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The Orchard by SilentConfession
Chapter 1 : Welcome
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 15

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The weather was startlingly cold for September First. The sky was overcast and the wind was blowing in from the west. Mary patted down her flying hair and walked slowly through the platform of students just as a wayward Hufflepuff scarf blew up and hit in her in face. She smiled slightly at the younger student whose eyes widened and mumbled their apologies.

She pushed her trunk onto the train, ignoring all the well-meaning parents around her as they clung to their children who were squirming to get away. The trunk dragged behind her as she walked to the end of the train where she knew Mafalda would have saved a seat for her. She was always early for everything, and they always left it up to her to get the same compartment every year. Mary found that she liked the consistency of that since it saved her from the anxiety of trying to find a seat and looking into compartments and maybe spotting those she wished to avoid.

The train was already buzzing with noise; from the squeals of girls, as they met up with their mates after two months, and the low laughs of the boys, who were appreciating how the girls had seemed to get really 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. Probably sixth or seventh years were behind those closed doors.

Mary couldn’t find the excitement for this new school year, it was her sixth year here and the magic of the place had worn off. She was tethered here like a puppet. She knew the motions of trying to embrace the world of magic had to be made, but now, it just seemed like a place to go and do school rather than the place of dreams it had been before. Mary knew that in her heart more than ever before. Magic, for all it could do, created beasts and monsters of them all. 

Finally she reached their compartment and as expected Mafalda was sitting with all her stuff spread out across it to keep anyone from getting any ideas of coming in. Mafalda herself 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.

“It’s nice.”

“I think it makes your skin look gray,” a voice said from behind. Mary turned to see Florence behind her with a bored expression on her face.

“It’s always great to see you, 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 on top.

Mary sat with a book in the corner while 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.

“Of course she did, don’t be silly,” Florence muttered, her black eyes flashing 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 permanently messy as if she had forgotten to brush it in the morning. Chances were that she had.

“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 as if she was ready to bolt.

“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 the moment the train whistled and the rumble of the engine could be felt vibrating underneath their feet. “Great, that was new Florence.”

“How was everyone’s summers?” Mary piped in. She brushed her brown hair out of her face and closed her 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 really 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 really taking it in. This was probably for the best as currently the protagonist was entering a destructive relationship with a con-man whose motivation to why he wanted her so far was unknown and probably would remain so throughout the book.

She caught snippets of the conversation and added a few things into the conversation here and there when needed. Like how her parents had made her study in all her spare time because she’d nearly failed Transfiguration the last year. They didn’t expect perfection, but being only subpar was not the MacDonald way. Florence spent most of her summer between her grandparents’ home in Russia and the coast of France with her parents, who were on holiday. Mafalda watched the telly and played with her cat while Lily said she was stuck inside reading because she was trying to avoid someone.

No one asked about whom it was whether out of respect or not wanting to indulge Lily in her mysteries. 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 blur of colour. Fields of green and tall gnarly trees that marked the boundaries of property slowly turned into a more rolling landscape with hills and a subtle feel of autumn seemed to overtake the land. 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 and pulled her hair up to get a closer look at the small print.

The trolley woman came and left taking with her the scent of sweetness and leaving absence in her wake as none of the girls took 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.

Lily soon disappeared in the crowds on the station and Florence led Mary to an empty carriage where Mafalda soon met up with them and jumped in herself.

“That meeting was long, 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 at all times 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.

They laughed as a couple other students piled into the carriage and when the carriage was full it pulled away from the station. They all stared warily at one another for a moment before Florence popped another bubble and started talking loudly about Russian ballet.

“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 believe Mary dearest but I think deep down you know the truth. Especially with how-” Florence started. She had an ugly look on her face that she kept especially for when she was annoyed. Mafalda always said this is why Florence could never get boyfriend.

“Because you’re always so right,” Mafalda said interrupted. She wiggled her eyebrow’s at Florence a she sidestepped a rather large puddle in the path up the castle.

“Both me and you know that’s the truth, Maffy darling.” Florence patted Mafalda on the head and ran up ahead of them before jumping up the stairs up the entrance hall two at a time to avoid Mafalda’s flailing arms as she tried to smack Florence.

Students milled past Mary and Mafalda, dancing 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 seemed colder to Mary this time, but she supposed it was only because the place had been deserted for so long and once life sprung back here the stones and halls would also bounce to life. Maybe, however, she knew she was beig optimistic when she thought that. It felt as cold inside as it was on the outside of the castle. Unwelcoming, even with the low glowing candles and friendly ghosts that always lined the Entrance Hall when the students came back.

Someone bumped against Mary’s back causing her to stumble forward and if not for Mafalda grabbing onto her arm she would have fallen to the ground. When Mary looked up she saw a couple of Slytherin boys smirking at her and they swished their robes and tromped over to their table. Mary was still for a moment, her brown eyes peculiarly blank. It was like her limbs had forgotten how to move for a moment as she was stuck in another time. 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 recieve a free train ride where nothing happened. Mary shook her head at herself, telling herself that, perhaps, she'd be better at it next time. 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, which she always sat with her back to. She said there was no particular reason for this and that it had become a habit since first year however no one pointed out that it hadn’t always been that way. They let it go like they always did as they sat down beside Florence who was sitting about 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 general buzz of excitement that was undeniable. An idea that anything was possible this year seemed to drift from the rest of the student body, though Mary was sometimes convinced that this was only a show, a play to cover 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 and standing in a line at the front. The candles flickered above and Nearly Headless Nick swooped in from the back wall and let out a bellowing yell. “Also it wouldn’t hurt to once 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, guys ,” Lily said and slid into a seat beside them. “I still haven’t seen Laura anywhere. I 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.

“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 where a tall girl with blonde hair was walking into the Great Hall with Professor Flitwick. She slid into the first available seat at the Ravenclaw table while Flitwick said something quick to her and then 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 a new year was about to be signaled to begin. None of them knew what to expect this year or what was waiting for them, but as the hat opened its slit to sing optimism crept into their dreams for this year had to be better than the last. New beginnings always meant that it seemed. Mary sighed and letting her hair cascade down her back her grip on the bench below her loosened a little.

The hat began to sing.

I really hope you like the beginning of this and continue reading! Let me know what you think!

All recognizable work belongs to JKR and no copywright infringement intended. 

Also massive thanks to Wistul who is a wonderful beta and helps me so much in clearing up the chapter so that it's readable! Also to HeyMrsPotter who' just become my new beta. :) 

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