The room lit up once more and I grit my teeth in frustration.
It was 6 o'clock in the morning and it was September 1st and I needed to sleep. I sat up in my bed, leaning my back against the head board as the sky rumbled so deeply that it seemed to be coming from the very depths of the earth.
This is ridiculous. All summer long britian had been caught in a heatwave. For months we had been without rain, lakes shrinking away and grass that was supposed to be green being left in an unhealthy shade of brown. The summer of 1976 was the hottest summer in recent history. And then, just as it inevitably had to, it came to an abrupt end when the skies decided to wage war on us all. It had been three days of rain that fell so hard that it hurt and storms that were by far the most violent I had ever seen.
And so it continued. At all hours of the day. It was impossible to sleep through.
I threw back the covers on my bed and shimmed along the cotton sheets causing some to drag with me, until my feet met the wooden floor
It may have only been September but that didn't stop the weather from raging a war on the landscape. The wind was so ferocious that the seemingly snitch sized raindrops were being thrown around so violently that I was sure that any moment, they would break through the glass of my window.
It was so dark outside that I was required to put a light on in my room just so I could dress, my body shivering all the while as a result of my lack of sleep.
As I sat on the edge of my bed, my eyes cast out to the miserable looking outside world and I cursed the foul mood that was fast becoming my constant companion. I don't recall a day the entire summer that had passed in which I did not wake with an exhausted impatience at everyone and everything that I found myself in contact with.
Once I was satisfied that I had indulged my self pity for long enough, I begrudgingly made my way to the entrance hall of my home, the house brutally silent save the sounds of my footsteps and the hammering of the severe rain on every window pane.
I did not expect my mother or my father to be present of course. I knew my mother was probably overjoyed that she no longer had the burden of being responsible for my annual departure for school.
I stood infront of the door to my home. I sighed impatiently as I glanced at the large clock that hung on the wall.
I hated waiting.
"Do you have all your things?" I turned instantly to the voice behind me and cursed as I saw my brother stood there. I hadn't heard him coming. I never heard him coming. It made me uneasy how he seemed to appear out of nowhere. How he moved with eerie stealth and unnerving silence.
"Yes," I nodded compliantly, taking hold of my trunk, "How are we getting there?" I asked my elder brother knowing that the absence of my parents meant one thing, Tudor was in charge and was now responsible for getting me to my new school.
He was a year my senior but seemed inconceivably older than a mere 17 years of age. I hadn't an ounce of shame in admitting that his presence frightened me at times. Physically, he was my mothe'sr child. He had her impeccable bone structure, her dark hair, her beautifully dark green eyes and though my brother was undeniably handsome, this didn't matter. There was an emptiness to his presence, an unflinching coldness in his eyes that made him his Fathers son regardless of who he physically resembled.
He didn't care to give me an answer and instead took hold of my arm firmly giving me no time to prepare for the uncomfortable yet familiar sensation of suddenly being sucked through a small tube, all the air being snatched from my lungs in the process before I suddenly found myself in an alarmingly different setting from that of my entrance hall.
The loud sounds of owls hooting, children crying, parents fussing and noisy carts squeaking across the concrete ground, all assaulted my ears at once. I was facing a large scarlet steam train that was puffing out smoke that carried to the glass ceiling and hovered in the electric atmosphere that surrounded me. It was a densely populated platform and much to annoyance, our sudden arrival had not gone unnoticed and I fought the urge to scowl at the eyes that were now looking at me.
"Tudor! I've been looking for you." I heard her refined voice before I saw her, inwardly wincing at the immediate contact I was about to be forced to endure.
Give me strength. This was not going to be a good year.
It wasn't until she was infront of us that she saw me and her dark eyes widened upon sight.
Bellatrix Black. Not someone I was looking forward to seeing. I had known her somewhat since I was about 5 years old.
I think I tried to set fire to her once though I can't quite recall.
Never did like her. She never did like me. However, my liking her was neither here nor there as circumstances had dictated that whether I liked her or not, she was set to become a prominent figure in my life. You see, at some point over the past few years she had seen fit to become ardently devoted to the brother at my side. And if what I had heard from others was anything to go by, sooner or later, Bellatrix Black was set to take on my family's name.
I still didn't like her.
"Veronica? You're coming to Hogwarts? No one's said anything," She said frowning and I took a small pleasure as I saw the irritation in her eyes that she was not in the loop.
Not a member of the family yet. I thought viciously.
"It was all very last minute…" I started to explain with a polite smile but Tudor cut me off.
"Have you seen Troy?" Tudor asked Bellatrix and I noticed for the first time that he seemed irritated. Forever keeping tabs on our brainless brother.
"No." She replied her eyes changing as she looked at Tudor. I found this very odd. I hadn't seem Bellatrix for a few years but from what I remembered, she was an incredibly assertive and fiercely dominant character so for her to be so…..there was a submissive tone to the way she looked at Tudor that I found extraordinarily bizarre. "Would you like me to take Veronica to a carriage?" She continued suddenly, eager to help in some way.
I am here. I had to hold my tongue as the urge to snap at her became overwhelming.
Tudor's cold eyes flickered first from Bellatrix to me and it was as though there was a silent order in the way he looked at me. As though he was telling me to behave. But perhaps I imagined it as his eyes didn't linger on me for even a full second before they returned to Bellatrix. "Yes. I'll be along shortly." He said dismissively, not even sparing me another glance as he disappeared into the crowd.
Her? You're leaving me with her?
"Come, everyone will be so surprised to see you." Bellatrix said with a predatory smile before gesturing me to follow her onto the scarlet train.
I had little choice but to comply and did so politely and gracefully, admirably masking my distaste for the girl that I was now following down the train.
Eventually I found myself coming to a halt as she stopped moving with little warning, reaching out her slender hand, sliding open a door swiftly to reveal a carriage with four occupants: Lucius Malfoy, Theodore Nott, Evan Rosier and girl that I knew by sight but could not recall her name.
"Find him then?" I heard Theodore ask Bellatrix but his gaze snapped to me, along with everyone else's as soon I was in view.
"Veronica? You're starting Hogwarts?" He asked surprised. I wonder how many people will ask me that today.
"So it would seem." I replied with a smile.
There were then the tedious formalities of explanations of why I had left Beauxbatons after all these years of being there, but I kept my replies curt and short. I had known most of these people for a large part of my life and I can imagine that it was of no surprise to them that I was not forthcoming. I didn't talk to people I didn't like.
I didn't like most people.
It was a full twenty minutes into the train ride before the carriage doors opened and in walked both of my brothers. I always found it extraordinary that they were actually twins as the differences were striking.
Troy was exceptionally beautiful. Even as his sister, I could see this plainly. He was the same height as Tudor but physically that was where the similarity ended as where Tudor was lean, Troy was broad, where Tudor's hair was almost black, Troy was a dark blonde. His eyes a dark blue, much like my own but his held a dense intensity I had never seen in anyone before. He had skin that seemed to hold an eternal tan, a jaw that most sculptures cannot rival and an agonizing charm about him. Troy could get anything he wanted from nearly anyone just by giving them his attention for a few moments.
But if you didn't give him what he wanted? God help you.
He was saying something but I didn't want to listen and instead diverted my attention to the passing countryside not caring very much where they had been to be perfectly honest.
For the rest of the journey I remained polite and observant, ensuring that I did not lose my temper when I frequently had to hear something that I did not like, as I knew these would be the people that I would be associating with for the next year and it would not do well to make things harder on myself.
Head high, look them in the eye and smile.
It seemed an eternity until I got to step off of the train and onto the crowded platform. I relished the cool night air but did not get to enjoy it for long as I was guided by Bellatrix to carriages that lay just outside the station.
By this time a strong and unwelcome feelings had come over me: I was nervous. I was suddenly extremely nervous and I couldn't quite understand why my throat started twisting and my stomach started to dance. I tried to shake it but it persisted and I was finding it painful to sit still and show no sign of hesitation.
But my face remained passive. Just as it always did.
When Hogwarts came into view, I could not help but be in awe of it's size. I had been to the school before, once. Under very different circumstances. But even then, I did not see it from the outside. My nerves eased slightly as I observed what I assumed to be the first years bobbing on the clear black lake as they drifted towards the commanding castle. I wonder how different things would have been if I had come here in first year when I was supposed to?
The carriage came to halt. My nerves escalated. My face remained expressionless, my eyes remained indifferent and my posture remained relaxed. I stepped from the carriage and I walked towards the castle like I didn't have a care in the world.
I knew that in Hogwarts you were sorted but I had not been told how exactly that would happen and it seemed Bellatrix had been thinking the same thing.
"How are you being sorted?" she asked, frowning slightly.
"I'm not sure. My letter didn't exactly say how—"
"Miss Veronica Phoenix?"
My head turned to see who had called me and I found myself look on a very severe looking woman who wore a pointed hat that was cocked slightly to the side, she wore tartan robes and upon seeing her stern face, I couldn't help but be reminded slightly of my grandmother.
"Yes?" I replied tonelessly.
"I am Professor McGonagall, Deputy Headmistress. If you will follow me, I will take you to be sorted," she said curtly in a thick Scottish accent before wasting no time and starting to make her way up the large staircase that lay in the entrance hall.
I said goodbye to my 'companions' and followed her, having to walk quickly in order to keep up with her brisk pace.
"Where will I be sorted?" I asked her, my eyes greedily taking in what was to be my new home for the next few months.
"You will be sorted in the headmasters office," she replied, still not looking at me.
I felt a surge of relief that I would not be sorted infront of anyone. I had heard that in first year, you were sorted infront of the whole school and that was not an idea that I relished.
"It will be quick as the headmaster must open the feast," McGonagall informed me before stopping abruptly at a corner. "If you carry on down this hall, you shall come to a stone gargoyle. The password is Aniseed bon – bon. You then follow the stairs and you shall find the headmasters office. I have to get back and prepare the first years," she said, again her voice very swift and direct. I nodded my understanding and watched her walk away for a moment before turning my gaze to the long corridor infront of me and the gargoyle that lay at the end of it. I took a breathe before trudging towards it and quickly gave it the password.
Just as she said, a spiral staircase appeared and I dutifully took the steps upwards until I came to even ground.
I paused for a moment and I'm not sure why. But eventually, I knocked on the large wooden door.
"Come in," I heard a soft voice from inside say and I opened the door, stepping into the only room in Hogwarts that I had ever been in before.
But only once. And that was 6 years ago.