"Password?" trilled the Fat Lady, at last ceasing her chatter with another portrait in the dim corridor. It's about time. And how can she be so cheerful this late at night? Adira wondered with a yawn. Then, aloud, "Oh, bloody hell!"
"Afraid not, love," the portrait said.
"No, no!" Adira put her hand to her forehead. "I can't remember the password. Give me a minute...it's not Fortuna Major. That was last week...Magnolia Crescent? Golden galleon? Chocolate frog?" The Fat Lady shook her head at each guess. Adira stamped her foot in exasperation. "I don't know...wizard cracker!"
The portrait swung open. "Wizard cracker?" Adira mused, quickly scrambling through the portrait hole into the Gryffindor common room. Once over the threshold, she stumbled and fell flat on her face. Tears welled up in her eyes as she tasted blood in her mouth - that bitten lip would be swollen tomorrow - but she forced herself to laugh instead. Soon she really did feel like laughing, and did for several moments until her laughter subsided into giggles and then expired in silence. "I really am a dreadful klutz," she spoke ruefully to no one in particular, rising in the darkness to sort herself out.
Adira wouldn't go up to her dormitory just yet. Maybe she would sleep in the common room tonight, if she slept at all. After all, she didn't want to wake the other girls. They would only wonder where she had been - and who with - and Adira didn't feel equal to explaining anything tonight, or any other night, for that matter. It had quickly become a losing struggle, to get her schoolwork done and keep up with her friends and extracurriculars, with these clandestine forays into the Forbidden Forest nearly every night since the start of term. Adira counted herself lucky with each passing night, escaping the others' notice. Looks like I won't be going anymore after tonight, she reminded herself bitterly, still seething over the encounter.
Yet the thought also brought relief. She'd so rarely had these quiet snatches of time to herself anymore. It would be good to resume the normal patterns of living, at least for awhile. Maybe she would try to make peace with Firenze in a few weeks. And so Adira curled up in her favorite armchair by the dark fireplace. Pulling her wand, diary, and a quill from inside her robes, she whispered, "Lumos," into the darkness and settled in for yet another sleepless night of reflection and unsated curiosity...