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Penultimate Year by GREX101
Chapter 1 : California
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 8

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Immense chapter image by everafter, at tda!!

   The sun shone brightly on another California day, its golden rays washed over the earth, illuminating the early morning. It was never this sunny in London, even in mid-August. Marion Preston woke up in her older sister, Mischa's house (which actually belonged to her fiancé Ryan Atwood). She had come with her mother, Persephone Preston and little brother Johnny Preston to visit her older brother Valkyrie (nicknamed Val) and older sister Mischa over the summer after finishing her fifth year at Hogwarts. It was a usual custom for the Preston family, and a welcome one for Marion, particularly since the war had started. Being in California was like stepping into an unbreakable glass bubble that kept her safe from all that; she could escape here.






    Val and Mischa lived in California as it was where their late father, Frank Preston, was from and they wanted to study there after leaving Hogwarts themselves. Mischa was five years older than Marion and Val was four years older. James Potter and his parents had also made the journey, as they did most years, as Persephone was a family friend of theirs. Also Sirius Black had been invited as he was living with them, but this was the first year he had come. Marion had also insisted on bringing Lily Evans with her as she was her best friend, to which she had put up little resistance. She also preferred being here to at home with her horrible, demeaning sister. It wasn’t that Lily didn’t love her parents, but sometimes being isolated from magic all summer wasn’t good for her. Around the Preston’s magic thrived.






   Marion got out of her bed in the attic room and stepped out onto the balcony, enjoying the warmth of the California sun on her skin. Moments like these were ones she treasured in current times. They kindly reminded her that even though the whole world was at war against the forces of darkness, in some parts of the world, absolutely nothing was happening. She would've stayed like this for the entire morning if she hadn't heard her mother’s stern voice calling for her up the stairs.






   "Marion! Get down here now! Your breakfast is ready."






   Marion never usually did what her mother asked but couldn't be bothered with the fuss this morning, it was too early and she wasn’t a morning person as it was. She didn’t mind being asleep, and she didn’t mind being awake. It’s the transition she wasn’t fond of. She put on a long satin robe to cover her short night gown and headed downstairs.






   Persephone Preston wasn't what someone would stereotypically call a 'bad’ person, even if she was an awful mother. But since her husband, and father of all four of her children, died seven years prior she became icy and cold and began sleeping with relentless amounts of vile men as a way to validate herself. Even before her husband had died, her promiscuity was notorious in the high-up social circles the Preston family associated with and even within the ministry where she worked. This gave the Preston family a reputation and after Frank died, the rumours and whisperings only got worse, making all four children begin to resent their mother. Even children at Hogwarts with whom they studied looked at them funny sometimes if they had parents working at the Ministry.






   That and they also held her responsible for the failure of her marriage to their father even before he died. Persephone had always liked to argue, but she and her husband got their way around it… most of the time. When their children were born and grew up, however, they found plenty more to fight about. Although Frank had tried to hide their unhappiness from the four children he loved so dearly, it was obvious even to friends of the Preston’s, such as the Potter’s although they were too kind to bring it up and their proclivities became the worst kept secret around.






   And finally, and most likely the strongest reason of all, although it had nothing to do with his death, Persephone had been caught having an affair a week before he died with a man in her department at the Ministry. Marion and her younger brother Johnny were too young at the time to fully understand what that meant, but Mischa and Val knew, and did their best to shield their siblings from further embarrassment on their mothers’ behalf. Also, once the children were old enough to hear the whisperings about her for themselves, they discovered people were sure her infidelity spanned right back to the beginning of their marriage. This made all the children feel a sense of animosity for her. Marion was included in this, and she was most likely the angriest of all four of them.






   Although all the children loved their father and he loved all of them, Marion was the most distraught when Frank Preston died. He was an auror for the Ministry and a good one too. He had mentored the likes of Alistair Moody. During routine transport of a dark wizard he had convicted to Azkaban, the prisoners rioted, and Frank was one of three aurors killed managing the crisis. Mischa was a social butterfly even before Hogwarts, and was so wrapped up in her friends and personal life that she didn’t grieve for very long. Valkyrie was so quiet and introverted he never showed his anger, and just locked himself away like he normally would, if not more so. Johnny was only five when he had died, so his memories of his father were limited, but Marion remembered all too well. She didn’t have many friends to help her through it, and she was a born extrovert unlike her older brother. She became a young tearaway, getting into more mischief and trouble than she had before. She loved to challenge her mother and create conflict with her just for fun.






   As Marion entered the kitchen she gave a weak early morning smile to Lily, who was already dressed. For all Lily and Marion had been like sisters since they met the year before Hogwarts, you couldn’t find two people more different. Marion yawned, wide-mouthed as she passed her mother, bumping into her accidentally on purpose as she did so. She stole a bit of toast out of Sirius' hand as he was about to bite into it and started to eat it herself, folding it in half and avoiding the crusts as if they were something poisonous. She smirked at him cheekily with her mouth full.






   "Oi! You're gonna pay for that, Preston." Sirius threatened. Marion swallowed, indifferent and cast the forgotten crusts back onto his plate.






   "I highly doubt that you could find a way to make me, Black." She returned and everyone else looked away with pursed lips at the awkwardness of the situation. They continued to eat in silence for the next few minutes. This was textbook behaviour for Sirius and Marion. The two of them could not exist together in harmony. Chalk and cheese. Although Marion was extremely fond of James whom she’d known since they were babies, and she liked Remus, she couldn’t stand Sirius. And he wasn’t all too keen on her either. Ever since they met on the platform before their first year they had been at war, and Hogwarts had been the battleground. Everyone there knew that, teacher or student.






   As Val was washing up the breakfast things, and Marion, Lily, the Marauders and Mischa were chatting away, the doorbell rang. Persephone left to answer it as she was contributing little to the conversation. The Potters’ likes to take a walk in the morning so they left her alone with the kids. As Persephone opened the door, the others could hear the exchange from the kitchen.






   "Hello, Kyle." She said half-heartedly. "I take it you are here to see Marion."






   Marion panicked silently, her expression changing immediately to one of sudden worry as she looked at herself and saw she still looked like she’d just rolled out of bed. She was still in her night dress and robe. She frantically ran back upstairs using the back stairs to get ready as her boyfriend came into the kitchen and greeted the others.






   Kyle was a native from California that Marion had met and started dating when she came over during the Easter holidays. He was a year older than her and about to start his last year at Lamontwood, the magic academy in California. He was handsome and seemed to be perfect in every way. He had met them all when they came at the beginning of the holidays, and was as friendly and welcoming as could be expected. James seemed to be okay with him, as he knew him before, but Sirius thought he was a bit of a show off. Mostly because Sirius liked the attention being the most popular lad in his school, and didn’t like competing with him. Val didn't really take to him either as he had heard rumours that he had been with another girl while Marion was back in London, but there had been no physical proof in the matter.






   When Kyle stepped into the kitchen, Sirius spotted a way to get his revenge on Marion. He and Marion had been playing pranks on each other ever since they found that they disliked one another, but they had never done anything outside of Hogwarts before. ‘This should be fun’ he thought to himself, feeling sly. He strolled up to Kyle, a smile of satisfaction of his own mind on his lips.






   "Hello there, Kyle." he said. Lily was on red alert; that was the voice Sirius used when he was up to no good. Kyle, on the other hand, had no clue.






   "Hey there, Sirius." he greeted him with a hand shake. "Where's Marion?" This was Sirius' cue.






   "Oh, she's upstairs getting ready. You should have seen her when she woke up, mate. Not a pretty picture." he said.






   "Sirius!" Lily shot at him sternly but Sirius took no notice.






   "She looked like she had been dragged through a hedge backwards the way her hair was sticking up. Oh, and you should know how bad she smelled!" he stopped there rather abruptly as he felt Lily dig her pointy elbow into his side with a sharp jab. James couldn’t help sniggering. Val was looking at him with a 'you'll pay for that later' look. That was when Marion re-entered, now smiling and beautiful... and completely clueless as to what had just happened.






   "Hey, what's going on?" she asked, sensing the mood in the atmosphere. The two Marauders burst out into fits of giggles and Kyle struggled to keep back a laugh. Lily gave her an 'I'll tell you later' look and she left with Kyle without another word. Mischa and Lily instinctively immediately slapped Sirius on each shoulder. He winced away, not seeing how his actions weren’t justified.






   "What the hell!" he cried.






   "Oh don't try and tell us that you didn't see that coming." Lily sneered coldly.






   "What? I told her that I would get her back." he complained.






   "Ugh! You are despicable!" Lily growled as she shoved past him.






   "Come on, Evans! Calm down. Or I may have to ask you out again." James laughed cockily, causing Sirius’ laughs to grow louder. Lily started to shout obscenities from up the stairs.






   "Stupid toe rag, Potter. Get a life you tactless, greasy slimeball..."






   After a while of silence, Persephone re-entered the kitchen with a confused look. As usual she was wearing far too much makeup and her chemically enhanced red hair was in a far too extravagant style for people to believe her plans consisted of staying in the house alone all day. She did always say that one had to be prepared for any circumstance, but everyone had thought correctly when they suspected she had meant to say that you should be prepared to look good to meet men in any circumstance. She’d just seen Lily storming off up the stairs and was clueless as to why.






   "Why is Lily shouting at you?" she asked James.






   "Like you actually care, mum." Mischa shot at her before leaving the room. Grins erupted between the boys at her confused face. James had known Persephone a long time. The Preston’s and the Potter’s were two of the oldest wizarding families still around, not to mention the Bett’s which was the family she had been born into. Both families lived in large manor houses on opposite side of a rich wizarding estate in Cavendish, Suffolk. Their homes were only a five minute walk apart if you took the shortcut through the woods from the backs of them rather than walking through the village at the front. The Potter’s had been frequent visitors to the Preston’s since before James and Marion were born, but he had a sneaking suspicion it was Frank that his parents had really been fond of. No doubt they were polite and friendly towards Persephone due to the loss of her husband. His parents were two very caring and sympathetic people. But he was more than happy to put up with her if it meant he could still be friends with Marion. There are a few things in life you can’t possibly go through together without liking one another: growing up in a posh neighbourhood and feeling like an outcast from it is one of them.






   In the Preston family, being a family of nymphs, you would've expected them to be a superhuman family who seemed to never let anything faze them, but they weren't. Frank Preston's mother, (Marion's grandmother) Barbara was a nymph and Frank inherited her abilities, becoming one himself along with his four siblings: Caroline, Henry, Theon and Charlotte. Male nymphs get a luminescing mark on their left ankle whereas females get it on their right and it's bigger, with a colour depending on with of the four elements they are born of. Nymph’s powers originate from the four elements. Frank's was fire. His first born, Mischa got wind, the Val got earth, Marion inherited fire from her father, and Johnny got water. It was a long shot that he would pass his nymph abilities to all 4 of his children, but he did.






   Only the Preston's, Lily and the Potter’s knew about their secret and Marion was sure that James had told Sirius, even though he wasn't supposed to. Anyway, Frank had been very proud of being able to produce 4 new nymphs, but what Persephone had neglected to tell him in life, and made very clear now he was gone, was how much she hated it. She hated living with children who still could use a kind of magic underage, but there was nothing she could do about that. Her children were overjoyed at the prospect of carrying a piece of their father with them wherever they went, but their mother had spent most of her widowhood trying to expel Frank from her mind completely. Contrary to popular belief, there was a time when their marriage had worked, and had been happy and prosperous. Yes, she really had loved Frank Preston once.

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