Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter or anything else that you might recognize.
The first day
Breakfast time at Hogwarts was my least favourite time of the day.
It wasn’t because I was not a morning person or anything; I had no problems waking up in the mornings when my alarm clock went off. Everything was fine until the moment I sat down by our house table at the Great Hall and remembered what would happen soon.
The first days of semester were always the worst.
I couldn’t keep the frown away from my lips as I heard the first screech. Forcing my eyes to stare at the bright coloured cereal in my bowl, I tried to ignore the loud flapping noises that were coming from above my head.
Milk dripped from my spoon as I lifted it from the bowl and filled my mouth with the tasty cereal. They crunched between my teeth, but even their delicious flavour wasn’t enough to distract me long enough – especially after the Tawny Owl landed right in front of me and turned its head completely around, staring somewhere behind its back.
The disgusted shiver escaped me as I could never understand how that was possible – it seemed so unnatural.
“Sorry, it’s for me!” my best friend Dorcas Meadowes hurried to say, sensing my loathing. “I ordered the Prophet, I forgot to mention it.”
I nodded and watched as she unattached the morning paper from the bird’s leg and dropped a few coins in the pouch it was carrying. Immediately after receiving its payment, the owl hopped off the table and flew back to where it had come from.
One more year, I kept repeating to myself as the shrieks in the Great Hall were silencing and no new messenger birds were arriving.
True, I wasn’t the biggest fan of the owls, but that wasn’t the reason why I disliked the Great Hall during mornings. I hated to admit it, but it was nothing more than jealousy that was bothering me about it. All the happy cheers of my fellow school mates when they received a letter from home hurt more than I could imagine, or even begin to explain.
I had never gotten a letter from my parents, not even when Dad was still alive. He had been afraid of birds – that’s where some of my own loathing came from – and since Maman was in no condition to even write letters, it had just never happened. And it never would when he was gone and she wasn’t getting any better. My only correspondence were the lovely Healers in St. Mungo’s hospital, who were never too tired to send me a letter reminding how they thought that Maman would be much better off in their care.
My mood fell even more and I tried to stop thinking about that.
The start of the school year was always the most depressing time in my life, the happiness of other people always made me sad when there was so little laughter in my own life those days.
But it would get better soon, it always did. It was just a matter of getting used to it again.
“Anything interesting in the paper?” I questioned Dorcas after finally managing to push my miserable thoughts aside for a while.
The curly-haired girl in front of me was reading the newspaper in silence and sporting a frown on her pretty face. She hadn’t even touched her full plate after the paper had arrived.
“Nothing new. They’re still going on about the last weekend’s attacks,” Dorcas said without lifting her glance from the Morning Prophet. “I just wish they’d tell us good news for once. I’d really like to know if the Ministry is even close to catching those bastards who are doing all this,” she added, slapping at the paper like it was its fault.
“Maybe they aren’t,” I suggested before filling my mouth with my breakfast again.
“Yeah, that wouldn’t surprise me. One would think that they were actually doing something about it, but I guess they’re just a bunch of cowards,” she said, closing the paper and tossing it further away in repugnance.
I swallowed the food from my mouth. “At least there are no new attacks.”
“True. That’s a small relief at least.”
I grabbed the paper from the table and scanned the headlines quickly in search for something interesting. There was the page that covered some new healing method the researchers had found from Southern America and I took my time to read that, but none of it ended up helping Maman’s case. I too discarded the Prophet quickly.
“Hey, it’s going to be fine. They will find a treatment for your mum, I’m certain about it,” said Dorcas, knowing exactly what I had been looking from the newspaper. “The Healers are finding new cures practically every week. There’s bound to be one out there for her too.”
“Yeah,” I muttered, trying to sound optimistic.
She patted my hand across the table. “And if they don’t find it, I know you will. You’ve nearly read every book from Hogwarts library and I know you won’t rest before you find something.”
“Hmm.” She was right about that.
“You still have time.”
I smiled as I turned to look at my best friend and nodded, placing all my hope on that little word. Time. I still had it and as long as that was true, I’d never stop trying. Hogwarts had the best magical library in the whole country and I had to endure only one school day before I would be able to continue my search again for the whole weekend.
If only I knew what I was looking for.
“Good morning, girls.” Our discussion was interrupted as the head of our house, Professor Sprout, reached our side and gave us a warm smile. “Hope you had a nice vacation!”
“We did, professor, thank you. Was yours good too?” Dorcas said to her favourite teacher.
“Oh, very pleasant, Miss Meadowes. I made a breakthrough with my Snargaluff breeding! They’re getting quite big already,” the professor said, a proud tint in her tone.
“That’s nice, professor!”
“Yes, yes,” she beamed happily. “You’ll get to see them soon, I’ve transferred some of them here into greenhouse five and we’ll be studying them more closely.”
“Can’t wait, professor,” Dorcas said politely.
“Oh, there’s Mister Hawking, I need to give him his schedule,” Sprout said, spotting a tired looking third year getting up from his seat. “Have a good day, girls. And Miss Frost, remember – if you want to visit home, all you need to do is ask.”
“Thank you, professor. I’ll remember that,” I said and watched her hurry after the red-haired boy.
She was always so kind and supportive when I had had to visit Maman, she always let me use her fireplace to Floo home. I rarely asked it; even though I would’ve wanted to visit her as often as possible, I knew it wouldn’t be good for her if I kept popping in and out all the time. She needed stability, we had noticed that throughout the years. If sudden things kept shaking her daily routines, her state would worsen easily. That’s why I only visited her during the breaks and on special occasions when there was some sort of breakthrough or her condition had gotten really bad.
I tried to concentrate on more cheerful thoughts as Dorcas and I finished our breakfasts and left towards the dungeons – a quick glance at the schedule had told us that Double potions was the first period of our last school year. But we had barely made it through the Great Hall doors when two girls in Ravenclaw uniforms ‘attacked’ us.
“Quick meeting!” Helen and Catie said in unison, linking their arms with ours.
“But we need to get to Potions!” Dorcas tried to protest as they started to pull us towards an empty corridor.
“We’re in the same period too, you dimwit! And besides, this won’t take long!” The two girls laughed, and Dorcas rolled her eyes at our other best friends.
We were an odd group and people might not immediately recognize us as friends. Where Dorcas and I were the more practical type of girls, Catie Smith and Helen Scott were two of the most popular girls in Hogwarts.
But despite our differences, our little group had been very tight for the past six years already. We had shared a compartment on our very first train tip to school and had bonded before we had even gotten our first glimpse of the castle.
The two girls led us a little further along the corridor, making sure that nobody was nearby. Catie glanced around a few times just in case before she leaned closer and started to whisper. “So, the rumour is true, Alexandra told us last night when we made it to our dormitory,” she said in a hushed tone. “Sirius dumped Maggie the moment he saw her on the platform, that’s why she was crying.”
Poor girl. She had seemed to be devastated when we walked past her compartment yesterday – she had been sitting alone, sobbing hard. I had wanted to comfort her, but I really didn’t know her well enough to know if it would be appropriate.
“So, we need a plan!” Catie continued and Helen was nodding anxiously.
“A plan?” I questioned, furrowing my brows a bit. I didn’t think that neither of them knew Maggie either, or that they cared about her heartache. Catie and Helen just weren’t that kind of girls. They both loved their friends and would do anything for them, but rarely cared about outsiders.
“Well of course! You do realise this is the first time after third year that Sirius and I are both single at the same time! I’m not letting the opportunity pass.”
Oh lord… I should’ve seen that one coming.
“So you’ll help me right?” Catie questioned.
Dorcas seemed to be hesitant about the whole thing too. “What exactly do you want us to do?” she asked with a suspicious expression.
“Well, you and Peter are friends, right?” Catie said to Dorcas, who then nodded. “You could somehow let it slip that I dumped Jack and then try to pry subtly if Sirius might be interested. And Sera, you could talk to Remus and...”
“Err, I really don’t know him…” I interrupted.
“But you’re both prefects. You see him all the time in your meetings,” Helen said like that should be enough.
“Yeah, but I really haven’t talked to him more than maybe once or twice,” I replied, scratching my neck a bit awkwardly and furrowing at the idea of just walking to the Gryffindor and starting to casually chat about our two friends. I really couldn’t see myself doing that. “I haven’t even done any rounds with him.”
“Well what about James then?” Helen suggested. “He’s the new Head Boy after all, surely you talked to him yesterday at your meeting?”
“Sure,” I admitted. “I said ‘Hi’ when everyone else did, I guess that counts.”
Catie chuckled at me. “Oh sweetie, you really need to be more social.”
“I am social,” I protested. “I just haven’t got anything in common with them.”
“Well, could you at least try to talk to either one of them in your next meeting?”
I promised to see what I could do and that seemed to please Catie. She continued to explain her plan and my concentration slipped as I just couldn’t force myself to listen anymore. I loved her very much and I would do anything for her – she was one of my best friends after all – but this really wasn’t my area of expertise. I had had one serious relationship and look how that ended. Sam wasn’t even talking to me anymore.
My thoughts turned to yesterday and our prefects meeting where I had seen my ex-boyfriend for the first time after our break-up. I hadn’t really expected him to talk to me, but his coldness had surprised me – he hadn’t even glanced in my direction during the whole time. But I guess I couldn’t blame him, he had been quite hurt on the last day of our sixth year when I told him that I couldn’t see him for the next two months. I really should’ve handled that whole situation better, but it still wouldn’t have changed the fact that he got angry that I couldn’t just come to Greece with him and his parents. Apparently I was just making excuses when I told him that I had to look after Maman.
And when he couldn’t understand that, I told him that maybe we shouldn’t be together then.
“What I don’t understand is why go through all this trouble?” Dorcas’s inquiry interrupted my ponderings and switched my concentration back to the ongoing discussion. “Why don’t you just talk to him yourself?”
“Because this is Sirius Black we’re talking about! I can’t fail.”
“Catie, you’ve never failed,” Dorcas let out an incredulous chuckle. “You’re the prettiest girl in this school.”
“It should be the guy who asks the girl out. And Catie definitely is worth the trouble,” was Helen’s opinion.
I wanted to sigh. Why did everything have to be so complicated?
But I guess I wasn’t the one to say anything since my dating experience was so limited. Maybe there was a good enough reason for it.
The girls continued to chat about Catie’s dilemma for a little longer before Dorcas pointed out that we had to leave or we’d be late from our very first period of the semester.
On our arrival to the dungeons we found the class room door already open and most of the students seated, but luckily there was no sign of the professor. I made my way to the seat I was assigned to last year, nodding my greetings to a few familiar faces. Sitting down by the table, I glanced quickly at the empty seat next to me – my partner Aaron Goldstein hadn’t arrived yet.
It worried me a bit and I wondered if something had happened to him. I hadn’t seen him on the train yesterday and it wasn’t like him to miss his prefect duties. But my concern turned out to be for nothing as I spotted the light-haired boy entering the classroom shortly after.
“Hello, partner,” Aaron greeted happily as he took the seat next to me.
“Hi! Where were you yesterday?”
“Dad,” he explained with a small frown. “They took him to the hospital, so I missed the train. I came with the Knight Bus this morning.”
“Oh, hopefully he’s okay?” I said earnestly.
“Yeah, sort of,” he said, letting out a nervous chortle. “There’s a hole on the roof of our house and he was too stubborn to call the repairers. Tried fixing it himself, but fell down and broke his leg.”
“Oh, well luckily it wasn’t anything worse,” I told him, not really knowing what else to say.
“Don’t worry about it, he’ll be up in no time,” Aaron smiled. “What about your mum then? Any progress during the summer?”
I shook my head. “No change. She’s still hanging in there.”
“That’s good, right? At least she hasn’t gotten worse.”
“True, true.” I said, keeping my answer short. I didn’t really feel like talking about Maman now. It always made me sad and I wouldn’t want to burst into tears when so many of my class mates were present.
Aaron seemed to sense my hesitance to the subject. “It’ll all work out,” he said, patting my hand in a comforting way.
I nodded. “Thanks.”
“How are things with Sam?” he then asked, trying to change the subject.
“Oh, you didn’t hear?” I asked, furrowing a bit as I tried to remember if I had seen Aaron on the train ride back, but I couldn’t recall. He had written to me a few times during the summer but we hadn’t discussed about Sam in those letters.
The interest was visible on his face. “Hear what?”
“We broke up before the summer break.”
“Oh? Sorry to hear that,” he apologized, but I could hear it from his tone that he really didn’t mean it. He had never liked Sam that much.
“It’s fine, you don’t have to worry about it.”
“So… are you dating anyone else now?” I raised my brow curiously at that so he hurried to add: “Just checking who I need to watch out for this time.”
I chuckled. Sam hadn’t been that fond of Aaron either and he was never the biggest fan of our friendship. “No one. I think I’ll concentrate on scanning the library again, trying to find a cure for Maman. I’m in no hurry to date again.”
“Well let me know if you need help with that. You know I’d be more than happy to.”
“Thanks. I’ll remember that.”
“And try to smile. I don’t like that frown,” he said, turning his gaze away from me but I could see the big grin on his face.
“Can’t promise you that,” I said but a small smile escaped to my lips. Aaron really was a good friend.
“So, how was the prefect meeting yesterday?”
“Oh, fine. A lot like the previous ones. Lily held a good speech though, better than the previous ones.” I replied, glancing in the direction of the red-haired girl in question. She was sitting in the front row, already scribbling down something on a piece of parchment even though the class hadn’t started.
“Was she shocked to see Potter as the Head Boy?” Aaron asked and my eyes found the messy hair of James Potter few seats away from Lily. He was chatting with his group of friends and laughing loudly while Peter Pettigrew was explaining something.
Dorcas was there too, sitting next to Peter. I tried to catch her eye but the boys seemed to be too amusing and all her concentration was on them.
“I don’t know. If she was, she didn’t show it.” I replied to Aaron as I turned my eyes away from my best friend and the laughing boys. “Why?”
He shrugged. “They don’t really get along from what I’ve gathered.”
“Oh?” I said, glancing at Lily again, but she didn’t seem to be paying any attention to the boys. “I wouldn’t know about that. James Potter doesn’t really spend that much time in the library, and I don’t know Lily well enough either.”
I didn’t think I had ever talked to James Potter before yesterday’s greeting and I only knew Lily through the prefect duties too. But even though I had at least chatted with her a few times and she seemed like a nice girl, I wouldn’t count us as friends.
“Yeah, maybe it’s just gossip,” Aaron said and quickly changed the subject. “Hey, are we still keeping our arrangement? You help me with Potions and in exchange I’ll teach you Transfiguration?”
“Yeah, sounds good –”
I didn’t have time to finish the sentence as that was the moment Professor Slughorn entered the classroom.
“Settle down, children,” he called with a huge beam plastered across his chubby face. “So nice to see you all again, I hope you had a nice vacation.”
There were some murmuring and excited whoops echoing around the class room. The professor chuckled as his eyes glanced around the class room. “Mister Rosier, could you kindly put that magazine away? And surely that isn’t your seat, Mister Black?” he commented.
I watched Sirius Black grin and whisper something to his best friend before hopping down from his mate’s table and taking his own seat next to the Ravenclaw boy sitting in front of us.
“I think Catie’s trying to catch your attention,” Aaron whispered to me, and sure enough, when I turned my head in her direction I saw her signalling me to look.
But what ever she had in mind, I had no idea. Her miming didn’t make any sense, even Aaron didn’t catch the meaning of it. It mostly looked like she wanted me to sprout some sort of plant or maybe a snake from my mouth and use it to kill my potions partners.
She didn’t have time to try and explain it better as Slughorn started his lecture and told us that today we would be preparing the Elixir to induce Euphoria, to give us a cheerful boost for the new semester.
I had always liked Slughorn, he was a funny and an easygoing professor. Many of my class mates seemed to share that opinion too, Potions was one of the most popular advanced classes in Hogwarts. But I guess there were also the ones who only wanted to be in good books with the professor. His Slug Club meetings were very popular and everybody wanted to get in.
I’d been invited to one of them – during my sixth year – but never got another invitation. I guess I wasn’t ambitious enough for his liking as he didn’t seem to pay much attention to me after that. It was probably because my plans of staying home after school to look after Maman weren’t going to take me far.
But I didn’t mind, it was my own choice after all. I couldn’t just leave her in the care of others and pursue my own dreams with another career, when it could do her so much harm. She was much too important and being a Healer wasn’t a bad option either. There would always be work for one during these dark times.
“I’ll get our ingredients,” Aaron said and he jumped up from his seat after Slughorn had finished. I nodded and watched him quickly make his way towards the cabinet behind the professor’s table.
“We really need to practise this more,” Catie muttered, startling me as she had suddenly appeared next to me. She had made a small detour on her way to the ingredients cupboard so she could drop a note in my hands.
She walked away without another word, swaying her hips a little more than usually to catch the eyes of the boy in front of me. But he didn’t seem to be paying any attention to her efforts, he was mimicking something with his three best friends and they all seemed to understand each other perfectly, judged by their amused expressions.
Catie’s sign language made even less sense when I opened the note and read her message.
Talk to Aaron about my break-up with Jack so that Sirius can overhear you.
Now how on earth could I have gotten that from an arm slithering from her mouth and knocking her potion’s partner in the head multiple times?
“What do you have there?” Aaron asked as he came back with our ingredients and found me still staring at the note.
I offered him the piece of parchment, hopeful that he might come up with a plan. I had no idea how I could subtly add that into the conversation.
“So is it true that Catie left Jack during the summer?” Aaron said immediately in a louder tone than usually, jumping straight to business.
Apparently that was one way.
I cleared my throat. “Oh, yeah. She didn’t feel like it would last now that he left school and they’d only see each other during breaks.”
“Aah, that’s too bad, for him I mean. I’m sure she will find a new boyfriend in no time.”
“Yeah, I guess…”
I really was shitty at this. My voice sounded completely fake and if Sirius Black had any brains on him, he could see right through it. But at least I had tried, Catie should’ve known better than to ask my help with these kinds of things.
Aaron and I didn’t have much time to discuss about anything else during the double period as we were too busy preparing our potion. That was the exact reason why Potions was my favourite class. For once I was too busy to concentrate on my own problems and my mind was at ease as its only trouble was to memorize the recipe and get everything done in the correct order. It was quite relaxing to stand in front of a cauldron, stirring the potion and watching it turn out the right way.
I barely had time to say bye to Aaron when the period ended and we took our finished potion to Slughorn – Catie grabbed my arm immediately and started to pull me away from the class room while Helen went to grab my things.
“So?” she asked, after checking that nobody had followed us.
Had I missed something?
“Did he hear you?” Catie clarified.
“Oh,” I said as everything was starting to make sense again. “How should I know? He wouldn’t say anything to me.”
“I’m sure he did hear it,” Helen said when she reached us, Dorcas following quickly after. “I heard and I was sitting three seats away.”
“What about you, Dorcas? Did you manage to say something?”
“Yeah, and Sirius certainly heard that one, but he didn’t seem too interested about it,” the curly-haired girl said with an apologizing frown.
Catie’s excited expression fell when she heard that.
“That’s nothing! It doesn’t mean that he isn’t interested, maybe he just didn’t want to show it,” Helen hurried to say.
“Yeah.” Dorcas agreed.
“I guess we just need a better plan then,” Catie said, conjuring a hopeful smile on her face.
I felt bad for her, she had been so excited about this.
“Come on, let’s go get some lunch. A full stomach equals better ideas,” I said with an encouraging smile and wrapped my arm around my friend’s shoulder.
She beamed happily to me as we started our way back towards the Great Hall.
Maybe I wasn’t good at this boy stuff, but I’d still try my best to help my best friend as well as I could. Because she definitely deserved it.
A/N: So, what did you think?
Any opinions about Sera? Her friends? The story? Anything else you'd like to comment about? As always, I'm all ears and would love it if you took the time and left me a little review.