The journey back to the castle was quiet, especially at first. Sparrow’s only communication with Hagrid had been to nod when he offered to carry her upon his shoulders. Otherwise she spoke not a word, not for a good long while. There was, after all, nothing left to say. The lesson was learned. The job was done. Good enough, right? More than good enough. It was done too well.

Well, there was something to say when magic had to be done. Here was a stream to ford. Narrow, deep and swift, something that Hagrid could cross but Sparrow could not. The girl produced her wand, pointed it at herself and spoke for the first time in hours. “Levicorpus.”

Nothing happened.

“I thought ye had that spell mastered,” said Hagrid.

“I did,” said Sparrow. “I think my wand won’t produce magic.”

“I shan’t say I’m surprised,” said Hagrid. “Ye’ve had a rough day and ye’ve been through a lot this week. I’m surprised ye decided t’ talk t’ me again.”

“I’m fine,” said Sparrow. “Well, better. I’m blaming my wand for this one. I cast offensive magic. I killed the Nark. I think my wand is mad at me.”

“Fer savin’ our lives?”

“For violating some of my core principles, which the wand took on as its own core principles.”

Hagrid looked confused. “Ye mean te tell me,” said Hagrid, “that even if it’s fer a good cause, even if it’s t’ save the life of a friend, yer wand will punish ye fer doing somethin’ out of character?”

“Seems like it.”

Hagrid scowled. “Pardon me French, Miss Jones, but yer wand is an uptight bitch.”

“I am not at liberty to agree with you,” said Sparrow. “But my wand and I appear to be having a row. So, would you be a dear and carry me across the river?”

Hagrid grumbled as he lifted Sparrow onto his shoulders. He grumbled as he waded into the water.

As the river got up to Hagrid’s waist, he said, “No more hexes, then, eh? No more jinxes, no more curses. Ha! But wizards have to get creative sometimes, don’t they, ‘cos sometimes a spell just doesn’t work on yer target, and sometimes ye just can’t cast the spell ye want. Well, here’s an idea. The wand won’t let you cast curses. But what if ye cast regular spells offensively? Like turning up Lumos way high in order to blind people. Or making yer shield move forward at high speed.”

“Can I do that?”

Yer a Wizard, Miss Jones. What can’t ye do?

They walked on, and, day by day, drew nearer to the forest’s edge, until at last the castle came in sight.

“This is it, then?” said Sparrow. “Is my detention over? Am I free to go?”

“Almost,” said Hagrid. “Almost. I need ye t’promise y’won’t go asking any of the teachers about the Statute of Secrecy.”

“Hagrid, I – ”


“You have my word. Now can I go?”

“I’ll walk ye t’ the edge. Ye’ll see why when we get there.”

At the edge of the forest, where the bushes brushed up against Hagrid’s hut, they stopped. “Right, now,” said Hagrid. “Turn around.”

Sparrow turned.

The bushes had gone. In their place were those birds that looked so much like bushes, the birds with the intelligent eyes, the Rhiannons.

“When I said they kicked out all the underbrush,” said Hagrid, “What I meant was they replaced it all. These are funny birds, Miss Jones, more adaptable than ye’d think, and once the Nark came around they figured out how to disguise themselves as bushes so perfectly that they became plants. That’s where the forest went. That’s some unintended consequences for ye. Keep that in mind.”

Sparrow left for the castle, wondering how on earth she’d survived long enough to reach the Nark plain in the first place.




There were things Wizards could do, and things they couldn’t do. What Sparrow could do was notice that very few students were talking to her. Except for the one student who, sitting across from her at the dining table, said “we’re not speaking to you.” So that made things straightforward, if not necessarily clear.

Fortunately, Cormac was still willing to converse with her. And so, a day after Sparrow came back from detention, the two found themselves in front of the portrait of the Fat Lady, where Sparrow had been trying to engage the woman in conversation. But the woman was having none of it.

“I can’t believe this,” said Sparrow. “Even the portraits don’t like me.”

“The rumors have grown pretty wild,” said Cormac. “People are saying you want to break out of Azkaban and free all the prisoners. They’re saying you want to unleash magic on the entire world. They’re saying that you butter your bread on the wrong side.”

“Oh,” said Sparrow. “Everyone does that. And how am I going to break out of Azkaban if I’m not in there in the first place? Although I’d probably get tossed in there if I kept on my current course. No, Cormac, I’m not interested in such a thing. Although I have heard that Jocasta Carrow is dabbling in dark magic.”

“Doesn’t sound surprising. I mean, she is a Slytherin.”

“No, that’s not – dammit.”


I’m trying to spread a nasty rumor about her.”

“And you’re accusing a Slytherin of dabbling in dark magic. Are you going to accuse a Gryfindor of being too bold?”

“Clearly I am not good at this. I’ll have to think of some other revenge.”

“Revenge! From you? Of all people?”

“I am that angry. Yes.”

“What on earth did Jocasta do to you?”

“She – look, if you think you crossed a line, Jocasta dashed over it at a full sprint. I am utterly furious. And I’ve been putting up with her pranks long enough. I will have my satisfaction against her.”

“Are we talking about the line whose details you can’t describe to me until it’s the right time, which hasn’t even come around yet?”

“That one.”

“And you expected Jocasta to know where it was?”

“Well…I mean, she’s a fly on the wall.”

“You’re assuming she eavesdropped.”


“What’s your name?”

“What on earth does that – ”

“Answer the question, please.”

“Sparrow Jones.”

“And your reputation at this school is?”

“A very protective girl, if not very nice.”

“Bingo. And that same girl suddenly wants horrible nasty revenge. Something has gone wrong indeed. What happened to you in the Forbidden Forest?”

“Something that made me decide I wasn’t going to get pushed around anymore.”

“And you want to – what? Permanently harm a young girl by slandering her? What on earth has gotten into you? Oh, for Heaven’s sake – look. Don’t go too far, alright? If you want to respond to Jocasta’s actions, keep your answer proportional. Keep it just and keep it honest. Otherwise…I’d wonder where my good old friend went. I’d wonder if she died in the forest after all.”

Cormac departed without another word.

And Sparrow realized that, as far as she could remember, this was the first time Cormac had ever described her as a good friend. She had called him a friend now and then, but – this was different. How many times now had he tried his best to warn her away from dark paths? Twice? Just like Hagrid.

Good God. What a precious thing she could lose, if she let fury have its way with her. And she had been preparing to give someone else twelve helpings of vitriol. Not anymore.

She departed for the Herbology lesson.


There was one student in Herbology who stood out above the rest, having managed to get her Dittany, a notoriously fickle plant, to grow thrice the height of anyone else’s, while keeping it safe from fungus and stem worms as none others had done. This was also the student who seemed to excel in Care of Magical Creatures, and go far beyond her age level in Potions. This was the tall and mighty Miranda McClivert.

Sparrow felt that it stood to reason that a bold potions experimenter would also have the foresight to secure her own ingredients, of the floral and faunal variety. Goodness knew there weren’t enough wild specimens left for the aspiring potioneer. The greenhouses at Hogwarts, accordingly, took up about 1/3 of the grounds and supplied mandrake, dittany, Shrivelfig and Moly, among other ingredients, to the wizarding world. Professor Longbottom, being the Master of the Greenhouses, was in a position to significantly influence the potioneering of the Wizarding World. He did, in fact, take advantage of this position to severely reduce the amount of magical poisons that wizards produced, keeping the necessary plants purely as scientific specimens, in a separate greenhouse locked with enchantments that no student had ever managed to break.

Professor Longbottom was the foremost Herbologist of his age, and Miranda McClivert stood to replace him in that role, or at the very least become his most trusted assistant. In time, if she proved herself, perhaps. Longbottom did not play favorites, and the only time that his expression grew dark was when someone suggested that he was doing so. So, the most that Miranda had as an advantage over her fellow students was that Professor Longbottom had set her up with her own experimental greenhouse set apart from the others, recognizing that a promising talent should not be stifled. In exchange she was graded on a more difficult rubric than the rest of the class, which included the proper maintenance of her greenhouse’s structure.

Such a gift was mighty useful for Miranda, and it was also useful for people who wanted to have private conversations. Miranda’s spells of warding had to be strong to prevent people from sneaking in. Not as strong as Sparrow’s, of course, that was a high bar to clear, but solid. Cormac had described attempting to sneak into the private greenhouse and being shoved violently backward by an unseen force.

So when Sparrow saw Miranda beckon her INTO the private greenhouse, she was taken aback, and wondered for half a second if it wasn’t Jocasta in disguise, playing games again.

Miranda looked annoyed and beckoned again. Sparrow stepped inside.

She had only ever seen this particular greenhouse from the outside, and as it had one opaque wall there wasn’t much chance for anyone outside to see what was going on within. So when Sparrow saw the greenhouse’s interior at last, she had little frame of reference for what she was seeing. Whereas the general-access greenhouses had plants Sparrow knew well, this place had specimens she’d never seen mentioned in any library book. And unlike the usual greenhouse, with plants lined up in orderly rows for easy tending on a mass scale, this place was absolutely crammed – one shelf above another and another, obscured by vegetation hanging down on vines and jutting up on stalks, all laden with tufts and tendrils and shimmering fruits and vicious thorns –

Sparrow felt as though it would be prudent to avoid touching anything, but that was difficult to do in this space, especially since Miranda filled much of it. Sparrow was grateful to be short and slight, or else Miranda might not have invited her in here. She was also not very happy to be short and slight in this circumstance, as she felt even smaller than normal in here compared to Miranda’s towering form.

And Miranda had her sleeves rolled up. Which made it clear that Jocasta had been right about the girl’s physique. Perhaps years of hauling heavy pots had done it. The girl could have the pick of anyone in the school, if she wanted. Yet Sparrow had never heard of her picking anyone. Why, here was the pretty little Sparrow and Miranda wasn’t even paying attention –

She shook her head. Too distracting. Everything in here was distracting. She had forgotten what she intended to say. “Um – ”

“You wish to understand the contents of this place?” said Miranda, as she bent her face to the stem of a plant covered in red berries.

“I’ve never really had a good look. I mean – ”

“This one before me is bird berries.” Miranda pointed to a spiky plant with golden leaves. “Thunderbird feather.” She pointed to a pot full of narrow-bladed tufts. “Bulbous Canarygrass. Among so many. I have set myself so much work. But I must pay attention to these right now, after neglecting them for two days.”

“I’ve never heard of such things.”

North American plants. Unknown to the Wizards of Britain, or should I say, unknown to its professional circles of potion craft, because none of us cared to look at that continent. I did not need to make any strenuous exhortations to my dear Professor Longbottom to have him agree that we ought to look, but I did need to swear an oath of honor that I would keep any such plants from escaping the greenhouse, and that I would not misuse anything he gave me. Which included this greenhouse. So, there is no student, no person in this school who enters without my permission. And I do not often grant permission, because I have no wish to be distracted.”

“I can imagine.” Sparrow looked around at the multitude of specimens she had never known and could not name. “You have to take care of all these things. Because whatever they do, you’ve got a monopoly on them the way Longbottom has a monopoly on the regular stuff.”

“Ah, well. I don’t consider this as a supply or a monopoly. Not yet. I don’t know everything these plants do! For now all I do is experiment, as I did with the fox potion. Foolish, on my part. I wasn’t utterly certain that I would avoid poisoning myself. But I was so very bored with the curriculum.”

“It was my fault you were revealed,” said Sparrow. “I’m sorry about that.”

“I do not require your apology,” said Miranda. “I think you require mine.”

“For what?”

Who do you think helped Jocasta frame you?”

“I had a pretty damn good idea, Miss McClivert.” Sparrow let an edge creep into her voice. “There’s no wand magic to transfigure someone’s appearance into another human being, and Jocasta isn’t a Metamorphmagus, nor is she so accomplished at potions that she would have any chance of making Polyjuice. Unless, of course, she was aided by a highly competent potioneer who had no qualms about crafting something difficult and dangerous, and that same potioneer had to be a student in order to keep the whole business secret. Have I got it right?”

Miranda nodded.

“And now you’re putting a dangerous secret in my hands, leaving me at your mercy, perhaps to bind yourself to me. Hm. I’d like to make this situation mutual, but I can’t think of any dangerous secrets of my own to offer.”

Miranda paused in her examination of the Bird Berry plant, and turned to regard Sparrow with a look of disturbed confusion. “I…can’t quite understand where you are coming from, nor where you are going.”

“I’m just saying – crikey, what am I saying?” She shook her head, trying to clear the edge out of her voice. “Never mind. What was the big idea of all this frame-up anyway?”

Miranda sighed, and her shoulders slumped. She rested her back against the shelf. “Call it a matter of pride, that let me be led so easily.”

“Pride in what? Cleverness? Trickery?”

“In potions and herbology. The greatest of all my skills, where my skill with a wand is…lacking. Compared to you.”

“Oh come on, don’t sell youself short like that. Besides which, I’ve only ever been good at defensive spells. I’m terrible with everything else. Didn’t all your dance partners at the Halloween Ball say anything about that?”

Miranda shrugged. “They said you were impossible to defeat and always too eager to stand in their defense. They said your shield was unbreakable. None of them said that it was your only great skill. Ah, well.” She turned back to her work. “I should have considered, for half a moment, that granting someone polyjuice meant they would impersonate someone. But I did not. For I trusted Jocasta, when she said she wanted to be a fox for a time. I put the danger of my actions out of my head, because I trusted her.”

“You trusted her?

I would like to think I can trust most people. And, well, Jocasta flattered me. She lauded my skill with potions, she told me the fox potion was precisely what she needed. True on both counts, I suppose, if critical details were…conveniently neglected. I suppose, when I think of it, that I am so used to polyjuice potion being used in its two-hour version that using it to impersonate someone for a mere ten minutes never crossed my mind! So, after I told her the potion was a failure for only lasting ten minutes – ”

“Is that a failure?” said Sparrow. “Or is it an untapped possibility?”

“That is how she described it. So, she convinced me that it was not a failure. She told me I had done what none had done before, to come up with a polyjuice made cheaply, quickly, for a short duration.”

“She was right. Right?”

“Exactly.” Miranda thumbed through the golden leaves of her Thunderbird Feather plant. “All she said was true. I had never seen one word of mention regarding this topic in any potions text I ever read, not even in the work of Zygmunt Budge himself!”

“Your creativity is one for the history books, then.”

“Oh, please. I have had quite enough of flattery in recent weeks. This whole business was just a matter of pursuing a dormant possibility, as you said. I assume that whoever invented polyjuice in ancient days must have created what I created, in the process of improving the duration. No, I do not need any more flattery.”

“I was thinking of the part where you made it cheap and quick. Isn’t the usual process something to do with moon phases and waiting a month?”

“Ah, yes. I see what you mean.” Miranda had a faraway look in her eyes. “Hm, I wonder if the brewing duration and the effect duration have a direct and linear causal relation…” she shook her head. “File that away for later! The point is, I had not yet come to this conclusion when Jocasta played on my pride. She told me I could do the work again. She told me it would be easy for me, if not for her. That was also true. So, I created the potion once more, told her to find a fox hair, and…didn’t know where I was being led.”

“Did you care?”

“I cared. Because I thought I was being led towards greater praise. I was eager to show the results of my studies to someone. To make something real. Something new. Something interesting. Something to show people besides a teacher, for reasons other than a grade. Something that would be remembered, instead of being marked with an “O” and then shelved forever. I didn’t think I was betraying my solemn oath. I thought I was moving to the practical phase of my career. So I failed to inform the Professor of my distributing the vial, and shattered my honor. And I nearly got you killed.”

Sparrow looked at the plants around the greenhouse, and sighed. “It wasn’t you who nearly got me killed,” said Sparrow. “Only you who helped set me on that path. By pride and by accident. Well.” She shrugged. “Perhaps you ought to research healing potions, for the next time that you want to put someone in danger.”

“First of all, I…am currently researching antidotes but not healing potions, thank you for alerting me to a new area of study. Secondly, please understand that I am sorry.”

“I know you’re sorry. I’m just…trying to offer a solution here. You know? It’s worth knowing how to mitigate any potential disasters, especially if you really can’t handle wand work. If I had to demand anything…I mean I could ask you to be more careful but it looks like you’ve already made that choice. So, like, maybe if you want to show people your work, you use it on yourself so that you never let the vial out of your hands? In the short term. I remember Muggles used to have enough of their doctors around that they could do, like, peer review and stuff. You’re trying to be a Lone Genius here and that only gets you so far. Hell, have you been in contact with anyone at Saint Mungo’s?”


“Any professional potion crafter?”

“Not directly.”


“He made me join the slug club instead of giving me detention.”

“Fine! Good! Perfect! Talk to him! Collaborate! Don’t be a flipping Mad Scientist here alright? You were easily led because you were given the chance to stop shutting yourself up. That could have gone really badly if your experiment had terrible physical effects. There’s already enough mortal danger at this castle in the normal course of events. We have a dueling club, for Heaven’s sake. I’m surprised the Hospital wing isn’t eternally busy.”

“We have stairs that change direction at a whim. Compared to that a dueling club is nothing.”

“Stairs aren’t trying to hurt people.”

“Are you sure?”

Sparrow glanced towards the castle. “Maybe.”

“You know,” said Miranda turning to face Sparrow once more, “I would have invited you in here eventually, even if I hadn’t been an unwitting accomplice to reckless endangerment.”

“How’s that?”

“I wanted to apolgize for not speaking to you sooner. I got your message loud and clear...too loud...but I was too ashamed of the fox fiasco to contact you. If I had, if we had spoken earlier…maybe you would have been able to avoid being impersonated.”

“Perhaps,” said Sparrow. “Jocasta’s a tricky one, you know.”

“And I might have invited you in here anyway even without that sorrow. You, my little bird, have talent and ideas far grander than your miniscule scale.”


“Nor do you hide any such ideas, nor cease to find new ones. I knew I had to speak with you eventually.”

“Oh,” said Sparrow, “do I have yet another romantic partner in the offering?”

Miranda chuckled. “My answer remains the same. Let that subject live elsewhere! It is not for my greenhouse. I am all business. I like your business. I like the cut of your jib. That is why I let you into my little world. Feel free to speak with me about any matter of your business or mine.”

Sparrow sighed again. “I would appreciate talking to you about potions sometime. You know how I do with those, and I have big ideas for that subject alone. In the meantime I should be…arriving at today’s Herbology class even later than usual. Oh dear.”

“I guess I’ve caused you trouble again,” said Miranda.

“My fault this time.” Sparrow gently extricated herself from the mass of plants, opened the door, and sprinted towards the greenhouse where she was supposed to be.



Professor Longbottom had taken a mere five points from Hufflepuff for her tardiness. Jillian Patil had no ability to take house points from anyone, but she did have the ability to prevent Sparrow from leaving her embrace. Not that Sparrow minded staying on her lap, wrapped in her arms, before the Hufflepuff hearth.

“I’m not going to venture that far into the Forbidden Forest again,” said Sparrow.

“Can I guarantee that?” said Jill.

“Maybe,” said Cormac, as he strummed his Ukulele. “From what Sparrow tells me, Hagrid would never put her or anyone through that journey again. But there’s no way to prove the whole thing was a frame-up unless Jocasta confesses.”

A what now?

Sparrow glanced at Cormac and shook her head.

“Jocasta did what, exactly?”

Goodness, the hearth fire was heating up all of a sudden.

“Nothing,” said Cormac. “Never mind. No idea what I’m talking about.”

Jill released Sparrow from her embrace and stood up, nearly dumping Sparrow onto the floor. “How convenient,” she said, “that I have Dueling Club in twenty minutes.” She spun around and marched out of the common room before either of her friends could say a word.

Sparrow dashed out of the common room after her, but by the time she got out the door, Jill had already disappeared.

Sparrow dashed back into the common room and grabbed Cormac by the arm. “Come on,” she said. “Up. We’ve got to catch Jill at the Dueling Club and talk her out of vaporizing Jocasta.”

Cormac didn’t need any convincing to follow her.