I reached for the envelope and turned it over, running my finger along the inside of the flap and pulling it open. The letter on the inside was made of the same parchment. I unfolded it and read silently:
Miss Douglass –
As you have probably discovered, you're presence here is unusual.
All the same, until we understand the nature of your arriving at Hogwarts you are forbidden to speak of your past to anyone. For now, we will act as if you have been overcome with short-term amnesia regarding your accident. You may create for yourself a past, to speak of in polite conversation, but for as of what you truly know, speak of it to no-one.
I invite you to join me in my office this coming Friday evening, at eight o'clock.
-Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, Headmaster
I read over the letter once more and then laid it down on the bed beside me. Not only was I now alone, among people who shouldn't exist, my identity had been stripped away from me. The only thing I had left was my name. I began to cry – bending my face down to be cradled in my hands. I felt the tears falling in between my fingers and my whole body shook with the sobs. I sat on the bed, my feet heavily hanging off the edge for several moments before falling onto my pillows and wetting them with tears. It wasn't only that I was alone, I felt abandoned. This was no daydream, no fantasy. My newly discovered magic did nothing to calm the thoughts that threatened to tear me apart.
The door to the sleeping quarters opened and slammed violently and I looked up surprised, a sob caught in my throat. A girl with straight brown hair was dumping a load of books on her bed, frustrated. She seemed not to have noticed me, so I did my best to wipe my eyes. She must have heard me moving because she spun around.
"What… what are you doing?" she sputtered, reaching for her wand. "You don't belong here!" She had grabbed her wand and although I figured she couldn't do much of anything to hurt me, an explanation would probably save face in the long run.
"I do, actually-" I began, before I was interrupted by the door opening again.
"Gwen, put your wand down!" the new entry, her face obscured by a mass of red hair, shouted across the room as she dumped her own load of books onto her bed. Spinning around toward me, the red-haired girl noticed that my eyes were puffy and rushed over toward me.
"Are you okay? Professor McGonagall told me you would be assigned to our room." Turning around, she looked up at the brown-haired girl who still had her wand in her hand and looked rather nervous. "Aw, Gwen, relax. She's the girl that Potter and Black brought in from the grounds last week. Honest. Now go and see if your books mention anything about the History of Magic homework." Gwen seemed satisfied with that answer and turned to sift through her books, but she kept a wary eye on me and kept her wand nearby.
My attention was drawn back to the red-headed girl. She had climbed onto the bed, mirroring me. One hand rested on my foot.
"I'm Lily Evans. You are?"
"Well, hi, Brendi. Welcome to our bedroom. How are you holding up? I assume Potter and Black didn't do anything to you yet."
I shook my head and looked down at the bed.
"Not that they would touch a Gryffindor, you know. And you're a girl, which is a plus." She stopped to breathe. "Professor McGonagall told me to make sure that you had everything you need here. You do have everything you need, don't you? Your books, robes, everything?" I nodded, not bothering to interject. Dumbledore's note was still lying open next to Lily, and she had noticed it. We reached for it at the same time, but I touched it first and snatched it back to my chest.
"I'm sorry, this is private."
"Oh, alright." Lily smiled. I noticed she was just as nervous as Gwen. "Was it why you were crying?"
I just sat there and looked at her. Who would ask something like that? I nodded and looked away. The awkward silence permeated the room for another few moments before she stood up again.
"Alright, well the washroom's that way-" she pointed to a door directly across the room from my bed. "-if you want to wash your face or something." I nodded again and she gave me a pitiful smile and then turned back to her bed and began going through her books.
I brought the letter away from my chest and re-read it. I must have sat for minutes simply staring at the parchment, before I finally found the energy to fold it in quarters and shove it under the pillow. I stood, then, and made my way to my trunk. Sure enough, Dumbledore had followed through. All my school books and supplies lay stacked to the left, and new robes and other wizardly accessories lay to the right. In the center was a draw string bag with a note pinned to it.
Use these wisely.
I picked up the back and opened it. Inside was an assortment of gold, silver, and bronze coins. The bronze were more common – I picked one up and turned it over in my hand. So this is what a knut looks like.
Placing it back in the bag, I drew the string closed and dropped the bag into the trunk, pushing it under a pair of socks. Wiping a stray tear from my cheek, I reached for the closest book (The Dark Forces: A Guide to Self Protection by Quintin Trimble) and opened to the first page. The book was still crisp – I could smell the fragrance of the binding glue and fresh paper. It calmed me down slightly, and I skimmed through the first chapter before I put the book back in the trunk and softly closed the lid. I turned around and moved toward the washroom without looking up at Gwen or Lily.
I wrapped my hand around the bronze handle of the sink and opened the faucet to warm water. I stuck my hands in the basin before it was done filling and brought the water in my cupped hands up to my face, splashing it over my cheeks. After two more repetitions, I looked up into the mirror above the sink. I looked like hell.
My eyes were red and swollen, my cheeks raw from where I had rubbed them too hard. My hair was disheveled and my robes spotted with tears. Shaking my head, I splashed my face again to make sure that my eyes were no longer too obviously puffy. Once I was satisfied with the state of my face, I ran my fingers through my hair again and brushed my hands on my robes. Entering the dormitory again, I almost ran smack into Lily.
"Oh!" she said, stepping back. "I was just coming to check in on you. You were in there for a while. A little too long if you ask me."
"Aw, Lily, no one's asking," Gwen called from the other side of the room. "She was only in there for five minutes. She's eleven. She can take care of herself."
Lily turned around, blushing and removed herself to her bed. Gwen approached me, then, for the first time.
"I'm sorry for scaring you earlier. I just wasn't expecting anyone to be taking that bed. Normally it's empty," she said. She lowered her voice. "Not to mention Lily's got me a bit on edge," she whispered, offering her hand. Full voice again -"I'm Gwendolyn Hunter – everyone calls me Gwen."
I took her hand in mine and shook, and she continued.
"And I'm sorry about Lily. She's kinda like that."
"Anal?" I smiled.
Gwen just smiled and nodded, and Lily let out an outburst. "I'm not anal! I was just being caring!"
"Caring?" Gwen said, giggling. "You need to recheck your definition of 'caring'."
Lily humphed, and returned to her History of Magic research. Gwen continued in her place.
"So you complete our dormitory. There's you and me and Lily, and the other two beds belong to Ronnie Harrow-" she pointed to the bed next to mine, "and Jeanne Prewett," she pointed to the bed between hers and Lily's. "They're still in the library picking up the books that Lily and I couldn't carry."
"For History of Magic homework? First year?" I asked skeptically. "Really?"
Gwen rolled her eyes and nodded. "Anal," she whispered to me while motioning over her shoulder to Lily.
"I saw that!" Lily scowled, while Gwen and I dissolved into giggles.
The rest of the day went more smoothly with fewer tears. I shuffled through my things in my trunk while Lily and Gwen looked through the books they had picked up from the library. Soon two other girls arrived, dumping another load of books each onto Lily's bed. Ronnie, cheerful and blonde, was extremely kind and offered me several different kinds of baked goods when Lily let it slip that they had found me crying. Jeanne was more standoffish and shy, a thin brunette with wide eyes and a rare smile.
We spent the evening in casual conversation. The expected questions about my arrival to Hogwarts arose, and I pleaded amnesia to everything about the crash.
"Okay, okay, okay," Ronnie finally gave in. "Well, at least tell us where you're from. Your family, you know?"
This was what I wasn't ready for. I couldn't say I didn't know my family, if I knew enough about spells that I was already half caught up to the first year curriculum. Luckily, Lily discovered her History of Magic answer at that precise moment, and the attention was diverted into making fun of her for studying so late into the evening.
We finally left the bedroom to go down to dinner. Half-way across the common room, I heard my name called from the corner.
"Brendi, no!" James cried, jumping up from his chair. "No, you can't! Not with them. No!"
I cocked my head to the side, confused. He continued to stutter the same complaints before Gwen interrupted him.
"Spit it out, Potter!"
"You can't be one of them!" he finally spat as Remus and Sirius approached behind him. "I can't tutor you if you're being influenced by these… these… girls!"
Remus laid a hand on James' shoulder and steered him toward Sirius, who pulled him away. Remus opened his mouth to apologize, but Gwen cut in.
"It's okay, Lupin. I'm used to him," she said, irritated. She then turned to me as we headed for the portrait exit. "He has to tutor you? No way."
"Yeah. To catch me up, hopefully by Christmas."
All four girls gave me looks of pity as we left the common room. Apparently my first impression of James Potter had been sadly mistaken.