It didn't take Lyla long to settle in at Sonora, her trunk sat at the foot of her bed, and she kept her textbooks in neat rows within it. Her robes hung in the shared wardrobe, green, but not a grassy green or a lime green or an emerald green. They were dark forest green, with the school emblem embroidered on the front. The prairie elves took care of the laundry, which Lyla was thankful for, since laundry was one of her least favorite chores at home.
Her bedside table held whatever fiction book she happened to be reading at the time- this week it was Artemis Fowl, a book about fairies that live underground, both literally and figuratively- a photo of her family (a regular Muggle photo that didn’t move), and a clock that was shaped like a sunflower. Lyla had picked it out herself at a thrift store. It sang a silly little excerpt of “You Are My Sunshine” on the hour, though it had a light sensor so it didn’t wake you up all night.
She had one roommate, Samara, who had blue eyes and straight-as-sticks brown hair, although it looked a lot softer than sticks. She was a nice sort of girl, and Lyla quickly set about trying to befriend her. It just made sense to do so, since they were going to be sharing a room for the next seven years, and besides, Lyla didn’t want to seem standoffish.
This day in particular, Lyla had received a care package from her mother with the morning mail, and inside were her favorite cookies- chocolate peanut butter swirls. Lyla squirreled them away in her trunk before class, excited to have something tasty to share with her roommate.
That evening, Lyla brought two ice cold glasses of milk up to her dormitory. Careful not to spill, she set one down in front of a befuddled Samara.
“Hang on,” she said, retrieving the cookies from her trunk, “I have something amazing.”
She popped open the lid of the cookie tin, and the aroma of peanut butter and sugar filled her nostrils. Taking in a deep whiff, and letting out a contented sigh, she offered a cookie to Samara with a shake of the tin.
“My mom makes these for Christmas every year,” Lyla explained, “I could eat a whole batch, especially when they’re warm from the oven, and especially with a glass of milk. You’ve got to try one.”
To illustrate, she took a cookie and dunked it in her glass, letting it soak for a few moments before taking a big bite. It tasted like a Reese’s peanut butter cup, but in cookie form. Heaven. She looked over at Samara, hoping the other girl liked the treats as much as she did.
So far, Samara was highly confused by Sonora. She had always been sure that when she actually was around lots of other people that she wasn’t related to, she would find them to be all obnoxious and annoying and mean and just all around detestable and horrid. That was not the case. So far, nobody stood out as being such. Okay, the Aladrens in her year weren’t exactly warm and fuzzy but then, neither were her parents and brother, whom Samara loved very much, so that in itself was not a reason to dislike someone.
And so far, there wasn’t anyone that she disliked. So far, she liked her roommate and her Challenge teammates and the other people in the Performing Arts club that she had joined. It was super weird and confusing. Was there anyone here who was truly awful? Did she actually want to look for that? Samara did not actually want to meet anyone who was terrible, but she had expected to. Mother always taught her that people weren’t nice or pleasant and so the fact that most of the people she was meeting at Sonora seemed to be so was incredibly strange.
Of course, there was the fact that her mother wasn’t there to hate people-and she probably would-and tell Samara who she should and shouldn’t like, the way Mother did with their relatives. Which left the first year to discern this on her own. Which was not something that she was used to.
However, it was just a tiny bit..freeing. Like, if someone was nice and Samara naturally did like them, she did not have to worry about her mother saying she shouldn’t, as with Aunt Melanie. The Crotalus was never sure exactly what it was with Aunt Melanie that Mother did not like. Surely, if someone was a nice person, wouldn’t that be a good reason to like them? Samara understood, sort of, that it was a sibling rivalry thing with Aunt Pippa but her brother-in-law’s wife and distant cousin? Did Mother just hate nice people? That made no sense, both because of the fact that Great-Grampy Fletcher was nice and Mother loved him and because it just made no sense period!
Of course, nobody should ever expect an eleven year old to figure out the complex psychology of Tawny Brockert Crosby, even if that eleven year old was her daughter. And Samara was just going to have to figure out for herself who she liked and did not like. Especially when it came to people her mother had never met whom the first year was currently surrounded by all the time.
So, currently, there was nobody here that Samara hated. Of course, she also didn’t know anyone super well either but she didn’t see any massive red flags either. Even the Beginner Pecaris didn’t seem like the Pecaris that her mother-who was herself a member of that particular house- had disliked. They did not strike her as loud, obnoxious arrogant jock types who thought being outgoing and good at sports made them better than everyone else and had no consideration for others because of it. Nor did anyone strike Samara as a complete goody-two-shoes or a type A overachiever who looked down on those who weren’t. Or the snobby prissy proper pureblood type. Well, maybe Nausicaa was a bit like that.
Although, Mother probably would have said that not seeing red flags, probably meant that people were hiding their true nature and being completely fake and that that was far worse and more insidious. Or that Samara was being completely naive and only seeing what she wanted to see. Because the first year did want to see people as being nice and likable, she just didn’t expect it.
However, not hating anyone did not mean that Samara exactly had anyone that she was close friends with and now that she knew that people weren’t all completely dreadful, it was something that she wanted. Truthfully, she really just wanted to be liked. Growing up with the idea that most people were not likable made her worry that maybe she wasn’t so either. Yes, Mother liked her and Mother hated almost everyone so that should have assured Samara of her own likability, but at the same time, mothers usually liked their children-although Mother did think Grandmother didn’t like her or at least not as much as she did Aunt Pippa.
A good place to start would be her roommate. After all, they would be sharing the same space for the next seven years, where they would spend more time there than they did at home. Samara knew roommates wouldn’t necessarily be best friends-after all, Martin hadn’t been close to his, but then her brother wasn’t the type to be close to people-but at a bare minimum, she wanted them to be civil and pleasant with each other. However, Lyla was a perfectly nice person and Samara very much wanted to be friends with her. It would be completely awesome if they could be best friends.
And it seemed that Lyla might be interested too. After all, here she was with glasses of milk. That was a nice thing to do. Well, unless one was allergic to dairy or lactose intolerant, which would mean that a person bringing them milk might be trying to poison them but the Crotalus did not have those afflictions so it was nice.
It got even better when Lyla brought out the cookies. “I’d love to.” Samara replied, taking one of the cookies. “Thank you.” She popped it into her mouth. “Oh, it is delicious! Your mom made these?” She was pretty sure her own mother had never cooked or baked a thing in her life. Though Mother was pretty good at potions, it was not the same thing. People who baked or cooked were rare in Samara’s world, aside from her father’s cousin Peyton whom the first year had not spent all that much time with but to whom Mother seemed to be fairly indifferent, so Samara didn’t have to hate her.“That’s pretty cool. Mind if I have another one?”
She plopped down on her bed. “So, how are the Challenges going?”That was the big thing this year and it was the first topic of conversation that popped into her head. “ I know your team is in first place. Congratulations. How are you liking your teammates? MIne are pretty cool.” Honestly, the bonding with other students and hopefully making friends was more important than winning.
Lyla was glad that Samara didn't have an aversion to cookies. In fact, Samara quite liked the cookies, and Lyla happily shared out as many as her roommate wanted.
"Yeah, my mom makes cookies, for Christmas, mostly," she replied to her roommate, "And she makes a cake once a year, for our birthdays. I guess that's twice a year, technically," she interrupted herself, "One for me and one for my sister."
Lyla wondered if Pureblood families cooked and cleaned like her mom did, or if they just did charms to do it all. She knew her situation was slightly different from some other students, as her magical mother had mainly joined the muggle world instead of her muggle dad joining the wizarding world. Lyla knew her mom had given up a lot of her magical habits to appear 'normal', especially with the paper-thin walls of army housing. Everyone knew everyone else's business, whether you wanted them to or not, and a witch casting spells was bound to draw attention.
"The Challenges are going fine," Lyla said carefully, not wanting to sound braggy, as she was certain she'd had very little to do with her team ending up in first place, "I like all my teammates, especially Sadie. She's really kind and she listens to everyone's ideas, even if they sound silly. And Hansel is really cool and taught me a hedge-parting spell in the first Challenge. I'm not very good at it, though."
Truthfully, Lyla had barely been able to get the twigs to rustle in the wind, let alone part away from each other. Hansel had explained to her and Gwendolyn that it wasn't a beginner spell, so Lyla wasn't too terribly worried about her performance. It would have felt amazing if she'd been able to do it, though.
Lyla brushed the cookie crumbs off of her hands and started sipping the ever-so-slightly sweetened milk.
"How are your teammates? Are they friendly?" she asked her fellow Crotalus. Lyla had felt out of place her first few weeks, and she wondered if Samara had felt the same. Once the Challenges had started, her teammates had drawn her out of her shell, answering her questions patiently, not allowing her nervous babble to drown out the message of her words. They'd made her feel welcome and supported. It was a warm-fuzzy type of feeling, and Lyla hoped that Samara had gotten to experience it, too.
So just during special occasions, like Christmas and birthdays,”Samara mused. “That’s three more times a year than my mother bakes anything.” The idea of Tawny Brockert Crosby baking -or cooking or cleaning or anything menial- was actually pretty absurd. Purebloods of their status had house-elves for things like that and even if they didn’t, magical people could use cleaning charms. Samara felt just a little bad for Muggles having to take so much time on these tasks. Some people might like to cook and bake, but she absolutely couldn’t fathom how awful it must be to have to clean without magic. “My cousin Peyton does cooking and baking though, she makes awesome brownies and cookies and pastries and other baked goods. She’s a good cook too, and makes, like, pasta dishes and casseroles. Her lasagna is pretty great too..”
The Crotalus went on “Mother’s good at Potions though.” They weren’t the same thing exactly, but they were similar. However, Potions was seen as an art form to some people, a skilled discipline involving precision and attention to detail, while some saw cooking and baking as menial skills and the domain of house-elves.Peyton obviously disagreed with that opinion and Samara was glad.
Actually, come to think of it, given that her mother had been a Pecari, she was a tiny bit surprised that Mother was into something like Potions, They weren’t known for the patience and other qualities that Potioneers were known for-and while Mother was pretty atypical for her house, she also seriously lacked any semblance of patience. Samara was constantly tiptoeing around Mother due to her nasty temper, which while was rarely displayed towards her, her father or her brother, she was always terrified of triggering it. The poor house-elves bore the brunt of it and the Crotalus was always extra nice to them to make up for it. After all, the house-elves did so much for them and put up with Mother’s rage.
Also, even though the rage was seldom directed at her, Samara did often end up sitting there while her mother went off on angry rants about things, usually people, and usually after family functions. That , not delicious cookies-though the house-elves did make those and so did Peyton-was their holiday tradition.
Samara would prefer the cookies. She took another one. “It’s unfortunate that you only get these once a year. Is it like a family recipe, one that’s a secret that’s only made by your family, or is it like, one that can be shared with others?” If it was one that Lyla’s mother was willing to share, then Lyla’s mom could give it to Mother at the Concert to give to their house-elves.
Although, she was not entirely sure that she wanted her mother to meet Lyla’s parents. What if Mother disliked them-there was a good chance of that happening since Mother disliked most people-and then Samara wasn’t allowed to be friends with her roommate? She could not let that happen.
Of course, if it did, then…maybe she could be friends with Lyla and just not tell Mother? She liked the other Crotalus and it was incredibly unfair that Samara was bound to her mother’s opinions and had to like and dislike the same people as Mother. It was also unfair that she would have to not be friends with them if her mother disliked theirs even though the child had done nothing wrong and was a perfectly pleasant person, as with Caleb. Although, Samara did not actually know if her cousin was pleasant, because she was afraid to spend any time with him at all.
And she was absolutely terrified of her mother’s rage if she didn’t agree with her. She generally felt that was the best way to survive. If you disagreed with someone or didn’t like the same things-or hate the right people, which was usually what came up with Mother- they might not like you. And, for the most part, Samara did want to be liked.
The conversation turned to the Challenges. “That’s great.” She answered. “My team isn’t doing as well as yours of course, we’re only in sixth place, but they are really nice. Theo is…not terribly good at the organizational part of being a leader but like, when we had the meeting he asked about like, all the things we were really uncomfortable with doing, like what we could do if we were helped and what we absolutely could not or would not do.” Even though Ian had brought up a valid point that regardless of what they actually wanted to do, the staff might very well make them do it anyway. “Although he kind of freaked out when he found me in the maze. I fell in a mud puddle and was dripping with sludge and he screamed at me not to hug him. Like, I wasn’t about to anyway.”
Samara continued. “And Phillipe and Ian are great too. They’re both Teppenpaws, so they’re absolutely nice of course. Actually, Ian’s mom is my aunt’s sister. Like Aunt Melanie is married to my dad’s brother and then her sister is Ian’s mom. He’s also a distant cousin through my mom and his which means Mother and Aunt Melanie are also distant cousins, but it’s all, like, super confusing. But that’s the Brockerts for you.” She took another cookie and bit into it.
11Samara CrosbyBonding and cookies, I like those things156305
Samara's mom didn't bake, and judging by the way Samara spoke about Peyton, she didn't cook either. Lyla wondered if that meant Samara had grown up with house elves, or if her dad had done all the cooking. Not that there was anything wrong with either of those things, but it did give Lyla a little bit more appreciation for her own mother's domestic skills.
"What sort of potions does she make?" Lyla asked. She was curious about Samara's home life, because despite her mom being a witch, and a pureblood besides, Lyla had grown up far more on the Muggle side of life. Her mother had never hidden the fact that she was magical from anyone but the actual Muggles, but she hadn't been brewing potions in the kitchen, either.
"I can get you the recipe," Lyla offered, "Maybe you could learn to bake, too. We could do it together! And then we could have cookies whenever we want!"
Lyla burst into giggles. If she ate cookies whenever she wanted, she'd never stop eating cookies! Much to her mother's (and her dentist's) exasperation, she had inherited her father's sweet tooth. She'd had her first cavity at age five, luckily in a baby tooth so they hadn't had to do a filling, but Lyla's mom had turned practically tyrannical about Lyla brushing her teeth properly. So far, she hadn't had any more cavities thanks to the good habits instilled by her mother, but her taste for sweets hadn't diminished at all.
" A mud puddle? That's awful! Theo sounds nice, though."
Lyla wasn't quite sure what to make of the brief look into Samara's extended family. It sounded complicated. Her dad was an only child, and Gigi and Pop Pop were both Muggles, but they were the sweetest grandparents and always made time for Lyla's phone calls. No cousins on that side, obviously. Her mother was a different story. Lyla wasn't sure what happened, but she knew that her mom had two parents and one brother that she hadn't spoken to since Lyla was born.
"Do you like having a big family?" she asked, wondering if maybe, if a large family unit wasn't all it cracked up to be, she wouldn't feel so strange about her own family.
“Oh, all kinds.” Samara replied. “Like, she’ll make the basic stuff that’s necessary, such as Pepper-Up Potion and Cough Potion, which, by the way, cures coughs not causes them.” She was not sure if Lyla knew this or not. She continued “But also, she likes to experiment at times.” Mother was not really above making and using mildly harmful potions either. Like the Babbling Beverage and Dizziness Draught.
She claimed she needed to know these things in case she needed to get revenge on someone for something. Mother was huge on revenge. Samara owed her entire existence to this need of her mother’s. From what she understood, Mother had been pregnant with Martin and then Aunt Pippa got pregnant with Hannah, and stolen all the attention from Mother, so when Samara’s aunt got pregnant with Caleb, Mother had purposely gotten pregnant to retaliate and now here the Crotalus was.
Of course, she would not use anything that would kill someone or cause permanent damage, although she might brew something extremely difficult, just to prove that she could even if it did not have a use that she needed. That, sometimes, included poisons. After all, there were a disturbingly absurd amount of poisons out there.
“That would be so cool!” Samara exclaimed. “It might be fun to learn to bake.” Peyton probably would have been willing to teach her but it had never occurred to her to ask her cousin. “And it would be an awesome thing to do together too.” She would love to do a roommate bonding thing.it would be awesome to be close to her roommate and be best friends. Mother had never had a roommate-and if she had, she probably would have hated them, after all,she and Father had initially bonded over how they hated almost everyone- and Martin certainly hadn’t bonded with his .
Plus, she’d get her hands on more of these cookies that way.
Samara scrunched up her nose. “Yeah, it was pretty yucky. I was trying to Spongify the ground and bounce up and down in the hopes of spotting one of my teammates but I landed on some ground that I didn’t cast the spell on yet. It was better than landing on hard ground though and seriously hurting myself. Ian kind of freaked out about that too. He wants to be a Healer because of his mom-Aunt Melanie’s sister-being sick, so he’s all like, any sign of injury or illness makes him go all Healer-mode. So when he found out about my tumble, he had to make sure nothing was broken or seriously bruised. Which, as he reminded me,might have happened if I had landed on hard ground.”
Truth be told, Samara had been sort of proud of her Spongify idea.Even if Ian had lectured her about how dangerous it was and how she could have been seriously hurt. “I kind of think he sees the dangers in everything, honestly.” She paused. “But he and Theo are both really nice, as is Phillipe. They all are, really. I might actually miss spending time with them next year since I doubt a bunch of older students want to keep hanging out with me.” Which was another reason why Samara wanted to be closer to her roommate.
She considered Lyla’s question. “I mean, it really is super complicated at times. It’s not like I have this huge group of siblings and first cousins that I grew up with the way someone like Olaf does. I have one older brother and then like a few first cousins that I am not all that close to.” She didn’t really want to get into all the complicated dynamics there. First of all, Samara was sure that Lyla would just end up terribly confused. Also, she was not entirely sure that Mother would be happy about it, and the absolute last thing in the world that the first year wanted was to do something that Mother would not be happy about! After all, there were all those poisons out there and Mother knew how to brew quite a few of them! It was best not to risk it by spilling out what might be family secrets. Samara didn’t know if she wasn’t supposed to mention these weird family dynamics but she wasn’t going to take any chances.
“And the rest of them are all more distant and I really just met some of them. Genealogy was a pretty challenging topic with my tutor. It didn’t help that he kept getting confused too.”
As Samara listed off the potions that her mother makes, Lyla realized that she had missed out on a lot of magic stuff, growing up in the muggle world. Her mom didn't brew potions for when they were sick, she went to the store to get cold medicine.
Then again, Samara's mom never made cookies, so maybe it evened out? Muggles had a lot of stuff that wizards didn't, like computers and phones. It made Lyla feel a little better that although she was stuck taking Robutussin for her cough, Samara had likely never flown in a airplane.
There were a couple of recipes that she and Samara could make that didn't involve an oven, like peanut butter balls or Chex mix. Maybe if they got the ingredients, they could start with those?
"That was a pretty smart idea," Lyla said, "I probably would've just waded through the mud or something. It sounds like you have a pretty good team."
Then Samara touched on something that Lyla had been dreading herself. All of her teammates were older than her, and she couldn't imagine they would want to hang out with her after this year. Well, maybe Gwendolyn, since she was only a year older. Speaking of...
"Hey, aren't you cousins or something with Gwendolyn? She's on my team. She's pretty cool." Lyla liked Gwendolyn- and Isla, for that matter- and they were cousins, which meant they were also cousins with Samara, in some way. The details were fuzzy.
"Maybe we could all hang out together sometime?" Lyla offered. She was normally more comfortable with one-on-one conversations, but she liked both Gwendolyn and Samara, and they hopefully got along, though Lyla knew that just because you were related, didn't mean you liked each other. Her mother's family was proof of that.
“I wonder if there’s some way that we can bake using MARS.” Samara suggested. “I mean, if people can do art and music and sports there, why not baking and cooking?” Honestly, it would be unfair that there were accommodations for some hobbies and not others. Obviously, there were some hobbies where, like, you didn’t need any special equipment or anything. Although arguably with music you probably already owned an instrument, and could just play it anywhere, rather than having a special room for it.
The other thing about the MARS room which was kind of disappointing was that it seemed like it was more self improvement-y than aimed towards recreation. Like it was all about helping people who had talent-based hobbies get better at them other than just having fun. Which just instituted a hierarchy of sorts. Like talented people were better and more deserving and Samara didn’t really like hierarchies. Even though there were ones she was technically at the top of, she usually did not feel like she was because of the idea that her mother had always told her that among their relatives, they were at the bottom. Samara assumed she meant within their particular part of the family, the thing where her grandparents liked Aunt Pippa better than Mother.
Still, the first year generally thought hierarchies were unfair and arbitrary. She had always been brought up to feel like she never should be treated inferior to anyone, even if these people were better at some random skill like dancing or playing an instrument.
Granted the Art room could provide fun for anyone who was interested in painting or crafts or any sort of things that one could make. You didn’t actually have to be serious about it.
She continued “Or maybe the Potions room? I mean, my mother probably wouldn’t be thrilled if someone was cooking in her Potions lab,” Which was an absolute understatement. “But we don’t really have other places to do it here, unless we can gain access to the kitchen. Which I doubt.” Samara paused “Actually, my favorite hobby is playing board games though. Do you like playing them?”
Apparently, Lyla thought her Spongify idea was clever. Which made Samara feel really good inside. She was programmed to want approval, not because anyone was especially stingy with it but approval meant being liked and being liked was good and rare and something to be sought and treasured.
So, Samara absolutely beamed at her roommate. “Thanks! Actually, the ground was just normal when I started changing it so I could bounce up and try to see my teammates. But then I missed where I had cast the spell and fell on the ground, which while completely disgusting, was better than falling on the hard ground and hitting my head on a rock or something.” Ian had made that very very clear to her, telling her that head injuries were not to be taken lightly and they could cause permanent damage or even death. Despite the fact that she hadn’t actually had one.
The Crotalus thought for a moment. “I wouldn’t wade through a mud puddle though, I’d try to find a way around it with a spell of some kind. Of course, we’ve barely been taught anything yet so there’s not a lot we can do.” She continued. “But yes, I do think we work together well, but your team must work together even better.”
“Oh yes.” Samara confirmed. “My great-great-grandfather and hers are brothers. Hers is the Brockert family patriarch and her dad will be someday too. I hung out a little with her last summer. She’s pretty nice. Hanging out together would be so much fun.”