Chapter 3 : For A Pessimist, I'm Pretty Optimistic
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Disclaimer: The only things I own are the OC's and plot. Chapter title credit goes to Paramore.
You'd think that after six years of riding the Hogwarts Express, you'd run out of things to do on the way to school.
That couldn't be any more wrong.
Hidden compartments that have yet to be explored, the secret cupboard where the trolley lady keeps her stash of treats, fresh young first years who'd believe every word that comes out of a big, scary, seventh year's mouth - the possibilities were endless!
In fact, it's the first few years on the train that are the dullest. If you're clever, by the time fourth year comes along you know the system well enough to use it to your advantage. Like being able to convince the naive first years that the train is powered by a Hungarian Horntail that could burn the whole thing down if they got too rowdy, or tricking them into lugging your trunk around, even though there's a steward at the front who usually takes care of that for you. Each year there's a fresh batch, completely oblivious to the way things ran around here.
James and I were currently roaming around the corridors, looking for our next victims while we waited for our friends to show up. We had the misfortune of having friends who were either too responsible for their own good and therefore stuck in Prefect meetings, or too irresponsible that they were always the last ones to show up. Either way, it wasn’t until a quarter of the way into the trip that we got to meet up with them.
“Chubby blonde, nine o’clock.”
I immediately spotted the puffy-cheeked eleven year-old whom James pointed out, his watery eyes and anxious expression marked him as the perfect target. He was fidgeting with the frayed ends of his wool cardigan, his chapped lips quivering as he looked for a compartment to sit in. I was particularly amused with the unevenness of his knit socks; one was stretched all the way to his calf while the other lay crumpled along his ankle.
He had Hufflepuff written all over him.
With a quick nod towards James, I let the French in me kick in and approached the boy with the most confident posture I could summon. I felt like a prick that had a broom shoved up her arse, but intimidation was everything when it came to screwing with first years.
“Oi, tubby!” I called, positioning myself so that I would be looming over him. James stood behind me in an equally daunting position.
The boy turned around so quickly I was worried he might have broken his neck. I noticed that his knees were shaking, as he glanced up at me. Judging by the look on his face, you’d think that we were a couple of Death Eaters.
This was going to be good.
“W-w-were you t-t-talking to me?” he squeaked, his voice an entire octave higher than what could be considered normal. Then again, at this age it was rather hard to tell with boys.
“Do you see anyone else in the corridor?”
Chubbers looked around him, swallowing hard when he noticed that we were alone.
“C-c-can I help you?” he stuttered.
“I don’t know. Can he help us, James?”
“We have to make sure that he’s worthy first.”
I had to bite my lip to prevent from laughing at the way his eyes widened. Bloody hell, we were just getting started and he already looked like he was going to wet his trousers.
“Of course! We can’t have just any old first year helping us,” I said, glancing at the boy in a way that would make him think I was inspecting him. “What’s your name, boy?”
“Barney Welbourne, ma’am.”
Sad thing was that, that wasn’t the first time a scared first year referred to me as “ma’am”.
“Well, Barney Welbourne, do you have any idea who you are speaking to?”
Barney shook his head.
“What?! You don’t know who we are? Dear god, do you live under a rock?”
“Honestly, how do you expect to survive at Hogwarts without knowing who we are?” James added, shaking his head disapprovingly.
“A disgrace, really.”
“And here I was thinking that you could help us.”
“Way to let us down, Barney Welbourne.”
“You ought to be ashamed.”
At this point Barney was so scared and confused it seemed like he would burst into tears at any second. He turned his head between the two of us, trying to give an explanation but all that seemed to come out were gargled little cries. His face was starting to turn red, a combination of embarrassment and terror.
Merlin, I ought to become an actress.
“What on earth is going on here?” the most obnoxious voice on the planet shrieked.
James and I jumped at the sound that seemed to come out of nowhere. Quickly recovering from the initial shock, I whirled around, accidently smacking Barney's face with my hair in the process. My suspicions were confirmed, as I looked upon Hogwarts' most annoying prat standing in the corridor, her arms planted firmly on the boniest hips I've ever seen. Perfectly polished like always, her silver Prefect badge was safely pinned to the front of her school robes. She was the only person I knew that wore her robes to the train. They were two sizes too big and combined with her frizzy black hair and beak of a nose, she strikingly resembled a crow.
“Nothing that should concern you,” I told her, using my height to defy her. There were moments when being freakishly tall for a girl had its advantages.
“I am Head Girl,” she said this like it was the answer to everything.
I did a double take and indeed found that her Prefect badge had been upgraded. My stomach dropped at that realisation. Matilda Ramsey, the snitch responsible for my impressively extensive detention record, now held the authority to actually assign me one.
“Come off it, Matilda. The two of us were just having a laugh,” James said, offering her a charming grin that would have made most girls melt into a puddle of pathetic hormones.
Matilda Ramsey however, was about as hormonal as a slug.
“A laugh at the expense of poor, innocent children? I expected more out of you, James Potter,” she scolded, wagging a finger at him. James just looked amused.
Honestly, she acted like she was forty.
I started to open my mouth to say some snarky remark about how she should stop acting like she was superior to everyone, but Barney Welbourne started uncontrollably flapping his mouth like he was some rogue puppet. At that point I probably would have turned to glare at him, except he was too busy gawking at James in complete awe to notice my annoyance.
“Y-y-you’re James Potter?” he gasped.
“Took you a while, eh?”
I had to roll my eyes at Barney’s expression. His eyebrows were now so high up his face they may have very well never existed. It was like a switch had flipped inside of him, transforming him from a terrified first year to a mega fan boy. He went all starry eyed on us and I could have sworn there was a bit of drool forming at his lips. I preferred it when he was about to piss his pants.
“If you’re James, then you must be Rose Weasley!” Barney exclaimed, turning his attention towards me.
It was like a slap to the face.
How on earth could someone mistake me for Rose-freaking-Weasley? It wasn’t like I had a wand shoved up my bum or walked around like I was some fairy princess. I haven’t stepped foot into the library since fourth year, unlike my prissy cousin who seemed to live there. Not to mention she was two years younger than me. He obviously wasn’t a very smart fan boy. Had he done his research, like a real obsessive fan, he would have known that little fact, as well as the one about Rose and me looking absolutely nothing alike.
Rose wasn’t even a full ginger!
There were so many things I wanted to say to Barney Welbourne. The Veela in me wanted to claw his throat out for making such an accusation. I also had a miniscule portion inside of me - also known as rationality - that wanted to lecture him on the dangers of Weasley profiling. That part of my brain understood that he was only an ignorant first year that didn’t know any better and therefore was in need of being educated. However, before either side could do anything, a loud chuckle filled the corridor.
“That kid has to be the bravest first year on this train.”
The voice came from behind Matilda Ramsey and judging by the way my prick senses were tingling, I knew it could only belong to one person. Said person was the only one I knew who managed to be so obnoxious that my body had its very own defence system which alerted me of his presence. He also happened to have the worst timing possible, with the tendency of walking in on moments where his mere existence would set me off.
This so happened to be one of them.
“No one asked for your opinion, White,” I snapped.
“Dominique Weasley! That is no way to talk to your Head Boy!” Matilda exclaimed, positively mortified at the idea of someone talking back to a figure of authority.
Wait a minute...
“You’re head boy?” I asked, turning my attention to the bigheaded git.
It was like déjà vu. The way I double checked his chest, searching for the silver sign that would determine the fate of my seventh year. The way my stomach clenched with despair once I spotted it. The way I felt after having lost that final sliver of hope. If Matilda Ramsey was the one to rat me out, then Darren White was the one to get me into trouble in the first place. I honestly believed that if the prick didn’t exist, then I wouldn’t have half of the problems that I had now.
“Does that really surprise you?” he asked, with his usual amount of arrogance.
Oh how I wanted to wipe that smirk off his stupid tanned face.
“I can’t believe old McGonagall picked a twit like you for head boy. Maybe it really is time for her to retire.”
“Excuse me, but insulting the Head Mistress’s choice for Head Boy falls under the category of disrespecting authorities,” Matilda Ramsey added. “That’s liable for a detention.”
“Shut up, Ramsey.”
I mentally smacked myself on the head, wishing that I had better control over my tongue.
Kicking off the year with a detention was never the way to go. Unless of course, you actually enjoyed having a hundred pairs of eyes follow your every move, snickering behind your back, while you ate your dinner. It didn’t help if you were sitting all by yourself because your best friend still hadn’t shown up.
We were in the middle of the Start-of-Term feast, and the only thing keeping me from wallowing in utter self-pity were the mountainous plates of Hogwarts food sitting before me. James was deep in conversation with his dorm mates and our cousin Freddy about some Quidditch player that lost his leg to a rabid hippogriff, and my only other friend was too enveloped in her book to participate in petty dinner conversation. I could have gone and started talking with Dare, who was being an antisocial nerd and keeping to himself, but I wasn’t that desperate.
So I did what I always did when I had nothing better to do: I ate.
I reached for the roasted potatoes and served myself a generous helping, making sure to leave enough room for a few entrées. The closest in arms’ range were a beautifully glazed ham and a golden rotisserie chicken, gleaming in the warm light of the Great Hall. I felt my mouth water at the glorious sight, and piled on double servings of both. There was just enough space left for a hot, buttery roll, which completed my masterpiece.
Sorry mixed greens, but you didn’t make the cut.
“How are you not the size of a hippogriff?” Dare asked incredulously, watching the warm trail of juice that was dribbling down my chin after having taken a giant bite out of my chicken.
God, wasn’t I an attractive sight.
I wiped my mouth with the sleeve of my robe, before answering. “By keeping a steady diet and exercising regularly.”
Yeah, right. The only way I’d ever go on a steady diet was if it meant I got to eat chocolate every day and have as much steak my willowy body could handle, which was, surprisingly, a lot.
He rolled his eyes, taking off his glasses to wipe them clean, a habit I have learned he often did when he was bored.
“You know, if you wouldn’t eat like such a rabbit, maybe you’d bulk up enough that the Slytherins would stop beating the crap out of you,” I told him, glancing at his plate that only held salad.
“Excuse me for not wanting to sink down to their barbaric level and fight,” he snapped, always defensive when it came to his gangly appearance.
“It’s not barbaric to defend yourself.” I explained, “Seriously, your street cred would rise immensely if you’d swing back a punch or two, instead of whimpering against the wall like a little girl.”
“I’m not going to take advice from a girl who managed to get a detention before school even started.”
“I wouldn’t have gotten that had you not stuck your giant nose into my business!”
“Oh, so your lack of self discipline is my fault?”
“Of course it is!”
“Really, you two? We haven’t even gone through dinner and you’re already arguing,” a small voice exclaimed, and I turned around to see my friend Brain shaking her blonde head at the pair of us, her book closed.
“I can’t help it that your brother’s a git,” I replied.
I honestly had no idea how the two were related. Brain, or Brianna if you wanted to be politically correct, was the most reasonable and calm fifteen year old girl I’ve ever met. Not to mention, she was actually nice. Whereas with Dare, you just had to look at him to see that he was the devil reincarnate. I mean sure, they were both smart and reserved and rather awkward, but that probably has more to do with their upraising than actual genetics. They didn’t even look alike!
Brain was tiny and delicate, with big blue-grey eyes that I swear could gaze into your very soul. Dare was tall, lanky, and had a mess of rust-coloured hair. All his eyes ever did were smoulder and make you want to vomit.
“Neither can I, but at least I’m not fighting with him every other minute. And I have to live with him,” she scolded, and I felt a sliver of shame. “Same goes for you, Dare. Would it kill you to stop baiting Minnie? It’s a wonder how I manage to get anything done, what with you guys constantly at each others’ throats.”
Dare started to object, but Brain gave him a stern glance before returning to her book, her sign that the discussion was over. The moment after a fight was always the most awkward, never sure how to react after being put into place and by a fifth year no less. Usually Brain ignored our arguments, leaving it to my best friend to handle everything. But since she wasn’t there – which was starting to make me worry – I guess it was her turn to be the hand of discipline.
Thankfully, we didn’t have to suffer too long, for the feast had come to an end and Headmistress McGonagall made her way to the podium.
“Before we head off to our common rooms, there are a few notices that need to be announced, so I ask that all of you pay close attention,” she began, silencing the room. “As I’m sure all of you have noticed the seat which Professor Figgins usually occupies here at the staff table is empty.”
To be honest, I actually hadn’t notice that. I was too busy ignoring everyone’s annoying stares and pretending like I didn’t exist.
“Your Defence Against the Dark Arts professor was infected with a rather sudden case of dragon pox over the holiday. We were informed of his ailment only a few days prior to the start of term, and are hastily working to find you a replacement professor. That being said, your new professor should be here by next week, so all Defence classes are going to be cancelled until then.”
At this, there was an outburst of cheers from the students. Granted, there were only two school days left of the week, but the idea of an extra free period was enough for anyone to get excited.
“This does not mean you are going to be dilly dandling for an entire period. Instead, whatever class you had prior will become a double class period. Or if that class was already a double period, then the next class will be doubled.”
The Great Hall filled with groans, and I could only hope that I didn’t have Charms before or after DADA. That would be just plain torture.
“Now, I am sure all of you are ready to retire to your common rooms, so I will keep these last few words short. As we all know, this year will be the last for our seventh years. However, they aren’t the only ones who will be leaving, come June.”
There was a collective outburst of whispers, mainly from the younger students since we seventh years weren’t going to be affected by the news. Still, I was pretty curious to see who wasn’t coming back.
“It is with great sadness that I announce my retirement. For sixty-five years I have taught and administered at this great school, and have come to know this castle as my home. I would like to thank each and every one of you, both students and faculty, for allowing me to be a part of your experience at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.”
McGonagall paused, and I could’ve sworn I saw tears forming at her eyes.
“Arrangements for your new Headmaster are being made, and will be announced later on in the year. That being said, you may now leave for your common rooms.”
She moved back to her place at the staff table with confidence, her posture as proud as ever. I saw some of the older staff, like Hagrid and Professor Trelawney, hastily wipe their eyes. Or in Hagrid’s case, noisily blow his nose. I probably would’ve continued picking out which teacher was emotional or not, had young August Longbottom not come up to me.
“This is for you, Minnie,” he said, handing me a neatly folded note before running off to join the other first years.
I looked at the piece of parchment anxiously, knowing perfectly well that it was from Professor Longbottom. Opening the note, I saw that there were only five letters scrawled onto it:
Please see me after dinner.
“Sooooo… have a good holiday, Professor?” I asked, as I stood in his office nervously waiting for whatever it was he needed to speak to me about.
“Have a seat, Minnie.”
I quickly did as I was told, sitting down on one of the overstuffed armchairs that faced his desk. Professor Longbottom’s office was a room I have come to be fairly familiar with over the years. I practically memorised the charts and diagrams of exotic plants that hung on the pale yellow walls. They have actually helped me a lot, especially when it came to Herbology exams. His desk was made of a sturdy oak and covered with framed pictures of his family, miniature potted plants, piles of paperwork, and a tray of chocolate covered biscuits.
I learned that the silver picture frame on the right held a portrait of him and his wife Hannah on their wedding day. I was surprised to see it still there, having heard rumours that the two were getting a divorce. The three smaller frames each had a photo of one of his children. The one on the left was of his oldest, August, after he lost his two front teeth. A picture of his daughter Alice, wearing a pink tutu, was in the middle and his youngest son, Harry Frank (or Dobby, as we have come to call him), occupied the final frame. Victoire used to babysit them during summer holidays, and she would sometimes drag me along to help. It wasn’t too bad. I got half of whatever she made, and the only thing I had to do was play with August while Vic watched the two babies.
Scattered about the room were candles, mainly used during the night, since the three tall windows that sat behind his desk gave plenty of light during the day, as well as a view of all seven greenhouses. Overall, the room had a rather warm although cluttered feel to it, which helped make students feel more at ease whenever they were inside for disciplinary issues. Although, since I come here so often, that cosy feeling has become immune to me.
“I think we’ve had this conversation often enough to know that disregarding authorities is not tolerated at Hogwarts, am I correct?” Longbottom asked, confirming my suspicion that I was here due to a disciplinary incident.
It would’ve been foolish to think that he wouldn’t have found out about what happened on the train with Matilda Ramsey.
“Yes, you are. But to be honest with you, Professor, I find it fairly hard to regard someone who’s only a few months older than me as an authority,” I replied, not being able to restrain myself.
Longbottom let out a sigh, running a hand through his hair. I watched my Herbology professor carefully, and couldn’t help but notice that he looked a hell of lot more stressed this year than when I last saw him. The deep creases on his forehead, the ever multiplying grey hairs, even his clothes were more dishevelled. I couldn’t help but wonder if the rumours of his divorce were true. It would have explained his appearance perfectly. I felt a pang of guilt for all of the added trouble I was giving an already troubled man.
“Here’s the situation, Minnie. We both know that your marks and classroom participation are anything but satisfactory,” he began. “On top of that, you also happen to have the largest amount of detentions out of anyone in your year.”
Merlin, I really was screwed.
“Well, I guess it’s a good thing I didn’t plan on doing anything remarkable with my life,” I replied, knowing that I sounded like some overly cynical teenager.
Which, you know, I kind of was.
“That’s dung, Min, and you know it.”
Of course I knew it. I wasn’t that morbid that I had absolutely no expectations for my life. When I was younger, I always thought I was going to be a Healer. However, that dream got shot down the moment I received a Troll on a Charms paper back in first year. Ever since then, I’ve just been coasting through school with the hope that I might have an epiphany and realise I wanted to become the next Celestina Warbeck. I even joined the choir back in fourth year, because of that. I got kicked out though, because of a prank I pulled on the assistant director. She was a nasty seventh year Hufflepuff that thought she was better than everyone because she could reach a high A, while the rest of us girls were screeching to reach the C. They were all pricks though, so it wasn’t like I was missing out.
It wasn’t that I wanted to have a mediocre life. I was just pessimistic enough to know that that was my only option left.
“But it’s like you said, Professor. I have terrible marks and an even worse disciplinary record. I highly doubt that the blokes over at St. Mungo’s are going to look past that and hand me a respectable job as a Healer,” I told him bluntly.
“You’re still interested in becoming a Healer?” he asked, rather surprised.
“I don’t know. I just sort of threw that out there to make a point,” I lied.
When I first formally met with Professor Longbottom to discuss my “academic career path”, I had mentioned to him my unrealistic interest in healing. He, along with McGonagall, thought it was a wonderful idea. Until I screwed it up by forgetting to do my homework for three consecutive months. Since then I established my reputation as a slacker, and in return, whenever someone finds out about how I wanted to work at St. Mungo’s they act all shocked and taken back.
After a while, all of the “Really? You want to be a Healer?!” and other exclamations of surprise tend to eat away at your self-confidence.
“Well, I still think it would be a wonderful idea for you to pursue that path,” he told me, and now I was the one to be taken aback.
“Seriously? You don’t think it’s a hopeless cause?”
Longbottom shook his head, and offered me a warm smile. “The point I’ve been trying to make to you Minnie, is that you still have time.”
I gave him an incredulous look.
“It won’t be easy, and it’ll take a hell of a lot of self-discipline on your half, but I truly think that if you work really hard this year, you’ll be able to land an internship at St. Mungo’s.”
“So what do I have to do?” I finally asked.
“For starters, you’re going to have to stop insulting Matilda Ramsey every time she walks by,” he stopped for a moment, before adding, “As well as Mr White. Preferably it’d be better if you didn’t insult anyone this term, but I figured that’d be a bit of a stretch for you.”
He knew me so well.
“Do you think you could talk to the pricks and tell them to stop being so annoying? It’d be a lot easier to control myself that way,” I asked, before wincing at the realisation of what I said.
“You’re already starting the year off with two detentions because of the little charade you put on in the corridor. Let’s not add on to that,” Longbottom warned.
“What?! Why the hell am I getting two?!” I whined, completely offended by the injustice of the situation.
“The amount of disrespect you showed the Head Girl was inexcusable, Minnie,” he explained, his tone mildly condescending. “Be grateful that it’s only two nights. She was trying to get you a full week’s worth, but I managed to calm her down some.”
Damn that stupid hag.
“So much for turning things around,” I muttered, my hopeful mood demolished with the news of an extra detention. I was perfectly fine with the one – that was deserved. But two? That’s just plain greedy.
“You can turn things around! So long as you make sure that these detentions are your last. That and you start making an effort in your classes, more specifically Charms.”
I groaned at the thought of Charms class. For some reason, Professor Flitwick allowed me to take NEWT level Charms, even though I only got an A in my OWLs. Apparently, Longbottom managed to convince him in giving me another shot, feeding him some rubbish about me having potential. I would’ve much rather preferred to have dropped the class, but unfortunately for me, I needed the NEWT to become a Healer.
“That’s an awful lot to ask for,” I replied, my attitude getting the best of me.
“Then how about I give you an ultimatum? Either you promise me that you’re going to get your act together, or I let Matilda Ramsey give you that week of detention. And let me tell you, what she has in mind is not going to be pretty.”
Whatever happened to Longbottom being the wimpy doormat my uncle Ron used to say he was? Oh that’s right. He had to go and grow a spine and pull that blasted sword out of the sorting hat.
“I promise,” I finally said, a bit defeated.
“Good. I’m going to be keeping tabs on you, and in a month we’re going to have another meeting to check on your progress,” he finished. “I believe in you, Min. I know you’ll be able to pull through.”
If only I could feel the same way.
James - Sam Claflin
A/N: So there's chapter three! I hope you guys enjoyed it and please remember to leave a review, telling me what you think. I've already got most of chapter four done (it was originally going to be part of this chapter, but it ended up being too much) so it shouldn't take as long to update. I'm thinking around Christmas time. But then again, I change my mind so much, it's kind of hard to tell. Speaking of which, I'm still trying to find chapter images that I like, so it might be updating every now and then because of that.
Thanks for reading!
-Camila (aka: purplewings721)
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