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Dark and Difficult Times by Regulus_Potter
Format: Short story
Chapter 1: Status Quo
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”SLYTHERIN!” Majed popped off his chair, and strut down to the Slytherin tables, to the tune of light applause. He sat down, unable to hide his excited grin, and waited to be welcomed by the rest of Slytherin house as their newest member. Instead, it was fairly quiet on this side of the room. He smiled across the table, hoping for somebody to reciprocate, but nobody was paying attention to him, they were all silently watching the rest of the ceremony.
“GRYFFINDOR!” Thunderous cheering and applause, with a few whistles sprinkled in the mix.
Okay, Majed thought. Maybe I need to take the initiative. After all, he was not shy about speaking up, and everybody in the room knew that, since he had rather loudly asked the sorting hat to please place him in Slytherin. He turned to look at the person next to him. It was the girl he had seen just as he said goodbye to his parents on platform 9 ¾. She had dark, wavy brown hair, and pale blue eyes. Just my type. He recalled how he tried to minimize his mother’s tearfully affectionate goodbye so as not to be embarrassed in front of a pretty girl, but he did remember her walking all by herself to board.
“Hey! I’m Majed. I was sorted just a few people after you, I think. Where are you from? I grew up in America, but I was born where my parents-”
“Do yourself a favor,” she said “and try not to draw any more attention to yourself. Keep your head down, get your work done, and maybe we’ll all be okay after this death sentence.”
“HUFFLEPUFF!” Polite applause.
“Death sentence?” After all the research he had done on Hogwarts once he got his letter, he knew that Slytherin wasn’t the most popular house. In the many years following the great Harry Potter, more and more people began asking the Sorting Hat to place them in the house of their choice. Though this was not always successful, the Sorting Hat’s main priority was to set the students up for future success. Slytherin house’s numbers diminished drastically, while the others’, particularly Gryffindor, steadily risen. The balance at Hogwarts was no longer present.
“GRYFFINDOR!” Ear-popping cheering.
But that was exactly what drew Majed to want to be in Slytherin. It was different. He liked being different. Heck, he was a second generation Emirati who didn’t learn English until elementary muggle school. Majed’s parents made the move from the UAE to the United States when they discovered their son was different, as soon as the neighborhood kids went screaming away from the backyard when the soccer ball suddenly flew untouched into the goal. Seen as the land of opportunity among muggles, at the time it seemed like the best option. But when they were met with much scrutiny in the states, both magical and non-magical, they wondered if that was the correct choice. The American non-magical folk were not fond of their family, and although no blatant acts of voilence or prejudice occurred, there were many instances of 'anonymous vandalism.' All hope seemed completely lost when the parents' beloved son was not accepted at Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, but after a strange encounter with an even stranger old man carrying a noisy briefcase, the family's prayers for a good education for their son were answered when an owl carrying a letter landed on the front porch.
“RAVENCLAW!” More cheering.
“What are you talking about?” Majed continued. “There have been loads of amazing Slytherins in history! Any situation’s outcome is what you make it, I’ve always believed that.” She ignored him.
Majed looked down the rows of his new house-mates. On his side of the table, everyone was morbidly silent. Some of the older students didn’t bother watching the ceremony, they just sat quietly, while others just looked down into their hands, seemingly counting the seconds that passed until this was over.
“SLYTHERIN!” A bleach blonde boy slumped down at the far end, face in his hands, choking back sobs.
However, the other side of the table had Slytherins joking around and laughing. Majed, curious and somewhat envious, went over to them to perhaps begin anew. “Hey guys,” said with more of a careless, bad boy attitude as he sat next to a group of three boys and two girls. “What’s up?”
“You’ve got some nerve, mudblood.” said one of the boys. Majed’s jaw must have fallen open, because another, younger boy continued. “Look at his face! Have you never been called out for what you really are?" he mocked while the girls giggled and the older boys roared with laughter.
Majed went back to his original seat. He mirrored the others on this side and faced forward noiselessly and waited for the ceremony to conclude. Renowned headmaster Minverva McGonagall was finishing what should have been Majed’s very first warm welcome to Hogwarts, but Majed could not pay attention. This wasn’t how it was supposed to happen. Hogwarts, and the magical world in general, was meant to be representative of freedom, diversity, and opportunity.
Four years into Hogwarts, Majed felt more confusion than anything. He was still just happy to be there, at the place of his dreams, which did contain many of the elements he could only have dreamed about prior to it all. But Majed was homesick, despite getting to visit Newcastle on holidays, and there was an everlasting feeling of loneliness while he was at Hogwarts. He excelled in classes, particularly in Charms, though he credited his academic success with his need to keep himself occupied mentally. Majed also found his knack for broom racing after winning the annual sprint, and he genuinely enjoyed it, though he chose to pursue it in private after receiving a personal note from the Slytherin Quidditch captain that told him never to compete again, and to stop making the real Slytherins look bad. Headmaster McGonagall summoned Majed to her office before she retired, and to his surprise, lauded his performance at Hogwarts in his early years, and told him that he had a bright future ahead of him. Furthermore, Majed had been the highest point scorer as Slytherin won the house cup for two of the past three years. Although Majed would smile, bow, and sometimes jokingly brag in the face of all this success, it was mostly a front. None of it made him feel happier.
“Later,” he said to SJ, the girl he had first spoken to on the day of their sorting; his only friend. “Try not to blow my phone up with texts while you’re in class,” he remarked with a smirk as SJ rolled her eyes. “I’m heading to lunch.”
Ah, lunch. Majed’s favorite yet most dreaded time of day. He liked taking his mind away from school for a while, and he loved eating, but he despised lunch for how much it accentuated his isolation. Some days he’d spend eating alone in the dormitory, not even bothering with human interaction, whereas other times the old Majed would subconsciously convince him that going to the great hall for lunch could be a good idea, after all maybe he could meet somebody. Nonetheless here he was again, standing in the middle of the doorway, paper bag lunch in hand, scanning the room for a place to sit. Almost all of the seats were taken today, meaning Majed would be unable to sit alone.
Majed found a table of four Ravenclaws not much older than him, perhaps fifth or sixth years, and assembled his courageous vocal chords.
“Hi, mind if I sit here?” he asked. It was an even group of two girls and two boys, and they looked at each other hesitantly. What did a Slytherin want from them? Why now? Was it even safe to be sitting at the same table as one? There must be an underlying reason as to why a random member of the Snake Squad wanted to sit with them.
“Uhhhmm….sure,” one of the girls replied to break the silence, and Majed sat down and began eating. He wanted desperately to introduce himself, talk about where he was from, ask them what they like to study, anything to get people to acknowledge him. But his body had shut down. It seemed the only thing it knew how to do now was chew. Majed could not raise his eyes to meet the others’. He vaguely thought back to a time where he would fearlessly approach any stranger and bombard them with facts about his life or questions about theirs.
What was the point of it all? Everything he studied beforehand, the success and pride of past Slytherins, the results of the Great Wizarding Wars, was it all for nothing? He knew a little about the muggle issues of the year 2020, and about the never ending battle for equality amongst them. But he never figured he’d face the exact same issues in the wizarding world. This was supposed to be more unconventional, more developed, after all they were doing magic.
After a minute of talking amongst themselves, the group of Ravenclaws decided at the same time that they had better get back to studying. As they got up to leave, Majed looked up and met eyes with one of the girls, who smiled back at him nervously as she left.
Majed sighed as he took another bite of his sandwich. Not accepted by Slytherins for being different. Not accepted by non-Slytherins… for being different. He used to like the feeling.
This world, he thought as a tear rolled down his face and onto his lap …is rotten.