Chapter 2 : Just Not Normal
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“See? This is why people think you're a spaz.”
“Um,” I shook my head, clearing my mind from my previous train of thought and giving myself some time by taking a bite of toast and chewing slowly. Eventually, I had to turn and face her. “What's a spaz?”
“A weirdo who spaces out and stares at walls.” She always had a special definition for words when I needed them.
I shrugged. “That doesn't sound that bad.”
“It is,” she said in a matter-of-fact way.
“You space out all the time.” I left out the part where she is always spacing out while staring at a boy, since she recently went into denial about being crazy about boys.
Melisa let out one long breath through her nose as she piled breakfast onto her plate. “Well...it kind of is.”
“It just is.” Her quick response and the way she turned her head away from me told me that she was getting irritated with the conversation, and I smiled a bit. Yes, she was my friend, but she was also fun to annoy every once in a while. “Anyway, back to what I wanted to talk about....”
This is Melisa. Boy-crazy, a little vain, and a bit of a hypocrite. But despite that, she's still my friend. Not by choice, though. She sort of forced her way into my life, not taking 'no' as an answer until the only thing left for me to do was accept the friendship she offered. It ended up working in both of our favors. She wanted someone to talk endlessly to, and I wanted someone to teach me English slang...something that is, without a doubt, impossible to learn.
A piece of toast being waved in my face brought me out of my head, and back to the Great Hall.
“See? Spaz,” Melisa teased playfully, taking a huge bite out of the toast. “So anyway, I told you a while ago that he was dating Sharon Bruce, right?”
“The red-head?” I asked. I could only smile and nod for so long before she would notice that I really wasn't paying attention to her boy-troubles. I really tried to pay attention...I really did. It's just that the things she likes to talk about – boys, gossip, how much she loves that weird wizarding band – it didn't interest me. I forced myself to pay attention when she made a wide hand gesture.
“I heard he dumped her over the weekend. Alison said it was pretty brutal, I guess. She just didn't understand that it was over between them.” I fought a smile as Melisa stared with false pity over to the Hufflepuff table. She was the same way, even if she couldn't admit it. Before I could point this out, the sadness on her face was gone and replaced with a smile once again. “So that means he's available.”
I didn't have to ask who 'he' was. Melisa has had a crush on Sirius Black since their first year, and she was positive that one day he would realize that he loved her as well.
“Are you going to ask him out, then?”
“Are you bloody mad?” she asked in a hushed voice, leaning closer to me so that we could whisper. Apparently, the two second-years sitting across from us weren't allowed to hear this. “You don't ask Sirius Black out.”
“He asks you out.”
I gave her the look that I had mastered since first year. The I-don't-understand-a-word-you're-saying-you-crazy-girl look. She answered this, as always, by simply rolling her eyes and sitting back up on the bench, going about eating breakfast as normal. I followed suit, and sat back up as well. I tried to eat some eggs, but like every other morning, the only thing I really wanted was more toast.
I jumped a bit when someone tapped my shoulder, and I could tell who was behind me even before I turned around. I caught a glimpse of Melisa's face; it was Antonin. Though she hated it when I called him that, so around her, his name was just 'Dolohov', with a rude tone added to it.
“Hello,” I said, ignoring the look Melisa gave me for talking to him.
He slowly moved his dark eyes from Melisa to me, and while he wasn't glaring at her, he wasn't making an attempt to smile either. His face was stoic, like normal.
“'Morning, Natalka. I'm studying for Charms later on in the library if you'd like to join me.”
“Sure.” He grinned and nodded once. Antonin walked away and ignored Melisa, whose glare followed him all the way out of the Great Hall, where he met up with another Slytherin at the doorway.
She turned sharply to me when she was finished. “Merlin, that boy gives me the creeps.” She shook her head as if trying to rid him from her mind. “Why do you even hang out with him?”
“I don't hang out with him. We study.”
Melisa rolled her eyes. “Right, sure. You're willingly spending your free time with a Slytherin.” It sounded more like a question than a statement, but I didn't answer it. It was true. In my free time, I chose to be around a Slytherin, but I never saw what the problem was. I had hoped that she would drop it like she normally did when I went silent, but this time she continued. “That's just not normal.”
“It's completely normal,” I answered quickly, forgetting that I was remaining silent until she dropped the topic. “He's helping me with my English,” I added lamely when she raised her delicate eyebrows at me.
“Don't start with that excuse again. He speaks a tiny bit of Russian, and last year you told me that it was nothing like Ukrainian...how can he help you more than I can?” I didn't say a thing. There was no way to answer that question and come out remotely alive from the thing that was ranting-Melisa. “Oh, Merlin's beard, Natalka,” she said, tossing her toast onto her plate and looking like she just smelled something terrible. “Please don't tell me you actually like that freak?”
“I don't like him, and he's not a freak just because he's in Slytherin.”
“No, but he became a freak the second he started hanging out with all the other little Death-Eaters-in-the-making.” I was a little shocked and dropped my fork, jumping at the loud clattering noise it made as it fell onto my plate. A few eyes turned to me briefly before they turned away, leaving us to our end of the Ravenclaw table again.
“He's not a Death Eater.” I kept my voice low, feeling a little nervous just saying those two words. She opened her mouth to counter, but I quickly interrupted her. “Please, Melisa. Just stop.” She looked more irritated than before, but I really didn't want to continue that conversation. I felt a little bad as she turned back to her plate, showing no sign of changing the subject so that we could still talk. “We need to go to class.”
“Fine, whatever.” Melisa grabbed her school bag and stood up, waiting for me to untangle the strap of my bag from the leg of the bench before leaving the Great Hall. The moment we rounded the corner into a deserted hallway, she spun around and had her finger pointing at me. Despite the fact that she was easily a few inches shorter than me, her fierce glare and piercing blue eyes made up for any intimidation that was lost. “When you become the center of one of their little cruel pranks, you can't say I didn't warn you.”
Before I could answer, she spun back around, and walked away.
“He doesn't care if you have a lot of detail, as long as you get the general concept,” Antonin explained, glancing up at me as we both worked on the outlines for our Charms essays. Charms was not my strongest class, and apparently not Antonin's either. But he found a way around that by studying the teacher and how Professor Flitwick grades.
People really didn't give him the credit he deserves. He isn't exactly the top of the class and his reputation is brought down a bit by being in Slytherin, but he's clever – enough to where he can easily coast through any classes that he didn't like. I never would have thought to study the teacher to figure out what they're looking for in an essay.
I glanced down at my paper, where I was frantically trying to talk as if I knew each and every part of this spell, and each and every use. It sounded horrible, probably because I really didn't know much about the spell besides the basics. Crumpling up the parchment, I pushed it to the side and brought a fresh piece out of my bag, ready to start again.
“You'll need to translate this and send it to your parents,” Antonin whispered, leaning over the table to slide a folded piece of parchment to me. It was so sudden and out of the blue that, for a minute, I just stared at the parchment sitting between us. I felt his stare and slowly grabbed it, feeling uneasy as I did so.
I tried to keep my hand from shaking as I picked up the letter, but I couldn't stop my stomach from turning when I pulled it closer to me. Something about sending a secret letter from his parents to mine made me feel nervous...and I had a right to be. It was no secret who Mr. and Mrs. Dolohov were supporting, and though my parents were out of the country, they didn't make their support much of a secret, either. I knew what the letter would generally be about before I even opened it, but I had to anyway.
I groaned the moment my eyes laid on the first sentence.
“Russian?” I glanced up at Antonin who was grinning, completely at ease despite what we were doing.
“No one else in the school speaks Russian. My parents had to make sure that no one would be able to read it if they found it.”
“What about finding a translator outside of the school? I'm sure Dumbledore could do that.”
“He wouldn't bother that with a small note – it's not suspicious enough to call for it. Can you do it?”
I read the first few lines. The writer must have known that my Russian was not very good, and used very simple language that was easy to understand. I glanced through it, and while I saw the words, the uneasiness in my stomach made focusing on what they actually meant difficult. I nodded and folded the parchment back up, slipping it into my bag. My hands were still shaking as I brought them back up to my lap, feeling like they had just been burned as I rubbed them together in my lap.
“What is it about?” I asked, making sure to keep my voice low, but it still shook. It was nearly curfew so the library was almost empty, but we couldn't risk other people overhearing.
“From my father.” Antonin flipped a page in the book that he had been pretending to read a few moments ago, and I did the same. “He knows a pure-blood family in Russia that would be willing to join him. He told me that they can't reach them without your father's help. Sort of like a halfway point,” he added, flashing his teeth in a grin as he glanced up at me through the dark hair that hung in his face. The dim lighting and the contrast to his tan skin made his usually nice smile eerie, and I looked back down to my book quickly.
He closed his book with a loud thud, making me jump as the noise echoed around the library.
“Do you actually need help with Charms?” I shook my head, even though I wouldn't have minded the extra pair of eyes on my work. “Okay then,” his usually stoic face softened just a little bit as he smiled. “Goodnight.”
“Goodnight.” I watched his robes sway behind him until he turned the corner and disappeared from my sight. I could hear his footsteps as they slowly faded away into the corridors. Quietly shutting the Charms book in front of me, I pushed it aside. I glanced nervously down at the bag by my feet, and after a moment's hesitation, I grabbed the letter out of the front pocket.
I unfolded it and smoothed it out in front of me, feeling as if I was reading something I shouldn't as I began to translate the words in my head.
Dear Mr. Yosyp Kovalenko,
I have found an old friend in Moscow who would be more than willing to help you in anything you do for him. He does not speak Ukrainian, so your letters will have to be translated before you send them. His name is Fedir Ivanov, living at
Rechnaya Street, 5-15
Mention either myself or him, and you will have help from Moscow without a moments hesitation.
My eyes lingered on the word 'him' written larger and darker than the rest of the words. There was no doubt in my mind who that meant. The hairs on the back of my neck began to rise, even just as I thought about it.
The sound of footsteps forced me to tear my eyes away from the neat handwriting, and I quickly stuffed the letter into my pocket as the librarian rounded the corner. Her dark, hawk-like eyes narrowed in on me, who must have looked like a deer caught in headlights.
“It's time for you to leave,” she said, her voice quiet yet firm. I nodded, feeling my heart race as her eyes surveyed the area around me, looking for anything out of place. I waited for her to say something else, but as quickly as she came, she left. I took a slow, deep breath, trying to calm my nerves as I pulled the letter out of my pocket and smoothed out the wrinkles that had formed when it was unceremoniously stuffed out of sight.
It felt like it should burn my hands. I wanted it to burn my hands as I stared at it. This thing I was holding was evil...such a small piece of parchment that would ultimate lead to more death and destruction. But I had to turn the other cheek...look the other way as I passed it on to my father. I forced myself to ignore the panic that was racing through my veins, and I placed it back in my bag.