Chapter 1 : The Ugly Duckling
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Chapter art by me.
Potterverse belongs to the lovely JK Rowling, not me!
I was yet again on the Hogwarts Express. Another year over, another year beginning. This year, I was a fifth year. I looked over at my housemates. Sometimes, I wondered why the sorting hat put me in Ravenclaw. Yes, I was smart, but I wasn’t as into my studies as the rest of my house.
I was a muggle-born. My parents owned a tiny antique shop and tea room not far from our little cottage. I would spend hours reading books by the seaside, since I had few friends. Everyone had always thought I was weird since I loved reading and imagining things. Even my teachers thought I daydreamed too much about books and adventures. When I got my Hogwarts letter, my parents thought it was some elaborate joke on my behalf, that I had imagined it all. They thought it was very creative, but told me the jokes needed to stop. When owls began to show up regularly during the day, though, they began to see the truth in it. What we thought was “super-efficiency” was actually magic. I myself couldn’t explain why the dishes were done so fast, or my room clean or my homework done. It was exciting, in all truthfulness. To know there could be some truth in fairy tales, to know that adventures like what I read about in books were possible…it made me feel that this life, this world had so many more secrets to divulge.
There was a knock at my compartment door, and I saw Rose Weasley and Albus Potter grinning at me. My heart soared when I saw the faces of my two best friends. In all honesty, I was incredibly jealous of them. They could spend breaks together, and yet I couldn’t be with them. It wasn’t that they couldn’t come over or I couldn’t go to their houses. It was that I lived in Seaham, and they in London. It was hard enough for us to get to London to get me to King’s Cross for the train, and there was no point in them coming up to my home. Since my family was muggles, our grate wasn’t connected to the floo network.
I gave them both huge hugs and began to cry as they entered. I had missed them so much. Over the summer their owls had been frequent visitors of my house, as mine had been at theirs. So much had happened over the summer: Albus’s friend Scorpius had visited the family and convinced the Potter-Weasley clan that at least one Malfoy had some sense of decency. Not to say that he was a complete charmer to me, but to the Potters and Weasleys he was incredibly polite, if not friendly. Hugo had discovered girls and was hopelessly smitten with a third year Hufflepuff.
After we finished our “I missed yous” and “it’s so good to see you agains,” we sat down, and Rose accidentally knocked my book off the seat. “Oh, I’m so sorry! Here, let me get—” but she was cut off when a streak of silver bent down and retrieved the book first.
“Scorp! It’s great to see you again!” she said as she leapt up to give him a hug. My heart flew to my throat. I didn’t want him to ridicule me for my book. That was the only thing about me he hadn’t ridiculed me for yet.
I felt his eyes burning me as I looked away. I didn’t want to see the look of disgust only I would recognize. He knew I was Rose and Albus’s friend. He was theirs. He didn’t want to let his feelings towards me taint their friendship with himself or me. I guess he was decent for that one reason.
My surprise was when he came in, sat down across from me, handed me my book, and asked “’The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.’ What’s that about?”
I took my book back, cradling it as gently as I could. It was old, one of the first editions. Mum and Dad had given it to me on my tenth birthday when someone came in selling their father’s books after he died.
“It—it’s about um, these creatures called hobbits. This one particular hobbit, Bilbo, goes off with a wizard and twelve dwarfs on an adventure to regain stolen treasure from a dragon.” I could feel myself turning bright red. “It was written by a muggle.”
I chanced a look at him. Those icy blue eyes bore into me with a look of hatred, and I felt ice go down my back. He was probably going to want to wash his hands to rid himself of the “impurities” my book had given him.
I decided to look out the window in case I started crying. No one would see, and I didn’t want to give Malfoy the satisfaction of letting him know he’d hurt me. I heard the boys talking about quidditch, about how Slytherin would win the cup this year. Once again, I felt like I was eight and in the school yard, clutching my book as my life vest.
The boys surrounded me, blocking my light. I looked up from my book, and a slight breeze blew a stray wisp of hair into my face from my pigtails. One of the boys took the book from me and ripped page after page out, throwing them into a puddle of mud that was nearby. The boys were cheering and calling me names, the least of which was “bookworm.” I didn’t mind the name, but I minded how they were using the term. I was incredibly upset about the book. My parents had given it to me yesterday for my birthday. I’d savored the smell of new paper, the ink, the feel of the paper on my fingertips. Now my schoolmates were destroying what little happiness I’d had.
“Sickle for your thoughts?” I heard Rose say. I snapped back to reality, realizing that a tear had fallen. Looking around and noticing Scorpius was gone, I quickly wiped it away and gave a shaky laugh.
“Oh, just remembering a time when I thought I was a muggle. If only those boys knew what I’d be capable of now…”
Rose giggled. “Katherine Gull, I know you wonder why you’re in Ravenclaw, and I just want you to know you’re not alone in that thought.” I joined her giggles as the train pulled into the Hogsmeade station.
“Katherine Gull, I know you wonder why you’re in Ravenclaw, and I just want you to know you’re not alone in that thought.”
The girls laughed, and I wondered what those boys had done. I walked down the train corridor to where I knew some Slytherins were. It was so much easier to be myself with them than with Rose and Albus around Katherine. I just needed to get my robes on and focus on this upcoming year. This was the year for OWLs, and I absolutely had to get almost all Os so I could be a professor.
“Scorpius…” I heard a girl purr. Oh Merlin, not now. I turned to see Violet Balderic behind me, smiling. The girl didn’t know how to take no for an answer, and I was too polite to say what I really wanted to her. I didn’t want to create Slytherin house drama. I smiled, said hello, and walked away. I could imagine the pout she had on her face. It almost gave me a gleeful feeling.
I managed to finish pulling on my robes just in time to get off the train. Joining the rest of my team mates, we discussed the other houses’ teams and whether or not we thought we’d beat them.
Once we were seated in the Great Hall, Professor McGonagall made her usual speech, the first years were sorted, and the tables filled with food. Sizing up the first years, I made a mental list of who might, in a year’s time, be good additions to the team. Albus was next to me and making the same kind of list. We compared them and found they were almost identical. The feast ended and we were sent to bed.
It’s good to be back, I thought, as I fell asleep.
I lay in my bed, staring at the blue canopy, waiting for all the girls to finally go to sleep. I quietly slid out of bed, put on my shoes, and walked across the room. I needed to walk quickly, silently, and in total darkness if I didn’t want to be caught by Filch. I managed to make it to the seventh floor corridor to the Room of Requirement without getting caught. Albus and Rose joined me a few minutes later with food they’d nicked from the kitchens. It was time for the fourth annual “Back to School, Rule-Breaking Extravaganza” as we’d childishly named it in our second year.
“You know, Al,” I started, mouth full of pudding, “I’ve never understood why, when your dad got rid of the only person who really mattered in that movement, there’s still ‘pureblood elitists’ around.”
“Oh, come off it. Scorpius isn’t one!” he said in defense of his friend, even though he knew it was true. I threw a chicken bone at him and Rose laughed.
“I don’t think it’s so much the movement as it’s the way he was raised.” Rose said. “It’s like that muggle story Mum used to teach us. The Ugly Duckling? Well, Scorpius is still the duckling. Some day he’ll become the swan.”
I contemplated this. She had a good point.
But how long until he became that swan?