And welcome to yet another new story :D I must be mad, starting my third WIP. There were four drafts of this, by the way - four. This was the one that ended up making the final cut :) Once more, this is for Jenny (starryskies55) for yet another of her brilliant challenges. Here we go again, right? ;) Anyway, zilch belongs to me. The story title and first sentence both belong to Eva Ibbotson, and let’s hope you guys love this just as much as you do all my other stories.
charme.@TDA is a goddess
I. Worlds Apart
It was a good school, one of the best in London. So why was she so nervous about going there? And was the school even in London, anyway? Closing her eyes, Nathalie Levett took a shaky inhale of breath, as her left hand gripped her seatbelt harder, knuckles turning white with the effort of it. The hum of the car radio did little to sooth her frayed nerves, try hard as she might to concentrate on the song playing. No one in the car was speaking - Nathalie was too nervous, Mrs Levett too sad and Mr Levett too focused on navigating through the England motorway traffic.
Leaning her head against the foggy glass window, Nathalie tried to fall asleep, but snippets of the various confusing conversations over the months were like ghosts, drifting in and out of her brain when she least expected it, not to mention the hooting horns outside and the rumble of the car engine easily felt at the window distracting her. She wondered when everything she had ever known in her life turned upside-down. Was this how all new witches and wizards felt? Or was it only her?
. Nathalie couldn’t believe it. She traced the word onto the fog of her window, mouthing it as she did. Witch
. Was she really? Having such a big secret hidden from her for so long - eleven years, to be exact - made it quite impossible at first glance, but she accepted it as the truth. How else would she be able to explain all those strange moments throughout her life - whenever she was scared or lonely or sad or mad, something would happen, even something as little as a beloved stuffed animal zooming to her arms for her to cuddle. Nathalie’s palm closed in on itself self-consciously. She wondered if the other witches and wizards she would meet still had stuffed animals to play with. She had left hers at home, but in its place she brought a rat - a white one named Despereaux, after a movie she had watched as a young girl.
Speaking of Despereaux, he was currently curled up in her lap, contently sleeping. Nathalie was glad he was - it would be too much work if she had to search all over the car for him, what with his tendency to explore everything and everywhere. He was much, much different from her - all Nathalie wanted to do was go home.
! It was as if Nathalie had snapped out of a daze as her face flew forward, one hand still grabbing protectively at her seatbelt and the other curled around Despereaux to prevent him from rolling off of her lap. She didn’t think Mrs Levett, seated in the seat in front of her, would appreciate the white rat scaring the daylights out of her by rolling under her chair and popping up on the other side. She was the only one against buying Despereaux, but majority ruled and Nathalie and Mr Levett adored the little rat, adventurous as he was.
Mr Levett grumbled to himself as he unrolled the window, drizzling rain and wind hitting Nathalie in the face as he glared at the car in front of them. Nathalie closed her eyes once more with a heavy sigh, and as if Despereaux was reading her mind while he was half-asleep, he suddenly shook awake and climbed up her sleeve to rest on her shoulder and nuzzle the crook of her neck as if to say it’s okay. We’ll be okay
Nathalie hoped so. She really, really did.
By the time the Levetts had made it to King’s Cross Station near the heart of Central London, the clock had just struck twenty minutes to eleven. Nathalie wasn’t too surprised by it - Mrs Levett was a very exact, practical sort of person who absolutely hated to be late for anything and everything, and this time was no exception.
Nathalie couldn’t remember a time in her life when she had wanted to throw up so badly. She exhaled shakily, trembling in her shoes. Mrs and Mrs Levett watched their daughter with a touch of sadness. The Levett household wouldn’t be the same, not without Nathalie. She couldn’t quite believe she was going to leave both her parents behind. So far, they had been with her every step of the way, from receiving her letter to Diagon Alley and all the way here to King’s Cross.
“You’ll be okay,” Mrs Levett said softly, this being one of the few and only times she had ever shown compassion and sadness towards her only daughter. Tears welled up in Nathalie’s eyes. Oh, she’d miss
her parents - every single bit of them, too, even their most annoying habits. “I know you will. You wouldn’t be a Levett if you didn’t do us proud, and you have made us proud every single day of your entire life.” Nathalie tried to smile, but she couldn’t, not through the tears.
“I know,” she managed to say, choking on the words. “I’ll miss you. I’ll send you letters, every week, I promise.” Mr Levett looked at the barrier separating Platforms 9 and 10, a misty look in his eyes. He couldn’t look at Nathalie, not without crying openly, and he had to be strong for her.
“Is this where it ends?” he asked no one in particular. “Is this where we leave you, to go to a place you’ve never gone before?” Nathalie wiped at her face with the sleeve of her shirt. For once, Mrs Levett didn’t complain.
“I guess so,” Nathalie sniffled. “But it’s not going to end.” She stared up at her parents with fierce determination in her clear blue eyes. “I won’t forget you, just because I know magic.” She paused, staring around at the bustling station, with the elderly ladies with their equally elderly husbands or with strength in their eyes as they held grandchildren by the collars of their shirts, with the whinging or tearful little children trailing after elder siblings and their parents, with the station guards still and emotionless, looking around at the chaos around them. No, she wasn’t going to forget this. She couldn’t
forget this. She loved magic, she really did, but the Muggle world was where she had grown up. She wasn’t going to forget her birth place so easily.
Nathalie Levett was going to be brave. Not just for her parents, but for herself, too. She’d launch herself into the magical world with purpose and with dignity - but she wasn’t going to leave the Muggle world behind.
With that comforting thought firmly in mind, she blinked back the tears threatening to spill and with one last exchange of sad, longing looks with her parents, she inhaled deeply and started to run.
Nathalie didn’t know what she had been expecting when her trolley had first hit the barrier. To feel like a ghost, and slip straight through the barrier onto the other side of it, failing to cross into wherever she was supposed to go, and then being told that there had been a mistake and she wasn’t a witch after all? Or to fall to her feet in a crash, luggage spilling everywhere and being told the same - that there had been a big mistake?
happen was that she and her trolley slipped - straight into another platform. Nathalie felt her breath catch in her throat, slowing her run to a stop, staring up at the sign signifying that there had been no mistake, that she was meant to be here after all, and she had made it to Platform 9¾, right as she meant to. It felt like she was in some crazy dream as she wheeled her trolley to where some others lay in a line like those at Muggle stores, and pulled her trunk off with some difficulty. Despereaux squeaked in protest, crawling down from her shoulder into her jacket pocket.
Nathalie managed to drag her heavy trunk over to where the entrance to the train was - about an inch off the platform. She closed her eyes in desperation, huffing with exhaustion. She barely managed to make it over here in the first place - how was she supposed to drag her trunk onto the train, too, and then put it up on the luggage rack?
“Hey ... need some help?” a voice asked, and Nathalie turned to face two people - one, a boy maybe two or three years older than her, with milky, coffee-coloured skin and dark hair, and the other a girl around the same age as the boy, except with long, bright red hair and hazel eyes. Nathalie suddenly felt scruffy next to the girl, with her neat cotton shirt, navy jumper and pleated check skirt, and she suddenly regretted wearing jeans with her red jacket, shirt and shiny black boots instead of the proposed skirt.
“Um, yes,” Nathalie said shyly, fiddling with her sleeve. “Thanks.” She merely watched the boy in silence as he lifted her trunk for her and then put it up into an empty rack. The boy nodded at her with a smile while the girl was indifferent, and when they left her she felt awkward once more. It was obvious they knew each other, or were, at least, related. She knew nobody here. With that niggling at her mind, she assured herself that she would find a compartment with kids her own age and sit with them.
She found a compartment like that further down the train, with three people already in it - another boy with dark hair, a boy with blonde and one other girl with red. How many people had red hair in this train, she couldn’t help but wonder. She would have gone in and sat with them, if not for the fact that Nathalie suddenly felt shyness overcome her, so with regret in her heart, she skipped that compartment and went straight to the next one.
If this was her attitude when she would be making friends at Hogwarts, then Nathalie would be in trouble.
Nathalie felt ridiculously uncomfortable in her new uniform - were the pointed hats really necessary? - but still she went along with it. She went along with everything, from the crowd spilling out the train, to the giant of a man meant to lead them to Hogwarts, and all the way to getting into a boat to cross the huge lake that lay before them.
She only wished that she had not picked this particular boat, however.
Nathalie had gone for the first boat with space that she had seen, and had ended up with the three students she had seen earlier before in that compartment - the redhead girl, the blonde and the dark-haired boy. Stifling awkwardness settled over the four, but not one held back their gasps at seeing the magestic castle for the very first time.
It looked like it had jumped straight out of a fairytale, with its turrets towering over the darkness of the lake, with bright lights illuminating the windows, looking like it belonged
, right there, grey stone against inky sky and stars - and for the first time ever since she had received her letter introducing her to all of this, Nathalie felt like she belonged, too.
It certainly took her mind off the leaning of the boat when the dark-haired boy bent to meet a - tentacle?
A slight scream spilled from her lips, and the redhead yelled a warning, but it was too late. With growing terror, Nathalie felt the boat rocking dangerously to the side, taunting her with its slowness, and just barely remembering to inhale deeply one more time, they went in for the plunge.
Not once in her life did Nathalie ever
wish to see such a deep lake up close and personal. She felt her arms start flailing frantically at her sides, desperately pulling at the water - as if that
would help - to pull her up to the surface. Her eyes snapped open out of their own accord, and she could vaguely make out the figures of three people around her own size, fighting not to pulled down by the current, along with something with huge eyes and so many tentacles that it scared her. She would have screamed, if not for the fact that she was underwater.
The moment her fingers had caught onto the wooden edge of the boat was the moment when she thanked all heaven above and hauled herself over the side. Ironically enough, the dark-haired boy had been the first to reach safety, and Nathalie gasped for breath as he struggled to pull her onto the boat. She could barely hear his hasty apologies over her own relief, but when she did, she also noticed that they were still
the only two in the boat. The dark-haired boy seemed to have noticed it at the same time, because as one they darted to the edge of the boat once more and dared to stare out onto the water.
“Rose!” the boy shrieked, leaning so far overboard that Nathalie was scared that the both of them would fall right back in. Bright green eyes darkened by worry scanned the water anxiously, still calling for his companion - the redhead, obviously. “Rose!” Two hands shot out of the water at his call, and Nathalie grabbed one and the boy grabbed the other. She just about managed to haul the blonde-haired boy into the boat, but the other boy was having a bit more trouble. It seemed like he was being pulled right back in
Blue eyes met grey as she and the other blonde made the same split-second decision, and that was to help the dark-haired boy in his quest to pull his friend - or family - back into their boat. Nathalie had almost been killed by them, but they deserved this, at least.
!” was the girl’s - Rose’s - first words when she had been finally pulled from the lake - not even a mere ‘thank you
’ for saving her life. “Albus Severus Potter, you are an absolute idiot
!” the dark-haired boy - Albus, Nathalie now knew - pleaded. “I just wanted to see the Giant Squid, I didn’t mean to pull you all in!”
“You know I can’t swim!” Rose shot back, breathing heavily, as if she would never be able to appreciate air ever again. Nathalie could tell that everyone else on the boat felt the same. “It was only thanks to - to -” At this, Rose flushed darkly, making the freckles scattered messily over her nose stand out. “- to Malfoy
that I managed to reach the boat in the first place.”
?” the blonde butted in, looking hurt, and Nathalie’s eyes darted from him to Rose to Albus as if this was all some entertaining tennis match she was watching. “I saved your life and you call me by my surname
? Can’t I even get a little
bit of recognition?”
, I already said I was sorry -” Albus tried again, but at that moment, Rose was fixed on the blonde, Malfoy, and the blonde only.
“I’m sure I would have made it fine without your help -” she started, and Nathalie felt like her head was spinning out of control.
“STOP IT!” she yelled, clamping both hands over her ears, their pleads or cries ringing constantly in her head. “We almost drowned
together and now you’re yelling at each other like little kids!” Well, granted, Rose was the one yelling but Albus and the other blonde were fueling her fury. Nathalie, however, regretted the words as soon as they came out of her mouth, because unfortunately, this time Rose turned to her
“Don’t act all so innocent!” she sniffed angrily. “You only jumped in with us because we’re Weasleys and Potters and whatever -” Nathalie’s jaw dropped. What was she talking
about? She had picked the first boat she had seen.
“Excuse me?” she yelped indignantly, feeling ridiculously out-of-place. The wizarding world was more insane than she had first originally thought. “I don’t have a clue who any
of you are!” Nathalie would have been surprised at her own daring - if not for the fact that the other three’s words tumbled and tangled up in each other’s and she could barely here what she, herself, was saying.
, grow up. The world does not
revolve around you -”
“Rose, just because you’re mad doesn’t mean you have to take your anger out on everyone else -”
“Shut up, Malfoy, that was not what I meant, and I’m not taking out my anger on everyone else, Al! It’s true! I saw her - whoever she is - look into the compartment -”
“Are you kidding
me - I needed somewhere to sit, and I didn’t go into
your compartment in the end!”
“OI!” The bark echoed around the lake, bypassing the four’s yells in volume by a mile. “Tha’ boa’ over there! Why’re you yelling a’ each other? Firs’ look at ‘Ogwart’s today, you know!”
Nathalie slumped down in her seat, exhausted and dripping wet. She pushed her hair away from her face, and eyed her companions with increasing suspicion. The other blonde, Malfoy, was staring out into the water, grey eyes reflecting the darkness of the lake. Rose’s eyes were downcast, staring at her knees, hands playing with her hair - twisting it into this and that until it formed loose curls around her fingers. Albus, however, was looking back at her curiously, questions alight in his bright green eyes, which caught hers when she moved on to him, and flushing at being caught staring, Nathalie averted her gaze and instead settled on the incoming building.
Needless to say, the weird, and slight disappointed, look they received from Professor Longbottom - the same Professor who had come to her house over the summer, Nathalie realised - made it clear that he had expected better of them, but with a flick of his wand, Nathalie found that neither she nor the other three were dripping anymore. Longbottom nodded at the half-giant with a smile, and he disappeared off to who-knows-where, leaving the first years with Longbottom.
“Well, come along then,” Longbottom said briskly after a moment of silence, shooing them all inside and to some sort of room right off the huge Entrance Hall they were first originally standing in. “Well, welcome to Hogwarts! The start-of-term feast will begin in the Great Hall soon, but before that, you must be Sorted into your houses - Gryffindor, of which I am Head, Slytherin, Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw. Whichever house you find yourselves Sorted into will be very important - they will be like your family, you will eat with them at meals, sleep in the same dormitory and spend time with them in class. You might find your best friend in your house - or even your worst enemy.” Here, Longbottom paused, looking out onto the sea of first years, and when a ripple of nervous laughter echoed through the room, Longbottom smiled a thin smile.
“While you are here at Hogwarts with us, being good will earn you house points - rule-breaking will not. All the points you lose or earn will be important, because at the end of the year, the house with the most points will win the House Cup - a very important honour.” Longbottom smiled a real
smile here, and Nathalie felt herself relax. This wasn’t so bad. She would do fine. “The Ceremony will take place in a couple of minutes - you must wait here for a bit before it begins, unfortunately. I will return to fetch you once the rest of the school is ready.”
For a moment, there was silence, and then murmuring rippled out like little flames, some stronger than others but all about the same thing - most people were staring at Albus or Rose or the blonde Malfoy, or maybe even all three. Nathalie was glad that she was being ignored - she didn’t want to attract any attention at her first unoffical day at Hogwarts.
The moment Longbottom arrived to lead them into the Great Hall was the moment she sighed in relief, and she followed the slowly moving crowd of first years. Curious eyes stared at the crowd - and her, to an extent - wondering, waiting, to see which ones would end up in their own house. To say Nathalie was surprised when they stopped was an understatement - she almost tripped backward into whoever was walking behind her. A frayed hat on a stool was brought out in front of everyone in the Hall - and after taking a deep breath, it opened its ‘mouth’ and began to sing.
“Oh, I’m the smartest hat,
That you will ever wear,
Does it matter if I don’t,
Match your black or orange hair?
For it’s not that I am on your head,
It’s what I see inside.
No thoughts of yours will be unread -
From me, you cannot hide!
So put me on, and set me straight
And wear me proud and tall,
For I’m the only Sorting Hat
To ever grace this Hall.
To all those who are brave at heart
With the Lions, you’ll remain.
Bravery and chivalry
Live in your domain.
The hardy and the loyal
Hold the mighty Badger’s claw.
Loyal are these friends,
They’ll leave everyone in awe.
If it’s knowledge that you seek,
Then to the Eagle’s nest you fly
Keen of mind, your wit and brains
Will leave the rest tongue-tied.
But lying in the Serpent’s coils
Are wonders to behold.
Cunning, pure and powerful -
Your ends are what you mold.
So, are you a daring Gryffindor?
A bird of Ravenclaw?
Is your loyalty unwavering?
Or your cunning most unflawed?
Take this wisdom, I here lend,
From a hat that’s seen it all:
You’re the one who’ll choose your end,
It’s you who makes the call.”
The Great Hall erupted into cheers and whistling, only dying down with a hasty wave of Longbottom’s hand. The Professor cleared his throat, and began to call out a name.
Oh, goodness. So many names that it made Nathalie’s head spin. She felt sick to her stomach as she watched the endless line of first year after first year step up to the Hat, but the sound of her name being called jolted her out of her thoughts.
“Levett, Nathalie!” Trembling from head-to-toe, Nathalie avoided the curious eyes of Rose and Albus and Malfoy as she stepped up to the stool, though she knew that it was only in vain - all eyes were on her.
Whatever house you choose
, Nathalie found herself thinking. I’ll go along with it. It’s all up to you.
she heard in her mind. I don’t know about you, but I think you belong in
Nathalie’s shoulders sagged in relief as she felt the Sorting Hat being lifted from her head, and she headed for the loudly cheering black-and-yellow table with a relieved smile on her face. She was ready to collapse into bed now - but the curiousity that was making her wonder what her companion’s houses would be overtook the exhaustion, and thankfully, she didn’t have to wait for long.
“Malfoy, Scorpius!” What an odd name, Nathalie couldn’t help but think as she watched the blonde, whom she now knew as Scorpius, make his way up to the stool, swallowing visibly from her perch at the end of the Hufflepuff table nearest to the Hat. A hushed silence fell over the Great Hall, and Nathalie hated it. She knew what it felt like. It took only two words - your name - for your stomach to plummet as deep as it could go, and the decision the Hat made could make or break a person’s life.
“SLYTHERIN!” This time the green-and-silver table was the one to burst into the loudest cheers, but even amongst the commotion Nathalie could hear the clink of golden coins being exchanged from hand to hand. Had people really been betting on Scorpius’ sorting? There were better things to bet about. The Sorting continued as normal, with no more money being exchanged, if not for the fact that soon after it was Albus’ turn to have a chat with the Hat.
“Potter, Albus!” Albus looked like his heart had just leapt to his throat as he slowly walked towards the stool. The boy gulped audibly, green eyes as wide as they could go, but his eyes snapped shut as soon as the Hat fell over his ears. One second. Two seconds. Three. Four. Five. It was agonising, waiting for the Hat’s verdict, but finally, the mouth ripped open and started to yell.
“GRYFFINDOR!” The eardrum-blasting roars from the red-and-gold table was deafening, and even Albus was flushed with embarrassment as he found himself wrapped up in so many hugs that it was impossible to count. How many people was he related
to? However, with the end of Albus’ sorting, it seemed like most of the Great Hall was waiting for one last important sorting - Rose’s.
Nathalie was glad her surname didn’t start with a ‘W’. While being the first Sorted would have made her want to curl up into a ball and hide, the wait to be finally Sorted was agonising, so the relieved look on Rose’s face when the girl before her was Sorted wasn’t entirely too out-of-place.
“Weasley, Rose!” As confident as Rose seemed to be, it looked as if her heart was about to jump straight out of her chest as she shakily walked to the waiting stool and Hat. Rose bit her lip hard enough to draw blood, but with the Hat falling straight over her eyes, just barely stopping at her ears, it was hard to tell what the girl was thinking from where Nathalie sat.
“RAVENCLAW!” Surprisingly enough, for a moment, there was dead silence - but all was made up for when the blue-and-bronze table erupted into catcalls and cheers and whistles, and even some jeers directed at the Gryffindor table, where Nathalie supposed people thought Rose would end up. Still, Rose’s face was relieved beyond belief as she walked over to the Ravenclaw table with a smile.
When “Zeller, Jasmine!” was finally sorted into “SLYTHERIN!” Headmistress Evora stood up with a gentle smile on her face, and a hush fell over the Great Hall. Nathalie looked up at the staff table and around the Great Hall with bright eyes. This would be her home for the next seven years. The people here would either be her best friends or her worst enemies, but she didn’t care about that anymore - right now, all that mattered was that tonight, she finally belonged.
Phew! I think that this is my favourite draft, which is probably why you’re all reading it right now -squishes- So, what do you think? Favourite characters so far? Oh, and did you guys really think the quartet (Albus, Nathalie, Rose and Scorpius, because I can’t be bothered to type out their names all the time) would be best-friends-forever instantly, and in the same house? You underestimate me! ;) This is going to be a difficult ride for all of us, and I can’t wait to show you guys what I have planned. Until the next chapter, and reviews are appreciated!