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Chapter 1 : One Day at a Time
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image by Fireheart @ tda
September 1, 1942
I was the last of my family to run through the brick barrier between platforms nine and ten. I waited a little way back from the entrance, leant against my luggage trolley, and counted to twenty.
One Gryffindor… Two Gryffindor… Three Gryffindor…
Other witches and wizards were passing through, running by me without so much as a glance in my direction. Perhaps out of the corner of their eyes they thought I was just a Muggle. Appropriate, seeing as I was no better than one, according to my parents. I watched them numbly, wishing I shared in their enthusiasm of a new school year.
Eleven Gryffindor… Twelve Gryffindor… Thirteen Gryffindor…
I shifted my weight to the other side. Maybe I could just go home and not bother with this year at all. But then, I belatedly realised, I would have to be around my parents for longer than I could stand, and my grades wouldn't remain perfect if I didn't turn up for school. I fiddled with the thin leather bracelet around my wrist.
Eighteen Gryffindor… Nineteen Gryffindor… Twenty Gryffindor.
With a deep breath, I ran through the wall and onto Platform 9 ¾.
Instantly, I scooted to the left in a sharp manoeuvre of my trolley. I had fought Finn for this trolley – the only one with all four wheels working – for this exact purpose. But a rough hand on my shoulder stopped me.
“Not so fast, Hero,” the gruff voice of my father said.
Damn. I let my shoulders droop, defeated. Obviously taking this as a sign that I wouldn’t run away again, he let go, and I turned slowly to face him. The stern blue eyes of Jameson Blishwick looked down at me.
“I’m willing to forget what happened over the summer if your grades continue as they have been,” he said quietly. “You’re a prefect now, and your mother and I are pleased with that accomplishment. Even if it is for… Gryffindor.” His face didn’t exactly screw up like he had eaten a lemon, but I could see the strain he was under by resisting the urge to do so.
“Yes, Father,” I said in barely more than a whisper.
"But know how disgusted we are at your behaviour," he continued harshly, and I fought the tears that sprang to my eyes. "And stay away from that blood traitor boy." Without another word, or even a change of his hard expression, he turned away. I looked past his shoulder at my mother. She was fighting a never ending battle with Finn’s hair, trying to smooth it down with her deft hands while he batted her impatiently away.
I sniffed and watched as my mother gave up and leaned in to kiss his cheek in farewell. My father shook his hand. Neither mum nor dad so much as looked at me, and then they stepped through the barrier and were gone.
Finn spotted me and pushed his trolley over. He searched my face. “Geez, who died?”
I looked at him in disbelief.
Finn grinned. “Too soon?”
I shook my head slowly in bewilderment, fighting down the anger that began to boil in my stomach. “Fuck off, Finlay,” I said, low voiced. My voice shook slightly with the effort to not scream at him.
He shrugged, unperturbed, and practically bounded away toward the train.
I followed him at a much slower pace, keeping my head down. I took a deep calming breath, and when that didn’t work, I took another. I needed to be mentally prepared to pretend that my summer had been like everybody else’s.
“Hero!” a voice called.
I looked up. Through the steam of the Hogwarts Express, I saw Emory walking toward me. My stomach dropped like I had missed a step, but she was smiling and waving. Theo mustn’t have told her.
Great. More secrets.
I gave a small wave as she approached and put on my best Blishwick smile. It was the same smile my brother used to charm girls into trusting him. The same smile my dad used on the Muggle police when they came with questions. The same smile my mother gave me when she said it was an accident; that it will be alright.
Emory wrapped her arms around me, her long hair tickling my face. I stiffened slightly for a split second, but she seemed genuine - she really didn’t know - so I hugged her back.
She took hold of my shoulders to pull back and search my face with eyes as dark as her hair. “You okay?”
“Yeah, of course.”
She dropped her arms from my shoulders to cross them over her chest. “Thou art a liar, Hero Blishwick. Why didn’t you reply to my owls over the summer?”
I took a deep breath and recited my well-practiced story. “My aunt in Inverness caught a bad case of dragon pox,” I said, trying my best to sound miffed. “Mum volunteered me to look after her kids – my cousins - and do the cooking and cleaning. I was practically a live-in nanny for weeks.” I finished by throwing up my hands in a what-can-you-do kind of way. “By the end of the day I was too tired to shower, let alone write.”
“You are the milk of human kindness,” Emory replied, linking my arm in hers. “Did you hear about Theo?” she asked of her boyfriend as she pulled me toward the train.
At the mention of Theo my mouth went dry, but I shook my head.
“He’s a prefect!” Emory informed me, beaming.
I swallowed and forced a smile. “That’s great,” I said, but it wasn’t. My plan to avoid Theo as much as possible just got a little bit harder.
“I wonder who the other one is,” she mused, craning her neck to look around the platform at the tarrying students as if the other Gryffindor prefect would make themselves known.
“It’s me,” I said, putting her out of her misery.
Emory squeaked in surprise and squeezed my arm. “Oh Hero, congratulations! Theo will be thrilled, he’s on the train already, finding us a compartment.”
We stopped in front of the entrance of one of the carriages. I pulled my arm out of Emory’s. “I have to go to the prefect’s carriage first.”
Emory blinked. “So does Theo.”
“Yeah, but…” I grasped wildly for an excuse, but came up with nothing.
“You can go together,” Emory said cheerfully, placing a firm hand on my back.
“The lady doth protest too much methinks,” Emory said, and shoved me up the stairs.
I refused to look at Theo as we walked side by side down the train to the prefect carriage, although I could feel his eyes on me. I stared determinedly out of the window as rolling hills flashed past in a green blur.
"Look who's quiet for once," he finally said. "Is this your parents' idea or did you decide this all on your own?"
I glared at him and continued my stony silence.
“So that’s it?” he asked. “You won’t talk to me at all?”
I sighed and said quietly, "I can't."
“You can. You can do whatever you want, Hero. I think you forget that sometimes."
I looked up at him, my heart giving a small squeeze, but I ignored it. I had to. His eyebrows creased as his eyes searched mine. A memory of them flashed before me, when that lovely pale green had locked with my own eyes as he gasped my name. I hastily looked away, heat rising up my neck.
We stopped outside the prefect’s carriage, my hand hovering over the handle. “Fine. We can be friends -"
"How generous," he said dryly.
"-but we never speak of what happened end of last year," I said firmly. "It was one night. One mistake. ‘What’s done is done’ and all that.” Like everything else.
Hurt crossed his features briefly, but he nodded. A small smile tugged at the corner of his mouth. “You quoting Emory now?”
“Shakespeare’s growing on me like a skin disease,” I said, my own lips twitching, and opened the door.
Theo and I were the last of the new prefects to arrive. All sixteen pairs of eyes already seated in the roomy carriage turned to us as we stood uncertainly in the doorway.
“Ah, the Gryffindor prefects. Welcome!” said an older girl with a blue Head Girl badge pinned to the front of her robes. She gestured for us to sit on the large U-shaped seat. “We were just about to introduce ourselves,” she continued as Theo and I settled ourselves next to the Slytherins. “Why don’t we start with you?”
Theo glanced nervously at me before saying, “Theodore Talbot.”
The names continued to be recited around the compartment until finally, a soft voice on the other side of Theo said, “Tom Riddle.”
The name made the breath catch in my throat. Theo’s brawny form obscured the speaker from view, so I leaned forward as casually as I could, elbows on my knees, to look.
It was him. The friend Finn had brought home for a few days over the summer. He had the same pale skin paired with dark hair and eyes, the same smirk that played on his lips like he knew something you didn’t. The last time I had seen Tom Riddle, my eyes had been swollen from crying, and my family had been acting like I didn’t exist. Would he know who I was?
I mentally cursed myself; of course he knew, I had just introduced myself. He didn’t look my way, however, and I leaned back again against the seat, hidden from view by Theo. I tried to concentrate on what the Head Boy and Girl were saying, but being in the same room as Riddle was bringing back ghosts. One ghost, particularly.
I looked down at my hands, clenched in my lap. My nails were digging into my palms so hard my knuckles were white.
Theo gently nudged my arm with his. “You alright?” he whispered.
I nodded, because I would be.
When it came to my turn to patrol the train, I stopped in front of a Slytherin compartment. Finn was inside with five of his friends, Riddle included. They were all laughing idiotically at something one of them had said, Finn was even slapping a knee with his hand. But Riddle, who wore a mild, relaxed expression, wasn’t laughing. He looked up and spotted me hovering on the other side of the glass. Leaning closer to Finn, he said something in his ear and Finn looked up. When my brother caught my eye I jerked my head.
Finn stepped out and slid the compartment door closed behind him. “Yes, little sister?”
“You… didn’t tell Riddle, did you?” I murmured.
“That you made out with a Muggle or that you killed him?” Finn didn’t bother to keep his voice down.
“What is wrong with you?” I hissed, my hands bunching into fists at my side. I glanced around, but we were alone in the corridor.
“Oh, calm down. Of course I didn’t tell him. We had more important, super-secret things to do.”
I shook my head. “What are you talking about?”
"Here - have some chocolate." Finn pushed a few squares of dark chocolate into my hand and ruffled my hair, making the short blonde strands fall across my face. “Splish splash, little sister,” he said, then he winked and retreated back into the compartment.
My bottom lip trembled and I bit down on it, hard, then shoved the chocolate into my mouth for good measure. Finn had sat back down next to Riddle, who, I noticed with a jolt, was staring at me, that same smirk was back on his face. It made the hairs on my arms rise and I rubbed at them self-consciously before turning on my heel and continuing my patrol of the corridor.
Fifth year was going to be easy, I reassured myself. All I had to do was avoid Finn, Riddle, conversations about the past few weeks, large quantities of water and being in the same room as both Theo and Emory.
My name is Hero Blishwick, and I would survive this year.
A/N: A huge thank you to Julie (banshee), Spencer (lunarlumos) and Jo (Jo Raskoph), without whom this chapter would be a mess of words.
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