, to finally be able to talk about it. Even to Zsuzsanna, who thought she was despicable.

 

If Isobel had had a different mother, she may have known how desperate she was for comfort, how badly she needed it. For someone to smooth down her hair and tell her everything was going to be okay. How badly she was craving someone to just -- to just -- find something worthwhile in her for once, to love her no matter what, to know that she was sorry, and tell her that could be enough for now.

 

But she didn't deserve any of that, and she didn't even understand she needed it.

 

She had to do better. She was the one who had done wrong -- not Zsu, even in all her self-righteous glory. So she turned her eyes to the girl who had kissed her, looked at the girl as seriously as she could manage, and said, "I understand why you hate me. It's fine. But I'm sorry. I just... want you to know that."

 

She was shaking, shivering, her breaths shallow, bracing herself for Zsuzsanna's final rejection.

Edited by Isobel Blake

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Zsuzsanna E. Maverick

It was a tale as old as time really, the regurgitation of age-old thoughts that would barrel on and on and on until sentient beings ceased to truly exist.

 

The embers that once had been fanned by just the mere glimpse of Isobel were flickering violently until all at once they snuffed out, extinguished by the Gryffindor’s words. Illuminated bulbs of Baby’s Breath slowly began to rise, lazily drifting around them both a few rounds before making their way to the lake. Zsu went still, her eyes going from Isobel to following after the tiny clouds of bright white, body completely relaxing as she watched the buds touch down upon the lake’s surface. Gypsophila. Baby’s Breath. She thought, allowing the flowers to sink, their lights twinkling as they disappeared until they were devoured by the darkness of the water’s depth. “Innocence.” She breathe, a bare whisper that was only for her ears to hear.

 

“There are billions of people in the world and counting Isobel, so no one can ever be considered special when thinking of it in a bigger picture.” Yellow roses lifted next, their petals carefully plucked and their stems entwined and incinerated. Friendship. Affection. “But the people that one surrounds themselves with, the way they cloak and arm themselves to face the world, that is what makes them special, what makes them unique. If not for those things, Isobel, then our individuality would be rendered as a false sense of security. You yourself crave it, you yearn for it with such an intensity I could not help but to have been lured. You bewitch only to belittle, captivate only to cruelly cast away.”

 

The petals stilled their movements and the Hufflepuff reached up to run her knuckle against the velvety softness they afforded. Then they too made their way to the lake, a quick, vivid glow that made them nearly identical to the grandness of sunshine before they were completely submerged. “I thought you were lovers because you were both alone in the evening, because it looked so intimate and the way you told me that I was intruding on a private conversation and that you wished to continue speaking with him alone.Her eyes slanted to Isobel, devoid of all things except the crisp trick of the moonlight reflecting off of her irises, “The possessive way you grabbed his arm and pulled him away from me and closer to you also seemed to raise an alarm, though I suppose now it was nothing more than a show. I suppose you’re owed some applause –the lot of you.”

 

One clap. Bolts of electricity rained around them briefly, “For putting together a plan that was only successful because of exploitations and violations. Deviousness at its finest, and for you to have such a handle on it and still be so young.”

 

Two claps. A cage rose, the darkness of the earth becoming sharp spikes that curled menacingly at their tips, “For sitting before me and still having the audacity to insult and pervert my character further than you already have.”

 

Three claps. Ice materialized, sculptures of small, delicate hearts twinkling and creating prisms of rainbows from the moonbeams that passed through them, “For finally being honest.”

 

Her voice remained solid and detached, traceless of both warmth and chilliness completely gone as she addressed Isobel. Part of her had grown bored, the tediousness of simply breathing the same air as the Gryffindor making her wish to remove herself. “I pay far more attention that I ought to,” her gaze smoldered, “it is you that does not. YOU are a bully, Isobel, YOU are cruel, and apparently YOU also enjoy hurting others. What makes the two of you so different, outside of the honest fact that you are the one that partook in this whole event and Emmett did not? Had this been done to you, I’d have gone after whoever it was, would be having this same conversation with them instead of you because no one deserves what was done to Emmett. I do not care about your tears, and you do not get an accolade or sympathy because you feel guilt. You ought to feel guilty as what you did was terrible.”

 

Zsu frowned then, “I’m disappointed Isobel, and I am hurt. You and Behati and Juan hurt me, in a way that is unfathomable and disgusting all at once. I have been made aware of blood purity far before I made it into this magical realm, prejudice and discrimination are not things that have escaped me. But this isn’t about me, so please do not make the mistake, this is about Emmett. I just,” She paused, lost within herself as a plethora of things began to whirlwind in her head before she locked them away. Yes, she was hurt, so very hurt, but she would not give Isobel the luxury of seeing it. No, words were more than enough, thank you. “I just do not understand why even here, with all these wondrous things to bid your time, with all of these…”

 

She simply shook her head, a bittersweet laugh spilling out, “You are not worthy of my hate Isobel, and I do not say this to be unkind. Hatred would require me to grant another a limitless power over me and I refuse to allow someone that sort of omnipotence. Look what you have done to acquaintances, need I try to imagine what anyone that would call you friend would experience? I am trusting, yes, and I suppose there are a countless amount of people that find that naïve, idiotic, and foolish as a few choice words, but that is how I choose to live my life. You misunderstand me because you do not know me; I am well aware of Emmett and his ways, his actions, his words. But he is young and he is so heavily layered and guarded like you that I find it ironic that you’ve no patience for him.”

 

Inhale, exhale.

 

“I’m not sensitive like the two of you.” She held out her palms, conjuring the various bulbs of chrysanthemums and allowing them to dancing about to a slow unheard hum, “Words are not as damaging as they should be to me, as you should have noticed by our last encounters. What is dangerous, however, is this strange, contradictory idea of justice that you all have. He deserves to be himself, who he wants to be, just as you do. There were less extreme ways to show you anger, but doing what you all did Isobel, he could have died. You could have died, and the fact that you all thought so little of his actual life is far worse than anything he could have said to Behati to pull her to tears. As a matter of fact, are you certain that you are not also a pawn of hers? How honest were her tears really, or were you just so easily triggered because Emmett was the one involved with her supposed plight?  If this were to get out, I am certain there would be quite a few people that would think you some sort of heroes, but you aren’t. You’re dastardly, you’ve stained yourself and this sort of mar, to me, would discount you from ever being revered.”

 

She smiled at the girl then, soft as she allowed the mums to drift up and away from her, their flight somewhere beyond her wildest imagination. The Hufflepuff reached to wipe away the tears coursing down Isobel’s face, her fingers uninterested in indulging, scant if only because they did not wish to really touch the skin beneath the wet trails. “Heroes and villains, good and evil -all of these concepts put forth to help with a moral hierarchy. Yet here were are. Always talk of a grey area when there are all of these bountiful colours that shroud us each and every day.” One by one the spikes fell, soundless like the tears that would never fall from her eyes. The hearts began to crack, their fragmenting beautiful as they glinted one last time before melting and returning to the nothingness whence they came from.

 

“I don’t hate you Isobel,” she repeated, returning the space the Gryffindor had placed between them, “I just hate the fact that you’re not any different than the people that you spoke about. Murder comes in many forms, and usually when traced back to its sources, reveals an idea that it was some sort of justification. You were given a choice, many choices actually, and you just decided to choose all the wrong ones.  It's done now, it cannot be undone or atoned for. That sort of idea is better left for fairy-tales and fiction. I do not want you around Emmett, but that is not my decision to make, and it would be selfish of me to even think to ask it of you. You ought to apologize to him and bear his wrath. I would not fault him for wanting his own justice, but I would not see you harmed as you had seen him.”

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Isobel Blake

Isobel was not noble. She had struggled to be honest with Zsuzsanna, because she deserved the truth, because the alternative would have made Isobel into someone even more repulsive than she already was -- to continue to lie and protect her pride even in the face of rightful condemnation. She knew being honest was the right thing to do; she knew Zsuzsanna had every right to be angry, to judge her -- and all the same, despite everything that had happened, it irritated her -- the way Zsu spoke, the way she looked down on her, her justifications and impression of what had happened. No matter how many times Isobel tried to tell herself to let it go, that she was in the wrong, she found herself wanting to push back. Over and over and over. The exhausted hollowness to her bones, the armor that had been broken -- with every heartbeat she held her tongue, Isobel grew stronger, steadier, until she felt more irritated than empty.

 

It was not easy, being wrong, and still finding fault with those who sought to blame you.

 

Did that mean she wasn't sorry enough? She had made a mistake, but she knew without a doubt that she was not a bully, not the way Zsuzsanna was describing. She did not like hurting people, or else, why would she be sitting here crying? Why would she have spent the past few weeks miserable and unable to sleep and overwhelmed with guilt? No, Emmett hadn't done what she had done, but he had done other things that were deserving of judgment -- the very reason they had sought retribution in the first place. He had been cruel to Behati and Molly, had messed with others, and he had been informed that it was crossing a line. But he hadn't cared -- he had thought it was funny. Isobel knew that there had been a part of her that wanted to pull a fast one on him, that wanted to be in control of their duel of wits, but she never would have gone through with it had she known what it would do to him.

 

Emmett enjoyed upsetting people, and Isobel didn't, and Zsuzsanna couldn't seem to understand that there was a difference: Isobel messed with bullies -- Emmett messed with innocents. The fact that Zsuzsanna had brushed off the slurs and cruelty from Emmett so easily, only to reinforce that it made him special and an individual, made Isobel's guilt for using the girl lessen its leash on her irritation. 

 

That logic was crap. It was hippogriff dung -- reeking and putrid. Isobel was sorry, but Zsuzsanna was wrong. No matter how many beautiful words she had at her disposal, no matter if she could wax poetic like she was a walking dictionary, no matter how judgmental she was, she was lacking judgment. 

 

Isobel did not like bullies. She'd thought Emmett's behavior had been entertaining, to an extent, but there was nothing amusing about blood purity. Even if she now knew he hadn't known what he was talking about, it didn't mean he was suddenly a cherubic princeling with a heart of gold. Zsu thought he deserved to be whoever he wanted to be? That was ridiculous. He didn't deserve to be himself, not when being himself meant he was hurting other people. Genuinely hurting them, not just riling up Nari for a laugh on the lawn.

 

But she could contain her frustration. She could hold her tongue. She could accept the punishment she'd told Zsuzsanna she would accept.

 

Until Zsuzsanna started to doubt Behati, and Isobel snapped.

 

"Seriously?" She looked at the Hufflepuff with disgust once more, and this time, she meant it. There was only so much stupid that she was willing to take. "You're seriously going to act as though Behati wasn't actually hurt by what Emmett said, that she was just manipulating me? You're going to blame her for what he said? You've got to be kidding me. What is wrong with you?" Isobel was fuming, her pent up irritation and disapproval swirling around her like a noxious cloud. Her French accent, so subtle usually, was undeniable. "Acting like she was so manipulative when he was throwing around slurs... I can't believe you're trying to make her out to be the villain, when you weren't even there. Over the prank, sure, but that?" Isobel shook her head in disbelief. 

 

"And Emmett was never in any danger -- let alone death.Isobel scoffed. The tears had cooled on her cheeks, but she felt hot with dislike. "For someone who acts so smart, you sure are naive. All those stories about the forest are just lies to keep students on the castle grounds. No one was going to die. Or do you think he was going to get attacked by a bowtruckle?" She thought back to the way Emmett had appeared in class that day, roughed up and dirty, and the guilt spiked once more. He had never been in any danger, but she hated how carelessly Juan and Behati had treated his body. "Don't worry, I think I could have handled it." Her voice was cold and sarcastic and drowned out the guilt.

 

Zsuzanna's words were pretty, but they left a sour taste in Isobel's mouth. It felt good, she realized, to feel anything other than guilt for once.

 

"If you don't want me around Emmett, maybe you should tell him to leave me alone." Isobel sneered, and stood up. Her legs ached from having been crossed for so long, but she refused to shift her weight or look uncomfortable in front of Zsuzsanna. "Because he's the one who's sought me out." She thought back to their exchange in the greenhouses, and a painful ache constricted her chest once more. She couldn't be smug -- she was dead to him. "But fear not, Zsuzsanna, I don't think he'll bother again."

 

She collected her belongings and looked down at the girl. She felt almost confident now, strangely secure, such a change from the wild and chaotic emotions that had been uncontrollable just minutes before. Zsuzsanna had kissed her and Isobel had not known what to think, but now she knew she didn't care. 

 

"Thank you for your judgment," Isobel said, haughty once more. "I feel much better now." 

 

And she started to walk off, still wearing her crown.

Edited by Isobel Blake

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Zsuzsanna E. Maverick

Vibrant shades of citrus bled into the sky, a heavy glow that stung and penetrated even the darkness afforded by her eyelids. The air was stagnant, and a heat so intense it felt as if her skin was blistering engulfed her, whispering promises that felt as if they’d crackle beyond the epidermis. There was screeching, somewhere, somewhere –here, or maybe there? She didn’t know, she shouldn’t know, but she knew the pungent smell that rocked her, fresh and bitter and tangy. Knew it like her age, like each scar that peppered her skin and mapped all the places that she’d been and all the things that she’d seen. It was familiar, it knew her by name.

 

And then there was pressure, then there was the immediate sensation of being absolutely boneless…

 

‘It isn’t real Zsuzsa.’

 

Her tears were ferocious, her fingers live wires as they burrowed into the bark. Sparks of pain bit into her palms, but the smooth teeth that ghosted across her ankles were what had her frantic. Usually she was so fast, annoyingly so, but everything was slick from the sheets of rain, everything was harder with the burden of guilt bogging her down. Pelted by the string of failures and the words that breathe life into a nightmare she could not know would become the worst for years and years. She slipped then, too distracted by her thoughts to catch such a glaring miscalculation of distance. Her body ricocheted off of the girth of the branches she’d used mere moments ago before she went into a short freefall.

 

The breath was forced from her lungs upon impact, and before she could blink he was on her, eyes wide and wild and devastatingly unfamiliar..

 

‘What’s done is done; it cannot be undone and it cannot be replicated.’

 

The barrage went unheeded, despite the fact that Isobel’s words were a raging torrent that would not be denied. Endless waves crashed down upon Zsu, unmerciful, unforgiving -and had she been present in both mind and body, she would have certainly drowned. But she wasn’t present; she’d drifted off, regressed to another time and place. It was as if a switch had been flipped for the Gryffindor, one moment she was glittering tears and heartfelt apologies, and the next she was a tempest of indignation and pomp. Talons sharp flint and lustrous with malice as a veneer.

 

But the Hufflepuff too had her own mechanism, one that ticked.

 

One that could not be so easily undone once it had been prematurely awakened from its hibernation.

 

Unbeknownst to Isobel, plumes of smoke materialized as she walked away, head held so impossibly high she almost could be mistaken for something far more glorious than what she was.  The time whittled away, the silence deafening but welcomed as somewhere within herself she tried to reel back what was about to come next. The Gryffindor had been granted a pardon, one that had shown up by the scraps of its teeth without a millisecond to spare, but the blades from Isobel’s onslaught still remained as their sheath disappeared into the warmth of the school. Zsu was riddled with them, finding them to all be finely sharpened as she slowly came back to herself, her mind still so very noiseless as the world as it was slithered back into focus.  

 

Lashes fluttered, leaving butterfly kisses against the pads of her fingers as her hands came up to shield her eyes. A sense of clarity washed over her, a sweet balm that set her soul at ease and reminded her that she was still very much in control. She just needed a moment, just one, so she could figure this out and stop this from-

 

Lurching forward, her fingers splayed as her hands quickly flew out to catch her weight and push her up and away from where she’d just been sitting with Isobel. She stumbled, a dreary murkiness devouring her sight and had her blind in a plethora of ways. Her anger began to carve into her, jagged and catching on her bones with each hack as she struggled to catch her breath. She dry-heaved once, then twice, the lining of her throat raw as she inhaled; the sound keen and drumming in her ears. Her veins were thrumming, heart a harsh staccato against her chest cavity, and she did could not fathom anything outside of the intensity of her rage and the way it made her feel nearly omnipotent.

 

It was the only thing she knew, but it relinquished all the boundaries and allowed an array of thoughts, and wishes, and dreams that she’d lost oh so long ago to spring forth and waltz around her. The Hufflepuff’s legs entwined, and this time she went down, down and into an upraised root –catching the blunt edge on her shoulder. It hurt but it was nothing when absorbed into the breadth that was the whirlwind of her feelings, unraveled and rewoven into something more durable, something more effective. She scrambled up, nearly colliding with a blur that would remain unidentifiable as she found herself breaking out into a run. Bobbing through the trees, she raced through the pitch blackness as though there were Nundu licking at her heels, casting aside everything that could not be used to continue to fuel her.

 

Laughter trailed behind her, bittersweet, broken, yet somehow clandestine. She did not think it possible that she would ever feel this way again after all that had happened, after that last promise she had ever hope to make and see through. She laughed because she could not cry, and it did not carry to the stars but down into the soil, swallowed up and made irrelevant. Her temper had not quite won its freedom, but it was no longer caged and hidden in the dank mausoleum where it had been abandoned.

 

And it yearned and it hungered.

 

It wanted to be disseminated with a swiftness, to coil around its saviors as they slept, to haunt them in their waking hours.

 

Zsu did not stop running, would not stop until she knew nothing but a fatigue so robust she would simply drop to sleep regardless of her surroundings. And she hoped that whatever she thought was running alongside her would not be hoping for the same thing.

 

Fin.

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