Chapter 5 : Useless
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“Please, Miss McDonald, do try not to blow up your cauldron this week.” With a side look at Mary’s crestfallen face, Coralie and Marlene forced themselves to keep their laughter down at least until Slughorn had passed onto the next table.
“I told you he thinks I’m an idiot,” Mary whispered furiously to Marlene, who rolled her eyes in response.
“Maybe if you weren’t constantly blowing up cauldrons, he wouldn’t,” Marlene replied dryly. Mary pursed her lips and turned away from Marlene in a huff. “Don’t get all upset with me – I’m only saying.”
“I just don’t understand it,” Mary replied with a sigh. “It’s not like you two are any better at Potions then I am, but he doesn’t say anything to either of you.”
“It doesn’t really matter. You’re getting better. On Friday your potion was just slightly off-colour, it didn’t blow up!” Coralie reminded her, but Mary made no response apart from another loud sigh. Coralie sent Marlene a puzzled look, Marlene responded with a shrug of her shoulders. Mary had been acting weird since the previous night; it was like something was bothering her, but she refused to speak up about it. Coralie couldn’t help but wonder whether it had something to do with her letter. No one had confronted her about it yet, and for some reason it made her more nervous than if someone had said something.
“Can you pass the billywigs?” Mary asked, breaking the silence. She didn’t turn to look at either of the other girls but instead just held her hand out for the jar. When Coralie passed it to her, she unscrewed the lid and dropped in three billywigs without any noise.
“Mary, you’re only supposed to put in two –” Marlene began, but it was too late. Mary’s potion began to bubble and crack while the three girls stared worriedly down at it. None of them knew what to do in order to stop it, and neither did the rest of the class, who had now all stopped to watch. Lily made to move towards the potion to inspect it, but suddenly Mary’s chair fell to the ground with an almighty crash as Mary all but bolted out of the classroom. The room sat in silence apart from the noises still coming from the potion.
“I’ll go after her,” Coralie stated, picking up both Mary’s and her belongings and leaving the class behind. The corridors were completely empty – as was to be expected, as it was technically still the middle of classes – and so with each step Coralie made, the heels of her shoes clacked against the floor with a loud echo. In all honesty, she had no idea where Mary could have gone, but she figured if she just walked around for long enough eventually she’d find her.
“Mary?” she called. No response. Her heels clacked again. Somewhere in the distance, a small sob pierced the silence. Coralie stopped to listen. “Mary?” she called again, making her way towards the sob.
Sitting on the floor, her face buried in her hands, sat Mary. She didn’t look up when Coralie stopped in front of her or when Coralie slipped down beside her.
“How stupid did I look leaving that classroom?” she whispered after a moment. Despite how strong she was pretending to be, her voice cracked in the middle of her sentence. She still didn’t move her hands away.
“You didn’t look stupid,” Coralie responded. “What happened in there Mary?” She leaned forward to rest her head on her knees in the hope she’d be able to get a better look at her friend’s face.
“I’m so sick of things not working for me,” she replied, she moved her hands away from her face to dry the tears away. “I just wanted that potion to work. I wanted to show that I could do it, that I wasn’t useless or stupid.”
“Nobody thinks that. Who do you need to show?” Coralie said, raising her eyebrows slightly.
“You probably don’t understand. You’re too new to here to really understand what it’s like.” Mary paused, and despite the fact that it was true, Coralie still felt a stab to her heart. “I’m a Mudblood, you see. I’m not worth anything. I don’t deserve to have any magic. I’m useless.”
Coralie’s heart stopped. Mary has definitely been right when she said Coralie didn’t understand. The whole issue of blood purity really hadn’t been a big deal at St Jeanne’s, as most of the students were purebloods anyway, like Coralie, and those who weren’t were generally only half-bloods. She’d never experienced that division, and she never thought she would. At St Jeanne’s it always seemed like a whole other world away, but here at Hogwarts it was right there all the time, and there was no way to escape it.
“You’re not useless.” They were the only words that she could manage to form, though she didn’t understand how she even managed to do that. “You’re right – I don’t understand. Why does being a Muggle-born matter so much?”
“We don’t deserve our magic. We have filthy blood. We taint the wizarding world. That’s what they say,” Mary replied bitterly. Her usual sweet, angelic voice had disappeared and was replaced by a fierce tone that frightened Coralie.
“That’s what who say?” Coralie asked, watching her friend’s face carefully.
“The Death Eaters.” At Coralie’s puzzled expression, Mary smiled solemnly. “They are followers of a man. You-Know-Who, they call him. They are planning to kill all the Muggles and Muggle-borns in the world, and then the half-bloods, and anyone else who gets in their way.”
Coralie furrowed her eyebrows together. She couldn’t even begin to imagine the fear that people like Mary and Lily would have for their lives and their families.
“I bet you thought coming to England would be safer,” Mary commented dryly. Coralie didn’t respond. “That’s why your mother moved you all here, right? She was worried about your safety in France.”
“How do you know that?” Coralie snapped. Her eyes grew wide with panic as she stared fiercely at Mary, who blinked a couple of times before diverting her eyes.
“That’s what Lily said. Something happened with your parents or something, and your mother moved you all here?” Mary responded, bringing her eyes back up to stare at Coralie worriedly. “Did something else happen? Was it something with dark wizards? Oh, Merlin, I’m such an idiot – you shouldn’t have let me speak.” Coralie was frozen for a moment.
“Oh, no. I’m sorry – it’s just – it’s better if no one knows that happened between my... parents. It’s difficult to talk about,” she managed to finally respond, though her voice sounded foreign to her, like it wasn’t even her who was speaking anymore. There was no doubt in her mind that one day these lies were going to smother her.
“It’s my fault. I shouldn’t have said anything. Lily didn’t mean to tell us either – please don’t be angry at her. We were all just worried about you.” Coralie brushed the comment off with a wave of her hand.
“I understand. I’m not used to having so many people care, outside of my family.” Coralie paused for a moment and swallowed the lump in her throat. “I just had one best friend back in France – she was the only one who knew all my secrets, you see.” Mary smiled at her and reached over to grab her hand.
“Well, I’m afraid that here in England, you’re going to have to share your secrets with a few more people than you’re used to.” Mary grinned and squeezed Coralie’s hand. Coralie faked a smile in response. Her heart beat faster with every word out of Mary’s mouth.
Sliding down onto the uncomfortable stone floor, Coralie placed her head between her knees and took three deep breaths in and out. Then she lifted her head again and rested it against the cool wall. She swallowed down the feeling of wanting to be sick again – or, at least, she tried.
The envelope still sat on the floor where she had dropped only minutes ago. It mocked her from where it lay, as if it understood the pain it caused her. She shook her head and took another deep breath. She pushed herself off the wall and picked the offending piece of parchment up again, roughly shoving it into the pocket of her robes, and pulled out some spare parchment.
She stared at the blankness for a moment, her eyes flittering shut. Then she opened them again and picked up her quill. Dipping it into the ink once, before she began to write.
I don’t know if Angus has had the chance to write to you yet. Knowing him, though, he probably hasn’t. I’m sorry I haven’t had the chance to either – it’s been very busy here, and I hadn’t been able to find the time until now. I wanted to speak about Angus, first though. He’s made himself lots of new friends in our house, Gryffindor. I haven’t spoken to them much, but they all seem very nice, if not a group of troublemakers. It’s almost like Angus is eight years old again or something.
I’m doing well. I’ve made lots of new friends too – you’d like them all. Lily is the one I’ve had the most chance to speak to so far. She’s a Muggle-born, but she’s fierce and incredibly intelligent. She’s also incredibly lovely and accepting. All of the girls in my dormitory are. I still miss Emma, of course, and no one will ever replace her, but it’s nice to have friends here too.
How are things at home? Have Jacob and Violet driven you completely mad with their bantering yet, or have they both found things to better occupy their time? I know that you are going to tell me off for asking, but have you heard anything from Father yet? Or from Madame and Monsieur Melot? I do miss home terribly.
I love you very much, Mama.
With the letter finished, she placed down her quill and read through its entirety. It wasn’t technically a lie – none of it was. She’d just avoided mentioning anything about the letter. There was no way her mother would be able to guess from asking about home that they might be in danger here now, was there? And if she could, well, maybe that wouldn’t be such a bad thing. Maybe then they’d be safe.
Suddenly, the crumpled-up parchment in her pocket felt very heavy. Should she straighten it out and send it along? What on earth would she tell her mother, though?
P.S. This arrived for me the other day, and I wasn’t going to send it to you, but I thought you might like to know that I’ve put the entire family in danger once more.
Coralie had a feeling it might not cut it. The more she thought about it, the more it seemed like a good idea to keep it hidden away.
Coralie tied the letter to the bird and sent it off after giving it a few treats, before she could change her mind again. Once the owl had finally disappeared from her view, Coralie turned on her heel and made her way down the stairs of the Owlery. She’d only just reached the last step when someone suddenly appeared in front of her.
“Oh, Cora! Sorry,” Marlene half-squeaked, bending down to pick up the letter she had dropped in her surprise. “You’ve been sending letters home?” she asked and Coralie nodded in response, “That’s what I’m about to do. Do you have time to wait, or will I meet you back in the common room?”
“Of course. I’ll come with you and we can walk back together.” Coralie smiled, following Marlene back up the stairs into the Owlery. She leant against the stone wall, ignoring the cold feeling on her back, and watched as Marlene tied her own letter to a majestic brown owl.
“My entire family are all Aurors. They’re incredibly busy, especially at the moment, but my mum goes mental if I don’t send her an owl at least every fortnight. I’m the youngest and the only girl, so I’m sure you can imagine...” Marlene trailed off, falling into step with Coralie as the two of them headed back to the common room. “You have older siblings too, right? So I’m sure you get what I mean.”
“Do you want to be an Auror once you leave, too?” Coralie asked. Marlene shrugged her shoulders.
“I suppose in a way, yes. I think being friends with Lily and Mary – it makes me feel like I have a duty to protect them and other Muggle-borns. And it’s a family thing too. It’s kind of hard to escape it in my family.” She paused for a moment, “What about you? What do your parents and siblings do?”
“My dad works for the French Ministry, with the testing and approval of new spells. My mum used to work for the Ministry too, but since we moved over here, she’s been working and training at St. Mungo’s. Healing people is her speciality. My oldest sister Allisyn doesn’t work at the moment. She’s got a five-year-old daughter, and her husband died a few years ago. My brother Jacob and my sister Violet have been looking for jobs since we got here. I don’t know if they’ve found anything yet.”
Marlene nodded. “Won’t your dad be moving over here too?” she asked, smiling softly at Coralie.
“Uh, no. My parents have been divorced for over ten years. They’re still quite close, but Dad would never be able to leave France behind. He loves it there so much.”
Marlene chuckled. “I’ve never been to France but I want to go so badly! I’ve heard it’s just so beautiful there, especially in the countryside. I can’t imagine why you’d ever leave that to come over here. It’s so cold and dreary!”
This time, Coralie laughed. “I miss home, but I like it here too. It’s different, but a good sort of different.” Marlene grinned at her response, and it was so contagious that Coralie couldn’t stop the grin that appeared on her face either.
“You say that now, but just wait until the snow starts appearing.”
Lily had just gotten back from her prefect meeting that night, and the girls were all lying around in the dormitory. Miranda and Coralie sat on the former’s bed, the latest issue of Witch Weekly open in front of them to an article about Celestina Warbeck. Kiki was in the middle of braiding Mary’s hair, and she would have been finished if she’d been able to focus for more than a moment.
“The first Hogsmeade weekend is coming up soon,” Lily stated, flopping herself down next to Coralie. She ran her fingers through her hair and sighed loudly.
“Finally!” Kiki replied, tugging Mary’s hair hard and causing the latter to squeak in pain.
“You don’t know how much work this is as a prefect. We have so much to organise, and I don’t feel right asking Remus to do much – he looks so unwell at the moment.”
Miranda sent her a sympathetic look, then pointed to a particular line of the article which sent her and Coralie into giggles.
“I swear, that boy is eternally sick,” Kiki commented, her eyebrows raised at her two friends, who were now trying desperately to stop giggling. “What on earth could be so funny about Celestina Warbeck?” she half-mumbled, pulling on Mary’s hair again.
“You know what? I’ll braid my own hair. Thanks, Ki,” Mary said, pulling away and disappearing into the bathroom.
“What’s with her lately?” Kiki asked, motioning her head to the closed door. For a moment, everyone was silent, as if everyone knew what was wrong but didn’t want, or didn’t know how, to say it.
“She probably didn’t want to wait until Christmas to get her hair braided,” Alice replied dryly, folding up the parchment that she had been writing on and tucking it neatly into an envelope. “Are you all right though, Ki? You’ve been very distracted all week.”
Kiki was silent for a minute. Though Coralie had only known her for about two weeks now, she already knew that this was a rare occurrence.
“Just family things, you know,” she replied with a shrug of her shoulders. Though she pretended to move her attention to something else, it was obvious that she was stuck inside her own thoughts. The dormitory fell silent apart from the shuffling of the girls getting ready for bed.
When Coralie lay back and stared up at her bed, she realised how all of these girls were constantly stuck inside their own heads, with their own thoughts and worries and dreams. But she also realised how they tried to pretend they weren’t, just like she did.
Authors Note: Like the last chapter, I’m not entirely happy with this one but I’m putting this up anyway so that I can move on with the story rather than just trying to rewrite this chapter forever. I’m actually looking forward to the next couple of chapters though in the sense of the big picture there isn’t much action, though I promise everything being said in these filler chapters will play a part in the later events so this isn’t all unnecessary ramblings.
Anyway, I’m really sorry that this took so long to get out- things have been insanely crazy here. I'm actually on break until March now and I've got the next four chapters already written, so I'll be posting new chapters every week.
I haven’t mentioned this before but one of the biggest reasons I decided to rewrite this story was that I felt Coralie’s friends didn’t really get their own stories and therefore didn’t get to develop. In this version, the stories of the other characters are not only going to be more prominent but they will become part of the bigger picture. With that being said, I hope to see you all in chapter six and thank you for reading!
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