To begin with there was a man in a ploughed field.
A man of humble garment, and kind face. The sort of man you would feel terrible
Before him stood a tall young woman, hair done
up neatly, dress plain and proper. Yet for all she looked like the sort of person who could
stand before a classroom and have them fall to silence immediately, she did not
look stern here. Her head was bowed, and she stood as if she had a physical
weight on her shoulders.
Neither was saying anything, but one looked
confused and deeply hurt, and the other…the other had her back to Sparrow, and
perhaps, if she did not wish to look into the man’s eyes, she would not wish
Sparrow to see her face at all.
“Never mind this memory,” said McGonagall. “Skipping ahead now.”
The scene dissolved.
“2045,” said Cormac. “The year of the Great Storm,
“Correct,” said McGonagall.
Two adults and six children stood on the shore
of the Thames estuary, upon the tidal sands, at a far distance from the
outskirts of the city proper. On this day the clouds hung low and dark, like
the clouds of the rainy season.
Above the city rose curious structures,
monolithic and menacing in the gloom. It took Sparrow a moment to realize that
they were the old towers as her mother had described them. How on earth anyone
besides Wizards managed to procure that much metal and glass for one tower – it
was difficult to contemplate. It seemed like a terrible waste. And there were
at least five of them.
Midway between them and the city stood a tall,
slender structure, from whose top rose a stream of a dark cloud, as if the
structure was trying to add to the ones already overhead.
“Some manner of infernal muggle device,” said
Jocasta. “What exactly is the point of making all that smoke?”
“It generates electricity,” said Sparrow.
“You speak!” said Jocasta. “Perhaps it is
permissible within a memory. But what do you mean, the smoke generates
“Long story,” said Sparrow. “But why are they
using these things at all? I thought they stopped after 2040.”
“That’s the official account,” said Violet. “But
do not trust everything you learn in Muggle Studies class.”
“Please,” said Cormac. “I don’t want to hear
your opinion of Professor Shipton again.”
“Oh, if it were only him! No, the history
textbook is unfortunately a historical distortion as well. It only picks the
more optimistic muggle news reports to create its narrative. Talking of which,
Headmistress – ”
McGonagall gave Violet a look that indicated
she would not be accepting any requests from anyone today.
“Never mind,” said Violet. Her posture shrank as if she
wished to disappear.
“So what’s here?” said Jill. “Besides a flat
lot of sand. What’s the point of being here?”
“The sand is the point,” said McGonagall. “I
wanted you children to see this tidal flat in the last few minutes before it
was lost beneath the water.”
“Storm’s coming on fast,” said Cormac.
“Perilous place to stand,” said Miranda.
“For anyone solid,” said Jocasta. “Thank
goodness we aren’t getting wet sand all over our shoes.”
The rain began to fall.
“Now,” said McGgonagall, “As the rainfall gets
heavier, I would like you to direct your attention to the marshes.”
The rain began to pelt, then to sheet. Sparrow
turned to the shore, peering through the blinding rain at the shore, where the
mud and marsh grass was still barely visible. She was not sure what she ought
to be looking for. Some birds, perhaps? And yet they would have been invisible
in this downpour –
So what, exactly, were those voids in the rain?
And why were they coming closer?
Sparrow realized with a start that they were
shaped like humans. And yet they were not ghosts – quite the opposite, it
seemed. Coporeal and invisible, rather than visible and incorporeal. What on
earth were they?
“You will notice,” said McGonagall, “that one
of the shapes there looks a fair bit taller than the others. That is me. I
refused to give up my favorite hat for the occasion.”
The figures passed by and then took off running
straight over the open water.
“Seems less efficient than a broom,” said Cormac
“And safer,” said Violet. “Invisibility charms
were still experimental at this point. Wouldn’t want to mix that with broom
enchantments. So where are they going, then?”
“I don’t know,” said Cormac, “but we ought to
follow. The water is rising.”
Indeed, it was already well above their knees,
and beginning to roil with wind-driven waves.
“We will stay here,” said McGonagall. “Just to
illustrate something in particular.”
The water was now above their waists. Now their
necks, and now their heads. Until there was nothing to see but swirling
darkness – and within it, the ghostly shapes of the Wizards, glowing faintly
amidst the gloom. One of them a faint white, one a golden orange, one a bright
purple, one of firey red, one of icy blue, and one of a bright green, a curious
green that Sparrow could not place.
“Think about how much water there must be,”
said McGonagall, “to rise this high above a tidal flat. Now you see why London
sits in its current position. Come on then.”
The scene dissolved, and resolved into the same
rainstorm as before. Only they stood on a different shore, not a shore of mud
or sand but – asphalt. And around them stood small ramshackle houses amidst a
few large decrepit ones.
“Honestly,” said McGonagall, “these people
should all have moved into London by now. But some things are hard to give up.”
Through the blinding rain Sparrow thought she
could see low shapes in the water offshore. Flat, broad, rising gently like
rooftops, but at the water’s surface. Well. That’s probably exactly what they
“Looks like they learned the hard way,” said
“They didn’t know,” said Violet. “They should
have known but they couldn’t. They were used to relying on detailed weather
reports, many of them, and those were gone. Didn’t know how to read the signs
for a hurricane, didn’t expect it. But, here they are.”
“And there they go,” said Jocasta, jerking a
thumb behind her.
Sparrow turned. There were many figures running
away from the water’s edge now. Many doors opening, groups of people pouring
out and making for whatever high ground they could find – not that it was much,
around here. They might have to run a while.
And within the pelting rain there were the
invisible figures once more, each of them outlined as voids in the rain, and
yet, if Sparrow squinted at them, she thought she could see their outlines
faintly glowing white. Or maybe it was a trick of the rain as it bounced off
them. Whatever it was, the figures were posed in the stance of someone pushing
a heavy load forward. Or holding it back, as the case might be.
“I think the water will keep rising,” said
Miranda. “This ground doesn’t rise nearly high enough to stop the flood, not
with this rainstorm still on.”
“Indeed not,” said McGonagall. “But we had to
hold the water here as best we could, in order to give this village enough time
to escape. Letting it rise just inch by inch, instead of foot by foot, hoping
we could hold out.”
“You couldn’t have just held it in place and
then let it go once the muggles were all safe?”
“Oh,” said McGonagall, “I think you’ll see why
that was a foolish idea. Observe the invisible figures.”
The figures were retreating at a slow and
steady pace. But then one of them stumbled backward, and fell, and the water
pressed just a bit closer. Then another fell, and another, and the remainder
were forced backward by the suddenly rising waves.
“Let us move to a different location,” said
The scene dissolved. When it resolved Sparrow
could see no houses through the rain. Just a tidal flat where the water was
creeping steadily forward. And dark figures marching away from it, perhaps
hoping to get away in time. There was a low ridge in the far distance. If they
could reach it, perhaps it would buy them more time, or even stop the water
Suddenly the crowd was outpacing the waves, and
Sparrow could see why – for there were many, many human-shaped voids in the
rain, standing between the crowd and the waves, and where they stood the water
could go no further. Yet the water was building, higher and higher, as against
an unseen barrier, and the crowd was taking its time, now, under the impression
that they were safe. Some of them even stood there, as if wishing to observe
Then one of the invisible people stumbled and
fell, and another beside them collapsed, and a third, and a fourth, and the
water broke through whatever barrier held it, and swept through the invisible
people, and straight towards the crowd, who, having turned to watch the
spectacle, now had to turn again and run, and not a few failed to make it, and fell
beneath the waves.
“Skip ahead a bit,” said McGonagall.
The scene dissolved, and reformed to show the
same place, yet with a clear blue sky.
Sparrow was finally able to see the whole
scene. The water stretched over the tidal flat, where they had once stood, and
out to the horizon. She turned, and saw the crowd, standing atop the ridge.
McGonagall was gazing out over the water, a
faraway look in her eyes. “That was the worst day for the Department of Catastrophes,”
she said. “A total of ninety-seven Wizard casualties, three from my team and
fifty from the group you saw operating here, and the remainder from teams handling
other muggle villages along shore. Twenty in Canvey, as I recall. As for
here…we hadn’t exactly coordinated methods with each other, or I thought we had
but maybe Borodin heard something different than what I was saying. Nor was it
possible to use the two-way mirrors amidst that awful rain. So, Borodin led his
team using his idea of how to handle the water, and paid for it with his life,
along with that of many muggles. Most of the casualties came from teams who
followed Borodin’s method.”
“A heroic fool,” said Jocasta.
“How many muggles died?” said Miranda.
“Casualty estimates for the Great
Storm are uncertain at best,” said Violet. “Many of the birth records of such
people were stored in coastal communities that flooded, as well as the flooded
areas of London. And as for death records, well, there was hardly time for that
when all the bodies needed burying. Low estimate is close to a million, from
the Firth of Forth down to the Thames.”
“I meant among the people the Wizards were
trying to save.”
“Even less certain.”
“The answer is far too many,” said McGonagall.
“Although one could argue that it was because we weren’t trying. Next scene.”
The next scene was in a windowless office,
where sat a fancy desk amid sumptuous wooden furniture. A fairly spacious room,
compared to what Sparrow was used to, spacious enough to fit an entire
There was a middle-aged man at a desk, writing
on a scroll of parchment, and there was an elderly woman standing before the
desk, towering over the man in a very familiar manner.
“If we had just been allowed to pick them up
and carry them,” said the slightly younger McGonagall, “we would have been able
to get ourselves in place to slow the flooding in London well before so many
people were drowned.”
“And then what?” said the man. “Obliviate the
lot of them? You have made your opinion of that business abundantly clear to
poor old Pickering.”
“There is a significant difference in letting
people be confused about why they got where they were versus confusing them
about why their loved ones died! And think about how many brave young Wizards
died because you wanted our rescue efforts to be subtle in the middle of a
“I have thought about it,” said the man,
putting down his quill and interlacing his fingers, looking at the younger
McGonagall with a studiously polite expression. “I have, indeed, considered
that matter. I have not stopped considering that matter. I do not expect I will
stop within the next few decades. With that in mind, I think our discussion is
over. Please leave my office.”
The younger McGonagall whirled around and
marched out of the room.
The man picked up his pen and continued
“I continued to aid the Department of
Catastrophes when they called upon me,” said McGonagall. “But I never initiated
any further contact with them.”
“Hang on,” said Violet. “I thought it was
called the department of Magical Accidents and Catastrophes?”
“Once upon a time,” said McGonagall. “Next
The day was bright, the sky was blue, the
ground was cracked and barren. The city was not London, for its outskirts stood
much closer to its center. But whatever towers it had were half-dismantled by
“Looks like Derby,” said Cormac. “First of the
“Nottingham,” said McGonagall. “Second of the
storms. The first one, well, hard to save anyone from it when you don’t know it
will happen! So we were far more strenuous about our efforts on the second
round, and far more open. Watch now.”
The wind began to blow hard, and on the horizon
a cloud of dust approached. Within a few minutes it had reached the gathered
But then, from some invisible source, came the
cry of “VENTUS!”
And the dust stopped moving forward. It drifted
to the left, as if caught by a different vortex of wind. As Sparrow followed
its path, she could see it flow around the city, and then away, blown by the
very wind that had brought it in the first place – and yet there was so much of
it that it kept coming, on and on.
“I won’t bore you with the details of this
one,” said McGonagall. “Let’s just say it was my idea, and young Wooster should
not have been placed alone at the end of the relay, because he hadn’t the
strength to handle it by himself. He got a lungful of dust and barely survived.
And then we had to wipe the memories of everyone in the city. That was the
point where I gave up leading the task forces. Couldn’t handle what had to be
done. Next scene.”
A bright day, a blue sky, a dark tunnel into
the barren hill. Two of them, in fact. Vast and perfectly circular. Three of
them, in fact, though the third was offset up the hill and smaller.
“Muggles used to build such extraordinary
things,” said Violet. “And brought us this world as a result.”
“Could have done it without doing that,” said
Cormac. “But maybe they wanted quick results.”
“What exactly are we looking at?” said Jocasta.
“Chunnel,” said Cormac.
“Okay…and what exactly are we doing here?”
Suddenly all three entrances to the tunnel were
blocked by a field of translucent glowing yellow. Before them stood an elderly
woman in a tall pointed hat.
“Observing an experimental charm being tested
in the field,” said McGonagall. “Significant improvement on the old shield
charm, if it worked. And what better
way to test it than now? Well, the answer is ‘in safe conditions’ but it hadn’t
been field-tested yet, so that was my job. Much easier task than having to be
on the English end of this thing. Not exactly worth risking the Headmistress of
Hogwarts in this effort, especially at my age.”
“Hang on,” said Jocasta. “What exactly do you
mean by ‘English end’? Are we not in England?”
“We’re in France,” said Cormac. “I told you.
“Oh,” said Jocasta. “I see. Wait, how on earth
“Always been more muggles than Wizards,” said Jill.
She nudged Sparrow. “Unless the madgirl here gets her way, eh?”
“I daresay we could have used more Wizards on this
day,” said McGonagall. “We should have used more. We should have used everyone
we could. But, we thought that having Rodolphus Carrow involved would equal
twenty strong Wizards. And there’s only so many people you can fit in that
tunnel anyway. And if a mistake is made…well, the strike force made a few
stumbles and lost the element of surprise, so Rodolphus wound up having to hold
the damn beast off mostly by himself while the survivors collapsed the tunnel
behind him. We’re still not sure how he made it out of there alive.”
“Oh,” said Jocasta. “Now I know what this is
about. Father brings this up whenever he has a chance to boast. But you said
‘beast’ in the singular. He says there were two.”
“Unfortunately,” said McGonagall, “He is
correct. He only fought off one. The second – well, observe the slightly
The woman in the pointed hat was now doubled
over and retching. The shields had vanished.
“What’s happening to her?” said Cormac. “I
don’t see anything.”
“You usually don’t,” said Jocasta. “You smell
it first. If you’re lucky you survive the smell. At that point, if you’re
smart, and you can still move, you run. There are not many people who actually
have the chance to see the Nundu with their own eyes. In this case, the hunting
party was extremely lucky that the creature was in a known and narrowly limited
location, such that it was possible to prepare the assault well ahead of time.”
“Nundu,” said Jill.
“Two of them?”
“We thought there was one,” said McGonagall.
“But their poisonous breath doesn’t carry as far as the Channel Tunnel goes. This
was the second one. I had been placed in what everyone had thought was a safe
location, simply to block the tunnel entrance from a vanishing chance of escaping
fumes. We learned the hard way that it was not
a safe position, and that this magical shield is permeable to air. And that
anyone involved in the assault, no matter how distant, should be wearing gas
masks, whether Wizard or Muggle. I daresay Muggles have the advantage there,
for having less opportunity to be reckless.”
Suddenly a fierce wind picked up, blowing
towards the tunnel.
Sparrow turned, wondering where the wind had
There on a hilltop stood a lone woman,
wand aloft. And behind her rose a hundred Wizards on brooms, flying towards the
tunnel. Three swooped down to pick up the one splayed on the ground, while
the rest circled high overhead.
“No more scene to be had here,” said
McGonagall. “They got me away in time and that was that. I like to think young
Alianora Carrow saved my life, for rounding up enough Wizards on this side of
the tunnel to cover the mistakes of the other strike force. And these chaps
only lost a few people, versus fifty on the English side.”
“Still foolish,” said Miranda. “They should
have collapsed the tunnel at both ends.”
“Perhaps both strike forces wanted to be
heroic,” said McGonagall. “Or perhaps Rodolphus did, and his wife decided that,
if he was in there, it didn’t make sense to block his escape. So, a few lives
traded for her husband.” The scene grew darker. “Perhaps that is how it goes.”
Soon there was nothing around but darkness.
“No more terrible memories?” said Cormac.
“I didn’t say that.”
A grey day of misty rain, on a rooftop above
the rest of a small city huddled within walls.
Ten Wizards stood and watched the sky, as if
A dragon burst out of the clouds straight
“Only lost one that day,” said McGonagall.
A day of rain and wind, at the bottom of a
muddy hill, where a shallow valley ran down to a small city. There stood two
hundred Wizards, breathing heavily and leaning on each other in support. A
handful of Wizards had gathered around one.
And the one they gathered around was laid out
on the ground before them, face muddy, eyes open and unblinking.
“Shouldn’t have let him go alone,” said
McGonagall. “One of my greater regrets, along with letting Dumbledore leave
young Harry Potter with people who despised him. Both times I let someone
suffer for being alone. But this time it was my job to make sure that didn’t
happen. Too busy stopping the floodwaters, I keep saying, as if that was an
excuse. Next scene.”
A day of little wind and bright sunlight, on a
nameless dock at a nameless shore.
There were a few mermaids in the water, in
conversation with a few Wizards on the dock, one of whom was McGonagall. The
mermaids scowled and vanished beneath the water, and did not return.
“Not quite as bad as the other memories,” said
McGonagall. “But it was a terrible job of negotiation on my part, when we very
much needed their support. Keep that in mind, Sparrow. And keep in mind that if
you do seek the consensus of the world, that means all the world. Next scene.”
A corridor with bare pipes running along the
walls, lit dimly by sunlight at one end and a glowing shield at the other.
“One of our number who went in took sick
later,” said McGonagall. “Had a devil of a time treating his case of cancer.
Apparently the shield spell doesn’t protect against nuclear radiation either. Keep that in mind as well. Next
A forest of blackened stumps of trees,
twlilight coming on fast. At a stone table stood a hooded figure, with three
skeletons standing to attention.
Suddenly there were twelve Wizards surrounding
him, wands pointed at his throat.
“One of the students I couldn’t save from
themselves,” said McGonagall. “Next scene.”
Twenty Wizards stood upon a barren hilltop
beneath a full summer moon.
Were it not for the moonlight they might have
missed the beings drifting down the road. The convoy far ahead of these beings
had not yet noticed them, nor, indeed, could they have noticed at all, for the
convoy was of muggles and the beings were of dark swirling cloaks. More than
twenty. More than forty. More than sixty. Damn near as many of those things as
there were muggles in the caravan.
Sparrow began to feel uneasy. As the creatures
drew closer to the convoy the feeling increased into sheer dread.
How on earth could that be, if this was but a
As one the Twenty Wizards drew their wands and
cried, “EXPECTO PATRONUM!”
And the moonlight was rivaled by twenty
patronuses charging down the hill.
The cloaks scattered and fled, disappearing
over the plain into the night.
Dread vanished along with them.
“Not that I would ever expect you to seek the
consensus of these particular beings,” said McGonagall. “Nor do I think they
could possibly deserve to have an input, nor would such an input be anything
other than the desire to remain hidden from muggles for the sake of ambushing
“So why this day?” said Jocasta. “What do you
“The existence of these creatures,” said
McGonagall. “I believe they arise from despair. Certainly there are more of
them than ever before.”
“Seems a shame you would have had to Obliviate
all the muggles here,” said Miranda.
“What a loss for anyone who suffers such a
charm,” said Cormac. “Just imagine being a child – ”
“I don’t have to imagine,” said Jocasta.
“ – a muggle child, I mean. And seeing a creature
made of moonlight galloping across the plain. What a pity to have such a memory
“And that is why I have placed this memory
here,” said McGonagall. “For what I was forced to do. And with that, I have
shown you everything I wish. Let us return to the waking world.”
Six children and one adult stood around a
“You see what we deal with,” said McGonagall.
ALL ALONE? ◊◊
“Effectively,” said Violet. “That was the theme
I was getting from all this. A high casualty rate due to an insistence on secrecy.”
“And the other theme?” said McGonagall.
THAT YOU TRY TO DEAL WITH ALL CATASTROPHES NOW. NOT JUST WIZARD
“Precisely. We are not indolent, Miss Jones,
not neglectful nor callous.”
YOU TRY TO HOLD UP THE SKY ALL ALONE. ◊◊
“And suffer for it,” said Miranda. “And die for
it, and dwindle.”
“And keep at it,” said Jill, “as long as the
world is in shambles.” She turned to Sparrow. “I am beginning to understand
where you are coming from, my dear friend. If Wizards were willing to heal the
world, they would no longer be forced to put themselves on the line for such
“And yet,” said Miranda, “there is the Nundu. And
all manner of magical catastrophes. Can’t handle those better just for having
more grass around.”
OH, CAN WE NOT? THINK OF HOW MANY MORE WIZARDS YOU COULD DEVOTE
TO AN EMERGENCY IF THERE WEREN’T FIVE HUNDRED HAPPENING AT ONCE. WE WOULD CERTAINLY HAVE MORE WIZARDS AROUND IF THEIR LIVES WEREN’T BEING SPENT ONE
BY ONE ON THIS BUSINESS! ◊◊
“We could just be lazy prats,” said Jocasta.
“Shut ourselves up, never help anybody at all. I’m surprised, really. I thought
we were isolated.”
“Your household is isolated,” said Cormac.
“Your mother’s household is isolated,” said
“I though I made it clear that wasn’t the case – ”
WE CAN’T SHUT OURSELVES UP. WE CAN’T EVEN BE AS ISOLATED AS
WE HAVE BEEN. THE STATUTE OF SECRECY IS TURNING INTO A RECIPE FOR DISASTER. WE WILL
HAVE TO VIOLATE IT FOR THE SAKE OF THE GREEN GRASS IF NOTHING ELSE. ◊◊
“Oh,” said McGonagall. “You’ve made your
decision already, have you.”
ONLY FOR THE GREEN GRASS. YOU SAID DEMENTORS ARISE FROM GREAT
DESPAIR. IS THIS CORRECT? ◊◊
“It is possible,” said Violet. “Dementors are
said to arise where there is great decay, though any certainty about such
creatures would require closer study, which is a flat ‘no’ from me thank you
"And a stubborn refusal from them as well," said Cormac.
AND THERE IS A GREAT DEAL MORE DECAY AND DESPAIR IN THE WORLD
THAN BEFORE. IF ALL THAT GIVES RISE TO DEMENTORS, THEN WE’RE IN FAR MORE TROUBLE
THAN I REALIZED, AND WE HAVE FAR LESS TIME.◊◊
“And you think a simple reveal of magic would
help with that?” said McGonagall. “For all you know, you could invoke so much
terror and despair at once that all the world is filled with Dementors.”
THANK GOODNESS WE’RE TRYING TO DO THIS DELICATELY, EH? ◊◊
McGonagall sighed. “If you're very careful there’s a chance
your efforts won’t blow up in your faces.”
AND DEMENTORS DON'T FEED ON ANIMALS. ◊◊
“That was the shield Sirius Black held,” said
AND I WILL TAKE A WILD GUESS AND SAY THAT LETHIFOLDS AREN’T
INTERESTED IN ANIMALS EITHER. ◊◊
“That’s a bit more of a gamble,” said Jocasta.
“They’ve got to eat something when they can’t get humans. Although they
certainly wouldn’t be interested in a tiny little housefly. Ah ha, I see where
you’re going with this.”
“As do I,” said McGonagall, “and now I regret
the fact that I have made you all even more hasty. And yet. I haven’t shown you
half of the things Wizards defend against. So much that Muggles do not know
about. You are correct, Sparrow, we do hold up the sky. I have known this for
too long. I have chafed against the Statute of Secrecy for most of my years
alive. If I die without being able to do anything about it I will chafe against
it for all the eternity I am dead.”
DOES THAT MEAN YOU WILL HELP US? ◊◊
“I was not finished speaking."
"Uh oh," muttered Cormac.
"This is where I lower the boom. I am the
Headmistress of Hogwarts, children. I am the leader of one of Wizarding
Britain’s key institutions, the location and source of the majority of primary
magical education in this land, and in many lands. I have a duty of care to
this institution, to the students within as students and as children, to the
teachers within as teachers and as adults. I have a duty of fairness to all,
and I cannot allow favoritism or the granting of any sort of unearned
privileges. Therefore you must earn them, and suffer just punishment
for your transgressions, transgressions that have taken you well beyond mere matters of house points. You are hereby suspended
from your classes for the remainder of the school year.”
All the children gasped.
“In place of your classes, whose curriculum you
appear to be outpacing, each of you will tutor the remainder in your primary
area of expertise. You will each take the O.W.L.s at the end of this year – ”
The children gasped again.
“ – and receive top marks in each subject.”
“What happens if we don’t?” said Cormac.
“If you don’t,” said McGonagall, “I will not
believe that you are yet capable of surviving the path you have set for
yourselves. I will require you to remain at this castle until such time as you
have satisfied my requirements for that level of Wizardry. But I believe this
will not be necessary. Each one of you is a promising young Wizard in your own
field. So, once you pass the O.W.L.s, you will then choose your courses of
N.E.W.T. study – ”
“Sixth-level Wizardry in the fifth year,” said
“We’re already accelerating,” said Cormac. “Or
did you want to pass the O.W.L.s and then spend fifth year twiddling your
“You will pass your N.E.W.T.s with top marks,
and then, and only then, will I
believe you are ready to take on the entire world. But I imagine some of you
will have little trouble with those as well. Jocasta in particular achieved a
level of Transfiguration skill that most Wizards dare not attempt, at a younger
age than anyone thought possible, which is, I will admit, putting a positive
spin on something that I will slap Rodolphus for when I get the chance.”
•GIVE HIM ONE FROM ME AS WELL.•
“Mind how you disrespect your elders in front
of an elder. Now as for Miranda – ”
Miranda stood at attention.
“ – who appears to be attempting to accelerate
past the N.E.W.T. level and straight into professional work, I will require you
to work closely with Professors Longbottom and Slughorn on all of your
experiments. For your N.E.W.T. course of study I recommend that you attempt
this theoretical Lycanthropy cure, and begin now, in case it takes more time
than you expected. If you choose that course I will grade you on effort as much as results. I do not expect a breakthrough in such a subject, especially not within the space of a mere few years.”
Miranda shot a glance at Sparrow.
THANKS FOR GETTING ME INTO TROUBLE. °°°
IS THAT A SARCASTIC THANKS? ◊◊
I’LL SAY IT ANOTHER WAY. YOU GET ME
INTO THE BEST KINDS OF TROUBLE. °°°
SUCH IS THE COURSE OF MY LIFE, IT SEEMS. ◊◊
“As for me,” said McGonagall, “I will be busy,
and more busy than normal, considering London’s apparent Lethifold problem. I
will aid you in the business of transfiguration whenever I can, though we must
only speak of it in this room. For all other issues, you will have Professor
Longbottom, as you will be reporting to him on a weekly basis. I will recommend
that you seek his counsel when you can, considering your griefs, and his concern
for them. And Jocasta – ”
“You are correct. The cat is out of the bag. I
have sent a letter to Mr. Fletcher instructing him to cease his erasure of your
name from the registry.”
“Oh, er – I had hoped to remain ambiguous for a
little while longer.”
“The Ministry doesn’t do ambiguous when it
comes to Animagi. The most you can hope for is that my letter reached them
before anyone at the Ministry got wind of your story, and that they seek to
monitor you instead of breaking your wand. If you’re lucky you will only be
required to report your activities to them on a monthly basis.”
“Which I don’t want to be doing.”
“I didn’t say you had to be honest in your
report.” She gave Jocasta pointed look. “That is the one concession I will make
to duplicity this day.”
“Then we have our tasks set before us,” said
Jill. “And we should be getting to class – no wait. Damn it. I need to get used
“Breakfast,” said Jocasta. “We need to see if
there’s anything left.”
“Ahem,” said McGonagall.
“Oh! Permission to be dismissed?”
“Granted. Go to your work, children, and make
me proud. Or at least don’t blow yourselves up.”
Six children scurried out of the office.
The great hall was a wide and empty expanse,
for the tables had all been set aside.
“Pity,” said Jill.
“Hungry,” said Jocasta.
“Lucky I’m here,” said Professor Longbottom.
The children turned. There stood the Professor,
between them and the doorway, holding a tray of bagels.
Jocasta snatched a bagel off the tray and tore
“Well well well,” said Miranda. “You are also a
lifesaver.” She grabbed two bagels from the tray. Violet and Jill each took
one, leaving a few on the tray for Sparrow and Cormac, who took none.
“Breakfast was ending when I left the office,”
said the Professor. “When I went to beg the kitchen staff for leftovers I
figured I ought to get some for you kids as well. Cormac, you’re not interested
“Bread always turns my stomach,” said Cormac.
“Pity,” said Jocasta, through a mouthful of
bagel. “You’d think a healer could fix that.”
Miranda’s eyes flashed blue.
“What? What did I say this time?”
Miranda shook her head. “Nothing. Never mind.
I’ve no place to object to such a statement or make decisions for Cormac.”
“Bet you could come up with something for him.”
"Standing right here," said Cormac.
“I am not getting involved in yet another cure.
I already have enough on my plate and so does Professor Longbottom – thank you
by the way Professor for this particular plate – and we all have to attend to
our tasks. I don’t even know where to begin. I’m tempted to just run to my
greenhouse and bury myself in herbology.”
“Tempting for me as well,” said the
Professor. “Considering how
sheepish I have felt over the past week. But, I am assuming that McGonagall
will be having you report to me, so I can’t keep my head in the soil for too
long, can I? And I can’t be spending any more time now. For now, I recommend
you all take a day to recover and decide how you want to get your studies
going. Good luck.” He beetled out the door.
“Great,” said Cormac. “I’m starving and I have no
idea what to do.”
“I’d recommend you hit the kitchens with
Sparrow,” said Jocasta. “They’re probably holding on to some porridge for her
“No, I mean in terms of this…tutoring thing.
You’re all good at specific stuff and I’m not.”
DO NOT DOUBT YOURSELF SO QUICKLY, MY DEAR CORMAC. YOU KNOW WANDS
BETTER THAN ANY OF US. ◊◊
“Yeah but…” Cormac sighed. “None of that’s on
“You and Violet are better at charms than I
am,” said Jill. “Start there, I guess.”
“Or work backwards from the wandlore,” said
Violet. “Wandlore is the intersection of charms, herbology and the care of
PERFECT WHATEVER YOU CAN, TEACH THE REST. ◊◊
“That will be something of a challenge for me,”
said Miranda. “Neither plants nor animals grow so quickly that we have much
chance to practice with them like we can practice charms.”
“Potions,” said Violet. “Plenty of time for
WE HAVE PLENTY OF TIME FOR EVERYTHING. LET US REST FOR TODAY. ◊◊
The children departed the great hall, thoughts
of the future racing ahead of them.