The Legend of Sparrow Jones, Book 1, part 1B
<---Part 1A---Part 2--->
The train ride was again uneventful. Even Violet did not visit her compartment. The landscape of grey mud and rain slid by.
Sparrow wondered if it was going to be possible to speak to Jocasta now that she was notorious.
answer was no. In the week that followed Sparrow’s re-arrival at the
castle the Carrow girl never spoke to her once nor communicated any
desire to do so. She tended to leave halls that Sparrow entered, along
with other students who didn’t want to be in the company of a raging
Nor did any of the students speak to her of any matter
that was not academic. It was not exactly the silent treatment, but the
message was clear anyway.
There were, however, two people who were, from the start, unafraid to show open interest in her goal.
was Professor Slughorn, who, being quite the Slytherin, felt it
invigorating that someone had ambitions beyond what even he dreamed of.
“Give it a shot,” he said. “I would love to see what you could come up
with.” But he said little more to her, not even offering to invite her
to the Slug Club.
So Slughorn wasn’t directly useful. But. Nobody
in the school administration was stopping him from expressing his open
support. Nor were they attempting to stop her. Either the Ministry was
still preparing to send a Howler to the Headmistress’ office, or
McGonogall was making good on her tacit offer of support. That was
The other one who showed interest in her goal was Tim, the Librarian.
lost interest in that werewolf business,” said Tim, “and thank
goodness. I can try to help you find what information you’re looking
for.” Sparrow judiciously neglected to tell Tim that she hadn’t forgot
the werewolf matter completely. It would be better to have him on her
And so Sparrow spent her days in the library, reading of the
beginnings of magic itself, or its supposed beginnings, with stories
like the man who summoned a giant patronus. Useless, really. Even the
earliest texts had wizards acting as the stuck-up prats they always
were. If history wouldn’t help, then perhaps the magical equivalent of
Physics would. There was, or had been such a section, on experimental
charms. Where had all the books gone?
Ted regretfully informed her that most of those texts had been removed to the Ministry. He practically snarled when he said it.
yes, of course. Violet had pitched a very loud fit about something
involving the Ministry in the Second year of school. Sparrow had been
afraid to ask her what she had been on about. This must have been it.
shifted her focus to the advanced potions section. There were a few
books in the library that Zygmunt Budge had made good use of, back in
his day. Ted would only let her read them by carefully flipping the
pages for her, with magic. Here was a dissertation on the effect of
moonlight in healing potions. There was a study of how vigorously and
how long to stir a cauldron. All empirical business, none theoretical.
Where was the theoretical material for potions?
Also removed to the Ministry.
This did not make the Ministry look any better than it already did.
where was the book of bibliographic references for Granger’s Advanced
Potions? Still missing. And Tim would not tell her who had it out. He
had his professional sntandards to maintain.
One January morning,
Sparrow had her head down on the table in frustration. She had spent the
better part of an hour trying to get through an extremely dry treatise
on Silverbeetle Shell powder, hoping to glean something from it about
the basic nature of potions. She now had a headache.
Someone grabbed her by the arm and dragged her away from the table, and into the secret alcove behind the bust of Saint Snerd.
It was, of all people, Jocasta Carrow.
Who proceeded to pin Sparrow against a wall and get right up in her face.
“This is very rude,” said Sparrow. “Uncouth. Discourteous.”
you dare,” said Jocasta, shoving Sparrow a bit harder against the wall.
“Don’t you fucking dare get cute with me after you threaten to destroy
“Aren’t I already cute?”
“Well yeah but…shut up.” Jocasta’s face got noticeably pinker.
“I’m not trying to destroy your world,” said Sparrow. “I’m just – ”
“Shut up! Just – shut! Up! ” Jocasta put her face even closer. “And let me show you what you’re going to lose.”
“I don’t understand what you’re – mmph!” Sparrow’s words were cut off as Jocasta kissed her hard on the mouth.
she was at last released from the kiss, Sparrow said, “I have half a
mind to call that sexual assault. What the hell are you playing at?”
– I – ” Jocasta blushed. “God, that was stupid. I’m sorry.” She
released Sparrow and leaned against the far wall, letting out a long
“Have you got that out of your system then?”
Jocasta glared at Sparrow. “I’m still mad at you because of your mad
ambition! I like the fact that you’re ambitious but this is a real
“I’m just trying to open our world up, that’s all. Is that a bad thing?”
“Yes!” Jocasta threw up her hands. “It’s not supposed to be opened! Opening it will destroy it!”
“Oh no? What exactly does it mean, that your world can’t stand up to openness?”
“It means it’s too small and to fragile to have everyone come barging in at once,” said Jocasta.
said Sparrow, “is the Wizarding World like a pub that only ever caters
to local loyal customers, so a bunch of tourists at once would put a
severe strain on the employees?”
“Like a – yes, let’s go with
that. Only this pub? Has wine glasses that bite you and random
trapdoors, and someone in the back room performing human sacrifices.”
“How do you – ”
said Jocasta, waving her hands in front of her. “My last name’s Carrow?
I’m a Slytherin? Got the green-trimmed robes and everything? Girl,
there’s things in my father’s house, there’s things in the castle,
there’s things in my common room that would try to obliterate
you if they knew what you were up to. Salazar’s legacy around here
doesn’t stop with the Chamber of Secrets.”
“So what,” said Sparrow, “did you want a taste of me before I was disintegrated? Is that what this is?”
“This is desperation,” said Jocasta. “I had hoped that if you had a taste of me then you might think twice about going off kaboom.”
“I think I did that before the break,” said Sparrow. “I’m kind of waiting for the first howler to arrive.”
“How can you be so flippant about this!”
just glad to have you in my presence again. I wanted to talk to you
about a few things. Like our shared goal.” She wiggled her eyebrows. “I
wanted to get started on that.”
“You – ugh!” Jocasta let Sparrow
go and crossed her arms. “I am hardly in the mood to discuss that at the
moment. I’m still mad at you.”
“Mad because I’m a threat? Or mad
because you might lose me? Because it sounds to me like you’re more
concerned about the latter. I’ve had the feeling for a while that you
care about me a lot more than you would for a sworn enemy. I think you
care for me. Am I correct?”
“Don’t get all romantic on me, girl.”
“You’re the one who kissed me!”
“I mean like storybook romance. Immature romance. That kind of nonsense.”
someone up against a wall and kissing them is very much storybook
immature nonsense romance! And now you’re telling me you’re not into
that? Give me a clear answer here. Do you fancy me or not?”
It doesn’t have to be a hard answer. You’ve been joking around about
being interested in me all year. I’ve been interested in you
since that night at the Dragon tower, when you went out of your way to
tell me Violet was there. If you feel the same way you shouldn’t be
beating around the bush. It doesn’t do a body good.”
“Don’t drag it out of me!” said Jocasta. “It’s mine to say, not yours. Why are you interested in me anyway?”
of it this way,” said Sparrow. “I’m the nice pretty sweet little
Hufflepuff made of cream and sugar, right? And here you come, Breaking
The Rules. Being annoying. Being spicy. Challenging me to become a
better wizard, in your own way. I think you’d make a better Defense
Against the Dark Arts teacher than Professor Budge, to be honest. He’s a
little too easygoing.”
“Jill and I are a
matched set when it comes to magical skills. I think you and I could be a
matched set when it comes to our approaches towards authority. Not just
this business with transfiguration. I’d really like to have you at my
side. Especially since you know how to duel and I only know how to
smash, right now.”
“Hang on a second,” said Jocasta. “I thought we were talking about romance.”
grows in partnerships, sometimes. Like between me and Jill. So I can do
romance if you want, but I can also leave it, because it might get in
the way of my goals.”
Jocasta put her face in her hands.
“What is it?”
said Jocasta. “I think you somehow became a Slytherin over the
Christmas break. You’ve got such a towering ambition that you won’t even
stop to let yourself relax. Have a little fun, will you? Have a little
snog with a friend. Get off your goddamn high horse long enough to get a
little dirty with us mortals. Even Zeus knew how to get his rocks off,
“I’ve…never really done that before.”
“You just did!”
“Doesn’t count. I didn’t want it.”
“What about with Jill then?”
“We barely had time before we stopped.”
“Fine. Would you like me to show you?”
“Will it take too much time? I wanted to have a look at the potions textbook again and class begins in ten minutes.”
Jocasta turned to the wall opposite Sparrow and thumped her head repeatedly.
“I’m starting to think you’re not actually interested in this.”
“I didn’t say that, did I?”
“You’re being evasive. If you’re not interested it doesn’t work.”
pretty rich coming from you, miss pin-people-to-the-wall. And haven’t I
been flirtatious enough this year? Haven’t I already expressed my
interest in you? I’m just having trouble saying it in the way you want
me to. I know how to say it my way but your way is -- goddammit. Kiss me
Jocasta spun around and planted a kiss on Sparrow’s lips, then let go. “So you do like this after all.”
“Of course,” said Sparrow. “Far more so when you don’t ambush me with the whole business. And I think this kind of relationship has the potential to strengthen our working partnership – ”
“You’re making it sound like a business deal.”
“You said no romance!”
“No foolish romance. No soppy stuff. But there’s still such a thing as having fun, isn’t there?”
huffed. “Fine. But we can’t let it get out of hand. Not if it gets in
the way of our shared goal. Because that was why we got talking in the
first place, right? No sense forgetting that. So no stupid romance
stuff. No pining, no jealousy, no love songs, none of that. And no love
Jocasta grinned. “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art – ”
“No! No! Bad girl!”
“Ooh, getting kinky. I like it.”
“None of that either!”
“Stop that or I’ll get my whip. Anyway, ideally we’ll have no focus on monogamy either.”
“No focus on – you need to choose, girl!”
I? I know both you and Jill want me, and I know you want both me and
Jill. And I’m a nice sweet little Hufflepuff covered in frosted sugar.
How could I be so stingy as to restrict myself to either of you? But
that’s something I need to ask Jill about, when I get the chance,
because we’re not exactly broken up, just, you know, Off. And I could
not say that I love her, if I were to betray her trust by taking up
another relationship without telling her. Or, you know, inviting her in.
A love triangle that goes unresolved by the simple solution of
polyamory is one of the most annoying stories I could read.”
blushed. “You know I’ve never had someone seriously propose such a
thing to me before. Hoo boy. Well. Let’s…not get that started
just yet. You still have certain ahem things to learn. And you want Jill on your side too, right?”
“It would be good to have the school’s best duelists working with me, instead of potentially against me.”
“And you’re inexperienced when it comes to matters of lust.”
let us say that I shall teach you the ways of lovers, and you shall use
them to please Jill. Because I do care about her. I would hate to see
my favorite dueling partner experience an awkward and sloppy romance
from an inexperienced prude. If I teach you, you can avoid messing up
with your one true love.”
“Jill is my best friend,” said Sparrow.
“Not my one true love. I don’t like the idea of One True Love. I would
like to think I could have more than one. There is no sense being
“But do you like my offer?”
“I do.” Sparrow grinned. “It sounds like a win-win.”
“And…no soppy romance if we can help it.”
“We shall strive to avoid it.”
let out a breath. “Thank god. I’ve had quite enough of that nonsense
already. Alright then.” She tapped her lips. “There’s only one proper
way to seal this deal.”
Sparrow kissed her back, at last, long and hard.
had said no romance. But there are some things about human
relationships that are hard to avoid, and that few really try to avoid
at all, for it is the rare and strange few that actively try to avoid
feeling happy about a new kissing partner. Sparrow tried to remain stern
and businesslike for a few days, then gave in and allowed herself to
feel like she was floating.
Fortunate she was, for it allowed her to blithely ignore the angry stares of her classmates.
Jill’s angry stare was not something she could ignore.
Jill was not giving her a chance to figure out what it meant, because
the girl was stomping out of the Hufflepuff common room without a word.
Sparrow elected to follow her out, since she didn’t exactly feel wanted
in the common room. Then again, she didn’t feel wanted anywhere inside
the castle, save where Jocasta was in the room.
She elected to
wander down to the greenhouses. It would be some time before the
Herbology lecture. She could get brownie points for showing up early.
She could also talk to Miranda.
And so Sparrow found herself in
front of the door to the little private greenhouse. Miranda was in.
Would she open the door, though, that was the question.
The door swung open without Miranda moving an inch.
Sparrow stepped through. She felt a curious tingling all down her lower back.
field,” said Miranda. “I’ve got plants here from a different continent
and I decided I didn’t want their spores getting out. North America lost
an entire tree species that way. Now what exactly does the madgirl
“Nuh uh,” said Miranda. “I don’t
want to get in trouble. You were too bold, girl. You told your whole big
idea to the whole school. I can’t believe we haven’t got any howlers
“That’s not what I’m after,” said Sparrow. “That kind of
thing will take years. Decades, maybe. It’s got to be beyond-advanced
magic. What I’m after here is much more up your alley.”
Miranda paused, with her trowel full of dragon dung poised above a pot. “Yes?”
“See I have this werewolf problem…”
“He’s not a problem,” said Miranda.
“Oh yeah? Who’s not?”
“How on earth did you know I was talking about the librarian?”
said Miranda. “Grey hair, dresses all in gray, incredibly shy, shuts
himself behind unbreakable magical locks in the library every night? I
wouldn’t call that a secret. What, do you want me to make him a
wolfwotsit potion? Calm him down during the full moon?” She turned to
her pot and continued to shovel dragon dung in. “Professor Longbottom
already does that for him. What could I do?”
“I want you to help me find a cure for lycanthropy.”
Miranda froze. She glanced at Sparrow with a frown of worried confusion. “Excuse me?”
“If anyone can do it, it’s either you our Slughorn, and I don’t think he’d be interested.”
feel,” said Miranda. “A tingle in my feet. A twitch in my fingers. A
buzz in my ears.” She shimmied her shoulders. “Oh, it comes upon me
again. My old friend Pride. I must resist. But I can’t. I must resist. I
must!” She clenched her fist. “I was tricked before! I shall not be
“No trickery,” said Sparrow. “No lies, no deceit.
Not with me. I want this potion because I would help someone who needs
it, and even if he doesn’t, many would gladly take it. That’s all.”
“Really.” Miranda folded her arms. “No ulterior motive at all?”
I mean, it would also be an excuse to study fundemantal components
of magic. But never
mind that bit, you never heard me mention it. What say you to this
“Don’t expect results soon.”
“Marvelous,” said Sparrow.
were a scant few students who had come around, in the course of a few
weeks. Mostly Slytherins, who believed that the entire world ought to be
pureblood in the first place. This gave Sparrow some pause.
She decided to confide in Cormac, who was a level-headed fellow. And a pureblood. So he had some perspective.
managed to find him in a particular disused classroom that he had
turned into a surreptitious repository for his books of advanced
wandlore. It was typically on the fourth floor. Today it was
conveniently on the first floor close to the Great Hall, which meant
that Sparrow could sashay straight to it from lunch. And so she sashayed
straight into the room, whereupon Cormac, seeing the face of his friend
who he wasn’t supposed to be talking to openly, rushed to close the
door. At the same moment Sparrow realized her mistake, and waved her
wand to close the door.
Unfortunately Cormac was also hit by the spell, so he wound up being scooted out of the room as the door closed.
He opened it, and said, “there’s such a thing as being too Wizardly, you know.”
Then he closed the door, still on the outside of it. And the door did not open again.
matter how long Sparrow waited, Cormac did not come back. So, she
elected to peruse Cormac’s tomes of lore. Ah, here was a good one. Effects of wand components on spellcasting, volume one. By Yassen Gregorovitch.
The middling wand maker knows that Bowtruckles are the key to blah blah blah blah
alright so this book was boring already. Goodness only knew what Cormac
got out of it. Well, Cormac also knew. Maybe Cormac was Goodness. He
seemed level-headed enough for it.
The door banged open. There
stood Cormac, looking angry, with a gaggle of students behind him.
“There you are!” he said. “Out of my study!” He marched over to Sparrow,
arms swinging manfully. “What secrets are you stealing from me, eh?” He
leaned over Sparrow’s shoulder as if to check the book and whispered,
“Just play along and meet me behind the One-Eyed Witch after dinner.”
sir!” said Sparrow. “I wished only to partake in thy knowledge! I
beseech thee, let me become thine apprentice in wandlore, and we shall
rival Ollivander together!”
“Out!” roared Cormac. “Never darken my
books again!” He grabbed her by the back of her shirt neck and, with
Sparrow’s assistance, tossed the girl out of the room. “And stay out.” SLAM.
Some of the students giggled. “Hey look,” said Violet standing among them, “It’s Dent-head Jones.” The students sniggered.
backed away from the gaggle in haste, turned, and put her face in her
hands, pretending to cry. “You are all so MEAN!” she said. “Perhaps no
one deserves to have magic!”
A chorus of offended cries. “You
can’t mean it!” “Surely everyone deserves to have magic!” “Please don’t
take magic away from us, mistress!”
Sparrow felt a hand upon her
shoulder. Sparrow looked up. It was Percival Bulstrode, head held high,
eyes upon the crowd with a mighty expression. “She’ll spread magic to
the whole world,” he said, “and you’ll all be grateful.” Being a head
taller than her, he had to decline his head pretty far to beam at her.
“Don’t worry, Sparrow. The Slytherins have your back.”
“Hang on a
minute,” said Maledictus Bulstrode. “If she gives magic to the whole
world then bein’ pureblood don’ mean nuffin’ anymore, do it?”
“I have warned you about speaking in the tongue of lower-class Londoners,” said Percival.
he’s right!” said a Slytherin girl named Belladonna Burke. “How do you
lord it over anyone if they’re just as magic as you?”
There was a
chorus of disappointed muttering from the crowd of Slytherins, and a few
half-hearted insults. All of them slowly sidled away from her except
for Percival. Sparrow couldn’t tell if this was a good thing or not. “I
shall stand by her,” said Percival, “though the world itself may turn
upon her. What do you say, Sparrow? Shall we achieve this lofty goal
“I, uh.” This was getting out of hand. “I’ve got a
partner. Already. I mean, um…Oh! Bulstrode, you cad!” she put a hand up
to her forehead and swooned. “I have pledged my love to another, and you
shall not take me from her! How dare you even suggest such a thing! My
love for her is undying!”
“Hang on a second,” said Percival, “I didn’t – ”
“Masher!” said Sparrow. “Scoundrel! Be gone from my sight!”
“Shall I duel him in the name of your honor?” said Jill’s voice from the crowd.
“Nay, he is not even worthy of that!" Sparrow pointed her finger dramatically. "Let the base churl depart in peace, knowing of his shame!”
Percival departed, barging his way through the crowd, muttering angrily.
crowd, meanwhile, was now on to the sort of thing that teenaged
children pay attention to in great detail: who is kissing whom. If
teachers could somehow manage to make their lesson plans involve
romance, grades would go up all over the world. The chorus of queries
was all towards that subject.
Some of them were asking about second base.
love is pure as the driven snow!” said Sparrow, as she put her hands on
her hips. “I should not sully myself with such base acts!”
“I bet that’s because you don’t know how to do them yet,” said Jocasta from the front row of the crowd.
“Well, I –”
“I can teach you if you like.”
shameless impudence!” said Sparrow. “Fie upon you all! I shall tell you
nothing more of the subject!” She turned, and marched away with her
head held a little too high.
Witch was a part of the castle architecture that moved every day. People
swore the old bat was alive, somehow. Well, who knew. She was annoying,
at least. Sparrow wasted an entire hour looking for her, only to
discover her on the wall opposite the Hufflepuff Common Room door.
the secret passage moved with the statue was hard to fathom, but move it did.
Sparrow tapped the witch’s hump. A hatch on the top sprang open and
Sparrow climbed in.
Cormac was in the passage, along with Jill and
Violet. They were lit by a single Lumos from Cormac’s wand. Very
spooky. Very conspiratorial. Sparrow would have felt more of a thrill of
illicit plotting if it wasn’t for the fact that her wand seemed to be
tugging her pocket towards Jill. Sparrow sidled away from Violet, not
wanting to deal with any awkward questions. Jill, curiously enough, was
also standing at a slight distance from the gathering, and looked
“Do you think we fooled them?” said Cormac. “Excellent performance, by the way. Wonderful improv.”
was good enough,” said Jill, “that I felt as though some of the
students were playing along. Jocasta really sold it. Maybe you two
should do improv classes together.”
“Sorry about the dent-head thing,” said Violet. “That was Jill’s idea.”
“Because I think you must have been knocked in the head,” said Jill. “This whole plan is ludicrous.”
said Sparrow. “Hopefully it’s ludicrous enough that the Ministry thinks
it would never even begin to work. There is such a thing as taking
cover under absurdity, you know.”
“How very devious,” said Cormac. “You’d make a wonderful –”
“Don’t say it.”
“She’s dating a Slytherin anyway,” said Violet.
Jill pursed her lips.
“That explains why the improv went so well,” said Cormac. “Drawing from life, it seems.”
“We’re not dating!” said Sparrow. “She’s just helping me with transfiguration and– ”
“Jocasta Carrow,” said Jill. “You’re dating Jocasta Carrow.”
“Yes. No! It’s a perfectly casual relationship!”
“Uh huh,” said Cormac. “That’s going to work out perfectly.”
was looking extremely put out. But she gritted her teeth and said, “I
still have my misgivings about this entire plan. How do you know this
will work? How do you know this is what anyone wants? I told you to
think about others, girl. You’re bringing water to a desert that’s
evolved to live without it. You might sweep away many innocent creatures
in the flood.”
“I…haven’t even been able to ask the people I
would be affecting most. You know how the Ministry is. I’m assuming
that’s why we’re all here instead of by the fire in the nice cozy common
room, right? If I go around asking muggles if they want magic I’d be in
Azkaban before I knew what happened. So Jocasta’s going to help me on
that front. I can’t tell you how but – ”
“She’s going to teach you how to become an unregistered animagus,” said Violet.
Sparrow crossed her arms. “I didn’t say that!”
the transfiguration witch around here,” said Violet, “and there’s
genuinely no other transfiguration topic that anyone would want to keep
discreet. Unless you’re transfiguring a teacup into a sex toy, I
suppose, but that wouldn’t help you talk to muggles. I think.”
blushed. “I can neither confirm nor deny the validity of your…oh, hang
it all. Yes, Jocasta’s helping me become an Animagus. Are you happy?
Boy, I’d make a godawful Secret Keeper.”
“I want in,” said Violet.
In the light of their wands there was a strange gleam in her eyes and a
strange smile on her lips. “It sounds like it would be great fun.”
said Cormac. “I thought Sparrow here was insane, but now you’re jumping
in as well? This is…this is. Oh dear. Oh dear dear dear. I think you’ve
bit off more than you can chew, Sparrow.” He shook his head slowly. “I
think you’re going to make a mess of things.”
“Not if I have
help,” said Sparrow, placing a hand on Violet’s and Cormac’s shoulders.
“Not if we help each other. Each of us brings great talents to the table
already. Jill of the sword, I of the shield, Cormac of the wand, Violet
of the book. Together we can work miracles. Yet we may be sundered, and
it would be to the ruin of all. This goal, this challenge, can bring us
all closer together. What do you say?”
“I’ll do it,” said Cormac, “if
you survive. That’s a big ‘if’, you know. I could just jolly off and
make wands for myself and never give a whit about you again. But I care
too much about muggles to just let them dwindle. And I don’t want to see
you explode or anything. So. Succeed and I will follow. Only until you
succeed will I follow. Violet, I recommend you wait as well until
Sparrow blazes the trail.”
“I’m not stupid,” said Violet.
“You’re wanting to become an animagus before you’re even fifteen,” said Cormac.
“I’m insane. I’m not stupid.”
“Jocasta’s either going to be delighted or furious,” said Sparrow. “Jill? What about you?”
Jill was still looking frustrated.
“What is it?” said Sparrow.
“Nothing! Nothing! Nothing at all! I’ll give you an answer on the morrow. In the meantime let us all be sworn to secrecy.”
And so they placed their hands in the center of their circle, and pledged upon their sacred honor.
The Hufflepuff Girl’s Dormitory was divided into five rooms.
particular morning, however, there was a sixth, at the end of the
dormitory corridor. Jill had informed Sparrow that it would be there,
and that she would be in it. Sparrow had taken some time to believe her
friend, but then she remembered a night about two years ago where
Catarina Quiddler had needed a place to sleep away from a rather abusive
ex, something that could last longer than a shield spell, and until
such time as the matter was sorted out there had been a sixth dorm room
that would open for none but her.
And here it was again. Sparrow
knocked on the door, and it opened silently, despite the fact that Jill
was sitting on the single large four-poster bed. The morning light shone
through the window, and though the glass was clear it was difficult to
tell just what lay outside.
“How did you find this place?” said Sparrow.
“I needed it,” said Jill. “So it appeared.”
“Needed – what, as much as Catarina did?”
so much. Just to be in a place where I didn’t have to speak to you. A
selfish desire in comparison, but the castle is generous, and I could
hardly refuse when it appeared.”
Sparrow stepped into the room and
closed the door. “Fair enough.” She went to the patch of sunlight upon
the thick carpet, and lay down in it. “Let us speak business, then.
Animagus business. What is your answer?”
“I would surely love to become an animagus,” said Jill, “but elsewise I am torn.”
“Torn about what?”
lots of things. Spreading magic to the whole world. I suppose it would
give me a chance to use the really big spells without worrying about
muggles seeing, but…it’s not like I know much about them either. And,
you know, they kind of wrecked the entire world. So I can’t say they
deserve wonder now, can I? Maybe they ought to stew in misery.”
“That never produces good people,” said Sparrow. “Misery returned for misery makes people mean and cruel.”
“Maybe I just want revenge.”
“Against their kids? And their grandkids? And their great grandkids?”
have to let the past go and focus on building the future,” said
Sparrow. “That’s why this whole crazy plan got started, really. I just
wanted to go around making plants grow and stuff, and McGonogall told me
that it would give the Wizarding world away.”
just…do that? Run off to some place long abandoned, and start calling a
rainforest back to life? Hey look everyone, a tree! It’s a miracle!”
had that idea,” said Sparrow. “But I bet the Ministry would catch wind
of me anyway. And, you know, I can’t go literally everywhere in the
world. It’s easier to just give people the tools to do it themselves.
Then again, would they even think of it?”
“Hard to say until you
talk to them, right? But that’s the other thing.” Jill flopped down on
the bed, positioning herself so she could still lean over the end and
glare at Sparrow. “This dating business.”
“Yeah,” said Sparrow. “I
wanted to talk about that. ‘Cause I figured I’d need your permission if
I was going to go more steady with Jocasta.”
“My permission -- what on earth do you mean? You’re dating her right now. Not me. Why are you asking me?”
couple reasons,” said Sparrow. “First of all, I’m not dating her, we’re
just having some fun. Secondly, I was concerned about breaking your
trust. Better to communicate ahead of time than beg for forgiveness. I
haven’t stopped thinking about you, you know, ever since that night in
the library. I’m sorry that our wands are in the way right now.”
“That’s – ”
I think there’s something going on with you in relation to Jocasta.
‘Cause you got real flustered when you saw her out on the walkway. And
many times beforehand this year. Now, why on earth would you be
flustered, when you already had me? I bet I know why. I think you want to date her.”
“Well, I…look. Do you really want to know why I ran away from you for weeks?”
Sparrow rolled over onto her front and propped her head on her hands. “Do tell.”
sighed. “I’ve been dueling Jocasta for years. You know that, right?
Almost as long as I’ve known you. And…it’s been fun. But we didn’t talk
much. And I thought she didn’t like me, because she didn’t even say
‘hello.’ So this year, when she started hanging around you, it meant she
was also hanging around me, and I had the opportunity to say things I
wanted to…but. Then. I spoke to her. And she spoke to me. She noticed me.”
said Sparrow, in the rising tone that children use to indicate the
discovery of an embarrassing secret. “Someone had a crush.”
“Yeah. So, that one morning when she talked about my following you into Hufflepuff – ”
“It was true, though.”
was true for purely chaste reasons! And yet, yes, at the very moment
she said it I was thinking about asking you to date me. But at the same
time I wanted to date her!” Jill scooted back a bit, and buried her head
in her arms.
“I can imagine that would be flustering.”
“Yes,” said Jill with a muffled voice. “Thank you for now considering how I was feeling, instead of proclaiming innocent ignorance.”
“I’m just following the instructions of a good friend.”
“Well you can see my dilemma. I wasn’t sure who to choose. I’m still not. I only have two hands.”
“Exactly,” said Sparrow. “You have two hands.”
“Sorry. I think Jocasta’s rubbing off on me.”
“Yeah well it sounds like she’s rubbing on you right now.”
Jill let out a muffled giggle. “Two can play at that game.”
three?” said Sparrow. “Ah, but what a topic to broach to my old
friend.” Sparrow sat up on her knees. “A delicate topic, perhaps, and
one I have only thought of recently. First of all –” She placed a hand
on Jill’s shoulder. “I have it on highest authority that Jocasta cares
Jill raised her head. “She does?”
nodded. “She told me so. And even before then, at the Halloween ball, she
made it clear that she was interested in your affections, but cared too
much about your happiness to barge into what she thought we had.”
“That’s…sweet of her. She’s never sweet. This must be serious.”
that’s just the thing.” Sparrow stood, and strode to the window. The
view outside was indistinct, so mostly what she was doing was to look
properly dramatic. “I am taking this very seriously. I brought the
subject up with Jocasta and I promised to ask your permission first
because I take our relationship seriously. And so I am deeply troubled as you are. I am torn. If we were to date
again...I wouldn’t wish to lose Jocasta. There are ways we fit together,
different than how you and I fit together but…but I get all dramatic
here with you and I get all flippant with her. Like, I’m trying to
broach the subject of a three-person relationship here in a properly dramatic fashion but
with her I just brought it up in a moment. So it’s like, if you and I
were to start dating again and by the standards of monogamy, I had to
lose her…I’d be losing a relationship I’m beginning to enjoy greatly.
But if I date HER and I lose YOU then I’d be losing a relationship I
have enjoyed for a while…then again I’m being self-centered here. If you
think of it from your perspective, it’s also true for you, right? Pick
one and lose the other.”
“There’s such a thing as remaining friends.”
“Well yeah but – ”
“But you’re not satisfied with that.”
Sparrow sat down in the sunlight. “Call me greedy if you like. But I do
know that you love me and I love you, and I know that you’ve been
catching feelings for Jocasta this whole school year and...so have I. Cormac's right, my relationship with that girl could never remain casual. So
whoever gets left out is going to be pining for the other two, and no
matter who gets left in then they’re going to be pining for the one left out, so the idea of remaining friends wouldn’t last long anyway, would it?”
be.” Jill shrugged, as best one could while lying supine. “Could be the
odd one out finds someone else. It happens. Then again, maybe I’d call
that a disappointment. And, you know, what if the odd one out still
duels one of us weekly, so they’re still pining, so they get jealous, so
they get mad and attack us with fatal curses…oh dearie me, what a
“And that gets in the way of our actual business,”
said Sparrow. “So I guess I’m proposing a sensible solution that I think
all three of us would be going for no matter what we do, instead of
letting supposed rules cause needless pain. If any of us chooses to
ignore our own desires then there will be pining, and I will be vexed.”
“Oh,” said Jill, “don’t you want to experience a little Romance?”
said Sparrow. “I said that we had to stick together last night, didn’t
I? For the sake of our goals. If Romance threatens that then to hell
with all of it. And even if we had no goals to consider, I would still
avoid it, if it were to hurt either you or Jocasta. I will not be the
cause of pining!”
“Surely my pining is my responsibility,” said Jill. “Not the fault of the one I pine for.”
not. Yet, what I am proposing would avoid the issue altogether would it
not? We would not find ourselves beset by the necessity of choice.”
“Yes we would,” said Jill.
“Says the entire school. What does everyone in the school say about love?”
“That it – uh – ”
“Saved…come on, your memory isn’t that bad.”
“The world. Love saved the world. Right?”
Everyone around here knows the legend of Harry Potter. There’s people
who think he defeated Voldemort through Great Might but most of us know
that love literally saved his life twice. So, think about it. They see
me getting kissy with Jocasta, then they see you getting kissy with
Jocasta, and they think two of us are a terrible awful no-good cheater,
and in a righteous defense of Love they turn one of us into a toad.
Remember what happened to Geoffrey Cranshaw when he cheated on his
“Someone turned him into a toad.”
“And I just falsely accused Percival Bulstrode of cheating on his girlfriend.” Sparrow grimaced.
right, you did. Maybe you want to tell people it was a lie before he
gets turned into a toad as well? See, this is what you get for not
paying attention to your fellow students.”
“Don’t remind me.
Strike that. Keep reminding me. Getting to the matter at hand, you say
our fellow students are righteous in the defense of Love. Would they
interfere if three of us were openly a trio?”
“Perhaps. It’s not a
common thing. Except in the story scrolls we pass between each other. We
might find people interfering for the sake of upholding unrealistic
idealism. These are the same students who willingly toss in a galleon to
pay for the Cupids to come around. We’re all very Romantic.”
“Oh goodness, don’t remind me.”
“I think I will have to keep reminding you about that as well.”
“It’s for your own good, girl.”
giggled. “Now you know what you sound like sometimes. Ah, but you’ve
got a heart of gold. Always trying to do the right thing. I may need you
for that someday. As I need Jocasta for – for um – oh dear. I’m not
even sure what for. Perhaps for everything.” She buried her head in her
arms once more.
“Uh oh,” said Sparrow. “Sounds like you’re in love.”
“You already told me it’s true.”
“I know. It’s true. I have fallen for her.”
then! How could I claim to love you if I demanded that you stay away
from her? That would be rude. Stingy. I have no wish to be stingy with
my love and in return I will not force you to be stingy with yours. That
would not be love. Love and control do not mix. Nor would I wish to
present a barrier to someone who clearly has great affections for you,
as you for them. That would be mentally dangerous, and, considering that
I am talking to Miss Himalaya here, it could be physically dangerous as
“It could also be physically dangerous for you if you keep
making that joke,” said Jill. “Do you want me to javelin you out the
“I would love to see what is actually out that window,”
said Sparrow. “Not that I have the courage to open it. But you see what
I’m getting at here? I want you to be able to have your fun with Jocasta
just like I’m having fun. And I’m thinking we ought to all have fun
together because that seems to present the least complications. But
maybe it wouldn’t. Maybe I ought to back off and let you two have fun
alone. I can do that. Just as along as we’re still friends. What would
“I don’t know.”
“I can tell you that Jocasta’s promised to teach me all kinds of things that would please you.”
“What? I’m just saying, she’d be a benefit to both of us.”
“Well, it’s a moot point right now because I’m still not dating you. Take a wild guess as to why.”
sat up on the bed and took her wand out. “The flipping wands! Look at
this!” The wand tugged at her hand, forcing Jill to point it directly at
Sparrow’s pocket. Sparrow rolled out of the way, feeling it prudent to
avoid being blasted by Jill’s magic, even if she was unlikely to be
hurt. Jill’s hand followed Sparrow as the girl danced around the room.
“Stop pointing your wand at me!” said Sparrow. “That is terrible wand ettiquite!”
“It’s not me!” said Jill. “It’s the wand, it’s been tugging at my pocket every time I get near you!”
“Well I know you’re always happy to see me, but this is ridiculous!”
“Shut up! We never should have done that Priori Incantatem thing! If you take your wand out of your pocket – wait, don’t – ”
was too late. Sparrow had produced her wand, and it had proceeded to
tug at her hand, towards Jill. The girl hung on with all the desperate
might she could, a grip fueled by sheer panic at the thought of losing
her wand, and yet it was not enough. The wand escaped her hand. She fell
backward with the sudden release. Jill, for her part, had also been
struggling to hang onto her wand, and had been nearly dragged off the
bed before letting go.
The two wands met with a resounding clack,
and stuck together like a pair of cheap chopsticks from a Chinese
restaurant. They floated there in the midst of the room, between the two
“This bullshit,” said Jill. “This is what I mean.”
“Yeah,” said Sparrow. “Imagine trying to kiss you and poking you with my wand every time. Ouch.”
not just that!” Jill grabbed her wand and tried to pry it away. No such
luck. “It’s like our stupid wands are in love, or something. I hate
that. It feels like they’re trying to play matchmaker, you know? And
it’s supposed to be my decision. Mine! I don’t hold with any Destined Love nonsense!”
do I.” Sparrow attempted to pry her wand away, or to move both of the
wands in any direction, but neither would budge. “Did you run away from
me after the courtyard incident because of that?”
“You bet I did.
That’s the same reason I ran from you after the first incident with
Jocasta. Because I thought Jocasta was trying to play matchmaker. I
wasn’t having that. I will never have that. I am a little concerned,
right now, that you’re trying to play matchmaker as well.”
“I’m just saying that I won’t stand in the way! It’s up to you, girl. I care about your happiness.”
“You mean it?”
A thousand times, yes! You’re my best friend, Jill. You have been since
first year. If I was going to ruin that, I would have destroyed a part
of myself as well. I couldn’t ask you to be by my side in the coming
trials if I didn’t care about your well-being. So, if you don’t want to
date Jocasta that’s fine by me. I just…thought I should let you know
what I was doing.”
“Are you angry with me for running away from you?”
don’t know. I would have enjoyed having the pleasure of your company
before I went and met McGonogall. I’ve been holding this Statute of
Secrecy business inside too long, and McGonogall’s office was the first
time I let it all out, and I kind of went kaboom there. It would have
been nice to talk to a peer I could trust, first.”
“Does Cormac not count?”
“My talking to him was part of how I landed in detention. So, he counts but nuh-uh.”
Jill put her hand on Sparrow’s shoulder. “You’ve been on this whole
time about how you’re doing something for me. But I would like to do y –
I would like to do for you, as well. Do you want me to be there for you
“I have always wanted you to be here for me.”
“Then…let’s avoid exciting our wands.”
“Well, it’s not like I have one, anyway.”
“You don’t – Sparrow!” She giggled. “I mean, the only way we’re going to be able to be together right now is to remain chaste. Are you okay with that?”
said Jill, “Let us not think of ourselves as lovers, right now, but as
sword and shield. Someday you will know how to wield the sword and I the
shield. Do you want to try to learn again?”
“Perhaps I do,” said Sparrow. “But my wand would not approve, I fear.”
Jill giggled. “Sorry. Bad start.”
“Well, let me know when you do want to try dueling again.”
“Not that kind of dueling!” Sparrow let out an angry huff. “Is there anything you want me to tell Jocasta?”
her…tell her that I am very cross with her for the rumors she has
spread, and how she spoke to me on that September morning. Tell her that
if we are to date, she shall not do such a thing again, to anyone. Tell
her that I appreciate that she finally noticed me.”
Sparrow extended her hand, and they shook on the deal. Their wands, at long last, uncoupled.
next day after charms, Jocasta dragged Sparrow into passage hidden
behind a bookcase near the entrance to the dungeons, and, after Sparrow
cast a silencing charm on the stonework, they kissed for about two
“Well done,” said Jocasta. “You’re already getting better at this.”
“Is it that hard? Wait, wait, don’t answer that.”
“You walked right into that one,” said Jocasta. “Hey, did you talk to Jill yet?”
Sparrow relayed Jill’s message.
Carrow, for as long as Sparrow had known her, wore either a smirk, or
something that was about to become one. She had never, in Sparrow’s
sight, looked expecially cross, nor in any way grieving, nor disturbed.
And yet, as Sparrow described what Jill had been through, Jocasta’s mask
slipped, and she looked genuinely concerned. And from concern her face
became sullen, and she sank to the floor, and sat against the wall. “I…”
she coughed. “Wow. Okay. I guess I messed up a lot more than I
“More than I realized as well,” said Sparrow. She sat
down next to Jocasta. “I didn’t know, you didn’t know. Maybe we both
messed up. But now we know. Are you going to do that kind of thing to
her again? Or anyone?”
Sparrow gave Jocasta a Look.
“Ok. Maybe not.”
“She’s interested in you, you know. She’s got a crush on you.”
“Yep. Told me as much.”
cheeks turned pink. “That’s, um…just as I wanted to hear, I suppose. I
mean I would hate to be interested in her if she’s not interested in me,
but you know how those things go, sometimes it doesn’t work out, but – ”
are you nevrous?” said Sparrow. “You were the one making all sorts of
unsubtle hints about being interested in her since September. I should
think you would be overjoyed at this news.”
“Well now it’s more
than a joke! Now it’s a real thing! Haven’t you ever practiced a piece
of music for ages and ages and still shivered all over when it came time
to perform on stage?”
“I don’t play music.”
“But you do understand my analogy, yes? Stage Fright.”
think so. Look. I understand that you’re a little nervous to get this
ball rolling but it’s already rolling. I had to convince Jill that I
wouldn’t stand between you two. Well, not as a barrier. We each have two
hands, after all.”
Jocasta raised an eyebrow. “It sounds as though you are learning more from me than I expected.”
“And so will Jill, I expect. If
you treat her right. I won’t have it any other way. But I don’t expect
that I will have to remind you. And talking of learning, let us speak of
business. For the clock is ticking here. At some point we’re going to
have a full moon.”
“Yes,” said Jocasta, “they tend to come around once per month.”
so. But I only have so many months, before the end of the school year. I
only have a few chances to get this right. What do I need?”
“Grow your hair out, first of all. We’re going to need some of that.”
actually longer than it looks, you know. Just curled in on itself.
Watch.” She pinched a bit of her hair and pulled, such that it extended
outward about an inch.
“I stand corrected. Now, the first real step is to keep a single mandrake leaf under your tongue for an entire month.”
Sparrow blinked, and shook her head. “An entire month? That’s thirty days!”
“One full moon to the next. Twenty eight days.”
“How – ”
if there’s clouds in front of the moon that night, too bad. You have to
start alllllllllll over.” She traced a line down her cheek as if to
imitate a tear. “I told you this was hard when you signed up, girl. I’ve
got ways to make this easier but it’s still a mighty challenge. First,
we’re going to need to put you on a liquid diet -- "
"Oh good Lordy."
" -- Which means either
faking an illness, unlikely in this place, OR bribing the kitchen staff.
As for weather, we’re going to need to figure out how to manipulate
that. Not sure how yet.”
“We are Wizards,” said Sparrow. “We’ll figure it out. Um. Talking of signing up…”
“What if someone else wanted to join on this venture?”
Jocasta took a deep breath. “Please, tell me you didn’t tell anyone about what we’re doing.”
“Just my friends. You know, the ones I trust absolutely? Anyway, Violet figured it out before I could say anything.”
had her palm up to her face. “The more people we get involved in this,
the more likely it is that our cover will be blown. You shouldn’t have
told them what we were up to.”
“You wanted to let Jill in on this!”
she was the last one, besides maybe Miranda! The more people we have
involved here the closer we are to being discovered. How many friends
you do you have?”
“You, Jill, Cormac, Violet, and maybe Miranda. And Blaise. I’d like to think Filch is a friend but he’s more of a challenge.”
“That’s already too many! How is a ghost going to become an animagus?”
didn’t say him! And he doesn’t know about this whole thing anyway, I’ve
just been trying to sneak past him. Anyway, I have an idea. What if we
blow our cover before it’s blown?”
“Tell McGonagall. Get some help from a professional.”
“Tell the Headmistress of the Hogwarts? Are you insane?”
told me I could tell her about my troubles. You know her office was
where I revealed my grand plan to the entire school, and she didn’t say
no. Or yes. But she hasn’t expelled me or anything. So, I think she’s
“She’s safe about your plan. She doesn’t know about this one! This is super goddamn illegal! No, we’re not telling her. And that’s that.”
What if we got the rest of the school involved, then? Turn everyone
into an unregistered animagus. Become a needle in a stack of needles.”
Jocasta’s jaw hung open.
beginning to scare me, Sparrow. I know you’re really nice and really
generous, but that’s a bridge too far. Right now. And listen to
yourself. How many giant ambitions do you have going at once? Cure
Lycanthropy, become an Animagus, bring magic to the entire world, and teach an entire school how to become Animagi?
For God’s sake, girl! One thing at a time! And, I should note, this
process is incredibly dangerous and uncertain, so multiplying the number
of applicants will result in a tragic accident at some point. I’m not going to have that on my hands. We will do you first, refine our technique, do your friends if we have time, and only if we can figure out how to make the process safe and certain will we even consider going public. Understand?”
“Good. We should pay a visit to Miranda. But first, let’s work on your technique a bit more.”
“Mandrake leaves will be ready in about a week,” said Miranda, as the Greenhouse door swung shut. She examined the stem of a Witch Hazel flower.
“A week!” said Sparrow. “That’s seven days! I want it now.”
“Oh listen to you,” said Jocasta. “Rush rush rush. You can’t rush this, girl.”
do you have mandrakes on hand anyway?” said Sparrow. “Wait a second.”
She glared at Jocasta. “How long have you two been setting this whole
“Don’t look at me!” said Jocasta. “Miranda here has been at
this since the beginning of the school year! I just happened to seek her
aid due to the advice of a friendly witch.” She nudged Sparrow.
“Sometimes you do know what you’re doing.”
“I’ve been working on
the ten-minute-polyjuice potion since the beginning of the school year,”
said Miranda. “At first the potion had an indefinite duration, so a
reversal would require an antidote. Then I added the mandrake leaves to
create a time-limiting effect. Then I realized that nicking them from
the school’s official mandrake repository was going to be noticed
eventually. I can’t abuse Professor Longbottom’s trust any more than
I’ve done. So, I asked him for a couple seeds, and now I’ve got a few
mandrakes growing in here. Simple enough. You, er, don’t want to be here
when they’re mature.”
“An entire week!” said Sparrow. “I shall go mad.”
“You’re already mad,” said Miranda. “Run along now, both of you, or I shall let the Snapping Dragon snap at you.”
next week was interminable. Sparrow had to cope with the sheer
anticipation, as well as the fact that the specific truth of what
Sparrow wanted was being lost amidst wild rumors. Some were saying that
she wanted all wizards to marry a muggle. Well, that one was probably
from the Slytherins. Some were saying that she wanted to overthrow the
Wizarding government and fling curses over all the earth. Some were
saying that she wanted to slaughter all the muggles so that there would
only be Wizards left.
The rumors were getting out of hand. Yet
Sparrow had no way of countering them, not as long as she believed that
none would listen to her. And, for the sake of avoiding having to deal
with the house of Slytherin, she had driven away even her staunchest
supporter in that house, so she had none to confide in, save the one
Slytherin she knew well already. The most she could do was get Miranda
to spread rumors to the effect that Sparrow had been lying about
Percival’s cheating, but, as Miranda said, it took some effort to get
anyone to believe that Sparrow Jones could lie.
diligent when it came to attending practice sessions with Jocasta. She
studied hard and paid attention, and learned much, and had quite a bit
of fun. And Jocasta has having quite a bit of fun with her.
result, they quite forgot to attend to necessary tasks for a few days.
It did not take much effort to get the kitchen staff to put Sparrow on a
liquid diet, as a rudimentary reference to Sparrow’s madness was enough
to get them on board. Some people will drop anything to help solve
someone else’s problem.
The truly difficult task, and one that
Sparrow had not managed to figure out yet, was how to manipulate the
weather to ensure a full moon. She wasn’t sure if she should even do so.
If there was some spirit on high looking down upon the proceedings and
seeing that all the boxes were checked, and that she had done everything
properly, why then, they would think that weather manipulation was some
kind of cheating, and perhaps turn Sparrow into a newt forever. It was
possible that, if Sparrow were to cry “Ventus” to the heavens and blast a
hole in the clouds, it would lead her to ruin.
On the other hand,
what gods were there, if any? Magic did not come from beseeching any
sort of great spirit, nor, indeed, had Sparrow ever, in her entire life,
heard a Wizard make reference to one. Magic came from wands, everyone
knew that. You made a wand with wandwood and a magical core and there it
was. No ritual necessary. Magic did not come from on high; it came from
something on earth, apparently. But what it was, Sparrow could not say.
it think? Did it watch? Did it disapprove? Wands thought, in their own
way, and felt. But they did not produce magic, only channeled it. There
was such a thing as wandless magic. It was some force living outside the
wand, perhaps outside the body as well, for there were more magical
creatures in the world than Wizards. Yet who had thought to ask where it
came from? Sparrow thought back to her previous attempts with the
library, and her confusion as to what subject area this question would
be found in. She had given up upon hearing that the books of advanced
theoretical magic were at the library. Perhaps she had given up too
easily. The act of asking a question could just as easily be recorded in
the ancient history. Or in the modern history.
So, after wasting a
week, Sparrow spent about five days cross-checking historical
references to magical theory. And she hit a wall again. Not only had a
formal effort of Magical Theory arisen recently, thus limiting the
amount of time to ask the fundamental questions, it had always been done
through the offices of the Department of Mysteries. There were, in
fact, plenty of wizards who had been asking such questions. And they
were all called Unspeakables, and forbidden to divulge their secrets to
outsiders. It was the same wall she had run into as before, only, it
extended into the History section as well. The Ministry, it seemed,
wanted to limit the power of Wizards. It wanted them to do magic well,
but only the magic that it divulged. The fundamental nature of their
world, that was off-limits.
Sparrow sat at a table,
put her head in her hands, and thought. What if there was no God but
God, after all? And did he even care about anything anyone was doing?
Dark Wizards tended to get away with their dark magic until the Aurors
came, so it wasn’t as though there were demonic spirits, waiting to
punish a wizard for hubris. There were creatures called demons, to be
sure, and yet…they were all corporeal. Solid things.
spirits. Yet they, too, seemed to arise from earth, and be bound to it.
Dementors, for all that they made people shudder, seemed to have no
connection or reference to Hell. Ghosts made no reference to heaven.
Caipora, well, they ran around jungles and bothered people, as
poltergeists ran around castles and bothered people.
There was no
cosmic scale, as far as she could tell. There was nobody trying to
balance any scales. There was no force that would, by itself, attempt to
right any wrongs. There was, it seemed, only the earth, and all the
beings on it, magical and not.
Nobody was watching her.
she could cheat after all. Using a spell such as Ventus, especially one
powerful enough to sweep the clouds away, might have some magical
effects that would interfere with the workings of the mandrake leaf,
but. Perhaps there was someone who could sweep the clouds away for her.
She just had to get past Filch.
light of the ghost of Argus Filch shone weakly in the upper corridor.
Yet it was the only light on this night at all, for the rain came down,
came down, came down.
“Come back to try again?” said Filch. “Came back to tell me I’m in your way?”
could just as easily barge through you,” said Sparrow. “And lose as
many house points as you care to take. I really don’t care about them
anymore, I never did. I could have walked right through you at any time,
do you know that? But I didn’t.”
“I could have raised the alarm when I saw you out of bed.”
“But you didn’t. Why was that?”
“Maybe I was having fun,” said Filch.
were challenging me,” said Sparrow. “The first time I ever managed to
brew a shrinking potion was when I was thinking of getting past you. I’d
never done an invisibility charm either. I’m glad you didn’t raise the
alarm. It let me learn a bit more. And I think, in some small way, you
respected my efforts.”
“I wanted to respect
your authority,” said Sparrow. “Or perhaps I bowed to it. I didn’t even
think of barging through you. Maybe if I had, you’d feel even worse than
you did now. Maybe you’d feel powerless. That would have been very
rude, for me to do.”
“Ghosts are cold,” said Filch. “Nobody wants to pass through them.”
I’d like to get around you someday,” said Sparrow. “I do have important
business for when the full moon comes back. I would like to be able to
see Blaise again.”
“Blaise. Well. Hm. Ready for their story, then?”
for a lot of stories. For mine. For Blaise’s. For Jocasta’s. For
Cormac’s. I feel like a moonlit night at the Dragon tower is the perfect
place. And…I’m inviting you, if you will come. Because I want to hear
your story as well. Wizards don’t pay attention to House Elves, and they
don’t pay attention to Goblins, and they didn’t pay attention to
Giants, and they don’t pay attention to Squibs. I figured you might
appreciate having a willing ear, for once.”
“Goblins,” said Filch.
“Giants. House Elves. And Squibs, eh? Comparing me to them. Hmph. Well,
I might turn up. I might not.” He sneered. “I could be really nasty,
and prevent you from going at all. I could shout to the castle and say
that the madgirl had finally snapped and was attacking portraits, or
something. Heh. But if I did that, I’d lose Blaise as a friend.”
“Does that mean I can go?”
gave her a penetrating stare. “You’re a Wizard, Jones. You can do what
you want. You can always do what you want. And I can’t. Go to bed. I’ll
see you tomorrow evening.”
had plucked a single Mandrake leaf, and held it cupped in the palm of
her hands as she strode through the upper corridor with Sparrow. Cormac
had elected to wear his formal robes for the occasion, and had felt
silly when Jill had told him he looked overdressed, until Violet elected
to wear her formal robes as well. Jocasta had bags under her eyes, for
she had not slept all the previous night, instead lying awake in fear
The children made their way down the upper
corridor, glancing glumly out the windows, for this night was also
rainy. They had been informed by Sparrow that there was a way to clear
the air and let the moon shine down, yet she would not tell them what it
was, until Jocasta had reminded her of her promise to communicate. And
so the children were marching towards the dragon tower, knowing of
Sparrow’s plan but not believing very much that it would work. Dragons
were not, in any way, obedient creatures. There was a reason they were
considered Class XXXXX, “extremely dangerous and untameable”. It was
only Sparrow’s skill with a shield that led any of them to believe they
would survive the encounter.
There was a ghostly light in the hall. Argus Filch was floating there.
The children waited, wondering what he would do.
“You’re still invited,” said Sparrow. “Will you come?”
I come,” said Argus Filch. “Will I come. To an event. Hm. No student,
no teacher, no ghost ever asked me that question. I’ve never had to
“So what’s your answer?”
It was for Filch to float through a wall, and out into the rain.
The children continued, having no idea if that was a good or a bad sign.
And so they came to the Dragon Tower, a black shape looming in the gloom.
“This was supposed to be a peaceful occasion,” said Violet. “Are you sure we can’t do this on another night?”
muggle astronomy reports say the full moon is tonight,” said Cormac.
“Tomorrow night the moon won’t be full enough. It has to be now. But,
that’s assuming the plan works.”
“Shouldn’t be too much trouble,” said Sparrow. “As long as Blaise knows what they’re doing. As long as they’re here. ”
door to the tower creaked open. From within spilled an orange light,
and within the doorframe was silhouetted the long cape and pointy hat of
the one whom Sparrow had been trying to reach for so long.
been waiting to see you again,” said Blaise. “Too long. Filch told me
that you thought I wouldn’t show up if it was raining. Is that what he
“He implied it!”
“A merry prank,” said Jocasta.
“But I’m not feeling merry, because the wind is cold and the rain is
cold and can we get inside please?”
Blaise stepped aside, and the
children entered the tower. As they passed, Sparrow hung behind, until
only her and Blaise were left. Then she whispered her plan in Blaise’s
ear, and hoped that they would acquiesce, for this was, in fact, the
first chance she’d had to speak to them in while.
their part, sounded amused. “To use dragons,” they whispered, “in a
manner not magical but scientific. Clever girl. Well, I can ask them to
try. It ought to work. Come on.”
Sparrow and Blaise entered the tower.
ceiling was lost to view. Its walls were bare stone. If there had been
any cloth upon those walls, it had since been burned off, for the stone
had enough scorch marks to look like the back wall of a fireplace. And
there were dragons, on the high stone balconies, dragons enough to make
Sparrow’s head spin as she tried to count them all. It was tricky
because they kept flying from one perch to the next. Sparrow had the
feeling they were restless after the months of rain.
The very walls above them were covered with dragons of all shapes and sizes. Black Hebrideans, Sparrow could
identify those, and Welsh Greens, sure enough, but what were the ones
that were smaller than the Hebrideans, and silver, and rotund? What were
the ones that were long and narrow and breathed purple flame? What were
the ones with blue scales and golden wings?
Was that a single massive eye in the darkness above?
“Blaise,” said Jocasta. “Have you been experimentally breeding dragons? How naughty.”
put up their hands. “Not my fault. I had nothing to do with it. Dragons
came here to stay and here they breed. Anyway. Come sit by the fire.”
was a large bonfire in the center of the room. Sparrow peered around
it, and discovered to her shock that a large white dragon, with a head
the size of a sheep, had been resting here on the floor the entire time.
She watched it snore and snort, as if dreaming, and with each snort it
breathed a bit of flame. Thus the bonfire was kept lit. Blaise went over
to the dragon, tickled it under the chin, and whispered into its ear.
It opened one eye, and seemed to grin. Then it went back to sleep again.
Around the fire were arranged logs, as if people were meant to sit here and talk and sing campfire songs.
Miranda sat upon one of the logs. “Nice touch,” she said. “Were you expecting guests at some point?”
really,” said Blaise. “You know how shut up I am. I just felt like it
needed seating, you know? Something to turn a bare and utilitarian fire
into a friendly bonfire. Sometimes you make things or buy things as a
matter of speculation, in the hope that you will find a friend to share
them with…And yet my only friends have been Violet, who I see little of
these days, and Argus, who doesn’t need a chair anyway. What a treat to
have you all here.”
The rest of the children sat around the fire,
Sparrow alone electing to sit close to the dragon. “Oh goodness,” said
Jocasta, scooting over to Sparrow and clinging to her arm, “My brave
knight, my one true love, save me from the dragon!”
said Sparrow. “Fair Maiden, thou art safe with me. Take comfort in mine
mighty arms.” She draped a scrawny arm around Jocasta.
“Ahem,” said Blaise. “There are many stories to tell tonight.”
“I’m getting cold feet,” said Sparrow.
“So stick them in the fire and talk,” said Jocasta.
said Blaise. “We’re here to listen, not to beat out confessions. If
Sparrow doesn’t want to go first, then maybe someone else is willing. If
no one is, we can still enjoy the fire, and wait for the moon to show
its face. Should I go first?”
“I will,” said Jocasta. “It’s kind
of my fault we’re here anyway. Well. You might say it’s my father’s
fault.” She lifted Sparrow’s arm off her shoulder, and stood, gaze fixed
upon the fire, the light of the flame dancing in her dark eyes. Her
expression was grim, as if all the humor she carried was draining out of
“My father. Not my Dad, but my father. Rodolphus Carrow, neé
Rosier, who married Hestia Carrow. I’m the grandchild of Amycus Carrow.
Yes indeed, that man. The man who ruled this school when Voldemort
ruled the ministry, the man who used the Cruciartus curse upon students.
My father always said the students must have earned it, somehow, but he
wouldn’t say how.”
“Nee Rosier?” said Cormac.
into the Carrow family and they weren’t going to let him forget it. They
invoked an ancient Wizarding custom where spouses dueled each other and
the winner got to keep their surname. He lost, so Carrow he became. As
for his own ancestry, well. There was the Rosier family, of course. But
he had been born of a mother who claimed to be descended both from
Lisette de Lapin and Morrigan, two different legendary animagi. Well,
maybe his mother was off her rocker, but it hardly matters, because
Father took up the supposed legacy, and became an animagus himself. A
wolf. He was very proud of that. He decided that I, a girl of ten years
There was a collective gasp.
“ – yes, before I even made it to Hogwarts – would follow in his footsteps.
didn’t want to. But. I lived in the Carrow manor along with my father,
and there were things in the basement, the sorts of things parents
threaten their children with, only these were real. There were things on
the walls that would whisper my name if I disobeyed my father. There
were portraits of ancient family members who would inform on me if I
stepped out of line. I felt like I had no choice but to give in.
his part, my father did everything in his power to make the process of
becoming an animagus easy for me. He stuck the mandrake leaf under my
tongue with a simple little sticking charm, and he brewed the potion
himself. The trickiest part was finding dew that had lain in darkness
untouched for seven days, but he managed it. And he made sure that the
moon shone full and clear in one month and the next by blasting the
clouds with wind. And when it came to the recitation, he would wake me
every morning, without fail, and make me recite the animo anima. He tried, he really did.
blame him for the fact that I turn into a fly, not simply because of
the sticking charm. That might have something to do with it. But, if
being an animagus reflects one’s personality, well…I had been raised to
be a fearful little worm in the first place, by that house, by the
Carrows, who were fond of the whip, and by my father, whose implied
threats were enough to terrify me.
“I don’t know if I should
regret becoming an animagus. In some ways the whole thing was entirely
out of my hands, so why live with guilt that I don’t deserve? And yet,
the business may yet cause me trouble, because my father –” Jocasta
turned her head to meet Sparrow’s gaze. “I told you that my registration
was uncertain. My father did not wish to register me. He said it would
spoil the whole thing, to be a publicly known animagus. But, perhaps
to sabotage him, or perhaps because she was immensely proud of my
accomplishment, Grandmother Impedimenta went and registered me anyway.”
Jocasta turned back to the fire. “Father was furious. He went to the
ministry and tried to erase my name from the register. Literally, he
tried to erase my name from the page. And he succeeded…somewhat…but the
page itself was, in fact, rather tenacious, and would not give up
easily. So Father quietly had the registrar promoted to a distant
office, got a friend of his to be the registrar, and had the man erase
my name whenever it showed up on the page again.
“If you go to the
register and you’re lucky, which is to say I’m unlucky, my name will be
there because old Mundungus hasn’t got around to erasing it again. But
most days of the week I’m unregistered. I guess, if the Ministry ever
does come sniffing around, I can get Mundungus to stop erasing the name,
and avoid being tossed into Azkaban. Maybe that’s a good thing. In some
ways I’d rather be registered, because when I’m a fly I’m
stealthy enough that being unregistered feels redundant. On the other
hand, I have the element of surprise right now.” Jocasta shrugged.
think, when it comes down to it, that my behavior at this school has
always been a matter of just how much I could get away with. Any time I
might face consequences, I could run. Any place I wanted to go, I could
go. I never faced…any real discipline. Until this year, I suppose. Until
I realized that I’d hurt someone I cared about. I’m sorry for that.”
Jocasta let go of Sparrow and walked around the fire to Jill. She laid a
kiss upon Jill’s head. “And that’s my life.” She turned towards the
gathered circle. “Does anyone want a big fancy manor full of dark
artifacts? Bidding starts at a sickle and goes up by knuts.”
“Your father is nuts,” said Cormac.
“Yes, Cormac, that was the point of my story.”
resist the pun,” said Cormac. “Do you know how long I’ve wanted to make
that pun? We call our smallest coin a “nut” and yet I haven’t been able
to find any opportunity to make a good pun with it. It’s been so
“Same,” said Sparrow. “Imagine growing up with
pounds and pennies and learning that Wizard coins are called ‘nuts’. It
was the greatest day of my life. I shall use that memory to cast a
Patronus someday. Talking of which, Cormac. You look like you want to
“I didn’t think you had any sensitive stories to share.”
wouldn’t call it sensitive,” said Cormac. “Just painful. Yeah okay I
guess that’s sensitive. Anyway! Speaking of surprise, are any of you
surprised that my surname is ‘McKinnon?’ Does that name, perchance, ring
any bells? Hmmmmm?”
“The first Wizarding War,” said Violet. “All the McKinnons were killed.”
“So where’d you come from?”
me put it this way. The first Wizarding War, for all that it was a
terrifying ordeal, was limited in scope. Voldemort said he wanted to
rule the world, and yet his actions never crossed the pond. He never
made any moves in the Americas. No idea why. Well, that was fortunate
for my branch of the McKinnon family, who lived in Chicago.
McKinnons of Chicago are ruled – I shouldn’t say ruled, that’s
un-American, but I’m saying it anyway – by my great-grandmother Grainne,
who always said to me that the McKinnons belong in the Isles of old,
that they belong to the isles, that the isles belong to them. Well, that
all seems a trifle arrogant, and to tell you the truth I never much
felt of a personal connection to Ireland, nor to England. North America
was my home and is my home.”
Sparrow looked puzzled. “But you’re here, in Scotland. Is Hogwarts not your home?”
a physical basis yes. On an emotional level? I am torn. If I could pick
up Hogwarts and place it outside of Chicago then I would be entirely
satisfied. I do not wish to be away from the Americas. I did not wish to
come here. I feel…not merely stifled, but segregated artificially.”
“Now hang on a moment,” said Sparrow. “Last month you told me that this segregation was a good thing.”
implied it”, said Cormac. “Sorry about that. I was trying to warn you
about how dangerous it was to act against Muggles too openly and I
couldn’t tell you the whole truth about my own behavior so I wound up
sounding like I enjoyed the whole business of Wizarding secrecy. I
don’t, as it happens. I just understand why it exists.
is, I was exiled from my homeland by my own grandmother. Not for
breaking the Statute of Secrecy, exactly, but for being too eager to show muggles
my abilities up close. See, the reason I know muggle songs is because I
have engaged with them on a regular basis --
“You what!” said Jocasta.
come off it,” said Cormac. “Plenty of Wizards do the same thing here.
It’s just that here the Wizard life is kept separate and hidden but in
the western hemisphere…not quite so much. There’s a lot of open space in
those lands. In any land, really, but – in England you have your little
towns crowded together, little cities crowded together, and it’s a
complicated explanation of why but the short version is that when the
local Lord owns all the land you don’t get to buy individual plots.
Meanwhile the countries of the Americas – okay, the settler-colony
countries of the Americas – grew up with a culture of individual land
ownership where everyone had a lot of their own space. The joke about
Daniel Boone is that he would move away whenever his neighbors started
to live closer than five miles from his place. Or maybe that wasn’t
Daniel Boone. The point is, what I hear everyone talking about this
Statute of Secrecy business…for most of my life so far it hasn’t been
part of my experience, not as closely as it is now.
“See, you get
yourself a culture where people are real spread out, and you wind up
with Wizards who personally own vast tracts of land where they can do
whatever the hell they want. So you don’t have to be real careful about
keeping magic secret. If y’all want to run off over them hills yonder – ”
“I can’t tell what he’s saying,” said Jocasta.
“I think that’s an American accent,” said Miranda.
– then y’all can have a blast. If any folks hear the noise,
well, some of them will know what’s up and some of them will think it’s a
science experiment. No muss, no fuss, just make sure you clean up the
mess, and if any ‘muggle’ sees you, just tell them it’s all a magic
trick. That ain’t no lie.” Cormac winked. “Just not the whole truth. And
it’s always worked. Even in the years when the Americas were full of
many more people than they are now, you could go to the places where
folks lived most densely, and still find countless houses with backyards
“Back what now?” said Jocasta.
“Backmeters,” said Miranda. “Americans use yards.”
right we do!” said Cormac. “For cookouts and football and lawn darts
and whatnot. You could find countless houses with backyards big enough
to hide smaller magical activity. You could sit out on the back porch
and wave your wand to light a brazier, and there wouldn’t be a muggle
close enough to be certain of what you were doing, even if they were
looking in your direction. At least that’s what my grandmother told me. Do what you want in your own backyard if it's quiet and small.
in the back country, maybe you could do a few magic tricks for your
non-magical friends and call it a magic trick without explaining the
details, because a magician never reveals the secret of a trick, right?
Technically the law says you’re not supposed to do magic in front of
‘muggles’ but the Continental Congress doesn’t really enforce that law. I
think they’ve got one guy in a small office who’s in charge of
enforcement. For the entire continent. I’ve never had anyone from the
Congress breathing down my neck about that. Never even met one of them.
isn’t exactly a crowded city either. We’re huddled at the shore of Lake
Michigan but out beyond the Chicago River the buildings are mostly
abandoned, slowly reclaimed year by year. If I wanted to cross the river
I could find plenty of places to play at magic. Easy enough to get into
an abandoned building when the boards over the doors are rotten, and if
anyone passing by sees weird flashes of light, they decide that it’s
precisely why they don’t cross the river willingly. I sometimes wonder
if all the older kids with their wands are the reason Chicago residents
don’t reclaim their old territory quite as fast.
“Then again the
shadows sometimes have critters in them that would make your skin crawl,
and it’s Granny leading the Chicago Wizards to chase them away so that
folks can settle across the river.”
“Wizards helping muggles?” said Jocasta. “Why on earth would they do that?”
it’s Chicagoans helping Chicagoans,” said Cormac. “My Granny’s a
Chicagoan born and bred as she says, even if she talks a lot of guff
about being Pure Irish. And so am I. Our neighbors are neighbors, magic
or no magic. I’ve always felt like the business of magic was a family
business the same way a farm might be, even if it was supposed to be
kept quiet. Never felt like it was some kind of…ethnicity. Here in
Britain Wizards act like it’s some kind of tribe and they talk about
Wizarding Britain and Muggle Britain like they’re two different worlds.”
Filch floated through the wall, startling everyone into falling off their seat.
thought you weren’t coming,” said Sparrow, as she picked herself up.
“But welcome to the circle of blood traitors. What took you so long?”
to convince the castle ghosts to stay away tonight. I said I’d inform
on you for them. Didn’t say if I’d tell ‘em the truth. Heh. Don’t thank
me, just doing my job. Anyway, Cormac, you’re right about Wizards and
Muggles being two different worlds here. And where does that leave a
“Torn apart?” said Cormac.
“Used to be literally.”
Cormac looked puzzled, then horrified.
Filch grinned. “You don’t know what Wizards do to Squibs?”
“I…should expect that they treat them like part of the family. Because that’s what they are. What on earth did – ”
“Later,” said Filch. “Later. Get on with your own story first.”
shook himself, and said, “Right. My world wasn’t strictly segregated. I
didn’t even learn the word ‘muggle’ until Granny yelled at me for doing
magic too close to people. So. I grew up around kids who had magic and
kids who didn’t, and I was told that the ones without magic would be
real jealous so I shouldn’t show off in front of them. For while that
explanation worked. I didn’t want to be mean.
“But then I got to
thinking…so many of my neighbors without magic were struggling. Trying
to find good sources of water, trying to grow food where they could or
get it from farms farther out, getting sick from contaminated food or
water or some such thing that Muggle Magic could have taken care of in
the old days. They don’t have as much access to that stuff now because
most of it goes to the rich folks on Goose Island in the river. And
Granny used to tell me that kids used to have safe concrete pools where
they could learn to swim, and now they have to learn to swim in the lake
or the river, so now and then a kid drowns just for trying. Or a creaky
building falls on someone and the doctor can set the bone but there’s
none of these fancy painkillers for us, just cheap old Novacaine stolen
from shipments going to Goose Island, so when it comes to dental work
we’re all set but otherwise we’re out of luck. And if someone is
diabetic they’re not long for this world, and if a child is born with a body too crooked they don't live. Is it like that in London?”
got proper medicine in London,” said Sparrow. “The city government is a
tangled mess but they try to distribute medicine properly at least.
What kind of terrible government do you have?”
“In Chicago? We’ve
got the rich folks on Goose Island promising to protect us from northern
raiders but Granny says a raid hasn’t come from the north in two
decades. We’ve got City Hall that gets paid off by the rich folks.
Otherwise we just kind of get by and people settle their larger disputes
with fistfights. Getting to my point – I got to thinking that if we had
all this magic we ought to help our neighbors more than we do. Purify
their water and shore up old walls and set their bones and put out fires
and maybe even do that openly.
“But Granny wouldn’t have it.
Granny knows that there are blame mean people out there, preying on
small towns, swooping in to grab the food and slaughter the folks, out
beyond Chicagoland. They did used to come down from the north. She told
me there are plenty of places where people were fighting their small
wars over territory, like they used to before the States united
themselves and settled everything down. She told me she knew that if
Wizards got to being honest about their business then everyone would
want to use them as soldiers in their silly little wars, and you’d have
Wizard against Wizard.
“That shut me up for a while but I kept asking
her, and then on my eleventh birthday I got myself a wand and I went
and did magic in front of my neighbors and told them that magic was
real, not a trick. And Granny dragged me home by the ear and told me I
was not to spill Wizard Secrets in front of muggles again.
next time I did, Granny decided it was high time I visit the Enchanted
Isles and learn proper Wizarding secrecy at the world’s best school of
magic. She told me that it would be best for me, if I was so eager, to
learn at a formal magic school instead of by random tutoring the way
most learned. Like my father had done before me. So she put me in a boat
on the pier, we sailed to Green Bay and picked up a port key from
there, and…there I was, standing on a train platform in front of the
train, didn’t know what the hell a train was, didn’t know where Granny
had gone. I got on the train because everyone else was getting on it
and…here I am now.
“I tried to go home for the holidays the first
year because Granny said she’d be there for me in Green Bay. So I took
the port key back. But Granny wasn’t there for me.
So I stole a
broom and travelled where I wanted. Saw a group of people shooting at a
farmhouse and I saw the farmer’s wife get shot – ”
Violet gasped. “You told me your first Christmas home was boring.”
being honest tonight. Anyway I tried to swoop down to help her but I
think one of the raiders shot me. I woke up in some random field far
away with Granny standing over me and she said, Cormy, you didn’t even
wait ten minutes for me to reach the port did you. And I said no. And
she said Cormy, I’ve been on your tail for the last three hours but you
stole a faster broom than I did. And I said thanks. And she said Cormy,
you done messed up this time, I had to blow apart one of them raiders to
save you and now everyone will know magic tricks aren’t just tricks, so
maybe you ought to stay across the sea until you’re older. And I said
Granny, you can kiss my ass.
“So I’m exiled here. I don’t go home
for the holidays because I can’t. Sometimes I like being in this castle
because I can do all the magic I want but…I could do that before without
having stupid rules about bedtimes and mealtimes and class schedules.
Bleh. I don’t really like sticking around here over the holidays but…I
can’t go home, can’t stay here. I said my home is in North America but
right now, I’m not sure where home is.”
“My house,” said Violet. “You’ve been there for two Christmases running.”
enough. I like your folks. They’re nice people. Just a little…well not
more strident about this Statute of Secrecy business than anyone else,
but I sure feel stifled. I’m used to running wild. So. Sparrow.” Cormac
stood with a fierce gleam in his eyes. “I’m as restless as you are. Once
upon a time I was free, and I’ve been caged by the culture I was tossed
into, caged by fear and secrecy and lies, and if I tell you to follow
the laws it’s because I’ve seen what muggles can do after all. So now I
don’t know about breaking the silence. If y’all want to get into this
Animagus business -- ”
“What exactly does that word mean?” said Jocasta.
“You all,” said Miranda.
“ – Then I’ll follow soon as it looks safe. And sometimes I think the rest of y’all are nuts – ”
“Wait,” said Jocasta, “is that word singular or plural?”
“It’s complicated,” said Miranda. “You wouldn’t get it.”
“What, am I thick as Tewksbery Mustard?”
– but y’all’re my kind of nuts. So maybe home is where my friends are,
and I do for you like I wanted to do for Chicago. Maybe that means
warning y’all away from trying what I wanted to try. But I like the idea
of running around asking people instead of just giving them something
they don’t want. And if they say no it’s a load off my mind! So I’m in
on this whole thing for now.”
Cormac sat. For a few seconds no one spoke.
“My turn?” said Violet.
“Please,” said Jocasta.
Well.” Violet stood, and glanced at Cormac. “I think Cormac did a lot
of my work for me here. I have also felt stifled, in my own way. Not in
the way of a free person suddenly bound, but in the way of a child who
grows up feeling caged from the beginning. My story is…not as sensitive
as Cormac’s. I am connected to my childhood home and to my world. Nor am
I a McKinnon, nor a Carrow. Just a boring old Brown.
“If I had
been entirely content with this I would have nothing to say. But, as I
said, I felt caged from the beginning. To begin with I am disconnected
from the side of my family that knows nothing of Wizards. Jill, you are
of mixed heritage yourself, correct? Perhaps you know this feeling.”
a certain extent,” said Jill. “I see my father’s side of the family
frequently but not on a consistent basis, and when I am there I have to
remember how to wash dishes without magic. Can’t break the law, right?”
Or else the Ministry comes down on you. This was impressed to me from
an early age. I go to the house of my father’s father and I don’t know
what to do because I’m so used to doing things with magic.”
“You’re a little spoiled,” said Cormac.
enough. But the silence is the worst part. I don’t know what to say
because I can’t describe what my school is like, what I want to do with
my life, where I want to go…I sit in silence and let everyone think I’m
trying to be rude. And it’s hard on my father because he can’t explain
anything either. And he can’t explain a single one of my mother’s family
relations to his own side of the family so the two sides never ever
“I know that if I do magic in front of the toddlers they
would love it. But no. Too bad. And when I go home, I can’t do magic,
because I’m underage. Pfeh. If I was in North America maybe I would feel
as though the world was stretched too thin, but at home I feel like I’m
squashed short. Because I’m underage for doing magic anywhere but
Hogwarts. If I do it in the privacy of my own home the Ministry is like POOF ‘naughty naughty naughty!’ POOF. What a bunch of nosy parkers they are.
in the years when Cormac was getting restless about doing good things
for muggles, I was getting angry that magic was rare. Blaise, I’m still
sorry about setting the curtains on fire.”
enough times,” said Blaise. “I could tell that you had a lot on your
mind. But why did you take a year to tell me what it was?”
shrugged. “I wasn’t certain that I was right about the matter being
unfair. Maybe it was good that few people had magic if a Wizard was
going to burn stuff by accident. But what I’ve seen of muggles in
London, what I’ve seen of the world…I’m leaning towards the idea that I
was right after all. I had always hoped that muggles could know the
delights of what I could do. I was dismayed to think that they never
“Is that why you wandered out alone at night when Father told you not to?”
wanted to see the stars, that’s all. I was wondering whether we could
have reached them by now, if we all had magic at our disposal.
truth be told, I was getting into some dangerous business that I didn’t
want to drag you into. Because I started thinking about the nature of
magic itself. Wondering how to find the truth of it, how to change it.
My father told me it was something for the Department of Mysteries, and
that I should not speak of such things loudly. I have kept my mouth shut
since then. But in my silence I have been studious. And now, Sparrow,
you have an idea of who gets the library books before you do. Not that I
managed to save any from being removed to the Ministry, more’s the
“Really,” said Sparrow. “Did you check out the second volume of the Granger And Snape book of potion craft?”
Violet shook her head. “I’ve been waiting to see that one returned for ages.”
“Oh dear,” said Miranda. “Whenever it does return, both of you shall have to race for it.”
we can share it,” said Violet, “like sensible people. Talking of sense,
I did much as Cormac did, and learned forbearance over the years, as I
began to understand the differences between the Wizarding world and the
world of muggles. I have been informed that muggle magic seems to break
down in the presence of Wizardry. This is not quite accurate, or else
Wizards would never be able to turn on an electric light. But it is true
that you can’t get a muggle radio to work at Hogwarts. Maybe it’s the
sheer concentration of magic here that messes things up.”
sense to me,” said Cormac. “If Muggle Magic works through subatomic
particles and Wizard magic ignores the laws of physics, a concentration
of Wizard magic will mess with the proper function of subatomic
particles. Maybe by shoving them out of the way, or something.”
“Subawhat?” said Jocasta.
“You need to pay attention in Muggle Studies,” said Cormac.
“No I don’t.”
of the matter aside,” said Violet, “the fact is that I have been trying
to find the truth of the matter without assuming that I ought to do
anything with it yet. And here comes good old Sparrow Jones saying hey
hey hey, let’s turn all the muggles into wizards, what could possibly go
wrong! So I’m just as tempted as Cormac to follow you into that mess
and just as wary. Does anyone remember Oprah?”
Everyone shook their heads.
used to be a television show host and there was this one time she gave
everyone in the audience a free Automobile. Everyone was overjoyed until
they realized that she forgot to pay the taxes for them, so everyone
wound up paying thousands of dollars after all. Whoopsy-daisy, right?
That’s what you get for making things a big surprise without considering
things carefully ahead of time.”
“I have received similar
warnings from my parents,” said Sparrow. “About barging into a situation
and trying to fix things your way without asking.”
parents are wise. For my part, the conclusion about space travel that I
came to is based on what I see at this school. Candles, quills,
carriages – ”
“British Wizards are highly hidebound,” said Cormac.
“But only British?”
“Well – ”
“Because I have certainly never heard of your wild American Wizards sending a rocket to the moon.”
“Well not yet,” said Cormac, “But we’ve never considered it.”
Violet pointed to the ceiling. “All manner of flying creatures at our
disposal and no Wizard has tried it? All manner of magic and no Wizard
has considered it? Wizards the world over are hidebound. I think the
magic does everything for us, so we don’t try any wild adventure because
we’re content with what we have.”
“Come now,” said Jocasta. “The Department of Mysteries investigates things all the time.”
“And tells us how much of it?”
sighed. “Just proving my point, I suppose. We’re happy and lazy.
Meanwhile muggles have no magic, so they have many challenges and they
have to solve them as they can, and out of their restless striving they
do great things like reach the moon. So, Sparrow, if you were to turn
all the muggles into Wizards tomorrow, you would erase a world of
challenges and triumph for the sake of a world at lease, and we would
all lose something important.”
“You sound like the Headmistress,” said Sparrow. “Have you been talking to her?”
once in my entire life,” said Violet. “Too nervous, I suppose. And my
grades are perfect, so I don’t have to explain anything to her. And I’m
making dangerous inquiries, so I probably shouldn’t be talking to her.
But then here you are, also making dangerous inquiries, and she didn’t
expel you yet…so maybe I could talk to her after all? The point is! I
don’t want to switch the world from muggle to Wizard magic because I
don’t want to lose their way of doing things. I’d like to be able to
work with them. And maybe we can reach the stars together.”
“Big plans,” said Cormac. “I like that.”
“Bigger than you can handle,” said Miranda.
part at a time,” said Violet. “The first part is getting into the
fundamentals of magic, and I’m getting there. Second part is doing
diplomacy. I’m in this whole business because Sparrow’s come up with a
way to do that quietly. Before she started this crazy Animagus scheme I
couldn’t think of a way to talk to muggles without bringing the Ministry
down on my head. So thanks for that, Sparrow, and Jocasta, I think this
was your idea so thank you as well.”
“Are you sure?” said
Jocasta. “You were the one who introduced Sparrow to your sibling in the
first place. I think that got the ball rolling for a few different
“Blame aside,” said Violet, “you now have the story of my
life.” She sat back at her place on the log. “Who wants to go next?
Jill, do you have a story?”
“I wouldn’t call it a story,” said
Jill. “More like an explanation for my fury. I’ve been hurt, a lot.
And…if were were going to work with muggles like Violet says, I’d prefer
we talk to everyone besides the people in charge, because elders always fail me. So, to begin with, understand one thing.”
She stood, and stared at the flames. “I burn.”
The flames grew higher.
was a girl. In a muggle school. Yes, I went to a muggle school.
Grandmother Padma insisted. She wanted me to have a basic elementary
education. Reading, Riting, Rithmetic. Fair enough.”
“I’m supposed to call this a surprise?” said Cormac. “It sounds like you’re telling me you tie your shoelaces.”
unusual for Wizarding Britain,” said Jill. “Most Wizard children are
tutored at home before going to Hogwarts. But, I was sent to School. And
in my school, in my fourth year, there was a girl.”
“Was she pretty?” said Jocasta.
as you. So, I wanted to get to know her better. But. For whatever
reason, she hated me. Or…maybe she didn’t. Maybe she just didn’t care.
Either way, she…did the sort of things to me that children do before
they’ve learned how to play nice. Only, by my age she should have
learned. So, you know, pulling hair, tripping me, stealing my
belongings. It had to have been deliberate, in the way a toddler’s
“I put up with it for a year, trying not to lash
out at her. But it was getting worse. She was clever. She would frame me
for certain things like breaking windows. My reputation at the school
was suffering. And when I would try to enlist the aid of a teacher, she
would say that the situation was my fault.
“And they believed her.
Because in front of them, in front of almost everyone, she was a sweet
little angel who never did anything wrong. They turned their backs and
her claws came out. Every time. I think she had a lot of fun tormenting
me. I think that was the point.
“I was fully prepared to put up
with this. But. My reputation at school was suffering. The teachers were
turning on me, reporting bad behavior to my parents. It was quite a bit
of work to convince Mum and Dad that I was not, in fact, a wild child.
And the students were turning on me as well. They didn’t trust me. They
started to kick me, call me names.
“There was one
child, one brave little boy, who stood by me through all of it. A child
named Benjamin Grey. I loved him for his bravery, and I think he loved
“And the girl who had tormented me for so long saw this. And one day she began to go after him as well.
that was the last day she did so, for in the very moment when she began
to accuse Benjy of stepping on a frog, I knocked that girl clear across
the courtyard. It was the first magic I’d ever done, and I
was…terrified. But I was thrilled. And I turned to the other
students…and all of them, even Benjy, shied away from me.
girl herself hit a tree branch. She suffered some fractured ribs, a
concussion, a lost tooth, a sprained ankle, and she probably has mental
scars to this day.
“I was pulled out of school. Well. I was
expelled. But Grandmother elected to tutor me in my remaining years
before entering Hogwarts. And she kept me cooped up at the Warren. I was
quite a bit put out, over being confined, but then, for her it made
sense to avoid letting a little firecracker out into the world. I had
already suffered quite the stern lecture from the Ministry until
Grandmother assured them she had things under control. Still, I’ve
resented my grandmother since then, and my parents, to a certain extent,
for putting me in that school.
“Am I under control now? I don’t
know. If I had to pick a happiest memory to use for a Patronus spell,
knocking that little bitch across the courtyard would be right up
there.” She looked up, and met Sparrow’s eyes, and Jocasta’s in turn.
“Thank God I have happier memories now.” She looked down at the fire
“When it comes down to changing the world, there are many
people who have not paid for their crimes, even the crimes of decades
ago. I worry that, in the name of serving justice to these people, I
would be willing to blast muggle institutions to pieces, as old
Grindlewald once tried. I don’t care what my parents say. I don’t care what the Ministry says. No teacher was ever
on my side, when I was suffering my long night of the soul. They can go
jump in a lake. But.” Jill met Sparrow’s gaze. “If I did. I’m sure
there are people that I would disappoint. How many times have I said to
think of what other people are thinking? Well, now I have to follow my
own advice. A sword wielded with love can do good things, if swung in
the right place, at the right time. A sword swung in revenge, though…”
revenge is like a big rock that drops into the sea,” said Sparrow. “The
splash will sweep away people on far distant shores that you didn’t
“No doubt. There will come a time, soon, when my
particular expertise is needed. I can hope that such a day will never
come, but on the path we are taking, it may be that all the dark powers
of the world will stand against us. So. If you need me, then, I will be
there, as Benjamin was for me. If you say I must go, if you think I am
too dangerous for your goals, I will break my wand, and go. If an
innocent person comes to harm because of me, I will break my wand, and
go. I do not wish to be the sort of person who, in their utter moral
righteousness, decides that a whole world has to be violently forced to
change. Tens of millions, hundreds of millions of people have been
killed that way. There’s plenty of people who did awful things to
uncountable people because they thought it was for the greater good.
I will be, though, is precise. I will be unflinching, and ruthless. I
will be the sword. Sparrow, do not feel that you need to cast curses of
any kind. Leave that to me. I’m the bad cop, not you. Are we in
“If you would be the bad cop,” said Sparrow, “always
remember me. Remember that we are not only doing this out of love, we
are doing this for love, and we are doing this with
love. If we are to do anything it must be with all gentleness and peace
possible. If people are to survive our ambitions we must always remember
that. Are we in agreement?” Sparrow looked around the circle. Everyone
nodded, even Jill.
The firey girl sat back down, and the flames subsided, lower than they had been. Jill had used up quite a bit of the fuel.
said Sparrow, “who have we left out. Miranda?” She turned to the girl
who was still holding a mandrake leaf in her hand. “Got any sad stories
“Not anything I’m willing to explain in detail,” said
Miranda. “And I shouldn’t have stayed here in the room while you all
started talking about the Statute of Secrecy. I’ve been compromised.
Blaise, why don’t you tell your story?”
“Sheesh,” said Blaise. “I
never thought much about the statute. My world is the world of dragons,
not of muggles and Wizards. I can’t say whether or not it’s a good thing
that the dragons are kept hidden. I’d rather they be able to migrate
with the seasons, you know? And me with them. Maybe I’d just…do that,
and hang the consequences. But the Ministry would have wizards
obliviating muggles, wherever we went, and that’s. Well. At best it’s
“There are a fair few cruelties in the world of
Wizards, enough that I stick to the dragons up here. As for what
happened to me, one wonders if I could blame Wizards for it, or people
“I am the middle child in my family, where Violet is
the youngest and Scarlett is long since gone to the Ministry. I came to
this school about ten years ago, having felt middling my whole life.
Indeed I even felt middling between being boy and girl, and never picked
one or the other. None had forced me to choose, not Father, not Mother,
not Scarlett, not Violet. The matter had never really arisen between
us. I’d like to think that’s all by-the-by but it did mean that I was
unprepared for a world where people do care about such things, and in
the ways people tried to steer me towards this group of friends or that
group of friends, I was very confused. I got scared and I thought that I
was supposed to have chosen my sex years ago, and I had somehow missed
the boat. Thank goodness for me that the Sorting Hat was able to sort me
out! It told me that the choice of house was more important than
details of sex. So, then and there, I refused to choose my sex, and I
was sorted into Gryffindor.”
“Wait,” said Jocasta. “Scarlett, Violet, Blaise. That last one doesn’t fit. What happened to your family’s naming scheme?”
“Oh, I changed it a while ago. I figured it was more appropriate to my state of being than what I had before.”
“So what was it then?”
“Irrelevant,” said Violet, glaring at Jocasta.
“Please,” said Blaise. “You need not defend me as stridently as you once did. I’ve got dragons for that now.”
Jocasta’s face paled, difficult as it was to make her face look any paler.
chuckled. “I jest. But it is true that I could have stood some sort of
defense when I was at the school, and I was sorry to be away from my
family, for there were too many who thought they knew what was best for
me and changed my shape to their liking, without asking. Magic makes
that easy, eh? It’s very good for the people who know what they wish,
and also very good for the people who wish to switch from one form to
another now and then, though only a Metapmorphmagus can do it in an
instant. For those who refuse to pick one or the other, as I did…this
was not something many people understood.
“So, Sparrow, Violet,
what both of you saw of my treatment at the school from my fifth year
onward was genteel in comparison to what came before. People had gotten
bored with me by then. Before that point…I remember a few times someone
held me down and cast spells upon me. It was not an enjoyable
experience. Not at all! It was the kind of experience that made me curse
the idea of magic altogether. My grades suffered terribly in the first
year of schooling. Would have been worse if the Headmistress hadn’t
sorted out the culprits properly. But she didn’t do it before I learned a
wrong lesson about the value of magic.”
“What value?” said Filch.
“Exactly,” said Blaise. “Not a good lesson but a lasting one. Took me a few years to let it go. In the meantime – ”
the meantime I was disappointed to see you getting into magic again,”
said Filch. “Why’d you hang around me so often if you were just going to
be a good little Wizard after all?”
“You know why. Why will you not admit it?”
I don’t believe you. Nobody’s a safe place. I’m not. I was the grouchy
old caretaker. Did all those insults mean nothing to you?”
did,” said Blaise. “But no matter how many times I sat in your office
and read old books, you never cast spells at me. So I felt safe around
“I couldn’t cast spells. You were taking advantage of my weakness.”
confiding in a fellow spirit, someone between two worlds like me. Come
on, Argus. You were a friend to me before you died. What caused you to
“Oh, I don’t know.” Filch shrugged. “Maybe it was
the part where the staircase shifted and made me trip over the railing,
so that hitting the floor knocked that memory out of my head, along with
everything else. Ooh, I bet if I had been a Wizard I would have been
safe – ”
“Not likely,” said Jocasta. “There’s not many spells a wizard could use to save themselves from that fate.”
“I mean someone would have bothered to catch me.”
“Alright, that’s a fair point.”
“No it isn’t,” said Blaise. “This happened at the small hours of the morning.”
I was cleaning at the small hours of the morning because nobody bothers
to clean up their own messes around here when I can do it.”
“That’s a fair point.”
“Wait,” said Violet. “I tripped off the stairs once. They’re supposed to have spells to catch people. How did they miss you?”
“Judging by my family manor,” said Jocasta, “they don’t work on Muggles.”
An awkward silence hung in the air.
“Anyway,” said Filch, “this is your story, Blaise. Get on with it.”
Right. Well. I started hanging around Argus here like I said. He didn’t
exactly understand, at first, and kept shooing me out of his office.
Thought I was trying to steal things. But then I kept acting out
specifically to get detentions with Filch. Pushing people down flights
of stairs and attacking the portraits and writing stuff on the walls.
And so I’d get detentions with him, and he’d have me polish all the
trophies, or clean Slobberworm mucus down in the dungeons, or something
nasty. And I had the chance to speak with him.
“And I asked him,
what’s it like being a Squib, and he said it was like going to a
birthday party and everyone gets the guest prizes except you, and then
everyone makes fun of you for it, and isn’t it nice that old Dumbledore
gave him this job so he could get his revenge on the children of the
people who were nasty to him.
“Argus here has never been a nice
man. It’s hard to be nice when you’ve been kicked around like that. But
he didn’t kick me around, or insult me like the other students, or do
much of anything to me, and I thought, well, that’s better than naught.
And eventually, he did let me hang around his office. Taught me how to
do things the non-magical way. And he told me, sometimes, of what people
used to do to him. Things like – well. He enjoys describing them and I
“So for a few years we were kindred spirits, of a kind, and
then…I guess we weren’t. Once I started paying attention to my studies.
But Argus, you must remember that I never once did magic when I was in
your office. Even in later years.”
“Yeah, yeah. Right. Fair enough.”
you don’t have to be a Wizard to appreciate dragons, do you? Maybe if
you’d lived you could have rode with me, that first time.”
“I’m not crazy,” said Filch. “You are. To approach dragons like that so easily.”
someone had to,” said Blaise. “Someone had to be an ambassador. Or else
everyone here would feel like we’d been invaded. And I don’t hardly
mind it if the dragons want me to be more a part of their world than the
Wizarding world. Not after the way Wizards have treated me.”
“What are you,” said Miranda, “some kind of hostage for good behavior?”
say I’m a liason. But, now that you know how my tale ends, I have
little more to say. Filch, I think you have your own story to tell.”
“If a gaggle of Wizards wants to hear it.”
“You said you were saving it for later,” said Cormac.
“How much later?” said Filch. “I didn’t say that, did I? But if you look so eager, I’ll tell you.
told you about being torn apart. Bit of a joke, there. Nobody’s done
that to a Squib in ages and ages, as far as I know. But Dumbledore told
me that when he was a lad, Wizards would imprison their squib children.
Or kill them.”
“Don’t be surprised, boy.
We’re talking purebloods here. Devoted to Wizardry. Couldn’t handle
having a non-magical member of the family. It is what it is.”
“Well it shouldn’t be,” said Cormac. “And it isn’t where I come from!”
there and this is here. For what it’s worth…by the time I was a lad it
had been nearly a hundred years since that sort of thing was common.
Some Squib git had wrote a book about his life and the Wizards had read
it and cried, and said they would treat Squibs nicer.
tended to thrash me with a belt when I couldn’t do magic on her command.
Father hexed me with itching and tripped me up with invisible rope.
Lovely childhood. No Hogwarts, of course. My siblings went, I didn’t. I
could pass through the platform at 9 ¾, but the closest I would have
ever come to attending would have been the sorting hat telling me no. I
could pass into Diagon Alley, but what reason would I have to even go
“19th May 1968 was the only time before or since
that I have been in Diagon Alley. There was a march. A march of Squibs.
Must have been all of them in the Wizarding world, at least all the
ones who bothered to join that world. I was young, and there was some
fire in me. When someone told me that a bunch of Squibs, of all things,
were marching, well I had to see what was going on.
“And what a
sight it was. Signs like “we have rights” and “Squibs are people too.” I
hadn’t thought that was true. Mother had always told me I was a
pathetic little disappointment. Imagine having someone reach out their
hand to me and tell me that I was something after all.
being torn away from taking that hand. Aye, the
pureblood supremacists were hot in those years, full of more fire than
me, and what dragons they were, to breathe their fire on everyone. The
riot was all up and down Diagon Alley. The damages were in the hundreds
of thousands of galleons and there were at least three deaths. All
Squibs. They couldn’t defend themselves, I suppose.
“I’m told that
Borgin & Burke’s was untouched. Everywhere else, creatures had been
released from cages, books were scattered, windows were shattered,
magical fires raged. And who was prosecuted for it? Nobody. The Aurors
never caught anyone involved. Maybe they didn’t want to. And everyone
bamed the squibs for stirring up trouble. I lost a few friends because
they blamed me.
“Imagine going through all that, then having Wise
Old Dumbledore The Great offer you a job. At Hogwarts. To poor little
Argus from before the riot, it would have been the dream come true. To
poor little Filch from after the riot, it felt like a condescending
consolation prize. I took it. I had nothing else to look forward to. Had
quite a bit of fun, in the first years, doing as I pleased to the nasty
little Wizard children. Didn’t care much about who got the worst of it,
they were all the same.
“And I passed that way for many years. I
didn’t care about the Wizarding War. It was Wizards kicking each other
around. Not my problem. Maybe having fewer of their children around
would mean I had to clean less. And that Potter boy, the first one, he
caused me no end of trouble with his friends. My greatest triumph was
when I got that damned Marauder’s Map from them.
“Didn’t care a
whit for the second Potter boy either. Ooh, la-dee-da, he accidentally
killed the dark Lord. Pfeh. He didn’t do a thing for it, did he? Just
sat there and Voldemort slipped up and killed himself. Maybe the old
goat tripped on the carpet and pointed his wand at himself while he cast
the curse. Avada-ka-whoops.
“Didn’t care much about the second
Wizarding War, either. Same thing as the first. A war between Wizards.
Not my problem. Except when they went after the damned school, my
school. My home. That meant something to me. And they smashed quite a
bit of the stonework. Caused me no end of cleanup.
things quieted down again, until, I guess, the Muggle world quietly
crumbled while I wasn’t paying attention. Heh. Maybe it’s good to be a
squib after all. I had a place to retreat to and they didn’t. And I
lived in the usual way at Hogwarts, and the next generation of Potter’s
children and Weasley children caused the same trouble as ever, and I
figured that would be my life from then on.
“And then this little
git starts hanging around my office, asking me all kinds of questions I
didn’t want to answer. Wormed their way into my good graces, they did.
It’s like Blaise says. I liked to see that this little Wizard kid DIDN’T
want to take advantage of what magic could offer. A Hogwarts student
refusing magic, that was new. A Hogwarts student smashing things up
specifically to see me, that was strange. What would a little Wizard
child want with a 90-year-old Squib? To feel safe? Someone felt safe
around me? I’d spent an entire career building up a reputation
and where was this little twerp ignoring it. Well, fine. We got along.
Blaise learned how to sweep a floor without magic and I had someone to
talk to for once.
“I didn’t choose to stick around on earth
because of them. I’m still around because I only learned on my dying day
that there was something called the Society for the Protection of
Squibs. I was furious. Where had they been all my life? Had I missed
them because I was hanging around Hogwarts? Why had Dumbledore never
told me about them? Everything I thought I knew about Hogwarts was
turned upside down.
“So here I am, because I’m still angry. Still nice to talk to Blaise, though, when they’re available.”
“Hang on,” said Sparrow. “I never did get to hear why Blaise only shows up on the full moon.”
“I only open the door to the Dragon Tower on the full moon,” said Blaise. “I’m not some moon creature, Sparrow.”
“Then why – ”
And I’m still kind of mad at the school. So, they only get to see
dragons occasionally. So there. Now, I think we’ve heard every story to
be told, haven’t we? Oh wait.” They rose, and passed through the fire.
Filch snorted in derision, but Blaise paid no heed as they took
Sparrow’s hand and said, “Your story. The one you promised. It is your
turn to tell, young one, if you would. Will you?”
shuddered. “I suppose this is a better place than any. Among friends,
protected by dragons. Very well then, you shall hear of why I have been,
so far, nothing but the Shield Maiden, the Barrier Witch, the poor kind
girl who could never harm anyone.”
Sparrow rose, and let the glow
of the flames dance over her face for a few seconds, before she spoke.
“There are terrible things in this world. Terrible wizarding things.
Things that most of us know nothing of, and well that it should be so.
Leave dark magic to the dark wizards. Yet, sometimes those dark things
will not leave alone, and, as is their wont, come after us. They find
us, and destroy us, because we are innocent, because we have things they
want, because nobody will miss us, because nobody will defend us.
Because they can get away with it.” She extended her hand towards the
fire, and flipped it over a few times, letting the children see the
difference in color between her palm and the back of her hand. “I have
often wondered if I was targeted, somehow, on that basis. It would not
be so surprising. I have heard of worse injustices, from across the pond
and across the sea, visited upon people like me. Yet never have I met
them myself, not yet.” She glanced at Miranda. “I can only speak for
myself, of course.”
Miranda coughed. “Let’s say you’re lucky.”
“What have you encountered?”
the Wizard world?” said Miranda. She shrugged. “The usual stuff about
purebloods, I suppose. Like, I spoke to Aldous Yaxley once, and he
thought I was part of the kitchen staff, but then he said I shouldn’t
be, because I was obviously a pureblood. Took some questioning for him
to make it clear that he thought I was obviously a pureblood because of
how my ancestors had obviously stuck to their fellow Wizards in South
Jocasta whistled. “Never heard that one before. Your ancestors are from the Nile region, then?”
They’re from West Africa! I couldn’t keep listening to that guy. I went
into the kitchen and grabbed a well-done steak and gave it to him on a
platter. I figured he deserved the worst the kitchen had to offer.
Mister high-class couldn’t even tell.”
“And what about in Muggle society?” said Cormac.
alive because I know magic,” said Miranda. “That’s all I can tell you.
Getting back to the actual speaker here? Sparrow, you said you never got
shit for being black.”
“Did I ever get any?” said Sparrow. “Did I
not? Hard to remember. So I guess the answer’s no. As for the moment
I’m describing…I can’t square racism with what actually happened to me.
The vast majority of racism is done either for gain, or in desperate
desire to hold on to previous ill-gotten gains. This was mass murder for
the sake of neither money nor land. And mass murder of children who
were mostly white, in the first place, and one that left ME untouched,
so if an evil wizard was somehow racist on the basis of skin color, as
opposed to purity of magical blood, somehow they got everyone except the
one they wanted to. Some things are so improbable as to be functionally
“Here is what did happen, as I am certain: I went to
bed with eight children at a slumber party. Eight friends, three of whom
I had known for years. The window was open to take advantage of a cool
breeze. When I awoke, I was the only child left, and there was a black
blanket crawling out the window. And there was a shimmering, translucent
yellow dome over me. The first magic I ever cast. Having no control
over it, I couldn’t figure out how to dismiss it in time to pursue the
strange blanket. What had happened? Where had the children gone?
had left their shoes, they had left their clothing, they had left all
their belongings. If they had run it would have not been for long before
they were found. And the children were never found.
“The only thing that was found was a single finger bone.
There was a collective gasp among her audience.
white dragon opened both of its eyes. Its contented smile had vanished,
to be replaced by a look of great concern. It met Blaise’s gaze, who
nodded. The dragon began to growl softly.
Sparrow gave it a worried glance. “Am I about to be roasted by a dragon here?”
is alright,” said Blaise. “Abrax is growling for you, not against you.
They have a very good idea of what happened to your friends.”
“But what happened?” said Violet. “Who took them and left a bone?”
“I think I know,” said Cormac, with a voice as grim as a fourteen-year-old boy could muster.
“Then tell,” said Violet.
Cormac met Sparrow’s gaze. “I have stepped over that boundary once, and
will not do so again. If Sparrow wishes to come to the conclusion, it
is up to her. She’s talking about something that can scare dragons.”
Violet turned to Sparrow. “What happened to your friends?”
there,” said Sparrow. “They died, I’m sure of that. Whatever had
happened to them, they were dead and gone. But what had happened? What
would the police say? What would the investigation turn up? The
neighborhood was all shaken by the disappearance. We all awaited an
“But there was no investigation. There were
no police. The neighborhood was suddenly mourning the loss of eight
children to a gas leak, and calling me lucky. I tried to tell them that
it was no gas leak. They refused to listen. I and my parents were left
in confusion and fear, and the confusion was never fully resolved.
the incident with my growing a tree. Imagine my fury when I learned of
the existence of memory charms, and the practice of obliviating swathes
of muggles whenever anything magical happened in their area. The
Ministry must have obliviated my neighborhood to prevent any muggle
investigation. I’ll never forgive them for that. To force muggles to be
deluded about the deaths of their very children is…a crime beyond
measurement. I will never forgive the Ministry for that, nor anyone for
using memory charms on anyone. Keep that in mind. Ha ha. Ha.
for the deaths of my friends…for the longest time, I had no idea how to
investigate the matter. But what I could do, at least, was swear that no
one would ever come to harm again on my watch. And so the only spell
I’ve really bothered to practice is the shield spell, here at Hogwarts. I
felt that it was all I needed. My fault, I suppose, for becoming
“Cormac’s remark about L – about – damn it.”
Sparrow had begun to shiver again. “I’m not sure I can continue here.
I’m – I’m – I’m sorry I just – ”
Jill rose to stand beside
Sparrow, and hugged her close. In turn Jocasta put her arms around the
both of them. After a few seconds, Sparrow’s breathing slowed.
three girls separated and sat back down, but sat close together. Violet
and Cormac exchanged glances, then moved around the fire to sit beside
them. In turn Miranda rose from her seat, and sat down on the stone,
perpendicular to the log. Blaise rose from their seat, and sat down upon
the stone at the log’s other end, facing Miranda.
and slithered over to the now-concentrated gathering, and lay behind
the log, encircling them all with their tail.
Filch stayed here he
was, until he sighed a ghostly sigh and came to stand by the fire, a
foot outside of the circle of the dragon’s tail.
“Do you wish to continue?” said Cormac.
Sparrow took a deep breath. “I think I can.”
“What is it then?” said Jocasta. “What is this word you couldn’t name?”
“The word is Lethifolds!” said Sparrow. “Lethifolds! Lethifolds! There. I said it.”
“Oh!” said Jocasta. “Those horrible things?”
is a paltry word to describe them,” said Blaise. “Monstrous. Evil. Pure
evil. Evil distilled. The most dangerous and deadly creature in the
world, if you are sleeping vulnerable.”
Abrax began to growl again.
“Oh come on,” said Violet. “Cone snails are more deadly by far.”
they don’t hunt humans,” said Blaise. “And you can smash a cone snail
with a hammer. These things are living nightmares. Do you know, I don’t
think even old Voldemort himself tried to use them. If even he thought
they were dangerous to him…”
“Voldemort never bothered to look
outside of Europe,” said Sparrow. “Hidebound old fool like so many
Wizards. His chief problem, I suppose. Probably the reason he got the
Second Wizarding War going. Couldn’t let go of the pureblood business.
But – I cannot call these creatures pure evil.”
Blaise looked shocked. “What on earth do you mean?”
mean they’re wild animals. Right? Technically innocent. I can hate
them, sure, but call them pure evil? That’s a human concept.”
said Violet. “The higher orders of apes had rudimentary concepts of
justice. But if Lethifolds are nothing more than living blankets, they
wouldn’t have enough brain to know what right and wrong were.”
The dragon was growling again. Louder this time.
we don’t know that,” said Cormac. “These are magical creatures. Maybe
they have some sort of brain nobody can see. Or maybe they’re not wild
animals at all. Maybe they’re…something else. Nobody knows. Nobody can
catch them. There’s only two accounts we have from survivors and the
only thing they could have done was cast a Patronus and run. We can’t
know if they think, if they scheme…they’re so rare as to be nearly
legendary. How do you judge something nearly nobody has ever seen?”
The dragon was growling louder still.
“Abrax,” said Blaise. “Please.”
“Does the dragon know something?” said Miranda. “Spill.”
said Blaise. “And this discussion is nearly as distressing to them as
it is to Sparrow, so let us please leave off speculating.”
“I would note one more thing,” said Jocasta. She turned to meet the dragon’s gaze. “If I may.”
turned her head to see Abrax, their teeth slightly bared, eyes wide,
holding Jocasta’s gaze. The dragon subsided with an annoyed snort, and
nodded their assent.
“Thank you.” Jocasta turned back to address
Cormac. “There are only two written accounts from survivors. We don’t
know how many true accounts there might be. Also there are only two
written survival accounts, in English. Perhaps the rest are all
written in a language from the tropics, and we’ve never bothered to
check. But around here, we have one true account, from Hagrid. He told
me in passing that he’d seen a Lethifold twice in the – Oh my God.”
Jocasta’s eyes grew wide. She met Sparrow’s gaze with as much concern as
Abrax had, if not more. “I sent you into their domain.”
“It’s alright,” said Sparrow. “I mean it’s alright now.”
it? After all you’ve been through, sending you into a place where you
might have met your worst fear – and even if you never did you had to be
thinking about it night and day – I can’t blame you for what happened
at the dueling club. It was supposed to be a prank so you could hate me
and cast curses at last and I didn’t think about – Sparrow, I am so
sorry.” She took Sparrow’s hands in hers. “I must have caused you
greater terror than anyone besides a loathsome fiend could deserve. I
can’t expect you to forgive me. Just know that I will never do such a
“I will admit,” said Sparrow, “That I harbored some
resentment for you, for that. Mostly it was satisfied by my revenge. But
you were only one part in a chain of errors. It was Hagrid’s idea to
take me into the wild, and my decision to follow.” She laid a hand on
Jocasta’s shoulder. “Don’t blame yourself more than I blame him or me.
He didn’t know about my terror, nor did you. Neither of you could have
known. It was not a story I could ever have told anyone, until here,
until now.” Sparrow draped one arm over Jocasta’s shoulder and put an
arm around Jill’s waist. “With all of you around me. So it was difficult
to tell anyone just where my boundaries were, until they were crossed –
Cormac ran into that and I got snappy.” She nodded to Cormac. “Sorry
about that, old bean.”
“Young bean. But I’m the one who saw the line in front of my eyes and crossed it. I have some fault here.”
Perhaps. And yet it was fortunate that you explained Lethi – Lethifolds
– to me. Reluctant as I am to admit it. That was the key to a door I
thought had been shut. It was a bridge to that old mystery. I looked up
Lethifolds and, what do you know, a black blanket creature that devours
people in the night. Normally they only live in the tropics. But, you
know, most of the world is tropics now.
“And now you can see why
I’m on about this Statute of Secrecy business, and why I am so
protective. It all comes back to that one night. Because the muggles
smudged up the world enough that Lethifolds could sneak around even here
in Britain. Because the Statute of Secrecy did nothing to protect my
friends. Because the Ministry did nothing to comfort me in my grief, nor
offer any sympathy to my family. Let the Ministry disappear for all I
Jill waved a hand at the fire, and it burned higher.
touch,” said Sparrow. “And an illustration of what led to the situation
we’re in now. The world burned. Because of muggles, because we couldn’t
help them, we couldn’t save them, we couldn’t protect them, because the
Ministry didn’t want us to, because they thought the Muggles still
hated us. As I was unable to help my friends, Wizards were unable to
help anyone else. And even now the Ministry won’t let us act openly to
undo the damage. We’re not allowed to make a difference.
suppose if you could distill my ambitions into one idea, it is the hope
that we can make a difference. We cannot change the past, but we can
change the future, if we dare.” She rose from her seat, and stepped over
Abrax’s tail to stand close before the fire.
“And do you dare?” said Violet.
dare. But that is up to each of you. I will not ask any of you to
follow, if you feel it is beyond you, or if you feel that it is unjust. I
would only ask that if you feel it is unjust, you would stand up for
what you think is right, and oppose me with all of your will and all of
your might. I would not have anyone cower before me nor accept an
injustice for the sake of friendship. If you are in, say so, and if you
are not, say so.” She turned to face her friends.
“I’m with you to the end of all things,” said Jill.
“I can hardly resist,” said Jocasta.
“There are wondrous opportunities here,” said Violet.
“I would relish the chance to live in a wider world once more,” said Cormac.
will render what aid I can,” said Blaise. “Though my tasks keep me here
and busy. It takes enough time to negotiate with dragons on a normal
day, and it will take quite a bit to convince them to do more than stand
out of the way. Argus? What about you?”
“Heh.” Filch had his arms crossed. “Dangerous. Heroic. I’ll not stand in the way. That’s all.”
“We’re missing one,” said Blaise. “Miranda?”
was not meeting anyone’s gaze, but staring at the fire. “I don’t know. I
can’t say this is all unjust, but I can’t say whether or not I’m in. I
told you all I felt compromised. I still do. Will you give me time to
“All the time you need,” said Sparrow. “Just…whatever you decide, please be willing to tell me.”
“I can do that.”
then.” Sparrow stood as tall and straight as a slip of a
fourteen-year-old girl could stand, facing the flames once more. “The
fire is getting low, and dire deeds arise. Blaise?” She turned to meet
the eager gaze of the dragon keeper. “It is time.”
and, moving behind the log, whispered into Abrax’s ear. They opened
their eyes, grinned, and looked up. The dragons overhead began to
slither out of the windows, one by one.
“Who can be blamed for
this situation?” said Sparrow, as she met the worried gazes of her
friends. “Me? The Ministry? Jocasta? Violet? I offer up Jill, if only
because she commanded me to be considerate of other people, thus
preventing me from merely attempting to interfere with the existence of
memory charms. No, if we wish all people to survive our ambitions, we
must be delicate, as I said. So. I have, per Jocasta’s suggestion,
chosen the hard road. To do good is more difficult than evil. It is ever
thus. Come, then, and let us embark.”
She left the fire, then,
and opened the door, where the cold rain down came down. She looked back
at her friends. “If you are all with me in spirit, come with me in
“I could do that all the time,” said Jocasta.
“Read the room,” said Jill.
“She walked right into it!”
“And we’re walking right into the rain,” said Violet. “How’s this supposed to work? Where’s the full moon?”
“I haven’t given the signal yet,” said Blaise. “You must go outside first. Go on.”
With a fair bit of grumbling, the children followed Sparrow out into the cold rain.
And Blaise whistled sharply.
one, the sky burst into flame, as a hundred dragons breathed fire into
the clouds, heating them into invisible water vapor instantly. For, as
Violet had once told Sparrow, the clouds were not puffs of cotton high
in the sky, but collections of water vapor that had come to a place that
was cool enough, and had condensed there. If the place was suddenly
hot, why then, the water vapor would no longer be condensed, and the
moon would shine down, if only for a little while.
So it was, that
the lowering clouds vanished and were replaced by the sight of a
hundred dragons soaring in the night sky, wheeling around the moon,
roaring a fierce joy to the heavens. The last of the rain fell and no
more came. The moon’s silver light was reflected in the water that lay
upon the walkway. The children stood and watched the dragons as they
Sparrow took the mandrake leaf from Miranda, and stepped
to the edge of the walkway, turning towards her friends for dramatic
effect. “This will be a long journey,” she said, “full of many twists
and turns. It may take years. Decades, even. But, we can only reach the
end if we dare the beginning. Like so.” She held the mandrake leaf aloft
to the moon.
“Wait!” said Jocasta. She ran up to Sparrow. “It
will be an entire month that I am missing the taste of your sweet lips,
my dear. Let me have one kiss before I am forbidden.”
“How could I forget,” said Sparrow. “Very well.”
kissed her full on the mouth, lingering there for some time. “There,”
she said, “I shall be looking forward to that again.” She took the leaf from out of Sparrow's hand and tapped it with her wand. "And as I do this, hopefully that will ensure we will not repeat this business." She handed the leaf back to Sparrow.
Jill came up
beside Jocasta, and took her hand. They exchanged a glance that said
more than words. Then Jill turned to Sparrow, and, still without
speaking, tapped Sparrow on the cheek once. Sparrow nodded. Jill kissed
her there, then, for as long as Jocasta had done.
“Does anyone else want a piece of me,” said Sparrow.
Cormac and Violet came up and flanked the girl, and each gave her a peck on the cheek.
Miranda hung back with Blaise and Argus, as if still uncertain.
held the leaf up to the light again. “Here’s to the first step,” she
said. Then she placed the leaf in her mouth, under her tongue.
nearly gagged. The taste was bitter, foul. No wonder it was a challenge
to keep it there for a month without cheating. Perhaps her tastebuds would become numb
at some point, but until then she had something in her mouth that she
didn’t want to, and she had to fight the urge to spit it out
But. She was Sparrow Jones, and no little thing like a
bitter leaf was going to conquer her, by thunder. She held the leaf in place, even as the sticking charm took effect and prickled and stung her tongue.
Miranda finally moved forward. She peered at Sparrow, whose
expression was, at the moment, easy to read. “Good heavens,” said she,
“you did it. You are doing it. I had thought this was a silly game that
would end now, but I see you are determined.”
She sighed, and
looked up at the moon, at the dragons wheeling in the sky. For a few
seconds she appeared to be lost in the sight. Then she turned her gaze
to Jocasta, who seemed to be vibrating with anticipation; to Jill, whose
determined expression was matched only by Sparrow’s; to Cormac, whose
expression of fascinated curiosity was matched only by Violet’s.
“I had hoped to stay out of this business,” said Miranda. “But you know what? Fuck it. I’m in.”