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Chapter 1 : 1.1: Athena
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There was a tension in the Hogwarts Express that had never been there before, manifesting in the hushed whispers which had once been excited shouts and the doubts which had once been certainties – or perhaps nothing had changed, not noticeably, and Athena Selwyn was just seeing what she expected to see. She didn’t have the luxury of pretending everything was as it had been, not with two Auror parents in the newly formed Order of the Phoenix and a mind filled with a dozen new defensive spells courtesy of her father.
At her side, her best friend Michael Corner was muttering about their new roles as Prefects and how he wasn’t sure he was ready for that kind of responsibility, did she realise they might have to take points off seventh years, why did Flitwick pick him anyway –
“And who else would he have picked?” Athena asked pointedly. “Terry? Anthony?”
“I reckon the professors should have the option of a vote of no confidence. ‘You made me pick a kid, but he’s useless and you probably shouldn’t give him a badge.”
“‘You made me pick a kid, but historically she’s had more than a small problem with authority.’”
“We are the authority now.” He looked a bit green at the thought, and Athena patted his shoulder sympathetically and pushed him through the door of the Prefects’ Carriage.
They were among the first to gather in the carriage, with the new Hufflepuff prefects, Ernie Macmillan and Hannah Abbot, and the sixth-year Slytherin Cassian Rutherford the only others. A new Captain’s badge gleamed on his chest, and he gave them a cursory nod as they entered.
“Rutherford,” Michael returned.
“Davies still hold the Ravenclaw captaincy?”
“Scoping out the competition already?” Michael leaned against the doorway. “You haven’t even held tryouts yet.”
“Nothing wrong with a little reconnaissance. Congratulations on the new badges. Though be warned, juggling Prefect duties and pitch time is difficult at the best of times, let alone OWL year.”
“I think we’ll struggle through,” Athena said dryly. “Thanks for your concern.”
The other prefects slowly entered the carriage – Athena recognised the other fifth-years, Ronald Weasley and Hermione Granger from Gryffindor, and Draco Malfoy and Pansy Parkinson from Slytherin, as well as the other Ravenclaws. Oliver Hobbs, a thin, quiet boy with floppy blond hair and round glasses, bore the Head Boy badge, and she and Michael offered him their congratulations.
The Head Girl was a Slytherin whom Athena vaguely recognised as Oliver’s best friend – tall and attractive, with distinctively long, dead-straight copper hair and an easy confidence which soon drew the attention of everyone in the carriage.
“Welcome back, Prefects,” she began once the train was moving. “And congratulations to our newbies. I’m Amelia Greenslade, for those of you who don’t know me, and this is Oliver Hobbs. We’re your Head Prefects for this year. In a moment the sixth and seventh-years can leave to patrol the train, but before you do I believe introductions are in order. We’re scheduling rounds differently this year – you won’t always be paired up with your buddy from the same year and house – so we all have reason to learn each other’s names. Begin.” She clapped the shoulder of a Slytherin boy to her right, who introduced himself as Terence Higgs.
Once they had gone round with the names, Amelia dismissed the sixth and seventh years and stepped aside, yielding the floor to Oliver to run the fifth-years through the Prefects’ duties and code of conduct. Ron Weasley was particularly interested in how much he could discriminate against one particular house without getting caught, and at his third question, “But say we just kept seeing Slytherins breaking rules – ” Athena rolled her eyes heavenward and caught Amelia’s rueful smile.
“I hope you’re not suggesting that Slytherins are more inclined to rulebreaking than other houses, Ronald Weasley,” she said with a sudden coolness, stepping forward and fixing him with a steely gaze until his ears turned bright red.
“No, nothing like that,” he mumbled to his shoes.
Amelia glanced over at Athena again, mouthed ‘that was fun,’ and stepped back into the corner, hands clasped behind her back. As Oliver outlined the code of conduct, Athena found herself stealing glances at the enigmatic Head Girl whose demeanour swung so easily from seventeen-year-old student to that of a Hogwarts professor, and Amelia met at least half those glances with a small smile that made her feel as though they shared some private, ongoing joke.
She was almost disappointed when the meeting came to a close. She had no time to linger and make conversation with Amelia, as Michael seized her sleeve almost immediately and towed her through the train. “Quick, the food trolley’ll be passing our carriage in about three minutes.”
Their group had claimed the same carriage since first year, though the group itself had changed slightly since that first meeting – Dean Thomas and Hannah Abbott now sat with their friends in Gryffindor and Hufflepuff respectively, and Anthony Goldstein and Lisa Turpin had joined them after a year of friendships forged in the Ravenclaw common room. Ravenclaw was, in Athena’s opinion, the least clique-y house at Hogwarts, and the five people she spent most of her time with was in no way the limit of her friendships. The value of intellectual curiosity above all else made Ravenclaw the home of Hogwarts’ most eccentric young witches and wizards, which served Athena and her friends well. She herself knew she was often cold, detached and difficult to get along with; Michael was cripplingly shy around anyone he hadn’t known for years; Padma Patil was a perfectionist; Terry Boot was far too excitable about his favourite subjects and could talk animately for hours with nobody listening; Anthony Goldstein fancied himself a bit of a Tortured Soul and was forever penning beautiful, nonsensical sonnets about darkness; Lisa Turpin used her fascination with Potions as a thin disguise for pyromania.
“I’m writing a novel,” Anthony announced when they entered the carriage.
“Oh? What’s it about?”
“I’m not sure yet. I don’t think there needs to be a plot, you know? It’s more an exploration of the human psyche, something to make the reader recognise the darkness within. Will it help them change? Will it just terrify them with its reality? We don’t know. But that’s my aim.”
By the looks on the others’ faces, Anthony had already talked at length about the inherent darkness of the human psyche and should not, under any circumstances, be allowed to repeat himself.
“We’ve been at the Prefect meeting,” Michael said, to change the subject.
“Oh yeah, how was that?” Padma asked. She kept her tone light, but Athena knew she was pissed at missing out on the badge.
“It was pretty boring, actually,” Athena told her. “You’re not missing out on anything.”
“Rather you than me,” Anthony commented. “I don’t trust power not to corrupt me. I’m vulnerable to the darkness, you see. A poet’s heart must be open to all.”
Athena suppressed a snort of laughter.
“Who else made Prefect?” Lisa asked.
Athena began ticking names off on her fingers. “Ernie and Hannah for Hufflepuff, Hermione – ”
“No surprises there,” Terry said.
“Ron Weasley – ”
“For Gryffindor?” Padma frowned. “I would have expected Harry, or maybe Dean? Ron makes about as much sense for Prefect as Neville Longbottom.”
“The Slytherins are worse,” Michael assured her. “Draco and Pansy Parkinson.”
“Who’re the Heads?”
“Oliver Hobbs, you know the one? Skinny, blond?”
“Oh yeah, he tutored me in History of Magic for a bit.”
“And Amelia Greenslade, from Slytherin.”
Terry screwed up his face. “Is she the really tall one? The redhead, with the –” He wiggled his hands in a gesture that supposedly indicated curves, and Michael nodded.
“Ah.” Terry leaned back. “Pity she’s a bit old for me, otherwise – ”
“I don’t think that’s your only barrier, mate,” Lisa told him.
“Hey,” Terry said, affronted. “I am a perfectly charming, intelligent man – ”
“Yeah, a man. She’s a lesbian, Terry.”
“Damn. How do you know that?”
“My sister shares a dorm with her. Apparently she told them all last year. God knows why, I wouldn’t tell a bunch of Slytherins something like that.”
“You reckon they’re homophobic?” Michael asked.
“They’re purebloods, most of them. And if you’re gay, you’re not passing on your pure magical blood to future generations, are you?” Athena pointed out. Her family was as pureblood as they came, and one of her aunts was already murmuring about the sons of good pureblood families who might be good for her. The prospect was about as appealing as old socks.
“Yeah, but Amelia’s not,” Lisa continued. “She’s a half-blood, so that rule doesn’t apply to her…maybe that’s why Isla says they didn’t really care.”
“I just realised,” Terry commented, out of the blue. “Lisa and Isla. They’re anagrams of each other.”
“…Yes,” Lisa said at length. “Our parents fancy themselves as incredibly witty.”
“Wit beyond measure is a man’s greatest treasure,” Terry crowed, and everyone else joined in as the trolley lady knocked on the window of their carriage.
“Anything from the trolley?” she asked, and Michael glanced at his watch.
“Ten minutes later than usual,” he whispered. “Must be firsties down the back buying out the whole trolley, look, she’s just refilled.”
“You pay far too much attention to the food trolley.”
“It’s an important part of my life,” he replied, and added louder, “Two pumpkin pasties and a liquorice wand, please.”
“Six Chocolate Frogs,” Terry called, leaning over the table to hand over a fistful of Sickles. “One each. Name your frogs, we’re going to have races.”
Lisa examined her frog briefly. “Hopalong,” she decided, and passed it back to Terry.
“Original,” Anthony snorted. “I give you…Gubraithan.”
“Seven Silver Sickles,” Terry proclaimed. “Aka, what you all owe me if he wins.”
“Terry Won’t Win,” Padma said. “That’s his name. Also, you won’t win.”
“Don’t Let Terry Win,” Michael decided.
“Gloria Aeterna,” Athena said after a moment, adding her frog to the lineup. “Which is all I ask from you if I win, because I’m not a cheapskate like Terry.”
“You won’t be calling me a cheapskate when I’m buying the Butterbeer for our first trip to the Three Broomsticks.”
“Ah,” Michael said. “I may not be there for that.”
“What?” Terry spread his arms in despair. “It’s tradition, Corner. Who’s the girl?”
“It’s Ginny Weasley,” Athena answered for him. “He’s been owling her all summer, walking the fine line between sweet and pathetic.”
“Shut up,” was all Michael could say. “Let’s race these damn frogs.”
Despite Terry’s enthusiastic cheering and positive reinforcement for his frog, Seven Silver Sickles came dead last, while the modestly named Hopalong won first place. Lisa asked only for a tribute of three frogs to set loose in the Slytherin seventh-year girls’ carriage, but everyone agreed to send all six because they couldn’t eat things they had named and cheered on.
“Why the Slytherin seventh-year girls?” Anthony asked.
“My sister hates Chocolate Frogs,” Lisa said cheerfully. “Athena, you know what Isla looks like, right? Take them to her.”
“But I’m a Prefect,” Athena protested feebly.
“Precisely.” She shoved the frogs into Athena’s arms.
Athena ran into Cho Chang, seeker on the Ravenclaw team, in the corridor.
“Chocolate Frog?” she offered, plucking Don’t Let Terry Win from the pile.
“No thanks.” Cho wrinkled her nose. “It’d turn my stomach, I’ve just seen Harry Potter and his friends covered in something foul…”
“What kind of something foul?”
“Stinksap, I think. Are you playing this year?”
“Unless some first year proves better than me at trials. We just need a new Beater, right?”
Cho nodded. “Anyone in your year planning to try out?”
“I think Terry is. He’s been training with Jason a bit over summer, apparently.”
“If Jason thinks he’s all right, he’ll be good. Where are you taking those Frogs?”
She grimaced. “Best not to ask.”
Athena was relieved, if slightly disappointed, to see the Slytherin seventh year girls’ carriage did not include Amelia Greenslade. Pinning herself against the wall outside the carriage, she slid her wand from her sleeve and opened the door with a quick wave. Before they could come to the door she sent the frogs flying in, slammed the door and whirled around to flee back to her own carriage, crashing headlong into the Head Girl.
“Morning,” Amelia said at length, pulling Athena back to her feet and glancing suspiciously at the carriage full of shrieking girls. “Athena Selwyn, right? New Ravenclaw prefect?”
“Not for much longer, I assume.”
Amelia raised an eyebrow. “For siccing a few Chocolate Frogs on my esteemed classmates? I won’t have your badge this time, Selwyn – but only because you’re pretty.”
Athena had no response to that, but Amelia must have seen the look on her face.
“That was a joke,” she explained patiently. “You’re not even my type.” She turned and disappeared into the Prefect’s Carriage behind her, leaving Athena to complete her flight back to her own carriage.
“Amelia saw me. The Head Girl.”
Michael’s eyes widened. “You didn’t get into trouble, did – you’ve still got your badge, then?”
She tapped it. “That was probably a one off. First day leniency, or something.”
“Maybe she likes you,” Terry mused.
Athena shook her head. “She told me I’m not her type.”
“How does that even come up?” he asked, shaking his head. “Never mind. You missed a most controversial conversation.”
“Anything to do with You-Know-Who and Harry Potter?”
“How did you guess?” Lisa asked, leaning forward eagerly. “Michael says your parents have the inside scoop. Scoop us.”
“There’s not a lot of scoop I can give you,” Athena said cautiously, throwing a glare Michael’s way. “My parents believe Dumbledore, and have taken measures against You-Know-Who gaining power. That’s all I’m at liberty to say.”
“All you’re at liberty to say,” Terry repeated. “Sounds serious.”
“It is.” Athena sighed. “I can’t impress upon you how serious it is, and I’m not even going to try.”
The atmosphere in the carriage shifted palpably then, and Michael shifted uncomfortably beside her. “I believe it too,” he said. “That war’s coming.”
“Can we stop talking about this?” Padma asked. “If it comes to war Parvati andI are on the first Portkey to our aunt in India.”
They lapsed into an uncomfortable silence, and after a while the others fished around in their backpacks for various textbooks. Athena got to her feet, pulling Michael with her.
“We’re going to do rounds,” she announced, eager to escape the suddenly stifling carriage. Once the door had closed behind her, she ran a hand anxiously through her red curls and turned exasperatedly to Michael. “Why did you tell them I could give them the inside scoop? I’m sworn to secrecy, you know that.”
“I didn’t mean tell them all your precious secrets,” Michael replied, annoyed. “Everyone else in that carriage only has the Daily Prophet and Diagon Alley gossip to go on. You could tell them more than that, surely.”
“Not really. What?” she added, seeing the look on Michael’s face. “You know I’d tell them more if I could. I don’t even know how much I’m supposed to know, I got most of it eavesdropping on my parents.”
“You could tell them that Dumbledore’s formed some kind of organisation to fight You-Know-Who. That much would be obvious enough to anyone who bothered to think about it.”
“Fudge believes Dumbledore’s working to take down the Ministry. Any talk of a secret organisation would be evidence against him.”
“Fudge is full of shit.”
“He’s full of shit, but he’s still Minister.” Athena straightened up from the wall she had been leaning on. “Come on, let’s find some bratty second-years and take points from them.”
The welcome feast had always been a time of celebration and excitement for the coming year at Hogwarts, but Athena found little comfort within the familiar walls of the Great Hall. The Sorting Hat, rather than simply singing of the different houses and its own history, used its song to appeal for unity and warn against discord within the school, and its final words – I have told you, I have warned you, let the Sorting now begin – sent a chill up Athena’s spine and prompted a chorus of whispers among the students. She joined in the applause for each new Ravenclaw halfheartedly and scanned the staff table for the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher. A woman she recognised as the Care of Magical Creatures teacher in her first year at Hogwarts had taken the usual place of Hagrid, and a squat, froglike woman dressed all in pink sat next to Professor Dumbledore. Athena’s heart sank. Perhaps being the daughter of two Aurors had given her unrealistic expectations of the practitioners of defensive magic, but the pink woman didn’t look like she had faced anything as frightening as a Boggart.
After the feast, Dumbledore introduced the pink woman as Professor Umbridge.
“Wait a minute,” Athena muttered to Michael. “Umbridge? As in Dolores Umbridge?”
“How would I know?” Michael asked, looking bored.
“My parents complain about her incessantly,” Athena whispered. “Senior Undersecretary to the Minister. Remember what I said about Fudge thinking Dumbledore’s planning a takeover?”
That made him sit up. “You think she’s here to keep an eye on him?”
“What else? Oh Merlin, she’s making a speech.”
Dolores Umbridge’s speech was a study in alienating one’s audience – starting by addressing them as children before slipping into a lengthy and soporific discussion about Hogwarts and the Ministry. Athena paid attention as best she could, but it was the sixth-year Marietta Edgecombe, who had a fascination with political rhetoric, who took notes and went over them later in the common room.
“That first bit – rare gifts, ancient skills, treasure trove of knowledge – nice use of the rhetorical triad, you know, grouping things into threes so they have more impact, popularised by Marcus Cicero – ”
“Get on with it,” Jason Samuels interrupted. “Less technical analysis, more content.”
“Right, sorry. Well, you can really see the pureblood ideals shining through in that section, and a definite adherance to tradition – she’s drawing on a sense of the rich history of the wizarding world, which Muggleborns are inherently separate from, and therefore implying that they have no share in the glory of yesteryear. She makes some concessions to progress, but only enough to disguise the main message of her speech, which is of tradition. Everyone knows Dumbledore as a radical, and she couldn’t have made it clearer that she, and the Ministry she represents, and in a broader sense the wizarding world as a whole, opposes the radical approach of Dumbledore and advocates a return to old values. That, and the authority she speaks with and the way she claims responsibility for the mission and vision of the school, points to a dissatisfaction with the way Dumbledore runs Hogwarts and the suggestion that she and the Ministry are better suited to making decisions which impact Hogwarts’ future.”
“Fantastic,” Michael muttered.
It was no worse than Athena expected from a Ministry official, and she was still too upset by the prospect of a useless DADA teacher for her OWL year to pay much mind to the Ministry’s agenda. She wanted to be an Auror, following in her parents’ footsteps, and the year leading up to OWL exams was of paramount importance.
Oliver Hobbs entered the common room, tapping Athena on the shoulder and handing her a note. “From the Head Girl,” he explained, and gave a second note to Michael. “About rounds this week. If you have any questions I’ll be over there.” He waved noncommitally towards the far corner where a group of seventh-years were ensconced, bobbed his head in what was probably a nod, and strode away.
Athena scanned the note quickly.
For the first couple of weeks of evening rounds I’m pairing fifth-years up with seventh-years, and my sophisticated selection device (read: names in a hat) has picked you as the lucky duck to do rounds with me on Wednesday! Meet me in the Entrance Hall at 8pm, and leave the Chocolate Frogs behind this time.
“You’re smiling,” Michael commented, peering over her shoulder. “Why are you smiling?”
She snatched the parchment away. “Who are you doing rounds with?”
Michael jerked his head in the direction of the seventh-years in the corner. “Erin Mortimer. You?”
Michael plucked the parchment from her hand. “She seems to have a sense of humour, at least. Lucky we have no Chocolate Frogs left.” He ducked to avoid being swatted.
“What do we have first tomorrow?” she asked, changing the subject.
“History of Magic with the Gryffindors,” Michael replied. “Then options after break – I have Divination, so I’m guessing you have Runes…”
“I still don’t understand why you take Divination.”
“It’s an easy pass,” Michael said with a shrug. “Which isn’t a bad thing going into OWLs, you know. More time to study the subjects which actually matter – ”
“Charms, Transfiguration, Care of Magical Creatures and Herbology,” Athena recited before he could. “I know. You’re going to be the bext Garrick Ollivander.”
“Never,” Michael said reverently. “Garrick Ollivander is the finest wandmaker the world has ever seen, and I dare not dream of even equalling him – the innovations he’s made in the world of wandmaking! You can see it in any journal of Transfiguration or Charmwork or in any history of magical discoveries – wands are just capable of so much more since he started – hey, I wonder if we cover discoveries at all in History of Magic this year? Not even Binns could make that dull.”
“I think it’s giant wars,” Athena said listlessly. Perhaps such a topic would appeal to the likes of Gryffindor, but the turbulent politics and upheavals of wizarding aristocracy in the last one thousand years interested her infinitely more than giants blundering through the highlands with clubs. Apparently the Statute of Secrecy was covered for NEWT History of Magic, but it wasn’t worth carrying on for another two years with Binns for something she could learn from the books in her family’s library.
“Thrilling,” Michael decided with a roll of his eyes. “I preferred the goblin rebellions.”
“Everyone does.” The topic of goblin rebellions at least had the advantage of stimulating extensive debate on the rights of intelligent magical creatures – not in the classroom, of course, Binns wouldn’t stand for that – but into the small hours of the morning in the Ravenclaw common room over argumentative essays. Athena couldn’t imagine how dull the other houses found History of Magic.
Michael glanced at the clock on the wall above the fireplace and pulled a face. “I’m going to bed,” he announced. “Getting up at seven thirty for class is going to be a hell of a shock to the system after that summer.”
“After that summer?" Athena repeated. "You spent the whole time asleep.”
A/N: This story is a rewrite/conglomerate of a number of my previous works, notably Figurehead and Blurring the Lines. Both Amelia Greenslade and Athena Selwyn have appeared in other stories of mine, but their representations in those stories have no impact on how they're portrayed in this one.
All graphics in this story are mine unless stated otherwise.
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