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 Every time just like the last, BOLT/MARK
Charlie Cooper
 Posted: Mar 2 2017, 01:11 AM
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"4AM knows all my secrets"
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Hufflepuff
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Awards: 86



Charlie didn't know why she had come to the Quidditch pitch.

It wasn't as though she belonged there anymore, but Winter had broken, and it was as good a place to sit as any. The frost which clung to the grass on the rare morning it didn't rain always disappeared when the sun peered through the quickly moving clouds. Soon flowers would be budding and bees would be buzzing, and Spring would sweep through the castle like the whirlwind it always was. The Quidditch season had begun, and it was the first one the badger was sitting out. There had been attempts to make her fly, and moments when she'd kicked off that she even believed she would be alright. It had been a whole year, people reminded her, as if she could forget the horrific tumble that had sent her spiraling to the ground. You're Charlie Cooper. You can do anything.

The false confidence always passed, replaced with nausea and anxiety that still turned the sixth year's stomach when she thought about it too long. She hadn't spent any time practicing anyway, she told herself. She didn't deserve a spot on a team. Not like the people currently out on the pitch. She watched them now, her auric eyes drawn from the crumpled slip of paper between her fingers up to the grey sky. A few students she recognised were tossing the quaffle around; their silhouettes like buzzards circling overhead. The smile that might have twitched in the corner of Charlie's mouth died when one of them caught her watching them and gave her a friendly wave. Pretending she missed it, the dark haired traveller hid behind her fringe, ducking her head to stare down at the ink glaring back up at her.

The words had lost all meaning. She'd read it so many times, the jagged letters turned to meaningless lines; runes that she couldn't decipher. Evidence of her first read-through stained the page, pale splotches that turned the cream coloured paper tan. The longer she looked at the note, the harder it was to breathe. One more glance made her lungs constrict while a heavy weight crushed her chest. She didn't know where her heart had gone. The steady thump thump thump that told her she was alive was replaced by an aching emptiness that left her colder than the wind ever could.

Another of mother nature's sorrowful sighs exhaled across the pitch, whistling through the stands where Charlie was perched, and nearly ripping the paper right out of her hands. Her fingers clenched reflexively, the crinkling of the delicate sheet falling on deaf ears as she asked herself why. Why should she hold onto it? She could just let go. Claim it was lost -- that she'd never received it in the first place. But against every urge clawing at the back of her mind, she doubled forward and held it close. Her eyes squeezed shut and she sucked in a breath, as if doing so might actually clear her head; as if doing so would change anything about the letter she'd received from her mother.

Three owls from Charlotte Wright. Only three, in the six years Charlie had been at Hogwarts. Not one of them like the dozens she stored beneath a layer of junk locked away in her trunk buried treasure. The first had notified the young badger of the death of her father. The second, her mother's decision to leave their band of travellers and return to her parents. The third--

Charlie's throat tightened, and she unfolded from her huddled pose to check the note again -- to see if the words had changed.

Charlie,
    I trust you've been having a good year so far, and that your lack of correspondence means only that you are content. The year has been a busy one for the Wrights, but everyone is well and in good health, and looking forward to the coming months.

    I write you now to tell you I am engaged, and will be getting married this Spring. I've included an invitation, because we would love it if you could be here. With you away at school and staying with friends whenever you can, there's been no opportunity for and Richard to meet, but with the date quickly approaching, we think it's time for that to change. There is space for you in the guest room, as long as you are on your best behavior.

    Please let us know if you will be having the fish or the chicken ASAP, as the catering order needs to be set in stone soon.

    x,
    Mam


Nope.

Not a damn thing had changed. But everything was changing.

--

@Mark Maxim

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the oncoming storm | 05 CHARLIE COOPER
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Mark Maxim
 Posted: Apr 8 2017, 10:34 PM
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"Ladies please! Let's not fight over little old me..."
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Mark knew exactly why he had come to the Quidditch pitch. It was simply where the Lion was always supposed to be, when fine weather and school regulations permitted. Hell, sometimes even when they didn't.

That day had already seen a good hour spent in quaffle passes, the eager Gryffindor zipping up and down the field while bent low over the finely polished handle of his Cleansweep 11. She may not have been the most expensive model on the market, but Mark wouldn't have traded that broom for anything else. Every bristle was meticulously combed, the anti-jinx varnish as shiny and pristine as ever with regular broom-kit maintenance.

Spotting Charlie had been the first thing to even remind the muddy blonde Lion that the ground still existed at all, but when a wave and a call weren't enough to rouse the little gypsy from her contemplation of the stands he only felt a momentary pang at swooping down to land close by. The Badger's scarcity around the pitch for those crucial first few days of the season had not gone unnoticed, and the boy was hopeful that perhaps his friend had decided to take another stab at getting back up into the air. Mark had yet to figure which team he was going to be gracing with his undoubtable prowess that season, but whether teammates or adversaries it wouldn't quite be the same without Charlie up there too.

Of course, there was still the question of that vision he'd witnessed, and how that figured into the upcoming season -- no house teams, perhaps his glory was further off than he thought?

Prophecy was put aside with his feet scuffing down on the wood of the bench seat close by where Charlie was perched. The Lion swung his leg back and stepped off his Cleansweep, tossing it up and catching again lower on the handle so the broom could be slung across a shoulder. The boy's almost permanent cocky grin didn't quite falter once he got a better look at the Badger's preoccupied state, and the folded paper he could only briefly catch a glimpse of, but his brow did perk in clear and unrestrained curiosity.

"Should've brought your broom, Coop! I could use another drill partner," Mark began as he drew closer and flopped down on the bench beside one of his favourite bad influences. The Cleansweep was laid down on the ground near his foot, and the other brow raised as he glanced over at Charlie's uncomfortable posture. "What's up?"


----------

@Charlie Cooper

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Charlie Cooper
 Posted: Apr 10 2017, 07:53 PM
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"4AM knows all my secrets"
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Hufflepuff
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Awards: 86



a bad word

People didn't sneak up on Charlie, especially not people like Mark Maxim. The boy could be a walking megaphone when he wanted to be, not to mention the tittering twits that made a habit out of tailing him. But today, with her vision blurry and her ears defeaned by the sound of blood rushing in her ears, he managed to get the jump on her.

She started at the sound of his voice, her shoulders jerking upward and her clenched fingers crinkling the note further. Soon it wouldn't be legible, but that didn't make her feel any better. Tilting her head to sneak a look up at her friend and his perfect grin, she cast a sweeping glance to the space behind him. Thankfully he wasn't being pursued by a gaggle of ickles who claimed to be his number one fan. The Hufflepuff didn't think she could take a crowd just now, and she'd come out here to be alone after all. There was no way to cover up her reaction either; nothing she could say to disapparate her redrimmed eyes or streaked cheeks.

She tried anyways.

A hard smirk slashed its way across her face, a jagged line cutting across her petite features in a way that didn't quite fit. This wasn't a mischievous quirk of her lips, or even the cheshire grin she was so known for; it was a bitter, barely contained thing that she found she couldn't control. Make a joke, she told herself. Make a damned joke. But her jaw was screwed tightly shut and rusted over, and no matter how hard she tried to work it open again, it just snapped closed again. The fire opals of Charlie's eyes dimmed, heavy with the realisation that there were no jokes she could make just now. Quidditch itself was too painful. Even her splintered broom and the new one she couldn't bear to look at were sore subjects that left her feeling raw and exposed.

Overhead, the sun continued its game of peekaboo, scattering light across the pitch. Looking away from Mark, the sixth year's attention fixed momentarily upon the dancing shadows. By now her fingers were starting to get chilly, and Charlie didn't know which was worse -- the scalding heat she'd been boiling over with, or the frost that was now racing through her veins. She didn't know if it was just the lingering touch of winter or the letter that had left her like this, but she didn't ponder on the subject any longer than she had to. Her slender digits, however badly they were shaking, still worked. The note was pressed against her knee, the edges smoothed out and then folded over.

Thirty seconds later a paper airplane was held aloft in her careful grip, and with a flick of her wrist it was sent sailing toward her Gryffindor friend. The journey was a short one -- he wasn't very far to begin with -- but she was already looking away before the rudimentary glider ever reached him.

"Mam's a bitch," she explained simply, in as flat a tone as she could manage. "What do y'reckon? Chicken? Fish might be a bit dodgy." Mark was one of the few people Charlie had ever been real with, and faced with him now, she didn't have the strength to muster up a lie. "But what I stuff m'face with so I won't say what's really on my mind is important. Chicken might come out dry, but fish could be fishy, an' taste much worse comin' back up again. Can't decide what's worse."

--
@Mark Maxim

--------------------
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the oncoming storm | 05 CHARLIE COOPER
hufflepuff | loyalty, endurance, true victory

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Mark Maxim
 Posted: Apr 16 2017, 10:05 PM
Quote
"Ladies please! Let's not fight over little old me..."
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Awards: 49



The fateful paper plane crash landed in the Lion's grip, crumpling the nose and left wing even further than they had already creased from Charlie's fevered reading. Mark's grin also lost its lift, diving down into a thoughtful frown as his brows drew in with it and the letter unfolded. Dear Charlie...

"Oh shit, Cooper," the boy breathed, sliding up closer along the wooden bench of the stands so well worn by long years of Quidditch games and magical tournaments. He read the whole letter through twice before offering it back, the crinkled paper tucked between two fingers like a poorly rolled smoke. It was certainly having an effect on the little Badger's lungs, as much as the Lion was sure she wouldn't want him to notice.

Mark just couldn't fathom the situation his friend has been thrown into; could barely even process the implications. Once or twice in late night rambles or hidden conversations the Gryffindor boy had seen the laughing gypsy let go of her grin and share a tale of her family over some pilfered Firewhiskey or awful moonshine brewed up in the dungeons. Her dad was everything to her, a larger than life master of both jokes and swift right jabs, and he was gone. Charlie's dad was gone, and her mother was distant. Nothing like the man who made the girl as great and fun as she was to be around.

The situation in the Maxim household couldn't have been any more different. For one thing, there actually was a household -- Mark had grown up in the same house in Bracknell for all his years so far, and Peter and Angela Maxim were both very much alive. They were also just as much in love today as they'd been on the day of their engagement. Gryffindor tower was a great place to spend his days of schooling, but the Lion didn't see his bed in the dorm as any kind of refuge during the holidays, having a home and family he was quite content to return to for those long and lazy weeks of summer.

Charlie never saw her mum. At least, not if she could help it. And now it looked like there'd be some new dad she'd never see as well.

"Reckon the chicken's going to be safer," Mark agreed as he leaned back on the bench, his head turning up towards the skies and giving the Badger more time to compose herself. It set an uncomfortable prickling between the boy's shoulders to see Charlie Cooper, of all people, upset. "Easier to break up and throw if a food fight breaks out too."


----------

@Charlie Cooper

--------------------
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Charlie Cooper
 Posted: Apr 17 2017, 08:33 PM
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"4AM knows all my secrets"
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Hufflepuff
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charlie drops the f bomb

A scoff escaped Charlie at the very idea that a food fight would break out at Charlotte Wright's wedding. Mark was right though, the chicken was probably safest. "Reckon she'll call it off if I start one at the rehearsal?" She reached out to snatch the paper floating in the periphery of her vision, bringing it down to her lap to fold neatly into fourths. Keeping her fingers busy was better than leaving them to their own devices. She was certain the Gryffindor at her side could tell just how upset she was -- she could almost feel the pity in his gaze -- but she still had her pride to think of, so when the note was as folded as it possibly could be, she jammed her hands into her pockets. Hidden from view, they fidgeted with pieces of lint, loose cigarettes, and the lighter she'd salvaged from her father's things.

Turning her gaze upward, the Hufflepuff released a heavy sigh from her lungs. Before she could stop herself, more words began tumbling out. "Nah. 's not that type o'party. She's marryin' a stand-up bloke. Not a traveller. Not stupid enough t'make that mistake twice. An' her olds wouldn't be hostin' th' damn thing if she were." There was a pause as Charlie's mouth twisted to one side, pinching tightly shut before she continued. "Bet they're all excited for her t'start her life over. Just--one big reset button, an' it's like her first husband wasn't killed in some pub brawl. Like her witch daughter's not just like him, fookup that he was." She did her best to sound like she didn't care, but the lilting melody of her voice sharpened as she spoke, her words tasting just as bitter as they sounded.

Another sigh, and Charlie was leaning back to rest her elbows on the cold bench behind her, her fists remaining firmly in her pockets. She was going to run out of air at this rate.

"I've got a good poker face. But--" Her head shook back and forth, her bright amber eyes fixed on the figures flying overhead. "Not sure I can manage a whole week'f it. Almost talked m'way into three dead-ends last I was there. Her dad's a mean old git but he's sharp. Think he could tell I was lyin' about school. Got th' hell out first chance I could." She was talking a lot. Too much, maybe. This was dangerous -- the boy beside her was too easy to talk to.

In the corner of her eye she was studying Mark's blurred figure, trying to gauge his reaction. She expected an awkward laugh, maybe another lame joke about ruining the reception. Maybe he'd change the subject to something easier, brooms, or flying. But those weren't easy subjects anymore, and Charlie felt something dark and thick spreading throughout her chest at the thought of taking to the sky again.

The wind kicked up, catching her long dark locks and tossing them about her shoulders. High overhead, the students fought to stay on their brooms as they twisted and turned in the air. The clouds were moving again, resuming their breakneck pace. "...could just say no," she remarked flatly, but even as she considered doing just that, she knew it wasn't a real option. Her mother hadn't asked if she would attend; she had asked chicken or fish. Charlie was expected to go, and she didn't know what would happen if she didn't. Charlotte was the only family she had left, and the badger had learned at a young age that you didn't just abandon family, no matter how much they hurt you.

"But hey, maybe they'll have open bar."

--
@Mark Maxim

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the oncoming storm | 05 CHARLIE COOPER
hufflepuff | loyalty, endurance, true victory

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Mark Maxim
 Posted: Apr 17 2017, 09:32 PM
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"Ladies please! Let's not fight over little old me..."
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swearz

Pub brawl. The Badger had mentioned her dad went out fighting. It sounded about right for what the muddy blonde Lion understood of gypsy life; a strange mix of gritty gossip and romanticised stories the boy had osmosed through popular culture and the grand boasts made in Charlie's mischievous lilt. Mark couldn't quite recall if he'd heard that cause of death for the elder Cooper before, but he knew the man was a boxer, and that his daughter had inherited his bare knuckle instincts. It was something he had experienced first hand.

"Man Coop, that's shitty." There was no making a joke to smooth over her situation, no quip that would sweep away the kind of bitterness building in his small friend's chest. Charlie had never been of much mind to tell Mark the full details of her history, and Mark had never been of much mind to ask. Their friendship was one of rambling around the darker corners of the castle, of pulling wild pranks and running breathless from the consequences. Deep and meaningful conversations only came into it once the two were properly tired and tipsy, and even those only came up to the level of liquid that fit in a stolen bottle. This update, catching the wiry traveller at a vulnerable moment was a new slice peeled back, but still there were layers left beneath which the girl would not thank the Lion for examining.

The stress of the word witch though. The gleaming edge which caught on the end, reflecting back at him even on such an overcast day.

Most of what young Mark Maxim understood of prejudice tended to swing the other way. His upbringing had been soaked in magic, but he was certainly not so sheltered or naive that he'd not heard the term mudblood tossed around in Hogwarts' halls. He'd even made a muggle joke or two himself -- but what single one of them wouldn't want magic if they learned of it?

Mam's a bitch. He believed it.

"Don't say no, Coop." The certainty returned to the Lion's blue grey gaze as he broke the silence and his contemplation of all else besides Charlie. A lopsided grin began stir at the corner of his mouth, the young man leaning back beside his friend to nudge lightly at her ribs with a casual seeming elbow. "We both know you can master a long con if you gotta. And there's no resetting anything. Not unless you let them. Don't give her the satisfaction."


----------

@Charlie Cooper

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Sweetums
Quite possibly
The stupidest bird in existence

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Charlie Cooper
 Posted: Apr 17 2017, 10:38 PM
Quote
"4AM knows all my secrets"
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House
Hufflepuff
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Awards: 86



The prospect of seeing her mother's family again was a daunting one. The witch had spent the summer sleeping on couches and floors to avoid another tense meeting with the Wrights, and no one had complained. She supposed she had to hand it to the new guy -- to Dick -- for making her mother reach out. And Charlie could tell this was all him. Her mother didn't waste breath on words that didn't need saying, nor did she waste ink on letters that didn't need sending. No questions had been raised over the night the young traveller had fled her grandparents' home; no owls sent to discover where she had spent the summer after. They had reached the fork in the road where their paths diverged; Charlotte trying to pick up the pieces of her life, and Charlie trying to build a future of her own.

The prospect of that future including a stepfather set her stomach turning. A shudder ran through the petite girl's frame, one she tried to shrug off as the cold. But when she blinked away the burning at the backs of her eyes, she saw her father's smile; a lopsided grin so like her own. He'd loved her mother as best he knew how. It wasn't his fault he didn't know the first thing about being a good partner, and he'd always done some version of his best. If the dead could pass on messages, Charlie reckoned his would be to go. Go and drink them all under the table. Buy a round for Dick, too.

"W--" Her voice cracked as she folded away from Mark's elbow nudge. It took her a moment to find it again. "Won't say no. Wouldn't be right. Be th' bigger person an' all that." She didn't feel any bigger. She couldn't even tell which person she was trying to be bigger than -- her mother or the new guy. Did he know what she was? The very idea that Charlotte might have told some random muggle about her daughter's witchy ways put a knot between Charlie's shoulder blades. For years her magical nature had been secret to her fellow travellers; the people who were family in so many ways save for blood, and the young witch had hated every second of it. Every lie, every false smile, every excuse for why she went away for school chipped at her insides, leaving her a hollowed out shell of the laughing girl they once knew.

The trimmed grass of the Quidditch Pitch rippled under the crushing strength of the wind, and Charlie felt her feet unconsciously brace against the ground. Blowing away didn't seem so bad now -- she didn't know why she was fighting being tossed about by the wind. She didn't now why she fought anything anymore. "But a long con," the Hufflepuff began, twisting to look at her friend and long time partner in crime, "takes a lot o'plannin'. An' I've only got a little left. Need t'pen a reply. Need t'come up with some good, solid lies. I know you're pureblood so y'don't quite get it, but a traveller--a gypsy is about on th' same level for muggles as a muggleborn is t'wizards. I'm likely t'be th' main attraction, an' If I have t'go it alone, I'll be mincemeat."

--

@Mark Maxim

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the oncoming storm | 05 CHARLIE COOPER
hufflepuff | loyalty, endurance, true victory

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Mark Maxim
 Posted: Apr 18 2017, 08:44 PM
Quote
"Ladies please! Let's not fight over little old me..."
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Awards: 49



Wind blustered its way across the pitch, a few of the less confident broom handlers up above finding themselves buffeted about while trying to practice. Mark's scruffy hair was tossed about, but the Lion didn't feel any danger of being blown away. Rather, that breeze which ruffled his mane brought with it a scent of potential adventure, drifting to him from the south.

All this talk of being the bigger person, of being ground up to mincemeat -- that wasn't Charlie. Not the Charlie Cooper that Mark knew. It brought back that uncomfortable prickling down the boy's spine, brought on a need to see the girl flashing another of her trademark grins and nicking off with his broom just for a lark. It was rare for Mark to see his rough and tumble gypsy friend as a girl who could feel vulnerable or upset. Hell, it was rare for Mark to see his friend as a girl at all; aside from one lamentable error in judgement, Charlie was off limits for romantic attentions.

And yet, a little idea was beginning to stir in the back of the Gryffindor's eager brain, banishing his uneasy feelings and tugging at his cheeks to return his usual lopsided and lazy smile. The little Badger was right, with a short lead time and so many people set against her it would be difficult to put up a fight on her own. Every truly great prank or plan needed more than one mischievous wand and pair of hands to see it through. Every good lie needed someone to back it up. Mark's grin reached its face-splitting peak, a crinkle catching at the corner of his blue-grey gaze and his single crooked tooth breaking up the dazzling white of his smile. The Lion's arm came up and slung around the Badger's slouching shoulders, his other hand scuffing through the blonde-brown mess upon his head.

"What you need, my friend, is a wingman." The gypsy was given a conspiratorial wink. "That invitation come with a plus one?"


----------

@Charlie Cooper

--------------------
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Sweetums
Quite possibly
The stupidest bird in existence

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Charlie Cooper
 Posted: Apr 20 2017, 05:17 PM
Quote
"4AM knows all my secrets"
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Height
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Year
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House
Hufflepuff
clash
Awards: 86



Charlie blinked, straightening some to give Mark a long stare.

"What?"

A wingman.

"Like--a date?"

A tag-team job. Not a solo endeavour.

"Like my date?"

They'd worked together before, mostly pulling pranks or practicing Quidditch drills for fun. More importantly, they'd worked together well, and as she turned the idea this way and that in her head, it didn't sound like a bad one. Mark was quick on his feet, and he was charming too, something the traveller occasionally struggled with, particularly when she felt like punching things. She had a feeling she was going to want to punch this prick for forcing himself into her life. Charlotte had probably been perfectly content to get married without telling her daughter a damn thing about it.

Could Mark play the part, though? If he came along it would be as her something. There'd be no room for him if he were anything other than a boyfriend. A boy friend would hardly be impressive, or warrant an extra plate of chicken. She couldn't remember Mark ever actually being anyone's boyfriend before -- not that she really kept up with the love lives of other people. She preferred to be blissfully unaware, her stomach dropping into her shoes whenever she pondered couples for too long. However she did know her Gryffindor friend was quite popular with the ladies. Among the younger years especially, he had a little Quidditch Fanclub. She didn't doubt that some of them were up in the air now, stealing glances at them as they went through the motions of flying.

A boyfriend was a different role though. It wasn't teenage hearth-robe or confident playboy. A boyfriend was devoted and caring, sometimes sickeningly so. Observing one lovesick housemate after another had taught the gypsy that much. The only thing she really had to worry about was the moment the two had very nearly shared in a broom closet. With the rush of a successful prank still going to their heads and giving them a natural high, Mark Maxim had come in for a kiss. She'd almost let him too, but her fist had had other plans, and after it connected with his head, the moment had been over.

Bullet dodged.

What if they fell into another moment like that? If he was going as her date that implied things like dancing together and holding hands.

She was still staring at him.

Charlie had to blink to break away from his stormy gaze, her own golden brown eyes dropping to study his hand. She'd never held hands before, not for any significant amount of time, unless she was literally trying to drag someone behind her. The last time she had danced with someone had been the bear in Bora Bora, and that was a one time thing. No one had known that was her. Charlie Cooper was not a girly girl -- she didn't dance at parties, especially not with boys.

Having a friend present was still better than being all alone though, and even though Mark was a pureblood, she was still confident he could fake being muggle well enough. They'd just need to run through a few of the basics together.

"...sounds aright," she finally answered, breaking the silence that only the wind had filled. "A quick little con t'get through th' holiday. If y'see me in trouble, I'll have som'one t'throw me a life preserver." She paused, squinting up at Mark again. "--a life preserver's this...muggle floaty device they use when som'one's drownin'." Flashing a cautious grin, she nodded to herself, withdrawing her hands from her pockets to fold her arms over her chest. "I'll write back. Say I'm bringin' a plus one." She paused, her grin growing a little fuller as she asked, "chicken or fish?"

--
@Mark Maxim

--------------------
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the oncoming storm | 05 CHARLIE COOPER
hufflepuff | loyalty, endurance, true victory

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