Living in abuse is difficult because there’s a part of you that grows up wanting to be kind and spread light to make up for all the darkness that you’ve endured, but there’s a part of you that’s sharp and spiteful, which always shows up first in difficult situations. Living past abuse is struggling to contain your demons because of your wish to spread light in the world, and it’s hard.
It’s something I’ve struggled with for years, so when I saw that blond swallow when someone called him death eater and then quietly tell them, “that’s not me anymore,” I felt for him in ways I hadn’t felt for anyone. I knew what he was going through, and I knew that he needed help.
So, purse and wand in hand, I opened the door to the compartment I shared with nobody and walked to the one across the hall, knocking before I pushed it open.
“Who’re you?” a boy asked me, rather rudely. He was dark-skinned and had hair that was buzz cut. He wore the same robes as everyone else, with a green and silver tie. He was lounging on the seat, and I swallowed before I answered him.
“Cayenne Sanders,” I said, forcing the venom out of my voice. “Pleased to meet you.”
I turned to look at the blond and saw that his hair was paler than I thought. His eyes were like my mum’s: a silvery grey. Unlike his friend, he was stiff and straight, although his outfit was the same.
“This is Blaise Zabini,” he offered, in a silky voice that reminded me of royalty. It struck me how completely opposite he and Blaise were, looks and otherwise. “And I’m Draco Malfoy.”
“Pleasure,” I said, as I stood awkwardly in the aisle. “I actually don’t have anyone to sit with and I’m not sure what to do, so I thought…” I trailed off. It was a good excuse, but not so good if it didn’t work on them.
“That we would be helpful?” Draco asked sarcastically, sneering before he scrunched his eyes close and winced. “Sorry about that, I’m just not myself today.”
“Liar,” I said, under my breath, but he didn’t hear. Blaise did, though, and he raised his eyebrow. “You and I both,” I said louder, so he heard.
“Please sit,” he said, and Blaise sat up, scooting to give me space, as if he acknowledged that Draco shouldn’t have to move.
“So, which house are you in?” Blaise asked conversationally.
“Actually, I wasn’t able to join last year, because of…” The Second Wizarding War. We all were thinking about it, so I chose to skip over the mention of it. “My parents are both what you’d call muggles, so it was dangerous for me. I’m in the first year now.”
“Which house do you think you’ll be in?” Blaise questioned again, while Draco scrunched his eyes at me as if trying to figure me out.
“I know there’s four. Slytherin, Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, and Ravenclaw,” I listed. “I’m clever, but not witty, so I don’t think I’ll be a Ravenclaw. I’m too mean and not quite hardworking enough to be a Hufflepuff. I definitely have guts, but Slytherin appeals to me in a way Gryffindor doesn’t.”
“I hope for your sake you’re a Gryffindor.” Draco’s silky-smooth voice said.
“But you’re in Slytherin,” I pointed out, and then I realized the meaning of his words. “Don’t say that. I know about the whole Slytherin equals evil thing, but I frankly don’t give a shit.”
Blaise whistled approvingly. “I like this one,” he said to Draco. “I don’t care what this guy says. You’d fit right into our house, and—”
“You know,” Draco interrupted, glaring at me suspiciously, “for someone who claims not to be Ravenclaw material, and a mud— muggle-born, you know way too much about our world. I’d bet three galleons even Granger didn’t know that much.”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” I said sarcastically, meeting his gaze, and then cursed. I softened my voice. “I know because Professor McGonagall gave me Hermione Granger’s contact details, and she helped me out during the holidays. It kept both of us sane.” I added the last part as an afterthought.
“How come you’re not with her right now?” Blaise asked, sounding desperate to involve himself in our conversation and stare-down.
“I told her not to bother,” I replied nonchalantly, finally feeling comfortable enough to press my back into the leather and place my purse next to me. “She has friends and a boyfriend, and she’s a War Heroine. And plus, I don’t want a babysitter—I’m fine on my own.”
“Clearly,” Draco muttered.
We spent the ride in silence until a girl showed up, her auburn hair up in space buns.
“Well, well, well,” she said, looking me up and down with a cocky grin. “Who is this?” If Slytherin was going to have such sass queens, then sign me up. And plus, her eyeliner and eyeshadow were on point.
“Parkinson, this is—” Blaise wracked his brains.
“Cayenne Sanders,” I smiled, saving Blaise from inevitable embarrassment.
“Hey,” she said, cocking her eyebrow. “I’m Pansy Parkinson. Love what you’re doing with the hair. Wanna come to get changed?”
My wavy strawberry-blonde hair was literally piled on the top of my head, with a few strands falling around my face. I appreciated the compliment—we ladies had to stick up for each other, right?
I was wearing a black top and a jean skirt, the most muggle piece of clothing you could think of, so I accepted her offer, following her out of the compartment and to what I assumed were the girls’ washrooms. The rosy evening promised a dark night outside.
“So, how did you come to meet Draco and Zabini?” she asked. I noticed she said Draco, his first name, and Zabini, Blaise’s last name as if she was closer to Draco than she was to Blaise.
“I was a little lost,” I replied, deciding to go with a half-truth. “And they helped me out.”
“How uncharacteristic,” she commented, then pointed to an empty carriage, waving her wand so the curtains were drawn. “Get in there and change. I’ll stand here so nobody will get in.”
“Thanks,” I smiled. Pansy seemed like a nice girl, someone who I’d like to have as a friend.
I took off my skirt but left my blouse and tights on. I wrapped the black robe around me (made of silk—daddy would never let me settle for less) and tied it, before taking safety pins and pinning the robe to my shirt. I had had too many pranks gone wrong in primary school where I’d be in compromising positions with my outfit—it was way too easy to pull the tie of the robe and be left vulnerable.
I put my pumps back on before I opened the door, to see Pansy in an argument with a redhead and a girl with mousy brown curls. The compartments must have been soundproofed because I’d heard of nothing from inside.
“I happen to be head girl, so watch your mouth, Parkinson,” the brunette said.
“I will say whatever I want to, mudblood,” Pansy sneered, and that hit me deep in my chest. Why did I think being friends with Pansy was a good idea when she treated my kind like… gum under her shoe?
“Say that again,” the redhead threatened, pointing her wand towards Pansy, who visibly recoiled.
“Mudblood,” Pansy muttered, and the redhead fumed, muttering what I was sure was the incantation for the Bat Bogey Hex. Meanwhile, my eyes filled with tears and I turned on my heel, running away from the scene, towards someone that didn’t treat my people with such loathing.
I wish I had listened to Hermione when she told me Slytherin wouldn’t be kind to me.
I grunted as I crashed into someone. They held my arms, steadying me, and I looked up to see Draco Malfoy, a concerned look on his face as he saw my streaming tears.
Not all Slytherins, a voice in my head said.
He didn’t laugh. He didn’t ask are you okay, because I clearly wasn’t. Nor did he ask what’s going on, because he probably knew from experience that I wouldn’t tell. Instead, he asked, “Do you want to talk about it or be distracted by it?” in a soft voice that sounded so unlike the haughty one he was using before.