The sky was a murky tombstone grey, the dull clouds emptying a hard slush halfway between hail and rain from their greedy bellies onto the world, which sat cowering below. On the streets of London the crowds moved quickly, heads bent, not stopping to talk or look as they normally may have, focused only on getting to where they were going. Huge umbrellas shielded most everyone from view, creating a mass of colourful barriers that put paid to any attempts of sociability.
There was one person in the city who was in no rush. She lay on an old wooden bench in the park in the middle of a square of terraces, wearing a large dark hoodie and jeans held up by an old shoelace tied around her small waist. Her feet were bare, muddy and scratched, the toenails coated in a chipped red gloss. Long dirty blonde curls were spread around her head like a soggy halo. Her eyes were closed behind large glasses, and her rosy lips were slightly parted to expose silver braces covering a rather unflattering arrangement of teeth. She appeared to be sleeping.
The front door of the shabbiest of the old houses opened, and an old woman poked her head around it.
“MINNALOUSHE?” she yelled, cupping her hands around her lips to raise the sound of her voice above the din of the weather. When she received no reply she shook her head with irritation and disappeared back inside for a moment, reappearing with a large yellow raincoat over her clothes and an umbrella several times mended with various assortments of tape. She hobbled out, shutting the door behind her, and moved as quickly as she could towards the square, muttering under her breath about that stupid girl and how she had no respect for the elderly and why she couldn’t just stay inside when it rained like everyone else.
When she reached the square she pushed open the gate, which was so rusted nobody had any use for a key anymore, and fought her way past the overgrown bushes to the place where she knew she would find the elusive teenager.
Upon seeing Minnaloushe sprawled across the bench, sound asleep, she let out an angry noise, almost a growl, and reached down with the one hand that was not holding the umbrella still against the wind to shake her young ward awake.
Minnaloushe’s eyes flickered open and she slowly propped herself up on her elbows to stare the elderly lady in the face.
“Hi, Mrs Gold,” she said, smiling serenely.
“Minnaloushe Strange, if you are not back inside in ten seconds, I will personally see to it that you never leave your room again!”
Minnaloushe, long used to empty threats from the truly sweet old woman who had raised her, slid off the bench and slowly followed Mrs Gold back inside, pausing to pick a large daisy from the grass.
Once she was inside she made her way upstairs to the third story, where her room was. Since there were quite a few children at the orphanage she shared with two of the younger girls, Mary and Olivia, but they were out with some prospective parents that day, so she had it to herself.
With a small sigh Minnaloushe collapsed onto her bed and picked up the home-made calendar on her chest of drawers.
One day until Hogwarts.