The Sugar Quill
Author: Snooty Bob  Story: Last Night I Dreamt I Went in Slytherin Again  Chapter: Chapter two
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Keep your eyes open and prick up your ears – rehearse your loudest cry

Keep your eyes open and prick up your ears – rehearse your loudest cry.

There are folk out there that would do you harm so I’ll sing you no lullaby.

There’s a lock on the window; there’s a chain on the door; a big black dog in the hall.

But there’s dragons and beasties out there in the night to snatch you if you fall.

           No Lullaby – Jethro Tull.

 

Last Night I Dreamt I Went in Slytherin Again – Second Chapter

 

It was quite convenient with the Ministry cars. In no time, we had packed all the things and headed over to the King’s Cross Station. Dad watched Harry with hawk eyes, never letting him out of sight. On the platform, our friends from school were busy loading the luggage or saying goodbye to their families. When Percy caught sight of his girlfriend Penelope he walked over to her, sticking out his chest so that she would not miss the shiny new Head Boy badge. Harry and I looked at each other and smiled. I might have read something into that smile that wasn’t there, but I felt a lot more relaxed in Harry’s company now at least, which was good.

 When we were about to leave, it was hugging and kissing galore. Harry got an extra hug from Mum. He looked quite embarrassed by all the affection lavished on him. It made me smile. As we put our trunks on the train, Dad took Harry aside. I couldn’t hear what they were saying. It looked quite serious; their faces pulled and solemn. They were so engrossed in their conversation Harry nearly missed the train. He had to run to catch up with it as Ron held the door open. We all leaned out through the window to wave to Mum and Dad a last time before we were off to school for another term. I felt a bit uneasy in my stomach as the train turned and they disappeared from view. Who was going to sit by my bed now, stroking my hair when I woke up in the night with a bad dream?

“Seriously Virginia!” I thought to myself. I had better toughen up. Had I not said I wasn’t a little girl anymore?

“I need to talk to you in private,” Harry muttered to Ron.

“Go away Ginny,” said Ron.

“Oh that’s nice!” I said and swept out without a look at them. What a very nice moment for Ron to act as the biggest prat on the planet, and Mr. Holy Harry Potter and the stuck-up know it all didn’t lift an eyebrow to intervene. It was all right to have little Ginny with you as long as Harry Potter didn’t want to talk about serious grown-up stuff. Then you couldn’t have little Ginny tag along. No, just ditch her like a bag of groceries. I kicked the wall of the train. It didn’t exactly do any good, it only hurt my foot, but somehow it felt better all the same. I walked down the corridor and then I stopped before a window, fuming, looking out as we left London behind us. I wondered where the boy I saw on the underground went to school.

“Hello Ginny!” I turned and saw Neville Longbottom smiling at me. I liked Neville. He seemed at least to realise that one bloody year wasn’t an eon of age difference.

“Did you have a good summer?” he asked.

“Yes. Excellent!” I said, although I couldn’t exactly remember which part I was referring to. Neville was looking at his hands at a set of new shiny schoolbooks he held. On his shoulder sat his pet toad Trevor. Trevor had been known to get lost quite often and perhaps that was no wonder the way Neville carried him around. Should he not have him in a cage?

“Eh, I just wanted… I mean.”

“What?” I said.

“I just wanted to say that I was very glad you were rescued last year. We were all very worried about you.” He blushed.

“Thank you, Neville.” I said, staring out the window. I was very embarrassed, but at the same time, it made me feel all fuzzy and warm inside. It was nice someone had given a thought whether I lived or died. An awkward pause followed. I was fishing for something to say. To be honest, I didn’t know Neville that well.

“Are those your new school books?” I asked. It was quite obvious that they were, but it was at least something.

“Yes, and some nice Herbology books my gram let me buy. Herbology is my favourite subject,” Neville said. We fell into yet more awkward silence. I felt stupid standing there.

“Shall we go find an empty compartment?” said Neville.

“Yes, of course,” I said, glad for something to do. We slipped inside an empty compartment and sat down. Neville opened one of his books and started to read. It was nice sitting there. I was happy he didn’t feel obligated to make forced conversation all the way to Hogwarts. That would have been unbearable.

“Ribbit,” said Trevor.

At one o’clock the witch with the food trolley appeared.

“Do you want anything from the trolley dears?” she asked.

“No, I have sandwiches,” I said. Neville’s grandmother had made him sandwiches as well. He bought us a couple of chocolate frogs anyway.

“For dessert,” he said, as he handed me two, smiling. I smiled back.

I brought out the book I had bought in London and we sat reading eating our sandwiches. As time passed and the sky grew darker outside the weather was getting worse, windy, and rainy. Sitting in the train felt cosy and protective, the engine kept chugging in an even determined way, and the rain beat on the window with increasing fury as the hours wore on. The only sound in the compartment was the pages turning in our books, and an occasional croak from Trevor. Neville sometimes quoted some fact from his Herbology book. They were sort of interesting, at least they seemed a little interesting because Neville obviously found them fascinating. It reminded me a bit about Potions.

Later when only wrappers remained of our sandwiches and the cards from the chocolate frogs had been put to service as new bookmarks in our books, the train suddenly started to slow down and came to a complete stop.

“Are we there already?” said Neville, looking up from his book. “That can’t be right.”

“No, we stopped for some reason. Is the train broken maybe? Let’s go and find Ron, Harry, and  Hermione. She’ll know what is happening.”

 “Right,” said Neville and stood up.

When we had walked a few steps through the corridor, the confusion started. All the lights went out and we tumbled into Ron, Harry, and Hermione’s compartment in total darkness. Hermione cried out when I fell on top of her, and we were all tangled in a mess for a while. Finally, we managed to get ourselves sorted, and I sat in the darkness beside Harry. An adult I didn’t know suddenly conjured up a handful of flames to light the compartment.

“Stay where you are,” he said, but before he could reach the door, something happened. I felt a terrible despair grip my soul.  It was like I was falling into a chilling endless void. My body started to shake violently.

I made my way through the crowd with a sense of growing panic. It was so terribly hot here and I couldn’t think properly. I had to find the others. I had to calm down and think. “Virginia, collect yourself!” I screamed to myself in my mind. “ You cannot let the fear bubble up. Hold it back, put it down, don’t think about it, you are not going to be a silly little girl, and start crying. You are not going to feel the panic. You will not start screaming and running. Collect yourself and think!” The sweat made my shirt stick unpleasantly to my back and my face was dripping in the merciless rays of this Egyptian sun. I forced myself to stay calm, still on the edge of panic, but holding myself together. “You can’t get lost in this strange country with all the staring people.” They were not only Muggles, they were foreign Muggles, and despite Dad’s assurances many of them did not seem very friendly. If I tried to ask for the way in English I was sure they were going to just laugh at me. “Which street where you coming from? Turn around and look for it”

“Charlie!” I called out as I saw his red hair in the crowd. Why was he wearing a red cloak all the sudden? It looked pretty cool though, expensive.

“I am not Charlie,” said the man as he swept around. His red hair and height was just right, but it was not he. I stopped, confused. The man’s eyes did not look right. My heart started to race again, even faster now, as more panic replaced the relief I had briefly felt when I thought I had found my family. My legs felt weak. The eyes of the man were red and had no pupils. They looked evil and hateful as they narrowed and took me in like he wanted to bite me. “Isis?” he asked. His voice sounded as hoarse, harsh as the sand, and desert of this merciless sweltering country.

“I’m not Isis,” I whispered.

“Oh, really,” he said, “But I can feel the mounting flame, I can.” He smiled evilly and his red eyes glittered. “ We shall find you out.” He waved his hand magically in the air and the crowd behind him departed, revealing a snake charmer and a cobra standing on its tail, hissing threateningly. The red haired man's evil grin widened as he made a sudden gesture in the air. The cobra spun around without warning and lashed out in a different direction at a small boy who stood watching, holding his mothers hand.

“NO!” I screamed. “STOP THAT!” The hissing language that came out was the unmistakeable sound of Parseltongue, the same language Harry had spoken at the duelling club, the same language Tom Riddle used. Amazingly, the cobra stopped its attack and turned its light blue transparent eyes on me.

“AS YOU COMMAND, OH MIGHTY DAUGHTER OF THE SUN.” It hissed and sank to the ground were it lay on the sand. There was a murmur, and scared and bewildered faces turned towards me in the crowd. I started to back away, shocked. “Oh my God, I’m a monster!” I thought. “I’m evil!” The suffocating heat and unrelenting sun made my head spin. The man with the red eyes was nowhere to be seen. Instead, I backed into a woman who had been standing behind me. She looked somewhat like a witch. At least she had some black mantle or cloak with a pattern of golden scorpions. The tall black men that stood behind her looked like bodyguards. They were wearing black Arabic style clothing with turbans and cloth covering their faces, only revealing their watchful, serious eyes. I would have been scared of the woman if she hadn’t been smiling in a friendly way, and at that moment a friendly smile was the most hopeful thing in what felt like a long time. She swept her hand over the crowd and said, “Obliviate.” It was obviously a memory charm, and she wasn’t even using a wand. At least she was a witch, although decidedly foreign with her long black straight hair and dark skin. Her fancy clothes and the bodyguard gave me some hope she had something to say about things around here. Perhaps she could help me. I tried to calm down and get a hold of myself to ask a question, I already felt a lot calmer and my heart was settling in my chest. Then it felt like a hand reached inside my mind - a strange probing force. Images started to flash before my eyes at a speed that made them all swirl together in a sickening blur.

I was back in detention with Snape. The slimy git had made me dissect a tremendous amount of tadpoles. I then had to put their livers in a big jar with some green liquid that made them look even more disgusting. My hands were filthy and burning from a number of small cuts that I had accidentally inflicted on myself in the two hours I had been in the Potions masters clutches.

“Now Miss Weasley,” Snape said. “Educational as I think this detention has been for you, I am sure you might have found it a little unpleasant.” You mean you hope, I thought angrily but kept silent waiting for the next blow. “Therefore you are going to have the pleasure and the honour of walking with me through the Slytherin common room.” I looked at him in surprise. Whatever for? “You see that jar is quite heavy so you will need to carry it while I open doors, and to put it in its proper location we need to pass the common room most unfortunately.” He smirked a little to himself as if there was something funny.

Seeing the Slytherin common room was quite interesting but soon enough I found out the reason for Snape’s smirk (I made a mental note to myself – when Snape smirks start running.) The common room was full of Slytherins and apparently the punishment of dissecting Snape’s frog livers were well known to them.

“By the pricking of my tongue, something pickled this way comes!” sang Draco Malfoy, and the whole common room exploded in laughter.

My face burned red with the humiliation and the heavy burden somehow made it flush even more. I was pretty sure I looked pathetic carrying the heavy jar across the room. You could easily have fried an egg on my cheeks.

“Oh let me have one, please!” shouted Pansy Parkinson.

“Is that the livers smelling or do all Gryffindors smell like that?” shouted a seventh year boy, and the room erupted in laughter again.

I muttered all the curse words I knew silently to myself over and over.

“Double, double toil and trouble,” sang Malfoy.

Snape smirked a little to himself again as we made our way across the room to a door behind a curtain. He opened the door as I followed balancing the heavy jar. Perhaps I should accidentally trip and spill its contents all over the Slytherin common room. I didn’t think I would survive to tell the Gryffindors about it, so I treaded carefully.

We came down a long corridor and turned left, then down a few steps through a door into a cold and damp cellar, supposedly just right for pickled frog liver. 

“Now put that jar over here Miss Weasley,” Snape said. I put the heavy jar with a grunt of effort on a deep shelf. It wouldn’t kill Snape to help me a little. He was after all more than a few heads taller than me. As I stretched my numb arms and flexed my fingers, my eyes fell on yet another stone door leading away from the cellar. There was a magnificent picture of a golden cobra and a crab on the door.

“What is that?” I asked Snape.

“That Miss Weasley is something put there by the great Salazar Slytherin himself and it needn’t concern a Gryffindor. Now, move along so we can wrap up this detention. Unless you would like another go at the frog livers.”

I blinked in the sunlight. Dazed and very confused. Where was I? Had I fallen asleep? The friendly woman still stood in front of me smiling.

“You help me find what I seek and I will help you find what you need,” she said and waved her hand again. I didn’t much reflect on the fact that she too was speaking snake language because I was hearing Ron calling my name.

“Ginny, Ginny, there you are!” He came running panting. “Just because Mum said you couldn’t go into the tomb you can’t go running off like that. Where have you been?” 

 

“Ginny, are you all right?” Hermione was putting her arm around me.

“Yes,” I sobbed. “What just happened?” I was sitting in the corner of the compartment and I was freezing cold.

“It was one of the guards of Azkaban,” said Hermione. “It is gone now.” The man in the shabby robes handed me a large piece of chocolate.

“Who is he?” I whispered to Hermione.

“The new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher,” she whispered back. “He seems to actually know something. That will be a nice change around here.” I looked at him as I took a bite of the chocolate. I felt warmth returning to my body as if I had been out on a snowy winter day and had just put up my feet before the fire. With the returning light and warmth, the new teacher didn’t look at all unfriendly, but he looked a bit tired and worn, as if he had been ill not long ago.

“We’ll be at Hogwarts in ten minutes,” he said.

When we came back to our compartment voices could be heard inside. Someone else had settled there while we were gone.

“Those Dementors were really terrifying! That was almost as scary as last year when… Oh, hello Ginny!” Sandy Anderson fell silent. I was pretty sure she had been meaning to say something about when Ginny Weasley set the Basilisk on all the Muggle born students in the school. “Hello Neville!”

“Hello,” said Neville. He looked a little taken aback that the whole compartment now was filled with girls he didn’t know. Sandy seemed to know who he was, but that was hardly surprising. She generally kept track of everybody, especially older boys. I was quite sure that Neville wasn’t very high up on her list of the cutest boys, but he was currently high on my list of the nicest, if he cared. He stood there awkwardly looking around as if pondering whether he should sit down or take his books and make a run for it. I suppose I should have introduced everybody, but I just stood there too, still dazed by that horrible memory the Azkaban guard, the Dementor, had managed to bring back.

“Hello! I am Luna Lovegood,” said the girl sitting next to Sandy while she reached out to shake Neville’s hand. 

“Nice to meet you Luna. I'm Neville Longbottom.”

Luna was a little peculiar, but she was all right. Usually she seemed to have her head in the clouds but she was always very friendly. Her father was the editor of that very odd magazine the Quibbler, which meant that she subscribed to many ideas that people, who were more down to earth, like McGonnagal and Hermione Granger, would find utterly ridiculous.

 Are these your Herbology books?” Luna asked. Trevor was sitting on them, clearly wondering where Neville had gone off.

“Who reads about Herbology before the start of term?” Sandy remarked and swept out of the compartment. Her little clique of faithful sidekicks followed suit, Sunita Paramar, Julie Orzo, Eliza Rodahl. Neville looked slightly hurt by her remark.

A few minutes later, we arrived a Hogsmeade station. People hurried back and forth to collect things, creating a lot of commotion. The weather outside was awful, icy cold and rainy.

“Oh no!  This is always so much trouble,” said Neville. “Where should I put Trevor?” He looked confused and slightly panic-stricken, as if he would not be able to get his things together in time and the train would return with him on it.

“Put him under your hat,” said Luna, with a smile and a hint of eagerness in her voice.

Neville looked sceptical but followed her suggestion. Trevor croaked.

This year we were not taken to the castle in open boats over the lake, which was a very good thing considering the weather. The first-years' first impressions of Hogwarts, and they were bound to be plenty and variable, would no doubt be associated with wet and cold forever. Black carriages were to take us to the castle, seemingly moved by magic, or possibly, invisible horses drove them. The terrible Dementors were standing guard outside the gates to the castle. I felt sick as we passed.

We arrived at the castle and made it up the stairs and through the giant oak doors into the great hall. I stopped a second to take in the atmosphere. I had to admit it felt good to be back. The enchanted ceiling was dark and cloudy today. They worked so hard on creating the illusion that we were still outside it hadn’t occurred to them that perhaps a bit of sunshine would have made for a more cheerful welcome, especially for the first years.

“Enemies of the heir beware!” Malfoy whispered maliciously in my ear as he passed behind my back. Oh, that infuriating little rat! I had almost managed to forget he ever existed over the summer.

I rounded on him and wheezed, “Anguis in herba!!” trying to sound like a snake while doing claw-like gestures with both my hands over my head, fixing him with a mad look. To my amusement, his eyes went round and he turned away quickly. “Scared of little Ginny?” I thought, smiling to myself.

“Did you just speak snake language?” said a voice beside me. It was Colin Creevey and he looked scared too, which wasn’t all that funny.

“No, that was Latin, you idiot!” I said impatiently. Colin looked hurt that I had snapped at him and didn’t speak. “I’m sorry Colin,” I apologised. “It’s just, Malfoy is getting on my nerves. I didn’t mean to sound just like him.”

“Quite all right,” he said, walking away to find some place other to sit than beside the mad snake woman. I sunk down at the table, feeling tired and confused again.

“Where did Harry and Hermione go?” I asked Ron.

“McGonnagal wanted to talk to them about something. Apparently it did not concern me.”

“Serves you right to be left out. Let you have a taste of it. It will do you good.” I said.

“Whatever are you on about?” he asked. “What was that you said to Malfoy?”

“A snake in the grass,” I said, grinning. “And it was Latin not Parseltongue,” I hastened to add.

“Well, I know you don’t speak Parseltongue,” Ron said. “I didn’t know you understood Latin though.”

“Contrary to my docile and daft brother who can’t be bothered to wake up long enough to discover there might be something out there in the world worth knowing, I read a book or two on occasion,” I replied, although I couldn’t exactly remember where I had picked up that line. Whatever made Malfoy cringe was worth remembering though.

The sorting of the first years had begun. I was eternally grateful that I had that behind me. Walking up there last year had been the longest walk in my life. Of course, being a Weasley, I had been pretty sure I would be sorted in Gryffindor, but what would I have done if the sorting hat had shouted Slytherin...?

“Were I in Slytherin, I’d be on the next train home,” said Ron.

“I’d go drown myself in the lake,” Colin said.

“They just go on like nothing ever happened. Just like Salazar Slytherin had never built that bloody chamber and set the monster on all the Muggle born in the school, nearly killing them. Not to mention my little sister!” he muttered quietly between clenched teeth.

I felt warm inside.

 

The school year started and it was business as usual. Breakfast in the great hall and lessons with the professors all day, heaps of homework to deal with in the evenings.

One morning at breakfast, an owl arrived for me. I was a little intrigued because I didn’t recognise it. It wasn’t Errol with the usual letters from Mum and Dad asking about schoolwork and how things were going, with long lists of do’s and don’ts. The owl was black with yellow, almost golden flecks in its shroud. It was very handsome. I detached the little parcel from its leg and the owl took off soundlessly. I opened the parcel to find a small necklace inside. It was pretty. It didn’t look expensive but it was stylish and elegant, made of pink coral with a simple string. I looked around me to see if anyone was watching. Everyone seemed busy with the mail so I tried it on. It was lovely. There was a note as well:

Didn’t you enjoy your little taste of Slytherin? I gave you a little of what you wanted; now don’t forget to give a little to me. Beware of he who seeks immortality, his impostor is among you.

Your sister.

My sister? I stared at the note. I had tons of brothers but no sister. I didn’t know any of the girls in Slytherin. Was this about the dream or whatever it was on the train? But, I hadn’t told anyone about that, nor had I enjoyed it particularly. What was this, some kind of joke? Who would give me a necklace just for a joke? I looked around me to see if anyone was looking in my direction, but no one seemed to catch my eye. Was it one of the boys? There seemed to be little point in signing it, “Your sister,” if it was a boy who was too shy to speak to me. Secret admirer would have been quite all right, although admittedly a little clichéd. I put the note in my robe and gathered my things to get off to Defence Against the Dark Arts. I was immediately reminded of Dad’s warnings about unknown magical objects and felt guilty for not throwing it away or running off to McGonnagal. A boy had sent it to me I decided stubbornly. I was not going to throw away something that nice. It wasn’t as if it was tedious routine in my short life to receive jewellery at breakfast, or any other time of day for that matter. Besides, it didn’t seem to be magical so, what was the harm?

The new Defence Against the Dark Arts Teacher, Remus Lupin, was not only nice but also an interesting teacher. He was going through the basics of the Dark Arts with us, talking about simple hexes and the deflections one could employ in defence against them. It was all very fundamental, but since our previous teacher, the now as ridiculed and despised as he was previously famous, Gilderoy Lockhart, had spent most of the classes reading from his books, all featuring himself in various adventures that had apparently been more or less made up, we had a lot to catch up. Taking this class with Ravenclaw made it easier to relax and listen than when the Slytherins were around.

“I am covering Dark Creatures of various kinds with the third years and we will review what you know about dark spells, hexes and dark arts objects and devices,” Professor Lupin said. “I hope we can move forward to what we should be talking about in the second year soon enough, but since I don’t know yet just how much you know, we will be revising for now.”

“Are there any questions so far?”

“How can one determine whether an object is a dark and dangerous?” I asked before I could stop myself. I had been thinking about the necklace and too late, I realised what I was saying.

“Why do you ask?” Professor Lupin trailed off and paused with comprehension dawning on his face. ”Oh, Miss Weasley...” He cleared his throat.  “Well, It is not very easy. Powerful dark objects have lured many wise and old wizards. There are no foolproof ways to determine if an object is dark when it wants to conceal its true nature. Generally, if it communicates with you or tries to make you take certain actions then you shouldn’t trust it, if you are not sure where it keeps its brain. By that we usually mean, who created it, for what purpose and what it wants with you. Who stands to gain from what it wants you to do is a good question to ask.”

“How does one know when someone is possessed?” Sandy asked innocently.

The whole class turned to look at me instead of Lupin, and then they quickly turned away again, when I looked up. There was a chilling pause as Lupin drew in breath.

“Miss Anderson,” he said. “Don’t you think that question was a tad insensitive when Ginny is sitting right beside you?” I was grateful that he didn’t pretend like nothing that would have made me feel even worse. It was also satisfying to see Sandy go red in the face for a change.

“All those things and lots more will be covered in due time if you just bear with me,” Lupin continued in a lighter tone. “Now, class dismissed,” he said, and the bell rang. That man seemed to have an eerie sense of time, as if he was counting the seconds in his head.

“But how do we know she’s not still dangerous?” I heard Sandy say to Eliza as we left the classroom. I felt a sinking feeling in my stomach. How long was this going to last?

“Nice necklace,” said Luna, smiling at me and pointing. “Did you get that this summer?”

“No, someone gave it to me,” I said.

“Oh, really? Not Neville?”

“No, I don’t think so,” I said. Perhaps it was possible, but that note didn’t make sense at all. Somehow, I didn’t think Neville was that interested in me, he had just wanted some company on the train and had been his usual friendly self. But maybe that was what he had meant by signing it, “Your sister.” Perhaps he had meant that he valued me as a friend. Obviously if he had signed it, “Your brother,” I would have wondered which one. No, that made no sense at all. Why would he send a necklace to a girl to point out that he only wanted to be friends? That would surely be quite insane. The necklace had not communicated with me or tried to make me do anything improper though. I decided that if it ever did I would pay Moaning Myrtles bathroom another visit.

“He is pretty cute though, isn’t he?” said Luna dreamily.

“I don’t know,” I said.

“His face is very round,” Luna continued in an airy voice as if it was the most delicious feature she could think of in a boy. Whatever happened to square jaw, or dreamy green eyes?

“Did you two meet in the summer?” Luna interrogated me.

I giggled a little. “No we didn’t Luna. Now give it a rest. I only bumped into him on the train. There is nothing going on.”

Next class was potions down in the dungeons with Snape. We had that class with Ravenclaw this year, which would be a real blessing. It meant we were spared Snape’s sickening favouritism in class towards his Slytherin students. However, relief was not a word one associated with Potions, and as Luna and I walked down the stairs, I felt the usual apprehension. I also thought about my meeting with Snape in London and I hoped it would not affect his behaviour towards me. As if to make my worst fears come true immediately, we ran into the object of his affections outside the potions dungeon. At least it was quite obvious to me that was she. Snape was standing there talking to a woman that seemed to be about his age, perhaps a little younger. She had dark hair that was cut in a straight page hair cut, delicate dark features, and very dark brown eyes. She was shorter than Snape and looked quite athletic. She seemed to dress like him, in all black robes with a Slytherin badge. I could easily see why Snape found her attractive, but what she saw in him I didn’t understand. I stared at the brilliant moonstone necklace she wore. It looked very expensive and beautiful.

“Well, you know you can’t ask, Miss Weasley, so just run along. Don’t make it a habit of bumping into me,” Snape said.

I was dying to stay and listen to their conversation, but that was of course impossible. I quickly followed Luna into the classroom and sat down beside her. Snape entered the dungeon shortly after in his usual manner, by banging the door open. I wished he would stop doing that - it was so annoying. The whole class fell silent.

“This is Miss de Winter,” Snape said, pointing at the beautiful woman who had come in after him. “She is a Slytherin honour student who is currently studying to become a Potions Master at L'École Supérieure de magie avancée Isobel D'Éry, est. 1189, in France.” He paused, and his eyes swept around the dungeon. “Which, in case any of you did not know, is one of Europe’s finest universities named after the legendary twelfth century witch Isobel D'Éry.“ He said this in a tone that suggested only an utter idiot could be unaware of this distinguished institution. “You need not worry, she is as English as Shepherds pie.” At this, Miss de Winter smiled a little. “She has recently completed part of her exams and is qualified to teach second level Potions. That would be first and second year students to you. She will fulfil some of her practical training as my assistant this term helping me to teach a selected number of Potions Students from the first and second year classes, who have shown particular aptitude.” He looked around at us as if he seriously doubted anyone would qualify. I was thunderstruck. Did he actually have an affair with one of his students? She had of course graduated and she was his assistant and not a student, but it still sounded highly inappropriate.

“Close your mouth Ginny,” said Luna.

“So to get a head start on the new term and assist Miss de Winter in assessing which students might qualify,” he paused and his eyes flickered around the classroom as if someone would spring out of the cupboard to curse him, “we will start off with something simple to see how much of your potions skills you have retained over the summer. This interesting Hair-Raising Potion should give you something of a challenge to start you off. You will partner up two and two. You may begin.” He waved his hand in the air and the recipe and list of ingredients appeared magically on the blackboard. 

I groaned as I read the instructions. That was not exactly something simple, but Snape liked to be his usual sarcastic, sunny self. Clearly, love hadn’t changed his demeanour.

Luna and I went to work. Now was the time for concentration and perfection. If you messed up your failures would be thoroughly rubbed in before the whole class, Snape relishing every second. It was also at times like these that it became apparent why Luna was in Ravenclaw. Her mind could be very sharp when she had something concrete before her to dig into. Actually, I wasn’t so bad with potions either and at the end of last year things had seemed a lot easier than before. It was like I saw the whole picture were there had been individual pieces of the puzzle before. Snape and Miss de Winter walked around the classroom inspecting the work of each group at random.

“Miss Paramar” Snape said behind my back to Sunita. “You seem to have neglected to wait the proper time before adding the sage.”

“No sir, we waited as we should. I promise,” said Sunita. “Honestly sir,” Eliza tried to help.

“She is clearly lying,” said Snape to Miss deWinter.

“Yes, now it will be runny no matter how long she brews it.” Miss de Winter said. I quickly inspected our potion and it wasn’t runny. I sighed in relief.

“Miss Anderson! Small pieces does not mean atom by atom,” Snape said to Sandy.

“Like that will do,” Miss de Winter filled in.

Here goes.

“Miss Lovegood, why do we heat quickly at the beginning?” Snape said.

“To increase circulation,” Luna answered.

“For how long,” asked Miss de Winter?

“Until it starts to turn yellow,” Luna said.

“This is more brownish,” Snape said.

“Or even rust brown perhaps,” Miss de Winter said.

“Miss Weasley, did I not clearly write you need five rat tails for the Hair Rising Potion?” said Snape.

“You seem to have used only three,” said Miss de Winter.

“That will not work,” Snape continued. What was this, Snape in stereo from two directions at once? It was really terrifying. One could draw breath while the other attacked.

“You don’t need five if you roast them before you grind them,” I said nervously.

“Mm,” said Snape, scratching his crooked nose.

“That will work,” said Miss de Winter.

“You seem to have improved your understanding of Potions Miss Weasley. However, I do not want you to divert from my instructions,” Snape said.

“No sir,” I said.

It continued like this for the rest of class and before long I felt like a nervous wreck. Luna and I did well though, and our potion was actually the one Snape tried, to demonstrate its effect. His long greasy hair stood straight up on his head while he looked around as if he dared anyone to laugh. No one did. It would have been a sure way to receive detention.

 

At breakfast the next morning Dean Thomas was entertaining a large group of Gryffindors with a story about what had happened in the third years first class with Professor Lupin. They had been training on defending against Boggarts in the teacher’s staff room and had had to face up to their worst fear. Dean Thomas vividly described how Neville had made the Boggart turn into Professor Snape in a green dress and a hat with a vulture, clothes like those his grandmother always wore. Neville smiled brightly at the memory. He seemed pleased with himself that he had pulled off the exercise so well. Lupin had complemented him and handed out lots of points to Gryffindor. I wondered what the students in the staff room would have said if Tom Riddle and the Basilisk came out of that cupboard, or a man with red hair and red eyes that spoke Parseltongue. When Dean said, “So now we know who is the Drag Queen of Potions,” the table exploded and everybody was lying in heaps wriggling with laughter. I laughed so hard my stomach hurt. “Finally the slimy git comes out of the closet,” I pitched in. No one laughed. Everybody looked terrified and fell silent. Still giggling I looked behind me.

“I can assure you Miss Weasley that if I needed to be in the closet, I wouldn’t.”

“No of course not Professor,” I stammered. “I mean I know you’re not… I mean…I didn’t mean… You have… ” I was utterly helpless.

“You should stop talking now Miss Weasley.” Snape paused, his black penetrating eyes boring into mine. “ I came to let you know that Miss de Winter apparently was a little impressed with your use of rat tails. I can’t say I was, but she wants to consider you for her tutorials. This note gives the details.” He swept off with his black robes billowing. When he had reached what seemed a safe distance the Gryffindors broke out in hysterical laughter once again, Dean was rolling on the floor clutching his stomach. ”Out of the closet,” he wheezed. I stood there utterly mortified with the note in my hand. Slowly I walked away from the table, thinking my only option now was to jump off the Astronomy Tower. Had I known the Avada Kedavra spell, I would have performed it on myself at that moment.

Without having a very clear idea of how I got there, I found myself in the library. It was very nice, cool, and quiet. I wanted to be on my own to let the sickening embarrassed feeling recede, if possible. I wandered down the aisles, tracing my finger idly against the spines of the books. I was deep in thought and didn’t know exactly where I was going. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular. My finger stopped at a book with the peculiar writing I had seen in the British Museum. I hesitated for a moment, then pulled it off the shelf and opened the book. I looked at the various chapters. This was a very old book, no doubt. Strangely, the text seemed simpler this time, like everything had started to seem simple. I must have been an idiot before. This language wasn’t that hard really; similar to Latin in a way but it was Greek. I turned pages at random and read little bits here and there. The Greek had recorded old legends from Egypt and other! Places. I stopped when I found what I was looking for: the mention of Isis.

“There are ways to bring the goddess Isis into the realm of the mortals, but beware for her wrath can be terrible if she is annoyed or called upon for an unworthy cause. Her colours are white, gold, and cobalt blue, the colours of royalty and comfort; “ I spelled out slowly, tracing my finger over the text. Turning the page I read, “The gems and stones of Isis are pearl, coral, lapis, geodes, and moonstone. Wearing jewellery with these stones embedded is just one way to bring the goddess near. Fragrances of the goddess are myrrh, rose, iris, and eucalyptus. Candles and essential oils are useful in bringing the fragrance of Isis into the home.”

“Eh hem!” Someone cleared her throat behind me. “I believe this is the restricted section Miss Weasley,” Madam Pince said.

I snapped the book closed quickly. “I was just admiring these beautiful symbols,” I said somewhat nervously.

“Ah, Linear B,” said Madam Pince. “Yes, that is quite beautiful. It’s a shame no one here can read it, except for Dumbledore of course. I guess there is no harm in looking at that, but you should really get permission first Miss Weasley.”

“Yes Madam Pince, I’m sorry. I didn’t look where I was going. Sorry.” I backed away from the stern looking librarian only to bump into Albus Dumbledore. Oh, crap! Here I am sneaking into the restricted section by mistake and who should be around to apprehend me but the Headmaster himself. I had never seen him in the library before, why did he have to be here now of all days?

“What was that you were reading, Miss Weasley?” he said. He didn’t sound particularly angry.

“I don’t know,” I lied. “I was only admiring the writing.”

“Yes, nice isn’t it? I have been meaning to have a word with you Miss Weasley about the events of last year.” My heart pounded in my chest like it always had the few times Dumbledore had spoken to me. There was just something so magnificent about him, and imposing. The fact that he was always very friendly almost made it worse. “I had a word with your father and he said that you had been plagued by rather bad dreams this summer.”

“Oh, Headmaster. That is no problem any more. You needn’t mention it to anyone,” I babbled.

“No, of course not. I was wondering though if perhaps someone had attempted to communicate with you in the castle. Through your dreams,” Dumbledore said.

“No sir, not through my dreams.” This was true; there had been no scary dreams since I had arrived at Hogwarts, quite possibly the tremendous workload made me too tired every night. Technically, receiving owl post at breakfast could not count as anything out of the ordinary, so I decided not to mention that.

“Nice necklace,” Dumbledore commented. “Coral is it?” I nodded. Was he reading my mind? Then why did he need to ask?

“Neville Longbottom gave it to me,” I said quickly.

“Nice boy.” Dumbledore smiled. “I knew his parents very well. Well, Miss Weasley, should you think of something, anything at all, that you would like to tell me you are always welcome to call at my office.”

“Eh, I have one question,” I said. “How long has Professor Snape known Miss de Winter?”

“Since she was at Hogwarts I believe. She is a year younger than Professor Snape, and they were both in Slytherin. She was very talented and as you know, Professor Snape has always appreciated talent. They kept in touch after they had graduated and remained friends. She probably applied to come here because she knew what an excellent teacher Professor Snape is.”

“How good friends?” I asked.

Dumbledore raised an eyebrow. “What do you mean, Miss Weasley?”

“Eh,” I stammered. ”Its just that she asked me to participate in her special potions class,” I tried to get out of my predicament. I couldn’t very well ask what I really wanted to ask. I held up the note as if it would explain everything.

“You should seize that opportunity, Miss Weasley. She is an extremely talented potions student. She was at the top of every class at Hogwarts and has since made a great name for herself. I would recommend you accept her invitation. Now, Miss Weasley, if there is nothing further you wish to ask, I shall go and devour this excellent thesis on the application of magical frogs against strained backs.” He smiled at me as he held up a small blue book. He then walked away between the aisles in his purple robes. I saw his white hair disappear through the door of the library. What had all that been about, and why was I not being punished for trespassing in the forbidden section? Had he forgotten about it? What a horrible mess I had made of everything this day, and it wasn’t even lunch yet.

 

Author’s Note: Departure from canon in this chapter:

1)     Snape would never show Ginny the Slytherin common room. Even if he doesn’t care the Slytherins wouldn’t take it lightly if she suddenly appeared there.

2)     Neville and Luna are not supposed to know each other until OotP. However I’d much rather have Luna as the second heroine in this story than an OC, I hope the readers feels the same. Someone needed to comment on Neville to inject the thought that he might have sent the necklace in Ginny’s thoughts, therefore Neville and Luna needed to meet on the train.

Many thanks to Caducee for checking the French and helping me out with the name of the French university. She also came up with the witch Isobel D'Éry, a beautiful and distinguished name indeed. I would also like to thank my lovely beta Ada Kensington for beta reading this chapter, and Birch Tree for beta reading the earlier version. 

 

 

 

 

 

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