Dumbledore’s speech was as nonsensical and boring as it had been in canon. There hadn’t even been a forbidden third floor mentioned to spice things up. So it was unsurprising that eventually all of the Hufflepuffs around us just tuned him out and waited patiently for the food to appear.
I don’t know what the usual size of the student body is meant to be–Harry’s dorm room had five boys, but as far as I can remember Hermione’s only had three girls. On top of that, were certain houses more populated than others? Were certain years? Regardless, including Arthur, Cedric, and myself, there were a total of four boys. The other boy that would be our roommate for the next seven years was Farold Stebbins. Except for grimacing when we misunderstood and called him Harold, he was congenial enough. A decent bloke to have as a roommate, but I wasn’t getting the same vibes of potential friendship as I had before with Arthur, Cedric, or Stephanie.
There were five Hufflepuff first year girls, though I only caught two of their names–Margaret Presley, who preferred to go by Maggie, and Heather Jarvis, who seemed to be rather timid when introducing herself then boisterous when talking about Charms.
I knew the wizarding world was larger than what Harry had been exposed to in the books, but I had still assumed that it was a fairly small society. Purebloods knowing each other as children, even half-bloods having recognizable surnames and relations to pureblood families; but this was not the case. I was the only muggleborn in my immediate vicinity–sitting between Arthur and Cedric, across from Maggie, Heather, and Farold–and yet it was the first time anyone met each other.
I suppose this wasn’t something that could be chalked up to Harry’s obliviousness or House-blindness so much as his social circle. Despite the conflicts inherent in their ideology, Harry only interacted with the upper echelons of wizarding society. And I don’t just mean Draco Malfoy or Neville Longbottom or Sirius Black. Despite their financial struggles, the Weasleys were well known and well connected, Shacklebolt was head of the aurors and poised to become the new Minister, Dumbledore’s active, personal interest in Harry gave him an enviable social capital which was superfluous considering his celebrity status. He was networking with highly important people without even knowing it, without even trying–no wonder Slughorn wanted him in the Slug Club.
But I digress. There was more to the wizarding world than what Harry had seen, and it was what I would be part of for the next seven years. The background extras, the silent majority, the sheep. Except for Cedric, who was only important as a teenage martyr, no one in my immediate vicinity would ever be on Harry Potter’s radar. For all I know, I’m canon.
It was a disturbing thought which made me lose my appetite, conveniently after I had finished my meal but sadly before I could partake in the custard in front of me.
“No pudding, Rey?” Arthur asked, reaching over to swipe one of the raspberry tarts before Heather, who had already eaten three, could finish them off. Not that that was a problem, considering the House Elves in the kitchens could easily make more.
“No pudding,” I echoed, swirling my spoon through the dregs of sauce that remained on my plate.
“Not hungry?” This time Cedric asked, his own plate holding a slice of chocolate cake.
“Not hungry,” I echoed, again, before realizing how poor of a conversationalist I was being, “I guess I just ate fast. I’m pretty full already. Kind of sleepy…” I trailed off, wincing. That wasn’t a sterling example of conversation either.
But Maggie picked up my tenuous thread, “Oh, me, too. Today was very exciting but very tiring.” A yawn broke across her face, and she abandoned her fork to prop her elbow on the table and lean her face into her hand.
Like a wave, Heather yawned, then Farold, and on both sides of me I heard my friends yawn. Overwhelmed, I did so too. We blinked sleepily at each other before giggling.
“Looks like it’s bed time for the firsties!” One of the older students called out, not unkindly. Whether it was a signal or not, soon enough we were dismissed from the Great Hall. Following after the Hufflepuff prefects, we made our way to the Hufflepuff dorms–my home for the next seven years of my life.
A/N: This is both slower going and faster than I expected. I didn’t think it would take me five “chapters” to not even get to the dorm rooms yet, but I’m also surprised I even wrote five chapters… Usually I write an outline only or one or two chapters and then… just stop. Let’s hope I didn’t jinx myself.