Chapter 1 : Keep Breathing
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Free will: The power of independent action and choice: the ability to act or make choices as a free and autonomous being and not solely as a result of compulsion or predestination
Determinism: Belief that everything is caused: the doctrine or belief that everything, including every human act, is caused by something and that there is no real free will
It is said that we have the free will to make our own decisions, carve our own path. However, others say that our lives are pre-determined for us by a greater force, whether that be God, Nature, or a series of coincidental causes that come to fruition in a action and/or reaction, we do not know for sure.
Which is true? I suppose we’ll never know. But in my belief it is a mix of both. Sometimes we are put in situations that are in no way under our control, a situation that has been caused by something, which in turn was caused by something else, that we had absolutely no control, and possibly no knowledge of. But then comes the free will. While in this situation you have a choice to make, this is your chance to change your path, if ever so slightly. Do you take the easy route? Or the hard route? Do you choose to let your path be carved by others? Or do you grab life by the reigns and take control?
The choice is harder than you expect.
When I look back on my life so far I see that I had many choices that could have changed my path, to go against what was being forced upon me. But I didn’t. Why? Well, to be honest, I was scared. Terrified even. As a child I was scared of what would happen if I went against them, if I showed any defiance. Fear trapped me, controlled what I did. I suppose in a way I was determined by my fear.
As I grew older I learnt how to control and hide how I truly felt behind a face of cold indifference. To the outside world I seemed aloof, mysterious, remote, and more than a little unfriendly. Really, I’m trying to protect myself, not just from being found out by my so-called family, but from making emotional attachments, from the pain that it will ultimately bring.
I lay lazily on my 4-poster bed, staring at the white-washed ceiling while trying to find the energy to head downstairs. “Miss. Isabella…It is time for Miss. Isabella to go to school.” I heard my house elf, Missy, say from beside my bed.
I groaned loudly. “Mistress says you must go down now, if Missy doesn’t get you down she will be angry at Missy. Please, Miss Isabella.”
I sighed and sat up, “Tell my mother that I will be down momentarily Missy.” I said.
“Yes, Miss. Isabella.” Missy said, and then she disappeared with a pop. I headed over to the mirror and inspected my hair, and then mentally kicked myself. Why should I care about my hair? I was being shipped off to some school in the Scottish highlands, from the cultured halls of Beauxbatons to the uncouth corridors of Hogwarts. At least at Beauxbatons I could show a slither of my true self due to the lack of English pureblood families reigning over the halls. But at Hogwarts? Well, there are the Blacks, Lucius Malfoy, Rabastan LeStrange, Evan Rosier, and my elder brother- by a year- Quentin. I’ll have to keep the mask on that I’ve worn all summer for a whole year now. I mean, it's not as if I could act like myself at Beauxbatons, the opposite actually, but at least there I wasn’t continually graded on how good a pureblood I was, or how good a wife I would make, or whatever they wanted to see in me.
I glared at my reflection, and silently cursed myself for my years of cowardice. Perhaps this was my chance. My chance to be who I want to be, to show then exactly what I really think of them.
What am I thinking? Defiance equals death. That has been indoctrinated into my mind since I was a child. I am either with them or I’m…
I shook my head, mentally slapping myself. I moved my fingers through my hair and then put it in a low ponytail, securing it with a clip before grabbing my long black coat and heading downstairs.
My mother stood stoically next to my brother who just looked bored. My father was not there, as expected. I’d seen him rarely over the summer, why should I expect to see him now?
“Took you long enough.” Quentin said.
“So sorry brother.” I said sarcastically.
“Are you ready?” My mother asked.
I nodded. “Your brother will apparate you both to the train station,” She said, “Goodbye Isabella,” She stepped forward and kissed me formally on the cheeks, “Be a good girl.”
My mother is not maternal. Her face is always the same emotionless canvas, she is stoic, and guarded.
Quentin stepped forward and took hold of my wrist and before I knew it I was feeling the uncomfortable sensation of side-long apparition. We appeared on platform 9¾, and I snatched my arm from my brothers hands. “Could you not have warned me?”
“You sound like a mudblood Isabella.” He said, his voice passive.
That is supposed to be an insult…
I suppressed an eye roll, and instead started fiddling with my gloves. “I need to go speak to someone,” Quentin said, “Go find Bellatrix and Lucius and sit with them.”
It was an order, not a request.
He then walked into the crowd, his walk filled with haughty arrogance. I glared at his back, and then started walking towards the train. However, through no fault of my won, someone, some boy came running right into me, and I fell to the ground in a rather ungraceful manner. I cursed under my breath.
“Sorry… I wasn’t looking where I was going.” The person said from above me.
“Maybe you should start then.” I muttered.
“Look… I’m sorry… let me help you up.”
“I’m quite alright, thank you.” I said pushing myself up and brushing off my coat.
I then looked at the boy who had knocked me over. I suppose he was not a boy, he looked about my age. He was a little taller than me with sandy brown hair and tired blue eyes, he also had a few faint scars on his face.
“You’re new right?” He said, “I’m Remus Lupin.” He put his hand out for me to shake.
“Isabella.” I said, shaking his hand for a couple of seconds.
“I’m really sorry… if there’s anything I can do…” He began.
However, he was unable to finish what he was saying as we were rudely interrupted by a voice I most definitely recognised, even after all these years.
“Hey Moony, who’s the chick?”
I slowly turned around, and raised a perfect eyebrow at the young man now standing before me. Sirius Black. A pureblood. But apparently he’s somewhat of a blood traitor now. He’s very good-looking, with the aristocratic, somewhat haughty Black good looks. I was impressed by how he had grown. I hadn’t seen him for over 6 years, and he had become a very handsome young man.
“Bella?” He said, his eyebrows furrowing in confusion. I winced at his use of my old nickname. I hadn’t been called Bella in years. It was so… informal, intimate… I don’t allow anyone to call me ‘Bella’.
“Sirius.” I said formally.
“What are you… doing here?” He asked.
“My parents believed it was better that I join a school where there are more… positive influences around.” I said, keeping my voice even, my eyes direct.
No flicker of emotion, no sign of weakness. They are the rules.
“Positive influences?” He said, and then he rolled his eyes, “And I always thought you were better than that.” He looked a little angry.
“Better than what Sirius?” I asked, “I have no idea what you’re talking to.”
“You know exactly what I’m talking about, Bella.” he said.
“I’m sorry Black but…”
“Black? You’re calling me Black?”
“I haven’t seen you in over 6 years, what can you really expect?”
No emotion. It was better that way.
“I suppose I shouldn’t have expected anything, Bennet.” He said, his voice spiteful.
That stung more than I expected, or wanted, it to. He caught my eyes with his. Even when I was younger I was always intrigued by his grey, fathomless eyes. I blinked and looked away.
“Goodbye Black.” I turned and headed straight onto the train.
I did as I had been told I went and found the older Slytherins compartment. Bellatrix, Lucius, Rabastan, Evan, and Regulus Black were already there. Regulus Black looks similar to his brother, I suppose, if less handsome, and he is in the year below me. Bellatrix, Lucius, Rabastan and Evan are all in 7th year with Quentin.
“Isabella, nice of you to join us.” Lucius said.
“Lucius.” I said, sitting down next to the door, Bellatrix to my right.
“We were so glad to hear you were finally coming to Hogwarts.” Bellatrix said, “It must have been awful in that school with a half-breed for a headmistress.”
“Almost unbearable.” I lied, taking a keen interest in my nails.
“You’ll do well here.” Lucius said, “As long as you are sorted into Slytherin.”
“Where else will she be sorted?” Evan scoffed.
“We can’t expect anything, not after Sirius.” Bellatrix hissed. I saw Regulus pale slightly at the mention of his estranged brother.
“He needs to be taught a lesson.” Rabastan said, “He thinks he and his little friends rule this school. He is sadly mistaken.”
“This year, don’t worry.” Bellatrix said, her voice highly malicious.
“Weren’t you friends with him when you were a child?” Lucius asked, his naturally suspicious eyes resting on me.
“Friends is a word used too loosely now-a-days.” I said, “We were acquainted, I suppose.”
I expected Regulus to contradict me, he knew how close Sirius and I used to be.
But he didn’t. Strange.
“Well, as long as you're not acquainted now.” Evan said, eyeing me.
“We are not.” I said, glaring at him, challenging him to say something. I happen to have a very good glare. I think it comes from my maternal grandmother.
Quentin entered the compartment looking quite unhappy, and took a seat between Lucius and Evan. “What’s wrong with you?” I asked.
“That is none of your business little sister.” He said.
But from his tone I could tell it was my business, but he just didn’t want to tell me. So I just narrowed my eyes at him, and took a book from my bag; ‘Wuthering Heights’ by Emily Bronte. Did you know that the Bronte sisters were actually witches? No? Well, they were. Which is why I’m allowed to read their books. Although I’ve secretly read a few muggle novels, stuff by Jane Austen and Orson Wells. Anyway, I’ve read ‘Wuthering Heights’ many times and never get bored of it. The story of Cathy and Heathcliff intrigues me, their love is so passionate, yet so dangerous, and it turns Heathcliff into a monster, yet I find it somewhat… comforting that even they can find love- however short it may be in the end.
I flipped open the worn book, trying to immerse myself in Ms. Bronte’s world, and escape from my own.
When we reached Hogwarts I was thoroughly fed up, and my mood was only growing crabbier. I was dreading having to spend the next year with these people. And now I had to be sorted with all the small first years, everyone would be looking at me. And, to add insult to injury, the uniform. The damn uniform. As you can tell, I dislike it immensely.
I was impressed by the castle however, to my surprise, it wasn’t as haughty or as showy as Beauxbatons, but it had a ancient feeling about it that made you feel like you were a part of something.
I was separated from my brother and his friends and stood with the first years who looked terrified of what was to come. I felt completely out of place, but I’ve learnt not to care what people think of me.
Professor McGonagall, deputy head mistress of Hogwarts, told us to follow her into the hall. I didn’t let my nerves take hold, I squashed them down, as I’d done my whole life, and entered the Great Hall with as much dignity as I could muster. I suppose from an outsiders point of view I looked arrogant and I suppose I was a little bit arrogant, but when you have to act a certain way all the time it sort of becomes second nature.
I felt a sudden sense of forboding when my name was called first and the old, smelly hat was placed on my head. I tried to ignore it, but found it gnawing at my insides.
‘Ah, Miss. Bennet, welcome, welcome.’ the hat said in my head. ‘We’ve been waiting for you.’
“Excuse me?” I whispered.
‘Now, I know, and you know that you do not belong in Slytherin.’ It said.
‘Perhaps Ravenclaw, you are very clever.’ It interrupted, ‘But you lack the care for your work that they want…’
‘Not enough,’ It said, ‘Not Hufflepuff, definitely not Hufflepuff. You’ve spent too long hiding your kindness under a façade of coldness to fit in well there.’
“Gee, thanks.” I muttered.
‘Well, only one option left.’
“No,” I whispered, “No. No. No.”
‘You’re brave, resourceful, good Gryffindor material.’ It said, “GRYFFINDOR.” It then shouted, and my heart stopped. My eyes drifted over to the Slytherin table where my brother sat and I saw how angry he was. I looked away and stood up, cursing the hat silently, hoping it’d just set on fire. Then I mentally slapped myself, and adopted my cold, uncaring façade again and made my way to the end of the Gryffindor table. I could feel many members of Slytherin glaring at me, but ignored it. The forboding had evolved into full grown panic.
As the first years started getting sorted I sat drumming my fingers on the table, attempting to figure out how I was going to sort all of this out. I’d been sorted into Gryffindor, the enemy house of Slytherin. This showed something, something very bad. How was I going to fix this?
I couldn’t fix this.
Unless I went out and killed a few muggle-borns. Which I wouldn’t do. Ever.
I knew coming here was a bad idea. One word from a stupid damn hat had ruined everything I had so carefully worked for my whole life. Hats shouldn’t be able to talk, especially hats that can ruin your life. I was standing precariously on a cliff, and behind me stood many people wanting to throw me off.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw Sirius talking animatedly with his friends, he leaned back and laughed his bark like laugh, his dark hair falling into his eyes with a sort of casual elegance. When he had been sorted into Gryffindor, his family, and many others, were outraged. But with me it’ll be different. There was a chance they’d kill me. A chance they’d lock me up somewhere waiting for the time when they can use me. I could see so many bad endings for myself, but none good. My family would not let this stand. The Dark Lord would not let this stand. Once my parents found out… I took a deep breath and shook my head… I couldn’t think about that. Not then anyway. I just had to survive my brother and his friends.
When the sorting was finished and the feast began I stared at the amazing food that had appeared before me. Better than Beauxbatons by a mile. I always hated French food.
But I couldn’t bare to eat. I leant on my elbows and rubbed my forehead.
I looked up and saw Sirius suddenly sitting opposite me.
“You want to sign my death warrant, Black?” I hissed, “I can’t talk to you.”
He rolled his eyes, “Melodramatic much?”
“You have no idea, Black.”
“Oh, I have an idea. You are a coward.”
“They are angry at you.” he then said, looking over my shoulder. “When I was sorted into Gryffindor I got a few glares, a disownment from my mother. But they…”
“And you talking to me isn’t helping,” I said, “Now go away, I need to think how to fix this.”
“Why do you need to fix this?” He asked, “This way you can escape.”
I laughed, “Escape? Ha. I can never escape Sirius. They won’t let me. If I could’ve escaped I would have done it long ago, instead of spending the last few years having to listen to them drone on and on about their wonderful dark lord, and all their sick and twisted beliefs, having to make them believe I believed them too…” I shook my head, “There is nothing I can do except try and make my life as easy as possible. But that stupid damn hat has ruined everything.”
“What happened to you?” He asked.
“I grew up,” I said, “I grew up and realised that I couldn’t be that carefree, happy child anymore. I had to be what they wanted me to be otherwise I’d be dealt with very quickly, and very thoroughly.”
He frowned, and then looked me directly in the eye, “I missed you Bella.”
That caught me off guard. Very off guard. “You shouldn’t have.”
“Tell me you didn’t miss me Bella,” He said. “Tell me you never thought about me.”
I could tell him that. But I’d be lying. I had missed him. He was my closest friend when I was a child, my confidant. And I thought about him a lot. Of course I did.
“Fleetingly,” I finally said, “Rarely. At first. But after a while I all but forgot about you.”
It was cruel of me to say that. But it had to be done. He had to stay away from me to protect the both of us. It was for the best.
He just looked at me unbelieving, and then narrowed his eyes. The anger in his eyes stung, I could not deny that. “Fine,” He then said, standing up, “Its seems I’ve finally seen the real you.”
“Yes,” I said emotionlessly, “It seems you have.”
He clenched his fists, and the muscles in his jaw visibly tensed, he then turned in one swift movement and went back to his friends.
It was only then that I noticed the many curious eyes looking my way, and not just from the Slytherin table…