Sunday morning in the library. Normally Sparrow would be flanking Violet in order to read the book she had open, but today, she had a tight hold on Jocasta’s right hand, and Jill had Jocasta's other hand. Violet and Miranda were at one end of the table, Cormac at the other.

Violet was twirling a curious flower in her hand, one whose petals perfectly matched the color of her clothing. Sparrow rarely saw the like, save in the scant weeks between the season of rain and the season of sun, where the blooms blanketed the hills. Yet those weeks were far off, hard to imagine here in the midst of misery. So where had she got that flower? Miranda’s garden, perhaps? Or it could be that the girl had already got into the advanced spells for transfiguration, which was, for Violet, highly probable.

As for Cormac, he had his elbows propped on the table, fingers laced together, face resting on his hands, eyes focused in a pose of troubled contemplation. He had been highly attentive when Jocasta had let out what details she was willing to divulge of her thought processes, concerned when Jocasta had admitted that her actions were likely death-seeking, and then looked seriously disturbed when the girl had stated that the matter likely rested on a set of topics she dared not reveal. Whatever his thoughts on the matter, he had not revealed them yet.

“Here we go,” said Miranda, flipping open Granger And Snape’s Advanced Basic Potions to page 53. “A recipe for the Draught of Peace which should avoid some of the trickier parts of the normal method. Assuming we can get our hands on Bottled Sunlight.”

Jocasta rolled her eyes. “Can’t we talk about other things? Like the fact that you haven’t even mastered the vanishing spell yet.

“Oh,” said Cormac finally letting a wry grin come back to his face, “Now who’s the overeager nerd?”

“There is something I wanted to consider,” said Violet, “outside our O.W.L. topics. This whole speaking-silently thing. One might call it a mind link, or some manner of reverse legilimency. But we don’t know how it works. We don’t know if it’s ever been done before.”

“Well,” said Jill. “I suppose we’re in the right place to look.”

Violet placed the flower in her shirt pocket, ducked under the table, and brought up a huge book, which she let fall on the tabletop with a thud. “Already did. This is a short treatise on the subject. Comparatively short. I was able to skim it fairly quickly. And what do you think I came up with?”

“What?” said everyone.

Violet slapped the cover and said, “Nothing! In the entire study of legilimency there is nothing about deliberately sending information to people. It’s always about taking information from someone’s head. A very nasty business, and if an incompetent wizard does it it’s also incredibly painful.”

Jocasta shuddered. “Don’t remind me.”

“So this is a different business then,” said Cormac. “Sending, not receiving. I wonder…it does remind me of something. Hang on.” He rose from the table and disappeared into the stacks.

Miranda looked concerned. “Jocasta,” she said, “did someone try to perform legilimency on you?”

LET US NOT DISCUSS THE MORE INTIMATE DETAILS OF MY PRIVATE GRIEFS IN AN OPEN LIBRARY.

“Understood,” said Miranda. “Although I should note that such a response is, in itself, fairly telling. You must be more circumspect about how you obfuscate your past.”

“I can be ofuscatory,” said Jocasta. • BUT THERE ARE TIMES WHEN I PREFER TO BE SINCERE. • “Quiet, brain.”

Cormac returned with another heavy tome, which he placed on the table with a thump. “Here,” he said, “records of the Wizarding Wars. Volume 2. I remember coming across this particular passage a few years ago.” He opened the book and flipped to page 375. The page, as with every page, was covered in miniscule writing, but there was an offset block of text near the bottom of the page, and Cormac pointed to that. “From the diary of Albus Dumbledore,” said Cormac.

The passage read:

I dare not tell the boy everything. For his mind is linked to Voldemort’s. What he knows, Voldemort knows. To an extent. I have tried to teach the boy Occlumency and it has been fruitless. I am disappointed in him. Perhaps it was a bad idea to have Snape do the job. But Snape is our best occlumens, second only to me.

The part of Voldemort’s soul that lies within the boy establishes the link. We must find a way to block that link, or who knows, Voldemort may learn about the link, and may send him a nightmare, or a falsehood. It is an incredible vulnerability, one we cannot shield with walls of stone and doors of iron. To shield it we will have to rely upon the strength of the boy’s will and his ability to learn. Even from a professor he despises.

Maybe I should have picked the third-best occlumens we have, but Professor Slughorn is nowhere to be found lately. This is an unsolveable dilemma. Alas for Harry, that he had to become a Horcrux. Alas that I cannot tell him, for if he knows, Voldemort knows. I wonder if, one day, he will forgive me for my silence.

“A…Horcrux,” said Jocasta. “Cool. I’ve seen one of those.” She glanced up at the rest of her comrades, who were sitting there silent, staring at Jocasta in wonder and horror. “What?”

“Jocasta…” Cormac glanced nervously at everyone else. “Do you know how a Horcrux is made?”

“I didn’t ask.”

“Are you being absolutely serious?”

“Yes!” YES.

Cormac described the process, as it was known to the general wizarding community. Nobody knew the exact steps to split one’s soul besides murder; nobody wanted to know. Nor, as it seemed, did Jocasta, for upon hearing the basic description she began to shiver.

“That’s some scary shit,” said Jill. “Scarier than what you told me. Where on earth did you – ”

TAKE A WILD FUCKING GUESS, JILL. • 

“Oh.” Jill drummed her fingers on the table. “I see.”

NEW RULE: JOCASTA CARROW NEVER GOES HOME AGAIN.

Violet looked confused. “Why would you not want to – ”

You weren’t supposed to hear that!

Jill’s drumming on the table got a little louder.

“Perhaps not,” said Cormac. “And yet, I heard it as well. I think you meant it for all of us, even of you didn’t think of it. If there’s a Horcrux at your house we need to tell McGonagall, or somebody.”

“Don’t! It’s fine! It has to be fine!” PROBABLY NOT FINE.“Shut up, brain!”

“It’s never fine,” said Violet. “But. Do we believe that it’s an urgent matter?”

“No!” YES.

“How urgent?”

“It’s not!” BETTER TELL SOONER RATHER THAN LATER.  “God dammit, brain!”

The drumming got a little louder.

Miranda stood. “I will go and fetch Professor Longbottom. He needs to hear about this. You all can stay here, calm down a bit and discuss sweeter topics. Hopefully I won’t be too long. ‘Scuse.” She took a vial out of her pocket, popped the cork, and downed it in one go. Suddenly there was a cat streaking out of the library, and a vial thumping onto the carpet.

“I get the feeling,” said Cormac, “that she doesn’t actually need to become an Animagus when she has that stuff. Jill, what did you mean about something less scary than – Jill?”

Jill’s eyes were glowing red.

She pushed her chair back and stood bolt upright.

Sparrow stood up with her, and tapped her on the shoulder, not flinching when Jill regarded her with that firey gaze. She motioned to the book stack. ◊◊ SIT HERE WITH ME. ◊◊ 

Jill sat upon the floor. Sparrow sat in her lap. They held each other tight.

The glow faded.

Jocasta sat herself down beside them and lay her head against Jill’s shoulder. Her shivering ceased.

Cormac and Violet sat down in front of the three, looking thoroughly confused and concerned.

“Your house,” said Cormac. “The Carrow mansion. Carraw Hall. Well, I never wanted to go there before and I certainly will not go there now. Not that it’s – I mean – You said you wouldn’t go there again. I assume you’re sincere in such a statement, even to the extent of defying the orders of your parents?”

Jocasta nodded.

“Let it be so,” said Cormac. “And if it be so, that we must aid you in this defiance, and defend you from wrath, then let it be so. I will certainly pledge my wand to that cause.”

“You have my wand as well," said Violet.

Cormac glanced at Jill.

††††† YOU DO NOT NEED TO DEFEND ME AGAINST ANY ENEMY OUT OF THE PAST. BUT YOU MAY NEED TO DEFEND YOURSELF AGAINST ME. †††††

Sparrow hugged Jill tighter.

"It sounds as though you need help of a different sort. The same sort that Jocasta needs. Perhaps you all do."

“I don’t need help,” said Jocasta.  HELP. • “Oh for God’s sake!” She shook her head. “We’ve gotten quite off track, haven’t we.”

“Have we,” said Cormac. “I wonder.” He stood, and went back to the table, where the record of the Wizarding War still lay. “Harry Potter as a Horcrux. Hm. There’s something here I’m missing.” He traced his finger over the tiny text. “How was the mind link established?”

Violet said nothing, nor when she rose did she come to stand beside Cormac. Nor, when she came to stand at the end of the table, did she face her friends, but stood with her back to them, hands clasped behind her.

Jocasta, Jill, and Sparrow exchanged glances. They rose as one, and came to stand at the table, Sparrow and Jill no longer clinging to each other quite as tight as before. Not that Sparrow dared let go completely.

 Jocasta, for her part, gave Sparrow a peck on the cheek, then went to look over the book with Cormac.

“Ah,” said Cormac, tapping the page. “Dark magic. There’s the key.”

“Excuse me?” said Jill.

“I mean the key difference,” said Cormac. “Harry’s link to Voldemort’s head was established in the act of turning the poor boy into a Horcrux. And none of us are horcruxes.”

Everyone glanced at Jocasta.

“I’m certain I would remember if that had been done to me,” said Jocasta. • PROBABLY. “Oh just – ” She pulled a chair backward roughly and sat down heavily. “Keep going.”

“Right. Well. One mind link and another. One established through dark magic and the other established through…what, exactly? What is the common factor between these two sorts of psychic links? What is the basic mechanism of the mind link for the Horcrux?"

"Well?" said Jocasta. "Spit it out."

"I don't know the answer," said Cormac. "That's why I'm asking you."

“The Soul,” said Violet, without turning around. “The basic mechanism of the Horcrux is to split one’s soul and place it in an object. That is what happened to harry Potter, even if by accident.”

 “Oh, yes,” said Cormac. “In the act of Voldemort killing himself. Quite the Own Goal. Now, the basic mechanism itself does not seem dark, does it?”

“It certainly could be seen that way,” said Jill.

“I’m talking real basic,” said Cormac. “The pure mechanics of the thing, the idea of putting a part of one’s soul in an object.  Hell, people do it by accident in a metaphorical sense when they love an object too dearly. It’s the process that matters here. Were it possible to lodge a bit of one’s soul in an object, or perhaps a person, without resorting to dark methods…hm.” Cormac stroked his chin. “I suppose it would have to be truly voluntary to be less than dark, wouldn’t it. Sounds a bit romantic when I think about it. Anyway!” Cormac closed the book with a thump. “Do we know of any spell that could do such a thing?”

“I know of none,” said Violet.

“Do you want to turn around and actually talk to us?” said Jocasta.

“I do not.”

Jocasta threw up her hands in silent exasperation.

“My apologies,” said Violet. She turned back to her friends. “I have simply been lost in thought for the past few minutes. As for this business…Mr. Potter's horcrux was an accident and so is whatever is happening here. But I can’t say it’s the same thing, can I? You need to cast a spell to do a Horcrux. And this whole thing just…happened. Somehow. No wand involved, no spell involved.”

◊◊ PERHAPS NOT. ◊◊

“You have an idea, then?”

◊◊ A MEMORY. PROFESSOR BUDGE TOLD ME THAT THERE IS AN EMOTIONAL COMPONENT TO SPELLS. WE ARE TAUGHT, AS STUDENTS, THAT THEY DEPEND UPON DETERMINATION AND INTENT TO BEGIN WITH. ◊◊

“But you still need to cast a spell to do magic,” said Violet. “Even without a wand.”

 ◊◊ SAVE FOR THE RANDOM WILD SWINGS OF MAGIC THAT YOUNG CHILDREN MANIFEST. ◊◊

“That…is a good point.”

◊◊ AND THE BLESSING THAT LILY POTTER GAVE HER SON, IN THE MOMENT OF HER SACRIFICE. PERHAPS, IN A DESPERATE MOMENT, MAGIC MIGHT ARISE FROM EMOTION ALONE. ◊◊

Violet at last stood closer. She took the book from Cormac and flipped to the beginning of the records of the Second Wizarding War. “There was something about Harry Potter’s early childhood…here. It says he magicked himself to the rooftop to escape some bullies at school, without intending to.”

◊◊ THERE YOU GO. ◊◊

“Well,” said Jocasta. “Harry’s incident was a matter of desperation. And so was mine, come to think of it. But when Sparrow managed to Send…well, the first thing I heard from her was ‘I love you’ . But she also Sent to you, Cormac?"

"I would also call that a moment of desperation."

"I’m still not sure what the common factor is here.”

Sparrow thought to all the times she had Sent to someone. What had proceeded each instance? Not simply “I love you,” but also “I am sorry.” For the most part. There were times when neither had been the case, and she was only saying something she needed to say, but didn’t want to.

Hmmmmmmm.

◊◊ THE TIMES I HAVE SPOKEN IN THIS WAY…THINK. WHY DO SOME PEOPLE HAVE SO MUCH TROUBLE SAYING 'I LOVE YOU'? IT IS FOR THE SAME REASON THAT THEY FEAR TO SAY 'I AM SORRY.' I KNOW THE REASON. CAN YOU GUESS IT? ◊◊

“To apologize sincerely is to surrender,” said Jill. “It’s a moment in which you put your heart in the hands of another. Or a bit of your soul, you might say. Is that it? A whisper of the heart? Is that the link?”

“Doesn’t explain the first time,” said Jocasta. “Doesn’t explain how I reached you.”

“Oh,” said Jill, with a wry grin. “I don’t know. I think you did surrender to me before that evening. Or did you not intend to honor the terms of our duel after all?”

Jocasta blinked.

Then she grinned from ear to ear.

“Uh oh,” said Cormac.

Jocasta pushed back her chair, stood bolt upright, rolled herself right over the table, stood in front of Sparrow, grabbed her shoulders, put her face close and – paused.

Sparrow shook her head. ◊◊ MANDRAKE LEAF, REMEMBER? ◊◊

OH, BUT THERE IS THE REST OF YOUR FACE, MY DEAR.

Sparrow nodded.

And was well rewarded for it.

Between them, Jill, Cormac, and Violet laughed enough to make each of them grateful that this was a Sunday morning, such that no other student was mad enough to be in the library and find themselves disturbed by the racket.

“Someday,” said Jill, “when I am ready, and less fearful of myself, I will give my little Sparrow as many kisses as I am holding back from her now, for suggesting the terms of that duel.”

“Hopefully not all at once,” said Cormac. “Can someone drown in kisses?”

◊◊ THEY CAN RUN OUT OF AIR. BREATHE, GIRL. ◊◊

Jocasta finally let go of Sparrow’s neck and caught her breath. “They certainly can. Whoo! Alright, so besides Miranda and Jill I can say that Sparrow saved me from certain doom, even if it was entirely by accident. You all did in your own way on that night.” I LOVE ALL MY FRIENDS. 

“Ah,” said Cormac. “And you know, when I think about Jocasta’s experience here, I think that the link will permit no lie. I think one can only Send things that they truly – ” He paused, and looked at Violet beside him. She had the flower in her hand again, but if Cormac registered it, he was not glancing at it, for he and Violet held each other's gaze without blinking.

They remained in that position for a good ten seconds while Jill, Jocasta, and Sparrow all exchanged glances. It would have been very easy for them to discuss the situation silently between themselves, but none of them wanted to risk interrupting whatever was happening.

Whatever was happening involved the two getting real close. They held each other in a gentle embrace. Violet caressed Cormac’s cheek, and tucked the lavender flower behind his ear. Then they pressed their foreheads together, and remained that way, eyes closed.

“You know,” murmured Jocasta, “I daresay I’ve been upstaged.”

At last the two parted, though not very far from each other. “Alright then,” said Violet. “I think we ought to be finding Professor Longbottom if he’s taking his time getting to us. Come on.”

“Ahem,” said McGonagall.

Everyone jumped.

There was the Headmistress stepping out of the stacks, flanked by Miranda. “My apologies,” said McGonagall. “I arrived here a few minutes ago but had no wish to intrude upon your more personal business. As for why I am so late in reaching you, it is because I most certainly did not expect to be woken up for anything on a Sunday morning.”

“But you certainly started moving faster when Longbottom told you it was about a Horcrux,” said Miranda, as she stepped out from behind the stacks wtih Professor Longbottom in tow.

“Hrmph. Well. If it had been anyone besides you two I would have thought they had been goaded by their friends into trying to hoodwink me. But I had to entertain the possibility that you had got yourself into yet another fine mess. Now, what exactly is this Horcrux you’re referring to?”

“It’s nothing!” said Jocasta.

THERE’S A HORCRUX AT MY HOUSE AND I’M SCARED TO GO HOME BECAUSE I WAS JUST INFORMED ABOUT HOW THEY WERE MADE AND I WOULD NOT PUT IT PAST MY FATHER TO HAVE MADE IT GODDAMMIT I SHOULDN’T HAVE SAID THAT I SHOULDN’T HAVE SAID THAT AAAAAAAAAAA –

 ◊◊ JOCASTA. ◊◊

WHAT!

◊◊ YOU ARE HERE. NOT THERE. AND WE ARE HERE WITH YOU, ALWAYS. ◊◊

 • I KNOW. THAT'S WHY I'M NOT JUMPING OUT THE WINDOW RIGHT NOW.

“I see,” said McGonagall. She chewed her upper lip for a moment. “And you’re not joking. No, you don’t sound like it."

"Jocasta," said Professor Longbottom, "you are certain of this? Couldn't be mistaking one thing for another?"

Jocasta took a deep breath. “I…am certain that I am not mistaken. Excuse me one moment. Sparrow, your other arm, if you please?” She put an arm around Sparrow’s waist as Sparrow put an arm around hers. “Thank you. Now where was I, oh yes. Horcrux. Ahem. Yes. When I was a wee little Wizard, I found the old ring in a cupboard – ”

“I can’t tell if you’re having us on,” said McGonagall.

“I’m stalling,” said Jocasta. “I was four years old and I went searching through some of the furniture in a dusty forgotten hallway. Found a ring in a drawer and I thought it looked nice, but I couldn’t understand why it was whispering to me. And it made me feel all funny. Kind of queasy, really. So I asked my Father about it. He whisked it away and I never saw the thing again…but years after that Bertrand told me it must have been a Horcrux. But he wouldn’t tell me what a Horcrux was, no matter how much I asked him, and when I asked anyone else they pretended not to hear me. So there we go, that’s a childhood mystery turned into a fucking nightmare! Are you happy?”

“Absolutely not,” said McGonagall. “But I am satisfied by your description. I will send a letter to – no. This requires floo powder. I will be busier than ever, children, but I imagine you will be as well. Professor Budge is my deputy until I get back, and do pay attention to Professor Clearwater. Good luck.” She turned to go.

∫†≠°•◊ GOOD LUCK. ◊•°≠†∫

McGonagall paused, and turned back to the children, giving them a look of satisfied amusement. Then she disappeared into the stacks.

"Sounds like you're all figuring this out," said Professor Longbottom.

"We've got the general idea," said Cormac.

"Excellent. Keep up that level of study, and you should have no trouble passing your exams. Jocasta, meet me in my office after dinner. We have much to discuss."

He did not wait for a reply, but left the same way McGonagall had gone, leaving five children to wonder about the past and the future of one.

That night, three girls slept in the large bed of the Dorm Room of Requirement. One between them made no effort to escape the other two. Indeed, she held them as close as they held her.

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