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An Illusion of Sanity by silverashes
Chapter 1 : The Revival of Chivalry
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 18


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            White hot pain seared through my body, igniting my insides before I even realized what was happening. Had I not been paralyzed with excruciating pain I would have screamed. There was no chance—no spare moment—to focus on what was happening or to breathe. It was as though my body was collapsing into itself, my lungs rendered almost entirely useless as they failed to give me the oxygen I needed to stay conscious.

            The edge of my world began to darken, slowly at first but then more rapidly. It was like watching a flame lick the corner of a piece of paper; my world was burning up, and I was at its center, entirely helpless. My only hope was that someone would find me, rescue me, but even that seemed futile. It was midnight, and I was somewhere deep within an expansive forest.

            Suddenly stars burst across my vision, interrupting the darkness that slowly ate away at reality, and my lungs no longer resisted the cool autumn air that pressed down upon my skin. I choked on my own fear and swallowed the air in huge gulps, silently begging myself to scream but no sound surfaced.

            My breaths became ragged almost immediately, and the pain radiating from my chest was unbearable. It was as if I was on the verge of exploding, my ribs bending under the pressure inside of me. Dark spots danced before me as I tried to concentrate on breathing, the already dark night blurring further until all I saw were wispy shadows.

            As my senses began to dull, the urgency to scream suddenly overtook my need to breathe. The scream ripped from my lungs, channeling as much pain as I could into my fading world until my throat was raw and dry. It was then, in the twilight of my consciousness, that I saw them. Them that haunted my nightmares for years afterwards. It was a moment of clarity. I saw a pair of silver eyes before me, hanging in front of my face, and then everything fell silent and I neither saw nor felt anything at all.

 

_ _ _


 

            It was as my lungs were being compressed that I realized I could feel every fiber of my being. I felt as though I was both within and without my body. It was uncanny, really. I squeezed my eyes closed in a vain attempt to evade feeling dizzy, shutting out the constant swirl of colors and noises that infiltrated my little bubble.

            The warning whistle of a train split through the air, my eyes opening instantaneously. Everything around me was beginning to slow as I reached my final destination.

            “French girls are always hotter than American girls,” A deep voice filtered in through the din of apparation.

            “You are so shallow, I can’t believe we share the same gene pool,” A girl’s voice this time.

            “I’m not shallow,” The deep voice sounded indignant. “It’s supported by statistics.”

            “Statistics gathered by who? You and my hormonally crazed brother?”

            The end of the conversation was lost as my trunk crashed rather loudly to the ground, my feet only a second behind. My eyes sprung open as my fingers collided with my sides. Still entirely affected by my vertiginous trip between continents, I reached out to steady myself on the nearest solid object, which just so happened to be a person.

            As my world slowly came into focus, I let go of said person and breathed out a hasty apology. I was standing in the middle of the aggressively crowded Platform 9 ľ with various sets of eyes fixated on my face. Incredibly uncomfortable, I swatted the dark curls away from my face and glanced down at my velvet shoes.

            “Perri Grey?” A woman’s voice brought my gaze back up to the faces around me.

            She had a warm smile and flaming red hair that was tied back into an elegant ponytail. I nodded as she stepped forward, reaching her arms out to embrace me. 

            “Blimey, I thought you said she was American?” The deep voice belonged to a boy with raven colored hair. He was slouched against a trolley laden with trunks, one arm throw lazily over the top. His brilliant green eyes slide from my shoes to my nest of dark hair. A smile hung crookedly on his handsome face as he straightened to his full height.

            The red head next to him rolled her eyes and poked her wand into his side. “She is, you prat.”

            I returned my focus to the red haired woman who had just introduced herself as Ginny Potter and responded to her various questions about my trip.

            “Careful, Gin, you might scare her away,” A man with a striking resemblance to the boy James materialized next to Ginny, wrapping his arm around her waist as he did so.

            I nearly choked on my own spit. I was not, despite my valiant plans and efforts, at all prepared to meet the savior of the wizarding world so early in the morning. Though to be truthful, I don’t think the time of day would have had any effect on my social adequacies.

            Ginny frowned and nudged her husband as I wiped my slowly moistening palms on the fabric of my dress. “I want to make sure she’s comfortable, Harry. It’s a long journey from America to King’s Cross; I’m rather impressed that she made it here in one piece.”

            I was just as impressed as she was, not that I admitted that to the group. I had a knack for disaster.

            “I’m Perri,” I held out a hand, willing myself to not sound like I was on the verge of a social conniption. “It’s nice to meet you, Mr. Potter.”

            I took his extended hand and shook it, very well aware that my palms could have hosted a variety of aquatic creatures.

            “Please call me Harry. It’s wonderful to finally meet you, Perri,” His smile was just as warm and inviting as his wife’s; it’s no wonder people were so infatuated with ‘the power couple of the century’.

            Before I had the chance to embarrass myself in front of the Potters, the train whistle signaled its last call before departure.

            “You’ll meet the rest of the family soon enough, I’m sure,” Ginny said as she gave me a final hug. “If you need anything at all, don’t hesitate to owl us!”

            In a flurry of hugs and unwanted kisses families began their urgent goodbyes as the students filtered onto the train. Steam billowed out around my feet, covering the tops of my blue velvet shoes.

            Chewing on my lip, I grappled with the handle of my trunk, careful not to take out any of the people around me as I did so. I had just started the obnoxious process of dragging my trunk towards the train when the other side was lifted into the air.

            “Here, let me help with that,” The girl with vibrant auburn hair stated brightly from the other end of my trunk. “I’m Roxy by the way, and the dark haired ignoramus is my cousin, James.”

            We both peered back towards said raven haired boy who was kissing his mother on the cheek. His smirk had been replaced by a real smile, one I imagined he did not wear often.

            “It’s always a pleasure to raise the standard of American women,” I grinned, shifting the weight of the trunk from one hand to another.

            Roxy groaned. “I’m sorry you had to hear that. Honestly if you think he’s bad, just wait until you meet my brother, Freddy. The two of them are inseparable and equally as offensive.”

            Before I had the chance to respond the weight of my trunk disappeared and suddenly Roxy and I were left holding onto nothing but the hot air of the train station. 

            “And they say chivalry is dead,” James winked as he hoisted the trunk onto the train.

            I laughed as Roxy and I followed him through the carriage, weaving our way through the bustling crowd of students trying to find an empty compartment. It felt vaguely like I had just boarded the Polar Express—not that I had any personal experience with the like, but this was what I imagined the experience to be. There were shouts as friends were reunited after the long summer apart. I peered into the compartments as we passed, curious to see who was inside.

            “Oi, you two,” James called from a couple of compartments down as he moved aside to let a troupe of girls move past him. His eyes became transfixed on the girls as they moved further down the train.

“And he wonders why I don’t like to be seen with him in public,” Roxy muttered quietly as we stepped past James.

            “You love being seen with me in public, Rox. I do wonders for your image,” James’ green eyes sparkled.

            Roxy narrowed her eyes and grabbed a rolled-up copy of Witch Weekly from her back pocket. In a single stroke, she smacked James on the back of the head before flopping herself down onto one of the plush looking seats next to a boy with dark brown hair that spilled into eyes.

            “You are truly exasperating, James Potter.”

            James merely flashed her a smile and tucked my trunk below the seats.

            “Not to be blunt, but who’s curly-haired one?” The boy with the tousled hair asked with a grin.

            “That was incredibly blunt,” Roxy deadpanned, once again wielding her magazine as a weapon in an attempt to cuff him over the head.

            “Finn Wood,” The boy stated with a smile, snatching the Witch Weekly copy from Roxy’s hand before she could make physical contact. “That was a good try, Rox.”

            “Perri Grey,” I smiled, seating myself next to James.

            “What an accent you’ve got,” Finn’s eyes widened with surprise.

            I was momentarily confused. It was one of those slow mental lapses that took longer than it should have for me to process. Of course, I was no longer the norm—though the phrase ‘no longer’ seems to suggest that I fit the curriculum of normal on a regular basis, which was inaccurate.

            “Is it ugly?” I asked, picking a thread off the leg of my jeans. “I’ve always wondered.”

            “Depends on the person,” Finn shrugged, shifting his body so that he could place his long legs across Roxy’s lap.

            Roxy rolled her eyes but did nothing to move his legs. “I think it’s interesting, a nice change from having to listen to this lot all the time.”

            “My voice is one of my main selling points, Rox. Don’t sell me short,” Finn said as he leaned his head against the window, his eyes shut.

            It was then that the train lurched forward, sending Finn’s feet from Roxy’s lap. I thrust my hand down onto the seat to steady myself, not wanting to sprawl face first onto the floor so soon after meeting these new people. My eyes found James’ wrist, where he wore a faded leather bracelet. It was a soft honey color with, what I assumed to be, his initials and the word ‘Gryffindor’ embossed in script.

            “What does that mean?” I asked, reaching out to touch the soft leather.

            James looked down to where my hand touched his wrist, his brow wrinkled softly. “Gryffindor?”

            I nodded.

            “It’s a house, one of the four at Hogwarts. The best in my opinion.”

            “A house?” I stared at him blankly.

            Bemused, James glanced over at the pair on the other side of the compartment. “She needs a lot of work.”

            It was then that I learned the ins and outs of Hogwarts—the four houses and their noted characteristics being at the forefront of this educational experience. I was to be disposed of in the Great Lake (a grand lake on the grounds, I presumed) if I was placed in Slytherin, or so Finn had told me. Roxy refuted and said there would be no criminally induced actions but that they would have to do some deep considerations before allowing me to stay within their group.

            I had a difficult time deciphering whether they were joking.

            By the time I was moderately caught up on the various aspects of Hogwarts culture, the sky had faded from blue to a deep purple, so dark it was almost black. We sat on the ground with a pack of Exploding Snaps, the floor around us littered with the aftermath of our raid of the sweets trolley. I had almost forgotten that we had to get off the train until Roxy announced that it was time to change.

            “If you boys wouldn’t mind, Perri and I are going to change,” She shooed them towards the compartment door. “As ladies, we like to preserve our dignity.”

            “Ladies my arse. I’ve seen you throw a punch, love. Nothing ladylike about it.” Finn snorted, pulling Roxy into his chest for a quick hug before following James out the door.

            He dodged Roxy’s attempt to slap him, his deep laugh echoing down the hall as he retreated.

            “Are you and Finn—” I hesitated, one hand hovering over the lid of my trunk while the other kept me balanced on the cushioned seat. I didn’t want to push too many boundaries.

            “Me and Finn?” Roxy’s laugh was muted by the sweater she was struggling to pull over her head. “Oh, hell no. The Chamber of Secrets will be reopened by the heir of Slytherin before that happens.”

            I kicked off my shoes, letting them slide across the compartment as I lifted my uniform into my lap. “You would never consider it?”

            “He would never consider it. Freddy would kill him first, most likely,” Roxy’s cheeks were pink as she emerged from the inside of her knit sweater.

            “Would James care?”

            She was silent for a beat. “Very much so. He would probably assist Fred in the killing.”

            “My brothers are like that too,” My smile was backed by a small twinge of sadness.

            Roxy smiled softly, her head titled slightly to the left. “They’re like a perpetual headache, loveable but a headache nonetheless.”

            I laughed, pulling the unfamiliar uniform over my head. “Where is your brother?”

            “One of two places,” She grimaced and pulled on a pair of tights, whether the grimace was in regards to Freddy or the tights I was unsure. “He’s either with the rest of the Quidditch team or he’s with whatever bimbo he can get his hands on.”

            “Already?” I swallowed my laughter after catching the look on Roxy’s face.

            “The boy has yet to discover the meaning of monogamy.”

            I was in the midst of looking for my left shoe as the compartment door slid open, revealing the pair of well-dressed boys. If I had ever questioned the purpose of a well pressed Oxford shirt in my lifetime then call me freaking crazy. My mind had been opened. Those pressed whites did their job exceptionally well.

            There was almost another hour before the train came to a slow stop, triggering the masses to clamber out of their compartments. I reached underneath the seat for the handle of my luggage, but Roxy slapped my hand away.

            “Magic, babe. They know where to find you.”

            With a shrug I followed her out into the cool night air. It was so much colder here than what I was accustom to. Living in New England, I had weathered my fair share of raw weather, but September was often the month of extended summer, the air hot and sticky by day and cool and crisp by night.

            I followed the group into a carriage, poking my head out of the window so that I could get a better look at the large castle that loomed ahead. The moon hung lazily above one of the towers, casting a watery light on the grounds. It looked like something out of the fairytales I had read when I was younger, equal parts beautiful and daunting. I listened to the trio chatter on about Hogwarts’ gossip, who was dating who and what kind of dramatic falling out Ari Greengrass had had with her best friend. I kept my eyes trained on the outside world, focusing on observing my surroundings while also making sure to ask a few questions here and there.

            I was the first one out of the carriage as it pulled to a stop, my feet hitting the hard dirt with a soft thud. Humming quietly to myself, I made my way to the front of the carriage where I was met with the skeletal body of a thestral, its leathery wings flapping gently as it tossed its head happily. A thesteral was an interesting choice of creature to pull the carriages up to the castle. I knew them to be very rare, so to have enough to pull the tens of carriages was a large feat in itself. Fingers curled into my palm, I reached out and let the creature smell my hand before rubbing just above its nose.

            “What are you doing?” Roxy laughed, appearing to my right.

            I looked up at her, removing my hand from the creature’s nose. “You can’t see him?”

            “See what?” Her forehead crinkled as she spoke, her eyes searching for something in the space between where we stood and the carriage.

            “The thestral pulling the carriage,” I gestured towards the creature who was currently sniffing at my uniform in a futile search for some kind of treat.

            She looked at me curiously. “A thestral? I always thought it was magic that pulled the carriages.”

            “Isn’t it?” James asked, shoving Finn playfully as he rounded the side of the carriage.

            I watched as Finn stumbled, catching himself on Roxy before slinging an arm around her shoulder. She rolled her eyes.

            “Aren’t the carriages pulled by magic?” Roxy shifted her body under the weight of his arm so that she could look at him.

            Finn glanced to where my hand was—from their perspective—dangling midair and blinked. “No, they’re pulled by thestrals.

            My eyes widened. I wasn’t shocked that Roxy and James couldn’t see the thestrals, few people could. It wasn’t all that common for someone our age to have seen someone die. I felt empathy stir somewhere deep within my stomach.

            “You can see them, too?” Roxy’s face contorted with confusion.

            Finn’s eyes locked on mine as he nodded his head, a shared privacy without an exchange of actual words.

            James and Roxy shared a moment of disbelief before we made our way into the castle. I was stuck by the naked beauty of Hogwarts, my eyes trained on the large stone archways curving gracefully above our heads as I followed the trio up a rather steep set of stairs. The sound of voices suddenly filled the emptiness above us, bouncing from wall to wall. With my face tilted upwards towards the ceiling, I nearly walked face first into a rather severe looking woman.

            “Perri Grey?”

            I nodded quickly.

            “I’m Professor McGonagall. If you would come with me, please. You’ll need to be sorted before the first years arrive,” She turned on her heel as I shot a panicked look at my new-found acquaintances. Roxy and Finn gave me a thumbs up while James mouthed something crude in regards to Slytherin.

            “As you may or may not already know, our first year students are sorted in the Great Hall at their arrival, but as you are transferring in as a sixth year, I do believe that it would be odd to have you sorted with our eleven year olds,” McGonagall explained to me as she guided me past what I assumed to be the Great Hall.

            We were winding in and out of long corridors, all of which looked painstakingly similar. I pushed off the prominent worry that I would be permanently lost in this enormous place as I tried to pay attention to everything McGonagall was saying to me. She was using many names that meant nothing to me, I had no idea who she was talking about or what significance some of them held in respect to the school itself. It wasn’t until we reached a gargoyle with its wings outstretched that we came to a stop. I waited expectantly for a door to appear out of thin air and was disappointed when no such thing occurred.

            “Fiery mercury.”

            “Excuse me?” I looked towards McGonagall, bewildered.

            Before she could respond, the loud sound grating sound of stone against stone filled the hall. The gargoyle had started to spin upwards, a spiral staircase appearing from beneath our feet. I watched in amazement as the gargoyle disappeared into the ceiling above our heads.

            “Hurry along now, we don’t have much time,” Already halfway up the staircase, McGonagall beckoned me forward. I rejoined her at the top of the stairs where a large wooden door engraved with small stars stood before us.

            “Please take a seat,” Her hand swept towards an armed chair that sat opposite an elegant looking desk in the middle of the room as we stepped inside what I presumed to be her office.

            I sat down as my eyes adjusted to my surroundings, the dimness of the corridors making this room seem excessively bright. There were portraits hung on the walls around us, and I found myself trying to read the name plates underneath, a pointless task as I could not read the fine print on most of them. From what I could read, however, I understood they were portraits of previous Headmasters and Headmistresses. Dumbledore was the only face that I recognized, we had learned much about his reign back at my old school, but there was something much kinder about the way he was portrayed in his own office. He was much softer looking than the powerful figurehead had been depicted in our textbooks.

            My attention shifted back to McGonagall as she strode across the office with a dilapidated looking hat in her hands. It looked as if it had been patched up and resewn on multiple occasions. I had absolutely zero idea what her intention was with the hat. The thing looked like it had survived a nuclear war and was now about to go on my head. Maneuvering around her desk, McGonagall placed the hat on my head, allowing it to slide down over my eyes so that only the tip of my nose and my mouth were visible.

            I had opened my mouth to ask what to me was an obvious question when suddenly a voice spoke inside my head. Rather than a question, all that I managed was a small squeak of surprise.

            An American at Hogwarts, it’s been quite a while since we’ve been graced with such a presence. Why so far from home? Was I supposed to respond? Was this some kind of interview? A soft chuckle. This is not an interview, more like a mental examination of sorts. Oh jeez, Merlin help anyone who had access to the inner workings of my head. You’re a tough one aren’t you. There’s a lot more to you than what’s visible to the eye, I can see that much. A fiercely loyal heart, and there’s courage there, though you are not aware of it. You’re capable of much more than you know, Miss Grey…better be GRYFFINDOR.

            The light suddenly returned to my eyes as the hat was pulled from my head. McGonagall wore a small smile, “Welcome to Gryffindor, Miss Grey. I think you will find your time here quite enjoyable.”

            I arrived back at the Great Hall just as the first years were congregating outside the enormous double doors. They looked nervous, fidgeting and whispering back and forth as they waited for Professor McGonagall to appear. One small girl with two blonde French braids was chewing on the tip of her thumb, her eyes wide as the boys on either side of her argued about what kind of magical test they were going to be given.

            “It’s not a test,” I touched her shoulder gently and smiled. “You’ll be fine, easier than falling asleep.”

            Her thumb slipped from between her lips and she offered me a small smile, dimples appearing on her cheeks as McGonagall ushered me into the Great Hall. I hesitated unsure of where to go next, my eyes scanning the table underneath the red and gold tapestries for the three familiar faces.

            “Oi, Freckles!” My head snapped in the direction of the voice. “You a Gryffy?”

            Finn was standing on one of the benches waving his hand frantically at me while Roxy, who sat to his right, rolled her eyes at him. There was an uproar of noise from the trio as I nodded my head, ignoring the stares from the other students as I made my way down the length of the table to where they were sitting. I was, no doubt, an enigma to everyone else. A new face amongst the already established social circles of the sixth years.

            “Sorry little Puffs, we got the American,” By the time I reached their end of the table, Finn had turned around and was shouting at the Hufflepuff table.

            “You’re honestly so embarrassing, Finn. Sit down,” Roxy shot me a grin, reaching out to give my hand a squeeze.

            I sat down between James and a girl with long blonde hair who introduced herself as Colette. The sorting ceremony began almost immediately after I had found my seat. My attention drifted towards the star speckled ceiling somewhere between letters ‘k’ and ‘z’. Had it not been for McGonagall’s sharp voice that filled the room, I could have been easily convinced that we were seated outside beneath the sky rather than inside the walls of an old castle.

            Roxy’s gaze followed mine. “Isn’t it beautiful,” She leaned forward with a whisper. “It’s bewitched to look like the sky, just wait until it snows. There’s nothing like it.”

             She was right, there was nothing like it. It was enchanting, and I would have stared upwards for the rest of the night had the dishes and goblets in front of us not filled with every food and drink imaginable. My mouth fell open.

            James laughed and put a fork in my hand. “Welcome to Hogwarts.”


In the midst of doing some slight revisions to the story, but, as always, most everything goes to the inherently talented J.K. Rowling. I'm simply a want-a-be (I would kill for her pure talent). Anywho, I hope you enjoyed :) Let me know what you think!

Until next chapter xx



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