History of Magic, Kestra's first lesson, was taken with the Ravenclaws. The two houses sat on different sides of the room, three rows deep - for the Slytherins, Kestra and Cassia were in the first, with Draco and his cronies behind, and the three other Slytherin girls at the back.
"This'll be your type of subject, I expect," Draco had said in an offhand but polite tone as they waited in the corridor. "I am sure you will not let us down here."
Kestra had so far failed to form a solid opinion of Draco. She instinctively approved of his good manners and careful politeness, but the performance he had orchestrated on the first night had confirmed her first impression that there was a darker side to him. Those awful ogres that followed him around also did not earn him any favours in Kestra's eyes. Cassia hated the sight of him, but after her little outburst last night this was hardly surprising.
To her disappointment, Mr Binns seemed uninterested in handing out points, so her duitiful competition against the Ravenclaws was in vain. The subject matter was moderately interesting, but she was constantly forced to explain very simple matters to Cassia, who seemed incapable of keeping organised notes, mentally or on paper. The fruitless competition and the constant repetition of relevant facts to Cassia put Kestra in a less than entirely cheerful mood by the end of the morning.
At lunch, she was not feeling at all friendly towards Cassia, who she suspected of being wilfully stupid during the earlier lesson. She dutifully sat with Cassia, but when Draco politely asked if the space beside her was free, she admitted him between her and Blaise (who was too busy talking about dresses with Pansy to object).
"I thought you were always flanked by those terrible ogres of yours," said Kestra by way of opening. Crabbe and Goyle were seated opposite them, busy cramming their faces full of as much food as would fit, and significantly more than would do so politely.
"A necessary evil," replied Draco, sounding appropriately displeased about this eventuality. "As a quintissential Slytherin, from a long line of such, I do seem to command more than my fair share of anti-Slytherin prejudice... even hatred."
"Surely the teachers would deal with any violence that some overeager Gryffindor might wish to deliver, would they not?" suggested Kestra.
"Should they be present at the time, perhaps," answered Draco. "However, I credit my enemies with more intelligence than to attack me in front of a teacher."
Kestra had no answer to this, and knew more than to raise her other grevience against him - his baiting of Cassia - in such open surroundings. She knew what his answer would be, anyhow; he would claim that such a show of authority was necessary to maintain the status that his family background had bestowed upon him. The game of families here was not all that dissimilar to that of her primary school, and she was at rather less of a disadvantage than she had previously been, as the known side of her family was perfectly respectable here. Glad that she still knew the rules, still there was disappointment that Hogwarts students were not beyond the old games.
"It is a difficult time to be a Slytherin, with such a famous addition to Gryffindor to compete with," conceded Kestra. "To one of your lineage, the attention being diverted must be even harder to bear, I suppose."
"He'll soon be put in his place when Slytherin win the House Cup again," replied Draco confidently. "Arrogent brats such as he fall the hardest, wouldn't you agree?"
"As long as none of his multitudinous guardian angels keep his feet from striking a single stone," cautioned Kestra. "Opposing a legend can be a dangerous game."
"Hence Crabbe and Goyle," concluded Draco triumphantly. "I do not come unprepared to this challenge."
Kestra, having graciously let the Slytherin of the most superior lineage beat her in argument, rewarded herself with a well-earned round of sandwiches, which for some unknown reason the kitchen staff had seen fit to create with pumpkin in them. This overemphasis on foodstuffs tangentally related to magic was rather tedious, she thought. What was wrong with a nice sensible ham sandwich?
Defence against the Dark Arts sounded quite dangerous, but to Kestra's relief (and Cassia's distress) it was just more book-learning. The teacher, Prof Quirrel, looked like he'd have trouble defending himself against a fly. His rambling descriptions of how he'd apparently personally defeated a whole range of creatures were hard even for Kestra to follow. Eventually she took to just jotting down the names of the creatures to look up in the library later, and watching Cassia destroy perfectly good scrolls with mountains of completely illegable scrawl.
Quirrel seemed all too happy to get rid of the class well before they were due for their next lesson; Draco suggested to the other Slytherins that Quirrel was obviously scared of first-years, which earned a snicker from Blaise and Millicent. Kestra stayed close to Draco on the way down the staircases; they seemed to respect his natural authority, staying resolutely static as he sauntered down them.
"What's the deal with him?," hissed Cassia, who Kestra was ignoring in favour of keeping a careful eye on Draco, who seemed to already know his way around this maze of a castle.
"He has a good sense of direction, for one thing," shot back Kestra, neither slowing nor giving Cassia so much as a glance.
Kestra knew that she would dislike Herbology as soon as she followed Draco into the disorganised, dirty greenhouse. Plants were capricous things at the best of times, and she assumed that magical plants would be even more unpredictable. To make matters worse, Professor Sprout was head of Hufflepuff house, and her irritatingly cheery manner trampled all over Kestra's nerves from the first "Hello, class!". Resigned to reading the book later to find out anything useful about plants, Kestra spent most of the lesson glaring at random Hufflepuffs who dared to get in her way.
When they were finally released, Kestra and Cassia returned to the dorm, mostly to dump their rather heavy books. Kestra gazed around the room worriedly. "Have you seen Leia anywhere?"
"Leia?" Cassia looked confused.
"My cat," replied Kestra. "Tortoishell, quite small, blue eyes. I think Millicent's cat may have frightened her off." The black cat belonging to Millicent Bulstrode was as ugly and irritable as its owner. Currently it was curled up contentedly on Millicent's bed, looking very smug.
"Haven't seen her," replied Cassia. Kestra stalked around the whole room, but Leia was nowhere to be found. Eventually Cassia crouched down and looked under the beds, emerging with a few dozen packets of assorted sweets but no cat. "We could eat some of these while we search," she suggested with a mischevious grin.
"Just because we are Slytherins does not mean we have to lower ourselves to stealing, Cassia," scolded Kestra.
"Please yourself," replied Cassia in a hurt tone, opening a packet of Fizzing Whizbees. "They're only Millicent's."
"Mm... a chocolate frog wouldn't go amiss, I suppose," said Kestra, busy ransacking Pansy's drawers, which were mostly full of makeup, underwear and other such boring trivia. Cassia tossed her one of the purple packets. Ripping it open, Kestra trapped the squirming frog between thumb and forefinger as she began with its toes.
"That's just mean," mumbled Cassia through a mouthful of Fizzing Whizbee, as Kestra continued munching on the wildly flailing legs. "You're meant to bite the heads off first."
"I prefer chocolate that doesn't try to escape, usually," replied Kestra, to avoid giving a real answer, "but any chocolate will do in an emergency."
"That cat causes nothing but trouble," muttered Cassia, gazing darkly at the black shape making a rather large indentation into the bed. As the frog stopped squirming in her increasingly sticky hand (chocolate frogs being just as prone to melting as any other form of chocolate), Kestra followed Cassia's gaze.
"If Leia doesn't come back soon," she said quietly, "we may have to do something about that situation." With that, she delicately placed the rest of the frog in her mouth, licking her fingers clean in the process.
The kitchen staff were rather more conservative at dinner-time, much to Kestra's relief, with sensible helpings of steak and kidney pie, although there was still nothing but pumpkin juice to drink. Draco appeared to be plotting something with Millicent, so Kestra thoroughly ignored him, having taken an instant dislike to the unforgivably rude girl.
Cassia looked rather concerned as soon as the owls soared down from the ceiling, and sure enough a rather fluffy owl landed in front of her.
"Hiya, Fluffball," she said mournfully, ruffling the owl's tawney feathers. The owl twittered impatiently. "Okay, okay," she muttered, untying the letter from his leg.
"Fluffball?" asked Kestra in a tone of tolerant amusement, trying to catch a glimpse of the letter itself.
"Well, he is one, isn't he?" protested Cassia half-heartedly. "Off you go," she added to the owl, who reluctantly took flight.
"True enough," replied Kestra diplomatically. "My mother attempted to name Leia 'Fluffypoos', even though she isn't the least bit fluffy."
"Fluffy poos? Been eating too many joke sweets again, Kestral?" called Millicent, to raucous laughter from Pansy, Crabbe, Goyle and some of the older Slytherins. Blaise's expression showed that she believed such childish humour to be below her, but didn't plan to make an issue of it. Kestra treated the comment with the contempt it deserved, and simply ignored it, but Cassia blushed bright red and was determined to make an issue of it.
"How dare you insult my friend Kestra like that!" she yelled at Millicent. "Aren't we meant to be on the same side?"
"If you can't tolerate a little friendly competition," replied Draco calmly, "maybe you should go join the house that matches your face." More laughter followed this statement.
"Drop it, Cass," hissed Kestra.
"I don't see you making us many points, Malfoy," retaliated Cassia, struggling to keep herself from crying. "Maybe you're the one on the other side."
"Aww look, the little baby's gonna cry," taunted Millicent. Cassia slammed down her knife and fork and stood up from the table.
"You're all evil and I hate you!" she cried; then she turned and ran.
Further down the table, some older Slytherins tripped her up and she went sprawling down the aisle. Kestra carefully and unobtrusively put her own cutlery down, left her place and made her way quickly and quietly over to Cassia. She was so intent on checking that her friend was unhurt that she didn't notice Snape leaving the teachers' table; didn't notice him until she reached Cassia, knelt down to try and work out why she wasn't moving, and then saw a pair of black shoes the other side, leading to long black robes that were not in the traditional student style, leading to the face of the head of Slytherin House.
"Having a little disagreement, were we?" he asked in a rather sneering voice.
"The others were," admitted Kestra. "Sir, could you please help me get Cassia to the infirmary? I think she might have hit her head when she fell."
"I suppose we can't be losing students in their first year," conceded Snape. "Perhaps on the way you could inform me of the nature of that... disagreement."
Snape drew his wand, and soon the unconscious Cassia was floating along in front of them as they made their way out of the Hall and through the corridors.
"So, I believe some explanations are in order," said Snape as they passed out of earshot of the Hall.
"It was not very complicated, sir," explained Kestra. "Millicent Bulstrode made a comment that Cassia objected to, and there was a short exchange of insults. Cassia decided that she wished to leave the table before she embarrassed herself further, and then she simply tripped over on her way out."
"This does not explain your subsequent departure from your seat," continued Snape.
"I simply wished to ensure that Cassia was not too badly hurt," said Kestra.
"Your concern for your housemates is admirable," replied Snape, with significant quantities of sarcasm. Before he could continue his questioning, however, they reached the infirmary, where Madam Pomfrey greeted them.
"Some poor dear knocked themselves out already?" she asked in a matronly tone. "Never mind, never mind. Took a fall, did she?"
"We think she caught her head on a table on the way down," explained Kestra, as Snape was just standing there with an expression of distaste.
"We'll just put her on this bed over here," said Pomfrey. "Now, dear, you'd better be off back to the Hall."
Presuming that 'dear' was more likely to refer to her than Snape, although with Madam Pomfrey's overuse of the word this was by no means a certainty, Kestra nodded and turned to leave. Snape also made as if to leave but Pomfrey interrupted him with another question.
Kestra wandered slowly through the corridors. She knew the way back to the Great Hall, if nothing had changed in the time they'd been in the infirmary, but she knew that nobody would blame her if she didn't quite make it back to the Hall in time to catch the end of dinner, claiming she'd got lost. Deciding that she didn't particularly want to have to deal with the other Slytherins just yet, she deliberately took a wrong turning.
"You look lost, dearie," called a painting on the wall - a rather oversized red lady. "Aren't you meant to be in the Hall?"
"Yes," replied Kestra, "only I don't quite remember the way."
"You'll want to be going back up that corridor, down the third flight of stairs - if they haven't changed again - and past the exit for Herbology - I assume you know where that is - and then you can't miss it," the lady instructed her. Kestra thanked her and began to follow her directions, but took the second flight of stairs she came to instead of the third. This led her to an unfamiliar corridor that she walked several circuits of, until a painting of a rather military-looking man called "Halt!".
"Yes?" asked Kestra, obediently halting.
"Oh, nothing, nothing," he continued, in a voice with enough plums in to make jam for the entire population of Hogwarts. "I was just reminiscing about the young chaps on the parade ground, marching to and fro as you appear to be. Carry on, carry on."
Slightly disturbed by the comparison, Kestra chose another flight of stairs, which took her to the corridor housing the Charms classroom. Suspecting she'd spent enough time away to spare herself most of the rest of dinner, and wanting to be back in time to find out if the house password had changed, she confidently set off in the direction she believed led to the Hall.
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