Chapter 8 : Chapter Seven: Andrea
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Chapter Seven: Andrea
Snow drifted down past the frosted windows of the Charms classroom. “Miss Rowe, are you listening to me?” Professor Stainthorpe’s voice cut through Lottie’s short lived fantasy of relaxing in the common room by the fireplace.
“What?” Lottie blinked and turned away from the window. “Sorry.”
“I am not here during the holiday to daydream of snowflakes,” the professor said sternly. “You know you are seriously falling behind in this class, and need to catch up in order to rise to your second year.”
“I know!” Lottie’s fingers were turning white with frustration. “I know! I know! I know!” She had fallen so far behind in Charms that she now had to have extra classes during the Christmas Holiday. It was Christmas Eve and Lottie was extremely anxious to leave so she could see all of the decorations being put up.
Stainthorpe flicked her wand, letting the miniature door on her desk lock again. “Now, just concentrate on the spell.” Lottie could hear the hidden frustration in Stainthorpe’s voice. “Unlocking the door is as easy as moving your finger; it’s just an extension of what you have control over.”
Lottie bit her lip. She didn’t quite understand Stainthorpe, but wasn’t about to tell her after four days of individual tutoring. “Alohomora!” she shouted, waving her wand.
The door stood, completely unaffected. Stainthorpe tried to hide a sigh. “Miss Rowe, I want you to go over your wand movements and reread the chapter on this spell before coming back on the twenty-sixth.” The corner of her lips twitched. “I believe we both can have a break for Christmas.”
Through gritted teeth, Lottie muttered, “Thanks,” gathered her stuff and left the classroom.
“What were you doing in there?” Ally was leaning against the wall across from the door.
“What were you doing waiting for me?” Lottie really didn’t feel like talking to her right now.
“It’s Christmas holiday, you know,” Ally continued on nastily. “You don’t have to go to classes.”
Lottie turned away from her former friend and started heading down the corridor. “Maybe that’s not what I was doing,” she shouted without turning around.
Ally caught up with Lottie’s slower pace easily and smirked. “Oh don’t try that,” she said, laughing. “Everybody knows that you’re already behind in Charms.”
“Oh yeah?” Lottie dropped her bag and pulled out her wand. “Do you want to see how far behind I really am?”
For a moment, Ally actually appeared to be frightened before laughing nervously. “You couldn’t even shoot sparks at me,” she sneered. Meeting only silence, she added, “Go on then! Prove me wrong!”
Lottie’s wand was shaking. Both of them knew she couldn’t do it. She could feel tears beginning to well up in the corners of her eyes and her face turning a fiery red. Desperately, she switched her wand from her right to her left hand. “What are you doing?” Ally asked, laughing.
Ally hadn’t stopped laughing when Lottie’s palm made contact with her face. Power surged through her hand, but bubbling guilt quickly flooded her stomach. She beat Ally, but now she had to suffer the consequences. Staring determinately straight ahead, Lottie waited for some sort of retaliation, but it never came. Ally didn’t yell or scream, but simply held her hand to her cheek and stared at the ground, unable to make eye contact.
In a moment of sheer panic, Lottie picked up her bag and ran down the corridor. Her heart pounded in her chest. She couldn’t tell if Ally was following her or not, or even if other people could see her running down the corridor crying. She reached the clock, turned the hands, and crawled into the common room.
Apparently, some sort of Christmas celebration was going on. All of the upper classmen were socializing to Stanley and Langley’s dreadful caroling. They stopped singing when they saw Lottie walk in, teary eyed and red faced. “Rowe?” Stanley whispered, as though he was afraid to say her name as to embarrass her.
Lottie dropped her bag where it was and ran down the stairs to her dormitory. The dorm was empty, and she collapsed onto her bed. She hadn’t expected any of it to be like this. She was magic, but she couldn’t even unlock a door without a hair pin, while the rest of her class had mastered it two weeks before. She still hadn’t made a friend, and her parents never wrote back.
Her pillow was thoroughly wet from tears when she had to look up to gasp a breath of fresh air. The dorm wasn’t deserted anymore.
Andrea stood timidly in the door frame. Rage built up in Lottie. Why hadn’t Andrea told her that she was there? Maybe she could have let her close the curtain or go somewhere more private, instead of embarrassing herself in front of somebody else who hated her.
Lottie furiously pulled the curtains around her four poster, and began beating the feathers out of her pillow. “Erm… I don’t really know what happened,” Andrea said as quietly as she could over the noise. Lottie could tell that Andrea had intended to let her fill the silence that followed with an explanation. Instead of doing that, Lottie just buried her head into her pillow.
Another silence followed.
“I brought your bag down for you. And I told everyone else that you had just gotten some bad news from the camp, and were really upset… And Palmyitor handed these out today. I guess you weren’t there to get them. It’s a letter… just put it on your bag… Erm… Sorry.”
There was a shuffling of boots on a stone floor and the sound of a door slamming. Lottie looked up from her pillow and stared at the grey curtain across from her. She couldn’t figure out why Andrea would ever apologize, or even try to help her. Lottie wouldn’t try to help Andrea if she had been in this situation.
Hadn’t they been fighting since September? Had it all been Lottie’s fault, then, if Andrea was able to forget about it so quickly? Lottie pulled aside the curtains to her four poster. Nobody else was there. Andrea must have warned Sophie and Julianne. Hands shaking, she picked up the parchment neatly folded on top of her duffle bag.
Your father and I are happy to hear you’re having a good time at school. We’re sorry that we haven’t written yet, but Professor Maelioric only comes to pick up letters once every few months, and we can’t afford to have letters lying around in case if any Death Eaters find them.
All of your friends keep passing by here asking what happened to you. Professor Maelioric told us to tell people that the Death Eaters had found you causing trouble, and we haven’t seen you since. It’s been so hard to act like something that horrible has just happened, but be sure to keep your head down when you come to visit.
Mum and Dad
Lottie folded the letter up, trying not to start crying again. She missed her parents so much, and couldn’t help but feel completely hopeless at the thought of not seeing them at all for the next seven years, save for a few days in the summer.
She took a deep breath and wiped her puffy eyes. She couldn’t afford to stay like this for very long. She still had to catch up in Charms and go apologize to Andrea.
Her stomach sank from guilt. She wished that Andrea would just come down here so she didn’t have to face the upperclassmen. She couldn’t help but wonder if this would be easier if she wasn’t so scared.
Holding her breath, she snuck up the stairs, trying to avoid any sort of scene. Despite her good intentions, the room fell into silence as she entered. Stanley didn’t looked as concerned as he did puzzled now, but Lottie could tell that everybody was expecting some sort of story.
The silence stretched longer than she could bear. Everybody in the room was frozen, staring. Lottie was just about ready to turn around, when she spotted Andrea bouncing up and down on the balls of her feet. Lottie couldn’t hide her curiosity and stared for maybe a little longer than she should have, causing a few students to turn and see what she was looking at. More and more people noticed Lottie’s gaze until everybody was staring at Andrea, who didn’t seem to catch the change in attention.
Finally noticing that the entire room was watching her, Andrea’s bouncing slowed until she stopped completely. She screwed up her face in thought. Breaking the stiff concentration, Andrea finally pushed through the crowd of upperclassmen. She reached the door and threw her arms around Lottie. “Oh Lottie!” she said almost too loudly. “I am so, so sorry for your loss!”
Lottie tried to play along as best she could. “Thanks,” she said quietly. “I’m just really upset.”
“What happened?” Stanley asked.
“I just--just got a note from my parents.” Lottie was beginning to enjoy play-acting. “One of my friends from the camp has gone missing. She was last seen with Death Eaters…” She paused dramatically. “Nobody really wants to say anything, but we all know what happened.”
Everybody seemed to be looking down at their shoes. “Damn,” Stanley said, scratching the back of his head. “That’s terrible. They don’t seem to care how old anybody is.”
“She was only six,” Lottie added. “She was fighting the Death Eaters because my parents had to tell all of my friends that I’d been murdered when I left.” She was especially proud of this last detail. Trying to seem like she was crying again, she took a rattling breath. “I--I think I just want to go and think for a while. I just--just wanted to come up and tell you all that I’m okay.”
“Alright.” Stanley nodded slowly. “Just take care of yourself, Rowe.”
“Thanks.” Lottie stared at Andrea for a second and raised her eyebrows before running down the stairs again. Once in her dormitory, she sat at the foot of her bed, and stared at the floor, hoping that Andrea had gotten the signal.
There was a knock on the door and Andrea poked her head in. “Erm… I wasn’t sure what you meant when you--” She stopped, staring at Lottie. “Are--are you okay?”
Lottie smiled. “Yeah,” she said. “Thanks for… you know, covering me.”
Andrea shrugged. “It was nothing. I hope I didn’t put you too much on the spot.”
“No.” Lottie shook her head. “It was sort of fun.” She laughed nervously.
“Yeah, it was,” she agreed, also laughing.
It was suddenly like neither of them had ever argued before. They sat laughing for nearly ten minutes before Lottie stopped, looking at the ceiling. She found it hard to make eye contact, knowing how horrible she had been. “Does this mean we’re friends then?”
“I suppose it does.”
Lottie bit her lip. “I’m--I’m sorry for… you know, making fun of you before.”
Andrea smiled weakly. “It’s okay. I was sort of mean too.”
Together, they decided that maybe it wasn’t the best idea to go out to the common room after the scene they caused. In the first hours of their friendship, Andrea proved herself very useful in giving advice once Lottie told her why she actually was upset.
“No, that wasn’t your best idea,” she said at first. “She might tell somebody.” She paused and thought for a moment. “Or perhaps not,” she added. “We all know that Ally’s not the most humble of people… I’m not quite sure if she’d want to admit something that could embarrass her like that.”
Lottie’s stomach dropped. “Well what am I supposed to do? Lie?”
“Who do you think they’ll believe if you do?” Andrea asked, raising her eyebrows. “Just don’t say anything,” she continued. “Act as if nothing happened and hope Ally is too scared to tell anybody.”
The next morning, Lottie woke to find the usually grey common room decorated with red and green streamers that shimmered so brightly that she had to shut her eyes immediately to avoid the glare.
Julianne was staring at her through squinted eyes. “You’re up then?” she asked.
“Maybe not for long if being up means I’m going to be blinded.”
Andrea sat up threw her blanket over the streamers; the glare faded away. “You think you’d be able to do something about it, besides just complaining,” she said playfully. “Merry Christmas. Have you checked your letters yet?”
Lottie raised her eyebrows. “Didn’t we just get letters yesterday?”
“Don’t be stupid.” Andrea rolled her eyes. “Letters from Palmyitor. They’re on the floor next to your bed.”
The letter turned out to be a warm (or as warm as Palmyitor could be) letter for the holiday. A hurried scribbled note at the end explained that since the school’s founding, the heads have given each student a gift that could further their magical ability, to follow the old tradition of gift giving. Lottie was thrilled to find two vials of rare potion ingredients that they hadn’t been supplied as first years.
“What’d you all get?” she asked the room, holding her vials up to the light.
“A Sneakoscope,” Sophie said with a shrug.
“A Transfiguration book!” Andrea sounded absolutely thrilled.
Julianne frowned. “Wand polish.” She pulled out her already scuffed wand. “I’m not that messy, am I?”
Lottie couldn’t help but laugh out loud. “Poor thing,” she said, still snickering. “You’re going to need a new wand by third year.”
Andrea and Lottie spent the rest of the day in the common room. Andrea helped Lottie practice Alohomora until she had successfully unlocked all twelve of the bathroom stalls twenty seven times each and Lottie explained the potential pitfalls of a certain potion for an essay that Andrea had to write.
By five they both had perfected their extra homework and were free to enjoy the spectacular Christmas dinner. Lottie had always spent her Christmases trying to ignore the cold and sharing a loaf of bread with her family. She had never seen decorations as exquisite as the glittering icicles hanging from the ceiling of the Great Hall or what looked like colorful lights but actually turned out to be shimmering fairies.
The food was even better than the Halloween feast. Mince pies, plum pudding, roasted ham, bottles of eggnog, entire turkeys, roasted potatoes, fruitcakes and other foods that Lottie couldn’t even identify lined the Palmyitor table. Even Professor Palmyitor was in such a good mood that she let Langley and Stanley sing their adapted Christmas carols to mock Death Eaters until the other Houses complained about their awful singing.
The rest of the holiday was spent in the same merry mood. Lottie impressed Stainthorpe with her sudden talents at Alohomora, and was rewarded with the last few days of the break to relax. There was a gloom filling the entire castle by the last day of holiday. Even the professors were dreading school the next morning.
Lottie and Andrea spent their last night of break complaining to each other about their upcoming classes. Stanley and Langley amused all of the lowerclassmen with their horror stories of the first day back after break. Lottie was so warm and comfortable that she nearly fell asleep sitting on the floor watching them act out a rather nasty encounter with Professor Gabaldon. She was so tired that Andrea had to help her to the dormitory in order to avoid a nasty falling down the stairs accident.
Julianne and Sophie followed them down the stairs, both so exhausted that they could hardly keep their eyes open. Once snugly in bed, Lottie could just make out snow drifting to the ground through the dark window. She was nervous just thinking about her classes the next day, but was grateful not to have to go through Alsemore alone anymore.
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