Chapter 2 : And the Beginning Begins
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Bette Gillis looked up at the grand red train before her, smoke billowing out of the huge steam engine, gold lining its wheels and doors. She smiled contentedly. It was always satisfying when the real thing turned out to be as wonderful as the Sight of it. In fact, it was satisfying with the Sight turned out to be a real sight in the first place.
Students of all sizes were queuing up in front of the train's doors. Pulling her trunk and carrying a bookbag on one shoulder, Bette joined the line near the back of the train. In her pocket, she bore a many-times folded letter written on parchment, in green ink.
Dear Ms. Gillis,
We welcome you to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft of Wizardry. Please see the attached list for supplies you will need to bring to the School with you. Your situation is unusual, and you are joining us at your sixth year, but we do not expect any less excellence in your lessons and school work than we would in any other pupil. We have been made aware of your situation, and the accommodations have been set in place.
Sincerely, Minerva McGonagall
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
The attached list had long been thrown away, but tucked inside the letter was another sheet of parchment, written with a different, loopy handwriting.
May I offer you my congratulations upon your entrance to Hogwarts. I have written your schedule out according to our conversation prior. You will be rooming and schooling with the Gryffindor House, so please inform Madam Malkin of this fact. Perhaps, at a better time, we may have been able to properly Sort you, but according to you… well, less said in a letter, the better.
I do not need to ask you to retain your anonymity, as you have successfully done so for six years.
Albus Wulfric Percival Brian Dumbledore
P.S. I enjoy cockroach clusters.
The train shrieked its short notice of departure, and Bette smiled as she handed lifted her trunk up the steps and into the narrow corridor.
She was going to Hogwarts.
The novelty started to wear off after the train had started, and Bette had yet to find a place to stow her trunk and sit. On what seemed like her tenth time down the corridor, she spotted a three-quarters full compartment in the corner of the second car. Making her way toward it,
;; a boy, a boy with black hair smiling at a girl with long and shaggy blonde hair who was wearing the oddest sort of glasses. 'Oh yes. The circulation's up. Daddy's very pleased," her voice spoke. Another boy with brown hair looking pleased and holding up a long wooden object : a wand. "My grandmother…" but noise was shut off and the first boy's face focused. Green eyes, green… wire-rimmed glasses… scar. Scar. Scar. The face focused out again, its features frozen and a black shoe raising from it. Nose bleeding copiously, probably broken… boy with black boot and blonde hair, palest skin, a chin that could cut leather.... green eyes looking toward red haired boy and brunette, smiling green eyes… but above them, always the scar. Left there by a curse… and the One who cast it… ;;
Bette stiffened considerably, and her arm fell from its support of her bag, causing it to fall to the floor, unlatch, and spill its contents all over the corridor. Things were rolling, papers were fluttering, her wand fell out with a clunk.
She didn't seem to notice. Her eyes were still far away… but in a few moments she recovered herself with a painful-looking jerk. She looked suddenly to the mess, and knelt immediately, red as a beet, to begin to gather her belongings. Her hand rested on her wand for a moment, in her other hand a large wooden box intricately decorated on the top. At least that hadn't fallen open. After a moment's thought, the box went back into the bag, and the wand into the waistband of her jeans.
Bette looked around her, trying to see if anyone had noticed her awkwardness – and if so, if they had taken it for that. She recovered her grip on her bag, and flung it back over her shoulder, then resumed her trek toward the end compartment.
She knocked on the glass door, still looking down the corridor for curious faces. As she turned to face the compartment, she saw the three sitting inside.
This time, the jerk was imperceptible to any but her. Before her, was her Sight turned real, just as with the train. Twice in one day… Bette thought. That's off the registers. I'd better…
But the door to the compartment opened, and the boy with the brown hair looked at her, half-smiling.
"Hi. Uh, sorry. There's, erm, there's no other place, and I saw that you only have three…"
The boy turned around. "Okay with you guys?"
The blonde girl just nodded behind her magazine, but the boy with the black hair
;; and the scar;;
looked over at her with curiosity. He looked as if he had just been through a minor ordeal; he was in the middle of brushing dust off his over-sized blazer.
"Hi," Bette said again, this time in his direction. "Erm, Bette Gillis."
"Okay. Sorry. Didn't mean to bother you. I'll just go look in another car then," Bette rolled her eyes as she leant down to take hold of her trunk and propped it against her thigh, getting ready to drag it through more train.
"No. It's okay. Er… Bette? Come in. Sorry, we're just… there's been…"
"Harry was attacked by females," said the girl with the blonde hair. "He's probably a bit wary of them at the moment." While she spoke, "Harry" stood up and gently pushed the other boy out of the way.
"So that'll be your trunk, then?" he asked, and took it from Bette without letting her answer. "You can sit by me. We've got two more coming, but I'm sure we can squeeze."
A genuine smile came to Bette's lips. "Thanks." She sat down with a heavy sigh, stretching out her legs, and flumped her bag on the floor. "So. Attacked by females. Sounds… interesting?"
"Well Harry's really popular," said the blonde girl, looking up. She stared at Harry for a moment, her head tilted, through her swirling eyeglasses. "And he's quite good-looking," she said in an observational tone. "Don't you think?" Her gaze settled on Bette.
Bette bit her bottom lip, ordering herself not to smile. She turned and leant closer to her seatmate, as if examining him. "Hmm, yes. I can see where you might think that. Well done, Harry."
The redness went from Harry's ears to his face, and he barely managed to look back at Bette, who was smirking and raising an eyebrow.
"Yes. Well." Harry coughed. "Erm, That's Luna, and that's Neville. We've got two more coming, Ron and Hermione…"
"Yikes. Probably should've bugged a different compartment then."
"No, it's alright. We can squeeze," Luna said. "It would be like having a private party."
Bette looked back at her. "Er… right."
They settled into silence. Neville had pulled out a book on Herbology and was reading it as intensely as Luna was her Quibbler, and Harry was alternating between fiercely studying his fingernails and his shoelaces, and looking back down the corridor, no doubt waiting for his other friends.
"Sorry. This is probably really awkward." Bette bent down to Harry's level and whispered.
"No, it's okay. It's just," he swiveled his head toward Bette, still bent over, and said in a low voice, "I wanted those two to sit together." He gestured toward the door with his eyebrows significantly and then looked back at Bette.
"Ooh. Right." She straightened again. "Luna? Could we share the Quibbler? I've never read it before, you see, and so…"
She didn't need to say another word. Luna popped out of her seat and was onto the other side, squishing Bette into Harry as she claimed the window seat.
The contact was
;; too close too close too close;;
only for a moment, then Bette readjusted herself and leant toward Luna. It was her turn to pay attention to something that was not in a certain direction fiercely.
The door slid open at that moment, and two other people came bounding in. The boy was tall and gangly, all angles and joints, with strikingly red hair. The girl was of average height and carrying at least five books in her arms, her hair bushy and brown. They looked toward Neville, reading peacefully by the window, then at each other. Ron went first and sat by Neville, and Hermione had no choice but to squeeze next to him.
Bette smiled. She could practically smell the hormones. Out of the corner of her eye, she gazed at Harry, who seemed to be doing the same thing to her.
;;too close! too close!! broken nose pain blood gore unmoving green eyes green ;;
"Hi. I'm Bette."
The two seemed to be less than happy to talk to her, and each kept sending glances toward Harry's way, who seemed to be ignoring them. He had pulled something out of his bag – a book about Quidditch, and was staring at the page before him.
"God, but I'm starving," Ron said. "Wish the lunch trolley'd hurry up…"
Hermione gave him a rude stare, then said, "Harry, Dr – ah – a mutual friend didn't show up for prefect duty. He's just sitting in his compartment with all the other Slytherins."
"Well, what did he do when he saw you?" Harry asked urgently.
"Oh, you know," Ron said, shoving his fist violently in the air while holding his other arm horizontal.
Ron looked at her strangely. "Something funny?"
Bette made the same gesture. "Very eloquent."
The strange look had turned to one of semi-respect. "And you're…?"
"Bette Gillis. Wonderful to meet you." She leant closer, whispering conspiratorially, "So who's the... you know?"
"Draco Malfoy," Harry said with vehemence.
"Ah," Bette said, and laughed. She was reminded of a friend, the way Ron
;; blonde, a chin that could cut leather ;;
acted, and she was pleased that the memory came.
"He's up to something," Harry said in the same voice. "I bet I…"
But the door burst open, and a young teenager came in, bearing three slips of paper.
"Excuse me…" she started, "but I'm s-supposed to give these to Harry Potter, Neville Longbottom, and," she rechecked the name, "Bette Gillis?"
Hermione took the slips of paper, then handed them out.
Bette opened hers, very confused.
I would be delighted if you would join me for a bite of lunch in compartment C.
She read it quickly, then gauged the reaction of the others. Neville looked confused and a little worried, and Harry looked annoyed.
"Slughorn? Who's that?"
"New Defense Against the Dark Arts Teacher," he sighed. "Well, I guess we'll have to go, then."
He stood first, sliding open the door and making his way in the corridor. Bette followed, and Neville came behind.
When they arrived, compartment C was mostly full. There was an obscene amount of food spread around, and Bette found she had to lift up a platter of a whole turkey to make room for her to sit. She looked around her curiously. All students of different years and Houses sat around, and in the middle, looking very much like a mushroom, sat the man who could be nobody else, but Horace Slughorn.
The lunch began, and so did Professor Slughorn. He singled out each student individually, artfully manipulating them to bring out their accomplishments and connections. He did not go in any sort of order, until Bette realized only she and Harry had not yet been questioned.
"Bette Gillis," Slughorn said, smiling pompously. "Well, we don't know much about you, now do we? I just couldn't resist inviting you along. Please say you've enjoyed yourself."
Bette, who was still holding the turkey platter on her lap, replied, "It's been interesting, and most illuminating, sir."
"Ah. Illumination. Quite. Quite the word I was thinking of. Interesting that you should choose it, wouldn't you say?"
Bette's brow furrowed. "Er… sorry?"
"So many things can be illuminated. A room. A person. To some, even the future."
Bette continued to stare. "Sir?"
Slughorn's puff seemed to go out, but he retained some dignity. "We'll just have to spend some time together and get friendly, eh? Have another luncheon or two? You know, I was once the teacher to dear Cassandra Havengale. Charming woman. Quite the glass reader. Crystal, you know. Do you know, she manages to get me winning odds on the best sorts of gaming? You two must meet."
Ah. A switch clicked in Bette's brain. She remembered the Headmaster's note – "retain anonymity." Right then.
"You're right, Professor, I could use a little extra cash lying around. What a wonderful idea."
And Slughorn moved on, breathing in before giving his greatest performance yet. "Mr. Potter." He paused significantly. "Or should I say, 'The Chosen One,' as they seem to be calling you these days in the Daily Prophet. Ah, the things we have heard that you have done, Mr. Potter. No wonder the Prophet chooses that name." He paused again. "The Chosen
;;Crumpled at the base of the tree, a delicate streak of blood running from his mouth, his right ear bloodied and his hair pulled out in patches. Kneeling now, one could see that he wasn't moving. No legs twitching. No fingers grasping. No lungs breathing. Only the wind occasionally ruffling the hair that remained…;;
Bette gasped involuntarily, and the platter of turkey went crashing to the floor as her hands went to her throat. Breathe, Bette. In through the nose, out through the mouth. Keep it under control!
She came to the realization that everyone around her was staring at her, especially the Professor. She needed to cover, and quickly. "Sorry. Must have got a little bone stuck in there." She pointed to the turkey, now spilled on the floor. "Excuse me please, I've got to get some air. She thought longingly of the wooden box in her book bag, and staggered toward the door, sliding it open. She leant against the corner of the carriage, not caring what anyone saw, and slid down till she was sitting on the floor, her eyes closed, hugging her knees.
Bette stayed like that only a few moments, though, as she ran to the other end of the carriage to her compartment, slid the door open, grabbed her bag, and mumbled an excuse about needing to use the loo. Once inside, she locked the wooden door behind her, and frantically reached for the wooden box. She brought it to her face, and kissed the middle vined flower. The top slid neatly off.
Inside, a swirling globe sat. Faces reached the surface of the glass every now and then, and it muttered phrases in Bette's voice. Quickly, she put her wand to her temple, then to the globe, and watched as her Sight turned into multicolored vapor. It was soon gone. Bette felt a cold sweat, and the exhaustion that comes of completing a difficult task washed over her. Surely, no one wood miss her if she spent a few more minutes in here. After all, her robes were in her bag, and she might as well change into them and then sit.
She woke after what seemed just a few minutes. Damn, she thought. I can't let this happen. I know that I can only handle a few at a time. I'll carry the damn box on a chain around my neck if I have to – I'll have to leave if this happens much more.
Bette stood, packed her bag, and reached a wobbly hand out toward the door.
The train had stopped, the corridor was empty, and it was dark outside, as well as inside, the train. One compartment's lights were still on, so Bette made her way over there. She'd decide what her next step should be from there.
So she slid open the compartment door and let it shut on its own, then collapsed on the cushion, holding her face in her hands and looking at the cream floor of the compartment.
Wait. A drop of red – and another? She stood, and looked closely at the threshold of the compartment. A footprint made in red.
Briefly, Bette's eyes fell shut as she recalled…
"Is anyone in here?" she called.
… motionless, covered with a cloak and then disappeared…
"Oh, God," Bette knelt on the floor and began feeling delicately for an edge of cloth. Her hand fell on top of something that wasn't the floor, and she snatched at the thin layer between it and her, and away swept the cloak, and there appeared Harry, his eyes frantically darting back and forth.
Bette's face turned somber as she pointed her wand at Harry. "Animatius."
Harry's hand immediately went to his nose, which was still bleeding.
And it was then that Bette thought. And so I just magically happened to know where a person covered in an invisibility cloak was? And what had happened to him?! That was it. She was gone.
But what was she supposed to have done? Left him here forever?
"Oh good, I see you're already taken care of." A woman with short, mouse-brown hair entered the compartment. "I saw the lights on in this compartment, Harry, and I was watching for you. You didn't come up with the carriages. Was worried. Good thing you've already got a rescuer, eh?"
"But… how did?"
"Come on Harry, let's get you up to the castle. Go on ahead, I'll catch you up."
Harry trudged out, holding his nose, when the woman turned sharply toward Bette.
"Wotcher. I’m Tonks. This…" she said, gesturing around the compartment, "had better never happen again."
"But I knew he was here!"
"Doesn't make a difference. What if it was Sent? Who might've you uncovered then?"
Bette opened her mouth, and shut it. "I'm never going to get used to this."
Tonks swung an arm around Bette's shoulder. "You've been keeping them?" Bette nodded, snuffling. "Good. Now just don't do anything about them."
As if that was something that could be easily accomplished.
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