The next morning, I awoke early, eager to attend my classes in this new time. It was the first time I had really noticed the other girls in the dormitory with me. Over the weekend, none of them returned to the room, except one. She had long, flowing, red hair and a fair complexion. She hardly paid much attention to me. As I was getting ready to leave and head toward the library before class began, I noticed her get out of bed and eyeball me, as if she was seeing an intruder.
"I'm sorry," I said quietly. "Did I wake you?" She rubbed her eyes and arched her back as she stretched.
"Oh, no," she said, walking over to her trunk. "I was just getting up to visit the library before class." I nodded. We had the exact same idea.
"I am headed down there now, actually," I said, adjusting my bag on my shoulder. I felt like I ought to introduce myself. "I'm Marilyn, by the way." I had no idea how I was going to explain myself to her. Surely she would have known I hadn't been around for five years, sleeping in the same room. It was easy to keep Sirius in the dark about my whereabouts, but how was I going to pull this off?
"I'm Lily," she said sleepily as she headed toward the bathroom.
"Nice to meet you, Lily," I said, hoping to escape before I was questioned any further. "Well, see you later, I suppose." I smiled and darted down the stairs. I needed to come up with a story, and quickly.
My mind was racing, trying to conjure up an idea to make sense of my secret, but nothing came to mind. As I reached the first floor, I blew past the library and headed for Dumbledore's office. Surely, as wise a man as he was, he could come up with something. As I approached the statue and began to mutter the password, the staircase began moving, and a tall, white-bearded wizard descended.
"Dumbledore," I said, quite frantically, "I don't mean to bother you, sir, but," he held up his hand to silence me.
"Not in the least, dear girl," he said. "I was just on my way to the kitchen to sneak a scoop of ice cream, but I imagine that you have something more urgent than an early morning sweet run. Please, come in." He ushered me up to his office and conjured a chair for me to sit in. I mumbled 'Thank you' and sat down. "I have been expecting you since you left my office a couple of days ago," he said casually.
"You've been expecting me, sir?" I said, my mind still racing.
"Of course I have," he said as he reached into a gold tin and pulled out a lemon drop. "I expected you to have questions. It's not every day that a student travels through time and doesn't hit a few snags as they try to wrap their minds around their situation." He popped the candy in his mouth and leaned forward with a concerned look. "You're not regretting your stay here with us, are you Miss Horsefeather?" My eyes widened. The last couple of days here had been the most wonderful of any days I could ever remember.
"Not at all sir," I said, still trying to compose myself. "It's just that, people will notice that I haven't been here for the last five years. How am I supposed to pretend as if I have? I'm not much of a liar." It surprised me to say this. Being a former Slytherin, one would think that lying would be a particular specialty of mine. I honestly hadn't known if I was a good liar or not, because I had never found a reason to until just recently. There weren't many instances where lying was necessary when you had nobody to talk to.
Dumbledore pondered as he tossed the lemon drop around in his mouth. "I have already made your professors aware of your situation, and asked them to treat you no differently than had you been in their classes the previous years. And as for your peers," he continued, "I suggest that the people who are becoming your close friends," he eyeballed me from the tops of his glasses, "you may confide in." I stared blankly at him. He sat back in his chair, confident in the advice he had just given me.
"And what about the others, sir? What do I tell them if they come asking?" I asked as I fidgeted with my robes.
"Simply tell them that you have been abroad, and have just returned to Hogwarts for your sixth year," he said calmly. "And if they don't believe you after that, then I will leave you with this last tidbit of information. In the words of a famous muggle philosopher, 'Those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind.'" I nodded in appreciation and headed out of his office feeling more composed. As I exited the spiraled staircase, I trotted off to the dungeons for my first class.
As I entered the Potions Classroom, I noticed that it had not changed a bit. It still had the same lingering smell of potions past, and I immediately recognized a younger version of Professor Slughorn. As the rest of the class filed in, I began digging around my bag for parchment and quills and my textbook.
"Hello, class!" Slughorn said enthusiastically. "I want you all to pair up for today's potion. We'll be making a rather tricky sleeping draught!" I looked around for someone who would possibly be my partner, but it seemed as though I had been the odd man out. Slughorn recognized immediately that I was without a partner. "Miss Horsefeather!" He gestured to me. "Won't you join Mister Snape and Miss Evans for today?" I nodded in agreeance and shyly scampered over to the two students near the front of the classroom. I recognized the girl to be Lily, who I had met earlier, and the boy I noticed as no other than a young Severus Snape. He rolled his eyes as I stood next to them, while Lily greeted me with a small wave and a smile.
"I'll go get the ingredients!" She said warmly, and scurried off to the cupboard on the other side of the room. Snape wrinkled his nose as if he had just smelled something rotten.
"A Horsefeather in Gryffindor?" he scoffed, still not turning his head to look at me straight on. "Any relation to Zephyros?" He asked rather coldly. My skin became clammy. That was my father's name: the name of the man who murdered a trainful of innocent people and did many horrible things while doing the bidding of You-Know-Who. I clenched my fists under the table, trying to keep my composure on the surface as my insides were boiling.
"Distant cousins, perhaps," I said through gritted teeth. Lily skipped back up to the table with an armful of ingredients, nearly dropping a phial of rat tonic that toppled at the peak of the mountain she held in her arms.
"Shall we get started then?" Lily said as Snape helped her place the ingredients on the table. I nodded and gave Snape a sideways glance as I opened my textbook to the sleeping draught.
The rest of the day, I attended each of my classes with Sirius. It felt fresh to be beside him after being with Snape for the first hour. I still could not get my father out of my mind. As we sat listening to the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher explain about the theory behind nonverbal spells, I slipped Sirius a note. 'What do you know about Zephyros Horsefeather?' The writing was a bit sloppy, since I could barely keep my hand steady as I wrote. Sirius gave me a strange look.
'He's a seventh year. Slytherin. Why?' I could tell by his eyes that he knew the gears in my mind were turning. I was going to have a difficult time keeping myself from divulging everything to him, but there was so much I needed to find out, and I wouldn't be able to go on without someone knowing who I was. I just shook my head.
'I need to talk to you tonight after classes.' I wrote, my heart pounding. I hadn't known Sirius for more than a few days. Could I trust him with such an enormous secret? He looked over at me and gave me an assuring look and mouthed 'Sure' as he shot me a quick smile and turned back to listen to the professor. I folded up the note and stuffed it in my robes, unsure of how this was all going to turn out.
We spent dinner mostly engaged in unimportant chit-chat among James, Remus, and Peter. I was becoming eager to have a private conversation with Sirius so I could finally be myself around him. A few times, he nudged my shoulder as I had far-off looks in my eyes. He was good at bringing me back to reality.
"Hey, Marilyn," James called to me from the other side of the table. I looked up quickly, preoccupied with my thoughts.
"Hmm?" I said, close-mouthed and still distant.
"We've got quidditch practice in half an hour," he said, getting up from the table. "Don't be late!" James bid his friends goodbye and trotted off out of the Great Hall.
"Damn it!" I mouthed into my fists. I began to get up when Sirius's eyes met mine.
"I'm really sorry Sirius. It completely slipped my mind," I said as I took one last sip from my goblet. He just smiled at me.
"It's alright, Marilyn," he said sweetly. "We'll talk tonight," he winked at me mischievously and I didn't dare argue with such a rascally smirk. I gave him a half-hearted smile and waved to Remus and Peter as I hurried out of the Great Hall following James.
Quidditch practice lasted an hour past the sunset. I remember being high in the air on my broom and witnessing it dip behind the hills. It was truly a wonderful sight to behold. The new keeper was in fact the boy who I had scored my first goal against. I was very pleased when he greeted me without any ill feelings. The entire team was very welcoming and the first practice was exactly as I had imagined it, but my mind was still resting with Sirius in Gryffindor tower. As we all trudged back into the castle and up toward Gryffindor tower, I ripped off my arm and leg guards and approached the Fat Lady. "Fig Pie!" I said tiredly, and she swung open into the common room. A few people were scattered among the couches in front of the fireplace as we all filed in through the portrait hole. I spotted Sirius sitting in the corner reading a book. I made my way over to him and yanked it out of his hands.
"Encyclopedia of Toadstools," I said mockingly. "Is it a very riveting read, Sirius?" I started giggling as I handed the book back to him, feeling my sweaty clothes stick to my skin.
"It's actually very interesting," he said, continuing to flip through the pages. "Hogwarts has a trove of truffles all throughout the dark forest." He looked interested as he said this, skimming over a few words. He looked up at me. "You're sweaty. Go get cleaned up and come find me down here," he said, giving me a shooing gesture. I looked at him and wrinkled my forehead. "Unless you have changed your mind about wanting to talk?" His eyes pleaded with me. I could tell he was desperate to know everything I wanted to tell him. I was anxious, too. But for different reasons. He knew he was going to learn a secret, but to me, it was much more than that. It was my life, my past… or was it my future? I could barely comprehend it myself any longer. I gave him a nod and headed up to the dormitories, his eyes following me until I disappeared up the staircase.