II. the welcoming feast
𝕮ordelia liked to think she was a little metamorphic.
You see, even when she was a young child, she had been ingrained to act a certain way around certain people-- those people included her elders, her parents, and, most importantly, people of high blood status or those who came from prominent families. She knew how to change her behavior from acting wild and crazy to being polite and superficial, and she knew how to do it well. Most couldn’t tell that she had two sides to her, and that even made her more efficient at changing nearly her entire persona. If her grandparents or, hell, even if her parents figured out that there was practically a whole different person living under her skin, she would be as dead as her brother...
So, when Draco Malfoy and his “girlfriend” Pansy Parkinson took the remaining seats on the carriage beside she, Theo, and Claire, she had to flick a switch in her brain so she could speak to blonde without offending him-- because, if you offended the Slytherin Prince, he would tell his dear old father, and you would probably be cursed into oblivion.
Draco lifted his eyes to meet her gaze just as the thestrals kicked off the start of the ride. It was a short one, and one she had done loads of times, but seeing the thestrals moving the carriage still gave her a sense of uneasiness-- it had been years since she first laid eyes on one, but they still freaked her the hell out. If one wasn’t aware, Cordelia wasn’t the fondest of animals. Draco cleared his throat. “Flint.”
Cordelia jutted her chin at him. “Draco.”
Pansy smiled and held onto Draco’s arm, and he put his hand over hers. Either they were together or Cordelia was just seeing things, but she doubted it was the latter. They had been on and off since their third year, so it seemed fitting for them to be together now. “How was your summer, Cordelia?”
Pansy’s high pitched voice made her sick to her stomach. For a moment she thought that her headache had come back, but soon after realized that it was just the aftershock of hearing the pug-faced girl speak. “It was fine.”
“That’s good to hear,” replied Pansy, giving her a small smile. Out of the corner of her eye, Cordelia swore that she could see Theo choke back a laugh as the carriage wobbled when they passed over the stony trail. The castle loomed into view, and she suddenly felt an odd sense of calm wash over her, and she let out a breath that she hadn’t even realized she was holding in.
After a few more moments of awkward silence, the thestrals came to a stop, and Draco stepped off first. He held out a hand to help Pansy off the carriage and she took it, stepping down gently and then gripping his hand in hers as they walked together towards the castle’s entrance. Just as Cordelia stepped onto Hogwarts soil, the commotion of someone yelling caught her attention. She looked up, and when she saw who it was, she let out a small sigh. “Claire, I told you.”
Claire snorted from beside her. “I see she’s not yelling at Zach, though, that’s a relief.”
Theo came to stand next to her, saying, “We should go over there and make sure Winnie doesn’t kill Millicent, shouldn’t we?”
“Yep,” said Cordelia. She and Theo took several steps in the direction of the two girls just as Millicent Bulstrode’s hand collided with the side of Winnie’s face. Cordelia’s eyes widened, and whisper-yelled to Theo, “She’s gonna go for her, try and hold her back!”
Theo nodded and went over to Winnie when her back was turned, and Cordelia pulled out her wand just as Winnie reached for hers, screaming, “You fucking bitch!” Cordelia moved forward, holding out her wand as Winnie’s fell into her other while Theo pulled the angry girl back so she couldn’t cause any more damage. “Cordelia, give me my wand! Give me my wand!” She fought against Theo’s holdings, and Cordelia stepped in front of her, facing her cousin Millicent.
“I think it’s time to turn around and leave, Millie,” she said calmly, the words pouring out of her mouth as smooth as silk. Millie gave her a deadly glare. “Believe me, you do not want Theo to let go of her.” Millie scowled before turning on her heel and departing with her gang of girls who followed her every move. The crowd of students watching the fight between the sisters goggled at Cordelia, who shouted, “Alright, shows over! Everyone go carry on with your own bloody business!”
She turned back around to Theo and Winnie, who was still struggling against his strong arms. She muttered a weak, “Will you let me go, please?”
Theo grinned and gave her a wink as Cordelia shook her head, letting out a breathy laugh. “Can’t, sweetheart, I’m not sure how I feel about you killing someone tonight, though you do look pretty hot when you’re mad.” He gave Winnie a wink, and a grin blossomed onto Cordelia’s face.
“Oh, let her go, Theo, you big flirt,” she commented. Theo reluctantly let go of her and she walked towards her cousin and linked her arm with hers. “Haven’t been here one day and you just had to get punched, huh?”
“I see you’re feeling better,” replied Winnie, holding out her hand so Cordelia could give her her wand back. She complied. “Maybe I shouldn’t have helped you, maybe you would’ve let me send her at least one hex then. My bloody fucking sister...”
The two walked arm in arm and walked into the castle together, Claire and Theo trailing close behind, and immediately Cordelia felt Winnie calm immediately as the lights engulfed them. “Good to be back, isn’t it?”
“Yeah,” answered Winnie, removing her arm from her cousin’s. She looked in front of her to where Dean and Seamus were standing awkwardly as they waited for her, having witnessed the altercation, then gave Cordelia a small smile. “I should go, then. Thanks.”
“I’m always here for you, Winnie.”
“You better be.”
And she strutted down the hallway towards her friends and vanished into the crowd of Eagles as they took their seats at the table. Cordelia followed suit with her fellow Snakes, and just like that, she felt what seemed like the weight of the world lift off her shoulders as she entered the Great Hall.
“𝕿o our newcomers, welcome!” Professor Albus Dumbledore’s voice rang out throughout the hall, reaching Cordelia’s ears as she glanced up at the old man. His arms were stretched out wide and the hint of a beaming smile was just barely visible under his beard. “To our old hands, welcome back! There is a time for speech-making, but this is not it. Tuck in!”
There was an appreciative round of applause as the food appeared on the table. Cordelia watched Theo immediately reach for the roasted chicken thigh that had materialized out of thin air as she spooned mashed potatoes onto her plate, and Claire, from her place beside her, said with a light laugh, “Theo, slow down! You’re gonna get sick.”
Theo had quite the reputation as an eater, although, that was nothing compared to Marcus Flint-- oftentimes at family dinners (which both Flint siblings would attend just for the food; the talk around the dinner table was quite awkward, but luckily the meals cooked by their house-elf made up for it), he would have to be forcibly taken away from the buffet table due to him nearly eating a whole chicken. Cordelia glanced over at her brother, who was just sitting a few seats down from her, and sure enough, the seventeen-year-old was eating as if his life depended on it. And when she looked to Theo, his chicken thigh had already been reduced to a puny little bone.
Her eyes drifted to the table in which all the Professors were sitting eating their own meals, and they landed on the short, stout figure of a woman clad in horrendous pink clothing-- and even her demeanor up at the table made her head spin.
“Who’s that woman up there?” asked Cordelia, inclining her head towards the Professor’s table as she salted her potatoes.
“That, my dear Cordelia,” disclosed Theo, leaning in close to grab another piece of chicken, “Is Dolores Umbridge. She’s a horrid old bat if you ask me.”
“For starters, she’s friends with my father,” said Theo with a shudder. He took a big bite, chewed it, and then said calmly, ”And she works at the Minsitry. She’s some sort of assistant for Fudge, I think. I don’t really care if I’m being honest.”
Cordelia gave the woman another glance over and decided that she did not like her. The woman hadn’t even said a word, let alone make a sound, but the youngest Flint had come to the conclusion that the woman was already going to be a bad, bad thing for this school. She tried not to think about what might happen in the next months.
Dumbledore got to his feet after everyone had gotten settled with their food, but the words coming out of his mouth didn’t seem to process in her mind-- she was too focused on the woman who went by Dolores Umbridge as she stared down the hall as if trying to locate something, or someone, and Cordelia noticed a small smile grace the woman’s face as her eyes landed on the one and only Harry Potter. He seemed oblivious to it, listening wide-eyed to Professor Dumbledore’s opening speeches, but his friend Hermione Granger seemed to take note of it, too, and she gave the pink woman a disgusted look. The red-headed boy, Cordelia noticed, was still devouring his food, not paying attention to anything his friends were-- and then he dropped his fork onto his plate in surprise as a faint clearing of the throat sounded from the Professor’s table.
Cordelia and Theo shared a look as Claire muttered what the hell under her breath. Dumbledore averted his gaze to Umbridge, who had clearly been the one to make the sound, but then turned back towards his students to continue his speech; only a few words came out before she interrupted once more with the same ruse: “Hem, hem!”
Dumbledore looked taken aback for only a moment, and then sat back down, indicating that he was going to allow the woman to make her speech. He didn’t seem too bothered, but Cordelia couldn’t help but notice that the other professors failed to conceal their surprise-- Professor Sprout’s eyebrows had disappeared into her flyaway hair and Professor McGonagall’s mouth was so thin it could barely be seen. It was then when Cordelia came to the conclusion that Dolores Umbridge did not know how things were run at Hogwarts.
And it seemed as if everyone in the Great Hall knew, too. Even Harry Potter, who was often oblivious about the smallest things. And that’s when Cordelia Flint realized that maybe she wasn’t so different than those pesky Gryffindor’s after all-- or maybe it was the fact that she knew, deep down, that Dolores Umbridge’s presence at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry could quite possibly be the thing that pushes her over the edge.