Astoria Fitzroy was definitely not perfectly ordinary, thank you very much. Though, walking up the long, gravel path to the manor after a very long day at work, it was times like these, she thought, that she wouldn't mind it so much.
She had only started working at St Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Incidents last week, but after a few days of not getting a chance to sit down, she was starting to hate these long walks from their apparition point up to the house.
Still, at least she had made it home before dark this time. It wasn't gone 6 o' clock yet, so she should have plenty of time for a nice, relaxing bath before Keaper had made dinner.
That thought had her nearly skipping up the stone steps to the front door. Unlocked as always, no one could get through the wards and up to the front door without them knowing about it first, so there was no need to lock it.
Her flat work shoes clipped across the tiled entrance hall as she removed her wet cloak and placed it on the banister. The house elves would clean and dry it to ready it for another early start tomorrow, and they weren't expecting any visitors in the meantime. This work had definitely made her drop some of her more pointless hang-ups about presentation.
Turning towards the stairs, she smirked as she noticed her reflection in the mirror on the wall. Her black hair was tied into a side plait all but covering the shaved and scarred side of her head. The plain, blue work robes that marked her out as a trainee healer were rather crinkled. In short, she looked nothing like the proud and well put together Astoria Fitzroy that had left Hogwarts as Head Girl just seven weeks ago.
It wouldn't last too long though. Two years of this running around as a trainee healer, then she would be allowed to specialise in the potions department, she thought as she pulled her long hair out of the plait.
Looking around she realised how quiet the house was. Not that that was peculiar. It was only her and her brother Sebastian living here anymore. And the house elves, of course. But still, she'd be glad when September the first came around and Seb could go off to Hogwarts. Sure, she'd miss her little brother, but living in a big empty house can't be good for an eleven-year-old. Especially this big, empty house with her now working at all hours six days a week.
"Seb?" she called up as she scaled the grand, wooden staircase.
The staircase was made of a dark wood, as were most of the floors apart from in the entrance hall and kitchen which were white stone tiles. The walls were a dark navy colour, but the white ceilings and large, full length windows kept the manor from looking gloomy.
There was a quiet pop off to her side as she reached the top of the staircase. Rusty had appeared next to her. Small and still very young for a house elf, he barely came up to her knees.
"Mistress is back early. Is mistress be wanting anything from Rusty?" he said as he worried at the navy fabric hanging around his waist.
"A bath would be lovely, thank you." She smiled as he followed beside her, nodding his head.
"Yes, mistress. Keaper be wanting Rusty to inform you that dinner will be in one hour, and Master had asked for chicken pie." He paused as she passed into her room. "Keaper is wanting to ask if you will be joining Master Sebastian to be eating in the kitchen?"
"I will, thank you, Rusty." She took a seat on the edge of her bed as she eased her shoes off of her tired feet. "Where is Sebastian?"
Rusty, who had been on his way towards the bathroom to run her bath, turned back towards her with a solemn look in his large, brown eyes.
"Master Sebastian has been in his main bedroom all day, mistress. Rusty has been forbidden to disturb him until dinner is ready." The house elf paused as he looked towards where Sebastian's room was and continued in a frightened stage whisper as if he were worried he would be scolded. "Rusty is very worried about young master, mistress. Rusty has not even been able to help young master start packing! And with master leaving on Saturday!"
Astoria smiled at the overdramatic young elf. "I'll speak to him before my bath then. I'm sure he'll let you in to help him finish packing later."
Reluctantly, she got up from her bed and nodded at the house elf as he squeaked his thanks to her and ran off into the bathroom as she made her way down the hall to her brother's room.
Knocking on the door to her brother's room, she gently pushed the door open.
"Seb?" She saw him on the other side of the room. He was standing near the large sash window looking into the full-length mirror.
He made no sign he had heard her though, so she repeated herself as she walked across the wooden floor towards him.
His room was quite large, with tall ceilings and a large fireplace. The walls in here were a dark grey colour, and the bed coverings were black. But the wooden floor boards were painted white like the ones in her room, and overall, it was light and airy.
Sebastian looked up at her through the mirror as she came up behind him. The pained expression on his face nearly stopped her in her tracks, but no, it wasn't just the expression. He had his usually messy black hair combed flat across his head, and the dress shirt he was wearing was all done up and tucked in. He was standing straight backed as always, but he was looking so serious. He looked neater than she had ever seen him.
He looked like father, she realised as she sat on the edge of his double bed. Or, what she imagined father must have looked like when he was younger. Right down to the blue eyes that she hadn't inherited.
Just as she was working out something to say, he spoke first.
"It's silly, I know," he said, catching her eye then looking back to his reflection. "I just..." He paused as he tried to find the right words to say.
"I just wanted to see what it would look like." He turned towards her, then added, "For Saturday."
"Seb." She sighed internally. While there were many reasons she missed her mother, this was definitely high on the list. "You don't have to look like Father. No one is expecting you to..." She stopped. Damn it, this was hard.
"Expecting what?" He turned his suddenly cold eyes to her again. "No one is expecting me to live up to him? No one is expecting what, Story?" he said, using Astoria's nickname like always.
"I didn't mean that, and you know it!" She sighed again as he started rifling his hands through his hair, messing it up.
He stood there in silence as he rolled his sleeves up to his elbows and undid the collar on his shirt. Then, really quietly, he said, "I'm not worried about that."
She looked at him carefully, trying to judge whether that was an opening to talk or a dismissal, deciding on the former.
"But, you are worrying about something?" she said slowly. "I mean, other than the usual nerves that everyone gets before they start school?"
He took a very slow breath as he looked at her now. "You think I looked like dad just now. Yes?" Stopping long enough for her to nod, he carried on. "What do I look like now?"
"Like yourself." She furrowed her brow in confusion, knowing there was something she was missing here.
"And who do I look like, Story?" he said quietly, turning back to the mirror. "Who do you always say I look like? Who did Mum always say I looked like?"
"Yes, oh." He flopped down on the pillows at the head of his bed. "I can already feel the stares on the platform." He peeked up at her from below the arm he had thrown over his face. "I looked in the pensive today at an old memory Mum had of Uncle Hydrus. Just to see how much alike we are."
Astoria winced involuntarily. It wasn't just the messy hair or the way he dressed either. She'd seen the memories. Heck, she had her own memories of Uncle Hydrus from before he got put away. The way he laughed and the way he stood, she even recognised the way her brother's blue eyes lit up when he found something amusing or interesting in him.
Stupid St Mungos, she thought. She should have seen this coming, but she had been so preoccupied lately.
She could tell Seb was watching her face as she confirmed what he had been thinking.
It wasn't like he would even be worried about school so much. None of the other kids would know what Hydrus looked like, though the teachers would be another matter. But the platform, with all the parents and wizarding families.
"I could come with you." She could hear the hesitancy in her words. Only her second week into work, asking for a day off wouldn't go down well. Even for her.
"No, you can't." He sat up slowly. "It's fine. I'll be fine. Once I'm on the train, it'll be fine." He got up, picking up the book from the bedside table next to him and throwing it roughly into the trunk on the floor.
Astoria watched as he went over to the desk by the fireplace and started unwrapping parcels.
"I could ask the Rosiers? They'll be bringing Archie and Matt. You could go with them?"
"No, I'll meet them on the train. I'd rather not stand around as they say goodbye. Anyway, we've already planned everything. Keaper will bring me to the apparition point in Kings Cross." He smiled at her as he sat down in his desk chair, seemingly back to his normal self. "It'll be fine, Story. I just had a lot of time to fret about it today. I'll meet everyone on the train."
He went quiet for a moment, then changed the subject. "Rusty is upset with me, isn't he?"
"Yes. Very. He's distraught that you haven't let him help you pack." Laughing lightly, she tried to put as much disapproval into her voice as possible as she picked up a discarded piece of wrapping paper from the books on his bed. "Though, it doesn't look like you've even started."
"I wouldn't want him to miss out on the fun now, would I?" He hit back, smirking again now, Hydrus' smirk, a little voice in the back of her head added.
"I'm just double checking what we bought the other week. I'm going to go back to Diagon Alley tomorrow and pick up the last couple things."
"You know I don't like you using the house elves as your personal apparition service."
"Just a quick trip." He smiled. "It does get pretty boring here sometimes with you gone, and now everyone being too busy to visit. I haven't had anyone over all week. Plus, it's your fault we didn't buy everything the first time round. I don't know what time you get back, and I can't go without my uniform now, can I?"
"Whatever. Be careful. Bring your wand, and if you get killed, come back as a ghost, so I can scream at you." She stood up. "I'm having a bath before dinner, so don't make a racket." Saying so, she left the room and closed the door behind her.
Sebastian had woken up early the next morning hoping to miss the mad rush of all the students getting new supplies from Diagon Alley. Which was exactly what he was doing, he supposed.
It hadn't worked overly well. It was only 9 a.m. and already raining heavily, but as he stepped out of the Leaky Cauldron into the magical side, it was nearly as busy as he had ever seen it. Some people were hurrying from shop to shop to avoid the downpour while others were huddled in families under hastily cast impervious charms. Which, in the case of one unfortunate family, was rather heavily leaking.
Rusty had dropped him off in the arrivals room of the pub. One of the many apparition points dotted along the road. Though you could apparate out wherever you wanted, it was best to know you wouldn't be arriving on top of someone else.
He had to get to Madam Malkin's to get his school robes, then the apothecary for his potions supplies. He'd already got everything else on his list last time they were here, but his sister had wanted his potions ingredients to be as fresh as possible.
Pulling the hood of his short, navy cloak forward, he splashed his way down towards Malkin's shop. He was in no rush to get out of the rain as his cloak was charmed against the wet conditions, but it was best to try to get the robes out of the way as soon as possible, as she'd probably be more and more busy the later it got.
Madam Malkin's was just a few shops down from Gringotts wizarding bank. It was glass fronted with a sign hanging down advertising 'Madam Malkin's Robes for all Occasions.' Sebastian pushed the old, wooden door open, stomping the water from his black boots on the mat as the door closed behind him.
"Hogwarts, dear?" Malkin asked, glancing up at him from beside the counter.
He removed his hood as he walked up to the counter. "Yes please, Madam."
"Oh! Master Fitzroy." She started as she got a good look at him. "You will be going to Hogwarts then, will you?"
He was starting to lose count of the amount of times he had been asked that lately. It seemed the whole of the wizarding world was aware he had been living in northern Germany with his Aunt and her family since his mother died. Durmstrang would be the obvious choice from there, but now that his sister was of age and had finished school, he had moved back home.
Malkin was still talking as she shepherded him through, past the counter, and into the main area of the shop.
"We have another young lady in getting fitted for Hogwarts at the moment too. There. Just stand on that stool. I expect you'll be wanting the full package, all extras included? I'll be with you in a moment."
Malkin wandered away into the back, shouting for her assistant to come down.
Sebastian eyed the nervous looking girl with big bushy hair as he climbed onto the stool beside her. She was ringing her hands together and kept staring over at him, opening her mouth as if to say something, then looking away again.
She was a first year, obviously. Malkin had the start of her robes on her already, and there was a needle dancing around the bottom hem of the robe making it the right length.
He was just starting to look around at the items on display in the shop when she finally spoke.
"Your coat isn't wet," she said in a rather matter-of-fact tone.
Raising his eyebrow at the unexpected conversation starter, he replied, "No, it isn't."
"But it's raining outside. I just saw you come in."
"It's charmed fabric." He could see her reaction in the mirror on the shop wall in front of them. Her eyes went wide, and she glanced around the shop again.
"Charmed? As in an enchantment?" she said very quietly, as if she wasn't asking him.
"You're a muggleborn," he said bluntly, deciding to ignore the whispered question as Madam Malkin came hurrying back with the base for his robes.
"Now, dear. I mean, Master Fitzroy," she stuttered slightly as she cast a worried glance over at the girl, having heard where the conversation had been going, "if you'll just raise your arms, we can start measuring you up."
The girl was looking at him more curiously now as Madam Malkin put the robes down next to him and tapped the measuring tape to start the process. Malkin hesitated before saying she'd be right back and scurrying off to retrieve something else leaving them alone again.
"I'm Hermione Granger by the way. Who are you?"
"Sebastian Fitzroy. Pleasure." Though he didn't suppose he looked like it was a pleasure. He was still standing straight backed and facing forward, but before she could ask about why Madam Malkin had called him Master Fitzroy, he went on. "If you're a muggleborn getting school supplies, where are your parents?"
Normally you could tell the muggleborn first years apart from the others by how close their parents were huddled to them. Not that most parents weren't like that when sending their kids to Hogwarts for the first time. He remembered that even Mother had taken to the habit of holding onto Astoria before she left for her first year, but there was something about the way the muggles stood that gave them away.
"They're off buying the last of my school books." She sighed, sounding rather put out about it. "The lady said I'd be here a while, so they took the chance to buy some of my school stuff for me."
That made sense, he thought, with how busy Diagon Alley got especially if they had left it to the last minute.
Malkin returned and started working on his robes. After a while, Hermione spoke up again.
"Why aren't your parents here?"
Cursing himself for not seeing where asking that question would have lead, he responded more bluntly than he had meant to.
"Dead." He flinched as Malkin accidentally stuck him in the arm with a pin. "Ow," he said slowly, glaring at her.
"S-sorry." Her eyes kept glancing between the two of them.
Hermione went to say something else which might have been condolences but Malkin's assistant chose that moment to appear, carrying in a black cloak.
"Ah. Finally," Madam Malkin whispered before instructing the witch to put the cloak on the counter and work on the girl's robes. She glanced up at Hermione as she put the finishing touches to the robe Sebastian had on. "I'm sorry for the wait, dear."
Now fully occupied with getting her robes seen to, Hermione stood in silence as Sebastian stepped down, pulling the robe over his head as he went over to the counter to pay. Reaching down into his bag, he pulled his money pouch out and placed a small pile of Galleons and a couple of silver Sickles onto the table. Instructing them to owl the purchase to him when it had been completed, he pulled his hood back up and walked out into the morning rain heading towards the apothecary.
Disclaimer: I obviously don't own Harry Potter
AN: I'll be posting a chapter a month of this story. I have quite a lot already written so there's no worry about it being abandoned anytime soon. I want to thank my amazing beta HMWeasley. Any mistakes still in are mine.
Edit: Harry Potter does not appear in the story as he died when the curse rebounded on Halloween '81, fulfilling his part of the prophesy. Harry and the Potters deaths will be mentioned but he is not in the story.