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Rated: E · Campfire Creative · Essay · Fanfiction · #2122967
Before Harry Potter, Slytherin was on top. Little did they know a muggle was among them.

Let it be known that I never intended to hurt anybody.
I'm not denying that what I did was wrong.
I just can't say that I'm sorry.


1: The Hogwarts Express

         The Hogwarts Express barreled through the wooded mountains, making the boxcars rattle loudly. Inside, Patricia Williams sat alone in her compartment. She was clutching her long, cedar wand, lost in her racing mind. She narrowed her eyes on the dark, purple sky outside the window. Rain was coming. From neighboring rooms, laughter and muffled, excited voices came through the walls--they felt miles away.
         Of course Patricia was excited too, being muggle-born and only having just learned of the magic world a mere three months earlier, but she was also very anxious. She had done something very bold, and perhaps very stupid....
         The compartment door slid open. "Anything off the trolley dear?" asked a small, dimpled witch.
         Both curious and desperate to distract herself, Patricia nodded and made her way out into the hall.
         She didn't know what she was expecting to see on the cart, but she was lightly amused at what she found: Licorice Wands, Pumpkin Pasties, Chocolate Frogs, and large boxes of something called Bertie Bott's Every Flavor beans. She wondered vaguely if they meant "every flavor" literally, like, was there a bean for toe jam? She shuddered at the thought and went with a Chocolate Frog and a Cauldron Cake.
         When she settled back into her seat, she immediately began unwrapping the frog, which (to her terror) sprang out of its cardboard and stuck to cold glass. "Good Lord!" She nearly fell onto the floor.
         It was moving! It was alive?! And people ate this kind of thing? Patricia happened to be a vegetarian. She watched it slink across the glass and jump onto the seat across from her. She leaned forward and noticed that the frog had stilled suddenly, losing its life-like glean. Was it just a spell that had made it move? She decided not to chance it, instead looking at the holographic image of Albus Dumbledore winking up at her from the packaging.
         After spending days exploring Diagon Alley with her muggle family, the movement of the image pleased her greatly, but did not surprise her. She turned it slowly in her hand, looking at the silver-bearded man closer. To think she'd be seeing the real thing before the day's end--
         Thunder rumbled in the distance and her stomach dropped as water droplets began to pang on the metal roof.
         She held back a low cuss-word when the door opened once more. It was a dark-haired boy this time, and a girl with wild, curly hair. "Mind if we join you?" the boy asked, "Someone let off a dung bomb in the first boxcar and our compartment was overrun with Ravenclaws."
         Patricia tried to relax her muscles as she returned their smiles. "Sure." As they dragged their luggage in from the hall, she asked tentatively, "Ravenclaw is one of the school houses, right?"
         The two exchanged a look. "Muggle born," they said in unison.
         "Yeah," she said dully. "But people refer to me as Patricia."
         The girl dropped down next to her, "It's good to meet you. I'm Frances Piers. I'm a first year too." She extended her hand eagerly and Patricia shook it. "And this is my cousin, Connor. He's a Gryffindor—third year."
         Connor gave her a cool nod, nearly sitting on the chocolate frog and moving it with a cocked brow. "And Keeper on the house team," he added self-importantly, taking out a broom from his trunk and beginning to service it.
         "I didn't know they had a football team," Patricia said.
         Connor looked up at her, scrunching up his nose. "A what?"
         "Don't give her that face," Frances said, "She doesn't know."
         "What don't I know?" Patricia asked looking between them.
         Frances told her first about the four school houses, ticking them off with her fingers. "Gryffindor is the house of the daring. Hufflepuff is for those who are dilligent. Ravenclaw is for the intellectuals. And Slytherin is all about being cunning. Mind, the house you'll want to avoid is Slytherin."
         Patricia gave her a dull ‘why-is-that?’ sort of look.
         "When it comes to Hogwarts alumni, there hasn't been a single witch or wizard who went bad who wasn't in their house," Frances responded. She then proceeded to go on about the competition between the houses for the house cup, and finally: the quidditch cup.
         The small girl took a deep breath before delving in to explain whatever quidditch was.
         ...To be completely honest Patricia faded out of the conversation a bit at this point. Frances was speaking a little too passionately (and with increasing speed) as she began describing the players on their broomsticks zooming over the stands. The girl made wild arm gestures and swooshing sounds.
         "You're doing it again," Connor mumbled. "You're talking too fast." He was polishing the wood handle of his broom with a rag, not even glancing up as he spoke.
         "Am not," she snapped at him, then swiveled happily back to Patricia. "You'll just love quidditch," Frances beamed, "Everybody does."
         Patricia nodded. She wasn't sure if she liked this girl or not. It wasn't that the girl wasn't nice, it was just that she might have too much energy. Bobbing brightly at her side, Patricia was tired just looking at her. It didn't help that she was stressed about—
         "So, being muggle-born," Frances said suddenly, "how did you find out about Hogwarts? I mean, I bet it was hard to believe."
         "It was," Patricia said, her grip on her wand tightened. "A woman from the ministry appeared at the door one morning. We thought the whole thing was a joke at first; got really creeped out about the things she seemed to know about us...." She remembered the looks on her parents somber faces as the reality started to sink in. They hadn't been upset; Lord knew she'd never fit in with the other kids her age, hence the home-schooling since third grade. "It all wasn't real until about lunch. The ministry rep left and arranged to meet with us in the next week, gave us time to process things" They hadn't spoken much that day, Patricia recalled. She'd looked up at her older sister, the girl's eyes glassy.... "In the end we all agreed that this was something I had to do."
         The rain began to pour and thunder sounded much louder and closer than before.
         "Interesting," Frances said breathlessly. "We just get a letter."
         Soon later Connor advised them to change into their robes. "We're nearly there," he said.
         Patricia eagerly looked out the window. Sure enough, the train was slowing down, but she couldn't see anything; it was too dark and too rainy. It'd been the longest ride of her life! She rushed off to change and by the time she was out, the brakes were screeching and the lanterns of the platform were visible in the windows.
         She moved to grab her luggage, but Connor told her to leave it (apparently they'd be brought up to the castle separately).
         "Did you say castle?" Patricia tried not to appear too impressed.
         "Um. yeah," he said, as if it were no big deal at all, and headed out.
         Patricia and Frances followed him, stepping out and pulling their black hoods over their heads. The rain was heavy and flooded the entire platform.
         "I hope we both get into Gryffindor!" Frances said over the rush of water to Patricia. "We're going to be great friends," she went on, but Patricia was no longer listening. Connor ditched them at this point, spotting his teammates by the conductor.
         "First years this way! Gather round first years!!" Shouted a giant man in a moleskin coat. He looked more bear than human. His hair and beard were long and bushy.
         Patricia ignored his beckoning. Her eyes were searching the crowd, her jaw clenched. Older students pushed hastily past her, darting for the horse-less carriages.
         "We're being called over there," Frances said after a moment, tugging lightly on Patricia's sleeve.
         "Uh-huh," she replied distractedly, glaring back over her shoulder toward the back of the train. She afforded only a small step.
         "First years to the docks! Don' be shy!" the man bellowed.
         Frances made a small sound of panic, then, "We should go."
         It was then that Patricia saw it: a dark shadow from the last boxcar, darting lowly toward a pile of trunks at the side of the platform. Stern-faced, she released a heavy breath and turned back toward the giant man, only then allowing Frances to tow her over to the other first-years.

2: The Sorting Hat

         Standing before the massive doors of the great hall, Patricia's limbs were numb. She couldn't focus on Frances's blabbering away beside her. Her heart was pounding in her ears. At any moment she expected an alarm to sound from somewhere across the school grounds and that would be the end of it.
         Patricia startled when the sharp, emerald-dressed Professor McGonagall introduced herself and beckoned them in.
         Frances gasped beside her as the doors swung open, revealing hundreds of students beneath the flickering glow of what must have been thousands of suspended candles. Patricia couldn't help gawking up at the ceiling, bewitched to look like the sky, and dropped her gaze quickly to the water dripping off her peer's cloaks.
         They lined up before the rest of the school kind of awkwardly. It was all very quiet as a stool was brought out, and on it set a tattered, brown hat. A few kids startled when it contorted into a sort-of face, getting chuckles from the four long tables running the length of the room.
         Patricia managed to keep her surprised reaction limited to a high raise of her brows when the hat cleared its throat and, in a raspy voice, began to sing:

Place me well upon your head
and quickly you will find
Nothing you can hide from me
that's buried in your mind.

For I am no average thinking cap
you see
and sorting you lot
is tasked to me....

For those ruled
by hard work and moral voice
the house of Helga Hufflepuff
shall be my choice.

But if you're noble
with nerve to spare
then better with the lions
of Gyffindor you'll fare.

Or if you are resourceful
to achieve your wildest dream
then for you the house of Salazaar Slytherin
I would deem.

Unless of course it's knowledge
above all of which you seek
then only with the Ravenclaws
can you reach your peak.

         The applause of the students was background static. Patricia felt as if her blood had turned to ice. ...The hat would read her mind?
         "Now, first years, when I call your name, come forward, and place the sorting hat on your head," said McGonagall. Alicia Aarons, Garrett Barns, Trinity Castello—in what seemed minutes, twenty-two eleven-year-olds were sorted into their houses, and then, McGonagall's Scottish accent was articulating: "Patricia Williams."
         Patricia swallowed dryly before stepping up in front of the whole school. Lifting up the hat, she narrowed her eyes on it. It narrowed its gaze back, calculatingly. Maybe if she just thought really hard about how eager she was to learn magic, everything would be alright....
         Stiffly, she dropped the hat over her head, deliberately withholding her gaze from Frances who was currently giving her a double thumbs-up from the Gryffindor table.
         There was a long silence.
         Patricia glanced between the large house banners focusing on keeping her breathing even. Only occasionally did she look at a face in the crowd, which was usually cocked slightly, probably wondering what was taking so long. Maybe she put it on wrong.
         She'd started to look to the staff table headed by a pleasantly grinning Albus Dumbledore when something finally happened.
         A little voice spoke in her ear. "What. Have. You. DONE."
         Her breath caught for an instant. The hat wasn't asking her—the hat knew perfectly well what she'd done. "I did what I had to," she whispered, telling herself more than the hat. Oh God, this was bad.
         "You don't know the gravity of your actions child," the hat warned her. "There will be collateral damage. Oh yes. You'll be expelled for this."
         Patricia took a deep inhale. She'd had to try. She knew it likely wouldn't work, but she'd had to. "I know."
         "You leave me no choice then," said the hat.
         Patricia's stomach filled with dread as she prepared herself to be exposed to the entire school and promptly expelled before the welcome feast. Her eyes jammed shut and she held her wand close to her chest, sort of hugging it goodbye. "I'm ready," she thought.
         "SLYTHERIN!" Shouted the hat across the great hall.

3: House Elves

         Mel Williams, thirteen years old, huddled under one of her sister's Hogwarts robes behind a large bolder. She had followed the path of the carriages, hiding from tree-to-tree to avoid detection. Leaning against it, water running down her face, she watched the last of the horse-less carriages pass through the large front gateway to the school.
         But what school? Through the downpour, Mel could only see a moldering, old ruin upon a distant hill. Closer to her, a large sign on the iron bars of the gate read clearly, "DANGER DO NOT ENTER, UNSAFE."
         She pushed her wet bangs out of her eyes and, deeming the last carriage was a safe distance away, started forward. The problem: the gates were already starting to swing closed of their own accord. She began to run for it, but the mud was like cement on the bottom of her shoes, and by the time she got there, it was too late. A chain was wrapping around the bars and a lock clicked into place.
         "No, no, no," she muttered to herself, glaring up against the rain to see if she could scale it. Two winged, boar statues were looking down on her. It was no good: too high. Tired from the long train journey and freezing from the rain, she began to feel feeble and helpless.
         The gates were closed.
         The walls were too high.
         Lord knew where she was.
         Her walkie-talkie had shorted out since she'd snuck on the train.
         There was no way to contact Patricia.
         And there was this weird itch in the back of her mind... like, she had somewhere really, really important that she needed to be. Now that she thought about it, she really needed to get home right now, back to her little town just an hour's drive from Edinbur--CRACK!!
         Mel nearly startled off her feet.
         Behind her, up the dark path, a bony, childlike figure had appeared from nowhere. It was carrying (more like being crushed by) a trunk six-times it's size. The tiny figure swayed under the weight of it in the distance, its knees buckling. The person squeaked in discomfort.
         The tiny person struggling under the trunk vanished and reappeared, only closer.
         She had to dive into the mud this time as the short, now-obviously-not-human creature with large, bat-like ears appeared out of thin air just feet away, the trunk slipping entirely from its grasp and thudding onto a patch of soggy grass. "Oh my, oh my," the creature squeaked worriedly to itself, "heavier than we thought it was, it is!" The little thing seemed too preoccupied with grappling to get a better hold of one of the handles to notice her sprawled on the other side of the trunk. "Ah, much better," it squeaked after a moment, and without hesitation, without thinking even, Mel reached up and grabbed the other handle.
         Mel had once been pushed down a dry, grassy hill, after speaking up for her younger sister Patricia. The way it felt—as if a string had been pulling her stomach into itself, the world spinning, her feet unable to find ground—that was how she felt now. And then—WHAM!
         Landing hard upon cool, stone floors, Mel found herself in the large entryway of what must have been Hogwarts. Her mouth gaped, but she didn't have time to absorb it all. She had to hide, because stacking the trunks and bags and owl cages were dozens more of the strange, bat-eared creatures. She crawled into a tiny pocket between a pillar and the statue of a centaur, peeking out at the fuss of creatures.
         They looked like house elves. At least, Mel thought, like an illustration of house elves from a book her sister had purchased about magical creatures.... She wished now that she had done more than just look through the pictures.
         There were four lines of the bony little things in the center of the room, all wearing tea towels stamped with the Hogwarts crest like togas. Sorting through the students' things were dozens more. They would hold up a white ribbon to a trunk which Mel noted would suddenly turn red, blue, green, or yellow.
         "Hufflepuff wing!" shouted one holding a now-yellow ribbon to a suitcase.
An elf from the second line jogged forward, wrapped her arms around it and CRACK! She and the suitcase were gone. In less than a few minutes she then returned to the end of the second line with another loud sound.
         "Ravenclaw tower!" shouted another with a blue ribbon to a trunk.
         An elf from the fourth line trotted forward for it. CRACK!
         "Gryffindor tower!" squeaked one standing on a stack of cat crates, the ribbon in his hand: red. CRACK!
         They were making quick work of this sorting business and Mel was very impressed. There were still elves appearing with more luggage, these ones drenched, but the stacks were still getting smaller. Then, spotting her sister's things not twenty feet away, she thought to go closer. But surely she couldn't try to pull the same move twice. The only reason grabbing the trunk had worked the first time was thanks to the darkness outside and the thick rainfall. Here in the flame-lit rooms, with so many of the bat-eared creatures, there was just no way of remaining unseen.
         She watched carefully as a black-haired elf stepped up to one of her sister's suitcases. The ribbon he held to it flushed a deep green. He called shrilly over his shoulder, "Slytherin dungeons!"
         From the first line, one of the elves bounded forward to take it, and Mel turned away to face the wall. So her sister's things were going to the dungeons, eh? She shuddered lightly, but nodded to herself with resolve. How hard could it be to find the dungeons?

4: The Room of Requirement

         Shoes in one hand, a duffle in the other, Patricia slunk across the dark, wood floor of the Slytherin common room in her socks. The tall, arched windows that looked out into the depths of the Great Lake were black. The fire, which had run low, crackled faintly and she was lit by the green glow of stained-glass lamps which hung by chains from the rough stone ceiling.
         With one last glance over her shoulder, sure enough she was alone, and she slipped out the door and into the dark, dungeon passage. Her stomach was in knots. What if Mel didn't get into the castle? What if she was lost somewhere on the school grounds? What if Patricia couldn't find her before morning? What if someone else found her first? Or worse?
         The concealed stone door to the common room slid closed behind her as she pulled her shoes on. She hated herself for thinking her walkie-talkie would work here, apparently all muggle electronics shorted out on Hogwarts grounds.
         She took her wand from her pocket and muttered, "Lumos." She'd read her charms book six times over, and knew to tap the wand into the air lightly to lower or raise the brightness. She lowered it.
         Taking off at a light jog, she decided she would search the grounds first, it was likely Mel was trying to find a side entrance to the first floor of the castle. Knowing her sister, who had romantic perceptions of adventure, she'd probably be ecstatic to try climbing through an open window.
         Almost the very last place Patricia expected to find her older sister was standing in one of the wider dungeon corridors leaning next to a picture of an old wizard in a frilly collar, which is exactly as she found her.
         "Yeah, I haven't had sleep walking problems since I was eight," Mel was lying to him, "so this is highly unusual for me."
         "Well, if I see you pass again, fair maiden," the gruff wizard replied, "I shall be sure to wake you. 'Tis best you don't get too far from your common room."
         "There you are," Patricia said carefully. "We were worried about you. Sleep walking?"
         Mel, who tried not to look too relieved, nodded.
         "You told us you'd outgrown it! Ah, well, we should get back. The other girls will be happy to find out you're alright. And we really don't want to loose any house points this early in the game," she forced a laugh.
         "Thanks again," Mel said to the portrait.
         "Any time," he said nobly, bowing in his frame, "'tis very easy to get turned around down here, even for third years. Do take care."
         Patricia gave him a toothy grin and led her sister around the next corner.
         The moment they were out of sight they jumped up and down excitedly. "We did it!" Patricia hissed quietly.
         "A miracle," Mel breathed pulling her sister into a bear-hug. The girl pretended to resist.
         When they parted, keeping her voice low, "How did you get all the way down here? Gah! I have so much to catch you up on! And good lord, you're like ice. And what are you doing to your hand?"
         Mel was viciously rubbing her left palm, "Long story," she muttered quietly, "the end of which involves me being bitten by a door handle, yelping loudly, and waking up the guy in that portrait."
         "Thank God he assumed you were a student," Patricia whispered.
         "He had his doubts at first, couldn't recall me before, but I told him I was always walking around with a potions book in front of my face and went on a bit about the debate of plated cauldrons negatively effecting a potions potency. He bought in soon enough."
         "We've got to find a place for you to hide out and do your brewing," Patricia said firmly, focusing back on the corridors. "In a place like this, there's bound to be an empty room. And pull your hood up. I don't want any more portraits seeing your face."
         They made their way up to the entrance level of the castle without issue, hesitating only when a distant door would open and close mysteriously or a silvery ghost would pass through a wall, forcing them to hold their breath behind a tapestry.
         Patricia extinguished her wand when they got to the infamous (with first years at least), changing staircase. The light would have been too easily spotted, so they relied on the moonlight from high windows.
         The stairs unfortunately moved on them twice, forcing them to skip a few levels and they headed onto the fourth floor. They'd made it down two hallways before they heard strange sounds. It was as if someone was dragging something heavy and metallic along the stone floor.
         Patricia exchanged a look with her sister and they both peeked slowly around the corner. Their eyes widened.
         A ghost was dragging suits of armor off from their stands and positioning them in the long corridor so that it looked as if they were wagging their butts in the air. In front, he had positioned one of them to be covering its mouth as if appalled and another on the floor beside it as if it had fainted of shock.
         There was something off about this ghost though. Squat and round, with wicked black eyes and a cheshire grin, he wasn't as transparent as the other ghosts, and instead of omitting a cool, silvery glow, he was a pasty, green. He cackled to himself as he finished posing a suit to be spanking another.
         "Oh no," Patricia said, barely more than a breath.
         They pulled back behind the wall.
         "Our house prefect warned us about him," Patricia hissed. "Peeves. He's a poltergeist. We need to get out of here fast."
         They both swiveled around fast and, feet catching on the rug, fell to the floor with a dull thud and an "OOF," as the air knocked out of them. They froze in horror and looked at each other. After a second, "Do you think he heard us?" Mel whispered. They looked over their shoulders as he floated around the corner.
         At the sight of them he bobbed excitedly. "Ickle students out of bed!! Ickle bistsy babies roaming the halls!!" he screamed like a siren, fully prepared to wake up the entire castle.
         The girls scrambled to their feet and took off, not thinking were they were going, just trying to put some distance between themselves and the poltergeist zooming behind them rattling portraits awake and trying to pull the rugs out from under them.
         "Oh shut up!" called a witch from her painting, "Someone fetch the Bloody Baron!!"
         "Students rattling portraits! Messing with the armor! Running amok!!" Peeves wailed.
         Patricia and Mel, mortified, found themselves back on the stairs. They sprinted blindly up, up turning off onto the seventh floor. Everything was stirring around them, Peeves was loud but falling behind.
         We need to hide, to find a place to hide! Mel CANNOT get caught here!! Patricia tried a few doors but they didn't budge. They had to leap into a side passage when a Gryffindor prefect emerged from a portrait of a fat lady in a tight, pink dress.
         "Who's there?" he called. He seemed to be between deciding to follow their shadow or go and quiet Peeves.
         Not chancing a look behind them, the girls tore desperately into a long stretch of hallway where a hideous tapestry of a troll-ballet hung. Had not Patricia stopped to consider hiding behind it, she would have missed a highly polished, iron door appear on the opposite wall. Surprised to find it unlocked, she threw herself and her sister inside.
         As they caught their breath, they watched the door morph into solid wall and knew they were safe. They were also, thankfully, the only people in the room.
         It was large enough to fit their entire childhood home. There were large lamps lighting the place, and a roaring fireplace on the far wall with a bed, lounge chair, desk, and loaded bookcase nearby. It was bizarrely everything they needed.
         Patricia paced further in, but Mel stayed put, obviously expecting someone to walk out and shout at them for coming into their home. "Think anyone lives here? Why would there be a fire if no one is here?" Mel asked, her voice echoing slightly.
         "I dunno," Patricia said. "Come here." She was standing by the bookcase, frowning. Mel came warily. "It's everything we need, look." There were dozens of potions books, a book called Hogwarts a History, cauldrons, jars and jars of Lacewing flies, leeches, fluxweed, and knotgrass. She dropped the duffle bag she'd been carrying and pulled out a ratty old piece of paper, decorated with illustrations of people halfway transformed into other people. Tiny font was spiraled along the edges. "Look at this," she passed her sister the page. "This place has enough ingredients to make two years worth of polyjuice potion! And to think I spent three months allowance stocking up! But this is what's weird, why are there no other ingredients?"
         "You think this is meant for us?" Mel asked in disbelief.
         Patricia didn't answer. She dumped the rest of the duffle's contents onto the bed. It was filled with Mel's clothes, a few novels, some notebooks, muggle textbooks their parents expected them to work through, and other items from Mel’s room. Patricia picked up a dress from the pile and startled. "That armoire wasn't there before!"
         "I don't remember it," Mel said, cautiously eyeing the large wood armoire that now stood next to the fire. Her stomach growled and her eyes moved to a window, before which a long table with a plate of steamy, mashed potatoes and other mouth-watering dishes sat waiting for her. "And that wasn't here either!" She practically ran over, digging in without a second thought.
         "I think this room likes you, and... I think it has its own bathroom over there," Patricia mumbled, spotting a room tucked into a corner.
         "I think I've found my dorm," Mel replied as she took another spoonful of buttery mash. "Now, tell me everything that's happened so far. If I'm going to pretend to be you for your potions classes, I'm going to need every detail."

5: Alliances and Enemies

         Dropping heavily onto the long bench of the Slytherin table, Patricia smoothed her dark ponytail, hoping she didn't look as tired as she felt. It had taken nearly two hours to get safely back to bed from Mel's new home on the seventh floor. Peeves had been on the prowl for her the whole time, threatening to hang her from the entryway rafters.
         She reached a heavy hand for a cheese roll, but the platter slid away. Frowning, she reached further still after it, but it wouldn't let her take one. "What kind of joke is this?" she said irritably.
         "You have an allergy or somethin'?" said a fellow first year across the table from her. He was a lean, long-nosed boy with dark, even skin.
         "No," Patricia replied blankly. "I'm vegetarian though."
         He nodded. "Well, those rolls have bacon in 'em," he said.
         Patricia immediately stopped reaching. She noticed suddenly that, while some dishes were inching away from her, others where moving closer. She'd barely taken a drink from her water goblet last night to have noticed this before.
         "Thanks," she said quietly, piling eggs and toast onto her plate from trays that had moved so close, she almost put her elbows in them.
         He smirked and bit into a sausage link. "My name's Zane and it's no problem. Best for people like us to stick together. There aren't many Slytherins with muggle blood, ya know."
         "How did you know I was muggle born?" Patricia said, her mouth still full.
         At this point the girl beside Zane, a blonde, muscular girl, finished chugging her orange juice and slammed her goblet onto the tabletop. "Your last name is the giveaway, Williams. We purebloods are trained early on to memorize the names and branches of the prominent wizarding families." She locked eyes with Patricia, her expression unreadable. "It's truly amazing you were sorted into this house. After all, the founder prized pure blood in all his students."
         Patricia took a breath. Oh Good Lord. She was bullied for all of her short public-school life for having odd situations constantly occur around her, and now what? Was she going to be bullied at wizarding school for her parentage?
         Before Patricia could think of a response, the blonde girl laughed. "Don't worry," she said, "most here, but not all, share that old mentality. My Grandma might spit on me for just talking to you, but then again, she also wants me to marry my six year old cousin."
         Zane cringed.
         "Is he cute?" Patricia asked dully.
         Deciding she liked their responses, the blonde offered them each a hand. "Kendra Burke," she supplied.
         Patricia and Zane accepted the handshake and Kendra's grip tightened. "I've decided we will be best friends from here on out. I'll have your back just as long as you've got mine. Notice that wasn't a question. I look forward to getting to know you."
         "I'm kind of scared," Zane said.
         "Good. That means you aren't an idiot," Kendra said, narrowing her eyes on him.
         Patricia smiled so naturally she surprised herself.
         No bigger surprise came however, than that from of a hundred owls swarming into the room and dropping packages (of all shapes and sizes) onto the tables below. It took a solid six minutes for them to clear out and when they did Patricia took the time to take a good first look at her fellow housemates.
         Their expressions ranged from calm-cool to outright snooty, but overall she liked the look of them. The other house tables would often throw them bitter, agitated looks, but the Slytherins didn't seem to give a flying fairy. They were like the underdogs of the school in her eyes, in that they seemed disliked by most and that only made them sit taller, laugh louder. She felt her chest swell just sitting among them.
         Then she saw it: open under Zane's arm was a copy of Standard Book of Spells: Grade 1. He'd occasionally glance down to read a line between bites.
         "What spell are you reading about?" Patricia asked excitedly. She'd read the book cover to cover back at home and was itching to actually try one.
         "Wanna see?" Zane asked excitedly, digging out his wand and pushing his plate away. With a calculated flourish, "Incendio." At the tip of his wand a red flame the size of a candlewick flickered.
         "Not bad for a first try," Kendra said brightly, clapping him hard on the back.
         "That was my fifth," he sighed.
         "Mind if I give it a go?" Patricia asked, already pulling his book toward her. "Let's see," she said, refreshing her mind with a scan down the page. She held up her wand, took a calm breath and with a quick snap of her elbow, "incendio."
         It happened so quickly.
         A massive burst of fire shot from the end of her wand, past the noses of Zane and Kendra (who had fallen over backwards to the floor to avoid it), and exploded at the center of the Gyrffindor table.
         Patricia sat frozen for a long moment, her wand still raised, her brows raised higher. The Gryffindors were screaming and shouting. The Slytherins (and quite a few Ravenclaws) were roaring with laughter. A Hufflepuff prefect sent a jet of water from her wand to extinguish the flames, and splattered the Gryffindors now with bits of scrambled egg and hash browns.
         "Brilliant," Kendra said, getting back to her seat. "Williams you've got serious power!"
         The singed Gryffindors from the center of the table were on their feet now, and apparently they weren't as impressed as her friends. A black-haired third-year was marching over with her posse, all drenched and smoking. Her eyebrows were gone, her bangs a little crunchy.
         "You little BRAT! You did this on purpose!" the girl raged, red in the face, ripping a glob of egg off her shoulder and throwing it to the floor. "You Slytherin slime are the worst! You're already ruining everything!"
         Patricia no longer felt the need for apologies.
         "It was an accident, back off," Kendra said seriously, swiveling around in her seat.
         "Are you kidding me?! I don't care what it was. I want to know how she's going to fix what she's done." Her hand rose to her crunchy bangs and her face turned even redder.
         Zane rose to face the girl eye-to-eye. "You should go back to your table, now. You're kinda makin' a scene," he said. He was incredibly filled-out for a first year.
         "Don't you mind? We're just trying to enjoy a nice breakfast over here," Kendra said ripping a chuck of toast off between her teeth. "And it's a little difficult with you reeking up the place with your burnt hair."
         Without meaning to, without wanting to, Patricia let out a snort of laughter.
         "Oh that's it!" the girl raged, pulling out her wand.
         Kendra was at the ready with her own, looking almost pleased.
         Everyone seemed to quiet as they took in Professor Snape, head of Slytherin house, gliding closer in his flowing, black robes. "Miss Patel," he said icily. "Five points from Gryffindor."
         "What?" Obviously trying to regain her composure, the Gryffindor girl crossed her arms tightly, but didn't get the chance to protest further.
         "Consider yourself lucky," he began evenly, looking down his nose at her. "Never have I seen such inappropriate behavior toward a first year student at the start of term."
         "But she-"
         "Clearly needs encouragement to improve control over her charms?" Snape finished for her. "I agree."
         "This is so unfair," she exclaimed (a bit louder than she anticipated).
         "No," Snape said, seeming to reconsider, "You're right. It's not fair." He moved his black, greasy hair out of his face. "I will need to discuss your detention with Professor McGonagall. And if I ever catch you raising your wand to another student, well, hope that I don't."
         He set the course scrolls for each year on the table, swiveled on the heel of his shoe, and skulked away.
         The Patel girl looked like she was going to tackle Patricia before her posse dragged her away. The Gryffindor table was alive with dark muttering and glares over their shoulders. The Slytherins on the other hand looked smug and coolly went back to impaling their waffles with forks.
         "Looks like we've got double Transfiguration with the Ravenclaws this morning and Potions later with the Gryffindors," Zane said, passing the first year schedule along the table.
         Patricia was feeling more than ready for class and felt even better when two fifth year Slytherins ruffled her hair like proud older brothers as they left the great hall.
         "Nice one," they called back to her. "Glad you're one of us!"
         She beamed at them as they disappeared, her expression flickering only when she saw the Patel girl leaving with her posse. The girl was giving Patricia a look that could kill.

6: Transfigurations

         Patricia entered the transfigurations classroom elbow to elbow with her new friends. It felt amazing. She had never had anyone she could call a friend for any length of time before. They stopped at the front of the room for two reasons: the first to scout a set of three open seats before the Ravenclaws took all the good ones, and the second to admire the great grey owl perched at the front podium.
         Its yellow eyes were furtive as the three of them approached. "Awesome," Patricia breathed, reaching gingerly toward it. She felt the stress of this morning dissolve as it nuzzled against her palms, yellow eyes searching hers.
         "Makes me miss Abigail," Kendra said suddenly, then blushed slightly, adjusted her shoulders. "My long horned owl. Er. Not mine, the family owl."
Patricia smiled softly at the owl and pulled away to take her seat. The owl hooted and ruffled its feathers as if calling her back.
         "I brought Tubs, my cat," Zane said as they sat at the rear of the classroom.
         "Tubs," Patricia repeated. She and Kendra snickered.
         Zane frowned at them.
         "No, you don't get it. We love the name," Kendra beamed, ignoring the Ravenclaws who were not-so-quietly whispering about them and the morning incident as they passed.
         They dropped into their chairs.
         "Matches?" Zane said. There were two matches on each of their desks.
         "First assignment,” Kendra said dully, we're supposed to turn them into needles. Didn't you look ahead in the textbook?"
         "Nope," Zane said, weirdly proud.
         Patricia picked up one of her matches and took out her wand, "I only glanced through my text," she admitted, "I read charms cover to cover through, and herbology."
         After a few minutes of wondering where the Professor was, a grey cat with black stripes slunk into the room and hopped up onto the teacher's desk. A moment later and everyone realized this was no cat at all. It shifted into the dark haired woman who'd helped sort them the night before.
         "Cool," Zane said to them without looking away from the Professor.
         As far as first impressions were going, this one was the best of Patricia's whole life. She wondered if they would be learning how to turn into animals too!
         "Welcome to first year transfigurations," McGonagall said.
         Patricia's chest felt full of butterflies. As she listened, she mindlessly turned the match in her hand tapping it occasionally with the tip of her wand.
         "In this classroom," McGonagall continued, "we will be studying the history, law, theory, and practice of the ancient art. As one of the most complex and dangerous magic you will encounter at Hogwarts, anyone messing around in my class will be asked to leave and not come back. You have been warned."
         Zane gulped.
         "Now, not only will what you learn here factor in to your Ordinary Wizarding Levels Examinations, you will find their application useful, if not life-saving, in any field of practice."
         By this point, Patricia's match had turned to metal, but was still in the shape of a match.
         "For our first lessons we will be attempting to turn the matches you will find before you," McGonagall went on, "into needles. By the end of term, you will be able to perform more complicated transformations," she paused, turned toward the grey owl. "Such as turning animals," she brushed the owl with her wand and it shifted into a large, decorative glass, "into wart goblets."
         Patricia's stomach dropped like a rock. She could hardly breathe.
         Suddenly students were turning around in their seats. The professor was straightening up to look at her. Apparently Patricia was on her feet. Her desk had been shoved forward into the Ravenclaw girl in front of her, who complained openly. Kendra bared her teeth at the girl and she quieted down immediately.
         "Is there something you wanted to say Miss Williams?" McGonagall asked, her thin brows arched.
         Pulse in her ears, skin white, Patricia took a second to catch her breath. "CHANGE IT BACK," her voice broke across the room. Anyone who wasn't looking sure as day was now.
         "What did you say?" McGonagall looked a cross between indignant and perplexed.
         Kendra and Zane looked at each other, trying to decide what to do. After a moment, "I'm pretty sure you heard her loud and clear," Kendra said dryly.
         "Can we please ignore her and get back to class?" Toby Milstone, a Ravenclaw boy, said irritably.
         "How would you like it if I turned you into a stupid cup?" Patricia spat.
         "As if you could. Stop interrupting the lesson."
         The Ravenclaws murmered and nodded in agreement. The Slytherins on the other hand (none of whom seeming particularly interested in the subject), simply kicked back for the show.
         "Everyone settle down, please," McGonagall started calmly.
         "Not until you turn him back!" Patricia persisted, "What? Did you show us that thinking everyone would be impressed? I don't care if no one else minds, but I do!"
         McGonagall raised her hands in attempt to soothe, but her features betrayed her thinning patience. "I'm afraid in this class we will be practicing many spells using subjects of lower intelligence. It is quite normal I assure you and not so terrible as you seem to think."
         "I think it's disgusting and cruel to perform any action upon any creature without its will and consent! Whether you deem them lower than yourself or not." Patricia's hands were shaking, she clutched what was once her match so hard, it punctured her finger and began to bleed.
         "Do I need to ask you to leave?" McGonagall threatened.
         It was first grade all over again.
         In that corner of the school yard that horrible boy was throwing rocks at that emaciated cat, too exhausted to move, let alone raise her head when a rock drew blood from her tail. She begged him not to, but he wouldn't stop. She was "just overreacting," a "complete killjoy." It was "just a cat." Just. A. Cat. Her despair had turned to rage. As his hand rose to launch the next rock, her eyes had narrowed in on his arm. There was a sickening crack as the bone broke clean.
         She'd taken the cat home where she and Mel tried to care for it. The cat passed away three days later. No one at school would befriend her after that. Somehow they knew she'd had something to do with the boy's injury. Maybe because when the boy had clutched his arm she'd told him his legs would be next if he didn't beat it.
         "That depends," Patricia said sharply, "are you going to turn him back?"
         There was a minute where nobody moved or spoke. McGonagall didn't budge. "Okay then," Patricia said finally. She picked up her bag, walked to the front of the classroom, and stopped before the professor. "This is yours," Patricia said, dropping her once-match, now-needle. Everyone could see and hear it ting onto the stone floor. "But I'll be taking him with me," she said coldly and took the once-owl, now-goblet from the podium.
         "Twenty points from Slytherin. And I shall be informing Professor Snape, who will give you the details of your detention," McGonagall replied, but Patricia was already halfway out the door, throwing a "yeah-whatever" hand up behind her.

7: Recindo Fusura

         Upon entering Mel's secret quarters on the seventh floor, Patricia marched straight to the king-size bed, threw her bag into a mushy pillow, and jumped face-down onto the mattress. She decided not to answer her sister's questions from the couch, and gazed quietly at the goblet in her hand.
         Twenty points from Slytherin gone, and all her fault. Whichever housemates she'd won over after the bonfire in the Great Hall this morning would surely be less enthused when they heard about this. Worse than that, she was petrified to learn what her new friends thought about her right about now, that is, if they were still even her friends.
         Patricia moaned into the plush comforter.
         "Don't you have class?" Mel asked, taking her place beside the bed and crossing her arms.
         Patricia was quiet for a long minute, then, in a muffled voice, "Apparently not."
         "What's that supposed to mean?"
         Patricia sat up, her sleek hair disheveled, "Well I'm here aren't I?"
         Mel's brows creased. She plucked up a pillow and smacked her younger sister on the side of the head. "Attitude much?"
         Recovering from the blow coolly, "Rough morning. Makes me want coffee."
         Mel frowned, "You hate coffee."
         "I know. I just want to wake up and discover today's been a horrible dream."
         "That bad?" Mel looked concerned suddenly.
         Backtracking, Patricia forced a smile and waved a hand disarmingly. "No, not really," she said. She realized her anguish might not be the best thing to vent onto her older sister before sending her out to her first potions lesson. "Although I did set fire to a table at breakfast," she added carefully.
         "Sorry, I think I misheard you. You, what?"
         "Set fire to the Gryffindor table at breakfast this morning. You should probably know since you're gonna have to go to potions with their lot after lunch."
         "Oh great." Mel did an anxious back and forth along the bedside. "Anything else I should know?"
         "Just that it was an accident, but I'm not sorry about it. They probably won't bring it up and you can just ignore them if they do. As for our fellow Slytherins... just try not to make eye-contact with any of them. And if they ask you about Transfigurations, just tell them you don't want to talk about it. ...I doubt anyone will want to talk to you though."
         Mel waved her arms hopelessly, as if asking God why. "What happened in Transfigurations?" she said breathlessly.
         "Something or rather that resulted in my loosing twenty house points." She didn't want to upset her with details about the poor owl. Sure Mel was no vegetarian, but she still had a heart. That, and there was enough on her sister's mind already, what with having to impersonate her in potions by taking her second swig of polyjuice potion ever (the first being to sneak onto the Hogwarts Express).
         "You lost that many house points?" Mel paled. "Come on sis, don't make this too easy for me," she said sardonically. "My God, do you have any good news?"
         "Uhhhhhhh. Well, I might have two friends," Patricia said awkwardly. She told her sister about Kendra and Zane, for a moment feeling an ounce of joy in the pit of her stomach again, before remembering Transfigurations. "I'm just not sure how they took my loosing those points. And sort of disrupting class too, I guess."
         "Perfect," Mel said flatly.
         There was a soft fluttering sound and the faint tinkling of silverware. Both sisters turned to find the window table loaded with food and set for two. "Is it lunchtime already?" Patricia looked at her watch in disbelief.
         "You going to eat with your classmates?" Mel supplied.
         Patricia answered by simply seating herself at the table. After a large bite of apple, she said, "You should probably switch into one of my uniforms. You have to head out soon. Tell me you're feeling good and ready to kick some potions butt."
         Sensing Patricia's pep a fraud, Mel joined her at the table and smacked her on the back. "Boy am I," she said. "I was up bright and early this morning poking through the books in here. Let's just say, I'm going to make you look so good they'll be bowing in the halls when you walk by."
         After eating, Mel changed into Hogwarts robes and added one of Patricia's arm-hairs to a vial of polyjuice potion before downing it. Within seconds Mel's skin bubbled until she looked an exact copy of her younger sister.
         Thank the Lord they overheard a sketchy transaction between a Mundungus Fletcher and some shabby, old witch in Diagon Alley. If they hadn't have overheard his pitch about the brew and bought four viles off him, they'd have never devised a decent plan to sneak Mel into school.
         The two laughed weakly before Mel left for potions, both aware of how silly it must have looked: Patricia hugging seemingly-Patricia at the door.
         "Good luck," Patricia said.
         "Girl, keep it. I've got this," Mel-Patricia said, and hopped out into the corridor.
         The door closed between them and dissolved back into solid wall.
         It wasn't until Patricia turned back to face the large, quiet room alone that her troubles got a full hold of her. Taking up the once-owl-now goblet and snatching her copy of "A Beginner's Guide to Transfiguration," she sat on the edge of the bed and started through the pages. She found a spell for changing a partially transformed subject to its original state, but nothing about an entirely transformed subject.
         She threw the book as far away from her as her arm would allow.
         Everything spun in her head: the twenty points, walking out on class, the possibility of having already lost her only friends, detention, the poor owl....
         Her eyes welled up with hot tears as she clutched the goblet to her chest.
         And then she heard it: scraping against stone.
         A few bits of dust fell from above onto the stone floor before her.
         She looked up as a tear dropped off the tip of her nose.
         As if etched by a large, invisible hand, drawings were appearing on the ceiling. A cup. There was a cup, and then... Patricia squinted, stars, lots of stars. Then a feather, no, lots of feathers--a wing, a whole owl emerging from the stars!
         Patricia was on her feet, hastily wiping her eyes.
         Above her was the image of a cup turning into an owl, glowing silver now.
         And then two words.
         "Recindo Fusura."

8: Potions with the Master

         Mel stiffly made down the steps of the changing staircase to the dungeons. Hardly anyone was out from lunch, but the few that were she felt were staring holes through her. Of course they weren't, they were self absorbed in their own trek to class, but she felt so out of place it seemed impossible for others not to notice.
         With a thin layer of nervous-sweat, she dropped onto a stool at the front table of the potions classroom. Despite the walls of grimy jars and dusty, patchy light, she felt much more at home here. Taking potions in place of her sister had been Patricia's idea (a weak excuse to sneak her into Hogwarts), but the more Mel considered it, the more she fell in love with the subject. She'd spent nearly half of her old babysitting money on potions books and skipped meals to keep flipping through their pages. Interacting with peers was nerve wrecking, but she had no doubt that she could handle this class.
         Mel was arranging her cauldron, brass scales, and crystal phials before her when Frances entered the room.
         The girl's wild curls bounced as she seated herself at the same table. "Hey Patricia," she smiled, pulling her copy of Magical Drafts and Potions from her bag.
         Mel opened her mouth and closed it. Was this the girl Patricia had mentioned from the train? "Hi," she said shortly and made a point of digging out her own book.
         "Don't worry," Frances said, "I don't believe what the others are saying."
         Mel cautiously glanced up at the girl, trying to read her expression. She found no animosity there. "Is it bad?"
         Frances laughed. "No, not really," she said, "Just that you're a cold blooded snake, starting fires to impress your slippery comrades and prove that you too have a forked tongue writhing behind your massive, front teeth. Or something like that."
         Mel blinked slowly and rose her Patricia-hand to her Patricia-teeth, "They aren't that big, are they?"
         "That's what I said!" Frances burst. "They're just mad about singed hair and stuff. They'll get over it. It really was impressive, you know, your fire-starting charm. Was that your first time using it?"
         Mel nodded.
         "So cool," Frances said.
         At this point the rest of the class flooded into the room and unloaded their supplies onto the tables. Among them, and perfectly matching Patricia's descriptions, were Zane and Kendra. They hardly glanced at her before claiming the remaining seats at her table.
         "You missed it," Zane said, "they had a dozen different vegetable casseroles in the Great Hall." He looked anything but irritated with her.
         Kendra meanwhile, was looking at her calculatingly. "You skipped because you figured people would be mad over those points," she said suddenly. "Am I right?"
         Mel tried to imagine what Patricia would say to this. The girl was always such a closed book. She decided to go with: "If I told you, I'd have to kill you."
         To this, Kendra's face cracked into a crooked smile. "A true bird of my feather," she said.
         "Some fourth years did come looking for you though," Zane said. "They didn't seem particularly bitter and moved along quickly enough. Kendra told them she'd tell you how house points work as a Slytherin. Apparently the Burkes are a very respectable family."
         Frances, who'd been eavesdropping, accidentally caught Kendra's eye.
         "Hear anything that interests you?" Kendra asked sharply.
         Frances hid behind her cauldron. Mel didn't notice.
         "Better," Kendra muttered, then leaned across the table toward Mel. "Anyways, here's the thing you need to know. When a Slytherin student loses five points, they earn ten points by the end of the week. When they lose ten points, they get twenty, and so on. See where I'm going with this?"
         "I need to earn forty points by Friday," Mel said.
         "That, or you can set up the other houses to lose twenty points each. Probably not the easiest thing to manage, so yeah, forty by Friday is preferable," Kendra nodded.
         "We can help you too, when it comes down to it," Zane added.
         Mel officially approved of her sister's friends.
         Kendra slid back properly onto her stool as Professor Severus Snape emerged from an ingredients closet and stood before them. His stern features and dark, glaring eyes kept the class quiet and focused (or maybe it was the chill in the air). Either way, his voice barely broke a whisper and there was not a single student who wasn't listening closely.
         "I don't expect many of you to appreciate the subtle science and exact art that is potion making," he started. "I will simply state that if you stand apart from the common oaf, I can teach you to bottle fame, brew glory, and even put a stopper in death." In his bored manner, he clearly said this to all of his first year classes. "Here wands will be, for the most part, unnecessary," he continued, eyeing a Gryffindor girl who shoved hers into a pocket. "You will be expected to come to class prepared, having read the assigned material." He paused as if waiting for someone to groan. No one dared. "Now then, I can assume that you all have at least read the first chapter of the text and can tell me what is the first of Morgana's Measures for Effective Brewing. Anyone?"
         Mel raised her hand calmly, not expecting to be called on. Sitting in the front of the class, she couldn't have known that there were no other hands raised to compete with.
         "Miss Williams," Snape said, crossing his arms.
         "Cauldron neutralization," Mel mumbled.
         "A little louder Miss Williams. You must speak louder than your inner dialogue if you expect to be heard."
         She repeated herself, intelligibly this time.
         "And why is this important?" Snape pressed.
         Mel stole a glance of the room. If only they knew they were being shown-up by a muggle. "Careless residue in a cauldron or phial acts as a contaminant. It can cause negative, even disastrous, side effects."
         For the tiniest instant, Snape's features seemed to bend, almost grin at her. "Five points to Slytherin," he said, turning his back to them. Zane and Kendra shot her toothy grins before he turned back around with a bottle in each hand. "Today we will be practicing proper cauldron neutralization while concocting what is commonly known as the Frost Bite Brew."
         At this point, he took a swig from one of the bottles. His lips turned blue. Then, plucking up a feather from his desk, he held it out before them, and blew a frosty breath upon it. Students leaned forward in awe as the feather froze solid, then startled when he let it drop heavily and shatter across the floor.
         "The Frost Bite Brew is classified as a tonic. Miss Williams can you tell me why this is?" Snape asked, lips still blue, his breath a cloud before his face.
         "Because its effects aren't time-sensitive, but performance based. Meaning, the stronger the potion, the more effective the side effects. They will eventually wear off of course, only based upon how it is used by the drinker."
         "Five points to Slytherin," Snape said, clearly pleased to have a legitimate reason to award his own house points. "Now, as you all have two functioning eyes, you will see that I've written directions for preparing this tonic on the board. As for the ingredients, they can be found in the student cabinet."
         Students perked up in their chairs, becoming excited to give it a go.
         Snape's eyes narrowed. "Before you get ahead of yourselves, know that I will be placing three drops of mint extract into each of your cauldrons. Be warned that failing to neutralize your cauldron of this substance will have, shall we say, undesirable results."
         The energy of the class visibly sank at this. Snape allowed himself a small, fleeting smile. "At the end of class," he said finally, "ten points will be awarded to the student who produces a successful batch."
         After receiving their mint extract, everyone began to flip through their books. Mel already had an idea to scrub it out with vinegar, but double checked anyway. She was right.
         "Can this be any easier?" said Neil Darford, a Gryffindor boy two tables back, and he flourished his wand over his cauldron twice and muttered a cleaning charm.
         Kendra rolled her eyes, but said nothing, getting to work on her own cauldron.
         As they worked, the classroom was quiet for the most part. Occasionally someone would yelp and wrap up a burnt finger in wet cloth. More often, someone would curse because they'd put their powdered goblin talon in too soon after their dragonfly wings. This would cause a sound much like that of a boiling kettle and reek strangely of blueberry pie.
         It was all a tense, somehow comical ordeal, and soon enough everyone was lined up at the front of the class with a phial of their batch. Mel stood anxiously between Kendra and Frances at the end of the line.
         Kendra nudged her side. "If this works we should freeze all the girls' toilets on fifth," the muscular blonde muttered to her.
         "And I can cover the guys' bathroom," Zane added from the other side of Kendra.
         Mel snickered at the prospect and how much she imagined Patricia would love to do just that.
         They quieted to watch as Snape stepped up to the front of the line. There, he instructed Neil (the boasting Gryffindor boy from earlier) to drink his potion. Apparently it wasn't as easy as he'd claimed. The boy's entire face went blue. His ears purpled, and his shoulders frosted over his robes.
         "Congratulations Mr. Darford, you've failed to neutralize your cauldron," Snape said coldly. "Report to Madame Pomfrey in the hospital wing before you lose feeling of your legs. I expect next time you will be more thorough."
         The boy left with teeth chattering, trying desperately to rub warmth back into his arms and legs.
         Snape simply carried on down the line.
         Most students managed to blow snowflakes from their mouths, while a few contracted a nasty head cold (for which Snape had a cure ready to administer). When it came to Zane, he managed one icy puff of air before his whole face turned blue and icicles formed at the end of his nose. He too was sent shivering up to the hospital wing. Kendra did quite well, only, when she dropped the piece of parchment she'd been trying to freeze, it fell heavily to the floor, but didn't so much as crack.
         Mel's shattered.
         Frances, a little distracted with clapping, almost dropped her phial when Snape instructed her to drink it. The Gryffindor managed just one dense, snowy breath, but beamed and nodded to herself approvingly.
         "Ten points to Miss Williams," Snape announced. "For homework, an essay describing the three approaches to neutralization and the pros and cons of each. Also, read chapter two of your book with particular interest in seasonal advantages of flame colors. Dismissed." With a swish of his black cloak, he was the first to leave the room.
         "Congratulations Patricia," Frances said, packing up her things hastily. "I have to be off now, but I was wondering if you wanted to go watch the Gryffindor quidditch tryouts with me next weekend?"
         Mel's eyebrows rose. That was the sport with broomsticks, wasn't it? How exciting! Responding instinctually, "For sure," she said and immediately regretted it. What would Patricia say?
         "Awesome!" Frances replied, "See you around then," and was off.
         When Melainie turned back to her things-
         "You know, I think I was just a pinch off on my goblin talon powder," Kendra was saying, not having noticed the exchange with Frances. "You did brilliant though. Twenty more points will be a cinch at this rate. Wanna go check up on Zane?"
         "Definitely," Mel said, "but you should probably head up without me. I'm going to be a little while. I can meet you there." She couldn't wait to tell Patricia all the good news (she'd leave out the plans with Frances for now). Plus, she figured she'd earned a good nap before digging into her essay. She looked at her leftovers of Frost Bite Brew and took a deep, satisfied breath. "Once he's good, what do you say we get to freezing those toilets?"
         That wasn't Mel's kind of thing, but it was definitely Patricia's.

9: Making Good

         Kendra cracked her neck as Zane straightened Patricia's tie. The two girls were glaring up at the professors' table from the far end of the Slytherin table. Zane gave Patricia a good once-over, nodding approvingly.
         "Perfectly in order," he said. "You've got this. We're gonna go get the stuff then. We'll meet you by the classroom."
         Kendra's lip curled as she watched McGonagall take an elegant spoonful of oatmeal. "Nasty, old vulture," she said, then aside to Patricia, "Be sure to lay it on real thick."
         Patricia smoothed her ponytail. "Oh, she'll let me back into class alright. I've got a little something extra up my sleeve to really put her on the spot." She left them then, her eyes locked on the professor. She had two reasons she had to get back into transfigurations. The first: she was determined to master Recindo Fusura, and there seemed no better place to do it. The second: in a class of such blatant evil, she recognized the opportunity to be an agent for good.
         Zane and Kendra didn't waste any time, they withdrew from the hall at a light jog in her wake.
         Aside from the Gryffindors, who glared and whispered as she marched up the isle, no one paid much attention to her. It didn't faze her in the least, not even when the Patel girl and two of her highly-primped cronies headed her off halfway there. Standing shoulder-to-shoulder, they blocked off the whole isle.
         "Patricia Williams," Patel said (as if having learned Patricia’s name was some sort of accomplishment).
         Patricia took in the name scrolled across the front of the girl's notebook and parroted back, "Amy Patel."
         "Notice anything about me, first year?" Amy Patel asked thickly.
         "Your left leg is slightly shorter than your right. No, wait, you just have really bad posture."
         "Try, my hair and eyebrows are back to normal no thanks to you," Patel snapped.
         The girl to Patel's left, a short, brunette girl who wore loud, pink lipstick, crossed her arms. "Ravenclaws don't like selling potions outside of their own house," she said. "So it cost five galleons to fix."
         To this, the girl to Patel's right, a lanky girl with long, strawberry blond hair, bristled. "So, what we want to know is, how are you going to pay her back?"
         Patricia halfheartedly reminded herself that she should probably care, but it came across more as an internal shrug. Impatient, she looked past the girls to the teacher's table, then rolled her eyes. "Is that all?"
         "Is that all," Amy repeated through her teeth.
         "You have a real attitude problem, first year," the lanky blond chimed in. "And I'd be careful if I were you, or you might find life here at Hogwarts becoming a lot harder than you bargained for."
         Patricia took a long breath of air. If Amy hadn't been so insufferable from the start, she really might have felt bad about the fire accident. But Amy had been insufferable. And Patricia didn't feel bad in the slightest. Her response came like her exhale: short and from the gut. "Ooo scary," she said dryly and forced herself through the gap between Amy and the short girl's shoulders.
         Fuming, the three girls grabbed the rest of their things from the Gryffindor table and stormed out.
         Patricia didn’t have time to care. She stepped lightly onto the platform where the professors ate and stopped directly before McGonagall, who luckily sat between the gigantic grounds keeper (a complete softy) and Snape (who favored her thanks to Mel). This might really work after all, she thought.
         "Is there something on your mind Miss Williams?" McGonagall asked through tight lips.
         "Yes Professor," she said, then paused to lower her gaze as if in distress. "I wanted to talk to you about that first day in class." Brows mangling, Patricia brought her eyes up to meet the old bat’s, then dropped them in a display of shame. "I just feel awful about the way I behaved."
         "Is that so," McGonagall replied.
         Patricia must have been doing a decent enough job looking troubled, because Snape paused from sipping his coffee and the grounds keeper was looking like he might drop a massive hand on her shoulder.
         "Yes, ma’am. Completely rotten," Patricia said, breaking up her voice and keeping her eyes on the tabletop. "I was just really shocked," she went on, "I'm from a muggle family you see, and I'm having a hard time adjusting to everything. I just feel so bad about it." And she pulled out her secret weapon: tucked into the hem of her sleeve was a sliver of white onion from dinner the night before. With a swipe of her hand over her lids, her eyes immediately began to glass over. "This is so embarrassing," she said. "I just hope you can give me a second chance."
         McGonagall looked torn between empathy and suspicion. "Well, I don't really..." she began.
         "Oh, jus' look at the poor girl," the grounds keeper said, "a second chance never hurt anybody, did it Minerva?" He handed Patricia his napkin and she dabbed at her face girlishly.
         "I take conduct in my classroom very seriously, Hagrid," McGonagall said to him, but then gave Patricia a look of strained, grandmotherly concern. "I do understand that there is an adjustment period for students of your background my dear, but the level of your disruption is one to which my classroom has never previously experienced...."
         Patricia made a show of sniffling.
         To this Snape set down his mug. "Would you be more inclined to allow her to return to your class if I were to take responsibility for any future misbehavior?"
"Severus?" McGonagall looked like she wasn't sure what surprised her more: him speaking up or the words that had just slithered from his lips.
         "I don't believe she will incite any problems for you," Snape clarified, never once raising his eyes from his black coffee.
         Patricia shook her head ardently. “I won’t,” she said firmly.
         Honestly, the way Professor Snape continued to focus on stirring his coffee made it seem as if he really couldn’t have cared less what she did in transfigurations class. He must have really liked having a Slytherin worthy of favoritism in his class for once. "But if she does," he continued slowly, "I will decide what disciplinary measures must be taken."
         "Very well," McGonagall said after a moment. "I will expect you Monday, Miss Williams. You will need to read chapter two of your text, prior to class."
         Patricia straightened up, "Thank you professor." She looked then to Snape. He was tapping his spoon on the side of his mug, his dark eyes meeting hers knowingly. At the flicker of surprise across her face, the corners of his mouth tugged slightly upwards. She recovered quickly, "I won't let you down sir," and what she meant was, 'she won’t be able to prove a thing.'
         He nodded once as if to answer, 'naturally.'
         Hopping down from the platform, she strode out of the great hall and around the corner toward the transfigurations room. The door was closed, but unlocked; Zane and Kendra were already inside. Both startled when she entered and quickly closed the door behind her.
         "Well?" asked Zane, "How'd it go?" He was hoisting baskets of pinecones from the ground outside the window and passing them off to Kendra who was stacking them in the adjacent storage closet.
         "It couldn’t have gone better. I’m in," Patricia said, moving forward to help Zane in through the window with the last basket, "How's it going here?"
         Kendra accordingly plucked a scroll from inside the closet and waved it at them. "The only animals being used this week are hedgehogs. The fourth years are turning them into pin-cushions. These pinecones will be perfect for her to turn into fake hedgehogs instead. All that's left now is getting the genuine articles out of here."
         "And quick," Patricia added, glancing the door. "Snape personally vouched for me. We CANNOT get caught."
         They all stepped into the closet and looked down at six crates of wriggling, pink-bellied hedgehogs. "I don't suppose we can just take them out of here inside their crates," Zane said after a moment. "I mean, it isn't exactly inconspicuous."
         "I could get at least six into my book bag, maybe four in my hood," Patricia said, tilting her head as she watched them clamber about, squeaking softly up at them.
         Hands on her hips and obviously feeling charged from their break in, Kendra blew her blond hair away from her face. "Well then," she said, "Hope your pockets are empty."

10: Resolve

         According to Hogwarts a History, which lay open on the bed her, the room Mel called home was actually “the come-and-go room.” It worked so hard to keep her not just hidden, but comfortable too. She took a deep breath. Perched on the white, downy comforter, she felt guilty wishing she could be out exploring the castle.
         For the past four days, when she was alone in the evening, a tall mug of hot chocolate would appear by the hearth and what looked like a phonograph would materialize and kick into motion. The whole space would fill with the kind of music she liked to imagine witches and wizards might waltz to. The room could sense her growing restlessness.
         Her eyes drifted toward the tall windows over looking the grassy fields and the foggy forest beyond them, then across the hundreds of stars carved into the ceiling.
         For six days, she hadn’t told Patricia about the quiddich tryouts Frances had invited her to. Surely she couldn’t go. She knew just how much Patricia was risking, bringing her to Hogwarts…. And she couldn’t live with herself if they ever had to return to a non-magical life.
         She had tried not to be jealous of her younger sister when they found out about Hogwarts. It was the hardest thing she’d ever faced in her life, and it nearly split her in two the moment she stepped into Slug and Jigger’s Apothecary in Diagon Alley. The cauldrons, the vials, the scales, the crackle of a violet fire—she’d never known what she wanted to do with her life until that moment. And Patricia saw the whole thing; Patricia who caught her by the sleeve, who whispered in her ear, “You have to come with me.”
         Mel got up and inspected the progress of her second batch of polyjuice potion. It was stupid not telling Patricia about the invitation, she thought, and who cared if she was feeling pent up in here day after day? She was living in a magical castle for Lord’s sake.
         Setting her palm on the stone wall, she vowed to tell Patricia everything today. “Thank you for all you’ve done for me,” she said to the room, “I’ll never take you for granted.”
         As if to answer her, a pink carnation appeared on the windowsill.

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