Chapter 1 : September 1st, 1971
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When he first met her, she was an abhorrently awkward eleven year old girl. Everything about her was uncomfortable to look at. She was tall and skinny, which made her limbs too knobbly and too awkward. When she walked, it was as if she did so on stilts. Her eyes were too big, too imploring, too freakishly blue. Her hair was long and stringy and disheveled and too unnaturally blonde. Her skin was blotchy and uneven from the touch of the sun.
When he first saw her, it was on opposite corridors of a car on the Hogwarts Express. She was holding a stubborn frown and a big ol’ cat that was even uglier and more unpleasant than she was.
Sirius decided then, before he even knew her name, that he disliked her.
Girls, he thought, were supposed to be clean and nice looking. They were supposed to smile and be happy and pretty and essentially everything that this girl was not.
She moved brusquely forward, as if she were deliberately trying to prove that Sirius’s unfriendly look meant nothing to her or her cat, and Sirius experienced a moment of cowardice in which he turned into a compartment and shut the door behind him in time to catch the silhouette of the girl moving past the door.
He felt a single moment’s relief from avoiding the confrontation before a new wave of discomfort – shame at having been caught in the act came about from the voice of a boy who was already occupying the compartment.
Then he met James Potter and all about that freaky girl was forgotten until a moment later that night when Professor McGonagall called her name, ‘King, Hanne’ and placed the Sorting Hat upon her head and her hair was shining too strangely bright under the lights of the Great Hall. The hat’s shabbiness seemed to fit her appearance.
She had the stony, unpleasant face that commonly befitted the students of Slytherin house. He was surprised when the hat called out ‘Gryffindor!’ and she walked over to the table adorned in red and gold without a trace of relief or happiness or any emotion at all on her face.
She was so strange and it gave Sirius an unplaced sense of satisfaction that everyone else seemed to be just as wary of her as he did.
In her life, all Hanne had was her wizened old grandfather and the cat, Neville Chamberlain, who was named after an old muggle prime minister. Her grandfather – her father’s father – was healthy as a horse, so to speak and in better shape than most men half (possibly even a quarter) of his age. Neville Chamberlain was a cat with a face that looked like he was damning you even as he purred in your arms.
Hanne loved them both deeply and unconditionally.
Her grandfather had a cottage by the sea where it was always too cold to go swimming, but on days when it didn’t rain, Hanne liked to lean on the windowsill and look out into the ocean, imagining that she could see mermaids and selkies.
The cottage was old enough – her grandfather had built it when he got married to Hanne’s grandmother and they raised five kids out of that tiny little house. There were only two bedrooms so Hanne imagined that growing up, her father had to share a bedroom with his four siblings until he was old enough to move out on his own. Nowadays, it was only Hanne and her grandfather who lived there, so she had a bedroom all to herself, but that was neither here nor there.
Hanne had been a baby when she had been dropped on her father’s doorstep with a note stating ‘she’s yours’ and his father, who had been an incurably promiscuous playboy in his young (perhaps even his current) age that he had no idea who Hanne’s mother was.
He took care of her as best he could and when Hanne was two and a half and old enough to sleep through the night, speak – albeit incoherently, eat properly, walk, and not cry so often, he decided that he’d had enough of parenting and dropped her off at the cottage by the sea where his parents lived. This was something that Hanne would always find ironic. How strange that he could put up with her early days of screeching and wailing at odd hours of the night and her sporadic needs but not the rest of her tame and predictable childhood years.
Hanne’s grandparents loved her and took wonderful care of her. She didn’t remember a day of her life with her grandparents when she wasn’t happy, at least, not until the time when her grandmother fell ill and eventually died. Hanne had been too young to understand it, but she knew that she didn’t like how sad his grandfather’s eyes were all the time or how her grandmother gave her these looks like she was never going to see her again.
Up until her grandmother died, Hanne had never seen her grandfather cry. Holding the hand of her father at her grandmother’s funeral and watching her grandfather cry, she thought that she never wanted to see it again in her life, and she never did.
From that day on, her grandfather seemed to have left behind his sorrow and focused his full attention on raising Hanne. He took her around the country so that she could see what it was like and what the people were like. Then he took her around Europe, then the world, and all the time, he taught her too, about magic, about history, about everything. And it seemed to Hanne that he knew everything there was to know in the world.
A week before Hanne turned eleven, she received a letter by owl post in which it was explained that she had been accepted to Hogwarts. She didn’t want to go.
She didn’t want to leave her grandpa, or even Neville Chamberlain – and why should she, when her grandfather could probably teach her everything there was to know about magic like he taught her about everything else in the world?
Then her grandfather explained that she had to go to school, so that she could meet and interact with other kids her age, that she would like it, that she would still be spending holidays and summers with him, and Hanne understood that this was not an issue in which she could have her way.
She didn’t want to take Neville Chamberlain, not because she was afraid the other kids would poke fun at her, but because she thought that her grandpa would be so lonely if the both left, but he insisted, so both Hanne and Neville Chamberlain sulked the entire way to Platform 9¾.
She only relented at the last moment when she broke down and cried and said she was sorry for being such a brat but she really didn’t want to leave him. He laughed at her, told her that she had been a brat but he loved her anyways and he’d see her at Christmas and not to feed Neville Chamberlain too much and that he’d write to her and that she’d better make a lot of friends.
Then when the train began moving and took the sight of her grandpa away from her, bitterness found her again. She wiped her eyes and the frown came back to keep her company.
When she wandered into a new car of the train in search of an empty compartment in which to sit (too shy to approach anyone), she found herself staring a boy on the opposite end of the corridor. For being a boy, he looked wild and feral and dangerous.
His eyes were as dark as a wild animal’s from the distance that she saw him. His hair was just as dark and fell in messy tresses, some over his eyes and made him seem as if he were glaring at her with the intention to harm her. He was tall, and something about the way her was regarding her made Hanne feel like he wanted to push her down.
She had never known a bully, but she felt like he could be one of them.
She made to walk by him, hurry past before he could make up his mind to push her or something. He walked forward too and even though her heart was beating so fast, she didn’t let her nerves show. When he abruptly turned and entered a compartment, she felt an immense relief and hurried on.
It was not even five minutes after she’d settled into a compartment of her own that door slid open and there stood a boy and a girl who seemed a little… ruffled. The girl had red hair and Hanne thought it was beautiful but the fierce expression that the girl wore put Hanne a little on edge. She was not used to so many people looking at her with such unfriendliness. The girl seemed to realize because her expression softened when she met Hanne’s eyes and she smiled.
“Hi,” she said confidently. “Can we join you?”
She was pretty when she smiled, so Hanne nodded and watch her come in, followed by the boy, who had shiny black hair that fell in curtains about his face. He looked at her with distinct unfriendliness and Hanne wondered what was it about her that kept making people look at her like that.
“I’m Lily,” the girl said. Despite the boy’s sullen demeanour, Lily seemed perfectly at ease around him. “And this is Severus. What’s your name?”
“Hanne,” said Hanne.
“Are you a first year?” Lily asked. She seemed eager to make conversation and Hanne remembered her promise to her grandpa so she stopped sulking and tried to make a friend.
“We both are,” Lily answered, speaking for herself and Severus. “Severus and I are from the same neighbourhood. We’ve known each other since we were ten.”
“Nine,” Severus corrected, his endlessly dark eyes pointed in Hanne’s direction.
He watched her like he was protecting something that belonged to him. Lily and Hanne both looked at him. It occurred to Hanne that perhaps he didn’t like her talking to Lily.
He looked away from her face and at Lily, pressing on, “It was exactly six months after my ninth birthday that we talked for the first time.”
Hanne found it surprising that anyone would remember with such clarity the first time they talked to someone. She noticed the way Lily’s cheek turned a little pink but she went on like she was ignoring or overcoming the fact.
“Fine, nine,” Lily amended, looking at Hanne like she was daring her to comment. Hanne didn’t dare. “We’ve known each other since we were nine.”
“That’s lovely,” Hanne remarked, though she didn’t smile when she said it. In fact, her face didn’t hold any expression at all. Her expression was as impassive as she felt about the subject. “I’ve never known anybody my age.”
“Not one person?” Lily asked, surprised. “Didn’t you go to school?”
Hanne shook her head.
“Oh,” said Lily and her presence seemed to grow smaller somehow. “I guess a lot of wizard children don’t go to school before Hogwarts.”
She looked to Severus for a moment and Hanne guessed that Severus probably didn’t go to school either.
“Some do,” he assured her. Hanne had no idea why anybody would need to be assured of something like that, but it seemed to make Lily feel better because she smiled a little. “Anyways, it doesn’t matter where you were before you came to Hogwarts.”
It seemed like he was saying the second bit to assure himself, but Hanne didn’t like to hear it. She thought about all the years she’d spent with her grandparents and traveling with her grandpa and it meant so much to her that she couldn’t believe that somebody could think something like that didn’t matter. She didn’t argue though, because she was trying to make friends.
“What did you do before you came here then, Hanne?” Lily asked.
“Me? …I lived with my grandparents… and then with my grandpa after my grandma died.”
“Oh,” said Severus. “That sounds boring.”
It wasn’t, Hanne’s mind refuted angrily. She felt ashamed and guilty that she could ever have misled someone into thinking that her life with her grandparents was anything less than as wonderful as it was. It made her feel no better that Severus seemed a bit friendlier to her then entire train ride thereafter.
As the sun was falling towards the horizon, Hanne decided that she wanted to be alone for a while. She picked up Neville Chamberlain, excused them both from Lily, Severus, and a bunch of other people who’d found their way into the compartment, and left.
Making friends was exhausting. The cottage and the sea, the smell of the ocean and the sound of the waves seemed so far away. Hanne kissed the top of Neville Chamberlain’s head. She missed her grandpa.