Chapter 1 : An old teacher and a new one
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A/N Re-starting this story, I originally posted it back in '09, but I had the whole plot outlined in my head so I'll be more or less sticking to that. If you like it hit it up with a review, in fact, if you don't like it do the same and tell me why! I'm here to develop my writing skill so constructive criticism is appreciated.
Oh dear, it’s the singing again, there goes my nap!
Not that I was sleeping well anyway, sitting on an extremely uncomfortable chair in the church foyer waiting for the Sunday service to finish.
I wasn't really a church go-er; I'd felt rude the first time Miss Goshawk invited me to join in, like I was eavesdropping on someone else's conversation. So now every week after rolling Old lady Goshawk here in her wheelchair I simply sat in the foyer and read one of the many thrilling books that have been donated.
The donation box on the other side of the room had a few books sticking out of the top: people donated all sorts of things, and I especially liked it when books were donated. It took the boredom away from waiting; even from here I could see a few of the titles I'd already read. A girl’s guide to social work, French phrasebook for tourists, Romeo and Juliet; the novel adaptation...
That last one was extremely dull, I mean, who would kill himself for a girl? Aside from the woman currently singing ‘Amazing Grace’ in the other room, the only girl I knew was an annoying nine year old who lived in the room next to mine at the orphanage, and I was almost certain she’d been stealing my stuff for years.
“Boy! What have I told you about daydreaming?”
Woops, I didn’t even notice the singing stop; Miss Goshawk was already poking me on the side with her overly large fingers. The priest, or reverend, I wasn't sure what his name or title was, (he was new and I never bothered asking) stood with her as the other elderly people started to leave the hall.
“Sorry Miss Goshawk,” I muttered while running to take hold of her wheelchair.
“Hello again Damon,” The priest man said to me in a happy tone. He was always a very happy man, it was unnerving.
“Hullo Sir, nice to see you.”
"No time for hellos boy, we need to get home!’ Miss Goshawk’s voice was old and raspy; she always had a sense of urgency. She was your stereotypical old lady, short white hair, pink jumper and all.
Even though I knew full well we were in no rush, I bid my goodbyes the priest man and began pushing my favourite old lady down the street in silence.
I’d been taking Miss Goshawk to church every Sunday since I was seven. Apparently she used to donate money to the orphanage, so when she got old, the orphanage started sending people to help her out: at first a carer would have to come with me, but lately I hadn’t been accompanied at all. Miss Goshawk says that she’s glad for the peace and quiet.
When I was little, one of the older boys told everyone a story over dinner about how she was secretly insane, and practised all sorts of voodoo. So when it was my turn to tend to her, it would be silly to say I wasn't terrified. But when I arrived at her house, she seemed almost happy at my arrival, and in no time at all she was telling me stories that were much better than the ones the caretaker Billy Stubbs told everyone before bed. She invited me for a cup of tea afterwards, said I was one of the only children who actually talked to her and she was very happy to meet me.
That week she sent a letter to the orphanage asking to have me visit her every week: sometimes it would just be to take her to church, sometimes me and the carer would clean around the house, or I’d nip to the shops for her. Nowadays it was church, then afternoon tea. As she pointed out, I was no longer accompanied by someone from the orphanage so she was responsible for me and the last thing she wanted was for me to hurt myself cleaning.
I turned the corner onto the block Goshawk lived on. She was quite well off: her house was relatively big for the suburb area we lived in. However, I’d only ever seen her in her living room, and I doubted she moved anywhere until the carers came in the evenings.
“You’re awfully quiet today boy, something on your mind?”
“No Miss Goshawk.”
That was a slight lie: we'd had an open day yesterday, where lots of lovey-dovey couples came and visited the orphanage to see if they liked any of us. Days like that always made me sad.
“How was it yesterday?” She knew everything about the orphanage; it was just my luck she’d known about yesterday.
I pulled to a stop on the patio, and went round to open the door, avoiding her gaze as I moved.
“You didn't go, did you?”
Truth was I hadn’t gone to an open day in a couple of years.
“Hmm,” she sighed, beckoning me to push her into the house. I complied, and we went straight to the lounge, a musty old room with flowery cream wallpaper. It had no furniture apart from an old armchair, matching stool and a coffee table, which were all facing an old wooden fireplace and hadn’t been switched once in the many years I'd been visiting.
“Is it nerves boy? That's why you won't go to those things?” Her voice was more softened now. She always made an effort to sound old and nasty in public, but here in her home, she was more relaxed.
“No, well, I don’t think so,” It was true, whenever those days were on, a part of me hated the idea of going to live with people. I’ve been in the orphanage for as long as I can remember. But in the evenings when everybody’d left, and there was a kid or two ecstatic with the thought of being in a new family, I couldn’t help but feel jealous.
Miss Goshawk studied me for a moment. She knew me better than anyone else in the world, and I knew right then she'd come out with a piece of advice that I’d carry with me forever.
“I’ll have biscuits with my tea today, I think.”
I ran into the next room and put the kettle on. There were already two fancy ceramic cups waiting on the side, next to an extremely large black bowl filled with what could only be described as a green goo-y substance.
So maybe the stories of Old lady Goshawk’s voodoo weren't entirely made up. Occasionally I’d find something like this that would just confuse me, like the time I found a turnip hanging from every door frame in the house, or when I came across a champagne glass with a rat's tail. I’d learned to just not ask questions as I was usually graced with an equally strange response.
Not that I wasn't freaked out by all those things, oh no. I was just as scared as the next kid: I once tripped down the front step while heading back home, hitting my head pretty hard on the ground. The first thing I could remember, waking up, was Miss Goshawk standing over me and holding what looked like a stick.
Then again I was concussed and she couldn’t walk too well, so for all I knew it could have been Billy Stubbs and his pet rabbit.
By the time I returned with tea, Miss Goshawk had climbed out of her wheelchair and into the cosy armchair; I put the tray down and sat on the stool on the other side of the table.
“You’ll be eleven soon, won’t you boy?”
“Next Thursday, Miss.” I always tried to be polite, partly because it was the right thing to do, but partly because the last boy to call her by her first name, ‘Miranda’, swore that as he was leaving he sneezed a bat. Not that I believed it, but just in case...
“Ahh, looking forward to it?”
“Not really, Miss. We don’t celebrate much at the orphanage, aside from chef making your favourite meal.”
She gave me a look that meant I had clearly said the wrong answer.
“I mean turning eleven, that’s a big milestone you know. Before you know it, you’ll be a rich man with a household name— Damon Whelan.”
“I doubt that, Miss, I’m more of a background person,” I said absentmindedly while trying to fish part of my biscuit back out of my tea.
“When I was your age, I was the youngest of nine sisters. I was expected to achieve, at most, a modestly rich man. And look at me now.”
Living alone with nothing but a ten-year-old boy for company. I wasn't sure if that was supposed to inspire me or not.
Realising this, Miss Goshawk reached into her coat pocket and pulled out a small box with plain black wrapping paper. She slid the box across the table, and it landed right next to my cup. A present? I hadn’t had a present before.
“Open it, it’s not much, but I figured you could have some money for sweets as well.”
The box was very well wrapped considering her hands were sometimes too shaky to lift a cup of tea. It was small and light, and fit in the palm of my hand. I opened it to find a small, pure black ring, and I slid it on my forefinger to find that it fit perfectly. Upon closer inspection I saw the engraving of a wolf's head, my favourite animal.
It was a very nice ring, and looked and felt very expensive.
“Thank you Miss Goshawk, you didn’t have to get me anything, honestly.”
She looked quite pleased for a moment before returning to her usual stern look.
“Nonsense, now here, take a couple of pounds for sweets, and get home early today. I expect you’ll be needed there.”
I didn’t know why I’d be needed at home, but I wasn't one to overstay my welcome, so I took a pound coin from her and said my goodbyes.
I stared at the new ring on my finger all the way home, and didn’t stop off for sweets as usual but instead went the long way back so I could avoid the main entrance and sneak in. I was sure to keep my hands in my pockets; the last thing I wanted was for my new gift to end up on eBay.
My room was on the second floor, at the end of a corridor of about six rooms. The rooms are fairly simple: same single bed, wardrobe and desk in each one, and the same blue (or pink, for girls) wallpaper. Nothing special, but mine.
As soon as I was there I dove under the bed and pulled out my spare pair of trainers. I put the ring inside deciding that it would be safer there while I was at home, and I could wear it while I was out to be sure nobody would steal it.
“That’s a good hiding place.” Thump.
The calm voice took me by surprise so much that I hit my head on the bed frame, crawling out from underneath to see who had foiled my perfect plan.
A strange man stood in my doorway, and I didn’t mean strange like stranger. I mean, I’d never seen him before, but wow, he was strange.
He wore a black gown type thing, something you would expect to see on a Jedi, and his face had a patch of dirt on the side.
“Umm... Can I help you with something?” I asked the stranger.
His voice was very authoritative, and I'd later decide that he was an extremely good storyteller. I listened to him for over an hour. What he had to say was stranger than his fashion sense, yet at the same time, the most exciting thing in the world.
“Hello, My name is Professor Longbottom, I’m here to talk to you about a school called Hogwarts...”
A/N Hope you enjoyed, obviously when he gets to Hogwarts is when he'll get involved with the NextGen crew and the plot will start to progress more, anyway hopefully updates will be frequent and fun! Thank you for your time!
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