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Chapter 3 : New Beginning
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Let’s sit here, Miss Black.” Professor McGonagall said as soon as they walked in the Leaky Cauldron and spotted an empty table. It was even more crowded than when they first came in, and Lea was left to wonder how could this small pub fit so many people at once.
She followed Professor McGonagall to their table and sat down, looking around her curiously. There were all sorts of people surrounding her, and she spotted one wizard who was dressed in a bizarre get up. Well, more bizarre that the rest. It looked like he had made an effort to look like a Muggle but he seemed to lack the knowledge of muggle fashion and clothes because he had ended wearing a positively ghastly yellow and purple striped shimmering shirt and black leather trousers and on top of all that, he was wearing a beige trench coat and a yellow cap.
Lea stifled her snicker and turned to Professor McGonagall, who was staring at her with a thoughtful look on her face. “Is something wrong, Professor?” She asked anxiously, but Professor McGonagall shook her head.
“I was just thinking, Miss Black. Where is Tom?” She looked around, her sharp green eyes searching the crowd for this Tom person.
“Right here, Madam.” Lea turned around in her chair and saw a short, bald old man with hunched back and a toothless smile. “What would you like to order?”
“Ah, Tom, please bring me a glass of gillywater.” Professor McGonagall said then turned to Lea.
“Er,” She looked up at Tom, who looked expectantly at her. “Um, do you have hamburgers?” She asked tentatively.
“Hamburgers? Really, Miss Black?” Professor McGonagall looked exasperated but Lea was not stepping down.
“I’ve never tried them! I’m curious!” Lea defended herself and turned back to Tom, who nodded.
“Oh, alright, and I guess you won’t have coke?” She asked.
“I’m afraid not, Miss.” Tom replied.
“She’d have cherry syrup with soda, Tom.” Professor McGonagall said, putting an end to Lea’s musings. Tom nodded and retreated towards the bar. Lea turned around in her seat and smiled a little awkwardly at Professor McGonagall who didn’t smile back.
“Now, I assume you have questions.” The Professor said, eyeing Lea shrewdly.
“Yes.” Lea said, excitement and anticipation seeping through her. “I was wondering if can tell me more about my parents?”
Professor McGonagall raised her eyebrows. “I would have thought you’d ask more about the magical world but so be it. Your parents were very bright students, liked and loved by a lot of people. You mother was especially good in Transfiguration and Herbology, if my memory serves me right. She was a nice girl, a bit unruly at times, but I guess your father wouldn’t like her if she wasn’t?” She said all that with a straight face, although her features had softened slightly. Lea smiled to herself; finally, she was hearing something about her parents that didn’t involve Betty’s usual jabs about how her parents had dumped her because she was a freak.
“What about my dad?” Lea asked, watching closely for Professor McGonagall’s reaction.
A muscle in Professor McGonagall’s jaw twitched before she spoke. “Your father was... he was a troublemaker, to start with. He and his friends constantly wrecked havoc in the school and found it as an accomplishment when they managed to get the raise of everyone else. I do believe he had a contest going on with his best friend; about who’ll get the most detentions until the end of the year.” The Professor smiled thinly. “Your father won, just by a little bit, but I daresay Mr. Potter’s attention was slightly diverted during the contest by outside sources.”
“Outside sources?” Lea asked curiously.
“There may have been a girl...” Professor McGonagall said, looking like she was restraining herself from chuckling.
“Oh,” Lea smiled a bit. “I see. When did my dad and mom get together, then?”
“I’m not privy to such personal information but as far as I know, your parents were never officially together; they were very close friends, would give their lives for each other, but I’m not entirely sure if they were... a couple.”
Lea blinked. “So, they weren’t married or anything?”
This time, Professor McGonagall chuckled. “Your mother was twenty when she got pregnant with you, Miss Black, and marriage was the last thing on their minds during those times.” Her face darkened, her eyes glazing over as if overcome with memories. “Of course they agreed they’d raise you together. There was no a silver of doubt in them that they were going to keep you.”
“And look how well that turned out.” Lea said bitterly, looking down at the chipped wooden table.
“You aren’t to blame for their deaths, Miss Black. A lot of people died during those years of war; people who didn’t deserve it in the least. But just remember that they fought so you and your generation and the generations after you could live in peace, without any fear. This was a noble death, regretful, but noble nonetheless.”
“I wish I knew who killed them.” Lea said, suddenly feeling angry. She looked up at Professor McGonagall, her face contorted with both pain and anger.
“What could you possibly do, even if you knew, Miss Black?” Professor McGonagall asked in a slightly patronizing tone, looking at her carefully.
Lea shrugged. “I don’t know. I’d think of something as I go.”
Professor McGonagall shook her head, a small smile on her face. “I think I know where you’ll be sorted.”
“Sorted?” Lea asked curiously.
“One hamburger, cherry syrup with soda and a glass of gillywater.” Tom said, suddenly appearing by Lea’s side. She barely managed to stop herself from jumping in the air at his sudden, startling appearance. He put the plate with the hamburger and her pink drink in front of her. Once he had finished serving them, Tom bowed slightly in Professor McGonagall’s direction and left for the bar. Lea took the hamburger carefully, careful not to squeeze it too much and turned her gaze on Professor McGonagall.
“In Hogwarts, there are four houses. Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff and Slytherin. Each house values different traits. Gryffindor values bravery, chivalry and nerve, Ravenclaw values brain, thirst for knowledge and wit, Hufflepuff values the hard-working and loyal and Slytherin values the sly, cunning and ambitious. Each house has its own noble history and has produced outstanding witches and wizards. While you are at Hogwarts, your housemates would me something of a family to you; you’ll have classes with them, share meals on the same table with them, share a dormitory with girls your age, and spend your free time in the common room.”
“Your accomplishments will be awarded with points for your house, while any rulebreaking will lose points.” Here, Professor McGonagall treated her with a stern look. Lea stopped chewing and tried to smile innocently. “At the end of the year, the house with the most points wins the House Cup, which is a great honour to any house.”
“What house were you in, Professor?” Lea asked. She looked like she might have been in Ravenclaw, but one could never know.
“I was a Gryffindor, Miss Black. In fact, I am now the Head of Gryffindor house.”
“Oh, where were my parents sorted?” She asked in a quieter voice.
“They were both Gryffindors, Miss Black.” Professor McGonagall said.
Lea nodded. She ate another bite from her burger and put it down on the plate. “Can you tell me more?” She asked eagerly, her eyes shining hungrily. She didn’t want to dwell on her parents now, especially when she was with the Professor, who could tell her so much about the new strange world she was entering.
“Of course. I imagine you’d be interested to hear about Quidditch.” At Lea’s clueless, but still curious look, Professor McGonagall smiled thinly. “Quidditch is a sport, as popular as football is in England, and just as beloved. It’s played on broomsticks—“ Lea’s eyes widened to the size of dinner plates. “There are two teams consisting of seven players. Chasers, beaters, seeker and keeper. The chasers are three and they are the ones that score the goals. There are three goal posts, and the keeper keeps all three of them. The beaters handle the bludgers, two rather violent balls. They shot it at the players on the opposite team, to keep them from scoring or taking the snitch, which is the ball the seeker is after. After the seeker catches the snitch, the game is over. That is a rather short description of the game, you can always borrow Quidditch Through Ages from the library. On that note, if you want to learn more about Hogwarts, you should read Hogwarts A History, the whole book.”
“The whole book?” Lea asked faintly, the image of the rather sizable book invading her mind.
“Yes, the whole book.” Professor McGonagall repeated, with a glint of sadistic satisfaction at Lea’s horror in her eyes.
“Right.” Lea said. “Can’t you just tell me more yourself?”
But her efforts were futile and she knew it. Professor McGonagall shook her head and took out a golden watch from her coat’s pocket. “We must be going soon, Miss Black. I have other business to attend to and you need to get ready for school.” She nodded at the cauldron full with all of Lea’s books, causing the black-haired girl to gulp slightly.
“Right.” Lea grabbed her burger again and started eating more quickly.
“Do chew, Miss Black. I think I can wait for you to do that, at least.” Professor McGonagall said, sounding amused.
Lea’s cheek turned a rosy colour but she slowed down and started eating at a normal pace.
“Do you I think I’ll do well? I mean, I know next to nothing about the magic world and all those other kids probably were raised—“
“You will do well, Miss Black.” Professor McGonagall said confidently. “There are a lot of muggle borns every year in Hogwarts, who know even less then you do, and they do just fine.”
“If you say so.” Lea said a bit dubiously. She ate the rest of her burger and drank her cherry syrup to wash it down. “Well, I’m ready.”
Professor McGonagall nodded and called Tom to pay him. She paid for both her and Lea and when Lea opened her mouth to protest, Professor McGonagall shot her a reproachful look, which shut her up immediately.
“Come on, Miss Black.” Professor McGonagall said as she stood up. “Let’s get you home.”
Lea couldn't sleep the night before September 1st; surprise, surprise. She tossed and turned, but nothing seemed to work and she soon gave up. She was used to getting very little sleep, and it didn't bother her as much as it should have.
Instead she turned on the lights, dragged the large new trunk she and Professor McGonagall had purchased in Diagon Alley a couple of weeks ago from underneath her bed and opened it. Professor McGonagall had exchanged some wizard money for muggle money and they both went shopping for some muggle clothes, because the ones Lea had were all old and second-hand. Now her large trunk was full with clothes and books, and it filled Lea's heart with warmth and happiness as she gazed at it.
Professor McGonagall had put a charm on her books to look like any ordinary schoolbooks for a muggle child, in case Miss Higgs or someone else decided to have a look around her new things. She grabbed the first book she came across and dug through her clothes to the bottom of the trunk where her wand was.
Once she had everything she needed, she climbed back on her bed and lay on her stomach, propping her pillow up, so she could put her book on it and have an easier view of it. She tapped the book twice with her wand, and it immediately transformed in its true, leather-bound glory.
She read until the sky got light blue and the sun was low in the sky, by which point Miss Higgs appeared on her door with a knock. Lea quickly tucked her wand and book under her pillow and hurried to throw the covers over herself.
"Lea, wake up." Miss Higgs said as soon as she walked in.
Lea opened her eyes and she pretended to yawn. "What time is it?" She asked in a slightly sleepy voice as she sat up.
"Half past eight." Miss Higgs said as she crossed the room and opened the window. The sound of birds chirping immediately filled Lea's ears and she smiled. "I let you sleep in a bit today because you're leaving."
"Everyone is in the dining hall. You should hurry up before your breakfast gets cold."
"Alright." Lea said with a nod.
"Do you need help packing?" Miss Higgs asked.
"No, I'm ready but thanks for offering." Lea said with a smile. Miss Higgs was being strangely helpful this morning, and Lea had suspicious as to why.
"Alright." Miss Higgs said with a nod. "I'll see you in the dining hall."
"Bye." Lea made sure she was gone before she jumped off her bed. She dragged the trunk from underneath her bed again and threw the Tranfiguration book and her wand inside, before she closed it shut. She had left clothes for herself on the desk chair and quickly dressed up. She went into the small adjoined bathroom and brushed her teeth and washed her face, then began the long and tiring battle with her hair. If she didn't love it long, she would've already cut it thousand times for all the trouble it caused her in the mornings.
The dining hall was full, as usual. Lea grabbed a tray and walked over to the buffet table, which was almost empty. She sighed and grabbed a jar of marmalade and two French toasts and left for her usual table.
"Hey guys!" She greeted brightly as she took her seat.
"Hey…" Terrance Boyd, a skinny thirteen year old boy mumbled, munching on his cereal. "How is your morning?"
"It's great." Lea said with a smile. She noticed her friends' gloomy looks and her excitement deflated slightly. "Hey, guys, what's up?"
"You're leaving today." Lizzie Johnson, the one Lea considered the closest out of all of her friends, stated as if it should've been obvious and it kind of was.
"Oh…yeah…" Lea dropped her French toast and looked awkwardly around the table. All of her friends attended the local state school and neither of them liked it much. They all thought Lea was going to a prestigious boarding school where she'd be pampered like a princess. She couldn't blame them for being a bit bitter. "But we'll see each other again!" She said, trying to inject some excitement in them. "I have to come back next summer."
"Fantastic." Lizzie mumbled sarcastically, rolling her brown eyes. She was rather plain in appearance, but was very smart and perceptive. Lea avoided talking about Hogwarts or anything related to it in her presence and despite the charms Professor McGonagall had put on her books, she still refused to let her in her room.
Lea frowned slightly. "Aren't you guys happy for me?" She asked sadly.
"Of course they aren't hobbit!" The familiar catty female voice made Lea groan and her friends frown deeply. Lea turned around in her seat and came face to face with Betty Vaught – the girl she pushed off the swing when she was nine – and the rest of her posse. Betty had a pointed, haughty face, skinny frame and cold, sly eyes. She grew to be very spiteful and hateful toward everything, and she liked to make everyone around her as miserable as she. Her favourite target was Lea, of course. Lea still thought she hadn't gotten over the swing accident. "The next few months you'll be having the time of your life while they sit and rot here in this hell hole." Betty rolled her eyes. "I can smell the spite and bitterness oozing off them." She licked her lips and smirked. "It's delicious."
Lea wrinkled her nose. "God, Betty, can you just shut up and leave me alone for once? I'm starting to think you have an obsession with me."
Betty snorted derisively. "Please, Morgana, don't flatter yourself."
Lea froze slightly at the nickname. Betty gifted Lea with that particular nickname when she stumbled on her doing accidental magic. Since then, she had tried to convince people that she was a witch in the making, a wicked creäture send from the deepest pits of hell to destroy them all. Who knew Betty was actually right all along? Well, without the wicked part.
"There must be reason you feel the need to pay me a visit every single day, Betty." Lea said with a slight roll of her eyes. "Maybe you're the one who's drowning in spite and bitterness. Oh, wait, we already knew that."
Betty's face contorted. "You have no idea what you're—"
"Oh, don't I?" Lea asked, narrowing her eyes. Suddenly she felt much braver and ready to stand up for herself. All those years she let all Betty's insults and jeers roll of her like nothing, dimming it all as useless babbling of a desperate soul, but not today. Today Betty was getting no mercy. "You can't stand the fact I'm getting out of here, can you? It eats you from then inside knowing that I'll have a better life then you, doesn't it? You know you'll stay here, forgotten and forever unsatisfied with your life while I go out and make my mark on the world. It's painful, isn't it? I've told you before, Betty – what goes around, comes around. " Lea smiled contemptuously and added softly. "And you know you deserve this, don't you?"
"Shut up!" Betty roared, face scarlet. She pressed her hands to her ears to block out Lea's mocking laughter. "Shut up!"
"Lea!" Lizzie snapped, and Lea turned over to look at her. She didn't seem amused, unlike all the times they insulted Betty behind her back, quite the contrary, she looked angry. "What the hell has gotten into you?" She asked waspishly. "Since you got the news for that school, you've been acting completely different."
"What?" Lea gasped, her jaw dropping. "That's not true! I've been the same!"
"No, no you haven't." Lizzie said, shaking her head with her eyes narrowed. "You've been distant and distracted. You barely talk to us anymore – all you ever do is sit in your room, in which, we're all of a sudden forbidden to go into. What's with that anyway?"
"It's nothing." Lea said quietly. "It's alright – I get it. You just can't be happy for me, can you?" She sighed deeply and stood up, shaking her head at her so-called friends. "Whatever, I'm leaving soon and you won't have to bother with me anymore." She turned around and ignored Terrance's stuttered pleas to wait. She glared at Betty and her friends she passed them and marched out of the Hall with her head held high.
"I can take care of myself from here, Miss Higgs. Honestly." Lea sighed in annoyance as she dragged her trunk behind her, glancing at Miss Higgs who walked briskly by her side, holding her cat's cage. "I told you Professor McGonagall will be here to help me get on the train and all that."
"I want to talk to Professor McGonagall, Lea." Miss Higgs snapped in a voice as brisk as her walk. "Where is she going to meet you?"
"Between platform nine and ten." Lea mumbled, wondering how they were going to get out of this. Miss Higgs obviously insisted to stay until Lea had boarded the train and was well on her way to her new school. She couldn't, though, even if they let her. Professor McGonagall said no muggles could get on platform nine-and-three-quarters. Lea still had some doubts about this magical platform, but Professor McGonagall had no reason to lie and she certainly wasn't the type to joke – so her doubts and worries were most likely unfounded.
"There she is." She heard Miss Higgs say. Lea looked up and saw Professor McGonagall standing right in the middle of the two platforms, dressed once again in an elegant coat and dress. "Good morning, Professor!" Professor McGonagall had insisted Miss Higgs called her that instead of her name, and Lea could see Miss Higgs was rather irked about it.
"Good morning, Miss Higgs, Miss Black." She said with a nod. "Do you wish to speak to me?" She asked as she turned to Miss Higgs, who nodded curtly.
"Yes, you left in a hurry the last time we saw each other and I couldn't ask anything, and Lea has proven to be absolutely useless in answering any of my questions." Miss Higgs directed a displeased glare at Lea, who just shrugged.
"What would you like to know, Miss Higgs?" Professor McGonagall asked as she quickly glanced at the large clock over the arrivals board. Lea had about fifteen minutes to get on the train.
"Where is this school? What about vacations? How did she even get into your school in the first place?" Miss Higgs crossed her arms over her chest and waited patiently, or impatiently as her foot kept on tapping the ground.
"The school is in Scotland. We have winter and Easter breaks and, of course, summer breaks. Miss Black can stay in the school during the winter and Easter break, as do the rest of the students, but she must go back home during the summer. She had a place in our school since birth, her parents made sure of it." Professor McGonagall said all that calmly, but Lea noticed how her hand disappeared in his pocket and reappeared again with a shiny wooden stick in it. "I assure you that Hogwarts offers the best education in Britain, and you won't have to worry about her well-being at all, the school is well-guarded and secure."
"I see." Miss Higgs said at least. Lea breathed a sigh of relief when she saw she seemed content with the information. "Alright, this is enough, I think. Lea, didn't you say something about your train leaving in eleven o'clock? We have to go if you don't want to miss it!"
Lea's eyes were on Professor McGonagall's wand. She looked up at Miss Higgs and saw her clear blue eyes get hazy and unfocused for a moment, before they cleared again. She looked down at Lea and gave her a small smile. "Take care of yourself, Lea. I will see you next year."
Lea blinked. "Are you leaving?"
Miss Higgs frowned and nodded. "I'm afraid I have to go. I'm needed back at the orphanage, I can't remember why, but I'm sure it is something important." She sighed, her confused expression disappearing along with it. "Goodbye, Lea, Professor McGonagall."
"Bye." Lea said quietly.
"Goodbye, Miss Higgs." Professor McGonagall said with a blank face, taking the cage casually from Miss Higgs' arms. She acted like she hadn't just performed magic on muggle, something she had warned Lea very sternly against doing.
Once Miss Higgs was safe out of earshot, she arched her eyebrows at Professor McGonagall. "That was interesting."
"No." Professor McGonagall said as she whirled around and started to march toward the barrier. "It was necessary. Now, we make sure on one is watching us and run straight into the barrier. Don't think about it, don't slow down – just run. I promise you, you won't crash."
Lea tore her wide-eyed gaze from Professor McGonagall and stared at the dividing barrier. It seemed crazy and yet somewhat fitting. She smirked slightly as she thought about how magical people did things right under everyone else's noses and no one noticed anything. She guessed magic was a huge plus to have when you were trying to keep a whole community hidden.
"Now, Miss Black."
Lea gripped her car tighter, took a deep breath and ran straight toward the barrier. She did as Professor McGonagall told her; she didn't hesitate and she didn't slow down – she ran into it blindly. She did close her eyes as she neared it though, but opened them as soon as smoke filled her nostrils and loud noises filled her ears.
She stared wide-eyed at the scenery in front of her and smiled largely.
Little did she know that by arriving on the platform on this very day, she sealed her fate.
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