Chapter 4 : Chains
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Students scurried from one classroom to the other, huddled as if they bore a great burden on their backs. There was a slicing chill to the air that some students swore that it was from more than just the cold. At least, that is what Mary saw when she looked along the corridors. Bleakness. She could only assume others felt it too. Especially with Olivia Grace and her family. She had left Hogwarts the other day and everyone felt the sharp pain of realization. Perhaps Hogwarts couldn't even keep out the demons.
Quidditch was also starting up and when Gryffindor had their tryouts on a blustery late afternoon, Mary sat in the stands wrapped up in her cloak and donning a knitted hat and gloves while her eyes avidly watched. To everyone’s great surprise, including Mary’s, there was a student on the pitch that no one quite expected to be there.
She was watching Florence. Her straight-backed posture and how she refused to look anyone in the eye for long, but rather, stared out across the pitch as if it were hers. She seemed untouchable in the wind there, rough like the unpolished gem. Though Florence was no gem and would have hated to be compared to one. She always thought that they seemed to be hiding something.
But she was at tryouts. For years she’d always held this disdain for the sport; only coming to the matches if Mafalda or Mary dragged her to go and would spend the whole time talking about how much more exciting it would be if someone fell off their broom. Or she’d make some inappropriate comment about the Hufflepuff captian. Mafalda would roll her eyes and tell her she should be focussing on the Gryffindor team rather than the Hufflepuff one. Florence never seemed to care much though, so it was to everyone’s surprise that she’d shown up at all.
Mary was so focussed on the tryouts she didn’t notice Lily until she came down and sat beside her. Lily’s hair was tucked underneath a scarf and her cheeks were as red as a lobster from the wind.
“I love watching tryouts,” Lily murmured. She shoved her hands into her coat pockets. “I always wished I’d had more coordination so I could’ve been on the team.”
Mary nodded her head, indicating that she’d heard, but for the life of her couldn’t think of what to say to it. She shifted in her seat and half wished Lily had sat somewhere else just so that she wouldn’t feel that awful tension of things unsaid. That is what Mary felt, though, if anyone where to look at them they could assume they were the best of friends taking on the windy Scottish autumn together.
“Look, I’ve noticed that you get cornered a lot by- erm, well...” Lily trailed off and she rubbed the back of her neck uncomfortably. She was all too aware of who was in the group of people she was trying to talk about. The boy she claimed was her former best mate. Though, Snape still tagged her, as if he was still convinced they were friends. No one properly knew what their relationship was after last year though. It wasn’t something Lily talked about. She simply make mysterious comments on the subject.
“I’m not cornered,” Mary said softly. Hoping that it would ease whatever was on Lily’s mind; stop her from dredging things up that were best left in the past.
“Yes you are,” Lily replied immediately. There was a no-nonsense tone to her voice that Mary was used to with Lily. She wanted to say her bit; maybe she thought it may atone her for something. “I don’t know why they’ve chosen you. But, just, you can’t let them know they scare you. They’re harmless really. Completely harmless. Just trust me on that, I know.”
Lily squeezed Mary’s arm and she stood up and walked away to the other side of the field where, belatedly, Mary noticed Laura was sitting. Mary sucked in a deep breath and blotted out the images in her head. The words of advice Mary was sure was from Lily’s heart and she told herself to take it as such. Lily was always idealistic and would always lean on the idea that this world of magic was still the brightest light of all. Nothing would take that light away from her.
Mary supposed it came from coming from a non-magical family. It was still new to her, and she was aware of what it was like not to have magic. Magic was all Mary knew and she couldn’t ignore with every passing year the news reports were bleaker. She remembered a time, just before Hogwarts where there hadn’t been this fear. She used to go to the Ministry with her uncle when he needed to renew his business license and there was a cordiality there that wasn’t there now. Magic had really seemed magical then when the only thing that mattered was whether James and Wilkes were coming over that afternoon for a play date.
She pushed it out of her mind and looked back to the field. Some students were already walking back to the castle by this time, some with their brooms, while others were sitting by the change rooms sharing a cigarette before going inside. A few others, Florence among them, were still on the pitch and Mary was shocked to see that Florence was actually a decent flyer.
She had always assumed Florence’s dislike of the game came from her not being able to do it and so she chose to hate it on principle. However, Florence’s movements were quick and her aim was great. Mary tried to ignore that many of her Bludgers were sent hurling at James’ head. They had an argument this morning about the news in the Daily Prophet. Florence had been in a huff all day and Mary almost thought she came to practice with more hopes to take off James’ head than to actually be on the team.
Mary hugged her robes closer to her frame and ignored the shivers that ran up and down her spine. If tryouts weren’t done soon she thought herself likely to go inside and finish that essay for potions. She would feel much better if it was done and it would give her mind something to dwell on. Tryouts could only hold her attention for so long.
Instead of leaving though, she watched the grass as it rippled in the wind like a sheet being placed upon a bed. The grass was still blanketed in green, seemingly so fresh and alive even though winter was soon at their doorstep. She liked the illusion, strangely enough. As her eyes glanced back at the field she saw Florence marching her way like a storm.
Her hair was pulled back into a tight bun at the top of her head and she dragged her broom carelessly behind her. It banged against some of the rocks and mounds on the grounds and when she finally reached Mary who was sitting on the lowest stands she flopped down with a groan.
“I can’t actually take the head off my own Captain, can I?” Florence muttered shooting glares at James who was putting the balls away and was chatting with a couple other students.
“I’d say it would be frowned upon in most Quidditch circles,” Mary responded with a shrug. “Did you get the position?”
“He didn’t say, but I’m clearly the best flyer out there, and the strongest. Everyone else was just a little bit pathetic. Wonder why they even bothered to tryout if they’re that bad,” Florence said sardonically.
“They wanted to play Quidditch?” Mary asked. Florence made a sound that clearly said she didn’t believe a word of it and let her broom fall to her feet. She rested the tips of her trainers on the gleaming wood. Mary was sure it hadn’t been polished recently; Florence probably had once got it as a gift from her parents and had never used it till now.
“What did Lily want?” Florence finally asked. Mary didn’t look at Florence and instead she stood up and brushed her robes off. She was cold and had been sitting in the wind for the last hour.
“Nothing much,” Mary replied and started to walk towards the castle. She put those memories in the box and she refused to open them up again. She remembered her uncle’s motto, the one he said nearly every day this summer at the Toy Emporium. Live every moment in the present and with what is right before you. Well, that is what Mary was keen on doing. She’d tie everything from the past in tight chains if she had to and ignore it.
“Right, like I believe that. You really need to learn how to lie, Mary, it’s actually sad how transparent you are,” Florence yelled after her. Mary had begun walking away. “You will tell me even if you’re playing the avoiding game right now.”
Mary continued walking at a quick pace, but before she got far by herself James came up beside her. His own broom was lazily held over his shoulder and he casually tried to brush his hair out of his eyes. The wind kept wiping it back so it hung in front of his face like a curtain. Mary knew Florence would be following at a pace known to snail; she didn’t look back and knew Florence wouldn’t try to catch up with her. This suited her well.
“Hello to you too, Mary,” James said. His hazel eyes were twinkling and Mary shrugged.
“Thought we were past all those boring pleasantries,” said Mary. She was thinking back to their third year when he always made fun of her for having to say hello and rebuking him when he’d just start into a conversation without so much as a hello.
James laughed, the broom bounced up and down on his shoulder. His shoulders always moved when he laughed, it was like when he decided to laugh every part of his body had to be part of it.
“God, never thought you’d wear off on me. Next thing you know it I’m going to fold all my serviettes four times before throwing them out.”
They walked a few more minutes in silence. Lily and Laura walked passed them and Mary watched James eyes flicker briefly over before he focussed back onto the castle. It was almost an unnoticeable action, but Mary caught it clearly. She wouldn’t ask about it, knowing he was embarrassed enough over his proclamation of his desire for Lily. Sirius probably did enough reliving that story in fifth year to last James a lifetime.
“Probably not,” she said. She couldn’t phrase the rest of it that was hanging there. You were too optimistic for that. She let her hands swing beside her though in an almost carefree way. Though even that, Mary had control over.
“Did you read the Prophet this morning?” James asked. Mary pursed her lips together. She didn’t answer right away and the darkening evening around them seemed to swallow any of the sounds she could have made with her mouth. The castle lit up as more windows flooded with light, giving it a strange blue hue in the dying of the day.
“The family that was abducted, you mean? Right from their kitchen table too...”
“Talk about rotten luck, they don’t even get a final meal. Hell, I’d have let the family eat it just so that the food wasn’t left to go off,” James said, smiling slightly.
“Wasn’t it- wasn’t it Olivia Grace’s family? Her younger brother and parents?” Mary said quietly. It seemed wrong somehow to speak loudly on it. Mary wasn’t particularly superstitious, but she never liked talking loudly about the dead. As if their spirits would hear and come for them.
“Didn’t see her at breakfast this morning… it’s strange though because I thought she was half-blood. Her dad was a pureblood high up in the Ministry and he married another half-blood witch. There’s no drama in that. No scandal that Voldemort would be that disgusted by. Not like they were Muggle-born or anything.”
“Killing for the sake of it?” Mary responded slowly. Although the papers said abducted, they were usually never found afterwards or their bodies would turn up months later half rotten with decay.
“I guess so, it just feels wrong. These abductions and murders that have been happening this summer. Something feels even more off than usual,” James replied. They had reached the Entrance Hall by this time and started climbing the Grand Staircase. “It just feels like they are after something.”
“Other than getting more power?” Mary responded. She felt herself stiffen whenever this sort of thing was brought up. She wasn’t sure why, but just talking about it evoked something in her body that she couldn’t control. It was as if a shadow would come over her, nibbling at her senses and her brain. A sense that she had to talk about anything else but this. It was overpowering.
It was natural though. When something as dark as death was brought up, where angels had to say, for the hairs of anyone’s neck to rise. It had that sort of power over them.
“Yah, it just seems off, I can’t explain it and maybe it was something Mr Wilkes said this summer, but if you were listening to what he wasn’t saying it was as if something big was about to happen.”
Mary sucked in her breath and she looked behind her to see where Florence had gotten too. The black haired witch was behind them quite a ways, dragging her broom behind her like a sack.
“But he didn’t say it, so maybe you were just being paranoid,” Mary said. She looked over her shoulder again and saw Florence shoot her an angry look. She felt the shadow pass over her and she just wanted to get away from the nibbling at her mind. James caught her looking and he laughed.
“She was the best out there; I’m going to hate it if I end up giving her the spot. Anyway, go back and chat with her. We both know she can’t stand my presence,” James said. Mary bit her lip and took the escape. James strode off and ducked behind a tapestry and out of sight while Mary waited. Florence bounded up the stairs.
“Finally,” Florence said. She lifted the broom so that it was resting horizontally against her shoulders. She had let down her hair – she was sure that she looked like a toad when she put her hair up – and almost looked in a cheery mood. The castle was quiet as they walked up a few more flights of stairs. Florence was chatting about the tryouts and Mary only half paid attention to her. The tension in her body was already ebbing away though, and for that, Mary was quite pleased.
Torches would light up along the hall as they walked. Mary couldn’t help but notice the strange shadows they would cast and how the dark would flee with each step they took. Mary tried to let that comfort her. When they finally reached the Common Room Florence dragged her straight up to the dormitory. It was empty, save for Elsie Stebbins who was always there anyway. Florence completely ignored the girl with the large glasses and sat down on Mary’s bed.
“So, what did Lily say to you?” Florence pressed. It was obvious that it was what she was waiting to talk to Mary about. Mary sighed and leaned against her headboard. Florence wouldn’t let up until she heard every little detail. Mary knew that. Florence was stubborn and always had to have her say. It’s one of the reasons, Mary supposed, that Florence didn’t get on with Lily. They were too much alike in some respects.
“Not much, she just talked about the Slytherins a little.” Mary looked down at her hands. Elsie got up and went into the toilet. Her absence made the silence seem deeper and more consuming. Mary wiggled her feet under her red duvet and peered around the dormitory as if it was the first time she’d ever seen the place. “It wasn’t a big deal, she meant no harm.”
“It doesn’t matter what she meant, Mary. She’s just insufferable,” Florence spat out, already convinced that whatever was exchanged was life altering. Mary sighed and quickly relayed Lily’s words to Florence. She knew she’d never get any rest until she did and Florence would know if she made anything up. She was intuitive like that, or Mary really couldn’t lie well.
Florence was completely silent after Mary finished talking and Mary knew immediately what a bad sign that was. She almost preferred a yelling Florence to a silent one where the storm was brewing and you never quite knew what storm it would turn out to be.
“She meant it from her heart Florence, it’s not like-”
“From her heart? Her heart? Can you remind me what heart? She knows what a fuck up she did and she’s trying to find the easiest way out. But to say... to say-”
The dormitory door opened and Florence immediately fell silent. Mary looked at the opening door with wide, fearful eyes, imagining Lily coming through that door. What if she’d heard? Mary would feel terrible; she really hated people being upset with her.
“Hey guys, what’s going on?” It was Mafalda. She was back from her rounds and with her entrance Elsie also came out of the toilets and pulled her hangings around her bed. Mafalda briefly glanced in her direction and then shrugged her shoulders.
“It’s Lily,” Florence said and threw a pillow at Mafalda. Mafalda caught it before it hit her in the face and used it to lean against one of the bed posts of Mary’s bed.
“It’s so cold in this castle!” Mafalda said and summoned her own duvet to her. She wrapped it around her sharp shoulders, the cornered of it brushed against her cheeks so that she looked like a mole coming out of its hole.
“I just can’t believe she’d say ‘I don’t know why they’re targeting you’,” Florence said after filling Mafalda in on the details. “As if she had no idea what happened last year. And ‘harmless’ she’s just- she’s just-“ Florence trailed off in an angry hiss. Her black eyes snapped and thundered.
Mafalda herself was quiet; though Mary knew she was thinking it all through rather than flying off the handle.
“She doesn’t know-”
“That’s bullshit and you know it, Mary. She knows- whether she got it from us, or her slithery, slimy friend Snape, she knows. It’s revolting that she pretends otherwise!” Florence stood up and kicked the bed with her foot. Mary was surprised that was all she did. She expected Florence to start throwing things.
“I think offering you advice was a bit cheeky of her,” Mafalda finally said. She was busy plaiting her long hair behind her back. “Only because of where she stood after it happened and is only now is trying to tie up the seams she ripped apart. Though, if it helps, I bet she honestly thought she was doing you a favour. She doesn’t usually mean any harm, even if her words are misplaced.”
“It’s fake is what it is. She just wants to pretend like she’s some saint. I could just kick her.” Florence paced around the room like a caged animal.
“You guys are probably right,” Mary sighed. She looked out the window at the cloudy sky beyond and wondered when it had gotten so complicated. How things were so cloudy themselves and the wind would carry people’s true meanings with it. But she thought the argument and the drama that had resulted wasn’t really worth it. Perhaps it was because Olivia’s face kept floating in her mind and how horrid it would have been for her to read that her family was gone this morning. She couldn’t imagine it.
Florence and Mafalda continued talking above her, but Mary blocked their voices out. Dwelling on things hardly ever changed the situation. Mary had learned that these things just had to be lived with and no matter what, things just didn’t change. Life went on and all Mary could do about it was keep going and pretend not to notice.
So that was what she was going to do.
I do hope you enjoyed this new chapter and feel like it's going somewhere, I promise it is :) . Would love to hear your thoughts on it.
Thanks again to HeyMrsPotter for betaing this!
All recognisable material belongs to JKR, no copywright infringment intended.
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