Normally, Drew looked forward to everyone getting back to school. It was too empty over term breaks, and you could only play Exploding Snap with your little sister so many times before someone’s eyebrows accidentally got burned off and you realized it wasn’t that good a game after all. (Not to worry, Medic Rock had fixed Madeleine’s eyebrows.) But Drew had spent the summer recovering from his fifth year, and the Cetus wasn’t sure he was ready for whatever was going to happen in his sixth year. It would almost be easier if the only people who showed up for term were the ones he didn’t know super well.
After the conversation he’d had with Marley, Drew had done some high-level overthinking. And then, at the very end of last term, he had quietly broken up with Darlene. Or, well, he had tried to do it quietly: in private, away from other people, to save her any embarrassment, and also stop it from being a scene. Darlene had made him glad he used a Muffliato charm on the doorway. He felt really bad about it, but he couldn’t keep dating her with all the stuff that was going on in his head, and he couldn’t tell her about that either. So he’d just said it was him, not her, and that she was amazing, and that he was really sorry about it, which maybe was not the least-confusing way to break up with someone. Drew couldn’t decide whether he’d waited until the last few hours of the school year out of cowardice or courtesy. He thought it was a good idea to give Darlene time and space—about three months and five thousand miles—to process. For her sake. And to avoid gossip, because Merlin knew the population of RMI would set on the end of a three-year relationship like Fiendfyre on a thatched roof. He had to admit that that part wasn’t just for Darlene’s sake: he didn’t want to deal with it either. If he broke up with her right before summer started, he reasoned, it wouldn’t be a big deal anymore when they were all back together in September. And it wouldn’t be a big deal if he maybe decided to do something else, romantically, then.
But if his plan was to avoid social fallout, it had not worked. Drew hadn’t told anyone outside his dads and sister, but Kit had found out (he guessed from Madeleine or Darlene) and spent the summer making him watch The Princess Bride on repeat to make him understand True Love. Drew did not think he understood True Love any better than he did before, but he did know the script well enough to do a one-man shadowcast of the movie, so that was something. At least she’d picked a movie he could still like after seventy-six rewatches. He should have expected it: Marissa and Danny had been broken up for four years and Kit still refused to accept that they were both dating other people now. But even sixteen years of life with Kit was not enough to prepare a person for causes she stubbornly adopted. Kit was like a niffler with a Galleon when she got something into her head.
And Kit was not the only one up in arms. Drew had expected letters from Darlene strongly suggesting that he reconsider and that they both just forget about the last conversation they’d had. He had not expected the enclosed photographs, which he had gallantly disposed of once he saw them. He also hadn’t expected that his dad would get a “strongly-worded” letter (Dad’s words—he hadn’t let Drew read it) from Darlene’s mother at the beginning of the summer. At this point Drew was starting to think that maybe he should have been more concerned about the Knight family as a whole.
So for the opening feast, Drew just wanted to get through the meal without talking to anyone outside of his House. He cheered loudly for Remy getting Head Student—duh, as if they could have picked anyone else—but he would congratulate her in person tomorrow. He’d helped himself to a plate of arepas heaped with steaming beef and sliced avocados, and was about to take a bite when he realized he had his back to the Lyra fire. Which meant he was completely exposed to having glares, hexes, and food (it had been some time since RMI’s last food fight, but they happened) hurled at him from either of the two Lyra roommates.
Taking his plate with him, Drew got up and moved around to the opposite side of the blue Cetus bonfire. There was still an empty place. “Hey, mind if I sit here?” he asked a student on one side of the gap. “I’m kind of hiding from my cousin and my g—and my ex.” It was the first time he’d referred to Darlene that way. It made him feel like he’d swallowed a bunch of flobberworms. Hopefully that would go away soon.