While she was at home that evening Violet had spent a lot of time playing with her new kitten and trying not to overthink what had happened that day. It was certainly very confusing and she was worried that if she drew her own conclusions or thought about it too much then she could only be disappointed. She thought about all of the strange things that had happened around her, so much that the other girls at school used it as an extra tool to make fun of her. She had always though she was special, even if everyone else thinks the same thing about themselves, she would love to be proved that she was actually right and everyone else was wrong. Then she stopped thinking about it. It was too good to let herself hope as she could only be disappointed.
She had decided that the kitten’s eyes were more of a dark blue than a purple after all and had named her indigo. She seemed to approve.
It took a while but she eventually managed to get it in her head to ignore the happenings of that day and the promises that Longbottom had made. She simply thought ahead as though it were a normal half term. She would relax at home, be bored, read, and then on Halloween she would contemplate going trick or treating in a costume that no one would recognise her in but would then decide, as always, that whether she was in a disguising costume or not that going on her own was just sad. Maybe this time she’d let go of her pride and give in to Mrs Thompson’s offers to go with her. It could be fun.
With this in mind she went to bed as usual, ignoring the thoughts of the possibilities she had come across that nagged at the back or her mind.
As it braked, the train made a screeching noise that would have put the sound effects of any horror film to shame. At this particular station many people boarded the already crowded vehicle but few got off. It started up again, making the increasingly loud humming noise that many of the travellers found familiar.
It swayed gently in the pleasant way that trains do. The passengers that gazed out of the window were treated to the usual sight of row after row after row of terraced houses stretching as far into the distance as the eye could see. The same baby that had already been a nuisance on and off for the past hour woke up and started wailing again as its father hushed and bounced it as though that was what it wanted. Another child, thought this one was a few years older, ran down the aisle calling, “Mummy, mummy!” much to the annoyance of the old woman who had been trying, and failing, to read her book despite the distraction of several children who didn’t know how to moderate the volume of their voices.
The brakes returned with their horrendous screech and the child was no longer making the most irritating sounds but was melodramatically covering his ears with his little hands, pulling a disgusted face.
The train slowed in the way that trains do, slowly, so none of the passengers were instilled with the sense of urgency that the situation really required. For they could not see around to the front of the train, where a large part of the track had been melted into a steaming and oddly beautiful, silver disc, reflecting the clouds as though the train was going to chug right down into the sky, taking the travellers with it into the fluffy rain clouds.
The brakes were upstaged by an even more hideous screech and the train jolted in a way that was far more violent than it ever should do. The baby stopped crying.
Violet woke up, turned over, and went back to sleep.
“Three people are known to have died including a father of two, his baby and an elderly woman who was on her way to celebrate her daughter’s recovery from cancer. The driver of the train has severe amnesia and does not remember what happened and, as the track remains intact and the train shows no signs of impact that occurred before its derailing, we may never know what caused this tragic disaster.”
Mrs Thompson shook her head at the TV and commented on how awful it was.
Violet hummed in response, as though she wasn’t paying attention, but underneath the breakfast table her hand was clenched into a fist. This wasn’t the first time something like this, something that she had dreamt or daydreamed, had happened but this was only the second time that it had been something so bad and so public. Usually it was on a smaller scale. Someone’s pet being put down, the girl in her primary school falling off her bike and hitting her head in just the wrong way.
“Can we change the channel please? I’m sure Homes Under the Hammer or something equally boring but more cheerful is on.”
“Hey,” admonished Mrs Thompson, “Just because you’re not the target audience it doesn’t mean it’s boring.”
Violet rolled her eyes and was about to continue eating her buttered crumpets when she caught a glimpse of something move quickly past the window. Ignoring it initially, her attention was soon gained when that something began to tap quietly.
Being older, a little more deaf, and a lot more absorbed in Homes Under the Hammer, Mrs Thompson didn’t notice but Violet was intrigued so she excused herself and slipped out of the back door, followed sneakily by Indigo.
The grey owl that had been pecking softly at the window flew over and perched on the wrought iron banister next to where Violet stood on the stairs. Violet only realised that Indigo had followed her outside when she started meowing and pacing anxiously underneath the owl.
The owl had a letter and, although she was a little hesitant to put her hand so near to the beak, readily allowed Violet to take it. She ran her fingers along the thick, smooth paper and read the address written in green ink in a cursive hand.
The Moody One
1 Kestrel Road
Deciding that now wasn’t the time to take objection to being called moody, violet slid her finger underneath the corner of the flap and gently tore it open. The letter inside was on the same heavy paper in the same dark ink and hand. It read:
Dear Miss Black
I believe that there has possibly been some mistake in the enrolment of you at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry so I am writing to inform you that you are, in actual fact, a witch, and we should have contacted you years ago about your education in magic.
However, better late than never, so I would like to invite you to join us at Hogwarts and you can rest assured that every accommodation will be made to ensure that you catch up swiftly and settle in nicely at your new school.
When I spoke to you yesterday, despite you obvious shock, you did seem interested in the idea that there could be something else for you other than your muggle life. I have seen the same look in the eyes of many muggle borns; you can tell that this is truly who you are.
As this is clearly exceptional circumstances, please respond with a day and time at which you can come with me to spend the day getting acquainted with the wizarding community with the consent of your parent or guardian.
Professor Neville Longbottom, Headmaster of Hogwarts
The letter hadn’t really given her much information but she had been able to figure this out: apparently she was a witch, she was invited to attend a school of magic, and they were supposed to have known about it already.
That last one worried her. What if it was because she wasn’t a witch after all and this man was only mistaken because, as he had said, she looked like someone he knew?
Now she could no longer suppress the excitement and nor could she stop her mind from racing with possibilities and imaginations as to what magic school might be like.
Maybe she could finally make something of herself; be somewhere where she was understood and respected. Or maybe she would be inferior; everyone else would have been there for longer than her and what if she was no good at magic after all, or even worse, be incapable of it altogether.
In the end; after sitting on her bed with the letter in her hand worrying about it for almost an hour she just decided to stop. There was no point worrying and, when was she ever bad at anything really? She would be good at it. She would be great. This was why nothing had ever felt right yet; this was what she was supposed to be all along.
Bolstered by this confidence she got out her best notebook and wrote a reply to Longbottom in her neatest writing and it wasn’t until after this that she realised she didn’t know where to send it. However, upon leaning out of the window to see if the owl was still there, she was nearly hit in the face by the soft, grey wings of the bird as it flew up to greet her, hopping energetically from foot to foot on her window sill as though in wait of a letter to carry.
Seeing this she hoped that the owl itself was magical, wrote the professor’s name on the back of the piece of lined paper, and let the owl take it in its beak. It then flew away and, as she closed the window, Violet watched it until it was so far away that it could no longer be seen with the naked eye.
Violet spent the rest of the day in her painting room where she drew the outlines of stars and galaxies on the walls ready to fill in with paint on a later date.
Violet couldn’t get out of the front door the next morning because Indigo wouldn’t stop rubbing herself against her ankles and whenever she tried to take a step over the threshold she sunk her claws into the ankles of her jeans and refused to let go. After several minutes in which she pried Indigo off her ankles and placed her back inside, tried to step outside, and started all over again, she gave up.
It was, by then, apparent to Violet that Indigo was not an ordinary kitten. She hadn’t had to be trained not to run off, not to scratch (although, as any cat will, she would use her claws to make her feelings clear occasionally) and she had been house trained surprisingly quickly. Violet had never known a pet to be so loyal and well behaved so quickly. Due to this there was little wonder that the cat took objection to being left behind and chose to hover by her human’s side almost constantly.
As Violet carried her kitten on her walk to the train station she considered how open Longbottom would be to the idea of not quite being completely truthful with Mrs Thompson. After all, she didn’t imagine that, “By the way, it has recently come to light that I’m a witch and now I’m off to magic school with a man we’ve never met,” would go down particularly well or even be believed at all and Mrs Thompson did spend school term time being nanny to someone else’s children and so probably wouldn’t notice at all if she didn’t go back to her usual boarding school.
That was why she was taking the train by herself to London to meet Professor Longbottom for the introduction to the wizarding world that he had promised instead of getting Mrs Thompson’s permission and bringing her along as he had seemed to expect. Was he used to guardians simply accepting this and coming along?
She wasn’t sure if you were allowed to take cats on trains but she had seen people taking dogs on there before so figured that, despite the funny looks she received, as long as she kept the fluffy little thing, quiet, still, and on her lap, no one would have an objection.
It wasn’t until she had been sat there, stroking Indigo and staring out of the window, that she remembered the dream, and the reality, of the train that had crashed. She wondered what it meant that she hadn’t thought of it before. Possibly it could mean that she had no heart but it could also just be that she had gone through the same process of dreaming or seeing and then reality happening, so many times that she had gotten used to not dwelling on it.
Maybe this was the proof of what Longbottom had said; she really was a witch.
“Your appear to be deep in thought.”
Violet startled and Indigo dug her claws in to her thighs. It was probably lucky that she hadn’t attacked; Violet wouldn’t have put her past it.
She scowled when she saw that it was Longbottom, sat across on the other side of the table from her, not even trying to look apologetic.
He shrugged and laughed at Violet’s annoyed face. “I’ve been on the butt end of laughs all of my life. Now it’s my turn.”
“How did you know I was here?”
He grinned again and wiggled his eyebrows. “Magic,” he said theatrically.
Violet’s expression didn’t change and, rather than responding, she chose instead to watch the end of the fields and houses and beginnings of larger buildings on the other side of the cloudy, scratched window.
“Just kidding, this is the only train that stops at your town and London on the morning we agreed to meet. It’s not magic, it’s brain power.”
“You seem to think you’re funny.” Violet felt that she was being ridiculed and so the defences started going up. She was used to this sort of treatment and she was also used to not letting it affect her.
Longbottom noticed her discomfort and leaned forwards, over the table then waited for her to look at his face.
“I’m not making fun, I’m just trying to lighten the mood. You seem like an awfully sombre young lady.”
Violet’s face twitched slightly as though she was trying not to smile. “Well maybe I’m just grumpy.”
Longbottom leaned back in his seat and tried to discretely wipe away the sticky substance that had transferred from the table onto his elbow. “That’s more like it, we can’t have you being unsociable when I’m introducing you to potential fellow students.”
Violet immediately became wary. So far she hadn’t met many people her own age (or otherwise) that saw a positive first impression of her or decided to be friendly regardless but there was a possibility that this could be different. After all, maybe the thing people had sensed was off about her was her magic and these people were supposedly just the same.
“I’d like to tell you not to worry about it but to be honest the only two students that I was able to get excused from a day of lessons aren’t the easiest of people to talk to. It’s possible that their teachers just didn’t want them in their class. However I’m sure they won’t bite.” Longbottom started to look a little concerned. “I shouldn’t make comments like that. I’m sorry, I’ve not been headmaster for long and I’m still getting the hand of the tactful, diplomatic side of things.”
Violet could tell that he was one of those people that had a tendency to put their foot in it. She sniggered. He didn’t seem the most competent of head teachers. It seemed possible that this might be the sort of school where she could get away with mischief if the other staff were anything like him.
The buildings around them gradually got older and soon they found themselves slowing into an aged station with lots of things made out of brick, steel, and glass. It was bright and busy. Indigo lost a little of her strange wise cat air and shrank back against Violet’s chest, hoping not to be removed from her arms.
There were now a few people between her and Longbottom so he waved his arm in the air. “This way,” he called out a little too loudly so several people turned around to stare.
Violet liked the business. It made her feel like she as in an important place where lots of things were going on. She hadn’t been to London since her last visit to her parents when she was a young child and she didn’t remember much about those trips apart from sitting in a café feeling a little lost and crying on the train on the way back.
She followed Longbottom, who walked ahead of her, occasionally glancing back as though to make sure that she hadn’t run away. They went up some stairs and across to the other side of the station as the upper floor, lined by shops, was much easier to navigate due to its open plan style, glass ceiling, and the many signs to point the way for the many uncertain tourists and business visitors. The floor was the usual smooth polished stone tiles that you would find in many indoor public places, the walls were painted in a light, neutral colour and the railings were made of hollow metal and polished glass. It looked as though it had been recently refurbished due to both the previous observations and the shops which were all trendy new ones that Violet hadn’t seen before rather than the usual fast food restaurants that have been around for years.
Once they had made their way a good distance through the crowds of people with suitcases and backpacks that were milling around aimlessly, they made their way down two escalators and into a much older, darker, area underneath the station.
Longbottom walked up to a ticket machine and looked at it.
This went on for a few moments before Violet enquired, “Aren’t you going to buy some tickets then?”
There was quite a few people stood behind them and, although there were three other ticket machines adjacent to theirs which were receiving a steady stream of customers, at least a couple of people seemed to notice Neville’s lack of activity and were casting funny looks and probably considering giving him the options of getting on with it or going away.
He looked unsure of himself and Violet wondered if maybe he didn’t know how to use the machine so she asked him if he did.
“I have it all under control, all planned out. Professor Messenger, he teaches muggle studies, told me that all I had to do was get the tickets from a ticket machine. That sign say ‘Ticket Machines’ and this is a machine. Other people are getting tickets from theirs. Why aren’t we getting any?”
Violet couldn’t help but laugh. “Well you have to tell it what ticket you want and give it some money for it.”
Neville took a handful of coins and five pound notes from his pocket to demonstrate that he did, in fact, have the money needed. “I told you I was prepared.” He seemed a little indignant and convinced that he was doing well.
Violet couldn’t imagine anyone like this being headmaster of a school. It seemed like these witches and wizards didn’t spend much time amongst normal people. She felt like this was a habit she would come to appreciate before long.
After asking Longbottom where they needed to go and if they needed to get back to the same station Violet handled the ticket machine herself, explaining each part step by step in case he should ever need to use one himself. He was very proud of the fact that he knew how much each coin was worth.
Once they had made their way down another escalator, it having taken several attempts to persuade Neville to step onto such a narrow, crowded, and fast moving set of stairs, they figured out what train they wanted, waited for all of fifty something seconds and boarded. Violet gave the headmaster a bit of a push to make sure he got on without making a fuss or getting left behind.
The rest of the journey went fairly smoothly, Neville knew which way to go once they were out of the underground and he led her into a slightly dingy, outdated, inn in which there was the ever present noise of trains coming and going from King’s Cross Station.
There were several long, battered wooden tables set atop the flagstone floor with small groups of people sat talking over cups of tea, coffee, or some sort of alcohol. The walls were made of stone, the bar lined with brand of drinks that Violet did not recognise and there were many framed photographs, paintings, and drawings on the walls. However none of this was what gained Violet’s attention so much as the clothes of the people that were, at that particular time, inhabiting the room. Not a single one of them was dressed in the usual way; Violet could not see a single normal fashion on the lot of them. There were funny coloured trousers and shirts, robes that swept all the way to the floor, casually swung over shoulders as though it was ordinary and they were used to wearing them and pointed hats, some sat forlornly on tables, others places proudly atop of heads and one floating around the tables about a foot about everyone’s head offering milk and sugar to anyone that looked at it.
Upon even closer inspection of the room Violet was stunned to see that many of the pictures hung haphazardly on the walls and pillars contained people that were chatting, making hand gestures, wind that ruffled clothes and leaves and rain that made the inhabitants of the picture scowl and cover their heads.
If she hadn’t been sure before, now Violet most certainly believed that Professor Longbottom was not making all of this magic stuff up. Even Violet’s imagination could not conjure up such a detailed hallucination for this to be madness.
It was as she came to this conclusion that Neville, completely oblivious to her amazement, pointed towards the other side of the room. “Ah, there they are, hello.” He waved enthusiastically and Violet saw a dark haired boy and a red headed girl duck their heads and pull faces in mock embarrassment as though the headmaster was an embarrassing uncle.
“Don’t be so rude,” he admonished as they walked within earshot of a normal talking voice. “This is Violet, the girl that I told you about.”
The boy smiled, stood up, and held out his hand. “Hello, I’m Tom.”
Violet didn’t think she had met someone her own age who would shake someone’s hand as a friendly greeting but took it confidently and looked him in the eye. She was used to this; making it clear who was boss. She was busy doing her best, ‘You’d do best not to mess with me,’ face when the red headed girl whacked Tom on the arm with a gloved hand so he gave her a wounded look and sat down.
“Don’t worry about him,” she told Violet, “He’s just a softie, It’s me you should be concerned with.”
Violet gave an unconvincing laugh because this girl actually did seem like someone she should be concerned with as she was displaying a full set of, ‘Back off,’ body language. But maybe someone else who was also used to keeping people out would make a good friend for Violet. She figured that they would have at least that in common.
Longbottom cleared his throat. “This rather rude,” he said that first bit with a pointed look at the girl, “young lady here is Lily Potter and she is going to be very welcoming,” another pointed look, “and make you feel at home with us while we get you prepared for your new life at our school Hogwarts today.”
Violet felt that she really shouldn’t be sure yet whether she wanted to trust these people that she had never met and follow them away to a school that she knew next to nothing about but she just knew that she couldn’t turn down the opportunity for something different, something new, from the boring, unpromising, life that she had been stuck with so far.