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Chapter 1 : Welcome
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It was there that Mary found herself on 1 September. The sky was overcast and a strong wind was blowing in from the east. The usually bright red train that in years passed had glittered in the sun didn’t have the glimmer it usually held. Instead, the red was muted and cold.
Mary walked down the platform and while she patted down her flying hair, a wayward Hufflepuff scarf blew up and hit her in the face. She grinned slightly at the younger student whose eyes widened and collected their scarf. The Hufflepuff, with significant difficulty, wrapped the scarf around her neck another time to keep it from blustering away.
Mary waved away the concern and pushed her trunk onto the train. She ignored the well-meaning parents around her as they clung to their children. She could, at least, say she didn’t have to worry about overly touchy parents. No, the MacDonald’s were not that sort of family. The trunk bounced behind her whilst she made her way to the end of the train where she knew Mafalda would have saved a seat for her.
Mafalda was early for everything and every year she would save the same compartment. People still talked about the time in third year when James Potter had sat there for shits and giggles. Mafalda had hexed him so bad he had to wait for an adult to reverse the spell. Mary did not complain. It was consistent and saved her the anxiety of trying to find a seat. It also allowed her to avoid those she had to.
The train was already buzzing with noise. There were the squeals of girls when they saw their mates, and the chortles of the boys who were appreciating the girls who had gotten fit over the summer months. There were sparks of reds and yellows flowing out of the compartments, while other compartments were shut tight to intruders.
There was little excitement for Mary. It was her sixth year here and the magic of the place had worn off. She was tethered to the place like a puppet. She knew the motions, but now it just seemed like a place to go and do school rather than the place of dreams. Magic, for all it could do, created beasts and monsters of them all.
Finally, she reached their compartment and, as expected, Mafalda was there with her things spread out on the seats around her. Mafalda was sitting with her knees brought up to her chest and her left hand balancing on her leg as she painted her nails.
“Alright, Maf?” Mary asked, her voice sounded choked, but Mafalda didn’t seem to notice as she peered at Mary with owlish eyes.
“Alright, do you like this colour?” she said and held up her other hand which was already done. It was a bright purple.
“I think it makes your skin look gray,” a voice said from behind. Mary turned to see Florence behind her carrying her customary bored expression.
“It’s always great to see you too, Florence,” Mafalda said with a slight smile. Florence shrugged and pushed her way into the compartment and shoved her own trunk under the seats while Mary lifted hers onto the rack above.
Mary settled in the corner with a book and Florence plopped down beside her and rested her feet against the seat opposite. She inspected her nails severely before swiping Mafalda’s nail polish and started painting her own.
“Do you mind if I borrow this?” Florence asked as she started painting on the first coat. Mafalda frowned, but didn’t say anything as she blew lightly on her own nails to dry them.
“Did you come alone again, Mary?” Mafalda asked after a moment of silence.
“Don’t be silly, of course she did,” Florence muttered. Her black eyes flashed with annoyance. Mary shrugged her shoulders and looked down at her book.
The compartment door opened again to reveal a tall, slightly gangly looking red head whose hair was mused as if she had forgotten to brush it this morning. Chances were, she had. Lily always seemed to have a mission and that didn’t usually include a dynamic morning routine.
“Hi, Lily,” Mafalda said.
“Hi, have you guys seen Laura? I’ve been looking for her and I haven’t seen her anywhere,” Lily asked. Half her body was in the compartment, the other was outside holding onto her trunk. She gave the appearance of ready to bolt at the word.
“No, though it’s so crowded here I wouldn’t be surprised if you just missed her,” Mafalda replied. She blew on her nails a few times to get them to dry. Florence snorted, brought out her wand and performed a simple drying spell on them. “Thanks, Florence.”
“Ah- well-” Lily said, as she dithered in the entry for a few moments. She looked up and down the hall outside. “Probably. Mind if I sit here then?”
“Course not,” Mafalda replied. Lily smiled, her eyes brightened, and she pushed her large trunk in and with the help of Mafalda put it up on the racks above.
“God, I think they get heavier ever year,” Lily commented before sitting in an empty seat by Mafalda.
“Or maybe we just get weaker and the universe is permanently against us,” Florence said with a frown. She lifted her fingers up into the light and looked at her now coloured nails. “This is a terrible colour I’ll have you know.”
“I think it’s nice,” Lily said. Florence rolled her eyes and threw the polish out the window.
“Hey!” Mafalda said, outrage flashed across her round face. Florence shrugged her shoulders and leaned her head against her seat. Mafalda stood up, but at that moment there was a whistle and the rumble of the train could be felt vibrating underneath their feet. “That was new, Florence.”
“How was everyone’s summers?” Mary piped in. She brushed her brown hair out of her face and closed the book; however, she still held her thumb inside to keep her page. This seemed to distract everyone from the present problem and they settled into their seats as the train picked up speed to take them to their home for the year.
They began chatting about the long summer which was no summer at all and was unseasonably rainy and cold the whole time. It just rained and rained and rained. Mary spent the whole summer working for her uncle’s magical toy emporium as a shop clerk and hadn’t seen any of her mates at all. She lived in Cornwall, so she was hours away from everything and everyone as Florence always said.
The other three continued to talk around her, but Mary already opened her book and was reading it without taking much in. It was a smutty romance novel that she read simply to escape from having to converse too much.
She still caught onto the important bits of the conversation though - Florence spent most of her summer in Russia at her grandparents’ place and then vacationed on the coast of France. You’d never know it with her pale skin though. Mafalda said she played with her cat and then flashed her prefect badge. Florence shot a gloating sort of look to Lily who chose at that moment to glance out the window.
“I spent most of my summer with my parents – mostly just trying to… avoid someone,” Lily said. She let the statement hang there to gather dust.
No one asked about whom it was. This could have been out of respect or not wishing to indulge Lily in her pretend mysteries. by now, everyone knew who that was. The conversation moved forward onto more mundane topics like whom the new Arithmancy teacher would be and if Hagrid would still be gamekeeper after Dumbledore found a cross-bred animal in his hut last year.
The landscape flashed quickly by the window in a blur of colour. There were the fields and tall, gnarly trees that marked property lines that slowly turned into rolling landscape with hills and the look of autumn overtook the new landscape. Faded greens and flecks of brown. Sheep huddled closer together and farmers were wearing an extra layer as they walked through their flocks. Mafalda left partway through to go to a prefect meeting and soon it ended up being only the three girls.
Florence spent the time poking Mary and blowing bubbles with her chewing gum while Lily pulled out her textbooks.
The trolley woman came and left taking with her the scent of sweetness. None of the girls bought anything. Some students popped their head in briefly to say hello, but the rest of the journey to Hogwarts passed rather uneventfully, so when it finally chugged to a slow stop at Hogsmeade station Mary was halfway through her book.
Once their robes were on, Lily disappeared into the crowds at the station and Florence led Mary to an empty carriage where Mafalda soon met up with them and jumped in herself.
“That meeting was awful, Patil got on this trip that this year was going to be the greatest yet and there would be no rule infractions. Load of bullocks. Don’t get me wrong, it’s irritating enough to have people gallivanting off after curfew and not studying, but to waste all our time for hours on end on how we need to be vigilant was ridiculous! I have a strict study schedule I need to adhere to that’s more important than babysitting first years.” She said with a roll of her eyes.
A couple other students piled into the carriage as well, but they stared warily at the three sixth year girls. Younger Gryffndors, but ones they had never talked to be before. Mafalda smiled at them, but Florence simply laughed and blew another bubble with her gum.
“You know what I’m really pee’d at?” Florence asked when they were finally heading up to the castle on foot. She pulled at her hair in frustration. Hair that was so dark it seemed to match the darkened sky.
“Life?” Mafalda asked, a grin spreading across her face. Florence glared at her for a moment before tossing her hair over her shoulder.
“No, - just – you realize that the only reason Lily sat with us was because her little bestie from Ravenclaw wasn’t available? Probably hid from Lily’s prowling and Lily didn’t want to be left alone.” Florence said with annoyance. She didn’t even keep her voice down, and a few Hufflepuff’s looked over their shoulder with interest at the gossip.
“Florence, really now,” Mary said softly and shrugged her shoulders. “She hasn’t seen us all summer and she probably just wanted to catch up. Don’t be so cruel.”
“Believe whatever you want to Mary dearest, but I think deep down you know the truth. Especially with how she treated you-” Florence started. An ugly look crossed her face that she kept especially for when she was annoyed. Mafalda always said this was why Florence could never get boyfriend.
“Because you’re always so right,” Mafalda said interrupted. She wiggled her eyebrows at Florence and just as quickly sidestepped a rather large puddle in the path up the castle. Florence couldn’t help but laugh.
“Both you and I know that’s the truth, Maffy darling.” Florence patted Mafalda on the head and ran up ahead of them to avoid Mafalda’s flailing arms. Florence flounced up the stairs two at a time until she reached the Entrance Hall.
Students milled past Mary and Mafalda. They danced up the stairs and into the Great Hall eager for the feast to begin. A sea of black rushing forth like bats from a cave. Mary and Mafalda took their time though, taking in the slightly musky smell of the castle which that hadn’t been lived in for two months and waving to Nearly Headless Nick who was floating by the door to the Great Hall.
The stones were colder to Mary this time. She supposed it was only because the place had been deserted and once life sprung back here, the stones and halls would also bounce to life. Maybe, however, she knew she was being optimistic when she thought that. It was as cold inside as it was outside. Unwelcoming, even with the low glowing candles and friendly ghosts that always lined the Entrance Hall when the students came back. The feelings that clung on like rabid dogs were the things the hardest to get rid of. Their influence would seep into every crevice of one’s life without getting permission.
Someone bumped against Mary, causing her to stumble forward, and if not for Mafalda grabbing onto her arm she would have laid sprawled on the ground. When Mary looked up she saw a couple of the Slytherin boys smirking at her. They waited for her to look up to notice it was them before they swished their robes and headed to their table. Mary stay still for a moment, her brown eyes peculiarly blank. It was like her limbs had forgotten how to move. It wasn’t till Mafalda pulled her forward that she broke out of her trance.
She should have expected it. Built up a reserve of expectation so it wouldn't have thrown her so off guard. Especially since she received a free train ride where nothing happened. It was only natural. Mary shook her head at herself and told herself that next time she’d expect it. The other girls were not to know how it affected her. That was her goal this year.
She tried to ignore the stares she felt coming from the Slytherin table. She would always sit with her back facing that table. She claimed it was a habit she had developed in first year. No one pushed to say it only started closer to the end of last year. The two girls sat down by Florence who was already sitting halfway down the Gryffindor table.
“I’ll beat them tomorrow,” Florence said. She wasn’t looking at Mary when she said this, but Mary shrugged her shoulders with a slow roll. “It doesn’t make any sense because you’re like them!”
“I’m a Gryffindor,” Mary said. She brushed her long frizzy brown hair away from her eyes and watched the first years get led in. There was a buzz of excitement. There was a feeling of endless possibilities this year drifting from the rest of the student body. Mary was convinced that this was only a show, a play to cover up the fire that lay at their feet. “Anyway, it doesn’t even matter. I’d rather if you just left it alone.”
“Mary-” Florence began her black eyes flashing.
“Oh for goodness sakes just drop it, Florence,” Mafalda said. She was sitting opposite them and had previously been paying attention to the students filling in. The candles flickered above and the Bloody Baron swooped in from the back wall and let out a bellowing yell. “Also, it wouldn’t hurt to pay attention to the Sorting. This is a whole new year.” Florence laughed a little and tapped her fingers against the rough table top.
“Hey,” Lily said and slid into a seat beside them. “I still haven’t spotted Laura anywhere. I’ve searched everywhere and when I look over at the Ravenclaw table I don’t see her!” Lily pulled at her hair which was pulled back into a tight knot at the nape of her neck now. Bits of it were sticking up.
“I don’t know, maybe a Professor had to talk to her or something,” Mary said.
“Maybe, it’s just unlike her to not tell me she wouldn’t be around,” Lily said. Her eyes were still on the Ravenclaw table.
“Isn’t that her there?” Florence said. She rolled her eyes and pointed to the tall, blonde haired girl who just walked into the Great Hall with Professor Flitwick. She slid into the first available seat at the Ravenclaw table while Flitwick said something to her before he continued on his way to the staff table.
“There she is! Weird that she's come in so late though,” Lily said with relief in her voice. “I’ll catch her when the sorting is done.”
With that, the four girls turned to the front for the new year that was about to be begin. None of them knew what to expect or what was waiting for them, but as the hat opened its slit to sing, rare found optimism wrapped itself around them. Mary sighed, and still holding tightly onto the bench below, she prayed for release all the while knowing that memories were cheap, it was the forgetting bit that cost everything.
23 Dec. I certainly hope you like the beginning of this and continue reading! I know it’s a little slower, but I hope there is something that captures your attention. I’m hoping to span the last two years at Hogwarts. I firmly believe that the seeds of Voldemort are already in play and that these seeds will be playing a very important role as the story continues. There is a little romance is included, but I’m a slow burn kind of person and if you came here for romance, it is not the feature of this story. I wanted to focus more on friendship, trauma, and the things people do to survive.
I am currently going though to edit this piece. There is plenty of grammar errors and awkward phrasing that needs some attention. I may also be changing some of the events themselves. You can find the edit mark on the chapter summary if you're curious to know where I'm at with that. -Zayne
All recognizable work belongs to JKR and no copyright infringement intended.
Thanks to Wistful and HeyMrsPotter for helping edit the first drafts of this work.
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