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Chapter 16 : Just a School
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‘Was what from the Bible?’ Harriet frowned slightly, her forehead creasing.
‘The bit about a man having love and dying for his friends,’ Emma said seriously. ‘I think I’ve heard it before.’
‘They’ve probably done it at another Memorial Service that we’ve been to,’ Henry suggested.
‘No,’ his sister shook her head determinedly. ‘I think I’ve heard it one of the times that Mummy took us to church.’
‘You go to church?’ Joseph frowned over at her.
‘Mummy likes to takes us sometimes,’ Matthew piped up.
‘But why?’ asked Joseph, looking perturbed.
‘Because Mummy always went to church when she was a little girl,’ Emma explained. ‘And I know that I’ve heard something about that at church. It is from the Bible, isn’t it Grandma Harri?’
Harriet shook her head.
‘I’m afraid I don’t know, my darling,’ she smiled gently. ‘My parents never were very big on going to church.’
‘I don’t see why you should go to church, it’s silly,’ declared Joseph.
‘Is not!’ Matthew shot back.
‘I like all the flowers and the candles,’ Alice put in. ‘It’s pretty. And Emma’s church looks just like Hogwarts, only smaller.’
‘Well I don’t believe in God,’ Joseph folded his arms. ‘And I don’t care if church looks like Hogwarts – it can’t be half as good as Hogwarts is.’
‘Joseph, you don’t go to Hogwarts yet!’ Jocelyn giggled. Joseph shot his sister a furious glance.
‘I don’t need to go to Hogwarts to know that,’ he argued. ‘It’s silly to believe in God.’
‘Just because you don’t know anything about it,’ Emma spoke up again in her bright, clear voice. ‘Muggles don’t believe in magic, but only because they don’t know anything about it.’
She nodded her head once in satisfaction, as if to say ‘So there’, which she was too polite to say out loud. Not to mention the fact that Joseph was a lot bigger than she was. He was bigger even than Henry, who would look after her, so she didn’t want to risk it.
There was a small period of silence following Emma’s pronouncement, as small a period of silence as is possible in a room full of slightly over-excited young cousins, before Jocelyn open her mouth to speak.
‘She’s right, you know, Joseph,’ she said.
Joseph was sulking. Harriet intervened quickly.
‘Come on,’ she said jovially. ‘I thought you all wanted to hear about Hogwarts, not fight with each other.’
‘We’re not fighting,’ Matthew said quickly. ‘Grandma, do you have any biscuits?’
‘Biscuits?’ Joseph echoed, quickly getting over his sulk to look slightly scathingly at his cousin. ‘You should stop thinking about your tummy, Matthew.’
‘Well, I did make a cake,’ Harriet remembered suddenly. ‘Would you like some?’
Several sticky minutes later, the children were sat back in their original places and for once, all was silent.
‘While you’re all enjoying your cake,’ Harriet said, smiling at them. ‘Is there anything you want me to talk about?’
‘Cake,’ mumbled Henry, through a mouthful of it.
‘Cake?’ his grandmother raised her eyebrows. Henry swallowed.
‘Yes,’ he nodded. ‘The feast at the end of term. I want to know all about it.’
‘Tessie says it’s amazing,’ Jocelyn said, her eyes wide.
‘Does Tessie tell you everything is amazing?’ Harriet asked carefully. The oldest granddaughter of her cousin James seemed to enjoy a certain god-like status among her own grandchildren.
'Yes,’ Henry nodded earnestly.
‘Hmm,’ Harriet pursed her lips. She had had many encounters with Tessie’s vivid imagination and child-like innocence which belied a wicked sense of humour. She wondered what she might have been telling her own, impressionable grandchildren.
‘What is it?’ Emma frowned. ‘Don’t you believe us?’
‘Of course I do,’ said Harriet hurriedly. ‘And right, shall I tell you about the end of term then? Or just about the feast?’
‘All of it,’ Alice jumped in. ‘Please,’ she added quickly.
It was with mixed emotions that Harriet acknowledged the approaching end of the school year. While she was looking forward to going home and seeing her parents for the first time in months, this also meant saying goodbye to Lily and her other friends, as well as Hogwarts itself. She had grown to love the castle more than she could ever have imagined a scant year ago when she had received her letter.
Getting her exams results was a relief, as Harriet hadn’t quite been able to shake off the dread of being sent back to live as a Muggle. Lucas alone had shared these fears with her as Dylan, the other Muggle-born Gryffindor, was so laid back about life in general that he barely seemed bothered.
‘I can’t believe we go home in two days,’ Lily sighed to Harriet, as they walked down to breakfast one morning. ‘And then when we come back we won’t be the little kids anymore!’
‘I think we’ll still be quite small,’ Harriet grinned back at her. ‘Half of them will probably be bigger than me.’
‘Cheer up, Matty’s little sister is coming,’ Lily reminded her. ‘You’re bound to be taller than her.’
‘True,’ admitted Harriet, as they crossed the Entrance Hall. ‘What are we doing today then?’
As if in answer, Hugo appeared suddenly in front of the pair.
‘You’re coming out with us,’ he said nonchalantly.
‘Oh, are we?’ Lily fired up at once. She didn’t like being told what to do. ‘Who is ‘us’ and what are you doing?’
‘Me, Rosie, Albus,’ Hugo counted on his fingers. ‘And maybe Roxy and Luce. James won’t come because he’s pretending to be cool, and if James won’t come then Molly won’t be the only one hanging around with us.’
‘Hmm,’ Lily was trying not to look interested. ‘And what exactly are you doing today?’
‘Nothing much,’ Hugo shrugged. ‘Just lazing around. We’re off home soon and then we won’t see everyone more than once a week.’
‘Well, I suppose we could come,’ began Lily slowly, reluctant to look keen. Harriet could tell by Hugo’s expression that he wasn’t fooled.
‘Oh shush,’ he said, rolling his eyes. ‘Harriet will come, won’t you Harriet?’
Harriet grinned back a little shyly. ‘Of course,’ she said. ‘If that’s okay.’
‘If it wasn’t okay then he wouldn’t ask,’ Lily sighed impatiently. ‘Alright Hugo, if means that much to you then Harriet and I will come.’
‘Oh, we’re not bothered about you,’ Hugo shot back, not missing a beat. ‘We just thought it would be nice to see Harriet and then we realised it would be rude to invite her and not you.’
‘Hugo Ronald Weasley, you are without a doubt the most irritating, annoying, tomato-headed vegetable-boy I have ever met,’ Lily did not hold back. Hugo giggled. So did Harriet.
‘Calm down,’ he said. ‘And don’t forget that you’re a tomato head as well. We vegetable-patch kids have to stick together.’
‘We’d better kick James and Albus out then,’ Lily scowled. ‘And anyway, I’m not a vegetable-patch! That’s just you.’
Harriet, a little uncharacteristically, decided that now would be a good time to deploy one of her small pieces of useless information.
‘Tomatoes aren’t even vegetables, you know,’ she said carefully.
This derailed Lily.
‘Why not?’ she demanded.
‘Well, they’re fruits,’ Harriet said, slightly regretting ever speaking in the first place. Hugo was looking delighted.
‘That’s just stupid,’ Lily scowled again. ‘They should be vegetables!’
‘Sorry,’ said Harriet, unsure exactly what she was apologising for. She felt that only a full-blown, grovelling letter of apology from Kew Gardens regarding the classification of the humble tomato would be sufficient right now.
‘Huh,’ Lily snorted. ‘Why don’t we put tomatoes in fruit salads, then?’
‘Because it would taste ridiculous?’ Hugo suggested innocently, biting the inside of his cheek to restrain his laughter. ‘You’ll have to take it up with Grandma. Or ask Uncle Nev. Although I don’t know quite how much he knows about tomatoes…’
‘Shush,’ Lily glared at him. ‘We’ll come and find you after breakfast for your precious little family day out.’
Harriet watched Lily march away from her and Hugo and into the Great Hall. Then she risked a sideways glance at Hugo, whose straight face had crumpled into laughter. Harriet watched him uncertainly.
‘Oh come on,’ Hugo emerged from his giggles to breathe. ‘You can laugh too. That was brilliant. I could hug you.’
Alarmed, Harriet took a small, involuntary step backwards. Hugs weren’t a big thing in her family, except from her mother, and she frequently tried to avoid those. Like father like daughter, her mother would often sigh.
‘Maybe I shouldn’t have said it,’ she said quickly.
‘You definitely should have,’ grinned Hugo. ‘Come on, Harriet. Laugh.’
A small giggle escaped from between Harriet’s lips. Hugo raised one eyebrow knowingly.
‘Don’t,’ Harriet protested. ‘I feel bad. And I should probably go and find Lily quickly.’
‘Yes,’ Hugo agreed. ‘And don’t feel bad. You know what Lily’s like; it’s just too tempting to wind her up once in a while. I do it all the time and she still loves me.’
‘For the moment,’ Harriet smiled wryly.
'Tomato head?’ Matthew asked, grinning with glee at Jocelyn, whose bright red hair fell way past her shoulders.
‘Hey!’ Jocelyn stared back indignantly. ‘I could call you mud-head, you know. So don’t.’
‘No-one is going to call anyone anything,’ Harriet interrupted firmly.
‘But Aunty Lily – ’ began Henry.
‘No,’ said Harriet emphatically.
‘But why did Aunty Lily call Grandpa Hugo a tomato head when she has red hair too?’ Alice piped up, looking confused.
‘Ah,’ Harriet chuckled to herself. ‘I have long since given up trying to understand Lily. She is a mystery to many.’
Bright, feisty and quick-tempered, she thought to herself. The stereotypical red-head. Then she thought of Hugo, with his mellowness and eagerness to please, despite having the same Weasley hair and complexion. Harriet smiled slowly. She loved them both. Then her throat tightened slightly and she quickly dragged herself back from the decade’s worth of images that were flashing through her head.
The last day of the summer term dawned bright and sunny. Harriet lay in bed for a long time, a strange knot forming in her stomach. The previous day had flashed past and she had enjoyed every moment of talking and laughing and joking and smiling with Lily, Hugo and the others on the shores of the Black Lake.
Going home would be strange, there was no denying that. She would miss Lily more than anything, but also Niamh, Olivia, Adira, Matty, Hugo and the others. Thinking of Adira made her stomach twist just a little bit more. She hoped that she would be okay at home with her brother for the whole summer.
Harriet climbed out her bed and made her way to the window, still in her pyjamas. The view was as breath-taking as usual, and she tried to store it up in her head for the next two months.
‘All packed yet?’ a voice asked. Lily was lying in bed propped up on her elbow, watching Harriet.
‘Almost,’ Harriet replied, without turning around. ‘You?’
‘Not even nearly,’ Lily said matter-of-factly. ‘What are you staring at, anyway?’
‘Just the view,’ Harriet shrugged. ‘I’m trying to remember everything.’
‘We’ll be back here before you know it,’ Niamh yawned from across the room. ‘The summer will go by as fast as anything, and then it’ll be back to stuffy old classrooms and boring teachers before you can even think about missing Hogwarts.’
‘You think?’ Harriet asked sceptically.
‘Sure,’ Niamh sat up in bed and flung back the covers. ‘And anyway, it’s only a view. It’ll be here when we get back.’
‘It’s not just the view,’ Harriet protested quietly, not really expecting either an answer or any understanding.
‘Don’t you want to go home, Harriet?’ Olivia was awake now too. There was a pause.
‘Yes,’ Harriet replied eventually. ‘I can’t wait to see my mum, but I’ll miss Hogwarts. I like it here.’
That’s an understatement, she thought to herself, and I fit in here like I never did at home, even with my friends. Thinking of her friends made her stomach twist once more. Although she had been sending and receiving letters to and from Lauren every few weeks since Christmas, she hadn’t spoken to Sophie and she knew that Lauren still had a lot of questions that couldn’t possibly be answered.
‘It’s only school,’ Niamh frowned, wrinkling her nose. ‘I mean yes, it’s Hogwarts, but it’s still just a school.’
Harriet bit her lip. Just a school. Hogwarts could never be just a school.
‘Just a school?’ Lily echoed Harriet’s thoughts.
‘Yeah, I don’t get you sometimes, Niamh,’ Olivia chimed in. ‘It is just a school, but it’s the school that we’ve all dreamed of coming to since we were old enough to understand about it. Our names have been down since birth.’
Harriet, who had heard about this before, felt another twist in her stomach. Someone somewhere had known the truth about her long before she’d known it herself. She wondered if it would have been different if she had known what were in store for her once she turned eleven. This train of thought led her to her grandparents. There, she stopped herself before she could think anymore. She would deal with that later.
‘Looking forward to the feast later?’ she asked, quickly changing the subject.
‘Can’t wait!’ Niamh leapt out of bed as if it were time to leave already. ‘Just think of all the puddings…’
‘You’ll get fat,’ giggled Olivia, ducking out of the way of Niamh’s pillow as it came flying through the air towards her.
‘Pillow fight!’ shrieked Lily, springing across the room with her own pillow to join in.
‘Come on Harriet, everyone on Olivia!’ Niamh cried shrilly.
Harriet pushed everything else to the back of her mind as she grabbed her pillow and, giggling, hurried over to join the others.
The day flew by much too quickly for Harriet’s liking. She gathered up the remainder of her things and packed them safely and neatly in her trunk, before helping Lily to find most of her possessions, which were shoved roughly into her trunk in a haphazard mess. Harriet and Niamh then had to sit on the trunk for several minutes to make it close.
'I can’t wait until I can do all those household-y type spells,’ Lily gasped, slumping down onto her bed having finally forced her trunk to close.
‘That might take a few years,’ Niamh said, rolling her eyes. ‘And I don’t see the point of those spells, anyway. You can get everything done even faster by just being messy.’
‘Well, obviously not,’ pointed out Olivia, who had been watching proceedings with amusement.
‘You just have to be messy in a certain way,’ Niamh sighed, as if it were obvious. Harriet and Olivia glanced at each other but said nothing.
‘Well, I don’t think I’ve got the hang of that either,’ Lily sighed. Then she checked her watch. ‘Oops, it’s nearly time for the feast. Am I tidy?’
Harriet surveyed Lily. Her hair was fast unravelling from its plait, one of her socks had slipped right down her leg and her tie was definitely fastened to the left side of central.
‘Erm,’ Olivia began.
‘Well?’ asked Lily. ‘Come on, we have to go or we’ll be late!’
‘We have to go now?’ Harriet blinked, quickly adjusting her own uniform.
‘Yes,’ Lily sighed impatiently. ‘Right now. So come on, tell me.’
‘You look fine,’ Niamh blurted out.
‘Yes, fine,’ Olivia echoed doubtfully, as Lily leapt up and hurried towards the door.
‘Maybe you should just straighten your tie, Lily!’ Harriet called after her friend as she hurried after her.
‘What?’ Lily’s voice echoed back from down the stairs. ‘Hurry up, Harriet!’
‘Your tie!’ Harriet protested. ‘Oh never mind, someone else will tell you.’
Indeed, when Harriet and the other two girls joined Lily in the common room, Hugo was giggling at his cousin with glee. Lily glared at Harriet.
‘You said I was tidy,’ she scowled accusingly.
‘I did try to tell you,’ Harriet began.
‘Oh well, I’m fine now,’ Lily cut across her. ‘But come on, we can’t be late for the feast!’
Harriet blinked at Hugo as Lily grabbed her arm and dragged her across the room. She didn’t like to point out that half of Gryffindor was still in the common room, and none of them seemed to be in any great hurry to leave.
The feast was excellent, with all the puddings that Niamh could have wanted. Harriet sat amidst many of the Gryffindor first years and joined in with their jokes, all the while feeling steadily sadder and sadder at the thought of leaving. Once, she caught Adira’s eye across the crowded room. The Ravenclaw girl smiled tentatively at Harriet and Harriet smiled encouragingly back. She had already promised to write to her friend over the holidays and she hoped that Adira would be okay at home.
Somehow, Harriet had found herself sitting opposite Albus and Rosie, and Albus recognised the sad look on her face.
‘Don’t worry about it, Harriet,’ he smiled at her. ‘No matter how much we want to go home, no-one really wants to leave Hogwarts.’
‘Do you?’ Harriet asked hesitantly.
‘It’ll be good to see Mum and Dad again,’ her cousin replied. ‘But, of course, I always miss Hogwarts when I’m away.’
‘Softy,’ from several seats up the table, James leant around his friends to grin at his younger brother.
‘Oh be quiet,’ grinned Albus. ‘You’ll miss it too.’
‘Nah,’ James shrugged casually. ‘It’s just school, isn’t it?’
‘He doesn’t mean that,’ Rose reassured Harriet. ‘He’s just being cool.’
‘But,’ Harriet began slowly, biting her lip. ‘But it’s not just a school, is it?’
Albus and Rose considered this for a moment.
‘Well, it is and it isn’t,’ Albus answered after a moment. ‘Of course, at the end of the day it is a school and nothing more, but it sort of means more to everyone than that. For us magical-born kids, it’s all you want for the first eleven years of your life. All we think about is getting in to Hogwarts and what it will be like when we get there. I don’t really know about you.’
Harriet hesitated. Like her father, she wasn’t very good at expressing herself beyond the usual daily range of emotions.
‘It’s like a new life,’ she said quietly. ‘The only thing that I know about the magical world is Hogwarts. It’s like I have a whole different life at home.’
‘More than just a school, then,’ Rose smiled.
‘What’s more than just a school?’ Lily entered the conversation, having been distracted by Jamie Wood’s somewhat unrealistic impression of a rather tipsy Thestral pulling one of the school carriages.
‘Hogwarts,’ Harriet answered wistfully.
‘Oh, of course it is,’ Lily nodded matter-of-factly. ‘But I suppose the holidays will be good too.’
‘I’m back to the Muggle world for two whole months though,’ Harriet reminded her, trying to work out how she would survive for that long without any kind of magic.
‘What do you mean?’ Lily demanded. ‘You’re coming to stay with me for a bit, of course.’
Harriet’s eyes grew wide and she tried to suppress the urge, which was quite unnatural for her, to fling her arms around her friend’s neck.
‘Really?’ she beamed.
‘Of course,’ Lily looked surprised. ‘I’ll sort it all out with Dad. You’ll see. It’ll be great.’
‘And then we’ll be back here again,’ Harriet sighed, gazing around the Great Hall.
‘Before you know it,’ Rose added.
‘As second years,’ Harriet’s forehead creased slightly, trying to imagine it.
‘Yep,’ Lily laughed, reaching across the table for her third slice of cake. ‘And it’ll be amazing. Just you wait and see.’
First of all, I am so sorry for my two-month long hiatus. Exam season somewhat overwhelmed me, but now I am back and I hope you enjoyed this long overdue chapter. Thanks for reading!
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