Darlene’s presence at the Lyra bonfire was purely ceremonial. After the events of last year, she only barely counted. She was, essentially, the first Houseless student now, living in her small, solo dormitory off the Administrative Quarters. The badge on her chest felt foreign and false, and it actually upset her a little more than she expected to be still tangentially tied to Lyra. They would still gain for her efforts via House Points, but she could not be a full member anymore. So she had already decided her final year of education would be completely minimum effort. All this, because she could no longer live in Garen Tennant’s dormitory, or feel confident that he had her best interests at heart.
She still couldn’t believe this was how it had all played out. Okay, maybe the plan had been flawed from the start, but Darlene could have been arrested or expelled, consequences she had never expected. She sort of just thought - or maybe had hoped - that everything would go smoothly and then fifteen years from now, she, Drew, and their five beautiful children could laugh about it over family dinner.
At least Kit had gotten away with it. Darlene knew there was no saving herself, so she had remained explicitly tight-lipped about Kit’s involvement. That was part of why - despite living in almost prison this year and having her class options severely limited and having to see Drew from afar but having a literal restraining order preventing her from approaching him - she had convinced her mother not to transfer her. If she wasn’t there to keep an eye on Kit, the lovable redheaded blabbermouth might go and tattle on herself. No, Darlene would not allow that. It was all lost for her, but Kit had another year of fun to have, and a family connection to worry about. Family mattered. Darlene knew that lesson very well, even through the now-years of building disappointment she had brought to hers.
Darlene had spent the conclusion of her time at home staring into the mirror and reaffirming herself. She thought strong thoughts. Told herself that she could do this, even though she wasn’t really sure. It was time to be the ice princess she was raised to be, the girl the school now had to think she was. The badass who tried to poison her ex for revenge.
She muted her expression to a powerful disinterest and grabbed on to her portkey. Her goodbye to her mother was left unspoken. They both knew what time it was.
The brunette strolled with a conscious pace to seat herself at the only somewhat appropriate bonfire, eager to get back to Kit and check in. Mother had not allowed her to see Kit all summer, and the letters had to be snuck out in the middle of the night. Darlene needed to make sure that the summer hadn’t broken Kit, and that all was not already lost. But she couldn’t exactly run to her, as that would break the illusion of confident disinterest that Darlene intended to promote. There wasn’t much time to talk before the festivities, but she placed herself directly at Kit’s side, where she belonged.
She promised herself that she wouldn’t look at him, but it was an absolute wound when the Headmaster called his name. Darlene bit her lip to regulate herself, to force her emotions under control. It was the greatest break in her facade that she could allow. And then it passed, and she didn’t look at him. So far, so good.
Obviously, she didn’t care in the slightest about the new Prefects or anything like that, and she was grateful that the Headmaster finally sat down. “So… how are things?” she quietly asked Kit with cautious optimism. “Are you doing okay?”