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The Brave at Heart by marauderfan
Chapter 1 : Beginnings
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 24


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I walked onto the Hogwarts Express from Platform Nine-and-Three-Quarters at the King’s Cross station. I was about to begin my first year at a prestigious wizarding school, and I felt both excited and nervous, for I had no idea what this year would have in store for me. As a shy eleven year old, I was a bit scared to leave home – I had never been away from my family much before. I didn’t know anyone around me, since my seventeen-year-old brother Nathan had gone off in search of his friends, so I wandered around on the train for a moment until I found an empty compartment, hoisted my suitcase up and sat down.

I was joined by a tall dark-haired girl, who introduced herself as Charlotte Avery. We bonded quickly, as we both wanted to be in Slytherin. I personally didn’t know anything about the other Hogwarts houses, but both my parents had been Slytherins, and Nathan had said Slytherin was the best, so it must be so.

Charlotte told me that the best wizards were always in Slytherin, because most Slytherins were purebloods. I kept silent, as my family wasn’t pureblood; there had even been a few Mudbloods in the family, people who had come from Muggle parents, like my grandfather on my mum’s side. My father wasn’t very fond of Mudbloods in general, because of a Muggle war that had happened when he was a child, but Granddad Bill was always so kind.

Soon, a short girl with shoulder-length straight blonde hair pushed open our compartment door. “I’ve been searching all over, everywhere else is full. Can I sit with you?”

“Sure!” said Charlotte. “Is this your first year as well?”

“Yeah, you too? I’m nervous!” she admitted. “I’ve got no idea what House I’ll be in, I’m hoping for Gryffindor! Most of my family have been Gryffindors. Well, my mum’s side of the family, anyway – my dad is a Muggle. Ravenclaw might be nice, I don’t know. What do you think? I’m Amanda, by the way. My aunt was a Ravenclaw, and she liked it. Ravenclaws are so smart and everything though, I don’t think I’d ever make it in there.”

Charlotte and I exchanged glances. If we had to endure the entire train ride of her talking, I would die. She didn’t seem to want to shut up, and didn’t even give us time to answer her questions.

“Of course, Hufflepuff might be nice; it sounds like the friendliest house. And then of course there’s Slytherin too. I’m pretty sure I won’t end up there. I don’t know what I would do if I was in Slytherin, because everyone says all the evil wizards seem to come from there.”

Her speech thus concluded, we sat in an awkward silence. I was too shy to say anything and just cleared my throat to break the quiet. Charlotte smirked. The girl, Amanda, just looked at us. She sensed the discomfort of the situation. “Well, not every Slytherin is evil,” she said quickly, “of course not, I didn’t mean that…”

We were suddenly interrupted by two other kids – a stringy, pallid boy who had long greasy black hair, and a pretty auburn-haired girl with bright green eyes. “Can we join you?” asked the girl tentatively. “There were some idiots teasing us in our other compartment.”

“Sure,” Amanda said, glad to change the topic. “I’m Amanda.”

“Hi, I’m Charlotte,” Charlotte chimed in, moving over on the seat to make room for the newcomers.

“I’m Melanie,” I said.

“I’m Lily,” said the girl as she sat down, “and this is Severus. We’re both first years.”

“Nice to meet you,” said Amanda. “I’m so excited for this year. I’ve been looking forward to going to Hogwarts ever since I first heard about it.”

“Me too,” said Severus.

“My brother is so jealous,” said Charlotte. “He’s a year younger than me, and he wants to go too, but he has to wait until next year!” She laughed.

“What’s wrong, Lily?” Amanda asked, and I looked up to see an anxious expression on Lily’s face. “Aren’t you looking forward to Hogwarts too?”

“I am,” said Lily hesitantly, “but my older sister hates me now since I’m going. She wanted to go, too, but she can’t do magic. My family are all Muggles, you see.”

“I’m sure she doesn’t hate you,” said Amanda consolingly. “She’ll get over it soon enough. When you go back home for Christmas, you’ll see how much she missed you.”

“I hope you’re right,” said Lily. “So are your families all witches and wizards, then? I’m starting off so far behind everyone else – I don’t know anything about magic! I’m worried I’ll make a fool of myself in class!”

I’d never considered what it must be like to be a Mudblood going to Hogwarts for the first time. But her concern was no different from mine, actually. “Don’t worry, I think we’re all going to be rubbish at the start,” I told her. “When I was testing out wands at Ollivander’s to buy my wand, I accidentally set fire to a shelf. You can’t be worse than that.”

Then I wished I hadn’t said that; I probably wasn’t making a very good first impression. But Lily laughed. Severus patted her shoulder in a sort of awkward way. Maybe we would all turn out all right.

Eventually the conversation turned where I had hoped it wouldn’t, but it was unavoidable: Severus asked us, “So what house are you hoping for?”

I didn’t respond; I wished I knew more about the other houses and I didn’t want to sound stupid. Amanda was looking uneasily from me to Charlotte. Charlotte answered that she wanted to be in Slytherin, and Severus looked pleased. “Wouldn’t it be great if we were all in Slytherin?” he asked.

“Yeah, that would be so fun!” Charlotte agreed. “I hope we are.”

As the food trolley came by, Amanda and I bought a few pastries and sweets while Charlotte got out her Daily Prophet newspaper from her bag.

“You read the newspaper?” I asked, surprised; it seemed so grown-up of her.

“I like to know what’s going on,” she told us with a satisfied smile. “There’s loads of weird stuff happening lately.” I glanced at the front cover of the Prophet, which featured a large picture of a strange, ugly snakelike man and a caption saying “Lord Voldemort Strikes Again.”

“Who’s Lord Voldemort?” asked Lily as Charlotte folded the paper in her lap with that article on top. I offered Charlotte a Pumpkin Pasty, setting it on top of the newspaper’s photo of Voldemort’s nasty-looking face. He scowled as he got crumbs in his eyes.

“He’s this new Dark wizard,” she responded, picking up her pastry. “I’ve never heard of him before. But apparently he just killed some Muggles.”

“That’s awful!” cried Lily.

“Maybe it was an awful Muggle,” said Severus indifferently.

Amanda snatched the paper from Charlotte’s hands, and her expression became darker with each line she read. “Well, I don’t understand most of the words in here, but it sounds like this Voldemort doesn’t think Muggle-borns are proper wizards.” She looked up at Lily nervously.

My father had said something similar once. But I was talking with a Mudblood right now, and she seemed like a very sweet person. How could anyone not think Lily was a proper witch? She had a wand and she was going to Hogwarts, just like me. And my Granddad Bill was Muggle-born, too – he was a proper wizard. Now I was away from home, I had to learn how to think on my own, and make my own assessments of people without being told. Only a few minutes into the train ride and there was already a lot to think about.

An uncomfortable silence had descended upon our group, but Amanda suddenly asked, “Erm, I’ve got some Exploding Snap cards, anyone want to play?” She stood up and grabbed some cards out of her trunk.

I was awed at her ability to totally lighten the mood. After a few rounds of Exploding Snap and lots of random chatter (mostly brought on by Amanda), we were feeling much better, and even I was almost talkative. I secretly hoped that whatever happened, my new friends and I would all end up in the same house, no matter which house it was.




After the train ride, and a chilly trip in boats across the lake, we walked up a staircase and entered a great hall with hundreds of floating candles. Nathan had told me that the ceiling was enchanted to look exactly like the sky outside. It was beautiful, although I was slightly afraid I would get hot wax dripped on my head from the candles, so I kept glancing up uneasily. The older students were already seated; everyone except the first years. We were ushered into a line, all of us terrified. A hat was placed on an old rickety stool in the front of the enormous Great Hall. It sang about the four Houses… Gryffindor for the brave, Hufflepuff for the loyal and just, Ravenclaw for the witty and creative, Slytherin for the ambitious and cunning. When it finished, a severe-looking woman with a thin, serious face stood near the first years and called out names. “Avery, Charlotte,” she said. Charlotte gracefully walked up and put the hat on her head.

“SLYTHERIN!” it shouted. She smiled at me, left the hat on the stool, and calmly joined the cheering Slytherins at their table.

“Black, Sirius.” A dark-haired boy walked up, and I heard Amanda giggle behind me.

“GRYFFINDOR!” bellowed the Sorting Hat.

“I want to be a Gryffindor,” said Amanda. I looked at her, bemused. “No, honestly, I’ve always wanted to. And I heard him talking on the train, he’s funny. I think we’d be good friends.”

I looked over at the Gryffindor table, where Sirius Black was now seated. I knew of his family; the Blacks were well-respected pureblood aristocrats, and all of them that I knew of had been Slytherins. Now I had just seen one sorted as a Gryffindor, and he looked thrilled. I wouldn’t have expected that.

The line of first years grew steadily smaller. Lily Evans was also placed in Gryffindor. I didn’t know what I wanted now – two of my friends were already in different Houses. My stomach leapt into my throat as I heard “Hastings, Melanie.” I wobbled up to the Sorting hat, and slipped it on my head, where it sank down and covered my eyes.

“Ah…” said the hat, “you’re very loyal, and I see that you certainly have courage, so maybe Gryffindor… but such independence as well. I see determination and a desire to prove yourself. Gryffindor or Slytherin? Hmm… let me see.”

I suddenly got very worried. What was the hat talking about? I wasn’t brave, I was the exact opposite! What if I got put in Gryffindor and then I couldn’t handle it? What if I had to face some task that I wasn’t brave enough to do because I really shouldn’t be a Gryffindor? “Slytherin,” I told the hat uncertainly; I didn’t know enough about the others.

“Slytherin? Are you sure? You would be a great Gryffindor… Okay then. Remember that many great wizards and witches have come out of each of the houses… and for you, it’s SLYTHERIN!”

My family would be disappointed if I were sorted anywhere else. But was I happy with it? I still had to figure that out. Why had I just gone with what I was familiar with and not let the hat decide? And what did the hat mean with those last statements? I was so deep in thought and frustrated at my impulsive decision to ask for Slytherin that I forgot to take the hat off my head as I began to walk over to the Slytherin table. As I heard laughter ringing out all around me, I set the hat back on the stool and ran back red-faced to join the Slytherins. I sat next to Charlotte, who had thankfully stopped laughing by the time I sat down. My brother was at the other end of the table, sitting by a boy with long blonde hair. Nathan gave me a thumbs-up sign as I sat with the Slytherins, although I could tell he had been laughing too.

But the Sorting went on, and I hoped people weren’t looking at me anymore. Soon, after two new Gryffindors were announced (Remus Lupin and Mary Macdonald), we heard “Macintosh, Amanda.” Amanda took one last glance at the Gryffindor table, more specifically, at Sirius Black, and then walked shakily up to the stool. She sat there for a long time.

“She’s probably telling it about all of her family members,” Charlotte whispered to me, giggling. The laughter was wiped off her face, though, when the hat called, “SLYTHERIN!” But her face didn’t even compare to Amanda’s shocked expression.


The Slytherin common room was a dungeon, but it was comfortable and cozy. There were some green lights, sofas, and a fireplace, and far away at the opposite end of the rectangular room were two staircases, separated by a bizarre portrait of a man in a spotted suit who told me to brush my hair when I first walked past him. I wondered if some wax from the candles had dripped into it.

The girls’ staircase was on the right; I walked up and found a beautiful green carpeted dormitory. The window opened right out at ground level near the shore of the lake. Shortly the other girls came up to the room, and one of my roommates was Charlotte. Only four girls were in the room and there were five beds, however, and I realized the person missing must be Amanda. I went back down to the common room and found her sitting behind a sofa, crying. I felt badly for her so despite my shyness, I sat down beside her.

After a few moments’ silence, she turned to face me. “Why?” she asked, her blue eyes full of tears. “Why would it put me in Slytherin? No one else at Hogwarts even likes Slytherins! I just don’t understand. I’m not meant to be a Slytherin, they’re obsessed over blood and everything, and I’m a half-blood. Slytherin is for the evil wizards. I’m not… not…” She broke off, sobbing uncontrollably into her hands.

I patted her shoulder and said, “It’ll be okay.” She clearly didn’t believe me. “You said on the train that all your relatives were Ravenclaws and Gryffindors, maybe they’re just biased?” I added with a shrug. “Charlotte and Severus seem really nice, and they both got sorted into Slytherin…”

Amanda merely shrugged, so I told her, “Look, I’m starting out awful too… I was so excited to be sorted in Slytherin, but now I’m not so sure, after talking to Lily and reading that thing about Voldemort. I don’t know whether I should be in this house either.” I was pretty sure that wasn’t exactly comforting, and I doubted she’d really care, to be honest – but I said it anyway.

She scowled at me. “I don’t agree with anything Slytherin stands for. They all hate Muggle-borns… who are just like any other wizard or witch, how can it matter if there’s no other magic in their family? Some Muggle-borns are even more talented than purebloods. And you shouldn’t call them Mudbloods.”

“That’s what that Voldemort guy stands for, not Slytherin,” I said. “You’re a Slytherin because you have ambition and you’re clever, and stuff like that. You’ll do great things and go far in life. That’s what it means.”

She looked unconvinced, but much calmer. I said, “There’s nothing we can do about it now, unless you want to move to Beauxbatons in France.” She smiled weakly. “But really, we’ve only been here a day. I know we’ll have a great time at Hogwarts… And really, your house doesn’t determine who you are. I’m sure not all Slytherins are the way you said they are.”

“I guess I shouldn’t be so worked up over it, but… it was so unexpected. I really thought I’d be sorted somewhere better.”

“There is nothing wrong with being a Slytherin.” I said it more to assure myself than her, but I hoped it would help console her as well. “We’ll be great.”


One of the first things I noticed was how correct Amanda was in her assumption of how the four houses got along. No sooner than the first week of classes, after we’d learned only a mere handful of little spells, first-year Gryffindors James Potter and Sirius Black had already figured out some hexes and tested them out on Amanda, Charlotte, Severus and me on our way to dinner one day. They had made little clouds which followed behind us in the air, spelling out the words “Kick me, I’m a Slytherin.”

Potter and Black thought this was hilarious and followed us, re-casting the spell when it wore off. Severus retaliated with a perfect Jelly-Legs Jinx; he was already quite good at spells. The Slytherins were the main target for almost all pranks, particularly from those two Gryffindors, who soon established quite a reputation for themselves even as first years, and they, along with two others, could often be found getting in trouble together or testing out new hexes on Slytherins (these activities often went together).

Amanda told them one day to stop, because as she said, we only wanted to be friends, so why couldn’t they just be nice to us? But the Gryffindors only laughed at us, and Severus seemed uncomfortable with what Amanda had said, like he was trying to deny it all; he only seemed interested in getting one curse up on Potter and Black.

I never tried to get back at the Gryffindors much, I usually just hoped they’d stop. And it never happened. We were like target practice, just because we were Slytherins. Some way to start out…

*****

We may not have started out well, but what is life without a few challenges? So after five years of learning magic, meeting new friends, and petty rivalry with the Gryffindors, here I was back on the Hogwarts Express again with my best friends Amanda and Charlotte as we went off to school for our sixth year.

It was always good to return to Hogwarts, which felt like home to me. At my real home, I felt out of place now; my parents disapproved of most of my friends, and over the years there’d been a sort of weird tension anytime the topic of war was brought up. My parents were ambivalent about the whole thing, while five years at Hogwarts had made me more outgoing, open-minded, and independent; it led to some clashes between us.

It wasn’t just me who had changed; the whole wizarding world had changed too. Voldemort, the Dark Lord we’d read about on the train during our first year, had spent the intervening years carving a trail of violence across Britain and leaving a wake of misery and death behind him. I could only hope it would all be over by the time I left Hogwarts, because I didn’t want to think about it, and I certainly had no place in a war. Figuring out my life was going to be hard enough without having to consider a war as well.

My friends and I caught up on our news and watched the familiar scenery pass. After we had shared stories of our summer, our conversation turned to more random topics. As we were discussing the many perfections of Italian food, two other sixth-years entered our compartment. It was Sirius Black and James Potter, two of the biggest troublemakers in school, and also two of the brightest students. They were also both blessed with very good looks. Needless to say, they were rather popular. James had his arms crossed and a smirk on his face, and Sirius was leaning against the doorway looking very carefree, his shaggy dark hair falling into his eyes. Upon seeing the boys, Mandy’s face turned the colour of a tomato, and she nervously twirled her hair around her finger.

“What do you want?” asked Charlotte without looking up.

“How unfriendly,” said James. “We just came by to talk, is there something wrong with that?”

I scowled. “Yes, there is. You never talk to us, except for when you’ve made a mess somewhere and you’re trying to avoid getting caught. Who did you hex this time?”

“Prefects will be coming by any time now,” said Charlotte cheerfully.

But Mandy did not see things as we did. She just saw this as an opportunity for flirting, and grinned at the boys. “Hey guys, come join us. I think I have some chocolate frogs or something.” She waved her hand at me as if to make me scoot over to make room for the newcomers. But I wasn’t about to. And those were my chocolate frogs, not hers.

Sirius sat down beside me and James sat next to Mandy. Charlotte, on my other side, continued staring out the window, largely ignoring our visitors. “So,” Sirius began, taking one of my chocolate frogs and unwrapping it to take the Famous Wizard card from inside it, “I was thinking—”

“Really? That’s new, I didn’t realise you ever did that,” I interrupted.

“Hey, look who it is,” said Mandy, nudging James’s elbow and looking at the door of our compartment. Lily Evans, a Gryffindor Prefect, was walking by, shaking her head in disgust. James stood up, ruffled his already messy black hair, opened the door and flirted unashamedly with Lily, as usual.

“Evans,” he said. “You look even lovelier than you did last June.”

And, as per usual, Lily was far from impressed. “Stop it with the flattery, Potter. You should know by now that it will get you nowhere.”

“You know I can’t help it Evans, I’m only speaking the truth.”

“Then would you mind telling me why we haven’t even been on the train five minutes and I’ve heard that already you’ve hexed Severus and made his hair bubbly? And Selma Yaxley didn’t grow that beard herself.”

I suppressed a laugh. There had always been intense rivalry between any members of Slytherin and Gryffindor House. I’d had to go through a phase as the butt of jokes due to James and Sirius a few years ago, but that had worn off eventually. There was still rivalry, but they didn’t hate us. But with Snape it was different. Severus Snape was James and Sirius’s arch-enemy. There had been mutual hatred between them ever since the first day of school, and ever since then they had been jinxing each other incessantly.

“Well, they’re Slytherins, and they were in the way,” said Sirius. “Snivellus particularly, he walked past our compartment and you could tell he hadn’t washed his hair in weeks, so we just thought we’d help out with a bit of shampoo…”

“Get out of here,” I said, shoving Sirius aside angrily. “If Slytherins are just in your way, why did you come into our compartment?”

“And for heaven’s sake, leave the girls alone too!” Lily continued. “I can see you two are up to something. Have you for some reason got it into your huge head that every Slytherin is out to get you? Are you in there just to bother them because they’re Slytherins?”

“Of course not, what makes you think we would do that? We’re just talking!” James grinned. “Fancy joining us, Evans?”

Lily sighed heavily, then turned away from James. “Hi Mandy, Melanie, Charlotte,” she said, in an entirely different, much softer tone of voice. “Good summer?”

“Great,” said Mandy.

“Wonderful until these gits came along just now,” I quipped, gesturing to James and Sirius.

Lily grinned. “Well, nice to see you.” She gave James one last scowl, then shut the door, and after walking away a few paces, kindly stopped to help a first-year up who had tripped. As she walked out of sight I glanced at James, whose eyes were still on Lily’s retreating form.

James had had a crush on her ever since I could remember, but in five years he had never once managed to impress Lily. This was because he tended to show off whenever she was around, which only annoyed her. And as if that wasn’t enough, James’s continuous pranks on Snape throughout the past five years had counted against him as well, as Lily and Severus had been close friends since even before Hogwarts, and Lily had hated it when James picked on her best friend.

Now, however, Snape and Lily were no longer friends – our dream team from the train on the first year was no more. Mandy, Charlotte and I were still on relatively good terms with him, although I didn’t trust him much anymore these days, as Snape had gotten really into the Dark Arts; he invented devious spells and often hung around with bullies who were snobby about blood status. Lily, who saw the good in everyone, had continued to stand up for Snape despite his growing interest in the Dark Arts – until after exams last year, when Snape had gone too far even for Lily’s acceptance. He had angrily lashed out at her, calling her the insulting term of Mudblood. That opened Lily’s eyes to how different they’d become, and she finally gave up on their friendship.

Perhaps Snape hadn’t given up yet, though; as Lily disappeared down the train away from our compartment, Severus came out of a nearby compartment and walked after her, stopping to scowl at James and Sirius as he passed us.

After a few minutes of idle chatter with the boys, they left to rejoin their friends, and I was not surprised to see the floor crawling with enormous ants just after they left… of course the boys hadn’t been here just to talk. We managed to get rid of the ants and then spent a good ten minutes jumping in paranoia anytime anything tickled our arms.

“Well that was a blast,” said Charlotte. “Nothing like ants on our necks to welcome us back to school.” I was also relieved they had gone but Mandy was still pouting that the boys had left.

“Oh come on,” I told Mandy, “you’ll have plenty of time to flirt when we get to school.”

“I wasn’t…” she spluttered, and turned red. Then she turned to face Charlotte instead. “So, Char, you’ve been quiet.”

“I haven’t been quiet,” said Charlotte, “you just couldn’t hear me over the sound of the ants left here by your beloved.” I grinned at her, and Mandy scowled.

And soon enough, the train pulled into Hogsmeade Station and we rode in carriages up to the castle. This was always the longest part of the journey for me – although it was only a few minutes, I could practically smell the delicious feast I knew was waiting for us at Hogwarts, and I could not wait to reach it.

During the Sorting Ceremony in the Great Hall we marvelled at how small the incoming first years were. And to think that we had once been so little and so scared. As usual, Mandy and I cheered for the new Slytherins as loudly as possible – we had to show our yelling was more spirited than the Gryffindors, after all.

After dinner, Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster, gave his usual quirky speech about the places that were out of bounds, and about his fondness for the school song. “We’re back,” said Mandy with a grin, clinking her goblet of pumpkin juice against mine and nearly knocking it over. “Here’s to a good year.”




*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Author's Note: This was my first fanfiction (written between 2007-2012!) The story covers a two-year time period, so things start out kind of slowly as friendships take time to develop.

Disclaimer: The world of Harry Potter belongs to J.K. Rowling. I'm only borrowing some characters for a while.

Thanks for reading!! And I'd love to hear what you think! ♥


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