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Chapter 1: Welcome to life in Aaliyah-ville
Disclaimer: Anything you recognize belongs to J.K. Rowling.
Cool, collected, cunning, calculating, cowardly... That was my family, everything I’m not, apparently. It sounded like an advertisement for Slytherins, didn’t it? Not wrong there. Not to mention us coming from a whole line of noble pure-bloods. (Though why that makes us noble I have no idea). And no, no members of my family were ever Death Eaters as far as I am aware, although they still believe in the classing of wizard families due to the pureness of their blood. But not in the lets-murder-blood-traiters-and-mudbloods-and-muggles kind of way. Just in the, you-better-be-in-Slytherin-and-marry-a-pureblood-and-have-lots-of-pureblood-babies kind of way.
Where were we during the Second Wizarding War, you ask?
Hiding. In France.
My father would never admit to this though, preferring to claim our absence from the country was ‘due to an alarming demand in his personal expertise overseas’. I always thought this made him sound like a distinctly sort-after porn star, not that I ever told him this though. What a way to burst his bubble.
We moved back to Britain when I was nine, sixteen years after Voldemort’s [final] downfall. A carefully calculated sixteen years mind you, our family is all about saving face, and one-and-a-half decades was decidedly long enough so that it didn’t appear to the general public that we bailed because of the whole Voldemort recruitment thing.
The first time he was in power my parents were too young to be recruited, they were still in Hogwarts on that fateful day, October 31st 1981, when Voldemort’s killing curse backfired onto himself.
The killer was that we couldn’t just call everyone else who bailed the country when he resurfaced again hypocrites, because they weren’t the ones boasting about their pureblood lineage and how that somehow makes us more worthy as witches and wizards.
Overall we were just a bunch of embarrassed (evil but not quite evil enough) cowards “not hiding” in France.
My mother refers to the whole shebang as “a simple matter that got a little out of hand”.
A little out of hand.
No seriously, a little out of hand?
I’d like to see what COMPLETELY, INSANELY, POINTLESSLY OUT OF CONTROL was in her books. Maybe if Voldemort was a drag queen. Yes, that would certainly do it. My mother hates anything outside of her own etiquette of normalness.
I think the first time we all realized that I was not the perfect pure-blood angel I was brought up to be was when I got into a fight with a young Veela at the tender age of seven. Hell did that Veela regret starting it with me.
I hardly remember what the fight was about. In fact the only reason i remember anything at all is because i have a white burn scar on my hip to remind me. I wouldn't be surpirsed if i had started it though, that’s the one thing I obviously inherited from my ancestors; my pride.
My parents tried to claim that it was the ‘horrible French air’ that had muddled with my calm conduct and good sense. If i told any of my friends that now they would laugh, yeah right, like you ever had either of those!
Unfortunately for my parents, the spirited little rebel put up a permanent residence. And they look at me like it’s my fault. Do they think I just popped out of the ground ready-made? Hello mummy, daddy, ever taken a look at your own gene pool?
I remember the sorting. I just happened to be in the same year as James Potter, the first of the Potter offspring. This meant that the entire Hall was completely over-excited – especially when he got into Gryffindor virtually straight away.
Trust a bloody Potter to rally everyone up and screw over my chances of a quiet sorting.
Because of course I had to get into Gryffindor too.
Typically my charming brother leapt up and started screaming out his opinion on the matter like some crazed harpy. Luckily my twin cousins did so at the same time and their not-so-subtle accusations weren’t very clear as they yelled over the top of each other.
Honestly, it’s almost like they didn’t see that one coming.
Later on the head girl told me it was the most dramatic sorting she’d ever seen. That seemed to pretty much sum up my entire existence. Whoever is in control of my life is seriously drunk or hung over or something. I mean, it isn’t like I purposely go out to screw over my family and I... it just happens.
But I guess we all have our secrets and hidden disgraces, right? I was only one of them.
So, according to the howler I got the next morning from my beloved Aunt Rosalind, I was an official source of humiliation and disgrace to our family (compared to before when I was simply suffering from French flavoured air). For the next five or so years the threat of disownment was to hang above my head like mistletoe at Christmas when the most repulsive guy in school has a crush on you (worst Christmas of my life).
Thankfully Scorpius Malfoy is a bit of an outcast amongst the Pures as well and we became good friends because of it. My parents adore him because he is in Slytherin and quiet and has virtually no temper so they have no idea that he isn’t the perfect boy they all seem to think he is. This is good news for me because whenever I’m seen with him, the Pures immediately get off my case about being a ‘typical Gryffindor’.
I do feel sorry for him though, his parents are alright (I even prefer staying there during the holidays than at home) but there is a lot more pressure on him to be perfect than on me because his family name is so well known (the fact that it’s for a bad reason doesn’t seem to change anything).
I’ve always had a sneaky suspicion that he asked the sorting hat not to be put in Ravenclaw, as apparently it actually takes your choice into account.
Yeah, I found that out after my own sorting.
Personally I think he would have suited Ravenclaw so much better, he can be a right know-it-all sometimes. But I think he learnt from me not to get into the wrong house.
So here I am, boarding the Hogwarts Express for my sixth year of magical study.
I lug my trunk down the length of the train, trying to find the compartment with my friends in it.
I catch a glimpse of mouse brown curls flitting through one of the sliding doors ahead of me and I eagerly speed up to follow it. Sure enough, curvy little Harriet, my first and best friend at Hogwarts, is standing just inside. A whole head shorter than any sixteen-year-old I know, she looks up at me and her rosy lips break into a warm smile.
I smile back at her and the rest of our group (the two only other Gryffindor girls in our year) who were spread out amongst a jumble of animals, clothes, and other miscellaneous items.
“How’s our favourite raven haired girl? Folks didn’t give you too much stick?” Georgina asked me.
“I’m sure my mother is plotting my demise somehow, but so far I’m unscathed” I answered, pushing aside some spare robes to make room for myself and Hattie.
“Always the optimist” she replied with a grin, tucking her long blonde hair behind her ears.
She always gave me the impression of a pixie when she did this, and her cheerful, giggly nature only made the comparison more pronounced.
“How were your holidays?” I directed the question at her and Alex, not bothering to ask Hattie as I had spent most of mine with her. I hadn’t mentioned the fact that she was Muggle-born to my parents.
“Mine were pretty boring really” Georgina admitted, “but ‘lex went to Greece!”
“You did?!” I exclaimed, turning to the tall, beautiful chestnut in complete shock. “Why on earth didn’t I hear about this?” I demanded.
Alex rolled her eyes “No one did Aaliyah; it was a surprise for my sixteenth.”
“You’re so lucky! How was it? What did you get up to?”
“It was fantastic; I met some absolutely drool-worthy boys.” She started to gush.
I exchanged a look with Hattie. Trust Alex to judge a country on the attractiveness of its men.
After a fifteen minute rant about some boys she met in a café (don’t ask me where her mother was – probably doing the exact same thing) the conversation finally turned to Quidditch, something I could actually get excited about. My team, the Kenmare Kestrels, ranked third in the league, something I wasn’t above boasting about. Hattiet’s, the Chudley Cannons, ranked last but for The Prides. Alex and Georgina didn’t really follow Quidditch, but supported the Falmouth Falcons simply because of its name and motto “Let us win, but if we cannot win, let us break a few heads.” They thought it was completely ridiculous, which of course it was, and found great entertainment in quoting it.
“So are you going to try out for the team this year, Aaliyah?” Hattie asked without real conviction.
“Nah, I prefer to play without all the pressure.” I was a pretty good chaser but never tried out for the house team. “I might put my name down for commentating though…” I mused.
“Oooh yes, do” Alex enthused “and give me a shout out while you’re at it.”
I snorted, “You’re so predictable sometimes, Alex” I teased with a smile.
She grinned back, and the rest of the train ride was spent in true girl fashion, laughing and gossiping without break.
The sorting this year was fairly uneventful apart from the hat singing about uniting the houses and forgetting past differences, something which gained many mutinous mutterings and eye-rolling from the Gryffindor and Slytherin tables. The headmistress, Professor Vablen, gave out the usual start of term notices, and then everyone got to eat themselves silly, after which Georgina and Alex led the way to our dorm in the Gryffindor Tower.
After pinning up posters and laying out photo frames and (in Hattie’s case) a vase of everlasting-no-care-all-seasons flowers, we finally changed into our pyjamas and jumped into bed.
“So… did you see all the guys in our year?” Alex whispered into the darkness, “Talk about reaching their full potential! They have definitely got hotter over the summer, and way taller. And I know you don’t like him Aaliyah, but that James Potter has seriously reached a new standard of good looking. He’s grown out his hair too, though I don’t know if I prefer the shaggy unkempt look or not… Oh well, he is still undeniably gorgeous.”
“I prefer it longer” Georgina mused, “it makes im look... cool. And sexy. Definitely sexy.”
“His hair is red” I said, hating that I sounded like a child but stubbornly continuing anyway, “and he has freckles.”
“Yeah but he suits it! Actually all the Weasley relations suit it, it’s annoying. If I had red hair and freckles I would look like a complete freak, but they all manage to pull it off and make it look gorgeous. Especially James. They should get an award or something” Alex complained.
“Mmm, the Royals do seem to have everything going for them don’t they?” Hattie said slowly, “Good looks, Quidditch skills… well most of them anyway, rich, famous parents, fairly smart, and funny of course.”
“The perfect life” I said dryly. “Did you guys notice that James got Quidditch captain this year?” I asked, my voice leaking my frustration.
“Yeah, he has worked pretty hard for it though” Hattie reminded me. “That could have been you if you weren’t so… well, Aaliyah.”
“I just don’t like drawing attention to myself alright?”
“I know. I just hate that no one really knows who you are.” Hattie said quietly and I immediately felt guilty for snapping at her.
There was a short pause before Georgina broke it saying, “You know I never really got why you dislike James so much. I mean, you’re okay with the others… sort of. And he’s funny, always up for anything. Not that any of us have ever really had a proper conversation with him. He is the leader of the trio after all."
“I just… don’t.” I said, not wanting to have an in-depth discussion about my feelings right now. Or ever, for that matter. “Goodnight girls”
“Goodnight” the three of them chorused and we soon fell asleep.
The next morning, true to me and Alex’s traditional ‘first day back slide’, which happened to be a Thursday this year, (and therefore would continue every Thursday morning until the end of the school year), we managed a flawlessly executed run-sit-and-slide along the Gryffindor bench when we went down for breakfast. Georgina smiled and sat daintily down next to us in a much more dignified manner, and Hattie rolled her eyes before joining us too.
Hattie wasn’t exactly known for her great sense of equilibrium, and was probably remembering her first failed attempt at the slide roughly five years ago.
After breakfast our head of house, Professor Longbottom, came around to give out our timetables. It took longer than previous years as we had to have gained the necessary grades in our OWL’s last year to continue with our chosen subjects. Hattie and I got into all the classes we wanted (though I only just scraped through with an E in potions), and we waited in the Entrance Hall for Alex and Georgina to compare our timetables.
It turned out we were all taking five subjects each, including Defence Against the Dark Arts, Transfiguration and Charms. Everyone except Alex got into Potions, so she decided to keep Astronomy instead. Hattie and I were the only ones to take Herbology, while Georgina and Alex took History of Magic.
I was so happy to be giving up Divination I could have done an impromptu tap dance on the spot, and judging by the look on Hattie’s face as she watched a group of third years eagerly seeking directions for Trelawney’s room, she was thinking the exact same thing I was.
Our first class was Defence Against the Dark Arts, so we all left together for the third floor. We found seats at the back of the class, and I was disappointed to see that the trio (James Potter and his cronies, Drake Moor and David Silver) had continued with the subject also. Those three were the loudest, most irritating people to have to share a class with.
To my horror the day didn’t improve, as James, along with at least one other of his friends, was in every single one of my classes. I cursed as I pointed this out to Hattie during Herbology. She looked at me with her big hazel eyes full of sympathy, but unfortunately this did not alleviate my dejection.
The only other downfall in my timetable was the new Charms teacher. Young, flustered, and jumpy, Professor Pindrop was even clumsier than Hattie (something I didn’t think was possible) and had a horrible habit of saying “now, now” and “come, come” much more often than necessary.
There really was only one word to describe him, and to my annoyance it was James who said it first as we exited his classroom on that first day.
“What a geek.”
I had to agree.