“I heard a rumor that you fancied Jocasta Carrow,” said Violet.

It was mid-November, still at the beginning of the rainy season. There were a few sunny days left. Sparrow was sitting near Violet in the library. They were both working on History of Magic essays. Sparrow had elected to work with an ink bottle and quill this time, partly because she didn’t care much for this essay’s topic, partly because she wanted to get over her aversion to ink bottles. Violet went with her usual cheap ballpoint.

“Okay,” said Sparrow, “I’ve heard of rumors growing wild in the retelling, but I’ve never heard of them getting flipped backwards. It’s Jocasta that fancies me.”

“Good for you then.”

“Are you jealous?”

“Well,” said Violet, “your rumor self is cheating on my rumor self, and on Jillian Patil, according to what I hear. Quite the scandal. I bet Jill is devastated. You should be ashamed.”

“Let’s say there’s a rumor that I’m ashamed.”

“Fair enough.” Violet glanced left and right. “I also heard that you wanted to…cure lycanthropy?”

“Doesn’t everyone?”

“I mean,” said Violet, “you wanted to actually look for a cure instead of bemoaning an intractable problem.”

“Correct. But I’ve kind of got that idea shelved right now. If I can’t make a potion without seeing it explode then I probably shouldn’t be making experimental stuff for anyone.”

That depends on how much you like your clients.”

“Please!” said Sparrow, placing her palm on her collarbone in a pose of genteel offense, and bringing a dripping quill with it. “I am not a con artist. I am all above board.”

“Scourgify.” Violet flicked her wand at Sparrow’s shirt to clean off the ink. “Including being above-board about ending the Statute of Secrecy?”

“I am discreetly above-board. Now, as I said, the Lycanthropy concept is currently shelved because I’m not a complete idiot. And I wanted to ask the McClivert girl about her recipe for a shape-changing potion first anyway. But ah, well. I can’t find good information about either topic in this library.”

“Not in the regular section, at least.”

Sparrow buried her face in her essay. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Fine,” said Violet. “There’s probably good material in this library anyway, and you’ve passed by it a dozen times because you don’t know how to do your research properly. Have you asked the librarian for help?”

Sparrow glanced left and right. “I have the feeling that he’s not going to help me look for this particular info. Let’s just say he’s sensitive about that topic.”

Violet raised her eyebrow. “If you’re trying to not imply that he’s a Werewolf – ”


“You can’t get anything past a Ravenclaw, you know.” Violet grinned.

“Yeah, yeah, hype up your house. Anyway, how do I research properly?”

Violet stood and motioned Sparrow to follow. She barely gave the girl time to roll up her essay as she moved to the end of the row.

Violet led Sparrow to a section that she had never seen before. A lot of large tomes with the same binding. It looked perfectly boring.

“This is the reference section,” said Violet. “This is where you look for bibliographic references and cross-references.”


“Did nobody teach you how to do your own research?”

“That’s never really come up in any of my classes. We’re still working out of the textbooks.”

“So all this time,” said Violet, “you’re in the library and you’re not taking full advantage of it? I thought you were studious. You were just looking for the cool stuff, weren’t you?”

“All I look for is new spells.”

“Of course. Because you want power.”

“I want to protect my friends and my fellows.”

“So I am told,” said Violet. “Protect them from what, though? We haven’t had a real dark wizard since the Voldemort War. Potter’s Army killed half of them and the rest haven’t been seen since.”

“That’s…not exactly something I want to talk about. It’s a long story. If you can help me sneak past Filch and reach Blaise on a moonlit night, you may hear it.”

Violet crossed her arms. “If you’re not going to tell anyone what you’re protecting them from, they can’t help you or themselves.”

 Sparrow shook her head. “Bad memories! Leave it be for now. I haven’t seen anything nasty hanging around the castle so it’s not like it’s an immediate problem.”  She dragged a giant tome off the shelf. “Cross reference, hm, alright. Shall we get to it?”

It turned out to be the first time in a while that Sparrow’s time in the library could be called truly productive. She managed to follow references all the way to a tome of experimental potion-crafting. By Hermione Granger, of all people. Did she know anything about potions? That wasn’t part of the legend of the Second Wizarding War. But, as the introduction explained, the tome itself was produced by copying all the liner notes of the potions textbook of someone named “Severus Snape.”

Apparently this particular tome was far more effective than the regular potions textbook could ever be. Sparrow wondered why it hadn’t been famous enough for her to know about already. Maybe the regular textbook writers didn’t appreciate a young student who outdid them, nor yet a famous witch who tended to outdo everyone.

Unfortunately the book still didn’t have anything related to lycanthropy. Mostly what it had was improvements on the basics. But, it was a demonstration that experimenting with potions was possible and productive. Sparrow wondered how many times this Severus Snape had blown up his cauldron.

This was Volume One. There was supposed to be a Volume Two with all the bibliographic references. But it was not on the shelf. In fact there was an obvious hole where it must have been, perhaps no more than a day ago. Someone had taken that volume, and that volume alone.

Someone else was trying to make advanced potions. Perhaps. But why take the second volume with all the references, and not the first volume with the actual information? Why not take them both together? The question was, did this person want to gain knowledge for themselves, or keep it from someone else?

Sparrow had the feeling that Tim the Librarian wasn’t going to give her any answers, if he had the slightest hint that she was looking for information about lycanthropy or potions.

She resolved to wait, and see if the book returned to the shelf. Three weeks. That was a good time to wait for the book to come back.

In the ensuing weeks while she waited, she attempted every trick she could think of to get past Filch. She attempted to improve her invisibility charm, which didn’t get past his searching eyes. She attempted to use a shrinking potion and creep through the shadows, but Filch spotted her in a patch of moonlight. She tried making a potion that would turn her into a puff of air, but all it did was send her to the hospital wing for three days. She tried riding a broom out the Hufflepuff window and up to the tower, but nobody would lend her one, because she was a terrible flyer. She tried conjuring up an illusion to distract him. He floated right through it. She tried hiding in the astronomy tower until after dark. Filch checked it thoroughly.

The idea of becoming an animagus for the sake of getting past Filch began to look more appealing. A petty impetus for a noble goal, perhaps, but it was an impetus. Besdides which, if she got caught trying to pass him again he was going to restart the fifty-point deductions.

It was a dreary Monday morning in November, getting closer to December. Sparrow stood at the front of the Defense Against the Dark Arts class and, as ever, completely failed to produce an effective Stunning Charm. Professor Budge exclaimed that he had never seen anything like it. It was only when Sparrow had the opportunity to look in Jill’s direction and see her giving the thumbs-up sign that she even managed to get anything out of her wand at all.

After class, Professor Budge asked Sparrow to stay.

“Are you going to tell me that I shouldn’t take your class?” said Sparrow.

“My dear Miss Jones.” Professor Budge chuckled. “Think about your performance over three years. You’ve managed to master every defensive spell I’ve taught you, and quite a few that I haven’t. If it came to a fight you would be a wall the very world could not break. Yet you’ve never once managed to cast a proper offensive spell. Do you even want to?”

“No. No, I don’t want to hurt anyone, at all.”

“Yet we are speaking of a defense against the Dark Arts, child. These are, or were, or will be, very nasty people. What if they decide not to attack your wall at all? What if they go after someone else?”

“I’ll just have to make my wall bigger.”

“You can’t put a wall around the entire world,” said Budge. “Nor would anyone wish you to. It would be quite annoying for people to discover that they couldn’t go down to the candy store because there was a glowing yellow wall at the end of the lane. No, my dear, sometimes you do have to take action. Sometimes, yes, you do have to hurt someone, in order to save someone else.”

“But hurting people is wrong,” said Sparrow. “If we do it, how are we any different?”

“You are fourteen years old, child, and to you the world looks very simple and straightforward. But as you grow older, you will learn that some moral situations are complex, and you cannot always hold to your highest principles. Sometimes your goals are more important than your ideals about methods. You, of all the people I have known, are most desperate to defend the innocent. Set that as a goal, above even a pledge to do no harm. Do you understand?”

I think so.”

“Now, let me see your wand.”

Sparrow produced her wand. It was a long one, nearly twelve inches, made of hornbeam. She turned it around and held the wand by the end instead of the handle, and held it out to her Professor.

But she did not let it go.

“I meant,” said Professor Budge, “may I please hold your wand.”

Sparrow shook her head. “This is the most I can offer,” she said. “Sorry. Long story.”

“Very well,” said Budge, “I can examine it well enough from this vantage anyway. Now let me see. Hornbeam, yes? A highly passionate wandwood. Hornbeam wands will hew closely to the principles and style of their owners, almost from the moment of meeting.  Tell me, what is this wand’s core?”

Unicorn hair.”

“Ah yes. The core least suited for dark magic. Combine that with the Hornbeam, and I daresay this wand would hit you in the nose if you tried to cast a nasty curse. If you tried to cast Cruciartus it would probably explode. What did Ollivander tell you, when this wand selected you?

Sparrow thought back to the shop in Diagon Alley. Ollivander had tested a fair few wands with her. Applewood, a rare kind, for being suited to high ideals. Walnut, for those with the talent for magical innovation. Yet it was the hornbeam, the wood of those with great passion and singular vision, that had been the most lively in Sparrow’s hand.

“He warned me,” said Sparrow. “He said that if I had strong principles, the wand would take them to heart, and it would be harder to convince the wand to ignore them than it would be to convince me. He said I ought to be careful about which principles to follow doggedly.”

“And you have chosen the principle of defense, above all others.”

Well. That one had come up shortly after the wand had chosen her. Before the wand itself had chosen her, what Sparrow had been thinking was that everyone ought to see a dragon.

She decided to keep that to herself for now.

“I chose defense, yes. I can’t even imagine smacking someone in the face with my bare hands, much less using a wand.”

There is such a thing as offensive defense,” said Budge. “Remember that. I want you to practice the basic stunning spell on your own. I expect you to perform it within two weeks.”

“But – ”

“Please, Sparrow. Stupefy is the easiest offensive spell to cast, and one of the least dangerous. I need to know that you can at least cast that, before I can begin to believe you’re ready for the world beyond these walls.”

Sparrow left the classroom feeling like she’d been chastised, even though she knew Budge hadn’t meant to.

Among the extensive grounds at Hogwarts there were many open walkways and covered walkways. Normally they stayed put, although, on occasion, the walkway would shift its endpoint in full view of the students, as if to mock them for thinking they had a chance of getting to class on time. Even the walkway to the Dragon Tower would, on occasion, detach and move all the way around to the Ravenclaw tower.

This particular one, crossing a narrow chasm to connect a disused tower to a little-used courtyard, occasionally shifted itself to become a staircase going down the side of the chasm. Violet had taken careful note of its timing, and deduced that it became a staircase every eight days, for the space of twelve hours. The trick was that those twelve hours could begin any time on the day of shifting. If you were at the bottom of the chasm, and the staircase left you, you’d better hope you had a broom, or it was going to be a long walk to get back into the castle.

Currently it was in staircase mode. It was also the rainy season. Which meant that the chasm was full of flowing water. Not exactly a safe place to step into unless you were a mermaid. Perhaps even if you were a mermaid.

Sparrow, Cormac, and Jill had hoped to reach the disused tower for a little more privacy. They had forgotten what day it was.

“Well how was I supposed to know?” said Cormac over the pounding rain. “Violet didn’t tell me what day it shifted last week.”

“Never mind,” said Sparrow. “Let’s just get practicing.”

Jill had suggested the disused courtyard for the sake of Sparrow. She herself would not have raised much fuss if she’d been practicing her shield charm in the Hufflepuff common room, but for Sparrow, firing off a stunner might have caused a few problems. They tended to ricochet, as Jill had learned the first time she cast one. It had not been in a safe place such as a charms class, but in the very great hall where Sparrow had first demonstrated her shield spell to a surprised crowd. Jill had seen the Fanged Frisbee, attempted to stun it out of the air, missed, and bounced her spell off the wall back at the crowd. Thus Jill’s introduction to the school was someone as bold as Sparrow, but dangerous.

This evening, then, the goal was for Jill to perfect her shield spell, and Sparrow to perfect her stunning charm.

“Tell you what,” said Jill. “I’ll try to cast a shield while you try to cast a stunner at me. We’ll see who manages it first, alright?”

Sparrow drew her wand.

“Hang on a minute,” said Cormac. “Shouldn’t you perfect the spell before you cast it at each other?”

“It’s perfectly fine,” said Sparrow. “It’s not like I can do it anyway.”

“I have faith in you,” said Jill. She kissed Sparrow on the cheek.

“Dammit,” said Sparrow. “Now it will work after all. Alright, we’ll see how this goes.”

It did not go. Sparrow tried, and tried, yet nothing more than a little mote of red light came from her wand. Likewise Jill, no matter how hard she waved her wand, no matter how loudly she shouted “protego”, could not produce a wall of yellow light.

“Maybe I’m just not in the mood for it,” said Sparrow. “Professor Budge said there was an emotional component for spellcasting. Then again, I’m never in the mood for it. I’m not sure how I can be. He told me there were times when I would need to hurt people in order to save others, but…what if I can’t cast an offensive spell until that moment comes? I’d have no practice at all.”

“I don’t understand why you always want to play defense,” said Jill. She flicked her wand again. Still nothing. “It means you’re always ceding the initiative. Unless your defense is perfect – ”

“It is,” said Sparrow.

“No it isn’t.” She flicked her wand again. Still nothing. “Three times in your life, you faltered. Three times your shield was broken. If an enemy can make you falter, then they can get past your supposedly mighty defense, like water through a tiny crack in a dam. You have to learn how to attack.”

“I don’t want to,” said Sparrow. “There’s got to be another way.”

“There is none,” said Jill. “There is attack and there is defense, and you’re missing half.”

“So are you,” said Cormac. “I’ve never seen you cast an effective spell of defense, no matter what it is. Shields and counterspells alike, you never bother. That only works if your assault is relentless. And you have to take the initiative, instead of waiting for your opponent to make the first move.”

“Exactly,” said Jill. “If I can get in the first blow hard enough there doesn’t have to be a second.”

“And what if you can’t? What if your attack does nothing? Do you then retreat? How do you retreat without a good defense?”

Turn into a spider and hide,” said Jill. “Or something.”

“You don’t want to cast defensive spells,” said Cormac. “Can I see your wand?”

Jill hesitated for a few seconds, glancing at Cormac as if he were asking her to spill a mighty secret. Then she relented, setting her mouth into a grim line and handing the wand over.

Cormac studied the wand intently. “Hornbeam. Hm. The kind of wood that follows its owner’s principles to the letter. And the core?”

“Unicorn tail hair.”

“Least susceptible to the dark arts,” said Cormac. “So you’re strongly committed to an offense, yet there are some spells where you won’t go. Length, I’d say fourteen inches – ”

“Hang on a minute,” said Sparrow. “I’ve got a hornbeam with unicorn hair. Did you grab my wand by mistake, Jill? Wait, no. It’s in my pocket here.”

“Most unusual,” said Cormac. “Ollivander tries to vary his wood and wand cores in order to present the greatest range of possibilities to first-time wizards. Why on earth would he make two wands of precisely the same type?”

“Maybe he always does,” said Sparrow. “Like if he needs to have a few of each type on hand, just in case there’s high demand.”

Cormac was stroking his chin. “Possible,” he said. “Although that’s a muggle way of doing things, right? Supply and demand, market forces. But we’re Wizards, and there’s only so many of us. Always few. We don’t do market forces. The Ollivander family is pureblood through-and-through, so I doubt that old Garrick would be thinking of supply and demand at all.”

“Just in case then,” said Jill. “On the rare chance that he’d meet two wizards on the same day with the same…affinity?”

“Personality,” said Cormac. “But you two are hardly the same. One desperate to protect and defend, the other eager to strike down foes – ”

“Same goal different methods,” said Jill. “And we’re both stubborn when it comes to certain topics.” She gave Sparrow a knowing look. “Pig-headed, even.”

“Oink,” said Sparrow.

“So I don’t find it a big surprise that we’d wind up with similar wands. Is it supposed to be a big surprise?”

“Yes,” said Cormac. “Enough so that Tom Riddle had no reasonable expectation of what would happen when his wand met Harry Potter’s. Priori Incantatem is an extremely rare occurrence. You only get it when you have two wands with cores taken from the same animal, and think about that – trying to get more than one tail feather from a phoenix, or more than one tail hair from a unicorn…you can get lots of heart strings from dragons, mind you…”

“We’re not talking about sibling wand cores,” said Sparrow. “These are just two wands of the same type. We’re not dealing with Priori Incantatem here.”

“That remains to be seen,” said Cormac. “There is, after all, only one way to find out.”

“Ask Ollivander?” said Sparrow.

“Two ways to find out,” said Cormac. “Sparrow, may I see your wand?”

Sparrow glanced around her. “As long as we’re safe.”

“We’re at Hogwarts, for goodness sake. The wards are strong.”

“But safe from a flying prank?”

Cormac looked confused. “You are Sparrow Jones,” he said. “I have always known you as a bold girl. Was it a veneer? Have you always been this nervous?”

“Yes,” said Sparrow and Jill at the same time.

“What,” said Cormac, “were you born nervous?”

“No,” said Sparrow. “But in my life I have been given great cause to keep my eyes and ears open. I have no wish to leave myself vulnerable, not even for a minute.”

Cormac looked concerned.

“It’s fine,” said Sparrow. “I’m fine, it’s just…never mind. Maybe I’ll explain later. The point is I’m perfectly fine with my wand to hand, but I’ve never let my wand be more than an arm’s length from my hand. And I’ve never given it to anyone.”

You rely on it,” said Cormac. “Perhaps too much. I told you about muggle solutions. Maybe you should be thinking about how to use them, just in case your wand is lost.”

“It won’t be,” said Sparrow.

“May I please see your wand?”

Sparrow shook her head.

“What if you stood real close to me while I held it? Then you could grab it out of my hands in case a big hairy monster attacked.”

Sparrow stepped close to Cormac. Still she held tight to her wand.

“Come on,” said Cormac. “I don’t bite.” He held out his hand, wherein lay Jill’s wand.

Sparrow shivered as she held her wand over Cormac’s open palm. She let it stay there for a few seconds, then let it go. She did not stop shivering.

Jill moved to her side and placed a brawny arm around Sparrow’s shoulder, drawing her close.

Sparrow’s trembling ceased, and she let out a deep breath.

Cormac peered at the wands in his hand. “I think I made a mistake,” he said, “by putting them in the same hand. I can hardly tell these apart in the dim light.” He drew his own wand from a pocket of his robes. “Lumos.” He held the light over the wands. “Damn. It’s still difficult. Precisely the same length, extremely similar grain pattern, clearly from the same piece of hornbeam. The only real difference is the pattern on the handles, but even that’s close enough to keep fooling my eyes. If I were to toss these wands from hand to hand – ”

“Don’t even think about it,” said Sparrow.

“ – I would wind up forgetting which was which. These wands look like identical twins. A veritable Fred and George Weasly of wands. In fact, I think I have forgotten already. Do either of you remember which one was – ”

Jill pointed to the wand on the right side of Cormac’s palm. “That one’s mine.”

“Are you sure?”



“I know my own wand.”

“Fair enough.” Cormac passed the wand on the left side of his palm to his left hand, and held up one wand to each ear in turn, then both together.

The two girls stared at him with quizzical expressions.

They sound about the same,” said Cormac. “Almost as if their cores came from the same animal after all. I think these wands were born at the same time. I think they are identical twins. But, let us be more certain.” He handed the wands back. “Why don’t you cast some spells at each other that will strike each other, so we can see if they get a real Priori Incantatem going. And it would have to be a spell both of you could cast…something that wouldn’t be offensive or defensive. A cheering charm. Try that.”

“After as much as you have asked already,” said Sparrow, “you would have me alter someone’s mind without their permission?”

“Perhaps a color-changing spell then.”

“A warmth charm,” said Jill. “Perfect for a night like tonight.”

“I don’t know,” said Sparrow. “If you turned up the heat on that one, it could become an offensive spell.”

“For Harry’s Sake,” said Cormac, “stop trying to talk yourself out of this and cast the damn spell!”

Sparrow and Jill separated and stood facing each other. They lined their wands up, readied their proper dueling stances, and said “Ciribiribin.”

Out of the ends of both wands floated a line of visible water vapor.

The two lines met, and held there. At the place where they met they began to glow more brightly, and more again as the seconds passed.

For those seconds, no one spoke.

At last Cormac broke the silence. “This is it then,” he said. “The Priori Incantatem. Two wands with a core from the same animal cast spells at each other, they meet in the middle, they struggle, they push against each other, until one wins the duel and – now hang on a minute.”

The lines of water vapor were not pushing against each other, but wrapping around.

“They’re supposed to be fighting,” said Cormac. “I don’t know what’s going on here.”

“Perhaps,” said Jill, “Each wand loves the other too much.”

“Perhaps,” said Sparrow, “each wand thinks it is one half of a whole, and refuses to fight against itself.”

The water vapor had become a cloud, glowing bright white now, and growing ever larger, and larger, filling the space between the three students. Sparrow put out a finger and tried to touch the cloud. No spark jumped to her finger, nor did her finger dissolve. Perhaps it was safe.

In the next moment Sparrow could only hope that the cloud was harmless, because it suddenly expanded to engulf all three students. Within was bright white light, and she had to put her hand in front of her eyes to avoid being blinded. She could not look around to see where Jill was, but she felt a fumbling hand grip her shoulder, and then another one.

It almost felt like Jill’s hands. Large, strong. Yet not nearly as heavy. Couldn’t be Cormac’s hands either. His were always gentle. So whose –

The cloud vanished.

Sparrow looked around. There was nothing in this courtyard but three students, some stone benches, and the rain.

And yet…there was something else.


Not oven heat, but soft heat. Tropical heat. Just like the Ciribiribin spell. Sparrow put a hand out to one of the stone benches. It was pleasantly warm.

“Fascinating!” said Cormac. “The two wands must have amplified the spell a thousandfold when working together. If we can find a place that we wouldn’t worry about destroying then we ought to see what else happens with that effect.”

“I think I’m perfectly satisfied for the time being,” said Jill, sounding and looking like she was about to cry, as Sparrow had a few minutes before.

“But – ”

“I said. I am. Satisfied. Sparrow, maybe you ought to practice with Cormac instead of me for the time being. And…hold off from dating, for a while. Until we figure this thing out.”

“We’re Off then?” said Sparrow.

“For now.”

“Would you still hold me close?”

“If ever you feel afraid. Otherwise, I am…I don’t want to make you afraid, that’s the thing. And I worry too much that I could.”

So you abandon me again?”

Jill put a hand on Sparrow’s shoulder. “Never more than an arm’s length,” said Jill. “That is what I promised. And I don’t promise lightly. I am here for you if you need me.” She lifted her hand and took a step back. “But not in any more imtimate capacity than that. Not for now. I am sorry.”

“I’d like to think you could still experiment,” said Cormac.

Jill shot him a glare.

“I’m just saying – ”

“You seem to know wandlore,” said Jill. “Go and ask Ollivander. This is his fault anyway. Come on, let’s get into the common room before we’re spotted being out of bed.”