Chapter 2 : A Good Year
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John Knox took a deep breath before stepping onto the red steam engine, trying as best he could to block out the sounds of students greeting old friends after what always seemed too short a summer. He especially blocked out the anxious goodbyes of the many first-years as they meekly said left their parents. Knox, though larger than most his age, still shared the anxieties of the first years, despite it being the beginning of his seventh year. He knew what to expect, he knew people on the train, but the anxiety remained, and he rejected the easy conversation of his peers. It wasn’t that people didn’t like him, it was more a matter of him rejecting peoples friendships. He had developed a knack for pushing people away, and he had certainly grown into his large, cold shoulders.
Upon finally entering an empty compartment he sat down with a sigh of relief, relaxing his shoulders and prepared for the awkward conversations that would soon ensue when students would forced to sit with him for lack of space.
He ran his hands through his slicked blond hair. He had developed a sort of militaristic style haircut where it was buzzed in the sides, but maintained a long cut on top. He added onto this with boots and opting for standard wizard ware instead of the muggle fashions. In case he wasn’t obscure enough. He chuckled softly at his own stereotype.
“Hey Knox, mind if we sit in here?” a childlike voice said politely from the compartment door.
John looked up to see Brook Wood standing in the opening, he nodded non-chalant, but curious to learn who ‘we’ involved. Certainly not James and his cronies, they weren’t enemies by any means, but they weren’t friends. A small boy with black hair followed her timidly and he chose to sit across from Knox, his feet dangling over the seat.
Brook tossed a magazine which he caught eagerly with ease, a copy of Quidditch Standard. “There you go Oli, that should entertain you for the trip.” He mumbled a thanks and stuck his nose into the pages.
Brook sat beside Knox and smiled at him, “My kid brother, just like my dad, don’t be surprised when he gets on the team this year.” She laughed, slipping into conversation easily. “How was your summer?”
“Uh, it was good.” John stuttered, surprised at himself. “You?”
“Oh you know family games of Quidditch, camping, a bit of traveling, we went to all of Dad’s games of course.” She said, motioning towards her brother.
“Yeah.” John affirmed, though he didn’t know, his summer consisted of working to pay for the crummy place he rented in the summer and save for books.
Soon after some more small talk, Brook opened her own copy of Quidditch Standard, John stared at her from the corner of his sight. Something was different. Her long hair was the same, in a typical pony tail. She still wore a little too much makeup and acted just a little to chipper. Even her nails were painted the same pink he had noticed for the last four years. Sure she looked a little older, one might say more filled out, but certainly nothing spectacular to set her apart from any other girl their age. Yet here he was, setting her apart.
He took out his sketch book and began to sketch a vague outline of her, placing himself against the window so as to shield her view from his work. He began to shade when his mind drifted towards the passing landscapes and he soon fell asleep to the rhythm of the train as it raveled along the tracks.
Brook stopped stressing over her decision to sit in the same compartment with Knox. She didn’t feel like putting Oli through the terrors of her friends, especially at the influence of James. Although, looking at Knox’s hair and large frame, she wondered what kind of influence he was. However, what harm could a sleeping guy have? She relaxed into her seat and closed her eyes, listening to the mixed snores of the two boys. She took this chance to go freshen up.
Standing front of the mirror in the loo, she smudged some of the foundation into her skin a little more and played with the bags under her eye. She began to contort her faces in different ways trying to see which was more grotesque.
“So that’s how you meet all the guys, ” Amanda Snider laughed, tossing her hair for the next mirror over.
Brook smirked, “Yeah, I’ll give you some lessons if you like.”
After glaring for a few moments the girls laughed and embraced.
“Where are you sitting?” Amanda asked, leaning against the counter.
“I’m sitting with my brother and, uh,” she paused before mumbling, “Knox.”
Amanda giggle, “Knox? That sounds like a bore, what’s he doing? Glaring at you?”
Brook laughed, “He doesn’t glare at people, no they’re both passed out snoring as loud as lions.”
“Jealous, James and Ian are fighting over the new girl.”
“Now you’ve intrigued me, what new girl?” Brook feigned interest while chipping at her nail polish.
Amanda ignored her and continued, “She’s from Russia, so like totally exotic and you know, she had to be pretty. Anyway, Dora and I are pretty sure she’ll be put into Slytherin, we ran into her on the train and I’ve never met anyone with such a stuck up nose. You know, now that you’ve mentioned it, I bet Knox will go after her!”
Brook snorted at the latter comment, “Knox doesn’t talk to anyone. I’d hate to mimic the boys, but I can’t see him having a full conversation with a girl, especially a hot one.”
“I wish he’d have a conversation with me,” Amanda said dramatically feigning a faint like they had seen in the old muggle movies at her house in the summer.
“Where’s Dora anyway?” Brook asked, peeking under the stalls.
“Lapping up James’ every word of course.”
“Don’t be mean Amanda, they’re best friends.”
“Only because he’s so oblivious to her feelings, she’s going to get hurt this year, I just know it.” Amanda said with a glimmer of sympathy in her eyes.
“I’m excited for this year,” Brook said feeling the bubbles of anxious excitement well in her tummy. “I’m pretty sure there’s only a few people from the other houses that came back,” She started mentally going through everyone. There was Scott Bridle from Ravenclaw and Molly of course, there was that girl from Hufflepuff and then she didn’t know about Slytherin. “Do you know who stayed from Slytherin?”
“Mmm no, but we’ll see at the feast, I’m gunna go get my stuff together, we’ll be there in half an hour!” Amanda replied jumping into the air giddily before heading to her compartment.
Brook sauntered back to hers, imagining all of the amazing things that could happen this term, maybe she’d meet a boy. She laughed at herself, who was there to meet? She’d gone to school with the same people since she was eleven. Maybe not love, but she could feel in her bones that it was going to be a good year. She smiled as she entered the compartment.
After what seemed like an exceptionally long summer, the quiet, ghostly halls of Hogwarts Castle was once again filled with the jovial life of youths. The newly built great hall was especially lively somehow considering the countless wizards and witches that had congregated in the hall, preparing for wars. There were names of the fallen etched in each and every stone that when put together arched over protecting the students for generations to come.
This year, all the first years had made it across the black lake in one piece and the upper years fidgeted impatiently anticipating the great feast that would follow the sorting. Brook anxiously watched her brother as he stood in the line. She cursed there last name knowing he would likely be the last to be sorted. She stared at his face intently searching for any signs of nervousness. However, he looked completely calm.
“Stop being such a worry wart, you know he’ll be put in our house.” James Potter whispered into her ear, giving her a reassuring smile.
Brook could manage a meager smile but her stomach was doing flip flops and food was the farthest thing from her mind. She began chewing her finger nails as Professor Ansari called out the names and the sorting hat called out a house name. People cheered eagerly with the house pride instilled in many of them before they had even first entered the school. Brook chewed her nails.
Finally, Oli’s name was called, Brook wanted to throw up. She was only aware that he had indeed been placed in Gryffindor because all her friends were standing up welcoming him to the table. She half stood as he came and sat next to her, his cheeks flaming with embarrassment while trying to act cool in front of the guys. She leaned over and whispered into his ear, “Welcome to Gryffindor Oli.”
When everyone had settled down and Headmaster Longbottom had given the same speech as last year about how Wizards needed to work together as equal magical beings and while preserving their history, be progressive in change and remain as a culture alongside the Muggles, they began to eat.
James elbowed her lightly in the side, whispering, “I told you he’d get in. You really started to resemble a wart there for a while. I was getting worried.” He winked.
Brook just laughed it off, and began piling potatoes onto her plate, while glancing around the Hall at all the students enjoying the meal. This was her favourite time of year, a chance to enjoy the deep history and culture that was this school, before the stresses of reality set in and she and everyone else would get consumed by the dramas of their individual here and now lives. As she scanned the hall, a particular figure caught her notice.
Knox, just like every other year sat at the end of the table, quietly eating his meal. She would have thought he would look forlorn at being by himself, but yet he seemed quite content. While she was fixated on him, he looked up at her. Though embarrassed, she didn’t look away, he gave what, on anyone else, she would never have called a smile, but in his eyes, yes she saw a smile. It would be an interesting year.
What do you think? Like I promised, a normal length, I’m going to be jumping around a bit, so I’ve decided to provide dates at the top for clarity. Please tell me if it isn’t so I can fix it! Anyway, looking forward to any reviews, thanks for reading!
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by Katie V