AUTHOR'S NOTE: A long time ago in a land far far away, I used
to be a Gryffindor with Harry Potter as the love of my life and Hermione
Granger as my best friend. "But then, something happened that the Ring did
not intend." Oh dear! Wrong story! But anyway, something did happen that
I did not expect. After I read J.L. Matthews' magnificent Slytherin Rising
series, I became a converted Slytherin and being the stalwart supporter
that I am, I decided to write my own Slytherin series and promote the house
of the snake. So here is the first chapter of Part One in which we are
introduced to the Slytherin heroine of the series that will follow the Harry
Potter series, book by book.
The Coulden family was always one of the most prominent wizarding families in Britain, although it was not one of the most admired. The reason behind this was the rumour that the Couldens (along with quite a few other pure-blood families) associated themselves with the Dark Arts, and, as the majority of the wizarding world in Britian did not much look up to the Dark Side, they were thought of with much antipathy by the non-Dark wizarding communities.
And they were still looked upon as 'threats to the magical society' by quite a few wizarding families when Neve Coulden, the only child of Darius and Mortenvia Coulden, was born. Nor did the general public opinion of the family change when Neve was accepted as a pupil into Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, which both her parents had attended.
It was on a pleasant sunny day, the fifth of July to be exact, when Neve was to receive her Hogwarts Acceptance Letter, and she awoke several hours earlier than she normally would have that day. This was due to the incessant shrieking of her enchanted alarm clock (whose digits smoothly changed colour with every passing minute) which she got from her mother for her tenth birthday the previous year.
However, after the first few weeks she used the clock, she was wholeheartedly tired of the sickeningly childish personality it had been bewitched to have ("Wake-up, sleepy-head! Rub your eyes, get out of bed!"). So after several terrifying threats of smashing it with an axe, she finally managed to persuade the clock to abandon its infantile manner and take up a more crude way of speech when awakening her ("Wake-up, you evil sod!").
As Neve heard the first shrill tones of the clock screeching, she sat bolt upright in bed and, realising that it was the alarm clock which had awoken her from her slumbers, hit it hard with her fist. "If you keep screaming so loudly, I'm going to disembowel you and throw you out!" she managed to say over the squeals of pain from the clock.
This threat had always worked to silence the clock because it was mortally afraid of being disassembled and knew perfectly well that the currently eleven-year-old Neve was quite able of carrying it out by herself.
But the clock seemed to have acquired a smidgeon of courage over the past
few weeks because it hesitatingly squeaked out, "How am I supposed to wake
you up, then? And anyway, your mother will be sure to find out if you
do that to me, and you will most probably be supplied by another alarm clock
that will not surrender to your threats at all!"
Neve scowled at the clock, which was currently showing 6:33 in
a fluorescent blue colour, but knew she was beaten. She had had
three alarm clocks so far, all of which lasted less than six months, and
this one was definitely not the worst; in fact, it was possibly the best
out of all the ones she'd had.
She disentangled herself from the blankets, got out of bed, and began dressing. After giving her hair a hasty brush and pulling on a bottle-green unadorned robe over a plain grey skirt and white shirt, she opened her bedroom door and sauntered downstairs.
The Couldens lived on a large estate in Wiltshire, quite a long way from
the nearest Muggle town, Tidworth. Coulden Manor was a vast stately
house, one of the oldest in the area, surrounded by luxuriant gardens and
lush green lawns. Mrs Coulden had also established her own special
part in the garden behind the house where she liked to experiment and rear
her own magical flowers. She had a certain bond with them that none
of the other members of the Coulden household ever managed to achieve,
for the flowers were not at all like the ones that were seen in Muggle florist
Most of the flowers reminded Neve of their caretaker, for they were in
essence nasty cunning things that often tried to bite and sting her whenever
she happened to walk past and occasionally succeeded. Large Venomous
Tentaculas, with their dark red spiky leaves, always tried to sneak their
vines around Neve's neck; minuscule Toxic Trefoils stretched themselves
as far as they could out of their beds to scratch at her stockinged legs;
and Neve preferred to forget her experience with the shade-loving Devil's
Snare, after it had nearly suffocated her when she chose to examine it
Neve liked to stay in the house more than in the gardens because of the higher safety factor inside. Yet, after living in the Manor for nearly twelve years, she still did not know exactly how many rooms it had. She was only allowed to visit the ones that were open to all visitors - the kitchen, dining and drawing rooms, bedrooms and bathrooms - as well as the attic, which was only accessible to members of the Coulden family. Out of boredom, she walked the corridors of the Manor nearly everyday, but the sheer enormity of the amount of rooms that it contained had almost always made her give up.
The first level of the Manor held the solitary kitchen and a few dining
and drawing rooms, the thirty-five bedrooms and fifteen bathrooms were
on the second, and the enormous attic was on the third. Every room
in the Manor (that was used at least once a week) was elegantly furnished
and kept in excellent condition for fear of unexpected guests who might
have just wanted to drop in.
But Neve was also sure that the Manor had quite a few secret passages, because she had been in many of them herself. Some were hidden by doors with unobtrusive tapestries and paintings hanging over them; others concealed behind wardrobes and dressing tables with tall mirrors.
All in all, it was a very rich home to live in - something for kings
and queens and other people of nobility - though with not as much glitter
and sparkle as would be expected in a palace.
The paintings and tapestries on the walls were constantly moving, as
was usual in the wizarding world, and they showed various ancestors of Mr
and Mrs Coulden; certain scenes from magical history; and all sorts of magical
creatures such as vampires, banshees and the like, who all leered down
at Neve unpleasantly whenever she had decided to stroll past them.
At times, when she was unendurably bored, she would walk through the corridors of the Manor and stop to have conversations with some of the occupants of the paintings - all of which ended up in a battle of insults and sharpened Neve's tongue.
Coulden Manor was also host to a relatively small amount of dungeons. And yet, while all of these were seemingly empty, Neve was still not permitted to go anywhere near them for reasons that Mr Coulden had unfortunately not divulged. He pointed out that they were strictly out of limits to all but himself and the selected few who were his friends. Neve knew that a very severe punishment would be in store for her if she ever decided to wander into the dark, gloomy caverns beneath the Manor, and if Mr Coulden found out about it.
Still, she could not help contemplating the matter. And, when she tried to investigate the entrance to the dungeons more closely, she noticed there were two paintings of very sulky and grim-looking banshees to alert Mr Coulden of the approach of intruders. Mr Coulden had also mentioned that if the trespasser tried to unlock the door to the dungeons, a multitude of curses would be activated immediately and the interloper would be prevented from entering the dungeons one way or another.
When Neve entered the spotless kitchen that day she immediately espied the family house-elf, Botty, polishing the kitchen table. His bat-like ears flapped slightly as he slid the cloth over the already shining surface, and as Neve drew near she heard him singing placidly to himself. Then he caught sight of her and, grinning widely, bowed so low that the tip of his long thin nose touched the lacquered parquet.
"Morning is good, Miss. Botty is setting your breakfast in there, Miss," he chirped, pointing one pencil-like finger at the doorway to the dining room and continuing to polish.
Neve nodded at the house-elf and questioned, "What were you singing, Botty?"
The house-elf's grin expanded and his enormous blue eyes twinkled with amusement. He stopped polishing the table, stood in front of her and said, "Botty is singing a house-elf song that Botty's great-grandmother is knowing and is teaching to Botty's grandmother who is teaching it to Botty."
"Well, could you sing it for me?" she asked.
At this, Botty cleared his throat noisily and began to sing in his piercing voice:
"When dust is heavy, and dirt is inside,
A house-elf must come out
And put it all right.
When garden is weedy, and flowers not growing,
That's when it's time
For the elf to be going.
When inside and outside of home is all clean,
You knows that's the mark
Of a house-elf unseen.
When owners is happy, and house-elf is too,
The house-elf will never
Have nothing to do."
Botty then bowed very low again and resumed his polishing. Neve stood, staring at him in wonderment, when suddenly her father shouted, "Botty! Stop that ridiculous screeching!"
Botty glanced at the dining-room door with apprehension and scrubbed the table with even more ferocity than before.
"You can hum but very quietly," Neve whispered to the house-elf. "And I'd recommend that you polish something else before you wear that cloth out."
Neve was the only person in her family, and perhaps even in any family
connected with the Dark Arts, who treated house-elves fairly. She
couldn't help it; she didn't believe that inhuman creatures were to be
treated differently from humans just because they were different.
Botty was always friendly to Neve in return, telling her certain tid-bits
that she would otherwise have not known, and saving her portions of the
desserts she liked the most from the many lavish dinners that occurred
at the Manor whenever distinguished witches and wizards came around. He
was just about the only person who treated Neve with kindness at the Manor,
and as much as she didn't like to admit it, Neve was grateful for it.
Mrs Coulden was always very formal with Botty but she never said 'please'
or 'thank you' to him. Mr Coulden ignored Botty most of the time
and only talked to him if he wanted him to do something in particular
or to reprimand him. Botty always knew when to give himself punishments;
he could always tell by the tone of voice or merely a look.
Neve left the house-elf and walked through the dining-room door emerging into a very large room with a shiny mahogany table and several chairs. Her parents were already sitting behind the table; Mrs Coulden drinking her tea, and Mr Coulden reading a newspaper, which Neve recognised to be the Daily Prophet.
"Morning," she said, sitting down at the table and beginning to eat her breakfast (a stack of pancakes with maple syrup).
Mrs Coulden nodded at Neve, simpering unpleasantly. "Good morning, dear," she said.
But Mr Coulden didn't even look up from his newspaper. He seemed to have finished his breakfast a while ago because there was no plate in front of him. He was a tall and well-built man with bronzed skin, chestnut shoulder-length hair and black menacing eyes. Many people thought that he looked quite foreign and, to some extent, he was; the blue blood of Spanish lords ran in his veins - an appropriate addition to the English aristocracy apparent in his demeanour, which was handed down from his mother.
Mrs Coulden was tall and courtly, her dark auburn hair usually held in an elegant bun; she had icy blue eyes and a rosy complexion. Her own noble birth was as visible to the eye as the many glittering jewels she wore on her person, enhancing her inordinately beautiful features.
Both Mr and Mrs Coulden had some sort of intimidating power in their appearances so strong that they could silence any protest with one mere glance - one of the extraordinarily few things they had in common with Neve. Albeit, this was more of an acquired trait than a hereditary one.
In looks, Neve didn't resemble either of her parents at all and this seemed to cause them great displeasure. Few would have called her pretty - though perhaps haunting and unwholesome - because of her long black hair and pale, almost translucent, skin. However, the most unusual feature Neve had was certainly her eyes which swirled, like an moody ocean, with different shades of grey.
Neve was quite small for her age, but nimble and quick-witted. She used to think that her eyes were ugly and dull, and once asked Mrs Coulden why she had not received a brighter colour. But Mrs Coulden did not get a chance to reply because Mr Coulden, who had accidentally overheard the conversation, answered for her.
He declared that Neve had had a premature birth, and that she herself hadn't allowed her eyes to develop a colour, so shouldn't blame anyone for it but herself. Neve's eyes spat sparks. She very nearly lunged at Mr Coulden in rage when he added that she was a plain and unoriginal child with a bleak future, and therefore wouldn't need any beauty.
Neve's mind returned to the present and she noticed that Mr Coulden was about to speak. Without so much as glancing at Neve, he slowly opened his mouth and, as if there was nothing more boring, lazily said, "There's a letter from Hogwarts for you. I believe you have been accepted."
Neve instantly looked up at her father. He appeared quite apathetic about the matter, but Mrs Coulden trilled enthusiastically, "Oh yes, of course! I forgot about that. And we'll be going to Diagon Alley today to get your school things."
Neve nodded silently and carried on eating her pancakes. There
was now at least one bright spark in the near future. Diagon Alley
was always teeming with witches and wizards doing their shopping or simply
having a break in one of the many pubs and parlours, and it would be a
lovely escape from the monotony of life at Coulden Manor. It was
one of the many reasons why Neve loved going to Diagon Alley.
The last time she had been there was when she was eight years old, and
the crowded winding cobbled street produced a wondrous effect on her.
Neve had also been in Knockturn Alley, which was completely devoted to
the Dark Arts, with shops filled with grotesque and horrifying products
that made her skin crawl. Mr Coulden insisted on taking her there
the previous year and although she was mostly appalled at the contents of
the shops, she was extremely fascinated with them.
But she couldn't help liking Diagon Alley more than the cold dingy lane
of Knockturn Alley. She didn't tell her father this for she knew
he'd say that she was too soft and should embrace the Dark Arts more heartily.
But when she returned home that time, Neve thought that she might be making too hasty a decision in disliking Knockturn Alley. She highly doubted that she'd be allowed to live and work with something other than the Dark Arts when she grew up, so it would be best if she got used to the horrors of it all sooner. And, after all, it wasn't so terrible; she had seen quite a few interesting things in the shop windows ... and she had even seen a couple of children strolling down the alleyway with their parents!
Neve didn't know the exact reason why Mr Coulden had brought her to Knockturn
Alley, but she didn't think it was because he wanted her to gain more
knowledge of the world she belonged to. She knew he would never
comfort her if she burst into tears of fright like one of the children in
the Alley had been doing.
Sometimes she couldn't help but think that her father didn't like her much; he never delighted in seeing her happy and never tried to console her when she was sad. Occasionally he had incredibly dark moments when she actually believed that he hated her. The reasons for this behaviour were wholly unknown to her.
Sometimes when he looked at Neve, she thought she could see a definite glimmer of loathing in the dark depths of his eyes, or something near to it to be a strong enough emotion of something quite the opposite of love. She wanted to know why, but didn't dare ask - when he was angered, it was best to keep out of Mr Coulden's way.
Mrs Coulden was usually good-tempered with Neve and rarely showed anger,
although she could easily be annoyed with sarcasm and what she termed
'time-wasting' and 'stupid questions'. But when Neve was in a bad
mood, her mother's attempts at being kind and sweet towards her were sickening.
Whenever Neve was with either of her parents, many important-looking people greeted them cordially as they passed, mostly in Knockturn Alley. All of them gave Neve oddly keen looks, and she'd stare back at them defiantly.
When she had entirely finished her breakfast and was rising from the table, Mr Coulden retrieved a creamy envelope from the chair beside him and threw it to her. "That's your Hogwarts letter. Make sure you don't forget to take your book list with you when you go to Diagon Alley." All this he did and said without tearing his eyes from the newspaper he was still reading.
Without saying anything, Neve turned on her heel and left the dining room for her bedroom, clutching the thick Hogwarts envelope in her hand. And sure enough, when she opened it in her bedroom, she pulled out two pieces of parchment and read the first one:
(Order of Merlin, First Class, Grand Sorc., Chf. Warlock, Supreme Mugwump, International Confed. of Wizards)
Dear Miss Coulden,
We are pleased to inform you that you have a place at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Please find enclosed a list of all necessary books and equipment.
Term begins on 1 September. We await your owl by no later than 31st July.
When she finished reading the letter Neve placed it back inside the envelope, leaving the second piece of parchment on her knees, which she knew was the "list of all the necessary books and equipment".
She didn't know whether she was pleased to be able to go to Hogwarts or not. Of course, a change of scenery would be welcome; she had grown sick of the same old four walls that she was loth to confine herself to. Nevertheless, she wasn't too excited about meeting new people; she widely preferred her own solitary company and avoided mixing with society as often as was possible.
This unsociable tendency had sparked from the early years of her childhood
which, for Neve, had not been particularly happy. She couldn't remember
having any friends from other wizarding families and when she asked Mrs
Coulden about why she never invited some playmates for Neve over for tea,
the former simply glared at her and snapped that she should be able to amuse
herself with other things.
Ever since she could walk, talk, and more or less understand the rules of the world, Neve was taught to remember the biggest rule concerning children in the Coulden household: children should be seen and not heard and, if possible, neither seen nor heard! Mr and Mrs Coulden were not very loving parents and avoided taking care of Neve as much as was possible.
In fact, Neve could not even remember a single time when she had played with either of her parents when she was still a young infant. She had always been left to her own devices, trusted to amuse herself in the plain, almost ugly nursery that resembled a hospital clinic rather than the habitat of a child. Neve had not had any toys at all, due to her father's belief of them being unnecessary.
So she was bought books - many many books that she had learned to read by herself before she was seven years old. At eight years of age, all the books in the Coulden library deemed acceptable for a child by Mr Coulden had been read by Neve at least three times each. Each tome was a different world, sometimes even a different universe - an escape route Neve loved to take when the dull uniformity of her life was becoming unbearable.
But this precocity was not praised or even acknowledged by her parents in the tiniest way.
On the darkest and loneliest nights Neve wondered why her parents had elected to have her at all. If they were not prepared to care for her and provide her with even a little bit of love, then what was the point of having a child? So that it could wither before their eyes? Neve suspected that Mr Coulden wouldn't have any scruples at all about hastening the process himself, if Neve showed any sign of detriment. That thought was dismissed quickly.
And now, at eleven years of age, Neve still couldn't figure out the ugly
mystery. And deep down inside the darkest corner of her mind, she
knew that she didn't want to find out because whatever the reason for
it was, it would be quite unpleasant, as all ugly mysteries are.
As she sat on her bed, contemplating the matter, her mother's call drifted upto the second level from downstairs. "Neve, we're going now! Hurry down!"
Neve grabbed the book list and ran downstairs to the drawing room where flames were already blazing in the huge fireplace to her left. "Are we going by Floo Powder?" she inquired of her mother. Floo Powder was a means of wizard travel that was a somewhat dirty and nauseous process, though nevertheless safe.
"Well of course! How else do you expect to get there?" Mrs Coulden replied, taking a green velvet pouch from the ornately carved mantelpiece, and offering it to her.
Taking it, Neve asked, "So where are we going, exactly?"
"The Leaky Cauldron first. And then to Diagon Alley. Hurry up, child, I haven't got all day!"
Neve took a pinch of the fluorescent green powder inside the pouch, stepped
up to the fire and sprinkled it in. The flames instantly turned
the same emerald green as the pouch in her hand, which she gave back to
her mother. She then stepped unconcernedly into the flames and shouted
clearly, "The Leaky Cauldron!" and instantly disappeared. Her whole
body began spinning very fast and she soon became quite dizzy, so she closed
She continued to spin for a few seconds more, then suddenly she felt she was slowing down, so she thrust her hands forward and landed on them as she was hurled out of the fireplace of The Leaky Cauldron.