"I know who you are!"
The bossy voice that distracted Linden from scrutinizing her appearance, where she was making sure there were no threads poking out of her robes or any creases. She wanted to look presentable for her real first day and had even placed a wide Alice headband in her hair. It was satin and blush colored.
She turned her attention to the girl who had approached her. The first thing Linden noticed about the girl, was her lots of kinky-curly, bushy, dark brown hair that surrounded her face. She had really pretty umber brown skin, smooth and highlighted by her warm orange-red undertones, rather large front teeth that showed off in her wide grin and dark brown eyes.
"Um," Linden blinked at the girl. She was still beaming, not seeming afraid at all, "I suppose…a lot of people do?"
Nervous, she bit her lip, something that was sure to become a really bad habit. She had done so a lot, last night. After the feast, Dumbledore had announced a few start-of-term notices. The last one he'd given, had been quite disturbing, ending with the words "very painful death."
Not quite comforting on her first night away from home, but before she could ask Fred or George about it, Dumbledore cried out that they must sing the school song. That had been rather interesting and she had sung along, mostly under her breath, hoping she was not overheard by her new peers.
After the Weasley twins concluded the song at their slow, funeral dirge, all the first years had followed Prefect Percy out of the Great Hall.
Linden had lagged back a couple feet, sticking to the very end of the line. They went up the marble staircase and the people in the portraits along the corridors gasped and gawked at Linden, whispering and pointing as she and the other first years passed. Some even fled their portraits, outwardly thanking Merlin that at least Harry Potter was here; and Sorted into Gryffindor no less.
Linden hadn't gotten a chance to look at him or talk to him and didn't know if she should. Everyone else was already goggling at him as if he were a zoo animal and she had no desire to do the same, knowing how upsetting it could be.
Still staring at her feet, Linden had climbed more staircases until they encountered Peeves the Poltergeist. Someone she would try her hardest to stay away from.
It seemed to take forever until they reached the very end of the corridor, upon which hung a portrait of a very fat woman in a pink silk dress.
"Password?" she had said.
Percy had said something that Linden stupidly missed and the portrait swung forward to reveal a round hole in the wall. Going through it, Linden glimpsed the Gryffindor common room, but didn't get a good look as Percy directed her and the rest of the girls through one door, to their dormitory and the boys through another.
Her bed was magnificent. There were five of them. Four-posters that hung with deep red, velvet curtains. Their trunks had already been brought up and the thick scarlet blankets embroidered with gold, were so soft and warm.
No one had talked much before falling into bed, exhausted and too eager to change into their pajamas. Linden took longer than the rest, staring at the glowing stars that were stuck to the inside of her trunk. It brought tears to her eyes.
She had slept quite restlessly and was in disbelief when morning fell upon her at 7:30AM. She was still shocked at being in Gryffindor. Everyone had been properly sorted and now, it was the first day of classes.
But first, it was time to go down to the Great Hall for breakfast.
"…I've even seen him in the newspapers we get at home, but, gosh, I doubt you want to talk about that! Anyway, I'm Hermione Granger, by the way and, of course, I know your name!"
A hand was shoved in front of her nose, startling Linden and hesitantly, she took it in her own, allowing Hermione Granger to shake it vigorously.
"I suppose I should go," Hermione turned on her heel, some of her hair getting in Linden's face, "I want to get some reading in before classes. I suggest that you do the same."
She left quickly, leaving Linden standing there. Hermione was gone before Linden had the opportunity to ask if she could tag along. Her other roommates, Lavender Brown and Parvati Patil had left earlier, together, gossiping as they got ready over some kind of quiz in a magazine.
At least, Linden was happy, that her last and fourth roommate was Eloise and she was still getting ready, rubbing some kind of strong-smelling gel all over her face as she gazed intently into her compact mirror.
"How did you sleep?" Linden asked quietly.
"Good," Eloise didn't look at her, "I was completely knackered and almost fell asleep at the table, last night. Did you sleep well?"
Eloise looked at her and Linden nodded, "Yes. Um, would you like to go down to breakfast, together?"
Eloise closed her mirror, "Sure!"
Linden's eyes lit up, not having expected such a quick reaction and she continued to stand there, even when Eloise jumped up and went towards their door.
Eloise turned her head, "Well?" she asked expectantly, "Aren't you coming?"
Linden gasped, "Oh! Yes, of course."
She hurried after Eloise and together, they walked down the winding mahogany staircase, decorated with crimson and gold and out the door to the Common Room.
Still walking, Linden tried to have a quick moment and take it all in.
The large fire place that had grown cold, dominated one wall, the mantle adored with a portrait of a lion. The walls were decorated with scarlet tapestries that depicted different witches and wizards, but also various animals.
Gold chandeliers hung from the ceiling and there were many windows that looked out onto the grounds of the school. Linden took this as a possible great place to read and eyed the bookcases, filled with various novels.
The whispers brought Linden out of her thoughts, longing for the book and she blinked, eyeing the students who were walking past her. She had barely stepped out of the Fat Lady's portrait.
So, the students would talk about her in plain sight, but wouldn't take a step near her? How did that work?
She tried her best to ignore them and walked alongside Eloise.
"So," she started, "What class are you most excited for?"
"I think I'm excited for…"
"Can you believe they let her into Hogwarts?"
"My mom didn't tell me she'd be here!"
"She's right there, next to the kid with all the bumps on her face."
"Ew, that one's all white!"
"I think I'm-
Linden had tried to speak over the whispers, but cut herself off when Eloise stopped abruptly. Linden had already walked a couple more steps forward and turned around.
"What's wrong?" she asked. Eloise's hand had gone to touch her cheek, again.
"Blimey, I'm such a tosser, sometimes," Eloise said and jabbed a thumb behind her, "I forgot something in my trunk."
Linden frowned a little, "You can't get it after breakfast?"
Eloise shook her head, "No, I should get it, now…but you go on ahead," she urged Linden with her free hand, "I'll…catch up."
Linden felt her heart drop. She wanted to ask Eloise if she was mad at her, but Linden couldn't recall ever doing something wrong. She always tried to stay out of people's way and tried not to be annoying.
She tried again, "I don't mind coming with you," she offered quietly.
"No!" Eloise actually sounded upset, "Please, just go."
"But…" Linden trailed off as Eloise had already run off. Literally.
"No, she is Sirius Black's daughter. The portraits say so. Look at her eyes!"
Linden turned to look at the two male students who had passed her, but as soon as she made eye contact, they both gasped and looked away, quickening their steps.
A tear slid down her face, but she ignored it, trying to put on a brave face as she took a deep breath.
'Remus said this would happen,' she reminded herself, 'He prepared you for this, but that's okay…you'll find your real friends.'
If she really thought about it, then it wasn't that bad. Nobody had called her any cruel names.
She stood there, in the corridor, looking back and forth, not knowing what to do. Should she just turn back and stay in the Common Room until 9:00AM when classes started? She could read a book or sleep a little more. But she was hungry…
"Hey, why're you crying?"
She gasped and turned her head, then tilted it back. Having to do so to get a proper look at the red-headed lad who had spoken to her.
It was the twins…one of them—the one on the left she was pretty sure had been the one to ask her the question.
However, standing between the twins was another boy. He was black with rich, dark brown skin. A bit lighter than Hermione, Linden thought, but not by much, having more cool, jewel undertones. He had black dreadlocked hair and was shorter than the twins.
When she didn't say anything, he's the one that spoke. Though, not to her.
"She's probably lost," he said to the twin on his right. He looked down at her, "Are you lost?"
'Not really,' she thought, but did not say this.
"I guess so," she mumbled to him.
"Well, come on, then," the twin on the right urged, "We'll show you to the Great Hall. Hogwarts is a bit tricky."
She followed after them, feeling a lot like a puppy dog. She thought of asking to sit with the twins again, but they had already allowed her to do that and maybe it was only a one time thing. They were third years and she was only a first year.
"Thanks," she spoke quietly and doubted she was heard.
"I'm Lee," the black-haired boy said, "Lee Jordan. Your best and all time favourite Quidditch Commentator."
Linden nodded. She rather fancied Quidditch. Her favourite team was the Holyhead Harpies. It was the only all-female, all-witch team! How wicked was that?
Dumbledore had talked about Quidditch try-outs in his start-of-term notices announcement. Maybe she could try out!
…Only, she had never flown on a broom before, but that was another thought for another time.
"You're a quiet little bird, aren't you?"
Linden shook her head, as she looked up at the twins and bit her lip.
"Um," she said, "A little bit, I guess. Ah, which…one are you?"
"I'm Fred!" he said happily, "And that one's
"—George," he cut in, "Can't really
"—tell us apart," Fred interjected.
The last two words were said in unison and Linden felt all out of sorts, her brain still trying to piece the sentence together.
They were approaching the doors to the Great Hall and she smiled in thanks when Lee held the door open for her. From where she stood, she could see the Gryffindor table wasn't completely full. It was still early.
"You can sit with us again, if you'd like," the twin that said this, Linden assumed to be Fred as he had been the one to offer, last night.
"Our little brother is a first year," George said, "His name's Ron. Best mates with Harry Potter, apparently."
Her eyes widened at the name and she bit her lip nervously. She had already heard rumors that Harry Potter had grown up among muggles and wasn't aware of a lick of magic.
It was easy to spot Ron at the table by his mop of red hair. She could see a fork clutched in his big hand, a half eaten sausage impaled on the end.
"This is Linden," Fred said in a way of greeting, taking a seat.
Linden was about to take seat when Ron went extremely pale, and in contrast, his ears went bright red.
"She can't sit here!" he blurted in a cry, "Have you gone mad!?"
"What?" the boy next to him spoke up, looking thoroughly confused, "Why not?"
He had a copper complexion, smooth with russet undertones. Unruly jet-black, s-shaped curly hair sat atop his head and he had gorgeous, startlingly green eyes that were almond-shaped and surrounded by a pair of circular glasses. He was rather skinny and small, with a thin face, but full lips.
Harry Potter! Linden knew immediately that this was him. It also helped that previously, George had mentioned Ron and Harry being best mates.
"Shove off, Ron!" Fred snapped, "Stop being a git. She can sit here."
"Ron," this time, it was George, "Shut up."
Ron huffed and slowly, Linden took a seat. She felt so unwanted and unwelcome, but she belonged here just as much as any other student. If not, then she wouldn't have gotten her letter and she certainly wouldn't have been sorted into a House.
'I'm allowed to sit here,' she told herself, 'I'm allowed to sit here and eat breakfast like everyone else.'
She ignored Ron's huffing and muttering to herself and focused on serving herself breakfast. There was so much to choose from.
She settled on some eggs on toast, a bowl of Cheeri Owls with banana on top and some pumpkin juice. She loved pumpkin juice. If she was still hungry, she'd have some sausage or ham. Andromeda always talked about the importance of protein.
When she finished cutting up the last of her banana on her cereal, she mixed it all together and began to eat her breakfast.
She glanced up and over at the head table for less than half a second before she was staring intently at her bowl.
That teacher was looking at her again. Worse than before.
Hesitantly, she dropped her spoon into her bowl and looked at Fred who sat in between her and George.
"Hey, Fred?" she mumbled.
"Yeah?" he looked down at her.
"Who's that teacher?" she didn't dare look or point and asked, "The man with the black hair in the robes?"
Color flushed to her cheeks when Fred looked and she bit her lip, noticing that Harry had tuned in to their conversation. He met her eyes and smiled a little.
She smiled back, the expression falling from her face when Fred spoke.
"Oh, that oily git?" Fred pretended to gag, "That's Professor Snape, Head of Slytherin House. The rotten lot, they're the only ones that actually fancy him as the Potions teacher. Only, even they know Snape really wants to teach Dark Arts—that's what Quirrell teaches. Snape knows the Dark Arts as if it were his own bloody name!"
Linden nodded slowly, choosing to ignore the "rotten lot" comment.
"Dark Arts, huh?" she mused. It didn't give her much of an explanation to why he kept sending her nasty looks.
"He can't stand us Gryffindors," Fred added, "Blink wrong and he'll take points just because he can."
"Lovely," she muttered, taking a bite of her cereal, "Thanks for the warning."
Fred was interrupted when a hundred owls suddenly streamed into the Great Hall and Linden gasped. She had forgotten to write to her family, Remus included. She would have to finish her breakfast quickly and try to find the Owlery.
Considering she hadn't written yet, she didn't expect any letters, but she was surprised when an owl landed near Harry in between the sugar and marmalade jars.
"Wow…" she breathed, "Is that your owl?" she asked.
The owl was so pretty and stood out clearly amongst the others. She was a snowy owl, pure white with wide amber eyes and a dark black beak.
"Yeah!" Harry said proudly, feeding his owl a bit of toast, "Her name's Hedwig. Hagrid got her for my birthday. You can pet her, if you want, she doesn't bite."
Ron made a disgruntled sound, but no one responded to it.
Hesitantly, Linden reached a hand out and slowly stroked the top of Hedwig's head.
"Aren't you the prettiest owl, ever?" she cooed to Hedwig. She glanced at Harry and pulled her hand away, "Thanks."
Harry beamed at her, "You're welcome! I'm Harry P-" he stopped, averting his gaze.
Fred had already introduced her, but Linden decided to repeat her name.
"Linden," she said, "Pleasure to meet you."
"That's Harry Potter over there. Talking to Linden…Linden Black!"
They both turned their heads upon hearing their names and when Linden couldn't place the students talking about her and Harry, she sighed and turned back to her cereal, eating it quickly before it turned to mush.
"Don't worry about it," Fred nudged her slightly, getting her attention, "They're all tosspots, anyway."
Linden nodded, appreciating the reassurance, though couldn't respond through a mouthful of banana and cereal.
'Tosspots, indeed,' she thought, a weight sat heavy on her shoulders.
Eloise, she noticed, never came back down to the Great Hall.
Dear Uncle Remus,
Hope you're doing well and resting. I miss you very, very much and have thought of you often in my short time at Hogwarts.
The train ride was nice and I sat with some lovely people, only, they talked horribly about Slytherin and didn't take too kindly when I said it wasn't a bad house. Can you imagine their reaction when they found out who my dad was? Not a very good one, but we made up later when one of the girls gave me a chocolate frog.
And guess what? I was sorted into Gryffindor! I was rather gobsmacked and practically begged on my knees to be placed in Hufflepuff, but the hat would have none of it and here I am. Everyone else was speechless. No one clapped for me except for Professor Dumbledore and Hagrid.
The Weasley twins let me sit with them and that was nice. The feast was lovely and they served peppermint humbugs.
I've seen Professor McGonagall, but have yet to actually speak to her, though she smiles at me when no one looks and called me 'dearie' during the sorting.
I've met Harry Potter too and he was placed in Gryffindor as well. He let me pet his owl Hedwig at breakfast this morning; she's so sweet and very pretty. He was nice to me and I thought you'd enjoy hearing about him.
Despite all this…I don't know if I'll be happy here. Nobody likes me.
She bit her lip, as tears welled up in her eyes. She refused to let them fall, for fear that they would freeze to her face.
The owlrey was so cold on the top of the West Tower and none of the windows had glass in them. It had taken forever to find, but was made easier thanks to Nearly Headless Nick, who was all too happy to help with directions.
Everyone talks about me and today at breakfast, a boy shouted that I couldn't sit near him. Earlier, my roommate wouldn't be seen going into the Great Hall with me, either.
As feelings of shame and embarrassment began to well up, Linden scrawled faster, pressing the quil more firmly to the parchment.
I hate it here and would like to come home, but I know you can't make that decision. Even the portraits have run and there's this teacher, I've learned his name is Snape, and he glares at me. Bit stupid, really as I've done nothing wrong to get myself into any sort of trouble and have never met him before.
I guess that doesn't matter, does it? It really doesn't seem like anyone likes me as everyone has already made friends, but we suspected this, didn't we? I know I need to keep my head up and think positive. I really am trying my best.
Oh, and I've been thinking of looking into Quidditch as Dumbledore mentioned it during the feast. What do you think?
I hope things get better and I'm sure they will. It is, after all, only the first day and classes haven't even started, yet. I think I'm most excited for Astronomy or Charms.
Please, write back when you can. I miss you and I hope you're safe.
Lots and lots of love,
She sealed the letter, tying the parchment and secured to the owl's leg.
"Take this to Remus Lupin, please," she instructed, kindly to the barn owl, "He lives in Yorkshir-
She had yet to finish giving Remus' location, when the owl had flown off. She hoped the letter reached him. She still needed to pen one to Andromeda, but would have to do that later. Her first class was going to start soon.
She turned to leave and let out a yelp, her hand going to her heart.
"I'm sorry," she apologized to the three boys looming in the doorway, "I didn't mean to take so long. I'm just leaving."
"I'm Draco," the boy in the middle piped up. He looked smug, "Draco Malfoy."
Draco was a slender boy with sleek white-blond hair, a pale complexion and rather sharp, pointed features. His eyes were cold and gray, leaving Linden stunned. She had never seen gray eyes on anyone else. In comparison, his were much darker and not as prominent.
"We have the same eye color," she told him, "How wicked! Oh, and I'm Linden."
"Black," Draco said for her, "You know, technically, you're the only one left. Everyone else has passed away, married off into different names or has been disowned."
"Or imprisoned," said the very fat boy, with a thick neck on Draco's left side. He laughed and the other two sniggered.
Draco continued before Linden could snap at him, "You're authentic, you know. Could have had the chance to redeem yourself if you hadn't gotten yourself placed in Gryffindor," he sneered at her, like it was her fault and not the decision of the Sorting Hat.
Linden's eyes darted from side to side, eyeing the boys that looked more like bodyguards than friends. The fat boy had his gorilla-like arms folded across his chest and a flat nose, with a pudding bowl-style haircut.
The boy on the right had large feet, small dull eyes, long gorilla arms, short, bristly hair low on his forehead, and broad shoulders. She spotted a bandage on one of his knuckles.
None of this helped her decipher what was currently happening or why these boys had followed her here.
"Why would I need to redeem myself?" she asked, "And to who?"
They sniggered again, making Linden feel as though they knew a joke that she wasn't privy to. Perhaps she was the joke.
"I really shouldn't even be talking to you," Draco didn't answer her question, "But I saw you sitting with the riffraff, this morning and thought I'd be kind…just this once, and warn you."
Kind? Draco didn't seem the type to just go around and be kind. Even if it was only once.
"Stop talking to the Weasleys," he told her firmly, "You should really stick to your own kind. You might actually have a chance."
Linden watched as he walked towards her, extending a hand. He was careful to avoid the owl droppings and the regurgitated skeletons of mice and voles that littered the floor.
She didn't take his hand, "I…still don't quite know what's happening? Do I know you?"
"You wouldn't know," Draco said pityingly, "Given who you've been raised by. Understand that some wizarding families—yours still technically included—are better than others. You still have a chance, I bet, to make friends with the right sort and be where you actually belong."
Linden still didn't understand, "And where do I belong, exactly?"
She didn't want to be rude, but this kid was odd and not very friendly and horrible at answering the questions he was asked. If she had to guess, Draco and his bodyguards were in Slytherin. Not because they were all rude, but because of the air they carried.
And how did Draco know who had raised her? He was being nosy and it was none of his business! Nor was her family history or anything of the sort. Unless…
She tilted her head, looking him in the eyes. His gray eyes.
"Are we related or something?" she asked him. Again, not trying to be rude, but she hoped not.
Draco smirked at her and nodded at the owls. He finally dropped his hand, "Ask your dear, dear cousin Andromeda about my mum, Narcissa. Bellatrix too if you want a real story."
The two boys at Draco's side had shifted uncomfortably, but Draco was still wearing his smug smile.
"Crabbe and Goyle, by the way," Draco shrugged carelessly, gesturing to the two, but not specifying which one was which.
"Right…" Linden drawled, "Well, I should get to class."
Classes hadn't started yet, but she would use whatever excuse she could think of to leave. It was a tight squeeze to get between Draco and either Crabbe or Goyle, but she was eager to be in more familiar territory and away from Draco Malfoy.
"See you 'round, I hope!" Draco called, mockingly, after her. She could hear his cronies sniggering, a sound she didn't quite care for.
She didn't know anything about Andromeda's side of the family, let alone that some of them would be attending Hogwarts. That's where the words 'estranged' and 'disowned' came in.
From overhearing Ted and Andromeda's talks, they had never mentioned a Narcissa or a Bellatrix. Nor a Draco Malfoy.
He could have been making it all up—playing a prank to make her look foolish. Isn't that what boys did?
She shook her head, not wanting to dwell on the encounter. She had more important things upon which to dwell, such as trying to make friends. Oh, and her first class. Then her second, third, fourth and so on.
Finding her first class proved rather difficult.
There were one hundred and forty-two staircases at Hogwarts: wide, sweeping ones; narrow, rickety ones; some that led somewhere different on a Friday; some with a vanishing step halfway up that you had to remember to jump. Then there were doors that wouldn't open unless you asked politely, or tickled them in exactly the right place, and doors that weren't really doors at all, but solid walls just pretending.
It appeared that the whole castle was alive.
'Dodgy,' she thought, looking around the magnificent corridors.
She found her Charms class in classroom 99 in the South Tower and was in her seat at 9:00AM exactly when the bell chimed.
Professor Flitwick, a tiny wizard was standing on a pile of books at his desk.
"Good morning, class," he squeaked to them, "My name is Professor Flitwick and welcome to Charms. Today, I'll be talking about basic wrist movements and pronunciation and it is my hope, that by Halloween, we'll start working on our first spell."
Murmurs of excitement fluttered through the room until Professor Flitwick shushed them to take roll call.
Linden was particularly excited for this class. It had been Andromeda's favourite and Linden hoped she would be good at it. She wanted to make her cousin proud.
"Linden Black? EEK!"
There was a noise and Linden gasped loudly, flinching as Professor Flitwick toppled out of sight at reading her name with a loud, unpleasant thud.
She bit her lip, her eyes darting from side to side, then settling back on the empty stack of books. Professor Flitwick was so tiny…that had to be a long fall for him and she hoped that he was unharmed.
'Oh, Merlin, what if I killed my professor?' she kept her eyes forward, feeling a few people glare at the back of her head. Her heart sped up, 'And it's only the first lesson!'
"Well, then!" Professor Flitwick jumped back up, but no one could see him, "Let's get back to roll call, shall we?"
He clambered back atop his book pile, his hair in slight disarray, a few strands falling into his eyes.
"Sorry about that," he said sincerely. His cheeks coloured and he cleared his throat, "Bit of a shock, really. Now…"
He returned to roll call and Linden glanced down at her desk, folding her hands in her lap.
If the rest of her classes were anything like this one, she wasn't sure she'd make it through the term.
"You still have a chance, I bet, to make friends with the right sort and be where you actually belong."
The right sort? As far as she was concerned, there was nothing wrong with the Weasleys and Andromeda had said nothing but kind and lovely things about them.
Besides Ron, Fred and George had been really nice to her. Why couldn't they be the right sort? And who was appointed to make 'the right sort' decision?
'I'm the only Black left…' that fact had never occurred to her before and that made her feel quite lonely.
A feeling she supposed, she would have to get used to.
"Harry Potter? EEP!"
Linden's head snapped up. The stack of books were empty again and she turned, looking at Harry who's cheeks had pinked.
He caught her eye again and this time, she smiled.
Maybe she wouldn't have to get used to feeling so lonely.