Chapter 2 : The New Normal
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The Gryffindor common room was madness. Coralie had only just made her way upstairs with the girls – except for Lily who was required to show the little first years around (Coralie and Angus had been shown around by their new friends) – when three boys came running through the portrait hole, collapsing on the couches in front of the fire, tears of laughter streaming down each of their faces.
“Did you see that? His face –“ one of them managed to spit out between his fits of laughter. Coralie watched the boys with a slightly raised eyebrow. When she turned to see her friends, she noticed that none of them seemed bothered by the boys. Instead, they rolled their eyes and sent the boys pointed looks.
“Honestly, James, darling, could you keep it down?” Kiki sighed, sending a bored look at one of the boys. “Our poor new friend is going to wonder what on earth is wrong with us all!” The boy in question, James, stopped laughing for a moment to stare at Kiki blankly before he turned his eyes to Coralie.
“Oh, hello there. Welcome to Hogwarts!” he said, jumping off the couch and quickly making his way over to where Coralie stood. “I’m James Potter.” He stuck out his hand, which Coralie took gently and shook.
“Coralie Bennett,” she responded with a soft smile. James grinned widely, pulling his hand away from Coralie and pushing his glass further up his nose.
“Coralie’s just moved to England,” Kiki added with a grin, her eyes darting between James and the other boys. “All the way from France. She’s in our year, obviously.”
“France?” one of the other boys asked. He smiled at Coralie, moving off the couch to shake her hand as well. “Wasn’t Shelena French as well?” He turned to the last boy, who didn’t respond, before turning back to her. “Do you know Shelena?”
The last boy scoffed, still lounging around. “Don’t be stupid, Peter. France is a big country. Of course she doesn’t know Shelena.”
“I might. What’s her last name?” She felt sorry for Peter, even though the other boy was right about France being a big country and the very small chance that Coralie would actually know this Shelena – she didn’t, but it didn’t give him the right to be rude to his friend.
“Lucky you don’t know her,” the other boy retorted. Coralie had the mind to tell the boy off, though she figured that probably wouldn’t make her many friends in the long run. But before she had the chance, the boy had stood up and stormed up the stairs, which Marlene had previously pointed out to her as leading to the boys’ dormitories.
“What’s got his knickers in a twist?” Miranda remarked dryly; they all watched the stairs with confused looks on their faces.
“I don’t even bother asking anymore,” James replied, switching his attention back to Coralie. “Sorry about him. That’s my best mate, Sirius Black – he’s not usually that bad, but I don’t even know how to explain what just happened there. I should probably go talk to him. He’ll just get worse if he’s left alone to brew. Come on, Pete.” James sighed, making his way towards the stairs. “It was nice meeting you anyway, Coralie. I’ll see you at breakfast, if Sirius hasn’t scared you away.”
Coralie followed the other girls up to the dormitory, a smile playing on her lips all the while. She liked it here already – she wasn’t ready to be scared away just yet.
Allisyn descended down the stairs in her ball gown, a long beige coloured dress dotted with little silver beads all the way through. When she reached the bottom where Coralie stood watching her, she smiled, pulling her little daughter Haley, dressed in a simple white dress, towards the ballroom with her.
Violet followed closely behind; she barely spared her younger sister a glance as she joined the large crowd of people who were forming only a few metres from where Coralie stood. Jacob appeared next, linking his arms with Coralie as he pulled her along. They began to dance; Jacob gave her a twirl, but when she turned back into his arms, his grip tightened on her. She tried to break free to no avail – no matter which way she turned, he was always once step ahead of her, constantly pulling her back and holding her tighter and tighter.
Then, suddenly, she was free. She turned around with the full intention of telling him off for scaring her so much. It wasn’t Jacob. The man that stood before her wore a cruel smirk, his eyebrows rising as if he was challenging her. She tried to move backwards, to get away from him, but nothing would work. He was everywhere, surrounding her.
Nobody came to her aid. She could see her family watching from the other end of the room: Mum, Allisyn, Jacob, Violet, Angus, and Haley – even her father. They just watched. Violet’s mouth had turned up into an unpleasant smirk, and her eyes teased Coralie. She laughed as Coralie turned to move towards them.
“You don’t belong with us,” she teased, her eyes twinkling with a sick happiness. Her hand rested proudly on Angus’s shoulder. Coralie tried to scream out, but he brought her closer and closer as her family disappeared into a mist.
“You are mine now,” he whispered cruelly into her ear. “You will always be mine.”
Her breath was ragged and uneven again. She placed her hand on her chest, and her heart pounded uncomfortably fast. She kicked her legs out of her sheets; she had tangled herself in them during her sleep, and now, in her panic, she was finding it difficult to get out. She couldn’t escape. Tears flooded her eyes, but she brushed them away, finally finding the strength to free her legs.
Her senses were all mixed up. She didn’t know how she managed to get the bathroom until she found herself staring at her reflection in the mirror. Her long, sandy-coloured hair was messed up, half frizz and half tangles. It would require more than a simple brush in the morning to make it manageable again. Her eyes were red and puffy, still stinging painfully. Her arms, barely covered by the T-shirt she wore to bed, were also red, and showed evidence of her nails.
“Coralie?” a voice asked as Coralie leant down slightly to splash her face with cold water from the basin. “Are you all right?” Lily moved further into the bathroom, closing the door quietly behind her as she did.
“I’m sorry for waking you up,” Coralie responded. She watched Lily’s face carefully in the mirror as she attempted to tie her face back in a ponytail. The band snapped back onto her hair before it flew off, landing somewhere else in the bathroom. Lily stood forward and slipped a hair band off her wrist, handing it Coralie before she spoke.
“You didn’t. I couldn’t sleep either.” Lily brushed it off with a noncommittal wave of her hand. “Was it the same thing as what happened in Diagon Alley the other day?” she asked, worry filling her eyes. Coralie stayed silent for a moment. “It’s panic attacks, isn’t it? I don’t mean to be nosy or anything – I just thought you might like someone to talk to. My mum has them, too.” Coralie nodded, letting out a small sigh of relief. “How long have you had them?”
“They’re only a recent thing. I never used to have them.” Coralie smiled softly, “Thank you. It’s nice for someone here to know and understand. My mother was so worried that I’d be alone – apart from my little brother, of course.”
“You won’t be alone. You’ve got all of us.” Lily motioned to the door. “If you don’t want the others to know, I won’t tell them, of course, but I promise you that they’ll all help you whenever you need it. They all do it in different ways – sometimes you don’t feel like they could make it better, but they always do.” She paused, let out a deep breath, and continued.
“I speak from experience. I’ve had a lot of trouble with my best friends, Severus and Shelena. I’ve been friends with them since childhood, you see; it was always the three of us, even before Hogwarts. But Severus, he’s in Slytherin. He called me a – well, he called me a Mudblood last year, and I just… it hurt.”
She paused again, and Coralie frowned slightly. Being a pureblood, like most of Saint Jeanne’s students, she’d never really heard of the division between the blood statuses. She knew it existed, of course, but the use of the word still shocked her, and it appeared that the same was true for Lily.
“Shelena – well. She always causes trouble. She and Sirius Black are dating. They had this whole thing going on for a while, but they fight all the time. Sometimes it seems like they truly hate each other. Last year, we had this argument over Black – nothing like that.” Lily closed her eyes for a moment. “He’s not good for her. When she’s with him, she becomes this mega-bitch. She pretends to be stupid, and she just manipulates everyone and… I don’t even know. I told her this, and she told me it was none of my business. We haven’t talked since. She’s supposed to be here, you see. I thought that when we got on the train today, she would be here, and we’d make up, because we always do.”
“But she wasn’t?” Coralie interrupted, Lily nodded, her eyebrows furrowing together slightly. She shifted against the basin.
“Then I thought she’d be at the welcoming feast. I thought she’d probably make an entrance or something, and it would be just like it always has been. Then, when she wasn’t there, I knew she’d have to be up in the dormitory, but she’s not.”
“Maybe she’s just coming later? Like, tomorrow or something? Maybe something happened with her family and she couldn’t come today?” Coralie added, trying to cheer up Lily, who now looked close to tears.
“She won’t be. The dormitory automatically adds all the needed beds to the each room. You’ve got her old one, and there aren’t any new ones. She’s not coming back this year.” Coralie watched silently as a few tears escaped from the corner of Lily’s eye; she wiped them up quickly. “She’s my best friend. I love all the girls, but Shelena was always my best friend. I don’t understand why she’s not here.”
“I miss my best friend too,” Coralie whispered. And she did. She hadn’t really thought about until then – she hadn’t had the time to – but at that moment, it just hit her. She missed Emma terribly. Like Shelena and Lily, the pair of them had been best friends since childhood, though their friendship had been a little different than the other pair’s. They’d never really had an argument. Sometimes they fiercely disagreed about things, but they always managed to make up, just like Lily had said.
“I’m so sorry. I’ve just spent all this time talking about me when I don’t even deserve to.” Lily wiped away more of her tears. “You moved to an entirely different country, you left behind all your friends and probably some of your family, and moved to a new school – and here I am complaining about something so... small in comparison.”
“Don’t be sorry,” Coralie replied immediately. “It’s actually nice to be able to just listen to someone talk for a while. It keeps everything off my mind.”
“What was your best friend like?” Lily asked. She sniffled, using her wrist to muffle it slightly.
“Her name was Emma. We’d been best friends since childhood, too. We went to St Jeanne’s together, and we were in all the small classes – we always had been. We were neighbours, too, though we had a couple of paddocks separating our houses. She was the more confident one. She’s always been louder – she’s really into acting, so it kind of comes along with that. She could be quiet too, though; she liked to read as much as I do. She was an only child, so she used to love spending time with my siblings and me. She still sends me letters when she can, but we’ve both been very busy lately.”
Coralie stopped, a small smile was now spreading across her face. It was a bittersweet sort of smile; after all, she was technically lying to Lily – not about Emma, but about the letters. She hadn’t received a letter from Emma since she’d left France, but she hadn’t sent one to Emma, either. They weren’t allowed.
“That’s good. She sounds really lovely.” Lily’s tears had now disappeared almost completely to be replaced with a smile. “We should probably get to bed; it’s so early, and we’ve got class in a couple of hours.”
Coralie nodded. She followed Lily out of the bathroom and back into the dormitory; as she curled back up in her bed, she pulled her pillow closer to her, desperately wishing, not for the first time since her arrival in England, that she was still in France.
The next morning was filled with regret – not for talking to Lily the night before, but for the time that it had taken out of Coralie’s sleep. Not that she had managed to fall asleep afterwards, anyway. It was a strange sort of feeling: She’d been happy to speak to Lily and get some things off her chest, but in a way she still felt like a giant weight was sitting on her shoulders. She wanted to tell Lily the truth – why they had moved here in the first place, why she had her panic attacks, why she really missed Emma so much – but she couldn’t.
She’d learnt not that long ago that it was never wise to trust people until you really knew them. Even then, it was best to exercise caution with your secrets, no matter how harmless they may seem. Lily was a lovely girl – they all were – but Coralie knew next to nothing about them all. She knew that James Potter was mad for Lily; that Marlene and Kiki had grown up together in the pureblood circle; that Mary had a serious obsession with Quidditch, despite the fact that she couldn’t play herself; that Alice, whom she met late the night before, had a boyfriend named Frank Longbottom who was in the year above them; and that Miranda was training to become a successful Healer.
They had yet to really learn anything about Coralie. This being said, they seemed to genuinely trust her. They’d been so quick to accept her as one of them that it almost frightened Coralie. A voice inside her head, once that sounded suspiciously like her mother, told her that they were just nice girls, and that they weren’t plotting against her in any way. But another voice – his voice – told her otherwise. She didn’t know which one to believe. She knew which one she wanted to believe, but was that practical? Her mother had been wrong before.
“Are you going to finish that pancake?” Kiki’s voice broke her out of her reverie, causing Coralie to stare blankly at her for a moment before looking down at the plate in front of her. One lone pancake, already buttered and covered in strawberry jam, stared up at her.
“Uh,” Coralie replied. Beside her, Miranda shook her head and rolled her eyes at Kiki.
“Give the girl a chance to eat her breakfast, Ki, before you try and steal it off her.” At this, she turned to Coralie. “Eat it – otherwise she’ll steal the food off your plate every day until graduation. Mary made that mistake in first year, and now she can’t finish a meal without Ki stealing at least half of it.”
“Hey, that’s unfair!” Kiki exclaimed, popping a raspberry that she stole from Mary’s plate into her mouth; Mary didn’t even blink. “I just wanted to make sure that she wasn’t going to force herself to eat it. I care about you guys. Really, I do. That’s why I always make myself open to donations of the food kind.”
“That’s not the only kind of donations she accepts,” James retorted as he and his friends passed the table.
“Don’t be disgusting James,” Kiki replied with a scowl. She spared another glance at Coralie’s pancake before pursing her lips and turning to Lily, who was doing her best to ignore James.
“I don’t think we got the chance to meet last night,” a boy with sandy blonde hair said as he took the empty seat beside Coralie. “I’m Remus Lupin. I’m the sixth year Gryffindor prefect, along with Lily. You must be Coralie. Lily was telling me all about you last night. Is it true you moved from France?” Coralie nodded. “That’s fascinating. French history is so rich. I’m a bit jealous of you!”
“Don’t bore the poor girl, Moony,” Sirius intercepted, though he didn’t spare a single glance Coralie’s way. Remus – or Moony, as he had been so puzzlingly called – made no action that said he had heard his friend at all. Instead, he went on buttering a piece of toast in front of him.
“I don’t think your friend likes me very much,” Coralie whispered to him, her eyes carefully watching Sirius as she spoke. He didn’t appear to hear them at all.
“Don’t be insulted. He gets like this sometimes. It’s best to just ignore him,” Remus whispered back before leaning over her to retrieve the piece of parchment by her goblet of pumpkin juice. “This your timetable?” She nodded. “You’ve got a selection of the best classes – in my opinion, at least.”
“Hand it here. I want to see if I’ve got any classes with Cora,” James exclaimed, sounding very much like an excited three-year-old on Christmas morning rather than the sixteen-year-old on the first day back at classes that he was. “Double Transfiguration first – then Charms, Ancient Runes, Defence Against the Dark Arts, and Double Potions,” James read out for the entire group, who had now all fallen silent.
“Finally!” Lily exclaimed, a wide smile appearing on her face. “I’ve finally got someone else in Ancient Runes. Thank you, Coralie, thank you!”
Coralie chuckled slightly. “Does no one else here do Ancient Runes?” The others shook their heads. “But it’s a really interesting class!” Coralie exclaimed indignantly. Ancient Runes had been a requirement at St Jeanne’s, and while usually Coralie found that the required classes were dull, she had been surprised to find that she really enjoyed Ancient Runes. In fact, it had quickly become her favourite class. She wasn’t alone; both her mother and Allisyn thoroughly enjoyed the class as well. In the case of Allisyn, she enjoyed it so much that it was the career path that she took.
“That’s what I’ve been telling these guys for years, Coralie, but they just don’t listen,” Lily replied with a small sigh. She sent pointed looks at Marlene and Kiki, who simply laughed in return.
“I personally don’t see the interest,” Sirius commented dryly. “What do you do in that class, anyway? You just look at words and try to translate them. How do you even know if you’re getting them right? You could be translating the thing completely wrong.” Coralie pursed her lips at this; it took most of her energy not to reply with a cutting remark, but, once again, she found that someone beat her to it.
“Just because your small brain wouldn’t be able to translate a document properly doesn’t mean that there aren’t people that can,” Lily cut across him; her green eyes had become filled with anger within seconds.
“Oh, here are those infamous kitty claws,” Sirius responded without blinking once. How he managed to stay so calm when Lily looked so deadly was beyond Coralie.
“Just because something – honestly, I don’t even care what anymore – has happened between you and Shelena, that doesn’t mean that you have to take it out on the rest of us. Especially Coralie! She’s new, for God’s sake!” With this, Lily stood up, her anger radiating from her, and stormed out of the Great Hall, a deathly tight grip on her books.
“I should go after her,” Miranda said in a whisper. All of the sixth year Gryffindors had fallen silent. Miranda quietly made her way after Lily.
“Well, she blew that completely out of proportion.” Sirius broke the silence, whistling as he motioned to the entrance of the Great Hall before stuffing another piece of toast into his mouth. Everyone remained silent, all watching him. Coralie looked on, unable to stop herself from turning her nose up at the way he consumed his food. One by one, they all finished their breakfast and stood up; even after Peter, who had been the last one to finish, Sirius still had half a plate left. “Guys, sit down. I’m not done yet.”
“Shut up, Padfoot,” came James’s response. He spared his best friend one glance before following Remus and Peter to class.
“Good morning, class, and welcome to your sixth year,” Professor McGonagall said. From her place at the front of the room, she carefully eyed each and every one of her students as if she was judging who would pass and fail her class. “This year requires you to work incredibly hard – not just in Transfiguration, but in all of your classes.” Behind Coralie somewhere, James sniggered. “That especially includes you, Mr Potter. Now, if you are done interrupting us, we are going to start this year off by learning a new charm: A bird-conjuring charm. As you can see by the board, the incantation is Avis. Now, with the person next to you, taking turns in attempting this spell.” At this, Professor McGonagall moved behind her desk and began shuffling a few pages around.
Alice turned to Coralie. “Do you want to go first, or do you want me to?” Coralie didn’t mind, and so Alice pulled out her wand and completed her two smooth bumps, left to right, waiting for a blue light to appear. After a few unsuccessful attempts, Alice motioned to Coralie to have a go.
“Avis,” she whispered. Nothing happened. “Avis,” she repeated, this time with an air of confidence about her. A blue light appeared from the end of her wand, and a small gun-like noise was made a few yellow feathers fall onto the table, but no fully formed birds appeared.
“Nice job,” Alice grinned, picking one of the feathers off the table and flicking it into Coralie’s hair. She chuckled as Coralie tried to brush it out unsuccessfully. As Alice tried the spell again, Coralie took the time to take in her surroundings.
The Transfiguration classroom was quite big compared to the size of the classrooms she was used to. Like the rest of the castle, it was old – not just the classroom itself, but the things around the room as well. The two-person desks were sturdy, but the carved-in graffiti showed the true age of them. While something like that would have never been allowed at St Jeanne’s, she was grateful for the fact that it didn’t seem to bother Professor McGonagall. It made the class feel more welcoming. Why this was, Coralie had no idea.
Professor McGonagall was a stern woman, or, at least, that was how she looked. There was something about the way the professor’s eyes had softened when she had spoken to Coralie that morning that told Coralie otherwise. The look almost frightened Coralie; it was like McGonagall felt pity for her, like she knew why the Bennetts had moved to England. But she couldn’t; it was impossible. Even the headmaster didn’t know the true reason behind the move. That was the whole deal.
McGonagall had now stood up from her desk, finishing with the pile of papers that had been in front of her. She flicked them to the side and moved around the room, stopping every now and again to check each student’s progression with the spell. No one had yet to successfully complete it, though time still remained for people to do so.
“How are you getting on, Miss Bennett?” she asked when she came to pause in front of the table that Alice and Coralie occupied. “I’ve been reading your previous essays that your former Transfiguration professor sent to me. I think you’ll be fine with the curriculum – not only in my class, but in all your others as well.”
Coralie nodded and replied with a “Thank you,” but before McGonagall moved on to Lily and Marlene’s table, she added, “It’s a requirement for all fifth years to have careers counselling with their Heads of House, but as you missed it last year, I’ll be willing to schedule you some time, if you feel you need it.”
“Thank you, Professor,” she replied, as McGonagall’s attention was taken away by Lily, who had just managed to conjure a baby bird that began to fly around the room before landing back in front of Lily with a happy chirp.
“Ten points to Gryffindor, Miss Evans.” Lily beamed. “Try and conjure a few more, and you will have mastered the spell.”
“Lily’s generally the first one to get each new spell we learn in class.” Alice smiled softly, motioning to Lily before turning her attention back to Coralie. “I assume you’ve heard of Shelena.” When Coralie nodded, Alice sighed. “I think being the best at spells was the way Lily got a one-up on Shelena – she was always the one who got all the attention. I know you never met her, but believe me when I say that her not being here might just be the best thing that’s ever happened to Lily.”
“I think Lily might feel the same,” Coralie responded. Both girls watched Lily carefully for a moment before breaking their concentration on her and going back to their work.
Authors Note: Hello again guys! I’m sorry that this chapter is a little bit boring, but it’s the last chapter of the introductory stuff as chapter three begins the bigger picture of the entire novel. Those of you who read the original may know where this is all going, but I have actually changed a few of the details to make everything run a bit smoother. Could I ask those who did read the original not to spoil anything if you choose to leave a review? Thank you!
Also, last time I got a little bit of criticism revolving around Sirius being too rude or whatever like he is in this chapter- there is actually a reason why I’m writing him this way at this point in time, I promise that he will back to his ‘usual’ self soon.
Finally, I just want to mention that the following chapters will probably be around this length in general though some may be longer (such as the first chapter) and others will be shorter (only be a few hundred words at the most). There is a lot to fit into this story so rather than having lots of small chapters, I’ve decided to attempt fewer larger chapters.
Thank you all for reading and I will have chapter three up for you around this time next week.
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