Chapter 5 : Four: Speed of Sound
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The train sped through the hills and fields that made up much of England’s landscape as Emma replayed the previous day’s episode in her head. She had, of course, not told Grimm about the cloaked man who had approached her in Diagon Alley, not wanting to worry her guardian. That morning, when Grimm collected Emma to accompany to King’s Cross station, he had acted very strangely in a way that Emma could not begin to understand.
“Why do I have to take the train?” she had whined.
“So that you don’t stand out from the other first years,” he’d replied, his voice quiet. “I know the trouble it could cause if your peers believed that you were receiving special attention because of your connection to me.”
Emma had stared at him, not fully wanting to understand. “You mean, I’m to pretend that I’m just like them? With a home and a family somewhere?”
The hurt must have been evident in her voice, for Grimm placed a gentle hand on her shoulder. “I’m sorry, Emma,” he said, his voice barely above a whisper. “But it has to be. I will go with you to the station, but from there, you are on your own. You must not always expect me to be there for you.”
Now, sitting in the train, Emma felt a tear trace its way down her cheek. Instead of being comforted by his kind words, she was terrified at the thought of him not being there one day. What would she do then? The professors would look after her, that was for certain, but still it would not be the same. Grimm had become more than a guardian or a surrogate parent, he was her friend and mentor. For the past three years, he had carefully taught her the basics of magic and potions, perhaps more than he ought to have.
The door to her compartment opened after an hour, admitting a girl who carefully closed the door behind her. It seemed as though she had not noticed Emma because when she turned around, she started slightly, her face turning a bright shade of red.
“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t think anyone was in here.”
“No, it’s alright,” Emma replied, trying the banish thoughts of Grimm from her mind. “There’s enough room in here for you as well, I’m sure.”
The other girl smiled, revealing a dimple on her left cheek. She sat down across from Emma, who had been up to that time holding a book in her hands, but not reading it.
“What're you reading?” the girl asked, then blushed profusely. “Sorry, I’m being a pain, I know.”
Emma looked down at the book she had been holding, a recent gift from Grimm, as though she was surprised to see it there. “I don’t think I was actually reading it,” she admitted. “I was just thinking about what’s to come. It’ll be my first year.”
The girl, who had startlingly bright green eyes, suddenly looked nervous. “Um, could I ask you a question? You see, I’m in my first year too and there were these people in another compartment talking...”
Emma bit her lip slightly, as she always did when she was thinking. She looked at the girl’s clothing, which was definitely not wizard-made. “Are you a muggle-born?” she asked.
“Is it really that bad to be one? I mean, those people in the other compartment said some cruel things.” The girl leaned forward in her seat, her fiery red hair hanging over her shoulders in long, snaky locks.
“Some think it is,” Emma replied, keeping her voice low. “I don’t understand why, though. There're some muggle-borns with better sense than purebloods.”
“It was horrid to stay there and listen to them,” the girl explained. “Even though I’d been talking to this other boy who was also in his first year. I mean, how could they possibly see such a thing by just looking at me?”
“Don’t worry, I don’t think it’s you at all,” Emma said. “If it’s who I think it is, then that’s the sort of thing they always talk about. Rotten crowd, that bunch. I feel sorry for the boy you were talking to. He's probably stuck with them now.”
The girl smiled again, causing the dimple to reappear. Emma noticed that her face was entirely unblemished, without either freckles or spots. “My name’s Lily Evans.”
“I’m Emma Goldwyn. Pleased to meet you,” Emma responded, reaching over to shake the other girl’s hand.
For the rest of the journey, the two of them discussed many things. However, most of the conversation after a while was simply Emma answering questions about the magical world and Hogwarts. Luckily for her, Lily never went so far to ask how Emma knew so much about Hogwarts if she’d never been there before, being a first year. As Emma was describing the four houses, the train began slowing to a stop.
“We must be there,” Lily breathed, sounding excited.
Emma stood, clutching the book she held to her chest. A rush of excitement tingled in her veins. Even though Hogwarts was her home, coming back to it like this made her feel as though she would be seeing it again for the first time. Perhaps it was just that the anxiety of the other girl had leaked over into Emma’s own mind.
The two of them joined the other students who were exiting the train’s close quarters. While the older students walked up a stone path to the waiting horseless carriages, the first years gathered around a huge, burly man with a curly brown beard and a kind face.
“Firs’ years!” Rubeus Hagrid, the keeper of the keys of Hogwarts, called out. “Firs’ years over ‘ere!”
Emma and Lily stood nearer to the back of the group of first years between a boy with messy black hair and glasses, who winked at them slyly, and a greasy-haired boy with a long nose, who glanced over at Lily but said nothing. Further away, Emma noticed the Lupin boy she had seen at Madam Malkin’s. He was now talking to a short, blond boy who seemed rather nervous. Being nervous at this time was not strange, however, most of the first years, including Emma, were all slightly nervous at what was to come: the sorting ritual.
For now, however, Hagrid was leading them to the boats in which they were cross the lake to the castle. From what Emma had heard from both Andromeda Black (who was now in her last year) and Emmeline Vance, a third year Ravenclaw she had befriended, the journey across the lake offered stunning views of the castle, showing off all of its magnificence to the new students.
Being near the end of the group of first years, Emma and Lily, as well as the greasy-haired boy, boarded the last of the small wooden boats. The boy said nothing to them, preferring to sit at the back of the boat, scowling at the world in general. Slowly, the boat began to propel itself across the lake towards the castle, which towered above them on the edge of a rocky hill.
Lily leaned over the side of the boat and touched the water with a graceful hand.
“It’s so calm,” she said in awe. “Everything here's so...perfect.”
“I thought the same thing -" Emma began, then stopped. She had almost said “my first time seeing it”, but she managed to catch herself.
For a moment, she glanced over at the boy who they were sharing the boat with. He turned his head away quickly, as though he did not want her to notice him staring at her. Emma looked closer at him, behind the curtain of greasy hair and the large Roman nose. There was something about him that she couldn’t quite place...
A shriek, closely followed by a splash, surprised Emma out of her thoughts. She looked over to find Lily no longer beside her in the boat, but in the water, struggling to keep above the surface.
Without thinking, Emma started to stand when the boy pulled her down.
“Don’t do that or you’ll be down there with her,” he hissed, his voice low and sharp. He stared over the edge of the boat, black eyes scanning the water.
Emma glared fiercely at him, but did not try to stand again.
“Hagrid!” she called out over the water. “Someone’s fallen in!”
As his gruff reply travelled back, Emma realized that she could no longer hear any splashes or cries from Lily.
“Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva,” she muttered to herself, using one of Grimm’s oaths. “She’s gone under. The squid'll surely get her if we don’t do something,” she added, looking at the boy, who merely shrugged as though he didn’t really care.
Placing her book carefully on the floor of the boat, Emma stood and leapt into the water, barely remembering the fact that she was not a very good swimmer. In the miraculously clear water, Emma could easily see Lily still floundering to reach the surface. Emma silently cursed her heavy school robes and kicked out with her feet, trying to propel herself in the water. After what seemed like hours, though it was not even a minute, Emma was able to grab Lily’s hand.
The only problem, however, was that Lily was about three inches taller than Emma and unable to help herself out of the water. Emma kicked and thrashed her free arm to try and get the two of them to the surface, but to no avail. Now, it seemed that both were going to drown, or worse, be eaten by the Giant Squid. Closing her eyes, Emma refused to give up. She pulled on Lily’s arm, trying to get the other girl to kick upwards. Perhaps the two of them working together -
Suddenly, Emma felt something trying to pull her away from Lily. Believing it to be the Giant Squid, Emma fought back until she noticed that Lily was being pulled upward by a similar force. Relaxing her tired muscles, Emma was snatched out of the water and roughly dragged into a boat.
“That is what I call being stupid,” the voice of the scowling boy said from above her. “In case you've forgotten the fact that you are a witch, which I presume you are seeing that you're here, it'd have been easier for you to simply use magic to save your friend.”
Emma rubbed her face with her left hand and groaned. She felt as though a Hippogriff had sat on her.
“Are yeh alrigh’ over there, Emma?” Hagrid’s voice rang out over the water from a nearby boat. “We ‘ave Miss Evans over ‘ere, so don’ worry ‘bout her.”
Coughing, Emma tried to raise her voice above a whisper. “I’m fine, Hagrid. Thanks.”
She heard the other boat begin rowing away and felt hers moving towards the castle as well. Feeling utterly and wretchedly soaked, she slowly sat up, then remembered her book.
“My book,” she said to the boy, who was now looking at her strangely. “Where is it? I - I don’t want it to get wet. It was a gift...”
“Calm down before you tip the boat and both of us fall in,” he chastised. “Your precious book is safe. Isn’t advanced potions a little advanced for first year?”
“My uncle likes that sort of thing,” Emma replied, her voice tight. “Can I have it back now, please?” She held out her hand.
The boy looked at her hand, his black eyes, which reminded Emma of burning coals, shining brightly. It was then that Emma realized the white skin of her hand was showing. That morning, she had laboured to camouflage it with a flesh-coloured paste bought from a Muggle shop in London. Unfortunately, the paste had come off while she’d been in the water, revealing the abnormally white hand.
“It’s not polite to stare,” she snapped, her temper finally breaking. “My book, please.”
He took the book from his robes and gently placed it in Emma’s hands. She looked back towards the shore, which was quickly approaching. In another few moments she would be safe on land and in the castle.
“I’ve heard of you,” the boy said bluntly.
Emma turned to face him. “Did you learn it from your friends on the train? I’m not as stupid as you think I am; you're that boy on the train who’d first talked to Lily.”
“I never said that you were stupid,” he replied, looking slightly shocked. “To call any Ravenclaw that would be a crime. I merely said that what you did was stupid, not that you were.”
Now thoroughly annoyed by the boy, Emma sniffed. “It means the same thing in the end. Now, if you’ll excuse me, we’re already late for the sorting ceremony.” She walked, as gracefully as one could while wearing very wet clothes, through the entrance into the castle.
After five minutes of waiting, Grimm began to worry. He was not a patient man at the best of times, but when McGonagall did not open the door, followed by the first years, at the appropriate time, he thought of the worst possible circumstances. Any other year, he would not have cared less had something occurred to a tiresome first year. However, this was not like any other year; Emma was supposed to be here and ready for sorting, which she, as well as the other first years, was not.
Absently fiddling with his wine goblet, filled with cold water because he could not stand the taste of pumpkin juice, Grimm tried to look like his calm, collected self, but he could feel the trickle of perspiration running down between his shoulders. He looked over the tables of students, who were also showing signs of impatience; after a long train ride, they were ready to eat and later go to sleep.
Grimm glanced over at Dumbledore, who had become Headmaster once old Dippet had retired the previous spring. The school had undergone many changes over the last few months, including the planting of a willow tree with a tremendously rotten temperament. Grimm believed that Dumbledore’s promotion was long overdue - the man was over a hundred years old - yet he couldn’t help but wonder if there was method behind all of the older man’s apparent madness. At the moment, however, Dumbledore was calmly sitting in his place at the centre of the table, looking towards the door without a shade of worry marking his brow.
Finally, just before Grimm was about to give up hope and actually go searching for Minerva and the first years, the large wooden doors to the Great Hall opened, admitting a frazzled deputy Headmistress and two long rows of frightened and anxious students. She met his eyes for a moment and nodded minutely, flicking her eyes towards the back of the group of first years. Emma was there, staring daggers at the black-haired boy in front of her and looking as though she had taken a swim with the Giant Squid. For all Grimm knew, she probably had.
Minerva quickly recited to them what they were to do, then she took out a scroll of parchment and began reading off the names. Trying not to look too bored, Grimm watched as Addinson, Albert was put into Hufflepuff and Black, Sirius was put into Gryffindor (to the surprise of his Slytherin cousin Narcissa). He surveyed each of the students, wondering which ones might be decent students or, Merlin forbid, troublemakers.
After Evans, Lily (a pretty and intelligent-looking Gryffindor girl) and Fawcett, Delila (a plain, but perhaps decent Ravenclaw girl), Minerva paused for a moment, squinted at the parchment, then called out: “Goldwyn, Emilia!”
A strange mix of determination and fear crossed Emma’s face as Grimm observed her walked up to the stool and climb upon it. Minerva placed the hat upon the girl’s head and stepped back, her face apprehensive. Emma’s eyes went wide with surprise when, Grimm guessed, the hat began talking to her. Then, after half a minute, the hat shouted “RAVENCLAW!” at the top of its voice.
The Ravenclaw table burst out into applause and Grimm barely prevented himself from grinning like a schoolboy. As Emma passed him to slide in beside third year Emmeline Vance, she smiled at him and could have sworn later on that he had winked back at her. However, when Grimm stole a glance at the Gryffindor table, he saw Lily Evans, whom he had earlier noted as a possible ‘good’ student, appearing quite unhappy at the news. Perhaps, Grimm thought to himself, Emma had made a friend of this Miss Evans on the train.
Minerva continued to read names off the list: Lupin, Remus - Gryffindor(probably hard-working and very responsible); McKinnon, Marlene - Ravenclaw (perhaps too serious, but sharp); Meadows, Dorcas - Gryffindor (very outgoing with an evident sense of humour); Nott, Angius - Slytherin (strong body, but weak mind and power hungry); Pettigrew, Peter - Gryffindor (far too nervous, a definite follower); Pinchey, Helen - Hufflepuff (too nice for her own good); Potter, James - Gryffindor (definite troublemaker). The list seemed to be endless. There was another Prewett, who of course went to Gryffindor, a number of Hufflepuffs, one or two Ravenclaws, and a handfull of Slytherins, including the boy whom Emma had been glaring at, a Severus Snape. When he had walked past Emma on the way to the Slytherin table, Grimm observed the boy staring at Emma with unhidden curiosity and interest.
Grimm narrowed his eyes, but was distracted from thinking of the occurrence any more by Dumbledore rising from his chair and addressing the school.
“A new year at Hogwarts has begun,” the Headmaster said, smiling in that knowing way of his. “Unfortunately, Professor Dippet, our previous Headmaster, decided that fifty years spent administering to such an institution was more than enough for his constitution. Due to this change, then, Professor McGonagall has been made Head of Gryffindor house and Deputy Headmistress. In addition to these changes, our new Divination teacher will be Antonio Sejantus, newly arrived from Rome where he has been studying for many years.”
Upon hearing the new teacher’s name and seeing the vile man sitting at the other end of the table, Grimm scowled. He had heard much about this Divination expert from Italy, and little of what he had heard was positive in nature.
Dumbledore continued his welcoming speech. “As many of you know, the Forbidden Forest is entirely off limits to all students, even those who think themselves brave enough.” At this, the old man had looked straight at the two first years Potter and Black, who had struck an acquaintanceship while the Headmaster had been speaking. “There will be no wandering the castle or the grounds after hours. Any student caught doing so will be given detention.” At this, Emma narrowed her eyes, but said nothing.
“On a happier note,” Dumbledore went on. “Quidditch tryouts will begin in two weeks, for those of you wishing to know, though first years are not, unfortunately, able to take part. The Head Boy for this year is Edgar Bones.” A tall, blonde boy stood up and waved at the crowd, who heartily applauded him. “And our Head Girl is Andromeda Black.” From the Ravenclaw table came a loud cheer as a sleepy-looking dark-haired girl stood and smiled briefly before sitting back down.
“Welcome back to Hogwarts everyone,” the Headmaster finished, raising his hands dramatically. “Hereford, Hartford, and Hampshire!”
With this strange exclamation, plates of food appeared on the tables and everyone began to eat. Minerva sat down beside Grimm while he was listening to Filius Flitwick, the Charms professor and Head of Ravenclaw, babble on about a new set of spells he was studying. Grimm begged Flitwick pardon and asked if they could continue the conversation at another time (even though Grimm silently hoped not to meet Flitwick in the halls for the next few months), then he turned to Minerva, an unasked question in his grey eyes.
“Are you sure you want to know, Tiberius? You might become...angry with the girl.”
Grimm raised an eyebrow. “It depends on how serious the situation was, of course. How did she fall into the lake?”
Minerva showed some surprise at his deduction, but went on to explain. “She was in a boat with Miss Evans and young Mr. Snape when Miss Evans leaned over the side to look into the water and ended up in the water. Emilia jumped in after her once she discovered that Miss Evans could not swim. The two of them were, in the end, fished out of the water by Mr. Snape and Mr. Potter.”
Covering his face with one hand, Grimm sighed. “I tell her not to stand out from the others and what does she do but make herself noticed. The hat should have put her in Gryffindor then, for such bravery as trying to save a person’s life. Perhaps the thing’s getting too old and can’t see their minds right.”
She lightly patted his shoulder. “It’s not necessarily courage she showed, Tiberius, it could be something called ‘friendship’, which is far greater.”
“And something that I never learned,” Grimm replied, hiding amusement behind his hand. “So I am to suppose that you dried her off with one of those spells of yours?”
“Indeed,” Minerva answered with a small smile. “It was a simple matter of transfiguring water into air.”
Grimm shook his head and picked up his fork. “Now will you be wanting gratitude for that?”
She shot him a suspicious look, but he was busily beginning to eat.
“Not from you, Tiberius. Never from you.”
Author's Note: Firstly, I'd like to thank all the reviewers for their support of this story, all your comments go a long way into making me a better writer. Secondly, the ending of Dumbledore's speech comes from one of the my favourite musicals, "My Fair Lady"; it's one of the phrases Eliza has to learn how to say properly in order to become a 'lady'.
Chapter title from Coldplay's "X & Y"
EDITED - July 22/07
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