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Chapter 2 : I
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You walk down the corridor, bag slung over your shoulder. It’s not even the end of the first week of school and you’ve already got more homework than you know what to do with. None of it phases you, though, as you’ve already read all your textbooks in preparation for the year ahead. Aunt Hermione advised you quite thoroughly on the matter although your dad reminded you not to focus entirely on your schoolwork and to remember your other activities as well, namely your prefect’s rounds and participation in Chess Club.
Giving Madam Pince a friendly smile as you pass her – the elderly lady has taken quite the shine to you now after seeing you in here for four years continuously although she still won’t let you put any of the books away yourself – you find your table and sit down. The view, as always, is perfect. Arched windows give a teasing glimpse of the lake, a shimmering swathe of blue amongst the greens of the grounds and forest – the very edge of which you can see if you turn your head just a little to the right. Turn your head too much and you lose the lake.
Reaching into your bag, you pull out your diary – a fat, blue-covered book which you bought the day before school started in Diagon Alley, a late birthday present to yourself – and flick through to today’s date. With a sigh, you decide to start work on your Transfiguration essay as History of Magic is due in the day after the former. Prioritising work was the first thing you learned how to do when you came here. Flicking and swishing was second.
In blue ink you carefully write your name at the top of the parchment, filling the space next to it with the title of the essay, underlining it perfectly. Muggles use rulers, your mum has told you, but you don’t understand why. Drawing a straight line isn’t difficult. All it takes is practise and discipline, both of which you have in abundance.
As you work, your thoughts turn to the most recent family gathering. Everyone was there – a rare occurrence as Uncle Charlie doesn’t often get time to come over and see all of you – and so the Burrow was packed full of bodies, noisy and thrumming with energy. Naturally, you hated it. You spent the afternoon sitting on the swing reading your latest romance novel, set in the seventeenth century. No one had missed you, which was quite usual, and it wasn’t until dinner was being served that Dominique remembered you were outside and came to fetch you.
Beyond your little cocoon of silence, you can hear others in the Library. A group of boys are talking, not bothering to lower their voices, in what you guess is the Charms section, about Quidditch; a pair of girls giggle further away. There aren’t many people in here today since it’s still the beginning of the school year, so noise carries further, echoing faintly in the farthest reaches of the Library. Nevertheless, you are quite sure that the others around don’t know you’re here, which pleases you as it rules out any possibility of your being interrupted.
The minute hand on your watch ticks past the six o’clock position and marches on towards seven as you keep working. Transfiguration is by no means your favourite subject, but you enjoy it more than others, like Ancient Runes. Still, you want to do well in this essay – you know that Professor Macmillan is expecting at least an E-level essay from you and you do everything you can to keep that up. Grades are, after all, what shape your future.
Eventually, you finish, the measuring tape you used to check the length of the essay curling back up into a little cylinder all by itself. You’re perfectly on time too – something which is a rare feat now, although it used to be commonplace back in your second year as the bell rings for seven o’clock, announcing that it’s time for dinner.
Immediately there is a rush for the door – a stampede of students, all flinging their bags over their shoulders and darting out of the Library, most of them ignoring the furious shrieks of Madam Pince and chatting away happily to their friends. A couple of them even dare to giggle. You simply watch them all flooding out into the corridor beyond, the younger years racing ahead to get there first, the older years holding back and taking things at a more leisurely pace, more suited to their senior position in the school. With a shake of your head, you swing your bag over your shoulder, the weight of it taking you by surprise for a moment, but then you adjust slightly and it’s fine. Following the masses, you shoot the irate librarian an apologetic glance and you could swear she gives you one in return.
It’s easy for you to slip through the crowd. Being a Weasley, even if not a very well known one, people tend to give you friendly smiles and allow you to squeeze past them, saying nothing when your large bag thumps them in the shoulder, as is inevitable. Part of you secretly loves it, while part of you not-so-secretly hates it and wishes they’d just let you be another face in the crowd.
Nevertheless, whether you like the treatment or not, it happens and you reach the Great Hall at seven past seven. Not bad for a Tuesday evening, you muse as you walk over to the Ravenclaw table.
There’s an explosion of laughter from the Gryffindor table not long after you sit down and, while one of your hands carefully checks that you still have all your hair and that it’s not neon green or any other odd colour, you glance over at the red-and-gold, wondering what’s happened.
After a moment of scanning the scene, taking in the laughing second-year boys, you surmise that it had something to do with James. When you spot Fred grinning a little further down, sitting next to Lucy, you don’t need any further proof. If it’s not Fred, it’s James: it’s almost become a mantra in Hogwarts, a sort of code to live your life by, or at least to make sure you don’t end up covered in slime for a week.
“They’re up to it again,” a soft voice from your right says, and you look up to see Louis sliding into the seat next to you. He doesn’t ask, but he doesn’t need to - the girl who had previously been sitting there was presumably only too happy to move for your blond cousin with his charming smile and soft voice.
“At least it’s not Fred this time,” you comment, spearing an asparagus on the end of your fork. “His are usually bigger and more explosive.”
“Aunt Angelina threatened to send him a Howler if he dared pull anything in the first week of term like last year,” Louis tells you, sounding amused. “She seemed serious this time.”
You smile and shake your head lightly. That made sense. Fred wasn’t the type to not pull a prank because of the simple punishment of detention (he frequently referred to them as ‘trips with Hagrid’ since it was usually Professor Hagrid who took them), but his mother wasn’t afraid of embarrassing her son in front of the entire population of Hogwarts School. In fact, you’re quite sure she and Uncle George would make absolutely sure it was the most embarrassing Howler you could possibly write. The long and short of it, really, is that Frederick Lee Weasley is terrified of his mother.
James, on the other hand, clearly hasn’t yet learned that his own mother wasn’t a force to be reckoned with, you observe, watching your younger cousin as he regales a group of scrawny first-years with the tale, his friends grinning as he gesticulates wildly, seemingly narrowly missing a jug of pumpkin juice. Oh well, he’ll learn soon enough, you think to yourself.
“Considering she and Uncle George have the store in Hogsmeade, I’m surprised she didn’t threaten to come up here and talk to him in person,” you remark, turning back to the conversation with Louis.
Louis reaches past you for the bowl of dauphinoise potatoes, saying thoughtfully, “I imagine she’s saving that for a later date – in case he does something really stupid, you know. It’s never wise to play all of your cards at once. You have to keep an ace back.” You nod dutifully, as though you understand what he’s going on about, but you’re not entirely sure why cards are involved and what an ‘ace’ is. Then again, this is nothing new: Louis is full of these random little sayings – some of which are really quite lovely – and he’s forever popping out another one.
“So,” Louis continues talking and loading up his plate at the same time, adding a generous spoonful of ratatouille. You wonder briefly if he’ll manage to make it overflow, then immediately berate yourself for it. The plates are enchanted, of course, they won’t overflow. “How have you been, Molls? I haven’t seen you in a while.”
“I’ve been fine,” you reply, biting the tail off a baby carrot. “I spent this evening in the Library – I had a huge essay for Macmillan to do, so I wanted to get it out of the way as soon as possible. How have you been?”
“Not too bad,” he shrugs, digging his fork into the mound of food. Politely, you turn your face away. Watching your cousins eat – any male cousin, really – is a bit like watching a pig go at a trough. To put it simply, unpleasant, although remarkably fascinating to small children for some unknown reason. “I’ve been in the Common Room a lot – Jake and I were comparing our lists of riddles, so that took a long time.”
You give him an amused glance, for once ignoring his manners. “You could just learn how to solve riddles, you know, and then you wouldn’t have to try and memorize so many things.”
He gives a light sigh and rolls his eyes. “I know, I know. I’ve tried –we’ve both tried. We’ve read every damn book in the library about how to solve riddles, how to think outside of the box and everything else we could find that sounded even remotely useful. I don’t think it’s going to happen, Molls.”
“It’s a good thing you’ve got a lot of friends, then,” you tell him, half-honest, half-joking.
A crash rings through the hall and you don’t even bother to look upwards, hearing the clapping and whooping start. There’s a swish of blue in front of your eyes, behind Eleanor Millington’s head, as Professor Longbottom rushes past to sort out the puddle of pumpkin juice now dripping slowly off the Gryffindor table and onto the floor, glinting orange in the light.
“Let me guess,” you muse, munching on a piece of celery. “James was telling some story to that bunch of first-years who are so fascinated with him, over-exaggerated and hit the nearby jug of pumpkin juice, knocking it over?”
“Absolutely right,” Louis nods, and you can tell from his voice alone that he’s grinning. “It was pretty funny, actually. He didn’t notice for about a minute – not until Larry punched him.”
“Is Larry sitting next to him, then?”
“Yep,” Louis confirms, gulping down his own pumpkin juice. “Poor bastard. I don’t think he’ll do that again for a while.”
Sitting next to James at mealtimes was to enter what was commonly known at The Burrow and within the extended Weasley family as ‘the splash zone’. James’ tendency to knock things over was all the more irritating and impressive when you discovered that he somehow always avoided getting a single drop of whatever it was he spilt on himself, managing to drench the poor soul sitting to one side. Which side it was varied. Spots next to him at family gatherings were therefore left for those who arrived last and were often viewed as a sort of punishment, especially amongst the female cousins. Lucy was usually worst.
“I’m not sure about that one,” you disagree, as the leftovers vanish from the golden plates. Without waiting a moment, you reach for the chocolate mousse before Louis can get to it and clean out the entire bowl, taking a large portion slowly, well aware that he’s watching you enviously, growing more and more impatient by the second. “Larry’s never seemed particularly bright to me, and I’ve never heard him complain about being covered in pumpkin juice, hot chocolate, tomato soup or whatever James spills. He probably doesn’t care. He’ll be sitting there tomorrow, you’ll see.”
“Really? Just because he’s a twelve-year-old boy doesn’t mean he doesn’t care,” Louis points out. “I certainly wouldn’t have been happy if someone threw pumpkin juice all over my clothes when I was twelve – and are you finished with the mousse yet? Some of us are waiting here!”
“Almost finished,” you reply cheerfully with a cheeky grin. It fits nicely on your face, even though it’s not an expression you normally wear. “There you go,” you add, plopping the bowl down in front of him. The spoon has barely left your hands before he’s grabbed it, the movement so fast you barely see it. “And yes, I know you would have cared, but Larry isn’t like you – he’s more along the lines of Fred or Teddy.”
“I suppose so,” Louis comments around a mouthful of chocolate mousse and cream. “That explains why his hair is always so horrible.”
“Not everyone can have hair like yours,” you remind him, and now it’s your turn to roll your eyes, noticing that the ceiling is still a soft blue, clouds streaming across it. “And not everyone cares as much about theirs.”
“That is true, but being happy with your appearance is part of building self-respect, which is important for the future,” he countered, licking his spoon clean.
You shake your head, amused. “He’s got time to get to that point, Lou – he’s only twelve. Leave him be.”
“It’s never too early to start,” Louis states solemnly, taking seconds of chocolate mousse and drowning it in cream.
Glancing at your watch, you are surprised to see it reads quarter to eight. Normally, you don't sit here for very long, preferring to eat quickly and talk little, so that you could go and get on with your homework or read a novel. Even now, chatting happily with Louis, enjoying his company, a part of your mind is already drifting away, back to Elizabeth and Mr Darcy…
“Molls? Are you even listening?”
Coming out of your daydream, you blink at your cousin. He is frowning slightly at you, the corners of his mouth turned down disapprovingly in an expression so much like Aunt Fleur's that you almost smile.
“Sorry, what were you saying?”
“I was saying,” he began again, placing his spoon in his empty bowl. “That Victoire was planning on having the first family meeting this weekend and was wondering if that was alright for you.”
Family meetings. They had originally been Teddy’s idea, his way of keeping an eye on the younger cousins, of making sure everybody was alright and knowing what everyone was up to despite our being in completely different houses. Now that he had graduated, Victoire had taken over (quite naturally, too) and you hoped they wouldn’t be any worse than last years’. Under Teddy, the meetings had consisted of his asking everyone how things had been, what they’d been up to and then the group would split up as people went off to talk to their friends, or do homework or plot pranks with other cousins. You had generally spent them sitting by yourself, a book on your knee, delving deep into Regency England and only surfacing to give monosyllabic answers when questions were put to you. With Victoire ‘running’ them, who knew how they would end up?
“Yes, yes, that’s fine,” you reply distractedly, too lost in an image of you and your cousins sitting around a small, plastic table drinking tea out of pink teacups whilst Victoire watched you all with a benign, sweet smile on her face.
“It’ll probably be in the evening, after dinner, as no one’s got that much homework yet, and Fred would probably kill Vic if she tried to suggest that we have it in the afternoon,” Louis comments. Seeing the blank look on my face, he adds, “Quidditch tryouts are this weekend; Gryffindor’s are in the afternoon.”
“I must have missed the notice on the board,” you apologise. You often miss a lot of things like that – things which don’t really interest you. “But yes, that makes sense. I’ll be able to make it, then, since I should really have done my homework by that point.”
“You’re so lucky,” Louis grumbles, sipping from his goblet. “Fred’s been going on and on about the tryouts for days now, asking me whether or not I’m going to be trying out or not, if I know anything about our team. I wish I could be like you, and just vanish off into my own little world whenever he starts up again.” You smile. Yes, sometimes your own little world does come in handy.
“I should probably go,” you tell him, standing up and picking up your bag again. “I want to get one of the chairs by the fire in the Common Room before the second years steal them all again.”
Louis smiles at you, although you notice that his eyes dart slightly to the side of your face momentarily. You don’t bother wondering who he’s looking at: his interest blows a different way each day.
“Right. See you later, Molls.”
Returning the smile, you make your way out of the hall, taking care to avoid a bag lying on the floor, and, turning right, begin the long climb up the stairs. That is, in your opinion, the only bad thing about being a Ravenclaw: everything is so far away. Even Astronomy is down twelve flights of stairs, across a long corridor and then up sixteen flights. Your mood is bolstered when you remember that it wouldn’t have been any better if you’d been in Gryffindor.
Along the corridors, you pass the Grey Lady, who smiles and gives you a regal nod, the circlet on her head balancing perfectly. A while later, as you leave behind a classroom which is emitting loud banging noises (you think it’s Peeves and you don’t have any intention of hanging around long enough to find out whether or not you’re right), you contemplate the Grey Lady’s story.
Of course you’ve heard it – it’s common enough knowledge in Ravenclaw Tower. The tragic story of a lonely young girl, forced to grow up too fast in her mother’s shadow, unwittingly falling prey to that most human of emotions – desire, her panicked flight to Albania, the desperate attempt of her former lover to win her back, the plea from her dying mother, and the tiara: the Lost Diadem. So tragic, so beautiful, so utterly, hauntingly romantic.
Absently, skirting around the corner and avoiding a Gryffindor third year running in the other direction, you wonder if anyone wrote it down. It would make a fantastic book – the hope, the promises, the bittersweet reality as it came crashing down, and, of course, the poetic tragedy of the ending: two lovers, united in grief and desperation, dying together, but both choosing to linger on earth beyond life, eternally reminded of the past by the mere sight of each other. If not a book, it would make a wonderful play.
By the time you reach the stairs, your calves are burning, feeling tight and tense with every step you take, and your breath comes in short, sharp gasps. This is what happens when you don’t play Quidditch over the summer and rarely venture out of your house, you suppose, and a small voice in the back of your mind regrets it – but only for a moment. Stopping for a while, you take a breath and then continue upwards. You look forward to later on in the term when this will be easy – like getting out of bed, almost.
A while later, legs aching, chest heaving, you reach the top and the statue of Rowena Ravenclaw. Lifting a hand, you gently rap the knocker once on the door, admiring the way the light plays on the stained glass window in the wood – a circle of blues and turquoises and light threads of bronze and gold. It reminds you of the sea by Shell Cottage.
The familiar dreamy voice floats out of the knocker, startling you:
“What’s full of holes but still holds water?”
There’s a pause while you try to work it out. Like the stairs, the riddles always seem more difficult after the holidays, and so it takes longer for you to work them out. Nevertheless, you eventually come to the answer and announce,
“Well answered,” the knocker tells you as the door swings open to admit you inside. You’re not quite sure how it could have been answered any less well, given that those two words were the answer in all its entirety and any further description would have been superfluous, but you continue on into the room beyond it without saying anything. Regardless of the validity of the compliment, it’s always nice to hear things like that at least once a day.
The common room is mostly empty, save for a couple of seventh year boys, occupying one of the tables in the far corner, their backs to the arched windows, a veritable sea of books spread out around them. You don’t envy them at all. To your immense delight, the coveted spot nearest the fire – a plain wooden desk and chair – is free, and you make your way over silently, your feet sinking into the thick carpet.
For fifteen, glorious minutes, the common room is quiet, the only sounds the scratching of quill nibs on parchment and the occasional chink of metal against glass as one of the three inks his quill. It’s lovely and tranquil, and you find yourself concentrating almost harder than you did in the library, zipping through the question and answer sheet Professor Patil gave you at the end of Charms that morning.
Almost as soon as eight o’clock chimes, the clock above the fireplace giving eight soft peals, the door opens and people begin flooding into the room. Frequent glances up at the door whenever you hear the knocker speak reveal that Louis hasn’t yet arrived back from dinner, and you smile faintly to yourself at the thought of him and Jake sitting outside at the top of the stairwell, trying to guess the answer to the question. They’re lucky the knocker doesn’t have a sense of humour, you muse, crossing out a word and replacing it with ‘levitation’.
“Excuse me,” you look up at the sound of someone talking to you, praying that it’s only the first time she’s said that. You have a terrible habit of managing to ignore people when you’re concentrating – it’s even worse when you’re reading. “Do you mind if I sit here?” she motions to the seat opposite yours.
“Sure,” you shrug, moving your Charms textbook so that she has space to put her things. You recognise the girl - she’s in your year, and you’re certain her name is Holly Mason - but you haven’t spoken often and so you don’t know much about her. From what you’ve seen of her in class and outside, she’s fiercely proud of Ravenclaw, confident and highly academic.
Seeing her pull out a diary – very similar in size and design to yours, only aquamarine and with a patterned leather cover – and an Ancient Runes textbook, you abandon all vague thoughts of starting a conversation. There’s no point in attempting to do it when you’re both trying to work, after all.
It’s not long before you’re finished and you screw the lid on your standard black ink, slipping it into your bag. Biting your lip, you stand up, wondering if perhaps you should say something – goodbye, perhaps? – before you just leave, deciding to take the easy route.
A quick trip to your dormitory reunites you with your novel of the week – the immortal Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Your father had no idea why you wanted it, and even your mother seemed mildly taken aback when you asked for it for Christmas, but it’s one of your favourites – this is the eighth time you’re reading it and it shows: the spine is cracked, the pages well-thumbed and the corners bent. To you it screams 'loved'; to your father it screams 'badly cared for'.
Although you really want to start reading right now, you abstain from opening the book before you get back to the common room. After an embarrassing incident last year in which you mowed down two first-years and a third-year before realising what had happened, you’ve stopped reading while walking - when you remember, that is. Sometimes you forget and slip back into old habits. Luckily, on Saturday, you didn’t meet anyone, but you doubt that would happen today. As if the universe is intent on proving you wrong, you don’t see anyone at all on the walk back. In response you simply clutch the book tighter and carry on, picking up the pace.
The first thing that hits you when you step into the round room is the noise. A group of seventh years are sitting in one corner of the room, comparing notes on something – it looks like Arithmancy, but you can’t be sure; by the fire, a group of first years are playing Gobstones, collapsing in gales of laughter whenever one of them gets squirted; sitting in one of the window seats, you can see Louis and Jake, whispering furiously together, their heads bent over a book which – if you had to guess – you’d say would have a title along the lines of ‘Logic for the Everyday Wizard’.
You know that your father and sister would complain about it – like the rest of your family, you’ve heard the tales of your dad in his younger years and his obsession with studying – but you simply accept the noise. If anyone tried to shut them up without the proper authority to do so, they’d be listened to, out of politeness, and then promptly ignored, so there’s very little point in attempting.
Automatically, you go to sit in the chair you just vacated, only to see that a sixth year has taken it, taking notes from his Transfiguration textbook with a fervour that would startle even Professor McGonagall. Stopping in the middle of the room, you turn around, looking for somewhere to sit. One of the window seats catches your eye – alone and untouched, it’s a little pocket of silence and calm in the madness that is now the Ravenclaw common room.
You step neatly over a third year doing her homework on the floor, lying on her stomach, and slip into the seat before anyone else can get there. One of the fourth years in the seat next to you gives you a brief glance, but nothing more than that and you’re perfectly content to melt into the scenery again. Besides, you notice where her gaze is going and shake your head slightly. She’s watching Louis – no doubt admiring the way the firelight bounces off his hair and plays across his skin. Your own year-mates have, on occasion when they’ve been relaxed enough to give voice to such thoughts, admitted that if they ever had a toy-boy, they’d like it to be Louis.
It’s easy for you to block out the buzz around you, and, as you open the cover, flipping through to the page you were on, everything seems to drop away, becoming fainter and dimmer, as though someone’s turned the volume down. Hugging your knees to your chest, you rest the book there and dive back into Regency England, immersing yourself entirely.
Around you, things change. People move, things are taken away, moved from place to place. The weather, outside the window, changes, becoming darker, streaks of purple filling the sky one minute and vanishing the next. In the grate, the fire still burns, matching you: calm and steady, the flames send light blue tongues flickering across the carpet towards you, like an old friend trying to reach you.
“Weasley?” vaguely, you hear someone call your surname. You don’t answer, though, too busy trying to find out what exactly Mr Darcy is doing. It’s probably for one of your many, many cousins anyway, so it doesn’t bother you. “Weasley!”
Realising that, in fact, this mysterious person is indeed talking to you, you lift your head, moving a hand up the page of your book to stop yourself from simply turning back to read.
A seventh-year boy – you don’t know his name – is looking at you, his schoolbag slung over one shoulder, his robes crumpled in one hand.
“It’s half eleven,” he tells you, speaking quietly in the silent room. Words can echo in here, the domed roof makes sure of it.
“Oh, right,” you blink owlishly, feeling faintly foolish. It’s not the first time that you’ve stayed up perhaps a little later than you meant to because you had your nose stuck in some book or another and missed hearing the clock, but you’ve never yet been told by an older student – let alone a boy – that you’ve done it. You can feel your face flushing as you hop down from the seat, pulling your skirt down and closing your book after quickly memorising the page number. “Thanks.”
“No problem,” he replies, and you begin to walk side-by-side to the dormitories. “I’ve done that before – it’s so easy to lose yourself.”
With a faint smile, you nod and reply:
“Yeah, yeah, it is.”
Soon – too soon, you realise with a fluttery feeling in your stomach – you reach the door to the fifth-year girls’ rooms. Placing one hand on the doorknob, you glance at him.
“I’ll see you around, then,” you murmur awkwardly.
“Yeah, see you. Night, Molly.”
Before you can say anything, he’s wandered off around the corner of the corridor, leaving you standing there alone, the torchlight illuminating your open mouth and shocked, flushed expression.
He actually knows your name.
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