“What are you, brain dead? Move.”
As the startled students scuttled out of the compartment, you surveyed your surroundings. Tonks would appear soon, towing the other unlucky souls behind her. She would come baring schedules and orders handed down from Dawlish. They would include patrols, protocols, and every other foul thing the entire muscle of the Ministry could think up to waste time and make it look like they were accomplishing something.
Shoving your bag in a luggage compartment above the seats, you slouched into the now vacated space, eager to lose yourself in a book before the rest arrived. My, how uncharacteristically anti-social of you, Alexis.
Without warning, three little words you’d repeated so often floated across your consciousness. Failure. Disappointment. Fool.
Mind set determinedly to anything other than your mother and the bustling, irritating, noisy
students in the compartments around you, you thumbed through the pages of your book, dwelling on the pleasant snap of the spine.
The flash of a memory raced across your mind, playing a dangerous game of manic-depressive chicken. Dimly, you registered sitting in this compartment before, book in hand, staring out the window much the same as you were now; waving to the overpaid nanny and glowering at the brave souls who had nerve to bring Chocolate Frog cards into your compartment and disturb your reverie.
Get a grip, Alexis.
At the risk of sounding redundant, you grumbled something about hating mornings as consciousness gripped your weary mind. Instinctively, you felt your hands grope at the space beside you – still unapologetically empty – before reaching for the alarm.
Were anyone to have asked, you would have sworn you loved sleeping alone. “A rare treat,” you would have called it, but given that your room was currently empty, save the owl Soren insisted you keep, it seemed harmless to admit it - you loathed being alone.
Fourteen days. What’s another 182?
As the days passed, this was feeling a lot farther from anyone’s definition of ‘worth it.’
”Vogel!” An all too familiar voice was shouting to you from the path into Hogsmead. Instinctively, you flinched, almost losing your place in the novel leaning on your knees.
Soren James – one of the many among the privileged children of your mother’s friends. Soren paid your 14-year old self no more attention than an occasional nod or an obligatory smile during dinner since your first year and you returned them all with an equal excitement. He was, like most of the rest of the students at Hogwarts, little more than background noise that kept you from your studying. Not that you were particularly studious, only that it seemed one of the few things left to do when you paid no attention to your classmates.
“Isn’t it a bit cold to sit outside reading a book? Come on, a couple of us are meeting in the Three Broomsticks for a butterbeer before Honeydukes.”
One of the simplest principals of psychology is the science behind returning to your roots. It brings back memories; helps us to sift through our present by understanding our past. You weren’t great with ‘sifting’ of any kind…through anything… Sifting was messy. Sifting dragged up the demons. Sifting got your hands dirty.
Sifting was, unfortunately, precisely the kind of thing that one did while pacing, drone-like, from office to office in search of this years unlucky Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor with your handful of safety procedures and hallway protocols. Sifting was the sort of thing that turned your run-of-the-mill disgruntled worker mentality into withering and contemptuous. Glowering, you permitted yourself a brief game of cat and mouse with a passing Slytherin to take your mind from its involuntary musings. Why you felt the need to break people would be subject of many hours of psychological debate in later days but, for today, Freud wasn’t looking. With a tiny hint of satisfaction, you watched the boy’s eyes snap from their arrogant stare to an almost shy scrutiny of the floor.
And thus you were anointed,
the skeptic you carried on your left shoulder added. Feeling a small smile cross your lips, you clenched your fingers tighter around the parchment in your hand.
“Rosmerta, if I didn’t know it was against your policy, I’d ask you just to leave the bottle, darling.”
The barmaid smiled warmly and raised an eyebrow in your general direction before heading off again with her bottle of firewhiskey. In spite of her poor selection, bad coffee, and mediocre cooking, you’d become one of Rosmerta’s best customers since your arrival, always opting for a quiet meal in the Three Broomsticks over an evening spent in the castle.
Slumping back into your chair, you downed the contents of your glass in one unpleasant gulp and closed your eyes against the friendly lighting and the cheerful crowd.
It was remarkable, how similar the pub looked now to the way it had looked then. The scrubbed tables looked just as worn, the lighting seemed the same, even the faces maintained their light air. The Three Broomsticks was resistant to both time and enemy as you watched two students you knew so well sneak behind the bar after hours, emerging moments later with bottles of brandy.
“Shhhh!” the taller of the two whispered, setting a bracing hand on your waist. “Steady there, Lexi. We’ve done this a million times.”
Still, you watched your knees shaking in spite of your best efforts as Soren handed you one of the bottles to drop coins onto the bar.
Opening your eyes, you surveyed the pub, hoping against hope that no one had noticed your brief slip out of consciousness. Instead you were met with a figure sitting across the table from you, a knowing smirk in her eyes.
“I told you you would miss him horribly.”
Instead of reaching across the table to slap her, you merely smiled, throwing a ‘huh?’ in her general direction.
Where Paige could be quieted with a pointed remark, Tonks would
hit you, and something in the noodley sensation of your knees, remnants of a memory you didn’t want to recall, made you certain you weren’t up for a good row at the moment.
Somewhere in one of the many books you’d read while you were avoiding social interaction of any kind, you’d run across an apocalyptic belief system that held tenant that the world strived only for complete balance between good and evil. They contend that, on judgment day, everyone and everything would step onto a massive set of divine scales – good on one side, evil on the other. If this held true, Tonks was the universes attempt at equilibrium.
Technically speaking, you went to school with her. While several reliable individuals swore you chatted with her at some point in your third year, your first recollection of the clumsy, technicolor bride-to-be was academy training. Dangerously buoyant, she moved happily from situation to situation, always eager to lend a hand or offer advice.
She disgusted you.
“Dawlish has half of the crew tied up at the castle. Meeting has been pushed back,” she was watching you intently, still wearing that quasi-condescending expression. “Not that I think you should have anymore of these,” she added, taking the empty glass from your hand with her usual, obnoxious smile.
Yup, she definitely disgusted you.
This was starting to feel redundant. Wake. Rise. Curse Dawlish. Get Schedule. Curse Dawlish. Dinner. And then there was the Tonks shanghai hour.
“The only thing I miss is a nice mattress and good food.” This week hadn’t gone any better than the last one and, at the moment, you were feeling sufficiently backed into a corner. People always had a way with making you feel like that. Come to think of it, did everyone you know have some attachment to Soren that you couldn’t see, because here was another quick to defend him? “Just because you’ve fallen carnally in love with a werewolf doesn’t mean we’ve all been stricken with that potion.”
“Alexis if I have to kick you under the table to get your attention one more time this week, I’m going to send him an owl myself.”
Glaring up from the schedule you were pouring over, you tried to resist rolling your eyes. “What does Dawlish’s droning have to do with Soren?”
Tonks apparently had no intention of showing the same restraint.
“You’re on grounds patrol this week.” She paused, leaving you with the urge to say ‘duh,’ but resumed before you could, not taking her eyes off of you. “And you haven’t taken that off since you got here.”
It didn’t take the jerky nod (or the broken lamp) to tell you what she was pointing at. Your eyes widened at the accusation, but there was a momentary sense of hesitation that you couldn’t bring yourself to own. Glancing down at the schedule to disguise your face, you took a shallow breath and unclasped the necklace from your throat.
Until now, you would have considered it writ that every town had one place where you could find a good cup of coffee. Hogsmead, however, seemed to be the exception. The lack had driven you to do something you’d sworn to avoid; breakfast at the castle.
“The rich girl seems to be having a hard time adjusting,” a snide, male voice echoed from behind you as you poured the dregs of the pot into a massive mug.
Mere seconds from the instant his words reached your ears, there was a slam of glass against wood, and a distant echo of a few hundred gasps and scraping benches as you drew your wand.
“What was that?” you asked, pressing your wand into the hollow of his neck.
AN: Can I really post this pathetic excuse for a chapter? Yes I can!