I've been travelin' a hard road
Baby, lookin' for someone exactly like you
I've been carryin' my heavy load
Waitin' for the light to come shinin' through
Someone like you
Make it all worth while
Someone like you
Make me satisfied
- Someone like you by Van Morrison
I walked slowly across the wet grass. The early September sun was still bright enough in the evening to warm my face. Before I sat down, my eyes strayed to the Whomping Willow that was planted five years ago. I wondered why it was planted on the school grounds when I came to Hogwarts, because Professor Dumbledore warned us not to get too close to it.
I sighed softly and my eyes wandered back to the Black Lake. The water rushed gently and there were only small waves on the surface. The lake lay quietly in front of me, only the sun's rays bathed it in a soft, glittering blue. I was alone because most of the students were at dinner or in their common rooms. Hardly anyone appreciated the beauty of nature at Hogwarts and so, especially at dusk, I have space for my thoughts and my books.
I loved it here in Hogwarts and yet sometimes I felt a little lonely. Just yesterday, I witnessed this year's house Sorting ceremony. Many students have been separated and assigned based on their strongest personality. I remembered my own Sorting well. The Sorting Hat put me in the brave Gryffindor house, but sometimes I caught myself questioning that decision. For a few moments, he ended up wavering between Slytherin and Gryffindor because in addition to the courage that the hat saw in me, it also found great ambition in me. But I was pleased with the final decision at that moment. The fact that the table of the House of the snake, with its sullen looking students, was very off-putting to me as an 11-year-old first year. And I come from a Muggle family, so how was I supposed to settle into Slytherin?
But I don't want to think about my parents now. Because of their constant fights, I was so happy to finally get away from them. Even if it took me longer to settle into this new world full of things I didn't know. It was difficult for me and I went from being a fairly happy confident child to being intimidated and reserved. Besides, I made some friends with two girls of my house during the first years of school. Mary Macdonald and Alice Fortescue were very friendly and also good for fun.
But since Alice had been seeing a lot of her new boyfriend Frank by the end of the last school year, she hardly had any time for me. And Mary seemed very distant since she was attacked by Mulciber with black magic before the summer vacations. This was an immense shock to me; it was the first time that the teasing at Hogwarts had reached such tragic proportions. I hate to remember her eyes widening in shock and horror, and the sneering laughter of Mulciber and Avery as I watched idly what they were doing to her. And I was helpless to stay held in place with a curse. It was my worst memory of my school days so far and I sincerely hoped I never had to experience anything like it again.
We were all used to hexes in the corridors, but never had anyone been hurt so badly that they had spent several weeks in St. Mungo's. Just the thought of not being safe at Hogwarts made me uneasy. I liked it here so much. Why did students have to be so mean to each other? Why couldn't they dissect and help each other, or at least leave them alone?
But all of a sudden, I was snapped out of my thoughts when I saw something wriggling in the air.
I walked slowly toward it with a pounding heart, the wet grass beneath me made my steps slip every now and then. Then I realized what, or rather who, it was.
A boy with dark hair was hanging in the air. His wand made of dark wood lying on the ground a bit away and his slender white legs kicked up in the air, his pants hung between his ankles so I could see his greying underpants. I couldn't help but grin a little at the sight even though I didn't find his situation remotely amusing.
"Can I help you, Severus?" I asked seriously. I had learned to ask the students here before I gave any help. Some were strange souls, especially when they were Syltherins like Severus Snape.
He growled and I drew out my much-loved wand of hornbeam, dragon heart fiber, 13, 5 inches, slightly springy. I still remember exactly how the two of us found each other in the store from Ollivander in Diagon Alley. This hornbeam wand chose me the instant I touched it. Ollivander opined that the Wood only chose wizards and witches with a single, pure passion, which the wand maker kindly called a vision that would almost always realised. But sometimes I even questioned my own magic wand's decision. I tensed up inside and noticed how my insecurity found a place in me again. I exhaled loudly and brushed it away.
"Liberacorpus.", I shouted loudly, but my voice sounded more confident than I was, so Severus Snape crashed to the ground although I wanted to let him slide gently.
He quickly straightened up, pulled up his pants, grabbed his wand and looked at me challengingly. All this happened with impressive speed. He was used to having to react quickly. It probably happened to him often, I thought sadly.
I eyed the boy with the black and somewhat unkempt hair. I knew him from class and the library but we had barely spoken until that day although we were both some of the few who stayed at the castle over Christmas while others visited their families.
He wore a very worn cloak, as did I myself. It seemed like we had in common that we didn't come from any of the wealthy families who strutted around this school like they owned it.
"Are you trying to thank me by putting a curse on me?", I asked seemingly unconcerned. Why was he so suspicious? Was it because I was a Gryffindor?
"I don't need help from someone like you!" he replied excitedly. Severus clenched his mouth and pushed his lower jaw forward slightly. His eyes sparkled hostilely but I didn't avert my gaze and held it.
"What do you mean by that exactly?", I pressed out hostilely, even though I knew exactly what he meant. Anger rosed up inside me. My muggle ancestry was nothing to be proud of but I didn't want to be ashamed of it either, or I certainly didn't want to justify it.
"I don't want anything to do with a mudblood like you. Just leave me alone!", he hissed between his teeth. I closed my eyes briefly in irritation.
"With the greatest of pleasure. But maybe you should ask yourself how long you would have hung around here without me. Where are your purebloods when you're hung up here? Doesn't seem to interest any of them, does it?"
That hit him, and I'm proud to say that I stand my ground. Something I never would have done in the past, but I wanted to change this school year. I wanted to be more myself and I knew there was more to me than it appeared on the outside.
The boy grumbled and curled his thin lips, in his gaze I saw anger, but also something else. Was it resignation? I didn't care in my own rage about his insult, however, and I walked past him. I jostled him with force against his shoulder, so that it hurts even me.
I would not put up with this insolence any longer. Especially not from such a conceited Slytherin. I noticed his probing gaze between my shoulder blades as I walked further along the lake to reach my bush, behind which I was usually hiding to read a book. With a flick of my wand, I dried the damp grass and sat down.
I had to take a few deep breaths before my anger subsided. Why was the boy so hostile? On the other hand, how long had he been in this compromising situation? Then I laughed at him a little bit too. How would I have reacted? Probably not very accessible either, but such a gross insult? No, definitely not. But over my thoughts, my anger at Severus Snape fizzled out and I could devote myself to my reading. Completely undisturbed and in peace, just as I preferred.
The next day at breakfast, Lily joyfully beckoned me over, even though she was already swarmed by a bunch of people. She was very popular and not only in our year and our house and I understood that very well, because she is a beautiful and pleasant person outside and inside.
I sometimes watched her the years before and did not dare to become closer friends with her. But that was about to change because I had decided to leave my comfort zone of reticence. I spent a lot of time thinking about myself and my future during the last summer holidays. I wanted to change and shed my insecurities that my childhood brought me. The last weeks at Hogwarts before the holidays started were decisive.
I've often seen Mary since then, tormented by Mulciber. An me- helpless, first through the shock and inability to get over my fear and then really damn being fixed in place watching my friend suffer... I couldn't let go and neither did the letters Mary sent me from St. Mungo, in which she assured me that she didn't hold grudges, that it wasn't my fault and that there was nothing I could have done, didn't change my mind. I knew I could have reacted sooner if I hadn't been so insecure about my abilities or inner strength. I sighed loudly at the thought, but no one heard me, everyone around me was busy and as so often not with me. So, I looked again at Lily, who was tucking her red hair behind her ear with her hand and laughing at a joke someone had made.
It was a bit strange, however, that she was hanging out with a seemingly unpleasant Slytherin like Severus Snape. Or was he different than he pretended to be? I couldn't imagine someone like Lily having a friend who wasn't good. Was that the reason I had stayed away from her until now? I didn't think I was good enough or special enough to be near her.
"Good morning, Catherine." she said gleefully, and asked me to sit next to her. I nodded at her and slowly sat down next to my new friend, but suddenly I saw Mary in our ranks looking at me. She gave me a quick smile before digging into her sparsely filled plate. I was amazed, she hadn't even told me that she had been released from the hospital and would be at Hogwarts just a few days after school started. I was saddened by this because it showed me that we weren't as familiar as I thought we were after all. She was sitting next to Alice, but she only seemed to have eyes for her Frank and didn't notice me at all. In the meantime, the two of them were also holding hands in public. I had to grin a bit about that, because at the beginning of their fresh relationship they were both very shy. It also took a long time until Frank finally dared to ask Alice for a meeting in Hogsmeade. Although this meant that I rarely had contact with Alice, I was very happy for them both. And I felt Frank was strengthened by Alice. It was strange, but anyone who had ridiculed Frank and his magical abilities, Alice had put them in their place from the start, as if she knew full well that he was a great magician. And I was anxious to find out if she was right. At the same time, I wondered if I would also eventually find someone to whom I would give myself completely. A person who could love me as I am, with my flaws and habits. Oddly enough, at this thought, my head wound toward the Slytherin table in search of a tall slender boy with black hair and dark eyes. Shaking my head, I unsuccessfully turned back to the sumptuous food and grabbed a piece of toast with a fried egg.
Lily seemed to take me under her wing, because she grabbed my arm after we finished eating and we marched together to professor Slughorn in the dungeons. I saw Mary walking alongside Alice and Frank, laughing. Alice sure as hell knew Mary was back, I thought bitterly. At that moment I felt lonelier than I had in a long time.
So, I was extremely grateful that a popular student like Lily wanted to take care of me. Was she just a new object for her goodness? I pushed that thought away because I wanted to change. I wanted to think more lovingly of others and not immediately assume the worst. Besides, how could someone like Lily think of others like that? Maybe she really just thought I was nice and smart like she had told the Slytherin boy the day before?
We sat down in one of the back rows. Potions was my favourite subject, along with Herbology because I loved playing with the recipes and Professor Slughorn was usually pleased with my results. Also, at the end of the school year, the Ordinary Wizarding Levels were coming up and I was eager to do as well as possible. Even though I was aware that an "Exceeded Expectations" would be quite sufficient for the advanced classes. That's where the ambition the Sorting Hat saw in me came out, I suppose.
James Potter and Sirius Black sat in the front row because Slughorn was so good at keeping an eye on them. Sometimes they played unpleasant tricks on some students. I had already been their victim too. When my cauldron exploded and some students sprouted boils all over their bodies, including me, I didn't feel like laughing. That was the day in my first year at school when I knew I wanted nothing to do with James Potter and Sirius Black. To their left, I recognized the boy Lily had been talking to yesterday. Oddly enough, I couldn't tear myself away from the sight of him, even as Professor Slughorn explained the lesson material.
"Today you will try your hand at a slightly more difficult healing potion. But it is extremely useful and you should be able to do it well. The Skele Wax Potion. Who can tell me what this one is used for?" began Professor Slughorn.
I knew the answer, but I didn't speak up. I always left the center of attention in class to others. I was too insecure to risk making a mistake in my answers. The shame would have literally eaten me up. This was something I desperately needed to work on, it flashed through my mind. And this was why I questioned being brave like a lion. How was I going to cope with this immense self-insecurity outside of Hogwarts? Where I got it, I knew all too well.
The Potions class went successfully despite my thoughts were elsewhere. Lily and I were some of the few who managed to make a very good skele wax in a short amount of time. However, I noticed Lily's friend Severus watching us frequently. Under his gaze, I felt a tingling sensation on my skin, which I had trouble interpreting. It felt strange, cold and hot at the same time. I looked at him. There didn't seem to be anything special about him. He was tall, but his figure was quite gaunt. His fair skin stood out starkly against his dark hair that fell into his face. His eyes were almost black and had tremendous depth. I had the feeling of dissolving into them when he suddenly returned my gaze. He seemed interested, but at the same time averse. Why did I have the feeling that his gaze got under my skin? Why was I actually thinking about him? I watched out of the corner of my eye as Sirius surreptitiously threw something into Severus' cauldron. Suddenly there was a loud hiss from Severus´ brew and he averted his eyes from me to look angrily at his cauldron and then at James and Sirius. The two of them couldn't keep a sneer off their faces. But Severus seemed to quickly fix this in his cauldron by throwing in some things that I couldn't see from my distance. And to my surprise, despite the incident, he received high praise from Professor Slughorn, earning a thin smile from Severus.
"Did you hear me, Catherine?" asked Lily loudly beside me and I reluctantly snapped out of my thoughts and observations.
"No, what did you say?" I asked confused. But she didn't blame me and smiled back at me.
"Whether we want to work together later on the homework, that Professor Slughorn just assigned us. On methods of making and effects of healing potions, using Skele Wax as an example." she explained to me patiently.
"Oh, I'd love to." I replied, wondering again where her sudden interest in my company had come from. Her beautifully shaped lips formed a new smile and her almond-shaped bright green eyes sparkled at me.
"Great. We now have herbology with the Ravenclaws. I usually share seats with Marlene and Dorcas there. Would you like to join us?" she asked me. I didn't understand why she suddenly wanted to spend so much time with me. It made me feel insecure and I avoided her question:
"No, I mostly work with Mary Alice. It's a rare opportunity to separate Alice and Frank."
"I understand that." She packed up her things and now seemed to feel Severus' stares as well, because she gave him a quick grin as he watched our conversation.
"Oh, he must be a little disappointed that I chose you as my partner this school year. Up until now, I've always worked with him on a cauldron. But he'll know why. So, see you later, Catherine.", Lily Evans said lightly. She already went ahead to the Greenhouses while I was still in the process of sealing my ingredients. When I put my ingredients in the bag and I saw Severus immediately walk towards Lily as she left her place. His walk was strange, creeping and somehow also amusing to watch. I had to smile. There was really something about him that interested me.
Arriving in the Greenhouse, I sat down as usual next to Alice and Mary, who now properly greeted me.
"Hey Mary, nice to have you back!" I said softly and put down my bag and found my protective gloves.
"Thank you, it took quite a while and unfortunately I still have severe headaches on some days. But it'll be okay," she said, trying to smile but failing. It was strange because Mary used to be a person who smiled a lot. Now she seemed somehow more serious.
"And how was your vacation?" Alice asked me curiously. She actually knew about my situation at home, but she often seemed to forget it.
"Nothing special. Less argument than usual maybe. Therefore, better than usual."; I replied vaguely. I didn't like to talk about my parents' house that much. It made me uncomfortable because Alice and Mary had both been lucky enough to grow up with money, so they often didn't really understand how I was doing. And they didn't really bother to fathom me either.
"And how was it with you, Alice?" I asked quickly to distract from myself and my problems. I put the strands of hair that fell slightly on my forehead back behind my ear.
"Oh, I introduced Frank to my parents and grandparents. You know my grandparents are a bit old school. So they were glad I found a pureblood, even if they would never openly admit it. But my parents are now considered blood traitors because they are also friends with muggle-borns. This has often caused problems between the generations. And my brother Florean hit it off with Frank straight away. But I didn't expect anything else." She answered with a thin smile. I often admired Alice for her confident manner. She didn't care what others thought of her as long as everything was to her satisfaction.
"And Frank's parents?" I asked.
"Well, there is only his mother Augusta and she was very pleased to finally meet me. I don't think I live up to her standards, but as she put it, as long as I don't stand in the way of her son's ambitious plans to become an Auror, she's fine with our union. Well, she didn't know then that Frank wasn't the only one who had these ambitious plans." Alice laughed and I joined while Mary's face barely moved. Even if I found it strange that in this magical world one bonded with another person so early, I was happy for them both. Alice had had a soft spot for Frank since freshman year when he stumbled over a root right into her arms. Despite being quite clumsy, Frank was a good wizard with very good grades and I had no doubt that their goals would be fulfilled.
"Hello class! Surely you have already noticed this beguiling scent and no, I haven't launched a new perfume. What you smell is the subject of today's lesson... the Flutterby Bush! Who can tell us about this?" Professor Hastings said in his usual loud voice and thus undercut our friendly exchange.
/I hope you enjoy it! And I apologise for any English mistakes I might have made. English isn't my first language./