Chapter 6 : Confession
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The village would have looked bleak any other weekend with winter coming in so fast. The shops would have closed a couple hours earlier for no one wanted to step past their doorsteps when the clouds were so low in the sky. However, this weekend the students were piling into the village. Gangly bodies were found ducking in and out of shops, shrill laughter, and whispered tones danced down the street, bringing the place some needed life.
There were three Gryffindor girls who pushed against the wind, their red and gold scarves blowing out behind them. Weaving through other students and nearly blending in perfectly with their black robes and hats as they walked first to Scrivenshaft’s. Mary looked wearily in the direction of The Shrieking Shack. It always unnerved her. The stories she heard from the villagers, they spoke of the howling spirits and ghosts. Death come back was what one of the regulars of The Hogs Head said once. She wondered what would happen this Hallow’s eve, perhaps they’d leave those walls behind.
They were stopped by a few other students along their way. Lily, who was with Laura, stopped them to show off a new scarf she bought: it was green. Florence rolled her eyes and pulled them on. Eleanor, a spindly Hufflepuff, also stopped them for a few moments as well. Her bony hands were already full of Zonko products, some itching powder fell from between her fingers as she chatted with Mafalda about some Transfiguration homework.
Florence danced on her feet with impatience as Mafalda continued what Florence saw as a very tedious conversation about pushpins and hedgehogs. It was not long before they parted ways, the Hufflepuff flounced off towards Honeydukes where Mary saw Amelia Bones waiting outside. The two were lost in the throng of other students entering the sweet shop and Mary finally relinquished her stare. She followed the other two girls as they traversed down the street.
“I cannot imagine what is so fascinating about Scrivenshafts that you must visit nearly every time we come here, it’s a bloody waste of time,” Florence complained.
“Well, MacMillan isn’t here so I can imagine the scenery isn’t so nice for you,” Mafalda retorted.
They opened the thick, heavy door into the shop. A small brass bell clanged from above, and a shuffling of feet was heard as the three girls walked into the musky old shop. The shopkeeper, an older gentleman, known as Augustus, came ambling in from the back. His grizzled hair stuck up from the back and his grey eyes shrewdly looked at them.
“Can I help you?” he said. His voice was crackling like sandpaper.
“Oh I’m just looking,” Mafalda said. She flipped her hair and they found their way slowly to the back. Even though the other two girls paid little attention to the shop owner from that point, Mary could feel the weight of his glances in their direction. It was a strange sense Mary found, that she was drawn to the man. Drawn in a way she didn’t understand, but perhaps it was written in his eyes. How they seemed hollow and lofty at the same time.
While the two girls browsed the eagle feathers and the quills that would automatically correct a wrong answer, Mary found herself moving towards him. She kept her eyes averted the whole time, looking at the dust as it collected in the corners of the shelves and how some quills were growing spots for spider webs and mice nests. It was a dank place, some would be appalled. It was probably why many wouldn’t visit here, but rather, they bought all their parchment and quill needs on the holidays.
“Why is it called Scivenshafts then?” Mary finally ventured to ask. Her eyes skidded across his for a moment before she lowered them and continued to pretend to browse the parchment closest to the check out.
“You know, in my thirteen years of owning this joint, not one person has asked me that,” he replied. He coughed suddenly and covered his cracking lips with his large hands. “It was the owner before’s name, Eugene Scrivenshaft, he believed that quills had the same art and heart as wands.”
“What happened to him?” Mary asked.
“They say one night while sleeping in his wee bed upstairs, the quills mutinied against him and he was killed. Hence all the ink they found drenched on his skin,” he replied with a cackling laugh. “He believed that these quills, well, they carry the soul of the animal it was taken from. You shoulda seen this place when he owned it. It was li’ an upstage hotel the way he treated these quills. Anyway, they found all this in his notes and experiments on what he li’d to call quill lore once he turned up dead. He was dipping into all sorts of things he shouldnta just for the promise of more knowledge. He thought if he could understand, he could make people take him seriously. Hones’ly, I think he just wanted to make a new discovery, he was a washed up brilliant mind though. He was a powerful li’, magically anyway, Ravenclaw or summit. Then, one morning, he didn’t come down to open his precious shop and they found him two days later, dead in his bed. Blood red ink everywhere. All over him, his things. Everything.”
“Ink?” Mary asked, she had stopped the pretense of scanning the rolls of parchment and was listening to this absurd story. She was beginning to see another reason why she rarely ever saw people come in this shop.
“Ink? Or was it his own blood? Back then, it was hard to tell the difference,” he said. He scratched the top of his head. Some of the hair he’d tried to tie back came free and stuck up in tuffs. He didn’t seem bothered though. “Reckon he got mixed up in something he shouldnta, or went mad and well - you know.” He made a motion with his hand that Mary knew distinctly what he meant.
“Why you so interested?” he asked. He was leaning on his elbows now, staring at her with more regard than previously. The sleeves of his robes fell to his elbows. Mary shrugged her shoulders. Not sure where the question had come from and why she’d even asked it. It wasn’t like her to ask too many questions. Especially of strangers. She let her eyes wander the store and thought perhaps it was because of the state of the place. It was the grime and the sadness that permeated these walls.
“What happened to your arm?” Mary asked. She changed the subject yet again and surprised herself with the another question. He barked a laugh and looked down at his arm. By his wrist there were large red and black streaks that twisted up his forearm and disappeared under his robes where she could no longer see where it led.
“Tha’s a story for another time, I think. Your mates look ready to go.” Mary looked and saw Mafalda and Florence walking towards them. Mafalda had a couple quills in her hands.
The three girls left the shop. The wind had not stopped blowing in their stay at the shop and the street was quieter than normal for a Hogwarts visit. Mary figured everyone was at The Three Broomsticks trying to stay warm. Madam Rosmerta would be pleased in any case. She was the new owner of it, graduated from Hogwarts just four years previously. It was a miracle really that a woman so young could own such a place, but it was a family business so there was that.
Instead of going to The Three Broomsticks as well, the girls meandered up the street, popping in and out of shops along the way. If the shops would be less busy they wanted to take advantage of not having to wait in the queues. Soon enough though, Mafalda split off from the other two, claiming she had a date at Madam Puddifoot’s. Florence snorted her derision at the place of choice, but Mafalda just shrugged.
“It’s romantic in its own little way. I prefer that than the always overcrowded Three Broomsticks,” she said stiffly. Her hands were shoved deeply into her robe pockets though and she danced on her feet.
Mary realized how nervous Mafalda was, she didn’t always get asked out on dates. She was always too busy with homework to really bother with it was what she said last year when the whole year went by without a single date.
“Well, I hope he seduces you and you go home with him. At least Mary and I would have peace at the Head this time. Last time, you just yammered on about homework,” Florence said drolly.
“Thanks, Florence. You’re always so supportive.”
“I try, anyway, it’s about time you got shagged,” Florence replied with an evil glint in her dark eyes. Mafalda blushed. “It’ll get that stick out of your arse.”
“I’m not going to shag someone on a first date!” Mafalda replied shrilly. Her face was bright red by this point.
Mary had stepped away from the two. Her fingers were intertwined tightly and she pretended to be really intent on looking in the window of Zonko’s. James was inside with Peter, Sirius, and Remus. They had their arms loaded with things and Mary felt bad for whoever would be at the receiving end of their pranks. Most likely anyone. They didn’t always discriminate, sometimes they just liked to create chaos.
“Prude,” Florence replied.
“At least I’m not loose like some people,” Mafalda replied. Her arms were crossed when she quickly turned on her heel and walked off in the direction of the tea shop.
“You really shouldn’t push her so much,” Mary said quietly. Her brown eyes weren’t looking at Florence though, instead, she was staring at the shifting clouds above her. The sky was a deep gray, however, pockets of light could be seen trying to permeate the thickness. Mary watched them shift and move in a way she felt that there was a game of tug of war up there between the dark and light. She already knew which would win out though. It was forecasted to rain for weeks to come.
The two girls continued weaving in and out of shops. They bought some sweets from Honeydukes, and Florence bought some itching powder from Zonko’s. There was a small bookshop off the main street where they spent a good part of an hour browsing and reading before they headed to The Hogs Head. The pub was quiet and dark. A muggy, smoky smell hung in the air so thinly it almost felt like a solid thing rubbing into their skin.
They found an empty table near the fire and Florence went to the front to grab some Butterbeers. The bartender didn't give them much of a glance, probably too used to these girls who would mind their own business and not openly gawk at the other patrons. There were other students that would come, but not many. Most people stayed away because of its reputation. The bar tender, known to the girls only as Aberforth, didn’t mind them at all. They were quiet, paid for their drinks which was more than some of his patrons, and didn’t seem to scare easy.
Mary had been the first of the girls to step into the pub; or really to convince any of them to go in at all. They all wanted a quieter experience and back then Mary had been a little more daring. She’d always liked the mystery and the danger that hung around The Hogs Head and so they came. Mostly though, she said she couldn’t live with herself since James had come in here once already and she’d rather die than let him have one up on her. It was now simply tradition and ease that brought them here, they could usually find a quiet corner and no one would bother them. They even had begun to recognize some of the regulars; the ones who lived in the pub rather than home.
After Florence ranted about the training schedule James had put her under for Quidditch and the injustice of having to get up at six for a training session, Mary got up to use the toilet. However, as Mary was walking to the back and down the corridor that led to the dingy and cob-webbed toilets, she noticed someone in the shadow. They were leaning against the wall with one of their legs lifted and the heel of the boot resting on the wall behind them.
Mary had a strong sensation that she didn’t want to be anywhere near whoever it was. She didn’t like how she couldn’t see what they were watching. It freaked her out more than some of the more sinister individuals who came here. At least when they were sitting in the pub area you could see where they were looking. Before she could turn around and head back to the table, the shadow spoke up.
“Never took you for someone to frequent here,” the voice said. It sounded familiar, but Mary couldn’t quite place it. It seemed like part of a strange dream, or a faint memory. She stood still, as she usually tended to do when caught in something she didn’t like.
“It’s quieter and faster to get a Butterbeer,” Mary responded after a prolonged silence. She thought she should just keep moving, but her body wouldn’t listen to her. She felt too much like a rabbit caught in the headlights. She kept bouncing one place to the other, but no matter where the light still seemed to shine on her. The shadow laughed.
“You cannot be serious,” he said. The shadow shifted and she noticed a flash of coal black hair glint in the light that came from the front area. “You come here for a pint of Butterbeer? Of all the things Aberforth would hand out freely, you ask for the most innocent and sweetest of drinks. That’s rich.” He laughed again and she tried to place the person. He was someone who came here obviously since he knew the bartenders name. Not many did. They only knew of it because they overheard someone else say it.
She remained quiet and she lowered her eyes, hoping they would lose interest and then she could use the toilet in peace, or she could simply find Florence and leave. That sounded like the better idea, but Mary found herself, instead, standing still. Her parents always said it was rude to leave when someone was talking to you. It was an unforgivable social faux pas. MacDonalds didn’t commit those sorts of things.
She didn’t like his laughing. The ridicule that dripped from it burned into her, but Mary was used to that as well. Ridicule. It was something that was an old friend. At least, it had become that.
“So, why are you here then? Your friend fancy a vampire?” he said after the laughter died down. She wanted to say it wasn’t his business, but she held back for only Florence and Mafalda would hear her opinion. And even with them that was rare.
“I’ve already told you,” she replied again, quietly. The words getting caught in her throat. “We’ve been coming here for ages.”
“Is that right? Little Mary MacDonald, scared of her own shadow comes to Hogs Head on her own free will? What about the banshees and the enchantresses?” he said it in such a way that Mary knew he was mocking her. She looked over her shoulder, down the corridor, thinking on the people she saw here.
“They are just people,” she said. She took a step back though. She felt like she could drown in the fear of not knowing who this voice was. It was so familiar. But it wasn’t someone from her year. She knew that. It wasn’t someone that terrorized her regularly. Those voices would find her in her dreams. Maybe it was a regular whom she’d heard talking before.
He was silent for a moment, maybe her comment put him off balance or he was trying to find something else witty to say. Whatever it was, he didn’t get the chance to continue. In that moment the door opened and a gust of wind blew down the corridor. More light entered the corridor and Mary caught the face of Regulus Black in the shadow. He face had a half smile on it, but in a way that seemed to tell of his boredom. Like he was just trying to pass the time.
“Mary, what are you doing in the corridor there?” It was Mafalda who’d come in. She walked towards them. By now, Regulus had moved, he didn’t seem to mind being seen now that his cover was blown. Mafalda took in the scene and her eyes immediately flamed.
“What do you want, Black?” Mafalda said in a clipped tone.
“Oh nothing, was just passing MacDonald here in the corridor. Don’t think that’s a crime yet, is it?” Regulus said smoothly. He raised his eyebrow questioningly and then walked past the two of them and out the door.
“What happened?” Mafalda asked.
“Nothing,” Mary responded. She wouldn’t meet Mafalda’s eyes. “I just needed to use the toilet. But I think I’ll go back to Hogwarts, I’m quite tired. Florence dragged me everywhere today.”
“I’m fine, honestly. Just, don’t tell Florence because I’m afraid she’d get a stress ulcer or something,” Mary said. Mary shrugged her shoulders and then left Mafalda standing there. She knew Mafalda wouldn’t mention it. She also knew Mafalda wouldn’t pursue her which is what she wanted. She wanted to be alone, of that, she was sure. She didn’t want to have to deal with Florence’s rants and Mafalda’s reproachful eyes. Their pity and indignation that only went as deep as talk.
It never made her feel better anyway. So she hurried down the main street, avoiding people’s eyes and the occasional person who waved to her as she passed. She noticed a group of third years huddled together and she realized that one of them was Olivia Grace’s cousin. They didn’t look like they were having too much fun, the cousin, a girl with braids and brown eyes, looked more lost than anything. She felt even worse, thinking that the young could not even escape this darkness. She shook her head and kept walking. It wasn’t her business.
She turned her mind off as she walked back to the castle. She refused to ruminate on why Regulus bothered talking to her and what it all meant. She didn’t want to let another fear slide into her soul, though she thought it probably would happen either way when her defences were down. She looked at the looming castle instead. Some of the windows glowed with colour and others that were black as night. It seemed so unforgiving.
Soon she was walking into the empty Entrance Hall. There was never a feeling quite like being alone in the large entrance. It swallowed a person up, the echoing footsteps merely a subscript to the whispering portraits and moving statues. Mary quickly found her way up to the second floor, meeting no one on her way which is what she expected seeing as most of the school was away at the Village. The solace she desired enveloped her here.
However, as she was walking past a classroom that Transfiguration was sometimes found in - it had a tendency to move around quite a lot - she heard a woman’s voice. It wasn’t raised in any sort of fear, but Mary could tell the annoyance and frustration the swear was said in. Mary picked up her pace, hoping that her passing would go unnoticed. But as she was trying to slyly pass the opened door, her eyes involuntarily looked in and saw the back of a witch with long blonde hair swishing her wand around.
Mary knew the figure instantly. She was about to keep going, telling herself it was none of her business why Laura was in a classroom, but, before she could drag her eyes away, Mary watched hesitently as the desk in front of Laura exploded into shards. Laura ducked her head to dodge some of the large pieces. Mary was rooted in her shoes as she watched the outpouring of magic from Laura’s wand. It shot black sparks out as Laura swore one more time and shook it in her hand. Mary took a step back and was about to leave when Laura turned and their eyes met. Mary took another step, raising her hands out in front of her, as if she was trying to defend herself.
Laura flushed and lowered her wand. Her body seemed to deflate and she lowered herself onto the ground, picking at her shoelaces with her slim fingers. Mary sucked in her breath uncomfortably. She’d been trying to ignore the girl for the past month and it had being going swimmingly, until now.
“Sorry,” Laura mumbled. She tucked her hair behind her ear before it could full fall into her beet red face. “Did you see that? It’s quite embarrassing, really.”
Mary didn’t respond, she wasn’t sure what words were expected to come from her mouth and she thought hard to her mum’s advice about proper etiquette. She had a fleeting thought of how proud her mum would be if she ever realised how much her daughter was only now trying to follow her rules.
“Oh, not at all. We all need to practice,” Mary responded. She nodded her head and made a movement as if to leave, but her mother’s voice kept ringing in her ear of never to leave someone in distress. It was considered rude and unbecoming of a witch.
“I - I can’t do it,” Laura whispered. Her words seemed whisky and tangled as they floated through the air. Mary dithered in the doorway, still quite unsure of her duties here to Laura. She did not know what to say to someone who’d barely acknowledged her before this year. Mary clasped her hands in front of her and watched the distraught Ravenclaw. Mary had never seen her look so out of sorts. Laura had always been so well put together, some even claimed she was an emotionless intellectual. Especially the way she broke it off with her boyfriend of two years in fifth year.
“Ever since this summer,” she said again. Her words seemed a little stronger. Like the first was a confession she was just trying on.
“Em-?” Mary got out. “What can’t you do?” Mary knew it was the only polite thing to ask though she hated prying into people’s lives. She wished they’d keep it to themselves.
“Magic,” Laura choked out. Mary bit her lower lip, and watched Laura from the corner of her eye. Mary scanned the room. She had to do something other than purely focusing on the girl in front of her. It made sense though, why her courses had changed and why she wasn’t in any courses that dealt with wand use anymore.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t want to lay this on you - because - well, I don’t know. I tried before because I thought- but,” Laura said. Mary tried to understand the string of words that poured from her mouth but they didn’t make much sense to her. It just seemed like meaningless words. Though, they made her feel uncomfortable. She hated this shared feeling, but she told herself to ignore it as there was nothing connecting them. Not really. It was just the fear she saw in Laura’s eye that she could connect to.
“Have you told Lily?” Mary asked. She knew it probably wasn’t the right thing to say, not even close, but watching Laura fall apart was out of her depth. She didn’t even know how to keep herself all together sometimes. She gripped her robes, the fabric becoming balled in her fists. Laura gave a short laugh.
“No, she wouldn’t get it,” Laura said. She looked at the ceiling. “She’s just- well, you know…” There was a pathetic sort of shrug of Laura’s shoulders.
The room was quiet. Mary found herself inspecting the wooden desks and the high windows that stretched to the top of the ceiling. There was a couple cracks in the window at the top, letting a slight draft fill the room.
“I know this has nothing to do with you, but -“ Laura looked at Mary squarely, clarity coming back into her blue eyes with such velocity it made Mary take a step back. She wanted to talk about anything, but this. It seemed like there was a small voice inside her telling her to change the subject, to avoid, to deflect it somehow. Her words felt like mush in her mouth.
“What happened over the summer?” Mary asked finally. She couldn’t imagine it being too serious. She couldn’t remember ever hearing anything happening to the White family. Even the rumour mill didn’t seem to have much to say about the White’s, except for the weird behaviour of the girl when she returned to Hogwarts. Though that had died down a few weeks after school started because it was boring and no answers meant people forgot.
“My parents- they were killed,” Laura whispered.
Note: Thank you so much for reading! I'm so happy I got this chapter done! It flew off my fingertips and I feel like i'm updating loads earlier than I usually do. Hopefully that continues! What did you guys think of it?
Big thanks to Dee for betaing this for me!
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