Disclaimer: this universe belongs to J.K. Rowling (yes, even if it’s an alternate universe).

Chapter Two: A Trio of Watercolors

I loved creating new things out of anything, like a different aspect of what I saw or a using a new medium. So, this time I worked with light twirls in the sky and horizontal lines for the plain. I used the edge of a spare sheet to make windows, and I traced out the curved lines of the seats and some light crosshatching (stacked lines) for the shadows. Then I filled the spare sheet to list the colors I was going to use for every aspect, including the clouds. I thought about how I could go through the outlines with watercolors, and smiled at the thought of guiding blooming petals of color along the lines I’d created.

My heart raced and my stomach filled with anxious butterflies as my gaze fell upon the brand new day above the fields that whizzed past us. A new term was about to start. If I needed any sort of social stimulation, it was evident in my empty compartment and the crowded train that I did. It was easier said than done to relax and wait for the impossible Emma and Mark to find me, and luckily enough for me, it was easy blocking people out despite being by myself.

I slid my sketchbook into my messenger bag and glimpsed out into the corridor. There were teeming teenagers looking for friends and, perhaps, the sweets trolley. It was difficult not to overhear them, and I found it intriguing to think that some of them had already closed their curtains to change. I bowed slightly to the Ravenclaws who recognized me when they passed by. It was still difficult to believe that they knew who I was regardless of whether or not I knew them. It was something I loved and aspired to continue – that bit of recognition was endearing, and I lived for it. I supposed that it also attributed to how quiet and reserved most of us were.

Yet, we were pretty outgoing amongst ourselves. Little know-it-alls among know-it-alls: a place where anyone and everyone who loved knowledge could belong. I loved it. Positively loved it. Then again, it had taken me a couple of years to get situated. I was shaken when Mark and Emma had taken me in our third year.

Hogsmeade for the first time had been quite the thing. I remember having planned to draw the place as magical as it had felt: all of it decked in snow with warm yellow and orange light spilling outside of its candlelit lanterns and windows. Of course, that had been that very night. I had stayed until five to capture the three-point perspective and a value study for what I decided to be a watercolor painting.

It had been embarrassing and flattering to have found someone looking over my shoulder.

“That is remarkable!” Emma had said, her brown eyes wide with newfound astonishment. “Oh, pardon me. It’s just that I couldn’t help seeing you out here in the cold, but apart from that – actually drawing. I always wondered about that, you know, just seeing you draw. You keep to yourself quite a lot.”

That was the first thing she had said and also the first bit of rambling that I had experienced in close vicinity to her. I liked how she let her thoughts flow once she started, and I didn’t mind it. She didn’t talk much herself. Hardly anyone let her go on after she’d answered questions in class. It was rather embarrassing to watch her suffer some teacher or other who went on like they weren’t listening, and it was terribly sad to see her own emotions flutter on her face. She would go from meekly answering to whispering with a blank expression until she halted to a stop, and her eyes looked anywhere but her open palms.

I could never bring myself to speak to her. I never spoke at length to anyone unless I was spoken to, and it wasn’t like anyone minded. Everyone had their own rules.

I remember when I smiled at her and the slight nod I had given her. “Thank you.”

“Well, seeing as it is cold, would you like to come over to the Three Broomsticks? We’ve an extra drink a friend accidentally ordered. He’s terribly shy and he doesn’t want to make it anymore worse on the … uh, bartender or server. No one,” she had said in a rush, patting her meager mittens together. “So, um… you can have the free drink if you want. Mark’s obviously paid for it, not wanting to cause much trouble.”

“Alright,” I had replied, not knowing what to say. I remember my insides squishing together in a tight breath of air.

She had nodded on and took me there, and the introductions began. She was Emma Pommington and he was Mark Lee, both suddenly my close friends in Ravenclaw house and the seeds of my social existence.

I had not seen it coming. Not even when Emma and Mark suddenly took me out of my reverie. Knock, knock, knock; tap, tap, tap. My trip through memory lane was over. As soon as I turned the lock, they were both pink cheeked and full of questions. Emma had become brighter and rosier faced over the summer. She also spoke only as much as she needed to. Mark… Mark was something different. He’d grown five inches taller and was still growing.

I smiled.

Emma was the first to burst. “Where were you out there? We looked everywhere!”

“Why didn’t you meet up with us first? I thought we agreed to do that last term? When we all left?” Mark clipped his sentences in question marks. “I demand answers.”

Emma shoved her trunk by the window and continued, “Did you get up late today? Is that why we didn’t meet up?”

“I got here on time. At ten thirty. On the dot,” I answered, putting my sketchbook and pencil away. I tucked my blanket around my shoulders. It was cold. “Like I said I would be in our letters.”

It’s not my fault you don’t wake up early. I thought, but … to be honest, my mother had woken me up. So I didn’t express the thought aloud for either of them to hear.

Emma closed the compartment door and went to sit in front of me.

“Well, we’re here; we’re here and we’re clear of stuffing ourselves in other compartments with strangers. Thank Merlin,” Mark said, fitting his trunk under the seat opposite me. “Because I wouldn’t have been able to deal with that.” He sat down with a huff.

Emma rubbed his shoulder and smiled reassuringly. “We know.”

They were already talking and weaved me into their constant on and off conversation as if I hadn’t just appeared, as if we had been sitting together the whole time. Summer was the topic and each of us had been up to something different. Of course, we started with our OWL scores and worked our way from there.

There was nothing more endearing then than the sight of the city changing for that of the rural plains up north. By then, I told them that I was glad that I wasn’t alone without a good book. I answered their confused expressions with how dad ended my book allowance because my OWL scores were not as great as he and mum had expected.

“Not as great?” Emma asked, perturbed if anything else. “You studied Transfiguration well under the book.”

“How much is ‘well under the book’?” Mark asked with a questioning glance.

She answered it with that sweet teasing tone of hers, “I caught her mumbling from the text in the dorms before OWLs had even begun!” Mark nodded in understanding, and Emma remained unperturbed. “And she probably could have recited it word for word if she tried any harder.”

“Oh, quit it, you! I still wouldn’t have,” I retorted, tentatively curled up in my corner by the window curled up with my blanket around my shoulders. I liked how it was big enough to spill over my legs and stomach. I had Nostradamus’ Prophecies on the seat beside me for later reading. It was a wizarding art textbook with detailed illustrations and descriptions of those prophecies. In my defense, very Dark Ages (plus Renaissance).

“Well, it’s not the theory I had points taken off for, anyway. It was the practical and the wand waving… and all that stuff,” I said.

I frowned, remembering how my transfiguration spell had not changed the sewing needle into something other than what it was. Well, it had turned it into a pine needle, but it was not an outstanding achievement. The testing instructor had even raised his eyebrows and laughed a little, as if my wits were worth nothing more but a simple, “Ahaha…” of embarrassment, which had set my face aflame.

Exams are not practicals, to say the least, and my pun, though unintentional, had not gone unnoticed. Even though the proctor had given me additional points for it, my marks couldn’t reach that beautiful Acceptable.

“You are too harsh on yourself. That is actually pretty stunning. Maybe it might’ve been your concentration slipping,” Emma remarked and clasped her hands on her legs. “Charms use visualization as the twenty-five percent necessity to making a spell come true.”

“We are not all Muggles here to understand that… but I suppose the theory works,” Mark decided, and then turned to look at me with a knowing look, “Then again, all that stuff is actually pretty ea—”

Emma shoved him before he could utter the next word. She pursed her lips and looked away.

“Well, bugger, you made a pun happen anyway,” Mark corrected himself, soothing his shoulder with a stern rubbing. He seemed well vexed, then, his eyes glimpsing continuously to Emma. “Not that it means that you didn’t do well enough. You got an Acceptable! And, if anything, transfiguration is diff-i-cult, and your parents should leave it well alone.”

But I was on a good road to redemption, I told them and smiled at Emma and Mark’s tirade to keep me from feeling awful, for not being in good form for something that came easily to others.

“McGonagall kept me on for her NEWT course, though.” I’d never seen Mother and Father look so pleased with a professor before, but they had been adamant about it without letting go of how great Professor McGonagall had been to give me a second chance.

Oh, see how she believes in you, Abby dearest? You should believe in yourself twice as much!

Mum wouldn’t live it down! And dad nodded and paraded along with her as she had served him his dinner. What a terrible accusation of my own character! I’d thought. Didn’t anyone care to lay the blame on me and my inability to… make a needle into a matchstick? Mind, they were two completely different things regardless of their proximity in size. And how could I handle a NEWT Transfiguration course when I couldn’t even keep up?

“Well, good,” Emma said sagely, “It’s a good thing that she did that, because then I don’t know what I’d do without you in Transfiguration. You’d have left me stuck with this bloke.” She nudged Mark with her right arm, and he gave her his best scowl before he burst out snorting.

“All fun and no work, which would’ve left me without a job to look forward to. Save becoming the caretaker of some place or other like Beauxbatons… or Durmstrang!”

“Hey, I’m not that bad! Right, Abby?” Mark asked, grinning. “I make class interesting, don’t I?”

He crossed his arms and jutted his chin out cockishly, very sure of himself even though there was a certain drawback…

“Make class interesting? You probably meant too interesting; you are bloody hilarious, always egging Emma on!” I snorted, and pointed to Emma. “You keep her from her work and all that other stuff. Like her future apprenticeships, if she gets any! Which she will, of course.”

“Of course!” Emma repeated cheerfully and with a delighted smile afterward. “And thank you, dearest Abigail. For I wouldn’t know what to do without you!” She leapt up and joined my seat so she could hug me.

Of course, I knew a thing or two about how right I was, but so long as she hadn’t caught on… I was safe.

~*~

In the time that it took for us to get to Hogsmeade station, we changed into our uniforms, bought candy from the passing sweets trolley, and compared notes on our summers. Emma had been ushered by her cousins to go out and leave her textbooks for a later time, and so had enjoyed a time away at Brighton with some family at the beach. Mark spent his summer down in Sidney, Australia for a family wedding. It turned out that one of his closely related cousins had married and that both sets of grandparents (those of the groom and the bride) had decided that everyone be there.

“No wonder you look so… tan,” Emma mentioned, gingerly taking his arm in her hands. “Quiet tan. Your moles stand out less.”

“They’re not moles. They don’t scurry down under the ground and come out every now and then to feed the myth of when spring is coming. They’re… beauty marks,” he finished in almost a whisper.

I raised my eyebrows. “From one pun to another, I suppose I agree.”

They both aha’d, but were still looking down at the mole Emma had decided to poke.

“I honestly hope they don’t ever become asymmetrical,” she whispered. “That’s the last thing you need. An anomaly.”

“I am a thousand percent anomaly,” Mark replied, glancing at his arm and then glancing up at her.

She let go of his arm and shook her head. “You don’t even know.”

Sometimes I thought that they were both on the same page, and that I was the one typically reading it. That being the case, I looked out of my window and let my arm fall on the sill, a place where I could feel the vibrations of the train chugging down the tracks. Note to self: ask Emma why she’s smiling warmly and shifting awkwardly in her seat whenever she discusses random matters with Mark.

It was only to set my suspicions straight, anyway.

~*~

The train arrived at Hogsmeade’s station when night was a canvas lit up with a crooked line of lights on a hill. The Ground Keeper’s lantern showed the way out, and draw the first years like moths to flame. We went uphill, following the mass of cloaked students, and chose a carriage with a few strangers. A pair of fourth year Gryffindors, judging from their uniform’s colors, but I was in good company. Mark and Emma, my comrades in Ravenclaw house, made the best of the fifteen minutes it took for us to get to the castle by playing a Muggle game of I Spy.

“I spy something rumbling,” Mark offered.

Emma crossed her arms and tilted her chin up. “There’s no way that you can see your stomach, Lee.”

“But that’s the thing,” he uttered, then, “it’s called I spy, so I spy, my friend. And yes, you are correct on the assumption that it’s my stomach, because it is. And because you were right, it’s your turn.”

“Alright, then, I spy the best part of term,” Emma countered, this time leaning forward with her hands clasped on her knees.

“Hey, that’s not something we can see—“

“Like your stomach, you mean?” Emma looked at him dubiously and smiled, self-satisfied with her wit.

I snorted as the carriage creaked onwards.

“The best part of a term at Hogwarts is obviously easy,” Emma began, smiling assuredly with a wink in my direction, “I’d imagine that you’d get it faster than that.”

“It’s obviously not a riddle…” Mark began mumbling to himself. He held his right hand atop his stomach, which growled audibly now, surprisingly. “…best part of term… finals? No… holidays? But holidays aren’t part of term, they’re after…”

His dark eyebrows were furrowed as he took the concept apart and placed other variables together: yes, very much the Ravenclaw way to get things done. But despite trying to change his perception and perspective to come up with the right answer, Emma hummed aloud.

“Tiiime!” she said. The carriage had come to a full stop. “The answer is—”

We hopped off after the two fourth years and walked towards the open doors that led to the Entrance Hall and then up the stairs to the Great Hall.

“No!” Mark uttered, plastering his hands to his ears, but Emma went right along with an evil grin, “The best part of term is…”

She pursed her lips and looked at Mark, who took her closed lips as a sign of silence and answers that would never be revealed, but as soon as he’d let his guard down, she uttered her answer, “The Great Feast!”

And he slapped his left hand onto his face and spoke a muffled, “Bugger,” right through it.

“Language, Mister Lee,” Professor McGonagall lectured, standing by the Great Hall’s doors, a place she lurked by to address the first years who were on their way.

Mark sheepishly looked down. “Yes, professor.”

And by then we were beneath the star-filled enchanted ceiling of the Entrance Hall, surrounded by staircases, tall doors, floating candles, and housemates of all ages.

“Nice to see you again, Mister Lee, Miss Pommington, Miss McGain,” Professor McGonagall acknowledged as we passed.

Members of fellow Ravenclaws began to flock around us as we went on towards our table. We greeted each other with nods, secret handshakes, and waves. Some were those who had left as idle minded students before the holidays returned as irksome adolescents ready to prove their wit. Certain students apprehended that their craniums looked larger and that they were ready to raise the capacity of information for the rest of term. Others were more preoccupied about who had lost weight, gained muscle mass, and escaped the horrors of puberty. Stories were swapped on what everyone had done during the summer. Then there were the more curricular questions. Who had reviewed the chapters of certain books ahead of time, who was planning to try out for our Quidditch team, who had Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans or novel Sugar Quills to share before the feast officially began?

Who was the new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor this year?

A roundabout of new regional dishes appeared on the empty platters as soon as everyone was seated. Some of the students wore their black pointed hats, hoping to keep some semblance of tradition intact, as the first-years-to-be walked in after Mrs. McGonagall.

The hat sang of the four houses and their founders, and then the sorting started. We waited, all curious of who would be the new additions to our house. Of the few, there was yet another Abbot (Hufflepuff), a Patricia Clara who seemed of Spanish origin (Ravenclaw), a Davis (Gryffindor), an Ovidius (Ravenclaw), an Asian Bridget (Gryffindor), a twin who made it to Ravenclaw (while the other headed for Slytherin), a Scottish Scott (Gryffindor), and a pair of gossipy girls with freckles (Hufflepuff and Hufflepuff).

We applauded heartily, we were allowed to eat just as soon, and then the Headmaster gave his address.

“A reminder that the forbidden forest is out of bounds, and that the Quidditch Pitch is not to be used this first month of term,” Dumbledore began. “Let us, however, greet Mister Crateus Singer, who will be joining us as our new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor.”

We applauded the small man with the blond hair and big white mustache, but at the same time I wondered what would happen to this seemingly innocent fellow, especially after Professor Brunhilda hadn’t survived her fall down her stairwell that one unfortunate afternoon.

Always on the right foot, Mark couldn’t resist mentioning our past professors, “So, that’s one fall, one disappearance, one gone for half a year, one dead by class demonstration, and a Dark Arts practitioner. I tell you, we’re the most unfortunate class to have lived through the cursed post. I keep hoping that at least one of them will stay full term without splitting on us.”

“And the year after,” Emma added, settling her fork down by her plate. “My education is suffering, too, you know. All of ours are.”

“Save for Durmstrang and Beauxbatons,” Leonel Bingetti joined in from alongside us. He kept an eye on Dumbledore at the podium, his face plain and unamused. “I tried to transfer, but my parents wouldn’t let me. They said that it’s as tough as it is out there down south with talk about dead folk found with a skull and a snake seared on their arms.”

“A skull and a snake? That’s dark, that is,” Kit McKelsy muttered, leaving a biscuit back where it had been on the heap beside him.

Mark agreed heartily. “Quite. I’d imagine something worse, but even that doesn’t come close.”

“But there’ve been other goings-on. Like Alice and Frank? I really hope they’re alright,” Jane Wells seemed to titter in her seat as she worried.

She had also alleged herself as a best friend of Alice’s, but that had been partly because Alice had taken her under her wing. Jane was about as sweet as a dollop of caramel, and a tad overwhelmed because of that, too, but we served as a stronghold for our own. United, we were strongest. Divided, well, we’d be at each other’s throats for the best marks… and now wasn’t the time for that.

“I went to visit the week before last to see how they were, and the healers said they had to be left alone for the next few days to find their footing. It appears not so. Otherwise, they would’ve been here already.”

Emma and I shared a glance. She seemed just as unnerved as I was. But if Emma had ever gone through such an ordeal as Alice had, for she’d gotten kidnapped just after exams, I would be just as worried, if not more. I reached over and patted her hand.

“Have some pumpkin juice. I’m sure she’ll be fine in due time,” I told her softly.

Time would tell if Alice would get back. She was a year older than us, but she did well anyway she could.

“You know what? I wish you’d all just keep your commentary to yourselves,” Rebecca Smith sighed. “All this talk of stupid things is frizzing my hair.”

Angelique Brown, who was beside her, huffed and followed up, “Oh, the mood does unsettle the nerves.”

“Ha, as if hair has nerves,” Leonel muttered with an eye roll, but he turned to Jane. “Not to worry. I’m sure Alice’ll be on her feet again.”

“Everyone’s sure to be well soon. I mean, even Potter and Evans are here, see?” Kit mentioned and jutted his chin to the Gryffindor table.

True, I glanced to the Gryffindor table and saw that Potter was huddled up with his mates. One of them was the handsome boy from the train and something else I couldn’t remember, but I gleamed over his great aesthetic and breathed deeply at the same time. I exhaled when I saw Evans with her band of trustees, probably talking about something academic or other.

They seemed about normal to me even though they’d gone missing at the end of the last term like Alice and Frank due to unknown causes. I supposed that only the four knew of their goings-on, and I hoped it wasn’t something that the boys, specifically Leonel, could come up with, like how the four of them were up to some undercover work for the Headmaster. We all reluctantly agreed with a seventh year’s suspicion that they had been given some preordained apprenticeships because they were Slughorn’s favorites, which was the more plausible reason. Frank and Alice were two of our best in all the material we studied, even in Defense Against the Dark Arts, which was rarely covered throughout a whole year. Yet, it would have been better to hear it from either Alice or Frank than hearing it through other secondary sources and gossips were never the way to go (they always told a story in an unlimited number of ways, none the same as the one before).

Yet, I glanced at my housemates, from Leonel who suddenly smiled, to Emma who seemed to be sneaking glances with Mark, and back up to the high table. The Headmaster wasn’t as well off as Evans and Potter had been. He was more somber than anything, with shadows beneath his eyes as the chatter had taken the Great Hall.

That night, I picked my bed and sunk under the covers with my stomach caught in an invisible knot. It was an apprehension that even Nostradamus’ prophecies couldn’t get rid of. What of the Marauders? What of the handsome boy? What of the school year? What of Transfiguration?

I swallowed.

Tomorrow my term would begin along with a possibly wider future of a thousand trials. The less I thought about it, the more I let myself fall asleep.

~*~

Author’s Note:
Here are some Ravenclaws! I’ll update soon for the third chapter. Something wicked this way comes? (Maybe after a few chapters, though, but who am I kidding? Team work sounds pretty wicked on its own.)

Edit: Much better! I edited the spacing through the Simple Editor; I'll be back in a few weeks to edit the content, though (I went the wordy route with this one...). This is also my master page of OCs since I mention them sparingly as the fic goes along.

Track This Story:    Feed

JOIN HARRY POTTER FANFICTION


Get access to every new feature the moment it comes out.

Register Today!