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Chapter 4 : Settling In
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The next day was hectic. Even though I wasn’t starting classes, there was still a lot to be done. I went down to breakfast at eight, joining the Gryffindor table, and collected a timetable from McGonagall.
“The Headmaster would like to see you when you’re through here,” McGonagall added as she handed me my newly filled-in schedule. “Humbug is the current password, I believe.” She pursed her lips. I guess she’d been hoping for something non-sweet related this time.
“Sure thing, professor,” I replied.
After helping myself to toast and jam, and a good hot cup of tea, I found my way to Dumbledore’s office and rapped sharply on the door.
“Enter,” he called from inside.
I pushed the door open and walked in, closing it behind me.
“Ah, Ms. Munroe,” he said. “Come. Sit.”
I lowered myself into one of the comfortable chairs in front of his desk.
“So,” he began, tenting his fingers on the desk in front of him and surveying me over the top of his glasses. “Gryffindor, then?”
“You’re quite sure?”
“Beyond any doubt, sir.” It was true. After my snap decision the night before, I knew that Gryffindor was where I belonged.
“Excellent. In that case, your things will be moved to Gryffindor Tower this morning. Unless you would prefer to stay where you are?”
“I’m not sure, professor,” I hesitated. I wanted to stay by myself, but I didn’t want to seem high maintenance. “I don’t want to impose on the Gryffindor girls I’d be sharing with…”
“As you wish,” Dumbledore acknowledged. “Now, Ms. Munroe, I wonder if I might broach a somewhat… delicate subject.”
“I wish to ask you about your father.”
Oh. That kind of delicate subject.
“I don’t know anything about him, sir.”
“I thought you might not,” he said, sighing. He paused for a moment and then continued. “It’s a dangerous thing, raising children. To love someone so completely… all a parent might wish to do is protect their child, even if it means they are denied certain truths, important knowledge. And sometimes it is less for the child’s benefit than for the parent’s, if the past grieves them so deeply.”
I sat, absorbing his words.
“Sir, I’m sorry, but I’m not quite sure what you mean.”
“I wish you would tell your mother something from me,” he said, leaning forwards. “Tell her I wish to speak with her, and that I wish she would extend the same courtesy to you.”
Well that was kind of rude. Nonetheless, I nodded.
“Thank you, Ruby,” Dumbledore said. “Believe me, you will understand soon enough.”
I thanked him and left his office. What in the name of Merlin was that about? I wondered, heading to the Entrance Hall. Mum was sitting at the bottom of the steps, chewing her nails.
“Mum, quit it,” I chastised her.
“Sorry,” she replied.
We walked out over the grounds, discussing the Tournament. Strictly speaking she wasn’t allowed to tell me much about it, so the conversation was deeply frustrating. I remembered Dumbledore’s message.
“Oh, mum, I saw Dumbledore this morning,” I began.
She tensed visibly. “Did you?”
“He wants to speak with you.”
“Does he now,” she muttered darkly.
“Yes,” I said forcefully. “He does. And I think it’s important.”
“Why?” she asked, turning the full force of her sapphire glare on me. “What did he tell you?”
“Nothing,” I said, returning her stare. “He said a lot about parenting and being protective, and that he wanted to speak to you.”
Mum was quiet for a minute.
“I’ll go,” she muttered sullenly.
“Good,” I said. Honestly. Sometimes I feel like the mother.
We lapsed into prickly silence then, leaving me to my thoughts. I went over the conversation with Dumbledore in my mind. I suspected, from what he’d said, that he had known my father fairly well. The Sorting Hat had also said he was a Gryffindor, so he’d been a Hogwarts student, but maybe he’d been part of the Order of the Phoenix as well. I supposed Professor McGonagall knew him as well… and possibly Snape, but there was no way I was going to ask him.
After a few minutes of silence, mum announced that she was going home; she had work to do. I stood and walked with her to the entrance, then hugged her goodbye and traipsed back up to my rooms, where I collapsed on the sofa, reading A History of Magic. I had read it countless times already, but somehow it never ceased to thrill me. Oliver, the cat, lay on my stomach as I read, purring loudly and rubbing his nose against the spine of the book (which was very annoying). I was halfway through a chapter on Goblin rebellions when there came a knock on my door.
I started, my book falling to the floor in my surprise, and Oliver leapt up, spitting. Who knew where I lived? Dumbledore, but what could he possibly want? McGonagall… my mum? I stood and walked to the door, lifted the latch on the small window and opened it. Lee was leaning against the door, breathing hard, flanked by the twins.
“Hurry up and open the door,” Lee said.
I pulled it open, bewildered. What did he want?
“Brought this for you,” he panted, heaving a large wooden case into the room.
“Nice digs, Munroe,” Fred said appreciatively, looking around the common room.
“Erm, thanks,” I replied cautiously. “What is that?”
Lee placed the chest in the middle of the room, careful not to scratch the floor.
“A box,” he said, completely straight-faced.
“You know, for keeping things in,” George continued.
“Just those spare bits and bobs you’ve got lying around,” Fred added.
I stared them down for a moment, and Lee cracked a smile.
“Come and have a look, you idiot,” he laughed, heaving the lid of the box open.
I shut the door and locked it, crossing the room to where the boys stood, admiring the contents of the trunk.
“Welcome home tokens,” Fred grinned, gesturing to the inside.
It seemed to be chock-full of little trinkets. I wasn’t sure what to say.
“I know, it looks like a pile of old junk,” George said, chuckling. “But check it out.”
He pulled a small piece of parchment from the top of the pile, unfolded it and laid it out on the coffee table.
“Got a quill, and ink?”
I retrieved them from my room with a summoning spell; George bent over the parchment and wrote:
I stared at them, completely confused, as Fred and Lee pulled pieces of parchment from their robes and unfolding them. Lee began to scribble something down on his parchment, and as I leaned over George’s sheet to see what was going on I saw Lee’s handwriting appear.
Yep, we are.
“See?” Lee said eagerly. “The twins have a pair, and so do I… and now you do, too! It’s so we can chat during lessons.”
“I gathered,” I said, smirking at him. “I’ve got to admit, that’s pretty neat. You used a distance receptor charm?”
The three of them stared at me blankly.
“It’s the basic term for a charm that works over distances between two or more charmed objects,” I explained. “Then there are different variations of it. So this piece of parchment, for example, has a charm on it that enables the partner object to receive whatever’s written on it…” I trailed off. Lee was looking very confused.
“I didn’t make them,” he admitted. “Fred and George got their dad to help; he’s really into that kind of thing.”
I blushed. Nerd alert!
“Anyway, you can check out the rest of it later,” Fred said, kicking the lid of the trunk closed with a loud thunk.
“We’re going for a walk,” George informed me.
They walked briskly to the door and out into the hall; I followed at a jog.
“Don’t you have classes today?” I asked as I caught up to them.
George grinned at me, and Lee laughed, his dreadlocks swaying gently.
“Yeah. But some things are more important,” Fred replied, smiling.
I blushed again, and his grin widened.
“We’re going outside,” he declared. “It’s too beautiful for lessons today.”
It was a beautiful day. The grounds were bathed in warm sunshine, and a gentle breeze brushed over the grass and the lake, sending little shivers out over the black and green surfaces. I followed the boys down toward the water, stopping by an enormous old tree, and sitting down in the shade. I sat cross-legged and looked out over the lake.
“So what did Dumbledore want?” Lee wondered.
I looked at him curiously.
“How did you know I went to see Dumbledore?”
“Trust me,” George laughed. “Fred and I always know.”
I frowned slightly, and George stopped laughing abruptly.
“I’ll sod off,” he said hurriedly. “It’s none of my business anyway. Shouldn’t have asked. Sorry.”
“No, it’s alright.”
The twins looked at me suspiciously.
“Of course,” I said. “He just wanted to talk about classes. And about my father.”
“Oh,” George said, glancing awkwardly at the other two. “Right.”
A bird called loudly from directly above us, and I looked up, watching it circle and then angle towards the forbidden forest. I wondered if my father had ever sat here.
“He went here,” I stated. “I never knew that. My mother doesn’t like to talk about him…”
Lee looked at me in surprise. In truth, I was surprised too; I hadn’t anticipated wanting to talk about him.
“Yeah?” Lee asked. “How do you know he was at Hogwarts?”
“Dumbledore knew him,” I replied. “And McGonagall, too.”
“But neither of them will tell you who he is?” Fred asked.
“Dumbledore won’t. I think he wants my mum to tell me. I haven’t asked McGonagall, but somehow I don’t see her telling me either.”
Lee gazed off, either mind-numbingly bored or deep in thought – it was hard to tell.
“I wish my mum would just tell me!” I burst out angrily.
“Ask her,” George suggested.
“I have, tons of times when I was little,” I replied. “She never told me anything, just that he had died. She wouldn’t ever talk about him.”
“Well it would be hard,” Lee said. “To love someone so much, and have them taken from you.”
I nodded, leaning my chin on my knees and sighing.
“I still say you should ask her again,” Lee continued. “Who knows, maybe she’ll be ready to talk one day.”
I shrugged. Maybe she would, maybe she wouldn’t, but I didn’t feel like badgering her – not yet, anyway.
Fred seemed to realize I was reaching the end of my tolerance for the subject, and sprang to his feet, holding out his hand to help me up.
“Come on,” he said. “Let’s go see Hagrid.”
That evening I sat with the twins and Lee at the Gryffindor table, listening to them argue and talk about classes. I was trying to practice telling Fred and George apart by their voices, but every time I thought I’d figured it out I would realize I had it backwards again.
“Ruby, you’re not busy tonight, are you?” Lee asked.
“Yeah, I’ve got a hot date,” I laughed. “No, why?”
“We’re going out for a spin,” Fred informed me.
“We think you should come,” George said.
“On your brooms, you mean?” I asked.
“No, in our airplanes,” Fred answered, rolling his eyes.
“It’ll be a perfect night for it,” Lee said, glancing up at the ceiling of the Great Hall, which was a brilliant crimson, dotted here and there with clouds.
“So are you in?” George asked.
“Well…” I hesitated.
“Come on,” Fred cajoled, elbowing me in the ribs. “It’ll be great!”
“I’ve never flown before,” I admitted.
“What!” Lee sputtered, choking on his pumpkin juice.
“Serious?” Fred asked in amazement.
“I know!” I exclaimed. “My mum would never let me.”
“But she used to play for Gryffindor,” George said, baffled.
“Did she?” That was news to me.
“Yeah,” Fred replied. “Chaser, I think. That was when James Potter was captain,” he added.
“And Sirius Black was on that team, too,” George put in. “Can you imagine? He probably seemed like a totally normal bloke.”
I shivered. Sirius Black had been a hot topic the year before, when he’d escaped from Azkaban. Angelique had brought the paper into school and shown us all the picture on the front page – his face had been terrifying. Mum was scared of him, too; she wouldn’t say a word about it when he escaped. I wondered, at the time, if she had ever met him at school.
“Ruby.” Fred was waving his hand in front of my face. “Are you coming or not?”
“Sure,” I replied, nodding. “Why not? Only I don’t have a broom.”
“You can borrow mine.”
I looked round; Harry was standing behind me.
“I’ll come out too, and show you the ropes,” he said. “If you all don’t mind?”
“Of course not!” Fred grinned.
I followed the boys out of the Hall, Harry in the lead and Fred taking up the rear, falling into step with me.
“Wait until you see Harry out there,” Fred murmured to me. “He’s the greatest flyer at the school. Honestly, he could probably drop out now and play professionally.”
“Really? I had no idea.”
“Yeah, he’s incredible,” Fred said. “Made it on to the house team in first year, and as Seeker, too! I mean, every position has its challenges, but Seeker…”
I tuned out a bit as Fred began discussing Harry’s skill on the Quidditch pitch – most of the terms he was using meant nothing to me.
Once we were out on the pitch, Fred and George took off immediately, racing each other to the far goal posts. Lee hung back with me, though.
“Watch,” he said, as Harry mounted his Firebolt – even I knew that the Firebolt was supposed to be the best broom in the world.
Harry settled himself on the broom, grinned over at us, and kicked off into the air. Within seconds he had surpassed Fred and George, and looped back around the pitch towards us.
“It’s beautiful up there, Lee,” he called, landing smoothly next to us and dismounting. “You should go.”
Lee glanced briefly at me, but then nodded. He turned back towards the change rooms we’d passed on our way out, and emerged a moment later with one of the school’s brooms. He swept his dreadlocks back into a ponytail and mounted his broom, turning back to wink at me.
“Later,” he called, kicking off and racing after the twins.
I smiled and waved him off.
“Want to try it?”
Harry held out the broom for me and I took it gingerly. He laughed.
“Alright, so you want to mount it, swing your – yeah, just like that,” he nodded encouragingly. “Now hold it firmly… a bit higher. There, perfect.”
I adjusted on the broom, trying to get comfortable.
“I’m going to grab a spare broom and come out with you,” he said. “Don’t take off until I get back,” he added, pointing a threatening finger at me.
He appeared a second later, holding a broom that looked much more battered than the Firebolt.
“Right,” he said, mounting his broom. “Ready?”
“No,” I said, my voice shaking.
“That’s the spirit,” he chuckled. “Alright, we’ll kick off on three, hover for a second, and see how you’re feeling, okay?”
I nodded, a bit concerned that if I tried to speak I would vomit all over the Boy Who Lived.
“Great.” Harry adjusted his grip a bit. “Relax your shoulders. Perfect. Okay, one…two…three.”
I kicked off from the ground, rising up into the air. The Firebolt felt incredible; I could tell it wasn’t going to drop me. I had nothing to worry about.
“Alright?” Harry asked.
I grinned and nodded. “Let’s do a lap!”
“Yeah! I want to fly!”
Harry grinned. “Alright. I’ll try and keep up.”
I leaned forward and the Firebolt shot off into the night. Whoa, I told it, leaning back a touch. Too fast. Reaching a comfortable speed, I turned the Firebolt clumsily towards the boys, who were all gathered around the goal posts at the far end of the field. I heard Harry bellowing something from behind me, but I couldn’t hear. I pulled up sharply right next to Lee and hovered there, grinning like an idiot.
“Tell me that’s not the greatest feeling ever,” Harry said, smiling, as he pulled up next to me.
I punched him lightly on the arm. “This broom is incredible. Thanks for letting me try it out!”
“No problem,” he said. “I figure it’s better to have your first ride on something gorgeous.”
“True both in flying and fucking,” Fred quipped.
“Fred!” I exclaimed.
“Oh come on,” George laughed. “You were all thinking it.”
“I assure you I was not,” I said, trying to maintain a serious expression and failing miserably, succumbing to raucous laughter with the rest of them.
We returned to the ground, sides aching, and traipsed back into the castle. I glanced back out over the grounds as we were walking up the steps, and out of the corner of my eye, outlined against the lights from the Quidditch pitch, I saw the shape of a great black dog. When I looked back, though, it had gone. Trick of the light, I guess.
A/N: Hello all! Thanks so much for reading the latest chapter! Please please please leave reviews, comments, criticism... I love it! And I love you! Yayyy! Thanks! xx
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