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Chapter 7 : Quitting is Always an Option
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The problem with being so used to waking up insanely early, besides the obvious fact that you have to wake up, is that you’re still used to it even when you can sleep in a little later. I was used to having to get up at around six every morning, but at Hogwarts, classes didn’t start until nine. It took me about a half an hour to get ready, and this left me with an two and a half hours of absolutely nothing to do.
So, I sat on the edge of my four-poster bed, swinging my feet back and forth as they brushed across the cool wooden floor, dressed in my uniform debating whether or not I should find something to do. My uniform was already perfectly pressed with my tie loosened around my neck so I didn’t feel too stuffy, my nails were painted with a French manicure, and my mahogany hair was curled into loose ringlets. I had opted out of makeup, for what felt like the first time in years, because my mother wasn’t there to force it on me, and I felt a strange sense of freedom from looking in the mirror at my bare face.
I could do anything at this moment. I now had the control over what I’d do next.
I scanned around the room, to see all of my dorm mates peacefully sleeping. Rose was laying on her back, her hair fanned out around her while Dom was lying face down with her mouth open as she let out small snores. Our other dorm mate, Hattie Porter, who I had met briefly the night before and had seemed very—happy—to say the least, was sleeping perfectly poised, a smile etched onto her face. She was very small and very blond and vaguely resembled an elf. Not a house elf, because those are hideous creatures, but a mystical type of elf. The ones with pointy ears and cherry red cheeks and sparkles coming out of their fingertips.
But elf creatures aside, I figured that since I had all of these hours stretched out ahead of me, I should at least go to breakfast. No one would be there, and I could take in the whole school atmosphere, without having to bump into anyone. Because let’s face it, I really wasn’t the best at socializing.
So, I stood up from my sitting position on my four-poster bed, grabbed a textbook to read while I ate, and tiptoed out of the Sixth Year Girl Dormitory, shutting the door quietly behind me. I padded down the stairs and then entered the Common room, which was completely empty, and headed out into the hallway.
While I was walking, I felt my phone buzz and I mentally cursed myself for bringing it with me. My mum had texted me what felt like a million times since yesterday, and I still had yet to text her back. I looked down at my phone, and without even reading the text message, I deleted it.
I felt bad, but I just didn’t know how to respond. I’d been at Hogwarts for less than a day, and she was already expecting me to devote my time to texting her and filling her in on everything, but I just didn’t want to. I wanted to keep this small part of my life, away from her, if I could help it.
After walking a while longer, I opened the doors to the Great Hall and was greeted with what I initially assumed to be an empty room. However, when I scanned the Great Hall again, I noticed that there was one other person there. It was James, and he was sitting in the same spot he had been sitting at during the feast. His hair seemed a bit mussed, and he wore a ratty robe with a bunch of mud along the bottom of it, which I knew if my mother saw, she’d wrinkle her nose in distaste. But, I was not my mother, so I didn’t really mind.
He looked up as the doors to the hall shut closed, and his eyes flicked over me briefly, before going back to writing on a particularly long piece of parchment, that he seemed to have already halfway filled with writing. I idly wondered what it was, but that was soon replaced with me wondering where I should sit at the table.
Finally, I decided on a spot a couple of seats over from him where we were far enough away to not be associated with each other, but close enough that we could still be classified as being on the same side of the table. I opened the textbook I had quickly grabbed on my way out of the dormitory, which turned out to be my Transfiguration one, and started to read over the pages.
Neither of us said anything to one another, not that I expected him to. Instead, I found myself shooting side-glances at him while I tried to read through the book. He seemed to be taking no notice of me at all, and was concentrating really hard on whatever it was he was writing, every word seeming to be written with a close precision.
I’m not sure how long we were sitting there for, but after a while, people slowly but surely started to trickle into the hall. The Gryffindors that entered sat on the opposite end of the table that James and I were sitting at, most of them seeming to want to keep their distance from him. I did, however, notice a couple of people shoot curious glances at me as they entered, to which I would look back down at my book and pretend I didn’t notice.
After a while, James suddenly stopped writing and got up, leaving the Great Hall without a backwards glance at me. Not that I cared or anything. I didn’t even know why I was so aware of him. It was just…there was something so… different about him. Something different that made me curious.
I continued to sit at the table in solitude, until a while later when I felt a presence sit down across from me. When I looked up, I saw Gryffin, who was smiling hugely at me.
“Early riser?” Gryffin asked me, as he began to grab a piece of toast from off the table and take a large bite out of it.
“Um,” I began as he continued chewing, “Kind of… I’m just used to waking up early I guess.”
Gryffin swallowed and then nodded his head, as if he understood. “Good. It’ll really piss Molly off that you wake up early.”
“She’s not in the same dorm as me…” I started but Gryffin was already not paying attention as he, instead, cupped his hands around his mouth and shouted at someone across the room.
“Oi! Malfoy! Get your arse over here!”
I noticed as a dark blonde boy’s head immediately jerked around from a conversation he seemed to be having with a group of Ravenclaws. He scanned the room with a clinical expression, and after seeing Gryffin waving him over, he seemed to give a businesslike goodbye to the people he was talking to and headed towards us. I noticed, as he got closer, that he was wearing a red and gold tie, with a badge that looked awfully similar to Rose’s fastened onto his robes.
“What’s up?” Malfoy asked, once he reached us. He put both of his hands on the surface of the table as he said this and leaned forward.
“I think you know what’s up,” Gryffin declared, seeming a little less than his normally exuberant self.
“You know I never understand you when you try to be mysterious,” Malfoy said, letting out an annoyed sigh as he ran his hands through his hair in frustration. “Is this because I didn’t see any of you yesterday since I had prefect duties?”
“As if we’d get mad over something stupid like that,” Gryffin answered, looking insulted. “Although your prefect duties were utter bullshit to begin with. Rose didn’t need to do anything.”
“Rose is a slacker when it comes to prefect duties. She’s too focused on school to focus on anything else.”
“She’s just trying to get her grades up,” Gryffin defended. “She let them drop last year because of… you know.”
Malfoy seemed to brush off whatever Gryffin was saying, his face becoming increasingly disinterested, and he instead directed his attention to me. “Hello, I don’t think we’ve properly met,” he said formally, reaching his hand out for me to shake. I would’ve found it odd for anyone else to offer their hand, but for some reason it seemed to fit him. “I’m Scorpius Malfoy."
“Natasha,” I responded with a polite smile as I pulled my hand back.
“Yes, yes, he knows,” Gryffin said looking a bit annoyed. “Now answer my question, Malfoy.”
“Question?” Scorpius asked, although for some reason I had a feeling he knew exactly what Gryffin was referring to. “You didn’t ask me anything.”
“You know why I called you here.”
“I clearly don’t, so please enlighten me.”
“Fine,” Gryffin snapped, inhaling a breath as if preparing himself for battle, “You’re not actually having people try out for seeker, are you?”
Once the question left his mouth, an uncomfortable expression seemed to come across Scorpius’s face.
“Well, that answers that,” Gryffin said bitterly.
“Mate, come on. He’s not coming back on the team, and as Gryffindor captain I can’t just keep a spot open for whenever he feels like rejoining,” Scorpius explained, as if trying to get Gryffin to understand.
Despite the fact that I had very little knowledge about the sport, I was able to deduce they were discussing Quidditch.
“But he’s our captain!” Gryffin argued. “We can’t just replace him.”
“Was our captain,” Scorpius corrected. “James appointed me captain when he resigned."
I felt my ears perk up at this mention.
“But I thought it was supposed to be temporary,” Gryffin argued. “He was supposed to return this year, it’s his last year to be captain before he graduates.”
“Mate, I know,” Scorpius responded, a sympathetic tone in his voice. “But he’s not returning.”
“It’s just…” Gryffin began, seeming at a loss for words. “I just thought that if we gave him time, things would return to normal.”
“I think this is our new normal,” Scorpius said philosophically. There was a long silence where neither of them looked at one another. Then, Scorpius cleared his throat, and his face returned to a businesslike expression. “So this Saturday is the Quidditch tryouts for a new seeker. As captain I expect you to be there and welcome the new member onto the team.”
“Fine,” Gryffin replied begrudgingly.
“Good,” Scorpius stated, nodding his head. “Well, I better be off. See you Gryffin, nice meeting you Natasha.”
“Yeah,” I responded as he turned and walked off, his Hogwarts robes trailing behind him elegantly.
There was a long silence at the table, where Gryffin sat wordlessly, using his fork to spear various pieces of food while he remained deep in thought. I didn’t want to look nosy and ask all of the questions running through my head, so I just remained quiet.
After a Professor came and dropped what I figured was my schedule for the year, I noticed that there was now a large amount of people in the Great Hall, which I took as my cue to leave.
“Well,” I said, standing up from my seat and brushing the skirt of my uniform down so that it sat flat against my legs, “I’m going to go.”
Gryffin nodded as he continued to stare straight ahead, and I began to back away slowly before finally turning around and walking out of the Great Hall. Once I opened to door to leave the Great Hall, I found myself face-to-face with Dom and Rose.
“Tashy!” Dom exclaimed seeming a bit surprised at bumping into me here.
“Hey,” I responded. Rose smiled and gave me a polite hello, before continuing into the Great Hall, leaving Dom and me alone.
“I was looking for you,” Dom stated. “You should’ve told me you were coming down for breakfast! I would’ve joined you.”
“Oh I didn’t want to wake any of you up,” I explained, shrugging my shoulders. “I woke up pretty early.”
“Nonsense,” Dom responded, waving me off. “I never let a friend go to breakfast alone.”
“I wasn’t alone…Gryffin was there,” I offered. Dom, however, did not seem comforted that I had Gryffin as company. “And I met someone named Scor—"
“Scorpius?” Dom asked, interrupting me. “I haven’t seen him yet! How did you meet him?”
“Gryffin was talking to Scorpius about Quidditch tryouts, I think.”
“Oh my god, tryouts!” Dom exclaimed, smacking her forehead. “I totally forgot about those pesky things! When are they?”
“Saturday,” I answered, feeling a bit odd that I was the one filling Dom in.
“Seriously?!” Dom exclaimed, annoyed. “Scorpius can’t let us settle in first?”
“I don’t know… He mentioned something about a seeker tryout, so maybe that’s why.”
“Seeker tryouts...” Dom said trailing off. I felt myself wanting to ask her about James, but for some reason I held back. “Okay.”
“Well I’m going to go back to the dorms. I need to get my books and everything,” I said, starting to edge away.
“You’re not going to join me?” Dom asked, a small pout entering her expression.
“I just finished eating,” I explained. “But tomorrow I will. Promise.”
I offered Dom a smile, which she returned, before I turned off and headed down the hallway. As I turned a corner and pulled back a tapestry that I remembered Dom pointing out as a shortcut to the Gryffindor Common Room, I found myself immediately trip over a body.
“Oh, sorry,” I said immediately, looking at the person I’d tripped over and recognizing the familiar jet-black hair immediately. “I didn’t know you were…”
I noticed that James seemed to not really be listening to me. Instead, he was holding a folded piece of parchment in his hands, staring at it curiously, as if it held the answers to everything. It was then that I realized it was the parchment he had been writing on in the Great Hall.
James slowly looked up at me as I trailed off. “You know the tapestry shortcut?” he asked with a confused expression. He snapped his attention away from the parchment he had been staring at, and instead met his gaze with mine. His eyes looked greener than they had the day I met him, and I noticed the ring of brown around the iris was now tinted more with blue.
“Yeah,” I responded, shocked that he had acknowledged me and also… nervous for some reason. “Dom told me.”
James nodded at this, as if that explained everything, while I continued to stand there. I don’t know why I didn’t just walk past him, but for some reason I found myself wanting to talk to him, despite the fact that he didn’t seem to want to talk to me.
“So,” I asked, after there was a long silence, “why are you here?”
James looked at me with a level stare before finally opening his mouth and responded, “Thinking.”
“Right…” I started, again examining the way he was sitting on the floor. “Thinking."
“Sounds… fun,” I said, at a loss for words.
“Okay, well… have fun then,” I responded. James was obviously not interested in starting a conversation, so I began to walk away, deciding that I should actually go to the Common room like I had told myself I was going to. “See ya.”
James however, didn’t respond and instead just watched as I continued through the passageway, his eyes morphing to a darker blue.
It was weird. I wasn’t the type of person to start a conversation with someone, let alone try and make it last. In fact, I was the exact opposite. So why was I trying so hard to talk to James?
I shook my head, trying to clear it of the million and one questions that were fluttering around me. Ones that made me want to turn myself around, march up to James, and ask him about everything I’d heard and suspected.
But I didn’t. Instead, I glanced back over my shoulder at James, as I retreated out of the shortcut. He had turned back to staring at the parchment, and his mouth was set in a thin line. His fists were clenched and his jaw was set. Just as I turned my head away from him, I noticed his hands begin to scrunch the paper up into a ball, before throwing it at the wall.
“The secret with Professor Binns,” Rose began, as we collected our books to leave the History of Magic classroom, “is that you need to always know important dates. Most of the time, you don’t even need to know any of the details about what actually happened. You just need to know that there was a Goblin-Wizarding War in 1832 and you’re good to go.”
“I see,” I responded. History of Magic had just finished, and while being one of the most boring classes on the face of the Earth, it was also a class I did not have with Dom. Dom had warned me about how boring the class was when I told her I wanted to take it, but I had been so interested in learning all about wizarding history, that I had ignored her. Something I was seriously regretting now.
“And also,” Rose said, getting a bit excited (she loved History of Magic for some crazy reason), “if you read the chapter summaries in your textbook, he gets a lot of his quiz questions from there.”
“Great,” I responded with a forced smile. Rose smiled genuinely back at me, which made me feel bad. I really should’ve been more grateful at the fact that she was taking me under her wing, and letting me in on the secrets of each teacher.
“Oh that reminds me,” Rose said, her eyes snapping onto mine as her walking slowed, “Do you have a planner?”
“A… planner?” I asked as Rose seemed to scrutinize my expression. Her face instantly morphed to shock.
“A homework planner,” Rose clarified. “You write down all of your homework for each subject into it and then you know all the homework you have and when it’s due. I can’t believe you don’t know what a planner is! That’s the–”
“Fundamental building blocks of an A plus,” a voice recited from behind us, officially stopping Rose in what I expected to be a very long and excited explanation. I immediately was thankful.
“So,” Freddy started, while I noticed that he was not alone. Gryffin (who had made the first remark) and Scorpius were also with him. “Rose is giving you the infamous planner lecture? Welcome to the family then.”
“What?” I asked confused.
“The planner lecture,” Freddy repeated. “It’s Rose’s way of initiating you into the family. We’ve all had to endure it at one point in our lives, even Scorp here has.” With that Freddy clapped Scorpius on the shoulder.
Scorpius seemed to notice my puzzled expression and he began to speak. “Basically, if Rose gives you the lecture, it means she cares. No matter how dull it may be.”
“You guys,” Rose complained, “the homework planner is not dull. It’s gotten me through the past five years here, and now it’s going to get me through my sixth.”
“We’ve all made it through the years fine without your planner, so your justification is useless,” Scorpius stated, which caused Rose to glare at him.
“The planner is not useless. You’ve all only slid by these past few years, because I have used the planner to get my homework done so that you can all copy it.”
“It’s still useless,” Gryffin added, shrugging his shoulders. “I could get it all done if I wanted, I just figure since you’re always done, it’s easier to just copy.”
“For the last time, the planner is not useless,” Rose argued as her face flushed. She then turned to me. “Seriously, Natasha, you should use it. It’ll save you.”
I couldn’t help but notice the slightly threatening way she said it, as if telling me to agree with her so she could prove the guys wrong. I know it wasn’t her intent to frighten me, but I felt myself fidget uncomfortably.
“I normally use a color coding system when it comes to homework,” I told Rose tentatively. “I like to give each subject a different color, and then I write down each assignment in the assigned colored folder, and write the colors that I need to take a look at into a notebook. Then I make a time schedule for each assignment to make sure I get everything done by the due date.”
After I said this, Freddy, Gryffin, and Scorpius stared at me in complete shock. I suddenly found myself becoming very self-conscious, so my eyes shifted to Rose. She was beaming at me.
“What?” I asked, after there was a long moment where nobody said anything. “I just like having things organized.”
“Just when I thought you were normal,” Gryffin started, “you have to go and say things like that.”
“Gryffin!” Rose chastised.
“I can’t believe you said that! I swear, sometimes you have about as much tact as Molly!”
“I am nothing like Molly,” Gryffin said looking completely insulted.
“What’s so bad about being me?” Molly asked at the same time.
“Sometimes I think you two are the exact same,” Rose stated, not seeming to care about how insulted both Molly and Gryffin now seemed.
“Take it back,” Gryffin commanded.
“Yeah, take it back,” Molly interjected looking offended. “He would only be so lucky to be like me.”
“No,” Rose responded with a sniff. “Not until you apologize to that poor little first year that you told ‘needed to learn her place in the school food chain’ and then apologize for making her cry.”
“She was sitting in our spot!” Gryffin argued, gesturing to the middle table that we were now all seated at. “She needed to learn about a little something called the real world. And in the real world, you can’t take people’s seats.”
“Couldn’t have said it better myself,” Molly commended, looking a bit impressed at Gryffin’s statement.
There was a moment of silence, and then—
“Oh no,” Gryffin said, putting his face in his hands. “I am just like Molly.”
“It’s okay, Gryffin,” Dom said, placing a comforting hand on his arm. “We put up with you anyways.”
“I still don’t understand what’s so bad about being like me,” Molly stated.
Everyone at the table, including Freddy and Scorpius, who had been conversing about something Qudditch related, turned to stare at her with varying shades of disbelief.
“Molly…” Dom started delicately. “You bully first years, pick fights with random passers-by, and laugh loudly every time a guy asks you to Hogsmeade, completing your answer with a snarky remark about how you ‘wouldn’t in a million years’.”
Molly continued to stare back at Dom for a long moment without blinking, as if thinking over Dom’s words. Then, she shrugged. “ So I know what I want. What’s so bad about that?” she asked.
Rose smacked her forehead, Gryffin continued to moan about being just like a ‘nutter’, Scorpius was holding back a laugh, and Freddy was staring at her as though she was a particularly tricky puzzle.
“You could be a little nicer though, don’t you think?” Dom asked hopefully.
“Nah, don’t want to ruin my reputation,” Molly responded nonchalantly. “I’ve built it up for too long to start being nice to people.”
“There’s no saving you,” Freddy stated, while Scorpius nodded.
“Definitely, no saving you,” Scorpius agreed.
“Maybe Molly doesn’t want to be saved,” I stated, before I could comprehend what I was doing. “She could be happy the way she is, you know.”
“Thank you,” Molly responded, looking at the rest of the table, as if proving that she did not in fact need to be saved. “At least someone here appreciates me.”
“She’s new,” Gryffin said shrugging his shoulders. “Give her a few days, she’ll change her mind.”
After Gyrffin finished speaking, Molly took this time to smack him across the back of the head.
Nata, You haven’t responded to any of my messages, so I’m assuming yesterday went well and you’re very busy? Text me back. Love, Mum
Honey, How is your first day of classes going? Please let me know. Love, Mum
Nata, you haven’t responded and I’m getting worried. Can you please text me back to let me know you’re alright? Love, Mum.
Sweetie, I’m assuming that you aren’t able to use your phone at Hogwarts, so I’m using the old-fashioned owl way to contact you and ask you how everything’s going? How are your classes? I miss you, Mum.
Natasha, I think I might’ve sent the first owl to the wrong place so I’m just sending a follow up owl to make sure. How are classes going? Remember next week we’re going to the revealing of your billboard, okay? Please respond. I love you, Mum.
Those weren’t all the letters I had. I had several more, all from my mum throughout the past couple of days, each letter written with the exact same premise. How was I doing? Was I having fun? Did I miss her? Have I made new friends? They were all she could ask about, and while it was a typical thing for a mother to ask, I knew she was asking me for different reasons. She just wanted to know to keep tabs on me, to make sure I was doing everything I was supposed to. Not because of an actual interest.
So now, I sat on my four-poster bed with my phone and the countless letters from my mum spread out in front of me. Her handwriting had turned from its normal careful calligraphy to a more hurried scrawl if you read the letters in order, and I felt strange. As if I, in some small way, had all the power.
I didn’t like it; I didn't know what to do with it.
So, as I read through (for the fifth time) all of the letters my mum had sent me, and deleted all of the texts that flooded my inbox, I decided that I needed to respond to her. I didn’t want my mum to worry any longer—I didn’t even know what had caused me to wait so long— but I knew I had to respond. And knowing my mum, it would have to be soon, or else she’d come to the school and demand me to come home… or something along those lines.
So, I grabbed a piece of personalized pink parchment (that my mother bought me) out of the drawer of my dresser and scrawled back a response, my messy handwriting look so much worse when compared to hers.
Mum, Just saw your letters. School’s fine, I’m doing well. Love you, Nata
I folded up the parchment and then looked around the room, which was completely empty despite it being late at night. Dom and Rose had gone with Molly, Gryffin, Freddy, and Scorpius to the kitchens in order to nick some food and hang out. I had opted out of it, feigning being tired from waking up so early, while I instead stared at my mum’s letters until my eyesight hurt. Our other dorm mate, Hattie, had mentioned something about seeing her boyfriend, so she wasn’t there either.
I decided that I shouldn’t put off sending the letter, so I got up off my bed and decided to head to the Owlery. It had been the one place my mum had been intent on showing me when I visited the school with her, because she wanted me to be able to keep in contact with her and Georgiana with no excuses.
The hallways were silent and when I finally made it to the Owlery, I stood in there trying to beckon one of the school owls down for ten minutes before it finally perched itself on my shoulder. After tying the letter onto the owl’s foot, I directed the owl to deliver the letter to my mum. I watched the tawny owl spread its wings and fly out of the Owlery, and as I watched it, I caught sight of something else.
Out on the Quidditch pitch, there was a lone figure that I could barely. The figure was flying, a pinprick in the distance of the night sky. After staring for a long moment, I realized it was James.
While I didn’t know much about flying, I knew there was something special about the way he was doing it. There was just… an elegance about it. Arc by arc, loop by loop, it was the most impressive flying I had ever seen. Like he’d been born to ride a broom, and the way his hair ruffled in the wind just made it seem all the more fitting. He was a natural.
I don’t know how long I stood there, watching the ends of his Quidditch robes flutter through the air as he continued his fluid flight, but I watched long enough for him to decide he was done, lower himself to the ground, and get off his broom. He seemed to look up from where he was standing, his face turned directly towards the window I was looking out of, so I felt myself shrink back into the shadows.
After waiting a long moment, I returned back to the windows to see James heading back to the castle, his broom being carried carelessly under one arm. As he walked, he looked up at the Owlery one last time before entering the castle.
I wasn’t sure if he had seen me or not, but I knew that he had definitely seen something, so I quickly left the Owlery to head back to the common room.
And that night, when I closed my eyes, the only thing that ran through my head was James. I could picture his fluid movements, the smoothness of his turns. The very faint (almost nonexistent) smile he had on his face as he flew. It seemed like he—for the most fleeting of moments—owned the night sky, owned everything that surrounded him. He seemed in control. Like he knew everything he was supposed to be doing.
I found myself unbelievably jealous of this for some reason.
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