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Chapter 3 : Ancients
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“Yes?” Mary asked, turning to the blonde girl. Laura shifted on her feet awkwardly for a moment, but didn’t say anything. Mary watched her with her wide eyes, and she rubbed her upper arm as she waited. She never really knew what to say to people she didn’t know well. “Do you need something?”
“Oh- em, no. Sorry for disturbing you,” Laura said. She turned on her heal and scurried off. Mary stared after her, but soon shrugged her shoulders and turned back to her book. It would be class time soon, and Mary wanted to review some of the runes they’d been looking at this week. They were talking about some of the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs and their magical properties. Apparently, there were a couple of symbols that kept recurring on some of the tombs and palace walls that could mean there was an active magical community then. Maybe even more than there was today.
The disruption though, caused Mary to lose her concentration and she found herself staring mindlessly at the rows of books in front of her. She was close to the back of the library where the light was dimmer and the sounds of the students less. She liked it because people rarely came to this corner. The books were mostly useless to the average student and she usually didn’t have to deal with people milling about.
Her favourite part, however, was that she was so deep within the tombs there were these firefly like creatures that would come out and glow their green aura. It sort of reminded her of the Raven’s Fire in Finland when the light over the dark horizon would dance in the midnight. Of course it wasn’t nearly so dark, but the effect was still there and for once, Mary let her imagination be captivated.
She soon packed her stuff away when she realised she was not going to get any more work done. It was nearly time for class to begin anyway. She weaved through the myriad of bookcases and study desks that were all empty. It was morning and no one could be bothered to haunt the library at this time. Mary held onto a book to check out and walked to the front of the library. She put it on the counter where the librarian, Madam Hastings, was reading a book over a steaming cup of tea.
“Hello dear,” she said with her gravelly voice. “Ready to check that out?” Mary nodded and Hastings put down her tea to grab a roll of parchment. Mary soon left the library, and at the same time she tried to shove the book into her already full book bag. It wasn’t going straight in so she looked down to see the problem. As she did so, so she ran headlong into something, causing her to lose her grasp on the book. It was sent flying across the floor with a thud. A gruff laugh made her realise that it wasn’t just a wall, but actually a person.
She peered up through her straggly brown hair to see the dark eyes of Regulus Black staring at her with a look of mock indifference. She stared up at him with wide, fearful eyes and didn’t say anything, as if transfixed. The boy pushed his dark hair out of his eyes and looked up and down the corridor quickly with trained expertise before turning back to Mary who hadn’t moved.
“You know,” he said slowly, his voice deep and harsh. “If you didn’t act like such a mouse you might not have the issues you do.”
She scurried over to the book which was against the wall opposite. She was breathing hard and she refused to look up from her shoes. Grabbing the book with a shaky hand, Mary moved some of the other books around in her bag and then finally fit it in. Of all the things to go wrong she had to run into one of them. She blocked out the images that were trying to force their way into existence, and instead, she concentrated on her breathing.
“I’m sorry,” she managed to say. Vaguely, she wished she could’ve sounded stronger, but what did it matter anymore? He laughed, though he didn’t sound at all amused and leaned against the stone wall. His eyes scanned the corridor again, came back to her before slipping to the library where he was heading.
“You really are nothing like Wilkes says,” he said almost as an afterthought and pushed himself off the wall and went towards the library. Her head whipped up at that, and she stared hard at his back wondering what he meant. He didn’t look back, and after a moment she too continued on her way, but, unlike him, she spent the rest of the walk to the Ancient Runes classroom thinking about his final comment.
It probably meant nothing or he was just goading her on like they all did anyway. She couldn’t imagine Wilkes ever saying anything about her though. She reasoned there were no grounds for that to change, she supposed if he was hanging with the older Slytherin’s then maybe... but she pushed the thought away as soon as it formed. It was nothing. She was used to having her head messed with. She was, however, mildly shocked that there hadn’t been any intimidation; he had seemed more bored than anything.
Before Mary could dissect it further she heard her name being called from across the corridor. She looked up to see Florence waving her arms wildly at her.
“Mary!” She yelped again and jogged meet up with her. “Where the hell were you at breakfast?”
“In the library,” she responded. She watched Florence frown from the corner of her eye and determined that Florence was in one of her more delightful moods this morning. She’d have to be careful because when Florence was like this she was like a time bomb ready to go off. She never explained why, but this would usually happen after breakfast time. Mafalda said Florence should be banned from the breakfast table because it usually wasn’t a good combination.
“Of course you were,” she seethed. She pulled on the edges of her hair dangerously hard, and Mary watched from her periphery of how she was gnawing on her bottom lip. “You really don’t need to be in the library so much, Mary.”
“My parents would have a fit if I have a rubbish year. It’s NEWT’s as you very well know,” Mary replied. She smoothed out the creases in her uniform from sitting in the library for so long this morning.
“Yeah, well, they’d probably think differently if they saw you wasting away on all their crap rules and advise.”
“I’m hardly wasting away,” Mary replied.
“Why are you even in such a rush? We still have loads of time before class. We could sneak into the kitchens if you like,” Florence said after a few minutes of silence between them. It hadn’t been an uncomfortable silence. It was a kind of silence that happened between people who understood one another. Though Mary and Florence were like night and day at times, Florence had once likened them to a puzzle where they needed the different pieces to fit together.
That was in third year, and whether or not those pieces fit together well now was a completely different question. However, Florence had always stood by Mary, and had never wavered. Mary needed that once and now it would have been akin to betrayal to even question the friendship. Usually, Mary appreciated Florence’s chatter; it had filled the spaces in her head that wouldn’t stop crying out.
“I don’t really like being late for class, and again my parents would go mental,” Mary said softly. Though she needn’t have said it as it was clear to almost everyone in their year that Mary was always on time. James once said if they gave out awards, the anal punctuality one would go to Mary without a doubt. She’d always been like that, even as a kid she’d always been ridiculously prompt for everything. Though, then it was because she was excited for the new adventure to begin.
“They wouldn’t even know,” Florence pointed out. She rolled her eyes and stomped her feet. The sound of it echoed down the corridor making a group of third year Ravenclaws ahead of them turn around and stare. “We are at a boarding school in case you hadn’t noticed.”
“They have eyes everywhere, Florence. Everywhere!” Mary responded. She shook her head and hurried on down the corridor, passing the Ravenclaw group. Florence flounced after her with an annoyed hiss. Mary ignored it; she knew Florence was just mad she wasn’t getting her own way.
They didn’t say anything for a few moments. Florence was attempting to keep up with Mary’s clipped pace. A few portraits were muttered after them when Florence’s bag bumped into a suit of armour making it crash to the ground.
“You should clean that up,” Mary said over her shoulder.
“But this is Ancient Runes! You need sustenance for this and, more importantly, I need another breakfast,” Florence said. She ignored the armour that banged against the ground and the Ravenclaws behind who were cussing at them. She pulled her bag higher onto her shoulder to stop it from bouncing against her legs.
“You know, I think you have weird first-person-in-the-classroom compulsion that, honestly, Mary, no one understands. It’s weird.”
Mary didn’t respond. She just shrugged her shoulders and continued on her way. When they finally reached the classroom Mary sailed through the door. Professor Kade was sitting up front going through some parchment on her desk. Mary quickly zipped around the tables and found one close to the high rising windows on the right. Florence, still huffing in annoyance, plopped down beside Mary to share the desk.
“You know, I don’t even know why we let McGonagall talk us into continuing taking Runes. It’s a rubbish class and I have absolutely no interest in it,” Florence said.
“Neither of us got into Transfiguration, and she thought it would be best to have another class,” Mary said, pulling out a roll of parchment and a quill to get ready for class. She sat erect in her chair, while Florence leaned her head against her hand and yawned widely. Mary didn’t mention she actually liked the class and found it much more interesting than Transfiguration anyway.
“We could have had a free period,” Florence said with a wave of nostalgia. “A free period in the morning, might I add. It would have been glorious, and you know it!”
A few more students wandered into the room, none of which looked all that excited about the prospect of being in class that morning. The seats at the back of the class filled up, and a few students fell in close to where Mary and Florence were sitting by the window. Laura also walked in, which made Mary pause as she wasn’t in the class normally; it was rare for class schedules to be changed once they were set at Hogwarts. The blonde gazed around the classroom momentarily before sitting beside a couple other Ravenclaws.
“And Snape is in this class, it disgusts me,” Florence said as said student came slinking into the class just before the bell rang. “We should have dropped this at the end of last year so we didn’t have to breathe the same air as him for another term!”
Mary nodded absently, but didn’t look at the dark haired Slytherin when he made his way to the front of the room, which Florence was currently doing. Instead, she kept her face hidden by her long hair and scribbled the date on top of fresh piece of parchment.
She had another fleeting thought of Regulus Black and the meaning of his last comment, but the only logical explanation to her was that he was just stirring the pot. Wilkes had made it clear when he first came that he wasn’t going to talk about it. Others might see it as a sign of weakness to have once been friends with blood traitors. It didn’t make sense to bring any of it up now. However, Black knew, and if he knew, did others? Or had Wilkes only told Black because he might the only one who understood what it was like to be in that position?
Mary pushed the thoughts away though because she realised she’d get nowhere in her thinking, and it wasn’t as if she’d ever ask anyone about it. She took James’ advice from their last chat. It didn’t matter anymore. They had been kids. None of that mattered anymore.
So Mary did what she always did. She set her thoughts aside and paid attention to what was in front of her. It was the only way she knew she’d get through the year, otherwise, she’d focus too much on the grime all around her, and the way there was this unsettling unease that coated the castle like toxic waste. Even James, the forever optimist, had felt the change in the air.
“Does he even wash himself?” Florence speculated. She tapped her fingers on the desk for a few minutes when Mary didn’t respond right away. “Maybe he cleans in those potions he brews, and that’s why he seems to be dripping with something.”
“Don’t let him hear you say that Florence, he knows more hexes than anyone,” Mary said just as the Professor stood up.
“You’re sticking up for that dung face? Really, Mary?” Florence hissed.
“Miss Meadowes, if you are quite done with your conversation I think we should begin class,” Professor Kade said sternly.
“Sorry Professor, you may begin,” Florence said with a shrug. The class snickered, but the Professor didn’t look impressed. Florence rolled her eyes at Mary, and laid her head against the desk once again. She massaged the back of her neck as the Professor started her lecture about the magical community in Egypt.
Mary took in everything Professor Kade was saying and even underlined some of her notes. They were clean and tidy much like she tried to keep everything else in her life. It was strange how much Mary liked to keep things in order, but she liked the sense of control it gave her. It reminded her to keep breathing.
Florence had never really understood the change that happened in Mary halfway through fifth year. She had tried, obviously, but she’d taken it too personally. She always griped about the moment Mary started getting serious about school. Things had changed. Mary wasn’t the same, but no-one in her position could be expected to remain so. Mary, instead, took on the attitude that she had to be better than before. Her parents suddenly made more sense and she thought if she was simply better at school; better at following directions, then everything else would fall into place.
It didn’t matter that now she was like a bird flying against the wind, barely getting anywhere and just coasting along. She felt like she was going somewhere and that was all that mattered. If her grades reflected a bettering then she thought she was wading through it. As it were, Mary didn’t see a lot of things straight. It was no matter to her because her school marks were improving, and she was acting in a more MacDonald way. Something had to be said about that.
Finally the bell rang and Florence was the first to shoot up from her seat. Her chair wobbled behind her but she didn’t even try to steady it. Kennedy from Slytherin gave her a glare as he walked out of the class but Florence ignored him and tapped her foot as she waited for Mary to gather her things together.
“Gods, what a bore,” Florence said and traipsed through the door. “I didn’t think Kade could get any worse, but she has. It really is a shame that Hogwarts can’t find better professors, it’s our futures on the line.”
Mary followed Florence as they walked down the corridor. Florence continued on with the injustices thrown her way because of incompetent teachers or the fact that her eggs were cold this morning. She had a long list and her face seemed darker than usual, but Mary was used to it. She knew it was best to listen and agree. Harm usually came when she spoke out, and she couldn’t handle that. It was easier to just slide under the radar; it was what she was good at.
They walked up a staircase, and when they were halfway up it started to move, leading them to the fifth floor instead of the sixth. Mafalda was standing on the landing and once she caught site of them, she smiled.
“Excellent, I was just going to practice Charms. That blasted water charm is hard and I can’t seem to get it right. Maybe we could do this together?” Mafalda asked. She grabbed onto their arms and started to pull them down the stairs. Florence detangled herself rather hurriedly, almost as if burned by the touch.
“Practice school in my one free period of the day? You must be having a laugh,” Florence said. She rolled her eyes with an almost practiced precision.
“When else are you going to do it?” Mafalda asked. She patted down her hair as she waited for Florence to respond. The varnish on her fingernails was chipped from her repetitive finger biting, but it didn’t bother her. She would change the colour by morning.
“Preferably when Mamma Hopkirk isn’t around,” Florence replied. Her eyebrows rose as if in challenge. “Do you study so much because you have no life? Or because you have no friends?”
“Yes, it is because I have no friends. My friends are my books, they are such great company. You should try them someday, you might get somewhere,” Mafalda replied tartly. The girls stood in a tense silence for a moment before Florence huffed and stomped off, presumably, to go to the common room. “She’s on one today.”
Mary nodded, nervously looking on after Florence, and she shifted on her feet. A few students passed by them exchanging looks with one another, obviously they’d heard the whole thing. The two girls easily ignored them though.
“You want to practice?” Mafalda asked.
“Erm-“ Mary said and shifted again, playing with the edges of her robes uncomfortable. “I need to, but Florence won’t be happy if I don’t even try to pacify her.” Mafalda sighed, but she nodded and headed down the stairs.
“Good luck, I’ll save you a seat at lunch,” she replied over her shoulder.
Mary sighed and followed Florence’s angry wake wondering what it was this time, other than the injustice of having to be in school or had some boy look at her slantwise at the breakfast table. She was unstable at times, volatile, but Mary had been drawn to that in her first year at Hogwarts. In a strange twist of events she liked the fiery passion the other eleven year old Gryffindor had shown.
Even James liked her then, but eventually they had a fall out in which he said she was a cow. She didn’t forgive easily, safe to say. That was so long ago, but the past always seemed to be replaying in Mary’s mind as if there were answers there. Answers to questions Mary didn’t have, but they were still there and all she could do was ignore them. In retrospect, perhaps Mary should have paid more attention to them then. But Mary tried to live one day at a time and at the moment that was sort of working for her.
Things would change though. Everything always did.
Thank you so much for reading this! I really hope that you enjoyed this chapter! I do hope the pacing is going alright. Feel free to review :) .
Thank you so much to HeyMrsPotter for betaing this, it is always delightful to work with her.
All recognizable work belongs to JKR, no copyright infringement intended.
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