The next day after the end of afternoon classes, 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 minutes straight.

“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.

Jocasta 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 especially 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 realized.”

“As did I,” said Sparrow. She sat down next to Jocasta. “I didn’t know, you didn’t know. 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.”

“You told me you didn’t want to get involved in a three-way relationship yet. Did you at least want to date Jill?”

Jocasta’s cheeks turned pink. “It’s, um…I don’t know. I mean the news is just as I wanted to hear. 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 – ”

“Why are you nervous?” 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.”

“I 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 if she treats me right?” said Jocasta. “Look, part of the other reason I’m nervous is because she’s been pining away instead of communicating all this time. Could be dangerous if she lets all that tension go at once. Ah, but then I’d have to blame myself too.”

“Dangerous physically?”

“Emotionally. Like, yelling at me. I mean – I care enough about her to care that she’d be angry with me. Oh dear, my shields are down! Quick, Sparrow, cast a shield around my heart!”

“Could be a problem, yeah.”

“And…I’m actually a little disappointed with her. I have been ever since the incident with Guillermo. I feel like…if she’s obsessed with my presence in a non-violent situation, that’s one thing, but if she’s doing it at dueling club? Things get hairy. She might get more and more careless as she gets more obsessed. Poor Guillermo lost an ear because Jocasta was slinging around a fire-whip spell. That was such a terrible idea. So like – I’ve been wanting her to back the hell off from dueling club, for once, but as long as I’m there, as long as I exist, she’s there bringing the storm of fire.

“And you didn’t think to speak with her in a moment outside of Dueling Club?”

“Too nervous.”

Fair enough.”

“And if I date her…I don’t know. I’d want her to stop going to the dueling club but I feel like I shouldn’t be barging into her life with an ‘if you love me’ ultimatum.”

“You will have to have that out with her.”

“Outside the field of battle? Yeesh. Alright.”

“Up to you. Now, we have some matters of business to discuss. 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.”

“Maybe 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.”

“It’s 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.

“Oh, yes, I remember now. Anyway 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 – ”

“And 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. 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.”

Jocasta 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!”

“And 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 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?”

“I 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?”

“Excuse me?”

“Tell McGonagall. Get some help from a professional.”

“Tell the Headmistress of the Hogwarts? Are you insane?”

“She 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 safe.”

“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.”

“If you think it would spoil your sport, fine. Oh, talking of spoiling sports. Jill really wants you to stop your pranks.”

Jocasta pouted. “But I like pranks.”

“And Jill doesn’t like it when you do that. But, you know, you don’t like the ‘if you love me’ ultimatum, I don’t like it, but you’ll need to have this out with her sooner rather than later…and yet you’re worried about reconciling these issues anywhere besides the field of battle…so…I have an idea.”

“And that is…”

“Do you like duels?”

“Of course I – oh. Oh.” Jocasta’s eyes widened. “Tell you what. Just for coming up with that, I will let you have ten extra minutes of practice here before we pay Miranda a visit.”

And they were ten minutes well spent.



“Mandrake leaves will be ready in a week’s time,” said Miranda. She was examining the stem of a Witch Hazel flower, entirely nonchalant where Jocasta and Sparrow were both extremely tense. While two slight Wizards could have fit with Miranda in the greenhouse, it was much harder to do without disturbing plants of unknown lethality.

“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.”

“How 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 scheme up?”

“Don’t look at me!” said Jocasta. “Miranda here has been growing these things since the beginning of the school year! I just happened to know who to ask about the Animagus potion due to the advice of a friendly witch.” She nudged Sparrow. “Sometimes you do know what you’re doing.”

“Farther back than that,” said Miranda. “I have had Mandrakes growing since I was granted this greenhouse, nearly one year ago. Stewed Mandrake Root is the primary ingredient for antidotes, and don’t we all need those, yes? As do I. Especially if one of my experiments happens to go wrong. So – if I would be a Mistress of the Cauldron then I must know how to plant Mandrake, tend Mandrake, and safely harvest Mandrake.” She turned her head to give her companions a significant look. “I don’t put wards on this place because I’m worried about theft. ”

“So you have your antidote ingredients on hand,” said Jocasta. “And by sheer coincidence, the leaves of that very pant are the primary ingredient in polyjuice. How convenient.”

“Quite. Though if you are thinking of it cynically, do not. When I say my potions are only experimental, I mean that I document my experiments and give the records to Professor Longbottom.”

“Wait,” said Sparrow. “Does that mean he knows – ”

“He didn’t have to know about December’s incident.” Miranda glanced towards the door. “And he doesn’t have to. Maybe. I don’t know if I could bear the shame of him knowing. Jocasta, I must say I am not pleased to be your acquaintance right now.”

Jocasta looked nervous.

“Consider the situation.” Miranda finished examining her Witch Hazel, and turned around, casting a stone-faced gaze down upon the shivering witch. “I can inform my Professor of how I betrayed him, and thereby betray you. Or I can keep my mouth shut, and continue to break his trust, and also slowly break down inside. Either way I feel like a cynical traitor right now.”

“For going behind his back one time?” said Jocasta, failing to hide her fear behind a smirk. “He’s just a teacher.”

“Who provides me with so much.”

“What, is he your Sugar Daddy or something?

Miranda closed her eyes.

Sparrow nudged Jocasta to get her attention but the raven-haired witch continued speaking. “Does little Miranda not get enough love at home? Do you have mommy issues? Is that why you suck up to – ”

Miranda’s eyes opened.

In that moment, neither Sparrow nor Jocasta literally froze, nor indeed did the actual temperature in the greenhouse change. But the girls might as well have been frozen solid, and it might as well have been an arctic winter in there. For Miranda’s eyes showed not the pupil nor iris nor sclera of a human eye, nor indeed the shape of any living eye, but only an ice-blue glow, the glow of a glacier’s inner depths.

Sparrow had never seen such a color beyond the printed page. But, here it was. A color right out of an older world.

It was Sparrow who broke the ice first. “That’s twice I’ve seen such a thing in one day.”

Miranda frowned, and blinked. The glow faded. “Seen what now? Wait, why does everything look more orange all of a sudden? What happened?” She shook her head. “Never mind. Where were we? Oh, yes. Jocasta was giving me an extreme insult in the middle of my own greenhouse, after I thought I had made it clear that I was being extremely gracious in doing any further business with her.”

Jocasta remained frozen in place.

“Does she think it is possible to obtain spare mandrake leaves anywhere else?”

“Certainly not for a low price,” said Sparrow.

“Low price.” Miranda huffed. “Here’s the price. Jocasta doesn’t get to come in here anymore until we both go and apologize to Professor Longbottom for misusing his gift.”

“That’s…not the highest price.”

“And if you want any ingredients at all for the Animagus potion, then I am absolutely going to tell the professor what we’re all up to.”

“Um – ”

“Because I have had it with tricks. I have had enough of skulking, of sneaking, of going behind the back of the man who trusted me more than anyone else ever did. You have your honor and I have mine and for once Jocasta needs to learn what that means. Get it?”

Jocasta coughed.

Miranda did not turn her head to pay attention, nor act in any way like she had heard.

“Tricks and wiles and deceits,” said Jocasta. “If you attend the Dueling Club tonight, you may have your satisfaction for my crimes.”

Miranda turned back to her work and said nothing more.

Sparrow took Jocasta by the arm and led her out of the greenhouse.