Once again, the tired boy came by. I scowled slightly. This time he knocked, smiling sheepishly and tried to open the door. His face faltered when he realised that it was locked. I had half a mind to wave him away, but decided he’d tried enough, and went to open the door for him.
I raised my eyebrow at him silently, waiting for him to speak.
“Erm, hi,” he said finally, one hand reaching up to rub the back of his neck nervously. “Erm, do you want some company?”
My first instinct told me to tell him ‘no,’ slam the door and lock it again. And I very nearly did, my hand twitching on the handle. But at second thought, I figured I’d let him try. So many others had, but failed miserably to get me to actually speak. And it was strangely amusing to watch them fall, on occasion – I was pretty sure my cat agreed.
I still didn’t say anything, but shrugged and went back to my seat at the window. At first, he seemed not to know what to do. I watched him intently as Bart jumped down from where he had been curled up and weaved through his leg, purring loudly. At least one of us approved of the newcomer’s bravery. I crossed one leg over the other, and then let my gaze wander to the blurred outside flashing past the window.
“Come in,” I said almost inaudibly. Had my voice almost gone extinct from its lack of use? Perhaps it would be better that way. He didn’t hear me, though, because he didn’t acknowlege my greeting, but took Bart’s greeting as a sign to sit down anyway.
“Erm,” he said again. Not much the sweet talker, I thought. Then what the hell was he doing here? Of course, then he seemed to find words. Few words, but still more than I planned on using for the entirety of this encounter. “I’m Remus. Remus Lupin.”
Alright, Remus. Not a bad name. But Lupin? Really. More like ‘Loopy.’ I brought my eyes back to him.
Then I remembered: when someone introduces themselves to you, you’re supposed to do the same. Gone were the days when everyone knew to leave the quiet loner girl to herself and her cat: gone the occurences when everyone already knew my name anyway, because of my mother and her attempts to find me a half-decent ‘beau’ through her various ‘connections.’
“Sydney,” I said, my voice suddenly loud and extremely awkward. Obviously not good, from the way his eyes had widened and he’d flinched slightly. I cleared my throat and tried again. I could feel my face grow hot. “Sydney Ryan.” I said at a normal tone and volume.
Remus smiled at my random outburst, and my repetition of my name. I thought at first that he was laughing at me, but then he said, “That’s a nice name,” and then the awkwardness returned, to my invisible dismay.
A moment of silence. Then, “So, you’re new at Hogwarts, Sydney?”
I nodded, afraid that my voice would be drowned out by the sound of the train on the tracks, which wasn’t too loud to begin with, or vice versa. Nodding was safe enough.
Remus nodded too. “We thought so. My friends and I, I mean,” he added quickly. “Next door… hem, so where were you before?”
“Bridget Wenlock Academy.” I replied. My voice was still extremely quiet, but he could hear me, at least, and I wasn’t shouting.
“So you’re from Ireland?” he asked further.
I nodded again.
“Well, why are you suddenly at Hogwarts?” He suddenly prodded. Again his eyes widened, apparently in shock of his own blurting, and quickly added, “Not that there’s any complaint or anything…”
“Moved,” I answered, to the point.
“Oh,” he replied. “Where to?”
“Is it nice there?”
I nodded yet again. Openly curious, this one was. He then asked Bart’s name and how old he was, as the cat came and sat in his lap and purred again.
“Bartholomew. He’s twelve.” I told him.
“Rather old for a cat, then, isn’t he?” Remus asked, quirking an eyebrow, holding his hand up to my only friend’s nose for him to sniff. Then slowly, the boy trailed his fingers down the feline spine.
I shrugged in response. Bart mewed softly at Remus, then came to sit in my own lap. I scratched him behind the ears, regarding the boy across me carefully again. I wondered if Remus was uncomfortable with our two pairs of pale blue eyes scrutinizing him; I’ve been told it’s quite intimidating. A slight amount of smugness tugged at my face when he shifted in his seat, Bartholomew’s purring now loud enough to fill the cabin with its resonance.
Remus was clearly trying to find something else to talk about. He decided on my book, which was laying closed on the seat beside me.
“What are you reading?” he asked, looking away from Bart and I to the book, and then back to me. Edginess. Good. He’d be gone within the next ten minutes, I hoped.
“Moon Myths,” I replied. “Muggle book about strange occurences at the full moon.”
“Oh,” he nodded, though his tone gave away his curiosity as to why I would be reading such a book.
“I like werewolves.” I said, setting him straight for the record. It was all the explanation that I felt was needed, and that I would be giving, simple as that.
“Ah,” He said comprehensively, but he sounded more uncomfortable with the subject than I did with the whole conversation in general. Curious, how emotions could be portrayed with less than a word. Remus shifted in his seat, looking out the window, which was dark. He realised that his hair was a mess and attempted to flatten it with the reflection on the dark glass. I tried not to laugh.
I paused for a moment in my mind. Tried not to? I couldn’t recall the last time that I’d genuinely smiled, let alone even fake laughed. I don’t think I had smiled last since I had received Bart from my mother in an attempt to get me to open up more. And that was when I had been five years old. Being that I was on the brink of seventeen now... This could not be a good thing at all.
Remus looked at me again, his face flushed. “Sorry,” he said.
I shrugged as if to say “not a problem.” His face started to return to its normal color.
“D’you know what house you’re in yet?” Remus asked.
My eyebrow shot up curiously. “Sorry?” I replied.
“Oh, Hogwarts Houses,” Remus started to explain that students were “sorted” by a Sorting Hat into four houses, which determined their dormitories, their class schedules and the like. Each house had its own colors - which explained the previous muliticolored ties at the train station- and its own qualities, which determined the Hat’s choice.
“My friends next door and I, we’re all in Gryffindor.” He added. “ ‘Bravery and chivalry,’ that’s what the Hat told us in first year.” He indicated the red and gold plated badge on his chest, a large ‘P’ printed on it, along with a smaller inscription of the entire word, ‘Prefect’. I nodded, trying to act like I was actually interested. The concept of prefects wasn’t exactly new to me. “I’m a Prefect, and James, he’s Quidditch Captain for Gryffindor…”
Oh, Quidditch. Every teenage wizard’s religion. Bloody Hell, if he started to talk about it, on and on like every other bloke I’d ever met… It’s all that ever got talked about in my house, what with my father being a part-owner and former player of the Irish International team. As a result of that, every one of my ‘acquaintances’ courtesy of my lovely mother thought that I was just like them, in the field of being obsessed with the sport.
I think not.
“…but he’s yet to get us a victory,” Remus finished. I hadn’t even listened to a word he’d said, really, after ‘Quidditch Captain.’ “He’s a good player, no doubt, and so is the rest of the team, but they always just choke around finals. Also-”
I hadn’t realised the my gaze – and my attention – had drifted away while he’d been talking. But he must have asked me a question, because he was watching me expectantly.
“Oh, pardon,” I said. “What?”
“D’you play Quidditch?” he asked.
I shook my head, and hoped with everything I was worth that he didn’t ask why.
He didn’t, thank Merlin. “Well, that’s alright. We’re not all fliers, are we?” He said, smiling and seeming much more comfortable. “I’m alright at flight, but I wouldn’t exactly be the one to go to with help on the subject, you know?
Once again, I nodded. “Sure.” I hadn’t said that I couldn’t fly – I’d learned how about the same time as walking. I just sort of had a problem with flying around on a broomstick dodging other people on broomsticks and bewitched cannonballs.
“Do you support Ireland’s team then?” Remus asked, and he received another nod. He didn’t seem to mind my lack of speech.
Eventually, Remus’ friends came over – immediately I felt overwhelmed. They were ten times louder, ten times more obnoxious, just ten times more in person. But not long after they’d arrived, the train slowed and came to a halt at the station in Hogsmeade. I moved to grab my things, but the Marauders, as they so called themselves, told me not to, that our stuff was taken up to the castle during the Welcoming Feast. I joined them in one of the horseless carriages up to the castle.
“Ever been to the charming village of Hogsmeade, Sydney?” James – the one with the glasses – asked me. I shook my head.
“Perhaps dear Remus could escort you and show you around,” Sirius suggested. He was the not-to-subtle waver. He nudged Remus with his elbow at his comment, and I almost… smiled again. My expression was very relaxed, and I knew it couldn’t be long until these four actually got me to smile.
The only other thing that was strange about this was that I made no plan to avoid smiling in their presence.
Sydney had to go up to the headmaster’s office with Dumbledore before the feast straightaway when we got into the castle. So the guys and I went into the Great Hall with all the other returning students and sat at our house table.
“Hoping she’s in Gryffindor, I suppose, Moony?” one of them asked me. I couldn’t tell if it was Sirius or James, because I wasn’t paying attention.
“Sure,” I said absentmindedly.
“Somehow she didn’t strike me as a Lion,” James or Sirius then said. Looking up finally, I saw that James was the second speaker. “Awfully shy, wasn’t she?”
“A Hufflepuff, then?” Peter piped. “Isn’t that one of the qualities?”
Sirius shook his head. “I’d wager she’s a ‘Claw,” he said. “She’s probably one of those mad silent-type prodigies.”
“That’s a fair point,” James said, nodding.
About five minutes later, Dumbledore entered the hall, and Sydney was behind him, her dark raven hair a great contrast to the shining silver of his beard. There were still a few straggling second- and third-years running in as well. The Headmaster pointed out each house table and the banners, seeming to explain each one. Then, he patted Sydney on the shoulder kindly and headed to his place at the center of the Head Table. Sydney stayed where she was, looking as though she was contemplating running away instead of going to sit down. Again, I was entranced, and again, my reverie was broken by the voice of one of my friends.
“Oh, look. There she is,” Peter said, pointing at her for the others. We all watched her, though I was only half listening to what they were saying now.
She caught my eye, and I smiled at her. Her expression did not display a smile, but I could tell that she was somewhat relieved to be in the Hall. I thought at first that she was coming towards the Gryffindor House table, abut then she turned – she had a graceful, confident walk… -- to…
“Slytherin?” James, Sirius and Peter said simultaneously, bewildered.
And indeed, Sydney had turn and sat at the end of the table under the serpent banners.
I was disappointed, needless to say. I couldn’t tell from her expression - before she sat down, her back to me - how she felt about being in the pureblooded house, nor did I have a chance to run across the hall to ask her about it before the Great Hall’s doors burst open again to admit Professor McGonagall and the long line of first years to be sorted behind her.
The Sorting Hat sang its song, the first years were sorted, and the feast began. I tried to join all the excited chatter - which was mostly gravitating around the events of everyone’s holidays – but instead I just ate my supper, discovering after my first bite of food that I was ravenous. At the end of the feast, I almost forgot that I was supposed to help first years find their way up to Gryffindor Tower, so in the end I was showing five stragglers the way to the Fat Lady’s portrait.
Giving the correct password to the portrait, I added to them, “The password changes from time to time, too. If you think you have the wrong one just ask any of the prefects, they’ll know.” My tone was a little less friendly than I’d meant it to be, and the five new students darted off as soon as the last word had left my mouth.
The other Marauders were in the middle of the common room, and having nicked some more desserts from the kitchens, were starting up the usual separate welcoming party for the first years. Usually it was the Prefects who organised it, but since I’d been named Prefect they’d started to take over. Not that I, nor any of the other Lion Prefects, had had a problem with that.
I sighed, and tried to get straight up the boys’ staircase to go to bed. That plan was cut short when Sirius grabbed me round the neck and dragged me into the middle of a crowd of people, thrusting a Butterbeer into my hand. I was trapped amongst the loud conversation, for a little while at least.
By the time I finally got up to the dormitory to sleep, Sydney was back on my mind. Not that she had really left. I wondered if she’d made any acquaintances yet, and got a strange, bad feeling that she had probably already been roped by Sirius’ cousin Narcissa. It was not a comforting notion.
I drifted into a sort of half-sleep, hearing my dormmates come in together long after midnight. The next morning I felt more exhausted than the weeks of the full moon.