This story is set in the midst of the second wizarding war. Whilst Harry is off chasing horcruxes, I felt there would be stories that were untold but equally as exciting.
We met Orla Quirke in the Goblet of Fire only briefly during the sorting ceremony, so she is (as is anything you recognise) entirely JK's.
Thank you for reading, and please leave a comment with your thoughts, even if it is only brief. It's the best inspiration I have.
- L xxx
Orla wasn’t the type to defy the odds, to rip against the grain. She didn’t often tense in awkward silences, like the one she had just caused, and pull at the fraying hem of her linen summer dress. The empty air was foreign to her. The door of the cold reception room closed, leaving her alone, but the barrier of wood couldn’t disguise the suppressed sob trembling from her mother’s lips as she hurried away. The sound scratched at her skin and pushed her shame deeper. Orla could feel the thump of the bruise now emerging on her forearm as her knees knocked together nervously, her heart fluttering with adrenaline and the shock of the shove and the stinging slap across her face.
She couldn’t go back to Hogwarts now. If Reuben had kept quiet, if Reuben hadn’t made it sound worse than it was then her mother wouldn’t have been tipped over the edge. If Reuben…
Orla breathed out, her eyes burning from holding in tears. If Reuben had lied then she would still be going back to school tomorrow, but Reuben wouldn’t lie. Reuben never lies.
As if on cue, a hollow knock reverberated through the door, and before she could reply it opened. He stepped inside, but Orla didn’t need to look up because she knew without a doubt he would have the nerve to return, to say sorry.
“Look, Orla, your mother…she needed to know…” A strand the length of her finger loosened from her dress, and, head still bowed, she continued to silently tug them away. “But I didn’t mean for it to end up in this manner.” Reuben stepped forwards, sliding the door closed behind him. In four steps he crossed the room and paused, unsure whether or not to perch beside her, his soft leather sandals squeaking. “Can you at least talk to me?”
“You’ve ruined everything, Reu,” she tried to reply, but her voice cracked, jarred inside her throat, “You know how much it means…”
He sighed heavily and sat beside her, gingerly placing a hand on her knee. Orla flinched, shuffling out of the reach of her lifelong friend. “You’re being a child,” He said calmly, “You’d be killed if you went back, you know you would…” Orla sniffed and said nothing, whilst Reuben cast a sidelong glance upon her. “I’m sorry for, you know…grabbing you. Hurting you.”
An uncomfortable silence settled between them, and the pair listened to the muted sounds of the hot water trickling through the pipes.
“I can’t bear to stay here until all of this is over,” she eventually sighed, withdrawing her wand and placing the tip on the surface of her tender bruised skin. Reuben stared as her lips formed the healing charm and the pinkish tinge began to merge away.
“This is what it’s like for me,” his eyes followed her wand until it was out of sight, and he breathed out heavily, “except you’ve been there, you’ve learnt the spells…”
His voice trailed away, yet Orla had no words of comfort. She stared stonily up at his eyes, brown orbs shrouded by a mass of curly dark hair. Ever unreadable. His high cheekbones and downturned mouth concealed so much about him, yet only she knew what was running through his mind. But this wasn’t about learning charms and playing with brooms; this was ground already covered, and she’d already apologised for nothing she could have prevented. She didn’t want to grow up like this, but they had, and she pitied him.
He hadn’t had to take it out on her by telling her mother…the truth. What angered her most was that it was the truth – the truth about the disintegration of Hogwarts, the ruin of Dumbledore and the rise of He Who Must Not Be Named. They were things they already knew, were cautious of, but things Orla had tried to avoid facing because she knew she had to go back, knew talking about them would only…only make things worse. Reu had made it worse, though, so much so, and on purpose. He reiterated it. Emphasised the words ‘crucio’, ‘pureblood’, ‘death’. It was as though the lash of his tongue had waited for this moment to take it away from her, not because he wanted to see her hurt, but rather the opposite.
Reuben was a squib, the joker in the deck of cards and the shadow of his family. His lack of magical power had hurt something inside his mind and although three years had passed since Orla had left for Hogwarts, it hadn’t quite healed.
“You shouldn’t have said those things to your mother,” he said stiffly in the shade of her non-responsiveness.
“I meant them,” Orla replied blankly, her fists clenching and unclenching with each pounding of realisation.
“You would rather…?”
“Die there than here. I’ll swear it.”
Another silence swept them, until Reuben pierced it with a broken moan. She knew what he wanted. He didn’t have to speak. Orla closed her eyes and submitted, letting Reu take her hand in his.
“I love you, Orla,” he sighed in the same way he always did, raising the back of her hand to his lips, prickles of cringing guilt creeping up her spine, “and I don’t want to see you get hurt.”
He didn’t wait for a reply, because these words were something she never returned. Instead, he stood and walked towards the door, leaving her to stare at the skin where his kiss had been placed. They both knew she didn’t love him back, and his possessiveness made coming home so claustrophobic. Sometimes Orla wondered whether it hurt him, whether he’d think about how she felt when he’d tangle her in a vice-like grip with his words. But right now, she didn’t care. She couldn’t care. But she had to do something.
Orla rose from her seat, waiting to hear the front door close so that she could hurry to her room unseen or heard. Her footsteps were silent on the stairwell, the banisters casting long shadows across her legs from the lazy summer sunlight. She contemplated speaking to her mother, apologizing maybe, but somehow she knew her mother still wouldn’t understand even if she did. Hogwarts was her home; it was where her friends were, where she could learn and be herself and feel safe from the outside world. She was away from Reu, gentle Reu who despite his rough hand and warped mind wasn’t like her, despite how hard he wanted to be. She had to stay loyal to her friends, for if Hogwarts was to suffer, she had to suffer with it. They couldn’t make her stay at home. She paused, her hand resting on the banister, but took the next step hastily. Besides, her mother had probably already sent an owl to her father, already made plans for Orla’s permanent stay.
Once she was in her room, Orla gently closed the door and quietly propped her trunk open by the end of her bed. If she left tonight she could make the train tomorrow morning, and once she was at Hogwarts she would finally be safe. She closed the curtains quickly, paranoid that somehow Reu might suspect what she was up to and look through the large bay bedroom window. It was foolish, she knew, but even so. Somewhat haphazardly and bathed in the amber light of the setting sun seeping through the fabric, Orla began to half-fold and pile clothes in her trunk, leaving the day-to-day clutter that was scattered across her room untouched, for incase, or rather, when her mother came in.
She was called to dinner at 7pm, her mother’s voice tired and cracked, and they ate in silence, their Tudor cottage nestled in the outskirts of Cambridge bearing the brunt of their coldness. Orla didn’t know what else to say. She didn’t want to hurt her mother, but nor did she want to hurt her pride by not going back to school…besides, she would be safe. Of course she would be. It was Hogwarts, and Hogwarts was always strong. Taking off in the night was drastic, but even as she glanced at her mother, whose eyes were red and puffy, slackened by his afternoons argument, she knew she had to.
“Times have changed, Orla,” her mother sighed, placing her glass down on the dining room table, “and family have got to stick together.” Orla had learnt to stay silent. “We’ve been safe this far, but you’re not pureblood, Orla. You know that.”
“Reu only said those things so I had to stay home,” she replied, her lips tight, “but I can’t help it that he’s a squib.”
There was a frozen pause, broken only by her mother’s scoff and incredulous stare at her teenage daughter. “You really are a child. You think that’s why he…?”
“Of course it is! He’s been…” Orla flushed scarlet, her thoughts leaping, trying to justify her response, “he’s been pining after me since we were young – he’s almost obsessed with my magic, he…”
“Orla Quirke, there are times when you should just stay quiet and do what’s best for you own good…” Her mother stood, anger coursing through her veins, utmost incredulity upon her face. “Reuben is a trustworthy boy, he is clever, he knows things, much more than we do…and it’s a damn shame he is the way he is!”
“I have to go back, you…”
“Damnit, Orla, sometimes I wonder why on earth you were placed in Ravenclaw, you stupid, selfish girl!” Her mother’s words were final, the pink tinge in her cheeks only hinting at the disappointment that flushed her trembling body. With a bang, Orla flung her chair backwards and glared at her mother, her heart skipping beats in the tension. “There’s a war going on. I can’t let you leave.”
~ - ~
She had waited until the landing light had been extinguished, until the door to her mother’s bedroom had been closed and the mechanical clock beside her bed had struck 4am. Sometimes she was thankful her father lived in the city, working his muggle job and coming home only for the weekends.
It was September the first, and whilst the sun was still set, Orla knew it was time to leave. She placed the final items she would need for school in her trunk, closed and locked it, and silently carried it downstairs. She let herself out of the front door, her wand securely in her fist, closing the door gently and allowing herself one last look at her house. Strands of the distant summer sunrise puckered at the edges of the lawn, so Orla approached the kerb of the road, her wand hand aloft, bracing herself for the bang.
The Knight Bus swung around the corner and with a screech settled upon the kerb beside her.