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The Orchard by SilentConfession
Chapter 5 : Lingering Scent
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 4

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“Who’s writing to you?” Mafalda asked while shoving a spoonful of porridge in her mouth. They were sitting in the Great Hall and Florence was holding onto a letter with crimson writing. The Hall was buzzing with activity because of the upcoming Hogsmeade trip just posted for the Saturday before Halloween.

“None of your business. God, you don’t need to know everything about my life,” Florence ground out. Her eyes were on the letter though and she tore it open with force. Her lips were white as she read it and she promptly shoved the letter back to the brown owl who had perched on her shoulder. “Take it you beast.” The owl soared back out one of the high windows. 

 Mafalda continued to shoot Florence annoyed looks all through breakfast, but Florence seemed far more interested in perfectly spreading the jam to every edge of her toast than to acknowledge Mafalda’s looks. Mary kept her head down and tried not to pay attention. The two of them were often at odds and it wouldn’t be abnormal if one decided to say something that would offend the other and they wouldn’t speak for days. It was peaceful then.

Yet, the excitement of the Hogsmeade trip was intoxicating. Several Gryffindors beside them were placing bets on who could drink the most Butterbeer on the trip and who would successfully trick a first year into trying a Blood Lolly.

 “Am I the only one who goes because I want to get new quills and parchment?” Mafalda said after a while. 

“Only because in third year James Potter and Sirius Black convinced you to eat one of those eyeballs and you’ve boycotted Honeydukes ever since. Why you’d ever believe they would taste like peppermints is beyond my comprehension,” Florence replied, laughing. 

“It’s a sweet shop; it’s supposed to have sweets!” Mafalda replied indignantly. 

“She just hates to be reminded that’s she’s a right duffer,” Florence said to Mary as an aside. Mafalda rolled her eyes. 

“We best get to Charms or we’ll be late,” Mary said. Florence huffed because, as usual, they’d be several minutes early. Mary loved being early. They got up though and fell in behind the sixth year Hufflepuff’s who were excitedly talking about Zonkos and whether the combination of one of some of their joke powders and Murtlap Root would teach Clarence a right lesson.

“Isn’t Clarence one of their mates?” Mafalda said quietly. Florence was listening gleefully to the conversation and shot Bronson a smile when he glanced behind them.

“Yah, they’re usually tight as clams. It’s a bit refreshing actually to see them loosen up a bit,” Florence replied. Bronson had smiled back but bent his head forward into whatever revenge they were cooking up for the other Hufflepuff boy. “Didn’t Clarence date that bony one?” Florence continued pointing to the tall dark haired girl in the middle.

“Yah, since second year or something ridiculous like that. Why the sudden interest in the Hufflepuffs though? You’ve been ogling Bronson for ages now, is this why you joined the Gryffindor team? You think that somehow Bronson McMillan will become interested in you now?” Mafalda said, laughing. 

“Hardly, if I wanted him he’d be mine in a moment. However, he’s a Hufflepuff and honestly, I could do better than that,” Florence replied tightly. She ran her hand through her hair. “I’m just interested in whether their prank works or not. It could come in handy if Potter becomes an arse during practice.”

 “He did give you the Beater position,” Mary pointed out.

“Yah, only because everyone else was tripe. Worse than tripe. They couldn’t tell a broomstick from a blade of grass.”

“They weren’t that bad,” Mary said quietly. Florence rolled her eyes.

“They were fucking awful. George fell of his broom after two minutes,” Florence cackled. She laughed and flailed her arms about reenacting George’s fall. “He looked like flobberworm mucous.”

“Oi, Florence! You getting ready for the dance off at The Three Broomsticks? You’ll blind Rosemerta with moves like that,” Sirius guffawed. Florence whipped around to see the four boys several paces behind them.

“Least then she wouldn’t have to see your drooling face with your archaic attempt at flirting with her,” Florence shot back.

“You’re only jealous because no boy would ever think of flirting with the likes of you,” Sirius continued to snigger. He high fived Peter and James who were also laughing at the exchange.

“Well, I’d rather that then having someone only interested in me because of my rumoured inheritance,” Florence retorted with a tight smile laced upon her face. Most Gyrffindors in their year knew Sirius’ charged feelings toward his family in some way or another. Most stayed clear of the subject. With Florence though, nothing was off limits and she was determined to always have the last word.

“That’s enough!” James roared. He stepped between Florence and Sirius as Sirius whipped out his wand. “I need all my Beaters intact for the game next month and, Florence, I can take away that title just like I gave it to you. I expect role model behaviour from all my players or they’re out.”

“Who you going to get to replace me? O’Malley? Good luck getting the cup then.” Florence rolled her eyes, but she turned around and stomped off to Charms with Mary and Mafalda following in her wake. Sirius had only just barely managed to lower his wand a smidge as the girls left.

They made it into the Charms room right after the Hufflepuffs. There were already some students sitting in the amphitheater style classroom and the girls sat down in the middle where there were three empty chairs. Lily was sitting up front and the seat where Laura usually sat was vacant. It had been empty since Laura had started taking Ancient Runes. Although unusual for a NEWT student to change their schedule once set, it seemed like Laura had done this for nearly half her course load. She’d gone from being involved in all the practical magical courses into the highly theoretical. She claimed she now wanted to be a researcher or historian out of Hogwarts.

These were the sorts for lies people told themselves to keep from falling apart at the seams. It was fair though to let those lies exist. They were harmless enough and let someone believe that everything was going to be fine. The white lies were the only glue that could hold someone together. But then again, perhaps it was the truth. Mary knew she was the last person to judge a person’s action.

Mary turned her attention back to the lesson and left the things she didn’t know alone. It was best that way. There was no reason to look deeply into something that wasn’t concrete. It led to thoughts which led the shadows in her mind to stir. It let uncertainty in and the control Mary craved would slip away like waves in an ocean. Today, they were learning the Aguamenti Charm in class.

“Ms Meadows, perhaps you could demonstrate the wand movements. It is quite precise, but I remember your sister being quite proficient at this one particular charm. She taught it to you,” Professor Flitwhick exclaimed. The class turned to Florence who was currently leaning back in her chair with her feet resting on the desks in front of her.
“I’m afraid professor you were misinformed. The only thing my sister shared with me was a weird fascination with The Dancing Hippogriff’s front man Cliff Gyant. We both wanted to know if his last name was truly representative of his manliness.”

The class burst into giggles and Peter stood up and made an inappropriate movement to get the class laughing even harder. You could hear James’ rolling laughter rise above everyone else’s.   Flitwick had to use the sonorous charm to quiet down the tittering class. There was till muffled chuckles as he began speaking again.

“Ms Meadows that is quite enough. You came in for the class in second year and performed it admirably for someone as young as you were. I hope Ms Meadows you learn to use your theatrics for the good rather than leading your fellow classmates astray in their studies. Your sister would have been proud to give the class a few pointers. So, for those who haven’t seen this spell...” Flitwick continued to speak and illustrated the staccato tilted ‘S’ movement it took to produce the spell.

Everyone but Florence started to practice the movement. It was a difficult to master. If one of the twirls was too big or too small, then a completely different spell would result. Usually you’d simply get a loud banging sound or the sound of something sizzling. Sometimes, if you were lucky, you’d get the tip of your wand to produce a small explosion.

Instead of practicing, Florence was picking at a hangnail and shooting Flitwick murderous glares. By the way she looked at him one might think she believed she had laser vision and was using her power to destroy the professor. Flitwick seemed unaware of her reaction though and was drifting through the students and checking on their wand movement. He passed by the girls without as much as a word.

“Great Florence, now he thinks we’re all in on your disgusting joke,” Mafalda said once he passed.

“If he thinks that, then he’s a bigger ape than I gave him credit form,” Florence replied.

“Aren’t you going to practice?” Mafalda said after a pause. Florence shrugged her shoulders.

“No, you heard him. I did this charm in second year.” Mafalda stared at Florence for a moment as if not quite believing it but then turning back to her own work.

“What is your sister doing now? Did she come with you on your holiday to Russia last summer?” Mafalda said. Mary turned to look at them too. They hadn’t heard Florence talk about her sister in ages. She had graduated Hogwarts when they were only in third year.

“Well, she sure is hell not using this dumb charm with what she’s doing,” Florence responded after a moment. Her voice was deadpanned and bored. “At the present moment she’s probably flaunting her awesome abilities in some stuffy Ministry office.”

“I thought I heard she was travelling?” Mary said softly. Florence glanced at Mary with an annoyed expression on her face.

“So now you’re speaking up? Why do you even ask questions when you know the answer then?”

“I didn’t ask the question...” Mary said. Florence rolled her eyes and picked at her nail a bit more. A thick strip of skin peeled off as she did so.

“Whatever, same difference. I just hate how Flitty asked me to demonstrate. As if he thought I actually would. When was the last time I took part in class activities? He should get the hint I have no interest in being a puppet.”

Florence continued to rant about how professors treated everyone like guinea pigs and students were some sort of weird sideshow at school. This rant went on until after Charms was finished and the girls started to go their separate ways for classes. Mafalda was rolling her as she went while Mary sympathetically nodded her head in agreement. Florence groaned one final time before she flounced off to Divination. It was an easy class which was the only reason she took it.

The rest of the day passed without much incident, but Florence seemed extra riled up about being in school and skipped her afternoon classes and instead lounged outside by the Black Lake while everyone else scuttled from class to class. She would later receive detention from McGonagall, but detention never phased her. It usually just fueled her discontent.

All in all, it was a perfectly ordinary day at Hogwarts with nothing particularly abnormal happening. One might think, if they were too based it on just today, it was an ordinary year at the school with nothing else to worry about other than the strange and awkward words of teens who were trying to find themselves. If only that was all the students here at Hogwarts had to worry about. The world outside though had a way of hiding in corners and behind tapestries waiting for the right moment to come out.

It wasn’t until somewhere between the deepest midnight and the rising sun of the next day when the shadows returned from their hiding spaces. It came quietly like fog, but just as thick and inconvenient.

“Mary! Mary!” Florence said. She shook Mary’s pointy shoulders vigorously.  

“Ah!” Mary yelped and sat straight up in her bed. Her sheets were wrapped tightly around her legs like a cage and her face was covered in a thin sheen of sweat. She looked wildly around without registering that Florence was mere inches away from her. “Wha..?” Mary pulled the blankets tighter around her and huddled against the headboard. 

“What the hell, Mary?” Florence said. She looked at Mary with a bored expression on her face. “Calm down, you’re in the dormitory. I’m also freezing, nudge up.” Florence yanked some blanket out of Mary’s hands and dove into the bed. She lay there, looking at the ceiling until Mary’s laboured breathing slowed down.

“What was that about?” Florence finally asked. Her clipped tone told Mary that she was quite annoyed over being awoken. Mary looked towards the window and saw it was a calm night. She could even see a few stars peeking out from breaks in the clouds. It must have still been quite early as the sky a black hole. 

“I don’t know what you mean,” Mary said. Before Florence could reply, a blonde-haired girl appeared on the other side of Mary’s bed. She yawned widely and fell onto the bottom of the bed. 

“You've been moaning and groaning in here for at least a half hour,” Mafalda said.

“And mumblyelling,” Florence put in. 

“What’s mumblyelling?” Mafalda asked and looked at Florence weirdly.

“When someone is quietly yelling something, but some words you can’t quite make out, like in a mumble, duh,” Florence answered with a roll of her eyes. “For someone who’s supposed to be so clever you couldn’t work that out?” Florence raised her eyebrows in what appeared to be a menacing way. 

“I rely on real words for communication. Anyway, you were causing quite the commotion before Florence decided to take pity on you and wake you up,” Mafalda said. 

“You really should be thanking me,” Florence said. 

“I honestly don’t know what you guys are talking about, I don’t even remember it,” Mary said. She looked at them both with her large brown eyes. Florence coughed the world ‘liar’ into her hands. 

“Right, that’s why you looked like you were in a match with death when you awoke?” Florence asked. She looked up at Mary with as much innocence as she could muster. Mary didn’t meet her eyes. 

“Whatever it was, it was a dream. It means nothing.”

“Really? So, those things about the coldness of their breath, shadows, and dirty, dirty hands meant nothing? Honestly, it was kind of scary,” Mafalda said. She stretched out her long body in a cat-like way before curling up into a small ball.

“Don’t forget the slimy walking creatures! Those were my personal shiver worthy image from this,” Florence said. Florence gave a shudder to prove her point.

“I don’t know- I almost think you’re making this all up for a laugh. Can we all just get some sleep?” Mary replied.

They both gave her a suspicious look, but Mary had already unclenched her fists from the blankets around her. She was currently patting down her matted hair in quick movements as if this was a normal moment for them to congregate on her bed in the middle of the night. 

“You’re playing that card, really, Mary?” Florence pushed. She yanked Mary’s arm down from her hair and forced the other girl to look at her. Mary frowned and slowly pulled her arm away from Florence. 

“We’re your friends; it may help to talk about it. I wasn’t going to mention it, but this isn’t the first time it’s happened,” Mafalda said quietly.

Mary looked out the window and watched the clouds move slowly across the deep sky. She focused on the darker patches of sky where the clouds broke. It looked like there were holes up there too where the stars and light could not reflect onto. 

“I don’t have anything to talk about,” Mary said quietly. She paused, tracing her hand on the patterned duvet on her bed and picked at a gold thread that was coming out. “It was only a dream and I can’t even remember the specifics.” 

Mafalda sighed and Florence grumbled and threw herself off the bed. 

“Well, this intervention did not work,” Florence said with a loud huff.

“Quiet, Florence, others might be sleeping,” Mafalda hissed. 

Florence shrugged her shoulder and tottered off to her own bed. She was muttering under her breath about the gigantic waste of time this was. Mafalda stayed for a moment longer and peered at Mary closely. Mary wasn’t meeting her eyes and was instead watching the clouds outside.

“I’m fine, Mafalda, honestly,” Mary said after a time. Her voice sounded resigned, but firm. 

Mafalda straightened the duvet before she too left Mary’s side. There was little else the two girls could do for their friend, or perhaps, they did not actually want to see the darkness Mary saw whenever she closed her eyes. So, they’d push, but never hard enough for them to recognize the disease that was flooding into Hogwarts. It meant they might have to live with it like Mary was and that wasn’t something they weren’t willing to do.

Mary lay awake for the rest of the night with blankets drawn up to her chin as she stared blankly at the ceiling. She occasionally flinched as if trying to block something out, but other than that, if anyone were to just look at her figure they’d assume she had fallen back asleep. It would also be assumed that she was as alright as she claimed to be. Mary liked the illusion of it. They would soon forget the nightmares and go on with their life and she could remain dwelling in it. There was no point, Mary would say, for more to dwell if they didn’t have to be. She’d take the brunt of it.

The next day did begin. The clouds deepened, giving Hogwarts a dull and hazy look. Even the birds that flew from the tops of the trees in the Forbidden Forest looked dreary as if they were lifting too great of weight into the sky.

Mary was in the shower when everyone else started to drag themselves out of bed. She was ready for breakfast and waiting for Mafalda and Florence in the common room before any of them had even put on their robes. Another day had come for her to fight against the shadows that wouldn’t remain hiding in the corners. Another day to lose for the shadows were strong and she was barely scraping by. She felt, without really knowing it, that she was stretched thin like she was living in two different spaces. One space she knew well. This one was where she slept, ate and went to school. Then the other was where the darkness crowded around her and she couldn’t quite figure out what it was that kept it holding onto her with such tight grips. It was there that the nightmare came from.

They were the palest of memories. Foggy. Unclear. There were only vague flashes and then these flashes would disappear like smoke from a cigar. The only thing left was a lingering scent. It didn’t seem real, but then there was the terror that rested in the pit of her stomach that didn’t have an explanation. So, it was either these nightmares where real and her mind couldn’t handle what it saw or they weren’t real and her mind was simply trying to make sense of the terror by creating stories. Whichever way, there was little concrete evidence and without evidence or proof then one must simply continue to dwell in foggy reality. So, the days would stretch on and Mary would continue to keep her head down and finish at this place that had become a cage.

Eat. Go to class. Avoid Slytherins. Sleep. And Repeat. This was her life. It would, at times, make the shadows seem less. It wasn’t perfect, but she would take it. 

Note: Oh man, I struggled with editing this chapter! Lots of firm talking to's to the characters, the computer, and the overall plot has kept me groaning at this chapter for quite some time. It is done so I suppose I might have won the final battle, but if it seems choppy or awkward then I suppose writers block did beat me this time around. Please let me know what you think!

Edited as of 15 July 2017

Thanks to MrsHarryPotter who beta'd the firt version of this story.

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