Chapter 3 : Ancients
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“Yes?” Mary asked. Laura shifted on her feet, but didn’t say anything. Instead, her eyes darted to the tombs that surrounded them. Silence hung between them like the thick dust that hung in the air. Mary stared with her wide, owlish eyes, but no words came out of Laura’s mouth. Laura looked behind her, as if expecting someone else to be around. They were deep within the library, however, and it was rare for other students to venture there. The books around them were useless to the average student and the light too dim and the dust too thick for studying. It was one of the reasons why Mary chose this spot, there usually was no one here.
“Em-” Laura whispered. Her voice sounded like a thin, frayed wire that couldn’t carry its own frequency well. “Well, I just-” her voice faltered yet again. Her eyes instead caught onto the fireflies that made their home this deep within the library. It was dark enough for them to vaguely glow, but instead of glowing an orangey red, they glowed green. It reminded Mary of the Raven’s Flame in Finland. She’d been entranced with them when she first saw them here. She loved them, perhaps because it was one of the few things she still could love in this world.
“These are pretty.” Mary looked at them again.
“They are usually in the Forbidden Forest, but some are found in the castle too if it’s dark enough. They’ll go deeper into the library or the dungeons later in the day when it gets brighter. But I see them here in the morning sometimes. Plus, it’s been so cloudy and dark recently that they’ve come out more,” Mary responded.
“Why do you come here, it’s so dark. How can you study?” Laura carried the conversation on. Mary looked at the lantern which was giving a bit more light. Mary shrugged her shoulders. Laura bit down on her lower lip and leaned casually against the bookshelf next to her. However, her shoulders were tense and her hands were balled into fists next to her.
When it was clear Mary wouldn’t respond, Laura let out a sigh. Her face went from slightly expectant to ashen and drawn. The same face that the school had seen in the last couple weeks of school. The once emotionally unattached girl seemed to be now, controlled by her emotions.
“Look – sorry for disturbing you. I’ll.. I’ll go,” Laura finally said after the lengthy silence. Mary nodded and didn’t bother to try and make the blonde feel like she hadn’t. The truth of the matter is, Mary wanted her to go. For as simple as the question appeared to be, it would lead to more that Mary could not answer. She’d rather let Laura think that is a disturbance and all that Mary wanted was study.
It wasn’t long after Laura left that Mary also packed up her bags. She could no longer focus on her Ancient Runes deciphering. It was close to class time anyway, so she might as well get going. She could get to Herbology a bit early and ask Sprout some questions about the uses of Aconite. There was an essay due in Potions and she’d chosen to focus on some of the ingredients from Wolfsbane. She decided to focus on researching whether the ingredients used also had powerful results in the other potions they were used for.
When Mary reached the Entrance Hall there was more people about, mostly coming out of the Great Hall from breakfast. Mary noticed that Florence was one of them. When her mate noticed her, her face scrunched up in annoyance.
“Mary!” She yelped and jogged meet up with her. “Why the hell weren’t you at breakfast?”
“I was in the library,” she responded. She glanced at Florence and saw her frown. Florence seemed to be in one of her more delightful moods this morning. When Florence was like this, she was like a time bomb. It was never clear why, but most recently it was happening around breakfast time. Mafalda reckoned Florence should be banned from the breakfast table.
“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. Scratch that, they probably wouldn’t even notice.”
“I’m hardly wasting away,” Mary replied.
“Why are you even in such a rush? You 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 wasn’t uncomfortable, just a regular sort of pause between people who’d been friends for ages. Florence had compared their friendship to a puzzle and how you needed all the different pieces of puzzles to fit together. That was in third year and whether they were part of the same puzzle now was a matter of contention.
Mary knew though that Florence had been unwavering in her loyalty to her and it would have been something close to betrayal to question their friendship. Usually, Mary appreciated Florence’s chatter. It filled up the spaces in her head that needed the noise.
“I don’t 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 punctuality one would go to Mary.
“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 to the Front Entrance, passing the Ravenclaw group as she went. 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 and made it crash to the ground.
“You should clean that up,” Mary said over her shoulder.
“You know, I think you have weird first-person-in-the-classroom compulsion that honestly, Mary, no one understands. It’s weird,” Florence said. She ignored the armour that banged against the ground and the Ravenclaws behind who were cussing at them. Florence pulled her bag higher onto her shoulder to stop it from bouncing against her legs.
They reached the door to outside and Florence just shook her head at Mary when she went outside.
“I’ll see you after class,” Mary said over her shoulder. They had Ancient Runes together after. Florence huffed and Mary heard the door bang close behind the irritated Gryffindor.
There was mist that hovered just above the rugged terrain and the sun was hiding behind thick clouds this morning. From behind, Mary heard the door open and close again and knew that she wouldn’t have long to talk to Sprout about her essay. If it seemed like the ingredients had powerful properties, she could scrape by with a decent mark and make Slughorn believe he made the right choice about letting her into NEWT level classes. She was so intent on her thoughts she didn’t notice the movement behind her and how the ones who’d came through the door had quickened their pace to catch up.
“Oh, look who it is,” a slimy sort of voice said from behind her. Mary felt tension immediately form in her muscles. She knew the voice all too well. It visited her in her dreams.
“Poor thing, she doesn’t have anyone to hide behind now. Where are your friends, Mary?” Avery said. Mulcibur and Avery looked at her with wide, toothy grins. Mary tried to ignore them, but couldn’t stop her breath from catching.
“Funny thing that happened to Graces’ family, tragic really,” Mulcibur said. He laughed hollowly. He caught the look of confusion as it crossed Mary’s face. “Oh right, you weren’t at breakfast, so you wouldn’t have heard. You were in the library. No matter, you’ll hear the sad news soon, anyway.”
“Seems like someone was saying things they shouldn’t and the whole family, except for Olivia Grace here, has disappeared. Lucky for her really,” Avery added in greasily. His breath tickled her ear. Mary doubted Olivia would feel lucky right now if the news was true.
“Don’t want to get mixed up with the wrong sort of people, it seems. The repercussions are simply appalling; don’t you agree, love?” His voice was soft, almost said in a way that seemed caring. Mary knew all too well the menace behind it though. Mulcibur knew how to hide and pretend to be something he wasn’t. He was the perfect actor.
Mulcibur squeezed her hand and she jerked away. She ended up tripping over her feet as she did so and laid sprawled on the ground. Her hands burned from the pebbles crushed beneath them. She remained there until she heard their feet move off to god knows where. She knew they weren’t in Herbology with her. A shiver ran though her body. They’d been following her. Even worse, they knew where she’d been.
There was a rip in her robes by the knee and it felt wet to touch. There was probably a cut there and she’d have to get Mafalda to mend later. There was no way she’d go to the Hospital Wing. They’d ask questions and there was no way she could answer.
Pushing herself up off the ground when she knew they were gone, she tried to ignore the tears that threatened to fall. She retreated to the castle, thoughts of her assignments and classes had fallen from her mind. Instead, she rushed into the woman’s lavatory on the first floor. It was overflowing with water, which was coming out from one of the stalls. It was usually out of order because of Mrytle. Hardly anyone went in here and she knew she’d be safe from questioning eyes. She stuck her hands underneath a tap and washed away the dirt and grass stains. She scrubbed harder still as tears began to fall down her blotchy cheeks. She bit down on her lower lip the harder she rubbed and she let out a small gasp when fresh blood ran down her hands.
She stared at her hands. Her eyes wide with horror and turned the tap off. She was shaking. She couldn’t stop. No matter how hard she commanded herself to, it was like the automatic part of her body took over and she couldn’t stop. She let out a dry sob and sank to the floor. Her hands were laid out beside her. Mary was getting soaked and she couldn’t imagine what her parents would say if they saw her right now. This wasn’t the MacDonald way.
“Who’s in my toilet?” a wispy, nasally sort of voice said. Mary looked up, horrified to be caught in this position by anyone. It was, however, only a ghost with large eyes and glasses. Myrtle.
“Nobody,” Mary mumbled. She looked down and tried to ignore the silvery girl in front of her. The ghost seemed to take it as an affront though, and crossed her arms. The ghost hovered right above Mary’s left shoulder.
“You don’t look like a nobody, you have skin and bones and everything,” the ghost said in a mournful sort of way. A sniffle was heard. “You have everything, and you’re crying, but at least you’re not – you’re not dead!” The girl wailed and zoomed away, throwing herself back into a cubicle and water sprayed everywhere in her wake. Mary couldn’t help but think with all the skin and bones she had, she still was very much a nobody.
Mary pulled her knees up to her chest. She could still feel Avery’s breath on her neck. Flashes of dreams came back, but she couldn’t quite put the images and words together. Everything that flashed in her mind seem disjointed and on fast forward. None of it made sense, but her heart pounding and her shaking body told her that whatever it was, she didn’t want it to make sense.
She closed her eyes and counted to ten before reciting the twelve uses of Dragon’s Blood. She would not – could not think of it anymore. It was simply dreams. She forced herself up, reciting the uses of Dragons Blood one more time to calm her beating heart. She glanced around the lavatory. It was dirty. A door to one of the toilets was hanging on its hinges. The metal taps were giving signs of rusting away.
She gulped down another sob and almost began to laugh when she imagined her parents walking in right now. They’d be infuriated. And ever so embarrassed for their precious family name. As if the name meant anything to anyone. Mary performed a quick drying charm and walked out of the bathroom without a second look back. Dreams, she reckoned, were only dreams and they deserved only to take up her nights. They could not take her days as well. Mary willfully ignored the vague feeling that it was somehow important and headed to her next class. By now it would be nearly the start of the next session.
Florence was sitting outside of the door, but was waiting on Mary before going in. Mary smiled slightly and hid her hands from Florence who would only be quick to point them out.
“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. She followed Mary into the class. Professor Kade was sitting at her desk in the front, hunched over a piece of parchment. Mary zipped along the desks and found a seat close to one of the high rising windows.
“She thought it best we have another class since we never got into Transfiguration,” Mary replied belatedly. She pulled 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 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. Mostly Ravenclaws and a few Hufflepuffs. 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. Laura wasn’t usually in this class; and it was rare for class schedules to change one they were set at Hogwarts. The blonde gazed around the classroom, her eyes briefly landed on Mary, before she settled in beside the other Ravenclaws.
“And Snape is in this class, it disgusts me,” Florence said as said student came slinking into the class just before the start of class. “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. She kept her face hidden by her long hair and scribbled the date on top of fresh piece of parchment. He’d have been the reason to drop this class.
But, Mary did what she could do. She set the thoughts aside and decided only to pay attention to what was right in front of her. It was the thing she knew would get her through the year. She couldn’t focus on the grime and the things that made it seem like toxic waste coated the castle.
“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 in 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 began to massage 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. Mary had to keep things in order. If anything, it reminded her to keep breathing.
Florence leaned over Mary’s notes and drew Snape getting hit with a cream pie. Mary let her quill hang mid note taking and stared at the animated picture. There was a half-smile on her face, but mostly annoyance at seeing the mess it made of her notes. Florence snorted at it, drawing the attention of Professor Kade who weaved her way through the desks and was looking down at the picture before anyone else could move.
“Miss MacDonald, I’m surprised. I’ll let you know when your detention is,” Professor Kade said and took the parchment away. Mary looked over at Florence who was shaking in her chair trying to keep from laughing.
“You couldn’t tell the truth?” Mary said under her breath, but Florence didn’t respond, just continued to make choking sounds as she tried to hold back her laughter. “My parents are going to send me a Howler.”
Florence rolled her eyes at Mary before leaning her chair back so that she was balancing on the back two legs of the chair. Mary sighed and pulled out another piece of parchment. She would just have to redo her notes and hope Professor Kade wouldn’t send a note home. She’d been doing so well, but this was only a minor setback. Her parents would have to understand. She had such a clean slate for much longer than she ever had before. That’s the only thing that mattered now. Her grades were improving, no notes home, and her posture was even better than before – minus the incident this morning in the lavatory, but she’d already moved passed that.
She was on the right track. If she simply continued, things would be better. She’d feel better. Her dreams would be better. This was the promise they’d always told her, so it must be true. It had to be. With that to comfort her, her quill scratched away at the new runes they had to decipher.
Get back on track. Just get back on track. Those words ran through her mind and she knew she’d work harder. She’d wade further and further out believing that she was getting somewhere. The reality was, she was treading water. That was all she’d been doing for several months now and if it continued, who knows if she would stay above the waterline.
Thank you so much for reading this! I really hope that you enjoyed this chapter. What are your thoughts on the charactesr and the pace of the story so far? Feel free to review :) .
16 January 2017: Edited. I've changed up the order of events a bit. I would recommend you stop reading at this point and keep an eye on when I've edited the chapters. There is a part I've put in from a later chapter into this one, so it might be a litle confusing if you continue reading and you run across it a couple chapters from now. It just made more sense to me to put it here and hold off on a couple things that I had here before.
Thank you so much to HeyMrsPotter for betaing the first draft of this, it is always delightful to work with her.
All recognizable work belongs to JKR, no copyright infringement intended.
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