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Author's note: I've thought about writing a Harry Potter-inspired novel for a while - but I thought I'd do it from an entirely new perspective, several years after the events of the seventh book...
I’m listening out for the wild, beast-like call my father promised would happen on this day: July 24th. He said around 9:00 a.m. – and both Seth and I got up at 7:00 a.m. sharp, desperate to be there when it comes; the Hogwarts Owl from the new head master Professor Jean Grace – it’s his first year at Hogwarts, too; Professor McGonagall finally retired. There was a big story in the Daily Prophet, actually, but we weren’t sure whether to believe it or not – it’s been known to make things up or exaggerate in the past. Never trust a newspaper – even Muggle ones are supposed to be corrupt. But it turned out to be true. Seth wasn’t too bothered, but I was really disappointed – I’ve have heard all about her from my parents. She’s supposed to be this great, strict, brave woman whose the finest Transfigurer ever seen since Albus Dumbledore – and even though he died years and years ago, in 1997 I think, I know all about him too, and it sounds as if he was this brilliant, witty, slightly mad old head master and ex-transfiguration teacher either strongly admired, envied or hated. I wonder who the next Head of Gryffindor is now that McGonagall’s gone. I’m hoping it’s someone not quite as stern – Seth and I can’t wait to discover all those secret passageways the owner of Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes George Weasley always promises – even swears he once had this special map that only worked if you said: ‘I solemnly swear I am up to no good’, and showed you all the hidden places in Hogwarts, and also everyone in Hogwarts, staff and teachers – there would just be a little dot telling you your friend is in the library or whatever – or old Filch is heading towards you. I’m not looking forward to him. George Weasley said he hates students and wishes he could bring back corporal punishment – and even my Dad said Filch will be hoping this new Head allows a few whippings. He sounds pretty horrible to me – but I like a challenge. We’ll see if he can catch me out of bed with that wretched cat of his. I know all about Hogwarts, which I think makes me really lucky, because some people just randomly get a letter telling them they have been accepted into Hogwarts, and someone comes round to explain. It must be so confusing for them – brilliant, but confusing. I’m so glad I know what I’m getting into, at least. According to Harry Potter’s biography, he didn’t even know how to get onto the platform, and his ghastly Aunt and Uncle and cousin just left him there, stranded! His youngest son, Albus Severus I think he’s called, is starting at the same time as Seth and me – and so is his cousin Rose Weasley, whose parents are best friends with his father – and his mother is the sister of Rose’s father, and also Hermione’s best friend. It sounds as if they’ll all be in Gryffindor, hopefully where I’m headed! I won’t be really dumb and ask for their autographs or stare or anything. They – and their parents – must be so sick of that. I’ll just try to make friends with Rose or something, since we’ll probably share a dormitory. Unfortunately, the Malfoys’ son Scorpius is starting at the same time as us, too, and everyone knows his whole line of ancestors is full of dark death eaters and muggle-haters and idiots who only believe the “purest of bloods” should be allowed into Hogwarts. That always upsets me, because my mother is muggle-born, although my father is pure-blood. Mum was so surprised to get the letter! And it’s lucky she did, too – or there would be no Summer and Seth babbling on today! I can’t seem to help it – I’m so excited! Parents can only tell you so much; everyone’s experiences are different – but magnificent. I can’t wait to finally join!
It’s nearing 9:00 a.m. now, and still no sign. My twin Seth and I sit silently, eagerly anticipating the cheep of the owl. Come on, owl, I think, fly faster!
The movement of Seth clattering his spoon startles me out of my trance – and Seth, who noticed my jump of surprise, is quick to tease me.
‘You won’t survive five minutes at Hogwarts if you can’t even handle the slightest noise when you need to concentrate you know, Summer,’ my twin says, and I pick up my spoon and rap him on the knuckles.
Seth gives a (very much) empathised howl of pain, and Mum comes running, obviously thinking we’ve killed each other – honestly, she’ll have to learn to trust us soon, or she’ll never be able to see us off to Hogwarts in just over a month – I haven’t gone quite as far as counting down the days, but I still check the calendar regularly, as though the date will suddenly spring to September 1st.
‘Are you two fighting?’ Mum asks disapprovingly, and we both shake our heads.
‘We’re just waiting quietly for the owl, Mum,’ I say sweetly – but my innocent act usually only wins my Dad round, who swears I’ll end up in Slytherin if I carry on fabricating everything. I don’t see it like that – who wants to be boring and scared of the rules all the time? There’s no house that specifies that. What’s wrong with wanting to have some fun once in a while, if you know which boundaries to cross?
Seth grins at the lie. ‘Yes – I must have knocked my hands onto her wooden instrument deliberately – it had absolutely nothing to do with the fact she –’
‘Shut up, Seth,’ I hiss, nudging him under the table – what happened to his sense of sibling loyalty?
‘What’s that, Summer?’ Seth says, half-laughing, as Mum puts her hands on her hips. ‘You don’t want me to tell our poor old mother the truth? Well, I’m afraid I can’t do th-’
I kick him under the table, and he immediately retaliates – and somehow, his elbow snags onto the end of the orange juice, and, as if in slow motion, it falls spectacularly onto the recently-cleaned floor, ending in a pile of glass and fiery liquid resembling old bile. That was so not my fault, just to clarify.
Mum opens her mouth to berate us for our many crimes when we hear it – the sharp squawk of the owl! The owl, the Hogwarts owl has arrived!
It makes another piercing, hooting sound as it heads for the open window, its wings soaring gracefully, ready to land. It flutters, seemingly effortlessly, onto our table, and the identical letters embedded with the Hogwarts crest flap at Mum’s end of the table. Pity Dad wasn’t here for the bird call – we are his only children, after all – but he had to leave early for work. He works at the Ministry of Magic under Kingsley’s rule, in the Department of Magical Education, which is a pity, because a) it means he picked the most boring one and b) Seth and I are bored senseless by his endless questionnaires on how to make the school a better place and c) it means we have a certain pressure to do exceptionally well at our exams. They’ve already started planning for the start of the new term, and the corridor’s frantic with busy schedules and new rules Dad refuses to tell us and the planned Curriculum from First-Seventh year. I can’t wait to immerse myself in all that once I get to Hogwarts. (Was that you I heard coughing)?
‘Open the letters!’ Seth and I urge our mother at the same time, and with an amused smile, she frees the letters from the owl’s proud and outstretched leg and sends it flying back into the breeze…back to Hogwarts.
Mum hands us one letter each, even though they are both the same really, only with different name tags. Mine is addressed to a Miss Summer Spear, and the enclosed letter reads as follows:
HOGWARTS SCHOOL of WITCHCRAFT and WIZARDRY
Headmaster: Jean Grace
(Accomplished Charms student, ex-head of Magical Law and Enforcement)
Dear Miss Summer Alexa Spear,
We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Please find enclosed a list of all necessary books and equipment.
Term begins on 1 September. We await your owl by no later than 31 July.
Deputy Headmaster of Hogwarts
With the acceptance letter is a list of instructions – Seth and I excitedly tear into this one, too, though it isn’t as exciting as we hoped – or as Harry Potter made out in his biography – or George Weasley in his shop. Men!
First-year students will require:
1. Three sets of plain work robes (black)
2. One plain pointed hat (black) for day wear
3. One pair of protective gloves (dragon hide or similar)
4. One winter cloak (black, with silver fastenings)
Please note that all pupils’ clothes should carry name tags.
All students should have a copy of each of the following:
The Standard Book of Spells (Grade 1)
by Miranda Goshawk
A History of Magic
by Bathilda Bagshot
by Adalbert Waffling
A Beginner's Guide to Transfiguration
by Emeric Switch
One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi
by Phyllida Spore
Magical Drafts and Potions
by Arsenius Jigger
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
by Newt Scamander
The Dark Forces: A Guide to Self-Protection
by Quentin Trimble
1 cauldron (pewter or gold, standard size 2)
1 set glass or crystal phials
1 set brass scales
Students may also bring, if they desire, an owl OR a cat OR a toad.
PARENTS ARE REMINDED THAT FIRST YEARS ARE NOT ALLOWED THEIR OWN BROOMSTICK UNLESS THEY HAVE BEEN ACCEPTED INTO A QUIDDITCH TEAM AT CAPTAIN TRIALS.
Chief Attendant of Witchcraft Provisions
‘There you are then – your much awaited letters have arrived,’ Mum says, smiling at us, ‘and now we can finally go to Diagon Alley to pick up your stuff.’
At the words: ‘Diagon Alley’, Seth gives a moan of dissent, obviously having shopping nightmares – but I give a whoop of delight, knowing this means we can visit Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes for the third time in a month. Seth and I both look at the other as if to say: are you mad? Mum sighs at the little horrors she has produced – but we know she loves us really.
An hour later, we are deemed presentable enough to leave the house, and we get into the old Ford car Mum inherited from her uncle, who was a muggle. It gets off to a slow start usually, but as long as you jiggle the car key, it roars to life. Today, however, it seems to be totally dead. In the front seat (because he won the fight to get there) Seth rams the key in with a stray piece of wood he found dangling from the roof (it must have come off the old apple tree in the night, the poor thing), and it’s truly magical, because the old Ford actually starts, although it wheezes a little on its way. Personally, I think it may be time this car gave up the ghost, but I don’t dare say it to Mum. She’s fiercely protective of anything that belongs to her relatives – and trust me; she inherits a lot of muggle junk.
‘In the name of Merlin’s left saggy –’ Mum stops herself from finishing her utterance of a wizard swear just in time as a lorry pulls out in front of us, and the traffic light flashes red – road rage, it makes the best of us turn into filthy hypocrites – (don’t swear Summer, it’s not very nice, cough, cough).
Seth turns in his seat to grin at me, but he, too, would not dare challenge an angry driver. Everyone knows that – it’s the first rule of thumb. Still, I mouth ‘road rage!’ cheekily at him, and he mimes a laugh, which of course gets Mum’s attention – but it’s alright, she only apologises for being such a filthy-mouthed, scary Ford owner, and we forgive her -
‘On one condition,’ says Seth, ‘you buy us solid-gold cauldrons and a flaky ice cream each.’
Mum shrugs in agreement, and this time Seth gives a whoop of delight, thinking how cool we’ll look in front of our class mates. I’m not too bothered myself, although I do hope more kids have solid-gold cauldrons, too – and not just the Slytherins. I don’t want to look like some show-offy snob, though Dad’s job is a decent earner – and even Mum’s weekly instalment of recipes in Witch Weekly pays generously. I can’t stand arrogant toads.
I’m comforted by the fact that Seth, at least, will have a twin cauldron of mine. It’s great being a twin at times like this – and despite his annoying temperament, Seth still knows me better than anyone else, and vice versa. It’s that special connection with twins – and I sometimes think it’s best to be a boy and girl twin like me and Seth, rather than same-sex twins. I mean, as a boy and girl twin, you have that essence of closeness and protectiveness and mutual understanding of the other, but with some space, too, as boys and girls are generally quite different – and trust me, Seth is every stereotype of the adolescent boy. I hope Hogwarts doesn’t separate us too much – that’s another thing I’m worried about.
Still, I don’t think much could harm the relationship between my brother and I – we don’t have any other siblings, so we’ve naturally grown up really close. We can always tell when the other is lying or withholding information, or whether something means a lot to the other – that can be a positive or negative. You’re never really alone when you have a twin, but if you really want to keep something a secret, it’s hard, because half of you is itching to share with the other and the rest of you is desperate not to give yourself away.
Still, it’s normally pretty cool – and my brother Seth is adventurous, honest, courageous, laid-back, bright and usually cheerful in nature, so we’re a good match. I just know he’s going to be in Gryffindor – but I’m not so sure about me…
A couple of hours later we are sitting licking ice creams with dangling shopping bags each – but at least Mum kept to her side of the bargain; we have a shiny and expensive golden cauldron each that glints warm yellow and cold silver and reflects the beating sun above.
Still, I already know my favourite subject is Potions; ever since I was old enough to understand the meaning of herbs and mixtures, I’ve been brewing them instead of sloppily painting pictures and squishing play dough. I definitely want to be a Potioneer when I grow up – but not some boring old teacher; no way. They all seem to stay there forever – and look at Professor. Binns, still (er) going strong in his…ghostly years. It’s going to be kind of creepy having some dead guy teaching us, but it is History of Magic, after all, and you don’t get more past tense than our future professor.
At first, whenever I made a concoction, I just used rigid instructions from my paternal Grandma’s old Potions book – but when I was nine, I realized I could do them all in my sleep – literally, I actually dreamt about potion mixtures; so, one day, I decided to make my own, and see what the end result turned out to be. Of course, some failed – and I can still smell the rotten eggs now – but nothing gives me more satisfaction than having a complete, beautifully coloured liquid that gives out wafts of sheen and hard work and pleasant lavender…I even thought I could smell peppermint, once. It was so strong and fresh.
Plus, it’s one of the only subjects that doesn’t require wand work, and as no one’s allowed to use magic out of school until they come of age, I’ll be able to practise and create whenever I want without fear of being caught or having my wand snapped in two like poor old Hagrid – he still teaches Care of all Magical Creatures, and he’s supposed to be really friendly – although some dim-witted students (mostly Slytherins) think he’s a stupid oaf who hasn’t got any feelings, just because he’s half-giant – but I’ve noticed people have become more tolerant to giants and magical creatures, as they did save a lot of people’s bacon back in the Second Wizarding War nineteen years ago.
When Seth and I are licking the remains of our ice cream, Mum announces we’ve still got our owls, robes and wands to get. I can’t wait to find out which wand chooses me! It’s so cool to think that awaiting every amateur witch and wizard is a specific wand naturally tailored to their needs. It’s such a special experience, Mum says, when you realize you’ve found the one – but Dad says for almost everyone it takes ages, and you have to go through stacks and stacks of wands in a room kind of set out like a library, with a whiskery old man called Ollivander rooting through them all and tossing them down one by one in neat rectangle boxes and judging, with all his experience and knowledge of wandlore, which is perfect for you.
Even Seth stops looking miserable and droopy and sits up, excitement turning slowly like wheels in his eyes, churning for magic spells and fate.
‘Whichever wand you get, remember no one’s is better than the other – each one is made for the individual,’ Mum says, obviously fearing that as twins, we’ll be in competition with each other. Honestly – what a stereotype! We already know whatever she said.
‘Will our wands be related, Mum?’ Seth asks, clearly wondering if twins have wands similar in appearance like with each other – and I’ve been pondering over this, too, despite what Mum said.
‘Not necessarily,’ Mum says nonchalantly, but adds, ‘although it can happen. Look at what happened with Harry Potter and that awful Voldemort.’ Nobody shivers at the name anymore – it’s more like a whoop of celebration he’s gone for most adults, but it still must be weird, I suppose – I wouldn’t know. Thankfully, I’ve avoided that generation!
Although if Harry Potter hadn’t defeated him, I could be one of those kids now – terrified instead of happy to be going to Hogwarts – and what would have happened to the muggle-borns?
My Mum was a teenage muggle-born in those days – but luckily she was kept safe by Dad’s family, thanks to loyal friends, a secret location and the Fidelius charm. Mum’s forever grateful to Dad’s relatives, as pure-bloods, for not turning their back on her, and treating her as one of their own, unlike most of the other pure-blood families, smug and superior as they were in that day – but not anymore. I’m glad things have changed with that, too, and every blood status is seen as equal now – though you do get the odd individuals who still believe in all that nonsense, but nobody listens to them anymore anyway.
I still shudder at what could have been now – and not because of my own existence, but the fact she could have been tortured or killed and most certainly kidnapped from the Hogwarts express or her defenceless muggle home with her non-magic family…it doesn’t bear thinking about, if the death eaters had found her. I hope they rot in Azkaban.
Mum says it’s different now – prison. The creatures that used to guard it – Dementors I think they’re called, were banished by Kingsley, and instead only the most gifted witches and wizards and Aurors guard it with an assortment of different magical spells to keep the prisoners in – although most are just mad now.
Our minister also enlisted the help of the Goblins and elves to make it even more secure – and trust me, nobody can escape the powers of a Goblin – well, apart from Harry Potter and his friends that is. I kind of feel sorry for his children – they have so much to live up to. And the Weasleys’ too – they have adventure, loyalty and intelligence to accomplish. I don’t care what anyone says – in my opinion, Rose Weasley’s parents are just as brave as Harry Potter; they were just lucky not to have a heavy prophecy hanging over them, although Voldemort did give them a run for their money.
Aside from the excellence expected from them, there’ll all be so famous – and everyone will stare at Albus’ Dad, poor guy – for obvious reasons.
Before he even has time to figure out his own talents, Albus Potter will be predicted brilliance – and don’t forget the Severus in his name. I bet whenever teachers or students who aren’t his friends or regular class mates look at him, all they’ll see is Harry Potter! I’ve even heard he’s the only one of his children to inherit green, almond-shaped eyes – and he has untidy black hair that sticks up at the back, too! Just like Harry, famous before he can walk and talk. It must get depressing, although anyone would be proud to be related to his family – they’ve all achieved great things, after all, and not just his father.
But enough about the Potters (I think everyone knows as much as they’ll ever need for a fraud autobiography) and back to Diagon Alley.
We’re on our way to Madam Malkin’s now, to pick up our robes – and after that, owls and wands! We can’t wait – literally, my feet are tingling, and Seth’s own wriggly feet tell me he’s all pins and needles, too! He does that when he’s anticipating something. I give him a reassuring smile, and as he returns it and I feel a huge flood of relief, I realize I’ve been just as scared as him. We walk in step, in one of our rare moments of not having to say anything to understand the other. It’s a warm feeling, and it makes the butterflies go away, at least – hopefully to a stronger stomach!
Seth keeps begging Mum to just pick up any old robes and be done with it, but Mum insists we must try them on, so they can be fitted especially.
And she says take time choosing your owl, as they make very useful and fond pets. Most people get attached, apparently – but they are pretty beautiful, aren’t they? Sweet clever little things.
Most people dream of owning a snowy white Hedwig replica, but secretly, I long for a lovely smooth grey owl with white feathered wings – fluttery and free and fairy-like in elegance.
But there aren’t many left of those, as most shops stock white now – but who on earth wants the same as a whole school full of people? It doesn’t make sense. Dare to be different, after all – who actually cares if everyone else wants Hedwig the sixty thousandth? But, each to their own, I suppose. I’ve learnt that most people prefer to travel in packs, think like the majority. It’s why manipulation works almost every time.
As soon as we enter the shop, Madam Malkin leads us over to a selection of junior witch and wizard robes, telling us not to worry about our first year, as it’ll be the experience of our lives.
I wish I could just experience it now – you get tired of people just telling you the theory of stuff. It feels so patronising – I just want to live it right here, right now on this moth-ball ridden floor.
I wish the dusty carpet at my feet would crack open magically to reveal a wide inviting tunnel, a sucking paradise to Hogwarts. I wish…
‘…you would just concentrate, Summer, dear,’ Mum says with a frown, as Madam Malkin asks me to hold out my right arm for the third time. Oops – focusing isn’t my biggest strength at the best of times – it’s probably why I love potion-making so much. It’s about more than just concentration – you get so caught up in that world.
‘Oh, right, sorry,’ I stutter, and hold out my arm.
‘That’s your left arm, dear,’ Madam Malkin says politely, and Seth sniggers in the background.
I hand her the correct arm, flustered, and wonder how I’ll manage all that complicated wandwork if I can’t even tell my left from right.
Silently, I throw Seth a look that clearly conveys: Shut up right now or I’ll stick a pin up your nose.
Yes, we can read each other’s psychotic faces, too. We’re cool like that.
Eventually, both Seth and I are kitted-out successfully, my robes a little smaller than his. He grew a lot over the summer – I didn’t. I know. Funny.
‘Don’t tell me you two want snowy white owls along with the rest of the world?’ Mum infers as our eyes light up when we arrive at the pet shop, where birds and toads and cats are cheeping and croaking and meowing alike, most in cages, although some have escaped and are curled underneath the high shelves, empty cages lost above them.
I’m too mystified to coherently reply, and as I stare at the swirls of animals and metal and listen to the loud tinkling of tonic bottles, I have a sudden, crazy urge to rescue them all.
Seth catches my eye. ‘Don’t even think about it, Summer – the animals are fine.’
I forgot how much my brother knows me.
I laugh at his suggestion, but I was serious.
‘I’ll be watching you,’ Seth warns, gesturing with his fingers and narrowing his eyes, a bit like in those old muggle films about cowboys and shoot-outs.
This is my calling.
‘We’ll see about that, animal slayer,’ I snarl – and Seth rushes forwards before I can blink, and trips me; I fall headfirst into him and we have a silly scuffle, landing at the feet of a boy examining a warty toad.
Sorry, was examining – now he stares open-mouthed at us, a little shell-shocked. If he’s going to Hogwarts in the same year as us, then he better get used to it.
The frog, all over in brown bristles dripping with bacteria and bean-shaped moles, gives a long, exaggerated moan, reminding me of a slowly draining toilet. We all laugh in response, chipping off some of the tension – because it’s always so awkward when a stranger sees you doing something that looks mad but what you’d only do with your family isn’t it?
The boy holds out his hand, and I take it, glimpsing melted hazel eyes in the most unusual shades, a cheeky smirk, and floppy dark brown hair. Is it just me, or has it suddenly got hot in here? (Only joking).
I hang on for a little too long, but the boy just cheerfully pulls me up beside him, shaking his hand to indicate I have a firm grip. Double oops.
‘I’ll just help myself, then,’ Seth says huffily, struggling upwards and brushing stray dust off his trousers.
I immediately stop looking at the boy and turn to my twin. ‘It’s all your own fault, anyway,’ I sniff.
‘Says the mental animal “rescuer”,’ he heavily empathises the term.
I push him, and he shoves me back at once. The boy watches us, amused. I feel the need to say something – he did just help me after all, and all I can do is fight.
‘Thank you,’ I say, because it’s better late than never – and I was too startled to reply before.
‘No problem – it’s not every day a violent angel lands at your feet,’ the boy gives me a twinkling grin and walks off, whistling, before I can even ask his name.
And did he really just call me a (violent) angel?
‘Earth to pet-obsessed weirdo,’ Seth says, waving a hand in front of my face tauntingly.
I swat it away, realizing I was staring after the mysterious boy.
Maybe I’ll see him at Hogwarts – I can say I’ve already made one friend, at least – but I wish I’d been wearing nicer clothes. I’m in an old, faded pair of jeans, and a retro t-shirt with short sleeves, since it’s summer – all finished off unspectacularly by muddy trainers, from the time I crashed Dad’s broomstick when Seth and I were practising – we’re to have weekly flying lessons, apparently.
My long, straight, pale blonde hair is piled in a messy bun on top of my head (recently loosened from the fight), and I just know my eyes, apple-scotch green like Seth’s, are a little too bright, eager.
I know I just made an idiot of myself – but maybe I won’t see that boy again, on second thoughts. That would be so embarrassing – especially if he ended up in a different house and told all the kids there – no, worse, if he ended up in the same house as me, and told all our class mates! I somehow knew I would be known as a fool before I’d had the chance to prove it.
Then Seth punches my shoulder enthusiastically and points to a multi-coloured toad with yellow and green peeling at the sides, and bizarrely, darkened purple filling in the bumps in the middle, ended with bulging red eyes with strange orange flecks and ancient croaks, and I remember I’ll always have that idiot, at least.
It’s finally time – Ollivander calls. It took us forty minutes to choose our owls, mostly because I wouldn’t move from the cat cages, desperate to free them somehow, and Seth deliberated over a typically white owl and the female twin of the one that caught my eye. Eventually, Seth chose the grey owl, fortunately, as I got the male twin – an adorable little silver-grey thing that quivers in my palm whenever I hold it, as though not used to such love. I’ve decided to call him Earl, because it means intelligence and nobility, while Seth opted for the name Edwina – which means serious-minded, responsible and stable – appropriate for a delivery owl; not that Seth cared much about the meaning. He just thought it was a cool female name.
‘Don’t be nervous, you two,’ Mum says as we round the corner, where the famous wand shop awaits, ‘just stay calm and wave the wands Mr Ollivander gives you – okay?’
‘Right,’ Seth says, trying to look casual – but he fiddles slightly with his jacket pocket, a variation of my nervous habit of playing with my hair.
‘What happens if no wand suits you?’ I half-whisper – it’s something that’s been playing on my mind all day.
Mum laughs at my question, but, seeing our big scared eyes, says: ‘That doesn’t ever happen, Summer. I told you, there’s always a wand out there, waiting for you. And even if that did happen,’ we look stricken, ‘which it never does, you would just have to go with one that suited you moderately – but, ideally, you’re looking for your perfect match – ah, here it is.’
We’re standing outside Ollivanders: The Makers of Wands since 382 BC, Seth and I, as Mum enters without us, shoulder to shoulder. The sign is old and rusty, but the title is well preserved. In the window, a lone wand is on display, and around it is black velvet.
‘Come on, Summer,’ Seth says – and when I still stand there staring at the displayed wand, he tows me in with him.
Mr Ollivander is light-skinned and ancient, with searching pale silver eyes that glimmer yellow in passing light, with whispery white hair that comes out of his ears. He’s wearing a faded lime green suit – but comfortable slippers rest on his feet under his slightly ripped trousers. I feel a little uncomfortable, standing nervously with my twin. My mother doesn’t share the same reservations. She goes over to him immediately and they have a chat about the core of her wand, until Ollivander looks round her and beckons us over, closer to the collection of wands. Dad didn’t exaggerate about this place being like a library. Long shelves flank each other on either side, old and brown and chipped, like most of the shop – apart from the perfectly shaped rectangles that hold the wands – which are, I’m sure, in excellent condition, and probably treated like royalty here, as Ollivander’s life’s work.
‘You, boy, you can start,’ Ollivander says in a raspy voice like sandpaper, and Seth stumbles towards the shelves, Mum giving encouraging smiles, but thankfully nothing embarrassing like a thumbs up or something.
Mr Ollivander tosses down five boxes, and Mum catches four – Seth having to dive wildly to catch the fifth. Mum opens the box carefully, as though it is glass that might shatter at any moment, or something really valuable like gold, and brings out a short, rigid wand and hands it to Seth, who looks, frankly, as bewildered as dear Earl. I try to say something comforting, but my mouth and feet seem to be frozen, waiting. Swallowing, Seth waves the wand, and feeble sparks fly out. Excitedly, Seth waves it some more, but nothing else is produced. His shoulders sink a little in disappointment – and the same thing happens over and over, until he gets to the fifth box, the one he caught. With faintly trembling fingers, Seth slowly brings out a medium-sized wand coloured light brown, with deliberate markings. He holds it in awe, his whole face seeming unearthly and illuminating for a second – and then Ollivander speaks, breaking the spell.
‘That’s it,’ he enthuses, ‘let the wand get a feel of your character. Nine inches, that wand, smooth and supple – unicorn hair and sycamore wood. Suited to wizards eager for new experience, and with a curious and adventurous manner. The core produces some of the most consistent type of magic there is – and they make very loyal, faithful instruments.
‘Try it out, Mr Spear – go on, wave it, gently does it, let it familiarize with your touch – that’s it!’ Mr Ollivander cries as real sparks not just fly but dance out of his wand, and the peeling green door swings open, the little silver bell above tinkling as it goes.
No longer paralysed with anxiety and expectation, I’m able to appreciate the wonder the situation eludes. Seth has found his match – so what will mine be?
I walk towards Seth with a slight spring in my step – or maybe jiggling nerves – and examine the chosen wand. It lies still in Seth’s shocked, outstretched palm. I stroke the pale yellow-brown wood, and it hisses in response. I mull this over in my head, wondering if I’ll have a similar one – if we were always destined for the same, as twins – maybe some people get more than one perfect pair in their lives.
‘Your turn, sis,’ Seth says with a glorified smile, one that touches the pupils of his eyes – Seth’s moment was so special, like fate – what if mine is some boring, failure of an event?
But I don’t want to ruin Seth’s day, so I say instead, more bravely and confidently than I really feel: ‘I can’t wait.’
I step forwards, waiting as calmly as I can for Mr Ollivander to put away the discarded boxes Seth abandoned. He’s longer bringing out boxes for me to try, at first starting small (because I am) but when none of these cause any impact, he brings out three dusty, faintly golden cases.
‘Interesting,’ Ollivander says, looking at me with unblinking eyes, ‘I think we should try something with a little more power…’
Power? Me? This has to be some kind of joke – and what’s so interesting about waving a bunch of dwarf wands that don’t even work?
‘I think you’re mistaken,’ I say, finding my voice at last, ‘I’m not…powerful.’
Ollivander again turns the full force of his wrinkled, experienced eyes on me, and says wisely: ‘I have worked with many amateur wizards and witches, Ms Spear.’
‘I didn’t mean any offence,’ I say quickly, ‘I just don’t quite understand, Mr Ollivander. I haven’t done anything.’
‘I hand people wands to try based on my initial judgement of them – and when that fails, I go through more shelves of wands…when you first entered, you appeared to be very apprehensive and timid, for example, but I see now that I was wrong. Perhaps…hidden depths…an insightful perception of life? Possibly. But I think I see power there, Ms Spear, where you do not…so maybe a wand that draws out talent would best suit you?’ he pauses to look sideways at me, and I try to imagine what he must be thinking, looking at this small, blonde-haired eleven-year-old girl.
With fumbling fingers, I take the hat off the first box, ignoring everything around me. My world seems to have become Ollivander, with his wide knowledge of wandlore, and these three little boxes containing wands with power…what if I really just have nothing?
Well, I reason with myself, you can’t know until you try.
The first wand, again, has no impact, to my intense discouragement. Nevertheless, I reach for the next wand – Black walnut and Vine wood and pretty rare, according to Mr Ollivander.
As I hold it in my surprisingly strengthened fingers, I feel a warm, stimulating sensation run through my body like fire…and the feeling is so strong, so amazing, so beautiful that I don’t even notice my hand has taken on a mind of its own, lifting the chocolate-coloured wand with lighter vines twisted around its body in triumph and sending out a flutter of golden ferns that shoot in a V shape towards the ceiling…and it doesn’t stop there. The long-handled wand rises once more and with sparkling fingertips I bring out essences of peppermint and lavender and something sweet, innocent, and untouchable…something like success.
I put the wand back in the box shakily, exhausted. What did I just create? Was that powerful girl really me – am I really destined for power? What does this even mean? I can’t think.
Beside me, Seth and Mum are almost as astounded as me – but above, Mr Ollivander wears a pleased, knowing expression. I can’t believe…wow. I must have a really powerful wand, because trust me, I’m not the kind of girl fated for dynamic things…I’m not that person.
I’m just Summer, the same idiot who had silly play fights with her brother in a shop – the same Summer who waited anxiously for the owl post for two whole hours, the girl desperate to rescue the poor little animals…not the strange, ethereal person I turned into the first time I had a wand. My favourite subject is potions, where there is no wand work! I’m not sure I like this girl, this destiny. This is not me, whatever Mr Ollivander says.
‘Well, Ms Spear,’ Ollivander says with bright, fixed eyes, ‘I see you understand what I meant? I am very experienced in these matters…and I know something great when I see it. That is one of the most remarkable first experiences with a wand I have ever seen…I am right in saying, if I may, that you are destined for greatness, Ms Spear. There is raw, undiscovered talent…and a strange connection to nature.’ He shakes his head. ‘But beware Ms Spear…this is not a wand to be treated lightly; you must do it justice, and use it in the correct frame of mind – believe in the wand, Ms Spear,’ he suddenly turns to Mum with a smile, ‘and that’ll be fourteen galleons for both, please, dear.’
‘Yes – of course –’ Mum fumbles in her moneybag, and brings out the fat golden coins, all fourteen of them. Ollivander accepts them gratefully.
My mind dwells on what Ollivander said…his warnings…and my head aches. This morning, I was just this impatient, eager girl…and now, with the knowledge in my heart that I must treat this wand with greatness, I don’t think I know quite who I am anymore…or if I’ll ever be able to live up to the standards, the destiny Mr Ollivander promised for me. Because what if the truth is, I’m not great at all – and it’s just the wand?
Plagued with these fears, I walk back to the car in silence, while Seth babbles on to Mum. How can I go to Hogwarts now? I’m sure to mess up and embarrass fate. I wish – I wish I’d just found a nice dwarf wand that sent out pretty little sparks. I wish I didn’t have this great thing hanging over me.
The trouble with fate is the fact it doesn’t listen, just plans out your life. Already, aged eleven, I feel weighed down with expectation. I’d rather be like Albus Potter; predicted good things because his family are great, rather than having to individually face this. For the first time in my eleven years and just over seven months, I feel alone, lost, and trapped, as caged in as those poor screeching cats. I want to be a flying canon, a free spirit, a seed blown by the wind or maybe…maybe a glittering meteor far out in the distance, floating through the galaxy…whatever I want to be, it isn’t this. It isn’t greatness – or power.
When I dream that night, I am in a simple, blissful green meadow, surrounded by bubbling potions and circled daisy chains…there is a warm feathered pillow, soft and safe…and definitely not extraordinary. No, I am just Summer, a young Potioneer in a pretty laced dress, and in that dream, I smile.
‘I can’t believe we’re finally going,’ Seth says in a slightly empty voice.
‘I’ve dreamt of this my whole life,’ I say, ‘but, somehow, I didn’t think it would ever come. Sometimes I thought I might have made the whole thing up.’
‘Your imagination isn’t that great,’ Seth insults, and I have just enough time to push him again before his eyes go strangely wide, and he points at a compartment silently.
‘What?’ I say, peering too – and then I see them. Albus Potter, Rose Weasley, and a boy I don’t recognize. It’s like seeing the minister of magic in the flesh, twice over. Every week there’s a new story about their family in the Prophet.
Albus sees us staring and waves us over with a cheery smile, obviously used to it. I like the fact he doesn’t act all snobby and annoyed like some people would. But there’s one problem – there’s only one seat left in their compartment. I can hardly deny Seth the opportunity to meet Albus Potter and Rose Weasley – and their friend, can I? Besides, they’ll all be in Gryffindor, and I might not make it, so it’s best Seth makes some friends without me. I’ll just find any old compartment and keep to myself.
‘Come on,’ Seth urges, as if I’m mad for delaying. I hiss there’s no room for two more.
Seth waves an airy hand. ‘We’ll make room – come on.’ He starts to walk, but stops again once he sees I’m not following.
‘You go,’ I say, ‘I don’t want to get in trouble on my first day.’
‘Mum told us not to split up,’ Seth argues.
‘We might not even be in the same houses,’ I say, heart beating hard in my chest and feeling mean for saying it – but it’s true. Seth looks surprised by the suggestion.
‘Sure we’ll be in the same house,’ he laughs, beckoning me over to the door. I shake my head.
‘See you at Hogwarts,’ I start to back away, giving him a quick smile before entering the next compartment.
‘No – Summer – wait,’ Seth protests, but the door’s already swung off its hinges.
I wander down the hall aimlessly for a while, looking for a spare compartment – but I can’t find one, and the train’s gathering speed. Seth and Mum and Dad and life as I knew it are far behind…safe and away from me. Starting to panic now, I dump my trolley full of stuff at the end of the corridor, and take a seat by the window, lost and alone. This is not how I pictured my first Hogwarts express ride. I was so excited…
‘Are you going to sit out there forever?’ calls an amused voice, and I look up to see the mysterious boy from the shop leaning out of the end compartment, watching me. I realize he was the teasing voice on the platform. How much more mortifying can my life get?
‘Every where’s full,’ I explain, gesturing to my suitcases.
‘Come in here,’ he says, rolling his eyes as though it’s the most obvious solution.
In fact – it probably is. ‘Yeah, alright,’ I say, and then add: ‘Who’s in there with you?’
‘Nobody,’ he says, ‘everywhere else was full,’ he grins at me.
I grab my two cases and Earl, who is sleeping peacefully in his cage (which I still think is pretty barbaric, but it’s the train’s rules or something – I’ll let him fly in the owlery once we get there). The boy holds the door for me, but it’s still an effort to heave all my stuff inside.
‘You never told me your name,’ I say as we sit down.
‘You’re always too busy fighting,’ he says, and laughs when I blush.
I fiddle with the material edging my suitcase, and when he asks where that famous brother of mine is, I shrug, thinking how much fun he’ll be having in the celebrity compartment.
‘Seriously, I thought you two were joined at the wand,’ he says, honestly looking curious, ‘you looked really close.’ He looks almost wistful. Maybe he hasn’t got any siblings.
‘We are,’ I insist, and mutter something about their only being one spare seat in Albus Potter and Rose Weasley (and friend’s) compartment.
‘So he ditched you?’ the boy says.
I turn to him huffily. ‘He did not! I ditched him, actually! He wanted me to come, but I walked off…and he shouted after me!’
‘Alright, Little Miss Head screw,’ he retorts.
‘Why do you even care?’ I say back, angered now. This is the worst journey ever!
He shrugs. ‘You know, you should be more grateful, considering I saved your teapot back in the corridor.’
‘Grateful?!’ I splutter, before I realize he’s smirking. Right. That was a joke.
‘Your face,’ he chortles, ‘could have turned Gryffindor green.’
I sit up, interested by the mention of Gryffindor, even if it was used as an insult. ‘Do you think you’ll be in Gryffindor?’
‘I dunno,’ he looks thoughtful, ‘My family are kind of split. Mum was in Hufflepuff, Dad Ravenclaw, my grandparents Gryffindor and my cousins Slytherin. My family’s pretty confusing.’
‘I’ll say,’ I answer, blinking at him, ‘but I think you’re kind of lucky. You’ll always have a family member or two who were in the same house as you are, so you know they can’t really get disappointed.’
‘Will your family be disappointed if you’re not in the house they were in?’ he asks me, frowning.
‘They said it doesn’t matter,’ I say, ‘but they’re lying. I saw Mum’s face after Ollivander’s –’ I stop short, because he doesn’t know this story, and I don’t want it leaking out, either.
‘What do you mean? What did he say?’ he looks really intrigued, hazel eyes inquisitive and soul-searching. I’ve never seen eyes that colour. I blink again, a little too fast, too delicately.
‘I don’t want to talk about it,’ I stare down at my nails, polished clean by my mother this morning (‘we can’t have you looking scruffy, Summer, dear’).
‘I won’t tell anyone, if that’s what you’re worried about,’ he leans in confidentially, eyes bright, ‘I promise.’ For some reason, I believe him, and find myself recounting the story of the flying gold ferns and the sweet aromas.
The boy looks astounded. ‘You didn’t!’ I nod, half-ashamed. ‘Then why are you so embarrassed?’
‘I can’t be great,’ I confess, feeling a heavy weight come off me, ‘I’m not powerful.’
‘Have you seen your shoves?’ the boy contradicts, and I glare at him. ‘See what I mean – scary!’
‘See!’ I bury my face in my hands. ‘Scary! That wand turned me into a monster!’
‘I was only having you on,’ the boy assures me, ‘I don’t think you’re scary at all.’
For some reason, his cheeks look a little red.
‘It’s too much pressure,’ I admit, ‘I can’t do it – live up to it, I mean. I’m not good enough.’ I hang my head in shame, and it suddenly occurs to me that if I hadn’t told anyone, nobody but Seth would expect anything! Well, apart from Mum and Dad. Still, he did promise, and I can’t shake off the feeling I can trust him.
‘By the looks of it, you are good enough,’ he sees my alarmed face, ‘but, obviously, however you do, you do. No worries. Moving on – you sound like someone who likes potions, if you gave out all those smells first time around. Are I wrong?’ he tilts his head towards me.
‘You’re right,’ I say grudgingly, ‘I’m a total potions freak. I sometimes make my own.’ I wait for him to laugh, but he only stares at me as though I’ve given him a thousand galleons, his whole face lighting up.
‘Me too,’ he enthuses, digging in his suitcase for something – and emerges a moment later with a silver box. I know that box!
‘Wait a sec,’ I rummage in my case too, properly excited for the first time today, without being weighed down with nerves. I come up with the same box, only mine is gold.
Inside is my entire collection of bottled potions and herbs and concoctions. It means the world to me, and the fact this sort-of-stranger-but-kind-of-familiar boy has the exact same thing means a lot. It’s like a special connection, a bond made of too-full compartments and potions.
‘It was my Grandmother’s,’ the boy tells me softly, stroking the dusty edging.
‘So yours is ancient too!’ I say.
‘Why? Whose did yours belong to?’’ the boy asks me curiously.
‘Name first,’ I insist, because it seems a little ridiculous not to know by this stage – and it suddenly occurs to me I probably should’ve bothered to ask before. But as he didn’t ask me, I’m guessing he’s not that big on introductions.
‘Fine,’ he sighs, ‘it’s Logan. Logan Turner. You?’
The name ‘Logan’ seeps through my brain, so appropriately matched. He looks like a Logan, now I come to think of it. And it just happens to be one of my favourite names. If I didn’t have a twin brother, I’d say I share the most in common with him right now. Seth is enthusiastic and cheerful and ready for any challenge…and I’m nervous, a little depressed, and unsure if I can deal with my future. We’ve never felt more different. But this boy…it feels like he understands, maybe.
‘I’m Summer,’ I tell him, ‘Summer Spear.’
‘Pleased to be acquainted, Summer,’ Logan says, and holds out his hand.
I take it; experiencing the same warm, fuzzy feeling I felt when he helped me out in the shop the other week. It feels exciting, natural, electric. Almost as powerful as the tingling from the wand to my fingers…only this seems like something I want, something I can handle.
As he relaxes his grip on my fingers, he says: ‘So, whose did yours belong to?’
‘My Great-Grandmother,’ I say, ‘she was a Potioneer. Only one in my family. She died when I was five – but she left this case to me in her will. She said (in the note) she knew I out of all her family would know how to use it. I didn’t really get it then – I mean, surely anyone can brew up a few potions? But I do now. It’s a skill, an art…it’s magic without a wand.’ I stop, embarrassed, as Logan stares at me as though entranced by my words. I think I said too much…he’s probably freaking out; wishing he’d never invited this weirdo into his compartment. Why can’t I be more like Seth? Why do I have to spoil everything?
‘You do get it,’ Logan half-whispers, ‘most of my family think it’s a respectable enough subject, but not really extraordinary…your Great-Grandmother knew what she was doing, by the sounds of it.’
This time, I flush with pleasure. There’s some kind of truth about him…hidden depths or perception, whatever you want to call it. It feels as though he can penetrate false acts and flesh, blood and bone, and cut right through to the soul. There’s a dance, a twinkle in his eyes, that says he understands, he’s on your side…he knows you. I’ve never believed in all that kindred spirit stuff, not really…but for some strange reason, this boy, practically a stranger…he knows me. Without questions or doubt. I take heart from the fact someone believes in me, without expecting anything in return.
‘I wish she’d lived longer,’ I confess, ‘I mean, she lived to a good age – she was always a strong old woman, Mum says, but I feel like I need her guidance sometimes. Mum and Dad try their best, but they don’t really understand. Seth, my brother, he’s usually great at that kind of stuff, but he’s never been one for potions…and I can already tell we’re more different than I thought, and we haven’t even got to Hogwarts yet.’
‘My brother has always been different to me,’ Logan says, ‘I have a twin brother, too. We’ve never been that close – but still, I did think he might stick around longer than to put up an act for our parents. But, no – he waltzed off with the first like-minded people he could find. So much for sibling loyalty.’
‘Oh,’ I say, biting my lip. That explains his wistfulness earlier. My differences from my brother seem minute in comparison.
‘You don’t have to feel bad for me,’ Logan says, ‘I guess it’s worse for you. At least I’ve never got on with my brother. But if you two drift apart…it’s sadder, if you know what I mean.’
My heart thuds at three beats per second at the thought. ‘Do you really think that’ll happen, Logan?’
His eyes melt a little more in their hazel shell when I say his name, and he blurts out: ‘I didn’t mean it like that. I was just thinking, that’s all, if you end up in different houses. But don’t worry – most twins stay together.’
But now he’s said it, that worry is at the forefront of my mind. I love my twin brother – he’s my best friend. We’ve never been apart for long – even today is unusual. I can’t bear to be separated from him now, after all these years. It just isn’t fair. Seth will be so upset when he realizes I’ve got us sorted into different houses. It’ll be all my fault – Seth is a ready-made Gryffindor, but me…I feel like nothing. Not loyal or compassionate or hard-working like the Hufflepuffs, not clever and intuitive like the Ravenclaws, or brave and heroic and warm-hearted like the Gryffindors…or even sly and assertive and original and bold like the Slytherins. What if I get sorted into nothing?
‘Suppose…suppose the hat can’t make up its mind – or I can’t,’ I say quietly, eyebrows forming a worried crease.
‘That has never happened,’ Logan scoffs, but, seeing my anxious face adds: ‘and it won’t happen to you, either.’
‘How do you know?’ I ask, feeling like a small child seeking knowledge from a teacher.
‘Because…because you’re bright and brave and passionate and you – I don’t know – kind of understand people,’ Logan says, looking a little abashed.
I’m a little startled. After just two meetings, how can he claim to know all these things about me? I don’t even know myself, for a start. This boy must be really good at reading people – either that or he feels sorry for me. Yes, that’ll be it. You’ve got to reassure the poor unworthy cast-aside girl.
‘I meant it,’ he insists, seeing my unconvinced face, ‘there’s…I dunno…something about you, Summer.’
I swallow, blinking hard. ‘Thanks for being so nice to me. You must think I’m a total idiot,’ I gesture to my anxious face.
‘Not at all,’ Logan grins, ‘you’re bound to feel nervous. Everyone is. Anyway – there’s the trolley, do you want anything?’
I shake my head, feeling sick to the stomach with nerves.
‘Anything from the trolley dears?’ the old plump woman says, wheeling trays and trays of sickly delight. I almost change my mind – but decide it’ll be better in the long run.
‘I’ll have a few of those sugar mice – oh, and some chocolate frogs. And maybe a couple of those,’ he points to something sticky on a tray blocked from my view.
‘Eleven sickles please, dear,’ she says, and Logan throws a handful of coins in her palm, telling her to keep the change.
As she goes to leave, I call after her: ‘Wait – excuse me, but do you – er – think you could tell me your name? If you want. Only nobody seems to know, and I think names are kind of important.’ My cheeks tingle a little, and I feel ridiculous. Why can’t I ever just leave things?
But the trolley lady positively beams, showing surprisingly even pearly teeth considering her age and occupation. ‘It’s Maureen, dear – here, take one of these for your trouble,’ she hands me a small box of Bertie’s every flavour beans.
‘You really don’t have to do th-’ but she’s already pressed them on me.
Logan gives me a smirk as Maureen leaves. ‘Are you permanently obsessed with names?’
‘No,’ I reply haughtily, ‘I just think everyone ought to have one, that’s all.’
‘You’re so strange,’ he says, but he’s smiling in a way that tells me it’s not a bad thing.
‘Good observation,’ I sigh, resigned to my new reputation.
‘Cheer up,’ he says, ‘I even got you one of these.’
Clutched loosely in his palm is a small, glutinous lollipop in the shape of a wand.
‘Thanks,’ I say, smiling back and accepting the token. This I can choke down.
I unwrap the plastic and let the smooth sweetness of the lollipop ride irresistibly over my taste buds, melting any indecision in my heart. I’m about to take another lick when I detect another, familiar flavour. Yuk! Ketchup! He’s given me ketchup! Now I really will vomit.
‘You absolute idiot!’ I cry, flinging the plastic at him – where it gets caught in his wavy brown hair.
He screeches in response. ‘That could get stuck, you know!’
‘Well, you are a wizard, aren’t you? Unless there’s something you’re not telling me…’ I let the thought trail off, waiting for him to take the bait.
‘You’re the one Ollivander’s obsessed with!’ Logan counters. ‘So why couldn’t you?’
Ouch. But I can take a fair point. ‘Well, it’s not stuck, so get over yourself,’ I lean over and lift the plastic from his hair, showing him how easy it is. Then I put it in my pocket.
‘Why’d you do that?’ Logan asks.
‘Saving the planet,’ I answer, and he shakes his head again.
After that, Logan comes up with an ingenious game of guess the flavour of the Every flavour beans. I make the first move, turning up the trumps with a shiny green one.
I chew on the hard, floppy centre as Logan watches me, trying not to groan is disgust so I don’t give the game away.
‘Snot,’ Logan guesses, and I shake my head, giggling a little.
‘Am I warm?’ he asks. I shake my head.
Evidently, I can’t contain myself any longer. ‘Eww…it’s cranberry and raisin!’ I choke on the last piece, gulping it down with the help of fizzy water.
‘Gross,’ I say, ‘Ok – now it’s your turn. And it better be good – or should I say bad – after my ordeal,’ I watch him unpeel his sweet, and take his first experimental bite.
Immediately, his whole face changes from amused to considering to revolted.
‘Difficult one,’ I muse, reading the expression on his face again, ‘but I’d say mustard with pig fat.’
This time, Logan goes from pink to cream to white, looking astonished. ‘That’s it! But how did you know?’ he looks so suspicious it’s funny – but my only secret is knowing every flavour backwards, and judging by the many faces I’ve seen my brother Seth pull over the years. He had exactly that look, just then. Freaky how you can read people, isn’t it?
I refuse to give myself away, tapping my nose in the perfect way to initiate annoyance.
‘So small yet irritating,’ he says in response, and doesn’t flinch when I whack him on the arm with a casual: ‘Enough of the small, already!’ That puts him back in his place nicely.
Following this, Logan gets toffee, nose hair, raspberry juice, flamingo tail, Yorkshire pudding and something he swears is real gold – but I don’t believe him. There’s no way anyone would be stupid enough to eat gold, is there?
I get smoking hot bacon (mmm…), cold rotten fish (disgusting), peach-flavoured chocolate, hazelnut, Brussels sprouts (give me a break, mother) and finally, toe nail. Yes, toe nail! How do you think I felt? Infected toe nail, too, by the looks of that fungi bean. Right now I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between the sick feeling in my mouth and a vomit-flavoured bean, it’s that hideous.
Then I challenge him to guess my star sign. He observes me for a long time, as though if he looks hard enough he’ll find it written in glittery lights in my eyes. I like his eyes, a mixture of woodsy brown and chipped hazel and flecks of a colour I can’t identify, but somehow make his eyes different, unique, and kind of special.
‘I’d say…I’d say Capricorn…no, not quite, actually,’ he pauses to look at me again, taking in my excited, waiting features, ‘maybe…I think I’m getting warmer here – are you a Sagittarian?’
‘Yes!’ I squeal. ‘How did you know?’
‘I guessed, based on astronomy,’ he says mysteriously, knowing he’s winding me up, ‘Ok, ok, I’ll tell you…according to the stars, Sagittarians are honest and straight-forward, philosophical and intellectual – and they love their freedom – oh, and they’re very liberal,’ he tips his head towards me.
‘Do you study astronomy?’ I enquire, impressed, and looking through the mist in the window to see we’re still far out in the clumsy hills and forked mountains. What a journey.
‘My grandfather taught me some bits and pieces,’ he shrugs modestly, but I can tell I’ve hit on something he takes pride in knowing.
‘Seth loves astronomy,’ I find myself saying, letting my thoughts drift to my twin, who is probably stuffing himself senseless in the Potter /Weasley/other boy compartment.
‘Does he? Cool,’ Logan says, ‘I’ll have to meet your brother properly some time.’
‘Yeah, I can introduce you if we end up in the same house,’ I say gloomily, thinking the chances are pretty slim on that score. It seems like I’m destined to be parted from my brother, beginning today, September 1st. It’s appropriate, at least. And, personally, I’d rather separate now if what Logan suggested is going to happen to us. It’s too painful to think about. At least this way I will have left things amicably. Although somewhere deep in the weed-ridden depths of my heart, the curled tangles around my heart tell me amicable isn’t enough after a lifetime of friendship, comradeship, adventures. Something tells me I’m only half a self without my brother.
‘You look sad,’ Logan says, ‘what’s up? Still worried about houses?’ he takes my silence as confirmation. ‘I wouldn’t give it another thought if I were you. Whatever house you’re in, you’re in – and remember, it’ll never be the wrong one. My Dad told me the hat never lies, and it knows what truly lurks within you, something like that. He told me to just be myself, and I’ll be alright – ’cos there’s nothing else you can be really, is there?’
‘I wish I shared you and your Dad’s philosophy,’ I say with a touch of longing, ‘and your Dad sounds pretty cool.’
‘He is,’ a smile suddenly breaks across Logan’s face, smoothing out the layer of creamy white skin, ‘I get on with him, but not so much my Mum. She prefers Steve, I reckon. But it’s okay – better a Dad’s lad than a Mummy’s boy, I always say.’
‘Logan!’ I say, but I can’t control my own laughter. ‘Stop it! Don’t be so mean!’
‘The truth kills, Summer,’ Logan says wisely, ‘and anyway – why are you laughing if I’m so cruel?’
‘Because inside every human being is a wicked sense of humour,’ I answer, and he nods in agreement.
There’s a rough knock on the compartment door. I lean away from Logan to see who it is; a little embarrassed we were so close together.
I know that wheat-blonde hair, that big grin. Seth’s come calling at last – and he’s brought his brand new friends.
I open the compartment door, trying not to stare at the untidy black hair of Albus Severus Potter, or the gleaming green eyes behind their frames. Behind him stands the vividly red Rose, blue eyes eager and friendly – and behind her is a boy with neatly-cut dark hair and twinkling brown eyes to match. I wait for Seth to speak, still trying not to stare.
‘Hey,’ Seth says brightly, looking like he’s had the time of his life, ‘Al, Rose, Tristan – meet my sister. Summer, meet Albus, Rose and Tristan.’
‘Hi,’ Rose and I say shyly at the same time, and laugh a little, causing some of the tension that always comes when you meet new people to disappear.
‘Hi, Summer,’ Albus says, pushing his glasses up nervously.
‘Hey Albus,’ I say back politely, giving him a smile of reassurance to show I want to be friends.
‘Hi Summer,’ Tristan adds, stepping forwards so he’s at level with Rose, who is still smiling a little mechanically.
‘I finally know your name!’ I blurt out. ‘I mean, before you were just that-boy-in-the-Potter/Weasley-compartment – and now you have a label! You have no idea how significant that is,’ they look at me with wide eyes, even Seth, and I go pale pink. Oops.
‘Sorry,’ I say – but everyone starts giggling, and after that, no one feels awkward anymore.
‘Summer has a thing with names,’ Logan says, appearing from further inside the compartment, ‘first off, she demanded mine, and then begged a name off the trolley lady!’
Everyone smirks, but I say hotly: ‘Don’t call her that! It’s Maureen! And names are important!’ I flounce back into the compartment, and take the seat by the window, staring out at the puffs of smoke dramatically.
‘Wow,’ Tristan says, and I try not to giggle, keeping my poker-face.
The crowd takes this as an excuse to pile into the compartment; Tristan and Rose sit on the carpet below, not seeing to mind the fluff, while Seth, Logan and Albus sit on the seats above. I hover over the carpet a little aimlessly, then verbally decide to sit on the carpet too, to ‘make things fair’, even though Tristan and Rose aren’t fussed.
‘Great first impressions, sis,’ Seth says, but he’s grinning.
‘Oh! I forgot to introduce Logan,’ I say, ‘everyone, Logan Turner. Logan – everyone.’
‘Hi Logan,’ everyone says cheerfully.
‘Hi all,’ he says back – and digs in his rucksack for something, ‘aha! Here it is.’
We all unwind our necks for a closer look, peering at what he’s produced.
‘Oh – exploding snap,’ Rose realizes, and then adds, ‘my Dad loves it. But not as much as he loves wizard chess!’ she stares curiously at the flame-coloured cards.
‘Up for a game everyone?’ Logan asks – and by general majority, the playing of exploding snap is legalised – only, since there are six of us, we decide to get into pairs.
Albus and Rose pair up immediately, and I look from Seth to Logan, for a moment actually considering my loyalties.
Logan spares me the choice. ‘Want to pair up?’ he says nonchalantly to Tristan, and he nods and shifts closer, still on the carpet.
I instantly feel guilty I didn’t automatically pick my twin – but maybe being apart from him has given me a sense of freedom. Sometimes you need space from someone to really appreciate them – and Seth and I have had no space from each other for over eleven and a half years. It took today for me to really recognize Seth individually, away from me. It felt like a less biased judgement.
Rose Weasley, no doubt trained to perfection by her father, wins every game with Albus – but the point isn’t really winning; it’s about bursting cards and bonding and laughter. I can honestly say today has turned out to be the best ever – and not because it’s been perfect, either.
Then Seth says: ‘I can see Hogwarts!’ and there’s a sudden flurry as everyone pushes up against the cold window to catch a glimpse of a wide, turret-like castle faraway in the distance, blanketed by ferns.
‘Wow!’ I whisper, staring at the place that’ll be my second home for the next seven years.
‘I’ve seen pictures of it and stuff, from Dad,’ Albus, who seems to be on my wavelength, gabbles excitedly, ‘but nothing really prepares you for the real thing!’
‘It’s alright,’ Tristan says with a shrug.
Rose nudges him immediately. ‘Don’t be such a bore, Tris! Even you like it, don’t you, Logan?’
Logan, who hasn’t removed his stare from the window, says in a slightly enchanted voice: ‘Yeah, it’s great’, without even looking at her, and Rose catches my eye and we both giggle a little. Boys – one tries to act cool, and the other’s more interested in the castle than friends!
There’s a sudden announcement from a magically-enhanced voice – I recognize the spell from my many trips to Quidditch matches.
‘All students on the train must be changed into their robes in the next ten minutes! I repeat, all students must be changed into their robes in the next ten minutes! We will be arriving at Hogwarts shortly.’ The voice evaporates, leaving us all wide-eyed, until Rose breaks the silence:
‘Well, you heard the woman – come on!’ she starts to move out of the compartment, obviously intending to retrieve her stuff. ‘Guys! Stop looking and come and get dressed!’ she rolls her eyes at me. ‘Summer, will you please get your twin brother away from the window!’
But, at the sound of her voice, Seth has already turned from the window, grabbing Tristan and Albus with him.
‘See you at Hogwarts!’ Seth just has time to say, before Rose shuts the compartment door firmly. The door clicks as it hits the metal, and it’s just us two left.
Logan remains at the window while I dig for my stuff, despite my persistent urges he only has five minutes left. Eventually I just leave him to it, and wander off to find a spare toilet to change in, and finally come across a door marked: ‘Girls’ Changing Room’. Oh. I didn’t know they had one of those!
Gratefully, I steal inside, where about thirty other girls are unchanging. I see Rose and she gives me a friendly smile, patting the space beside her. I go over, dumping my robes on the seat next to hers.
‘I thought you might not find it,’ Rose says as she yanks her shoes on, ‘I had to ask a Head Girl – Ravenclaw, I think, by the colours of the badge. She didn’t look too happy, though,’ she adds as she does up her laces.
‘Yeah, well, you know what older students are like,’ I say, ‘everyone in our year seems nice, though.’
‘Yeah,’ Rose says thoughtfully, ‘I’m just glad me and Al and Tristan found you guys!’
‘Me too,’ I agree, ‘though it’s all down to Seth, really. He wasn’t going to leave your compartment in a hurry!’
‘Yes, he’s nice, isn’t he?’ Rose says. ‘You’re lucky to have a brother the same age as you. I expect it’ll make your experience even better, having someone to share it all with!’
‘If we’re in the same house,’ I say, my old annoying fears starting to return.
‘Well, there’s no question about that!’ Rose says confidently – so confidently I get suspicious.
‘How do you know?’ I say, because there’s conviction in her voice that makes me believe her.
‘Oh, that’s easy!’ Rose says with a laugh. ‘Mum told me that to get into Gryffindor – assuming that’s where you want to go – you have to be a tiny bit…mad!’ she dissolves into giggles again.
I, remembering earlier, with my total uncoolness with names, laugh along with her, for once not minding about houses, because I’m almost at the great old school now, and somehow, my excitement drains away the fear.
As soon as we’re changed, Rose and I make our way back to mine and Logan’s shared compartment, where all four boys are already changed, naturally. Seth and Tristan are examining a book entitled: Want to know how to transfigure your friends? By Minerva McGonagall, and Rose sighs despairingly. Albus and Logan are back at the window, watching as the train draws closer, ever closer, to our new home. Rose and I sit down on the remaining seats, and I’m comforted to see we’re both digging into the chair rather more harshly than need be.
‘We got your suitcase, too,’ Seth tells Rose, gesturing to the large bundle of stuff.
‘Thanks,’ says Rose, looking surprised, ‘I think I need to re-think my opinion on the helpfulness of boys,’ Tristan suddenly burps, and she adds, ‘or not,’ with a smile.
The speaker’s voice abruptly returns, informing us: ‘STUDENTS, WE ARE ARRIVING AT HOGWARTS. PLEASE ENSURE YOU ARE CHANGED AND HAVE ALLYOUR LUGGAGE ABOUT YOUR PERSON. WISHING YOU A HAPPY TERM – GOODBYE.’ And off it goes again.
‘I wonder who that weirdo is,’ Seth says aloud, and I’m torn between shoving him and being pleased he’s interested in an unknown identity, so I settle for both, sparking an amused reaction from everyone around me, no doubt the compartment idiot again.
‘I’m sure Hogwarts will help you deal with your issues,’ Logan says with a cough-snigger as he passes me as we all file out of the compartment, lugging our stuff. I try not to smile.
‘And I’m sure Hogwarts will help you deal with your fascination with its outside structure,’ I snap back, taking care to bash him with my suitcase as all the first-years come to a stop, owing to the fact Hagrid’s distinctive voice has just rung out, yelling for first-years to come over here.
‘Firs’-years! Firs’-years! Over here!’ Hagrid bellows, and then looks several feet down to see we’ve arrived. ‘Right, yer here. Follow me, now!’
As we march off the train, Hagrid adds to Albus and Rose: ‘Settlin’ in, then? Tha’s right good, tha’. Made some friends?’ they nod happily.
He leads us down a thin rocky path, telling us to stick close in the evening darkness. From a shorter distance than the train, we can see (faintly in the dark), a huge newly-done castle, bricks clean and recent and only slightly crumbled, since it had to be built up again after the war. There are tall mountains over-looking the school, edges fierce and tops lost in the clouds. You wouldn’t believe it’s possible for one school to have so many towers – but we’re here, and I can see it with my own eyes. We’re nearly here! We’re actually at the famous first-year lake, and it’s purple-black just like Mum remembers!
I nudge Seth excitedly, clutching his shoulder and pointing to the castle – our school. Our new school!
‘Pretty cool, isn’t it?’ Seth replies to the silent eagerness on my face. I can only squeal in response, and even that’s hard to get out.
‘Look!’ Rose mutters to me with a look of triumph, and I turn to see that Tristan’s face is literally stupefied by the sight, almost identical to the gatherings of students around him.
‘Not so cool now!’ I mutter back as Tristan’s mouth falls open as he sees the rows and rows of small four-seater boats waiting for us at the side of the large, mystical lake.
Rose suddenly frowns, looking at the boats. ‘Whose going with whom?’ she says, as there are six of us.
‘I don’t mind if you go first with your cousin and two others,’ I offer.
‘Hagrid, can’t more than four fit – just two more, to a boat?’ Rose asks.
Hagrid chuckles. ‘Jus’ like yer father,’ he says, but refuses to allow more than four – for “safety reasons”.
‘Right,’ Logan says, taking charge, ‘how about you, Rose, go with Albus and Tristan, and I’ll go with Summer and Seth?’
‘Perfect,’ Rose says, ‘why on earth didn’t I think of that? Come on, Al, Tristan.’ They follow her onto the end boat, waving at us.
‘She doesn’t waste time,’ Seth says almost admiringly, and I watch him more carefully after that, cursing myself for not realizing before, and remembering how quickly he followed Rose to get their stuff. Some sister I am! I try not to giggle too hard on the boat, glad the restless bobbing of the water over-powers the sound, but all the same, Logan notices, as Seth is in the seat in front to get the best view, and he’s right next to me.
‘What’s so funny?’ he asks, seeming to sense he needs to speak quietly.
‘I just realized something I probably should’ve seen before,’ I reply with a slight smirk, and despite his persistent pestering, I refuse to betray my brother – to anyone. Logan can’t know it’s about Seth, though, and probably thinks I’m being deliberately infuriating. Which I’m not. Obviously.
Even so, he hastily changes the subject: ‘So, still conflicted on the house issue?’
I shrug. ‘I’ve decided to leave it to the hat.’
‘Wise choice,’ he says, ‘the hat knows best, after all.’ For some reason, I think I can detect slight traces of sarcasm and irony, which is really paranoid of me, of course.
‘You think I should make up my own mind as well as listen to the hat, don’t you?’ I can’t help but say as Seth points to the great turret windows, where we’re nearing.
‘It’s your choice,’ Logan says, ‘but personally, however wise this hat is, I don’t think it knows everything. Or if it does, I think it’s more focussed on getting you to realize your ambition, what’s available in your head, not what you feel. It’s just a brainy hat, after all. It can’t replace your own thoughts and feelings – it has to go with your own choice, whatever it thinks. So really, you have more power than the hat – people get side-tracked, that’s all. Distracted by its words. You should take them into account, of course – just don’t let it make up your mind.’
With this speech, his normally teasing hazel eyes have a blazing fire, a truth, in them, highlighting the flecks of a colour I still don’t know.
But what if I really can’t make up my mind? What if I’m left sitting foolishly on the stool, praying it’s over soon? What if I can’t be as brave as people expect me to be? What if I end up regretting the hat’s decision forever?
Our boat bumps along the edges of rock, and, magically it seems, comes to a stop. I haven’t given much thought to how it’s been steering us, but I suppose it must be enchanted or something.
‘Cool!’ Seth grins, swivelling round to face me. ‘Did you see the way it stopped?’
‘Yeah, amazing,’ I say with a little more effort than usual, because, if it had been any other day, I would be as carefree as Seth. Right now I’m at logger-heads with myself – eager one minute, scared the next; resolved at one point, and conflicted at another.
‘It’s enchanted using an incantation called: Carpe Retractum,’ Logan says, ‘it pulls something towards a fixed point – i.e., the place of the caster – in this case, Hogwarts. That’s how the boats steer us here.’
‘How do you know?’ I say, interested in the workings of the school – Mum said it might be different from when Dumbledore was in charge. I just hope this Jean Grace is fair.
‘From the robotic-like way it was steering,’ Logan replies, ‘I’ve heard about spells that make big objects move to a specific place. It’s not rocket science,’ he insists as an after-thought, clearly deflecting any praise we were about to give. Some people, eh?
‘Everyone ou’ o’ the boat,’ Hagrid calls cheerfully as he gets out of his own large, single one. We all watch, fascinated, as Hagrid’s boat parks itself at the end, rather neatly, I think.
I throw my cases and extra bag over first, then cross over myself with Earl, waiting patiently for the others.
‘Alrigh’?’ Hagrid says politely as we wait. ‘Yer seem to have made quite an impression on young Albus and Rose.’
‘We met on the train,’ I say, looking up at the great (half) giant of a man with beetle-black eyes - friendly eyes, just like Mum said.
‘I re’member yer Mum an’ Dad,’ Hagrid tells me, ‘yer look a lot like yer Mum – except fer the eyes, o’course – yer’ve got yer Dad’s eyes,’ and then he chuckles to himself at this private joke.
‘A little help, please,’ Seth says, struggling to get his huge mouldy green case off the boat along with his owl cage, smaller suitcase and rucksack.
Hagrid, with inhuman strength, takes all of Seth’s luggage off the boat for him, leaving him standing a little sheepishly with just Edwina tweeting happily in her cage.
A tall man with dark brown skin and short, curled black hair is waiting by the entrance, and I recognize him easily as one of Harry Potter’s old school friends – Dean Thomas, I think. I can’t believe he’s teaching here!
‘Hey, that’s my Dad’s friend!’ Albus says beside me, then waves: ‘Hey, Dean!’
‘It’s Professor Thomas at school, Albus,’ Dean says sternly – but he’s smiling.
Rose recognizes him easily, too, and rushes over to greet him. A tall boy with white-blonde hair and chipped grey eyes says with a scowl: ‘Favouritism.’
‘Shut up,’ I say to him, knowing him instantly as Draco Malfoy’s son Scorpius, ‘so what if they know him?’
‘I wasn’t talking to you,’ Scorpius says nastily, with the sneer Dad said Draco used to use to intimidate people.
‘Like father like son,’ I snap back, glaring.
‘Oh yeah?’ he says aggressively, stepping forwards.
With a smooth movement, Logan is suddenly there, in front of him. ‘Got something to say, Malfoy?’ he hisses in his face.
‘Nothing to you, Turner,’ Scorpius says with another sneer – but he backs off, starting a conversation with a boy with caramel-coloured skin and slanted eyes – that must be Noah Zabini.
‘Well…thanks,’ I say awkwardly, ‘but I can deal with Malfoy.’
‘I know,’ Logan says with surprise, ‘I wasn’t rescuing you – I was stopping you from getting sent to the Head’s on the first day for beating up a Malfoy! I just figured he’d be more willing to take the coward’s way out if it was two on one. He is Draco’s son, after all.’
‘Oh,’ I say, ‘but it looks like I’ve gained us both an enemy.’
‘Oh well,’ Logan says, ‘what’s school life without an enemy?’
‘Tell that to Rose,’ I say as the girl herself runs over, demanding to know what happened, and gives us first a stern lecture about getting into trouble on the first day and then a congratulatory pat on the back, at the same time warning us against making enemies with a boy sure to be in Slytherin.
‘Make up your mind, Rose,’ I say.
‘Sorry,’ she says, ‘but you can’t forget, Hermione is my mother, after all – I’m bound to be a little bossy.’
‘I think you’re more like your Dad, personally,’ Seth chips in quickly, and I drag him to one side to recount my run-in with Scorpius Malfoy – but really I’m trying to stop him turning into a love struck idiot. Rose will never fall in love with Seth if he just sucks up to her, after all. He’ll thank me in the long run.
‘Great work, sis,’ Seth comments, ‘making an enemy of a boy like that on the first day – what were you thinking?’
‘I’m thinking it’s none of your business,’ I counter-attack, stung, and walk on ahead, military-style, catching up with Albus and Tristan.
‘This is it!’ Tristan says with bright eyes. ‘We’ll finally know!’
‘You guys don’t have to worry,’ I say, ‘I already know you’ll be in Gryffindor.’
‘Nothing’s set in stone,’ Albus says worriedly, twisting his hands together.
‘Good point,’ I back-track, feeling sorry for him, ‘the whole school will be watching you, obviously, given the history…’
‘Tactful, Summer,’ Tristan mouths at me.
‘I was showing my support,’ I mouth back.
‘I can see you two,’ Albus mouths at us both – which shuts us up for sure.
‘Sorry, Al,’ I say.
‘You didn’t upset me,’ he says, ‘and Tristan, I don’t really care if the whole school is watching - I’d rather people were straight with me.’
‘See!’ I can’t resist mouthing to Tristan, who pulls a truly scary face back. Albus sighs.
Despite my outwardly jokey nature, inside I feel incomplete. I was only trying to stop Seth getting himself in an awkward situation – and what does he do? Just snaps at me. I wish we didn’t have to argue on the first day – but maybe what Logan said was right. If you’re going to drift apart anyway, maybe it’s best to do it sooner rather than later. Imagine if we’re in different houses and we spend the next seven years pretending it doesn’t matter, pretending we still have the same friends and pretending everything will be as it was. I agree with Albus – it’s best to adopt honesty as the best policy. So no, I’m not the most tactful – but I was never trying to be mean – not to Seth or Albus. I wish Seth would see that, but how could he understand? He doesn’t even know I know he likes Rose (already), and that I was trying to help him, I remind myself. He doesn’t even know how horrible I feel inside.
‘Right,’ “Professor” Thomas says, coming to a halt at the shiny eagle doors of the Great Hall, ‘I want you all to form an orderly line, and once we go inside, wait to be sorted at the front of the hall, behind the stool and hat. Is that clear?’
‘Yes, Professor Thomas,’ comes the ringing voice of forty first-years.
In Dumbledore’s day, there were 250 students per house – but since then, a rival school has opened (Exempli gratia – which means “for the sake of example” in Latin) and students have been flocking there instead. Plus, some parents don’t think Professor Jean Grace is up to Dumbledore’s standards, and send their kids to other countries to be educated. I prefer it, to be honest. Having only 280 students in the entire school is kind of cool.
Professor Thomas turns the golden handle, and I am literally astounded by the four long rows full of chattering older students – the ceiling bewitched to look like the night sky; a group of teachers at the head table, and, below to the left sits the ancient brown stool with the shrivelled black hat. We all gasp at the sight of it as we’re lead to the front of the room, Albus straightening his glasses as every face turns to stare at him, muttering.
‘Alright, mini Potter?’ someone calls from the far right.
‘He’d be a lot better if you all just left him alone,’ I say fiercely, looking for the source of the sound.
‘Not allowed to call to my own brother, am I?’ says a grinning voice, and I look over the heads of people to see a tallish boy seated at the Gryffindor table.
‘Meet my brother,’ Albus says with a grim smile, ‘but thanks for sticking up for me, anyway.’
‘You think with your mouth,’ Logan says – but is soon shut up by a sharp push from me.
‘And you comment on everything,’ I say sulkily, ‘do you want to be a…a commentary person when you grow up or something?’
Logan shakes his head with a suppressed laugh, and the blush slowly fades out of my cheeks. Anyone can make an honest mistake, right? Though not many people with James Potter the second, another voice in my head reminds me. Just great. I think I ate breakfast on the wrong side of the teapot today. And smashed a few mirrors to boot.
There’s an unexpected whirl of smoke as we reach the front of the room – the smell curling round the room and lingering on mysteriously – and there stands our new head master.
‘This is his first year, too,’ Tristan says, ‘I suppose he wanted to come in with a bang.’
‘Upstaging the first years, though?’ I say, disgusted. I can already tell I won’t get on with this guy. In fact, part of me wants to shout insanely: Resurrect Dumbledore! Bring back Dumbledore! Off with his wand! And his smoke!
‘Don’t even think about it, Summer,’ Seth says.
I repress my smile. ‘Think about what? Anyway, I didn’t think you were talking to me.’
‘You went off,’ Seth argues.
‘You snapped at me,’ I argue back.
Then we both smile at each other.
‘Good to have you back, Summer,’ Rose says.
‘The thief returns,’ Tristan says too.
‘When did I thieve anything?’ I puzzle, and Tristan shrugs mysteriously.
‘Right,’ Professor Grace booms, ‘everybody stop talking. It is time for the Head master’s speech - and of course, the sorting.’
Silence greets his words.
‘I think your instinct might be right,’ Seth whispers to me as Jean Grace takes his place at the table, standing up in shiny silver robes.
It's only then I notice his appearance – and he’s younger than most heads. Maybe that’s why he feels the need to assert his authority early on. He has ironed black hair and forceful blue eyes, a straight nose and tight lips, with only the slightest of creases around his eyes. I’d say around thirty or so – so he’s younger than practically all the teachers; and look at him, striding about as though he owns the place. Actually, he does own the place, I realize stupidly.
‘I’d like to say a particular welcome to the first-years, who are starting in the same year as I,’ he looks down to beam at us, ‘and, of course, the older years, who are all starting afresh. I am sure you all miss Minerva McGonagall dearly – but she felt it was her time to retire, and here I stand,’ he smiles again, ‘now, enough about me!’ he laughs to dead silence. ‘It is time for the largely anticipated sorting! I’ve always loved a good sorting, so my very first one as headmaster should be entertaining!’
At his last words, the hat comes alive, and we all exclaim in surprise. After a short pause it opens it mouth and starts to sing:
Welcome, welcome to Hogwarts
I, as you knowwwwwwww, am the sorting hat
You must heed my warnings
And listen within these tall forts.
The hat knows all
So whether you are brave, hard-working
Smart or cunning
The hat knows where you truly stand tall.
Do not try to hide the workings of your head
For the sorting hat will unravel all your fears and desires
And ensure you are sent to
The very bed
Where you are worthy…
So you may be brave you may be resourceful and full of chivalry
You may be just, hard-working and loyal
You may be wise with a complicated mind or ambitious and cunning and curious creatures
But be sorted you will: in Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw or Slytherrrrrrrrrrrin!
I am the sorting hat
And trust in this:
I only grow wiser and kinderrrrrrrrrr with age
So don’t be afraid – for the sorting hat will send you to eternal bliss!
Little boys and girls; good luck, good day and good decisions for youuuu!
A whistle flowing into the end of its tune, the Sorting Hat comes to a stop, old wrinkly mouth set and wide and ready.
‘I used to look forward to that every year!’ Professor Grace chuckles. ‘Another fantastic song from our very own hat! Round of applause, ladies and gentlemen!’ everyone claps with more enthusiasm than before. ‘Now, on with the most important part – the actual sorting!’ The quiet falls again. ‘So…’ he unravels his list of names. We all gulp.
I feel a gentle pull on my fingers, and realize Seth has slipped his hand into mine. I squeeze back gratefully, trying hard to control the fluttering anxiety in my heart.
‘The first student to be sorted is…’ he pauses, and James Potter and a few of his friends do a fake drum roll on the table, ‘yes, very amusing…anyway: the first person to be sorted is…Malcolm Adams!’
Trembling, a small boy with strawberry blonde hair slowly makes his way up the steps, where the stool waits. With shaking fingers, he takes the hat. After two seconds of wrinkled foreheads and indecision, the hat declares: ‘Hufflepuff.’ I see the boy give a sigh of relief, and join the table nearest to the high windows, to the sound of Hufflepuff applause – and (because he’s the very first one) the cries of the other houses ringing in his ears.
‘Well done to Mr Adams,’ Jean Grace proceeds on, ‘I am sure Hufflepuff have gained a very valuable student (cheers), now, on we go – we don’t want to be late for the feast!’ he fingers his roll of parchment again, nail landing on a single name, a single future. ‘Victoria Allen!’
There’s a shuffle, and a girl with curly black hair and brown eyes scrambles up the steps to be sorted, looking eager but scared at the same time, a reflection of us all. She needn’t have worried – she’s sorted quickly into Ravenclaw, to the blue and bronze table’s delight.
‘Next to be sorted is Tristan Anderson,’ Jean Grace, who appears to be in a hurry, says.
‘Good luck,’ Albus says, patting him on the back – and we all follow suit.
The hat doesn’t take long to sort Tristan, not to my surprise. He becomes the first Gryffindor, amid yells from the red and gold table.
‘Lucky, lucky Tristan,’ Rose says, reverting back to twisting her hands together.
‘It’ll be lucky you when it’s your turn,’ Seth reassures her – and I hide my smirk, but I think Logan might’ve seen, because he starts looking from Seth to Rose a little more intently. Oops – still, Logan won’t tell anybody. Seth’s secret is safe with us.
After Tristan comes a girl called India Angelo, who is the first Slytherin, to hisses as well as claps. After India, Professor Grace reads a name out three times. We look amongst us, seeking out a girl called Alice Bell, but no one comes forward.
‘Alice Bell?’ he calls again – and this time, the doors of the Great Hall swing open to reveal Filch, the old and ragged care-taker, marching a girl with long, wildly wavy burnt amber hair, and large sea-green eyes. She keeps herself about ten metres away from Filch.
‘I’m so sorry, Professor Grace,’ the girl says, blushing up to the freckles on her nose.
‘There was an incident with luggage, Professor Grace, sir,’ Filch says, bowing his head and revealing long, thin grey hair.
‘Very well. Thank you, Filch,’ Professor Grace says, not looking too happy, ‘but we really must continue – I’m on a tight schedule, if you understand.’
‘Of course, sir, of course,’ Filch burbles, ‘I’ll just return to my duties, then.’ Dragging his ancient cat with lamp yellow eyes that seem to touch every student with her watch, he exits the Great Hall, leaving the girl standing in front of our new head master.
‘My rucksack caught fire,’ the girl blurts out, and I take an instant liking to her, ‘it was an accident. You see, I read up on this incantation and…’ she trails off at the sight of his impatient, disapproving face. In contrast, I take another instant dislike to him. I knew he was an idiot from the word go.
‘Well, girl, you are late for your own sorting,’ he says, ‘but, since it’s the first day, and I remember what it’s like to be eleven, I won’t take any points from your future house. Now tell me, are you Alice Bell?’ the girl nods. ‘Good – please take a seat on the stool.’ With every eye watching, Alice sits down on the stool, seeming unperturbed by his rudeness, but I know I’d be horrified to have to decide my house as soon as I arrived.
‘She’ll be in Gryffindor,’ I say confidently – and a second later, she’s sorted into just that house.
‘Good observation,’ Logan says, ‘but, of course, I would have thought the same if…’
I step on his toe, and he grins and puts a finger to his lips.
‘Now that’s sorted,’ Jean Grace says in a hurried voice, not seeming to notice his own pun, which sparks giggles from the crowd, ‘we’ll move forward with…Greg Boot!’
A nervous-looking boy takes a seat on the stool, and is almost immediately sorted into Ravenclaw. Albus seems to recognize him.
‘That’s one of Terry Boot’s twin children!’ Albus tells us. ‘He was in my Dad and Aunt and Uncle’s year at school,’ he explains, catching Rose’s eye.
A minute later, Greg’s twin sister Gwen is sorted into the same house. I’m interested to see there are three pairs of twins in our year – I’m a twin, Logan’s a twin, and now these two. I didn’t think it was that common in the wizarding world.
After Gwen Boot, Cherry Cooper is sorted into Hufflepuff, then Isaac Corner and Jamie Craig for Ravenclaw, followed closely by Sarah Davis and Cameron Finch-Fletchley for Hufflepuff, the latter Albus and Rose again recognize as the son of a class mate of their parents back in the day.
‘And now we have…Roxanne Gelson,’ Professor Grace says, and she becomes another Slytherin.
After her, three more students are sorted into Slytherin – Xavier Goyle (“we know you know him, Albus”), Isadora Hargreaves – and her twin Richard Hargreaves; which means four pairs of twins! That makes up a fifth of the year! I look at Seth excitedly, and see his own surprise in his eyes. Where we grew up, we never saw anymore twins, and became known as the only Twinies in the village, so we stood out a mile. Here, it feels like we might fit in.
Next to find out her destiny is a small mousey-haired girl called Mae Harrison, who is sorted into Ravenclaw, and then Esme Harrow, also in Ravenclaw. After them is a girl called Alexandra Hill with glossy brunette locks, who is a Hufflepuff, then finally we get another Gryffindor – Aaron Jenson. Loud cheers greet his arrival at the red and gold table.
‘Next…Henry Jones,’ Professor Grace says in a strained voice, and I notice he has to force his smile in place when the hat shortly announces: ‘Ravenclaw!’
‘Can you believe that,’ I mutter to Rose, ‘it’s like he’s just going through the motions, like he doesn’t care about any of his students!’
‘I know,’ she whispers back, ‘I wish we had McGonagall instead.’
‘Maybe we could persuade her to come back out of retirement?’ Seth says hopefully, naturally joining in any conversation with Rose in it.
‘I don’t know,’ Rose says, frowning, ‘I don’t think she could just come back and take over…’
‘Ravenclaw!’ screeches the hat, and we jump as Tillie Lewis comes down from the steps.
After Tillie, a boy called Trevor Longbottom is called for his sorting. I notice one of the teachers; a slightly plump man with brown hair, sit up with interest.
‘That’s the Herbology professor’s son,’ Rose says, ‘Dad says him and Mum and Uncle Harry and Auntie Ginny were friends at school, and they still keep in regular contact – I’ve even met Trevor before, actually. His Dad married Hannah Abbott! Dad couldn’t believe it – and she runs the Leaky Cauldron now.’
Trevor Longbottom takes his seat, and the hat mulls over his fate before deciding: ‘Hufflepuff!’ and the Herbology professor claps particularly loudly.
‘What house was Professor Longbottom in?’ I ask.
‘Gryffindor,’ Logan says, ‘you think he’d mind, but I suppose his wife was in Hufflepuff too.’
His words make me wonder if my parents will mind if I’m not in Gryffindor. They wouldn’t exactly condemn me – but maybe they’ll be secretly really disappointed, and have to act pleased whenever I go home to visit. I shudder in automatic response to the thought, rebuffing Seth when he asks if I’m feeling okay.
As soon as Trevor has taken his seat, our head master (and I use the term very loosely) clears his throat and calls for a girl called Beatrix Lowsley. She’s sorted into Slytherin, along with Scorpius Malfoy, to my disgust. The hat had barely been lowered onto his head!
We get two other Gryffindors afterwards; a boy called Anthony Mason and a girl called Samantha Morgan. Then Jean Grace beckons Albus over, and a hush ripples through the previously boisterous crowd.
Rose watches her cousin anxiously, crossing her fingers, and lets out a huge sigh of relief when the hat puts him in Gryffindor. The crowd settles soon after the Gryffindor table’s roars of triumph – all except for Professors Thomas, Longbottom, and Hagrid, who all give loud yells, instantly quietened by Professor Grace, who rebukes them for unprofessionalism. I see Scorpius Malfoy give a furious nod at this statement, over on the silver and green table. I turn my face away with a scowl.
Next is Jane Smith, for Hufflepuff, then Jean Grace calls on my brother.
Seth struggles to compose his face. ‘Wish me luck, guys.’
I give him more than luck – and throw my arms around him, not caring if I embarrass him, because who knows? He might be in a different house to me, and besides, he looks so young and scared, a shadow of his earlier self.
‘Thanks sis,’ Seth says, messing with my hair just to annoy me.
‘Seth! Now my hair will be messed up when it’s my turn!’ I say, faking fury – though no girl should face her sorting with wacky hair.
‘Good luck, Seth,’ Rose says, squeezing his shoulder, and he gives her a beaming smile in return. I just about hold in my “aww!”, but it gets close.
‘Yeah, good luck, mate,’ Logan adds, shooting me an amused look that clearly conveys: I-know-what-you-know.
My brother walks up the four marble steps with a heavy tread, swallowing, and the hat is placed on his head as soon as he’s taken a seat. The hat screws up its eyes in concentration, and shouts five seconds later: ‘Gryffindor!’
I clap wildly with the others, watching the astounded expression on Seth’s face. My insides tighten at the thought of what is waiting for me – but still, I knew he’d be in Gryffindor!
Seth throws us a happy thumbs-up and joins the bustling Gryffindors, taking a seat next to Albus, Tristan, and the red-haired girl called Alice from earlier.
‘Moving on,’ Jean Grace says abruptly, ‘Summer Spear, take your seat!’
‘Well, good luck,’ Rose says, giving me a quick hug.
‘Just relax, and you’ll be fine,’ Logan says with an encouraging smile, and I force my knocking knees to function, sensing forbidding in the air, drinking in the strong sense of anticipation, and tasting fear on the tip of my frozen tongue. Somehow, I don’t think I’m ready for this – but even so, I trip up the cold, waiting steps and sit down carefully on the stool. The hat is placed on my head, and immediately I feel its presence in my head, and my first thoughts are on the weirdness of this little experience.
‘So,’ the hat begins wisely, ‘a Spear, are you? A little different, though, I sense…yes, there is a difference in your mind…’ it pauses, ‘a rare soul, I see – but a fresh, curious young brain, and a brave heart. Good, good – but where shall I put you?’
My thoughts turn to my twin brother and all of my friends apart from Logan and Rose, seated happily at the Gryffindor table, awaiting my fate. I think how hopeful Seth must be.
‘A strong bond with your brother,’ it muses, ‘and lingering feelings of conflict and desire…yes, I see greatness here, Miss Spear. Your power could be used wisely in the house of Ravenclaw perhaps…or maybe Slytherin would bring out the greatness in you…and yet,’ it sighs, ‘I see all the makings of a Gryffindor…loyal and courageous and resourceful…but even so, there is a determination, an enchantment, an ability to see things others don’t…a sly insight, one might call it. A difficult one…but it better be: Gryffindor!’
The hat is whipped from my head faster than I have time to rejoice. I made it, I actually made it! I’m a Gryffindor, I’m with Seth and Albus and Tristan and that funny late girl! I never, ever thought the hat would put me in Gryffindor – not that it didn’t want me elsewhere, but I’m comforted by the thought it didn’t even have to wait for me to beg to be in Gryffindor. I belong in the gracious, red and gold house – me!
In contrast to the way up, I positively skip down the stairs, and try my hardest not to run to the Gryffindor table, where Seth has saved me a seat on the other side of him.
‘Told you you’d make it, sis,’ Seth says cheerfully, shaking my shoulders in excitement. ‘We’ve done it, Summer – we’ve finally done it!’
‘I know,’ I whisper, my own eyes lighting up with the magic of his sentence – and then Jean Grace calls for Logan Turner, and we are quiet again.
I watch Rose give him words of comfort, but Logan doesn’t seem to need it. He trudges up the stairs casually, and sits on the stool calmly. The hat is put on his floppy brown hair, and he closes his eyes as the hat enters his head; and stays there. The hat seems to be having a trial with him, too. I hope he’ll be told the same as me, whatever happens! Nearly all of us have made it, and I already know Rose is a definite for Gryffindor…but Logan’s trickier. I suppose his slight distant, teasing nature, and clever, mysterious air might get him put elsewhere. Just as long as it’s not…
‘Slytherin!’ chokes out the hat, and my stomach drops fifty miles. Slytherin? What does it mean, Slytherin? Logan doesn’t belong with idiots like Scorpius Malfoy – he belongs with us! I see a boy still waiting to be sorted shake his head with a look of disapproval – that must be his brother, though they only look a little alike.
Logan joins the Slytherins, on the other side. We all look after him sadly, knowing the rivalry and hatred between our two houses has put an end to our friendship with him – until Professor Grace calls up Steve Turner, who is quickly sorted into Hufflepuff, and I feel another twinge of sadness for Logan, even though he’s obviously not close to his brother, who doesn’t look very nice to be honest, even though he wasn’t the one put in Slytherin. Slytherin! Why?
The sorting goes quickly and smoothly after that, with William Upton sorted into Ravenclaw, and Wendy Watson into Hufflepuff. Then it’s Rose Weasley’s turn, with hardly any students around her, and none of her friends to give her messages of support. I try to silently communicate with her, but I don’t think it works, because she looks as scared as ever.
However, the hat puts her in Gryffindor after about three seconds, and we all cheer for our last friend, still a little subdued from Logan’s sorting. I wish he was here, with all of us. It doesn’t seem fair, but I know I have to stop thinking about him. I know what this means. It means we can never be proper friends again.
‘Well done, Rose,’ Albus whispers to her as she sits down opposite, and we all congratulate her.
After Rose, there are only four students left – two nervous-looking boys and two nervous-looking girls. Poor things, still waiting to be sorted after all this time! Poor Logan.
‘Colette Weild,’ shouts Jean Grace straight away, and the shivering girl is put right into Slytherin. She doesn’t look too mean – maybe Logan can be friends with her. Then I feel extremely guilty all over again. It’s a bitter justice to be in Gryffindor with Seth and the others.
John Williams is sorted into Hufflepuff without fuss, and then Bonnie Young becomes the last Gryffindor – followed by the last Slytherin, Blaise Zabini’s son Noah, who is practically an eleven-year-old replica. The atmosphere has changed now the last person has finally been sorted. The urgency has all but evaporated.
‘I’m just glad it’s over,’ Rose says, ‘it’s horrible being almost last.’
Nobody mentions Logan. Seth makes some comment about how weird it felt to have another thinker in his head, and everyone laughs. Tristan and Albus keep us all entertained with tales of both their fathers’ misdoings at school. Alice Bell tells about how her suitcase caught fire, but I stay silent. Everyone’s saying all the right things, but it’s just not the same. Still – Alice becomes an immediate friend, fitting in with us easily, so we are a band of six again.
‘What do your parents do?’ Tristan asks Alice.
‘Mum’s a photographer for wedding magazines,’ Alice explains, ‘and Dad used to be in The Tornados – but he’s a Quidditch commentator now, though…’
‘Cool,’ Albus breaks in, ‘my Mum was a chaser for the Holyhead harpies – wasn’t she, Rose?’ Rose nods. ‘She’s retired now, too – but she’s corresponds for the sports column in The Prophet, would you believe!’
‘I love the Holyhead Harpies!’ I say, finding my voice. ‘I forgot your Mum was a chaser for them, Albus! That’s so cool – I wish one of your parents could teach me to fly like them!’
For some reason, Albus shifts a little in his seat, but I’m distracted by an announcement from Professor Thomas that the feast is about to begin, and large golden plates suddenly fill with lovely, delicious food. The wafts of chips and chicken wash through the hall, and the air becomes considerably lighter as we each take our fill.
‘I can’t wait to taste their treacle tart!’ Albus enthuses. ‘Dad told me to watch out for it!’
‘It’s the rhubarb custards for me,’ Tristan says, and we make sounds of disgust – except for Alice, who shyly tells him she loves rhubarb custard, too.
Half an hour after our dinners have appeared, the traces of potato and chicken bone vanish once more, and our plates instead fill with desserts packed with variety; Chocolate Gateau, Lemon Meringue, Cherry pie, treacle tart, strawberry waffles, rhubarb custards, green jelly and a mysterious-looking cake with strange sweets glued on. Seth opts for the strawberry waffles, Tristan and Alice take the custards, Albus digs for the treacle tart, and Rose goes for the Cherry pie. I decide to take the mystery cake, to sounds of protest.
‘That could be poisoned!’ Alice exclaims with alarmed eyes, and Rose nods in agreement.
‘I’ll signal to you guys if I start to violently die,’ I say, and the boys chuckle.
I have a strange feeling someone’s watching me – and stop laughing with the others and look over at the Slytherin table, searching for our lost friend. Then I see him – holding the same cake as me, pointing to it with slender fingers. I mime a look of bravery and, on the count of three – but he cheats on two, the Slytherin; we both swallow down the cake, grimacing as we wait for what hand dessert has dealt us. The cake feels light and fluffy in my mouth – and then a brilliant tangy flavour burns in my throat, and pink returns to my cheeks and I think I’m on fire…
I see that Logan wears a similar expression on his cheeky face – but then his attention is seized by a Slytherin girl with rings on her fingers, and I turn away, hot from the situation and the cake. Seeing the girl reminds me of the reason Logan and I can never be friends…not anymore. It’ll take more than a cake to change that.
In fact, I don’t think I’ll ever speak to him again.
Everyone’s stomachs are filled to the brim when Jean Grace announces the end of the feast, and the first years are called by the Head boys and girls from Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, Slytherin, and finally Gryffindor. I watch the back of Logan’s profile until his head becomes a dark-haired dot in the pattern of students.
Our head boy is called Nathan Taylor, captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch team, apparently, and the Head girl introduces herself as Talia Smith, whose little sister Jane was sorted into Hufflepuff.
‘Follow me, first-years,’ Nathan says with a commanding air quite different from Hagrid’s rough, gentle notes. We all follow his bossy figure out of the Great Hall in a jagged line, and I cast a look at the midnight sky above before the doors swing shut, almost catching Seth’s elbow, owing to the fact he had just stopped to point at an escaped rat.
‘It should be allowed to run free, anyway,’ I say in a morose voice.
‘What’s up with you?’ Seth says, seeing my gloomy expression. ‘You got what you wanted, didn’t you? In Gryffindor with me!’ he watches Rose’s dark red hair a few students in front a little distractedly.
‘Just tired,’ I reply, and I suppose I really am exhausted by the day’s events.
‘It’s an early start tomorrow,’ Albus tells me, ‘James said breakfast is usually at eight, with first lesson at nine – but on the first day, everyone has to come down twenty minutes early to sort out their time tables – Dean, sorry, Professor Thomas, will sort out the Gryffindors’ – he’s head of our house, if you hadn’t already guessed.’
‘If we had, we’d be in Ravenclaw,’ Tristan says, and we all laugh, but none harder than Alice, whose expression is about fifty times more cheerful than mine.
‘I can’t wait to start tomorrow,’ she says, not seeming in the slightest bit tired, ‘it’s so exciting, isn’t it?’ I give a half-nod, hoping she doesn’t interpret this as unfriendliness.
But Alice doesn’t seem to mind. ‘Gosh, it’s late, isn’t it? Love the hair, by the way.’
My long blonde hair, loose and ruffled due to the time and Seth messing it up, doesn’t look loveable at all from where I’m standing. But Alice seems nice enough. For Logan’s replacement, a voice sneers in my ear, but I push it away. It’s not her fault – besides, I like her.
‘Yours is much more interesting,’ I say, looking at the freeness of the autumn tangles.
‘Mine’s a total mess!’ she says – but smiles all the same.
We reach the last of the long, winding staircases – and there’s a sudden shriek as Samantha Morgan goes through a stair!
‘Didn’t anyone tell you about the trick step?’ Talia Smith says with a smirk – but she helps her up sportingly even so.
Seth explodes with laughter, and Samantha’s friend Bonnie Young turns and glares at him, brushing dust off Samantha’s shoulder. Seth goes a guilty red.
‘Idiot,’ I say, pushing his shoulder, ‘mature girls don’t appreciate that kind of behaviour,’ I incline my head towards Rose innocently, pretending she’s just an example – and Seth stops grinning at once. Well someone had to break it to him, didn’t they? Anyway, he’s my brother – we can say anything to each other.
‘We’ve arrived at the Gryffindor common room,’ Nathan Taylor declares grandly.
‘Well, duh,’ Tristan says – to general laughter.
Nathan flushes. ‘I can assure you Professor Grace would not accept that standard of immaturity,’ he says hotly, ‘and I can take points away, you know, and make you a very unpopular first-year…’
‘That evil git!’ Alice says with a fever I haven’t seen on her face before. ‘I suppose joking is against the rules or something!’ I almost expect her to stamp her foot, but, to Seth and I’s intense disappointment, she only clicks her tongue angrily.
‘Don’t sweat it,’ Tristan says, looking pleased with himself, ‘you know how head boy ship can go to people’s heads…’
‘I’ll say,’ answers Alice, who seems to have cooled off enough to look at Nathan for five seconds without blowing out steam.
‘Right,’ begins Nathan pompously, ‘the pass word is: Dendranthema grandiflora. Did everyone hear that? Den-dran-thema grand-i-flora. Any questions?’
‘Just one,’ Aaron Jenson says, ‘can we go in now?’ Nathan scowls.
‘How are we going to remember such a long-winded load of nonsense?’ Tristan wonders aloud.
‘It’s a type of plant,’ Rose says knowledgeably.
‘Bet your Mum told you that,’ Seth says.
‘Actually, I read about it in a book, all by myself,’ Rose says, looking hurt by the suggestion, and I silently reprimand Seth for his lack of subtlety.
Seth goes a deep primrose. ‘Just joking,’ he mutters as the large portrait of the Fat Lady creaks open.
‘Though I don’t know what hour you call this,’ the Fat Lady snaps as we start to climb through.
‘Try eleven o’clock,’ Albus says cheekily – and darts through before she swings it straight shut again. We all giggle at Albus’s quiet humour, and follow him across the threshold, the Fat Lady’s complaints falling on deaf ears.
‘Wow!’ all ten of us exclaim, glancing round the common room with glittering eyes.
It truly is a sight to behold. All thoughts of Logan and tomorrow and Seth’s helpless crush are lost in the scarlet flames of the large fireplace; the squashy cushions are lumped on soft red sofas with a thin gold streak running through – and the circular room is made complete by the high windows overlooking the grounds of the school. On the walls hang paintings of famous witches, wizards and animals, and on the other side of the common room, two doors lead off spiral stair cases. It’s even more magic than Mum described, or Dad promised! I can’t wait to write home tomorrow – but at the thought, my full stomach rumbles unhappily. Despite the wonder of the school, I miss home.
Seth seems to get a sense of this, too, and gives me a sad smile I can only weakly return – then, like a horde of hungry and irate rhinoceros, the older students crash through, all sixty of them, purging the place of enchantment. My stomach is in knots again, but Albus is peering round for his brother – while I turn away, embarrassed; I’ve already made a fool of myself to that boy once.
‘Hey, Al!’ James Potter says with a friendly grin. ‘And isn’t that the delightful princess from before?’
I stand awkwardly beside Albus, who tells his brother to shut up.
‘Calm down, Al – for a minute there, I almost thought you had a back bone! Well, see you in the morning,’ he departs to the boys’ dormitory with his friends following in his lead.
‘Sorry about him,’ Albus says with a bashful smile, ‘he suffers from acute idiot-it is.’
‘Is it contagious?’ I ask, concerned, and laugh when Albus shakes his head.
‘Right, you’ve had your fill of the common room,’ Nathan says bossily, ‘now time for bed, first-years – you have to get used to a busy, early routine, after all.’
‘And a busy, early idiot,’ Alice mumbles as we go past, the five boys filing into the boys’ dormitory on the left, and us girls taking the right.
The dormitory is just as Mum said; long and wide and spacious, with five four-poster beds draped in thick, hanging red velvet curtains. I dump my stuff on the first bed, and Rose and Alice take the second and third, leaving a still rueful Samantha and a bad-tempered Bonnie to take fourth and fifth, which veers off a little to the side, away from the first three beds.
I find my pale pink tartan pyjamas folded neatly on top, my fluffy pink slippers stashed in the side pocket, and I have to fight a lump in my throat. Of course Mum would know exactly how to do it right, how to save me unpacking everything. It’s what Mums are for, right?
The top of Rose’s trunk, however, is lined with different varieties of sweet – some of which I recognize from the ones Logan ordered on the train. I ignore the regretful tug on my heart.
‘Oh, Dad!’ Rose giggles at the sight, and then explains: ‘Mum told him not to. My maternal grandparents are retired dentists, you know!’
‘Really?’ I pipe up, interested – I think my own Mum mentioned dentistry once. It involves pulling out rotten teeth, apparently. It sounds pretty medieval, anyway.
‘Oh yeah, your Mum’s muggle-born, isn’t she?’ Alice says, and Rose nods. ‘And your Dad’s a pure-blood! An exact opposite match!’
‘In personality, too,’ Rose says, but adds with a sigh, ‘they really love each other, though. Even when they argue – Mum nags and Dad just laughs, then eventually gives in, sweetening her up with some stupid line. Though they might divorce if Mum finds out about these!’ she scatters the rows of sweets over her bed delightedly, and it reminds me of my own relationship with my father. Most people think Rose is just a mini Hermione (with red hair), but I disagree. I think she has a wicker side that’s far more like her Dad, though she did (thankfully) inherit her mother’s high intelligence and sense.
Rose shares her sweets round the dormitory equally, only keeping a sticky lollipop with an attached note and a chocolate frog card with her Dad grinning all over his freckled face in the portrait. Rose puts the chocolate frog on her bedside table, with the beaming photograph face up.
‘That way I can sleep,’ she says, looking faintly embarrassed – but then Alice brings out a one-eared, moth-eaten teddy bear, and we can all relax; Bonnie gets out a framed photo of her Mum, and I take a book covered in red plastic with shiny gold lettering out of my rucksack, and place it under my pillow.
The lights flicker off five minutes after we’ve all showered and changed, and everyone breathes easier with their precious items beside them. After fifteen minutes, all is quiet in the dorm apart from the gentle snores of my roommates, and I snuggle into my warm, inviting duvet, hoping sleep, not school, comes soon…
The next day, we are woken by the loud, ringing voice of Talia Smith, and I find myself wishing she would transfer to Hufflepuff to be with her sister.
‘Five more hours…’ I moan, burrowing back under the covers in a flutter of sleep deprivation signs.
‘No!’ Talia says, pulling the covers back, to my loud protests. ‘It’s already seven, and you’ve all to got to be downstairs by twenty to! Come on, up!’ she commands.
‘Alright, alright, if you’re done giving me an earful,’ I complain, starting to get up as she yells in Rose’s ear.
‘Trust me, Rose, getting up now will be a lot less damaging than listening to her banging on for five more minutes,’ I advise expertly, and Rose bounds out of bed with sudden strength. See what scary girls can do to you? The girl has no shame, I think as she rouses Alice and shouts at Samantha and Bonnie until they roll out of bed quite literally onto the carpet.
‘Right – all of you better be dressed by the time I’ve finished waking the older years,’ she says warningly, as though she’ll personally dress us herself is we don’t bother.
‘We’ll cope,’ Alice sighs blearily, and the girl leaves.
‘Well, there’s one good thing,’ Bonnie says, and we all look at her sceptically, ‘if she’s Head Girl, then this must be her last year at Hogwarts,’ we all catch on and grin evilly.
‘What a way to spent it, though,’ Samantha adds sadly as we root around for yesterday’s robes and shoes and clean underwear.
Once we’re all changed, we make our way downstairs, carrying small rucksacks full of quills and ink bottles and rolls of parchment – and a dozen or so sweets, in Rose’s case. (She better not tell the boys, expect perhaps Albus).
‘I hope our first lesson’s Herbology,’ I hear Trevor Longbottom say as we enter the Great Hall, where our Heads of House are waiting, along with the gold plates piled high with steaming hot breakfast, the essences of food drifting around the room like the sweetest herb.
We find Seth, Albus and Tristan already seated at the far end of the Gryffindor table, with James and his friends not far along the row. I make sure I get a seat right on the other side of Seth.
‘We can’t eat breakfast ’til Professor Thomas sorts out everyone’s time tables – and he’s starting with the seventh-years, the evil git,’ Seth says noisily as I dump my rucksack at my feet.
‘Good morning to you, too,’ I say, still a little grumpy from Talia’s loud wake-up call earlier.
‘Did you get the get-out-of-bed treatment, too?’ Tristan infers sympathetically, and shakes his head when I nod.
‘You should’ve heard Nathan, though,’ Seth says grimly, ‘”you must get out of bed or you risk expulsion” in this really high squeaky voice. It’s enough to put anyone off sleep.’
‘Talia wasn’t much better,’ Rose says, ‘she even threatened to dress us herself if we didn’t – in other words.’
‘What a creep,’ Seth says, looking over at Rose with a sigh of empathy. I look around for Logan to smirk at, and then stupidly realize he’ll be with the Slytherins.
Still, I wonder how his first night went. I hope he wasn’t too lonely.
‘Missing home?’ Albus asks from across the table.
‘Kind of,’ I say, watching Professor Thomas sort out the fifth-years.
‘Hey, look!’ Alice says – right before fifty screeching owls whiz through the Great Hall, seeking out their correspondents.
‘Do you think we’ve got anything?’ Seth says, a little wistfully, I think.
‘Mum said she’d write every week,’ I reply, craning my neck to try to spot our parents’ owl in the sea of flapping birds.
‘Hedwig Junior!’ Albus exclaims as a small snowy white owl lands feet first in front of him, nipping his finger with familiarity.
Hedwig Junior has Rose’s letter from home, too, as well as an assortment of sweets – watched jealously by Scorpius Malfoy, who also has a hamper full of fizzy delights from home.
‘Honestly,’ I mutter, glaring at Malfoy until he looks away.
Rose’s cheek colour a little. ‘He can’t actually be jealous I got about a fifth of the junk he’s got there!’
With another screech, our parents’ white-brown barn owl lands between Seth and me, cheeping with excitement and hopping on one leg.
‘Hello, May-Belle,’ I say softly, stroking her wings just the way she’s always liked it.
Seth removes our letters from her tightened claw, and hands a thick white envelope to me, with my name and address on front.
I hold the letter in my hand, not opening it yet, and watching as all my friends rip open their letters. I look over at the Slytherin table again, and see Logan seated between Richard Hargreaves and Beatrix Lowsley, head bent over his letter and hair falling floppily.
‘Open it, then!’ Seth urges, looking at me despairingly.
I slide the envelope open carefully, making sure I don’t tear it, and stare down at Mum’s loopy handwriting until the words blur into:
How are you, darling? Are you settling in well and making friends? Congratulations on making Gryffindor, by the way – the Prophet now publishes the sorting, you know.
Your father and I are very busy – to keep ourselves from missing you and Seth too much!
Even May-Belle’s been acting droopy, put off her seeds and vegetables! She wouldn’t touch any of our food, just flew outside to catch dead rats in mourning!
Your father’s found out your first day of lessons, by the way – and they are as follows, chronologically: History of Magic with Professor Binns, the ghost, Defence Against the Dark Arts with a new Professor – Magdalene Slade; and then Potions with Professor Decimus Oswald, and the last lessons are Herbology with Professor Longbottom and Astronomy with Professor Sinistra! Your father also says you’ll be doing Herbology and History of Magic with the Hufflepuffs, Defence Against the Dark Arts, Astronomy and Transfiguration with the Ravenclaws, and Charms, Potions and weekly flying lessons with the Slytherins!
He also says you get Friday afternoons off, but the homework load is heavier this year, as the new head master would really like to have his students prepared and put to the test for the end of year exams! So remember; work hard, but not too hard; look after your brother, be friendly and helpful – and absolutely none of your curiosity-driven adventures, Summer – I know what you’re like! Don’t think I’ve forgotten France – you gave us such a fright with your disappearing acts!
If you ever feel unhappy or want to come home, speak to us via the fire in the Gryffindor common room – and stay safe, be brave, keep smiling, and keep writing to let us know you’re okay!
Lots of Love,
Mum and Dad xxx.
P.S. – you will wear clean clothes every day, won’t you? And make sure Seth does?
I smile as I finish the letter, glad home life hasn’t changed one bit. I see that Seth wears the same expression and look over at his letter to find Mum’s told him to wear clean clothes, too, and make sure I do! It’s funny how she manages to fuss even from miles and miles away. I never once thought I’d miss her nagging the most.
‘At least we know what’s coming up,’ Seth says, ‘but it looks like a heavy load.’
‘They’re just making sure we get to experience the most important and interesting classes on the first day,’ Rose says, reading over his shoulder.
‘Yeah,’ Seth says, ‘I love astronomy. How about you?’
‘I can’t wait to get behind a telescope,’ Rose admits, ‘but it comes second only to Defence Against the Dark Arts. Dad said it’s the only subject he managed to get an O in – and Mum had a few problems with it at first, though she ended up with a N.E.W.T. O, of course…but it’s really my Uncle, Albus’s Dad, who was the best in the year at Defence – isn’t that right, Al?’
‘Yeah,’ Albus agrees, ‘and Mum’s not half bad either – you should see her reducto curse – or her famous bat-bogey hex! Just ask Talia Smith, and you’ll know what I mean!’
We all look at him, puzzled, apart from Rose, who smiles at this private joke. Over in the corner, Professor Thomas is just finishing the new second-years, who don’t look much older than us, but considerably less scared.
‘Right,’ Professor Thomas says as the last second-year is given her time-table, ‘first-year Gryffindors over here, please!’ we all rush over, desperate to see the rest of the time-table and finally eat some breakfast.
‘I’ll do this in register order,’ he decides, then calls, in a voice that reminds me of yesterday’s sorting: ‘Tristan Anderson.’
Tristan lopes over to our Head of House, peering over his shoulder. A moment later, he’s cleared to eat breakfast.
‘See ya, losers!’ he says to the waiting queue, and bounds over to the breakfast table, tucking into egg and bacon. Idiot.
Professor Thomas shuffles some rolls of parchment, and then calls again: ‘Alice Bell.’
After Alice is sorted out, Aaron Jenson, Anthony Mason, Samantha Morgan and Al are called up, and swiftly dealt with. Then our professor calls for Seth, me, Rose and Bonnie.
‘Right,’ he mutters as he fiddles with four pieces of parchment, ‘that should all be in order…’
‘Come on, sir,’ Seth says, ‘all you have to do is copy out the exact same time table four times over, with different names. Use your wand!’
‘I wasn’t raised on magic,’ Professor Thomas insists, ‘so I think I’ll do it manually, thank you very much, Mr Spear.’ And he dips his quill in the ink bottle again.
‘Dean, please hurry up, we’re starving,’ Rose pleads.
‘I was only having you on,’ Professor Thomas grins, ‘here you are, kids.’ He hands us a time table each.
‘Let’s see,’ Seth says eagerly, bouncing over my shoulder.
‘It’s the same as yours,’ I point out.
‘Oh yeah,’ Seth says with a frown, ‘but still, there’s a different first name on yours.’
Rose, Bonnie and I roll our eyes in synchronisation.
For the benefit of you, reader, not Seth, I have printed:
History of Magic – C. Binns
Defence – M. Slade
Potions – D. Oswald
Herbology – N. Longbottom
Astronomy – A. Sinistra
Transfiguration – D. Thomas
Charms – F. Flitwick
Charms – F. Flitwick
Potions – D. Oswald
Astronomy – A. Sinistra
Defence – M. Slade
Transfiguration – D. Thomas
Herbology – N. Longbottom
Potions – D. Oswald
Potions – D. Oswald
Transfiguration – D. Thomas
History of Magic – C. Binns
History of Magic – C. Binns
Astronomy – A. Sinistra
Charms – F. Flitwick
Herbology – N. Longbottom
Defence – M. Slade
Flying Lesson – G. Potter
‘Hey, Al,’ Tristan says, ‘you didn’t tell us your Mum’s teaching the first-years flying lessons…’
Albus blushes a little, and I suddenly remember how shifty he looked when I said I wished one of his parents could teach me to fly! Wow – Ginny Potter, ex-Holyhead Harpies chaser, sports columnist, wife of Harry Potter, sister to Rose’s Dad and sister-in-law to Rose’s Mum, mother of Albus and Auntie of Rose, is actually going to teach here! Just once a week to first-years, but still. She’s got to more exciting than that Hooch who used to teach flying here, and she’s had real, hands-on experience! I can’t wait…seriously, Friday fourth period can’t come quick enough!
‘It must be weird for you and Al, though,’ Alice says to Rose.
‘Yeah, I suppose,’ she says, ‘but Al doesn’t mind – do you, Al?’
‘Nah,’ Albus says, ‘I can get her to favour me…’ he’s cut off by Seth, Tristan, Alice and my loud protests.
As I’m about to tuck into my breakfast, a magically-enhanced horn beats me to it, signalling the start of lessons. Oh, great. No food for me then.
As I stand up to trail after the others to History of Magic, I feel something light drop into my pocket. Maybe I forgot my hair clips?
I fiddle with the front of my hair, but everything’s tucked neatly in place, my long ash-blonde plait falling heavily down my back. Weird – but I don’t have time to check; we’re almost late and losing sight of Talia and Nathan, who’re supposed to take us!
Seth turns back and pulls me alongside him, and together we run to catch up with the others, who are two staircases in front.
‘Sorry,’ I pant as we reach the end of the line – but I don’t explain myself. For some reason, I’d rather keep it to myself. Or maybe it’s just an embarrassing reason for nearly making us late, because I was looking through my own hair. I probably just imagined it, anyway.
‘What were you doing?’ Seth asks.
‘I dropped Mum’s letter,’ I lie as we file into the class room – I know for a fact my letter is stashed neatly under my pack of parchments and ink.
‘Where is he?’ Bonnie asks her friend Samantha, who shakes her head.
‘My Dad said he comes in through the black board,’ Anthony says sceptically – but a moment later, he does just that.
The ghostly figure of Professor Binns says in a dry, raspy, centuries-old voice: ‘I have composed a seating plan.’ Ever so s-l-o-w-l-y. He probably does it deliberately, I think, because even old ghost professors must like to have some fun once in a while.
I remember from Dad’s information that this is a lesson we’ll be sharing with the Hufflepuffs and look around to see Malcolm Adams (whom I recognize vaguely as the first boy to be sorted), Cherry Cooper, Sarah Davis, Cameron Finch-Fletchley, Alexandra Hill, Trevor Longbottom (the Herbology professor’s son), Jane Smith (little sister of annoying Head Girl Talia – might have a stern word with her), Steve Turner (twin of Logan), Wendy Watson and John Williams, all looking very small and frightened to be amongst a different house.
I’m placed at the desk next to Steve Turner, as he turns out to be my pair on the Hufflepuff-Gryffindor register. He introduces himself at once, and I find myself telling him I’ve met his brother, somehow hoping to salvage their relationship, but…
‘Oh, yes; Logan,’ Steve replies with a tight smile, ‘I suppose you saw how he got sorted into Slytherin? I guess I should’ve known, really, with his track record.’
‘What track record?’ I say, because Steve seems to really dislike his brother, and I can’t ever imagine feeling anything stronger than annoyance or hurt when I’m mad at my twin.
Steve opens his mouth to speak, but is interrupted by the drifting voice of Binns, telling him to be quiet so he can get on with his lecture on the Gargoyle strike of 1911, predictably calling him Thompson instead of Turner. (Even though he has a seating plan).
Professor Binns telling us off is the most interesting part of the lesson. The rest of the hour passes by with the tick of the clock, round and round and round in a droning voice that acts like a lullaby to the students in the class. I find my head drooping exhaustedly onto the desk at twenty to ten, and have to be nudged by Steve so I can keep up with the pace of note-taking. I wish we were all still friends with Logan, so I could ask him about the situation with his brother…but there’s an unspoken agreement between Gryffindor and Slytherin: no friends from the other side. The others don’t even seem to care – but then, they weren’t there, originally. They didn’t see how sweet and sensitive and kind he can be – any of them, not even his twin, and now he’ll be dismissed as just another horrible Slytherin boy. What if his class mates do lead him down a dark path? Will my friends even care, even if to them he was just a stranger they played with briefly on the train? I guess they just assumed he was heading for Gryffindor; too…people often group together with that kind of mentality…
‘Summer, for goodness’ sake, it’s time to go,’ Steve says, shaking my shoulder until I sit up, dazed.
‘You’re not making us nearly late for another lesson, too,’ Seth says firmly, ‘honestly, Summer, it wasn’t that boring.’
‘I quite liked it, actually,’ Alice chips in, ‘but then, I’ve always liked history…’
‘We’re on a schedule here, guys,’ Rose says from the doorway, ‘I already told Tristan and Al to go on ahead – we can’t all end up in detention.’
‘Ordered them to go on ahead, more like,’ Alice giggles to me as we exit the room, struggling to keep up with Rose’s frantic power-walk.
We enter Defence with one minute to spare, gasping with the exercise and find that the Ravenclaws are already there, backed up against the wall and waiting to be seated. Our professor, Magdalene Slade, is a tall woman with honey-blonde hair and sharp blue eyes circled with small round glasses. Her robes are plain black, her mouth painted into a thin purple line.
Lucky Seth gets put on a desk next to Albus, while I end up next to a quiet Ravenclaw boy called William Upton, who keeps his chair slightly away from me. Rose, second last in the register, gets put next to our roommate Bonnie Young.
‘Welcome to Defence Against the Dark Arts, first-years,’ Professor Slade greets us.
‘Morning Professor Slade,’ we mumble back, apprehensive.
She claps her hands together. ‘Now everything’s in order,’ she begins, ‘I can get on with first lesson – which will be on the Curse of the Bogies (laughter). Yes, isn’t it hilarious – now, can anyone tell me anything about this curse?’
A boy called Henry Jones from Ravenclaw house waves his hand in the air, beating a disappointed Rose to it, and says in a slightly superior voice: ‘The Curse of the Bogies gives the victim a strong cold that can make him or her collapse if not treated, –’
‘- as well as an extremely runny nose!’ Rose breaks in, unable to contain herself.
Professor Slade taps her pointed nails in distaste. ‘When I want an answer, Miss Weasley, I take a raised hand. Is that clear?’ Rose mumbles ‘yes’. ‘Good – but you were correct, of course, if a little impolite to your fellow classmate –’
Rose hangs her head, but Henry gives a smug smile.
‘So that’s twenty points to Ravenclaw,’ she finishes, to angry mutters from the Gryffindors.
We may be newbies, but everyone knows professors never give that many points for one (interrupted) answer. I bet she was a Ravenclaw.
‘Our first twenty points!’ William Upton beams, and, when he’s looking the other way, I dip his sleeve in his ink pot. Well, it serves the lot of them right for being un justified boasters!
‘Aaah! My sleeve!’ William gasps, and then turns a suspicious eye on me. ‘Did you –’
‘Oh, look, a bat bogey!’ I cry – and the whole class turns to look, while I snigger with Seth, who’s at the desk beside mine.
‘Good one,’ Tristan mouths at me, and all the Gryffindors look a little happier with the injustice we were just served – but unfortunately, Professor Slade doesn’t seem to see the funny side.
‘Distracting a class is both silly and dangerous,’ she tells me, getting on her high horse, ‘what do you have to say for yourself, missy?’
‘Er,’ I start, ‘how in the name of Merlin’s left saggy buttock is it at all dangerous?’
The class gasp, some looking shocked, others admiring – but it’s Rose’s face that is the most triumphant. I give her a special grin, which she returns with one snippy eye trained on old Slade.
‘You, girl,’ she says with a nasty smile, ‘will go to the Head’s right this second. Pack your things – NOW!’
I give a little start, heart thudding furiously in my chest, cheeks reddening with anger – but mostly, I’m just terrified. Everyone saw what an idiot the Head was yesterday – and now I’m being sent to him on the first official school day! What will Mum say? And Dad works in the department of magical education! He’ll be so humiliated and disappointed…they’ll drag me straight back home on the train, I know it…there’ll all hate me…
I gather my things, ignoring both my pestering thoughts and William’s glare, and depart the class, avoiding the eyes of my friends, and casting furious looks at all the gleeful Ravenclaws, pompous and prevailing as they are. I hate the Ravenclaws – every single smug one of them! I hate that they ruined my first day and -
‘Where do you think you’re going, student?’ a sneering voice says, and I look up to see Argus Filch, the horrible care-taker, leering at me, cat between his legs.
‘None of your business,’ I snap – and then I run, far, far away from that awful man , his shouts about my rudeness and running through the corridors shooting through my ears.
I come to a rest at the foot of the tower, gasping, and clutch my ribs. It occurs to me I don’t even know where the Head’s office is – and, because it’s break time after Defence anyway, I decide to skip the trip and find a hideaway in the library or common room or something.
Better not go to the library, a voice in my head advises, anyone could be lurking in there…and Madam Pince would ask questions…
I already feel like some mad fugitive – only justice is on my side, if only I can prove it! Then my shoulders, raised high in passion and hope, fall again as I realize nobody is going to listen to the hurried words of an eleven-year-old girl against a grown woman, a respected professor. I’m doomed, in my first year on my first day at Hogwarts.
Swallowing this mouthful in my head, I try to remember exactly which stairwell will lead me to the seventh floor, in Gryffindor tower. I just can’t think, not with worries of expulsion and the future beating in my ears and compressing together in my chest like a clogged-up old film…I need to think…is it this way? No, it can’t be – west?
What did Nathan say, on the way up the stairs, when I zoned out? Think, Summer, think…
What did Nathan say? I smooth down lost tendrils of hair agitatedly, pressing down on the clasp of my rucksack.
I’m almost certain he mentioned something about the third tower, I mull over as I rush out of the building like a poisoned chicken, dancing around until I find it. Yes.
I trample inside, and don’t stop running until I reach the seventh floor, where the Fat Lady is snoozing, though it’s nearly ten thirty according to my gold pocket watch.
‘Wake up!’ I hiss desperately, abandoning all manners. ‘Please, Fat Lady, wake up!’
She opens one eye reluctantly, looking down on me in disapproval. ‘Why are you out of class?’
‘I was in the hospital wing,’ I invent wildly, ‘we had to practise the Curse of the Bogies in class, and I got hit and contracted a violent cold…’
‘Password,’ she says without further ado, though she does watch me a little doubtfully.
The password I do remember – who could forget Nathan’s drawling voice sounding out…
‘Dendranthema grandiflora!’ I burst out jubilantly – and charge in as soon as it swings open, watching the portrait hole until the clam closes up again.
In disbelief the words of Nathan actually really helped me out twice today, I collapse into the crushed armchair by the fire – and it’s then whatever’s been in my pocket slips out, itching towards the fire…
‘Accio!’ I get out, pointing the wand from under my sleeve, and the mysterious thin sheet of parchment returns to me. I stare at the smooth edge of my wand, astounded the spell, and my reflexes, came so quickly, and I was able to perform the spell Dad once showed me, when I was eight. Maybe Ollivander was right after all…maybe I am made for this wand…
I unroll the aged script and gaze at the tiny writing in puzzlement. It reads:
49 66 20 79 6f 75 72 20 68 65 61 64 20 6f 66 20 68 6f 75 73 65 20 77 61 73 6e 27 74 20 73 6f 20 73 6c 6f 77 2c 79 6f 75 27 64 20 68 61 76 65 20 62 65 65 6e 20 61 62 6c 65 20 74 6f 20 65 61 74 20 62 72 65 61 6b 66 61 73 74 21 20 49 27 76 65 20 61 6c 77 61 79 73 20 6b 6e 6f 77 6e 20 74 68 65 20 73 69 6c 76 65 72 20 65 79 65 20 6f 66 20 74 68 65 20 67 72 65 65 6e 20 73 65 72 70 65 6e 74 20 69 73 20 62 65 74 74 65 72 20 74 68 61 6e 20 74 68 65 20 72 65 64 20 6d 61 6e 65 20 6f 66 20 74 68 65 20 67 6f 6c 64 20 6c 69 6f 6e 21 20 53 65 65 20 79 6f 75 20 69 6e 20 70 6f 74 69 6f 6e 73 2e 2e 2e 20
‘What do you mean you didn’t even go to the Head’s office?’
I fold my arms stubbornly, ignoring the look of disapproval on Rose’s face. ‘I didn’t see any point. That – woman – is the one who should really be going.’
‘Summer,’ Seth says exasperatedly, ‘you’ll get in even bigger trouble. Why don’t you just go and see him now, try to explain things?’
‘We’ve only got ten minutes left until third lesson,’ I snap, ‘and I am not missing Potions for any teacher.’
‘Summer’s in love with Potions,’ Seth explains to Albus, who is hanging in the background behind Rose.
‘Where’s Tristan and Alice?’ I ask, looking round – but they’re nowhere to be seen.
‘Ah,’ says Rose, ‘they’re currently trying to persuade Slade to give them another copy of today’s homework – but she was refusing when Seth, Al and I left – she wouldn’t believe they’d already lost theirs.’
‘Why didn’t they tell her they just want a copy for me?’ I ask incredulously.
Rose bites her lip. ‘You’re not exactly her favourite person right now.’
‘Oh,’ I say, staring down at my nails.
‘But it’s not all bad,’ Albus puts in, ‘James says Professor Oswald, our Potions teacher, is much fairer. All of the older students hate Slade, too, apparently.’
‘Yes, whoop-tee-doo,’ I rejoice sarcastically, but thank him all the same for trying to cheer me up. You can’t really get mad at Albus.
‘I really think you should go now, while you’ve still got time,’ Rose urges.
‘Alright, but I don’t know where it is,’ I say reluctantly.
‘James told me where it is,’ Albus says quickly, ‘but we’d better hurry – come on…’ he starts to lead the way out of the common room, and I follow, trailing in his wake, Rose shouting we only have seven minutes left as the portrait hole bangs shut.
We run through the corridors, Albus in front to show me the way, and stop against a stone wall, panting for breath. This must be the location of Jean Grace’s office. My stomach tightens at the thought. I mean, it’s alright going on the journey – but when you actually get there, you want to do nothing more than turn straight back.
‘I don’t suppose you know the pass word?’ I ask.
‘’Course,’ Albus says confidently, ‘it’s sugar quills.’ The stone gargoyle cracks open to reveal a spiral staircase. I don’t have time to ask Albus how he knew the pass word.
‘Well – see you on the other side,’ I say awkwardly, staring up at the magnificently intimidating stairwell.
‘I’ll wait, if you want,’ he offers.
‘Thanks Al – you’re a real friend,’ I say, patting his arm – and Albus blushes under his glasses.
I step onto the first narrow, twisted stair – and, to my amazement, it starts to turn! Up and up and up I go, until finally I come to a stop at a large wooden door. Bearing in mind I only have four minutes left, I decide to barge straight in – but the room is empty.
Glancing around the roomy, cosy office, I spot a notice board behind a big desk, and rush over to it. The first sign is a reminder about a meeting with a troll, the second detailing an urgent call to the head mistress of Beauxbatons Academy – and third is a list of detentions. I scan the list, laughing a little when I see James Potter’s name written three times when there has only been two lessons – and then I spot my name scrawled under a girl called Melanie Walters. My detention is scheduled in the evening, along with all the other trouble-makers. That seems a little strange. Dad said when he was at school, you just got an hour-detention with your teacher and that was all. I guess things must be changing.
My pocket watch starts screeching, and I realize it must’ve just gone eleven. I dash out of the office and practically fly down the stairs considering I don’t have a broom – and go straight into Albus, who only just regains his balance when I grab the back of his robes.
‘Come on, Al!’ I say, dragging him alongside me until we reach the Potions class room, breathless – and find we’re actually the first ones there.
‘Oh,’ I say a little flatly, ‘we’re early.’
‘I guess the dungeons must be closer to the office than we thought,’ Albus says, wiping his eyes under his glasses.
‘But still, to get there before a teacher,’ I say, ‘it’s disgraceful, Albus.’ We both laugh a lot at this, and start when we hear the sound of our new Professor’s voice from inside the dungeon, as the damp dungeon walls must echo.
‘Come on in, children,’ his voice sounds old and wise.
We wander in, examining the jars full of old herbs and potions – but not dead animals like Dad promised. On the walls hang pictures of various concoctions – most of which I recognize – especially the bubbling liquid pictured in the corner. I must’ve brewed that a thousand times!
‘Polyjuice potion,’ I say, tracing the picture with my finger and standing on tiptoe, entranced.
‘You recognize my little pictures?’ Professor Decimus Oswald says from behind a desk, feathery eyebrows half-concealed by a Prophet newspaper.
‘Yes,’ I say, ‘I’ve, well – tried to make some of them before,’ I blush a little.
‘Dear, dear, the rest of the class are dreadfully late,’ Oswald says, and then adds, ‘I’m glad to see I have a sporting Potioneer on my hands.’
With a sudden bustle, the rest of the class storm in, all desperate to tell the tale of how the stair case was blocked by Peeves the poltergeist, who threw wet flannels at all of them.
‘None of you appear to be wet,’ Oswald says, looking amused instead of angry.
‘Professor Thomas used a drying spell,’ Noah Zabini says, looking surly – and the voice of the Slytherin reminds me of Logan; I can just make out the top of his floppy head, poking out from the end of the line, next to Beatrix Lowsley and the Hargreaves twins.
‘Very well,’ Oswald says as Tristan slips the homework sheet into my robe pocket.
‘Thanks,’ I whisper as Oswald puts down his newspaper and we get a full view of our Potions master; he has a short, neat white beard, zigzag-gy whiskers for eyebrows, and kind, milk brown eyes.
‘You will be seated alphabetically,’ Oswald says – and my stomach half-lurches, half-somersaults in response. I know exactly who is after me in the register.
The desks are arranged in fours, so there are five large tables in total, to make room for all the ingredients and cauldrons, I suppose. I can’t believe I’m finally here, in a Hogwarts Potions lesson, waiting to be seated! Oh gosh…the seating plan. Well, I comfort myself; at least Seth will make it to my table.
The front table is home to Tristan, India Angelo, Alice and Roxanne Gelson. The table opposite holds Xavier Goyle, Isadora Hargreaves, Richard Hargreaves and Aaron Jenson, who I feel sorry for, being the only Gryffindor on that table and separated from his best friend.
The third table seats Beatrix Lowsley, Scorpius Malfoy, Anthony Mason and Samantha Morgan, followed by my table, which goes in the order: Albus, Seth, me and Logan. I try not to look at Logan as I sit down, concentrating on Professor Oswald as he announces the last back table will house Rose, Colette Weild, Bonnie and Noah Zabini. I throw Rose a sympathetic smile, and she raises her eyebrows at me at the awkwardness of my situation, as although Al and Seth are on the same table, they are seated to the side of it, whilst me and Logan are sitting behind the back legs of wood.
A thought occurs to me, one that probably should’ve crossed my mind before – did Logan slip me the note? And if so, what in the name of Merlin does it all mean? All those random numbers, I just don’t get it – or maybe an Arithmancy student dropped it by accident…I heard Talia’s taking it for one of her N.E.W.T.s…yes, she might’ve dropped it as she passed us first-years to lead us to History of Magic.
I take out the note again and pretend to be examining it curiously – and I swear the corners of Logan’s mouth quirk up. That settles it, then. Detective case solved – only, will he answer me if I ask what it means – or will he pretend it isn’t him? Or maybe he wants me to work it out myself…
‘Right, class,’ Oswald booms suddenly, and everyone sits up straighter, ‘welcome to your first Potions lesson. I hope you will find my lessons both educational and enjoyable. Now,’ he swoops around the room, observing us, ‘we’re running on a tight ship here. I have just enough time to teach you the basics, I think –’
‘The basics of what, sir?’ Beatrix Lowsley asks, and her jewelled fingers link her to the girl with rings I saw at the sorting feast.
‘The basics of Aconite in Potion-making,’ Oswald says.
Logan’s left arm brushes my shoulder as he raises his hand, and I tingle a little at the touch. Professor Oswald grants him permission to speak, and all eyes turn on him as he says:
‘Isn’t Aconite toxic?’
‘Yeah,’ Anthony chips in, ‘I’ve heard it can kill, sir. Didn’t think it would be allowed in first-year classes,’ he shrugs.
‘Only the leaves are poisonous,’ I cut in, ‘and it’s perfectly safe as long as you know what you’re doing. It’s used in the Wolfsbane potion, and can only be found in wild areas,’ I stop as I realize everyone’s staring at me in surprise, ‘I’ve made some before,’ I explain, ‘but Dad couldn’t find many Aconite leaves, so it was a really tiny amount, and didn’t turn out as violet as I would have liked – the essence, I mean. The actual Wolfsbane potion gives off a faint blue smoke when completed, of course, but…’ I stop again as every student’s jaw hangs open.
‘Well, Miss Spear,’ Professor Oswald says with a wide grin that stretches the laugh lines around his mouth, ‘that is most impressive. You say you’ve brewed some before?’ I nod, partly ashamed. ‘Excellent – I’ve never seen knowledge like it from a first-year student – and you correctly identified my Polyjuice potion earlier, did you not?’ I nod again. ‘Come, girl, there’s no need to be embarrassed – but I think you just taught the class about a quarter of my lesson,’ he gives me a good-natured smile.
‘Sorry, sir,’ I mutter, ‘I don’t know what came over me.’ Logan snorts so hard at this his quill is knocked sideways by his banging elbow. Seth and Albus stare at him, and I feel like giving him another friendly dig in the ribs…and then I remember we’re not friends anymore.
‘Idiot,’ I hiss when Professor Oswald has gone back to lecturing the class on the dangers of the Wolfsbane potion.
I feel a sharp foot on my ankle, and immediately retaliate – and Logan gives a loud: ‘Ow!’ his hazel eyes looking at me reproachfully.
‘You started it,’ I point out – but he just laughs, in between grimaces of pain and mutterings about how he forgot how mental I am. I glare.
‘When Miss Spear and Mr Turner have decided to pay attention, I may proceed with my teachings on the nature of the Wolfsbane potion – or monkshood, as I’m sure Miss Spear recalls,’ Professor Oswald says, and waves away both our apologies, ‘I’ll have none of that in this class room. Just concentrate the both of you – I don’t like swapping my seating plan around, it’s not fair on the others. As I was saying, the Wolfsbane potion has a revolting flavour; however, nothing can be added to sweeten the flavour. Can anyone tell me why?’
‘Because it will render the potion ineffective,’ Logan and I answer lazily at the same time.
‘Well, well, well, we have another budding Potioneer on our hands!’ he looks positively delighted by the thought – and he may be a little bit mad, but I find myself liking him.
‘When you’re done making the rest of us feel like crap, we still have thirty minutes left,’ Scorpius Malfoy snaps in the corner from a desk in front – and Rose giggles.
‘Yes, yes, Mr Malfoy, I am done,’ old Oswald says cheerfully enough, ‘now, back to our potion friend…yes, the Wolfsbane potion cannot cure lycanthropy – which is the supernatural transformation of a person to a wolf – but it can ease the symptoms, allowing the drinker – or rather, werewolf – to keep their mental faculties. Any questions?’
‘Who invented it, and when?’ Rose asks eagerly.
‘She’s only interested ’cos it’s about werewolfs – I’ve been wondering, Rose, where do you go when it’s full moon?’ Scorpius Malfoy intrudes – and the class burst out laughing, even Rose, who gives Malfoy a sidelong glance that is a mixture of curiosity and embarrassment.
‘To answer your query, Miss Weasley, it was invented during the 1970s, by none other than Damocles,’ Professor Oswald informs her, and she nods happily at this new piece of information, seeming oblivious to the alternating glances of Seth; one jealous look reserved to glare at Malfoy, and a longing expression when he looks at her. I sigh.
Professor Oswald seems to notice the time, and jumps around a little bizarrely. ‘Time has claimed our lesson, I’m afraid, children. Run along now to your next lesson.’
As the others stampede out the door again, I deliberately knock over my quills, stalling, as Logan split ink on the desk and is hastily cleaning it up so as not to be late for his next lesson.
‘Hey, Logan,’ I hesitate, not sure how to ask, ‘why did you write me a bunch of numbers?’
‘Oh, it’s more than that,’ Logan says with a wicked grin, ‘it’s hex language.’
Then, with a final smirk, he gathers his stuff and legs it to his next lesson, leaving me standing at the slightly dripping desk.
‘Hurry along, now,’ Professor Oswald says, but adds as I start to fast-walk out of the room, ‘I forgot to say, you’ve earned yourself thirty points for Gryffindor.’
I don’t even have time to say ‘wow’ before the dungeon door shuts, and I have to hurry, because guess what, I’m nearly late for another lesson…
‘Hex language?’ Rose repeats, frowning, as I look at her eagerly. ‘No, I don’t think so. Odd name – where did you hear it?’
‘Nowhere special,’ I say with a thoroughly beating heart, ‘are you sure you’ve never read about it?’
‘I’d remember a strange language like that,’ Rose says with a smile, ‘but I could write to my Mum, she’s bound to know...’
‘Oh would you Rose?’ I say. ‘Thanks!’ Ha-ha, Logan, I’ll soon find out, I think defiantly in my head.
‘Er, hello guys,’ Tristan fake-snaps, ‘some people are trying to listen to Longbottom’s rant – I mean speech – on the Devil’s snare. So selfish!’
‘Yes, you never know when the Devil’s snare might come in handy,’ Rose says wisely, taking him seriously, ‘Mum’s knowledge of plants saved her, Dad and Uncle Harry in first year, you know…’ and she’s off, describing her parents and uncle’s first serious adventure.
Albus can’t resist saying: ‘And my Dad’s cool head saved your Mum’s knowledge of plants from being useless – there’s no wood! Honestly – even your Dad agrees!’
Rose gives him a push, and they have a silly argument about parents and plants, while I roll my eyes at Alice.
‘Let’s just agree to disagree they both saved each other’s teapot, alright?’ Trevor Longbottom whispers urgently, desperate to hang onto every word of his Dad’s.
‘Alright,’ Rose and Albus agree, because he looks near tears, straining to catch Professor Longbottom’s sentence on how light and warmth affects the plant.
‘Cuck-oo,’ Seth mouths at me, winding a finger round his ear.
‘Seth! Don’t be so mean!’ I choke on my giggles as my twin mimes the cheep of a bird, clutching my sides for laughter.
Professor Longbottom looks over in amusement. ‘Would you care to tell the class what’s so funny, Spear twins?’
Er, your son, I think with a smirk – and immediately feel bad.
‘N-nothing,’ I stutter quickly.
‘It’s alright Summer,’ Trevor says brightly, ‘my Dad’s a big softie.’ The class laugh.
‘Trevor,’ Professor Longbottom says in an exasperated voice, ‘you know you can’t call me Dad in lessons.’
‘Favouritism!’ Anthony Mason shouts unexpectedly – and everyone stares.
‘Sorry,’ he adds quickly, and the class turn slowly away again, to face Professor Longbottom. Aaron shoots his friend an odd look.
‘As I was saying,’ Longbottom senior says, ‘the Devil’s snare has a tentacle-like appearance and strangles anything it comes into contact with – in fact, it was even used in the Battle of Hogwarts nineteen years ago…’
‘He’s off again,’ Seth whispers to me.
Later, when we’re walking to Astronomy after completing our Curse of the Bogies essay in the library at lunch, I brood over what Logan said, what the note can possibly mean. Surely someone must have heard of hex language? But who on earth would know about strange number languages anyway?
‘Welcome to Astronomy, boys and girls,’ a straight-nosed woman with long, thick white hair says cheerfully as we troop in, ‘take a seat anywhere, it doesn’t matter,’ she draws herself up proudly, ‘the Astronomy tower doesn’t do seating plans.’
‘Yes!’ the class chant back at her, scattering around the room to choose an area to sit in with their friends.
Alice, Tristan, Rose, Albus, Seth and I flop down on squashy arm chairs not unlike the ones in the Gryffindor common room, arguing noisily over the many effects of the Bogies curse.
‘It does cause intense pain to the receiver,’ Alice insists.
Rose shakes her head. ‘Uh-uh. Not intense pain. Just enough to render them distracted and disadvantaged. It was never meant to be an excruciatingly painful curse.’
‘But it can be enhanced to be intensely painful,’ Tristan protests.
As Rose turns a furious shade of scarlet, Albus mutters: ‘I’m staying well out of this one…’
‘Well I agree with Rose,’ Seth puts in, and Rose’s cheeks return to cream, ‘you can’t just enhance spells that have already been invented!’
‘He’s right, you know,’ a Ravenclaw girl called Victoria Allen says, ‘okay, so you can enhance it, but that’s just turning the curse into something else. It stops being the Curse of the Bogies.’
‘Fascinating though your little conversation is,’ Professor Sinistra snaps, ‘I have a lesson to teach…’
‘We were talking about lessons,’ Seth argues.
‘Yeah!’ Rose pipes up, head held high, and smiling at Seth for both agreeing with her and defending the cause.
He’s finally done something right, a voice in my head tells me.
‘But it wasn’t my lesson,’ Professor Sinistra says, her early bubbly nature gone as she quivers with rage, ‘and you will do well to remember that. Five points from Gryffindor (moans) – and Ravenclaw,’ she directs nastily at Victoria.
‘What do you think you’re doing, spoiling the points I gained us earlier,’ Henry Jones snaps from across the room (William Upton, my Defence pair, nodding wildly) – and I decide it’s really the Ravenclaw boys I hate. The girls seem okay – but the boys are even snobbier than the Slyther- I suddenly think of Logan and stop mid-thought.
‘Sorry about those embarrassing displays of Ravenclaw,’ Victoria says to Seth.
‘Don’t sweat it,’ Seth says as Victoria swishes her curly black hair a little. (I laugh, knowing where his heart truly belongs).
‘Yeah, you should try sharing a common room with them,’ Tillie Lewis, an earnest girl with brunette waves and deep brown eyes says.
‘And every lesson,’ chips in Mae Harrison, the mousey-haired girl I recognize from the sorting, and as one of the few people who didn’t jeer when I was kicked out of Defence.
‘Poor you,’ I say sympathetically, ‘I guess the Ravenclaw boys have lost their so-called brains since the Sorting,’ we both laugh in glee.
‘IN THIS LESSON!’ Professor Sinistra barks over the noise of the class room. ‘WE WILL LEARN ABOUT THE MOVEMENT OF THE PLANETS!’ the class suddenly start laughing loudly, due to the loud nature of her rant – even the Ravenclaw boys.
‘Fifty points off Gryffindor! Seventy points off Ravenclaw!’ Sinistra cries hysterically, waving her hands around wildly. ‘In fact – dismissed, all of you! DISMISSED!’
‘D-dismissed Professor?’ repeats a beady-eyed Ravenclaw called Esme Harrow. ‘But it’s only-’
‘OUT! OUT OF MY CLASS ROOM, OUT OF MY HAIR!’ Professor Sinistra clutches her own wild white hair dramatically as she speaks – and she’s still shouting something about Merlin’s left saggy – something as we leave.
When we reach the stairwell, a shocked Albus whispers: ‘I think our Astronomy professor just had a mental breakdown in front of the first years!’
‘You think,’ Tristan says sarcastically.
‘Oi, don’t be so rude,’ Rose says – and they start bickering over the effects of the Bogies curse again.
‘You so made up Tristan being rude to start the argument up again,’ Alice puts in snidely – and Rose and her start arguing too, Tristan’s voice louder than both and still insisting the curse is “intensely painful”, I quote. Oh, brother.
Speaking of brothers – my own has joined the conflict, evening the numbers by teaming with Rose again.
‘Fancy slipping off in there and leaving those four to cool off?’ Albus asks as we pass the library, the flaming four quite a few paces ahead.
‘Yeah – quick!’ we steal into the library, Madam Pince bearing down at us from her high desk filled with books.
‘Purpose?’ Madam Pince says as we sink into the first seats we can find.
‘Excuse me?’ I say in disbelief.
Madam Pince taps a sign saying: YOU MUST NOT ENTER THE LIBRARY TO GOSSIP OR DO ANYTHING ELSE APART FROM BOOK-RELATED THINGS. SIGNED, MADAM IRMA PINCE.
‘Since when?’ Albus says, looking shocked all over again. ‘I mean, Mum and Dad said she was mad, but I thought they were exaggerating…’ and after a pause he whispers to me the story of how his parents got chased out of the library with books bouncing off their skulls when they dared open their Easter eggs in the library, Madam Pince’s screeches about chocolate in the library pounding in their ears.
‘How long has she even been at this school?’ I say, because everyone seems to know her.
‘Nobody knows,’ Albus shrugs mysteriously, ‘but I do know this: she’s having an elaborate affair with Argus Filch!’
‘No!’ I gasp. ‘who told you that?’
‘My Dad and Auntie Hermione,’ he says with a sliver of pride, ‘it’s been ongoing for years, according to them – even Uncle Ron agrees!’
‘If that’s the case, then that is the most disgusting pairing I’ve ever seen!’ I say, looking over at the thin, hunched, hawk-like figure of Madam Pince with distaste.
‘What’s that?’ Albus says as the tiny roll of parchment from Logan tips onto the floor. He picks it up, and looks at it curiously. ‘Are you taking up Arithmancy or something? These are just rows and rows of numbers!’
‘Oh, Al, you absolute genius!’ I say, leaping up and rushing out of the library, ignoring both Madam Pince’s cries about running in the library and Albus’ puzzled questions.
My detention is set to be at six in the evening, so I still have three hours to figure this out. Even so, I take no chances, scouring through the hall ways and praying I don’t run into Filch, but, as bad luck would have it, I end up barging right into his deranged cat!
Her lamp-yellow eyes fix onto my face, and she hisses in dislike, taking in my panting frame.
‘Not now, Mrs Norris, please,’ I say, ‘it’s urgent,’ I try to appeal to the humanity in her cat features – but to no avail.
She starts to march towards wherever Filch is, tail brush several metres in the air in jubilation – but I get to the end of the corridor first.
‘I’m sorry, you filthy cat, but you forced me into this!’ I take out my wand and brace myself, then cry, pointing the wand at her eyes: ‘Aguamenti!’
The old whiskery cat claws wildly, eyes streaming with water, howling pathetically for her owner. Wasting no more time, I swiftly move on, ignoring the twist of regret in my heart and knowing I had to – not to be cruel, but to stop her from snitching to Filch.
Oh, what the hell – I can’t bear this! I turn back on my heel and race back down the corridor, where, thankfully, Mrs Norris is still without her beloved Filch.
‘I wish you weren’t so mean,’ I say regretfully, ‘but, even so…’ I perform the drying spell Noah mentioned earlier on the wailing cat, having seen my mother do this to wet clothes.
Mrs Norris narrows her eyes less maliciously, and lies on the floor, head drooping for a nap, obviously not telling tales after all.
‘Good kitty,’ I say in a pleased voice, glad we have a new understanding, and risk stroking the top of her head – something only Filch does – and although she quivers a little stiffly, she doesn’t try to claw my hands away, and I take this as a good sign.
‘What on earth are you doing?’ says a teasing voice – and I look up to see Logan standing over me, brown hair flicking in the slight breeze from the open window above.
‘What are you doing?’ I challenge back immediately, still peeved about the note.
‘Going to the library,’ he says in a slow voice, as if I’m an imbecile – and then I look up and see a sign opposite me pointing in the direction of the library in a red arrow, with the word above, and I realize how very much of an imbecile I must look.
‘I didn’t see the sign,’ I say, flushing and pointing towards the arrow, ‘if I had, then obviously I’d have known…’ my voice runs away with me at the sight of his penetrating stare.
‘Why are you stroking Filch’s cat?’ he says to break the silence.
‘I blasted water in her eyes,’ I admit, ‘and I felt bad, so I went back for her.’
‘You know the water charm?’ he says, looking surprised. ‘Not many do in their first-year. Anyway – I guess your brother was right when he called you a mental “animal rescuer” in the pet shop,’ he whistles amusedly.
‘You remember that?’ I say, blushing – he did call me a violent angel, after all.
‘Who could forget a sight like that?’ he sniggers.
‘Yes, well, I was very young then, obviously,’ I answer stoutly, if a little ridiculously.
Logan gives me an eye-ball stare. ‘Sorry to break it to you, Summer, but it was only a few weeks ago!’
I don’t answer, tickling Mrs Norris around the ears.
‘Hey, Sum-’ he starts to say, but is interrupted by the sneering voice of Scorpius Malfoy.
‘What’re you doing with that Gryffindor girl, Turner?’ Malfoy demands – and I remember how Logan made an enemy of him, too. How awful to have to share the same house with him.
‘None of your business,’ Logan snaps – but he loses the soft glint in his eyes, the pupils turning hard and square. I don’t think I’ll find out what he was going to say – or what the note does if I don’t hurry.
‘Well, hello, Mrs Norris,’ Malfoy says in a predatory voice, just noticing her curled at my feet.
Mrs Norris makes an angry hissing sound – startling Malfoy, who squares his shoulders in fury.
‘Leave her alone!’ I cry as he swings his leg to kick her.
‘And why would I want to do that?’ Malfoy says tauntingly. ‘Since when do students stick up for Filch’s old fleabag anyway?’
‘Since snakes like you existed!’ I retaliate furiously, then, raising my wand from under my sleeve, I shout: ‘Tarentallegra!’ and Malfoy’s legs start to twitch and dance uncontrollably – first he performs the cha-cha, then a little waltz, and as I’m running away, I hear the patter of tap dancing.
‘Cool!’ Logan says to my back as the corridor door bangs shut, watching Malfoy curiously – and I swear he gets out a piece of parchment and a quill to take notes on Malfoy’s progress.
I take out the tiny map I forgot all about in my panic to find Gryffindor common room earlier, and, on inspection, see I’m only two staircases away from my destination.
I climb the stairs with a fever, desperate not to be stopped in my attempt this time, praying my luck holds out until I reach -
The Arithmancy class room – home of Professor Septima Vector. The room is small and crowded, moving posters of numbers and the magic grid pinned up on the peeling bricks, a few crumply cushions lying in a scattered pattern on warm brown threadbare seats.
‘Hello, Professor Vector,’ I say, seeing her small figure shifting through some parchment on her busy desk, ‘I was just wondering if…’ I dig out the sheet of parchment, crumpled now and with smudges of ink, ‘if you could please translate this for me, in English?’
‘Certainly,’ Professor Vector says with a thin smile, ‘I’ll be glad to – not enough students are interested in Arithmancy,’ she sniffs, ‘they seem to think it’s too difficult.’
Personally, from what I’ve heard, it is too difficult, but I decide it would be unwise to say so under the circumstances, and instead hand her the note.
Professor Vector scans the note, nose bent over the parchment, and concentrates intently for a few moments. Then she starts muttering and tapping the paper with her wand, giving murmurs as she tries to work out the formula.
I look on anxiously, checking the time every so often. It currently reads 3:30 p.m. – so I still have two and a half hours to go.
Professor Vector suddenly smiles. ‘This is a muggle number language,’ she says, ‘you’ll have to find the Muggle Studies teacher – she ought to know.’
Why on earth would Logan write me a note in muggle number language? I think as I sprint along the corridor, skidding across wet floorboards and silently cursing Filch.
As I reach the Muggle Studies class room, I realize I haven’t a clue what his or her name is, but resolve to ask her politely – and hope I don’t get sent somewhere else!
Honestly, Logan knew what he was doing, having me running all over the school to figure out his note. He must’ve known that, logically, I’d go to the Arithmancy professor first, only to find out the number language originates from Muggles, and have to rush here.
I knock timidly on the glass, and the shadow coming towards me through the slithery blur is clearly a woman. She opens the door, revealing a plump purple witch’s hat, flowing dark brown hair, and grey eyes.
‘Hello, dear, what can I do for you?’ she says, looking at me doubtfully – and I remember she only teaches third-years and above.
‘I was just wondering if you could convert this muggle number language for me, into English,’ I say, showing her the scrambled note.
‘Of course, dear; you know, while I was at school, I studied both Arithmancy and Muggle Studies, so this particular area is where I specialise,’ she tells me – and I breathe easier. She ought to know what this means.
After ten or so minutes, she asks me for a quill, and I pull a poking feather sticking out of my rucksack out quickly, and hand it to her. She picks up a used piece of parchment and starts to scribble the translation onto it.
‘Is it really called Hex language?’ I ask, thinking this might all have been an elaborate wind-up on Logan’s part. Whoever heard of a muggle number language with a name like that?
‘Yes, dear,’ she says, ‘I must say, if you told me you knew the language sooner, I’d have been able to translate it in no time!’ she winks at me. ‘It would’ve saved us both a world of trouble.’ I blush, but, as she doesn’t seem angry, am not too embarrassed by my stupidity.
‘Here you are,’ she rolls up the note with a flourish, and hands it to me. I take it, thanking her very gratefully as I leave, a little disappointed I forgot to ask her name.
I decide to go back the way I’ve come – to the library, and read the note with Albus. I feel kind of bad for rushing off like that – but it was him that gave me the idea in the first place.
When I get to the library, taking considerably longer in comparison to going from the library to the Arithmancy class room, I find Albus tucked away in a corner, faithfully reading up on some Defence spells. He looks up as I sit down opposite, glasses slightly to one side.
‘Hi,’ he says, readjusting them, ‘where did you take off to?’
‘To figure out this,’ I say, spreading the first piece of parchment on the little knobbly table in front of him.
Albus stares at the paper in bewilderment. ‘But it’s just a bunch of numbers! Are you reading up on Arithmancy or something?’
‘Not quite,’ I say with a laugh, ‘but I am getting quite interested in number language, actually – turns out it’s a pretty good way of communicating with people.’ I give a secret smile.
‘How do you understand it?’ Albus asks curiously. ‘I didn’t know you speak number.’
‘I don’t, Al,’ I say, ‘but, luckily for me, the Muggle Studies teacher does.’
‘So you’re telling me,’ Albus says slowly, ‘that this is muggle number language?’
‘I know!’ I squeal, taking out the other note. ‘And this is the translation I went to get!’
I look at the rolled up piece of parchment a little nervously, somehow feeling it would be weird to open it now, in front of Albus, even after all the trouble I’ve gone to, all those curiosity-driven hours.
‘You don’t have to in front of me,’ Albus says tactfully, ‘I don’t mind, honest.’
‘No, it’s okay, really,’ I lean in confidentially, ‘as long as you keep this between us. I don’t think the others would understand.’
‘Not even Seth?’ Albus asks incredulously.
I shake my head solemnly. ‘Not even Seth. Do I have your agreement?’
‘Merlin’s honour,’ Albus says, laying his hand on the table. I slap mine on top of his, sealing the deal.
‘Right,’ I say, bracing myself and starting to peel away the roll.
We both stare at the inscription inside, tracing our eyes over the note, which says:
If your head of house wasn't so slow, you'd have been able to eat breakfast! I've always known the silver eye of the green serpent is better than the red mane of the gold lion! See you in potions...
‘You’re in contact with a Slytherin?’ Albus infers from the note, sounding shocked.
‘Not exactly,’ I say, ‘L- the person just slipped me this at breakfast. I never could get a mystery off my mind.’ I nod towards the piece the parchment.
‘A Slytherin who’s in our Potions class…’ Albus muses, great clogs spinning in his brain.
I wait for his eureka moment, fingers clawing the seat underneath.
‘Oh,’ Albus breathes after a tense ten seconds, ‘oh. You mean –’
‘Don’t say it aloud!’ I say, thinking it won’t be secret much longer if he goes around blurting it out like that, even if he doesn’t mean to.
‘Right – sorry,’ he blinks at me a little from behind his framed glasses, ‘and you’re sure you want to keep this from the others?’
‘Surer than I’ll ever be,’ I say, ‘come on, Al, you know what the rivalry between Gryffindor and Slytherin’s like – it just wouldn’t work,’ I look at him pleadingly.
‘A promise is a promise,’ Albus consends with a slight sigh, and I guess he doesn’t like keeping things from people, ‘I swore on Merlin, after all.’
‘Oh, Albus!’ I say. ‘Nobody else would take a silly little promise so seriously!’ but I thank him properly even so.
‘The library is closed!’ squawks Madam Pince from her desk. ‘It is ten past four, and quite time enough for you all to return to your common rooms.’ Albus and I get up as she speaks, dragging our rucksacks with us. Albus puts the well-thumbed copy on Defence back on the shelf, and we start to make our way back to the Gryffindor common room.
‘There’s one tiny little problem about our agreement,’ Albus says.
‘What?’ I say, panicking and thinking the worst.
‘I’m not so good at the whole shifty-eyed spy thing,’ Albus says, ‘I might talk in my sleep, or accidentally let it slip…or look really guilty whenever he passes, or…’
I give him a push.
‘Pass word,’ says the Fat Lady lazily, bottle of fine wine in her hand, and looking at Albus with dislike for his cheek yesterday, when we first arrived at Gryffindor common room.
Albus, however, seems to think they share a special bond, because he winks at her and says: ‘Room for one more, my dear lady?’ inclining his head towards the chinking glasses in her hand.
I burst out laughing – but the Fat Lady’s cheeks turn a dangerous purple.
‘Just get in, the both of you,’ she snarls, hiding the wine behind her back.
‘Anything for you, baby girl,’ Albus says in a smooth American accent – and, snorting with laughter, we race through the portrait hole.
‘Oh, Rose, you should have heard Albus!’ I chortle as we flop down next to our friends. ‘He started chatting up the Fat Lady, and she got really annoyed – I think she was planning on getting drunk – and in the end, she didn’t even wait for us to give the pass word before she opened the hole!’ Rose, Tristan, Alice and Seth all giggle at this story, begging Albus to demonstrate. They all seem to be looking at him with new respect in their eyes, particularly the boys – who don’t look like they thought he had it in him. But I’m proud to say that I always knew there was something funny about that boy!
‘It really wasn’t very sensible, you know,’ Rose says when she’s done wiping the tears of laughter from her eyes; ‘she might refuse to let you in next time, instead of the reverse.’
‘Good point,’ Seth jumps in, ‘and she’ll probably hate you, too, Summer, for being there…’
‘She won’t lock us out,’ Albus says confidently, ‘she loathes my presence too much.’
‘True, true,’ I sigh.
‘Ah!’ Seth says. ‘But she might call on Jean Grace!’
‘She might,’ Alice chips in, and Tristan nods.
‘Bullies,’ Albus mutters.
‘Say that a little louder, Al, I didn’t quite catch that!’ Rose cups her ear, waiting. Albus blows a raspberry in it – and she pulls away at once, looking revolted.
‘I’m glad to see you guys have given up all the arguing,’ I say – a hint to Albus, who just opened his mouth to retort to Rose’s violent reaction.
‘I still say intense,’ Tristan mumbles stubbornly.
‘Me too,’ Alice says in a voice slightly higher and posher than usual.
‘Erm, excuse me, but even that Ravenclaw girl – Tory – agrees,’ Rose says furiously.
‘So?’ Tristan argues. ‘Ravenclaw’s full of idiots.’
‘Like that Henry Jones,’ Alice says feverishly.
‘Or that awful William Upton,’ I add.
‘Or even the Defence teacher,’ Seth chips in, ‘she was a Ravenclaw – so let’s just agree they’re all idiots, and say no more about it – okay?’
‘Fine,’ Rose, Alice and Tristan grunt.
I peer at my watch – but I’ve still got an hour to go. ‘Oh no!’ I blurt out suddenly. ‘I don’t actually know where my detention is!’ I put a hand to my mouth in horror.
‘James will tell you,’ Albus says brightly, ‘you can go along with him. You know, he got in trouble –’
‘Three times today,’ I finish, and then add, in case it sounded stalker-ish, ‘I read it on the notice board in Jean Grace’s office.’
‘On the first day!’ Rose tuts.
‘What did he do?’ Alice says to Albus.
Albus ticks off his fingers as he goes: ‘Well, the first two he acquired in his first lesson – Muggle Studies or something; he was encouraging Peeves to unscrew the chandelier, and then he was practising the incantation to start a fire…and that’s just what his desk did!’
‘How could he be so stupid?’ Rose moans. ‘My silly old cousin…imagine practising the charm to start a fire! What on earth did he think was going to happen?’
Albus shrugs. ‘Well, whatever it was, it didn’t end how he wanted –’
‘Doesn’t he know there aren’t any fire alarms in a wizard school?’ Tristan interrupts.
Albus shrugs again. ‘Anyway, his last offence was in second lesson – Potions – and he deliberately threw the potion for boils at all the Slytherins, so they had to be carted off to the hospital wing. According to him, they looked horrific – but that’s nothing to how Professor Grace looked when he heard, though, apparently.’
My intestines squirm. ‘Is he really that tight about detentions?’
‘Yep,’ Albus says, ‘he hates James already.’
‘WHO hates me, Al?’ James says as he enters the common room with his friend Samuel Parks.
‘Jean Grace,’ Albus answers, then adds: ‘oh, and would you mind taking Summer with you when you go to your detention? She doesn’t know where it is.’
James’ eyes light up wickedly. ‘A detention on the first day! We’ve got a gangster first-year on our trail, Sam…’ the boy beside him laughs.
‘Ha-ha, so funny,’ I snap, ‘like, not.’
‘Easy, lion,’ James bates, ‘hey, do you get it, Sam? No wonder she’s a Gryffindor.’
Sam laughs in appreciation – and I zip up my rucksack and march straight up to the girls’ dormitory, not caring about detentions or stupid James Potter and his imbecile friend or anything…for one second, I actually wish to be in another house. Then I think of the slightly gormless Hufflepuffs, the partially snobbish Ravenclaws, and vile Scorpius Malfoy in Slytherin, and shudder. Of course Gryffindor is where I’m meant to be – but then, why am I still so conflicted? Why am I so angry and upset all the time, ever since I got here? Isn’t this meant to be the best experience of my life? All I’ve got is detention to look forward to, plus another horrendous Defence lesson with that excuse for a teacher first thing on Wednesday!
I thought it was going to be so great. Instead it’s turning out to be my worst nightmare.
‘As I was saying,’ Jean Grace lectures for the millionth time, puffing his chest out aggressively, ‘I may be new to this establishment, but I do not tolerate this level of behaviour on the first day of school. Is that clear?’
‘Yes, Professor,’ we mumble back at him, for the seventeen thousandth time.
There are a lot more faces in detention than I expected. When I finally gave in to Albus and Rose’s pleas and let James and his delightful friend lead me to detention, I’d only been anticipating a couple of other older students – but Tory Allen from Ravenclaw is here, plus Scorpius Malfoy, Noah Zabini, and Logan – not to mention an assortment of students from the years above. So far I haven’t had a chance to tell Logan I’ve cracked the note, especially not with Scorpius and Noah within earshot. After earlier, I’m going to have to be more careful around Scorpius Malfoy, who still hasn’t forgiven me for cursing him – but honestly, he wouldn’t go away. I know you can’t just hex anything that moves, but he was about to kick the cat! Never mind, it’s all in the past now – or maybe not, judging by the filthy look Scorpius has just thrown me.
I feel a thud at the back of my wooden chair legs – and turn, expecting to find James, but instead am greeted by Logan’s usual teasing smirk. I stick a tongue out at him and cross my eyes over, and he’s so overcome he has to turn his laugh into a hasty cough.
‘Is that clear, Miss Spear and Mr Turner?’ Professor Grace says, swooping down on us like a particularly ugly species of bat.
Scorpius shoots me another suspicious look, and I give him a rude gesture with my fingers behind my back.
‘Of course it’s clear, sir,’ I say, smiling up at him sweetly, giving my best apple-pie eyes.
‘Good,’ he says, a little less forcefully, ‘and you, Mr Turner?’ he nods. ‘And don’t think I missed that look, Mr Malfoy. I hope you’re very sorry for your actions also?’
‘Very sorry, sir,’ he bows his head.
‘Right,’ he strides around the room again, seeming to be looking for an excuse to tell someone off – and his neck clicks round when James calls out:
‘Er, sir – no offence, but we’ve had our hour. Can we go –’
‘- please!’ ends Samuel.
‘Oh, very well,’ he grants wearily, running a hand through his greasy dark hair.
‘Cheers sir,’ James says – and bolts for the door, Samuel hot on his heels.
‘So you figured it out?’ Logan whispers to me as we leave, looking around for Noah or Scorpius.
‘How do you know?’ I say with wide eyes.
‘Because you’re giving that satisfied smile,’ Logan says with a smile of his own.
‘Hex language!’ I burst out when Scorpius and Noah have turned the corner.
‘I had to think of some way to secretly communicate,’ Logan shrugs, ‘it’s not the same without your mad voice in my ear every ten minutes.’
‘Is that your warped way of saying you miss me?’ I laugh.
‘Pretty much, yeah,’ Logan admits with an almost shy smirk.
‘Just to clarify,’ I say as we pass by the wall, ‘every time we want to speak to each other, you have to resort to writing painstakingly coded notes to be slipped into my pocket at Breakfast, and I have to go running round the school, at risk of being caught by Filch, to understand them?’
‘Yep,’ Logan says, ‘or, you could bother to learn the code…’
‘How about you figure out a new, easy one – without numbers – and I wait to see what it is at breakfast – or in Potions, if you like,’ I suggest.
‘Sounds fair enough,’ he agrees, ‘but what if I’m seen? Scorpius keeps asking questions, and that Noah’s always skulking around.’
‘Oh, you’ll find a way,’ I say as we reach the corner before Gryffindor common room, ‘see you tomorrow – or not!’ with a last cheeky grin, I gabble the pass word to the still grumpy Fat Lady, and bounce through the portrait hole, just two funny words preserving the grin.
However, Logan doesn’t get the chance to slip me the note. Every morning, there’s always something – Seth needs help on his Potions homework or Rose wants me to recite the key dates for History of Magic in preparation for our Christmas mocks – or older kids crowd the Great Hall, the stairways, the corridors, wedged between he and I.
I slowly get used to my new routine. Lessons at nine o’clock sharp, homework for every subject every week, hasty revision in the common room, hanging out with Seth and Al and Rose and Alice and Tristan…but no more detentions or Logan.
After the first disastrous day, Rose persuaded me to silently seethe if I’m annoyed at a teacher, rather than tell them straight exactly what I think of them and their teaching – and Steve Turner hasn’t had to wake me up in History of Magic once for three weeks now!
I feel so much more grown-up and mature than when I first started – I know I’ve only been here just short of two months, but still. It’s Halloween next Tuesday, and it’s always been a big event at Hogwarts – you can tell by the excited whispers of the older years and old stories from Mum and Dad – and Rose and Albus’ parents, three of which attended a Deathday party in their second-year!
Things are starting to change. Us first-years are much wiser to the ways of the school now, and everyone’s starting to lose that apprehensive puppy-dog look – and even our parents’ letters come less frequently than last month, so I guess they must be used to us being gone, too. But in many ways it’s so much better – our Charms teacher, Flitwick, has taught us loads of spells, and Professor Oswald says my Potions are really coming along – and that I have some healthy competition from Logan, a keen brewer too. But at least I can say I’m the most passionate girl in the class. It’s the only subject I’m not stressing out about before our exams – I may listen more in History of Magic, but it’s still a jumble; Defence is coming on nicely, but I still have a long way to go; Herbology’s okay I suppose, but nobody can beat Trevor Longbottom; Astronomy’s really Seth’s area – and we all keep expecting Professor Sinistra to snap again – but it appears to have been a one-off; and Transfiguration’s really difficult, but Professor Thomas gave me ten points for Gryffindor when I became the third person to change my match into a needle – a tricky and flimsy spell – only Rose and Scorpius Malfoy were able to do it confidently on their first try.
But it’s Flying lessons, after Potions, which I’m turning out to perform the best in. I just connected with my broom as soon as Professor Potter (it’s weird calling her that, as she’s Albus’ Mum and Rose’s Auntie) told us to call: ‘UP’, and instantly the broom flew into my hand, so quickly I nearly fell over backwards! Tristan was so funny – he kept screaming at his broom until it smacked into his face, and then promptly threw itself back down on the grass again, as if in a temper!
‘Stupid broom,’ he kept muttering, kicking the listless thing on the ground.
As we do Flying lessons with the Slytherins, Logan keeps trying to slip me the note there – but Seth is always there, excitedly demonstrating how to mount a broom, or going on (loudly) about how his sister was the first first-year to successfully fly her broom, and land properly. I keep trying to shut him up, but he insists modesty is for losers. He’s not bad on a broom himself, though, due to our many practices at home – however Rose is dismayed to find flying is one thing you cannot learn from a teacher; not naturally, at least. Seth keeps (tactfully) telling her there must be something seriously wrong with her broom if it keeps thrashing about like that and refusing to let her fly.
‘There must be something in the wood,’ he keeps telling her wisely.
Enough about lessons – I get those every day. No, I have something else on my mind – the other week, I found a secret square-shaped hole by accident behind a big statue – and before I could see where it lead, I heard the tramping footsteps of Filch’s boots – his cat may be nicer, but he’s as hateful as ever. We all think he’s absolutely revolting.
I’ve resolved to tell Logan about the hole – when I find out the code! I still can’t believe so many things have got in our way; we have resorted to quick conversations over the loud bubbling of our cauldrons in Potions – and slip in a sly word when Albus and Seth are distracted by the disgusting egg-green odour slowly eluding from their potions.
‘Sum, what’ve we got next?’ Seth asks me third period, four days from Halloween.
‘Defence,’ I groan – because I still can’t stand Slade, even if I am more passive about my anger these days. I built up quite a reputation on the first day.
‘Just ignore her evil face and concentrate on the words,’ Seth says as we hurry in.
‘Easier said than done – especially sat next to that creep,’ I say, watching William Upton sidle up to Slade and ask her if he may take extra notes today. Yuk – plus he’s never forgiven me for ‘vandalising’ his robe sleeve. Whatever – it served him right.
‘Got any more ink stashed somewhere I should know about?’ he whispers to me as I dig out a tiny pot of the stuff, plus a parchment and quill. Due to some weird new will power, I control the urge to thrust ink in his smarmy face.
‘Nowhere your tiny brain needs to know about,’ I fire at him, and determinedly stab out the title: ‘Knockback jinx’, ignoring the outraged expression on his thoughtless face.
The rest of the lesson passes without incident and I exit the classroom satisfied no stupid teacher or student got in the way this time. Rose is quite clearly pleased, too.
‘I’m proud of you, Summer!’ she explodes as we make our way to Flying class.
‘For what?’ I say blankly.
‘For not knocking William for six!’ Rose says. ‘I’ve had enough of that Ravenclaw crew myself – except a few of the girls. Bloody snobs.’
We all stare at her. It’s unusual for Rose to have violent thoughts.
‘Yes, they are, aren’t they?’ Seth says as we make our way across the pitch, striking a conversation about how much detention we would get for using an Unforgiveable on them.
Professor Potter is waiting with twenty identical brooms when we reach her, tapping her hanging clock teasingly. Albus starts to excitedly tell her all about his day, and she struggles to control her own professionalism, affectionately ruffling his hair. Rose and Tristan, who was friends with Albus and Rose before Hogwarts, rush over too, while Alice, Seth and I hang back shyly. It’s still a little bit intimidating, even two months on – her whole family are famous, for goodness sake! She’s married to Harry Potter! I steady my thoughts, remembering how Professor Potter told me I have a talent on the broom only last week – Professor Potter the ex-Holyhead Harpies chaser! I think I prefer the role of chaser myself, unlike her husband, who was a brilliant seeker in his day, but he decided to pursue a career as an auror instead of Quidditch player. Shame.
Professor Potter claps her hands together, motioning to Tristan and Rose and Albus to get back in line with the rest of us. ‘Right, class, this lesson we will be attempting a more challenging task – we’ve gone over the basics now, and it’s time to put it into practice – in a real junior Quidditch game!’ Rose gives a horrified squeal, and even Scorpius Malfoy doesn’t tease her for it, looking pretty scared himself. ‘There’s really nothing to worry about – Quidditch is easy enough to catch onto, and even if you’re not comfortable on a broomstick, you’ll be alright – but there’s one small problem. Has anyone spotted what that is?’
A hand goes up. ‘Yes, Logan?’ Professor Potter says, and I swivel my head round to see my secret friend, surrounded by Slytherins.
He gives me a quick smile before saying: ‘In a Quidditch match, you need seven players per team, right?’
Everyone nods, some still looking a little confused.
‘Right,’ Logan agrees, ‘and we’d need twenty-one players to make three teams of seven – but there’s only twenty of us. See?’ Everyone nods again, this time looking convinced.
While everyone else is speculating wildly about how this problem will be solved, Logan shifts a little closer to me and whispers: ‘I’m surprised you didn’t think of that one,’ before wondering aloud to Beatrix Lowsley if Ginny Potter will take our total up to twenty-one on a weaker team.
‘Um, Auntie-I mean, Professor Ginny –’ Rose starts.
‘More favouritism I think,’ Scorpius Malfoy says – but the look he gives her is more jokey than arrogant.
‘Shut up, Scorpius,’ Rose says, shooting him an almost smiling expression, which is not a look I’d give one of my worst enemies.
‘You were saying, Rose?’ Professor Potter prompts.
‘Oh, yes,’ Rose says a little sheepishly, ‘I was just wondering if we could have two teams of seven, and –’
Immediately, a catcall of protests greets the first part of Rose’s idea.
‘What about the rest of the players, eh?’
‘Yeah, what happens to the other six?’
‘I suppose they just disappear,’ Noah Zabini says sarcastically.
‘I bet she plans on doing away with them,’ Xavier Crabbe says, none too wisely.
‘Quiet!’ Professor Potter barks, then says kindly: ‘Carry on, Rose, dear.’
‘Well,’ Rose says a little breathlessly, ‘I just thought we could, you know, make the remaining six spectators or something, or one could be commentator of the match, the other five referees or something.’
‘I suppose you won’t be one of those losers, then?’ Colette Weild says nastily.
‘Shut up, rat features,’ Seth says, stepping on her toe.
‘Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaowwwwwwwwwwwwwwww!’ Colette cries, while I stare in surprise at my brother. ‘He assaulted me, Professor!’
‘And you insulted Rose’s plan – a good one, too,’ Professor Potter beams, then resumes her serious voice, ‘but you are quite right, Colette. Violence solves nothing – so, let me see; five points off each house, that’s fair enough.’
‘It’s not fair I lost Slytherin the same amount of points as that animal cost Gryffindor,’ Colette says in a vindictive fury, still rubbing her stubbed toe.
‘Watch who you’re calling animal!’ I flare up.
Professor Potter puts a kind, if restraining (nobody messes with my brother) arm on my shoulder, and says in a more amused than angry voice: ‘Save it for the pitch, Summer. You can beat them then.’
I certainly will, I think furiously, as Logan chuckles in the background, watched darkly by Scorpius Malfoy, the hypocrite.
‘If everyone’s done acting like toddlers,’ Professor Potter says, ‘we have a game to play – and I will draw lots on who gets to play. OK?’ Everyone agrees, some more reluctantly than others, Rose crossing her fingers hopefully, clearly praying for the opposite of what everyone else wants. Somehow, Rose waggles the role of commentator.
The five spectators end up being Xavier Goyle (to even Malfoy’s relief), Isadora Hargreaves, Aaron Jenson, Albus and Samantha Morgan. Thank goodness I get to play, and for Rose’s sake, thank goodness she doesn’t! Still, it’s a shame about Albus.
‘How cool is this, Sum?’ Seth says enthusiastically.
‘Cooler than the time Dad scored six goals continuously?’ I say with a faraway look in my eye - and we both smile fondly at the memory.
As great as Hogwarts is, we still miss home – the comfort of it all. Of knowing even if you messed up, everything would be alright – no pressure, no worries. Things are so different now.
‘I’ll be putting you all into teams,’ Professor Potter tells us, then holds a finger up warningly, ‘but I’ll be mixing the houses. It’s time Slytherin and Gryffindor learned to work together.’
A succession of boos, whispers and mutters challenge this view, but nobody dares directly argue against her. I admire that – a strong woman.
‘Great,’ Seth says, and leans closer to Albus to whisper: ‘Can’t you get your Mum to change her mind?’
Albus shakes his head sadly. ‘Sorry, Seth, but Mum doesn’t ever change her mind.’ Seth wilts with disappointment.
‘Cheer up, old boy,’ Tristan says in a sporting sort of voice.
‘Yeah, I’m sure they’re not that bad, once we give them a fair chance,’ Alice says, at the exact same time Noah Zabini spits into the grass and gives her an angry look, ‘or not.’
‘How disgusting,’ Rose shudders – and I remember her earlier annoyance at Albus for blowing a raspberry in her ear; she must be squeamish.
‘Who are you calling disgusting, weasel?’ Noah Zabini snarls, tall on his toes.
Rose, intimidated, says in a rather frightened sort of voice: ‘I just – think – er, the action – the action was a little –’
‘Back off,’ Scorpius, who has been watching, says suddenly, ‘that’s what you get for chucking bile on the grass,’ they have a playful wrestle, and Rose looks relieved.
‘What was all that about?’ I demand. ‘You and Scorpius? You’ve been friendly all day, and now he chooses your side over Noah’s, his best friend? It doesn’t make sense.’
‘He was just stopping his friend from getting into trouble,’ Rose says airily.
‘It’s more than that,’ I challenge, thankful Seth missed the little scene, owing to the fact he is currently begging Professor Potter to keep the teams separate and sorted by house only.
‘Don’t know what you mean – now if you’ll excuse me, I need to ask Seth something,’ she bustles past and starts hurriedly talking to Seth, while I look on in suspicion. I have a feeling there’s something I’m missing here. Something bigger than Scorpius Malfoy looking out for his friend. And there was something uncharacteristically rude about the way Rose just spoke me – which makes me thinks she was on the defence, and eager to move on from the incident. But why?
‘Everybody gather together again,’ Professor Potter booms over the loud chatter, ‘I’ve divided the remaining fourteen of you into teams. Now, team one will be as follows: Seth Spear, Tristan Anderson, Scorpius Malfoy, Roxanne Gelson, Bonnie Young, Colette Weild and Alice Bell.’ She gestures to a spot on the left of her. ‘Stand over here please, you seven.’ Seth gives me a what-can-you-do look and joins the others, while I stand with my new team mates, a little dully. I really wanted to be in Seth’s team – but, looking around, I realize I’m in Logan’s. Well, I’ve got one friend – if a hidden one.
‘So,’ Professor Potter says briskly, ‘Team two will obviously be India Angelo, Richard Hargreaves, Beatrix Lowsley, Anthony Mason, Summer Spear, Logan Turner and Noah Zabini. Join me on the right side, please.’ We troop towards her, me still having angry thoughts about Noah and suspicious ones about Rose. I try to stay away from Noah as I take my place, ending up third-to-last in the line, in front of Logan, due to surname, and surname only.
Professor Potter then gives us the low-down on Quidditch, though most people know the rules: one snitch, two bludgers, and a Quaffle. One aims to be caught in order to earn that team one hundred and fifty points (and hopefully a win), the second two to take out or stop as many players as possible, and the last to score with. Seems simple enough to me – oh, and one seeker, two beaters, a goal keeper, and three chasers. Professor Potter’s right – even if you’re muggle-born or none too wise on the ways of sport, it’s a lot less complicated than it seems. I can see from the ready expressions on everyone else’s faces that they agree.
‘Now we have that sorted,’ Professor Potter says eagerly, ‘we may begin – I will take the post of referee, and as you can see, I can’t be biased, as I mixed the teams up myself, and none of my relatives are playing,’ she looks fondly at her son and niece, ‘so, anyway,’ she continues, ‘I would like everyone to mount their brooms, and wait at the height of the goal posts – then I will give the starting whistle, and the game shall commence.’
‘Wait a minute,’ Anthony Mason says, and everyone stares at him, ‘we haven’t sorted out which player is who!’
‘Oh, silly me!’ Professor Potter says, caught up in a Quidditch fever, ‘of course you’re right, Anthony! If Harry or Ron could hear me now!’ she gives a good-natured laugh, not one for taking herself seriously. ‘Right teams, you have five-ten minutes to sort things out – and five points for Gryffindor from you, Anthony, for working out my test.’
‘Yeah right, Mum,’ Albus says with a cheeky grin, and he ducks when she swats at him. I watch them a little wistfully, missing my own Mum. I mean, she’s a nag – but she’s Mum.
I feel a rap on my shoulder.
‘Ready for the game?’ It’s only Logan, grinning broadly at me, and apparently delighted I ended up on his team. ‘Should be a challenge – are you claiming seeker? I know how well you can play.’
‘I’m average,’ I scoff, ‘and no, you can have seeker.’
‘What if I want to be seeker?’ Noah says – just for want of arguing, I think.
‘Do you want to be seeker, Noah?’ I ask politely.
‘No,’ Noah admits.
‘That’s sorted then,’ I say, starting to get into leadership mode, ‘Richard, you have a strong build – why don’t you be goal-keeper? And Noah, you can put some of that anger to use as beater – and you, India, you look up to the job – so that just leaves Beatrix, Anthony and me to be chasers. Agreed?’
My team, looking a little surprised by the abruptness of my decision and sudden role as leader, agree.
‘So who died and made you Quidditch captain?’ Logan says softly, so the others don’t hear.
‘Oliver Wood,’ I say smugly, remembering what Albus told me a few weeks ago, about the craziest first captain his dad ever encountered – he used to play for Puddlemere United, according to Rose.
Logan shakes his head with an infuriating whistle.
‘Right, teams,’ Professor Potter booms, ‘have we sorted ourselves out?’ we nod. ‘Excellent – now slowly start to mount your brooms, and wait at the top of the hoops, as I told you preciously – GO!’
Wasting no more time, I grab the tail-end of my broom, sit firmly down on it and give the ground a vicious kick – and immediately, I begin to soar through the air, swooping and ducking and diving, showing off a little. My team mates appear to be miles below me, tiny little people in swoopy black cloaks -
‘Summer Spear, fly lower, please!’ Professor Potter shouts from her own broom as I do a particularly spectacular spin. ‘I said a junior game only!’
‘Sorry miss,’ I gasp, feeling the air expand my cheeks as I direct my broom downwards, pulling out of the dive with precise timing to come to a stop by one of the goal posts, cheeks glowing with excitement. My first ever proper (junior) Quidditch game! How cool is that?
‘Nice moves,’ Logan says, as I stick my tongue out at him.
‘Where d’you learn to fly like that?’ Noah Zabini asks, looking reluctantly impressed.
‘I didn’t,’ I say breathlessly, leaving no further explanation.
‘You must’ve,’ Richard Hargreaves says, ‘no first-year’s that good.’
‘Yeah,’ Beatrix Lowsley and India Angelo agree, as my team form a tactical circle around me.
‘We can win this thing,’ Anthony Mason says wildly, ‘I know it! We’re all decent flyers, right? Now all we need is some of your magic, Summer…’
‘It’s not magic!’ I say a little dreamily, though uncomfortably aware everyone is staring at me as though I’ve just been signed for England. ‘It’s…it’s like Potions. You just concentrate…go with the flow…be free!’ I blush, but everyone seems to be hanging onto my every word. ‘It’s really nothing special,’ I admit, ‘it’s more about mental focus, rather than physical skill…’
‘It’s more than that,’ Anthony disagrees, but adds, ‘it’s interesting how you apply the same rules to Potions, though.’ He surveys me as though I’ve turned into the law of physics.
‘Leave her alone, guys,’ Logan says, as Richard shoots him an odd look, ‘let’s just sort out our proper tactics.’ Grateful, I flash him a smile, and we begin to discuss how to get the upper hand. Much happier and more in my element, I suggest the two beaters, Noah and India, fly on opposite ends of the pitch, our goalkeeper, Richard, stations himself in the middle of the other team’s goal posts, our chasers; Anthony, Beatrix and me, spread out, trying to get as many goals in as possible, and our seeker, Logan, stays out of sight, slightly above the rest of the players, combing the area expansively for the snitch -
‘Wow, you’ve really thought about this, haven’t you?’ Logan says with a thoughtful look, and then adds in a much lower voice I have to strain to hear: ‘And I’ve worked out a code. Hang around after the lesson and I’ll slip it your way.’ He straightens up, and thankfully, nobody appears to have noticed; Richard, Beatrix and India have formed a little knot, sizing up the other players, while Anthony and Noah discuss how hard a beater should whack his ball.
‘I hope you’ve all worked out some strategies,’ Professor Potter says, ‘because the game will shortly begin. Arrange yourselves around the pitch, quick, before I blow my whistle!’
A storm of anxious players zoom into position, me amongst them, bashing the end of my broom into Seth’s playfully as we pass. Seth grins and tries to get me back, but is stopped by the hulking figure of our new beater, Noah, who insists nobody harms any of ‘his’ players before the match, and certainly not on his watch. Stifling a laugh at the slightly confused look on Seth’s face, I slide into place, waiting, counting the nervy breaths around me with deep inhales of oxygen myself. Breathe – in and out – that’s it, Summer…
With a ringing, high-pitched scream, the whistle announces the start of the match – and it’s chaos – bodies flying around the pitch, looking for bludgers and the Quaffle or the snitch.
I train my eyes to look for the rough, reddish-brown ball – and spot its squashed figure bringing up the rear behind Tristan – without hesitation, I urge my broom forwards, spinning, crashing, flying through the air, searching, searching for the Quaffle, the key, the goal-scoring face of the game -
Smash. The front of Tristan’s broom connects with mine as he swoops to avoid me – taking this chance, I curve my hand forwards, grabbing in mid-air until – until, yes! The Quaffle is mine! Seizing the surprisingly heavy thing tightly in my claw, I make my way back to the other end, only pausing to smirk at the look of disbelief on Tristan’s face, for not seeing the Quaffle himself. My team cheer me on and I make a quick pass to Anthony – because hogging is for losers.
Anthony then throws the ball to Beatrix, who makes a small lunge and grabs it with a shriek, knowing her moment is coming – and then, and then – IT’S A GOAL! Beatrix has scored the first goal of the match! Our team bubble over with pride, but it’s not long before the other team are making a quick comeback, Seth shouting instructions to Alice, who dives and catches the Quaffle – but, oh – a bludger! Spinning slightly, Alice just avoids the wrath of the deadly ball, and I remind myself she’s on the other team, heart rattling slightly. Overhead, Bonnie Young is yelling at Scorpius Malfoy for not smacking the bludger away from Alice, and in the confusion, Anthony catches the Quaffle – I turn in mid-air, seating myself by the goals, as Anthony makes a difficult throw – fumbling a little, I manage to keep a firm grip, and take a steely breath. This is it, Summer, I think, this is your moment…
‘Aaaaaah!’ I scream as I come face to face with a bludger – but in an instant, India has knocked it out of my path, leaving my way to the goal clear -
‘Go on, Summer!’ Logan encourages from below.
Spurred on, I prepare the ball, flex my arm, decide to go for an underneath dive, and fling the ball in the direction of the hoops – it lifts, it soars, it goes under the arm of keeper Colette Weild – and straight through the hoops, the beauty! I yell wildly with everyone else, as our team are now up by twenty points – if Logan gets the snitch -
A glimmer has caught my eye. A sliver of gold, rounded off by a cracked underbelly has risen in the air above my left ear. Shaking slightly, I try to silently communicate with Logan without letting the other team know, but too late, their seeker, Roxanne Gelson, has seen it – with a spurt of speed, she swoops towards me like a vulture, eyes hungry for their prize; from below, Logan watches Roxanne advance towards me with a puzzled look; then, on figuring it out, pulls his broomstick upwards and they’re neck and neck in speed, both needing the snitch to win the game -
‘Go on, Roxanne!’ Team one chant, almost hysterical.
‘Get it, Logan!’ We roar, drowning their voices out.
Logan and Roxanne wrestle for the snitch; Noah bashes a bludger her way and she screeches, forced to back away. With an ape-like cry, Noah swings the bludger round the way it’s come, leaving Logan free to take the small beating ball. With trembling fingers, Logan scoops the ball into his palm as though a baby – and it’s all over. 170 points – nil to Team Two.
Joyously, houses abandoned, we huddle together and scream for joy, singing the England Quidditch anthem.
‘We did it, we did it, we beat the lot – our England’s the best; better than the rest!’ We sing, while Scorpius Malfoy and his fellow team mates look on sourly.
‘Great catch, Logan,’ I say as Professor Potter blows the whistle again and we prepare to zoom downwards.
‘Great goal,’ he says with an excited smile, ‘you know, we both might be able to play for our houses one day –’
‘But against each other,’ I say sadly as I force my broom downwards, ‘race you to the bottom!’
I glide downwards with an effortless laugh, Logan’s cries about cheating lost in the humming wind, and coming to an abrupt stop on the grass just as Logan starts to ground his broom.
‘You absolute snake!’ Logan says with shining eyes. ‘You little –’
‘Winner?’ I supply, dangling a leg over my broom casually. ‘Yeah, I know – get used to it.’
‘Hey, Summer!’ I twist round to see Seth running towards me, a little late in his landing. ‘Great game – but shame about my team’s loss!’
‘If only,’ I say, daubing my eyes in remorse. ‘Ow – Seth!’ I kick my stupid twin brother as he catches my shoulder with his broom, cheeks still flushed from the exercise.
Over the top of Seth’s head, Logan gives me a significant look, which I take to mean as: how the hell am I going to give you the code now?
Thinking of some way I can hoard off my twin and the others, I twist a lock of hair around thoughtfully – and then it comes to me! The brightest idea seen since -
‘The time of Dumbledore?’ Logan scoffs. ‘Oh, come on!’
‘Wait till you hear it!’ I insist. ‘It’s so genius aliens must’ve come and planted it there, cos I’m not that smart!’ Logan giggles.
‘What is it?’ he demands. ‘And don’t you dare tap your nose!’
I let my finger fall again, disappointed. ‘Alright, I’ll tell you –’ I whisper the plan in his ear, glad Professor Potter has just taken a moment to congratulate everyone on their efforts, so no prying eyes see us.
‘Right, class, dismissed!’ Professor Potter says. ‘Oh, and Summer dear, can I have a word?’
Perfect. Now I don’t even need that brilliantly amazing plan I invented! Shame!
‘D’you want us to wait for you?’ Seth asks, glancing at our flying professor.
‘No thanks,’ I wave a dismissive arm, ‘you guys get on with that Herbology essay in the library. I’ll catch you up, okay?’ He nods, and slowly sets off with the other guys.
‘Oh, and Logan, I’d like a word too,’ Professor Potter adds, seeing him hovering by the stone walls that sit above the grass.
‘Yes, miss?’ I ask, puzzled – if there’s anyone she’d keep back, I’d expect it to be Albus and Rose, to check how their day’s been going and all that – or maybe she wants me to keep a special eye on her son? But then, why Logan? The questions flying around in my head remind me suddenly of Rose’s odd behaviour, and I frown. What is that girl up to? And more to the point, why won’t she tell me, her best friend?
‘There’s no need to look so worried,’ our professor says lightly, ‘this is a good thing.’ We look at her, unconvinced. ‘No – really. I noticed how well you two were playing today, and I thought I’d drop in a word with the captains of the Gryffindor and Slytherin team – Quidditch trials begin soon, and they’re re-forming. They’re desperate for new players!’ her voice goes quieter. ‘Between you and me, if they don’t sort themselves out, Ravenclaw or Hufflepuff’ll take the cup this year! And we mustn’t let that happen, must we?’ she smiles teasingly, knowing she isn’t allowed to have house favourites – but if she did -
‘No, miss,’ we say earnestly, excited by the prospect of actually – well, okay, we have to go through trials and stuff – but could Logan have been right earlier, when he said we could play for real? Will they really let a couple of first-years trial, whether Gryffindor or Slytherin? Mightn’t they be a little…ill-disposed towards us, prejudiced?
‘That’s great,’ Ginny Potter smiles, ‘meet at the Quidditch grounds at around seven in the evening next Saturday, ok?’
With a beaming heart and an even bigger smile, I nod along with Logan. I can’t believe – she actually thinks we’re good enough to stand a chance! I mean, there’s no doubt about Logan, but me! Reckless, weighted-down me?
We walk back across the pitch in silence, still stunned. When we reach the main building, Logan suddenly remembers the code. ‘Here,’ he says, fumbling in his cloak pocket, while I hold out my hand, ‘hang on a minute – it ought to be here somewhere – aha!’ With a whoop of triumph, he presses a fresh piece of parchment in my hand.
‘What freak language is this?’ I ask, trying to get things on a more familiar ground after the shock of realizing my silly antics on a broom are actually worth something.
‘Oh, it’s not freaky,’ Logan reassures, ‘it’s German.’
‘German?’ I repeat, puzzled.
‘Nobody ever understands German,’ Logan says with a telling wink, and he slides the note into my cloak pocket and walks away. I wait for his floppy-haired figure to disappear before I enter the building myself, little note crunched in my hand like an empty crisp packet.
Oh, Logan, I think, now I’ve got to learn German on top of everything else…
Later on, in the common room (as we have Friday afternoons off), Albus, Rose, Seth and I are playing Wizard chess, while Alice and Tristan finish their Transfiguration homework in the library. We’re split into two teams – to make it fair (as Al and Rose are both budding chess players): I’m with Albus and to Seth’s delight, he’s with Rose.
However, so far, Rose is proving unbeatable. With another swift, determined look, she seizes our Black Knight, and puts her White Queen forward three spaces. I grimace at Albus.
‘This is hopeless,’ I whine, one part of my brain trying to figure out a tactical move, while the other dwells on what Logan’s secret note could possibly contain.
‘Not hopeless, Summer,’ Albus reprieves, ‘but it’s looking pretty grim – wait a minute; how about if I play that there – yes!’ One of our black chess pieces raises a small sharp hand and smashes their knight to pieces. Ah, violent success.
‘Well done, Al!’ I say, clapping him on the back, and feeling a tad bit useless.
‘I wouldn’t count your victories before the enemy’s defeat,’ Rose says darkly, whatever that means, and as we watch, she moves another white chess piece forward, thus obliterating one of our poor abused blacks.
‘Aaah!’ Albus groans, fresh from his earlier win.
‘How about if I do this – no, maybe if I place our Queen here…no, that isn’t right…’ I muse over the board, while Rose taps her fingers impatiently. Tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, go those damn nails -
‘Please shut up Rose!’ I end up begging, and she resumes her silence with pursed lips.
‘I give up!’ Albus cries.
‘Not hopeless, remember?’ I remind him, coaxing a smile from my pessimistic partner.
‘Hey guys – ooh, Wizard chess!’ Alice claps her hands delightedly as Tristan flops down beside her on a squashy arm chair.
‘Tristan, help,’ I say with a pleading note in my voice, ‘you know about games –’
‘Save us!’ Albus puts in desperately.
‘Right,’ Tristan says, looking uncomfortable, ‘how about – why don’t you put that there – yes, like that, Al. Then you can take that little baby over there – good.’
We have some points!
‘It won’t last long,’ Seth, who has been previously distracted by his admiration of his ruthless partner, scoffs.
‘Shut up, Seth,’ I snap, ‘you’re just as bad as us – worse. At least we’re not feeding off each other.’
‘Yeah,’ Albus says in a dignified voice, as Alice suggests we try and take their Queen – it’s the only way we’ll win the game, apparently.
‘Ha!’ says Rose. ‘It’ll take more than that to beat any child of Ron Weasley.’ She studies the board intently, rather like an examiner would a candidate. I imagine she would make quite a formidable one.
Seth whispers something in Rose’s ear, and she leans back thoughtfully, eyebrows furrowed – and then they unfold, fixed and unmoving in their decision.
‘Uh-oh,’ Albus mutters hollowly, ‘she only does that when she’s about to say –’
‘Check-mate!’ Rose declares with flaming cheeks that light her even redder hair to life.
Albus, Tristan, Alice and I groan simultaneously.
‘I hate to say it,’ Alice puts in, ‘but I did say you’d have to take the Queen to beat Rose.’
‘And me!’ Seth says indignantly, but this comment passes unacknowledged.
‘And I hate to say it too,’ Rose says with an air of superiority, ‘but I did say it’d take more than that.’
‘You’ve been talking to Scorpius too often, Rose,’ I say sneakily, ‘he seems to have rubbed off on you – hey!’ Rose’s cushion lands in my face – and after that, a pillow fight is inevitable.
‘Will you keep it down?’ Nathan Taylor snaps from behind a desk. ‘Some people have N.E.W.T.s to study for you know.’
‘Yes,’ Talia Smith agrees haughtily, ‘so you might want to watch that selfish behaviour. You’ll find out what’s it really like from fifth-year on-wards –’
‘We have exams to study for –’ Seth begins furiously, but is swiftly cut off by Talia.
‘- and I can tell you from experience, you won’t want a couple of younger brats disturbing your peace, either!’ she huffs, satisfied she has got her very valid point across.
‘She’s right,’ Rose says ashamedly, ‘we really won’t like it, you know – Talia, Nathan –’
‘Don’t you dare apologize!’ Tristan roars her down – and it’s upheaval from there.
‘Yes – make a stand for our rights as younger students in this school!’ Alice, inspired, shouts. ‘We must stand up for ourselves, we must be firm in our justice, we –’
‘Must shut up now before they shove us in detention!’ Albus interrupts with a warring look that plainly tells me he’s had enough of us always arguing and shouting – it isn’t his way of dealing with things, but unfortunately, we’re all pretty hot-headed characters.
‘Sorry, mate,’ Tristan says more coolly.
‘Yeah, we promise to stop shouting,’ Rose, who’s incapable of not getting het up about something every hour says promisingly.
‘Although I didn’t actually say anything…’ I slip in slyly – because, well, it’s true, isn’t it? I’ve been entirely good – always have been, always will be.
‘The day you don’t yell about something,’ Albus says – but he’s laughing.
‘Shut up, Al,’ I say crossly, ‘my aura is very calm. Probably blue or purple.’
‘How about a bet?’ Alice says suddenly.
‘What bet?’ I say suspiciously.
‘We start Divination in third-year, right?’ everyone agrees. ‘So, in two years, when we study auras, we’ll see if you’re right, Summer. Loser has to buy everyone a sweet from Hogsmeade that year, too.’
‘Fair enough,’ I say, careful not to shake her hand, ‘you’re on, Alice.’ She smiles, unaware I have two tricks up my sleeves.
‘Your aura’s brighter than Rose and Alice’s hair colours fused together,’ Tristan says, ‘so good luck and everything, Sum, but the future doesn’t look too bright get it?’
‘Ha ha,’ I say wearily, ‘I could die listening to you all day, Tristan.’
‘Then your days are numbered, cos that boy likes to talk,’ Seth says with a fake look of concern – but is instantly quelled by a cushion in the face from Tristan.
‘Now that is priceless,’ I chortle, ‘nice one, Tristan.’
I duck as Seth aims a particularly large one at me.
‘Oh!’ I jump up, suddenly remembering the note. ‘I’ve got to go guys – er, Herbology homework –’ I rush out of the common room, intent on finding a German dictionary – or something.
‘But we just did our Herbology homework –’ I hear Rose say in a puzzled voice as I climb through the portrait hole. Oh well! She’s keeping her lips sealed about Malfoy, after all…
Plus, it’ll do the girl a world of good not to know all about something for once.
When I reach the library, I find it comfortingly empty, and wander over to the Language section, ignoring, as ever, the watchful eye of Madam Pince.
And then I spot it – Every Wizard’s Guide to the German Language. My heart sinking slightly at the thought of all the words I’ll have to look up, I sit down heavily, stroking the tightened binding on the book. I look at it hopelessly for a few seconds, decide there must be an easier way; and, reminding myself I’m in Gryffindor for a reason, I pause by Madam Pince’s desk, hesitant and uncharacteristically timid.
I clear my throat in preparation. ‘Er – Madam Pince.’ I wait for her to look up.
‘Yes?’ she says, eye quivering with suspicion.
‘I just wondered if you’re familiar with the German language.’ I ask delicately, careful not to offend.
Madam Pince draws herself up with pride. ‘I! Well, of course! I’m a Librarian, you know,’ she sniffs – and then, seeing the crumpled note clutched in my fist says: ‘Give it here, then, girl,’ and I uncross my fingers happily.
Madam Pince rips off a piece of parchment and slowly starts to translate the note – but, it suddenly occurs to me, what if there’s something really private in there? Surely he wouldn’t be careless enough to -
‘Done,’ Madam Pince says sharply, and she hangs on for a little longer than normal, so I have no choice but to tug it from her fingers. It comes loose, and I sit down in a nearby chair threaded with age, and read from the German:
He, Sommer\nTreffen Sie mich nahe dem Eingang meines Mehrbettzimmers auf Halloween - nach dem Fest. Ich gleite weg ruhig zehn Minuten vor dem Ende des Festes, und Sie müssen irgendwie ungesehenes weg gleiten - ich kann nicht.\nIch erkläre alles, wenn Sie dorthin kommen -\nBis bald (hoffnungsvoll),\nIhr geheimer Freund
To the English translation on a separate piece of parchment:
Meet me near the entrance of my common room on Halloween - after the feast. I'll slip away quietly ten minutes before the end of the feast and you'll have to somehow slip away unseen - I don't know how.
I'll explain everything when you get there -
See you soon (hopefully),
Your secret friend
I stare at the note, little whizzes sparking off in my head as I try to come up with as many witty ways as I can of escaping without being noticed by the others – out of everyone in the Great Hall, and all of my friends, how on earth am I going to get away with this one? It’s much easier for Logan – aren’t Slytherins supposed to only look out for themselves? I doubt his friends, Beatrix, Richard and Isadora Hargreaves, will even notice.
I sit slumped in my chair, praying for the answer – but to no avail; nothing comes.
I can whip up a Potion quick as wink, fly my broom all the way to Mars, and I can’t even come up with a simple solution! It’s quite frankly pathetic, for such an adventurous girl as me.
I decide to have a little wander by the old hole I discovered the other time, hoping it’ll give me the answers I need. Trooping out of the library with two pieces of parchment folded in my pocket, I tap my shoes a little as I walk, agitated. I even forget to give Mrs Norris a friendly pat on the head as she passes; earning me a very angry hiss – but too late, she’s already tiptoed out of sight. Well, as long as she doesn’t snitch to Filch – I can always feed her a bit of fish on Thursdays; they always serve it then.
It takes me a while to locate the hole, and when I do, I can see by the dark sky outside it must be getting pretty late. Pausing no further, I squeeze behind the stone – and sure enough, my hole was not carved by pure imagination, but real erosion! Well, okay, I may have imagined it a little grander and wider, with perhaps pretty shells lining the top – but this’ll do.
I debate over whether or not I should climb through the hole, shivering a little at the slight breeze from the permanently-opened window high on the left side. The others must be looking for me by now. I decide I’d better go another time – maybe on Halloween, so Logan won’t be the only one with a few surprises up his sleeve! I just have time to carve my initials: S.S. into the wall before instinct tells me to leave the hole – and just as I’m walking away, whistling innocently, I hear the footsteps of Filch in the opposite direction – uncanny!
I’m nearly at the portrait hole when I walk straight into something – solid! But – but there’s nothing there, I think, bewildered. A ghost – no, they’re transparent, aren’t they? Peeves – no, he can’t make himself invisible can he? So who – or rather, what?
The thing lets out a small scream at the same time I do. Wait a minute – that’s a human squeal, I know it!
So, feeling blindly and feeling a fool, I grasp onto something slithery – and scream again!
‘Shh!’ the thing whispers urgently – and a head, a real live head appears out of thin air! Thin air! ‘The others will hear you, Summer…’
‘A-Albus?’ I choke.
A hand appears, tugging on something invisible – and there stands my very sheepish friend, grinning a little at the look of shock on my face.
‘Oh – I forgot,’ I breathe, ‘that belongs to your Dad, doesn’t it?’ He nods, while I try and still my poor traumatised heart.
‘Sorry,’ Albus says, his smile shyer now, ‘I was just testing it – it’s only my third time, and if James finds out…I mean, he doesn’t actually know I have it…’
There’s something guilty about his expression – so, feeling very much like Rose, I enquire: ‘You didn’t steal it, did you, Albus?’
‘No!’ Albus says quickly.
‘Borrowed, then,’ I allow – and Albus gives a kind of jerky nod/shake. ‘Well, which is it?’
Albus looks around shiftily. ‘Dad lent it to me, alright? Told me not to tell James – he said he's entrusting it to me because he knows James will only go and do something against the rules with it – but he mustn’t find out!’ Albus’ face, so like his father’s, is shining in earnest.
‘I won’t tell him,’ I promise, ‘and anyway, I owe you one, remember?’
‘Oh yeah,’ Albus says, recalling the scene from nearly two months earlier.
‘Exactly,’ I say, giving his shoulder a mock-punch, ‘so don’t worry.’
As Albus gets ready to perfect his comedy routine for the Fat Lady, I put a hand out to stop him, my mind working furiously hard.
Halloween – escape – the cloak - ?
‘Albus,’ I say slowly, ‘don’t ask any questions, but I’ll need you to trust me.’ Albus inclines his head. ‘Well – I need to ask you a favour. Two actually…’
‘What kind of favours?’ Albus asks, a tad too suspiciously in my opinion.
‘Well, firstly – I’ll need to borrow your father’s cloak on Halloween,’ Albus’ mouth falls open, ‘and I’ll need you to cause a distraction near the end of the Feast. A pretty big one.’ I look up at him hopefully.
‘Well – I’ll try my best – but, er –’
‘Oh Albus, you’re the greatest!’ I cry, flinging my arms around him.
Albus’ cheeks glow with embarrassment – but as we reach the Fat Lady, he recovers himself enough to promptly say:
‘My dear Lady, you do look dazzling today!’
I wake up on the morning of October 31st with a bright outlook and a young heart, excited for the day’s events – what on earth is Logan planning?
Well, I think comfortingly, I’ll find out – after the Feast. It can’t come quick enough – but to everyone’s horror, lessons are still on as planned. That mean old grump Grace! I bet Dumbledore, no, even McGonagall would’ve let us off. Huffily, I consult my timetable, which tells me I have Transfiguration, Double charms, Potions and Astronomy ahead of me. Well, I think morosely, at least I’ll have a straight three hours with Logan – and it’s far easier to talk to him in Charms than Potions, without Albus or Seth ear wigging – and I’m hoping he might drop a few clues my way. I’m dying of curiosity here!
I’m the first up, apparently, as the common room is empty when I wander in, still half-asleep but dressed. I sit in front of the fire, brushing out my hair and deciding I’d better tie it up, just in case Logan’s planned something particularly adventurous. I tie my hair into two neat plaits, thinking this will suffice. After that there’s nothing to do but wait for the other lazy students to get up – and breakfast isn’t until eight; it’s only quarter past seven.
I rap my fingers on the scratched wood, never one for patience. Come on Rose, Alice, I urge, glaring up at the girls’ dormitories as if to impose my will on them this way. And you three, Seth, Albus, Tristan…
But nobody comes. It’s quiet and lonely here, nothing but the buzz of the air to break the silence. Usually, every second is filled with laughter and life and jostling students, and it feels weird to sit on this squashy cushion by the flickering flames, alone and brooding…
Not that I don’t have a lot to think about. The Christmas mocks, Logan’s surprise, the Quidditch trials…where do I start?
After a further ten minutes, I’ve had enough, and decide to head to the hole instead, maybe check out where it leads. I tramp through the ghostly corridors, keeping an eye out for Filch, and the other for Mrs Norris, to apologize for before.
Eventually, I come across the stone statue with carved fish eyes, tongue lolling. Laughing a little at this previously unnoticed detail, I heave and heave, but it won’t budge. I stand there panting, impatient again. I need something to do, something to explore – what’s a Hogwarts school year without adventure? Growing fiddly, I try to think of all the spells that can move objects – and remember Logan on the boat, telling me and Seth all about the spell to direct things. Concentrating hard, I hear his low, intelligible voice:
‘It’s enchanted using an incantation called: Carpe Retractum; it pulls something towards a fixed point – i.e., the place of the caster – in this case, Hogwarts. That’s how the boats steer us here.’
‘Logan, you clever boy!’ I breathe aloud, and whip out my light brown wand, hands clasping the twisty vines surrounding the wood. ‘Carpe Retractum!’ I cry, hoping there isn’t anyone in the vicinity.
The spell takes immediate effect. Groaning slowly, the stone statue shifts itself forward, towards me, and when I lower my wand, it stops moving. Brilliant!
I cast my eye once again over the shell-less, slightly pointed hole, take a deep breath in for courage, and fit through easily, the hole being wider than it had seemed on first inspection. Well, no cobwebs at least, although it is only dimly lit by shadows on the wall, and only my hands, stretched as eyes in front in me stop me bashing straight into stone, as apparently, there are all sorts of corners here – but which path leads to which? Will I have time to explore them all – or even just this one?
There’s a sudden scurrying across in the dark, and I peer frantically, trying to slow my heart and deciding it must be a rat. We’ve used them in Potions and Transfiguration loads of times. I tell myself not to be so silly.
After half an hour of mindless scrambling, I wonder if I should turn back, as it must be Breakfast now, and the others will surely be up – and looking for me. But – I’m sure I’m close to something!
I keep my hand outstretched as I tunnel further, finally latching onto something hard and mysterious – and not like the other walls I’ve come across. I can see, through a peek in the stone, a fission of light streaming through – this is it! I’ve arrived – er, somewhere!
I mutter the incantation again, and, to my amazement, the grey bricks start to shift aside, rumbling past me like tiny boulders. I squeeze my eyes shut and walk into broad daylight, seeing only red behind my lids. When I decide my eyes have had quite enough time to prepare, I open them, one eye at a time, hesitant and blinking furiously in the light.
There isn’t many people about; just a portly old man with some shopping, three young women laughing, one with a small yappy pup – and a curvy middle-aged woman wandering into – into – I don’t believe it! I’m across the street from The Three Broomsticks! I’m – I’m in Hogsmeade, two years early!
I gulp in a fistful of air in excitement – when suddenly I catch sight of a chiming clock, which reads twenty five minutes to nine – which means, judging by the length of the tunnel, I’m already late.
I take one last, longing look at the all-wizard town, then allow my feet to drag me back through the gap in the bushes, well-hidden, and slide inside again. Trying hard not to think of the fun I could’ve had all day, in a place like this on Halloween, I crawl through the tunnels as fast as I can, managing my time very carefully, and come to a halt at the end of the line, listening for footsteps. Hearing none – as they must all still be in the Great Hall, the lucky things, I roll out of the hole, pleased to note the statue is in the exact same place, so no one’s been sniffing around. I was really stupid to leave it where I was – but it’s OK. My secret place is safe. I find my wand again and put the stone firmly back in place, wondering how many other generations of students have tunnelled through this hole, if any – in Harry Potter’s autobiography, he only found the hole with the statue of the one-eyed witch; but I’ve never heard of the fish one! Maybe I’m the first one!
Leaping from foot to foot in excitement at the thought, I check my little swinging clock, able to read it now it’s light, and skip my way to the Great Hall with five minutes to spare. It’s so frustrating when you’re so close you can smell the Butterbeer – and I really want to let Seth in on it, too, but I can’t. The plan is simple – and because of the cloak, only Albus knows. I’ll just have to hope he didn’t tell anyone in my absence…
‘Summer, where in the name of Merlin have you been?’ Seth demands, his forehead creased with worry, eyes strangely glittery in the passing light.
‘Just exploring the castle,’ I say coolly, ‘I lost track of time, I guess. Sorry if I worried you,’ I shrug as though it makes no difference either way.
Seth suddenly slams his goblet down on the table, red juice oozing onto the table.
‘What?’ I say. ‘Can’t I even walk around the castle without a search party? What am I, three?’
‘We were really scared, Summer,’ Rose says in a trembling voice, ‘you weren’t in your bed, or the common room, or in the library, or the girls’ toilets, or –’
‘I get the point, Rose,’ I say, irritable, ‘and I said I’m sorry, didn’t I?’
‘Not very sincerely,’ Tristan mutters, and I look at Albus for help, sensing a friend mutiny.
‘I was up early,’ I say helplessly when Albus refuses to meet my eyes.
There’s a silence. As the hum continues around us, the bell rings shrilly, and I grab my bag and storm out of the Great Hall, feeling close to tears. I just wanted a bit of excitement, adventure, before breakfast – just like Rose and Al’s parents. Why won’t they understand?
And why do I have to settle for a boring, lonely morning because they like to fuss? Deep down though, I sense I’m more hurt and guilty than angry. But too late – they’ve all turned on me now, even my own twin, even Albus, who must’ve known it was something to do with later…
I arrive at Transfiguration with surprisingly dry eyes, and find that again, I am the first one here. For once I’m glad to be sitting with a snobbish Ravenclaw – it sure beats the frostiness between me and my friends. Feeling cold inside, I dump my equipment on the table, and don’t hear the first time when Professor Thomas calls good morning from the front of the class room.
‘Summer?’ Professor Thomas says. ‘Did you hear me?’ Slowly, I raise my head – but before he can ask any questions, the rest of the class file in, chattering about the Feast later. A tingle of nerves swoops in my chest, and I wander if I should call off later – but what’s the point? Now more than ever I need all the friends I can get, especially one actually up for a bit of fun. I’ll just have to hope Albus is still in on the plan – his part is essential, and besides, out of all the other guys, I thought he might understand my thirst my adventure, the fact I lost track of time – I thought he might at least help me out, you know. I guess I misjudged that, too, as well as the time. Maybe I should have been in Slytherin – they trust no one, after all.
‘Morning, Spear, Summer Spear,’ William Upton says in a bossy voice as he slides into the seat beside mine.
‘Morning sad, sad, and even sadder,’ I reply haughtily, not in the mood for games.
Professor Thomas picks a long thin piece of chalk up and starts to scratch into the board: ‘Switching Spell.’
I reach for my quill gloomily and ignore the squeaking sound of the board, copying the information out exactly as Professor Thomas does it all lesson. I don’t make a sound, calmly getting on with my work. Three-quarters into the lesson, Professor Thomas comes over to my desk on the pretence of checking my practical work, with notes. I’ve done about ten tons more work than I would have normally.
‘Very good,’ Professor Thomas says, ‘though some paste on your brush still clings to the chocolate – I suggest saying the incantation a little louder,’ he bends over my desk, ‘but you’ve been quiet all lesson, haven’t you? Nothing wrong is there?’
‘No, sir,’ I say, remembering as our Head of House, it’s his job to look out for that kind of stuff.
‘Sure about that?’ he looks over in the direction of Seth, who is, in contrast to me, saying his incantation a little too loudly, concentrating fiercely. I sigh despairingly.
‘We just had an argument – nothing to fuss about,’ I go back to improving the state of chocolate on my toothpaste, reddening slightly. William snorts – but he’s silenced as soon as our teacher has gone away, when I threaten to turn his gums into sugar fizzes, remembering Hogsmeade, that beautiful little town – how I’d been just inches from the famous pub…and hot, delicious Butterbeer, and the delicate little sweet shops and – and I’m in a wondrous trance.
The bell rings to signal next lesson, and I gather my things hurriedly, not wanting to bump into the others. I take out my time table as slowly as possible, see it’s double Charms, only a few corridors down, and make my way there, behind the heads of the hurrying Ravenclaws.
Professor Flitwick, the squeaky white-haired Charms master, beckons us all inside, enthusing about two exciting lessons to come. Right now, I don’t think anything could even remotely excite me.
‘Today first-years,’ pipes Flitwick, standing on thick books, ‘we will be learning all about the charm: Lumos. Can anyone tell me a little bit about this charm?’
I raise my hand a little shakily, noting the Slytherins are missing for some reason, and say: ‘Lumos is a charm that gives light to the caster, making the wand tip fairly warm.’ Seth catches my eye, about to make some comment about what a know-it-all I am, when he remembers our disagreement and looks away again.
‘Good girl, Summer, good girl!’ says Flitwick so shrilly I barely hear him. ‘Take ten points for Gryffindor!’ as though just realizing there’s just one House in here, the class look around confusedly.
‘The Slytherins are having a guidance session,’ Flitwick explains, noticing our distracted faces, ‘but they will be back for the second half – they’ll have to catch up. Gryffindor should be getting their session last lesson, I believe.’
‘Guidance session for what, sir?’ Anthony Mason says.
‘Next year’s subject choices, of course,’ Flitwick scolds, ‘haven’t any of you been sending out an inscription for the Prophet?’ He waits, but not even Rose waves her hand. ‘Right, it seems Grace has left you all very ill-formed,’ he catches the thread of his thoughts, ‘anyway, there have been some drastic changes to the educational system, and instead the Ministry have encouraged students to choose their subjects one year early, in order to give them the best possible chance for their O.W.L.s, and save time on pointless subjects you won’t be good at – yes, Mr Jenson?’
‘We’re starting studying for our O.W.L.s next year?’ he says in alarm, and even Seth can’t resist giving me a brief, swift look that clearly conveys: Our Dad works for the Department of Magical Education – why on earth didn’t he tell us?
‘Yes, we are,’ Flitwick says, ‘so I must stress, Mr Jenson, students are being pushed like never before, so I’d advise you all to concentrate very carefully in future.’
Around me, my class mates look gloomy and weighted down at the thought. I guess we all thought the first few years would be all about experience and magic and seeing Hogsmeade – but instead, our fifth-year exams are taking priority. What’s the point? How will we even know what to pick when we haven’t had enough time to sort out what we’re good at yet, and what we should or shouldn’t take? This just isn’t fair.
‘Now, really,’ Flitwick says nervously, seeing our downcast faces, ‘we must get on with the practical on today’s topic…’
‘What’s the point?’ Bonnie Young mutters, so that Flitwick can’t hear her. ‘Clearly, it’s only second-year up that matters…stupid system…’ she doodles on a piece of parchment, Samantha tutting sympathetically in the background. Far from being an annoying sight, I agree.
It seems this really is my only year to experience some real adventure – and I’ll be damned if my so-called friends try and stop me…
‘What happened in the Guidance session?’ I hiss at Logan in Potions fourth period, as I didn’t have time to talk to him in the second half of Charms, since half the class was behind.
‘They called us in one by one, alphabetically,’ Logan whispers over the brewing of his pot, ‘and asked us a bunch of questions, got us to fill in a few questionnaires – and they started pressing us for future careers; I mean, as if any of us are going to know! We’ve been here half a term!’ he stirs his ingredients furiously. ‘It’s ridiculous. They told us we get to pick subjects, but I don’t know what they’re playing at…and we only have until the end of the week to fill it out – they gave us this form, look,’ he waves a lined sheet under my nose.
‘Do you have any idea what you’re taking?’ I ask, thoroughly depressed by the information, even if I did (literally) ask for it.
‘No idea,’ he says grumpily, and then hesitates, ‘actually, Summer, I was wondering if you could help me pick, at Lunch – I mean, if you wanted to. It would probably give you a clearer idea, too, and we could go right to the back –’
‘Logan!’ I giggle. ‘Stop babbling – I’ll come! Anyway, I’m in the dog house with that lot,’ I jerk my thumb at the innocent-looking suspects. Logan laughs, far from the reaction I expected. Is there no sympathy left in this horrible, drowning world? Apparently not.
‘Great!’ Logan grins – and I glare at him. ‘Not about the Gryffindors, but about you coming,’ he adds quickly.
‘Don’t call them “the Gryffindors”!’ I snap.
‘Why not? I thought they’d been totally unfair and mean and unreasonable.’
‘They have. Kind of.’
‘Well then what, smarty-words?’
‘Well then I can refer to them formally as the Gryffindors! Case closed!’
Incensed, I flick frog’s spawn in his face. Oswald looks up from his paper and chuckles.
‘Oh dear,’ he says, coming over, ‘what could you have done to provoke this young lady’s anger, boy?’
‘Nothing!’ Logan says indignantly, though two bright spots appear on his cheeks. ‘I’m innocent!’
‘I warn you, that girl could concoct a poison in a second,’ Oswald says amusedly.
‘Anyone else would’ve got detention,’ Scorpius Malfoy says loudly, ‘but not precious Summer – she’s too good for that.’
‘I’ll show you detention!’ I cry, lunging forwards – but find the back of my robes seized. Puzzled, I look round – and see Logan is holding me back. ‘Let – me – at – him! I mean it, Logan; I’ve had enough of his snide comments!’
‘Not worth it, Sum,’ Logan says.
‘What would you know?’ I snap. ‘Can’t you control your House mates, anyway?’
‘He’s not my mate,’ Logan says heavily, ‘and will you stop trying to do my nut in? I’m helping you out in the long run!’
‘That’s what everyone says!’ I exclaim. ‘But what’s the long run, anyway – O.W.L. work from next year onwards? N.E.W.T.s? Future careers? This school is like a prison!’
‘What d’you know about Azkaban?’ Scorpius says slyly.
‘A lot more than you – all of you. I’m right in it!’ I shout back.
‘Calm down, Summer, for goodness sake,’ Seth interjects before this feud goes any further – so he must’ve already guessed my hand was inches from my wand…
‘What do you care, dear brother?’ I say huffily, glad Professor Oswald slipped out for some more ingredients some time ago.
‘I wasn’t saying that stuff to be mean!’ Seth yells back. ‘But lately, all you ever do is lie to me, keep secrets! You never used to!’ He looks really upset – I guess he noticed more things than I gave him credit for. Albus also shifts guiltily, because I told him and not my own brother.
‘I’m the worst sister in the world,’ I say, resigning myself to fate – maybe my destiny is to lead a boring, uneventful life after all.
‘You’re not,’ Seth says, ‘just a bit crazy, reckless! I just wish you’d stop keeping your mad plans to yourself, that’s all…’
‘Yeah,’ Logan chips in, ‘and if you’re a bad sister, then I don’t know what sort of brother I am.’
I kick him under the table as Professor Oswald returns, and everyone pretends to be busy again. ‘Don’t act the innocent
! How can you agree with Seth when you’re in on the plot! In fact, you’ve been in on everything I’ve ever kept from my brother.’
‘Don’t blame me,’ Logan says smoothly, ‘that’s life – ow, you violent beast!’
‘Is that St Mungo’s I hear?’ Scorpius wonders aloud. ‘Must be for you, Summer!’ Noah Zabini bangs the table so hard it shakes in laughter.
Rose gives Malfoy a warning look – but again, more of a caution than a full blown you-are-my-worst-enemy glare. And trust me; Rose is down with the whole glare thing. Just not with Scorpius, for some reason – so how dare she criticise me for this morning? She’s keeping a few things zipped herself…
When Rose sees me staring, she quickly pretends to be shuffling a thick pile of notes, one hand resting agitatedly on her hair. What could she possibly be hiding that’s so unspeakable?
After the lesson, I tell Seth I’ve got to speak to the Arithmancy teacher about the possibility of taking that subject next year, as a guise for going to the library with Logan. I really hope today isn’t the day Rose suddenly decides to take a huge book out again, or we’ll be busted. And, to be honest, I don’t think our friendship could take the strain right now.
‘It isn’t because of earlier, is it?’ Seth asks quietly as the others hover by the door.
‘No,’ I say lightly, ‘besides, it was you guys who turned on me.’
Seth lowers his eyes guiltily. ‘We were just worried, Sum…but I guess we could have handled it better. Maybe I was just more upset you didn’t take me with you,’ he looks at the soles of his feet with an embarrassed smile.
‘Ah, Seth!’ I say. ‘I really wanted you to come, I was just up really early, before anyone, and I lost track of time. Next time, OK?’
‘Yeah,’ Seth says enthusiastically, meeting my eyes at last, ‘see you at Careers guidance!’ he ambles off after the others, his usual grin back in place.
‘Finally,’ Logan says (he was waiting under the pretence of packing his bag), ‘I thought you were going to burst into tears and declare your undying sister-ship.’ But I think I catch under look, a hidden one, stirring beneath his eyes. An emotion he doesn’t want me to see.
‘Shut up, impatient,’ I say as we leave the room, ‘d’you want my help or what?’
‘Yeah, alright,’ Logan says casually – and I fight the urge to, er, fight him.
Madam Pince doesn’t glare at me as I enter the room, but she surveys Logan rather suspiciously – must be the Slytherin blood.
‘Why aren’t you hated?’ Logan asks as root through the shelves for a book on Careers.
‘We have a new – German – understanding,’ I say, flipping through a book called Quidditch through the Ages.
‘Great language, German,’ Logan says dismissively, as though he didn’t just write me a note in the damn language.
I give a sharp ‘tusk’, too annoyed to reply – and my eyes rest on a thick, guilt-covered green book called: Power through Career choice. I pick it up a little hesitantly, eyeing the aged yellow pages.
‘What’s that?’ Logan asks curiously.
‘One for the pile,’ I say, slamming it on top of: A Career with Muggles – is it for you?
‘Hey, here’s a good one,’ Logan says excitedly, grasping a book on the potential life of a hopeful Quidditch player.
‘Logan, we don’t get to choose Quidditch next year,’ I say despairingly, ‘I thought you wanted my help?’
‘I do,’ he insists firmly, ‘but if they’re making us think about the future at the tender ages of eleven and twelve, then we’d best do it properly.’ The look on his face is so set I don’t argue, but continue to shift through the stacks of books, reminded briefly of Ollivander’s wand shop. I look at the green spine under the Quidditch player book and suppress a shiver.
After three more rounds through the book cases, we give up, twelve books clutched between us. We collapse them on a nearby coffee table (not that drinks are allowed here) and make funny gasping noises, though the giggling that follows as a result of this only adds to our breathing complications.
‘Right,’ I say a little breathlessly, ‘should we sort through this rubbish or what?’
Logan smiles at the determined look on my face.
‘Summer Spear,’ calls a slightly weathered but strong voice as I wait for my turn in the Careers office. Out of all my Gryffindor friends, there’s only Rose left, and we’ve barely spoken since this morning. I may have patched things up with Seth, but the others are still acting like I’ve done something wrong – apart from Alice, but even she treats me like a fugitive.
I stand up a little nervously, playing with my plaits. Rose doesn’t look at me as I enter the office. I suppose she wants an apology – but it’s not like she isn’t lying to everyone. If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s high-horse hypocrites, harsh as it may sound. I slipped out for one morning…how is this coldness justified? I thought our friendship was made of more than that.
Blinking back stupid tears, I take a seat opposite a tall, thin woman with grey hair scraped back into a bun, and sharp eyes. I know her! That’s -
‘Professor McGonagall!’ I shriek. ‘I’ve heard so much about you!’
She gives me a tight-lipped smile, the wrinkles crinkling under her eyes. ‘I am no longer a Professor, dear, but you may call me such anyway. I remember your parents well – particularly your mother…she had a rather flair for Transfiguration, did she not?’
‘Oh, yes!’ I say earnestly. ‘But she credits all her transforming spells to you.’
‘Yes, very modest, your mother – anyway, on with the session,’ she is suddenly brisk again, ‘what two subjects are you interested in studying next year?’
I sit back, a little startled. This approach is a little…direct. I don’t even know where I’ll be tomorrow, let alone next year. ‘Er – t-two, Professor?’
‘There are seven compulsory subjects, of course,’ she stretches her mouth a little, ‘I should’ve explained – Grace wouldn’t quite throw you all to the dogs like that.’ I relax a little in my seat. ‘I’ll rephrase – which two subjects are you thinking of studying alongside Transfiguration, Charms, Defence Against the Dark Arts, Herbology, Potions, History of Magic – yes, that is compulsory, too, Ms Spear – and Astronomy?’
‘Er, er,’ I look around wildly, trying to remember what I discussed with Logan at lunch, ‘er – er – I was thinking of maybe studying…maybe trying, er, Arithmancy, for a start.’
Professor McGonagall peers at me over the top of her spectacles. ‘Interesting choice, Ms Spear, but very wise – Decimus, sorry, Professor Oswald, has nothing but praise for you! I hear your Potions work is extraordinary,’ she straightens up, ‘I’m sure you’ll deal with the challenge of Arithmancy magnificently. Now, what else?’
A little unnerved by the ‘challenge’ of Arithmancy, I gaze around hopelessly again. What do I want to do out of Care of Magical Creatures, Muggle Studies, Ancient Runes and Divination? What did Seth pick? Oh yeah, Divination and Care of Magical Creatures. Great.
And Alice went for Care of Magical Creatures too, and Muggle Studies, same as Tristan. Albus picked Care of Magical Creatures and Ancient Runes…and I think Logan mentioned something about Arithmancy (hurray) and Divination, “to lighten the work load”, he said. Everyone knows how hard Arithmancy is – just ask Hermione Granger; well, if you’re talking to her daughter, of course.
‘I don’t know,’ I say honestly, ‘I can’t choose. I mean, Ancient Runes looks really interesting…only, it’s almost as hard as Arithmancy – but I’m really interested in doing Muggle Studies, too…’
‘What about Care of Magical Creatures and Divination?’ Professor McGonagall says with the faintest hint of a smile.
I shake my head vigorously. ‘Waste of time, if you don’t want to be a seer or go into a career with magical creatures – or if you aren’t best friends with Hagrid.’ Professor McGonagall’s smile becomes more pronounced – almost normal, really, I reflect on pleasantly.
‘Well, we can deduct those, then,’ she says wearily, ‘but your word isn’t concrete, you know – you get a trial period of each of your two subjects, and a special leaflet I think, and your answer is subject to change – so how about you think about it, and get back to me in January, after your Christmas mocks? That should clear things up a little, seeing where you both lack and achieve well in. Is that ok?’
‘Yes, miss,’ I say, and leave her office a little less heavily.
‘How did it go?’ Rose bursts out as soon as I’m past her, feet pacing a little anxiously.
‘What do you care?’ I say coldly.
‘Oh, Summer, that isn’t fair,’ Rose says.
‘You just want to be prepared for your interview,’ I accuse, ‘and it doesn’t matter anyway. You’ve made it very clear what you think of me, and I don’t like being judged.’ I turn on my heel and walk away, leaving her twisting her fingers nervously. Is that how she thinks she can treat me? Snap at me, brush me off, ignore me, refuse to even look at me, and still expect my help? I don’t know where she learnt friendship lessons, but that is just taking the teapot, it really is. I won’t be used.
‘Summer? Are you okay?’ It’s Logan – waiting for me by the brick wall.
‘Hi,’ I say listlessly, wiping my eyes quickly with the back of my hand, and making out I was only rubbing them tiredly.
‘Didn’t the guidance session go well?’ he asks with a touch of concern.
It’s enough to throw me over the edge. ‘It’s Rose!’ I wail – and tell him all about the frostiness, her trying to weasel information out of me, acting like nothing happened. Well, I’m done ignoring the truth. I tell him so too.
‘Girls,’ Logan says wisely, ‘they always fight. It’s nature. It’ll all blow over – as long as you both apologize.’
‘I tried!’ I snap. ‘But none of my so-called friends wanted to know!’
‘Well, at least you’ve got Seth,’ Logan says with an odd look.
‘Yes, but for how much longer?’ I speculate. ‘With friends who hate me, we’ll stop speaking within a week. A month,’ I allow.
Logan gives me a familiar teasing smile. ‘Well, in any case, you’ve still got me.’
‘Thanks, Logan,’ I say warmly, feeling I have a true friend for the first time today, ‘but I wish you were in Gryffindor –’
‘I wish you were in Slytherin!’ Logan cuts in, looking surprised. ‘You’d do much better there, Sum – people wouldn’t judge you for being smart or curious or adventurous. I know people stereotype us all as evil, but really, the majority of us are just eager, quick-witted, like-minded people – and yeah, we like a laugh, we like excitement and danger, but we’re not that bad, honestly. I don’t know why the hat shoved you there.’
‘It’s didn’t shove me – but I will!’ I say, giving him a small push. ‘But, ok, I get your point. People would’ve thought it was cool if I was in Slytherin – not Gryffindor. I’m lost apparently, vulnerable and stupid and reckless and irresponsible – but I’m eleven years old, Logan, and I just want to have some fun. What’s wrong with that? They could too if they only stopped blaming me for it.’
‘I know,’ Logan says, ‘which brings me back to my point before. You know, I think Ollivander was right about you.’ I look at him in shock. ‘Just saying, Sum. Look – I’ve got to go; the feast starts in ten minutes, and I’ve got to go down with my head of house.’
‘Who is your head of house, anyway?’ I ask, realizing after practically two months, I still don’t know – I mean, Professor Longbottom is head of Hufflepuff, Professor Thomas obviously our head of house, and Flitwick still going strong in Ravenclaw – but Slytherin? I’m totally blank. I don’t even think we have any Slytherin teachers, to be honest.
Logan grimaces. ‘Professor Saggy-bottom – sorry, Slade.’
‘No way!’ I say, aghast. ‘I could’ve sworn she was a Ravenclaw!’
‘We don’t know,’ he shrugs, ‘either or.’
‘Then no wonder she’s an evil snob!’ I say vindictively as Logan starts to turn left, towards the dungeons.
‘See you at the end of the feast!’ he calls over his shoulder, leaving me standing by the wrinkly wall, wondering if I will go through with it after all. But really – I haven’t had a proper adventure here, and I badly want to show Logan the Hogsmeade shortcut – and find out what he’s got planned!
I draw myself up and start to walk to my own common room, determined to go. I am a Gryffindor after all, whatever Logan says.
‘Hedwig!’ I say to the Fat Lady when I reach the common room entrance, and she swings the hole furiously, muttering something about the whereabouts of my predatory friend – Albus.
Well, how should I know – he probably isn’t talking to me either.
I crawl through the portrait hole, coming face to face with none other than Seth, while Tristan, Alice and Albus play Gobstones in the corner.
‘I thought you were going to miss the feast!’ he says excitedly.
‘Wouldn’t miss it for the world,’ I say breezily, wondering if Albus is still in on the plan – his part is essential if I want to slip away unnoticed. It probably would be easier to be in Slytherin right now, but even so, my heart belongs to the lion.
‘Look – can we put this morning behind us?’ Seth says, switching suddenly from excited and young to sombre and old.
‘They don’t want to,’ I say, ‘and Rose is being – Rose is –’ but somehow I can’t bring myself to betray her.
‘Rose is what?’ Seth asks sharply – and I remember how taken he is with her.
Shaking off irritation, I say: ‘Rose is being an almighty idiot, that’s what.’ I tell him about earlier.
‘That’s just Rose’s way of trying to build bridges!’ Seth argues.
‘I knew you wouldn’t understand,’ I tell him quietly, ‘she just couldn’t bring herself to apologize, could she? Even when she saw how upset I was. All she wanted was interview tips, and to act like nothing happened!’
Seth, thunderstruck, doesn’t reply. So I march past him too, but unfortunately, I have to pass the giggling gaggle of my ex-best friends to get to the stairs. Thankfully, I’m spared this humiliation by the loud announcement of Professor Thomas, telling us to make our way to the Great Hall. But I don’t have a Gryffindor friend in the world.
I keep my head straight as we walk to the Great Hall, ignoring Samantha Morgan’s inquiries about my fight with two of the most famous wizard’s children and their friends.
When we reach the Great Hall, two sullen-faced trolls open the gold handles – and the sight that beholds us is spectacular! I forget all about today’s troubles and my nerves for later as I set my eyes on skeleton decorations hanging from the walls, the gathering of ghosts at the front, the laughing pumpkins containing its namesake juice on the tall tables, the glossy orange and black banners spelling: H-A-P-P-Y H-A-L-L-O-W-E-E-N-!
But the best bit is the troop of headless hunters on stage, juggling their severed heads on horseback, and the dancing skeletons behind them. The stage is a crazy mess of Halloween entertainment, but I love it. I gravitate towards the stage, staring up at the huge translucent hunters, the flapping skeletons with their elbow joints.
‘Summer, over to the table, please,’ Professor Thomas says, but I don’t seem to hear him. There is loud, suspenseful music blaring out in the background, the beats picking up an octave with every passing second -
‘SUMMER SPEAR, GET TO THE TABLE AT ONCE!’ I swing round at last to see Professor Grace, white-faced in fury. ‘You are a silly girl, a danger to yourself and the rest of the school. Go on, get out of my sight.’
I determinedly stare at the floor as I pass my fellow Gryffindors and first-years alike, choosing a seat nearest the exit, and furthest from people. I can just make out Logan’s floppy brown hair, peering over the heads of older students to stare at me.
A few seats down, Rose Weasley is wearing a look that suggests I just murdered Crookshanks the second. ‘That was very irresponsible of you, Summer! You heard Grace – you might get more than detention next time if you carry on.’
‘For getting a closer look at the entertainment on offer?’ I say incredulously. ‘Why’d he book them if he didn’t want us anywhere near them, eh?’
‘Ever heard the phrase, “you can look but you can’t touch”?’ Rose contradicts.
‘Rose!’ Albus hisses urgently from next to her, giving me a brief look that I understand to mean: we’re on for tonight. It occurs to me he was probably pretending not to be friends with me before, so nobody would get suspicious. Good old Albus! Wish I could say the same for I look down at my empty gold plate, tears filling my eyes.
‘Welcome, welcome to the annual Halloween feast!’ a harried-looking Professor Grace booms from the front. ‘I hope you are all enjoying the entertainment – eh, Ms Spear?’ every head swivels round to look me. I keep my eyes fixedly on my plate, praying the food comes soon, the better to get this charade over with.
I see Seth glance at me a little worriedly, but as he clearly doesn’t care enough to stick up for After a few more pointless words, Professor Grace announces the food is ready to be served.
He claps his hands, and sticky gingerbread men, blood-flavoured lollipops, crazy straws; bloodily sauced meat balls and fried chicken fill the plates. Too tired to be defiant, I reach for my favourite dinner, meat balls, and take a handful of gingerbread men – even though they are awfully sexist. Thinking about this, I snatch another gingerbread, and begin peeling its icing off, attaching it to another gingerbread as a skirt, and thus turning it into a gingerbread woman. I sit back, satisfied but not quite having the heart to take a big chunk out of it just yet.
I feel someone sit down heavily next to me. It’s Rose. I look down at my plate again.
‘Summer,’ she hesitates, ‘you know how I hate being wrong about things…but I was wrong today, OK? Just don’t expect an apology any time soon!’ she grins at me before continuing, while I watch her inscrutably. ‘I was just worried, that’s all – I’ve been worried about you all day…my way of showing how worried I am is to get bossy – but I didn’t mean to upset you, Sum, honestly – it’s just hard for me to get on with people, and I’ve never had many friends who are girls, and you’re so funny and reckless and passionate about stuff – it’s hard not to feel a little left out sometimes. I guess that was what this morning was really about.’ She breaks off abruptly, blue eyes anxious.
I look at my fingers, a little moved by her speech…and I think I maybe understand now, about her nagging and Scorpius. ‘It’s ok, Rose,’ I say, ‘I shouldn’t have gone off like that – it was stupid. But thanks for caring enough to stand up to me.’
‘It felt good!’ Rose admits. ‘Arguing, I mean – I always follow the rules!’
‘You’re telling me,’ I mutter, ‘so how do you like my all-gender gingerbread people?’
‘They’re so great!’ Rose gushes. ‘I’m inspired! Amazed, astounded at this work of geni-’
‘You can stop now, Rose,’ I say with a grin.
‘So…friends again?’ Rose says.
‘Friends,’ I agree.
Along the table, Albus, Seth and Tristan give whoops of celebration. ‘Finally!’ they chant.
‘Have you boys been waiting for us to make up all day?’ Rose says sternly.
‘Yep,’ Alice confesses, ‘we didn’t want to take sides –’
‘Liar!’ I accuse. ‘You were out for my blood earlier!’ I smile to show her I’m not serious.
‘Interesting though your conversation is, Spear and friends,’ Professor Thomas says, ‘you’re going to miss desert if you don’t grab soon.’
‘Oooh…strawberry cake with artificial bats and food colouring!’ Rose says, somehow ‘I’ll have some too!’ Seth says with a rub of his stomach. ‘How about you, Summer?’
‘Talking to me, are you?’ I say – but throw him a life-line and add: ‘treacle tart’s fine for me.’ Albus gives me an approving look.
I keep an eye out for Logan, but it’s hard to see him from hear. Albus shoots me an agonized glance, because there’s no way he can get the cloak to me from here, and our time is running out fast. We have about five minutes after Logan leaves.
After a few anxious scrapings round my plate, I see Logan slyly slip past, and creep unnoticed through the gap in the door, helpfully widening it a bit for my exit. The nerves have reached paramount now; I can feel the furious beatings of excitement fly at the bottom of my full stomach, which suddenly feels a little empty now, like Logan’s little adventure will somehow complete it. I give Albus the signal. (Raised eyebrows – so subtle, even old Merlin the wizard couldn’t have thought of it).
‘Rat!’ Albus shrieks, and even I’m surprised by his acting skills as he points hysterically at the floor. ‘There’s a rat, everyone!’ Rose screams louder than anyone. ‘Help! Health and safety executives, we have a rat!’ As panic settles over the Great Hall, Albus slides out of his seat, under the pretence of leaping around in a frightened sort of way, and presses the silvery cloak in my big pocket.
Feet scatter around the Hall, and Professor Grace begs for calm, but to no avail. In the storm of chaos, nobody notices as I wrap the cloak around my body and become invisible – but I make sure I give Albus a whispered thanks as I pass him.
It's a weird feeling, knowing you’re invisible. I feel safe, blanketed in security, hidden, free. I decide I love this cloak and the opportunity it brings.
As Logan instructed on the note, I make my way to the Dungeons, still a little apprehensive, just in case I knock into something – or someone – solid. After ten minutes of unexplainable drifting, I reach the green-lit dungeons, taking a moment to appreciate the bizarreness of this journey - and then it suddenly occurs to me what fun this cloak can bring!
So, very quietly, I sneak up behind Logan, who is checking his clock, and shout: ‘Boo!’ in a playful sort of way. As expected, Logan jumps as high as any broomstick, and only just resists the urge to scream in a very girly kind of way. I remove the cloak, grinning.
‘What in the name of Merlin did you do that for?’ Logan says reproachfully. ‘You do realize I nearly -’
‘Wet your pants, I know!’ I snigger – and he gives me a push.
‘We haven’t got time for this,’ he says grumpily, ‘we’ve got somewhere to be –’
‘I’ve got somewhere to show you, too!’ I say eagerly, loving the fact I challenged his manhood.
‘If we have time,’ Logan mumbles distractedly. ‘And good job on the cloak, by the way. I suppose it belongs to Albus’s Dad?’ he nods when I do. ‘Right, well we’re definitely gonna need it – so make room!’ he bustles under the cloak, still not explaining where we’re going.
We hurry through the corridors – me giving a start that jostles Logan again as we pass the unmoving statue with fish eyes – and keep on going, up and up and up the winding stairs and through the corridors until -
‘We’ve made it!’ Logan whoops in triumph – and I’m strongly reminded of Seth, the night of the sorting. The night that changed everything. ‘We’ve actually arrived! Ha!’
‘Will you stop celebrating and tell me where on earth we are?’ I say amusedly.
‘This, Summer, is the room of requirement.’
‘The room of what?’ I say bemusedly, wrinkling my nose.
‘The room of requirement, Summer!’ Logan says exasperatedly.
‘Yes, I know that, thanks,’ I reply hotly, ‘I just meant: what is this place?’
‘This place,’ Logan says, stretching an arm magnificently across a plain old wall, ‘this place is genius, Summer…you just have to walk past the wall three times, repeating what room you’re after in your head – and as long as no one else’s in there, it’ll open! Apart from if you want food,’ he adds thoughtfully, ‘it doesn’t supply food. It’s the only thing – cos it breaks some natural law or something.’
‘You mean to say,’ I start excitedly, ‘if I asked the room to provide me with a place to rescue animals, it would?’
‘Yeah, it would,’ he pauses suspiciously, ‘why?’
‘No reason,’ I shrug casually.
‘Don’t give me that!’ Logan contests. ‘You have that glint in your eye!’
‘Do not,’ I say stubbornly, while he shakes his head in amusement, ‘do not, do not, do not…’
‘You do so!’ he says. ‘You’re up to something – you, you want to rescue animals, don’t you?’
I make a pained sound. ‘Nuh-uh. I’m not even picking Care of Magical Creatures, for goodness sake!’
‘That’s because you don’t want a career with animals, and you don’t think much of Hagrid’s blatant favouritism and teaching style –’
‘That’s a lie!’ I cry.
‘- and you’d prefer to go with some nerdy, highly intellectual subject instead,’ he finishes smugly, as though uninterrupted.
‘Let’s just get on with the room, shall we?’ I say smoothly. ‘Before your house and my house notice we’re missing…’
‘Yeah, alright,’ Logan agrees, ‘what do you want to room to be, apart from an animal rescue centre?’
I think hard, ignoring the jibe. I might not get another opportunity like this for ages!
‘A really spooky place lit up like Halloween,’ I settle on darkly.
‘Ok,’ in contrast, Logan looks surprisingly cheerful, ‘ask away, then, Summer…’
I need a room that’s really spooky and lit up like Halloween, I think as I pace around the required number of times, I need a room like Halloween…I need -
‘You’ve done it!’ Logan shouts as the wall cracks in two to reveal a vine-covered door that reminds me of my wand, only in black. We enter a little hesitantly, me in the front.
The room is dark apart from glowing torches stinging in the blackness, red bats crawling up the ceiling and illuminated by the high upper windows, shrouded in cob webs. There are green, thread-bare cushions scattering the floor, and a stack of books and newspaper cuttings lie at their feet, a dozen torches by their sides. I look at Logan in shock. I thought this might be a bit of a wind-up, to be honest. But it’s real – it’s all real! And it’s ours!
‘Told ya,’ Logan says, the shape of his face only just visible under the dim light. ‘I wonder what the room’s given us…’
He takes a seat on one of the cushions, hair silkily smooth and darker than usual in the darkness. ‘Wonder why the room’s given us newspapers?’
As I catch sight of a newspaper headline, I sink onto a cushion, trembling, and, ignoring Logan’s questions, pass the cutting to him. Under the torchlight, we both read:
WOMAN VANISHES ON HALLOWEEN NIGHT
‘Must – must be the room’s way of making things spooky,’ Logan says quickly.
‘No,’ I moan, ‘this is real, Logan. It’s an article from the Prophet.’
‘Look at the date, Summer. This only happened –’
‘One year ago today,’ I whisper, shivering.
‘Yeah, exactly,’ Logan says, ‘so we’d have heard about it, wouldn’t we? A young witch going missing in an all-wizard town – we’re old enough to read headlines and listen to our parents’ talk, Summer. It’s a fake,’ he finishes confidently, ‘the room’s idea of giving us what we asked for on Halloween night. It’s fine.’
Somehow, I can’t quite bring myself to believe him. ‘No, Logan,’ I say firmly, ‘there’s something in this – I can feel it.’
Logan gives a snort. ‘And what? You think the Room wants us to solve some ridiculous mystery? Come on, Summer, you’re old enough to stop believing in ghost stories, surely? It’s Halloween,’ he repeats, ‘so cheer up.’
‘Well, we’ll find out one way or another,’ I say determinedly, ‘we have to, Logan. That poor woman –’
‘- probably doesn’t exist,’ Logan cuts in smoothly, though he looks kind of scared, too.
‘Ok,’ I say coolly, ‘but we’d be idiots not to at least investigate.’
‘Fine,’ Logan agrees curtly, ‘but it’s not exactly how I imagined tonight, researching the possible disappearance of some witch in Hogsmeade – what?’
‘You’re a genius!’ I say with shining eyes. ‘That’s it, Logan – we’ll go to Hogsmeade!’
‘I’m starting to worry about you, Summer,’ Logan says exasperatedly, ‘how are we supposed to sneak out of Hogwarts unnoticed? They were stupid enough to fall for the stunt at the feast, but they’re not that stupid.’
‘You don’t understand,’ I say hurriedly, ‘we can go to Hogsmeade, but from inside –’ I explain everything properly, about this morning and the hole. I left out the Hogsmeade part earlier, when I was telling him all about my row with the others. Now I have the satisfaction of watching his jaw drop before my eyes.
‘Seriously? Way cool! Let’s go – now! C’mon!’ he scrambles to his feet. ‘Summ-er!’
‘We’re going there for one purpose only, Logan,’ I say, struggling to make out his jumping figure in the dark, ‘to find out if this woman is real – or was real, whatever.’
‘Don’t go morbid on me, Sum,’ I feel a hand in the darkness, ‘coming?’ I take it, and together, we feel our way out of the room, leaving its pool of mysteries behind – for now. I plan on going back there.
Breaking into a run, we reach the hole within ten minutes. ‘Won’t people be missing us by now?’ I ask anxiously – and after this morning, I’m going to have to be more careful.
‘Yeah,’ Logan pauses slowly to consider this. He may be adventurous, excitable, liable to run through a hole in the night, but he isn’t stupid, ‘you’re right. We should probably wait…maybe we can both skive a class tomorrow?’
‘Not skive,’ I say thoughtfully, ‘we can’t afford to appear missing again. No, we’ll have to make excuses in separate lessons, so as nobody suspects anything. Deal?’
‘Deal,’ Logan says grudgingly, ‘but only cos you begged – don’t you dare push me again! How about fourth period? That’ll give us two hours, including lunch, to get everything sorted. You said it takes about half an hour – but fifteen minutes at a fast crawl. So we’ll have to fall ill pretty early on in the lesson. What’s your fourth period lesson?’
I think carefully, and it’s Rose’s reciting voice that comes to me when I say: ‘Study hour. Free period.’ Logan swears.
‘Now what?’ he says angrily. ‘we’ll never solve this unless we can get away without anyone else seeing!’
‘We could try the invisibility cloak again,’ I say, ‘and maybe…maybe we should tell Seth and Rose and Tristan and Alice – Albus obviously already knows – well, not about this, obviously, but the other stuff. Well?’
‘Thing is, Summer,’ Logan drags out, ‘they’re not exactly my friends anymore, if you hadn’t noticed. I don’t reckon they’ll want to be within fifty feet of a Slytherin. Sorry.’
‘Logan, this is the possible disappearance of a young woman miles from here we’re talking about!’ I snap. ‘Who cares about houses? She could hurt, or kidnapped, or –’ my voice wobbles, and I can’t complete the sentence. Instead, I move on to my next point. ‘- and there might be someone who had something to do with it still on the loose…Hogwarts students visit Hogsmeade, Logan – that’s putting everyone from third-year and above in danger, not to mention the village folk. And he or she could break in here!’ I don’t try to control the hysterical edge to my voice.
‘Summer,’ Logan says gently, ‘if there was another party involved, they’d be long gone by now.’
‘Not necessarily,’ I argue, ‘not if they thought they’d gotten away with it, if they were local and have friends and family here. Her parents said she wasn’t in any trouble! So this could be some crazy psycho intent on hurting strangers or something…’
‘You’re getting ahead of yourself,’ Logan spells out, ‘I agree this is a serious matter, Summer, but jeez. Let it go for tonight, will you? We’ll discuss it in the morning.’
‘How?’ I retort. ‘We can never speak to each other, you know that.’
‘We have Potions last,’ he suggests lightly, seemingly unaffected by my mood, ‘we’ll talk then.’
‘What about fourth period?’ I say.
‘Forget fourth period. It’s a study period, like you said. Maybe it’ll do you good to get some real studying done, anyway. We don’t want to fail, do we? We’ll work on our plan of action another day.’
When I still look worried, he adds: ‘I’ll do some research in the library, OK? Look for old records of her school days – if she was only twenty-five when she vanished, she’ll be twenty-six now…she’ll have left Hogwarts just eight years ago. She must have attended here, if she lives so close and she’s a British witch. We’ll find out if she exists or not,’ he says, patting my arm reassuringly, and like a child, I allow myself to be soothed.
‘We should probably – er – get going now, back to our houses,’ Logan says awkwardly.
‘Right. Yeah. Definitely,’ I say.
‘To think,’ Logan says with a shake of his head, ‘if you hadn’t asked the room to create somewhere spooky, none of this would’ve happened…’
‘It’s fate, Logan,’ I say teasingly as we round the corner, ‘you should know that, if you’re serious about taking Divination next year.’
‘Yeah,’ he sighs heavily, ‘reckon I should.’
‘I don’t know what I’ll say to the others,’ I say despairingly, ‘I’m a mess – disturbed. This was supposed to be fun – we were supposed to have a proper adventure and get sweets from Hogsmeade and – and instead, there’s this horrible story.’
‘It might be just that,’ Logan says doubtfully, ‘just a story. But I wouldn’t think too hard about it, Sum. You’ll scare yourself.’
‘Too late for that,’ I say gloomily as the Dungeons come into view, ‘I guess I’ll see you in Potions.’
‘You might want to fix your expression,’ Logan says, ‘you kind of look like Seth just died or something.’
‘Don’t, Logan,’ I wince, ‘he could, if we don’t sort this out.’ I ignore Logan’s snorts about the almost impossibility the ‘next victim’ would just happen to be my brother, and make my way to Gryffindor common room, preparing myself for more questions.
The Fat Lady’s the first one.
‘I suppose you and that friend of yours set off that rat?’ she says as I approach – and even though her words are actually sort of true, I feel myself swelling indignantly at the accusation.
‘Excuse me,’ I say loftily, ‘but I thought your job was to open portrait holes. Hedwig!’ The hole swings open, and shuts again with a bang as soon as I’m through. That woman – she’s had it in for me for ages, really.
‘Summer!’ Seth says in relief. ‘You should have seen the Hall – it was chaos. We lost sight of you.’
‘I know,’ I say, ‘sorry – you know how I can’t stand riots of any kind. I slipped off to the library,’ I silently pray none of the others decided to go to the library.
‘Thought that’s where you’d be,’ Seth says, grinning, ‘we wanted to join you, but Nathan and Talia insisted we all stay here – like there’s a million mutant rats running around. Al’s completely traumatised.’ I look over by the fire, where Rose has a comforting arm around Albus’s shoulders, and roll my eyes; that kid is far more devious than he looks – just ask the Fat Lady.
I follow Seth over to the knot of first-years in the corner. Anthony and Aaron are playing Gobstones by the fire with Samantha and Bonnie, and beside them sits Rose, her arm still around Albus, Tristan and Alice.
‘Ah, poor little Albus,’ I say as he shoots me an I’m-milking-it-for-all-I’m-worth look.
Tristan, though he knows nothing, rolls his eyes at this, and musses up Albus’s hair. ‘Idiot. You just want the girls fussing over you,’ he gives Alice a dark look as he speaks, and I notice Alice’s reassuring arm on Albus’ shoulder too. Seth suddenly looks like thunder too.
It takes Albus a while to figure this out. ‘Urgh, guys! One of them is my cousin, you all know what that means, right? And the other’s my friend!’ he looks revolted.
‘We didn’t really – think that –’ Seth falters, looking awkward, though the red flush has drained from his cheeks – he probably forgot in his moment of jealousy. Boys! Always want to be the centre of attention. And they were acting like me and Rose were drama queens too.
‘Well, it’s not illegal, you know,’ Tristan says slyly, breaking the tense atmosphere – and Albus and Rose both chuck cushions in his face, Alice wading in to make it ‘fair’.
‘Seth?’ Rose says appealingly, offering him a cushion. As expected, my brother the lapdog takes the pillow, and gets Tristan in the eyes!
‘Seth!’ I say reproachfully – and whack Rose, Albus and Seth in the face with three spare cushions.
‘Wise choice, Summer,’ Alice says seriously, ‘the other team are, like, psychotic or something.’
‘Says the arsonist herself!’ Rose contradicts furiously – and gets another sly cushion in, so it blows past my eye and gets Alice in the mouth.
She splutters, fluff dangling from her mouth. ‘Roooooooooooooooooooooooose!’ she screeches. ‘I have things in my mouth I never even knew existed! Rose!’
Right,’ I say – and hit Rose squarely in the right cheek.
‘Now we can’t have that!’ says Nathan hotly, eyes steaming up in fury, desk pilled with books, books – and, oh, before I forget – books!
‘Yes, fun’s not usually on the agenda, is it?’ I say – and we all laugh, causing the badger himself to crawl from his hole to confront us.
‘Right,’ he says pompously, finger jabbing the space between us, ‘I’ll have twenty points off for cheek –’ he’s cut off by a loud and furious tirade of catcalls.
‘You can’t do that, Taylor –’
‘This is your own house –’
‘Where’s the justice in the world?’
‘Shut up Albus! You CANNOT just take random points off for talking in the common-’
‘Nathan Taylor, this is absolutely-’
‘Just shut up, the lot of you,’ I say, my mind reverting back to the missing woman in the chaos of the common room, ‘it’s only points. I’m going to bed.’ Slowly, I make my path out of the room, ignoring the stunned looks on the faces of my friends.
The dormitory is silent. As always, the hanging red velvet curtains wait to be swept apart, the bed neatly tucked in and rectangle. I collapse on my bed and lie there with my head in my hands until I hear the gentle tapping of Rose’s feet on the stairway.
A terrible, terrible sound fills the creaking stairs; a scream so painful, high-pitched, penetrating the very skin I live in, torturing the insides of my soul and wrenching my heart right out and stamping, stamping, stamping – it’s horror, it’s unbearable, I can’t – I can’t – hear anymore…
‘Help me! Help me! Help-’abruptly, the young woman is cut off by the sound of a deep voiced, rough stranger, hissing in an ear, and I can see his eyes, his awful eyes, yellowing and amber and glowing…green, amber, red…
‘Summer! Wake up! SUMMER!’
‘Rose?’ I sit up, confused. ‘Hey! Stop slapping me!’
‘Sorry,’ she gasps, ‘I only got up for a glass of milk – when I passed your bed to get to the door, I saw you twisting and turning in your bed. Couldn’t see much in the dark,’ she gabbles, ‘but you looked in the middle of some deep nightmare. Go back to sleep.’
Warily, my brain obeys this bossy, concerned voice, and I shut down again, plunging into blackness. I don’t dream again.
‘Summer, are you OK?’ Rose asks as I brush through the long tendrils of my hair, shadows dark under my hollow eyes.
‘What? Oh, right, fine, I suppose. Just lost a bit of sleep, you know,’ I yawn aggressively.
‘Well, if that’s all it is,’ Rose shrugs, ‘we’re going to be late for breakfast, so hurry up – I’ll wait for you in the common room. Alice went down ages ago.’ She leaves.
I keep brushing through my hair, still struck by the events in my dream. I mean, I know it wasn’t real, but – but what if something awful did happen? And how did my subconscious create such a horrible, piercing scream? Where did I get those haunting, fear-inspiring eyes?
I twist my hair into a topknot, frowning over the strain to keep my eyes open. Yawning again and remembering Rose is waiting, I grab my bag, and follow Bonnie through the door, trying to focus on the stairs.
‘What’ve we got first, Summer?’ Bonnie asks sleepily.
‘Er,’ though I had today’s timetable memorised yesterday, I struggle to shift my brain into chronological order now, ‘study-no, Defence. Yeah, Defence.’
‘There you are!’ Rose says, tapping her watch maddeningly. ‘We’ve got to go, Summer.’
‘Alright,’ I say, in sloth mode, and walk by her side through the portrait hole.
‘You alright, Summer?’ Albus asks as we sit down, noticing my tired, distracted eyes.
‘Yeah, I’m fine, thanks,’ Rose answers sneakily, and they start a silly little argument, allowing me time to rest my head on the table, glad my hair is tied up, because otherwise it’d be in the juice jug.
‘What is up with you?’ Tristan asks rudely as he slips in next to me.
‘Well, you’d best get sharp now, we’ve got Slade first,’ Tristan replies with what I imagine to be a disgusted expression – not being able to see for myself.
‘Yeah, we’re starting on Verdimillious today,’ I hear Alice say, somewhere on the table, ‘and will you please sit up? I feel like I’m talking to a teapot.’
I lift my head, laughing a little. ‘A teapot! Alice!’
‘At least my teapot looks at me,’ Tristan mutters.
‘Where’s Seth?’ I say, looking around properly for the first time.
‘Went to get dear Rose the book she left in the common room,’ Tristan says with a secret grin.
‘Oh, is it that obvious?’ I say despairingly.
‘Yep,’ Alice says, lowering her voice, but Rose is still arguing with Albus anyway, ‘he’s like a little puppy dog. I can’t think why Rose hasn’t noticed yet.’
‘Yet?’ I say in horror, sitting up straight.
Alice gives me a tragic look. ‘C’mon, Sum, none of us are stupid.’
I think about Albus and the rat yesterday, and smile.
Later on, in Defence, I try to concentrate long enough to learn about the Verdimillious charm, which is used to reveal objects concealed by the dark arts, and causes green sparks that harm the opponent – or victim, due to a green electrical discharge that crackles and explodes around the chosen person. Professor Slade makes us practice the charm in pairs of our choice – for once. I thought she believed more in dictatorship, to be honest. Either way, I’d much rather cause pain to William Upton than one of my friends, or maybe even -
‘Want to be pairs?’ Seth says eagerly, sitting down regardless of my opinion.
‘You do realize one of us will have to send painful green sparks that contain electricity at the other?’ I say directly.
‘You don’t waste time,’ Seth says, ‘and it can’t hurt that much. I think it’s only meant to be a mild offence charm – just to put your opponent off, or distract them long enough to hit them with a really good spell.’
‘Oh, well that’s alright then,’ I say sarcastically.
‘My sister, the pessimist,’ Seth grins, but all I can hear is the screaming in my ears – and somehow the green flames licking around me symbolise another spell. A deadly one…the rushing in my ears could be the thieving of life, the green flashes a vision of death…
‘Say the charm, then,’ Seth says impatiently, doing his jiggle thing again so I know he’s nervous.
‘Can’t,’ I say, ‘my wand – it won’t cast the spell properly,’ I frown down at the twisty
vines, remembering what Ollivander warned.
But beware Ms Spear…this is not a wand to be treated lightly; you must do it justice,
and use it in the correct frame of mind – believe in the wand, Ms Spear…
I can’t, another voice in my head hisses, I can’t hurt my brother.
‘Summer, please, the suspense is killing me!’ he begs. I shake my head.
‘Dear oh dear,’ says Professor Slade with a trademark tut, ‘we aren’t quite up to it yet, are we?’ she walks away with a devious smile.
‘Oh no you don’t!’ Seth says hastily, grabbing my wand arm as I attempt to throw green sparks at our teacher.
‘You should’ve let me,’ I growl, ‘I’d have given her what-for.’
Seth bursts out laughing, and even I have to join in. Only a little.
Regardless, we waste so much time messing around we don’t have to do the stinking spell.
‘Though we’ll see what help that is in the practical exam,’ spits Slade as we leave. I give her a pitying look and follow my brother through the door.
‘Transfiguration next,’ Alice groans, feeling her fingers gingerly where Tristan must have sent green sparks at her. See? Plain dangerous.
‘In today’s lesson we will be re-capping Switching spells in preparation for your Christmas mocks – theory and practical,’ Professor Thomas says as we sit down, me on the edge of my seat next to old Upton again. ‘Now, who can recall what switching spells are?’
‘Ooh, ooh!’ Rose cries, flinging her arm into the air. As soon as she gets the say-so, she babbles: ‘The Switching spell is one of many transforming spells used to swap two different objects for one other. My mum, for example, advised just the same thing in her fourth-year-’
‘When Dad was entered for the tri-wizard tournament!’ Albus adds.
‘Yes, Albus,’ Rose says complacently, ‘and basically, what she did was recommend to Al’s Dad he should turn the dragon’s fangs into wine gums. You know, when Harry Potter was facing the Horntail,’ a hush falls over the class.
‘Take ten points for Gryffindor,’ Professor Thomas says at last, smiling at her, ‘the perfect example. In today’s lesson, we will be using the Switching spell to swap a Pygmy Puff’s fur for wool-yes, Miss Spear?’
‘Won’t it hurt the poor little thing?’ I ask anxiously – ignoring the incredulous snorts of William Upton beside me.
‘We have of course taken steps to ensure no creature is harmed in the process,’ Professor Thomas ensures me – but this isn’t good enough.
‘You sound like the ministry,’ I say before Seth’s widened eyes can stop me, ‘like you’ve just swallowed a text book. I want to know what real steps are being taken to make sure they’re safe and happy.’
‘Happy?’ splutters Henry Jones. ‘Who cares if they’re happy? They’re magical creatures, for goodness sake – the whole point is to test our knowledge and practical skills, the actual objects don’t mat-’
‘Objects?’ I breathe. ‘Objects? It’s people like you that make me sick, Henry Jones-’
‘Here, here,’ says Tillie Lewis, shrugging when people stare at her, ‘I want to know the animals are safe, too.’ I give her relieved smile.
The class turns to Professor Thomas. ‘Well, children,’ he says, looking a little bemused, ‘that’s the first time a class has been most concerned about that,’ “humph”, says Henry Jones, ‘and I must say, I’m impressed. Alright Miss Spear, Miss Lewis – removing a Pygmy Puff’s fur does not cause them any distress at all; they’ll barely notice, and I’ll be monitoring the activity in the classroom very carefully. That answer your query, ladies?’ We nod. ‘Good, now, on with the lesson – I have split you all into pairs. One member of the group will record the amount of points they would expect the performer to get in the exam; and the other will perform the spell and the reversal, and we’ll keep swapping round until everyone’s been recorder and performed both spells adequately.’
‘Are we in the twos we’re sitting next to?’ Aaron asks, glancing at Anthony, Bonnie and Samantha.
‘It depends,’ says Professor Thomas, ‘I have decided to put you all into alphabetical order –’ I silently pray I’ll be with Seth alphabetically, and not William. ‘Victoria, you will be with Tristan. The rest will be as follows: Alice and Greg (Gwen groans), Gwen and Isaac, Jamie and Mae, Esme and Aaron, Henry and Tillie (“no!” cries Tillie), Anthony and Samantha, Albus and Seth-’
‘No sir, please!’ I say. ‘I can’t be with that vile animal-slayer!’
‘Speak for yourself,’ grumbles William, ‘but I’d rather not be with some creature-freak, either.’
‘Oi!’ Seth says, starting forwards – but Professor Thomas puts up a hand to stop him; I know my twin must be really mad then, because he’s called me a mental animal-rescuer all my life. I guess the term ‘freak’ was a step too far.
‘Right,’ Professor Thomas says, ‘fifteen points off Ravenclaw – yes, I’m afraid so, Mr Jones; not that it’s any of your business. Right, Summer, you can go with Rose – and William, you can go with Bonnie. OK?’
‘Not fair,’ Bonnie mutters – but consends after I give her a pleading look.
‘Right,’ Rose says, rolling up her sleeves as she takes William’s place, ‘let’s get started.’
Predictably, Rose gets both spells right on her first try, seeming deaf to everyone’s praises and insisting the pressure of the exam will ruin her perfect record. I experience more problems, as I’m unwilling to remove the poor puff’s fur. Rose tells me I’m just as good as her, reminding me of the needle, and saying it’s all in my mind. I remember Defence and Ollivander’s words, and look down at my wand worriedly.
Use it in the correct frame of mind.
Swallowing a fur-ball in my own throat, I start to practise the spell, achieving the right results on my fourth try – the other tries being spoilt by my mental block. Although I still feel guilty, I’m glad I performed the spell, and vow to shock Professor Slade in the practical Defence exam in a month and a bit’s time.
Absentmindedly, I stroke the Pygmy puff as Rose and I wait for the rest of the class to finish (as most people are slower than Rose to catch on), feeling a warm flush of heat as the creature quivers in my hands. I tickle the puff under her chin, delighting in her shining eyes. I think I might’ve fallen in love.
‘Summer, time to put her back in the box – and don’t worry, it’s open with air-holes,’ Rose grins.
‘Aaah, c’mon Rose…just let me keep this one,’ I beg, as she blinks her fluffy eyelashes.
‘I think Seth must be right!’ Rose giggles. ‘You are a little mental, aren’t you?’ Not having the will to push her, I keep stroking the tiny creature in my arms, feeling she really does belong to me. ‘Summer! Give her back! Come on! The lesson’s nearly over.’
‘Uh-oh,’ Seth says to Rose, ‘she’s gone all misty-eyed. She’s never giving that puff back; trust me, Rose.’
But Professor Thomas takes matters into his own hands, and holds out the box full of trembling puffs in front me. I think about running, puff and all, but decide there’s no point. Besides, I can’t afford to get on the wrong side of another teacher.
‘Thank you,’ Professor Thomas says, rattling the box at the next pair. I give a wistful sigh.
This does not go unmissed by Rose, who says sadly: ‘We had to, Summer. You’ve got Earl, anyway.’
I sigh again.
After Transfiguration, it’s break, and we make our way outside, shrouded in our cloaks, but they offer little protection against the whooshing cold. I wonder if the Pygmy puffs are cold, too – then my thoughts turn darker, towards the missing woman. Maybe she’s lying dumped somewhere, legs splayed over the floor? Maybe she’s trapped in an icy cave, perhaps screaming again, banging on the walls and begging, begging the deep-voiced man to let her out -
‘I’ll get you one for our birthday, if you like,’ Seth says, ‘as long as you stop giving us that look.’
‘Huh?’ I say blankly. ‘Oh, right. You don’t have to.’
‘Are you kidding?’ Tristan grins.
‘I’d love one!’ I gasp suddenly.
‘Well, we’ve only got until December 16th,’ Seth says.
‘That’s only 45 days away,’ Rose says cheerfully, as she plans on taking Arithmancy too.
‘Or six weeks and three days,’ Alice chips in – and I don’t know which answer sounds further away, or whether Logan and I will have solved the mystery by then. I hope so anyway – I can’t bear to spend my birthday miserable, especially not with a Pygmy Puff of my very own, too.
‘So our birthday’s on a Saturday, and Christmas a Monday,’ Seth says happily, ‘anyone else got a birthday soon?’
But it turns out no one does. Tristan had a quiet affair two days before Halloween; Alice’s birthday isn’t until April, Rose’s May and Albus’ August (which we tease and coo at him quite a lot for).
The bell rings, and we head towards Herbology, which is a ground floor lesson anyway. Though I urgently need to speak to Logan, I’m glad to have shaken off the Ravenclaws for once. It seems like we have them for everything these days, and I’m getting increasingly frustrated with every passing lesson.
‘Today we will be learning how to deal with the Devil’s snare,’ Professor Longbottom starts. ‘Who can tell me, based on what I’ve already told you about this particular species of plant, what may be used to handle their wrath?’
‘Fire,’ Alice whispers, blushing to the roots of her flaming red hair.
‘Precisely – ten points for Gryffindor. Who can tell me the incantation for producing fire?’
‘Incendio,’ Trevor Longbottom says at once, and only Rose has the heart to look disappointed.
‘Ten points for Hufflepuff,’ Professor Longbottom beams, ‘now, can anyone summarise this information, for an extra five points?’
This time Rose refuses to be beaten. ‘In summary,’ she says loudly, ‘fire is the element used to deal with the Devil’s snare – and the incantation for fire is Incendio.’
‘Good girl,’ Professor Longbottom nods, ‘take five points for Gryffindor. Now, I want you all to practise – safely – the incantation for fire on the Devil’s snare, as you will require this skill in the practical exam. Get yourselves into groups of three, as there is only room for three people per table in Greenhouse one, and it is a safety requirement.’
‘C’mon, Rose,’ Alice and Tristan say firmly, dragging her over to the table at the back, ‘we need to get this exactly right.’
‘Oh, great,’ I say, ‘Alice already knows how to produce fire, and Rose will make sure Tristan does it perfectly, too.’
‘We’ll show ’em!’ Albus says fiercely. ‘C’mon guys, let’s start some fires!’
Looking bewildered, Seth tugs me over to the table next to Rose’s.
‘What’s gotten into him?’ Seth asks, and I just shake my head. Mysteries seem to be on the agenda this year.
Half an hour later, we’ve all perfected the spell, though Alice insists her team rule.
‘Yeah, only because you’re a junior arsonist,’ Seth retorts.
‘Says the-’ Alice has to think for a while, ‘says the-’
‘Says the what?’ Seth says sarcastically, while Albus chuckles in the background. ‘Thought not.’
‘Urgh!’ Alice says furiously.
‘You should try being his cousin,’ Rose says darkly.
‘Or the Fat Lady,’ I say – and everyone laughs.
‘Study period!’ Tristan yells as soon as we’re out of the Greenhouse.
My brain starts ticking. Logan said he’d find out whether the woman’s on the school records and if there are any identifiable traces on her. I wonder how to sneak off this time – after that other time and Halloween night, they’re bound to be extra suspicious if I go ‘missing’ again. And how on earth can we fit in a trip to Hogsmeade through a hole in the wall?
‘Preoccupation alert,’ Alice teases, waving a hand in front of my eyes. I watch the hand, a little hypnotised, blind to the tears of laughter running down my friends’ faces.
‘The Pygmy puff,’ Tristan says in a low voice to Seth, who quickly agrees.
‘Well, I’m glad you’re all entertained,’ I say tartly, ‘but I have places to be.’
‘Where?’ says a puzzled Rose. ‘I thought we could all play Wizard chess again-’
‘Never again Rose,’ I say seriously, ‘got to dash!’ I start running before any voices can stop me, thinking I probably should have had a better plan in place – but oh well, they must be used to it now, I suppose.
‘There you are,’ Logan says when I find him lurking at a table, head bent over a big red book, ‘how long did it take you to get away?’
I make a non-committal noise. ‘Is that the records book?’
‘Very perceptive of you, Summer,’ Logan says – and I make a face at him.
‘Found anything?’ I say – dropping the casual nature.
‘Not yet,’ he frowns, putting the book at an angle so we can both see it.
‘Are you looking at the registered students from 2009?’ I ask. ‘That’s eight years ago. So she would’ve attended from 2002-2009. Look into the early 2000s-late.’
‘There’s so much to shift through,’ Logan says, ‘and it took me ages to find it – it was wedged between Hogwarts: A History and Want to transfigure your friends-’
‘Tristan has that,’ I say brightly.
Logan gives me a stony look. ‘That’s nice, Summer,’ he says, with a touch of irony, ‘now can we get on with this, please?’
‘OK, I get that you’re not friends with Tristan,’ I say, ‘but that’s no reason to be in such a foul mood.’ When he doesn’t reply, I say directly: ‘What’s up, then? Tell me.’
Logan sighs, one finger still trailing down a page. ‘Steve,’ he mumbles, so I have to stretch my ears to hear, ‘bumped into him just after third period. Sneered at me as usual, acting like a total – like a –’
‘I sit next to him in History of Magic,’ I say sympathetically, ‘I’m really sorry, Logan. He’s not particularly nice about you there, either. I thought it was weird at the time – I guess some people are just not…compatible, or something.’
‘How could you understand?’ Logan says gruffly. ‘You and your brother get on great. You’re so lucky,’ he stabs at the page with a fingernail.
‘Sorry for trying to,’ I snap, and we lapse into a distant silence. I keep my eyes off the page.
‘You could at least help me,’ he says after a while, ‘I thought this mattered to you.’
‘It does!’ I shout – and Madam Pince gives me a ferocious look. ‘It does!’ I whisper.
Logan, it seems, can’t contain his sudden outbreak of laughter.
‘Yes, the disappearance of a woman is so funny I can’t hold my sides for malicious giggling,’ I say – but in just a moment, we’re both doing just that.
‘We are evil, evil people,’ Logan says, ‘nah, I’m joking – psychologically, we feel less scared inside to treat it like a joke. It’s our coping mechanism.’
My jaw drops. ‘Thank you, Healer Turner,’ I say, gobsmacked, ‘thank you very much for that diagnosis.’
‘I don’t know what it means,’ Logan insists, looking surprised by my reaction, ‘it was just something my Dad once said to me, is all.’
‘Right,’ I say, narrowing my eyes, ‘let’s carry on, shall we?’
‘That’s what I’ve been trying to do!’ an incredulous Logan cries.
‘Yeah, in-between laughing,’ I say, turning the page swiftly.
Logan shakes his head when he thinks I’m not looking, but I choose to ignore this.
‘Where are you?’ I say, flicking through the previous pages.
‘What’s her name again?’ Logan asks. ‘We might’ve passed it through sheer exhaustion.’
‘Janet, isn’t it?’ I say. ‘Janet Parker.’ Somehow, I don’t think I’ll ever forget that name.
We’re running out of time fast, though; it’s only twenty minutes ’til Potions. And our mock exam’s soon!
I go through the already ruffled pages with a new sense of urgency – and stop by a page, trembling.
‘Logan,’ I say quietly, ‘look at this.’
In the place of the M-P name section of registered students from 2002 is a few ripped pieces of paper flapping tauntingly in the breeze. She isn’t here – because someone, somewhere, tore her from the records. And I know what that means.
It means they don’t want her found.
‘Creepy or what?’ Logan says, staring down at the missing page.
For once, I have nothing to say.
In Potions, Professor Oswald introduces us to the Cure for Boils. I try to focus, but my heart has stilled. I think I can remember reading about it or something, although my brain movement seems strangely slow, too. I wrestle with numerous disturbing thoughts, the next always more unpleasant than the previous. I’m torn between two things: wishing I’d never read about any of this, and a strong desire to solve this – find the monster that ripped out the record of Janet Parker’s life-what if she’s ripped from the earth, too? Face down in a shallow, lonely grave? What if-?
‘-you would just listen, Miss Spear,’ Oswald’s voice drifts through my ears.
‘What?’ I say abruptly.
‘Perhaps you can tell us the brewing instructions,’ he says, ‘much as I appreciate the time of day, I expect good behaviour from every student of mine; particularly one as enthusiastic as yourself.’
‘Sorry sir,’ I say, ignoring the kick from Logan and casting my mind back to my Grandma’s soft voice, telling me how she got rid of the boil on her neck when she was fourteen. It’s her voice I hear when I say: ‘Just add six snake fangs to the mortar, crush into a fine powder using the pestle, and add four measures of the crushed fangs to your cauldron, and then heat the mixture to 250 for ten seconds. After that, you should wave your wand over it, leave it to brew for three quarters of an hour, and then add four horned slugs to your cauldron (the poor things), and then be sure to take your cauldron off the fire before adding your next ingredient; which is porcupine quills – add two of them, and then stir five times – and finally, wave your wand again to complete the potion. That’s all.’ I realize the class are staring at me, as always when I reveal the embarrassing amount of information I know about different potions. Oh gosh. Kill – me – now. Please?
‘That’s all?’ snorts Scorpius Malfoy. ‘You haven’t got any more instructions hidden up your sleeve, have you? Because if you ha-’
‘Shut up,’ Logan snaps suddenly from beside me, ‘she didn’t write them. You’re just jealous.’
‘Jealous?’ Scorpius snaps back. ‘Jealous?’
‘Quieten down children; or I promise to give you all the reverse of today’s topic. Now, of course, Miss Spear’s rather large goblet of information is exactly right – take twenty points for Gryffindor – yes, twenty, Mr Malfoy. I don’t remember asking your opinion.’
‘Yeah!’ Seth hisses at Malfoy, giving Logan an odd look at the same time.
I notice Rose shift ever so slightly in her seat.
‘Now, from Miss Spear, I trust you all know this potion takes well over forty-five minutes so we’ll have to get started as soon as possible. You will do this potion individually, and it may well end up being in your exam, so I suggest you concentrate.’ Malfoy mutters something to Noah Zabini, who nods his head profusely. I resist the urge to glare, but give Logan a grateful smile, for sticking up for me in a room full of Slytherins – and his ex-friends. I bet he’ll get hassled for that later, too, in his common room. Poor Logan – he always seems to get the raw end of the deal; with my House, his House, his own brother. Even his friends Beatrix Lowsley and Richard and Isadora Hargreaves look slightly irked. I hate to think he’ll have a hard time because of me.
‘Pass me a fang, Summer,’ Logan says without looking at me, still looking slightly embarrassed.
I toss him the fang, testing his seeker skills, and he catches it with one hand, grinning at me in an appreciatory manner.
Seth shakes his head at me, like I’m the enemy for giving a Slytherin a snake fang. It’s pathetic really, the prejudice between the two houses, really, really, pathetic. It’s ignorance, that’s what it is, I fume over the slow rise and fall of bubbles in my moving cauldron.
Although Albus is aware of the situation, he still looks fairly annoyed – though not half as much as stupid, white-blonde Scorpius in the corner.
‘They’ll get over it,’ Logan says out of the corner of his mouth.
‘When?’ I growl.
‘One day,’ he says mysteriously, ‘just not any day soon.’ I add two porcupine quills to my mixture and stir five times; finally waving my vine-covered wand over it, feeling some of my emotions float away with the gentle drift of wafting Boil cure.
‘Well done, Miss Spear!’ Professor Oswald says delightedly. ‘Gather round, everyone – Miss Spear has completed her Potion already, while the rest of you are still waiting for the forty-five minute stage to be over! The perfect example!’
Yes, thank you sir. Thank you for condemning me. As one, the Slytherins (apart from Logan, who gives me a jokey glare) throw me looks of utter poison, and even some Gryffindors look murderous. Awkward.
‘Well done, Summer!’ beams Rose, blind to Scorpius’s stare.
‘Look at how it rises! The colour of the essence…you have a real flair for this, Miss Spear, that much is clear. I’m almost tempted to give you another twenty points-’ the Slytherins square their shoulders, ‘but I don’t feel the atmosphere could bear it. Oh well – take ten points instead, and maybe once the rest of the class have torn away their bitter eyes, they’ll realize it’s for their own benefit, too,’ he adds in a much quieter voice as the class make their way back to their seats.
‘Top of the class again,’ Logan says with raised eyebrows.
‘Only in Potions,’ I say with a roll of my eyes.
Logan coughs, and in that cough, I hear something that I could almost swear sounds like: “Quidditch”. I look at him suspiciously.
Logan whistles and gazes off into the distance. I feel a shoulder bash mine, and swivel round to see Scorpius, face screwed up in dislike.
‘Been showing off again, have we?’ he says nastily. ‘I suppose you get a kick out of it…my father told me any friend of a Weasley or Potter is bound to be a pig-headed little freak.’
‘Woops!’ with a lunging gesture, Logan “accidentally” knocks over his potion – which he hasn’t taken off the fire – and Scorpius screams in agony as a thousand boils erupt over his face. With another howl, he runs from the room, feeling his face gingerly.
There’s a tense silence. I think I catch a satisfied look on Rose’s face.
‘Well, well, well,’ tuts Professor Oswald, ‘another perfect example – of how things can go absolutely wrong when you leave your cauldron on the fire, Mr Turner. Five points off Slytherin.’ But I catch him give the tiniest of winks.
‘Thanks,’ I say, a little shell-shocked, ‘but you could’ve got into serious trouble, Logan-’
‘Who cares?’ his fingers shake in anger as he mops up his potion. ‘He’s been making stupid little digs all week – I’ve had enough, alright?’ he wipes the desktop aggressively.
I widen my eyes in alarm. ‘Why? What’s he been saying?’
‘Doesn’t matter,’ he grumbles, ‘the point is, I’m sick of him. Sick of his weasel face and sneering comments – and,’ he pauses to dry the dripping table, ‘and I’m sick of his sly little friends.’
‘I wish I could do something-’
‘Well you can’t-’
‘Maybe if you spoke to your Head of House-’
‘What, dragon-woman? No thank-’
‘Well, you’ve got to do something,’ I say briskly, ‘show him whose boss.’
‘As if, Summer,’ he snaps. ‘It’s not like I haven’t tried anyway. What do you think I am? A coward?’
‘No,’ I say in a hurt voice. ‘You just can’t let Scorpius Malfoy ruin your li-’
‘He called you a freak, Summer,’ he spits as the bell rings, ‘doesn’t that mean something? Or do you actually like being called a-’
Tears welling in my eyes, I brush past him and leave the room, at this moment in time sick of them all. The Ravenclaws…the Slytherins…the creepy mystery…everything! I wish it would all just – just go away. I don’t even give a rat’s fart about the Quidditch trials, either. They can all turn into saggy pants for all I care-
I don’t realize where I am until I nearly go smack bang into a shuddering wall.
I look up at the yellow stone, whispering the words in my head until, with a great groan, it forms the shape of a door. A black, vine-covered door. I push open the handle and find myself again in a mess of cushions, bright candles, and of course, newspapers.
Maybe it would be more productive of me to figure out this lot than go to pieces because of a bunch of insensitive Slytherin boys. I finger the crowd of papers, taking special notice of Janet’s. I wonder what the others will read? Have there been perhaps other disappearances? I brace myself, take a torch, and slowly read the newspapers fumbling in my fingers, starting with the Halloween nightmare, as this might help me piece together the mystery:
There are 4 articles, and they are as follows:
1. WOMAN VANISHES ON HALLOWEEN NIGHT
2.YOB ON THE ROB (a young man called Daniel Spade, a local thief, is suspected of having a hand in Janet's disappearance)
3. WAS SISTER INVOLVED? (the 13-year-old sister of Janet Parker is accused of having something to do with the disappearance of her older sister)
4. IS CAVE HIDEOUT? (Police theory as to where Spade, Janet's sister and Janet are hidden)
I put down the newspapers, shaking. Somehow, these all add up, and my job is to fit together the missing pieces of the jigsaw puzzle…but if I’m to investigate Hogsmeade, how will I slip past all the ministry officials? They’ll take me straight back up to the school for sure.
I pause, thinking hard. Where there’s a will…
The Cloak, a voice hisses in my ear, take the cloak.
I bite my fingernails, deliberating. Will Albus give it to me…or will I have to take it?
Having no idea of the next stage of my plan, I start to walk towards the door, shivering up at the cold cobwebs hanging around the walls, the red, screwed-up bats that somehow remind me of blood…
I leave the room quickly, blinking up at the sudden shaft of light coming through the open window. I realize I’m running out of time…so do I get the cloak off Albus now, or sneak back for it later, at night, while everyone’s sleeping?
My stomach tightens at the thought of wondering through the dangerous village alone, even in the cloak, because who knows what strange powers this Daniel Spade might possess, and his sick accomplice Parker, whose callous involvement in her sister’s disappearance shows she would have no problem silencing a stranger…if she was involved. Regardless, I can’t take any chances. Everyone involved is a suspect now.
I somehow make it back to the common room, hastily babbling the password to the sleepy-looking Fat Lady. When I enter, the common room is full; I spot James Potter and his friends with their heads down by the fire, talking lowly, a few fourth-year girls filling out an Astronomy chart in armchairs, and behind them, Rose, Albus, Seth, Alice and Tristan, playing wizard chess. I try to steady my breathing before I join them, heart hammering, and resolving to steal away tonight. The room presented me with these newspapers for a reason, and I can’t give up now. It’s weird…but I almost feel a duty to uncover the truth, like I’ll be just as guilty as the criminals if I don’t. If you know something terrible, you’re supposed to do something about it, aren’t you? And I stick by my morals. This woman must be found – alive or dead, or the reign of terrible and mystery will grip the small village of Hogsmeade forever, and before long, students will no longer be allowed to visit. How long before someone else goes missing? No, I have to act now.
‘Want to join?’ Rose says. ‘You must be tired of the library by now.’
‘Yeah, we thought we’d give you some space,’ Tristan says, making his Knight move three spaces, so it takes out one of Rose’s white pieces.
It’s funny to see normal life goes on somewhere, and I struggle to reply without being sick with fear.
‘I was finishing some Transfiguration homework,’ I shrug, ‘and who’s on whose team?’
‘Well,’ Rose begins bossily, ‘Seth and I have paired up, and Tristan and Albus – Alice is referee - since you would’ve made the numbers even.’
‘Sorry,’ I say guiltily, ‘but don’t you think you should’ve been referee? It’s just, you know the game inside out, and it would be fairer, since you happen to win every single time.’
‘That’s what the others thought,’ says Rose with a sly grin, ‘but I have my ways.’
‘I bet you do,’ Alice mutters, so only I can hear.
‘I think I might get off upstairs,’ I say, ‘I’m really tired.’
Seth stares at me, looking suspicious. ‘It’s five o’clock, Summer – and you had an early night yesterday. What’s up with you?’
Thank you very much, Seth, for your brotherly concern. Though I do realize I can’t keep using that excuse – which is why I’ll head off tonight. If everyone thinks I crashed early, they’ll never suspect I snuck off really late. I marvel at this theory, before the crushing fear returns again.
‘Nothing’s up, Seth,’ I roll my eyes, and pretend to be my ordinary light-hearted self, ‘the days are so long, that’s all. I might do some studying or something,’ I add, remembering what Logan said earlier. It might do me some good after all.
‘Should’ve known,’ Seth grins, ‘and I thought Rose was a-ow!’
I grin as I trot upstairs, watching as my brother has a pillow fight, four-on-one. On any other day, I’d take them all out with one blow…but today, today I have other things on my mind.
When no one’s looking, I creep over to the left side instead of right, and push open the handle for the boy’s dormitories. Albus’ stuff will be through the first door, the first-year dormitory. Thankfully, neither Anthony nor Aaron are in there. If they weren’t downstairs, I’d have some serious explaining to do.
The first bed belongs to Seth, a parallel to my own in the girl’s dormitory. Albus’ is the one next to it. I pull his trunk from underneath, and feeling indecent, begin to root through his things, slightly rhythmically. I find a book called Quidditch through the Ages, the remains of a box of owl biscuits, a huge packet of Bertie’s every-flavour beans (I pinch a few red ones; one tomato, the other strawberry, and one ketchup, yuk), a solid gold cauldron (which brings back innocent memories of the excitable summer holidays, my namesake), a moving model of a broomstick, which I take a moment to handle, remembering the trials on Saturday…and finally, the silvery cloak, concealed under a few woolly jumpers clearly made by his maternal Grandmother, Molly Weasley. This brings back sad memories this time, of my own grandmother - would she be proud of me, or think I’m making a stupid mistake? Isn’t bravery the biggest trait of a Gryffindor; facing the unknown even when you’re scared? Isn’t this a way of fulfilling my supposedly great destiny?
I guess I’ll never know. Trembling a little, I take the wispy cloak in my hands, mumble a ‘sorry’ to Albus (though he’ll never hear it), and zip it up again, shoving it back under the bed. I look at the crumpled corners of Seth’s bed for a while after that, comparing it to my own messy bundle. Smiling a little, I head to the girls’ dormitories.
Nobody is in there either. Fighting back a growing sense of loneliness, I choke down a sob somewhere deep in my cheek, and sit tenuously on the edge of my bed, flicking through The Standard Book of Spells: Grade One and hoping very much that everything goes to plan, although I don’t really have a concrete one. I don’t even know if I’ll change into my pyjamas – but won’t a shower calm my nerves a little? I decide it will, and carefully set my alarm clock for midnight, making sure its sound is a low purr only I will be able to hear, as long as it's snuggled into my chest.
My tartan pyjamas are waiting behind my huge fluffy pillows, and I grab those too, setting off to the bathroom. I make sure the cloak is well hidden in my trunk before I leave.
I release my long blonde hair from its gripping bun as the warm water floods down my back, calming and a comfort for my troubled soul. I rinse my hair wildly with mint-scented shampoo, my favourite Potions essence. I’d give anything to be brewing a nice mixture right now, safe from the dangers lurking in the real world. I’d give anything to feel as free as the softly wafting billows of steam floating towards the surface, through the gap in the shower, and vanishing without a trace…
Without a trace. I give another shudder.
My shower doesn’t last long after that. I wrap my wet hair in a fluffy pink towel hanging helpfully on a hook, and dry myself very thoroughly before slipping into my pyjamas, cold from the day’s wind. I put another towel around my shoulders to protect my clothes, and stare a little uncomprehendingly into the mirror, wondering how I’ve winded up in a situation like this…but I do know of course. My wild thirst for adventure, uncontrollable curiosity and determination to solve a mystery got me here. I choke on the thoughts I cannot think, the horrors that could be waiting – the horrors I’m throwing myself into…
‘Exaresco!’ I cry, and the water evaporates from my head. It’s an old spell my mother taught me…my sensible, kind-hearted mother. What would she say now? And Dad?
I resist the strong urge to write to my parents, begging them to help me. By the time it reached them, it’d be too late anyway. I have to go tonight, end this now, before something else happens. It’ll be better for us all in the long run – I just hope I don’t go missing, too. As long as I’m back before 6am, everything should be fine…at least, that’s what I tell myself. A deeper voice in my heart knows it isn’t that simple. Nothing ever is. But I can’t allow such dark thoughts to cross my mind now – I can’t let my subconscious brain paralyse me in my bed, so that when the alarm rings, I just lie there…lie there while people get hurt, or Spade strikes again…
However small I feel inside, I know I mustn’t let that stop me. It’s too late, I’m in too deep…I’m trapped.
I put away my History of Magic book at nine o’clock, and settle into my bed, knowing as I’ll only have three hours sleep now; I should’ve gone to bed earlier. What happens if I don’t wake up, or by some chance, Rose in the next bed hears me?
I muffle the small scream that escapes my throat, and let my small bed carry me to a drift less, binding sleep…
I wake with a start, heart going so fast I wonder how it’ll survive the long walk through the village…alone and scared and thump thump thumping…
I check every bed before I leave, covered from head to toe in the cloak, so that even if someone wakes up, they won’t see me. Or my empty bed. I stuff a few jumpers under the covers to make it look full, and spread the bed out a little, as in my anxious sleep, I lay rigid for once, when normally I’m all over the place. Not one hair is sticking up, either.
I tiptoe out of the dark dormitory, taking a moment to look back at my sleeping friends, wondering if I should beg for their help…but no. It wouldn’t be fair to involve anyone else at this stage – and I’m not talking to Logan.
I feel my way downstairs, shivering in my thin pyjamas – but it’s too late to go back for my dressing gown. I am an idiot sometimes. For a second I wonder what on earth I think I’m doing, stumbling through the deserted common room, trotting through the portrait hole and making my way to the statue of fish-eyes…shaking and scared and sleepy…
Fish-eyes glares at me suspiciously as I shift it with Logan’s boat spell, taking a deep, shuddering breath in before entering. The statue has its back to me.
The tunnel is terrifying – tight and compact and rocky – and the blackness, the horrible blackness as I crawl through the hole at brick speed, trying to slow my beating heart and force rational thought through my tired brain – but I want to sleep. I really, really want to sleep -
‘Lumos!’ I have the wit to whisper after fifteen minutes, cursing myself for not thinking of it before. At once, my wand tip lights, and I have fresh hope brewing in my heart. For a mad few minutes, I think I might actually be okay.
The familiar gap of light pierces through a rock at the end of the tunnel, and I perform the boat spell again, feeling the flow of magic gingerly as it moves to let me pass.
With a gulp, I walk out to freedom, tripping a little on my invisible feet, which makes me curl with silent laughter – can’t I even be graceful when there’s nothing of me?
The laughter is very silent, and silvery like the cloak. It contrasts oddly with the lit candles shining above, the inky-blue sky dotted with tiny silver stars. I trace the dots in the sky with my finger, for a moment dazzled by its beauty, and the historic village surrounding me, even Get a grip, Summer, old girl, a voice in my head reminds me, and I shake my head to clear it, reminding myself I’m on a mission. A very dangerous one – so I’ll have to be alert at all times; and this Spade is local, so he’s bound to know the village backwards with his eyes shut. Me? I’m a total rookie.
So the rookie that is me follows the winding path across rocky stones and paving slabs of concrete, pausing occasionally to notice a little shop I’ve heard about from my parents, or a famous bar I’ve read about. My thoughts are beginning to dwindle when I spot the top of a roof making a triangular shape in the sky, hidden well behind a clump of trees. Blindly, I follow the shape, not caring when tree roots rip through my socks, or a branch combs through my hair – I just have to get to the roof – the roof will have the answers, I know it will…
I come to a halt by the tiny cottage, chimney still smoking. Straining upwards, I peer through the misted window, but all I can see is the dark outline of a chair, the flickering of a dead fire.
With a sudden leap of faith, I kick open the window; fragile, it flies off its hinges and falls towards a ground I can’t see. With another deep breath for courage, I scramble through the window, cloak and all, lighting my wand again for good measure. The fire must mean somebody’s been here recently, but it has an air of abandonment…so maybe Using the wand as a firm guide, I scan the room like a hunter, finally resting on an old rickety door, which practically screams ‘dodgy’. I pick my way across the bleeding carpet, and rattle its contents. Sounds pretty full to me – so wasting no more time, I dig my hand in the first draw, and bring out a crumpled piece of parchment. Roused by this, I shine my light further over the yellowing paper, and make out the rough pencilling of a map.
Glancing over my shoulder frantically, lest evil should return, I follow the map with my eyes…yes, it appears to be of Hogsmeade – but all the main features are in the middle: Zonko’s joke shop, sweet shops, The Three Broomsticks, The Hog’s head, the Shrieking Shack…no, it’s the edges that stand out sharply in my mind. Around the hastily drawn map is a scattering of hideouts; this old cottage, the mountains, the forest, a strange lake by the name of ‘Meagan’. Strange…but this surely means something – it means I’m on the right track. I could be so close…
So sleepy. I allow my eyelids time to droop for a moment, and then my brain re-assesses the situation – do I visit all these places now? Or wait ’til another day? What should I do?
I decide it’s best to get this over with now. Glancing at my watch, I read the time to be one thirty. Well that’s OK…I still have ages…
With a spurt of strength, I check the other drawers, but they contain nothing of interest; old packets of food and dried cat food mainly.
I put one leg back through the window, and the rest of my body follows suit, although I can tell I’m near to collapse. Struggling with my weary body, I plough through the forest, intending to visit the mountains first, as I’ve already been through the forest, and there’s really no point in the dark. If I haven’t found anything, I’ll probably go back. Now, where are the mountains? I turn my wand back to the map, and see the pointed drawing near to the edge of the forest – so all I’ve got to do is keep on walking through the ferns, and I should make it – if I don’t trip over a tree root and land flat on my face, that is. I wish I had somebody with me – anybody. In fact, I’m so desperate for company I’d almost take Scorpius Malfoy right now; at least the constant bickering would drown out the fear settling comfortably inside me. At least then I could act tough and brave and daring. Right here, right now, surrounded by nothing but trees, I feel like a shadow. The cloak doesn’t help either – the stolen cloak, that is. My insides give a guilty squirm, but really, what was I supposed to do? Parade around Hogsmeade like a fishhead and shout out to Spade? Without the cloak, I lose my only weapon against this man – and whoever else may be harbouring this dark secret.
Over the top of a small branch, I can see a white tip gleaming against the black – so I can’t be far now. I just have to push my body forwards, and ignore the craving of bed…
I’ve made it! I don’t believe it…I, Summer Spear, have made it! Me! I jump around gleefully for a moment, and then start up the white path, a little too adventure-happy to be nervous at the minute. The minute doesn’t last long; as I reach a wide cave, it’s just as ferocious as ever. The evil tiger gnawing in my troubled chest, out to play again. And I just keep feeding it again and again and – look!
I grapple towards the cause of my speeding thoughts – because what on earth is a cardboard box doing halfway up a huge great mountain? It makes no sense.
Inside the box are pictures. Hesitantly, I pick up the first one, which contains the smiling image of a young brunette girl in her late teens, a Prefect’s badge shining on her chest. She looks happy and hopeful, this girl, the very image of the perfect girl…pretty with gleaming white teeth and curled long hair, a grey rat cart wheeling on her shoulder. The girl smiles and blinks at me, completely unaware of the bleak future that awaits her. I feel like grabbing this girl, shaking her by the shoulders and telling her to get far, far away from here – that terrible things are going to happen. But I can’t. I have to accept that if I’m going to continue my extensive search. I have to be professional, like those people at the ministry.
The others photos follow her progress up to the age of twenty-five – and in each one, she looks just as bright, just as glowing. She doesn’t look like someone in any trouble, someone who might be – someone who could be -
With a robotic-like movement, I go through the pile of photos at the bottom, but these aren’t of her. They’re of another girl, a smaller one…a brown-haired baby with soft tufts sticking straight up…a laughing toddler being grabbed by hands that extend past the photograph…a beaming five-year-old, celebrating her birthday and being cuddled by her loving parents – her sister. And that’s when it clicks. This is the little Parker sister. The one who might’ve betrayed her own sister in the sickest way possible at just thirteen. I think of Seth, and can’t imagine ever wanting to hurt him, to have him disappear from my life…
Voices. I can hear voices. They drift over to me from above, brooding and low but echoing around the caves…
‘...no sign of the girl yet, Kingsley?’
‘None at all, Samantha. But we’ve still got the other side to search…’
The minister for magic! I clamp a hand over my mouth to stop it exclaiming in fear, remembering I’m invisible.
‘Hasn’t been seen since the day he robbed that store. Locals believe he may be hiding out somewhere close…’
The woman (Samantha I guess) lets out a sound of frustration. ‘But we’ve looked everywhere, Kingsley! How far could one man get against us lot?’
‘Don’t forget he still has an accomplice –’
‘-you can’t still suspect the sister, Kingsley. You saw her in court – she was in pieces –’
‘Nonsense! The girl is a skilled liar, you mark my words…’ they shift further up the mountain.
‘Then why was she released?’
‘We had no choice, you know that. No hard evidence. Nothing.’
Their voices float away, too far away for these ears. I let a breath out. Do these photos count as evidence? Things must be really bad if the minister for magic is dealing with this personally – maybe more stuff has happened, stuff the room didn’t show me because it wanted me to act as quickly as possible, or solve the puzzle myself…
Maybe I’d better get out of here now, and take the box with me – my watch reads three twenty-eight, and if I want to grab a few hours’ sleep, I’d better set off now, it’ll take me at least an hour – and it doesn’t feel safe, especially now the minister and his friend are gone. It feels wrong, somehow, to stay here. What if Spade is hanging around in the darkness, waiting to strike the invisible girl?
I hurry out of the cave, box rattling under the cloak as I run. I’ll have to show this to Logan, even if we aren’t speaking – it’s too big, too much to keep to myself. I was stupid to go it alone tonight, when I didn’t even know anything yet. Anything could’ve happened…
Breaking into a run, I reach the end of the forest after twenty minutes, breathless with fear and gazing around the deserted town. I guess no one dares wander the village alone at night anymore, after Spade and the break-in…
I reach the hole, gasping, and dive through at once, covering the gap with the concealing bush, and run on my hands and knees through the tunnel – desperate to reach the end, and huge, irrational thoughts poring through my soul…
I let out a cry of relief as I spot the opening hole, and fly through, almost crashing into the statue – to avoid smashing my skull, I’m forced to leap sideways, and land painfully on my left ankle, moaning in sudden agony. Why on earth didn’t I slow down? I whimper as I get slowly to my feet, ankle aching and no doubt twisted, having been cracked on the cold, merciless stone floor.
Nevertheless, I force my shaking ankle to touch the ground, and begin to hobble back to the common room, making occasional groans of pain. I would see Madam Pomfrey…but it’ll look really suspicious, and besides, I’m sure it’ll be fine by the morning. There’s no need for me to be a baby. I can take a bruised ankle, surely, if I’m dealing with the likes of callous kidnappers and worse…I guess I’m just lucky to escape without further injury.
‘Hedwig!’ I shout at the snoring Fat Lady, who continues sleeping, although I can see her eyelids fluttering.
Losing patience on my twisted ankle, I cry: ‘Wake up! I need to get through! Oh Fat Lady, please wake up!’
Feigning sudden awareness, the Fat Lady opens one eye, then the other, and says shortly: ‘Go on through then, though it beats me why any student would be wandering the corridors at this time of night – or rather, morning…’
Ignoring her relentless moans, I crawl through the hole, for a moment reminded of the tunnel, and shivering. I wish I didn’t have to go back – but I made a commitment; and next time, like it or not, Logan is coming with me.
When I reach my dormitory, I kick off my shoes, giving another groan as my ankle feels the impact, and slowly, sleepily, I burrow under my covers, hoping very much the morning shouts of Rose don’t come any time soon…
‘Summer…’ a voice hisses in my ear, ‘Summer – time to play…’
Like a ghost, the wide face of Daniel Spade stretches through my subconscious, mocking and toothless and horrible…
‘Don’t want to play,’ I gasp, ‘I’ve had enough, I’ve had-’
Spade moves aside, eyes burning red…and behind him lie a hundred bodies, piled on top of one another…skeletons some, but others are so real – the looks of terror prominent on their sallow, scared faces. The body on top turns her spooky head and looks right through me, and I see the smiling, pretty face of Janet Parker – and as I watch, her cheek bones turn to pure flesh, and the skin rots to the scaly outline of a monster…
‘Summ-er!’ sings Rose. ‘You’re late up again! Honestly! Get up, or you’ll miss breakfast, and it is the most important meal of the day, you know…’
‘Alright,’ I snap, clamping my hands over my ears, ‘I’m coming, I’m coming…’
‘Summer, you’ve just gone deeper into your duvet covers,’ giggles Alice.
Forcing the horrors of my brain to evaporate, I sit up slowly, head spinning. The only mark of last night’s journey is the pain still spreading through my ankle. The only sign any of this is real, and not just a terrible nightmare…
‘See you in the Great Hall,’ Alice calls as they leave.
I get dressed hazily, securing my hair into two long, thick plaits and trying not to look as though I went looking for a madman last night.
I limp to the Great Hall, attempting to make my injury less obvious, as my friends are very observant when they want to be. Seth has saved me a seat at the table, and I squeeze in beside him with a slight wince.
‘Good morning!’ Seth says cheerfully in a porter’s voice, and I’m guessing he didn’t just dream about dangerous men and rotting skeletons and skin turning to bone…
‘Morning,’ I try to inject some enthusiasm into my voice, ‘how’s today looking?’ Perfect – deflect the answers onto him, that way he won’t suspect anything’s up – and I really need to talk to Logan…and maybe Madam Pomfrey, before my ankle gives way altogether…but then, wouldn’t she ask nosy questions like all the staff? I just can’t risk it, especially as I missed the minister for magic by about a foot. I’d get into so much trouble – they’d say I was messing up a very serious investigation or something – nobody takes the detective work of an eleven-year-old girl with a dodgy ankle seriously. I guess I’ll have to hop through the day. Oh well – walking is overrated, anyway. Everyone knows that…merlin it kills!
‘We have Potions, Transfiguration (yuk) double History of Magic…and hurray, Astronomy last!’
‘Yes, hurray,’ I reply gloomily, but luckily Rose has just chosen this second to speak, so Seth is distracted by her instead.
‘Don’t we have an essay due in?’ she asks.
‘Yeah, on the Werewolf code of Conduct,’ Tristan tells her, digging in his bag for his essay – and he emerges a minute later with a smudged piece of parchment, which Rose immediately inspects, and compares to her own.
Bad and distracted as I am these days, my History of Magic essay is awful, and there is no way I am showing it to anyone. I think it might be an epic fail, let’s just say. Epic.
‘I’m not sure I got all the rules right,’ Albus says anxiously, showing it to Rose.
Rose muses over his sheet of yellowed paper thoughtfully. ‘Hmmn…this bit looks right, it was passed by the Ministry of Magic in 1637 – but you’ve just got mixed up with “attack” and “provoke”…here,’ she taps it with her wand, so the letters re-arrange. We all watch the printed letters squiggle, fascinated.
‘Neat trick,’ Seth puts in, and my cheek bones have enough strength in them to give an amused smile.
‘It’s nothing really,’ Rose blushes as the automatic bell rings through the Great Hall, ‘just an old spell Mum taught me – she always used to correct people’s homework, you see…’
When we get to Potions, our Professor isn’t there. Puzzled, we take our seats, a little ahead of the Slytherins. I place my left foot very carefully on the tiled floor as I sit.
A few minutes later, the Slytherins file in, looking around bemusedly for Oswald too; but he’s nowhere to be seen. That’s odd – he’s never missed a lesson.
‘Know where old Oswald is?’ Logan asks as he sits down, and despite my resolution to talk to him, I feel the arches of my back stiffen, remembering the last Potions lesson.
‘Nope,’ I say, deliberately knocking over my cauldron so I have an excuse not to look at him, but even this twinges my ankle slightly, and the crack of the solid gold cauldron on impact echoes around the cold dungeon.
‘Still not talking to me?’ Logan says, almost brightly.
I stay silent, kicking myself inside.
Just then, I catch the whiff of smoke, and Oswald’s replacement clips in place…
‘Oh no,’ I groan, resting my head in my hands, while my oblivious class mates chatter on.
‘Whassup?’ Logan asks, the usual note of curiosity evident in his voice.
‘Grace,’ I whisper, a second before the man himself appears, covered in clouds of smoke. He coughs, shaking his cloak ridiculously, sharp blue eyes surveying the room, and resting unpleasantly on me for a second before he turns away again, towards the blackboard.
‘Right, class,’ he greets us with his customary boom, ‘I will be taking today’s Potions lesson. No questions, Miss Spear, Miss Weasley, Mr Turner.’ We put our hands down, disappointed.
‘Where d’you think he is?’ Logan mutters, so low Grace, however young he may be, doesn’t have a hope in hell of hearing.
‘Ill, maybe,’ I suggest, ‘he’s not exactly in his heyday anymore, no offence.’
‘D’you think something’s seriously up?’ Logan whispers. ‘We could go digging, if you like…’
‘Listen, Logan,’ I say, making my mind up on the spot, ‘I did some digging last night – you know that tunnel I showed you?’ he nods slowly, comprehension dawning on his face. ‘Well, I used it to get to Hogsmeade, on my own at Midnight – and I started investigating all the hideaways surrounding the village, but then I realized it was getting really late and I got kind of spooked and I nearly ran into the minister for magic,’ I stop for breath, allowing him time Logan works his mouth very carefully before he speaks, weighing out his words: ‘You…Hogsmeade…by yourself? Looking for a psychopath? Minister for Magic? Secret hideaways in the dark…please tell me you’re kidding.’
‘I’m not kidding,’ I whisper, ‘but I couldn’t just sit by while-’
‘How is getting yourself kidnapped or killed at all helpful to the situation, Summer?’ he struggles to keep on voice low-pitched. ‘You do realize the danger you put yourself in – not to mention the risk of expulsion, if the Minister or Grace had caught you!’
‘I didn’t know what to do,’ I admit, ‘and when in despair, I do some pretty mad things.’ I read the expression on his face. ‘And you know why I didn’t ask you to come with me – but I’m asking now…’ I make my eyes go big and pleading.
‘You’re going back?’ he almost laughs. ‘Are you nuts?’
‘No,’ I say firmly but coolly, ‘but if you don’t want to come with me, then-’
‘Eleven pm today,’ Logan says grimly, ‘statue of the fish-eyes. Deal?’
‘Deal,’ I say grudgingly.
‘And will you promise to always involve me in further investigations?’
The lesson, on the Forgetfulness Potion, turns out to be all theory, though as I know it all already, the scratching of my quill comes faster than Grace’s droning words. He’s an absolute nonentity, he really is…
‘I’ve forgotten it already,’ Seth jokes to Albus, costing him five points off Gryffindor.
‘Ha-ha!’ Logan says gleefully.
‘And five points off Slytherin,’ Grace adds, so the smile slips off Logan’s face.
‘Ha-ha!’ I rejoice in a much quieter voice.
After a further tedious twenty minutes, the lesson is finally over, and Logan tells me to meet him in the library at lunch before heading off to Astronomy with the Hufflepuffs.
Great – more excuses that’ll have to made on my part; it’s alright for him. Still, I can’t pretend I’m not glad we’re taking action…together.
Transfiguration is a dull affair, as we are revising last lesson’s practical. I notice all the teachers seem a little subdued, and Oswald not being in…there’s something fishy going on and I can’t help thinking it has something to do with the Hogsmeade mystery.
As we skip outside to break, Alice remembers she left her wand in Professor Thomas’s class room, and has to run to get it before he locks the class room. We watch in amusement as she talks him into opening it again, and of course the big softie does just that – or maybe Alice threatened his lovely locks with fire. Probably, we all agree.
‘I can’t believe we have double History of Magic third and fourth,’ Seth groans as a beaming Alice rejoins us.
‘Yes, it’s great, isn’t it?’ Alice says. ‘Anyway, listen – Professor Thomas gave me ten points for Gryffindor for skills of persuasion and cheek!’
‘Definitely the fire,’ we all mouth at each other.
‘Woops!’ in revenge for yesterday, when his sneer at me got him a face full of boils, Scorpius knocks into me totally deliberately as he goes past with Noah and Xavier, and normally I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction, but my ankle really stings – so I let out a small scream as my ankle twists sideways.
‘Alarte Ascendare!’ cries a furious voice – and Scorpius Malfoy shoots upwards, kicking out frantically, and lands with a crash on the grass, whimpering. We all turn to see Logan standing there, shaking a little, wand still pointing at Malfoy, who spits mud out of his mouth in disgust.
‘Reminds me of your mother, Spear,’ Malfoy snarls at me, scrambling onto his feet, ‘dirty, filled with mud…’ This time, both Seth and I start forwards, me not minding the dull pain in my leg anymore, not as long as I can curse every inch of that vile Slytherin…
‘No, Summer!’ Rose moans as I kick Malfoy’s shins. ‘Seth, don’t!’ But Seth continues to tug Malfoy’s white-blonde hair back, and since he didn’t even listen to Rose, I know he must be just as mad as I am.
I feel hands grabbing me back, but fight against them, breathing hard. How dare – how dare he insult our mother - ?
With a sharp intake of his nostrils, Malfoy draws back his fist and attempts to punch us off; landing a hefty blow on Seth’s cheekbone, where it starts to bruise, and causing my lip to drip with blood.
This time, whoever’s grabbing me – Logan by the look of that floppy hair – loses it too, and strikes Malfoy in the stomach with a spell. Squaring their shoulders, Noah and Xavier prepare to join the fight, cracking their knuckles. Things are starting to get really serious now – but after Malfoy’s provocation and the blood slur, I couldn’t care less…so spitting piles of white and red liquid out of my mouth, I get Noah on the chin with the green hex we were taught in Defence, and he rolls backwards, hitting into Xavier as he shrivels up…
Rings the stormy voice of Professor Grace, and he looks so unstable for a moment with the worm throbbing on his vein, hands balled up into fists, that we all stop fighting; Noah takes his arm off Seth’s neck, who stops trying to kick Xavier in the stomach, who stops his attempts to strangle Logan, who releases Malfoy, who takes his fingers out of my hair. The whole school are watching, surrounding us like leeches; their faces thirsty for a fight.
‘Oops,’ I whisper.
‘Oops indeed Ms Spear,’ Professor Grace says sternly, ‘now get to Madam Pomfrey, the lot of you – once you’ve all cleaned up, I expect to see you in my office, full of plausible explanations as to why you displayed such disgusting and uncalled for behaviour,’ we six hang our heads, partly sheepish, partly astounded. I feel really sick all of a sudden – how long did it take us all to descend into monsters?
Seth and I avoid the eyes of our friends as we part through the crowd. We all walk in silence, lead by Professors Thomas and Slade. The fight has drained out of my blood. All I can see is the red fury that clouded my mind, the compelling voice in my head that told me to lunge, and make Malfoy pay…
But I can see how we look when we reach the hospital wing. We look like small, scared, bruised children.
‘My goodness!’ Madam Pomfrey gasps, clutching the side of the door for support. ‘I’ve seen worse in my years…but goodness. First-years…I don’t know,’ grumbling angrily, she ushers away our heads of house, who all look very grave, and bustles us inside.
‘I’ll start with you,’ she says to Scorpius, who is trembling, nothing like the sneering boy from before, ‘come into my office – I’ve got some special cream for that eye.’ He follows her into her office, not looking at any of us.
‘How much trouble are we in?’ Seth mumbles to me – and I long to reach out and squeeze his shoulder, tell him we’ll be OK, because we’ve always got each other – but all I can do is stand shaking, gingerly hopping slightly on my ankle. If it was painful before, it’s agony now. I keep standing.
‘I think she’s in shock,’ Logan says, glancing at Seth, who nods curtly in reply, and steers me towards a chair. I sit obediently, ignoring the stupid pain.
After about ten minutes, Scorpius emerges, looking almost brand new, aside from his mussed white-blonde hair both Seth and I took great delight in pulling at.
He stops briefly by me and Seth. ‘Sorry for what I said,’ he says shortly, shifting from one foot to the other. He leaves the hospital wing soon after that.
‘Goyle, Zabini – in here,’ Madam Pomfrey calls, ‘you two aren’t too bad, I’ll do you together…’ they shuffle towards her obediently, so only Seth, Logan and I remain.
Seth paces the room a little anxiously. ‘You don’t think they’ll suspend us, do you?’
‘We’d deserve it,’ I say, but add reassuringly, ‘of course they won’t. We’ll get a slap on the wrist; a letter sent to our parents, a few lectures…as long as we keep our noses clean.’
Logan gestures to his slightly bloody nose with a smirk.
With a sudden creak, the office door opens again, and Xavier and Noah leave.
Madam Pomfrey yells for Seth, or “that wheat-haired boy”, and Seth gives me a loopy smile before going into the office, joking about having a Frankenstein makeover.
Then there were two. I smile at Logan awkwardly, still wincing a little.
‘Did you hurt your foot in the fight?’ he asks, looking at the angle I’m holding it, and my face, a little screwed up in pain.
‘Yes and no,’ I answer, ‘I actually got this injury after I went into Hogsmeade…it’s a long story,’ it’s a short one actually, but what am I supposed to say? It sounds far more heroic than announcing proudly: Logan, I flew through the hole and fell on my foot like an elephant.
‘What do you mean?’ he asks urgently. ‘Nobody did that to you, did they Summer?’
‘No,’ I say quickly – so quickly Logan raises his eyebrows in alarm, ‘really – it was when I was climbing back out of the hole,’ my cheeks flood with colour.
‘Yes?’ Logan probes.
‘I was so desperate to get out of the tunnel I went straight through and nearly smashed into the statue, and to avoid it I had to do a kind of leap of faith and ended up on my left ankle, and then of course I had to hobble my way through the morning, and then Scorpius started the fight and things got messy,’ I draw breath, feeling as though I’ve got a huge confession off my chest – I don’t actually like keeping things for people, but the sad thing is, the longer I stay here, the more that’s becoming necessary. Even that box I took from Hogsmeade, and of course, the mystery itself…and Logan, come to think of it. It feels like I’m hiding a whole part of my life, or leading a double one – there’s the Summer who hangs out with her Gryffindor friends and laughs a lot and plays silly wizard games, carefree and relaxed – and then there’s this other side, this other girl. A mysterious, reckless one, with an unhealthy need for adventure. The trouble is, I’m not sure which one is me anymore, or whether I’m losing the point of myself – or the plot. Pick either one, but if I have one more nightmare, I think I really will have to get myself checked into St Mungo’s. Sorry Mum.
Logan doesn’t laugh, like I thought he would. ‘Let me see,’ he says gently when I let out another reluctant squeal of pain, ‘she should’ve seen to you first.’ I take off my left shoe and sock with the funny message, to reveal a thoroughly bruised black and blue foot, veering off to the side a little. It feels better to have the shoe off, though, I think reassuringly.
‘Lucky Madam Pomfrey can heal injuries in about a second,’ he says with a whistle, ‘that looks bad. You must’ve landed hard.’
‘I did,’ I admit, ‘and the whole street-look is not improved by this,’ I point despairingly to my bottom lip as I taste blood on my tongue.
‘Here,’ he brings out a crumpled tissue (which he insists he hasn’t used) and presses it gently round my mouth, ‘hey – stay still!’
‘I can’t help it!’ I giggle. ‘It tickles!’
Logan looks at me sceptically. ‘Tissue tickles you, Summer? Wow…’ he gives another whistle, ‘I guess Hogwarts hasn’t quite got there with your problems yet…’
‘As soon as this ankle’s fixed, I’m going to kick you right where it hurts,’ I promise menacingly.
‘Yes, very scary,’ he pulls a terrified face, and squeaks in a girl’s voice: ‘Help, Madam Pomfrey, Summer’s going to eat me!’
I look for a spare cushion to throw, but finding none in the vicinity, settle for a lecture. ‘Please. If I was going to eat somebody, it’d be someone a little more…tasty, shall we say?’
‘Hey, I’m hot dog on legs!’ Logan insists. ‘Please eat me Summer, or you’ll dent my self-esteem forever…’
‘Alright,’ I agree as a smiling Seth leaves the office, taking in the image of me and Logan laughing together in surprise.
‘See you in our common room,’ he says pointedly as he leaves – but Logan just laughs again.
‘Sorry about him,’ I say, ‘Mum cracked his head on a teapot when he was a baby.’
This sends us both into peals of laughter again – just for the sake it, for the sake of feeling our insides ache with warmth, for the sake of being first-years…and in this moment, I am just a giggling spirit, and Summer Spear doesn’t exist at all.
‘So I guess we can’t go to Hogsmeade tonight?’ Logan infers as we walk back from the hospital wing, both our faces shiny and clean, and my ankle nice and repaired, although Madam Pomfrey did insist on smothering it in cream before we left, to Mr Snarky’s amusement, of course.
‘You know we can’t,’ I sigh, ‘if we get in anymore trouble, we might as well snap our own wands in half…and besides, we’ve got the Quidditch trials the day after tomorrow to look forward to.’
Logan smacks his forehead in realization. ‘Oh yeah! Quidditch! But Sum, we haven’t practised once, there just hasn’t been time.’
‘I know,’ I agree miserably. ‘But we could always use tonight for Quidditch, since we were going to Hogsmeade, anyway.’
‘Midnight?’ he asks.
‘Earlier,’ I decide, ‘how about eleven-ish?’
‘Yeah, alright,’ he says casually, ‘if your room mates are as light-weight as that.’
Now my ankle is fixed, I can use it to kick him, hard. He winces, and expresses the opinion aloud that he almost wishes I was still hobbling, which earns him another kick, of course. Ah, different house violence – don’t you just love it?
‘The behaviour you have all shown today has disgraced the school,’ opens Grace with his traditional boom as us six (Scorpius, Xavier, Noah, Seth, Logan and me) settle in his office, still a little shaky. ‘I will have to take house points for this, of course. So…let me see. I will take ninety points from each house – that seems pretty fair to me, under the circumstances.’
‘Ninety!’ Seth howls. ‘But professor, that’s just-’
‘Ridiculous,’ puts in Xavier.
‘Barbaric,’ says Noah.
‘Unfair,’ mutters Scorpius.
They all turn to Logan.
‘Er…I think it’s…it seems really…erm…silly,’ he finishes lamely.
They all look at me.
‘Professor,’ I implore, ‘can’t we just call this one a warning?’
They keep looking.
‘No we cannot, you silly child,’ snaps Professor Grace, colouring slightly, ‘you are very lucky not to be in even deeper trouble, girl.’
‘It’s Summer, actually,’ I say brightly, and add, ‘I think names are important, Professor – so forgive me if I think “girl” is a little derogatory.’
For a second it looks as though my head master might kill me. Then he straightens up, a mad glint in his eye.
‘Get – out – of – my – office – girl,’ he snarls, waving a dismissive hand.
‘Oi!’ Seth shouts – and much as my boiling blood appreciates the gesture, I somehow don’t want my twin brother to end up dead, either.
‘It’s fine, Seth,’ I say loudly, ‘I can take it like a woman.’ Then I march out of the office, head held so high it nearly smashes on the frame, which is quite embarrassing, as you can imagine. I hear Logan snort as I slam the door shut.
I swear that man’s got it in for me.
‘So you’re not suspended?’ Rose gasps as I sit down beside her, the Gryffindor fire flickering in the background.
‘Nope,’ I say confidently, ‘so you can stop worrying, Rose – I repeat, you can stop worrying.’ She grins and chucks a cushion at me. ‘I’ve been so worried about you lately, Summer! I thought this might be the last straw – but where’s your brother?’
‘Still in the office,’ I explain my premature dismissal.
‘You and your silly names,’ Rose says with a roll of her eyes, ‘but even I must admit, the man needed telling.’
‘Too right,’ I say indignantly.
A moment later, Seth joins us, his eyes oddly bright.
‘Hey guys,’ he says in a voice a little higher than usual, ‘where’s the others?’
‘In the library,’ Rose says as though this is something obvious we should’ve worked out ourselves, ‘they still haven’t finished that Potions essay, can you believe it?’
I don’t answer, because I’ve been so preoccupied I haven’t had time to do it either. I jump up, startling Rose.
‘I should go – to the library,’ I tell them, ‘see you later!’
Seth opens his mouth as I spring out of the common room, but changes his mind and engages Rose in conversation. I wonder what’s up with him? Whatever it is, I can’t deal with yet another stupid mystery. He probably just wanted to give me a stern lecture on fraternising with Logan, getting Rose on side or something. Or maybe he said something to him when they had both left Grace’s office? I puzzle over these theories, though none of them seem very pleasant, to be honest.
‘Hi,’ I say to Albus, Tristan and Alice as I take a seat beside them.
‘Stuck on the essay too?’ Albus infers.
‘Just haven’t done it,’ I confess, ‘to be honest, homework hasn’t been a priority of mine recently.’
‘Tell me about it,’ Alice sighs, ‘you’re either a million miles away mentally, or physically!’
‘I am not,’ I say stubbornly, if a little uncomfortably, ‘I’ve just had stuff to sort out.’
‘Stuff,’ Tristan repeats, ‘care to enlighten us?’
‘I really have to get this done, Tristan,’ I deflect quickly, stammering a little.
We work in a quiet buzz after that, Albus occasionally giving me odd looks, because he does happen to know a little more about my current situation than the others, but I’ve chosen not to involve him in the mystery stuff. I think I’ve already asked him to cover up a fair amount, and he’s so mild-mannered - a thing like this might creep him out even more than it did me; especially since he’s grown up hearing tales of horror from his father. I smile at Albus to reassure him, but he must notice it’s a little forced, because his own answering smile doesn’t reach his eyes, which stay gentle and blinking.
‘I think that’s us done,’ Alice says briskly, rolling her parchment up and glancing around to see if we’ve finished. I actually finished quite a while ago, but I didn’t realize quite how deep the hole I’m digging in my essay has got, as my mind has been on what to do next about the box…and everything. I keep thinking of Janet’s pretty, oblivious face and shivering inside. And her little sister…was the small girl in the photograph really capable of such a horrible crime at just thirteen? If I don’t solve this, I guess I’ll never know. But with the others getting increasingly suspicious, how do I work on this with Logan? He made it clear from the start he wants nothing to do with my Gryffindor friends – and with the attitude Seth showed earlier, who can blame him? It seems to be as if they’ve all just cast him aside as an evil Slytherin boy - but I’m starting to wonder if they’re quite as bad as they seem. I mean, I know Scorpius Malfoy is a slimy, bloodist idiot, but if he’s prepared to apologise, then maybe I can forgive his slip of the tongue? I mean, look at his family…is it really surprising?
‘Summer?’ a hand, being waved in front of my face, and an exasperated voice. ‘Have you gone off again?’
‘What?’ I blink up at Tristan, who has a curious, amused expression on his face. ‘No…I was just thinking. Just thinking.’
‘We’re not stupid, you know,’ Alice says sternly.
‘Compared to the likes of Rose and Albus Dumbledore you are,’ Albus coughs into to his hand, but he is unfortunately heard by the other two, who promptly start a parchment fight. I know…parchment! That lot’ll do anything for a fight!
‘Come on guys, you’re being childish,’ I say as Albus gets a mouthful.
‘What is up with you lately?’ Tristan counters. ‘You used to like a laugh.’
‘Yeah,’ Alice adds, ‘you’ve been really distant lately – and we’re your friends, so you can tell us what’s up.’
‘I’m worried about the exams,’ I say.
‘Those?’ Tristan scoffs. ‘They’re fakes – and we’ve got ages yet!’
‘Not really,’ I say shakily, ‘only about a month. It’s freak-out time.’
‘It so isn’t!’ Alice says shortly. ‘Lighten up, will you!’
‘You don’t understand,’ I say miserably, ‘I’m under a lot of pressure, Alice. Now if you’ll excuse me,’ I stand up to leave, rucksack already swinging on my shoulder, ‘I need an early night, so see you all in the morning.’
As I depart, I hear Tristan say disbelievingly: ‘Another early night! That girl needs to live a little.’
Trust me, Tristan, I really wish I could.
When I get back to the common room, I find Rose surrounded in books, nose buried deep in them. Funny – I always thought that was just an expression.
‘Night Rose,’ I say as I pass her, ‘I see it’s just us two taking the exams seriously. The others practically bit my head off when I dared to suggest it might to time to actually start, you know, that scary thing we never talk about: working!’
Rose giggles, though a little wearily. ‘We have so much to do, Sum. I’m so glad there’s another freak in the house!’
‘Yeah, me too,’ I say as I head for the dormitories, thinking: you don’t know the half of it.
I find the girls’ dormitory empty again, and take this opportunity to put Albus’ cloak back where it belongs. When I get there, however, I find Seth lying listlessly on his bed, staring at the ceiling. I quickly stuff the cloak back in my pocket, praying he hasn’t seen me.
‘Hi Seth,’ I say, ‘I just came in to see how you are – you seemed a little depressed earlier.’
‘Oh, you noticed?’ Seth says sarcastically, which is unlike him.
‘Have I done something to upset you?’ I say, because I’ve just had a bollocking from all my other friends apart from Rose, and I don’t think I can take anymore.
‘Not in particular,’ Seth says, ‘you’re just never here anymore.’
‘Seth!’ I say, shocked. ‘OK, so I haven’t been the most punctual lately – but I always hang out with you guys.’
‘You always look like you’d rather be somewhere else,’ Seth says, ‘we’ve all got problems, you know.’
I cross the room furiously. ‘Seth, what is this?’ I say. ‘You haven’t got problems!’
‘I kind of have,’ Seth says slowly, unclenching his jaw. ‘I just agreed to a duel with Scorpius Malfoy.’
It takes a second for me to digest this. ‘Seth, you didn’t!’ I moan. ‘How could you be so stupid?’
‘He said our mother was filled with mud, Summer,’ Seth snarls, ‘I can’t let him get away with that, can I?’
‘But – but he apologised!’ I splutter. ‘Seth, you have to call it off!’
‘No way,’ he says through gritted teeth, ‘that oily ferret’s going to pay.’
‘Seth, this isn’t like you,’ I say hurriedly, ‘why don’t you just…just have a nice, relaxing bath and -’
‘Have you taken a Forgetfulness potion?’ Seth snaps. ‘He practically called our mum a mudblood!’
‘Seth, you’re making a mistake,’ I say, determinedly ignoring the rudeness, ‘you just ruined everything. He apologised…this could’ve been the end of all this hate between our houses – What I’ve been dying to say has finally stirred above the surface, and I watch Seth’s pupils dilate in fury.
‘I don’t want to be friends with anyone in that stinking house,’ he spells out, ‘don’t you get that? Today has proven they’re a bunch of – a bunch of – absolute,’ he gestures in an agitated, frustrated manner.
‘You could be expelled for this,’ I hiss, ‘don’t you care?’
Seth shakes his head. ‘What do you know? You’re never around anyway – it wouldn’t make the slightest difference to your schedule if I disappeared off the face of the earth!’
‘That’s not true!’ I cry. ‘Seth, that isn’t true!’
‘Then prove it,’ Seth says, ‘come with me. Eleven o’clock tonight.’
‘I can’t,’ I say quietly, ‘I already – I have plans. And this is stupid.’
‘Oh, you have plans?’ Seth says mockingly. ‘Surprise, surprise Summer. There was me thinking I could count on you to be my second, but I guess not…’
‘You are acting like an absolute pig,’ I say loudly, ‘and right now, if I were Scorpius Malfoy, I’d jinx that mouth right off!’ There’s a shocked silence.
‘I see,’ Seth says, standing up roughly, ‘then go join him, why don’t you?’
‘You know I’d never do that,’ I say, ‘Seth…please don’t do this.’
For a second, Seth’s hardened features waver – but then his eyes turn square again, and I can see the resolve in them.
‘Sorry, Summer,’ he says in a clipped voice, ‘but I’m going. Are you with me or what?’
‘I’ll come with you to call it off,’ I say, ‘but I won’t be a part of something I don’t believe in. You know me better than that, Seth.’
I wait, but he doesn’t say anything, keeping his straightened pose. ‘Fine,’ I say coolly, ‘have fun, won’t you?’ I walk straight out, fighting the feeling of nausea churning salvia in my throat.
I sit up in my bed for a long time after that, thinking frantically. Will Seth really go through with this? Will they seriously hurt each other? What if Seth gets our other friends involved? Hasn’t there been enough violence today?
The Standard Book of Spells, Grade One does nothing for the endless questions zooming around in my head like angry bludgers, and I find myself longing for the carefree sport itself, where my legs can stretch out into open air and my lungs can reap the full benefits of pure oxygen -
‘Hey, Summer, have you seen my green scrunchie?’ says a polite voice from the doorway, and I look up to see Samantha, clutching her brown hair.
‘No, sorry,’ I say vaguely, ‘try your top drawer.’
And sure enough, it’s in there, trapped under her hairbrush.
‘Oh, thanks!’ she gushes, and sets off for the bathroom.
I lay my head on pillow, praying eleven o’clock comes soon…but thinking of Seth and wanting to throw up again. Did stupid, thoughtless words from a Malfoy really alter my brother so much? Or has my neglecting of him and all our other friends been a contributing factor? Should I be his second?
I deliberate anxiously, biting my recently healed lips. How on earth did I end up with so many damn problems so quickly?
The other girls soon enter the dormitory, chatting loudly. The noise fills my ears like a scream, the tinkling of moving teeth somehow sinister, like glass, sharp like knives.
I realize it must be at least nine by now, and resolve to at least grab two hours while I can. Thankfully, Bonnie switches the light off ten minutes later, allowing my body time to melt into the soft covers and fall into a deep, troubled sleep…
I dream I am in a small, square room with no doors, no windows. The ceiling is pure white, the floor stained with red. I’m alone – or so I think, until I hear a rough, snarling voice whispering in my ear…
‘Summer,’ it hisses, ‘Summer…’
‘What do you want?’ I cry. ‘Why are you doing this?’
‘You deserve it,’ it says in a slithery voice, ‘didn’t you know? You are a bad girl, Miss Spear…very bad…’
‘I haven’t done anything!’ I shriek. ‘Please, I haven’t – done – anything!’
‘Seth will pay for your mistakes,’ it promises, ‘and all of your friends, one by one – look…’
And at once my head fills with images of my brother, my friends, all screaming in agony, the features, the expressions melting off their faces, burning and branded with one red name: Summer. I see seven blurred Summer tattoos, all crumbling off the faces…the horrible, sunken faces…
‘No, no,’ I mumble, ‘bring them back, bring them back…I didn’t mean to be bad, I didn’t…’ I sit up abruptly, a dead feeling settling in my mouth. What – in the name of Merlin – was that? I wait for my head to clear, a little dazed, and scared. I’ve had enough of being afraid. I knock my alarm over, struggling to reach it in the crushing blackness, hoping against hope I don’t wake any of the girls in the dormitory…
10:53. That’s what the time reads on my alarm. I scramble hazily out of bed, trying my hardest to tiptoe, and make my way out of the dormitory, shivering a little in the sudden gloom. The common room is deserted – even the older years have gone up to bed. They probably have to study for really serious exams or something, I think as I go through the portrait hole.
The Fat Lady is snoozing lazily in her frame, great pudding of a neck drooping softly downwards, unfolding years of ancient flesh. I use the invisibility cloak - which I obviously couldn’t return with Seth in the room – to skirt through the corridors unseen, wary of Filch or a teacher. However, I pass by no one. It seems Hogwarts is silent tonight.
The sky is a mixture of milky black and navy blue, but sadly there are no stars. I troop through the grass to get to the broom cupboard, where I can hopefully bag myself a school broom, as I haven’t got one of my own yet. I find the cupboard door locked, but with a simple Alohomora spell, it clicks open, and I am treated to a sight of fifteen odd brooms, faded and with bristly wood standing upwards, as though electrocuted.
I take the first one within my reach; a smallish, red-brown piece of wood with a furry handle, and head back out to the pitch. No sign of Logan yet. I hope he hasn’t got caught up in the whole Scorpius-Seth affair. Still, they picked a good night for a duel – the one night not a soul is about. I’m still wondering whether I should swallow my values and back Seth up after all when I see a dark, floppy-haired figure making his way across the grass, his face turned towards me.
‘You’re early!’ he says in an apparently delighted voice. ‘Chuck me a broom, would you?’
Rolling my eyes, I dig back in for a second, and decide to test his seeker reflexes by suddenly throwing it at him – but he catches it neatly, a good few feet away from me. Smug idiot.
‘Looks like I’m just too good,’ he smirks.
‘You and me both wish, little boy,’ I say back.
Evidently, this amuses him. ‘Little, am I?’ he says. ‘I doubt that, compared to you.’
Immediately I put my hands on my hips. ‘Are you knocking my height?’
‘Hadn’t thought of that actually – but nice idea,’ he whistles, ‘no, I was thinking more about age. Bet my birthday’s before yours.’
‘My birthday’s not far off, actually,’ I tell him, ‘December 16th – you?’
‘Already had it,’ he says, ‘September 1st.’
‘The first day!’ I say, a little put out. ‘You never said!’
‘You never asked,’ he shrugs, twelve-year-old self starting to mount his broom.
‘But I didn’t get you anything,’ I pout.
‘Calm down, princess,’ he says, ‘I assure you I was spoilt for choice.’
‘Will you promise me something?’ I say as I mount my own broom. He nods. ‘Don’t get me a present – I mean it. Or I’ll give it to Seth,’ I warn with sudden, and rather brilliant inspiration.
He chuckles lightly. ‘Your birthday’s practically Christmas, anyway. And I don’t see the problem, really. How could you get me a present when we only just became friends on the ‘Is not,’ I say childishly, ‘but OK, fair enough – I’ll find something for you. Call it a two month late birthday present. It’s the best I can do.’
‘From where?’ he says disbelievingly.
‘Hogsmeade,’ I tell him in triumph, ‘we’re going there tonight.’
‘Are you crazy?’ he says. ‘Tonight?’
‘Yes, tonight,’ I say with a steely gaze, ‘we’re going to solve this – once and for all.’
‘I can’t believe I agreed to do this,’ Logan says as we stand by the statue of fish eyes, watching the hole.
‘I can’t live with this anymore,’ I say quietly, ‘I won’t be able to live with myself if we don’t do this. I haven’t been sleeping properly – I’ve been having nightmares. The others are getting suspicious and Seth’s suddenly decided to go off the rails and – and -’
‘We’ll crack this,’ Logan says with sudden resolve, ‘I promise. On my birthday present.’
I laugh weakly, and put a leg through the hole, arms first, then pull up the other. Logan isn’t far behind me.
I fill him in on all the details as we tunnel through, not wanting him to be behind on anything. He listens intently, not saying a word, and carries on in this vein when I finish. I wonder if he’s worried…sick…scared…regretting coming with me? I wonder if Seth is okay – and ‘So we’re starting with the cave?’ Logan says at last as we view light peeking through the rocks.
‘That’s where I found the box,’ I say earnestly, ‘I think it might hold better answers.’
‘Do you think she’s still alive – Janet?’ Logan asks uncomfortably, lashes hiding the gaze in his eyes.
I keep shifting the rocks with my wand, not answering at first. When the final one shunts to the side, I say softly: ‘I’m trying to keep an open mind. But it’s been over a year, and there haven’t been any sightings – and, I don’t know. I have a weird feeling about this. Maybe it’s just the dreams –’ I shudder as I remember her rotting face from my subconscious, ‘but there’s something really creepy about all this. I can’t explain it.’
‘The sixth sense!’ he teases to stop it getting too serious, and I smile at him gratefully.
We step out onto Hogsmeade pavement – and again, it’s deserted. Everything seems to have a slightly spooky air tonight – but hey, we are dealing with a possible murder here, and certain kidnap. Can you blame a girl for wobbling on her knees? Or a guy, for that matter, I add as I see Logan fiddle compulsively with the pockets of his school cloak.
‘The caves are through the forest, I think,’ I say as our feet crunch onto stone.
‘How far through?’ he replies.
‘Fifteen minutes, maybe – at a run,’ I silence his query, and giving each other quick nods, we start to run across the cold flooring and race through the forest, kidding ourselves it’s just a game, just a stupid little game…
‘I win!’ Logan cries, throwing his hands in the air.
I hit him in caution. ‘Shut up, would you! Crazy criminal on the loose!’ he puts a finger to his lips with an apologetic blush. Boys – so competitive, I think scathingly.
‘We’ll have to use the cloak,’ I say, digging it out again, ‘for all we know, the Ministry are still sniffing around.’ We huddle under the cloak, and I remark on the weirdness of having another soul under the invisible thing for once, while Logan marvels at the possibilities it brings. I was like that at first – before it became a tool for slipping past the ministry and tracking a madman.
‘I don’t hear any voices,’ Logan whispers as we climb up the first steep layering of mountain.
‘Maybe they’ve given up on this place,’ I say doubtfully, ‘or maybe there’s another crisis. Numbers are down at the Ministry, since the job scandal.’
‘Hmmn,’ Logan says, ‘seems a bit weird though, doesn’t it?’ We travel in silence after that, barely able to breathe for fear of someone hearing us – but it appears nobody is around. It’s a ghost town.
When we reach the small cave where I found the box, I give a little squirm of excitement, and drag Logan through the darkness and into the grey markings of the cave, and together we feel around for more clues. After twenty or so minutes, Logan gives an excited yell.
‘What is it?’ I say, running in deeper to find him, since we shed the cloak so we could do a more extensive search. ‘What’ve you found?’
‘Feels like a shoe,’ Logan mutters as I reach him.
‘Hang on a sec,’ I say, and bring out my wand. ‘Lumos!’ From the light oozing out of my vine-covered wand, I can see the distinct shape of a broken heel. Almost as though -
‘There was a struggle of some sort,’ Logan says grimly, and I try to concentrate on his words through the numbness in my brain. ‘Or she tried to run away.’
I muffle a sob in my throat. ‘But – that’s horrible!’
Logan looks at me through the light still shining through my wand, and the expression in his eyes is hard to read. ‘This is horrible, Summer. We’re dealing with some pretty serious stuff here. We have to keep a cool head if we’re going to find out what really happened that night, and since – okay?’
Taking a deep breath, I say: ‘Okay. Lead the way.’
We continue to scratch the ground for answers on the floor of the cave, neither of us in the mood for speech. My hand claws onto a soft material, tattered at the edges. Without a word to my companion, I light the wand again, and allow my eyes to rest on the remains of a pink coat, smudged with mud and – and something else. Something dark that sends the hairs on my back flying off into the distance, because nothing could ever prepare me for the horrors of – the deep gashes of -
‘Blood,’ I choke. ‘Logan, I –’ I can’t complete the sentence. The tears are already spurting down from my eyes. Silently, swiftly, Logan ghosts through the cave to join my shaking figure, letting in a sharp intake of breath.
‘How could they have missed this?’ he says so quietly I barely hear him. ‘She must be –’
‘DEAD!’ I shout, abrupt rage coursing through my veins, and this morning, this morning’s mist was nothing, because this is red – the blood is red – and I need justice for the pink, blood-stained coat more than I’ve ever needed anything in my life. I feel sick – I can’t – but I have to. I have to carry on. Because if I don’t, that worthless piece of slime, the hands that drew the blood – they will get away with this. And we can’t let that happen. We owe it to her.
‘Summer,’ he puts a trembling hand on my shoulder, ‘whoever did this – they might not be far - I mean, they could come back. We’d be in terrible danger. Maybe it’s time to pay old Shacklebolt a visit.’
‘We’re not leaving!’ I hiss. ‘Not when we’ve come so far!’ I take a disgusted hand off the coat. ‘Not when that animal still roams the streets! The ministry can’t solve anything, clearly. You’re right – how in the name of merlin could they have missed all this? Huh?’
‘Alright,’ he agrees reluctantly, ‘but if anything happens –’
‘Let’s hope we live to tell the tale,’ I say, plastering a determined smile on my face, but even I can hear how hollow, how false I sound. ‘C’mon – on with the search.’ Giving me a sidelong glance, Logan keeps looking, gentle on his toes. Apprehensively, I cast a look over my shoulder, shivering – but not from the cold. I feel like we’re being watched.
‘Let’s hurry this up,’ I call through the silence, ‘ju-just in case.’
He gives me a thumbs up I can barely make out to show me he’s understood, his foot cracking over something. I swallow, a horrible feeling creeping up my neck.
‘It’s not a bone,’ he says quickly, reading my mind, ‘it’s a lipstick.’
Sure I’ve heard him wrong, I gravitate towards his crouched figure – and sure enough, there lies the crushed remains of – a lipstick. Purple-pink by the look of it. The sort of lipstick my mother wore when she was very young.
‘So we have a snapped heel, a bloodied coat and a lipstick to go on?’ I say.
‘Don’t forget the photos,’ Logan says, ‘either the killer – kidnapper, whoever, is getting complacent, or they want these things to be found –’
‘Why would they want these things to be found?’ I frown, but he has no answer. He hasn’t a clue. That’s when it hits me who we really are – just a pair of frightened first-years who fancy themselves junior detectives. We don’t know what we’re doing, do we? But neither do the ministry, another, grim voice argues, it’s up to you two, Summer, and you know it – why do you think the room showed you the newspapers?
‘Do you think there’s any more stuff?’ I ask. ‘Or do you think we should keep moving? I’m getting kind of edgy.’
‘Ah, the sweet sixth sense again,’ he says chillingly. ‘We’re nearly done, anyway. Let’s just ransack the last part, and we’ll get going.’
So we do, making occasional comments every now and then this time, just to check we’re both still alive, I think.
We don’t find anything until we search the final corner - but it isn’t an object. It’s words – words scrawled in the same red from my dream, the same red of the anger, the same red of the coat. In tall, swerving letters staining the cave wall, the message reads: You’ll never find her.
I tip sideways into Logan, who looks just as shaken as me. The pieces of a small part of the puzzle are just starting to slot together.
‘They want to taunt the ministry,’ I get out, ‘they’re mocking us, Logan.’
‘Then we’ll find them,’ he says darkly.
‘There’s no need,’ says a rough, deep voice that pierces the screaming in my throat, and we both jump backwards, startled, into the wall. I never saw his whole face in the dreams. But there’s no mistaking him now. Tall and hulking, he crosses the dark cave, knowing we’ve hit a dead end. Logan’s eyes meet mine, hazel and melting with fear. I imagine the same look suspended in my own eyes. He’s here – Spade is here.
The light from my wand highlights the zigzag scar trailing from his hairline to chin, the dirty, unshaven skin, the thick eyebrows. But it’s the eyes I can’t stop looking at. Big and cold and bulging, they beg the word ‘danger’. They ask for death. One eye grey, and searching – the other still and yellow, pupils draining out my soul. He’s going to kill us. I can see it in the smooth, arrogant planes of his face. This man is going to kill us. Just as he killed Janet Parker ‘Well, kids,’ he growls, ‘looks like you’ve found me out.’
‘Other – other people know where we are,’ Logan lies, ‘we – we told our other friends. They’ll know it was you.’
‘Oldest trick in the book,’ he opens his sneering mouth and starts to laugh, a horrible, mirthless sound that fills the dark and empty cave. Logan falls silent. So this is it, then. We are going to die.
‘What, no questions?’ he says tauntingly. ‘I’m disappointed, kids, very disappointed…I got close, very close to coming after you, girl,’ he jerks a thumb at me, ‘that night you came sniffing around, all on your own. Couldn’t believe my eyes – a small gal like you, thinking you can catch a killer.’ The bones in my spine tingle.
‘You were there!’ I cry. ‘You were there – watching me –’
‘Like a fool you took the box,’ he snarls, ‘you could have ruined everything – I expected you to run on your little legs up to the Minister, just a few feet overhead. But you didn’t! Maybe you heard me moving around, because you went. Took off like a deer, shooting through that forest. I was too amazed to react. What did you think you were doing, eh?’
‘I just wanted to find out what happened,’ I whisper.
‘Still, I must confess I’m glad you brought an accomplice along,’ he grumbles. ‘That’ll make things easier…’
‘Make what easier?’ Logan shouts, finding his voice. ‘Killing us?’
‘Logan, don’t,’ I say, shaking his arm in caution.
‘Who said anything about killings?’ Spade spits back at him, ignoring my interruption. ‘But you don’t think I can let you toddle off back to the castle, do you?’
‘We won’t say anything,’ I plead, ‘I promise – we’ll keep our mouths shut.’
‘You two don’t learn don’t you?’ he says aggressively. ‘If you’re stupid enough to come running round here like headless chickens, how can I trust either of you to keep quiet?’
‘Because you’ll kill us,’ Logan spells out slowly.
For some reason, I feel bubbles of laughter break through the surface of fear. Good old Logan.
Spade looks at me in shock, but I keep on laughing, bent over double, clutching my sides hysterically. After a moment or two I feel my laughter turn to tears.
‘For pity’s sake,’ Spade grunts, ‘what now?’
‘Female emotions,’ Logan says wisely, handing me a tissue. I take it, glaring at him through spiky lashes.
‘You set us up,’ I say, ‘the heel, the coat, the lipstick, the writing on the wall…didn’t you, Mr Spade?’
‘You know, girlie, they should promote you at the office,’ he says, ‘oh yeah…I forgot…you’re not old enough are you?’ he chuckles again. ‘I can’t deny I’m impressed – yes, I set you up. I wasn’t to know you’d bring the other freak, though.’
‘Oi! Who’re you calling freak!’ Logan retaliates immediately.
The pacing man ignores this. ‘So…the question is – what do I do with you now?’
‘How about letting us go,’ Logan suggests hopefully.
‘It was a rhetorical question,’ he spits. ‘And I’ve already said –’ his yellow eye glows darkly. ‘I. can’t. Let. You. Go. Got it?’
‘Memory charm then?’ I chip in desperately, shrinking away from his anger and wanting more than ever to just have this whole horror wiped from my brain.
‘Memory charms can be broken, my poor little friend,’ he says, picking at something between his teeth. They’re surprisingly white, his teeth. I expected rotting yellow, crumbling black, at the very least. ‘Good, aren’t they?’ he says bizarrely, seeing me staring. ‘I take pride in my appearance.’
Bursting into snorts of laughter, Logan falls to the floor, banging the ground with his fist.
‘Logan!’ I hiss, tugging at his sleeve. ‘Get up!’ Wiping his eyes, Logan gets up, this time looking at the stranger warily lest he decides to kill us right now as a result.
‘Don’t tempt me, boy,’ he says, that same dark look crossing his dilated eyes.
‘Yes, please don’t, Logan,’ I say frantically, stepping on his toe.
Seeing the fear in my eyes, he nods. ‘Sorry. No offence – er – intended, I swear. I couldn’t help it – er – mate.’
‘I’m not your mate,’ I say at the same time Spade does. They both look at me.
‘They always say that,’ I explain quickly, keeping my eyes on my shoes.
‘Right,’ Spade says, ‘I think it’s time we went back to my house.’
‘I’ve been there!’ I say suddenly, as he starts to lead the way out. ‘I broke in! Sorry,’ I add as Logan shoots me a don’t-antagonise-the-madman-more look.
He comes closer to me, so I can smell the rank of unwashed sweat on his clothes. ‘You did do your detective work properly, didn’t you?’ his voice echoes off the cave walls. ‘Now follow me.’ He starts to walk again, glancing back over his shoulder when we don’t follow. ‘I said: follow me!’ he barks, and we scurry towards him, shaking with fear.
Moving closer to me, Logan whispers in my ear: ‘His back’s turned. We attack when we come out of the cave. It’s dark – he won’t be able to see anymore than we can. We both stun him at the same time, OK? Then we make a break for it.’
Shaking my head dazedly at the far-fetched nature of his plan, I stutter: ‘I’m not sure that’ll work. He’s probably expecting it – but we’ll try,’ I say hastily as he scuffs the ground, apparently frustrated, ‘it’s worth a try, I suppose. Let’s just hope he doesn’t kill us if we fail.’
We walk on grimly, adrenaline the only liquid still pushing us onwards, further over the rocks, until -
‘Stupefy!’ we both cry, pointing our wands at Spade – but with a great and furious roar he dives to the floor, pinning his hands to the ground. The stunners fly above his head, and hit nearby trees. I feel Logan gulp beside me. We’re doomed. I knew – I knew we shouldn’t have been so stupid…
‘So,’ he snarls, his head turning to face us directly.
There’s a moment when everything hangs out in front of us, and only our raspy breaths and fingers that fumble make any imprint of a sound in the silent cave. We know we’re in trouble then. It’s the silence that’s always the worst. When you don’t know what’s coming.
He gets up slowly, quiet and deadly, and moves towards us, big yellow eye promising certain death.
‘We have been naughty, haven’t we?’ he growls.
It’s dark. Really dark. I feel my eyes swim in and out of the blackness, blinking orange and lashes and dust. Where am I?
Voices. Drifting through my trapped ears.
‘…yeah, yeah, I know. But they just wouldn’t stop!’ Spade’s voice, undercut with rage.
‘…you do realize the Ministry, the school – they’ll all be looking for those little brats.’ A female voice, harsh and snooty.
Movement - beside me. Logan? I can’t see. I can’t open my eyes. For a moment blind panic threatens to crush me, feeling my limp arms dangling by my sides. I can’t…move. What’s binding me? And why can Logan move?
‘Stay calm,’ I would jump at the sound of this new voice, right in my ear, but I can’t really shift my shoulders, ‘it’ll wear off in a minute.’ Some part of my brain recognizes this as the low voice of Logan, who must have guessed I’m in the same position he was probably in a few minutes ago. Why isn’t mine wearing off as fast? Whatever that man, this woman did to me, they did the job well.
‘Are they awake? The brats?’ The woman’s voice again, high and snarling.
‘Dunno,’ Spade grunts, ‘I drugged ’em pretty good.’
I swallow bile in my throat, disgusted. He drugged us? I don’t remember that. My last memory of him is being in the cave, terrified, after our failed escape. When did he drug us? And what with?
Heavily, slowly, I feel my eyes force their way open. It takes a while for them to adjust to the morning light, so all I can see is three shapes – one right next to me, on the floor; the other two a little distance away, huddled together, one large and hulking, the other small and feminine.
Logan puts his finger to his lips. ‘They might panic if they think we still haven’t woken up,’ he whispers, ‘so keep quiet, okay?’ I nod slowly, still a little dazed.
‘BRATS!’ calls the woman in a high, piercing voice. ‘I said: BRATS! Get up, get up!’ We lie still, playing the poor, drugged victims – which I was just ten seconds ago. I wonder who this unpleasant witch is.
‘Maybe it was too strong,’ Spade mutters, who doesn’t seem nearly as intimidating next to this small, bark of a woman.
‘They’re playing up, the stupid kids,’ she guesses, and I see her slanted eyes narrow as she takes us in. ‘Get up, now, little boy, or I kill your pretty little friend.’
Reluctantly stirring, Logan sits up hazily. ‘What? What time is it? Let me go back to bed Slade…’
‘What is this?’ the woman snaps. ‘Get up!’
But Spade is staring at Logan in a confused manner. ‘What did you say, boy?’
‘Huh?’ Logan says, still playing dumb. ‘Oh yeah – I’m kidnapped. But who’s the chic?’
‘Logan!’ I moan in his ear. ‘Shut up!’
The woman moves dangerously towards Logan, but all I can see out of the corner of my eye is a pair of brisk, sharp heels. Heels that look like spikes.
‘I said get up, you filthy little child,’ she says coldly, appraising him.
I feel the ground groan as Logan gets up slowly. I wonder if they think I’m still drugged up.
‘Get up,’ says an icy, commanding voice, and I have no doubts about who she’s talking to.
I lie still, feeling a stupid wave of defiance run through me like a current. I know now really isn’t the moment for one of my protests, but stuff ’em all. I’m lying here – with dignity.
‘Summer!’ Logan hisses. ‘Just get up!’
‘So you won’t get up?’ says the woman coolly.
I shake my head childishly.
‘I told you not to involve the brats, Daniel,’ the woman sniffs, ‘look at them – they’re no threat: what’s the point?’
‘Yeah!’Logan seconds quickly. ‘Yeah, we’re no threat – so if you wouldn’t mind – um – letting us go, before they notice we’re missing. We can still make it back in time.’
There’s a pause. I peek up through my lashes hopefully.
‘Too late,’ the woman snarls, ‘you’re here now – so get going.’ She prods my side with her toe.
‘Rude,’ I mutter, but get up for Logan’s sake.
I recognize this room – it’s Spade’s cottage. I can see it more clearly in the daylight, but it looks the same as ever – small, rickety, red carpet; smashed window from when I broke in. I wonder why they haven’t fixed it yet.
‘Your work, I suppose?’ Spade says to me, and seems to take my silence as confirmation. ‘I did wonder…’
The woman has her back to us, fingers clicking on the wooden chest of drawers, and all I can see of her is a small, slim body, the back of a purple bob, and tight, black leather jeans, finished off with dragon-hide boots with spiky heels on each end. She’s so much smaller than I imagined. She doesn’t look much taller than Logan.
As if hearing my thoughts, Logan’s eyes meet mine, and I can tell we’re both thinking along the same lines. This sharp ‘woman’ is a child, just like us. But why is she involved in ‘You can at least have the decency to tell us where we’re going,’ Logan says coldly to her back, ignoring Spade, who is pacing again in the corner of his cottage.
‘You’d think so, wouldn’t you?’ says the girl, not even bothering to face him like a – well, girl I suppose.
‘You owe us-’ he starts to say.
‘I owe you nothing,’ she cuts him off dismissively. ‘You’re alive, aren’t you?’
‘Modify our memories if you don’t trust us,’ I try again, ‘nobody will ask us questions or try and break the charm if we get back before anyone notices anything. Then you can carry on with your – stuff, and we can carry on with ours.’
‘I’m afraid it’s too late,’ says the girl, and it’s as if she’s sealing off our fate.
‘Then what are you going to do with us?’ Logan says shakily.
‘Well, first,’ she says, swivelling round to face us, ‘first I’m going to tell you everything.’
Her purple bob crackles as she speaks, bones prominent in her cheeks, eyes almond-shaped and so like her sister’s. Her mouth is covered in black lipstick. If it weren’t for the eyes, this harsh, purple-haired teenager with garish make-up would be totally unrecognizable – but maybe that’s the point. Maybe she doesn’t want to look in the mirror everyday and see the sister she betrayed.
‘Why’d you do it?’ Logan says quietly, in response to her statement. ‘What did you do with Janet?’
For a moment, the lips under the black wobble, but in the next second they are firm and justified again. And she’s back to ice.
‘It went wrong,’ her voice is cold, ‘everything went wrong.’ She glances at Spade as if giving him permission to take over.
‘I’m married to her sister,’ he jerks a thumb at the girl, ‘no, not Janet – the other one. The older one.’ Logan and I look at each other confusedly – what does this have to do with anything? I wish they’d get to the point; we are being held against our will, after all – is their life story necessary? ‘But there are things about the Parkers I never knew. Not before. I thought they were the sweetest family ever – what with my record, I was shunned all over the village-’
‘You still are,’ Logan says, but at both mine and Spade’s glare, closes his mouth pretty sharpish.
‘-and they were the only villagers who accepted me as a person, not a criminal. We quickly got engaged, Lene and I. We got married on a Sunday – Easter Sunday; March 27th 2016. At first life couldn’t be more perfect – I was staying within the law – well, sort of – I got myself a job; I had a beautiful, understanding wife. But then one day she – my wife – led me to a Lake - Meagan Lake. I thought she had hired a romantic boat ride or something – it was vast, that lake. But – but instead,’ he takes a gulping breath in, looking revolted, ‘instead she showed me a mark on her lower back – two dots and a star fish. I didn’t understand – I thought it was some kind of tattoo or something – but it seemed like more of a branding, if you know what I mean.’ He looks at the girl, who sighs and takes over.
‘It was a mark of the curse,’ she says in an odd, detached voice. ‘The curse we’ve been hiding for centuries. My father’s parents – they never told us why. All we knew was, the fifth man who married into our family was destined for death, marked. The Parker women were always very careful to remain spinsters during their life spans – but a few must’ve got married anyway, some forced into it by the law or poverty. We knew about three,’ she counts on her fingers as she speaks, ‘Margaret Parker, 1753 – Antonia Parker, 1801 – and Lucy Parker, 1843. Arranged, forced and poverty. Lene thought Daniel was four. Our mother only stumbled upon the truth later. There was a secret marriage dating back to 1667 – two young lovers, one maid and a market boy, got married without either guardian or parents’ knowledge. The girl was left abandoned from birth. Her mother couldn’t cope under the living conditions. It was a time of the Great Purge. Life was bad for even the rich. But the girl didn’t know she was a Parker – and neither did we – until it was too late. We did some pretty extensive research over the next few months – but it was rare, and we’ve never found out our caster, or the reason why; so there was nothing we could do. My sister was distraught – her beloved husband was going to die because she’d been stupid enough to marry him without telling him about our family, been selfish enough to say her vows. She was hysterical – so my father called on a known sorceress from South America. She agreed to help us – for a price. She said there was a ritual we could perform, powerful magic – and it had to be done on Halloween. She met with us at the local Fireworks display – we were able to slip away, our father, Daniel, Lene, Janet and me. Our mother stayed to keep up appearances.
‘We crept up to the mountains hidden deep in the forest, and stopped by a small cave. The sorceress said she’d been waiting for this, and lit a fire. She took a powder out of her pocket and showered the flames with dust. She started mumbling then – mumbling and mumbling. We could not understand her. She spoke in her mother tongue. My father began to get worried. She had still not named her price – we were desperate. The flames were flickering, the woman was chanting, the air was black – it was terrifying,’ a haunted look crosses her hardened features before she continues, ‘we all wanted it to stop really, but we had to save Daniel. He’d stuck by Lene even after he discovered the truth. He still loved her, loved her family, for what we were. The woman clapped her hands three times, and then spun around the flames seven. She blew an enchantment into the flames, and it scattered around the cave. ‘The powder was blinding. Everything was chaos – confusion. When the dust had settled, she’d gone. And so had Janet. Only her possessions remained – a coat and a heel. One covered in blood, the other snapped. Our father was frantic. We all were. He started yelling, but we knew she was gone. In the mess of the flames and the dust, she must’ve mistaken Janet for Lene. We knew then she had wanted Lene as a sacrifice for her husband – but she’d got J-Janet instead,’ at this notion the small girl’s face begins to cave in on itself, and she cries and cries. Spade puts a comforting arm over her shaking shoulders, while I look at Logan in shock. This was not what either of us were expecting. We thought they were monsters - cold-hearted killers. How could we have got the truth so wrong?
‘I’m – sorry,’ I say quietly, ‘I’m so sorry about Janet.’ The girl looks at me through her wet lashes, no longer mean and threatening. Just a scared, distraught fourteen-year-old girl, not much older than Logan and me. But what happens now?
‘Nobody would believe us,’ she sobs, ‘so we had to lie to cover up the truth. My parents did an interview for The Prophet. But then the Ministry began to suspect Daniel – with his record, they thought it was a bit of a coincidence his sister-in-law turned up dead on the night he was sighted. Then, of course,’ a bitter expression twists her face, ‘then they began to suspect me. It was when they were interviewing everyone who had seen or been with Janet on the night of her disappearance. I was in no fit state for an interview of any sort. I was in shock. I just stared at them, blanked out their questions. I let slip she wasn’t meant to die. ‘They said they’d like to speak to me again tomorrow – but my parents knew what this must mean. They wanted to haul me in for questioning. They wanted me to relive it all again – they thought I helped dispose of the body with Daniel. My parents convinced me to change my appearance, identity, and go on the run with Daniel, to spare ourselves a lengthy term in Azkaban for our part in the ‘killing’. We’ve been searching for answers for a year now – but then the Ministry started searching for us. A villager must’ve spotted us. We moved from the cave into this cottage, Daniel keeping an eye out for any sign of them poking around again – and that’s where you two fit in. You might’ve ruined it all. I’m sorry – but we knew how it must look. I didn’t want to – but we were left with little choice. How long before you went to the ministry with the evidence? We weren’t sure. So Spade confronted you two – but you tried to attack him, so he drugged you. We’ve been trying to figure out what to do with you every since, and we just settled on –’
‘The truth,’ Logan nods. The girl nods ashamedly.
‘Can I just ask your name?’ I ask quietly, ignoring the exasperated look Logan gives me. ‘He’s Logan and I’m Summer, by the way.’
‘I’m Meagan,’ she says, ‘and that lake belongs to me.’
‘I don’t understand,’ Logan frowns, ‘why are you named after a lake?’
‘My family descend from an ancient people – people of Olde Magic. Meagan was a great Greek seer. We think jealousy may have caused a rival family to put a curse on ours. They lived in a time of great magical wars – conflicts between the most skilled of sorcerers, the most vicious of magicians. But there was beautiful magic, too – the lake being one of them. My great ancestor the seer created it using magic unknown to us mere mortals. She placed a pearl in the middle of the lake – the purest pearl in the land. It was herself – Meagan means Pearl. She was special; she had powerful, ancient magic. When her time came to die, she gave herself to the lake. We’ve been researching its properties, hoping it might provide some answers-’
‘Is this the moment you tell us we’re to be the sacrifices of the Lake?’ Logan asks wearily, still evidently thinking there must be a catch to this tale.
‘No,’ she laughs, ‘but I would appreciate your help. We think we’ll be able to find out how to break the curse if we uncover the Lake’s power. But we need you two – the circle requires four to unite under its depths –’
‘When you say: under its depths…’ I say slowly.
‘We mean under the Lake,’ Daniel Spade puts in cheerfully, no longer wearing a look to suggest we’re his next victims. On the contrary, he actually looks quite normal, for a suspected murderer on the run.
‘Oh, don’t worry,’ Meagan says in a sing-song voice, ‘we have special magic for that.’
‘Of course you do,’ Logan sighs, catching my eye. I giggle.
So, with our agreement and without the use of a drug, we follow them out of the cottage. Spade glances at Meagan as we reach the middle of the forest. ‘I think it’s in our best interests to apparate,’ he says thoughtfully, and she nods as takes his hand, and then Logan’s, who takes mine.
I’ve never apparated before. I feel a familiar curious sensation spread through my bones as the world starts to fall on its head and spins and spins…I feel my insides turn to nothing, as though a lift is whooshing through my stomach…
We fall harshly onto cushioning grass, and get up unsteadily, dizzily. Meagan and Spade are already examining a huge pool of water sparkling blue and white, dozens of lilies and lily pads spread out across the ocean. It really is beautiful, I think dazedly. The world seems very simple all of a sudden – and the Lake is the centre of the universe. Nothing else seems to matter but this pure, rich part of the world…
‘Snap out of it,’ Logan breaks through my thoughts, ‘Summer.’
‘Oh – sorry,’ I blush, blinking back the blue from the sky. Everything seems light and heavenly and painfully bright. No. I blink again, wanting to keep a clear head if I’m going under the thing.
‘Oh, she’s back,’ Logan says sarcastically.
‘It’s quite something, isn’t it?’ Meagan smirks over her shoulder.
Hesitantly, I start to trek over to the Lake. Logan catches my arm as I pass him.
‘You can swim, right?’ he says nervously.
‘Like a baby,’ I giggle, ‘you?’
He pretends to dust off his shoulders. ‘Only, you know, amazingly well,’ he flashes me a cheeky grin, and I stub on his toe.
‘Back to normal, then,’ he snubs.
‘Come on,’ Meagan says impatiently, looking like she’s ready to dive.
We speed up, and reach them within seconds.
‘We’ll all gonna have to dive,’ Spade says, ‘so get ready. We meet at the bottom.’
‘The spell,’ Meagan reminds him, rolling her eyes at us. Self-consciously, Logan and I remove our cloaks, so we’re standing in our shirts and trousers, his tie gleaming green, and mine vibrant red.
‘Oh yeah,’ he says stupidly, ‘manstree vesum anack rome!’ His wand is pointing at all four of us, and I feel a gulp in my chest as oxygen spreads around my body, fighting the urge to laugh at this bizarre spell.
‘Now dive – quickly! And don’t mind the cold!’ he shouts as he throws himself in, disappearing with a splash. Meagan joins him seconds later, a tad more gracefully and as though she’s sprouted ballerina fins.
‘Ready?’ Logan says, shivering on the edge of the lake. I meet his eyes for confirmation, and together we plunge icily into the Lake, and allow its depths to swallow us up, feeling, magnificently, that we are still able to breathe without so much as a bubble. Spade and Meagan are floating dreamily at the bottom, waiting. We dive to the end of the Lake, putting our feet onto lost seaweed. This is – so – weird.
‘Right,’ Meagan begins, taking charge, ‘take my hand, Daniel – Daniel, take Logan’s; don’t be silly boys – and Summer, take mine and Logan’s. That should seal the circle.’ It does.
I kick Logan under the water. Meagan gives me a disapproving frown.
Then all of a sudden soft, tingly music fills the bubbles around us – spirited, old music, music that makes the heart feel alive, music that refurnishes the soul. I let my lids close, and refuse to take in the drifting voices of Spade and Meagan as they ask for their caster in strange accents. I don’t listen to anything but the smoothly playing whispers until Logan puts pressure on my fingers, and I open my eyes to see a huge bubble spreading over the top of the pool, where a pink, glowing creature hisses: ‘Her name is Raven. Just Raven. She is seven hundred years old. Find the caster and you will find eternal peace.’ The voice fades out into nothing, and the glow disappears in a pink bubble. I watch the top of the water, fascinated. I always thought this kind of thing was nothing but a legend, an old fable.
Meagan’s eyes are wide and hungry. ‘We must find her – this Raven,’ she breathes, ‘it’s our chance, Daniel – I know it.’
She’s entirely focussed, and seems to have forgotten our existence. Spade clears his throat and says: ‘What about these two? They belong at the school.’
‘Yeah – if you wouldn’t mind,’ Logan says, ‘but we really have to get going, so…’
‘Close your eyes,’ she whispers to us. ‘Do it. You’ll return – but be warned…it’s the only way out if you don’t want to go forwards…’
‘What?’ I say urgently, really freaked out now.
‘The Lake will take you back,’ she promises, ‘but you’ll have to find your own way back – in a spiritual sense, I mean. The Lake is full of ancient magic, and you might find yourself lingering on…lost in its beauty and presence and command…’
‘You’re telling us this now?’ Logan says disbelievingly. ‘Well, gee, thanks for the heads up…’
I touch his shoulder cautiously. ‘If it’s the only way,’ I say, ‘we committed to this Logan – but you heard what she said: as long as you don’t get caught up in its magic, this journey – we should be alright.’
‘And if we’re not?’ he challenges.
‘It won’t be so bad,’ Spade promises kindly. ‘But you might be – er – lost for a while. Sorry.’
‘C’mon, what’s the worst that could happen?’ I encourage.
‘Er, our souls might be lost forever,’ he says thickly, ‘and you seemed really taken with the Lake earlier – what if you can’t break out?’
‘I’ll be fine,’ I say flippantly, ‘we have to try, Logan. We’ll snap out of it, I know we will – we have loads to live for; why should we want to stay part of the Lake?’
‘Oh, you’d be surprised,’ Spade says darkly. ‘Meag – the spell.’
All at once the air grows soft again, and I feel the soul of the Lake sing out to me, dragging me through its depths…I’m tired and light and drifting…gently drifting…is this what a soul feels like? Am I just a soul?
A gathered blackness pulls me in deeper, calling for me, for Summer.
Summer, it breathes, Summer…further, plunge further…so much soul…heart…spirit…bravery…connect yourself, soul of the Lake, attach yourself to this little one…
And at once a slithery spirit pulls me into a dark, cloudy reality.
‘They were found outside the school, Poppy?’
‘By the side of the lake outside Hogwarts – soaking wet to the bone, unconscious but breathing.’
‘And they’ve been that way ever since?’
‘Yes, Minister – one of the strangest cases I’ve ever had to deal with. Very strange indeed.’
‘How long’s it been now? Are they showing any signs of recovery?’
‘It’s been over a month, Minister. The parents are distraught, as you can imagine. The boy keeps stirring – tossing and turning in his sleep.’
‘And the girl?’
‘The same since the day she was found. Goodness knows how they got there – and who pulled them out. We think they were playing around at night, Minister, and they somehow found a way out of Hogwarts gates – and accidentally fell in the lake. Either that or one fell in; the other tried to rescue their friend. But I can’t explain their states. Aside from lack of food and drink, and a slight temperature, I can find nothing wrong with them. Not even pneumonia.’
‘It is certainly odd. Any remedies?’
‘I’ve tried them all. A little bit of colour in their cheeks, maybe, but aside from that…’ a door swings shut, loud and creaky on its hinges. The world is still black – but I can hear sound. I’ve been completely shut off from the world for weeks – at last I’ll be able to hear my parents, my friends. All I’ve heard up until now is the distant singing of the Lake, tireless and low, humming for my soul. It wants me to be taken. And a part of me longs to be pulled into that strange, bottomless reality…but most of me wants to open her eyes, and see my family, my friends – even old Grace wouldn’t be such a sight for sore eyes…I wonder why Logan’s stirring, though? Does that mean he’ll wake up soon, or that he’s disturbed by the voices? Can he hear now, too? I have nothing but empty blackness to answer me.
Speak, someone, I silently plead, please say something…
But nobody does, and the familiar call of the ocean surrounds my soul, swimming through the murky depths of my brain…
Summer…how we have waited for a soul like yours…young, excitable on the surface, but powerful and great beneath…follow our spirit Summer, and you will find greatness…
What if I don’t want greatness? A loud, rebellious voice spits back. What if that’s just not me?
Oh, Summer, it cackles, more alive than me in this second, sometimes we don’t have a choice – sometimes greatness comes for us, and we don’t seek it…you will not be able to resist its allure. The power is too great. But we leave you now…we’re fading away…
I feel its presence drain out of me, slowly and shining with light. I feel my leaden body droop back downwards – and I feel my body curve into a natural sleep…
‘Summer? I brought toffee!’
I try to answer the forcefully cheerful voice of my twin, but my eyes won’t open. I don’t get it…it let me…I felt it go away…it said…
‘C’mon, Summer, I haven’t got all day,’ the voice teases.
‘Are you sure she’ll wake up?’ says a voice I recognize to be Rose’s. ‘She looks so still –’
‘’course she will,’ Seth says fiercely, protectively, ‘Madam Pomfrey said – she’s making great progress. And he woke up.’
What’s this? Logan’s awake? He’s sitting up and talking and he’s okay? I feel some relief seep through my veins, before I remember my own predicament.
‘Yeah, I know…but – but it’s been ages, Seth.’
‘I’ve known people to wake up months after being in a coma,’ says a different, chirpy voice that must belong to Alice.
‘Yeah,’ someone I’m sure to be Tristan adds, ‘they said my Uncle Barty would never walk again – and look at him now!’
‘Isn’t he the one on walking sticks?’ Rose asks.
‘Well, yeah, but the point is, he’s made great progress, and he’s still optimistic. What do you think, Al?’
‘Er,’ he says uncomfortably, and I find myself wishing they hadn’t put him on the spot like that, too, ‘I think she’ll – er – definitely wake – but you know Summer,’ a lighter tone has crept into his voice, ‘she does things in her own time.’ My friends chuckle, and I’m too happy they’ve found light in a bad situation to care whether Albus Potter just made a joke at my expense or not. In fact, I’m really glad. Good old Albus – trust him to make everything better. It’s just typical.
‘It’s our birthday soon, and Christmas,’ Seth says miserably, ‘what if she misses those?’
‘You know, I’ve changed my mind,’ Rose says bossily, ‘Summer-’ she raises her voice loudly to make sure I hear, ‘-is way too greedy to miss on free gifts – ow! Seth!’
‘They’re such kids, aren’t they, Summer?’ Albus mutters to me.
Say yes, screams a voice in my ear, answer him Summer.
I haven’t tried opening my eyes in a while. Hesitantly, like a baby, I peer through my lashes a fraction. I can’t see much through my tightened lids – just a shaft of light – heaven? No, just a torch. OK, what’s that – a bed cover? With a will of their own, my lashes blink up at the scene around me, adjusting to the direct light, and the image of my fighting friends around me.
‘Hey guys,’ I croak out casually, ‘haven’t missed breakfast, have I?’
My throat crackles from lack of use, but that’s nothing to the reactions of my friends around me. Rose takes her hand off the pillow that was aimed at Seth. Albus stops tutting at the violence and stares at me as though I’ve come back from the dead. Tristan abandons all coolness at once and allows a startled expression to spread across his face. Alice gives an excited squeal. But it’s Seth that looks the most shell-shocked, despite what he said to Rose earlier. He looks at me shakily, almost as though he can’t believe I’m actually real.
‘Somebody say something,’ I moan. ‘Have I turned into a ghost, guys? Am I alive?’
Without a word, Seth throws his arms around me, hiding his face in my hair. ‘Definitely solid,’ he whispers, and we share a special grin, the kind we used to give to each other before we came to Hogwarts. The kind I haven’t seen on either of our faces in a while.
There’s a sudden distraction as Rose dissolves into tears!
‘Ah, come on, Rose,’ I say, ‘I’m alive, I promise!’
‘Move over, Seth!’ Rose sobs – and she elbows him in the face (“ow, Rose, that was cruel”) ‘Group hug!’ Alice sniffs, and if I hurt before, it’s nothing compared to the five pairs of arms all fighting to hug me, Seth still rubbing his face reproachfully, but I have a strong suspicion he’ll never wash it again.
‘What’s the date?’ I ask, realizing I’ve lost track of so much time. Meagan and Spade weren’t kidding, then. (I had kind of hoped they were, or at least thought it would only last a couple of hours or so, enough to give us an excuse not to be expelled).
‘The date is December 14th,’ Seth says.
‘This is so creepy,’ I stutter, ‘the last time I checked, it was early November – and now it’s mid-December.’
‘It must be,’ Rose agrees, ‘I’d be frantic.’
‘You missed the exams though, so it’s not all bad,’ Seth puts in cheerfully.
I sit up, furious with myself. ‘I didn’t want to miss the exams!’ I howl. ‘Now how will I know what I’m good at and what I’m not?’
‘Well, you can tick History of Magic off your good list, for a start,’ Alice grins, ‘the test required you to have listened in every class, I’m afraid – but you seemed to sleep through those as well. And at least you didn’t have Slade breathing down your neck.’
‘Yeah, she needs some after shave,’ Tristan says, holding his nose.
‘Perfume, you mean,’ Rose says snootily, ‘last time I checked, she was a woman.’
‘That’s another thing you want to add to your list,’ Seth mutters to me, ‘Slade’s turned into a man.’ I giggle a little hysterically at this thought, and at the sound, everyone else joins in my ‘Where’s Logan?’ I ask.
‘At the opposite end of the hospital wing, thank goodness,’ Seth says, ‘surrounded by those Slytherins he calls friends.’
I hit him on the arm. ‘Oi, don’t be mean,’ I scold him (I haven’t been able to do that for over a month); ‘it’s my fault we ended up in this state in the first place. It was my idea.’
‘He’s been leading you astray since the start of the year,’ Seth argues.
‘No he hasn’t,’ I say indignantly, ‘how can you say that, Seth? He could’ve died, and it might’ve been my fault.’
‘Yeah right,’ Seth says bitterly, ‘it’s the other way round, more like. I wish we’d never heard of Logan Turner.’
Rose bursts out laughing. ‘Sorry for ruining the moment, guys,’ she says hurriedly, ‘you just sounded like a guy off Eastenders.’
‘East-what?’ Tristan says in a puzzled tone.
‘It’s a muggle series on the television,’ I say brightly, ‘Mum watches it all the time.’
‘Muggles,’ Tristan says, shaking his head.
‘I hope you’re not being bloodist,’ Alice reprimands him sternly.
‘Says the pureblood,’ Tristan retorts, ‘and no, I wasn’t being bloodist, actually. It’s just so ‘You’ll get used to it,’ Albus advises him wisely, ‘Aunty Hermione had to, only the other way round – from Muggle to Wizard land.’
‘Wizard land!’ Alice giggles. ‘You are funny, Albus!’
‘Yeah, this isn’t Aladdin, mate,’ Tristan chips in, causing us all to stare at him.
‘You – know – muggle – Disney – films?’ Rose chokes out.
‘No,’ he suddenly becomes very interested in his shoe lace. ‘’course not. Dad mentioned it once – he dated a chic obsessed with that kind of stuff back in the day.’
‘A chic?’ Rose, Alice and I cry at the same time. ‘A chic!’
Tristan is apparently bewildered. ‘What did I say? Ladies?’
‘Women, mate,’ Seth says, ‘the rarest specimens of them all.’
Albus nods in agreement, and I silently take back the nice thought I had about him earlier. ‘Well, we are lively, aren’t we?’ Madam Pomfrey says, bustling over. ‘Told you she would wake. I’ve not been wrong about a patient yet.’
‘Thanks, Madam Pomfrey,’ Seth says, turning on the old charm, ‘you save lives, you really do,’ Tristan winks at Seth from behind Madam Pomfrey’s back, as if to say: good one, mate. Rose, Alice and I huff again when Madam Pomfrey blushes to the roots of her grey hair and says it’s her pleasure. Oh, how gross. She’s flirting with my brother and my stupid, irresponsible friends! Someone get us a bucket, please. And not because I’m a hospital patient. (I know – terrible pun).
‘Now young lady,’ Madam Pomfrey begins (I’ve been waiting for this), ‘no exertions for you – and definitely no more lakes,’ I hang my head. ‘With plenty of bed rest, you should be up and about in time for the start of the spring term.’
‘Just my luck,’ I sigh, rolling my eyes at the others.
It’s a beautiful summer day, the afternoon sun rising slowly in-between the clouds, the sky an effortless, milky blue. Even the grass seems greener. I’m definitely happier, anyway. For the past five or six odd months, life’s been – dare I say it – almost normal. History of Magic and I will never see eye to eye – but we’re getting there. Since hearing Meagan and Spade’s story, I’ve realized history’s more important than I initially thought. It shapes a huge part of your future, I think.
Unfortunately, it was too late for Logan and I to try out for our team trials – so we’ve missed out on Quidditch. But it’s okay. We go down and see the matches. The Gryffindor team are really good – but I couldn’t help watching their chasers critically, knowing I could’ve been one of them. I could’ve been the flying spirit set loose on an enchanted broom, scoring goals left, right and centre. But maybe it’s not good to get too caught up in yourself – that’s one thing I’ve learnt, anyway. It might sound far-fetched, but you could just find yourself losing your hold on reality – dwelling on depth and mystery, what lurks beneath the surface. I’ve needed these free, homework-filled days to recharge my batteries. We went along with the whole fell-in-the-Hogwarts-lake story, and nobody questioned it, really. Grace was just anxious the newspapers didn’t get wind of it. After all, reputation’s everything, right? One thing’s for sure – that man’s learnt nothing that year; and I still despise him. It’s odd, though – I almost feel sorry for him, foul as he is. How awful to wake up so slimy and unpleasant, to have everyone hate you. And for what? A bit of power? A smidgen of authority? It’s pathetic. He needs to grow a wand.
Anyway, back to Quidditch – Gryffindor didn’t win the Quidditch cup in the end. They made the final though – against Ravenclaw; but they were slaughtered. To be fair, the snooty expressions on those Ravenclaws’ faces must’ve been enough to put anyone off the game. I’m pleased to say Hufflepuff battered Slytherin, though, before being knocked out by Gryffindor. I teased Logan to the end of his wand on that one. We’re still friends – but relations aren’t good. As far as Seth’s concerned, even after all these months, Logan’s name is mud. He thinks it’s all his fault, that he led us both into danger. The truth is – it was me. I led us into danger. Seth doesn’t believe me; he wouldn’t. So we’ve had to keep up the whole secret-friends thing. We can’t really hang out anyway, though. It was worse at first. Determined to keep me out of trouble, Rose gave all our friends the hopeless task of keeping me out of trouble, so it’s hard to sneak off. And Seth was like a hawk, too. I felt like a prisoner, or an enemy spy. So we’ve had to make do with hidden smiles and funny winks, and hastily exchanged conversations about Quidditch. Once he even deliberately knocked over my Potion, just to ask me what I’m doing in the holidays. Mum and Dad have decided we all need a good long break, so they’ve planned a few weeks in Paris, France – I know! We’re so excited. Mum and Dad were really freaked out at first – I mean, for starters, there was the fight, then Seth’s duel, and then Logan and I turn up in hopelessly weird subconscious dream-like states. It took weeks to convince Mum not to bring me back with her. In the end, I assigned Rose the impossible challenge of persuading them to let me stay – and I don’t know what she said, but the next time I saw them, they were more up for it than me. That girl has a few secrets up her own sleeve, I can tell you. Dad dealt with it the best – he just said I hadn’t broken his boyfriend rule yet, so as far as he’s concerned, he can sleep at night. Mum scolded him for hours over that. But everything’s settled down now. There’s always a new drama, anyway; I mean, this is Hogwarts. What do you expect?
‘Who d’you think will take the House cup this year?’ Tristan asks lazily, stretching a hand out on the grass.
‘Ravenclaw, of course,’ Rose says, ‘do you know how many points they gained after they beat us in the final?’
‘Don’t talk about it,’ Alice groans. ‘It’s too painful.’
‘I’d rather Slytherin had won,’ I say miserably, hoping Logan isn’t anywhere in the vicinity, or he’ll get too smug.
‘Of course you would,’ Seth mutters, picking at a flower on the grass. ‘We can’t have your boyfriend too upset, can we?’
‘He is not my boyfriend!’ I say, flicking grass in his stupid face. Anyway, he’s such a hypocrite – even now I can see him watching Rose’s face as she continues to rant about the Albus catches my eye and grins. As a kind of repayment for his silence on Logan, and for not telling him anything, I kind of squealed about my brother’s wee crush on our dear friend and his cousin Rose. But he’s promised not to say anything – but oh dear. That’s two people I’ve rumbled the secret to. I don’t think I’m very good at the whole deception thing after all.
‘Watch this,’ Albus says in a quiet voice so only I can hear. Then he sits up and raises his voice. ‘Hey, Rose,’ he teases, ‘I think Scorpius Malfoy is looking at you again.’ Instantly, Seth’s head snaps up. I laugh so much inside Tristan gives me a look of concern, clearly ‘He’s probably just trying to detect any trace of dirty blood on my face,’ Rose says with a roll of her eyes.
‘Still – is it natural for people to look at you as though they want to both kill you and talk to you at the same time for two hours straight?’ I ask in mild concern.
Rose laughs, but doesn’t answer. Shame – I thought she knew everything.
When the final bell rings, we all leap up in celebration. It’s time for the last Assembly of the year - and then we can get our stuff and go home! And we can go to Paris!
‘Bonjour Madame,’ I curtsey to myself, practising.
‘You’re letting France go to your head,’ a low, familiar voice mocks in my ear.
I turn through the bustle of the crowd to tell him to stick his comments where the wand don’t shine, but too late – his floppy hair has already begun to melt into the crowd. Well, see you next year too.
The colours in the Great Hall have been changed to represent Ravenclaw House, but I try not to mind. And for once they look proud, not malicious. And the girls aren’t bad. They’re actually quite nice.
‘…and that concludes the end of term speech,’ finishes Grace at last, looking a little put out most people are still more interested in the scrapings of their plate than his silly, masterful words.
‘Can we go home now?’ James shouts from further down the table, his mates egging him on.
‘Yes, you can,’ Grace sighs, ‘clear off, the lot of you.’
‘Well, that’s nice,’ I huff as we start to file out again.
‘Summer, you wanted to go,’ Rose reminds me, laughing, ‘now, are you going to come with me to collect our owls or what?’ I follow her out of the Hall, still grumbling about time-wasters and hapless head teachers.
I find Earl sleeping softly in his cage, wings beating downwards. Stroking his slow, quivering figure, I remember the summer of last year, when Seth and I got up so early to hear the tweet of the owl, our acceptance into Hogwarts. I remember how young and eager and liable to adventure we were then, and want to laugh at myself. Still, it wasn’t all bad – I’m making it back, and still in one piece. I’d say that’s the biggest achievement I’ve made all year – and you should’ve heard Professor Oswald when he saw my Potion at the end of the exam. Not to boast, but he awarded me full points on the spot! Logan too, of course. History of Magic was a different story – but it always is. I can’t wait for next year, when we’re actually doing our subject options. I went with Care of Magical Creatures in the end. I don’t know why – it just felt right. Seth said I had finally realized my mental ambition, but I don’t think that’s it. I picked Arithmancy too, of course – not many people went with that. Whatever happens, next year looks set to be better than the last.
Dragging my case and cage to the station, I cast my eye back over the great castle, one last time - because who knows what trouble I’ll get into next year?