The water gurgled over her head for a moment and she gasped and choked on the air that roughly assaulted her face as her senses came back one by one. There were the warm, soft covers pulled up to her chin, the soft morning sunlight lighting the bedroom around her. . .and her sister singing a song that she had heard way too many times.
“Shut up Sophie,” she groaned throwing the nearest thing to her, which was luckily a small pink teddy bear, at the noisy thing that was trying to do its makeup in the dressing table mirror.
“Why are you doing that there? You always get ready in front of the bathroom mirror.”
Sophie laughed, slightly too high pitched even for her. “I can brush my hair wherever I want can’t I? I don’t have to go to the same place every day.”
Bell sat up, pushing the covers out of the way and rubbing sleep out of her eyes. “But you do go to the same place every day.”
She stretched her arms above her head and shook off the last of the sleepiness before realising why her sister was sat where she was.
“There’s someone here isn’t there. One of my friends.”
Sophie’s eyes widened, caught out, as Bell continued.
“And you’re staying with me in our room because you’re trying to protect them from me again.”
Sophie sighed. “I just don’t want you hurting anyone else. You need to be more careful what you say to people, they have feelings the same as you and not everyone is so aware and accepting of their own flaws, they get upset when you point them out.”
Bell snorted. “I didn’t point out her flaws I called her a lying, frizzy haired, sneaky cow.”
She put her feet on the floor and pushed her long, dark curls behind her shoulders. “She needed a wakeup call.”
“No,” Sophie defied firmly. “She needed someone to be nice to her and help her. Have you any idea what her family is like? You shouldn’t make assumptions about people when you don’t know the whole story”
Bell tilted her head to the side slightly. “I made no assumptions.”
Her sister spun around with a sigh. “Then what was-”
“Her life is not my problem but her being a bitch to me and people I care about was. Now it doesn’t have to be, she’s too scared I’ll tell her boyfriend about-”
“No Bell, I don’t want to know anyone else’s secrets.”
“Anyway,” said Bell as she stood up and fished around in a pile of clothes for something that she felt like wearing. “What do you plan on doing? Following me everywhere and chaperoning my every meeting with fellow human beings?”
“If I were you I wouldn’t say fellow.” Sophie muttered.
Bell looked up and made a questioning noise.
“It’s fine I didn’t really say anything. I just don’t want you falling out with Zoe, she’s one of the only people I can think of who still manages to put up with you.”
“Oh,” Bell smiled. “It’s Zoe that’s here?” Prompting a short laugh and a question about who else it would be from her sister.
“Tom. . . Tom. . . Tom” Lily hissed shaking the shoulders of the boy slumped asleep on the floor in front of her.
“Ugh, uh. . .um. . .oh, right. Whaddayawant?” The boy took a little while to wake up and become coherent and Lily quickly became impatient.
“You need to get up,” the last word was slightly strained as she tried to heave him to his feet. “You can’t sleep here any longer, you’ll get caught. Let’s get back to the dormitory before someone realizes you’re gone.”
Tom opened one eye a little, saw the potions classroom around him, shivered in the cold then simply pulled his cloak - temporarily serving as a blanket - tighter around him and decided it wasn’t worth waking up for.
“Oh for goodness’ sake you lazy idiot, if you don’t get up now you’re going to be caught and then you’re going to have to explain why you’re here and then you’ll have to sleep in the dormitory every night from now on.” She put on her best bossy face and tilted her head to the side. “Is that what you want?”
He sighed. “Alright, alright. I’m getting up.”
“Come on then,” Lily whispered as Tom stood up, pulled his cloak on properly and followed her to sneak back through the Slytherin common room and into his dormitory.
Sophie felt the urge to look around her before she walked towards the manor house as though she was being followed or watched but she mentally shook herself – it was just the guilt making her feel that way – and ignored the urge, walking up the driveway towards the impressive old home.
It was in a rather beautiful state of partial decay, the important things like the windows intact but no effort had been made to make it look more looked after as was clear by the ivy growing up on side of it and the dark grey tint to the old stone. The door had clearly once been painted a deep red colour but that was now peeling away to show dark wood underneath.
She reached for the bell by the door because there didn’t seem to be a doorknocker or a conventional button bell and she doubted knocking with her fist would be heard in such a huge place but the door was opened before she could ring by a girl of about the same age as her wearing a slightly ragged dark dress. Everything about the girl seemed a bit washed out apart from her bright red hair. Sophie pulled her hand away from the bell awkwardly as the girl smiled emptily and offered to take her coat.
Allowing her pale pink jacket to be taken by the girl who was even slighter than her five foot two slim frame she looked around the entrance hall. It was slightly smaller than the grand halls with their chandeliers and double staircases that she saw on TV but it was elaborate. The ornate but slightly rusted metal staircase to her right lead up into a corridor that was full of nothing but darkness and an elaborate lopsided light fixture hung above an ominously stained rug.
The girl saw where Sophie was looking and apologised.
“There is no cleaner anymore.
Sophie nodded and tried to look friendly and understanding. “Of course.”
Then the girl gestured towards the rug that was the topic of their discussion.
“Yes, she died more messily than was really necessary.”
Sophie attempted to hide her shock but the girl wasn’t paying any attention to her anyway.
“Right,” she said, her voice strained as she tried to look anywhere but the girl or the rug.
“Such a shame. . .” The girl’s voice trailed off as Sophie, assuming she was talking of the death of the cleaner nodded and the girl continued to gaze at the rug.
“It had such a pretty pattern.”
Sophie made a sharp intake of breath and thought that maybe she should leave, this was not at all what she’d expected but then again she hadn’t really known what to expect.
“Ok, please could I have my coat back, I think there’s been a mistake.” She pretended to look at her phone while the girl just continued to gaze into the distance.
“Oh yes, see, complete mistake, wrong address. In fact wrong town all together. I’ll be off now, Nottingham or somewhere, maybe Portsmouth, I don’t know could be anywhere.” She laughed nervously and turned towards the door only to whip back around at the sound of high laughter coming from above the stairs.
Sophie couldn’t see into the darkness of the upstairs corridor as she heard a woman’s voice.
“I do apologise for my maid. She’s a little disturbed. I forget that visitors may find her a little strange.”
With a bit of a strut to her walk a woman, rather pretty Sophie had to admit, emerged from the shadows to the top of the stairs and smiled welcomingly if slightly predatorily at Sophie. A black curl broke free from her thick hair and fell across her face as she spoke and gestured to the building around her.
“What do you think of my house? I have only had it for a few years, barely managed to tear the ghastly muggle family away from it.”
Assuming the word muggle must be some posh person’s insult she’d never heard Sophie smiled nervously and said something about the formidable grandness of the place causing the woman to smile self-indulgently.
“Yes, it is rather special isn’t it?” Then she looked back down towards Sophie and started to descend the staircase.
“Welcome to my home. You may call me Mrs Riddle”
“Bell, I thought I told you ten minutes ago to empty the bloody dishwasher. I’m getting fed up of you being so idle.”
Bell was sat at one of the desks in the bedroom that she shared with Sophie, comparing homework essays with Zoe to make sure they’d both done the right thing.
She blew a gust of frustrated air out of her mouth at the words her mother was shouting from downstairs.
“And I thought I told you half an hour ago that I have a friend over and we’re doing homework.”
She pulled her chair closer to the desk, shaking a tube of tip-ex and applying it to an incorrect spelling. Her jaw tightened and her shoulders tensed as her mother shouted up the stairs again.
“When I tell you to do something, I expect you to do it as soon as I say so.” Her voice was getting increasingly angry.
Bell squeezed the tip-ex tube too hard and a puddle of white liquid spilled out from the metal end, spreading across her carefully written work.
Zoe noticed first. “Um, Millie.”
Bell slammed it down on the paper, her hand now smeared with white and a splatter of it dotting the table.
“Well maybe if you told me what you expected before you started yelling at me for it!” Her voice got louder and faster towards the end and she sprung to her feet with angry energy, chair thudding to the floor and extracting a startled squeak from a slightly frightened Zoe.
From the sound of it her mother had lost all calmness completely.
“Just shut up and do it!” Her voice took anger and flung it against the walls but far from subduing her, Bell was just further enraged.
“Oh my God, I could totally murder that bitch right now.”
Zoe looked up at her from where she was sat. “You don’t mean that literally do you?”
“Oh of course not,” Bell snapped.
“You know,” Zoe began nervously, “You did sort of get defensive really quickly so-”
“That’s because she got offensive really quickly. She just started having a go straight away.” Bell didn’t allow her friend to finish her sentence.
“Yes,” Zoe started, “but-”
“Oh just go away.” Bell turned to look at her irritably and hooked her foot around the bottom of the door, kicking it open inwards.
“Go on.” She nodded towards the open door.
“Sorry,” said Zoe, “I didn’t mean it, I was wro-”
“Just leave me alone!”
Zoe murmured sorry again, backing out of the door and blinking back tears.
“As part of the Ministry of Magic’s new M.U.G.G.L.E initiative you will be the first Hogwarts school year to spend these school weeks at a muggle school in the muggle world. Oh my, isn’t this exciting.”
The excitable young muggle studies teacher stood at the front of the Great Hall looking like she was about to launch through the roof with excitement while a sea of bored, blank fifth year faces tried not to look too upset at the idea of having to live without magic for a whole half term.
Not all of the students were completely blind to the potential for fun this could have though. Quite a few Ravenclaw students were looking forwards to a more in depth study of muggle culture and a few conversations about experiments and possible outcomes could be heard whereas Tom and Lily were mostly just contemplating the pranks they could pull and mayhem they could cause.
Their discussion of how to sneak their wands with them was interrupted by a particularly loud squeaking noise that seemed to have been emitted from their muggle studies teacher.
“2 sickles she’ll faint again.”
“No, a whole galleon that Professor McGonagall will have to sit her on the steps and talk her into calming down again and then her excitement will set Professor Longbottom off too like last time.”
Their bet was to be forgotten about soon however when Professor Longbottom, having just received an owl, stood up suddenly, his face having turned a sickly pale colour.
“Bellatrix.” His voice sounded strangled.