The Great Hall, even with my lack of the proper hours of sleep and the fact that I had been shaken awake to make the girls’ beds, was still a truly beautiful and majestic place. Four tables were lined with students, all in their Hogwarts robes with the patriotic emblems sewn onto the black robes that were necessary. The Head table rested near the back, looking down on all the students, imposing and professional, filled with the teachers, who were also all wearing black robes; all except for one remarkable individual – the Transfiguration professor and, I guessed, deputy headmaster – who was wearing robes of a deep violet, auburn hair falling down the back slightly, blue eyes as piercing as ever, even across the Great Hall.
The sunlight that streamed through the windows at the back were the exact rays, it seemed, that had so rudely invaded my private darkness in which I had been resting. Those rays feel upon the Slytherin table, where I could distinguish a smooth raven head, which I deduced belonged to Rowena. Her little posse sat around her, eagerly giggling and laughing at whatever was being said by either her or the boys that sat on the opposite side of the table.
It took every ounce of my courage and strength that I had left (very little, might I say) to walk over to the small space between Rowena and a fifth year who gave me a dirty look as I squeezed into it. Everyone was looking at me, and I gave them a small half smile, raising my eyebrow as if to question them slightly. Tom’s eyes caught mine and I felt my resolve weaken.
“You look like rubbish,” Avery said bluntly to me, gaping.
I rolled my eyes and clenched my teeth together to keep from screaming. “I had a rather unpleasant wake-” I felt a foot jab painfully into my shin and drew in a quick breath through my nose as to not reveal I had just been ‘blackmailed’ to shut up. “Uh, I had an unpleasant sleep.”
Tom was still staring at me questioningly until I looked back into his eyes, where a smirk slowly appeared and he turned to Rowena.
“Already up to your tricks, Rowena?” He smirked. “I thought you were above the whole new girl routine.”
Rowena sneered back at him. “We didn’t do anything, Tom. Just ask her. Why would you think something like that?”
“Why? Because I know you. And it wouldn’t do any good to ask her. She’s probably been threatened to keep her mouth shut, or Beatrix will come and pummel her into the castle walls.”
Everyone’s gazes shifted to where some of the seventh years sat. Beatrix was sitting there, a huge heap of breakfast completely obscuring the golden plate from view, guffawing and smacking the table so hard that three of the goblets tumbled over, staining the white linen tablecloth. She didn’t seem to notice much. Everyone’s attention shifted back to this side of the world again and Tom stretched leisurely.
“Class starts in two days,” he yawned. “Ready for them?”
“No,” Corinne whined, giving a most unrealistic pout to Tom, whose look to her was one out of boredom. “I got lost on the first page. I just know I’m going to fail…” she sighed, then looked out of the corner of fluttering eyelashes to Tom. “Unless I had a good, smart tutor…”
Tom seemed to have missed the hint. He was staring at the other side of the Great Hall, insane monotony palpable upon his smooth features. I saw Corinne give a little sigh, and Rowena sneer at her.
“Strike one, slut,” she whispered malevolently into Corinne’s ear.
Half the table guffawed, except for Tom, whose eyes were once again flitting across my face, trying to figure something out. I commanded the blush that was rising inside my body to stop before it reached my face. Instead, I tore away my eye contact from Tom, and forked a muffin and a banana onto my face.
“Big breakfast,” Rowena said sarcastically from beside me.
“I don’t need much to survive,” I shot back. It was true; Dovies needed hardly anything to eat, if anything. I decided not to risk it before Meaghan came back on schedule.
You’re supposed to call for me, Dovie!
I almost jumped but managed not to spill the orange juice I poured all over the jeans that Rowena had thrown at me. Apparently, it had been ‘against the code’ to wear the full uniform on the second day. Before, when I had looked around, I realized the only a few older students over third year wore the uniform, and even them mixed it up with little accessories and touches, while first years were in their full robe and uniform set.
I am not always there for you. The idea is that you are supposed to learn how to survive on your own, dusus lono! Be strong, alone!
Very sorry, I replied sarcastically inside my head, careful to keep my face blank. Tom was still watching me intently. Next time, I’ll be sure to read the rulebook before consulting you. Better?
Rulebooks are for humans. And as for humans, let us hope you do a better job when the classes start, because you seem to be doing an excellent job of sticking out, denero.
You claim not to be mean, and then you insult me?
I looked up from the plate I had apparently been staring at. Rowena & co., Avery, several of Tom’s group I hadn’t learned the names of and Tom were all staring at me curiously.
“Pardon?” I asked, slightly embarrassed and confused. What had they been talking about?
Avery sniggered and I saw Tom throw a dangerous look at him before turning back to me, with the patience one would have when trying to explain to a two year old why because was not a suitable answer for a question.
“Are you looking forward to classes?” He said in a slow, subtly mocking voice.
“Yes. Especially Transfiguration,” I replied, endeavouring to keep a slightly high-and-mighty attitude, like the rest had. If Meaghan tells me to fit in, I’ll fit in, at any cost. Tom's face darkened.
“Why would you want to do Transfiguration?” Rowena snorted. “Dumbledore’s such an oldie, I’m surprised he doesn’t need something to help him to walk.”
“No, I mean the subject,” I corrected impulsively. “I’ve met Professor Dumbledore, and he seems alright.”
“Oh really? And what might give you that impression? Do you really like Professor Dumbledore? Or is it just the first impression that a soft voice can give off? Does that make you like that person, just because they look or sound a certain way?”
Rowena’s head swivelled to me and I saw her widen her eyes slightly, as if trying to warn me about getting into this subject with him. Already, looking back into Tom’s black eyes, I could sense a flagrant tension that smothered the table like a tight blanket.
“I-I,” I stammered. That’s me, always the eloquent one. “I think it was a first impression.”
“First impressions can often be wrong,” Tom countered in a low voice. “You know nothing of how the person really is, you judge by what they place upon the table on first meeting you, which, generally, is not much to judge them by. First impressions are a completely inaccurate way of judging someone, and you have made that horrible mistake.”
He said this with a sense of finality and turned away from me. I felt a response flare in my veins, felt my mind screaming to call him upon his hypocrisy. Correcting the people who already didn’t seem to like me seemed like a bit of a bad idea, but wasn’t I supposed to be the one to take the leap?
“So hypocrisy is your style?” I said harshly. Tom’s head snapped back to attention and every pair of eyes in our section fixed upon my face.
“Excuse me?” Tom said in a dangerously low voice.
“Last night, when I arrived, everyone seemed to a first impression that they deemed would be there only impression, therefore writing me off as whatever they thought. Prejudices were formed already, when I had yet to lie anything out on the table. Everyone here had and has an impression of me, which is generally completely inaccurate! And yet, as I form a first impression, which, yes, could possibly be a horrible mistake, you give me an entire lecture, when last night, you were not one to follow your own words!”
I could see something flicker through Tom’s eyes and across his face so quickly, a mortal wouldn’t have seen it. The aura around him, which I had not noticed, suddenly appeared. It was a pulsing black creature, disgusting to watch, slithering around his body and head. I was enthralled with the evil rays it emanated – I could not tear my eyes away.
Tom looked behind him confusingly, before turning back to me, eyes flickering once more. Why can’t he just show his emotions for once, instead of this entire guess what I’m thinking? I screamed in my head, out of my mind with frustration.
Because he holds back his emotions. What he said about first impressions was also true to him. Be careful what he holds inside! A melodic voice snapped back in my head. Having talks with my head was rather confusing, and also distracting from the thing I was trying to accomplish here. Then don’t talk. I moaned inwardly at this annoyance and turned my attention back to the table.
Tom took a deep breath and the table seemed to hold theirs, as if he was a volcano, waiting to erupt. He let it out slowly and everyone looked surprised. “You’re right, I suppose,” Tom said truthfully.
Confusion must have registered across his features because he gave that smile that didn’t mean anything and continued. “What I say is what I mean, Dana, do not look so surprised. I am one to admit when I am wrong and I admit that I am. We have all formed our first impressions, some more then others.” His eyes flickered back to Avery and across to Rowena before resting on me again. “And I suppose you will have to prove them wrong to simply abolish them. It is a confusing world, but I suppose one must find their place and fight for all they’ve got.”
The whole group was staring at me again, until Avery suddenly picked up his fork and stabbed it into three pieces of bacon, stuffing them into his mouth. Trysta began to daintily cut up her food, royalty dominating her petite features.
Rowena was glancing at me cautiously and when I gave her a small, meaningful smile (which must have been rare at this table) and felt relief when her eyes showed that she was impressed. I gave a tiny shrug and chewed surreptitiously on my bottom lip. She rolled her eyes and turned away, focusing her attention on her half consumed breakfast. I picked up my muffin and crumbled off a small piece, pinching it with my fingers and dropping it into my mouth. I was becoming quite good at this form of silent speak.
A bell rang and Dippet stood up again. I felt my inwards churn and put the muffin down. Damn it, I wasn’t hungry anymore. “Students, I suppose I shouldn’t keep you on this lovely day. You have only one more after this to enjoy the outside before classes, so make the most of the weather, which also undoubtedly won’t last. Prefects and Heads, please come up here for a brief meeting, please!”
I stood up automatically and Tom grudgingly followed my lead. As I started to walk away, Rowena called out.
“Dana, meet us at the corner of the lake, by the Forbidden Forest.”
I turned around, surprised, as Tom kept walking and she gave me a half smile. I returned it and set off on the long journey to the head table. Tom and I, somehow, reached it at the same time. Dippet was busy squeaking to Dumbledore, holding up on finger to us to indicate only a few more seconds.
“So what’s this all about?” I muttered. “Does he always start these little meetings?”
Tom gave a half smirk. “Yes, it’s rather his favourite thing in the day to do. Now watch this. He’ll say you’re dismissed.”
Dippet turned to us half a second later, and catching sight of all the students assembled around him, blinked in shock before realizing why they were there. “Oh, oh,” he gave a small little chuckle. “I’m so sorry, my dear students. You are dismissed. There is nothing I’d rather say to you then have an excellent day!”
The students filed off quickly, and I was about to follow the mass that was stomping out of the Great Hall, when Tom held me back with his hand on my arm.
“Sir,” he asked, returning Professor Dippet’s attention to the two of us. I saw Dumbledore look over my way, then over at Tom, with his questioning and piercing gaze. “I was wondering if perhaps the library would be open tomorrow? I’d like to do some research. You know, just to get a good start. I have a few things I’d like to oversee, to make sure I have maximum knowledge to pass my NEWTs next year.”
Dippet’s creased, lining face broke into a genuine smile. Dumbledore beside him was still looking at Tom with a strange expression on his face. He caught my eye and gave me a small wink and a small smile. I smiled back.
“Of course we can arrange that, Tom,” he beamed. “Knowledge is always an excellent thing.”
“Of course, Headmaster,” Tom said diplomatically. I was impressed at how fast his attitude had changed and how he could manipulate this older, powerful man.
“Now, scoot outside, its lovely today! Miss Wray, you too, I assume you haven’t had the chance to see the school grounds.”
His reference to me startled me and I blinked, before relaxing my face into a smile. “Of course, Headmaster. I feel regretful that I haven’t been able to see the grounds; they are rumoured to be the most beautiful in the world.”
“I’m sure they’ll live up to your expectations,” Dumbledore said, smiling at me. I gave him another warm smile before he nodded slightly, giving me a cue. “Goodbye Dana – Tom.”
Tom gave him a slightly forced smile and a curt nod, before briskly turning around and walking down the steps with me. I felt the annoyance with Dumbledore radiating his body. Indeed, when I looked up at his aura, it was writhing and hissing more then ever. What could he hate so much about Dumbledore? I wondered.
As soon as we reached the doors, I felt like someone was staring at me. I quickly glanced behind me and felt my blue eyes meet the blue eyes of Dumbledore, who was still following us with his gaze out the door. It was eerie, almost as if he knew what I was doing, and was watching me. To make sure I didn’t mess up. To make sure that the weight of the world was indeed still securely on my shoulders.
A/N - I would like to deeply apologize to all of my readers for not getting off of my lazy butt to do this. I can't think of an excuse, because it's just going to sound lame - school, music, family. Stupid. Stupid. I will update more often. Promise.