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Chapter 1 : Foul Weather Friends
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Foul Weather Friends
As Tess Covenshire felt the train pull away from the station, and saw her father, tall, white-haired and beareded, recede from view, she had a terrible sinking feeling in her stomach that she would never see her family, or any of her possessions, ever again.
It was September the First, 2004, and eleven year old Tess was on the Hogwarts Express. Now that the rest of her life was momentarily lost from view, the clothes she wore were the only things she was sure of at that moment. She wore a long woolen coat, still buttoned tight, over her plum dress. Her stocking feet curled inside her patent leather shoes.
She had purchased the outfit at a small shop in London which catered to Muggles and witches. The shopkeeper accepted Galleons in payment as well as Euros and Pounds. Plum, Tess felt, was a proper, neutral color. She hadn't wanted to outwardly express a preference prior to sorting, by wearing green, blue or yellow. (Red was, of course, out of the question.)
Tess and her family had arrived late at the station. Father had just enough time to toss Tess' trunk into a compartment. A goodbye kiss from him and another from her mother, and the train was moving. Now, Tess could not remember into which compartment Father had stashed her trunk.
Tess came from long wizarding bloodlines on both sides of her family, and she had made friends with several girls her own age who were now on this train with her, on their way to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. However, Tess had yet to see anyone that she recognized.
She wandered farther down the hallway, looking at the frosted glass doors on either side, unsure of what to do next. Behind her there was a clatter of noise and a cacophony of voices. A group of older boys, loud rude Gryffs by the looks of them, were now behind her in the hallway. She scurried to the girl's loo, went inside, and waited for them to pass.
When she emerged a few minutes later, there was another girl standing in the corridor. She was slightly shorter than Tess, but her brown hair was cut quite similarly. With her eyes the same shade of brown, one might have thought the two girls were sisters. The girl was also wearing a grey woolen coat, but it was open, revealing a pretty dress of emerald green. The girl gazed at Tess with her deep brooding eyes. Her wand was drawn, but seeing Tess, she quickly pocketed it.
"Oh Tess," said the girl. "Thank God I found you. I thought you'd slipped away again."
Perhaps it was the stress of the moment, but Tess had no idea who this girl was. Still, desperate for a friendly face, she rushed forward hopefully. "I was feeling terribly lost," she confessed. "I didn't see anyone that I recognized."
"There's a bunch of us in the next car over."
Tess waited for her to offer her name. When the girl didn't, Tess said, "I don't know where my trunk is. Father stuck it in one of these compartments, but I have no idea which one."
"I can find it," said the girl, and drew her wand once more from the pocket of her coat. Setting the wand in the palm of her hand, the girl whispered an incantation. The wand spun like a top, then stopped, pointing to a nearby compartment.
Was that how she found me? Tess wondered.
"It's in there," said the girl. "But, you needn't worry. The porters will take to your room after sorting."
Tess was about to ask, "However will they know where to take it?" but then she remembered. The school had been operating for hundreds of years now. They knew how to do such things.
Instead, Tess said, "I'll need my cloak and hat for later."
"Yes," said the girl, "and an umbrella, if you have one. The forecast I saw was simply dreadful."
Tess was shy about going into the compartment without knowing who was on the other side. Her companion, however, had no such compunctions. The girl opened the door and said in a stern, bossy voice, "Excuse us. We need to get into our trunk."
There were boys in the room, tall, mature. They were probably much older than the two girls, but that was to be expected at a school like Hogwarts. Their conversation ceased abruptly when the door opened. They looked cross at having been interrupted.
What if my nightgown is on the top? Or a pair of knickers? She opened the lid and took a peek. Her luck held. Her hat and cloak were right on the top. Below that was one of the plaid skirts for everyday wear. She slid her hand along the wall of the trunk until she found her umbrella. She clutched the handle and drew the rest into her arms. Her companion snapped the trunk closed again, and the two hastily retreated.
"At least those were Slytherin boys," said the girl when they were out in the hallway. "You can trust them not to be too nosy."
"You can?" asked Tess, surprised. "I was told Slytherin boys couldn't be trusted under any circumstances."
"Believe me," said the girl confidently, "Slytherin boys have much more important things on their minds than what is in a young girl's trunk."
The train rattled and shook as it ran along a curved section of track. The girl reached out and took Tess' hand. "Let's go, shall we?"
The girl led Tess to a compartment in the next car over. This room was full of girls their own age, including Tess' friend, Mona Pitchfork, and Tess' cousin, Calliope Addles. When Tess saw Calliope, everything snapped into place.
Calliope was holding court in the center of the bench. As the two entered, she said, "Oh, Morwena, I was wondering where you'd run off to. Hullo, Tess. Nice of you to join us."
Now Tess remembered - her saviour, her companion, was Morwena Felwich. Calliope had once introduced them.
Tess' relations fell into two camps - there was the Ravenclaw side and the Slytherin side. Her father had been a Ravenclaw, as had her older brother Devon, who had just completed his Seventh Year. Her mother, and all of her mother's clan, were Slytherins.
Calliope was from the Ravenclaw side of the family. She had long golden blond hair. Their fathers were cousins, which made the two girls second-cousins, though they had never used the prefix. The two saw one another frequently. It was on one such visit that Tess had met Morwena.
Morwena was quiet, with a stern, haughty expression. Tess found Morwena's dark gloomy looks intimidating. Calliope seemed grateful at the addition of Tess, and after a quick introduction, the two girls talked amongst themselves with barely an acknowledgement of Morwena.
Their talk had, of course, been about Hogwarts. They had been looking forward to attending the famous school for as long as either could remember. Since their owls arrived, they had spoken of nothing else. Much of the time was spent discussing the various Houses into which they could be sorted.
Calliope was keen to land in Ravenclaw. "There's no question I'm clever enough, if I do say so myself," Calliope had said. "You are too, I daresay. Mona will be there, too. We will be such the team."
"I don't know," said Tess. "All Ravenclaws ever do is read books. Slytherins actually get things done."
Calliope looked shocked at this assertion. She abruptly got up and left the room. Tess looked over at Morwena, who was smiling slyly now. "Slytherins get things done," repeated Morwena. "I like that, though Cal clearly didn't."
"Well, it's just been my experience, that's all," said Tess.
"Mine too, but, tell me," urged the other girl.
"Well, my brother just graduated from Hogwarts. He was near the top of his class, but he had a very hard time hooking on with a firm. Mother kept saying he had taken the most impractical of elective courses. Father seemed to be at a loss as to what to do. So, just last week, Mother went into London and had lunch with some friends. The next day, Devon had a job offer!"
"Your mother is Slytherin?" asked Morwena. Tess nodded. "She called in a Favour. The giving and receiving of Favours is a big part of Slytherin culture. How interesting that she still had one to call after all these years . . . . "
Now, the two girls crossed the compartment and sat on the bench across from Calliope, with Morwena taking the window seat. Tess set her cloak on her lap and spread it out between them. She slid her hand along the seat and found Morwena's hand waiting for her. She gave it another quick squeeze.
Mona Pitchfork was sitting on the window seat across from Morwena. She too had blond hair, but it was a darker shade than Calliope's. Mona said, "Cal, you were saying Alma's a tomboy?"
"Not nearly as bad as Jill Roycester, mind, but yes, she is," said Calliope firmly. "She'll be a Gryff, mark my words on that."
The game was predicting who would go into which House. It took little imagination to place Jill Roycester in Gryffindor, as all her brothers had gone that way, and she was the biggest, fiercest tomboy that any of these girls had ever encountered. Predicting Alma Krauss would go that way too was a more daring pick."
"What about Lara Guishar?" asked Mona. "I saw her on the platform earlier this morning."
"Yes, she's eleven," said Calliope. "She's on the train. But, where will she land?" Calliope pretended to give the matter some thought, though Tess suspected this was a rouse, that Cal had made all her predictions far in advance. "Her sister Lucida is one of the Ravenclaw prefects, so one would think Lara would go that way, too. I'm not sure, though. It's hard to tell, in primary school, who is truly intelligent and who is simply working hard. The hat will know."
The implication was clear to the other girls in the room. Lara Guishar was not as smart as her sister, and was covering for that fact by working hard at her lessons. A Hufflepuff, in other words - the kiss of death in this circle.
Tess turned and smirked at Morwena, who was silent and gloomy once more. There was no change in Morwena's expression, but under the cloak, she gave Tess' hand another squeeze.
Calliope gazed intently at the pair. "These two," she said ominously, "will be Slytherins, on that I am certain."
As they rode on, Tess was emboldened to join in the conversation. After all, she knew everyone in the compartment. Besides Mona and Calliope, there were Trillian Dent and Sally Poysenberry. The girls chatted all through lunch and through the long climb into the Scottish Highlands.
Sally and Morwena were also cousins. Sally was the only one who could draw brooding Morwena away from the window's view and into the conversation. "Early predictions for Head Boy, Wennie, seven years hence?"
Morwena slowly turned her head. "Umberto Calais," she said, decisively.
Mona quickly countered. "Not Ronald Ruel?"
Calliope: "Morwena and I saw Umberto beat Ronald soundly in chess once. 'Berto is very smart, too. Good pick." Leaning forward, she asked, "How about Head Girl?"
Tess thought it a rather safe bet that Morwena and Calliope would be competing for this role for the next six years. Morwena leaned back in her seat, a wicked grin on her face. "Lara Guishar," she deadpanned, to laughter.
As they drew close to Hogsmeade Station, the girls put on their cloaks and hats. When the train came to a stop, Calliope and the others went out into the hallway. Morwena made no sign of moving, so Tess hung back, too.
When the others were gone, Morwena said urgently, "We must find Rhiannon."
"Rhiannon MacDougal?" asked Tess in surprise.
"Yes. Rhi and I have grown close these last few years, since she was brought back into the fold.
Tess nodded. She knew just what Morwena meant by that last comment.
Tess and Rhiannon were also cousins, though more distantly, and on her mother's side. Rhiannon's mother had been an Ashfeld, an ancient wizarding line closely related to the Rookwoods. She had been disowned, however, after she married MacDougal, a Scottish Gryffindor of dubious heritage. When Tess had once asked what the attraction to MacDougal was (the pictures she had seen were not flattering), the answer had been, "He was a Quidditch star."
The exile lasted some years, but it was lifted when MacDougal was killed in the war against Voldemort. The wayward daughter had been brought back into the fold, along with two children, the eldest of whom was Rhiannon.
Tess had avoided Rhiannon at family gatherings, not wanting to be tainted by any lingering shame from the scandal. She did not know that she and Rhiannon were the same age. All that she could recall at that moment was an image of a tall gangly girl, covered in freckles, with long tangled locks of orange hair (unmanageable, apparently, even with magic).
Rhiannon seemed a strange ally for Morwena Felwich, whose lineage was at least as pure as Tess'. But, it said something about Morwena, too, that she would seek out such a girl as a friend.
Tess and Morwena entered the throng of students, once more holding hands. In their other hands, they each clutched an umbrella. The station platform was covered, but beyond the roof, a heavy mist fell. The half-breed, Hagrid, was calling for the First Years, while the older students thronged towards the thestral-drawn carriages.
A voice called out, "Wen!" It was Rhiannon. She was taller than Tess remembered. Like Morwena, Rhiannon had on a grey wool coat over an emerald dress. She had not put on her black cloak or hat.
"Rhi," said Morwena.
So, they have pet names for each other, thought Tess.
Morwena gave Rhiannon a hug in greeting. "You know Tess, don't you?"
Tess tensed, fearing Rhiannon might retaliate for some past slight. Rhiannon, though, smiled and said, "Oh, yes. We're cousins or something, right?" Tess nodded, and the danger passed.
Morwena turned her attention to a girl at Rhiannon's side. She had lingered shyly a step back. "Who do we have here?" said Morwena, warmly.
"This is Pauline." Rhiannon reached back and drew the other girl forward.
Pauline wore a bright blue wool coat with a matching beret. Like Rhiannon, her black cloak and hat were still on her arm. Her hair was dark blond, and her eyes were a deep green. Pauline was so pretty that Tess felt a twinge of jealousy.
Morwena took Pauline's hand. "I'm Morwena Felwich, and this is Tess Covenshire."
The two girls exchanged a quick hug. Rhiannon put on her cloak. Pauline quickly followed suit. "They'll be time to talk later," said Morwena. "Come, let's find a boat."
Tess was relieved that this was now a foursome. With odd numbered groups of girls, there was always someone left out. Still, in the closed world that was the Wizarding Community of Great Britain, there were only so many families. Tess did not recognize the name Langlet.
Neither Rhiannon nor Pauline carried an umbrella, so Morwena gave hers to Rhiannon before huddling under Tess'. The girls followed the wild-haired giant down the slippery path to the lake's edge. There, in the water about fifty yards from them, stood the giant Grawp. The great grey thing made Tess nervous, but Pauline looked utterly terrified. Rhiannon put her arm around Pauline and whispered some calming words.
Showing her Gryffindor blood, thought Tess.
The foursome selected a boat. Morwena drew her wand and swept the water, at least temporarily, from the wooden planks. Rhiannon stepped aboard first, and sat towards the bow. Pauline followed her. Tess sat to stern, across from Rhiannon, while Morwena sat facing Pauline.
As soon as they were seated, the boat took off for the far shore. The other boats were quickly lost in a shroud of mist. Morwena looked to Pauline and asked, "So, what do your parents do?"
"My father is a trader at the London Exchange, and my mother is an assistant at an office."
This response immediately confirmed Tess' suspicions. Morwena, too, understood the implication. She shot Rhiannon a quick, hard look.
Pauline tensed, realizing she had said something wrong, but not knowing what it possibly could have been. Morwena took Pauline's hands in hers. "Pauline, when someone asks, 'What do your parents do?', they're trying to determine whether or not your family are wizards. From your answer, we can see that they are not.
"That's fine," she urged. "We are your friends. But, there are some who would hold that against you. I think it would be best if we kept it a secret."
Rhiannon said, "Her mother is French!"
"That's good," said Morwena. "You can tell people you come from a long line of wizards and witches on your mother's side. They won't know, and won't be able to check."
"If she's French, why didn't she go to Beaubatons?" asked Tess.
"Is that another school?" asked Pauline.
"Yes," answered Morwena. "A school in France for witches and wizards. Well known, about on par with Hogwarts."
"I'll come up with something," said Pauline, coolly.
Morwena nodded. She looked at each girl in turn. "We're friends. We need to stick together." With her eyes back on Pauline, she added, "When we get to the castle, we'll be sorted into Houses. Do you know what to say when they put the hat on your head?"
"Slytherin," answered Pauline, firmly.
Tess was amazed at what she had just witnessed. Morwena Felwich, the daughter of an ancient, pure blood family, had just recruited a Muggle-born girl into Slytherin House.
My, thought Tess, how the times are changing.
[Next up: Sorting! and a Tour of the Halls!]
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