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Matilda Murphy

Nice Day for Climbing Trees

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Matilda Murphy

Matilda Murphy was still coming to grips with this whole magic thing. In the intervening weeks since a woman from the Ministry of Magic had visited the Murphy farm in western Ireland and turned their world upside down, the young redhead had made a number of trips to London to the Ottaline Gambol Center. It would be good for Murph to spend time around children from magical families, the woman had explained. It would help her start to learn about magic and make her transition to Hogwarts a little less jarring. 

 

Well, Murph couldn’t be sure her infrequent visits to the Center were actually helping her learn about magic, but there certainly wasn’t a shortage of things to do. Like any other kid, she loved to play games, but this farmer’s daughter particularly loved to play outside. Playing outdoors in the middle of a major metropolitan city was certainly different than running around the dozens of acres that encompassed the Murphy farm, but she had managed to find one thing that sparked her interest today:

 

A tree. Specifically, a tall tree with lots of sturdy branches, a few of which were close to the ground. It was a tree that was practically begging to be climbed, and who was Murph to ignore that? There hadn’t been a lot of people around when Murph had arrived anyway, and climbing promised to keep her occupied for a good long while. 

 

With the ease of a practiced climber, Murph swung herself up onto the first branch and began plotting her course. Over the course of the next few minutes, she had managed to scramble up a solid twenty feet in the air. She also noticed that she was no longer alone — there was another kid standing under the tree, though Murph wasn’t sure if they were aware of her presence above yet. She decided to continue upwards, but just as she was reached for a thin branch to steady herself, it snapped off and plummeted to the earth below. 

 

“LOOK OUT!” Murph called, while wrapping her arms around the trunk of the tree to regain her balance. Once the redhead was certain that she wasn’t also going to join the branch in falling to the ground, she climbed down a few feet and poked her head through a gap in the leaves. 

 

“Hey, sorry about that,” she said to the person below. “Are you okay?” 

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Hazel Baum

Hazel had come from a magical area, sequestered away from the city in the depths of Sherwood Forest at what was known as the Tree Commune. It had wards put up to keep muggles away, and was in its own way a little sanctuary of sorts. It’s the only home she’d ever known, but now, with her arrival at Hogwarts less than a year away, her parents had decided to let her out and have experiences outside the Commune, just like Pine and Box and Spruce had done before they’d gone to Hogwarts. 

 

Overall, Hazel had enjoyed her experiences away from the Commune. She was learning a lot about the muggle world from the muggleborns she’d befriended, which was fascinating in its own right (especially learning about muggle mythology, as both G and Mary had encouraged her to do). And she was enjoying her time spent at the Ottaline Gambol Centre, particularly in the small yard that they were permitted to use during recess. 

 

Cloud watching, just walking with her bare feet in the grass, it was lovely. Nothing like the forest she came from, but a nice taste of the outdoors. The trees were sparse and carefully plotted, clearly the work of a landscaper and not the work of nature, but it was under one of these trees that Hazel found herself that day, looking up dreamily through the branches and wondering if it would be as easy to climb as the trees back home. 

 

It certainly looked straightforward enough… Hazel was about to latch onto the trunk to give it a go when a cry from above rang out and a small branch came plummeting down, landing right in front of Hazel’s bare feet (but thankfully not on her head). “Whoa! Oh, hi!” Hazel looked up at the girl who was poking her head down from the heights of the tree, calling out to her. So someone else was a tree climber, huh? Hazel beamed and nodded. 

 

“I’m fine! It didn’t hit me! Hey, mind if I come up there? I’m rather fond of tree-climbing myself,” Hazel stated, but before waiting on an answer, she made the climb to the first branch, giving the other girl a smile. “I’m Hazel! Can you see over the fence up there?” 

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Matilda Murphy

Back home, Murph could practically spend a whole day without seeing or talking to another human being. After she’d finish feeding the chickens and collecting their eggs in the morning, she’d head to the numerous fenced beds that made up her and her mother’s garden. Her mother had seen how Murph’s interest in the garden had grown over the years, and now mostly let the eleven year old tend to it on her own. The redhead could easily spend an hour or two there in peaceful silence — her brothers never dared enter — and pruned, and watered, and harvested to her heart’s content. Afterwards, she would get on her bike and set out on an adventure. 

 

The Murphy family farm sat on 100 acres of pristine, Western Irish land; in her eleven years, Matilda Murphy had managed to explore almost every corner. There were plenty of rolling fields, a small pond, even a bog! But her favorite part was the grove of trees at the far edge of the farm. Older than any Murphy that ever owned the land, they were perfect for climbing. She could tuck herself into one of the branches and not have to see anyone until sunset. 

 

Which was why coming to London had been such a jarring experience for the young girl. There were people everywhere. How was anyone supposed to think if they were constantly bumping into people or dodging them on the sidewalks? Even now, where she had come outdoors and climbed into a tree for a little solitude, someone was there. Well, at least Murph hadn’t knocked the other girl out with the falling branch. As much as she had wanted a quiet place to think, she would have felt bad about hurting someone.

 

Probably. 

 

The dark haired girl below asked if she could come up, and before Murph could bark “Get your own tree!” she had swung up to the first branch. It was probably for the best — Murph reminded herself that she was supposed to be making friends, and acting like she was around her brothers was probably not the best recipe for doing that. 

 

“I’m Matilda Murphy, but everyone calls me Murph,” she responded to Hazel. Oh yes, what was over that fence? What delicious secrets lay beyond the little pen they were held in? Squinting her eyes and standing on her tip-toes, she peered over. 

 

“It’s just another building,” she answered dejectedly, seeing a very tiny garden and a line with someone’s washing. She sat down on her branch and swung her legs. “I just don’t understand how people can live like this, all crammed together and on top of each other. I come from a farm, and there’s not another building around for miles. Here, you can practically look out your window and watch someone’s telly through theirs.” 

 

Spotting the other girl’s bare feet, Murph decided this was a good idea and kicked off her own shoes, sending them tumbling through the branches and down below. She suddenly looked at Hazel with wide eyes. “Oh…you’re not from here, are you?” she asked nervously. “I didn’t mean to offend or anything. It’s just not really my cup of tea. I’d never be able to ride my bike here, or have a proper garden. This is the first tree I’ve seen that was even worth climbing.”  

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Hazel Baum

Not even realizing that she might not be welcome to climb the tree alongside the other girl, Hazel climbed with dexterity and speed, winding up only a few feet below the girl on a solid branch even as the girl - Murph, as it was - was just getting around to introducing herself. “It’s nice to meet you, Murph!” Hazel exclaimed, smile bright on her features as she craned her neck to follow where Murph was looking over the fence. Hazel, being a few feet below the girl, could barely see over the fence, but could still determine that it was, indeed, just another building. 

 

This fact didn’t disappoint Hazel in the same way she sensed it disappointed her newfound companion. While Hazel was most definitely not a city girl and felt more comfortable when outdoors, she also could see the allure of the city. The bright lights, the closeby conveniences, always having someone near you who you could go see with just a quick walk… as an extrovert who always liked discovering new things, this idea of city life intrigued Hazel. However, she too didn’t know if it would truly be the right lifestyle for her, so when Murph explained a bit where she came from, Hazel found herself relating to the girl’s opinion. 

 

“I get that. I’m not from here either,” Hazel finally stated, waving off Murph’s concerns about having offended her as she moved up to the next solid branch so she could be closer to where the other girl and taking a seat. She swung her legs idly as she explained, “I live in a magical community in Sherwood Forest. It’s beautiful, and all of us have kind of unique homes. It’s a really nice area, and even though there’s a fair amount of us that live in that area of the forest, none of us are too close together, y’know?” 

 

Hazel shrugged, eyes peering out over the fence line with some wistfulness. “I don’t think I’d really enjoy living in the city, but it is kinda interesting to think about, don’t you think? How different everything must be? Makes me wonder what they do for fun since they don’t have the outside to play in. I don’t have a bike but I love walking around the forest. I collect cool looking rocks and I like being able to see the stars at night. I heard once that in really bright cities they can’t see the stars, and I thought that was really sad,” Hazel frowned, showing her feelings on the matter. 

 

“Anyway, did you say you kept a garden of your own? What do you grow in it?” Hazel inquired. While she enjoyed plant life and could care decently for it, she only had a few plants in her house that they took care of, not an entire garden.

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Matilda Murphy

“Yeah, nice to meet you too,” Murph replied, and in all honesty, it was nice to meet Hazel. Murph didn’t exactly have a whole lot of friends growing up — living in such a rural area meant there weren’t a lot of other kids to play with. Her brothers were all at least a few years older than her, so a lot of the times the redhead was left to her own devices. Going to Hogwarts would place her around more people her age than she had ever experienced before. 

 

And it seemed like she and Hazel actually had a bit in common, which after feeling out of place for so long around all the other kids who had grown up in magical families, put her at ease. Sure, she still came from a magical family and had Murph at a disadvantage there, but it sounded like they had grown up in somewhat similar circumstances. It had frankly never occurred to Murph that there could be entirely magical communities, though now that she thought about it, it did make sense. 

 

“That’s really cool,” she said in response to Hazel’s description of her home in Sherwood Forest. She was burning to ask her a barrage of Robin Hood-related questions, but thought that could quite possibly make her look like even more of a naive muggle than she was already. Maybe when she got to know Hazel a little bit better she could ask her silly questions. And the thing was, Murph did know the draw of wide open spaces, no neighbors around for miles. It was part of the reason she was anxious to get to this school that was supposedly in the Scottish highlands and away from this center in the middle of a congested city. 

 

“I guess it is interesting to think about, but I think it’ll probably always be a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live here,” she said. “That does sound sad to not be able to see the stars and to have to always go to a park if you want to play outside.” Murph had always gone out camping with her brothers during the summer in some corner of their land. Laying on her back on her sleeping bag and looking at the stars while they toasted marshmallows was always a highlight for her. 

 

When Hazel asked her about her garden, the redhead immediately perked up, swinging her feet with excitement. “Oh, we grow lots of things! Every kid of herb you could think of, and peas, and string beans, and summer squash, and potatoes, and cucumbers, and carrots, and so many tomatoes, and we even have some wild berry bushes,” she counted off, barely even beginning to scratch the surface. Her mother had started the garden before Murph was even born, but as soon as she could walk, the redhead had toddled her way in and started putting her hands in the earth. Now, she took nearly all responsibility for the planting and maintenance of it.

 

“Your house sounds really cool too,” she said to Hazel. Finally, her curiosity got the better of her. “What was it like growing up in a forest? Do you do, like, archery and stuff? Is everyone there magical? Are your houses hidden like how Diagon Alley is? Do you have animals? Do you have magical animals?”

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Hazel Baum

It was nice that Murph didn’t refer to the place that Hazel lived as weird, which was often the response that she got when people realized she was from the Tree Commune, where everyone was named after a type of tree. Of course, maybe if she explained that part to Murph, Murph would say that it was weird, which was kind of why Hazel had left it off in the first place. Her mind wandered, but was pulled back to the present as Murph began talking more. 

 

“Yeah, I agree. I dunno if it’d ever be the life for me long term, but it could be fun to experience for a short while,” Hazel admitted. Then again, Hazel would pretty much try anything at least once, just for the experience of it, which might be something she and Murph did not have in common. Hazel liked trying new things - it was always a learning experience, if nothing else. 

 

Clearly, talking about Murph’s garden was the way to the girl’s heart, so to speak, as the girl lit up like a lamp as soon as Hazel mentioned it. She resituated herself on the branch as she listened, her own cheer and enthusiasm brightening as her companion’s did. Highly in tune to the emotions of those around her, Hazel often acted a bit like a mirror in emulating them. “That sounds lovely! I love vegetables. My mom always teases me for liking them, saying that kids are usually supposed to be difficult to get to eat vegetables, but not me!” Hazel exclaimed. And fresh vegetables right off the vine? Even better. 

 

Hazel didn’t garden, but Murph sure was making her want to. 

 

But then it was her turn to be put on the spot, and Hazel tried to keep up with all the questions Murph was laying out. Archery? Why would she know archery…? (She was clearly unfamiliar with Robin Hood.) “Oh, uh… thanks, it is a really cool area, in my opinion… I loved growing up there. It was nice. Lots of places to play and lots of people my own age to play with, y’know? I don’t know archery but yeah, everyone’s magical. The area is protected by uh… wards? They’re these things that magical people put up to keep muggles out, Hogwarts uses them too,” Hazel explained. “I don’t keep any pets, though, no. There’s some magical creatures in the forest, though, and nonmagical creatures too. I like watching them,” The brunette added, finally shutting up. 

 

“Why’re you interested in archery? Do you know archery?” It seemed a logical question to ask, given the specificity of the question that Murph had asked.

 

OoC: I was inspired to reply, but I know you're not planning on playing Murph anymore so it's chill if you don't reply. I just wanted to get a reply out for my own development. :wub:

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