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Chapter image by !Siren at TDA
And that's Victoire Weasley :)
I saw Lily sit next to Rose, and remembered two years ago, when that had been her. I smiled at the memory, and then looked at Roxanne, who was holding an animated conversation with Tim Lester, our GBF (Gay Best Friend). It’s a shame, Roxie always says, that he’s gay, or she’d be with him in a heartbeat. It’s true, he’s gorgeous (brownish-blonde hair, dark brown eyes and a great smile), funny, sweet, smart, everything you would want a guy to be. Oh yeah, and gay. Right. I remember a horribly embarrassing incident when I was fourteen, attempting to flirt with him, when, halfway through my asking him out, he said, perfectly calmly,
‘Um, I’m kind of...gay.’
I remember falling into a chair, covering my face with my hands, and practically crying with embarrassment. He patted my back, and said sorry. I said he didn’t need to be sorry, and that I was sorry. We ended up going in a circle of sorryness, and since that day he’s been my best friend that I’m not related to. Even though I practically am. He lives at my house for most of the summer, as his parents are Muggles who disowned him when they found out he was a wizard. He doesn’t like to talk about it, and you wouldn’t know, to look at him. He never acts sorry for himself, even for a moment.
Roxanne’s telling the story of how her brother Fred asked a woman if she was pregnant. I’ve heard it at least fifty times since I got back from France.
‘Was she pregnant? asks Tim, half-heartedly watching as the Sorting goes on behind him.
‘Shut up!’ I hiss ‘Wait at least until the Sorting’s done!
They shoot me odd looks but comply, just in time to see ‘Zimmerman, Carly’ become the last Gryffindor of the year. The table applauds politely, but really we’re all bored of Sorting, and want to eat.
Professor McGonagall, or ‘Minnie’, as we like to call her, stands, tapping her glass in a dignified manner, glaring at those who refused to comply with her wish for quiet. The Hall fell silent as she cleared her throat to speak her usual ‘few words’.
Dad says Professor Dumbledore, the last Headteacher, used to mean it when he said a few words, take a small selection of the oddest words he could think of, and recite them to the hall before everyone ate. He sounds like a laugh, Dumbledore does. Minnie, however, doesn’t know the meaning of ‘a few words’, and usually bores us all senseless.
‘For those of you who are new to Hogwarts’ she starts to speak in her clear voice ‘Welcome. For those of you who are returning, welcome back.’ She smiles her tight-lipped smile. I see Tim imitating her out of the corner of my eye. He has got good at that. He must have been practising over the summer. ‘I must, before we eat, run over the rules of the school.’ She shoots a look at James, who raises his hands, feigning innocence, before continuing ‘There will be no entering the Forbidden Forest. This is only a restriction for your safety, and I can not impress upon you how important it is that you keep this rule. Also, all ‘Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes’ products are banned, as are Fanged Frisbees, Biting Cushions, or any other type of magically enhanced object which is written on Mr Filch’s list, a document I now believe is comprised of over one thousand, six hundred objects, and is taped to his door for anyone to peruse, if they wish.’ She pauses. ‘Also, there will be no duelling, no spells in the corridors, no leaving the Common Room after curfew unless you are a Prefect and have to patrol. Those are the main rules, though a comprehensive list can also be found, I believe, also on the door of Mr Filch’s office. She paused here, as if considering what to say next.
‘Head Boy and Girl are Thomas Kelsey, of Ravenclaw, and Molly Weasley, of Gryffindor.’ That was good. Tom was nice, I’d worked with him on a Charms project last year, he would make a good Head Boy.
‘We have a few new teachers at the school this year. Taking Professor Flitwick’s place as Charms teacher will be Professor Marchant.’ A dark-haired woman of about thirty stands up and nods once before taking her seat again. The students and teachers politely applaud, looking her up and down. Her hair is pulled into a loose bun at the back of her head, and she’s wearing midnight blue robes, and her skin was pale, even paler than mine. As I watch her, her hands seem to move of their own accord, drumming on the desk in a rapid sequence, so fast that Professor Slughorn, who is sitting next to her, looks slightly scared, and averts his eyes quickly.
‘And taking the place of Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher’ McGonagall continues, smiling slightly, ‘Will be...’ She seems to pause as I remembered all the six Defence Against the Dark Arts teachers I have had so far. The first was Professor Funnel, he was a bit odd. He had a big moustache, though he can’t have been more than thirty, and his hair was the most shocking shade of red. I mean, I thought mine was bright. It was like the copper wire that you find inside Muggle cables, and it was the same consistency. It stuck out at odd angles like he had been electrocuted, and he was always finding the oddest things hidden in it, like small birds and lightbulbs. He went mental towards the end of the year and had to be taken to St Mungo’s for intensive care.
Second year was Professor Archibald. He was an old friend of McGonagall’s. And I mean a very old friend. Some of us took bets as to how old he was, and then Roxanne drew the short straw and had to go and ask him. He told her that he was closer to the end than he was to the beginning, which we took to mean that he was just very, very old, and all got out money back. He had white hair, not much on his head but mostly coming out of his ears and nose, and was all wrinkled like a prune. He actually died of old age at the end of the last term.
Next was Professor Capulet, but she insisted on us calling her Bella instead. She was cool, amazing at duelling, and she taught us some really great stuff. She moved on to Beauxbatons after a year, and I actually really miss her.
Fourth year we had Professor Slughorn, who was roped in by McGonogall to do the job, as no-one would apply. He had to use a Time-Turner to get to all his classes on time, and went back to Potions after a year.
Fifth and sixth year were a mess of supply teachers, who lasted four months at the longest, and a week at the shortest. One even ran out after a lesson, claiming that the job was jinxed. And we were all inclined to believe her. Anyway, back to the paused McGonagall.
‘...A member of staff who can not be present at the feast tonight, but those of you who have Defence Against the Dark Arts on Monday will see him then.’ She smiles, and continues ‘I won’t keep you from your food any longer.’ Tim cheers. Most people in the hall laugh, even some of the Slytherins suppressing grins, then hastily looking down and smothering them as they tried to conceal their amusement from their too-moody-for-humour friends.
Tim’s popular because he’s so likeable. Being mean to him just isn’t an option. Some people tried to take the mick when he ‘came out’, but he didn’t even have to lift a finger and all his friends came to his defence. So most people like him or leave him alone. Most are the former. The latter are mostly Slytherins. But Tim doesn’t care, he knows that enough people like him and stuff those who don’t. I wish I could be more like Tim. Not male, duh! Like, more confident about who I am. Not caring what people think of me. Not needing to be liked by anyone and everyone.
Before I can continue on my list of imperfections, I am shaken to life by the appearance of food on the platters before us, piles of chicken legs, bowls of soup and wicker baskets of bread. Tim nudges me with his elbow as he reaches across for bread, and I pour soup into my bowl, ready to kick seventh year off with a bang.
Wow. Really, WOW. I did not expect this. I mean, when James told me there was a feast, I thought like something out house elf, Jessie, might make at Christmas. This is like a kings’ banquet. I mean, really. There are piles and piles of food, so much that I’m just blindly taking stuff off plates and out of bowls, trying to get a little bit of everything. On my plate I can make out beef stew, a chicken drumstick, roast potatoes, a bowl of soup, lots of bread, and a small pastry-type thing. Yum.
I dig in, stuffing my mouth so full I’m finding it hard to answer Nearly Headless Nick, the Gryffindor ghost’s questions as to my parents’ health, and he eventually glides off to sit with Victoire, talking to her and her friend Tim as they laugh uncomfortably and look for an escape route.
When I’ve cleared my plate, convinced I can’t eat any more, just reaching for a last crumb of pastry dough to put into my mouth, before I can get it on my finger, it disappears. I'm upset, really I am. All our plates are clean for a second, and then the platters in the middle of the table are piled high again, this time with desserts of all kinds. I find, to my surprise, that I have a teeny weeny little bit of room left, somewhere near my knee, as I pick up a profiterole and cut myself a slice of apple pie.
Oh my God. I am so stuffed I could barely listen to the Prefects as they told us where our dormitories were, or pay attention to the location of the Gryffindor Common Room so I don’t get lost as soon as I leave. Right now I’m sitting on the squashy red sofa by the fire, stretched out so as to give my stomach its full capacity. Jeez, that was a good dinner.
‘You’re stuffed too?’ Rose asks, sitting down next to me, then groaning loudly. ‘We always eat too much first day back. No lessons until Monday, so we have two full days to recover and diet.’ She smiles as I lie further back, then waves as she stands up and walks up the stairs to the dormitory. I finally brave standing up, only to be knocked back over by what I see at first to be a mass of blue hair, squealing as it runs at me at high speed.
‘Oh Lils, I haven’t seen you in forever! Honey, it’s been too long!’ I have no idea who this person is. She pulls away long enough for me to register her face (and hair) as Jennifer Parsons, then pulls me into another bone-crushing hug. I whisper in her ear, as quietly as I can;
‘Do I know you?’ She shakes her head next to mine, and replies
‘No. But I thought you looked a bit lost, so I’d come and give you a hug. I thought we could do that to anyone who looks lonely? You going to join me?’ That’s the oddest thing I’ve heard all day.
By the time we’re told to go up to our dormitories, I’ve already been round and hugged Carly Zimmerman, a curly-haired, excitable, blue-eyed blonde who was completely in on the idea and ran up to the first seventh year boy she saw, claiming that he ‘looked lost’. Right. Also a brunette, Elizabeth Hartley, who seemed quiet, but smiled shyly when I hugged her. Also a lot more hugs which didn’t go as well, a couple of snooty-looking girls in the year above who were so short I mistook them for first-years. Whoops. Really not whoops, I laughed at their shortness.
And by the time I get up to the dormitory, I’ve found my friends. The ones I’m going to stay friends with until the end of seventh year. Carly, Jen, Lizzie and Lily. Even our names sound cool. My last thought as I drift off to sleep in my four-poster in between Jen and Carly’s beds is this: The blonde, the brunette, the redhead, and...the one with blue hair. Hahahahaha I amuse myself...Zzz.
In the morning, my stomach ache has subsided, and the novelty of Hogwarts slightly worn off, meaning that I can look around the first-year girls’ dormitory with a critical eye. Okay... the beds form a sort of half circle, with Carly at one end, the bed to my left, then me, Jen, Lizzie, and Sophia. After her are a pair of girls who looked like they stepped right out of a GAP advert. They’re wearing tank tops and baggy patterned pyjama bottoms, with their hair up in perky little ponytails and fluffy bunny slippers. Just the sight of them ticks me off, so I’m forced to go back to sleep.
An hour later, Carly wakes me up, in the sweet and bubbly manner that she does most things. She clearly doesn’t realise I’m not a morning person. Neither is Jennifer, the person she tries next, who, I can see through my slitted eyes, throws a pillow at her to thank her for her trouble. I see an opportunity for mischief, and take it, jumping out of bed, making a ‘shh’ motion at Carly, handing her the pillow off the floor and gesturing with my fingers as I take Jen’s duvet between both my hands, and pull, hard, stealing the cover and dumping it on the floor just as Carly hits her on the head with a pillow. She yelps like an injured dog, jumping up out of her bed and grabbing the pillow from Carly as I arm myself, and a rather epic pillow fight ensues.
When we’re all done, and have had showers to wash the feathers out of our hair, we come back to the dormitory to see the GAP twins, Isabel and Isabelle (Yes, really), getting changed into matching purple stripy t-shirts and dark purple shorts, smiling and waving as they leave the room to go to breakfast. I look at my clock. It’s seven o’clock. Breakfast starts at seven thirty and ends at nine on Saturdays, and we all intend to have a bit of a look around today, so we agree on a dress code ‘Intrepid Explorers, but still Fashionable’
Jen is wearing a white strappy top with black spots, black leather jacket and acid washed ripped skinny jeans, with some black leather Doc Marten boots and a lot of silver jewellery. Carly has opted for the ‘fashionable’ part rather than the whole ‘intrepid’ thing, in a white sundress with yellow flowers and a pair of wedge heels, which we eventually get her to swap for some sunshine-yellow ballet pumps with ribbons and a bow at the front, and also a little lace umbrella, like the type you see in an Austen period drama, which we had to pry from her unwilling hands. She’s wearing her blonde hair tied up with a yellow ribbon, and a pearl necklace. Jen and I rolled our eyes behind her back.
Lizzie looks like she wants to fade into the background, with a pair of navy jeans, plain black t-shirt and a black baseball cap which her ponytail pokes out the back of. She’s also wearing black Converse trainers and a single silver bracelet.
I’ve dressed in a rush, being too absorbed in watching my friends to think about my own clothes, and end up throwing on a turquoise camisole top with white lace detail, a pair of white denim shorts, and a some suede ankle boots with a slight heel. I finish with about a billion turquoise bracelets on my left arm, and a thin denim jacket that was my mother’s (Until I stole it MWAHAHAHAHA!)
‘Everyone done? Now it’s time for our intrepid rucksacks.’ Carly says, starting to demonstrate what her intrepid rucksack contains ‘In here I have a hairbrush...’ Until Jen cuts her off.
‘Just pack a bag guys.’ Carly looks put out, but continues to pack her ‘rucksack’ , in reality a small white bag which she bribed a seventh-year last night to put an Undetectable Enlargement Charm on for her.
In my intrepid rucksack/shoulder bag, I have...
. A bottle of water
. A book
. Witch Weekly magazine
. The Quibbler magazine (the one Auntie Luna writes for)
.Spare shoes in case there’s any mud outside (over my dead body will my suede boots get ruined.)
My wand is in my pocket, and I think that’s everything. The four of us intrepid explorers set off for a filling breakfast, arms linked. Which is, I’ll tell you, very hard when getting down a thin staircase.
Ah, back in the Gryffindor girls’ dormitory. The third-year dorm rooms are bigger than second, and our beds are in a kind of square formation. Three to a side, with one on one of the sides and the door taking up the room for another. I immediately run for the one next to the window, plonking myself on the bed as Elise takes the one next to me. The other three vapid, irritating girls in our dormitory come and sit down on the bed next to me, the bed that Annabelle Drew will be occupying, with her two henchwomen, Tania and Phoebe, on the next two along. The two biggest Gryffindor nerds in the world, Helena Brookes and Daisy Hughes, sit down on the beds next to Elise, almost visibly shaking in their fear of her, multiplied by ten when she makes a cat noise and snaps her teeth suddenly at them. They recoil and begin a whispered conversation between them. Annabelle and her coven, unfortunately, don’t care about being overheard.
‘And then he was like ‘Well why can’t you do that?’ and I was all like ‘Well it totally messes up everything I believe in!’ And then he said that he had to go, and I was like fine, and then...’ She choked out a strangled sob, her girlfriends crowding around her and putting comforting arms around her shoulders ‘Well, it’s over between us.’ Her sobs became uncontrollable then, and she started howling with the ‘tragicosity’ of the situation. ‘But, anyway’ she started, her heartbreak being cured surprisingly fast. ‘Did anyone see how MAJORLY fit Albus Potter has got?’ Oh no. Oh really no. She continued ‘DIBS! Oh too late girls, now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to get myself some...’ she left the room in a sickening haze of perfume and lipstick, swanning out and disappearing up the boys’ staircase.
She did not just imply that she is going to try to 'get' with my cousin Albus. I must have just imagined that. I look at Elise for confirmation of my imagining theory, but her face is so dumbstruck I’m really not sure.
Sorry, I have to watch this. I set off out of the room, and Elise follows me, creeping up the stairs to the entrance of the third year boys dormitory, where we lurk until we hear something. Annabelle’s high, girlish voice, simpering;
‘Oh Al, you are sooo funny!’ She laughed, a tinkling sound, like a particularly annoying type of bell. Albus chuckled nervously. Nervously. Why was he nervous? Because he hated her and wanted her to disappear, please thank you, or because he really fancied her? Difficult one. I looked at Elise, but she had her ear pressed against the door, listening intently. I do the same.
‘So...’ says Annabelle, and I feel myself holding back puke. I look in through the keyhole and see her sliding her hand up his arm. She is THIRTEEN years old! For God’s sake...
‘So...um, what?’ Albus asks. I roll my eyes. Sometimes he really can be spectacularly thick. He can’t even bloody tell that she’s flirting. I’m going to need to intervene. I walk into the dorm, smiling at Annabelle, who has hastily removed her hand from his arm and taken two steps back. Their noses are still practically touching. Albus looks relieved, and almost runs over to me
‘Hey Rose, what are you doing here? This is the boys dormitory.’ Hmm.
‘Maybe I’m here for the same reason as Annabelle’s here’ I ask, one eyebrow raised. I’m getting good at that. Albus stares for a second, then realises that I’m messing him around, and, turning to look at her then back at me, chuckles
‘I doubt you have one of my socks to return.’ She pretended to have one of his socks! That is despicable! She probably Summoned it from his dormitory, only to give it back to him! Really now. I'm impressed with her deviousness. Damn.
‘Um, no, I don’t have a sock, but I can get you one?’ I say, Summoning the sock in her hand and catching it deftly. ‘Here you go.’ I hand it to him and he cracks a smile. So do I.
Then I turn around and, linking arms with Annabelle, pull her out of the dormitory, throwing a smile over my shoulder at my cousin, and then joining Elise outside the dorm to frogmarch her back to our room and sit her on her bed.
We then smile sweetly, and continue as if nothing has happened, me unpacking my clothes and folding them into my drawer, doing up the top button of all my shirts (God, I think I’m turning into Mum), and organising my drawers by item and then colour. As I shake out my favourite pair of jeans, a note flutters down, tucked into the belt loop. I pick it up and read
You’re back at Hogwarts again, sweetheart, and, knowing you, you’re probably reading this on the first night back, having unpacked all your clothes already. I slipped this note into your bag this morning. I know I’ve never been clingy and sent you notes as soon as you get back before, but this is different .I have something to tell you.
I’ve checked with Minerva, and she says you have Defence Against the Dark Arts on Monday first period.
I checked my timetable (Already colour-coded!). It was true.
But I think you should know before then. Your father disagrees, he thinks you’ll ‘flip out’ , his words, not mine. But I think you should know as soon as possible without Hugo overhearing.
Your Uncle Harry will be taking the position of Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher. I know this may be weird for you, and more so for Lily, James and Albus, but we’d really rather prefer you didn’t tell them. Albus has Defence Against the Dark Arts at the same time as you, on Monday, so he’ll be the first to know. He’ll tell the others, and surely it can wait a couple of days.
I hope you’ve enjoyed yourself (totally overeaten at the Welcoming Feast, hmm?), don’t worry about it, everyone does.
All my love
PS. Have a great year.
PPS. See you at Christmas!
Elise is looking at me questioningly, so I merely pass her the letter to read, and watch her face change from smiling to surprise to, oddly enough, acceptance.
‘Why are you smiling?’ I ask, exasperated. ‘This is so embarrassing! And not just for me, for you too! I don’t know what the hell I am supposed to do, I...’ Elise puts a quick Silencing Charm on me, and I’m left opening and closing my mouth in an agitated manner, rather like an irritable goldfish, until she begins to speak.
‘Rose. What has Harry always said he wanted to do with his life.’ She takes the spell off me and I answer, resigned.
‘Teach at Hogwarts.’ I sigh.
‘And you’ll get over the embarrassment! He’s not that bad!’ Damn you, woman, being all rational at a time like this. ‘Who knows’ she continues, sliding in between her sheets and blowing out her candle, so I am left in the dark to fall onto my bed, tripping over my suitcase, and I hear her finish ‘You might even learn something.’
The last thing I hear before dropping off is her snoring. Lovely.
I read and reread the letter from my father, gaping inwardly as I stare at those fateful words again and again. Coming to teach at Hogwarts. Coming to teach at Hogwarts. Roxanne and Molly are looking at me, quizzical as they wait for my reaction, me being the most irrational and therefore, the most likely to have a completely perverse reaction.
A smile starts to form on my lips and eventually breaks out as I turn to face them.
‘I am SO going to pass my Defence Against the Dark Arts NEWT!’
They look bewildered that this is the only thing I’m thinking about.
‘But I am! Uncle Harry is an amazing teacher, and I’m going to do well! My grades have been dropping these past few years, and I’ve been terrified that we were going to get someone really terrible, but this is perfect!’ I pause for breath, before adding ‘I approve.’
Molly looks proud of my rationality (is that a word, rationality? Guess so...), but Roxanne looks disappointed. I guess she thought I’d be in her corner about this.
‘Honey’ she says, trying to persuade me ‘You do realise that teachers patrol the corridors? And if you commit the tiniest little offence, then your parents are going to know JUST LIKE THAT!’ she snaps her fingers to indicate JUST HOW FAST my parents will know about my tiny little offences.
‘But I don’t intend to do anything bad this year. That’s your problem, Roxie.’ I shrug and turn around, closing the curtains of my four-poster as Molly and Roxie continue the argument without me.
‘Roxie, think of how well your grades will do...’
‘I don’t care about grades! I care about social standing!’
‘You’re very shallow, you know that?’ I say, opening the curtains and seeing Molly’s jaw drop. I know this is weird, but I've draped the bedsheet around me like a wedding dress. Call me a dreamer, but I'm completely in love with the idea of getting married to Teddy.
'But he hasn't actually proposed yet...' says Molly. Always too reasonable, that girl. It'll be the end of her, mark my words.
'But he said he wanted to marry her one day!' Roxanne's all worked up now. 'So what if this is her weird, Victoire-ish way of telling us that she is now completely okay with it!'
We all stare at each other for a moment, then, inconceivably, start laughing at the exact same second.
I collapse into a fit of giggles as we all fall on the floor and roll around, the entrance of the other girls who share our dorm only making us laugh more and more until eventually all we can do is shake silently, staring up at the eaves of our dormitory ceiling. And we sleep there too, Summoning our sheets and pillows from our beds, never wanting to move from this moment and all its perfection, as if it was a glass ball, easily broken.