Chapter 1 : Return to Hogwarts
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Disclaimer: OCs and plot belong to me, but everything you recognise is the marvellous work of JK Rowling.
“Bye, Laura! Have a good term!”
“Bye Mum! Bye Dad!! See you at Christmas!” I called out to my parents as the Hogwarts Express took off. They waved sadly, always a bit upset when the first of September came around, when their usually noisy house became quiet once more as my sister Beatrice and I took off to school. I could see them looking for her on the train as well, but Beatrice had already forgotten them and was settled in a corner with her group of oddball friends. At least Bea would be finishing school this year – next September first would not be quite so hard on our parents.
Beatrice was a bit of a difficult sister to have. Two and a half years older, she was extremely intelligent – genius level in fact – but, as if to compensate, had no social skills whatsoever. Whoever handed out the small talk gene in the birth lottery had missed her entirely. To get around any awkward situations she found herself in – and there were a tidy few, let me tell you – she started hexing people at a relatively young age, and since then had hidden behind that. At Hogwarts, where she was Sorted into Ravenclaw (where else?), she had found a couple of other kids just as odd as herself, and they had a wonderful time lost in their own little world, inventing spells that did weird things to people like making them sprout antlers or speak in Spanish for an hour.
She was also extremely competitive, something else that seemed to have missed me in the gene pool. She had single-handedly caused the near demise of the Gobstones Club by alienating those people who had joined because they just enjoyed playing Gobstones, and membership dwindled to less than a dozen as more and more students dropped out. This competitiveness wasn’t just limited to Gobstones, however – it surfaced in a lot of things, and she had once not spoken to me for two weeks because I got a higher grade in Charms than she did in the end of year exams.
Needless to say, Bea was not particularly popular. She got herself pretty well known from the start, not always for the right reasons, so when I started at Hogwarts two years later my arrival was surrounded by speculation that I’d be just like her.
This wasn’t helped by the fact we looked very similar. Not twin-similar, but you could tell we were sisters. And the look, to my endless dismay, could only be described as ordinary. We both had mid-brown hair, which she kept rather short but I had a few inches past my shoulders, perhaps as a way of differentiating myself from her. I generally kept it down except during classes like Potions or Herbology where it would invariably get in the way; and it had enough of a kink to it to be aggravating, a kink which insisted on staying there no matter how many straightening spells or hair potions I used on it. This was 1975, after all, and hair needed to be dead straight, which mine steadfastly refused to do. Our faces weren’t all that different except for eye colour (Bea’s a beautiful clear blue, mine murky brown), and we were both of a middling height and slim-ish, though in about fourth year I had a bit of a growth spurt and ended up a couple of inches taller than she was. So, not identical, but easily identifiable as related. This meant that by looking at me that first day on the Hogwarts Express, the assumption that Beatrice Cauldwell the Second had arrived was strengthened.
Fortunately for me, I wasn’t Bea Mark II, something the Sorting Hat recognised when it put me in Gryffindor. Why there, I wasn’t entirely sure, but maybe it thought I was brave for actually coming to a school where my sister was so universally disliked. (My dad’s family had traditionally been in Hufflepuff, so the Cauldwells had now been represented in every House bar Slytherin.) I was, however, somewhat stigmatised for the simple fact of being Bea’s sister, and I spent a tidy bit of time trying to sort out her skirmishes.
Bea and I had grown up with a foot pretty much in each world, wizarding and Muggle. Dad worked in Muggle Liaison for the Ministry, which meant that whenever something happened that involved Muggles, and for whatever reason Memory Charms weren’t appropriate for the short term, he was called in to diffuse the situation and work with Muggle authorities to rectify things. He’d met Mum on the job, as she was a Muggle policewoman who’d witnessed a rather grisly attack on a village by a Hebridean Black dragon that had ventured south looking for food during a particularly bleak winter. He’d already modified her memory when they fell in love, so he had a rather interesting time trying to pursue her when she had no idea who or what he was supposed to be. Eventually they married and settled in a small village about thirty miles from Cardiff, not too far from his family and also within driving distance from her parents, who had retired to Bath.
Being caught between the two worlds was particularly difficult for Mum, who was bound by the Statute of Secrecy. The Ministry had perfected a modified version of the Memory Charm for such cases, where the person is aware of the magical community, and can penetrate places like Diagon Alley and Platform Nine-and-Three-Quarters, but when in the company of Muggles pretty much forgets about magic. This works quite well generally, but Mum was always aware of her lack of magical abilities, particularly when Bea and then I came along and were quite obviously magical from a young age.
As children we were home schooled until I was eight or so when we moved to Bristol, just across the Mouth of the Severn, and were sent to the local Muggle primary school. I went a bit younger than Bea because I could be trusted from a younger age to keep my mouth shut about magic; besides, anything odd we said was generally attributed by the other kids to the fact that we were Welsh, and from the country. The move meant that Mum could re-join the police force, and eventually she became the Bristol force’s chief officer for investigating matters related to the magical world. I suspected many of her colleagues had no idea what exactly she did, but she was good at her job and, with the exception of the odd uncontrolled outburst from Bea, everything went smoothly.
During these formative years I had turned into a bit of a tomboy. I think my father had wanted a son, and when none arrived he decided to see how open Bea and I would be to things like sports and racing brooms. Bea, though not interested in dolls either, paid no real attention to these things, but I was more receptive and spent much of my childhood playing backyard Quidditch (quite badly), climbing trees trying to find lost Quaffles and Snitches, soaring about the countryside on a toy broom, and going to see our team, the Catapults, whenever they were playing somewhere that it was easy for us to get to. I loved watching Quidditch but wasn’t much good at playing it – while my balance, aim and reaction times were pretty good on the ground, for some reason they deserted me on a broomstick. I could fly fine so long as I kept both hands on the broom, but once one hand left the wooden handle I had all sorts of problems and there was more than one trip to St Mungo’s to repair the bones I broke from falling off.
Beyond Quidditch and flying, I could also strip down a broom and reassemble it, sometimes putting additional charms on to make it do more things, and hold my own in a game of Gobstones or Wizard Chess or even Muggle poker. I also had a keen interest in the world around me and liked to go around looking in holes in the ground for Nifflers or on trees for Bowtruckles, or tending the garden where we kept a lot of magical plants that looked enough like Muggle ones to not be commented on. Needless to say, I wasn’t one for playing with dolls or any of the other more girly activities (much like Bea there), my bedroom didn’t have a hint of pink frills or lace in it, and in my spare time (and when the weather was co-operative) I was likely to be found in jeans and trainers outside, poking my nose into different plants or trying to identify the various creatures around.
Mum wasn’t inactive in our childhoods either, and indoctrinated us both very young into the intricacies of rugby, which has been described (with good reason) as the Welsh national religion. Many times during the years before Hogwarts a catch-up with my maternal grandparents meant going to a Test match at National Stadium in Cardiff, which was always a highlight of the colder months. Mum would also make sure we were up to date with Muggle culture by giving us books and magazines, taking us to films when she had time and buying the occasional record by Queen or the Rolling Stones. This of course continued during our formal schooling, and we would come home in school holidays to find examples of recent Muggle innovations, fashions and sounds in her efforts to ensure we could fit into either world.
Once I started at Hogwarts and was, to my delight, assigned a completely different House to Beatrice, my best friend Mary Macdonald and I gravitated together because we never really fit anywhere else, though we became best friends because we really did have a lot in common. We were both fairly shy and quiet and, as I was someone who liked to keep my home life and my school life separate, she was the only one I had ever really opened up to.
Mary was a displaced Scot, in that she had been born in Scotland and lived there until the summer between second and third years at school, when her father had died and her mother had moved the family to London to be closer to her parents. Mary and her brother Andrew had held on to their Scottishness for as long as possible, complete with the family tartan, bagpipes and haggis, but despite their best efforts they were eventually assimilated into greater British wizarding society. I often used the Macdonalds’ house as a base when I had to go to London, to buy school supplies and the like.
Back to the train. I waved to my parents until I couldn’t see them any more, then sat down and turned to Mary, who was sitting opposite. A few girls who looked like they were about to start third year had joined the compartment and were jabbering away happily among themselves. “So, anything exciting happen since I last heard from you?”
“I dinna think so,” Mary said, stroking her cat Circe. “Didna ge’ prefec’, o’ course. Ma’s a wee bi’ disappointed bu’ there wa’ nae way I was going t’ ge’ it, nae realistically, an’ deep doon I thin’ she knew tha’.” She pushed her long dark hair out of her eyes and smiled ruefully.
I grinned. “If it’s any consolation I didn’t get it either. But then again my mum wasn’t Head Girl.” My mother, being a Muggle, hadn’t even attended Hogwarts. Mary’s mother on the other hand had been a brilliant student in her day; her name was all over the trophies in the school trophy room for Charms prizes and the like. Unfortunately for Mary, while she’d inherited her mum’s strong work ethic, she missed out on some of her brains and was, like me, near the middle of the class.
“I expec’ Charlotte go’ th’ badge,” said Mary. “Tha’s okay. I’m happy bein’ where I am. A’ leas’ I dinna hae tha’ responsibility. One less thing t’ hae t’ think aboot, especially durin’ OWLs.”
“Actually it was Lily,” I told her. “I saw her on the platform earlier, she was already in her robes and she definitely had the badge on. We’ll probably see her patrolling the train any minute now.”
“Same diff,” she said dismissively. “Lily, Charlotte, Martha, any one o’ them coul’ hae go’ it. Though Lily – I dinna ken, I woul’ hae thought her habit o’ talkin’ back t’ th’ teachers coul’ hae worked again’ her.”
“Yeah, but she picks her targets,” I pointed out. “Only people like Slughorn who indulge her. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her talking back to McGonagall, for instance.”
“Aye, good poin’,” she conceded. “Nae worth worrying aboot nou, anyway, is it?”
The other Gryffindor girls in our year were Lily Evans, Martha Hornby and Charlotte Trimble. I really liked all of them a lot – they had everything going for them, looks, brains, humour and compassion. Lily in particular really was one of the world’s beautiful people. But that was just it. Not only were Mary and I not in the same league as them, but we weren’t even in the same hemisphere. There was no dislike or even envy, just a recognition they were different from us. We did share a dorm, however, and that, if nothing else, meant they knew us and were happy to talk to us, and sometimes we got along very well – though if we’d been in different Houses, I had my doubts whether they would have even known our names.
“Which of the boys do you think would have got prefect?” I asked almost rhetorically. The four Gryffindor boys in our year were renowned troublemakers – it was almost a shame one of them had to be a prefect, though no one seriously thought it would put a halt to their antics.
“Prob’ly Remus,” Mary said thoughtfully. “Peter’s go’ nae leadership qualities wha’soe’er, an’ the ither two spend too much time i’ detention t’ be real contenders.”
“Yeah, that makes sense,” I agreed, then changed the subject. “I’m getting hungry, I didn’t have much breakfast. Do you want to see if we can find the food trolley?”
Pulling out our money pouches, we made our way down the train looking for the trolley witch. Halfway through the second carriage, however, we were bowled over by two boys who had just been pushed out of a compartment.
“Oh, sorry!” exclaimed the first, a brown-haired boy in our year called Remus Lupin. The other boy, a pudgy thing with colourless hair named Peter, just looked embarrassed as he tried to disentangle himself from us.
As I pulled myself up I saw the perpetrators laughing at the pile of bodies. James Potter and Sirius Black, the two most popular boys in the school – and the best looking. When we’d discovered boys, so to speak, in about second or third year, we’d found their extreme good looks more than a little intimidating. We were pretty much immune to them by now, having spent practically every day in their presence in the years since, but every now and then you still noticed it. Never mind that they were only in fifth year, they still had older students hanging off their every word and, in the cases of some girls, trying to hang off their arms as well. They knew it as well, adding a little reality to the equation: no one could be that blessed and not have it go to their heads a bit.
“Girls, girls,” sighed Sirius with mock exasperation. He was tall and somewhat haughty-looking with features best described as aristocratic, a natural elegance and longish black hair that fell into his eyes, a haircut that Mary derisively referred to as ‘Musketeer-style’. “We know we’re irresistible, but you really don’t have to fall at our feet quite so obviously.”
“Absolutely,” agreed James, who was just as tall as Sirius, also with dark hair, but his was shorter and stuck up at the back by itself, I suspected with his encouragement. He also wore glasses, which if anything added to his charm, though he was probably a touch too pretty for my taste. “There are easier ways to get our attention.”
Mary groaned. We had by now extricated ourselves from the tangle of limbs on the floor. “I’m really nae i’ th’ mood, lads,” she said, flicking her wand at them. “Tarantallegra.” The spell hit James on the chest, causing him to do a kind of tap dance around the compartment.
We giggled to each other and wandered on down the carriage, looking over our shoulders at them. I caught the glint of a prefect badge on Remus’ robes – we’d been right about that one.
Before we reached the end of the carriage we heard Sirius call out to us. “Oi! Macdonald!” Mary turned around. “You know I can’t let you get away with that,” he said, a cocky grin on his face.
Well, we’d expected nothing less – you didn’t hex James Potter and not suffer any consequences. If he didn’t get you back in one way or another, one of his friends would. In this case, Sirius pointed his wand at Mary and drew it up slowly. Without him saying anything, she was lifted off the floor, still in the standing position, until her head was banging softly on the ceiling. He rotated his wand and she did two full three hundred and sixty degree turns, quite quickly, before he brought her to a halt and let her back down. “I thought of leaving you upside down,” he said with a smirk, “but you’re not in your robes yet so it’s not nearly so much fun.” He looked pointedly at her jeans.
I was gaping at him. “You can do non-verbal spells?” We weren’t due to start learning those for another year.
He shrugged, making even that look elegant. “So?” he asked, like it was nothing, and turned back into his compartment.
Did I mention he and James were also two of the smartest kids in school? Some people have all the luck.
The beginning of the school year was always a bustle of activity. On the first morning our Head of House and Transfiguration teacher, Professor McGonagall, walked along our table in the Great Hall handing out timetables. Mary and I, who had chosen almost all the same subjects as each other, consulted them eagerly.
“Double Potions wi’ Slytherins firs’ thin’,” Mary groaned. Lily, who was sitting opposite us, smiled to herself, her sparkling green eyes darting over to the Slytherin table.
Martha had noticed it. “I don’t know why you’re friends with him, Lils,” she said disapprovingly. “He’s a nasty piece of work.” I knew who she was talking about – Severus Snape, Slytherin, and all-round generally creepy boy. He had a reputation for hexing people for no good reason and, even in first year, had known (and used) more curses than half of the seventh-years. For some reason Lily had always been friendly with him, despite his keenness on the Dark Arts and seeming willingness to use them on other people. The people he most often hung around with, fellow Slytherins Charon Avery and Irving Mulciber, were also known for their fondness for the Dark Arts. People who didn’t like him much – so, most of the school who weren’t Slytherins – had taken to calling him ‘Snivellus’.
Lily shook her head, sending a wave of dark red hair flying around her face. “No, he’s just misunderstood,” she said. “Do you really think I would have been friends with him for so long if he was as bad as you make out?” She looked sternly at Martha. “And I don’t know how I would have got started in Potions if he hadn’t been helping me out,” she added.
Martha and Charlotte made a point of rolling their eyes at her. “Lily, you are brilliant at Potions,” Charlotte pointed out, pushing her glasses further up her nose. “I don’t care what you say, even if you never spoke to him you would still be brilliant at Potions.”
“Yes, but in first year I’d have been completely lost, coming from a Muggle family and everything,” Lily insisted. “He held my hand all through that first year when I didn’t know whether I was coming or going.”
Martha faked a choke on her bacon and eggs. “Sure it was just your hand, Lils?” she asked. “I get the feeling he’d like to hold onto more of you than that.”
“No, we’re just friends,” Lily said, blushing furiously and shaking her head again.
“Just as well,” said James Potter, who was two places down and had obviously been listening in. “’Cause if Snivellus laid one greasy finger on you, I’d curse him into next week.”
James had had a crush on Lily since third year, but he’d only asked her out maybe three or four times, probably because each time she put him down so scathingly that in all likelihood he needed a week to nurse his ego back to its usual substantial proportions. In fact, she was one of the only people at the school who could (occasionally) get away with jinxing him without retaliation. I knew she didn’t hate him as much as she made out – some of that charm had to get through, and he definitely laid it on thick when she was around – but she did think he was a mite arrogant, and was waiting for that to settle down a bit before she considered saying yes.
“Oh, you would, would you,” Lily shot back icily, her eyes flashing angrily. “Well, Potter, this may have escaped your notice but I’m a prefect now, and if you even try to do that I’ll take points from you quicker than you can say Quidditch. Yes, from my own House. So don’t push me!” She pushed her empty plate away from her, got up from the table and swept out of the Great Hall.
“Don’t think that one worked, mate,” Sirius Black commented dryly from his seat opposite James. “Maybe you shouldn’t be threatening to hex her friends to her face. Just an idea.” He shovelled some more scrambled eggs into his mouth, shrugging at James as he stared, stunned, at the place Lily had just left.
“But it’s Snivellus! Can’t she see what a greasy git he is?” James sounded genuinely confused.
“But he is her friend,” said the measured voice of Remus Lupin, who was on the other side of James. “I think Sirius is right. Pick on someone else for a change.”
James pouted stubbornly. “You mean you expect me to get through a double Potions lesson without once doing anything to Snivellus? That’s a huge ask!”
“You’re right, it is a huge ask,” Sirius conceded. “Well then, at least make sure she doesn’t know it’s you.” He grinned, helping himself to more bacon and wolfing it down hungrily.
“Yeah, they sit at the front anyway, so they won’t be able to see you,” added Peter Pettigrew from his spot next to Sirius. Martha and Charlotte rolled their eyes.
“You guys are lucky we don’t like him either, otherwise we’d tell Lils what you’re up to,” Martha said, flashing a brilliant smile at Sirius as she pushed her empty plate away from her. “Come on, Charlotte, let’s go get what we need for today.” They got up from the table and sauntered off, their long hair bouncing behind them.
Sirius turned his head to watch them leave, absent-mindedly chewing on a piece of toast and generally paying so little attention to his surroundings that Peter started waving a hand in front of his face, saying, “Earth to Sirius, Earth to Sirius.” Distracted, Sirius scowled at him and pretended to concentrate on his still overloaded plate.
Mary and I looked at each other, the empty space between us and the boys meaning we could see and hear everything that was going on. Mary was clearly doing all she could not to laugh. “Martha an’ Sirius?” she mouthed at me silently. I raised my eyebrows at her, signalling that we should make our own move out of the Hall.
“Well, that’s different from last term, to say the least,” I muttered to her as we made our way through the Entrance Hall and towards the marble staircase that led to the upper floors of the castle. “They couldn’t stomach each other then. Wonder what happened to change that?”
It was true. Sirius and Martha had been at loggerheads for much of fourth year, apparently a result of her taunting him about his family, with whom it was rumoured he didn’t get along. I didn’t know a lot about the Blacks, being half Muggle and all, but Mary was from an old wizarding family and had heard all sorts of stories about them and their pure-blood mania. She had explained this to me in first year, after I had been confused by the shocked silence that enveloped the Great Hall when Sirius was Sorted into Gryffindor – the first of the Blacks not to be in Slytherin. Anyway, Martha had got into an argument with him just after the Christmas break, when she had implied that he wasn’t as different from them as he liked to make out and that the world didn’t stop revolving just because a Black had asked it to. He had none-too-subtly suggested that she get her facts straight before spouting off about things she knew nothing about, and the resultant screaming match had ended with her ears growing to about ten times their usual size and his hair turning pink, curly and cascading down his back. The ensuing feud had lasted at least until the train ride home at the end of fourth year, when they’d had a hex battle in the corridor.
Martha and Sirius continued flirting with each other throughout the day, like they had reached an unspoken understanding that the new aim was to snog each other senseless. It was baffling, to say the least, but it at least provided an entertaining alternative to James and Severus trying to hex each other into oblivion, each trying to outdo the other in an effort to win Lily’s affections.
James, true to expectations, hadn’t managed to get through double Potions without trying to sabotage Snape’s Draught of Peace, but realised he had failed dismally when Professor Slughorn, the Potions master, started waxing lyrical about the perfect silver vapour billowing out of Snape’s cauldron. Severus was easily as good at Potions as Lily was and I was sure they were comparing notes, the way they kept whispering together throughout the class.
James’ potion, on the other hand, was grey and a little gluggy, which was only somewhat better than mine. While he had undoubtedly been distracted, I couldn’t help but think that, in this class at least, he had nothing on Severus.