Another A/N, written after the story was completed: Welcome to CTTC. I wrote this from May-December 2007, and as a whole I think I did as good a job as I could've. However, I am aware of the mistakes and errors, and as soon as Sparkle in Her Eye is completed I think I will look over CTTC and review the mistakes. On that note, please keep in mind that I wrote this a while ago and I have improved as a writer since then.
Anyway... I hope you enjoy Closest Thing To Caring! :) Feedback is appreciated!
She had always been quiet.
It had not mattered whether she was in the face of her mother, a halfblood socialite that turned her attention to her brother's needs; it did not matter if she was with her brother herself, a snobbish boy who believed he was best; it did not matter if she was surrounded by Dumbledore, her favorite teacher, or Binns, her least.
She was always quiet.
If you looked at the girl face-value, there was no reason for her to be so; she was not a grotesque person, not someone with a ghastly secret that could have ruined her reputation. She stood quietly on the line of prestige her parents had given her, like a porcelain doll, and stayed so, never bothering to move.
But, even with all of this... with the wealth her father had acquired, with the prestige her mother and herself had been linked to, even with the education she had, she stayed silent, as if she were intending to hold all of the information for herself and herself only.
This led the students of Hogwarts to look at her as if she did not exist, and if the gossip well had gone dry and their eyes looked towards her, they would whisper that she was secretive even though she held no secrets, before turning their eyes to more interesting venues.
She wasn't uninteresting, not really. She was extremely good in Transfiguration and even held a decent hand at Charms. She had played Quidditch before, preferring and performing an average position as Seeker but being overseen in comparison to her brother's strong accomplishments as Beater.
She had friends, though most consisted of her cousins Catherine and Nancy, two Hogwarts alumnae with a sharp and arrogant tongue. She had been known with replying with sly humor that only few could catch, but otherwise kept a strict rule on things, from etiquette to humor to free time.
So, she was likeable, though she never begged for attention, simply because she didn't want it. With attention, she could become great; she could be wealthy and accepted and maybe she would become more charismatic.
But, something stopped her, perhaps only the mere reason that she would not use it even if she had it... perhaps for reasons more, no one could tell and no one bothered to.
And Irene, who never liked to bother, stayed silent.
Chapter One - August
Irene never based her life on surprises, because she lived in a life that was monotonous. However, were she to change her life so that it would be so, the day in question would shine evidently throughout her other surprises, some number less than ten.
August fifteenth was beautiful for Britain, though Britain was normally the host of harsh winters and morose, dreary days. The sun had made a grand appearance and nearly every home within a forty minute vicinity of London had been deserted to explore the glamourous stores that had been set up.
Irene herself was not someone who bathed in shopping plazas and did not even take pleasures in Hogsmeade; the thing that coaxed her out of the dreary home in London was a maddening urge to buy herself some books. Irene loved reading, as she was not very skilled in athletic activities and made a tradition of buying a large amount of books before traveling to Hogwarts.
It was pure coincidence, then, that Hogwarts letters arrived that very day, and Mrs. Taylor, a very bony and organized woman, was euphoric at the happenstance, for she had not wanted to make a visit after her job in Diagon Alley as a stationary saleswoman on August 31. Luckily, however, the trip would not take too long, for Robert- her graduated, homebound son- had indeed left Hogwarts forever, and it was he who got lost among all of the shops.
Irene was indifferent on the matter, for the most part, though a sly frown painted itself across her face at the mention of her escort, another Hogwarts seventh year named Abraxas Malfoy, a boy who took over the ethics of Robert as he left the school and thus became just as arrogant, pompous, and proud as Robert was.
So it was this that slowed down the morning, Irene stealing minutes from the early schedule by taking time to straighten and comb her hair, though she had very thick hair at heart that was hard to navigate with an iron and comb as her guides.
Irene had not gotten her hair cut for the last two years after a hazardous cut by her brother in her fifth year, leaving her with a bob to suffice. Now, however, her hair had grown to a little over her shoulders, tangles reappearing as her hair grew longer and longer, her brunette locks knotting terribly as time progressed.
Her mother, whose lips were a straight line, loosened when she saw the state Irene was in. Somehow, her mother had taken a fancy to the Malfoy's affairs, and believed Irene to be someone to follow in her footsteps and wed Abraxas. Her hair seemed not to symbol her utter distaste for the boy but exactly the opposite, Mrs. Taylor's scowl strengthening into a smile, and Irene, who had too much heart, did not interject.
"You're only going to be spending a couple of hours in Diagon Alley, dear, so don't get too caught up in the stores," her mother chided, nearly raising her finger in the scold's passion. "I know you like books, and you're going to be tempted by the high heels that Diagon Alley just released, but I have only five galleons to give you so don't get too out of hand." Mrs. Taylor smiled at the look of utmost offense and incredulity on Irene's face, a look she either completely missed or ignored.
"Here's your letter, Irene, oh, don't rip the envelope, it's impolite..."
Irene, who sighed, carefully inched her fingers across the thin envelope, making sure with ease that none of the edges were ripped as to ensure ultimate politeness. The letter, oddly enough, seemed thick, with three pieces of parchment instead of the traditional one.
With curious eyes Irene read the first letter, and for the first time in the morning a slow smile sneaked its way across her face.
'Dear Miss Irene Taylor,
We have sent this letter to notify you on your accomplishment as the newly appointed Head Girl of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. As Head Girl of the school, you will be responsible to assure all Prefects are in the front compartments on the train ride to Hogwarts to discuss your and your peers' responsibilities.
Attached in this envelope is your traditional Hogwarts letter listing specified items you need for your seventh year and the listing of the Prefects in your year so you will be aware as who to call for attendance. Hopefully you will leap to the responsibility of Head Girl and attend to your duties as one.
Mr. Armando Dippet, Headmaster'
"Head Girl, that's incredible!" said Mrs. Taylor, snatching the letter from Irene's hand and reading over it, sighing happily in the process. "Oh, this is just fantastic, you're following in Robert's footsteps, do you want me to call Nancy to celebrate?-"
"Oh, no, mother, it's fine," insisted Irene, flushing furiously at the statement the letter brought on and rereading it fervently, as if she could not believe the words she was reading. "It's not a big deal; Robert's been captain... really, it's fine."
She! Head Girl! How in the world had that happened, for Merlin's sake?!
Irene never fancied herself for what she was, though it wasn't as if she was being completely truthful. Irene was not a completely worthless person like she drew herself out to be, and while she analyzed fervently, she tended to oversee the details about herself that made her fanciable.
Irene didn't like to use words like 'ugly', 'stupid', or 'lame', some of the insults at the time that many children whispered around the school. She never considered herself to be ugly, stupid, or lame, even if she looked down upon herself, simply because those words, in her insecure mind, were neighbors to herself and deserved to be looked down upon just as much.
However, Irene was not ugly, though in blunt fashion she was not beautiful, not even as beautiful as Nancy or Catherine. She had her long, brunette hair, which she never took much time on, save if she straightened it, though it normally was wavy in an embarrassingly messy and tangled way, and unlike the beautiful models who stuck with such a look, it left Irene rather ridiculous, though she chided herself on taking academics over beauty.
Otherwise, Irene had a very pale complexion, similar to her mother's, though her mother only shared that with her, as her mother prided on harsh angles and fiery hair. A freckle or two spotted the surface of her face, though otherwise it stayed clear of blemishes or markings of any kind, giving it a plain, dreary look.
Irene had very large eyes, also, protuberant in a shade of light blue-gray, making it seem as if she had no irises at all. This gave her the look of someone who was immensely shocked about something, though the rest of her face begged to differ with that assumption.
And, finally, her lips were normally very emaciated, sometimes subconsciously, a scowl lining her face at the prospect of such a dreary and morose life. Of course, at a distance, the utter tininess of the frown made it out to be one of confusion and not of distaste; and in the far past Prefects and Head Girls had asked her if she needed directions to her next class or, if she felt sick, if she would like to be led to the Hospital Wing.
Stupid did not describe Irene either, as she obviously held some form of talent to receive the honor of Head Girl. She had easily traipsed throughout her six years in Transfiguration, Dumbledore's class making it very easy for her to learn, though most students, like the Slytherins, did not favor him. History of Magic, she chagrined, she held a horrible standard at, finding it impossible to flow with the monotonous voice that their very old teacher, Professor Binns, contained, seeming as if he had worn so much into the curriculum at Hogwarts that he had a set agenda for every day that he used, routine, year-by-year.
Her grades were not perfect, though the only person in their family to have as good of grades as hers was Catherine, one of her best friends who loved reading books upon books on the study of ancient magical times. Alongside, all of the teachers had lavished in her quirky answers, though the stricter ones, like Slughorn (who only showed lenience to those who played teacher's pet or had solid bloodlines) or Sinistra (a new teacher who had taken the place of her mother with the same name) disliked Catherine for her oddness.
However, Irene held the role of wallflower among the three friends, normally not even getting called on to answer a question or to do a demonstration. In fact, she generally prided herself in taking notes on the classes, having clear and prominent handwriting that the other two did not possess. This made it very easy for them all to study, though as Nancy and Catherine were in Robert's year, they had to study the more complex and difficult writings that Irene was now to learn.
Looking back on it, however, with the help of the older Nancy and Catherine, Irene's grades had held steadfast at somewhere slightly above average; Transfiguration supported her while History of Magic dizzied her and bored her terribly, knocking her balance off-kilter. The two battling outliers balanced her otherwise sturdy grades even more, and she very possibly could have scored fifteenth to twentieth in her year.
As for 'lame', Irene thought the word in itself was ugly and stupid, believing that its definition be a twisted one that the young schoolgirls of her day whispered around during class time. Lame had been invented by some young girl with a sharp tongue, somewhere, and the epidemic truly spread, now reaching her own ears.
Irene, who took role of the observant instead of the observed, saw many people get hit with the insult, something meaning weak and otherwise worthless, and while the word was always said with a rebellious twang, it seemed to depress the first years that got hit with it, their tones either turning defensive or insecure about themselves.
She had never herself been called 'lame', though the word was spreading, contagious, throughout the entire school, including the ever gossipy and enthusiastic Ravenclaw women, who took to whispering many things about people in their friend's ears, sometimes forgetting who they were speaking to and accidentally backstabbing the person in question. This cycle was known as long and relentless; and while Irene wished to escape from it the peppy girls always tried to find ways to convert Irene from wallflower to blooming daisy.
Of course, at any mention of this, for some strange reason unbeknownst to the girls she hardly ever spoke to, her eyes rolled upward towards the ceiling, and the cynical questions that came with being somewhat of an outcast appeared, such as 'Why do I bother?' and 'What more exciting thing could I be doing at this moment?'.
However, despite all of the protests she had against the three words she had just analyzed, Irene hit herself in other ways, though they were not nearly as jubilantly phrased as the catchy, off-the-tongue word 'stupid'. In fact, Irene liked to insult herself with long phrases that strung against each other, and these phrases hurt more than the silly words that schoolgirls had created.
These phrases were not paragraphs, and they were not one liners, but they were certainly something in themselves. For example, when Irene berated herself on a wrongdoing, instead of hitting herself with the petty insult stupid, she would ask herself taunting, riddling questions. Did she really deserve to be fifteenth to twentieth in her year? Why had she been chosen to be born in a halfblood family that had wealth instead of one that was poor and lacked magical talent?
In fact, what gave her the right to be sister to one of the greatest Beaters of all time, or the daughter to the most connected father of all time, or the most charismatic mother of all time? Why was she glued onto the scrapbook of such a perfect family?
'Although,' the rude, biting part of her head inquired, 'although, Robert has no job, your mother scrubs floors to get a customer's attention, and your father is gone-'
She stopped herself right there.
When Irene ever considered meddling in her family's history, she normally came up with the simple result that it was something she shouldn't meddle in, simply because parts of it muddled her own mind and other parts saddened her terribly. Of course, whenever she did bother to think about these things - when she was near sleep, or terribly curious - many facts came to her head, like her father's downfall or her brother's pathetic nature. Most of these facts were introduced and left, but others, like the ones mentioned, floated in her head for years on end...
"Irene," her mother interrupted sharply, and Irene shook her head slightly, as if she had been caught underwater for a time, "Irene, sweetie, please wear something more presentable. I'm sure Nancy has some beautiful dress robes you could wear. Those are so sullied, honey..."
"Mother, I'm going to Diagon Alley," insisted Irene, stroking the letter and folding it in her hands unconsciously. "I don't need a dress to get my Hogwarts supplies... that's rather flashy, isn't it?"
Mrs. Taylor could only offer a smile, as Irene sighed and sank into the chair closest to her.
The truly magical offering that Diagon Alley made as Irene visited it each year was that despite the fact it was much more expensive and crowded than Hogsmeade it still offered the solace of surprising her every time-
"-and, we'll meet him in Flourish and Blotts-"
- even in face of such wrenched company.
The humorous part of the whole tale was that her mother was not even the worst part of the day. Nay, the worst part of the afternoon was sure to come when they met up with Abraxas Malfoy and her mother went to her shop in Diagon Alley.
Of course, however, Diagon Alley never failed to surprise her each and every year she came by, and this year did not disappoint, instead stringing along new, more fashionable stores. The young witches trailed into these excitedly, while the elderly and the men strolled throughout the latest Quidditch store or Florean Fortescue's, the new shop that her mother had renovated for many years.
Irene walked through cautiously, however, as there were many people in Diagon Alley at the time. Of course, the majority of these people were Hogwarts students and their guardian, for the daily strollers of Diagon Alley knew the three-day period of Hogwarts letters would leave the place full, crowded, and very hard to get by.
Today, however, seemed to be the third, for many of the people there were in their sixth or seventh year, trying to flit into Flourish and Blotts before all the mint condition books were sold out. Though the morning was young it seemed as if they had been there for hours, darting in and out of stores so quickly it was if you hadn't seem them at all.
Mrs. Taylor gently grabbed Irene's arm, shoving throughout the angry teenagers and their parents who had been barely moving before this ordeal. Now, however, it was as if Diagon Alley sprung to life with the ripple, though this enthused many to hit onto someone else's shoulder, and so on, and so on.
Irene and her mother, who had been dominating the crowd for quite a time, still got repeatedly hit by a shoulder, or a back, or a front. The crowd was relentless with revenge, the couple getting hit most out of them all, though Mrs. Taylor never ceased moving, instead gripping onto Irene's arm tighter as she tried to navigate towards the bookstore of the popular outlet.
Irene, however, was less off balance than her mother, as she, with her more petite body, much tinier feet, and clumsiness that would have made her father proud, tended to trip much more often than her mother. This caused the grip on Irene's arm to be almost nauseating, though Irene didn't bother to object, for she would rather have a bruise on her arm than scrapes on her legs and hands.
"Oh, here we go-"
Flourish and Blotts was no different.
In fact, considering the fact that people were there for the same reason Irene was, it was actually more crowded, for the line to purchase the books or ask a question had flown completely off the handle. Not a foot of space was free for anyone to step through, and it took Mrs. Taylor every ounce of her patience not to shove the children off of their feet to get her daughter through the terrible crowds.
"Abraxas is over there, dear," said Mrs. Taylor, a sigh of relief - and perhaps fatigue- escaping her lips as her grip on Irene's forearm decreased to such an amount that it was if Mrs. Taylor's bony fingers weren't there at all. Irene could vaguely see bleach-blonde hair amongst the brunettes and redheads groveling around him, and Irene grimaced involuntarily at the predicament ahead of her and what she knew the day would consist of: Abraxas Malfoy. "I'll see you at three, dear."
And, just like that, she was gone, and Irene sighed at the man approaching her, a sharp smirk making up the expression of his face, alongside the raised, angled eyebrows and the incredulous look in his eyes, as if he couldn't believe he would have to spend the next five hours with Irene Taylor.
Abraxas Malfoy could not be considered unattractive to the unbiased eye, though all that met him were intoxicated by the arrogant atmosphere the boy brought about himself. He had very angled features, and there were no curves on his body, instead being replaced by sharp lines and jagged angles. His eyebrows were barely visible, for, like his hair, they were a very bright blonde. His lips nearly always held a smirk on them, because he always believed he was correct and everyone else was not, or they held a scowl due to the hardships in the boy's life.
Irene thoroughly disliked him.
"Abraxas- oof!" Irene exclaimed, interrupting her formal greeting by being shoved sharply to the right by an impatient mother with piles of books in her hands. Irene looked over expectedly, as if she hoped the woman would apologize, but instead Irene was left looking at another person who had taken the impolite mother's place.
Over the years of being somewhat of an outcast, Irene had learned not to expect much of people. Any time something of interest happened in her life, she had grown to learn that people would not care about it, for people were very self-absorbed and tended to only pay attention to their own needs and wants.
Unfortunately, however, there was a habit that she had yet to kick: the hopefulness that she more often than not had. While she knew that she shouldn't expect anything from people, at some times, she couldn't help herself. Hope was normally disappointed in her endeavors, though when it tasted gratitude, it was sweet.
"Irene!" Abraxas interrupted Irene's thoughts, a chuckle leaving his mouth as he examined the situation; from Irene's frazzled expression to the people pushing her every which way to the grimace she always seemed to have whenever she saw him. For reasons unknown, however, no one seemed to be in his way, as if there were signs warning anyone that dared cross his path.
"Where are we going first?" said Irene angrily, rearranging the knapsack on her shoulder. The knapsack in itself was raggedy and sewn together with varied shades of red in an attempt to finish the piece. Abraxas looked at this piece with amusement, as he always did, alongside looking at her with equal mirth.
"I thought that you, as a Ravenclaw- and, from what I see, Head Girl- would equip you with at least an ounce of brain power. Irene, sweetie, where do you think we are? Did you possibly think we were going to wait until all of the books were sold out?"
Irene scowled, nodding tartly in the process. "Meet me outside in twenty minutes, or I'm leaving without you," she warned, nearly pointing a finger from her mother's recurring genes. "I don't care if you get caught in line, or if, Merlin forbid, someone pushes your shoulder-"
Abraxas stepped forward, narrowing his eyes. He looked particularly dangerous in such a stance, and as his ego walked hand in hand with his temperamental behavior, he was a force to be beckoned with when he was furious- and because of this power he was furious a majority of the time.
"If you even dare speak to me that way again, you'd best say goodbye to meeting your mother at three," he hissed. "Stay quiet this whole time. If you even start to open your mouth, I'll abandon you. Make haste, honey, we've got seventeen minutes until I leave without you." He finished this angry monologue with a bitter smirk, turning away from Irene and walking to get his books himself.
Irene frowned, a combination of anger, worry, sadness, and fear cascading over her face; anger for her hatred of the boy, worry over how tight Abraxas' patience would stretch before it broke, sadness because of her lack of courage to change the situation, and fear because despite the boy's large ego he never ceased to truly frighten her.
The next sixteen and fifty seconds in Flourish and Blotts were a disaster. The rivalry between Irene and Abraxas to beat the other was maddening to the both of them, and they both shoved various people out of the way, Abraxas rudely, Irene with an apology sliding off of her lips almost instantly.
As it turned out, after fifteen minutes had passed, Abraxas, with his aggressiveness, had reached such a lead against Irene that she began to stare at the clock above anxiously every five seconds. She held a pile of books in her hands, but the line was very long, and if she was lucky, she would escape within the next five minutes.
And when Abraxas passed Irene in line, triumphantly carrying his books as the clock chimed another minute, she didn't even bother to meet his eyes, instead looking downcast at her books, a light flush coming to her face as she predicted a smirk on his. She shuffled uncomfortably in the line, an eleven year old and a mother with three children ahead of her.
"No, my mom's here-" insisted the eleven year old angrily, pulling out five galleons and placing them on the table. "What's wrong, I don't look old enough? You think there's a law against buying books?"
"Excuse me, sir," nagged the woman ahead of Irene, "we have a lot of places to go, and I would mind if we could get this done quicker, you know, Diagon Alley is always so crowded, and I only have two hours... young sir, would it be okay if I took your spot in line so I could get out quicker?"
"Hey, now, settle down, lady," grumbled the shopkeeper. "Wait in line just like everyone else, and you'll get yer turn just like everyone else, yeah? Five, ten, minutes, maybe your kids won't need a sundae from Fortescue's in that time-"
'Oh, sir, I have an agenda just like everyone else, you know, and I'm damned to be lost if Abraxas, he's my wanker of an escort, doesn't wait for me, which, I can assure you, he will not... oh, and if I don't get to him in time, he'll go to my mother and tell my mother some crack-and-bull story... and then, you see, this is the best part, she'll tell me that I'm acting crazy, because he is, after all, my mother's choice for my fiance, even though I hate his guts-'
"Hey, lady, move up!"
Irene jumped, the books nearly falling out of her hand, a spontaneous blush coming to her face as she awkwardly scuffled to the front of the line, placing her books on the table. The shopkeeper sent her a glare, most likely for riling up the customers behind her, and her face turned a dark red, clumsily putting galleons on the counter in front of her.
"Sir," she muttered, grabbing the books in their hands as his stubby fingers stole the galleons, "Do you know what time it is?" She nervously hugged her books, her eyebrows furrowing as he gave an exasperated sigh and pointed at the clock.
Quarter after ten.
She was ten minutes late, and considering that Abraxas had left the shop fifteen minutes before, she would have to hope someone had held him back from escaping the scene without her. Because of her worry of his absence, she nearly ran out of the shop, angering many people in the process who were angry about the current situation they were still stuck in.
When she reached the blistering outdoors she examined the scenery in its entirety, from the cloudless skies to the stores ahead to the many people who were shoving past her to get to their own personal destinations. Despite all of these things she noticed, however, she saw no hint of bleach-blonde hair.
"Excuse me, ma'am," Irene quietly interjected, but the woman, whatever her name was, continued talking to her friend next to her. Irene did this for many minutes, though a part of her conscience nagged that she could be wasting time in which she could have gone back to her mother and explain the situation.
Irene sighed, craning her neck left and right for a glimpse of the boy, though she was left disappointed, and she started to frown, rearranging the heavy knapsack on her shoulder. She paced in a circle, giving it one last shot before she went to fetch her mother-
A sound bump interrupted her train of thought, and she nearly cursed aloud, turning around to involuntarily apologize and to ask for one last time where her escort was. Her knapsack interjected at this, bumping against her ribs impatiently, and she subconsciously rolled her eyes at herself for her utter clumsiness.
The boy in question who had bumped into her was at least six inches taller than her, and he appeared to be uninterested, pushing past her to Flourish and Blotts. She had indefinitely seen him before- he was a seventh year and he generally stayed quiet during classes she had had with him- but she had never honestly spoken to him before, and, as she prided herself on being an outsider, she didn't even have the grace of knowing his name.
She did a double-take, her eyes alternating between Flourish and Blotts and the boy, and, indistinctively, though much more flustered and quiet than she could have fathomed, "You, um, might want to wait before you go inside. The crowd's terrible."
The boy paused for a fraction of a second, though, as it seemed, in arrogance, he continued anyway, almost instantly being shoved by children and mothers alike. He sighed, pausing again for a second or two, before determinedly shoving his way throughout the crowd to get his books.
Meanwhile, however, Irene was jogging away, people yelling in agitation as she scavenged towards Florean Fortescue's, her thoughts once again drifting away from her as they normally always did. This was a form of entertaining herself, and as she hadn't had much of a social life, it had grown into a bit of a habit.
Irene had only heard about the butterfly effect a rare amount of times, and normally in passing, but if anyone had asked her about it she could give them a rough description of what it actually was. The subject was a strange one on Irene's head, but whenever she analyzed it, it brought upon lots of questions.
Irene wasn't sure if her own personal butterfly effect had started when she had woken up later than usual and immediately realized she would be escorted by the ever-pompous and absolutely burdening Abraxas Malfoy, causing her to straighten her hair and causing her mother to lend her more trust in her patience than she had, and causing her to get into gallons of trouble when she finally met her mother. Maybe this whole cycle had started earlier, when she had mended her patched-up, raggedy knapsack.
But, even as Irene was blissfully unaware, a butterfly, somewhere, was flying out of its cocoon in the name of Irene's seventh year in Hogwarts, excited for everything that its wings were bound to cause. This butterfly, possibly, could have been less exotic than it was...
... but the meeting of a strange boy she hardly knew, a curiosity that was ignited, and a badge tucked securely on her Hogwarts uniform, there was only one thing to be sure of, and the butterfly flapped its wings in agreement, flying, ready to start the insane cycle.
Seventh year would never quite be the same.
A/N: And that's it! Chapter two is already in the works (5/8 pages and then some) so it shouldn't be too long of a wait. Thanks for reading!!
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