Chapter 3 : The Owl and the Armour
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The next day, Violet and Lily met Hugo in the common room, and the trio went down to the entrance hall together for their first breakfast at Hogwarts. However, as she made her way down the main staircase, Violet was coerced by Scorpius, who pulled her to one side. Lily and Hugo stopped and waited
“I’ll be there in a minute. Save me a space.”
Violet watched as her friends went through the doors into the entrance hall, her heart sinking.
“You wish, come on traitor.” He pulled her back up the staircase.
Violet followed as Scorpius took her to a corridor on the third floor, which was empty of everything but a statue of a gargoyle.
“Fizzing Whizbees,” he said.
Violet stared at him in confusion, but seconds later, the gargoyle statue sprung aside to reveal a staircase. As they stepped onto it, the staircase began moving, taking them up to an oak door. Scorpius knocked and waited.
The door swung open to reveal a large, circular room, whose walls were covered with paintings of previous Hogwarts headmasters.
Professor McGonagall was sat at her desk, behind a large painting of a man Violet recognised as Albus Dumbledore. Dumbledore was sat in a large chair, his eyes closed, snoozing peacefully.
McGonagall looked up from her parchment.
“What can I do for you, Mr Malfoy?” she asked.
“There’s been a mistake. Professor, I understand Violet's been sorted, but she’s been placed in Gryffindor. My family is notorious for being in Slytherin. My father believes we have some links with Salazar Slytherin himself. It’s unquestionable that Violet belongs in this house.”
McGonagall looked put her quill down.
“Mr Malfoy, I understand your concerns. But I can only imagine with your family history that a little house diversity would be beneficial. I am sure your parents will understand. I believe you have Defence against the Dark Arts next. Perhaps you should concentrate on your school career rather than interfere with your sisters. Violet, why don’t you wait here while I take Mr Malfoy to his lesson? Harry Potter is coming in for one of his little demonstrations, which naturally I wouldn’t want to miss. Perhaps afterwards we can have a little discussion about your own opinions on this?”
“Violet doesn’t have opinion. How can she? She’s a first year.”
McGonagall smiled drily.
“And that, Mr Malfoy, is why I’m going to escort you to your lesson, where you will keep your head down and say no more on the matter. Violet, perhaps you’d like to come back after your next class?”
Greenhouse one housed many interesting and peculiar plants, but for the first years, these were off limits. Instead, Professor Longbottom had laid out samples of plants with magical properties for them to study as a class.
He held up what appeared to be a section of a vine. The plant was springy to touch, and waved its tendrils feebly.
“Devil snare is considered fairly rare, due to its unconventional growing habits. It thrives in dark, damp locations, which is why it is near impossible to grow in a greenhouse. Can anyone tell me what the magical ability of this plant is?” Professor Longbottom asked.
“It strangles anything it comes in contact with.”
“Good and its useless trying to struggle. Resistance makes the plant more persistent, which is somewhat ironic.” Professor Longbottom was the only one who seemed amused by this trait.
“But the plant is not invincible. Does anyone know its Achilles heel?”
The class was silent.
“Light and fire! Here’s a little rhyme to help you remember this:
Devil's Snare, Devil's Snare...
It's deadly fun...
But will sulk in the sun!”
Violet surprised herself by finding the lesson enjoyable. She previously felt if it didn’t involve doing magic, something she had been waiting to do since a young age, it was not worth learning, but Professor Longbottom’s enthusiasm for the subject was infectious. At the end of the lesson, the three walked back up the steps for break.
“So what did Scorpius want this morning?” Lily asked.
Violet stopped suddenly.
“Oh crap, I’m supposed to be seeing McGonagall! I’ll tell you at lunch.” She dashed off up the staircase to the third floor, and recited the password breathlessly. But when she entered the office, Professor McGonagall was nowhere to be seen.
“I do believe dear professor McGonagall is a little tied up in transfiguration,” a kindly voice said. “But if you wait, I’m sure she’ll be along in no time.”
Violet looked up to find the portrait of Albus Dumbledore beaming down at her.
“Thank you,” she said. She thought for a minute and then asked “Professor, do you know why the sorting hat put me in Gryffindor instead of Slytherin?”
“That hat has a mind of its own. It’s becoming far too complacent. But I believe it has its reasons.”
“What are they?” She asked, curiously.
“Ask him yourself, my dear!” The picture of Dumbledore said, gesturing to the shelf behind Violet, where the hat was sat. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll have a little nap. It’s rather exhausting living next to all these other headmasters and mistresses. I can never seem to get a minute’s peace!” The paintings around him grumbled at this, before settling down to a hush. A minute later, the gentle snores of a hundred retired head teachers could be heard.
Violet lifted the hat off the shelf, and held it in her hands. It was still for a moment, but then the rip appeared, and the hat spoke.
“And what’s this? A doubtful student eh? You wouldn’t be the first to question my decisive abilities!”
“But why did you put me in Gryffindor?” Violet asked
“Did you listen to my song, Violet?” Said the hat. She nodded.
“You said Slytherin was the house for pure bloods. And I’m a pure blood,”
The hat laughed
“There are many pure bloods at the school that aren’t in Slytherin. Those who, as your brother and father and, if I remember correctly, your grandfather before him, believe pureblood to be the only trait worth having, are placed often in Slytherin. Another trait I neglected to mention in my song is that Slytherin are power hungry. I couldn’t think of a rhyme for that I hadn’t yet used.” The hat sounded slightly mournful.
“However, I did not see that in you. You have no desire for power, and no wish to be defined by your ancestry. As have others in your family. So I looked deeper in. And I saw desire. A desire to break away from the traditions of your family. I know the Malfoy name, Violet. I know what that would mean. And so do you. Now, do you not think to do this requires some degree of bravery?”
“I suppose so.” Violet said, slowly.
“Then there’s your answer. Now, if you don’t mind, I was halfway through composing a particularly wonderful verse for next years first years.”
Violet nodded, and placed the hat carefully back on its shelf. Now it wasn’t speaking, it looked particularly frayed and worn. Violet found it hard to believe it was the same object that had just given her such words of wisdom. She heard a small chuckle and looked up to see Dumbledore watching her. He gave her a small wink, and returned to his nap.
The rest of the week past quickly for Violet. She identified a love for transfiguration and Quidditch, and to her surprise, an interest in potions too. There was small satisfaction gained from this, in that Violet had begun to wonder whether she would have any of the traits of a pure blood Slytherin child. Although lessons kept her busy, Violet was unable to forget what the Sorting hat had told her in Professor McGonagall’s office.
“You have no desire for power, and no wish to be defined by your ancestry. As have others in your family
Violet knew her extensive family tree well. She frequently and unwillingly saw her paternal grandparents, Lucius, Narcissa, and her mother’s sister, Daphne. But it was the deceased members of her family who seemed more inclined to come up in conversation. Her grandmother was forever bringing up the name of her long dead sister, Bellatrix, citing her as one of the most loyal and dedicated witches she knew. There was another sister too, an aunt that was never seen or spoken of, but Violet knew of from an old family album she had found when looking for a place to read in the summer. She hadn’t dared ask about this other sister, but she was there in the photographs, her name scratched out with a quill. Violet also knew that, like many other old wizarding families, she was distantly related to many other names, such as the Black’s, who she believed were all dead. She wondered if amongst all the dark wizards and witches, there might be one or two who actually turned out all right.
The weekend approached quickly, and Violet knew she would no longer be able to avoid Scorpius with the excuse of lessons. He cornered her as she made her way down the staircase towards The Great Hall and pulled her into a nearby classroom.
“Mum says well done on making it to Slytherin,” he said, smirking
Violet blushed and ducked her head. “Why haven’t you told her? You can’t go through seven years of school pretending you’re in a house you don’t belong to. She’ll know soon enough anyway.”
“And why’s that?” Violet snapped, “You’re not going to tell her.” Scorpius looked slightly surprised at her response but shrugged.
“Even if I don’t, she’ll know. I’m not the only person who could tell them. There’s hundreds of Slytherins whose parents know ours, its big news, a Malfoy being put in a house full of traitors. Like the Black family scandal all over again.”
Violet raised her head. She didn’t know much about that side of the family, aside from what she had been told about Bellatrix. But Scorpius had lost interest.
“Whatever, I’ve got better things to do than try and look out for you. You’re on your own now, Gryffindor.”
The situation would have been a lot worse had it not been for Lily and Hugo. Since being placed in Gryffindor, Hugo had been a lot warmer towards Violet, which she supposed was something good to come out of the whole messy situation. And Lily had taken Violet under her wing somewhat, encouraging the other Gryffindors to put aside the Malfoy stereotype. There was still some hostility, but it was soon put to rest with the first year’s first Quidditch lesson, midweek.
Madame Hooch was old but incredibly sprightly. She had wiry grey hair and the face of a Cornish pixie, although it wasn’t so blue. Each student was told to stand next to a dormant broom, hold his or her hand out, and to tell it in a firm voice, to fly “up!” To Violet’s surprise, hers flew into her palm on the first try. It took Lily three tries, and Hugo’s broom simply rolled lazily around on the grass. The lesson passed quickly, and the three friends were soon walking up the stone steps into the entrance hall for lunch.
“It’s bloody stupid,” Hugo said bitterly, “my broom was faulty or something. Or really deaf.”
“Or maybe you’re just crap at flying?” Rose said. Violet laughed at the disgruntled look on Hugo’s face.
“It’s alright for you,” he said, “You were alright, you could easily be on the school Quidditch team,”
“Or at the very least, the Chudley Cannons.” Violet said
“Don’t knock them; they’re just having a bad season.”
“They’re having a bad existence,” Violet retorted, making Hugo laugh reluctantly. The three found seats at the Gryffindor table and began to pile their plates with food.
“Have you heard from your parents yet?” Lily asked Violet, who shook her head, her appetite fast leaving.
“Perhaps your owl got delayed.” Hugo said, through a mouthful of chicken.
“Ezio doesn’t get delayed,” Violet said darkly, “He’s the most tenacious owl I think has ever flown this planet.”
“I’m sure they care.” Lily said.
“I’m sure if they’ve heard I’m not in Slytherin they probably don’t. But whatever. I have more important things to worry about. Like getting this transfiguration homework done before next lesson.” She pulled the parchment towards her, ignoring the sympathetic looks that Hugo and Lily were shooting at her.
Several months later, and the things that had once surprised or charmed Violet, such as the way that everything supposedly stationary (the paintings, the suits of armour and the staircases) moved, had become commonplace, and even a little annoying. Hogwarts had opened up a new door in the world of magic Violet had previously known. For the past eleven years, she had seen domestic magic performed by the family house elf, brooms, and occasionally when Lucius Malfoy felt he was becoming too boisterous, threatening red sparks aimed in Scorpius’ direction, (Violet liked this one the best.) But she had never experienced the kind of magic taught and practised at Hogwarts. But the next day at breakfast, Violet experienced a kind of magic she really could have done without…
The post owls flew in as Violet was finishing off her eggs. She was surprised to see the family screech owl, Ezio, swoop down over the Slytherin table, and towards her, a red envelope tied to one of his talons. Hugo looked at the letter in disbelief
“Bloody hell, Vi, how the- I mean, is that a howler?” But before she could answer, someone came up behind her, taking Violet in one arm and the letter in the other. Everyone but Ezio turned to watch as Violet, Scorpius and the ominous envelope made their way into the entrance hall.”
“Ow, get off, what’re you doing? Are you mad?”
“Are YOU mad?” Scorpius demanded, shoving the howler at her, “Were you actually going to open that in front of everyone?”
“I don’t know what I was going to do; you came and abused me before I could make that decision for myself.”
“Violet, this is a howler. Howlers tend to do this thing where they shout at you really loudly in a magnified voice for as long as your parents feel is necessary.”
“I know that!”
“Well, what’ve you done to get one then?”
“I don’t know! Will you please calm down and let GO of my arm?”
“Not until we get away from the castle and somewhere where we can let this thing shout in peace.”
“I think you can stop now, it’s not exactly making much noise anyway.”
They both halted and looked at each other
“Violet, did you actually open the envelope?”
Wordlessly, Violet shook her head. They both looked slowly down at the letter in Scorpius’ hand. It was smoking slightly at the corners.
“How have you not opened it yet?” Scorpius said, aghast. Violet pressed her lips together and shook her head.
“I didn’t notice.”
They both turned and ran as fast as they could towards the Forbidden Forest. As they neared it, the howler exploded, in a haze of smoke, and the hideous magnified voice of Lucius Malfoy, bitter and taught with fury, reverberated around the grounds
“Violet Artemis Malfoy, you’ve always been an anomaly to this family, but a Gryffindor? Why on earth did you not think to tell us? Your own family, betrayed for a bunch of muggle loving fools. You have brought shame upon this family, sullied out name and caused great embarrassment to both your father and myself. And you, Scorpius, I always thought the Malfoy name meant a little more to you than this. You were supposed to be watching to make sure these kinds of mistakes were avoided. I have never felt so ashamed to have you both as my grandchildren.”
With that, the howler burst into flames, sending a shower of ash over the roots of a nearby tree.
“I can’t believe you thought the bloody thing had gone off already.” Scorpius muttered.
Violet shook her head again.
“Do you- do you think they heard?”
“I think everyone heard, Violet.”
“Yeah.” United for once in their joint humiliation, the two siblings turned and walked slowly back to the castle, where Hugo and Lily were waiting.
“Was that as painfully loud as it felt to me, or did you not hear any of it?” Violet asked, with little hope to the latter.
“Um, I’m not sure…” Lily said tactfully.
“I think the words ‘Muggle loving fools,’ ‘sullied our name’ and ‘ashamed to have you as my grandchildren’ were mentioned, but that might have just been me.” Hugo supplemented, ignoring Lily’s furious attempts to shut him up.
Violet groaned and sunk down next to one of the suits of armour in the Great Hall, which clanked and laughed mockingly. Little did she know, this was only the beginning of the worst to come.
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