Chapter 2 : A Comfortable Child
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When Morgan was five, she spent about a week firmly believing that her next-door neighbor in Budapest, a fidgety, dark-haired Muggle boy, was none other than the kindergarten friend she had been forced to leave behind in Moscow. At that time, she was outraged at the new Sasha’s reluctance to recognize her in return, although she did manage to intrigue the boy with tales of magic.
Eventually, her parents caught on to what was going on and were quick to move to a new flat as well as to write the Muggle boy off as some form of an imaginary friend and a “phase”. And yet, while Sasha may have been forgotten, Morgan began to notice that faces tended to repeat themselves with every new location that her family moved to. Unfortunately, the familiarity went only skin deep, forcing Morgan to start all over again, teasing past the superficial layers and discovering the personality within. Soon, she would forget to try dig any deeper.
People became expendable and repeatable. And Morgan began to gradually lose interest in getting to know them. In fact, she dreaded it, lest the boring reproducible ways of those she met might rub off on her.
And so, as she grew older, Morgan cultivated a cool and detached persona. The status of “new girl” gave her the excuse she needed to avoid fitting in, but also enough mystery to attract helpers and allies, or as others called them – “friends”. She began to see herself as the exception to all rules – a lone figure in an ivory tower, looking down at the miserable beasts below with contempt, forgetting that she could walk down the winding stairs, open the door, and take a closer look from below.
But Morgan was in for a surprise that day on the Hogwarts Express as she failed to realize that she was not the new girl anymore. Instead, she was one of many freshly plucked, wide-eyed new faces. There would be no special treatment this time.
Strangely enough, this was exactly what she needed.
* * *
“Oh, I’m sorry,” Morgan mumbled, “I thought this was my compartment…”
“Nonsense, don’t be sorry! Now this is your compartment!” one of the ginger shocks declared. “Come in, come in, have a seat!”
He scooted over aggressively, squishing his twin against the window.
“I’m Fred,” he continued, fighting against the shoving of his displaced neighbor. “This is George. What’s your name?”
Morgan cautiously edged through the doorway and perched herself on the end of the offered seat.
“It's Morgan. Koshka.”
“Wonderful!” Fred exclaimed. “First year?”
Morgan nodded and braced herself for the tedious questions about her background that always followed. To her delight and bewilderment, the interrogation never came.
“Oh, you’ll love Hogwarts! The castle is this massive maze…” One of the twins exclaimed.
The two third years proceeded to tell her all about the teachers, the castle, the monster in the lake, and how some teachers secretly were the monster in the lake, but they just weren’t quite sure who it was yet…although they had their suspicions. They explained to her about the House rivalry, making sure to stress how all Slytherins were disgusting, self-entitled slimy slugs and how they were sure she was nothing like that, of course.
Soon, completely despite herself, Morgan was giggling like the little girl she was, happy to get attention from older boys and letting the excitement go to her head. There was something about skipping past the stage of scrutiny Morgan was so used to in wizarding prep-schools that broke right through her defenses without her even knowing.
“And then, and then,” she jumped up, interrupting the twins with a shrill voice and a wide grin. “We can end it by pouring salt on the Slytherins that remain, so they will dissolve into little green puddles!”
The boys broke out into barking laughter.
“You are just full of brilliant ideas,” Fred concluded gleefully. “Here, have a treat!”
He dug around the pile of papers and gadgets that flooded the floor and retrieved a half-filled paper bag of candy in shiny wrappers.
“What’s this?” Morgan asked, still grinning.
“It’s a typical British sweet, the high point of this country’s culinary evolution!”
Morgan scrutinized the nugget and removed the wrapping cautiosly, noting that it looked a great deal like clipped Christmas paper. With a shrug, the first year popped the sweet into her mouth.
The twins stopped moving around suddenly and fixed her with eager eyes.
“What?” Morgan asked through a full mouth of toffee, disoriented by the sudden change in atmosphere.
Suddenly, she felt a hot liquid trickle down her chin. And then she screamed.
The blood began to gush violently, soaking her purple shirt and sticking the thin fabric to her skin. It dripped heavily onto her exposed knees, getting into her mouth as she tried to breathe.
“What’s happening?!” she shrieked.
Morgan registered that she was standing in the middle of the compartment, although she did not remember getting up.
The floor seemed very far away. It was a very long way to fall…
“Hey…Morgan…come on, it’s ok!” Fred laughed. He put his hands on Morgan’s shoulders, stabilizing her briefly.
His grin swam before her eyes.
“Here, take this.” He shoved another candy into her shaking, sticky hand. “It will make it stop, trust me.”
“W…what?” Morgan stared blankly at the bright green, shiny object in her hand.
“It will make it stop, just eat it,” George commanded from somewhere to Morgan’s left.
Soothed by the confidence in his voice, Morgan obediently unwrapped the sweet and put it into her mouth. The taste was salty and metallic.
As soon as she swallowed, the blood flow ceased, leaving behind only a caked up mess of dark and gooey liquid on her face and clothing.
“See? Everything is fine! Here…” he handed her a towel.
Morgan stared at him, unmoving. She was beginning to realize something.
“You planned this?” she asked, her voice strangely high-pitched.
“Oh come on, it was fun!” He waved his hand dismissively.
Morgan looked over at George, who avoided eye contact.
“What am I to you, some rat?” Morgan raised her voice, furious. She was beginning to tremble.
“Relax, we always test our products on ourselves first,” Fred explained. “It’s completely harmless… And you have to admit, it’s kind of awesome! If you want to skip class…”
Morgan wasn’t listening. She ran out of the compartment and locked herself up in the toilet. And then, just like that, she dissolved in a fit of loud, violent sobbing.
Morgan hardly ever cried. She hardly ever needed to. Her parents were good to her; they had money and always bought her what she wanted. They liked spending time with her and endorsed all of her new interests. She was never bullied, never missed the people she left behind, never experienced a death in the family. Morgan had always been completely comfortable and completely numb. Now, she felt like she was going to explode.
If someone had materialized in that narrow wobbling train toilet and told her that it was okay, that this was how it felt to be a normal girl, Morgan would have thrown the soap bottle at them.
The girl had just toppled out of her tower for the first time in years and she was as disoriented and as terrified as a runaway house cat on a highway. Her years of being special beyond reproach were over, but it would take her a while to realize that the emotions ripping at her scull at that moment were a good thing, a sign that she was alive and that she was finally free.
The door rattled.
Morgan jumped and twisted her head to stare at the wobbling lock. She ran a hand over her eyes, as if that could dispel all the tears and blotchiness.
“Hey, are you asleep in there? Other people need to use the toilet, too!” a muffled voice called from outside. It was followed by more aggressive knocking.
“Wait!” Morgan called out in a screechy, hoarse voice.
“Oh…” The person on the other side of the door seemed to soften. “Are you alright?”
“Yes!” Morgan called back, her mood swinging from startled to irritated within a split second. Who were they to ask her if she was alright? What did they care?
The voice continued to ask questions, and it even offered to go get an adult.
“Ugh, just…Wait!” Morgan yelled back. She was frantically digging out her make-up pouch. No one was going to see her like this. No one.
As she began cleaning off the clumps of dried blood from her chin, she was struck with an idea – and the tools she needed were already in her shaking hands.
When Morgan stumbled out onto the train corridor five minutes later, her appearance was met with gasps. A curious crowd of four or five people had gathered around the toilet, some of whom tried to offer her a hand while others backed away in horror. She pushed past them, faking a limp, eyelids fluttering, breathing deeply. She ran her still blood-covered hand along the compartment doors, as if trying to steady herself.
When she got to the right door, she clawed it open and collapsed at the feet of her tormentors, shaking and mumbling.
“What the…” one of them exclaimed.
“Help…me…” she wheezed.
They cursed and pulled her to her feet. Through half closed eyes, she saw a freckled face swim before her. Hands ran over her cheeks, tried to pull open her eyelids, feel her pulse.
“Holy fuck, she is completely blue!”
“You…” she whispered. “You did this…”
“What? No, na-aw, that can’t be!”
“We tested the formula so many times!”
“I told you those bat wings weren’t fresh!”
The twins began fussing and shuffling around the compartment, making many fast, aimless movements. Morgan watched through her eyelashes.
“Shit, okay… Morgan, just try to stay awake, we will fix this!”
“We should call for help!”
“Oh yeah, and tell them what exactly?”
“Well, what in Merlin’s name do you propose we tell them when we bring in a dead girl?”
“Shit, Fred, they’re gonna lock us up!”
All movement stopped for a second as the two contemplated this possibility. They took a few careful steps to where Morgan was half lying, half sitting on the seat.
“Morgan, look at me, what happened?”
“Come closer…” Morgan whispered.
“What?” Fred leaned in.
He leaned in some more, until his nose was almost touching her ear.
“It’s just make-up…” she continued in the same faint whisper.
“Right, okay. George, she’s delirious. Must be the bat wings, then….”
Fred rubbed his hand over her blue, blotchy face.
“Morgan, don’t freak out, but it’s not smearing, and your cheek is swollen, this is not make up… Tell me what happened.”
She sat up abruptly. Fred had been crouching in front of her, and the sudden movement propelled him backwards. He landed against the opposite seat with a dull thump and proceeded to massage the back of his head.
Morgan fixed him with a cold look and began to slowly and theatrically wipe her face with a napkin she had prepared.
The twins stared in bewilderment as the soon-to-be corpse went back to being a normal dark-haired, hazel-eyed girl in a matter of seconds.
“How is this possible?” George recovered first. “The female species has more secrets than we ever knew, eh Fred?”
Fred grumbled inaudibly from the bottom left corner of the compartment.
“It’s not a female thing. I made this stuff myself,” Morgan snapped. “It’s permanent, by the way. No one can remove it, but me.”
She stood up and brushed off her skirt.
“Now,” she continued. “If you don’t want me to draw boils and burn marks all over your already spotted faces when you sleep, don’t ever try tricking me again.”
On that note, Morgan marched out of the compartment and went to change into her robes. Half an hour later, the train arrived at her new home and, although she didn’t know it yet, Morgan had made herself her first ever friends.
That's it for now! How do you guys like it so far? It's going to take some time to set up all the characters, but we are getting there...
Let me know what you think, preferably in the form of a review ;)
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