Chapter 1: The Ex-Convict
Another typical September 1st with kids running around outside laughing, crying, and shouting; it seemed as if it would never change. It'd been the same for the past seven years. Perhaps one would not notice the monotony of it all with only a few years of experience, but for Katherine it had become a drag in no time. The thrill of the first year is always there, because children from all over the country are stepping into the unknown. Into this world that they had only heard stories of and had only envisioned it in their minds until that fateful day in which they received the letter that admitted them into the rest of their lives. She had felt that rush too but it was gone sooner than she'd expected. The second year she'd help high expectations in which she'd relive some of the same emotions of the previous year but only to be disappointed. Nothing had changed, except for a few new faces that were of no interest to her. Year, after year, after year she'd sat and waited for something that would symbolize a change, something new and out of the ordinary; something to bring that old thrill back to her. But it'd been hopeless. Here she was about to begin her seventh and last year watching it all happen once more; once more getting an immense feeling of déjà vu.
She leaned her head against the window of her compartment and watched as parents hugged their children and kissed them. They smoothed out their robes and fixed their collars. They ran their hands through their hair, patted it down or fixed eyebrows with their thumbs. Some wrote last minute instructions while some parents only hoped their children would be wise enough to remember. Boys laughed and joked with their friends, whispered to each other already making plans for the mischief they hoped to cause when they arrived at Hogwarts school of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Girls clung to their siblings and parents trying to hold back tears promising to write every day. Katherine rolled her eyes and looked away. She looked at her hands which lay on top of the Witch Weekly magazine on her lap. She'd hardly embraced her parents before she'd rushed into the Hogwarts Express, the train that would take her away from her sullen life in London. She didn't look forward to Hogwarts but it was somewhere away from home and her parents and that was probably the only plus Hogwarts had over her home.
"Katherine, there you are!"
Katherine looked up and saw her friend Pansy Parkinson standing at the door of the compartment. Her brown hair fell over her face and her cheeks were red with frustration. She was obviously flustered for a reason that Katherine did not know. That annoyed her, and it couldn't be a good sign to be annoyed with her best friend at first sight after not seeing each other for the whole summer.
"I've been looking for you all over! The least you could've done was to wait for me! Is that so hard?" Pansy exclaimed entering the compartment and settling herself within it. She plopped down on the seat across from Katherine and waited for a response while Katherine simply stared at her. She crossed her arms across her chest grumpily.
"You found me alright, didn't you?" Katherine asked flatly. "Does it matter anymore?"
"Well, yes," Pansy said. "I would've waited for you."
"Sure you would have," Katherine said sarcastically looking away.
"Oh forget it," Pansy added with a wave of her hand. "So how've you been?"
Somewhere the whistle of the scarlet red engine began to blow and Katherine could feel the train begin to move. "Fine."
"Can you believe it's our last year?"
"Yes, and I'm glad it is."
Pansy pushed her short, straight, brown hair behind her ear. "I know what you mean. I can't wait to get out of that mudblood infested school."
"With its stupid teachers…"
"...and lame headmaster…"
"…and boring classes…"
"…and stupid boys…"
Katherine's lips broke into the first smile for the day. At least Pansy would be there to join her in sulking at Hogwarts while waiting for the school year to end. Misery loved company after all, and Katherine was glad to see that Pansy would probably hate her seventh year as much as Katherine would. Her mood lightened and she suddenly felt much more conversational than she had all morning.
"So how're things with Draco?" Katherine asked. She rolled her magazine into a cylinder as she watched Pansy's face fall. Apparently she'd touched on a subject that Pansy wasn't ready to discuss and that could only mean one thing: that things were not well. But when had they been? Katherine often wondered why Pansy would want to carry on with a relationship that was obviously in ruins. Perhaps the embarrassment of admitting defeat would be too much or maybe her feelings for Draco really did run deep. But it was obvious that Draco had lost all interest in Pansy; that is if he'd ever really been interested in her. All the girls in their year gossiped about it. They all assumed that Draco was only still with Pansy because she was easy and available at any time he wanted. Pansy had no self-dignity.
"Everything's fine," Pansy said averting her eyes. Katherine pursed her lips in order to keep herself from smiling. She loved to see Pansy squirm and watch her little lies fall down all around her.
"Are you sure?" Katherine asked never taking her eyes off Pansy hoping to intimidate her more.
"Yes!" Pansy exclaimed. "What's with you?"
Draco Malfoy had opened the door to their compartment and was now standing in the entrance smirking and looking at Katherine. His pale blue eyes glistened as he made his way in, moving as though he owned the compartment. He took a seat next to Katherine and stretched his arms over the length of the seat, over her shoulders. Katherine looked up to meet Pansy's gaze which was murderous. Her lips broke into a smirk as she tried to contain herself.
"I see you're all settled in," he said looking around the compartment. He pulled her arms behind his head and leaned back in his seat. "So what were you talking about?"
"We were talking about you right before you walked in," Katherine replied throwing Pansy a quick glance. Pansy's face turned red and Katherine knew that she would soon start hyperventilating if she dared to speak another word.
"Really?" Draco asked.
"Yes, we were wondering where you were," Katherine said.
Another look at Pansy and she saw that she'd rolled her eyes and was now looking out the window.
"What else?" he continued as he slapped Katherine's thigh. He looked at her, his eyes sparkling mischievously, a smirk set on his lips.
Katherine took his hand and placed it on his own lap. "We were talking about how great it'll be when we leave Hogwarts."
"Oh yes, of course. After this year we'll be out on our own out of that stupid school," he drawled.
"Yes, but it's the year leading to that that's the matter here. Putting up with it for one last year will for sure seem like it has no end," Katherine said.
"I sense your need for fun and excitement, Katherine," Draco said. He then leaned closer to her and spoke in a lower voice. "You want a fun and exciting year, Kitty? I can give you a fun and exciting year."
"Draco!" Pansy exclaimed across from them.
"You wish, Draco," Katherine said.
Draco stretched his legs out and placed then on the seat next to Pansy. "What's the matter Pansy, you're not looking too well."
Pansy scowled at him and Katherine and went back to looking out the window. Suddenly the compartment door opened again, this time it was Vincent Crabbe and Gregory Goyle, Draco's cronies.
"Hey Draco, want to go see what Potty and Weasel are up to this year?" Goyle asked.
Draco swung his legs off the seat. "Of course, it's tradition! We can't leave them waiting!"
He then stood up and left the two girls alone once more.
"How dare you!" Pansy spat out startling Katherine.
"What?" Katherine exclaimed, trying her best to sound puzzled.
"I thought you were my friend!" Pansy continued. "Now you've decided to steal my boyfriend!"
"Pansy, what are you talking about?" Katherine said raising her voice. "First of all, Draco's not even your official boyfriend and number two I'm not trying to steal anything from you!"
"Yes, you are! You're jealous because you've never been with anyone before!"
"That is the most pathetic thing you could've ever said about me, Pansy! I'm not interested in Draco the least bit, it's not my fault he thinks he's some sort of Don Juan!"
"Liar!" Pansy cried out pounding a fist on the seat next to her. "I've seen how you look at him! You're always flirting with him!"
"Flirting!" Katherine asked trying hard not to smile. She knew Pansy was right, but it wasn't her fault that Draco liked to play along. Draco wasn't the only one Katherine had ever flirted with; he was just the one she enjoyed flirting with the most, especially when Pansy was around to see. To her there was nothing more hilarious than to see Pansy throw a fit.
"Yes, you're a sneaky little flirt!" Pansy said pointing an accusing finger at Katherine.
Katherine leaned back in her chair, cocked her head back and began laughing uncontrollably.
Katherine was holding her stomach as she threw her head back and laughed even louder.
"You're crazy did you know that?" Pansy asked glowering at her.
Katherine took deep breaths until she was able to calm herself down. "You're so funny when you get jealous."
Pansy rolled her eyes. "I don't think it was funny."
Just tell him to control himself. He's your boyfriend after all. Or so you say," Katherine said.
Pansy fell quiet as she began to stare out the window again.
"And the reason I'm not with anyone is simply my choice. I can have anyone I want at any time I want," Katherine added.
Pansy didn't reply. She continued to stare outside, her brow furrowed in deep thought. Katherine rolled her eyes and picked up her Witch Weekly magazine again. She knew it'd be a while before Pansy got over her frustration.
The rest of the train ride was too quiet. Katherine must've reread her magazine at least four times. Whenever she'd tried to make conversation with Pansy, she would either reply by shrugging, nodding, shaking her head, or giving her one word answers. Katherine had given up and looked through the magazine at least twice more before they finally arrived at Hogwarts.
The train had finally arrived at the Hogsmeade station several hours later. The dark night sky was covered with heavy rain clouds and not one star could be seen with the naked eye. Noisily and hurriedly everyone started to jump out of the train eager to get inside the castle. Katherine rolled her eyes and someone pushed her aside on her way out of the train. Carefully, she stepped down unto the muddy ground. She looked down to see her shoes splattered in mud as what looked like a first year jumped out of the train right into a mud puddle. A chilly breeze blew as Katherine closed her eyes and took a deep breath in order to keep her cool before she started out the year by being expelled for murdering an eleven year old. She pulled her wand out of her robes, pointed to her boots and said "Scourgify!" Her boots became clean once again and she smiled.
"What are you still doing here? I thought you'd have gotten us a carriage by now," Pansy said stepping down from the train dusting off her black billowing robes.
"Oh, do you ever just stop complaining?" Katherine blurted out. She was already annoyed at having come back to the dreaded school, the last thing she needed was for Pansy to start being a pain. Katherine was on a short fuse and if Pansy didn't quit her whining their first night on their seventh year at Hogwarts would be one to be remembered.
The two girls walked slowly as they watched their steps so as not to get any more mud on their shoes. A soft drizzle was falling over their heads as they went from carriage to carriage trying to find an empty one.
"It's all your fault they're all taken." Pansy said. Katherine was about to turn around and tell her off when she heard Draco's voice behind them.
"Looking for a carriage?" he asked them putting his arms around both their necks.
"Yes, did you find an empty one?" Pansy asked.
"Certainly. Follow me." Draco said stepping in between them and walking towards a horseless carriage a few feet away from them.
Crabbe and Goyle stood at the door of the carriage making faces and balling up their fists at tiny second years that stopped by to ask if the carriage was taken.
Katherine stepped into the carriage followed by Pansy, Draco, Crabbe and Goyle. On the short ride to the castle, Draco would not stop talking about Harry Potter and what a wannabe idiot he was. Katherine wondered if she was the only person in the carriage not interested in listening to more bickering about Harry Potter, because Pansy would pay attention to Draco even if he was talking about the harvesting of rice in Guyana. As for Crabbe and Goyle, they never said much, except for a couple of grunts which no one could really understand if they tried.
Katherine was the first one out of the carriage, eager to get away from Draco's Harry Potter rant. Walking as quickly as possible, she went into the entrance hall losing Pansy somewhere behind her. Although she doubted Pansy would've noticed her missing, considering the many times she'd left her to go running after Draco. Feeling as though she was on her last nerve, Katherine pushed and shoved students as she made her way to the Great Hall, not caring if they were first or second years. Somehow she felt an eagerness to get everything started and perhaps in that manner make everything end sooner.
Finally making it to the Slytherin table she sat down at what had been her regular seat for the past few years. Not much later Pansy was joining her at the table after Draco had blown her off to go greet his Slytherin quidditch teammates.
"You didn't wait for me again!" Pansy said sitting next to her.
"I didn't think you would've noticed."
"You know, after what you did on the train the least you could do is be nice to me."
Katherine glared at Pansy while cracking her knuckles. She was making it incredibly difficult for her to keep her cool. Katherine watched as the rest of the students walked into the Great Hall and settled into their respective tables. As soon as everyone was at their table, Professor McGonagall marched to the front of the Great Hall holding a small stool in her hands on which the Sorting Hat sat while terrified looking first years followed her.
Once the Great Hall had quieted down the Sorting Hat began to sing its song, a new and longer one, for each year. The same story every year about Gryffindor, Slytherin, Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw the founders of the school, and the qualities that would place the students into one of the houses.
"Still pathetic," Pansy drawled.
Katherine leaned her elbow on the table and pressed her cheek to her fist as she began to look at all the scared faces of the new first years. She laughed to herself remembering a day when she too had stood up there, except she hadn't been scared. Her family had told her from way before she even received her letter accepting her into Hogwarts that she'd be a Slytherin, and dare she not be placed into any other house. The Sullivans came from a long line of Slytherin descendants, anything other than that was considered degrading and embarrassing. She'd sat on that stool already knowing she'd be a Slytherin, no question about it.
Professor McGonagall began moving through the alphabet as student by student took their turn on the stool, placing the hat over their heads. The hat would shout the name of their new house and so they'd run off with huge grins on their faces to their table. Poor souls, Katherine thought, they had no idea of the boring seven years that awaited them at Hogwarts.
The line of students was becoming smaller and smaller and the view of the High Table was becoming clearer. Tiny Professor Flitwick always seemed to be having the time of his life. He watched on cheerfully as the first years got sorted. Next was Professor Sinistra, looking ladylike and proper. Then there was a new face; a woman with strawberry blonde hair and horn-rimmed spectacles; probably a new teacher. Professor Snape was next and he looked livid. He didn't seem to be enjoying the ceremony less than he had any previous years. Dumbledore sat next to him and in the middle, hardly looking older than he had a few months ago. Hagrid sat next to him followed by a man that looked vaguely familiar to Katherine. She squinted trying to get a better look but she couldn't put her finger on who he was. He had longish black hair and a perfectly trimmed goatee, hands clasped in prayer form in front of his mouth. He didn't look too happy to be there yet he didn't look angry. In fact it looked more like he was a tad bit nervous but he looked like someone unfathomable, ready to accept the worst from the school and not care. Something told Katherine that this man had been through a lot but who was he? She stared at him a bit longer thinking of past family parties, visits to family members, trips to London…but she just couldn't remember exactly where she had seen him. Hagrid leaned over to him and whispered something to him. The man removed his hands from in front of his mouth and listened. His lips suddenly broke into a smile and Katherine found herself smiling along. What a difference the smile made on his face!
"Hey, Pansy," Katherine whispered tapping Pansy on her wrist. "Who's that man sitting next to Hagrid? He looks so familiar!"
"Where?" Pansy asked.
"Right there." Katherine tried pointing at him without making it too obvious.
Pansy's mouth dropped open. "Isn't that…"
"Welcome all old and new faces, to Hogwarts. I expect you all had an uplifting summer. Before we start our much awaited banquet, I'd like to answer the question that I'm sure most of you are asking yourselves right about now." Dumbledore said. There was a loud murmur that filled the entire Great Hall as everyone turned to each other and began talking.
Dumbledore raised his hands and immediately the hall quieted down. "As you may have noticed there are two new members in our staff this year, one perhaps awaking your curiosity more than the other. With the resignation of Professor Merrick after having had an unpleasant time here among us," Dumbledore said eyeing the students over his half moon spectacles. Several students in the hall laughed remembering how clumsy Professor Merrick had been and how much more difficult they'd made his job for him. "We've been searching earth and sky for a new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. When no one would take the job I suddenly remembered someone who's very skillful in the art, and will most definitely be very helpful during these dark times."
"I present to you Sirius Black." He finally said motioning with his hand over to his left where Sirius Black was sitting with his hands clasped together in front of him. Once again hushed voices filled the atmosphere in the Great Hall.
"He's the ex Azkaban convict!" Pansy said bewildered.
"So that's where I've seen him," Katherine said more to herself than to Pansy as she looked at Sirius who stood up for a second and gave a courteous nod.
"That figures, first a half giant, then a werewolf, now an ex convict. I have to admit though, he cleaned up well," Pansy said.
Dumbledore raised his hands again. "Professor Black, as you will all now refer to him, has been cleared of all charges by the Ministry of Magic thanks to a marvelous potion better known as Veritasserum. If you follow the Daily Prophet you might already have known this. But since we can't always believe what we read, I will now confirm it for all of you. So do not be afraid of him, he wouldn't hurt a fly."
This time everyone in the hall laughed, but it wasn't a mocking laugh. It was a laugh of welcoming and understanding, mixed with relief. Professor Black himself looked relieved; perhaps he'd expected a bad reaction. He looked thoughtful but at peace as he sat back down and stared at his hands once again clasped hands on the table. There was something so mysterious about him.
"Katherine, hasn't anyone told you it's rude to stare?" Pansy asked.
"I was not staring!"
"Sure. So now you like the new Defense teacher?"
"Lay off, Pansy."
"Very well, with that cleared up you can all go back to breathing normally. Our second new addition to the staff this year is Professor Natalie Carwin who's come to replace our dear Professor Vector whom we so regretfully lost last year," Dumbledore said. The blonde woman proceeded to stand up and give the students a smile. Katherine looked at her for half a second but her eyes soon traveled to where Black sat. His eyes moved across the room as if doing a mental examination of the four houses. His eyes fell on her for a split second and Katherine felt her heart flutter. Her face grew hot and she realized that she was developing some sort of strange attraction and for this amazingly handsome and mysterious new teacher. Her interest in him was growing by the second and she wondered what class with him would be like. She was already looking forward to it. Maybe she'd been wrong, maybe she had just run out of patience too early; perhaps her seventh year would be the one to remember after all. Perhaps something new and extremely exciting was waiting for her this year at Hogwarts.