Halfway to Infinity
Halfway to Infinity
Summary: He with the power to defeat the Dark Lord does not. Harry Potter is dead. Fifty years later, both Muggle and magical worlds belong to darkness. All serve Lord Voldemort. But even in the grimmest of times, idealists are born. Without a prophesy to direct them, a rebellion will rise. Follow Lottie Rowe as she finds her way into the center of the rebellion and the heart of the war.
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Author's Note: This story is AU. It assumes that Harry died before the action of DH. It is canon compliant with everything from SS to HBP, and incorporates some elements from DH into it, while passing over others. Also, Deanine, TheBird, and Coolh5000 were all betas for this project, and are lovely people! Enjoy!
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The stiff body didn’t move as he stepped over its legs. He continued on his way. There was no time to make sure that these bodies were not any of his friends. He had to get to the meeting, and quickly too. Who knew what horrors could be found, now that it was all over. With a quick glance over his shoulder to make sure that nobody was watching, he pulled out a small scrap of parchment.
We will be meeting under the remains of the Eeylop’s, forty minutes after it ends.
He read the note a few times as he walked. He didn’t even notice a small speck of red in the corner of the note, until he stood right in front of the crumbling building, only recognizable by the half destroyed sign that read “Eyelop’s Ow” hanging over an open doorway.
The small red speck bothered him. It could just as easily be a drop of ink, but if it was, why didn’t Melinda include a post-script explaining it? Trying to push the frightening possibility out of his mind, he stepped through the doorway and pulled out his wand. With a quick swish, a small door in the corner swung open. He ran down the stairs and stopped to find a two person meeting in progress.
“Sorry,” he breathed, waving his wand one more time. There was a slam of the door above them. “Melinda’s owl didn’t get to me.”
“It’s okay, Fornax,” a rather tall woman replied. She conjured a stiff, wooden chair. He didn’t sit. “You--You might want to sit,” she said in a hushed voice.
Quickly exchanging glances with the other sitting man, he said, “Ryan, what happened?”
Ryan didn’t respond, but let his head droop to his lap.
The woman called Naesa bounced up and down on the balls of her heels. “Yes,” she said, pulling her light brown hair out of its high ponytail, and putting it back again. “It’s about Melinda.” She twisted one of the large, gold rings around her finger.
Fornax stood up. “No,” he hissed. That dot of red. Of course. It made so much sense now. “Who was it?”
“Greyback.” Naesa couldn’t make eye contact. Although she couldn’t name it, she knew, as did Ryan, that something had been going on between Fornax and Melinda.
Fornax stood up. His wand quivered in his hand. “I’ll kill him.”
“Don’t bother,” grunted Ryan. “Already dead.”
Fornax sat back down and rested his elbows heavily on the table, as though he needed it for the stability. “Who killed him?”
“Grawp, I believe.” Ryan was trying to act like his usual self, but it was evident, from his slow rocking back and forth that he was still shaken.
They had been a foursome, always. They had been making plans for their celebration if they won, and for their revolt if they didn’t. None of them could believe that they were now focusing on the latter, one member short.
“That giant is completely irrational. He wouldn’t know if he was killing somebody from our side or theirs.” It was hard not to notice Fornax’s bitterness.
Naesa pursed her lips. “I believe he had a good reason this time,” she said.
“And what would that be?” Fornax rose and hit his fist against the table.
Naesa didn’t give way under his sharp glare. “Revenge,” she said. “Greyback had just killed his brother.”
Fornax sat back down, not offering any sort of apology.
“So,” Naesa said after a few minute’s silence. “Are we going to do this?”
“We’re one short,” Fornax said softly.
Naesa sighed and knelt next to her friend. “We all miss her, Fornax,” she whispered to him. “But we’re always going to be one member short, if you think about it that way. It’s what she would have wanted.” Fornax didn’t look at her. “You know that.” She stood up again, and pulled out a scroll of yellowing parchment. She unrolled it busily. “So all we need to do now is sign it, right?” She conjured a quill and an ink pot and signed, making sure each letter was perfectly proportional to the entire word.
She handed the parchment and the quill to Ryan. Not focusing on the aesthetics as much as Naesa, he signed.
Ryan passed the quill to Fornax. As his hand arced over the page, he wasn't signing for himself alone. He was signing for Naesa and Ryan, and their fourth who would never sign for herself.
Last edited by Abbsalah; July 1st, 2011 at 6:09 am.
Re: Halfway to Infinity
Chapter one: The Camp
Rain pitter-patted through the iron bars and onto the chilly glass window pane, alerting the occupants in the small flat of the coming storm. Storms in the middle of August, such as this one, were not uncommon. People had trouble explaining the intense and spontaneous torrents. Unable to connect them with the ocean, sun or planets, they just decided that the only possible explanation of the strange weather they had been experiencing for the past fifty years was magic.
“Lottie, dear, could you take the water bucket outside for me?” A rather bony, middle-aged woman appeared in the doorway. Her hair was a thin, graying brown, but her eyes, despite her ripened appearance, were a vibrant green. Rain water squelched under her boots as she took a few steps into the apartment. “I just came from outside and feel as if I jumped into the ocean.”
Lottie looked up from her small corner of the flat, pebbles spilling out of the sides of her hands. “Yeah, sure, okay,” she said, picking out some of the bigger rocks and pocketing them. She carelessly discarded the smaller stones and let them fall to a bare mattress that she sat on. The rocks in her pocket thumped against her legs as she walked to pick up the massive pail.
Lottie Rowe was a fairly average eleven-year-old for a Muggle in the London camp. She had blond hair that probably would have reached her shoulder blades, had it not been so tangled, and hazel eyes that must have come from a grandparent who she never knew, since neither of her parents had them.
Clutching the cold steel chain, Lottie dragged the bucket across the floor, down the hall and into the storm. She pushed the bucket out into the rain, and chained it to the brick wall so nobody would steal it.
Through the heavy rain, all Lottie could see was a blur of reddish hair running toward her. She knew at once who it was. Only one of her friends would be out in a storm like this. “Olive?” Lottie waved. “You want to come inside? You can sit by the fire.”
“Ah, no thanks,” Olive shouted over a thunderclap overhead. “Hey, Melanie and Shawnee are over at the gates. I think they’re trying to get some of the others there too. Want to come?”
Lottie rocked back and forth on the balls of her feet. Her mother probably wouldn’t like her out in a storm such as this, but she knew how to take care of herself. “Okay.” Lottie smiled. “Let me go grab a hat.”
She ran inside and picked up her thick, knitted hat off the ground. As she slipped it over her ears, her mother poked her head around the door. “Lottie, where are you headed to now? There’s a storm outside, dear.”
“Yes, I know.” Lottie ran over to the door and slipped on a jumper. “I’ll be back soon; I love you, mum; bye!” Before her mother could get in another word, she ran out the door to meet up with Olive.
Reaching into her pocket, Lottie pulled out one of her rocks and tossed it to her. “Found this under the bakery.” Olive held the stone up to examine it. “It’s a good one, isn’t it?”
“I s’pose so,” Olive said as they spotted another group of girls about their age.
Lottie and Olive were at a serious disadvantage, considering that there were only two of them, and the other group had at least six people. One girl, with huge blue eyes and thin, short brown hair was running to keep up. She stopped, just short of running into another girl. “What’re you doing on our street?” the tallest girl of the other group demanded.
“Your street?” Olive laughed. “I do think that this has been our street for about a year and a half now, and if anybody needs to leave, it’s you.”
The other group looked as though they might try something, but Lottie and Olive quickly pulled out their rocks. Lottie tossed hers from one hand to another threateningly. The small girl with the blue eyes stood on her toes and muttered something in a taller girl’s ear.
They weren’t leaving. Lottie turned to Olive and nodded. Quickly, both of them threw one rock so they just whizzed over their heads.
After a tense moment, the other group turned around and walked away, grumbling to each other as they did.
“Right.” Lottie stuffed her hands into her pockets and watched them leave. “Which gates are they at?”
Olive pointed straight ahead. “Those ones,” she said. “Last time I checked, the Death Eaters were heading this way. I hid, and I’m pretty sure they passed, so we shouldn’t have a problem with them right now.”
“Good.” Lottie shivered. She hated the Death Eaters. They often walked in packs, robed, hooded and masked, so she couldn’t make out their faces. With sticks that shot jets of colored light, they would parade across the camps, attacking people when they thought were up to something, or sometimes when they were just bored. Lottie especially hated when they would call her Muggle. She didn’t know what that meant, but she assumed that it had to do with the fact that she couldn’t do magic like they could.
She really didn’t understand why not being able to do the same magic made her worthy of being locked up like she was, though. Gates bound her on all sides. Lottie had seen several others try to climb over them; they were always killed by one of those Death Eaters and their sticks.
They saw the gates in the distance, and could make out the blurry figures of a few of their friends. Olive grabbed Lottie by the wrist, and they ran forward, their boots splashing in the puddles of rainwater.
“Melanie!” Lottie called waving to the oldest of their group. “What’re you trying to do, bringing us all out here in the storm?” She glanced nervously at Olive. “Get us killed or something?”
Melanie smiled, pushing her sopping wet, dark hair out of her eyes. “I’ll tell you,” she said, pulling Lottie close into her ear. “But only because you’re you.” Glancing around to make sure that none of the other girls were listening, she whispered, “I’ve got a plan. I think I found a way for us to get back at the Death Eaters and the Dark Lord.”
Lottie straightened up, eyebrows raised. She enjoyed her privilege of always being the first to find out any of Melanie’s plans, but didn’t enjoy the responsibility of telling her when her plans were completely mad. Melanie was the oldest, so she was, naturally, the leader of their group. Lottie, though, was the second oldest, second biggest, and second smartest, which made her second in command.
“You know,” Lottie muttered back, keeping her voice low, “my grandmother tried to get into something like that. This sort of thing never turns out well, mate, I can assure you of that.”
“Yes, but we’re smarter than them, aren’t we?”
Lottie laughed, but didn’t respond. She glanced over at the girls with them. Olive smiled at her, her eyes hidden under her auburn fringe. Shawnee cocked her head to one side, giving Lottie the same curious look as she always did when she wanted information. Lottie mouthed “later” and stood up. “So, are we going to get the others or not?” she asked, putting her hands on her hips.
With a splash, Olive and Shawnee scrambled to standing. “Olive,” Melanie said, “you go get Alexa and Hattie. They’re probably together anyway. Check under the old Turtle Building. They’re probably there.” Olive ran off. “And, you Shawnee, go find Pip. Who knows where she is. Just go look for her.”
Shawnee sighed, tucking a brown ringlet behind her ears. Sulking away, she muttered something that sounded suspiciously like a few swear words.
Melanie sat down again, leaning against the thick gate. “Sit.” She patted the wet pavement next to her.
“So, how are you planning to start this little revolt?” Lottie tried not to sound too amused. She had seen Melanie start many projects like this, all of them nearly ending with the death of one of their friends.
“I found an old bloke.” Melanie didn’t say anything else. After a few minutes silence, she turned to Lottie, waiting for her to ask more.
Lightning flashed. Lottie sighed and counted the seconds before the thunderclap. “Four seconds,” she said to Melanie after the thunder had echoed through the entire camp. “Not too far from here.”
“We won’t get hit.” Melanie sounded almost too sure of herself.
There was a splashing of footsteps coming towards them. Olive had two younger girls following her, giggling shrilly. With a sigh, she pushed both of them forward. Melanie stood, crossing her arms, causing the two girls scoot in closer to each other.
“What did they do this time?” Melanie tapped her foot.
One of the younger girls grinned, revealing a large gap where her two front teeth were supposed to be. “One of the boys told us that there were coins under the stones of the Turtle Building,” the one who still had her front teeth said. “We didn’t find any, so Hattie tried to bite the stones, to make sure if there were coins in them.”
Lottie’s face broke into a grin as well. “You’re supposed to bite the coin to make sure it’s real, not the stone that the coin might be in,” she said through a laugh.
Hattie, the girl missing the two front teeth, frowned. “Well, Alexa was going to try it too, before Olive found us,” she said defensively.
“Yeah, but I probably would’ve been able to find something!” shouted the girl with the teeth, called Alexa. She shoved Hattie playfully.
Lottie turned to Melanie. “Those are her baby teeth,” she said. “They would’ve fallen out anyway.”
“Oi! You all should thank me!” Shawnee’s voice rang through the empty street. She marched towards them. A much smaller girl who couldn’t be any older than six was running just to keep up. “Do you know where I found her?”
The very little girl giggled. “I was sneaking into the Dark Lord’s home!” All of the other girls groaned. Lottie doubted that the large, gated house actually belonged to the Dark Lord, but apparently people had been calling it that for years.
“Pip!” Melanie whacked the small girl on the shoulder. “I’ve told you a thousand times not to go there! You know what could happen to you if you were caught?”
“Yeah, but I--”
The crash of thunder cut Pip off.
“Okay,” Melanie said, leaning in and getting much more serious now. “Believe it or not, there was a reason why we’re all here.”
“Are we going to go fight some boys?!” Pip hopped up and down, splashing mud on all of the other girls’ pants.
“Shut up, Pip!”
Melanie rolled her eyes. “Anyways, there’s a bloke who said he would sell us some magic, if we could pay him. I was thinking if we all chip in, we can all share the magic, and kill all the Death Eaters.” There was a silence. “So what does everybody have?!”
Lottie knew better than to argue with Melanie, and by looking around at all of the other girls’ faces, she guessed that they were thinking the same thing. There was no way it would work, and she didn’t want to sacrifice the little she had to try.
Pip squealed. Pulling her hand out of a small pouch attached to her waist with a rope, she shouted, “I’ve got half a roll and a coin.” She proudly slapped her offerings in Melanie’s hand.
Each of them continued to give Melanie what they had in turn, until Lottie was the only one left. “Ah… let me see.” She dug through her pockets. All she felt were the rocks she had just found and a few coins. Carefully, she pulled out one of the rocks and two of the coins, purposefully leaving the rest in her pocket. “All I’ve got,” Lottie lied with a shrug.
Melanie put everything in a bag and added a few apples of her own. “Well, it’s not much, but he might give us something small with this.”
She tied the bag to her waist and started walking away from the gates. “Where are we going?” Pip shouted, running to keep up with the much bigger girl’s strides.
“To find him. He was near the bakery last I saw him.”
Lottie sighed and followed anyway. This plan was ridiculous, but she wasn’t about to say that out loud. They walked quickly, passing by empty and overcrowded buildings. They passed by a huge, crumbling green structure, and Hattie shouted, “There must be some coins in there.”
“No, there aren’t!” Shawnee shouted.
Lottie laughed as she looked at Melanie’s exasperated expression, but continued walking with the rest.
“Wait!” Pip hopped in front of the group, her hands on her hips, trying to make up for her lack of height with a very stern expression. “What are we going to do with this magic when we get it? Don’t we need the sticks that the Death Eaters carry around?”
“Don’t be stupid, Pip,” Lottie said, though secretly she agreed.
“Yeah, they just use those sticks because…” Melanie stopped, rubbing her head. “Ah!” she shouted. “Because the Dark Lord doesn’t want them to be as powerful as him, and those sticks don’t let them use all of their magic! If we don’t use sticks, then we’ll be more powerful than them!”
“Oh.” Pip blushed. “Of course.”
Lottie didn’t laugh along with all of the other girls. Unlike Melanie, she noticed the power that those sticks wielded. Melanie stopped, and motioned to the other girls to do the same. They stood in front of a tiny crumbling building. “He said he’d be here,” she said, tapping her foot.
Olive exchanged a glance with Lottie. They didn’t want to be the ones to tell Melanie that it wasn’t usually best to trust creepy looking strangers.
“OI! THERE HE IS!” Pip pointed to a shadow in a nearby alley.
“Pip!” Hattie sighed, and pushed Pip on the shoulder.
The man stopped and turned around. “Z’at you?” he grunted, creeping towards them. Lottie backed up slightly.
“Yes,” Melanie said taking a step forward. “We don’t have much, but it is something.” She offered him the bag.
A thick knitted cap nearly covered the man’s eyes. His trench coat was a faded navy blue, speckled with the rain water from the storm. “You’re right, it isn’t much.” He pulled out the rocks in the bag.
“We’ve got these too!” Hattie pulled out two blood stained teeth.
“Hattie, why would anybody want that?” Olive said, smiling sheepishly at the man.
“Well…” The main threw Lottie’s rocks to the floor, but took the rest. “I s’pose this must be good for something.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a scrap of yellowing paper. “You girls are lucky that you found me. With only this bit of goods, most folks wouldn’t give you a trick like this.” He swung the bag in front of them.
“Oh, thank you!” Melanie said, taking the scrap of paper. “We’ll be sure to use it well.”
The man chuckled and disappeared back into the shadows. “Odd fellow, isn’t he?” Lottie said with a nervous laugh. “Here, let me see that.” She reached over and took the parchment, making sure to keep it out of the rain. As she moved her fingers over the creases, about to open it, Pip spun around and pointed at the sky, screaming.
Above them was a far too familiar shimmering skull with a snake coming out of its mouth. The bright green burned Lottie’s eyes and ran shivers down her spine. “Run!” Melanie shouted. “Go back home! GO!”
They scattered, Lottie running towards her own flat. Panting, she turned a corner to the biggest street in the camp. Because of the storm, she was the only person on the usually crowded road. She turned and looked over her shoulder. Nobody was there. She ran over to a tree and snapped off a stick before hopping off, and hiding behind the large trunk. Hands shaking, she made sure that the scrap of parchment didn’t get wet as she unfolded it. Melanie would probably kill her if she found out that she had tried this without her.
The words on the paper were faded; Lottie had to squint to make them out.
Lottie frowned. The words were odd, and she felt as though she shouldn’t say them out loud. Waving her stick, she hissed “Avada Kedavra.”
She tried at least five times, finally getting extremely frustrated and throwing her stick back into the street. Somebody shouted. Pocketing her parchment again, she rose and peaked around the tree to see who it was. A group of Death Eaters crept forward, looking more like one giant black spider than separate people.
Trying not to scream, Lottie began to run back to her flat. She couldn’t let the Death Eaters see her. She ran back through the alley and to the smaller street. There was another clump of cloaked Death Eaters on this street, but they were much farther away.
It felt as though the back of her throat was sticking to the front by the time she was halfway there. She ran though, too scared to stop, taking the familiar route back to her home. The Death Eaters were faster than she was, though, so when she finally arrived at the front door of the building, they were not far off. She pushed open the door and ran down the hall. Before she could open the door to her family’s small room, it swung open.
Her mother stood in the doorway, smiling nervously at her daughter. “Oh, thank goodness you’re here,” she said, shaking Lottie by the shoulders. “I was so, so worried, what with the Death Eaters running amok…”
Posy blushed and turned back to Lottie. “Oh, I’m sorry, love, I forgot. There’s somebody here to see you.”
Re: Halfway to Infinity
Chapter two: The Invitation
Brow furrowed, Lottie stepped into her family’s flat. “To see me?” she repeated. “Are you sure? Who would be here to see me? All of my friends went home, didn’t they?” Posy squeezed her daughter’s shoulder and smiled weakly.
A quite unfamiliar man sat at the Rowe’s rickety table. He wore dark, fine robes that reminded Lottie of the Death Eaters who had marched down the streets. He was clean shaven, unlike anybody else from the Muggle camps, and did not have one smudge of dirt on his face. He couldn’t have been from one of the camps, Lottie was sure of that.
“Hello, Charlotte.” The man smiled, emphasizing his crow’s feet. Lottie glared at the man. Nobody had called her Charlotte since she was very young, before she decided that Lottie suited her, and Charlotte didn’t.
“Lottie,” she corrected.
“Oh, of course. Lottie.” The man held his hand out. With a nudge from her mother, Lottie finally took the man’s hand and shook it. “My name is Professor Fornax Maelioric.”
She bit her lip, trying not to laugh. Lottie had never heard a name like Maelioric before, let alone Fornax. “Yeah? So what’re you doing here?”
Maelioric pointed to the empty chair across from him. Resenting the invitation to sit down in her own home, Lottie sat, folding her arms and raising her eyebrows at the man who barged into her flat. “So, Lottie, tell me, what do you think about magic?”
Lottie rolled her eyes. “I think the people who have it abuse it, and that the people that don’t have it would do well with it.”
“Have you ever thought that there could be good people with magic?” Lottie bit her lip. All of the people with magic she had ever seen abused the power. Unsure of which answer would be correct, she just looked at her lap. “Before I tell you, do you promise to keep it a secret?”
Lottie couldn’t stand it. She needed to know what he was talking about. Nervously, she looked over her shoulder at her parents who were both smiling down at her. “Yes,” she said suddenly feeling the urge to whisper. “I promise. What’s the secret?”
Maelioric folded his hands on the table and leaned in, whispering as well. “There’s an entire movement.” His voice made Lottie shiver. “Hundreds of witches and wizards who aren’t like the Death Eaters are fighting to end Voldemort’s reign.” Lottie gasped at the sound of the Dark Lord’s name, but was too captivated by what this man was telling her to do anything else about it.
Suddenly, Lottie felt as though somebody was pouring scalding honey into her stomach. Why was this man telling her this? Would the Death Eaters kill her if they found out that she knew about a rebellion? What would she do with this information? “But--”
“Why am I telling you this?” Lottie felt as though the man could read her mind. Maelioric seemed to be enjoying the suspense. “You’re a witch, Lottie.”
Posy gasped and squeezed her husband’s hand. “Nathaniel…” she whispered. “Our daughter.” Lottie turned around. Her mother was making it sound like it was a bad thing. “Our daughter.”
“Me?” She didn’t know what to think. He must have been lying. Nobody in her family had magic. Was it possible for her to have it? “No way. That’s not possible. I mean, my family is entirely--”
“You know, Muggle-borns tend to pop up more often now.” Maelioric leaned back in his chair, his eyes twinkling. “It’s quite sporadic, but we’re beginning to believe that it has something to do with a parent’s belief in magic.”
Lottie clenched her fists, scrunching up the baggy fabric on her pants. “And… erm … what now?” she asked, trying to ignore her parents’ franticly hushed conversation behind her.
Maelioric laughed, clapping Lottie on the shoulder. “Well, you want to join the rebellion, don’t you?” He raised his eyebrows. “Most eleven-year-olds jump at the offer.”
“Yes! Of course, I mean… But what do I have to do?”
“There’s a school,” began Maelioric, “called Alsemore. We train all of the Muggle-borns, half-bloods and the occasional pure-blood there.” Lottie liked this idea the more he explained.
“You mean I can leave here?” Lottie tried not to bring her hopes up too far.
“Yes,” answered Maelioric. “Though, we can’t let the students come back here very often because the Death Eaters might recognize them.” Lottie turned around again and looked at her parents. Their conflicted faces illustrated just how she felt. Sure, she wanted to leave the camp and help defeat the Dark Lord, but she didn’t want to never see her family again. “There will be occasional visits, of course,” Maelioric added quickly.
Lottie turned back to him. “What would I learn at that school?”
“Magic, of course,” said Maelioric with a laugh. “Though, you should be warned that this school is more dangerous than most. The students are trained to fight and are expected to help the cause by their sixth year, if not earlier.” Lottie bit her lip. “It is very dangerous, of course,” Maelioric continued, “but our students are trained well, and we usually have adults near by. Each student is trained in one of three areas, and becomes that position in the war.”
“What do you think?” asked Lottie, turning to her parents.
Posy looked down at the floor, making sure her face was hidden. Nathaniel tapped her gently on the shoulder. She looked up at him, opening her mouth to say something, but he shot her a stern look. Looking back at his daughter, he smiled weakly. “Whatever you think is best, Lottie,” he responded shakily. “Do you want to help the cause?”
“Yes.” She turned back to Maelioric. “Professor, I want to do it.”
“Excellent!” Maelioric clapped his hands together. “Well, could I just ask you if you know how to read, just so we know where to begin?”
Lottie beamed. “Yes,” she said proudly. Muggles in camps were not allowed to read, according to the Death Eaters. The Dark Lord had taken over fairly recently, though, and Lottie was only the third generation in the camp, so reading was easily taught in secret. Most girls her age knew, but she had seen a few kids whose parents or grandparents were so afraid of the Death Eaters, that they never learned.
“That’ll save us a lot of trouble then,” Maelioric mumbled, scribbling with a quill on a yellowing piece of parchment that looked like the scrap of paper the man in the cap had tried to sell to them.
“Can--can I ask you a question, Professor?”
“Do we have to leave right now?” Lottie picked at the dirt under her fingernails. She wanted at least a day to say goodbye to her family.
“Ah, of course not,” Maelioric said with a shake of his head. He patted her on the shoulder. “We will be collecting all of the first year students on Monday at noon. It doesn’t give you a lot of time to get ready, but you are not required to bring anything along.”
Monday… Lottie took a deep breath. That only gave her a day and a half with her family. “Okay.” She looked down at her lap. “Monday it is then.”
With a chuckle, Maelioric stood up. “You’ll love it, don’t worry.” He gave her a reassuring smile. “All of the students do.”
“I hope that’s a promise,” she said nervously.
Without another word, the strange man turned around, and walked out the door, his cloak billowing behind him. The door slammed behind him, and a loud crack caused Posy to jump and drop a small mug she had been clutching.
“Well.” Nathaniel leaned against the thin wall, arms crossed. “That’ll be quite an adventure, won’t it?”
Lottie tried to smile back at him, but suddenly didn’t feel like she could. “I--I think I’m going to go to bed.” She clutched her stomach and sat down on her bare mattress. “I suddenly don’t feel very good.” Groaning, she fell backwards and shut her eyes.
It didn’t take her long to fall asleep. This new information dragged down her eyelids with its weight. When she woke, rain still pounded against the windows. It was a gloomy day, though not quite as dark as the day before. Lottie, feeling only slightly better than the previous night, opened the door to leave.
Behind her, Nathaniel was muttering something to Posy. The unnerving sensation of people talking about her crept up Lottie’s spine. She spun around, letting the door shut loudly behind her. “Oh!” Posy ran to Lottie, and brushed the rain off of her shoulders. “Good morning, dear. We didn’t even hear you get up…”
Nathaniel followed and ruffled her hair, chuckling sheepishly as he did. “You’re getting sneakier and sneakier everyday, I’ll tell you that.”
Crossing her arms, Lottie took a step away from her parents. “Sorry,” she said quietly. “I’m going to go out today, is that okay? I just want to see my friends for one more time.”
“Of course, love,” Posy said and gave Nathaniel a sharp flick on the back. He spun around obediently and followed her to the other side of the room. Standing alone in front of the door, Lottie pushed her knitted cap back onto her head, took a deep breath and silently left.
She ran quickly through the rain, head tucked under her arm, before she spotted the pair of tiny boots that she knew to be Pip’s. “Morning!” squeaked Pip sleepily.
Lottie picked her head up and smiled nervously. “Morning,” she repeated. “Have you seen everybody else?”
“Yeah, they’re all over there.” Pip pointed to what once had been a large cart for selling food, but was abandoned years ago. “Alexa got hurt when the Death Eaters came last night,” she said more solemnly.
Feeling the blood rush to her head, Lottie followed Pip as they jogged over to the cart. “Alexa!” she shouted as she fell to her stomach and pushed herself under the gap between the cart and the pavement. A ditch under the cart gave her enough room to sit up. Pip followed and fell easily into the tiny spot in between Lottie and Hattie.
“Lottie, where were you?” Melanie turned away from Alexa and scooted closer to Lottie. “All last night we were looking for you. It’s hard to take care of one person in trouble when we’re not sure where another one is.”
“Sorry,” she breathed. “I had to go back home. I didn’t know we were meeting back up. I thought you said--”
“No, I didn’t.” Melanie turned back to Alexa and muttered something to Hattie. Promptly, Hattie ran out from under the cart and into the street.
Lottie craned her neck so she could see over Melanie’s shoulder. “What happened to her?” she asked, though by Alexa’s appearance, she could guess. Blood covered her entire right arm, and there was a noticeably large gash across her upper arm.
“She got caught on her way home last night,” Olive said shakily. “She nearly got away, but they--they did something to her arm. Hattie’s going to get something to wrap it in.”
Lottie’s heart skipped a beat. This was her chance to tell them. They had to know, especially after the events of last night. “Wait,” she said quickly. Everybody turned to her. “I--I’ve got something to tell you.”
“Lottie, can it wait?” Melanie slapped her hand against the pavement. “This is more important.”
“Wait!” Lottie grabbed Melanie’s arm. “It’s important too.”
“A man came to visit me last night--”
“Honestly, Lottie.” Shawnee glared at her. “This isn’t the time.”
“LISTEN TO ME!” Lottie slammed her fist against the top of the cart. Even Alexa picked up her head to stare at her. “A man came to visit me last night, and he told me that I was magic.”
Silence followed, only finally broken when muffled footsteps hurried towards them. “That’ll be Hattie,” Olive said quietly. True to Olive’s word, Hattie slid under the cart, the sleeve of an old sweater wrapped around her hand.
“This is all I could find,” she said handing it to Shawnee. Without a word, Shawnee snatched it from her and began wrapping it carefully around Alexa’s wound. As she did, Melanie turned back to Lottie, eyebrows raised.
“What are you talking about?” she hissed.
“A man,” Lottie repeated slowly. “He told me that I was magic, like the Death Eaters.” There was another silence. “I mean, I’m not going to be like them,” she added hurriedly. “But I’ve got magic.”
“Lottie.” Melanie grabbed her shoulder. “Seriously, whatever this man told you is a lie. Why would you be magic? You’re just a plain Muggle. That was just some mad bloke lying to you so he could kidnap you or something. Stop being ridiculous.”
Lottie forgot to breathe momentarily as pushed Melanie’s hand from her shoulder. “I’m not being ridiculous.” She tried not to let her voice quiver. “It’s true! And one day I’ll come back and be able to save one of you from a Death Eater, and then you’ll believe me.”
“And until then,” Melanie snapped back, “you’ll just be mad.”
Gripping her fists, Lottie shouted, “I’m not lying!” She turned to everybody in the group in turn, receiving the same look every time. “Nobody believes me? Pip?” The six-year-old frowned at her and turned away. “Fine!” Lottie pulled herself out of the cart. She crouched down and poked her head under it to see her friends for one more time. “I’ll see you in seven years then.” Without another word, she picked herself up and walked away. Once she was sure that she was out of earshot, she began to run, wiping the rainwater and tears off of her face.
She stopped in front of the door to her building, pulled it open and snuck down the hall to her own door. Before she could open the door, it was pushed open by her mother. “Oh!” She pushed her flyaway hair back into its messy bun. “I’m sorry, Lottie. I was just heading to the bakery to get you some food for your trip tomorrow.”
“Oh--er--thanks.” Lottie trotted around her mother and to her small mattress in the corner. She didn’t look up until the door slammed and she was sure her mother had left. Her father was probably already at the rundown bakery that they ran. After she was sure that her mother was completely out of earshot, she let out a scream. Somebody in the room next door banged on the wall.
Willing herself not to cry, Lottie kicked back at the wall, leaving a muddy boot-print. Trying to ignore the bangs on the wall, she curled into as small of a ball as she could possibly manage.
Lottie sniffed loudly. She didn’t know why her friends were all suddenly angry with her. She would never hurt her friends. But hadn’t she hurt Alexa by not helping her? Heavy-minded, she shut her eyes and fell into a restless sleep.
Alder with Unicorn, 14 1/2 inches, slightly springy
Re: Halfway to Infinity
Chapter Three: Odin Alley
“Are you all ready then, Lottie?” Posy attempted, yet again, to run a brush through Lottie’s tangled hair.
“Yes, Mum!” Lottie snatched the brush out of her mother’s hands and picked at the huge mat in her hair. “I’ve got a bag and everything.” She gestured to a small burlap sack near the door. “Am--am I meeting them outside or--”
“They’re coming to get you,” Posy answered quickly. “The professor told us in private. He’s coming himself to pick you up, and you’ll all meet up and go to school, as to not draw attention to yourself.”
“Right.” Lottie dug the tip of her toe into the ground.
Posy held Lottie’s shoulder tightly. “Now, are you sure this is what you want to do?” she asked quietly, her face pale. “Because you don’t have to, if you don’t want to. We’ll just talk to him, and--”
“I want to do it,” Lottie said sternly. “I’ve wanted to do this for my entire life, you know that.”
There were three loud raps on the door. “That’ll be Maelioric,” said Posy, giving Lottie a pat on the back. Shakily, Lottie walked to the door and opened it. Maelioric wore the same fine robes as he had the day he visited her.
“Good afternoon.” Lottie didn’t return his warm smile. “Have you got any things gathered up?”
“Y--yeah.” Lottie’s throat was rather dry. She ran and grabbed her bag. “Bye Mum,” she said quietly, not pushing away from her mother’s hug.
“Try not to get in too much trouble, okay?” Posy said tearfully.
“Don’t worry I won’t.” She turned to Maelioric and followed him out of her flat. Not looking back for fear of tearing up as well, she called, “I’ll see you over the summer!”
Suddenly, Maelioric stopped. They were still in the hall of the building. Lottie looked up at him, but he didn’t flash her with his usual smile. “Lottie, I do have something serious to speak with you about.” Lottie gulped. Had she already gotten in trouble? “I know you told your friends about us,” he said in a hushed voice, trying not to let the occupants of the other rooms hear.
Lottie felt as though her heart had just stopped. How did he know? Had he been watching her? “Now, since they didn’t believe you, it isn’t going to be a problem, but…” He raised his eyebrows. “Just be careful next time, okay?”
Taking a relieved breath, Lottie said, “Okay.”
Lottie thought they were going to leave the building, but instead of heading to the door, Maelioric spun around and led her down a tight corridor that she had never known was there. “Now, I’m going to take us to where we’re meeting everybody else,” said Maelioric. “Just grab onto my arm tightly, and don’t let go.”
Lottie obeyed, feeling quite awkward, clinging onto the man’s arm. Before she was able to get a good look around the cramped hall, she heard a loud crack. It felt as though somebody was trying to push her, headfirst into a tube that was far too small for her. A moment later, she could breathe again. She stumbled, trying to catch herself, and fell onto the ground, dazed.
Maelioric’s laughter brought her back to reality. “Don’t worry. Nearly everybody falls their first time as well.” He held out his hand and helped her to standing. “Alright, I’m off to get another student. Wait here with everybody else for a few minutes.” With that, he disappeared again.
Lottie turned around. Kids, all her age, were sitting and waiting. She smiled at a boy. The boy looked down at his lap, and folded his hands. Nearly all of the to-be students were all dressed in old clothes like her. Nobody said anything. Joining in the silence, she sat down against one of the curved walls.
The room they were in was plain. All the walls and floors were grey. After further inspection, Lottie decided that they must have been some other color at one point, but faded and turned grey. There were a few benches, and a large oak door.
More adults appeared, with students clutching to their arms, and then vanished again. A girl who was unnervingly familiar arrived a few minutes after Lottie. She stood for a moment, and then sat down next to another girl and began talking. Lottie craned her neck to try and determine where she had seen that girl before. Her thin brown hair was messy, and she had blue eyes that were far too big for her face.
Lottie gasped when she realized who it was. She had often found that girl around the group of girls who rivaled her friends. Former friends, she corrected herself. That girl’s conversation had started a string of socialization that was spreading down the group of students. Not wanting to stand out on her first day, Lottie turned to the girl next to her. She had brown hair, brown eyes and a freckle-spotted button nose.
The girl turned to her. “Oh. Hello.” She pushed the brown hair out of her face. Lottie noticed that her clothes were not nearly as torn as most of the students’. “My name is Alison--well Ally. Ally Overton.”
“I’m Lottie Rowe.” They nodded and smiled at each other for a few moments, neither of them knowing exactly what to say.
“Are you a Muggle-born?” Ally finally asked.
Lottie recognized that word. Maelioric had used it when he was explaining magic to her. “Erm… Yeah, I think I am. That means I have non-magic parents, right?”
“Then yeah, I am.” There was a moment’s silence. “Oh, what about you?” Lottie added hurriedly.
Ally suddenly looked very excited. Lottie guessed that she had been waiting to tell her story. “No, I’m not,” she said proudly. Lottie’s stomach fell. Was being a Muggle-born a bad thing? “My dad’s a Muggle, but my mum was a witch.” She looked behind her and leaned in. “My mum was fighting against the Dark Lord, but she got killed by Death Eaters.” Lottie noticed that Ally sounded more proud than upset that her mother had died. “I grew up in a camp with other half-bloods, not with Muggles.”
“Well that must’ve been nice,” Lottie responded.
“It was okay. Probably not as bad as wherever you were, considering what you’re wearing.” Ally laughed. Lottie did too, though it wasn’t quite as genuine as Ally’s.
Lottie opened her mouth to say something, but before she could there was a loud crack and Maelioric appeared. One last student ran and sat down with the group. Lottie frowned when she saw him. He didn’t have tattered clothes like her; he didn’t even have clothes like Ally. He was in dark robes that reminded her of Maelioric’s.
“Well,” Maelioric said, clapping to get their attention. “I believe that we’re all here now.” He beamed at them. “Another year, and another batch of first year students. Let me be the first to welcome you all.” A murmur ran through the group of students. “Before we get to Alsemore, you all can clean up a bit. Everybody will get three sets of uniforms. We have other clothes in every size for weekends and holidays. Each person may have two extra outfits. Also, you may need to get glasses. We can provide you with them, if the Healers decide you need them.” Maelioric pulled out a stick, just like the Death Eaters’. “And I’m sure you all have been wondering about these.” Lottie leaned in, her gaze not moving from the thin piece of wood.
“Well, these are wands that wizards and witches use to control their magic.” He chortled. “In my experience, students are usually far too curious to find out what they are.”
Lottie couldn’t help but mutter, “So Melanie was wrong then…” Ally turned to her and shot her a stern glance.
“So--” he waved his wand, causing the doors to fly open “--first you’ll meet with a Healer, and get yourself cleaned up a bit.”
Everybody stood up and shuffled silently behind Maelioric. Nobody knew quite what to say. Lottie glanced around nervously, looking for anybody who knew what a Healer was. She thought that the large oak doors were heading to another corridor, but when she passed through them, she found herself in an alley.
The sun shone through the scattered clouds. Lottie wondered if wherever they were had experienced the same storms as London had for the past week. Maelioric led the students down the thin road. It looked as though they were heading towards a huge building. It was a plain grey color, with small barred windows. As the group shuffled towards it, Lottie started to feel a bit more apprehensive.
She wondered what the building held. Maybe they were going to get their clothes or their wands. Lottie’s fingers itched at the idea of having her own wand, like the Death Eaters. “Where do you think we’re going?” she asked Ally quietly.
Ally shrugged. “Maybe it’s where we’ll get our uniforms?”
Maelioric stopped walking. Standing on the steps that led up to the grey building, he turned to them. “Welcome to Odin Alley. It is one of a series of hidden locations we use to provide resources or training for the war. A group of merchants joined together to provide us with the proper materials for us.” Lottie turned to ask Ally how they were getting the materials in the first place, but again, Ally shot her a warning glance.
“So, this is our first stop. I just ask you all to be quiet when we enter, so we don’t disturb any of the patients.” A hush fell over the students as he led them inside the building. Lottie shivered when she entered. She decided that it would be a better idea not to ask Ally, considering her strict attention to the rules.
A group of adults in sterile white robes stood before them. Maelioric broke the students up into five groups, based on where they were standing and the white robed adult standing before them led them off. Lottie was happy to be in Ally’s group, though was annoyed to see the short, blue eyed girl from the camp was in the group as well.
“Right.” The man leading their group turned to them. He had a thick cockney accent and crooked teeth like a key. “So, I’m here to check to make sure you’re all okay and whatnot. I’m a Healer, so I can make sure you’re all okay. So… you-- ” He pointed at the blue eyed girl from the camp “--come here.” The girl obeyed. The Healer pointed her wand at her. He muttered something under his breath and handed her a small vial. “Drink. It will help that cough of yours.”
The girl drank and winced at the taste. “Now, you’re going to need glasses so you can see properly,” said the Healer curtly. He was to a cabinet and pulled out a pair of thickly rimmed glasses. They made the girl’s eyes look even bigger now -- far too big for her face. Lottie snickered along with the other kids. Blushing, the bug-eyed girl returned to the group, but made sure that she was far in the back, slightly detached from every else.
The task of making sure that everybody wasn’t seriously sick or hurt soon became a very tedious one. One boy needed a spell to fix a sprained wrist, and another girl had to take three potions to get rid of an infection, but mostly the only thing everybody needed was a spell or two to remove bruises.
Lottie shuffled over to the girl in the back and stood silently for a moment. The girl stared at her. “Let me see those for a second, okay?” she whispered, snatching the glasses off of the girl’s face.
“Hey!” The room went silent and everybody turned to them. “Sorry!” the girl breathed and turned back to Lottie. “Give those back,” she hissed.
“It’ll just be a second!” Lottie pushed the glasses onto her face. Right away, everything went blurry. The girl snatched them back and glared at Lottie. Lottie glared back. “Fine,” she said, rolling her eyes. She threw the girl’s glasses back at her and joined the group again.
The Healer pointed to Lottie and she stepped up, praying that she wouldn’t need glasses. Carelessly, he pointed his wand at her and sighed. “How’d you get these bruises?” he asked, pointing to her arm.
Lottie blushed. “I fell.” The Healer didn’t seem satisfied with the answer. “Well you didn’t ask anybody else!” she said, putting her hands on her hips. “Somebody threw a rock at me, and I fell, are you happy?”
The Healer ignored her and waved his wand. Lottie’s bruises began to shrink until they disappeared. “Alright you’re fine.” Lottie returned to her spot next to Ally. The Healer led them out the door of their little room and back into the main hall, where all of the other groups were waiting. A few of the other students had gotten glasses just like the big-eyed girl.
Maelioric appeared out of another room and took them out of what Lottie decided was a hospital and down the alley. The other students were all chattering happily, but whenever Lottie would turn to Ally, she would return the glance with a loud “Shh!”
He brought them to a shop -- or what looked like a shop. Once Lottie entered she realized that it was definitely not a shop. It was bigger than any single room she had ever seen before. Rows of clothes stretched back nearly to the end of the room.
“This is where you’re going to get your uniforms,” Maelioric informed them, giving one boy a pat on his back. “So each of you go down to the wall and line up.” Lottie followed another boy down one of the rows of clothes. There were dark cloaks that looked just like the ones the Death Eaters wore, long robes that looked like water and coats with far too many pockets.
She chose a spot next to Ally, who smiled at her. “Excited to get nicer clothes?” she asked.
“Er--yeah.” Lottie laughed nervously. “What about you?”
“I suppose. I wish we didn’t have a uniform, though.”
“Well, if they’re supplying us with everything, how wouldn’t we have one?”
Ally shrugged and looked down at her feet. A grumpy middle-aged man was walking down the line of students throwing what looked like a large duffle bag down at their feet, muttering something about the worst day of the year. Three women and the same man bustled importantly down the line. One boy gasped when the measuring tapes hovered in the air and began to measure without any help. The three witches and the wizard scribbled down the measurement with a quill on parchment.
Lottie was relieved when one of the friendly looking witches took her measurement, though Ally didn’t look very happy with the wizard who was scribbling down her measurements. The witch handed Lottie a small card with a purple check on it.
“Right, you lot,” the man said gruffly. “See that little check on the card you got? Go to the desk that has the same color check as your card. And don’t forget your bags.” The spun around, exchanged a glance with Maelioric and left to the desk with a green check.
“What color’ve you got?” Ally asked.
“Well, I guess I’ll see you in a few minutes then,” Lottie said, trying to sound optimistic. She really didn’t want to be separated with the only person she had met. Ally followed a boy to the desk with the orange check on the front and Lottie trotted to the purple desk, her new bag around her shoulder.
“Name?” Lottie looked up. A witch with a roll of parchment towered above her.
“Oh--er Lottie Rowe.”
The woman scanned down the line. “Mm… Charlotte, you mean?”
Lottie turned a delicate shade of pink, feeling the eyes of her classmates behind her. “Yeah, Charlotte,” she said through gritted teeth.
“Right, so go down over there.” The witch pointed to where another wizard was standing. “Get your uniforms from him, and then go through that door and get your two free wear outfits.”
Lottie slid down the line and stood in front of the man. He pointed at her bag. Carefully, she handed it to him, making sure that he wasn’t about to steal it. He piled three sets of uniforms into the large duffle and threw it back at her. She stumbled back with the new weight in her bag and ran into the room with the purple check over it.
The room was divided into two sections. On the left hand side, there was a rickety sign that read “Witches” and on the right, an equally as old sign read “Wizards.” She followed the other girls in front of her to the left side of the room, and started looking through the clothes. None of the clothes had patterns or writing on the front. Lottie picked a black and a red top, two pairs of faded jeans, and a green sweater. Everything looked as though it had been worn before.
“Okay, has everybody got everything?” The man who was giving everybody a uniform poked his head in the door. “Go and wait out in the front room, when you are.”
Lottie shouldered her duffle and walked to the front room. She spotted Ally immediately and waved. Ally looked thoroughly annoyed, but waved back away. “What’s up with you?” Lottie asked, laughing.
Ally didn’t laugh with her. “I got put with kids who are a lot taller than me.” She stomped her foot on the floor. “And now all of my clothes are way too big.”
“Well, they probably did that for a reason, don’t you think?” Ally didn’t seem satisfied with her answer. “Maybe they think you’ll grow really fast, or something. I don’t know.”
Ally went on to explain how she hadn’t realized that it was sorted by size until she saw that all of the clothes they were offering her were the same size, but that they were all too big for her. “And id you see how plain they were?” She sighed. “Most of the kids in my camp had at least a pattern on their clothes.”
“Is everybody here?” Maelioric’s voice rang through the large room. “Good,” he said as he left the room. He waved for all of the students to follow him back into the cobblestone alley. “Our next stop is the wand shop. You will get your books and other supplies at school,” he said importantly. “It would be too complicated to do it now, and considering everybody is getting the same thing, besides clothes and wands, we decided it wouldn’t hurt to let it wait.” He pointed to a tiny shop at the end of the street. Lottie wondered how everybody would fit in there.
Apparently, it was very possible to fit forty eleven-year-olds to fit in a tiny shop. Lottie didn’t understand how it was possible, and by everybody’s expression, neither did they. The inside of the room seemed to be far bigger than the outside, with enough room to provide a seat for each student. Lottie sat down in a squishy armchair and Ally chose a large pink pouffe next to her.
There was an old woman standing before them, staring at Maelioric. Once he nodded at her, she cleared her throat and spoke. “I am Miss Outterridge.” She raised her eyebrows, as though waiting for somebody to cry out of disbelief. “Getting a wand is not as simple as most of you might think. It is not--” she glared sharply at a boy in the front who had started snickering “--simply a matter of finding one that you like or that might look nice. As a great man once said ‘the wand chooses the wizard.’”
Maelioric pulled out a piece of parchment and handed it to Miss Outterridge, who unfolded it. “Right, so I know this is a bit tedious,” Maelioric said. “But it could be quite interesting if you try to notice a pattern.” He winked at them and left the tiny shop. This time several students really did shout out of disbelief. Lottie shared their feeling. She definitely did not want to be left in a room with this batty old woman.
“We will go in order of seating,” said Outterridge, pointing to the girl sitting in the front. Lottie suddenly regretted taking a seat in the last row. “Name?”
“D-Dorothea Melville.” Outterridge searched down the parchment and turned to a pile of boxes. She pulled one from the middle, and handed the wand inside to Dorothea. “Is this it?” asked Dorothea, smiling at the wand.
“Well I don’t know yet, do I?” Outterridge sighed over-dramatically. “Wave it!” Dorothea, blushing heavily, took the wand and waved it. Nothing happened. “Well, that’s not it, is it?” She pulled out another box and gave the girl another wand. Dorothea waved it, and purple sparks shot out of the end.
Several of the students gasped and clapped for Dorothea, who grinned. “That’s an interesting combination,” the old woman rasped. “Birch, nine inches, phoenix feather.” Outterridge gave Dorothea the box and let her take her seat.
Ten students later, Lottie realized that it wasn’t nearly as entertaining as she thought it would be. It took Outterridge a few tries to get everybody’s wand, but there was always that shower of sparks at the end. The big-eyed girl with the glasses stood up. When Outterridge asked her name, she said “Andrea Woolbright,” quietly.
It took Andrea over ten tries to get the right wand. Lottie had to fight the urge to yell at Outterridge.
Finally, when she had found the correct one, Lottie slouched back down in her seat. Ally was nearly sleeping also. Lottie tapped her lightly on the shoulder. She looked up and sighed. “Still at it?” she asked. Lottie nodded solemnly.
It must have been an hour later, when the boy sitting next to Lottie sat down. Filled with a sudden surge of energy, she ran up to the front, beaming. “Name?”
Outterridge checked her name off on the parchment and searched through the boxes. “Here, try this one… Ash, fourteen inches, phoenix feather.” Lottie waved it, but nothing happened. “I suppose not. How about this one? Hickory, eight inches, unicorn tail hair.” That wand didn’t seem to do the trick either. Lottie went through five more wands, until she pulled a fairly average sized one. “Sycamore and walnut, ten inches, dragon heart string.” Lottie waved it, and immediately green and gold sparks shot out of the tip of the wand. Her fingers tingled from the magic.
Outterridge gave her the box and Lottie sat back down. Ally was the first person that Outterridge found a wand for in one try. Lottie wondered if that meant her magic was stronger than most people’s.
Finally, the last boy got his wand, and Maelioric reappeared. Lottie understood why he had left now. He walked backwards as he led them back to the room where they had all met. “So did anybody get their wand on their first try?” he asked conversationally. Ally raised her hand. “Ah! Damn. I owe Ryan five Galleons, then. This is the first time Outterridge has done that in about … ten years.” Ally beamed proudly.
There must have been twenty teachers all standing in the room that they had been waiting in earlier. “Now, two students per teacher, please,” Maelioric called through the confusion. “We’re just going to Apparate to the school.”
Lottie and Ally ended up with a teacher who had thick brown hair, speckled with grey that was tied back tightly. “Hello,” she said stiffly. “I’m Professor Stainthorpe. Just grab onto my arm, and we’ll leave.” Lottie and Ally held onto the professor and waited for the unnerving sensation of traveling through a space without air.
They appeared in what felt like a dungeon. Lottie stumbled back and forth, and Ally had to hold onto her arm to stop from falling over. Without saying goodbye, Stainthorpe turned around and left quickly.
Once everybody had arrived, Maelioric stood before them. “Welcome,” he said, smiling at all of them, “to Alsemore Academy.”
Alder with Unicorn, 14 1/2 inches, slightly springy
Re: Halfway to Infinity
Chapter Four: The Ivory Table
Still beaming, Maelioric led the students up a wide staircase, speaking as he went. “Before you may join your fellow students in the welcome feast, you must be Sorted.” A few students whispered to each other in confusion. Maelioric turned around and spoke more gently. “A few of you might have learned about how Hogwarts used to Sort their students as well.” Lottie suddenly felt extremely ignorant of the world she was entering. She didn’t know what Maelioric meant by Sorting or Hogwarts. Maybe they were being divided on how much magic they had.
“This Sorting, however, will be nothing like theirs.” Maelioric paused. “You see, while they Sorted based on personality, we Sort based on ability.” Lottie’s stomach dropped. “There is not one House better than the other,” he began, slowly. Lottie could tell that House rivalry must have been a problem. “There are three Houses, run by my two co-heads Professor Palmyitor, Professor Clynalmoy, and myself.
“Each House is focused on one necessary role in the war. The members of Professor Clynalmoy’s House will be trained in strategy and war planning. The members of my House learn the skills of battle skills and dueling. And--” his face darkened, “--the members of Professor Palmyitor’s House are spies.”
A shiver ran up Lottie’s spine. “Must be a bit like that Slytherin House, eh?” Ally whispered. Having absolutely no idea what Ally was talking about, Lottie shrugged. It didn’t sound like a good thing though…
Maelioric turned back around and led them towards a large door. “So when we go through this door, wait at the end of the hall until your name is called.” With a wave of his wand, the door opened.
The room they entered was vast and triangular. The first years stood at one of the points of the triangle. Two long tables stretched across two walls and one sat in between them. Another table was along the last edge of the triangle, with adults sitting at it, instead of students.
In the middle of the triangle, there was what looked like a large square table made out of white stone, covered in tiny carvings. Lottie couldn’t make out what any of the carvings were, but she noticed a light purple glow flickering through them.
As Maelioric took his seat at the head table, another man stood up. He looked just as important, with his hands on his hips. “Welcome, students,” he said. The room was silent. Lottie strained her ears to hear the man’s quiet voice. “For those of you who don’t know, I am Professor Clynalmoy. Before we make the start-of-term announcements, we must begin the Sorting.” Lottie’s stomach turned over. Clynalmoy turned to the first years. “All you have to do is place your hands on the stretch of blank ivory when you are called, and we will choose your House.” He turned to a strict looking woman who Lottie assumed was Professor Palmyitor.
“Acker, Travis,” the woman said, reading from a sheet of parchment.
A boy with thick, curly red hair stumbled up to the front near the Table. Lottie could see his hands shaking as he placed them on the ivory. Right as he did, his nervous expression was washed off of his face, and one of horror or pain -- Lottie couldn’t tell which -- replaced it. Her stomach twisted more tightly into a knot, and from Ally’s shaking next to her, she guessed that hers had also.
The engravings on the Table flamed bright orange for a moment before it died down. The heads all stood up and walked to the Table, inspecting it. Lottie could only spot a few of the small pictures glowing odd colors. She couldn’t make out what the carvings were, but the heads seemed to take that detail into account very specifically. They continued blazing for nearly a minute, until the color finally vanished from them and Travis Acker wrenched his hand from the Table. The three heads mumbled to each other softly for a moment, before turning back to the students. Joyfully, Maelioric said, “Welcome to Maelioric.”
The table in the center started cheering loudly. Lottie guessed that they were the Maeliorics. Directed by the heads, Travis sat down with his new House-mates, looking relieved.
Lottie waited nervously as she watched all of the students get sorted. Sophie Coghlan was Sorted into Palmyitor and didn’t look very happy about it. Most of the first years were being Sorted into Maelioric. It did look as though that table was much longer than the other two. Lottie turned to Ally to point this out, but Ally had turned rather white. “Orman, Victor” had just been Sorted into Maelioric.
“Good luck,” Lottie whispered. Ally grimaced back at her as she walked to the Table. The heads didn’t take nearly as long deciding which House she would join. The table on the far right cheered when Maelioric announced that she would be joining Clynalmoy.
Lottie decided that she would be best fit for Clynalmoy as well. She had always been quite clever, she thought. Yes, she would definitely be a Clynalmoy. “Ross, Robert” took his seat at the Maelioric table, and Palmyitor shouted, “Rowe, Charlotte!”
Suddenly quite aware of her ragged clothing, Lottie shuffled to the center of the room. She wished that she was wearing her new uniform like the older students. With a glance at Maelioric, she placed both hands on the blank stretch of ivory.
An itch traveled from the base of her toes up to her fingertips. Her head was throbbing as she involuntarily relived moments of her life she had tried to forget. It wasn’t exactly pain, though. She longed to pry her hands off of the stone, but was stuck to it. She could feel everybody’s eyes burning into the back of her head, so to distract herself, she stared down at the Table.
In front of her a carving of an ox shined a deep scarlet and what looked like a snake was glittering green. Lottie was sure that she saw a trail of ants, a bow and a sail of a ship all glowing a deep blue. Her pulling finally paid off when the Table’s magical pull was broken and she went stumbling backwards. She steadied herself, making sure not to put her hands on the Table and watched the heads mutter to each other.
Clynalmoy, it had to be Clynalmoy. Why were they taking so long to decide? They seemed to be arguing. The other students seemed to be getting impatient. Lottie silently urged the heads to hurry up.
“Welcome to Palmyitor.”
The words stung Lottie. She could feel all eyes upon her. She had to move quickly or else be embarrassed in front of anybody, but Palmyitor? They must have been kidding. Trying to ignore the tingling in her fingertips, she sat down on long bench at the Palmyitor table. She turned around to the Clynalmoy table. Ally was watching the Sorting, apparently not concerned that her first friend was just Sorted into a different House.
“Scrivener, Colm!” The boy who had been wearing fine robes, instead of tattered clothes like everybody else walked up to the Table. Lottie picked her head up to watch the Sorting. Maybe it would take her mind off of the fact that she was going to spend the next seven years in a House where she didn’t belong.
Colm’s Sorting didn’t take nearly as long as Lottie’s, ending with Maelioric shouting “Welcome to Maelioric!” The boy marched to the center table and sat down with a confident laugh. Lottie glared at him, but didn’t get a response.
The Sorting continued. Lottie couldn’t bring herself to focus. Why was she in Palmyitor? She could never spy. She was never able to lie to anybody. It wasn’t fair that her only friend was in a different House. The heads must have been testing her. They would switch her once they realized how much more of a Clynalmoy they were than a Palmyitor.
“Woolbright, Andrea!” The bug-eyed girl placed her hands on the Table.
Oh please don’t let her be with me, Lottie pleaded. Being placed in the wrong House was bad enough, but having a girl she utterly despised in the same one was too much.
Lottie felt her heart sink. She wanted to stand up and shout that it wasn’t fair, and that either she had to be transferred or that Woolbright girl had to. Before she could protest, “Yoxall, Camilla” was Sorted into Clynalmoy, and the three heads waved their wands. Promptly, the Table vanished, leaving Lottie to wonder where it had gone.
“I hope,” Professor Palmyitor said, as she stood in front of the students, her arms locked behind her back, “that those students who are unhappy with their Houses will not come crying to us.” Her eyes didn’t sparkle like Maelioric’s did. “You are there for a reason, and it will be prosperous to both yourself and the war effort.” She cleared her throat. “In any case, if the older students have forgotten, you are not to leave the grounds at any time unless accompanied by a professor. You are only to be outside when either going to a class or when a professor is feeling quite generous and is willing to supervise all activities.”
Lottie watched Palmyitor intently. She was not the sort of woman that Lottie wanted to spend the next seven years of her life with. “But judging by these hungry faces,” Maelioric cut in, “it would be much more prosperous--” while Palmyitor wasn’t looking, he made a face at all of the students, “--for the feast to begin!”
More food than Lottie had ever seen suddenly filled the plates around her. She was afraid to try it. How could anybody have so much food when there were thousands of people dying of starvation in the Muggle Camps? “You might want to eat something before it’s all gone,” an older boy said, giving Lottie a nudge on the shoulder.
With a nod, she reached out and grabbed a giant turkey leg. In her time in the Camp, she often saw Death Eaters drunkenly parading about with turkey legs in their hands. Shaking with excitement, she took a bite.
It was the most wonderful thing she had ever tasted. She crammed more and more of the meat into her mouth enthusiastically. “Now, don’t forget to chew,” laughed the same boy sitting next to her.
When the turkey leg was merely a bone resting on her plate, Lottie had to restrain herself from taking another one. There were so many more new flavors to be tasted. The vegetables were fresher than she ever knew vegetables could be. Lottie ended up trying everything except for the bread, which she had eaten quite enough of in the last eleven years.
“And on such a happy note,” Clynalmoy said, standing up. Lottie rubbed her stomach, now feeling as though she had been filled with sand. “We will end our feast and get all students to bed, so tomorrow we won’t need to talk to students who fell asleep in the back of the class.” With a smile he said, “Sleep well!”
The food vanished, and Lottie forced herself to stand up. Professor Palmyitor quickly pushed her way to the front of the Palmyitor table. “First years, follow me to the common rooms,” she said sharply.
Not making eye contact with any of the other students, Lottie shuffled along behind her. Palmyitor led them down a long winding staircase, until one of the boys panted and clutched a stitch at his side. It was cold in the dungeons and Lottie couldn’t wait to get into her new sweaters. They turned a corner and stood in front of a huge grandfather clock. It was taller than Lottie, but if she stood on her tip toes she would be able to reach the face.
“This is the entrance to your common rooms and dormitories,” Palmyitor said. “In order for the clock to let you in, you must set it to a specified time. For a few weeks, the time will be eleven fifty eight.” Lottie watched her move the hands to read the time. There was a click, and the door on the trunk opened. Instead of a pendulum, Lottie could see light flickering through it. The hands of the clock spun back to the correct time. “A prefect will be inside waiting inside for you.” Without another word, Palmyitor spun around and left the first years standing in front of the clock.
“Well are you coming in, or not?” a voice called from within the clock.
“Do you suppose we should go in, then?” a girl with extremely long hair asked. Nobody answered. Tentatively, the girl squeezed through the door of the clock. Lottie heard a gasp from inside, and the girl poked her head back out. “Come on!” she shouted.
Lottie followed with all of the other first years and gasped just like the girl with the long hair did when she entered the common room. The floors were made of a polished wood and the walls were made of large stones. Armchairs and couches surrounded small tables all around the circular room. Directly across the room was an elegant fire place.
“Right.” The same boy who had talked to Lottie at the feast was standing in front of them. He wore a uniform similar to the one Lottie had gotten earlier that day, except he wore a red vest. “So I’m your prefect,” he said dully. “My name’s Stanley Barlow.” I don’t really do much except what I’m doing now and some other business that you first years don’t need to know anything about until you’re quite older.
“My job is to explain the basics of the school for tonight,” he continued. “You’ll find that your duffel bag has been placed in front of a bed in your dormitory. That will be your bed for the next seven years, so I hope you like your spot.” He laughed. Some of the older students who had opted to spend a few hours in the common room instead of going to bed were watching the prefect with amused expressions.
“On your bed, you’ll also find a pile of several books, some parchment and quills, and a schedule. You’ll have most of your classes with each other, but you will have a few with the other Houses too.” Some of the older students snickered. “Shut up, you,” the prefect said with a laugh. “Anyways, you’ll also get a towel and some toiletries. Don’t lose that towel, because you won’t get another one. That soap has to last you until February, so don’t use it all up right away.”
“Listen to him!” one of the older students shouted from the back. “You’ll regret not having soap for a month!”
“So,” the prefect muttered, “that’s ‘bout it. Oh! See those stairs?” He pointed to a long staircase far off to the right. “Boys go up and girls go down to the dormitories. You’ll know which one is yours. So, g’night then.”
Lottie wanted to stay down in the common room and try to make new friends, but found that she was suddenly overcome with tiredness. She followed two other girls down the stairs to the dormitory. A sign on the first door read “Seventh years.” They kept walking down a long corridor until they found the sign that read “First years.”
The girl with the long hair gasped again when they entered. The room was about the size of Lottie’s old apartment. Four grey four-poster beds took up most of the space, with two against a wall, and the other two across from them. Lottie’s bed ended up being farthest from the door, right under the window.
Just as the prefect had said, she found her new clothes, a pile of books, a bag with soap, toothbrushes and toothpaste and shampoo, and some parchment and quills. There was a note on the top of her books.
Please don’t forget to bring your books, wand, parchment and quills to class tomorrow. You may use your duffel bag as a book bag. An alarm will wake you in the morning with enough time to take a shower, change into your new uniform and make it downstairs to breakfast. You may write a note to your family with your new parchment and quills. If you leave it on your bed in the morning, it will be delivered to them.
Have a good night,
Lottie smiled. At least she would be able to contact her family. She pushed her books off of the side of her four-poster, opened her duffel, and found a pair of grey pajamas on the top. She changed behind the curtains of her four-poster. Once she opened the curtains, and sat down on her bed to find the girl with the long blonde hair staring at her.
“You know there’s a bathroom across the hall.” She was wearing her grey pajamas also.
“Oh.” Lottie shrugged. “Well that’s good to know I guess.”
“I’m Julianne,” the girl said.
“I’m Lottie.” The girl stared at her. “Well, I think I’m going to go to sleep,” Lottie continued, uncomfortable with the girl’s wild stare.
“Alright. Goodnight, then.”
Lottie shut the curtains, and sat back on her pillow. The bed was much more comfortable than her old mattress. The grey curtains offered a wonderful privacy from her other dorm-mates, though they made it very dark and difficult to see. Squinting, Lottie picked up one of her new quills and rolls of parchment. She carefully dipped the quill into the metallic blue ink and began to write, making sure not to spill any ink on the sheets.
Dear mum and dad,
School is great. I just got here tonight. We took a trip to a place called Odin Alley. It was just an old alley that sold lots of magical things. We got new uniforms and clothes. They also took us to a hospital. One girl needed glasses, but I didn’t, which is good because they looked pretty stupid on that girl. There was a feast tonight. This place has more food than I’ve ever seen. You’d love it. I just had one of those huge turkey legs like the Death Eaters. Maybe I’ll be able to bring home some food this summer.
I love you and I promise I’ll write often,
Alder with Unicorn, 14 1/2 inches, slightly springy
Re: Halfway to Infinity
Chapter Five: Alsemore
The next morning, a loud buzzing filled the dormitory, quickly stirring the girls from their sleep. Lottie carefully placed her letter face down on the bottom of her bed. It was odd to wake up with a thick blanket and springy mattress. Trying to ignore the bud of guilt inside of her for leaving her family to that life, she dumped all of the clothes out of her duffle and filled it with her new class books before placed her wand on top of it. Swinging her toiletry bag and towel over her shoulder and tucking her uniform under her arm, Lottie headed to the bathroom.
The bathroom was very unlike the bathrooms she was used to. There was no awful smell or dirt covered walls, but instead twelve neat bathroom stalls all lined up against one wall, and twelve showers across from them. Along the other two walls, there were rows of sinks. Lottie hung her new clothes up on the hook next to her shower. She closed the curtain, and opened her bag to get her soap.
Lottie had never showered with such hot water; she nearly burned herself before getting used to it. The shampoo that they had given her must have been magical, because when she rinsed it out, all of the knots that were in her hair had vanished without even one brush. Once she had dried off, Lottie changed behind the shower curtain.
When she pushed the curtain aside, she saw all of the other Palmyitor girls brushing their teeth and getting ready for the day. Lottie copied what the other girls were doing and brushed her teeth as well, before heading back to the dormitory to get her bag for the day. The letter was still on her bed when she got there. The girl Andrea from the Muggle Camp was organizing her books on the bed next to her.
“Hello,” Andrea said stiffly, not looking up at Lottie.
Lottie glared back. “Hi,” she finally muttered. She checked to make sure she had all of her supplies. Her books were all in her bag, her wand was tucked into the pocket sewn into the left inside of her robe, and she had her schedule in her front pocket.
The school uniform looked a bit ridiculous on Andrea. Lottie had to focus on her upcoming classes not to laugh. Andrea’s dark green sweater was much baggier than it was on Lottie, and her skirt went all the way down passed her knees, whereas Lottie’s ended a few inches above it. Andrea’s boots were huge and clunky, and her black robe trailed a few inches behind her.
“We’d better get down to breakfast,” Andrea said, busily swinging her bag over her shoulder, and pushing her glasses up the bridge of her nose. “We’ve only forty five minutes before we’ve got Charms.” She turned to leave, and then spun around to look at Lottie. “Coming, or not?”
“Sure, I’m coming,” Lottie muttered. “Just not with you,” she added under her breath.
Andrea, apparently, heard this and spun around. “Fine,” she said coldly, staring defiantly over Lottie’s head. “Have fun then. And I hope you know that your stupid friends at the Camp have gotten themselves into more trouble since you last saw them.” She left swiftly, her huge boots clunking up the stone stairway.
“What’d you say to her?” The long-haired girl called Julianne poked her head out of her curtains.
“Nothing,” Lottie muttered. “I’m going down to breakfast. See you.” She trotted down the hallway and up the stairs to the common room. As she crawled out of the clock, she reminded herself of the time she’d need to remember to get back in. Stomach sinking, she stood for a moment in front of the clock, not sure how to get back to the Great Hall.
A few older Palmyitors clambered out of the clock and started heading up a long staircase. Lottie followed them, trying to look as though she knew exactly where she wanted to go, and that it was just a coincidence that she had ended up behind them. They led her up a staircase, down a long zig-zagging corridor and up another staircase. Finally, they arrived in the Great Hall, and Lottie took a seat at the far end of the Palmyitor table, away from the girls she had followed.
She checked her schedule; Andrea was right. She did have Charms first, and after Flying, and then lunch. Lottie filled her plate with fruits and sausages, amazed at all of the students casually sitting and eating. Through the entire breakfast period, she had to control herself not to eat too quickly. A bell rang through the school and all of the students began to leave the Great Hall. Andrea snapped her fingers in the air. “First years,” she shouted, “I know where we’re going, if you need a guide.” Lottie rolled her eyes, but joined the others Palmyitor first years around her.
“Since when are you the boss?” Lottie spat.
“Since I’m the only one who cares enough about our classes to ask a prefect. Come on.” She led them forward with an important air. They went up one flight of stairs, and down a narrow corridor, before Andrea stopped before a large door. “Here we are.”
The classroom was large with risers and desks in front of the seats. “Sit down quickly.” The teacher paced up and down the classroom busily. Lottie recognized her as the professor who had Apparated with her and Ally. “This class is only Palmyitors, so it will be fairly small this term, thankfully.” The professor’s thick graying-brown hair was let down, instead of pulled back like it had been the day before. Lottie could tell that she had used quite a lot of gel, and it had to be a very special occasion to cause her to let it down.
“I am Professor Stainthorpe,” the professor said. “You’ll find that Charms is one of the most important skills you will learn during your time here at Alsemore. That being said, you will want to pay attention early, as not to fall behind later. I suggest you take notes, beginning today. You may think since we’re not learning magic--” some of the students groaned, “--we’re not doing anything important, but I assure you that you will not be able to pick up a wand until you master this material.”
Professor Stainthorpe paused for a moment, letting all of the students for parchment and quills. Lottie dipped her quill in her black ink and waited for the professor to begin speaking again. “Don’t feel bad if you don’t know the answer, but can anybody tell me what a charm is?”
A boy in the front shifted in his seat, but didn’t raise his hand. “I didn’t expect anybody to know,” Stainthorpe said with a smile. Lottie frowned. Of course nobody would know. They had only just arrived in the magical world the day before. “A charm is a type of spell that changes an object. It makes that particular item behave differently than it would naturally.” A scratching of quills followed her sentence.
“For example--” Stainthorpe pulled out her wand. Lottie noticed it was a much lighter shade than the body of her own wand. Professor Stainthorpe muttered an incantation, concentrating on the front row of desks. The entire class shouted in amazement, when they saw that the desks had suddenly begun flashing different colors. Stainthorpe waved her wand again, and the wood went back to normal. “Now, as you all know, a desk would not normally do that, which makes that spell a charm.”
The lesson continued for another hour and a half, leaving all of the students with a roll of parchment full of notes. Lottie stuck her notes into the front page of her Charms book, and followed the other Palmyitors to where Andrea was standing, her hands on her hips.
“Our next class is flying,” she said busily. “It’s on the grounds, and after that we’ve got lunch.” She spun around. “I’m sure you all can figure out where the grounds are, but I’ll show you, if you’re just worried about taking the wrong door.” Lottie grumbled along with the other Palmyitors, but decided to follow Andrea again, as to not get lost.
They went down the same flight of stairs as they went up that morning, passing a group of Clynalmoy first years. Lottie spotted Ally and waved. With a flick of her hair, Ally turned away and laughed with her new Clynalmoy friends. “She’s a real prat, I heard,” a boy muttered next to Lottie. “I pity her friends.”
Lottie sighed, and looked at the floor. “Yeah, I do too.” She pursed her lips and shuffled through the Entrance Hall with the other Palmyitors. Maybe Ally wasn’t the best first friend. It wasn’t the worst thing in the world, Lottie decided. She had plenty of time to make new friends, and the Palmyitors all seemed pretty nice.
A blast of cool air greeted Lottie as she walked through the door. “Over there.” Andrea pointed to a patch of perfectly manicured grass, where a heavy-set man stood, waving at the first years. The grass before the flying field was thick and untamed; it made Lottie’s bare legs itch as she walked through it.
“’Bout time!” the man said when they arrived on the short grass. “I’ve been waiting out here for hours.” Lottie frowned at the man. Classes hadn’t even been going for more than two hours. One of the boys opened his mouth to point this out, but received a sharp warning elbow in the ribs from Julianne.
“So, ‘ere we are, eh?” He stretched his arms, and yelled into the air. Julianne took a step away from the professor. “Call me Professor Seward, will yeh?” He took a deep breath with his hands on his hips. “Most folks ‘round here think that flyin’ class is just rum and coke, but you all should know that it’s one of the most important classes you’ll learn ‘ere, that’s right.”
Lottie highly doubted that flying could be that important, considering that the professor seemed to be completely insane. “We’re not flying just to learn t’play stupid games like Quidditch. Flyin’ is an important part of a read an’ write, it is. See, yeh need to get away if yeh find an ‘eap o’ coke who’s just plain barney, don’t yeh?”
Nobody said anything. One boy cleared his throat. Lottie didn’t have the heart to tell Professor Seward that nobody could understand what he was saying. “So enough of this rubbish rabbit, eh? Get on over to one of ‘em brooms.” Cautiously, the group headed to the pile of broomsticks, not entirely sure if they were doing what the professor wanted. “Okay, pick ‘em up, right? So yeh’ll get one of these for yourself in a few donkey’s ears, but for now, just use these.”
The broom Lottie picked was long and had splinters on the handle. “Now, be sure not to get an Alan in your finger, right? Wouldn’t want t’have to send one of yeh to the hospital wing on the very first day, now would I? ‘Appened once. Boy was Palmyitor hit.” He walked up and down the line of students. “So get on those brooms. Quickly now. ‘Urry up! Right.” He stared at the students, and corrected a few people’s hand positioning. “What yeh want to do kick off really hard, but don’t go off flyin’ around in all directions. Just stay put a few feet up in the air, okay? Go!”
Lottie watched to make sure other people kicked off into the air, until she did herself. She tried not to cry out in amazement as her feet lifted off the ground. She clutched onto the handle, holding her breath. “If you’re a bit Peter Purvis, just breathe,” the professor said, walking through the students, all hovering off the ground. “The brooms can sense you’re West ‘ams.”
A boy’s broomstick was tipping, and he was clutching onto it as not to slide down it. “Ah, damn,” Professor Seward sighed. “Now ‘old on tight! Don’t fall!” The boy’s eyes were wide, and his knuckles were white. “You’re only a few feet off the ground, boy. If yeh fall, your loaf’ll be fine!”
Lottie took the moment to glance around at her classmates. Julianne was hardly a foot off the ground, and the other girl--named Sophie--Lottie remembered, was at least ten feet up, shouting for Professor Seward’s attention. Andrea, though, was balancing in the air perfectly. She didn’t quiver like any of the other students, and she looked completely relaxed, if not slightly bored.
Jealousy surged up in Lottie. Andrea was a teacher’s pet; she wasn’t supposed to be good at flying. “You!” Professor Seward pointed at Lottie.
“Yeah?” she said breathlessly.
“You’re going to fall if yeh keep on like that!”
Lottie sighed. “What am I doing wrong?”
“Well, first off, don’t grip it so tightly. Your knuckles are going *** be white forever if yeh don’t relax, right?” Lottie tried to do what he was saying, but right when she had nearly gotten it, Seward walked back to her. “You again?” He sighed overdramatically. “If I’ve gotta come back ‘ere again… I swear.” Lottie opened her mouth to retaliate, but he interrupted, shouting, “Not a dicky!”
Not exactly sure what he was telling her, she shut her mouth. “Now, grip it a bit more tightly. You’re ‘bout to fall off!” Lottie had to fight the urge to let go of her broom and strangle the man. Andrea smirked behind the professor’s back. When he spun around to examine her grip, she smiled at him. Lottie stuck her tongue out when his back was turned, but wasn’t fast enough. He turned around and glared at Lottie. “You’re pushin’ it, Rowe.”
An hour later, the Palmyitors returned to the Great Hall. “Aww the firsties are back from flying!” shouted the prefect, Stanley. The entire hall roared with laughter.
“Look at their robes!” somebody shouted.
“How many people fell?” rang another voice.
The first years were all turning a deep shade of scarlet. “If you must know, only two,” Andrea shouted at them.
Shouts echoed through the Great Hall. Lottie saw the glint of coins exchanging hands. Staring at the floor, she shuffled to the Palmyitor table and sat down. “Hey, don’t feel bad,” Stanley said, patting one of the boys on the shoulder. “Happens every year. And tomorrow, it’ll be the Clynalmoys’ turn, won’t it?”
The thought of laughing at a bruised and battered Ally cheered Lottie up very much, as she piled roasted potatoes onto her plate. “What’ve we got next, Oh Wonderful One?” she asked Andrea, who was buttering a roll across from her.
“We have Potions,” said Andrea curtly. “And don’t take that voice with me; it’s not my fault you’re a horrible flyer, and an irresponsible prat.”
“The only reason teachers like you is because you’re a suck up, you know,” Lottie retaliated.
“And,” Andrea replied, her voice higher, “because I actually know what I’m doing. I’d suggest trying to figure it out sometime, but I’m afraid you’d just embarrass yourself.”
The butter on Andrea’s roll was reaching its third layer. Lottie ripped apart a chicken breast with her bare hands. “Yeah… well…” She snapped one of the chicken bones in half. “Those glasses look so stupid on you.”
Andrea slammed her roll onto the table and stood up. “You can find out where Potions is yourself.” She stormed out of the Great Hall, letting the doors slam behind her.
All of the first years turned to Lottie, eyebrows raised. “Well don’t look at me!” she said. “She just got in a huff because she -- er -- was sick.” Lottie picked at her chicken, but suddenly didn’t feel like eating. The bell rang again, and she sighed. “We’ve got Potions,” she told everybody. “I don’t know where it is though. Anybody have any idea?”
Stanley stood up, swinging his bag over his shoulder. “Down in the dungeons,” he said as he passed. “A flight down and through a corridor.”
“Thanks!” Lottie shouted. She left the hall, waving along the other first years. “C’mon, we’re going to be late!” She began running, her boots clunking loudly against the stone floors. The sound of the other Palmyitor first years followed her down a staircase and across a corridor. Lottie found a door standing ajar, a voice lecturing through the footfalls.
Timidly, Lottie poked her head through the door and shuffled to the only seat in the front. The other Palmyitors followed, taking the open seats that they could find. “Well, if it isn’t the Palmyitors,” a man’s voice said from the teacher’s desk. He was dressed casually, unlike Professor Stainthorpe. His robe was not fastened and Lottie could spot a polo shirt and plain blue jeans under it. He had thick boots that weren’t made out of normal leather like the other students’. “Glad you made it,” he continued.
He stood up abruptly and sat down on his desk. “So you’re here for Potions. Most of you won’t like this class, and most of you won’t be very good at it.” He stared directly at Andrea. “Well, I’m Professor Dyer, and obviously I’m…” He waited for somebody to say anything, and sighed when nobody did. “The Potions Master,” he finished articulating in a horribly condescending way.
“Anyways…” He cleared his throat. “When I was at Alsemore, we didn’t start actually making Potions until about a month in, but since the three Heads think that the war effort is too important to let first years have a proper introduction to Potions, and that you need to get moving now, we’ll start with a very simple potion for today.”
He waved his wand carelessly and cauldrons appeared in front of each student. “We’ll see where you are to begin with.” He flicked his wand again, and instructions appeared on the blackboard. “As you see, we’re learning how to make hair growth potion. And now I’m sure you’re all wondering why this potion is necessary. Well, in all honesty, it isn’t, but it is quite simple, and I suppose you could use it as some sort of disguise if you really wanted to tack a purpose onto it.
“Pour two cups of water into your cauldron, and bring it to a simmer, not a boil. You’ll find a cup to use next to your cauldron and a pitcher of water on each table.” Lottie watched, amused, as Andrea spilled her water on the table. “For Merlin’s sake, you’re just pouring water,” Professor Dyer said with a sigh. Lottie took the jug from her and carefully measured the two cups before pouring them into her cauldron.
Lottie found the instructions on the blackboard fairly simple. Once the water simmered, it was just a matter of adding the ingredients called for and stirring a certain amount of times. At the end of an hour, Lottie’s potion was a light turquoise and Andrea’s was a deep brown.
“Your potion should be blue-green by now,” Dyer said, pacing through the rows. “Rowe?” Lottie looked up. “Good. Woolbright? What happened?” Andrea was blushing furiously. “Did you even stir? At all?” He sighed. “Stay after class,” he said before turning on the next student.
“Why don’t you just shut up?” Andrea hissed to Lottie.
“Didn’t say anything!” Lottie said back. “Didn’t have to,” she added. Andrea spun around and glared at her. “It’s not my fault you’re horrible at making potions. You know, I’d suggest that you actually try to figure it out, but I’m afraid you’d just embarrass yourself.”
Andrea glared at her, but didn’t say anything in response. “If your potion is the correct color,” Dyer began over the babbling students, “you may put it in a flask to continue next class and clean up. Plain rags and water will be okay to use with this potion, but try not to get any on your hands or you’ll look like you transfigured your arms for a gorilla’s.”
Making sure that Andrea saw her smirk, Lottie carried her cauldron to the front of the room and poured her potion into a flask that the professor gave her. “Good work, Rowe,” Dyer said, not quite making eye contact. “It’ll sit for a few days and by then it will be magenta.”
Lottie nodded and took her cauldron back to her table. “I’m sure glad I don’t have to stay longer,” she said as she rinsed her cauldron out. Andrea’s fiery gaze didn’t falter. “Well, I’ve got to go to our next class,” Lottie continued. “Oh, what is it again?”
“Defense Against the Dark Arts,” Andrea muttered.
“Oh excellent. I’ll see you there, then.” Lottie laughed at her own sarcasm and left the classroom. She spotted a prefect who she didn’t recognize and waved. “Excuse me, do you know where the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom is?” she asked.
“Third floor,” she said.
“Great! Thank you!” Lottie started running, her bag bouncing behind her. She had already made it to the classroom when the bell rang. She sat in the front row, and pulled out her book (Defense in Dark Times by Catriona Quinlan).
A wave of first years burst through the door. They weren’t Palmyitors, and for a moment Lottie nearly panicked, before she remembered what the prefect had said about classes with other Houses. The other House must have been Maelioric, because the boy who had worn fine robes the day before-- Colm, she remembered -- sat next to her.
“Comfortable enough?” Lottie grunted, inching her seat away from him. Before he could answer a second wave of students rushed in; this time Lottie recognized her fellow Palmyitors.
“Good day,” a woman said. The class muttered an unenthusiastic greeting. The woman walked carefully around her desk and stood before the class. She seemed shorter now. Lottie could spot a thick textbook on the floor in front of the professor’s chair. Without the added height boost, she must have been at least a head shorter than Lottie.
“My name is Professor Emma Gabaldon. I will be your Defense Against the Dark Arts professor for the next seven years.” Lottie tried not to make a face, but that idea did not please her. She couldn’t name it, but something about this woman bothered her. The professor tucked her short hair behind her ears, causing it to stick up awkwardly in the back.
“As this school is based on fighting the darkest of all evils, this will be the most important class you will take.” Lottie noticed that most of the professors so far had gone through great lengths to explain why their class was the most important. “It is important, especially in our situation to move quickly, and cover everything in depth. Nightly reading is vital, since I will not explain that information, assuming that you have the knowledge to build off of it.”
The door burst open and Andrea ran in. Dirt caked her hands and arms. She searched for a seat and looked quite distressed when she discovered that all of them had already been taken. The professor sighed. “I suppose you’ll be wanting to sit down, then?” Andrea nodded timidly. “Alright then, Miss…”
“Woolbright,” Andrea offered.
“Miss Woolbright.” She flicked her wand and a desk appeared, cramped between two Maelioric girls’ seats. “I do hope you like where you are sitting, because these will be your seats for the rest of the year, unless if I see fit to move you.” Lottie couldn’t help but grin as she saw Andrea’s expression of outrage at being forced in the back row for the entire year. “Now, Miss Woolbright, would you like to offer any explanation as to why you were late on the first day?”
Andrea shifted uncomfortably. “Professor Dyer made me stay,” she said, eyes cast at her desk.
“I do hope you didn’t fail so miserably, as to get detention on your first day?” Andrea blushed, but didn’t respond. “In this class, punishments are severe for those who cause trouble, or lag behind. We do not have enough time for jokes and incompetence.”
Without anymore discussion, Professor Gabaldon began her lecture. Lottie took notes, but couldn’t help but let her eyes glaze over as Gabaldon babbled about ancient evil, offering no explanation as to how this lecture would help anybody when faced with dark magic.
It felt like an eternity before the bell finally rang. Lottie was amazed to discover that she had completed all of her classes for the day, but was less thrilled when the teacher handed out slips of paper that explained a reading assignment and an essay to be turned in on Friday when they had their next class.
As Lottie left the room, relieved to finally be able to make it to the common room and take a rest, Andrea trotted up behind her. “Thanks for helping me out.” Sarcasm was dripping from her voice.
“Why did you expect me to help you?” Lottie didn’t care how cruel she sounded anymore.
“Well, it was your fault I was late, but--”
“My fault? How is it my fault that you’re terrible at Potions?”
Glaring, Andrea hissed, “And now I’m stuck in a terrible seat!”
Lottie rolled her eyes and began walking to the common room so she could start her Potions homework. “You’ll be having a better time here once you stop blaming everybody for everything you do, you know.” She turned around just as she reached the staircase and added, “Nobody seems to like it, do they?”
Breakfast the next morning was an interesting affair. Lottie sat stiffly, cutting her French toast into tiny slivers. She wasn’t as interested in eating it, as she was in destroying something as slowly as possible. Andrea seemed to have the same thing in mind, as she pushed her hash browns across her plate half-heartedly. Julianne sat between them, trying to strike up a conversation in her own awkward way. Lottie felt bad for her. She obviously didn’t know that they despised each other.
Lottie got up and left before the bell rang. The prefect, Stanley, had told her where to find the classroom for her first class, Occlumency. The class was in the dungeon, he had told her. The same staircase she had taken to get to Potions would take her down one floor. Then, he instructed with a chuckle, she had to go through a tapestry of a former Minister of Magic who had tragically died when trapped in a magical revolving door, and down the staircase she found there.
She realized why he was laughing once she spotted the tapestry. No matter how tragic the event might have been, the sight of the poor old man pushing the door in circles brought her into a giggle fit that lasted until she reached the classroom. She wasn’t the first one there. Nearly all of the Palmyitors were sitting cross-legged on the floor in a clump. She took a place near the back of the group and waited for the bell to ring. Right as it did, Andrea and Julianne ran in and took a seat in the back of the clump.
A man appeared from a door behind the desk. Lottie hadn’t noticed the door, and was surprised when it swung open. Judging by a few startled gasps around her, she wasn’t the only one. The man was very large, bigger than anybody Lottie had ever seen at least. The girth of his arms were just about as wide as his head. His legs, though quite short were strong enough to hold up the man’s weight.
“Good day, class,” he said in a low voice. “My name is Professor Breckenridge.” He paused. Lottie guessed it was for a dramatic effect. “This is not a class to be fooling around in. We’ve only five years for you to master this skill.”
“Five, sir?” Andrea repeated, raising her hand. “We’re at school for seven years.”
“Don’t you think I know that?” Breckenridge muttered something under his breath about the disrespect shown by students at this school and wiped his bald head with a handkerchief from his pocket. “Unfortunately for you, you are expected to begin your duties in the war by your sixth year. Being the little spies that you are all destined to be, you need to master these skills, or else come to terms with your own premature death.”
Lottie shifted uncomfortably on the floor. This teacher didn’t even need to say that his class was the most important. “Now, although learning Occlumency and Legilimency are two very different experiences, the two of them go hand in hand. I will teach both of them, in this same classroom. The two classes are right after each other. No, there will not be any break between them.”
Lottie’s stomach leapt. This class sounded like the most difficult yet, and she didn’t even know what Occlumency or Legilimency were. “And of course, since you are all Muggle-borns, or half-bloods, I’d assume, I doubt any of you know what Occlumency or Legilimency are.” He wiped the sweat off his brow.
“I’d suggest taking notes, now,” he said, crossing his arms. Lottie was finding it difficult to balance her parchment on her knees and write the class name on the top of her page. She suddenly felt very annoyed at this professor for not providing tables for the students to write on. “Legilimency is a skill that allows the Legilmens to interpret the memories and emotions from the target.
“Growing up with all Muggles, I’m sure you all would refer to this as mind-reading.” Lottie could feel her quill shaking. Melanie would often warn her friends about the Death Eaters who could read minds. “When a Legilmens enters a target’s mind, the target generally goes through uncontrollable flashes of memories, and experiences the same emotions they did originally.”
Lottie had stopped taking notes. That experience sounded all too familiar to her. She suddenly remembered a masked Death Eater holding her by the arm. He didn’t say anything, but she could feel something that wasn’t supposed to be there that forced her to relive memories of stealing food, and running from other Death Eaters.
“He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is supposedly the most skilled Legilmens alive today, which is why you lot also need to learn Occlumency. I’m sure you all can guess that Occlumency is the skill of being able to block Legilimency. Both of these take quite a bit of magical talent, and highly doubt that any of you will master them until your adulthood, if you do at all.”
Before the bell rang, Breckinridge went on to explain all of the difficulties and problems with the origin of the branch of magic. Once it finally did, Lottie rolled up her sloppily taken notes and stuffed them into her bag.
By the end of the day, Lottie had taken two more new classes, Dueling and Herbology, and was absolutely exhausted. She hardly had time to finish her Occlumency and Legilmency homework before her eyes refused to stay open and collapsed into sleep.
Alder with Unicorn, 14 1/2 inches, slightly springy
Re: Halfway to Infinity
Chapter Six: The Somber Spirit
Weeks passed faster than Lottie would have imagined. Never having been in school, all she had for references were the old stories her mother used to tell her of her grandparents’ experiences in old boarding schools, all of which were destroyed by the Death Eaters long ago. Since she was only a first year, she had time to relax in the common room after she had finished her homework, unlike the upper classmen who spent nearly all of their free time hunched over books.
She took a great liking to a game called Gobstones. It was very similar to marbles, which she used to play with her old friends, except that each Gobstone squirted sticky goo at the unfortunate loser. It was a very entertaining pastime, though she could only play it about once a week, as to not use up too much of her limited soap supply.
September quickly turned into October, and the weather got much colder. Lottie was suddenly very thankful for the sweaters and scarves the school provided. The first years had finally started learning actual magic in Charms and Transfiguration. Lottie was now able to turn a match into a needle, but she was still behind her Charms class and had not yet succeeded with the spell, Lumos. According to Professor Stainthorpe, her thoughts were not illuminating enough while she tried to light her wand.
She excelled, though, in Potions, where she was always the first to finish her concoction, and always had done it the most accurately. By late October, she was getting special tutoring to be ahead of the class.
The Wednesday of Halloween, Lottie had been shocked to see what a festive mood everybody was in. Halloween at the Camp meant Death Eaters going on rampages and destroying everything. Often people would walk down the streets on November first to find bodies piled on the streets, mangled and wide-eyed. This day, though, she walked into the Great Hall to find pumpkins decorating every table and all of the red vested prefects in flimsy bat-shaped masks.
Lottie sat down next to Julianne who smiled at her, halfway through a bowl of extremely sugared oatmeal. “The Maeliorics have a half-day today,” she informed Lottie. “They don’t have to go to any of their classes after lunch! We’ve still got Occlumency and Legilimency, though. Palmyitor says it’s too important for us to miss a day.”
Lottie groaned. “Everything is too important for her.” She stole a glance over at the Maelioric table, where Colm was there to return a smirk. “But everybody knows that the Maeliorics are just the ones who didn’t have enough skills to do anything else.”
Julianne shrugged and continued to pick at her food. Lottie sighed and a sipped her orange juice in response. Julianne was nice company, but she wasn’t very fun to talk to and had become close friends with the other Palmyitor girl, Sophie. Andrea didn’t get along with anybody, so Lottie found herself without a close friend. She had been getting along fine without one, though, and decided that it was very possible to go through all seven years the same way.
The bell rang, forcing Lottie to gulp down all of her orange juice before running to Transfiguration. Having now mastered their first Transfiguration, the first years were now forced to sit through the theory and explanation of new spells before they were allowed to go to their next class, History.
At first, Lottie was looking forward to History. The Palmyitors were in a class all by themselves, and although it was still History of Magic, it had added emphasis on war and spying tactics. After two classes, though, the subject proved to be extremely dull. Students were first forced to memorize a series of wizard wars, who the spies were, what their strategy was, whether or not they succeeded and why. After, they memorized the same sequence of questions with goblin wars. Lottie had already began to dread each class. Not only was it boring, but she had to pay attention and take notes or else fall behind.
After an exam on two sets of goblin wars and another set of long notes in Occlumency and Legilimency, the students were finally released to enjoy the rest of the holiday.
A group of Maeliorics laughed as Lottie trudged by. “Shut up, will you?” she snapped at them. “It’s not my fault that your classes are so simple that you can miss as many days as you want and not be behind.”
Colm Scrivener, the most annoying Maelioric, laughed out loud. “Oh you’re just bitter because you have to go to extra classes. No need to take it out on us. We’re a month ahead of schedule, which is why we get the day off.”
“You’re ahead of schedule,” Lottie snarled, “because all you learn is how to shoot sparks at targets.” She smiled in a falsely sweet way and stomped back to her common room. Lottie turned the hands on the clock to read seventeen minutes after four (the time changed every few weeks) and crawled through it, though she had more trouble pulling her bag full of books inside the thin passage.
“Well you look happy to be here,” remarked a bat-masked Stanley. “What happened today, Rowe?”
Lottie sighed and fell onto the couch. “The stupid Maeliorics got the day off. They’re just rubbing it my face.”
“Don’t worry about it,” he said with a wave of his hand. “They always get half of Halloween off. Maelioric claims it’s because they’re ahead of schedule, but really he just loves Halloween too much to deal with his students.”
Lottie was comforted by this thought and made a mental note to tell Colm Scrivener next time she saw him. “Besides,” Stanley continued, “We’ve got a feast tonight! No need to look so grim. The Halloween feast is always the best.” Lottie didn’t want to tell him that a feast probably would have been more fun with a friend, so she just shrugged in response and opened her history book to start some homework.
“Ah, come on now, Rowe.” Stanley shut the book. “Who does homework on Halloween?”
“Well it’s due tomorrow, isn’t it?”
“None of the teachers care if you’ve got it done or not. They don’t really expect anybody to do the homework on Halloween. That’d just be stupid, don’t you think? Today’s supposed to be fun!” He threw her book back into her bag. “Go on and put that stuff upstairs. Langley is sneaking some food up here for the evening!”
Lottie smiled at him and swung her bag over her shoulder. “Alright,” she said and ran to the stairs. “Be right back!”
Downstairs in the dormitory, she found Andrea sitting on her bed, her nose in her history book. “Stanley says that nobody actually does homework on Halloween,” Lottie said loudly as she dropped her bag on her bed. “They’re going to have a party in the common room.”
“Yes, well, I’m going to sit here and finish my homework.” Andrea shut her history book and pulled out her book for Potions.
“Oh, you just need to finish the extra essay Dyer gave you for your dreadful Potion last week.” Lottie ran out of the room, shouting, “Have fun with your extra homework!”
Up in the common room, Stanley’s friend Langley was sitting in the best armchair with his duffle bag on his lap. “C’mon, Langley, where’s the food?” Stanley demanded. “I’m not keeping my part of the bargain if you don’t keep yours.”
“I’m offended,” Langley said, slapping a hand to his chest melodramatically. “You think I wouldn’t get you food like I promised? After I go through so much personal risk to bring this to you, all you can think of is the food. Nothing even close to a ‘thank you Langley.’ All you do is take! Take, take, take, take--”
“Oh shut up, Fungus!” Stanley playfully hit him over the head. Nobody had ever told Lottie why everybody called Langley Fungus, but she assumed it had to do with the time he used up all of his soap months before he was going to get another bar.
“Fine, fine, but maybe next time you could thank me.” Langley laughed and opened up his duffle. Bottles of pumpkin juice were stuffed in along with large loafs of bread, bags of chocolates and potato crisps.
“Oh excellent!” Stanley said, grabbing one of the bottles. “Good job, Fungus. Knew I could count on you.”
Lottie sat down on the couch and dropped a few of the snacks on her lap. “Where’d you get this food anyway?” she asked through a mouthful of potato crisps.
“I’m sure I’ll be long gone when you find out,” Langley said. “Off serving my purpose as a noble spy in the war, and whatnot. You know how it is.”
Lottie laughed, suddenly wishing she was older and could make friends with Langley and Stanley and all of the upperclassmen. They made such better company than all of the first years. She enjoyed herself very much, listening to their complaints and stories about their own years at Alsemore before Stanley announced that it was about time to head down to the Great Hall for the feast.
The Great Hall was even more decorated than it had been in the morning. Giant spiders hung from webs on the ceiling and the pumpkins had now been carved into jack-O-lanterns. Lottie took a seat next to Stanley on the bench before her empty place setting. She had been getting an uncomfortable feeling that he wanted to be a mentor, not a friend, but couldn’t find it in his heart to leave a friendless first year all alone. He was a prefect, after all.
Clynalmoy stood before the chattering students and waved a hand. Silence slowly crept over the Great Hall. “I hope that today was more of a relaxed day than the last month,” he said with a smile.
Hurriedly, Palmyitor stood up, and added, “Because it is not going to get any easier.”
Maelioric cut in the students’ complaints with, “But for tonight, dig in!” He clapped his hands and food piled up before the students, but Lottie noticed the extra sweets dispersed across the table.
She piled her plate with potatoes, steak, and vegetables, but also with brightly wrapped candy and chocolate cakes. “Want to see if you can kill the house-elves?” Stanley asked, eyeing the amount of food on her plate. Lottie wasn’t exactly sure what he meant, so she just muttered something incomprehensible through a mouth of food.
Her plate was still half full when she heard it. The noise was faint, but Lottie could make out a moaning sound. It sounded like a very far away and old building’s support squeaking, or maybe a dying cat. “Do you hear that?” she asked, turning to Stanley.
“That noise. Listen!”
He closed his eyes and furrowed his brow, apparently listening hard. “No, I don’t hear anything. It’s probably just some sort of scary decoration you’re hearing. A prank or something.”
Lottie frowned and kept eating, though she was distracted through the rest of the feast by the noise. Finally when all of the students were beginning to leave for the comfort of their dormitories, Lottie was able to creep away from her House-mates and follow the sound of the noise.
The sound grew louder the more stairs she climbed. Lottie was nearly out of breath from trying to find the sound, but she was thankful it wasn’t moving. After climbing five sets of stairs and going across seven corridors, the noise was ear splitting. She must have been close, but there was no door in sight, only three paintings and a tapestry.
Suddenly struck by an idea, Lottie pushed aside a tapestry, and gasped when she saw what was behind it. It looked like a girl, maybe a little older than her, but she was transparent, colorless, and it looked like she was floating.
The girl turned around. Lottie screamed and stumbled backwards, through the tapestry. The girl glided easily through the wall and shouted, “Who are you?!”
Lottie stuttered, but couldn’t find an answer to the question. “Wh-what are you?”
“What? Have you never seen a ghost?” The girl sniffled. “Or am I just so ugly that you can’t tell?”
Lottie’s mouth was wide open. “I--I--what? You’re a ghost?”
“Well of course I am,” the girl said huffily. With a dramatic sigh, she added, “I died, didn’t I?”
“You’re dead?!” Lottie’s legs were shaking. “When did you die?”
“I don’t exactly know, anymore,” the ghost said wistfully. “When you’re dead for so long, you start to lose count of years.”
“Why are you here?” Lottie asked, now leaning on the wall for support. “Do--do you haunt the school?”
“Haunt this school?” The ghost seemed amused by the idea. “Why would I do that?”
“I don’t know. That’s what ghosts do, isn’t it?”
“I used to haunt a school, but I had to leave because of that horrible Riddle boy. You know, he is reason I’m dead in the first place.”
“Riddle? Riddle killed you? Who is Riddle?”
“Tom Riddle,” the ghost said, gliding until she was inches from her face. “You know, the Dark Lord, as they call him these days.”
“You--You were killed by the Dark Lord?!”
The ghost giggled, and floated through the wall Lottie was leaning on and emerged on the other side of her. “Ooh yes,” she said delightfully. “It was positively miserable.”
“Why did he kill you?” Lottie was beginning to lose her fear of the ghost. She had never seen one before, but this girl wasn’t very frightening.
“Well I don’t know. Why do people do anything? Why did Riddle become evil? Why did Harry decide to fight him?” She sighed and began to drift down through the floor. Seeing Lottie’s puzzled expression, she added, “Harry Potter? The Chosen One. The Boy Who Lived?”
Lottie bit her lip. “I’ve heard of a Chosen One before… just in reference, though. Who was he?”
The ghost now had lost all signs that she had been crying. “How do you not know of Harry Potter?” She almost sounded offended. “Everybody knows about Famous Harry Potter.”
“Well, I don’t.” Lottie was beginning to get annoyed with this moody ghost. “Who was he?”
“He was the Boy Who Lived. When he was just a baby he survived one of You-Know-Who’s attacks.”
“But that’s impossible!”
The ghost squealed in delight. “Well that’s what Riddle thought,” she said. “He thought he was invincible, but Harry put him out for over a decade.”
“How? How did the Dark Lord come back?”
“Well, nobody knows, do they? People thought he had died before the battle at the Ministry of Magic.”
Lottie didn’t really understand what she meant by Ministry of Magic, but nodded anyways, desperate not to get the ghost worked up again. “And Harry tried to fight him?”
“He was destined to fight him,” the ghost corrected. “We all thought he would win, but Riddle attacked before he was ready. And Harry died, left this mess behind, and never came to see me again.” She was beginning to tear up again.
“Well he died, what did you expect?” Lottie asked.
“Well I died, didn’t I?!” the ghost shouted. “And I’m still sitting here and talking to you.” She coughed faintly through a sob. “He could have at least had the decency to come and say goodbye.”
Lottie hurriedly changed the subject. “But why are you here now?”
“I had to leave Hogwarts.” She sniffed loudly and wiped away a silver tear. “With all of those terrible Death Eaters who laugh at me… But I always will miss my toilet.”
Lottie didn’t want to ask what Hogwarts was, and she didn’t like this ghost very much. “I’ve got to go,” she said, turning to leave. “Erm… I’ll see you!” Before waiting for the ghost to respond, she began to run down the stairs she had come up to the Great Hall.
Once at the ground floor, she stopped and turned to run down the familiar pathway to the common room. She tried to run as quietly as she could, so as not to get caught by a professor. She had spent too much time with the ghost, and was now out of her common room far too late.
The grandfather clock was in sight. She picked up speed, and got to the clock just in time. Just as she was reaching up to get the hands--
Lottie froze. She turned around and felt her stomach drop when she saw a very cross looking Professor Palmyitor standing before her. “What do you think you are doing out this late?”
“I--I was just…” Lottie decided that the truth would be better than trying to think up a complex lie, and then having to defend it. “I heard crying during the feast, so I went to see what it was, and--”
“Miss Rowe, in these dangerous times, you don’t go parading about the school if you think you hear something funny.” Palmyitor narrowed her eyes for a moment, and stared at Lottie. Suddenly, Lottie was reliving her meeting with the ghost. Palmyitor began to speak, and the image suddenly dissolved. “You inform a professor who can--”
“It wasn’t anything dangerous, though!” Lottie felt her face going red. Her head suddenly hurt. It was as though somebody had shaken her in search of something. “It was just a ghost who was crying! She said she came here from--er--Hogsomething.”
Palmyitor raised an eyebrow. “Hogwarts?”
“Yes! That was it! She had to leave Hogwarts because of the Death Eaters.” Lottie took a half step backwards. She suddenly didn’t feel so comfortable being alone with Palmyitor. “And she told me about er--Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived, and about--”
“Where did you find this ghost, Miss Rowe?”
“Erm… it was up a lot of stairs. Nearly at the top of the school.”
“Alright, Rowe, get to bed right away.” Without another word, Palmyitor trotted off in the opposite direction.
Trying to repress a smile, she clambered through the clock into the common room. It was nearly deserted when she got there, except for Andrea sitting on the bed with her huge Potions book on her lap.
“Where have you been?” she asked.
“Getting myself out of a week’s worth of detention,” Lottie answered with a laugh. “And discussing history with a ghost.”
Alder with Unicorn, 14 1/2 inches, slightly springy
Re: Halfway to Infinity
Chapter Seven: Andrea
Snow drifted down past the frosted windows of the Charms classroom. “Miss Rowe, are you listening to me?” Professor Stainthorpe’s voice cut through Lottie’s short lived fantasy of relaxing in the common room by the fireplace.
“What?” Lottie blinked and turned away from the window. “Sorry.”
“I am not here during the holiday to daydream of snowflakes,” the professor said sternly. “You know you are seriously falling behind in this class, and need to catch up in order to rise to your second year.”
“I know!” Lottie’s fingers were turning white with frustration. “I know! I know! I know!” She had fallen so far behind in Charms that she now had to have extra classes during the Christmas Holiday. It was Christmas Eve and Lottie was extremely anxious to leave so she could see all of the decorations being put up.
Stainthorpe flicked her wand, letting the miniature door on her desk lock again. “Now, just concentrate on the spell.” Lottie could hear the hidden frustration in Stainthorpe’s voice. “Unlocking the door is as easy as moving your finger; it’s just an extension of what you have control over.”
Lottie bit her lip. She didn’t quite understand Stainthorpe, but wasn’t about to tell her after four days of individual tutoring. “Alohomora!” she shouted, waving her wand.
The door stood, completely unaffected. Stainthorpe tried to hide a sigh. “Miss Rowe, I want you to go over your wand movements and reread the chapter on this spell before coming back on the twenty-sixth.” The corner of her lips twitched. “I believe we both can have a break for Christmas.”
Through gritted teeth, Lottie muttered, “Thanks,” gathered her stuff and left the classroom.
“What were you doing in there?” Ally was leaning against the wall across from the door.
“What were you doing waiting for me?” Lottie really didn’t feel like talking to her right now.
“It’s Christmas holiday, you know,” Ally continued on nastily. “You don’t have to go to classes.”
Lottie turned away from her former friend and started heading down the corridor. “Maybe that’s not what I was doing,” she shouted without turning around.
Ally caught up with Lottie’s slower pace easily and smirked. “Oh don’t try that,” she said, laughing. “Everybody knows that you’re already behind in Charms.”
“Oh yeah?” Lottie dropped her bag and pulled out her wand. “Do you want to see how far behind I really am?”
For a moment, Ally actually appeared to be frightened before laughing nervously. “You couldn’t even shoot sparks at me,” she sneered. Meeting only silence, she added, “Go on then! Prove me wrong!”
Lottie’s wand was shaking. Both of them knew she couldn’t do it. She could feel tears beginning to well up in the corners of her eyes and her face turning a fiery red. Desperately, she switched her wand from her right to her left hand. “What are you doing?” Ally asked, laughing.
Ally hadn’t stopped laughing when Lottie’s palm made contact with her face. Power surged through her hand, but bubbling guilt quickly flooded her stomach. She beat Ally, but now she had to suffer the consequences. Staring determinately straight ahead, Lottie waited for some sort of retaliation, but it never came. Ally didn’t yell or scream, but simply held her hand to her cheek and stared at the ground, unable to make eye contact.
In a moment of sheer panic, Lottie picked up her bag and ran down the corridor. Her heart pounded in her chest. She couldn’t tell if Ally was following her or not, or even if other people could see her running down the corridor crying. She reached the clock, turned the hands, and crawled into the common room.
Apparently, some sort of Christmas celebration was going on. All of the upper classmen were socializing to Stanley and Langley’s dreadful caroling. They stopped singing when they saw Lottie walk in, teary eyed and red faced. “Rowe?” Stanley whispered, as though he was afraid to say her name as to embarrass her.
Lottie dropped her bag where it was and ran down the stairs to her dormitory. The dorm was empty, and she collapsed onto her bed. She hadn’t expected any of it to be like this. She was magic, but she couldn’t even unlock a door without a hair pin, while the rest of her class had mastered it two weeks before. She still hadn’t made a friend, and her parents never wrote back.
Her pillow was thoroughly wet from tears when she had to look up to gasp a breath of fresh air. The dorm wasn’t deserted anymore.
Andrea stood timidly in the door frame. Rage built up in Lottie. Why hadn’t Andrea told her that she was there? Maybe she could have let her close the curtain or go somewhere more private, instead of embarrassing herself in front of somebody else who hated her.
Lottie furiously pulled the curtains around her four poster, and began beating the feathers out of her pillow. “Erm… I don’t really know what happened,” Andrea said as quietly as she could over the noise. Lottie could tell that Andrea had intended to let her fill the silence that followed with an explanation. Instead of doing that, Lottie just buried her head into her pillow.
Another silence followed.
“I brought your bag down for you. And I told everyone else that you had just gotten some bad news from the camp, and were really upset… And Palmyitor handed these out today. I guess you weren’t there to get them. It’s a letter… just put it on your bag… Erm… Sorry.”
There was a shuffling of boots on a stone floor and the sound of a door slamming. Lottie looked up from her pillow and stared at the grey curtain across from her. She couldn’t figure out why Andrea would ever apologize, or even try to help her. Lottie wouldn’t try to help Andrea if she had been in this situation.
Hadn’t they been fighting since September? Had it all been Lottie’s fault, then, if Andrea was able to forget about it so quickly? Lottie pulled aside the curtains to her four poster. Nobody else was there. Andrea must have warned Sophie and Julianne. Hands shaking, she picked up the parchment neatly folded on top of her duffle bag.
Your father and I are happy to hear you’re having a good time at school. We’re sorry that we haven’t written yet, but Professor Maelioric only comes to pick up letters once every few months, and we can’t afford to have letters lying around in case if any Death Eaters find them.
All of your friends keep passing by here asking what happened to you. Professor Maelioric told us to tell people that the Death Eaters had found you causing trouble, and we haven’t seen you since. It’s been so hard to act like something that horrible has just happened, but be sure to keep your head down when you come to visit.
Mum and Dad
Lottie folded the letter up, trying not to start crying again. She missed her parents so much, and couldn’t help but feel completely hopeless at the thought of not seeing them at all for the next seven years, save for a few days in the summer.
She took a deep breath and wiped her puffy eyes. She couldn’t afford to stay like this for very long. She still had to catch up in Charms and go apologize to Andrea.
Her stomach sank from guilt. She wished that Andrea would just come down here so she didn’t have to face the upperclassmen. She couldn’t help but wonder if this would be easier if she wasn’t so scared.
Holding her breath, she snuck up the stairs, trying to avoid any sort of scene. Despite her good intentions, the room fell into silence as she entered. Stanley didn’t looked as concerned as he did puzzled now, but Lottie could tell that everybody was expecting some sort of story.
The silence stretched longer than she could bear. Everybody in the room was frozen, staring. Lottie was just about ready to turn around, when she spotted Andrea bouncing up and down on the balls of her feet. Lottie couldn’t hide her curiosity and stared for maybe a little longer than she should have, causing a few students to turn and see what she was looking at. More and more people noticed Lottie’s gaze until everybody was staring at Andrea, who didn’t seem to catch the change in attention.
Finally noticing that the entire room was watching her, Andrea’s bouncing slowed until she stopped completely. She screwed up her face in thought. Breaking the stiff concentration, Andrea finally pushed through the crowd of upperclassmen. She reached the door and threw her arms around Lottie. “Oh Lottie!” she said almost too loudly. “I am so, so sorry for your loss!”
Lottie tried to play along as best she could. “Thanks,” she said quietly. “I’m just really upset.”
“What happened?” Stanley asked.
“I just--just got a note from my parents.” Lottie was beginning to enjoy play-acting. “One of my friends from the camp has gone missing. She was last seen with Death Eaters…” She paused dramatically. “Nobody really wants to say anything, but we all know what happened.”
Everybody seemed to be looking down at their shoes. “Damn,” Stanley said, scratching the back of his head. “That’s terrible. They don’t seem to care how old anybody is.”
“She was only six,” Lottie added. “She was fighting the Death Eaters because my parents had to tell all of my friends that I’d been murdered when I left.” She was especially proud of this last detail. Trying to seem like she was crying again, she took a rattling breath. “I--I think I just want to go and think for a while. I just--just wanted to come up and tell you all that I’m okay.”
“Alright.” Stanley nodded slowly. “Just take care of yourself, Rowe.”
“Thanks.” Lottie stared at Andrea for a second and raised her eyebrows before running down the stairs again. Once in her dormitory, she sat at the foot of her bed, and stared at the floor, hoping that Andrea had gotten the signal.
There was a knock on the door and Andrea poked her head in. “Erm… I wasn’t sure what you meant when you--” She stopped, staring at Lottie. “Are--are you okay?”
Lottie smiled. “Yeah,” she said. “Thanks for… you know, covering me.”
Andrea shrugged. “It was nothing. I hope I didn’t put you too much on the spot.”
“No.” Lottie shook her head. “It was sort of fun.” She laughed nervously.
“Yeah, it was,” she agreed, also laughing.
It was suddenly like neither of them had ever argued before. They sat laughing for nearly ten minutes before Lottie stopped, looking at the ceiling. She found it hard to make eye contact, knowing how horrible she had been. “Does this mean we’re friends then?”
“I suppose it does.”
Lottie bit her lip. “I’m--I’m sorry for… you know, making fun of you before.”
Andrea smiled weakly. “It’s okay. I was sort of mean too.”
Together, they decided that maybe it wasn’t the best idea to go out to the common room after the scene they caused. In the first hours of their friendship, Andrea proved herself very useful in giving advice once Lottie told her why she actually was upset.
“No, that wasn’t your best idea,” she said at first. “She might tell somebody.” She paused and thought for a moment. “Or perhaps not,” she added. “We all know that Ally’s not the most humble of people… I’m not quite sure if she’d want to admit something that could embarrass her like that.”
Lottie’s stomach dropped. “Well what am I supposed to do? Lie?”
“Who do you think they’ll believe if you do?” Andrea asked, raising her eyebrows. “Just don’t say anything,” she continued. “Act as if nothing happened and hope Ally is too scared to tell anybody.”
The next morning, Lottie woke to find the usually grey common room decorated with red and green streamers that shimmered so brightly that she had to shut her eyes immediately to avoid the glare.
Julianne was staring at her through squinted eyes. “You’re up then?” she asked.
“Maybe not for long if being up means I’m going to be blinded.”
Andrea sat up threw her blanket over the streamers; the glare faded away. “You think you’d be able to do something about it, besides just complaining,” she said playfully. “Merry Christmas. Have you checked your letters yet?”
Lottie raised her eyebrows. “Didn’t we just get letters yesterday?”
“Don’t be stupid.” Andrea rolled her eyes. “Letters from Palmyitor. They’re on the floor next to your bed.”
The letter turned out to be a warm (or as warm as Palmyitor could be) letter for the holiday. A hurried scribbled note at the end explained that since the school’s founding, the heads have given each student a gift that could further their magical ability, to follow the old tradition of gift giving. Lottie was thrilled to find two vials of rare potion ingredients that they hadn’t been supplied as first years.
“What’d you all get?” she asked the room, holding her vials up to the light.
“A Sneakoscope,” Sophie said with a shrug.
“A Transfiguration book!” Andrea sounded absolutely thrilled.
Julianne frowned. “Wand polish.” She pulled out her already scuffed wand. “I’m not that messy, am I?”
Lottie couldn’t help but laugh out loud. “Poor thing,” she said, still snickering. “You’re going to need a new wand by third year.”
Andrea and Lottie spent the rest of the day in the common room. Andrea helped Lottie practice Alohomora until she had successfully unlocked all twelve of the bathroom stalls twenty seven times each and Lottie explained the potential pitfalls of a certain potion for an essay that Andrea had to write.
By five they both had perfected their extra homework and were free to enjoy the spectacular Christmas dinner. Lottie had always spent her Christmases trying to ignore the cold and sharing a loaf of bread with her family. She had never seen decorations as exquisite as the glittering icicles hanging from the ceiling of the Great Hall or what looked like colorful lights but actually turned out to be shimmering fairies.
The food was even better than the Halloween feast. Mince pies, plum pudding, roasted ham, bottles of eggnog, entire turkeys, roasted potatoes, fruitcakes and other foods that Lottie couldn’t even identify lined the Palmyitor table. Even Professor Palmyitor was in such a good mood that she let Langley and Stanley sing their adapted Christmas carols to mock Death Eaters until the other Houses complained about their awful singing.
The rest of the holiday was spent in the same merry mood. Lottie impressed Stainthorpe with her sudden talents at Alohomora, and was rewarded with the last few days of the break to relax. There was a gloom filling the entire castle by the last day of holiday. Even the professors were dreading school the next morning.
Lottie and Andrea spent their last night of break complaining to each other about their upcoming classes. Stanley and Langley amused all of the lowerclassmen with their horror stories of the first day back after break. Lottie was so warm and comfortable that she nearly fell asleep sitting on the floor watching them act out a rather nasty encounter with Professor Gabaldon. She was so tired that Andrea had to help her to the dormitory in order to avoid a nasty falling down the stairs accident.
Julianne and Sophie followed them down the stairs, both so exhausted that they could hardly keep their eyes open. Once snugly in bed, Lottie could just make out snow drifting to the ground through the dark window. She was nervous just thinking about her classes the next day, but was grateful not to have to go through Alsemore alone anymore.
Alder with Unicorn, 14 1/2 inches, slightly springy
Re: Halfway to Infinity
Chapter Eight: A Practical Lesson in Occlumency
Classes after the holiday took a more intense turn. Lottie and Andrea found themselves with more homework, but just as Lottie had guessed, having a friend mollified the blow. With Andrea to help her, Lottie managed to pass Charms. Lottie wasn’t able to return the favor; she just couldn’t help herself when Andrea had trouble with a problem, and ended up telling her the answer and never actually teaching her anything.
The first year Palmyitors still hadn’t learned anything practical in Occlumency and Legilimency, but instead devoted all of their to time sitting on the floor taking notes on whatever Professor Breckenridge deemed necessary. All of the other first years were thrilled when Breckenridge announced, late one February afternoon, that he would be performing Legilimency on each student in the next class.
“Finally!” groaned Andrew Victorsen, one of the Palmyitor boys. “We’ve been taking notes for nearly six months now!” The other boys grumbled in agreement.
Lottie stuffed her hands into her pockets and pushed passed the boys. “Hey Lottie!” called Andrea down the long corridor. Just catching up, she added "Are you excited for tomorrow?"
Shrugging, Lottie continued towards the Great Hall.
Andrea raised her eyebrows. “Why not?” she asked. Not responding, Lottie picked her pace up to a trot. “Why not?” Andrea ran and stood in front of Lottie, arms crossed.
“I don’t know!” Lottie dodged Andrea and continued down a flight of stairs. “I don’t really want a professor having full access to my memories, is all.”
Andrea ran down the stairs behind Lottie. “What’s wrong with that? What do you have to hide?” Andrea paused for a moment thoughtfully before gasping in realization. “Oh don’t tell me this is about all of that Christmas eve business.” Lottie didn’t respond. “It is, isn’t it?!” Andrea laughed triumphantly. Nostrils flaring, Lottie spun around and glared at her. “Okay fine, it’s a sore spot, I know,” Andrea continued. “Don’t worry, I won’t tell anybody; you just have to block him from your memories.”
“Don’t be stupid, Andrea,” Lottie said as she continued down the stairs. “His job is performing Legilimency and Occlumency. How could a first year outsmart him?”
“Oh, I don’t know.” Andrea smiled wryly. “But it’s worth a try, isn’t it?”
Lottie sighed and turned down a corridor towards the Palmyitor clock with Andrea following at her heels. “But we haven’t even picked up our wands in that class,” Lottie said. “How would I know how to do anything?”
It took Andrea a half second longer to think of the answer. “Well, that’s what the library is for, isn’t it?” Lottie changed the time on the clock and clambered into the common room with Andrea following. “So what do you think?”
“I don’t know…” Lottie bit her lip. “I mean, we could try, but if we could learn everything from books, what would be the point of going to school?”
Andrea shrugged and added, “But if we didn’t use the library, what would be the point of having one?”
Lottie rolled her eyes. “But--” She fell into an armchair and started anxiously picking the stuffing out. “Fine. Whatever. We can try. It’s not going to work though.”
“Excellent! Save my seat!” Andrea turned around and started weaving through the crowds of Palmyitors to the stairs leading to the girls’ dormitories. She returned half a minute later with a stack of torn, leather bound books.
“What?” Lottie asked, half laughing. “Were you expecting this?”
“I was just trying to get ahead while I can…” Andrea said defensively.
Lottie snatched the book on the top of the pile. “How old is this book anyways?” The cover of the volume looked as though it was ready to fall apart if she touched it.
“Oh, I don’t know,” Andrea said, pulling another one off the top of the pile. “It was rescued from an old library right before the Dark Lord’s reign… I guess these ones just barely made it though,” she added as a chunk of pages fell out of her book.
Langley laughed from across the room at Andrea’s horrified expression. “Don’t worry about it, firstie,” he shouted over crowds of students. “It’s just a binding spell to fix it.” He didn’t even need to rise from his seat for the pages to magically reattach themselves. “Just turn ‘em slowly next time!”
Also laughing at Andrea, Lottie opened up her book. “Are you sure we’re allowed to be doing this?” she asked, searching through the fading table of contents.
Andrea cleared her throat. “Well--” she eyed Stanley who was busy in conversation with some seventh year girls “--technically these old ones have to stay in the library, but nobody notices when they’re gone.” There was no librarian at Alsemore, so there was hardly ever a professor in the library to catch a student taking out one of the precious books. “And the students do it all the time. You heard Langley! And he’s even friends with Stanley!”
Lottie squinted at the light text, but didn’t look up. “Okay, as long as nobody will care…” She sighed over-dramatically. “I can’t read any of this. The print is nearly the same color as the page.”
Langley caught Lottie’s comment as he was passing to pull Stanley away from the older girls. “Oh, that’s an easy one, too,” he said, whipping out his wand. He muttered an incantation and suddenly the ink on the page was the grey color of the stone. “It’s only temporary,” he warned. “So just pray it doesn’t fade while you’re reading!”
Lottie watched him leave before skimming through the newly readable table on contents. “This entire book is about Occlumency,” she said. “Where do I start?”
“Don’t be stupid; you start at the beginning.” Andrea spun her wand carelessly through her fingers. “Okay, this book says that you need to clear your mind first… it doesn’t really specify how, though.”
Lottie opened up to chapter one in The Basics of Occlumency and searched for any more clarification on the process of Occlumency. “Oh, here’s something. Occlumecy is a complicated process in which one must clear his or her mind to avoid a Legilmens having access to memories and emotions… That’s all it says.”
Over the next few hours, the common room got more and more deserted until Andrea and Lottie were left in the common room alone. Lottie slammed the last book shut. “We’re done.” She threw the book back onto the pile. “We’ve looked through every single book and there isn’t anything here. There’s nothing to do. I guess I’ll just have to make up some story or something.”
Andrea looked up. “What? But we’re so--”
“No, we’re not close.” Lottie stood up and shut the book in Andrea’s hand. “We’re never going to figure this out. Honestly, he’s a professor in Legilmency and we’re never going to outsmart him.”
Andrea slowly put the book on the pile. “But he’s going to find--”
“Yeah, and so what? I’m going to get a few days of detention? I’m going to get expelled? They’re going to send me to the Dark Lord and kill me? What’s the worst that could happen?” She stood up and crossed her arms. “We missed dinner. I’m tired and hungry and--”
“Okay, fine!” Andrea picked up the stack of books. “I get it! Let’s just go to bed and hope for your sake that you retained enough information from those books.”
Lottie spent the rest of the next day trying to clear her mind, but found her attempts to cause more mental clutter. When she entered the classroom for Occlumency, her mind was so full of worries that she had nearly given up all hopes blocking Breckinridge.
Breckenridge stormed into the classroom and anchored himself in front of the class. "Woolbright,” he spat, pointing at Andrea, “you first.”
Slowly, Andrea rose to her feet and pulled out her wand. “Go ahead and try to stop me,” Breckenridge hissed, “any way you can.” He pulled out his own wand. “Legilimens!”
Lottie’s grip on her wand tightened as Andrea stumbled backwards and fell to the floor. After watching her try to ward off his attacks for a few unsuccessful seconds, Breckinridge lifted his wand smirking. “Got it?” he asked as Andrea pulled herself up, using the wall as support and nodded warily.
Smirking, Lottie asked, “Happy we wasted all of our time looking this up?”
Andrea shot her a warning glance and shushed her loudly. Lottie watched each student face Breckinridge apprehensively. Lottie’s stomach flipped when she realized that she was the only one left in the room who had not had her turn yet. Shakily, she stood up and stood directly across from the professor.
He had just raised his wand when the room faded out around her. It was an unnervingly familiar experience. Flashes of the past flew by Lottie’s eyes. She couldn’t tell if she was standing or had fallen, but felt as though she was upside-down, either way. In the Muggle Camp, she spotted an older boy and threw a rock at his turned back, just managing to hide beneath a garbage bin in time. Her mother cried as she left for Alsemore. A man at Odin Alley stuffed a piled of robes into her duffle. Her hands were stuck to the Ivory Table. She left the Charms classroom to find Ally waiting across the hall…
Lottie stopped breathing for a moment. No, he couldn’t see that. The memory continued; Ally’s taunts reached a crescendo until the memories suddenly ceased.
The Occlumency classroom spun back into focus. Lottie hadn’t fallen to the ground, but was leaning heavily against the wall. Panting, she sat down next to Andrea and stared intently at the ground, determined not to make eye contact with Breckinridge again.
The bell for the end of classes rang just as she sat, and Andrea helped her stand back up. “So what’d you think?” Andrea asked in a hushed voice once the classroom was out of earshot.
“That’s happened to me before,” Lottie said shakily.
“Somebody--Death Eaters and--” Lottie shook her head “--Palmyitor. They did that before. It’s happened before.”
“Are you sure?” Andrea asked suddenly. “I’m sure Palmyitor wouldn’t do that to a student without good reason.”
“I think she would.”
Andrea shrugged wordlessly and turned the time on the Palmyitor clock.
In the common room, an excited crowd was forming around a piece of parchment pinned against the wall. “What does it say?” Andrea asked loudly.
“Oh, nothing special,” Stanely said, passing by with arms full of Charms text books. “Just the usual Valentine’s Day trip to Odin Alley tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow?” Andrea asked. “Oh, does this mean we get new soap?”
“Yeah, thank Merlin,” Stanley said with a laugh. “How’s your soap supply holding up, Rowe?” he asked, noticing Lottie’s solemn expression.
“It’s fine. I have enough left for a few more days, so I could really use a new bar,” she answered dully. Without another word she pulled her duffle down the stairs into the dormitory, Andrea following at her heels.
Andrea, leaning in the doorway of the dormitory, asked a little too loudly, “What’s wrong?” After a prolonged silence, she continued, “Is it about that Legilimency thing?”
“I just didn’t like that is all,” Lottie answered, flopping onto her bed. “I don’t like that people have control of my memories. And maybe more people can do it. Maybe the entire school can do it! What if they’re going to do it for every class to find out--”
“Breathe, Lottie,” Andrea muttered. “It’s fine. That’s why you’re learning Occlumency to begin with. Who would you rather have access to your mind anyway, Breckinridge or the Dark Lord?” She put her Occlumency book back in her bag. “We have tomorrow off, so don’t stress out. Get some rest for Odin Alley tomorrow.”
Early the next morning, Andrea shook Lottie awake. “Come on! Get up!” Lottie groaned. “Everybody else is up,” Andrea continued, throwing a pile of clothes onto Lottie’s face. “All of the first year Palmyitors will have to miss if you don’t wake up! And I’m telling you, if I don’t get any soap until August because of you, I’ll hex you so--”
“Okay! Okay! Just shut up for a second so I can change.” Lottie snatched the clothes that Andrea had so unceremoniously thrown on her face and changed behind the curtain of her four-poster.
She just barely had time to put on a scarf when Andrea grabbed her by the wrist and pulled her up the staircase, through the common room, and through endless corridors to the Entrance Hall.
“First years?” Palmyitor said sternly, pacing up a row of Palmyitor first years. Lottie and Andrea snuck into the short line, trying to hide their panting. Checking off a list of names, Palmyitor sighed. “Alright, then. Go ahead, and don’t break off from the group.”
Palmyitor held out a large cauldron. “Now, everybody put a finger on this.” Lottie glanced at her suspiciously before placing her finger on the rust caked cauldron. “This is called a Portkey. It will take you to Odin Alley.” She smiled at the confused looks on the first years’ faces. “Three… two… one!”
A scream escaped Lottie when she was pulled from the ground. She could hear the other first years shouting as they bumped into each other on their journey. Suddenly, a loud clanging filled her ears and she was lying on the floor of Odin Alley.
Pushing herself up, she muttered, “What the hell was that?”
Andrea shrugged and rubbed her back. “Who cares, as long as we’re here.” Sighing, she said, “I really needed to get out of school for a bit.”
Lottie didn’t say anything, but secretly agreed.
“Come on then!” Stanley waved the first years towards him. He pointed at the nearest set of wood double doors. “You can refill your toiletries in there.”
“Thank you!” Andrea shouted, pushing through the crowd to get through the doors. Lottie apologized as she shoved through crowds of upperclassmen to catch up with her friend.
“What was that about?” Lottie asked, half laughing, once she finally reached Andrea.
Andrea didn’t respond, but filled her bag with new soap, a new toothbrush and toothpaste.
“It was sure nice of you,” a loud voice cut through the crowd, “to let the people who have been waiting much longer go first.”
“You know what?” Lottie spun around to find the Maelioric boy -- Colm -- collecting his soap. “Oh it’s you.” She rolled her eyes.
Colm smirked and picked out a new toothbrush. Clenching her fists, Lottie resisted the urge to hit him. He did not belong at Alsemore. He was far heavier than the other bony first years. He was different in every way from his weight to his overly fancy robes.
“You just didn’t move fast enough,” she spat. “The entire world’s at war now, and you have to fight if you want to win.” Lottie smiled, eyeing the Maelioric boy. “In times like these, you can’t afford to be a pampered, porky prince.”
Turning a deep scarlet, Colm snatched his bag of toiletries and stormed out. Lottie laughed coldly waved as he left.
“That was a little cruel,” Andrea said quietly once he left.
“What? You too? Oh come on, he’s a git and you know it.” Lottie sighed at Andrea’s expression. “He’s not like us.”
Andrea kept a stony silence until they reached a room filled with quills and ink. “You know, I would apologize if I had said something like that,” she finally said, loading her bag with new quills.
Lottie rolled her eyes and dropped her ink refills in her bag. “Well I guess you’re just a better person than I am,” she replied stiffly. “He has it coming for him. I mean, he could at least try to act like everybody else instead of being such a pompous ***. I’d give him three years here before he either leaves or gets himself killed.”
Andrea dropped her bag, spilling quills all over the floor. “Lottie! That’s horrible!” she shouted, as she bent down to scoop up her bag.
“Well it’s true. In a war like this you can’t afford to--”
“Lottie, we’re first years. We’re not fighting the war yet. He has just as much time as we do to learn how to fight.”
Rolling her eyes, Lottie followed Andrea out of the store and into the last set of doors. Professor Clynalmoy stood at the door, eyelids drooping from boredom. “You can get one thing from this room, but only one,” he repeated tonelessly. Lottie imagined the three heads taking turns with the most boring job of the day.
“I’ve been waiting for this all day,” Lottie said brightly as she searched through piles of books for something that might interest her.
“Don’t change the subject, Lottie,” Andrea muttered, inspecting a Sneakoscope. “You’re going to feel bad soon enough. And who knows, maybe he’s a great fighter.”
“Oh come on!” Lottie abandoned the pile of books and looked through shelves of potion ingredients. “Everybody knows that people who aren’t good at anything else get into Maelioric; that’s why there are so many more of them. Colm Scrivener’s just a big loaf of worthlessness.”
Andrea sighed. “Fine, think whatever you want. But don’t come complaining to me when you’re rotting with guilt.”
Lottie selected a thin vial of fairy eggs for potion making and waited for Andrea to pick what she wanted. “You’re defending him a lot,” she said matter-of-factly. “Seems like you like him or something.”
Rolling her eyes, Andrea said, “Now not even you’re that immature, are you?”
“Oh you’re just angry because I hit the nail--” Lottie grabbed the book from Andrea’s hand and held it above her so Andrea, being much shorter, couldn’t reach it “--right on the head!”
“Don’t be stupid, Lottie!” Andrea reached for the book. “I just feel bad for him, is all!”
Laughing, Lottie held the book tight to her chest and started running past the crowds of students to the Portkey. Andrea panted behind her, just barely keeping up with Lottie’s pace.
“Give it back!” Andrea shouted through fits of giggles. “Come on!”
Lottie stopped and changed directions, circling around a crowd of seventh year Clynalmoys.
“I’ll give it back if you can get it from me!” Lottie shouted, throwing the book in the air and catching it. “Go on then!” She tossed the book again. “Try to--”
“Rowe!” Palmyitor pushed her way through the first years waiting for the prefect. Andrea’s book fell to the floor. “What do you think you’re doing?”
“Erm… Nothing, Professor! I mean--we were just having fun.”
Panting, Andrea added, “It’s just a game, Professor.”
Palmyitor narrowed her eyes and scoffed. “We don’t have time for worthless games at Alsemore, Rowe.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Lottie said quietly, handing the book back to Andrea.
Palmyitor shoved a small Portkey in the two friends’ hands. Blushing a light pink, Lottie glanced around at the other students staring with raised eyebrows. The last thing she saw before the Portkey whisked her back to school was Colm waving snidely behind Professor Palmyitor.
Alder with Unicorn, 14 1/2 inches, slightly springy
Re: Halfway to Infinity
Chapter Nine: Colm’s Tale
Exams were fast approaching. By mid May, professors stopped teaching new material and devoted all class time to reviewing. Their exams were scheduled for the last ten days in June. The days without exams were free days for the students to study and opportunities for the teachers to grade. The students would then have the first two weeks of July to relax and visit their families for a day before picking up a specialized tutoring schedule until the next school year officially began.
Professor Dyer had already approached Lottie about individual tutoring over the summer to get ahead for second year. Lottie proudly boasted the list of potions he had scheduled for her to learn whenever she was sure Ally, who did not have any advanced classes scheduled for the summer, was in earshot. Unfortunately, Professor Stainthorpe had also scheduled remedial Charms tutoring for Lottie; she didn’t tell anybody but Andrea about those classes. Andrea was thrilled to find that she was chosen for advanced Transfiguration and Charms classes, but unlike Lottie, kept her accomplishments to herself.
The end of June found Lottie and Andrea camping out in the library. Andrea flipped frantically through the pages of her Potions book. “So to make a Swelling Solution, first you add the puffer-fish eyes to the--”
“I don’t care!” Lottie dropped her head onto her Charms book. “This entire thing is so stupid! We don’t need to know how to name everything? What does it matter when you’re fighting?!”
“Not every part of the war has to do with fighting, Lottie,” Andrea said seriously. “That’s why we have three Houses.”
“At least Dueling and Occlumency have some reason behind learning. What’s the point of History and Herbology? HONESTLY!”
“Oh, don’t be so over dramatic.” Andrea rolled her eyes. “They’re just exams. And all you have to do is study and then we’ve got a relaxing summer.”
“Easy for you to say! You do well in all of your classes! You don’t have a hard time in anything!”
“Oh don’t lie, Lottie. You know how hard I work just to get an A in some classes. You’re just bitter because you left all of your studying off until last minute and you know you’ve got to pass this or else spend the rest of your time here in remedial classes.” Andrea smiled shrewdly before flippantly adding, “And somebody in remedial classes isn’t any use to anybody.”
Lottie glared at her and picked up her Charms book. Only Andrea was clever enough to turn her own biggest insult back around at her. “The class is so unhelpful,” she muttered under her breath. Andrea grimaced but didn’t respond. “I mean, Stainthorpe could at least try to teach us something. I can’t learn everything from books you know.” She dropped her book back on the table. “Ugh!‘I’m Professor Stainthorpe,’” she said in an old croaky voice. “’I don’t allow anybody to have snacks in my class, even if I made them miss lunch for special tutoring. I give tests every week and a half and I—‘”
“Lottie, shut up and study.”
With the help of the other Palmyitors, Lottie felt fairly confident during the Charms written exam. She was lucky to have the hardest test first, unlike Andrea who had to take her Potions exam last. The practical exam was a slight disaster when Lottie was supposed to grow a rose bush to twice its size, but instead caused thorns to shoot out of the bush and not cease until Stainthorpe magically destroyed the bush.
The Flying exam was probably the biggest waste of time Lottie could have imagined. The first years raced around the grounds and the five people that finished last had to write an essay on the importance of flying in a war. Even the worst flyers in the class passed.
Transfiguration was fairly frustrating overall, but Lottie was sure that she at least got an A. Defense Against the Dark Arts was no more challenging than Transfiguration and Lottie was confidant that her shielding charm gave her a passing mark. Besides Potions, Dueling was Lottie’s favorite exam. She got paired up with Colm Scrivener from Maelioric for a “friendly” duel and received an immediate O for disarming him and locking his legs together before he even cast on jinx.
After their last exam, Lottie and Andrea relaxed in the common room with the other first years. Over the period of studying, the seven Palmyitor first years had gotten much closer. “That Charms exam wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be,” said Devin Hackett.
“Speak for yourself,” Lottie piped up. “Did I tell you about the rose bush?”
“Yes, Lottie,” Sophie said, laughing. “You told us all at least seven times.”
Julianne shrugged. “I quite like that story,” she said brightly. “It’s pretty--” She stopped, spotting Stanley walking by and stared at the floor, now a shade pinker than she had been before.
“How’d exams go, firsties?” he asked, falling onto an armchair with them.
“Th-they were okay,” Julianne whispered.
“Some of them were challenging,” Andrea said seriously. “But I think we all did fairly well.”
“History was the worst!” Edgar Payne said, throwing a text book onto the floor.
“Well you’ve got another year before you’re doing them again, so that’s nice, right?” Stanley kicked his feet onto the table and Andrea’s pile of Charms books. She glared at him and snatched the books off the table. “Oh lay off it, Woolbright,” he said cheerily. “You’ve got two weeks off, and then the rest of the summer to have a light schedule. Besides, you’re going to have to trade those books in soon enough.”
Andrea gently dusted the cover of her book. “Yes, well it would be horrible for a first year to have a giant foot print on their book wouldn’t it be?”
“Well, if that poor first year asks you who put a footprint on their book, I give you full permission to tell them the story.” Stanley laughed out loud and Julianne chuckled under her breath, staring determinately at the floor. “Well, with these two weeks, do you all plan on playing some Quidditch? It’s nearly a tradition by now… Of course, you need to talk a professor into supervising, but--”
“I don’t even know the rules to Quidditch,” Lottie interrupted. The other first years agreed bitterly.
“You’d think they could at least teach us Quidditch in Flying,” Devin said.
“Don’t worry, firsties,” Stanley said, patting Sophie on the head. “The Maelioric prefect has agreed to teach a little class so you all won’t be left out.”
“Well that’s good,” Andrea said curtly.
The Quidditch class turned out to be a complete disaster. The first years hadn’t even finished their first scrimmage before Lottie fell off her broom, bringing Colm down with her.
“What was that about, Rowe?” Colm shouted indignantly.
“What? Oh I’m sorry!” Lottie pushed herself up and wiped the mud off of her robes. “It’s your own fault for getting in the way!”
“I wasn’t in the way! I was playing my position in the game! What the hell were you doing?”
“I was trying to get past all of you! It’s not my fault if that’s nearly impossible!” Lottie pushed Colm, sending him to the ground.
“Whoa, first years!” the Maelioric prefect ran up to Lottie who was still glowering at Colm on the ground. “Take it easy.”
Ignoring the prefect, Colm whipped out his wand and shouted, “Phelantio!”
Lottie stuck her tongue out. “Good try, Scrivener. But nothing--” She completely lost her voice, when she felt something fall onto her shoulders. Horrified, she realized that they were her earlobes and they was growing so fast that it was now nearly at her elbow.
“Oh that’s just it!” Lottie shouted. Just as Colm was picking himself up, Lottie pulled back her fist and punched him hard in the face, enjoying the satisfying crunching noise that followed.
“Oh Merlin!” Colm shouted, falling back to the ground, clutching a hand over his nose, which had started bleeding profusely.
“That’s it!” The prefect stepped between the two. “This is just Quidditch and you two just made it into such a huge deal that--ROWE!” The prefect had to hold both of Lottie’s shoulders to keep her from tackling Colm. “Come on, both of you!” He grabbed one of Lottie’s overly-large ears and Colm’s shoulder and dragged them both off the pitch.
“Just go back to the common room, everybody,” the prefect shouted behind him. “Sorry these two ruined it for everyone.”
The prefect marched Lottie and Colm up the lawn, through the front doors and into the Entrance Hall. “Just you wait until Palmyitor has her say with you.”
“Wait--why can’t we go to Maelioric?” Colm whimpered through the streams of blood flowing from his nose.
“Do you think I’m that stupid, Scrivener?” The prefect opened a door on the left side of the Entrance Hall and dragged the pair down a narrow staircase behind him. “He’d just take the whole thing in good fun.” The prefect stopped in front of a large, sturdy door. “And Quidditch is no joke,” he added seriously before knocking on the door.
“Yes?” came a voice from inside.
“Professor?” The prefect pushed Lottie and Colm through the door. “Thought you might want to see these two.”
Palmyitor arched an eyebrow. “What happened to them?”
“She hit me!” Colm shouted, wildly reaching for his wand.
“And I would assume that Rowe’s ears are a product of your wand?”
“Don’t even try to lie to me, Scrivener. Roydan, thank you for bringing them to me.”
“Anytime, ma’am.” The prefect called Roydan smirked and left the office.
“So.” Palmyitor sat down behind her desk and laced her fingers. “Who’s responsible for this?”
“He is!” Lottie piped up. “I was just flying and he got in my way. He started fighting with me, and the next thing I know, he was hexing me. This was the only thing I could do so he wouldn’t do anything worse!” Lottie averted her eyes, suddenly realizing that Palmyitor could perform Legilmency. She busied herself by trying to push her earlobes -- now well passed her knees-- out of the way.
“No, she lied! She hit me first, and I had to hex her just to--”
Palmyitor put up a hand. “I’ve heard enough out of the two of you. Go to the hospital wing, and come back at eight for detention.”
“What?” Colm dropped his blood stained hand.
“No!” Lottie barked. “That’s not fair!”
“I don’t care what you think is fair, Miss Rowe. You are going to suffer the consequences for your actions.” Palmyitor surveyed the outraged first years with crossed arms. “Now go to the hospital wing!”
“But--but my nose hurts too much to--”
Pushing Colm out the door, Lottie glared at Palmyitor and sneered, “Let’s go, you wuss.”
“Honestly, Lottie, you couldn’t have thought about it for more than two seconds?” Andrea slapped her forehead overdramatically.
“Well what would you have done if somebody had made your ears grow to the floor?” Lottie asked, hugging her knees.
“I would have behaved like a normal human and told somebody.”
“Easy for you to say,” Lottie growled, “all you ever do is rat people out.”
“Well maybe I do, but at least I haven’t had two fistfights in the last year. And at least I can fly.” Andrea paused, chewing the corner of her lips to hide her grin. “Did I tell you that that Maelioric prefect told me I was really good? He recruited me for his informal team! I’m playing Seeker!”
“Well that’s good,” Lottie said distantly, rubbing her earlobe. “Where did he learn that spell anyways? It has nothing to do with fighting at all.”
Sighing, Andrea muttered, “Probably just picked it up somewhere.”
“Rowe!” Stanley’s voice echoed from the other side of the grandfather clock. “What’ve you been up to? I heard you got in a fight with a Maelioric!”
“Yeah? So?” Lottie stared glumly at the fire.
“So what is it with you and Palmyitor?”
“I don’t know!” Lottie threw her hands up in the air. “She hates me, or something. I get in trouble for the smallest things! I’m glad she’s not a professor; I’d be failing that class.”
Smiling wryly, Andrea muttered, “Don’t need her to be a professor to fail…”
“Oh, shut up!” Lottie shouted playfully and tossed a pillow at Andrea, knocking her glasses off and sending them scattering to the floor.
“Well, however you managed to do it,” Stanley intruded seriously, “you’ve got detention. And Palmyitor’s detentions are the worst.”
Lottie tore her eyes from Andrea’s futile search for her glasses. “What am I going to have to do?”
Stanley shrugged. “Well how bad was it? What did you do, make a mess?”
“Er--” Lottie blushed “--I hit someone… but he hexed me first!”
“Oh Merlin.” Stanley patted Lottie’s shoulders in a dramatic way. “Good luck.” He turned around to leave for his dormitory.
Eyes wide, Lottie half grinned and half let her jaw drop. “What? You can’t just tell me something like that and walk away!” she shouted, jumping over the back of her chair and grabbing onto his arm.
Stanley spun around, laughing. “Don’t you worry, little Lottie,” he cooed sarcastically. “I’m sure the big scary Professor Palmyitor won’t hurt you.”
Pamyitor, apparently, was not in the best of moods when Colm and Lottie arrived at her door at eight o’clock that night.
“Yes? Who is it?” She peered down her nose at the two nervous first years. “Oh it’s you. Well go on.”
Lottie shuffled into the center of the room, keeping her gaze determinedly at the floor. She didn’t like being forced in a room for so long with a skilled Legilimens.
“You will be cleaning and labeling the potion ingredient jars for Professor Dyer today,” Palmyitor said stiffly, not looking up from a parchment she was reading. She pointed to a shelf filled with stained and broken jars. “No magic.”
Lottie glared at Colm and motioned to pick up one of the jars, one that had a dark red substance that looked suspiciously like blood covering the inside. “It’s all your fault we’re doing this,” she hissed, picking up a wet rag and trying to fit her hand through the jar’s neck.
“You’re the one who broke my nose!” Colm shouted back. Lottie rolled her eyes. “And it still hurts too!”
“No talking.” Palmyitor still didn’t look up from her paperwork.
The first years cleaned the bottles quietly for some times, only intruding the stiff silence with grunts of frustration every now and then. Lottie nearly dropped her jar when a loud bang echoed from above them.
Palmyitor hit her desk, causing Lottie to actually drop the jar this time. “If that is Stanley and Langley--I swear! Why I ever made Stanley a prefect, I’ll never know…” She glared at Lottie and Colm. “Just finish this up and go back to your common rooms,” she shouted as she ran through the door.
Lottie shrugged as the door slammed and pulled out her wand. “What are you doing?!” Colm shouted, staring at her wand. “Do you want to get us into more trouble?”
“Shut up!” Lottie hissed, pointing her wand at the broken glass. “It’s better than just leaving it here. Reparo!” She watched as the pieces formed back together again. “See? She’ll never know if we used magic or not.”
Through laughter, Colm said, “I think she’ll know that you tried to charm that one.”
“What? Oh.” The jar was oddly misshapen and haphazardly balancing on a point. Blushing, Lottie picked up another jar and busied herself with it. “Well you couldn’t do any better.”
“I wouldn’t try,” Colm said. “It’s not worth getting detention again.”
“I’d rather have detention again,” Lottie growled, “than just breaking somebody else’s things.”
“Oh don’t be such a hero. Who do you think you are?” Colm snarled. “Harry Potter?”
Burning a deep red, Lottie hissed, “What do you mean?”
“What? Don’t tell me you’ve never heard of Harry Potter.”
“I have!” Lottie nearly dropped her other jar. “I--I just--”
“Don’t know much about him?”
Lottie didn’t reply.
“What, they never taught you?” Colm asked incredulously.
“No! What? How much do you know?”
“Everything. I know how he was the Chosen One. He was destined to fight the Dark Lord since birth, when he defeated him the first time.” Colm raised his eyebrows impressively. “He had two friends, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. They went with him to fight.”
Lottie had stopped cleaning her jar and listened intently. “What happened to them?”
“The Dark Lord and his followers ambushed them. They were on a special mission with the Order of the Phoenix.” Noting Lottie’s confused expression, he added, “A group of wizards dedicated to defeating the Dark Lord. Oh! And there was this school--called Hogwarts--that everybody went to. And the Headmaster’s name was Albus Dumbledore. He led the Order, but then he was murdered by … Erm…”
“I thought you knew everything.” Lottie crossed her arms, trying to hide her curiosity.
“I do! Er--oh! His name was Snape. Severus Snape! And he murdered Dumbledore. But nobody knew what side he was really on, because maybe Dumbledore had ordered him to kill him.”
“But why would he do that? Why would anybody want to die?”
“I don’t know. He must have had a good reason.” Colm picked up Lottie’s misshapen jar. “But they never found Snape. He never went to the battle. He was a spy for both sides and apparently the best Occlumens of modern times.”
“But how did Potter die?”
“He was killed by the Dark Lord,” Colm said simply. “He tried to be a hero and failed. Weasley and Granger died too… I think. Well, they never found their bodies, but they were last seen with Death Eaters.”
Lottie stared at the ground. “He shouldn’t have brought them with him,” she said.
“Granger and Weasley.” She picked up her jar and pretended to be busy again as she heard footsteps approaching down the corridor. “They were no help to him and he just got them killed.”
“Rowe! Scriverer!” Palmyitor’s graying hair was nearly standing on end. “Go… just--just go. And stay away from the fourth floor.”
Lottie bit her lip, trying not to laugh, and left the room before Palmyitor could change her mind.
“Rowe! Wait up!”
“What do you want?” Lottie asked, not even bothering to turn around.
“Do you really think that Potter should have gone to fight alone?” Colm asked, panting to keep up with her brisk pace.
“Yes. I do. He accomplished nothing but killing everybody by getting help.” Lottie glared at Colm. “Goodnight,” she said, turning sharply down an unknown staircase.
Once she was sure he was out of earshot, she hit the wall in frustration. Just to get away from Colm, she had taken a staircase she had never seen before and had to wait until Colm left before heading back to the common room.
“All students,” a serious voice rang through the hall, “must report to the Great Hall immediately.”
Lottie stared at the ceiling. What had happened? Slightly panicked, she ran up the stairs where she came, praying that Colm took another route. Once she had reached the main corridor, she joined a frantic crowd of students pushing forward towards the Great Hall.
The crowd was frustrating, but at least it moved quickly. Once in the Great Hall, Lottie sat quietly at the Palmyitor table, leaving a space next to her for Andrea when she showed up.
“Students, quiet down please!” Clynalmoy said from the front of the hall.
The hysteria in the hall was rather disturbing. Lottie had no idea what was going on, but obviously the older students did.
“Quiet!” Palmyitor waved her arms frantically before the students. That did nothing but to add to the panic.
“SHUT IT!” shouted Maelioric, arms crossed.
Obviously shocked at a teacher using such language, the students were silenced immediately.
“Now,” Maelioric continued, “be assured that you are all completely safe. There is a charm on the building to keep you all hidden. So please don’t panic when--”
“What’s going on?!” shouted a Clynalmoy.
Maelioric took a breath and continued. “We are tracking every student. You are all perfectly safe.”
Lottie’s stomach fell. Where was Andrea?
“Don’t panic if you can’t find a friend immediately,” Maelioric continued as he saw other students searching for their classmates. “Your friends are all here. We have checked every table.”
Lottie relaxed slightly. Andrea was somewhere, even if she couldn’t see her.
“Now,” Maelioric said calmly, “try to remain calm through this and be as helpful as you can.” He paused to make sure that nobody was about to shout in protest. “Death Eaters are approaching the school.”
Alder with Unicorn, 14 1/2 inches, slightly springy
Re: Halfway to Infinity
Chapter Ten: The Lockdown
The hall was silent. Every student waited for Maelioric to say something more. Standing before the staff table, Palmyitor took a deep breath. “We don’t want any of you to panic,” she said sternly. “The Death Eaters are not even aware that the school is here. We have our most valuable spies trying to get information on what they are doing so near by.”
Lottie couldn’t breathe. Death Eaters? She thought she had been rid of them for good when she came here.
“We are going to have a lockdown,” Clynalmoy said forcefully. “None of you are to leave this room. We will conjure cots if we must spend the night.”
The three heads turned to each other and conversed in low tones. Students rose to find their friends from other houses and make sure that they were safe. A passing Palmyitor bumped Lottie’s shoulder, jolting her back to reality. She stood up as well. “Andrea?” she called. There was no reply. “Andrea?!” she shouted a little louder. Nothing.
Frantically, Lottie ran up and down the Palmyitor table. “Andrea? Andrea!” Nobody noticed her cries in the panic of the hall. Hands shaking, she forced herself to come to the conclusion that she had been avoiding. Andrea wasn’t there. But Maelioric said they knew where everybody was. Why did he lie? Did he just forget Andrea?
Despite Lottie’s best efforts, tears fell down her face in torrents. Her best friend was probably dead by now and nobody cared. “Rowe?” Stanley turned away from her conversation. “Lottie, what’s up?”
“She--she’s not here!” Lottie shouted through gasps of air.
“Who’s not here?”
“Andrea! I can’t find her!”
“Lottie, the heads know where everybody--”
“Well they must have forgotten her! I can’t find her anywhere!” She stood on the Palmyitor table and surveyed the entire hall. “She’s definitely not here,” she said more firmly. “She may be small, but I’d see her in an instant!”
“Lottie!” Stanley pulled her off the table. “You need to calm down. You--LOTTIE!”
Lottie broke out of Stanley’s grip and ran up to where the heads ignored the utter chaos in the room. “I can’t find Andrea!” she shouted. The three heads turned around.
“Excuse me?” Palmyitor turned around slowly, staring down at Lottie venomously.
“Andrea! Andrea Woolbright! She’s gone missing! I think the Death Eaters--”
“Miss Rowe,” Palmyitor began, “I assure you that she is here. You probably just can’t find her. Every student was in the castle when we got the alarm, with the exception of a few seventh years on the Quidditch Pitch. All of the seventh--”
“Andrea was with them!” Lottie shouted. She pounded her fists against her legs. “She was playing Quidditch with them because--”
“Miss Rowe, I do not want any more of your ridiculous lies. Not one first year is permitted to leave this castle after seven o’clock.”
“Well maybe she broke the rules!” Lottie had to hold onto the table to keep herself from collapsing. “Why won’t you believe me?”
“Miss Rowe, I suggest if you wish to become a master Occlumens, that you keep your emotions under control.”
“I DON’T WANT TO BE A MASTER OCCLUMENS! I JUST WANT TO SAVE ANDREA!”
“Lottie.” Maelioric took her shoulder. “Calm down. She’s a small person. She’s probably just lost in the crowd.”
“SHE’S NOT! I’VE LOOKED FOR HER! LET GO OF ME!”
Lottie pushed Maelioric’s steady hand off her shoulder and ran back to the table. “Stanley,” she panted. “I have to go find her! Nobody will believe me!”
“Rowe, this is a lockdown. You can’t leave. Andrea is fine and you’d just get yourself killed trying to find her.”
“I’m sorry,” Lottie said through gritted teeth, “but I’m not going to let my friend die.”
She ran to the door and tried to pull it open in vain. How could she get out? Scanning the room, she spotted some professors pulling out their wands. They looked like they were going towards the door. Lottie leaned against the wall casually, trying to give off an air of glum resignation.
Professor Stainthorpe cracked open the door. Lottie crept closer. Just as she and Professor Breckenridge left the hall, Lottie stuck her foot in the door. She could feel the eyes of some students on her, so returned to leaning on the wall for a few seconds until the curious students decided that she wasn’t up to anything. Finally, when she was fairly sure that nobody of importance was watching, she slid through the door.
Stainthorpe and Breckenridge were halfway down the corridor. Lottie hastily crept in the other direction. She broke out to a run upon reaching the Entrance Hall and pulled the doors open so quickly that they slammed very loudly once she was outside.
“Lumos,” Lottie whispered. Her wand lit a narrow path along the green grass. The silence of the grounds was even more overwhelming than the chaos of the Great Hall. She wished that there was a whole group of students with her. She wasn’t ready to take on Death Eaters by herself.
A chorus of laughter interrupted her thoughts. Shakily, she followed the noise, being sure to stay out of the light of her wand. Finally, a flickering fire illuminated the trees around her. “Nox.” Lottie spotted a bush close to the Death Eater campsite. Quietly, she managed to get herself in a rather uncomfortable--though safely hidden--position behind it.
“Tell me, girl,” a deep voice echoed across the lawn, “where did you get them nice robes again?”
“I--my father gave them to me.” It was Andrea. Lottie strained to see her face. They had hurt her, Lottie could tell. She quivered under the Death Eaters’ stares.
“And who is your father?”
“I can’t tell you his name,” she said quickly. “He told me never to tell a Death Eater his name.”
“Oh no?” A Death Eater raised his wand and hissed, “Crucio!”
Andrea’s screams made Lottie shake with rage.
“You see, girl,” one Death Eater shouted over her shrieks, “we’re not stupid. We can tell when you’re lying.” The Death Eater who was cursing her lifted his wand, leaving Andrea whimpering on the ground. Towering over her, he delivered a sharp kick to her ribs.
Unable to watch anymore, Lottie shot sparks across the campsite, keeping them low to the ground so they would explode on the other side of a patch of trees.
“Where’d that come from?” asked a large Death Eater.
“Over there!” The man who had kicked Andrea pointed in the opposite direction.
“Well tie ‘er up,” ordered the first Death Eater. “We’ll come back,” he taunted with a smirk at Andrea. “Maybe we’ll meet a friend of hers.”
The biggest Death Eater muttered an incantation, causing ropes to fly out of his wand and tie Andrea to a tree. “Let’s go,” he shouted.
Once the Death Eaters were far enough away, Lottie left her hiding place. “Andrea!” she whispered. “Andrea, it’s okay.”
Andrea opened her eyes slowly. “Lottie?” she breathed. “H-How did you find me? How did you know I was missing?”
“How would I not know you were missing?” Andrea smiled weakly. “Now, hold still. I need to get these ropes off.” Worried that the Death Eaters would return, Lottie bit the rope, trying to break its thick threads. The rope was thick and after about twenty seconds, her gums ached. She tried to push air between her teeth to get the strands of rope out, but couldn’t use enough time to make a significant difference. The rope snapped. Lottie revealed her bloodstained teeth with a weak smile.
“Come on!” Lottie held out her hand to Andrea.
“Lottie, I--I don’t think I can stand.”
“Couldn’t have been more wrong!” came one of the Death Eater’s voices from nearby.
“Okay.” Lottie ran a hand through her hair anxiously. “Okay, this is going to hurt, but it’s the only way we’ve got.”
Carefully, Lottie picked up Andrea, wrapping her arms tightly around her knees and shoulder. Andrea gasped for breath sharply. “I’m sorry,” Lottie whispered.
The Death Eaters were near the camp by now. Holding Andrea as tightly as she could, Lottie started towards the castle. She could see Andrea’s eyes drooping as she ran.
Lottie couldn’t respond before Andrea lost consciousness.
“Hey, you!” shouted a Death Eater.
Swearing to herself, Lottie dodged behind a tree.
“Who was there?” asked one of the men.
“I thought I saw a girl,” the first one answered. He pulled out his wand and turned to where Andrea had been. “Oi! Where did the other girl go?”
Lottie didn’t wait to take advantage of the distraction. Using a sudden burst of adrenaline, she ran up to the castle. The door to the Entrance Hall was well in sight. As Lottie approached, the door swung open.
“Rowe?” It was Stainthorpe. “What--”
“Please,” Lottie shouted. “The Death Eaters had her. They--they’re looking for us.”
“Cormag,” Stainthorpe said quickly to Professor Breckenridge. “Go sort that out. Come with me, Rowe.”
Panting heavily, Lottie followed Stainthorpe to the hospital wing on the third floor. She couldn’t even feel her arms anymore. In the hospital wing, the nurse, Professor Waterman (who also taught a Healing Class for upperclassmen) rushed over. “What on earth happened?” she asked.
“Apparently,” Stainthorpe said grimly, “we missed one student in our count.”
“Oh, Lord.” Waterman took Andrea gingerly out of Lottie’s arms and placed her on a nearby bed. “Are you hurt, Rowe?” she asked.
“No. I don’t think so.” Lottie sat down on a bed opposite Andrea’s. “My arms hurt,” she added.
“Well, that’s to be expected, dear,” Waterman replied busily. “Marianne--” she turned to Stainthorpe “--go and get the heads. I’m sure they’ll want to see this.”
“I’m on my way.” Stainthorpe spun around and left the hospital wing at a run.
Taking a deep breath, Lottie rubbed her eyes tiredly. Relief flooded her, but anger still flickered in her shaking hands. Why had nobody believed her? If she hadn’t gone out alone, Andrea would have died. Well they would learn to trust her soon enough.
“What happened?” Palmyitor burst through the doors of the hospital wing. “Where is she?” She paused, spotting Lottie sitting on the bed. “Rowe? What are you doing here?”
“What am I doing here?!” Lottie shouted. “I just saved Andrea from Death Eaters because you wouldn’t believe me!”
“Calm down, Rowe.” The other two heads and Stainthorpe came running through the door. “Marianne, where did you find her?”
“Outside, in front of the doors to the Entrance Hall. She had Woolbright in her arms.”
Lottie nodded vigorously. “Because--”
“Is it safe to revive her?”
”WHY WON’T YOU LISTEN TO ME? I’M NOT LYING!”
Palmyitor raised and eyebrow. “I am not listening to you because you are completely irrational when you’re angry. Why you are in my house, I don’t know.”
Blushing, Lottie stared at the ground. If she ever wanted to be an Occlumens, she would need to control her emotions.
“It seems to me she has a broken rib,” Waterman said. “As long as I administer a pain potion, she should be fine for the time being.” Waterman pointed her wand at Andrea and said, “Ennervate.”
Gasping, Andrea opened her eyes wildly. “Wha--wh--”
“Take this dear.” Waterman gave Andrea a small cup. “It’s for pain.”
Andrea drank obediently. Lottie was surprised by her calmness. Maybe she could learn how to control her emotions from her.
“What happened, Woolbright?” demanded Palmyitor.
“I--” Andrea looked at Lottie and smiled weakly. “I was playing Quidditch with some seventh years,” she said. “They wanted me as their Seeker because I’m small and light. One of them said that they saw figures approaching. They left to go tell somebody, and I stayed behind to clean up the brooms.”
“But how did they see you? With all of the enchantments on the castle--”
“We might,” Andrea began, not making eye contact with any of the teachers, “have been playing a little too far away from the castle.”
Maelioric chuckled. “Must have been Raydon you were playing with, eh? Well I’ll give him a talking right when I see him.” He nodded mockingly seriously at Palmyitor.
“Then?” Palmyitor said, ignoring Clynalmoy’s smile.
“Then the Death Eaters caught me,” Andrea said shakily. “There was nothing I could do. I was so outnumbered and I don’t know enough magic.” An awkward silence ensued and was only broken when Andrea continued. “They kept asking me who I was and when I wouldn’t tell them, they cursed me.”
“What was the curse?”
“I don’t know, but the incantation was Crucio.”
Stainthorpe gasped. Palmyitor put a hand to her mouth.
“That is not a friendly spell to be hit with,” Maelioric said with a grimace.
“And then sparks shot in the air. I think it was Lottie,” Andrea continued. Lottie nodded. “But the Death Eaters thought it came from the other direction, so they went to go check it out. When they were gone, Lottie came and carried me back to the castle.”
“I must say,” said Stainthorpe, “I am very impressed, Miss Rowe.”
Lottie tried to hide her smile with a shrug.
“She not only escaped from several Death Eaters, but she also saved a fellow student.”
“I believe a celebration is in order!” Maelioric said gleefully.
“Death Eaters or not,” Palmyitor intervened, “you still left the castle when I told you not to.”
Jaw wide open, Lottie shouted, “WHAT?! I mean…” She coughed and looked at the floor. “I was--was just doing what I thought was right.”
“What you thought was right nearly got you killed.
Lottie had the strong urge to talk back, but kept herself under control. She couldn’t lose control of her temper, especially with Palmyitor around. She would never become a master Occlumens if she let her emotions run loose.
“Oh look at that,” Palmyitor hummed, meeting Lottie’s stare. “She’s learning. Self-control is the first step to success in my house.” She shifted her gaze to Andrea. “I would suggest stopping your Quidditch sessions with older students. A girl your size can only get hurt.”
Behind her back, Maelioric shook his head and mouthed ‘It’s okay.’
“We should let these girls get their rest Naesa,” Stainthorpe said quickly so Palmyitor wouldn’t notice what Maelioric had just done. “They’ve had a rough night.”
Palmyitor replied by clucking her tongue. “Very well,” she said. “Good evening.”
Clynalmoy broke his silence. “I suggest,” the quiet man said, “that both of you spend the night in here.” After a pause, he added, “I can only imagine the questions waiting for you behind that grandfather clock of Naesa’s.” With a smile, he opened the doors to the hospital wing and left, followed by Stainthorpe and Palmyitor.
Maelioric stood in place for just a moment longer, saying, “No matter what Professor Palmyitor said, you girls did an excellent job. Goodnight!” He slipped through the door and shut it carefully.
“What was that all about?” Lottie blurt out.
“Why does Palmyitor hate me?” Lottie pouted. “What did I do wrong?”
Andrea shrugged. “I’m not sure if she really hates you,” she said. “I think she just expects a lot from you.”
Lottie flopped onto the bed. “I doubt that. I can hardly perform a disarming charm without help. And you heard her; I can never be an Occlumens because I can’t control myself.”
“You did a pretty good job at that campsite.”
Lottie shrugged and sat up to pull off her boots.
“Oh dear,” came Professor Waterman’s voice from a potions closet. “We don’t have much for the Cruciatus Curse, but the pain potion I gave you should be enough.”
Fascinated, Lottie watched as Waterman prodded Andrea’s ribcage with her wand, suddenly healing the injured bone. Once Andrea had taken all sorts of medicines, Waterman put out the torches lining the wall and returned to her dormitory.
Lottie crawled into her bed, still in uniform and tried to make herself comfortable.
“Hey Lottie? Andrea whispered from her left.
Alder with Unicorn, 14 1/2 inches, slightly springy
Re: Halfway to Infinity
Chapter Eleven: Never Had a Chance
Clynalmoy was right. The moment they returned from the hospital wing, Andrea and Lottie were bombarded with questions. Andrea was rather humble every time she told the story, preferring to stop further questioning by being completely honest. Lottie, on the other hand, loved the attention.
“They nearly hexed me!” Lottie explained dramatically late one July afternoon to a group of Clynalmoys. Ally stood in the back with crossed arms, unimpressed. “Seven times,” Lottie added.
“How did you get away?” asked one of the boys in her year.
“Well Andrea was tied up. I was so worried that she was going to die! She was hardly breathing, you know.” Lottie paused dramatically. “So I pulled and pulled at the ropes, but they wouldn’t come undone! So I had to gnaw them off.”
A chorus ofohs and ahs followed.
Lottie continued, “So I grabbed Andrea and ran!” She mimed carrying Andrea in her arms and looked behind her. “But then I saw the Death Eaters running behind me! One of them grabbed me by the hair, but I spun around and stunned him!” Lottie pulled out her wand and pointed it at Ally. “BAM!”
“Oh please,” Ally said over the gasping crowd. “You couldn’t hex anyone if you tried! You’re in remedial Charms.”
“Want to try me?” Lottie asked with raised eyebrows.
“What are you going to do, hit me?”
Smirking, Lottie pointed her wand at Ally. The crowd cleared away to avoid the hex. “Phelantio!” she shouted. Without a moment’s pause, she took off down the corridor, grinning at Ally’s shrieks of disgust.
The middle of July brought the day when the students were allowed to go back and visit their families. Lottie’s birthday had been the previous day, July seventeenth. Andrea had written an extremely thoughtful card that Lottie folded and kept on her bedside table. Sophie and Julianne had worked together on a series of hilarious drawings that they got Stanley to magically animate. Even Stanley gave Lottie some stolen chocolates from the kitchens.
The morning of the eighteenth, the students were given their old clothing from the camps for the trip. Lottie felt rather awkward in her torn clothes. Her shirt was tighter and reeked strongly of mildew. The holes in her pants that were once over he knees now were a few inches above them. The teachers handed out some dirt for the students to rub on their faces, legs and arms so they would look exactly how they had before they left.
Stainthorpe got a Portkey and accompanied the students going to the London camp. When they arrived in an old, crumbling building, Lottie recognized it as what she used to call the Turtle Building.
Lottie smiled at Andrea as they waited to be let out in turn, as to not bring attention to their location. “This is weird isn’t it?” she asked. Andrea nodded. “I want to go back and see my old friends, but--”
“They think you’re dead,” Andrea finished. “You better not. It’ll be hard avoiding them though, with the way you all used to prance around like you owned the entire camp.”
“What? They aren’t your friends anymore, are they?”
“No. Well I--”
“Woolbright! Rowe! Go on.” Stainthorpe held open the door for them.
“Good luck,” Andrea muttered as she hastily ran in the opposite direction.
“You too,” Lottie whispered at Andrea’s retreating back.
The camp was different now. Or maybe Lottie just never noticed what she was living in. It was no longer just a rough place for a child to grow up, but a real prison.
A woman on the street cried silently, cradling a small child’s body. The child could not have been older than ten. Its eyes were wide open, stunned with fear. Lottie continued on her way. An old man limped by. Lottie could see blood staining his clothes and leaving a trail across the pavement.
She stood stonily and watched him collapse to his knees.
The sky was grey, matching the bleak atmosphere perfectly. Lottie felt as though she were somewhere between storms.
A middle-aged woman cowered in the grasp of a Death Eater. Lottie’s first instinct was to run, but she suddenly couldn’t feel her legs. The masked wizard threw the woman to the ground and delivered a sharp kick to the ribs. Lottie watched in horror as the woman cried in agony.
“Get a move on, girl,” the Death Eater grunted, “before I finish this one off.” He slashed his wand in the air. Lottie spun around so she wouldn’t have to witness the result of the Death Eater’s destruction. Shrieks cut through the oppressing silence.
Had she just never noticed this before?
“I told you!” A familiar voice shot through the silence. “That we need to avoid those older girls at all costs. But did anyone listen to me?”
Lottie held her breath. It was Melanie. Probably everybody else was with her too. They would recognize her immediately. Thinking quickly, she took a sharp turn down an alley and prayed that they wouldn’t follow.
“Well they were picking on me!” squeaked a voice that could be none other than Pip’s, the youngest of Lottie’s old friends.
“Yeah, Melanie.” This time it was Olive. Stomach sinking, Lottie realized that Olive must have assumed her old position as second in command.
“We can’t just let them bully us around!” said Hattie.
“We’ve got more people than they do,” added Alexa.
Lottie couldn’t help herself. She moved her head just enough so she could see her old friends. They all looked about the same, except for Pip who was maybe a bit taller. Hattie’s front teeth had grown back in.
“Face it, Melanie,” Shawnee said. “We can’t beat a Death Eater until we’re all a little older.”
Lottie suddenly felt the urge to throw up. She wanted to go and save her old friends. They didn’t know what a hell they were living in.
The sound of their voices died away until they were gone for good.
Her old building’s door was just in view. Lottie entered silently. Men and women had taken advantage of the building’s hallways and had set up a temporary ground there. Lottie stepped over their sleeping bodies, wondering if they had just recently moved in or if she had just never noticed them before.
The door to her family’s room swung open. “Lottie!” Posy Rowe grabbed her daughter in a tight embrace. “Oh we’ve been wondering when you would visit! Come inside!” Lottie didn’t really have a choice whether to come inside or not, because her mother had picked her up and carried her in. “Oh! My baby! I’ve missed you so much!” Posy wouldn’t let go. Lottie half laughed and half gasped for breath.
“Let the girl breathe,” came a voice from the hallway.
Nathaniel picked Lottie up as well. “How’s my girl doing?”
Laughing, Lottie answered, “I’m good. I’m learning a lot at school. And don’t let these clothes fool you. I’ve got uniforms and robes and--” she lowered her voice “--even my own wand!”
Nathaniel tousled Lottie’s hair. “We are so proud of you,” he said. “Going off to fight the war…”
Posy nodded approvingly. “And they’re feeding you well, I notice.”
When the time came to leave, Lottie nearly opted to stay. Her mother’s crying combined with her father’s futile attempts at comforting her made Lottie miss her parents even more.
“How were your parents?” asked Andrea meeting Lottie on the stoop of her building.
“They were good. They made me a little homesick, though.”
“Hey!” Lottie smiled mischievously. “What would you say if we went to see our old friends again? I’ll visit yours if you visit mine.”
“No way,” Andrea replied flatly. “Lottie, we’re dead. Remember?”
“Well wouldn’t it spook them if I came back? Wouldn’t that be a laugh?”
“No!” Andrea shouted. “It wouldn’t! You would get us both into trouble! And I wouldn’t suggest risking anything anymore, especially after what you did this summer.”
“What I did this summer,” Lottie grumbled, “saved your life! So I wouldn’t complain. I don’t see the problem!”
“Of course you wouldn’t,” Andrea sighed. “If you thought your friend had died, and then she came back, how would you feel?”
“I’d be happy!”
“But what would you tell them?”
“The truth.” Lottie started running in the direction her friends had just gone. “Maybe they’d believe me this time! Maybe we could save them from this--”
“Lottie, no!” Andrea grabbed Lottie’s arm, halting her path. “I’m not letting you get yourself expelled for something this stupid. We can’t save everyone. By training for the war, you’re doing your part. Come on!”
Lottie let herself be dragged back to the Turtle Building, where they had arrived with Stainthorpe. She didn’t complain, but spent the time making sure her mental images of this visit were detailed. There were too many horrors to take note of them all.
All of these people. They never had a chance.
“How was your family?” Stainthorpe asked, standing in the doorway of the building. They were the first students to return.
“Er--good,” Andrea answered timidly, dragging Lottie inside. “They missed me. And Helen--my little sister--”
“Wait,” Lottie interrupted. “You have a little sister?”
Stainthorpe laughed at Andrea’s glare.
“Lottie how did you not know this?” Andrea sighed. “I’ve talked about her before.”
“Well I don’t know!” Lottie rolled her eyes. “Fine then, how many siblings do I have?”
“You don’t have any!” Andrea slapped her forehead. “Honestly Lottie, would it really kill you to listen to me for once?”
Lottie stared at the floor. She didn’t know what to say. How could she focus on Andrea’s petty problems when her entire world had been changed? “I do really miss my old friends, though,” she added.
Stainthorpe nodded knowingly. “It’s a horrible thing, to lose a friend.”
Alder with Unicorn, 14 1/2 inches, slightly springy
Re: Halfway to Infinity
Chapter Twelve: A Traitor at Alsemore
The Great Hall bustled with excitement on the first day of term. The students had stopped by Odin Alley days earlier to exchange their robes and books.
Scrawny first years in tattered clothes clustered at the end of the hall; Lottie felt especially tall seeing them. They seemed to be absolutely terrified by the idea of Sorting. The ceremony was a lot more interesting this time, Lottie realized, since she didn’t have to worry about herself and the future of her friendships.
“Alvin, Samuel,” was the first to be Sorted. The Maelioric table erupted in applause when the heads finally made their decision. The numbers of student in each House apparently varied through the years, as the number was extremely different than it was last year. There were only four new Palmyitors. The teachers didn’t seem bothered by the odd numbers of students in each House, so Lottie tried to relax and enjoy the first years’ nervousness.
“Look at them gobble down that food!” she said gleefully, watching a first year fit an ungodly amount of mashed potatoes into his mouth at once.
“Don’t laugh!” Andrea hit her lightly on the shoulder. “They’re just hungry. You were hungry on your first day too.”
“Well, yeah, but--WOW!” One girl had just stuffed an entire roll into her mouth. “Andrea, that was amazing. You should try it.” Lottie pushed a roll in front of her face. “Here!”
Glaring at her, Andrea hissed, “I really don’t think--”
“Okay! Okay!” Lottie took the roll herself. “I’ll try it.”
The rest of the feast was rather uneventful, save for Lottie nearly choking to death on the roll. Lottie watched Palmyitor lead the four first years to the common room. It was lucky, she noticed, that there were two girls and two boys. It would be awfully lonely to live in a dorm alone.
The second years kept the same dormitory as the year before. Lottie was relieved to stay in her own bed, since she had been dreading leaving the room she had grown so attached to.
The first years looked so uncomfortable in the common room. Lottie wanted to go and introduce herself, but Andrea stopped her. “You’ll just make them more nervous,” she told her.
So Lottie, Andrea, Sophie and Julianne sat away from the new students, in the farthest corner of the common room. Lottie didn’t really pay attention to the debate that Andrea was having with Sophie and Julianne, only butting in with “Yeah!” or “That’s right!” occasionally to make Andrea feel less outnumbered. Instead, she busied herself with eavesdropping on and older group of student’s conversation.
She had seen this particular group of girls with Stanley, so they must have been seventh years, like him. From what Lottie could see out of the corner of her eye, the seventh years all congregated tightly around a coffee table.
“Where did you get it?” Lottie overheard.
“A Death Eater sold it to me,” answered a rough voice--like sandpaper. “Cost a fortune, too.”
Lottie noticed a lull in her friends’ conversation and realized it was her turn to speak. She shot a desperate glance at Andrea and shouted, “Yeah, you’re right!” Her friends stopped the conversation and stared. Julianne blinked. Lottie quickly turned back to the other conversation.
“Well what do you do with it?” asked another voice.
“Plant it,” said the raspy voice again. “It just sits there, looking like a normal deck of cards, and--”
“Well except for the blood stains,” interrupted one of the seventh years.
Lottie sat on her hands to hide their quivering. Somebody at Alsemore was affiliated with Death Eaters? It was scary enough to find that Death Eaters had gotten close to the castle, but now they were inside of the castle? She had spent all of her life running from Death Eaters, and whenever she got close to getting away from them, they just inched closer.
“Well that disappears when you charm it,” replied the girl with the deck in her hand.
“I don’t know about this, Ella,” said another voice. “How does it work?”
“So you do this spell, right?” The girl with the raspy voice, Ella, paused. Lottie imagined her friends nodding enthusiastically. “And set them out. The next person who picks them up--” Out of the corner of her eye, Lottie could see Ella drawing a line across her throat.
“But isn’t that sort of obvious,” sneered another voice, “if somebody picks up a deck of cards and suddenly they die?”
“That’s the genius part.” Ella lowered her voice to a whisper so Lottie had to strain to hear it. “The curse starts to take effect, but the person just feels sick for a few days before they kick the bucket.”
“Then how do they die?”
“Dunno. Must be something really violent though. Look at all this blood!”
Lottie had heard enough. She rose to her feet, interrupting her friends’ debate. “Er--Andrea?’ she stuttered tactlessly. “I--I can’t find my wand. Can you help me look for it in the dorm?”
Puzzled, Andrea looked from Lottie to Sophie, who shrugged in reply. “Sure,” she said. “I’ll be right back.”
Lottie didn’t wait for Andrea to stand before she took off down the stairs. She reached the dorm and paced until Andrea came in. “Have you looked under your bed yet?” she asked, getting on her knees to search the ground.
“No.” Lottie sat down on her bed. “I’ve got my wand. I just needed to talk to you.”
Andrea furrowed her brow. “What’s up?”
“I heard seventh years talking.”
“Were you eavesdropping?”
“Yes, but that’s not the point.” Lottie took a breath. “They’ve got something Dark. It’s a deck of cards, or something, but they got it from Death Eaters!”
Andrea looked skeptical. “What does it do?”
“It kills whoever touches it.”
“Well are you going to tell somebody?”
“Who would I tell?”
“But then the girls will know who told! I can’t have my name floating around Death Eater camps.”
Andrea rolled her eyes. “Honestly, that’s not important right now. What if you were the one who touched these cards?”
“Well, I wouldn’t, now that I--”
“But what if you were? We can’t just let somebody die. I don’t care if you’re coming with me. I’m telling.” Andrea stood up. Lottie did as well.
“Okay. Fine, I’ll go, but if those girls find out it was us--”
“They won’t. Come on.”
Andrea and Lottie ran out of the dorm and up the stairs.
“Did you find it?” asked Julianne, coming down the stairs.
“Yeah!” Lottie shouted hurriedly. “Turned out to be in my pocket the whole time! What a laugh! Bye!”
Lottie and Andrea left the bewildered Sophie and Julianne and scrambled out of the grandfather clock. They ran up the stairs towards the Entrance Hall until--
“Woolbright! Rowe! What are you doing out after hours?”
Lottie spun around. Of course, it was Professor Gabaldon. She was one of the most rude and annoying professors in the entire school. “Professor, we really need to go see Professor Palmyitor,” she said.
“Well good thing,” Gabaldon replied stiffly. “Because that’s’ exactly where you’re going.”
Lottie could see Andrea blushing as they were marched up the stairs to Palmyitor’s office. Gabaldon didn’t even knock before entering.
“Excuse me?” sniffed Palmyitor, carefully slipping something under her desk.
“Caught these two out of their common rooms,” Gabaldon reported.
“Rowe, you seem to make trouble wherever you go,” Palmyitor said, not staring at Lottie, but instead at Andrea, who seemed to shrink under her gaze.
“It’s not that, Professor,” Lottie said hastily. “We were coming to your office anyways.”
Palmyitor cleared her throat and stared straight into Lottie’s eyes. “And it could not wait until tomorrow? I am very busy, Rowe. I think you should reevaluate when you think is important.”
“She’s not lying!” exclaimed Andrea. “She--we overheard some upperclassmen talking and--”
“And they’ve got a pack of--I don’t know--cards or something! But they’re dangerous. They said it curses anyone who touches it. They’re planting it in the school to start killing everybody one by one!” Lottie started back at Palmyitor determinately. She didn’t like Legilimency, but she would let go of that if it meant saving the school.
Sure enough, moments later, she began reliving the evening. She watched the Sorting, choked on a roll, was told off by Andrea for trying to scare the first years and finally eavesdropped on the seventh years. Her hands started shaking again as she rewitnessed the scene, moment by moment.
“Well,” said Palmyitor suddenly. The flashback stopped. “We must see about these seventh years.” She turned to Gabaldon, the corners of her lips twitching into a false smile. “Thank you, Emma.”
Gabaldon seemed a little disappointed that there was going to be no punishment. “You’re welcome,” she said before leaving.
Palmyitor waited patiently with a smile plastered on her face for the door to shut before very clearly rolling her eyes. “You two,” she began once Gabaldon’s footsteps faded away, “might want to wait in here. I can’t imagine those seventh years will be very happy to have been caught.” Without another word, Palmyitor strode out of the office, leaving Andrea and Lottie alone.
It was a rather small office for such an important person in the school. There were no windows. The floor was made out of large, cold stones. Bookshelves lined every inch of wall, but there were no books on them. Instead, rolls of parchment were carefully organized onto the shelves. Lottie inspected them further and found that they were records of every student who had once gone to the school.
“Stop it, Lottie,” Andrea said shakily. “That’s none of your business.”
Lottie rolled her eyes and walked over to Palmyitor’s desk. “What was she writing before?” she asked, opening a drawer.
“Lottie, no! You’re going to get us in trouble!” Andrea sat down on the floor with her back against the wall. “We’re lucky to not be in trouble as it is. Just sit down and don’t touch anything.”
“Bossy, bossy!” Lottie muttered, sitting down next to Andrea. “What do you think they’re going to do with them?”
“I don’t know,” Andrea said shakily. “They can’t keep them here, but they can’t let them go either. Maybe they’ll re-train them for our side.”
Lottie shook her head. “Once you become a traitor, you can’t go back.”
“Do you think there are more?” asked Andrea. “More traitors, I mean.”
“Yes. There must be.” Lottie shivered. She had felt so safe at Alsemore. Now what?
“Was it all of the seventh year girls in Palmyitor?”
“I think so,” she said. “There were about seven of them.”
“What are they going to do with so many students missing?”
“I have no idea.”
The door opened. Clynalmoy stepped into the small room solemnly. “All of the heads,” he said softly, “would like to thank you for your actions tonight.”
“You’re welcome,” Lottie said indignantly.
“I’d also like to add,” he continued, “that you shouldn’t go around talking about this.” He glanced at the door. “The school will be grateful that the traitors have been caught, but they might also be suspicious if they know you are the ones who told us.”
Lottie and Andrea nodded.
“We’ve got them all outside, so don’t leave the office yet. Wait until Professor Palmyitor returns.”
Clynalmoy turned and left. Andrea and Lottie sat in silence for a moment before Andrea said, “They must--”
A shriek from one of the students cut through her words.
Lottie stood up. “What are they doing to them?!” she shouted.
“I think she’s just angry,” Andrea said hopefully. “You would be too, wouldn’t you?” Lottie raised her eyebrows. “Well, I mean--you know what I mean.”
Palmyitor stuck her head into the office. “Yes,” she said once she entered as though answering some unasked question. “Well I’m glad that’s--mostly--taken care of.” She cleared her throat. “But I suppose I should escort you two back to your dormitory.”
“What did you do with the cards?” Andrea asked on their way down the corridor.
“They have been properly confiscated.”
“But what did you do to the seventh years?” Lottie piped up. “Where did they go?”
“We have taken them to a retraining center to--”
“But that just means you’re killing them, right?”
“Where did they go?”
Palmyitor spun around, pointing her finger in Lottie’s face. “They have been properly dealt with,” she said sternly. “I do not want to repeat myself.”
They reached the clock. Andrea looked at Palmyitor expectantly. Lottie stuffed her hands into her pocket and glared at her. “Goodnight,” was the only response. Lottie watched as Palmyitor hurried down the hall. She must have been going back to deal with the traitors.
Lottie and Andrea crawled through the clock to find an empty common room. “They must have sent everyone to bed,” Andrea whispered.
Lottie glanced over her shoulder. “Maybe that’s a good idea,” she said. “Come on.”
The girls’ floor was eerily silent. Lottie stopped in front of the empty seventh years’ dorm. “You go ahead,” she said to Andrea.
“I’m not going to do anything stupid. I just want to look around.” Lottie glanced in the empty room. “I’ll shout if anything happens.”
Andrea laughed nervously. “Okay. But I’m holding you to that promise.” She trotted to the second years’ dorm and entered as quietly as possible with quivering hands.
Lottie turned to the empty dormitory. She couldn’t believe that every Palmyitor seventh year girl had been a traitor. Sure, she was close with everybody in her year, but she wouldn’t become a Death Eater if one of them was… would she? But if the seventh year girls were Death Eaters, were the boys? Could Stanley actually be a traitor?
Lottie shivered and entered the lonely room. She didn’t want to snoop, but what if she found something? The wind outside howled. Lottie glanced over her shoulder. She checked the seven beds and bedside tables.
“Lumos,” she whispered. The wand light illuminated the entire room. She gave the room one last check over before giving up. She turned to leave when something glinting in the wand light caught her eye.
It was a key, large and polished to a heavy shine.
“Wingardium Leviosa,” Lottie said. She carefully guided the levitating key to one of the empty beds. It was just a key, but if a deck of cards could kill somebody, Lottie didn’t want to risk anything.
Quietly, she bundled the key in a sheet and stuffed it under her arm. Lottie reached her own dorm and hid her key as well as she could in her duffle. She quickly changed into her pajamas and clambered into bed.
Wide awake, Lottie spent hours listening to the wind howling. It was as though the castle was mourning the loss of so many students. Sure, Alsemore was better than anything she had ever had before, but it felt like no matter where she went, she would never escape the danger of the war.
Alder with Unicorn, 14 1/2 inches, slightly springy
Re: Halfway to Infinity
Chapter Thirteen: The Other Side of the Wall
Even though the key was covered in bed sheets, the next morning, Lottie nearly gave into its temptation. Only Andrea noticed her odd behavior in classes that day, but just assumed that the previous night’s business had distracted her.
Even during dinner, Lottie retained a stoic silence. Andrea gave up in trying to figure out what could be wrong and introduced herself to the shy first years. Lottie finished her supper as quickly as she could manage and rose from the table. “Lottie?” Andrea turned from the first years. “Where are you going?”
Lottie had considered telling Andrea about the key, but knew that Andrea would just tell Palmyitor before she could check anything out for herself. “I just feel sick,” Lottie answered. “I think I’m going to bed.”
Frowning, Andrea muttered, “Okay.” Lottie turned to leave, but Andrea stopped her. “Don’t worry about the seventh years,” she said. “I’m sure they’re fine.”
“Yeah.” Lottie started towards the door. “Thanks,” she called behind her.
The corridor was completely deserted. Lottie ran back to the common room, looking over her shoulder every few minutes. She nearly ran into the clock, stopping just in time to change the time and dive in. She sprinted down the stairs to the girls’ floor, taking the last four steps with a running jump.
Her duffle was already opened. She pulled the bundle of sheets out triumphantly and unwrapped the key – it looked safe enough. The sheets had covered it all day and they hadn’t been affected at all. Carefully, she pulled the key out and pocketed it. She didn’t feel like she was about to die. But didn’t the pack of cards kill days after it was touched? Lottie suddenly regretted her decision. As she climbed back up the stairs, she decided that she would take a trip to the hospital wing as soon as she felt sick.
What door did this key open? Was the door even at Alsemore? Lottie started down the corridor, sticking the key in every door she found. She decided to work her way up from this floor. It was rather tedious, and she had to run quickly, because she couldn’t be caught exploring the school during dinner when she was supposed to be sick.
By the third floor, Lottie was starting to lose interest. What were the odds that this key actually opened a door at Alsemore? Dinner was nearly over; she could hear the distant voices of students leaving the Great Hall. Lottie looked around desperately.
A hunched and withered man was weaved into a fading tapestry hanging on the wall across from her. The torchlight flickered across his face and made his dull eyes glimmer to life. The rest of the stone wall was blank, except for a rusting suit of armor whose face almost seemed to move when the light illuminated it.
The voices were getting closer. Lottie ran to the tapestry and stood as still as she could behind it. Just as she got situated and the voices were right around the corner, a clanging of metal interrupted her panicked thoughts.
She peeked out from behind the tapestry. The suit of armor had moved. It held its hand out, as though waiting for somebody to put something in its palm. Lottie pulled out her key. The suit opened its hands wider.
The voices must have been nearly there. Thinking hastily, Lottie dashed to the armor and dropped her key in its hand. It promptly wrapped its fingers around it, turned around and put the key in a perfectly sized hole in the wall. The wall split to reveal a gap just big enough to crawl through. Lottie paused. What was on the other side of the wall? Was it worth risking the danger to not get in trouble for snooping? She fell to her knees and pulled herself through the hole just as the voices passed her. From her spot on the ground, she could see the suit of armor step in front of the hole, covering it innocently.
Lottie grinned and pulled out her wand. “Lumos.” The passage revealed was only tall enough for her to push her way along on her stomach. Keeping her wand between her teeth, she used her arms to pull her entire body down the corridor.
A tiny door appeared to her left. Lottie unlatched it and maneuvered awkwardly to get through.
Past the door was an empty hall. It was pitch black – Lottie could only see as far as her wand light shone. Relieved that it was large enough to stand in, Lottie pulled herself to her feet. Flickering torches illuminated the entire room. Aged benches formed a pentagon in the center. It must have been used for some sort of meeting place.
Oversized trunks were scattered around the perimeter of the hall. Lottie ran over to the first one and opened it carefully. Knives in scabbards lined the inside of the trunk. Lottie decided that she would need some evidence for her discovery, so dragged it along with her as she checked the other trunks.
In the seven trunks she visited, Lottie found bottles filled with some dangerous looking substance, a silver ring with a faded crest, a small snuffbox, some robes and what looked suspiciously like snakeskin. Lottie dragged the trunk back to the door leading to the tiny corridor, but once she pulled her hand on the doorknob, the torches in the hall put themselves out, leaving her in darkness.
Her wand light illuminated the open trunk. She didn’t have enough time to move out of the way when the contents of the trunk flew out. Lottie stood, dumbstruck, at the levitating objects. She moved her wand before her defensively. Suddenly, everything flew towards her. The snuffbox, the robes, the ring and the snakeskin didn’t scare her as they were all relatively harmless, but she was rather concerned about seven knives.
Lottie ran through the hall, but the knives followed. She dodged to the right, but, if anything, the knives only sped up. She tried weaving, her way to the door, but she couldn’t escape. They were right behind her; she could feel the tips of the blades brushing against her back. She was quickly losing stamina.
A knife sliced through the sleeve of her robe and cut her arm. Lottie changed direction, just to find a knife right in between her eyes that cut across her nose and cheek; it only stopped when Lottie wrestled it away and down to the ground.
She ran back to the large trunk and stuffed the harmless, floating objects in it. With a sudden idea, Lottie jumped in after, letting the knives come down at her. They grazed her legs and cut her arms as they came down. Lottie hopped out of the trunk quickly and shut it with all of her force.
Panting, Lottie opened the little door to the corridor. She could hear the knives straining to be released. She pushed the trunk through the door and followed suit, with her illuminated wand held in between her teeth.
Getting out of the narrow hallway proved to be much more difficult than getting in was. She had to push the trunk forward first and then pull herself. After what must have been ten minutes Lottie reached the tiny crawl space in the wall. The suit of armor was still guarding it. Lottie reached over the trunk and tapped the suit’s legs. It stepped out of the way with a clatter.
“Not a very graceful suit of armor,” Lottie panted as she pushed the trunk through the passage and then pulled herself out. “Are you?”
She pointed her wand at the trunk. “Wingardium Leviosa.” Carefully, she steered the trunk down to the Palmyitor clock. The trunk must have been influenced by magic, because she had a rather difficult time controlling it.
The trunk barely fit through the clock. The clock, though, Lottie realized, must have been magicked to fit everybody because even the largest of people managed to get through it. The common room was relatively deserted. All of the people left either didn’t notice or didn’t care that a second year was guiding a trunk down to the dormitory.
Lottie’s dorm was completely silent when she entered. Everybody was asleep. She must have been down in the hall longer than she thought. The trunk landed with a thunk on the ground. Nobody stirred. Lottie pulled off her robes to change into her pajamas.
Lottie looked up from her duffle. “Andrea!” she hissed. “Go to bed!”
“I’m not a dog, Lottie.” Putting on her glasses, Andrea clambered out of her bed. “I thought you were in the hospital wing for the night. What’s that trunk?”
Lottie put a finger to her lips. “It’s nothing,” she whispered. “Let’s just go to bed. I’m tired.”
“Lottie, you’re hurt!” Andrea shouted. “What--” Lottie put a hand over her mouth to shut her up.
“I’m fine,” Lottie whispered calmly. “I’m just going to go wash off and go to bed.”
Andrea raised her eyebrows and stared at the trunk again. “I’ve never seen a crest like that on a trunk,” she said, pushing Lottie’s hand away.
“I doubt you have,” Lottie sighed. “Look, I’ll tell you, but you don’t tell anyone else, okay?” Andrea nodded. “I found this key under one of the seventh years’ beds. It led to a really long secret passage on the third floor. I found all of the stuff in the trunk there.
“Lottie!” Andrea slapped Lottie lightly on the shoulder. “You shouldn’t go exploring dangerous places by yourself! What if there were Death Eaters in there?”
“If Death eaters were in the school, I’m sure they would have attacked us by now.”
“Well--nevertheless, you should have taken the key straight to Palmyitor!” Andrea’s blue eyes sparkled with curiosity behind her glasses. “But first, can I see what’s inside?”
“Sure.” Lottie unlatched the trunk. “I’m warning you, though, last time this thing was opened, it attacked me. You might want your wand.” Lottie waited for Andrea to get her wand from her bedside table before opening the trunk.
Nothing happened. “That’s interesting,” Lottie said thoughtfully. “Well, better this way than before. The magic must be contained in the passage and not in the trunk.
“Wow.” Andrea cautiously tiptoed closer to the trunk. “And you found all of this?”
“Yeah.” Lottie eyed the trunk. The knives had fallen on top of the robes, which covered everything else she had found. “Well, no.” Lottie never knew what led her to lie, but suddenly she reached down and pulled out the robes, trying to take as many objects with her as she could. “The robes are mine. I took them off to run faster.” From what she could see, she had managed to grab the snakeskin. “I found the rest of it,” she said, carefully putting the robes with the snakeskin in her duffle.
Andrea held up one of the bottles. “This is sort of scary,” she said, examining it in the little bit of moonlight that came from the window. “I can’t open this.” She threw the bottle back and picked up one of the knives. “I can’t get this out, either,” she grunted. “Do you think they’re enchanted so only one person can use them?”
Lottie unsuccessfully tried to free a knife from the scabbard as well. “I don’t know. They seemed to open themselves pretty well on their own down in that chamber.”
Andrea dropped the knife. “Maybe we shouldn’t touch enchanted objects. I don’t want to get the entire dorm killed.” Lottie fell a shot of guilt run through her, though not enough to return the robes and the snakeskin. “Let’s just take this to Palmyitor tomorrow.”
Alder with Unicorn, 14 1/2 inches, slightly springy
Re: Halfway to Infinity
Chapter Fourteen: A Shadowy Discovery
“A secret chamber, Rowe?” Palmyitor stood, arms crossed, in her office.
Lottie and Andrea had waited all day to tell Palmyitor about what they had found. She had been so unimpressed by their story that Lottie was slightly disappointed.
“I promise I’m not lying!” Lottie shouted. She bit her lip, remembering Palmyitor’s advice about controlling her emotions and calmly explained, “How else would I have gotten these cuts? It’s on the third floor. You give the key to the suit of armor and it opens the chamber for you, but the passage is so small that you need to crawl through it to get to a door.”
“There is no suit of armor on the third floor.”
Lottie gaped at her. “What? But I saw it! It held out its hand and I gave it the key, and--”
“Maybe,” interjected Andrea, “you need the key to see the suit of armor?”
“Miss Woolbright, I’ve been teaching at this school for fifty years. I like to believe that I know everything about this castle by now.”
“But what if it was here before the school started?” Andrea asked rationally. Lottie was impressed with how composed Andrea remained. “Nobody can know everything about a place as magical as this, can they? Was the castle built strictly for the school?”
“As a matter of fact, it was a gift.”
Lottie enjoyed their verbal sparring. It was like watching two children throw a rock back and forth.
“An old wizarding family,” answered Palmyitor dully; arguing with a second year clearly did not amuse her. “You would not recognize the name.”
“Could you tell us anyways?”
Palmyitor sighed. “The Dumbledores. Aberforth Dumbledore presented us the castle as a gift when he found out about our cause.”
“Dumbledore!” Lottie shouted, thrilled to recognize something from the still rather new wizarding world. “Albus Dumbledore was killed by Severus Snape!”
Palmyitor stared at Lottie. “Yes, Rowe, he was. If you don’t mind us getting back on topic,” she growled, “Aberforth would have informed us of any secret passageways.”
“But what if he didn’t know?” Andrea asked.
“Yeah!” Lottie found this story quite exciting. “What if it’s been here for years and years, built a thousand years ago maybe! What if those seventh years just found the key and discovered the passageway like I did? Then they used it for their own purposes!”
“This is not a fairytale, Rowe.” Palmyitor stared down the bridge of her nose at the overexcited second years. “Nevertheless, if those traitors were involved with these artifacts, they deserve a thorough inspection.”
“We couldn’t open any of them,” Andrea said. “They must be enchanted to seal shut when they leave that chamber.”
“We will find a way to open them,” Palmyitor said curtly. “And trying to open them was a very foolish thing to do. You could have killed the entire school.”
Her calmness unnerved Lottie.
“Thank you for giving these to me. I will show them to the other heads and we will manage to open them somehow.”
“Wait! Why can’t we help?” Lottie exclaimed. “I’m the one who found it in the first place!”
“Rowe, you are a second year. The dangers of allowing you to be in charge of items as valuable as these--”
“We wouldn’t be in charge! You could tell us what to do.” Lottie pouted, her brows furrowed in defiance. “I just think we should be kept up to date, since you wouldn’t have this if it weren’t for us.”
Palmyitor stared at Lottie. For a brief moment, amusement flickered behind her dark eyes. “Fine, Rowe.” Palmyitor smiled coldly. “I’m sure Emma will be extremely pleased,” she added sarcastically, not taking note that neither Lottie nor Andrea had any idea what she was talking about. “I will speak with the other heads and you can come help inspect these tomorrow after dinner. Now go to the hospital wing and get those cuts looked at.”
The next night, Lottie and Andrea shoveled down their food and waited in front of Palmyitor’s office, discussing what spells they might learn to open the Dark objects. “You know,” said Palmyitor on her way down the corridor, “no matter how fast you two eat, you will still have to wait until the end of supper before anything happens.”
Lottie shrugged. “Just not that hungry, I suppose.”
“Mmm…” Palmyitor unlocked her office. “You’ll have to sit on the floor,” she stated without apology. Lottie dryly wondered if Palmyitor had a disorder that did not allow her to conjure chairs. “We aren’t doing much today, but noting everything found.” She pointed to two sets of parchment, quills and ink. “Each of you take one artifact at a time. Note color, measurements, inscriptions and anything else you can think of. Anything you could need is beside the trunk.” She paused. “And tell me if you find anything unusual or dangerous,” she added.
Feeling rather defeated, Lottie sat on the floor next to Andrea and pulled one of the bottles out. The glass, when held to the light was thick and amber and was corked by an emerald stopper. The liquid inside was extremely dark against the glass and Lottie couldn’t tell exactly what it was, though she had a sinking suspicion that it was human blood. Every time she thought she was close to finishing the bottle, Andrea pointed out something else to note.
Finally, once Andrea was satisfied with Lottie’s notes on the bottle, she was allowed to move onto one of the knives. It was covered by a brown leather scabbard. The metal inside was rusting and the blade was slightly dull, but Lottie could still make out some sort of crest on the front. It was hard to make out the details, but what looked like two dogs were on either side of the crest with two stars and sword inside.
By the end of the evening, Lottie had only finished the one bottle and the knife; Andrea had done the snuffbox, two knives and a bottle. The two second years left the office after curfew with an excuse note from Palmyitor.
The girls passed a deserted classroom. The door was only open a crack, but Lottie noticed some shadows, flickering and changing shape in the torchlight. Who would be out so late after hours? And more importantly was it for good intentions? “Oh!” she exclaimed, reaching into her pocket. “I left my wand in Palmyitor’s office,” she lied. “I’ve got to go back and get it.”
Andrea narrowed her eyes. “Oh. Okay. Er--do you need the note?”
“Well…” Lottie sighed overdramatically, “I guess I don’t need it. I’ll just dodge anybody I see.”
“Oh. No.” Andrea pushed the note into her hands. “Here, take this. I’ll meet you at the dormitory.”
“See you,” said Lottie on her way back through the hall. She kept walking until Andrea was well out of earshot and then crept back up to the open door.
“The Dark Lord doesn’t have to find out,” a low voice said. “He can just think the Palmyitors died, or something, if he even notices that they’re gone at the next meeting.”
“You can’t lie to him,” responded another voice. This one was a girl. “You may be trained in strategy, but you’d be absolutely pathetic at Occlumency. He always knows when somebody is lying. Not even the best of the Palmyitors could use Occlumency against him. And he’ll notice they’re gone. He always notices.”
“Well all I’m saying,” began the male’s voice, “is that the Dark Lord doesn’t need to find out. We’ll only get ourselves killed if we tell him. Who ratted the Palmyitors out anyways?’
“Must’ve been another Palmyitor. It’s just horrible, Michael. Ella was our best spy. I can’t believe the heads, especially Palmyitor, trusted her.” She laughed coldly. “Do you know how many plans the Dark Lord found out about because of her? Who knows where she is now…”
“Dead, that’s where,” Michael answered stiffly. “You know that the heads can’t do anything with traitors like us once they find us out so they just kill us.”
Lottie held her breath, her hands shaking so violently in her pockets that her wand fell to the ground. The traitors’ conversation stopped. Lottie snatched her wand and began running, until—
“Hey, you! What’re you doing out after hours?” The girl came out of the opened door with an illuminated wand in Lottie’s face. She wore a red prefect vest.
Lottie hid her shiver well and took a deep breath. “I was working with Palmyitor,” she said, handing her note to the traitor.
“Lottie Rowe and Andrea Woolbright?”
“Andrea went to the common room,” Lottie lied coolly. “I left my wand in Palmyitor’s office so I had to go back.” The words were escaping her lips like water flowing out of a faucet. It was almost like the truth.
“How long have you been here?” asked the prefect with raised eyebrows.
“Just walking by.” Lottie pulled out her wand. “Got my wand, so now I’m heading back to the common room.” The prefect couldn’t find any signs of deception in Lottie’s blank stare.
“Fine,” she said, handing the note back. “Hurry up and go back to your dorm.”
Lottie smiled. “Thanks!” she said and trotted down the corridor, trying to seem completely unaffected. Once at the stairs, Lottie began running. She reached the clock in no more than a minute and clambered into the common room. She ran down the stairs and into her dorm.
Everybody was already asleep. Lottie changed into her pajamas and fell into bed.
“Lottie?” Andrea’s voice came from the next bed.
“Did you find your wand?”
“What? Oh. Yeah. I did.” Lottie paused. She didn’t like lying to Andrea. “If I tell you a secret, you can’t freak out. Okay?”
“I ran into some other students. I don’t know who they are. One of them was a prefect and one was named Michael. I think they were traitors too. And from how they talked, it sounded like there are a lot more traitors in the school.”
Next to her, Lottie heard the rustling of sheets. “Andrea?” she whispered. “Andrea, what are you doing?”
“Do you still have that note?” Andrea asked as she pulled her robes over her head.
“Andrea, no. You said you wouldn’t freak out!”
“I’m not freaking out,” Andrea responded. “I’m being responsible.”
“What’s going on?” asked Sophie from across the room.
“Why are we awake?” came Julianne’s voice.
“I’m going to see Palmyitor,” Andrea whispered back.
“It can’t wait until tomorrow?” asked Sophie.
“No, it can’t.” Andrea got up and stood in the doorway. “I’ll be back soon. Just go to bed.” She slammed the door behind her.
Lottie groaned and fell back into bed. “Just go back to bed, guys. She’s not coming back soon.”
“What’s up with her?” asked Julianne.
“She’s just nervous,” Lottie said. “And she’s not going to rest until she thinks she’s finished playing the hero.”
Alder with Unicorn, 14 1/2 inches, slightly springy
Re: Halfway to Infinity
Chapter Fifteen: the Inspection
“All students will report to the Great Hall immediately.”
Lottie was barely up for breakfast when she had to throw on her uniform and run back to the Great Hall. Chaos ensued in the hall. The teachers were clearly trying to line the students up in an organized manner, but the students were far too frantic to obey.
Lottie ran over to Andrea, who she spotted waiting patiently by the Palmyitor table. “What’s going on?” she asked. “Not Death Eaters again, right?” Realization suddenly dawned on her. “Andrea, please don’t tell me that this is because--”
“I don’t know anymore than you do,” Andrea snapped. “And be quiet. You’re only helping the pandemonium.”
Palmyitor rushed by, tucking her flyaway hair behind her ears. “Organize yourself!” she shouted. “Each House stand by their table and line up by year. First years closest to the door and seventh years closest to the staff table!” Only a fraction of the students heard the demand. Those who actually knew what to do moved slowly and sluggishly.
“Alright come on!” Andrea stepped out of the line. “Palmyitors, line up in order of year! Hurry up!” For such a small person, she could yell surprisingly loud.
The Palmyitors listened. The older students seemed so impressed that a second year would stand up to an entire House that they listened to her. They all shuffled to their spot in line and waited for the other Houses to figure out what they needed to do.
“Well I’m impressed,” Lottie told Andrea when she finished directing. “Move over Stanley! The future prefect is ready to take over.” Lottie was impressed. Every now and then she noticed Andrea, so often reserved, break out and become the leader of the pack. For a split second, Lottie felt a surge of jealousy. She wished that everybody would listen to her.
“Shut up!” Andrea smacked Lottie playfully on the shoulder, suddenly snapping her back to reality.
Maelioric stood in the middle of the hall, patiently waiting for the students’ babble to die away. “Thank you all for cooperating so early in the morning,” he said to the students. “I assure you this shouldn’t take long. We’ll have you to your classes in no time. We are just going to perform a simple spell on each of you in turn. The easier you make this for us, the easier it will be for you. After that we will either tell you to sit down and enjoy your breakfast quietly or follow one of the teachers to a chamber a little ways down the corridor.”
Teachers stood at the front of each line, waiting. “This does have to do with last night, doesn’t it?” Lottie whispered.
Andrea put a finger to her lips.
“You ratted them out!” Lottie shouted and put a hand over her mouth after receiving some nasty glares from the working professors. “Oh you promised me you wouldn’t freak out!”
“I didn’t. I was much more calm than you are. I just did what was right. Now shut up.”
Lottie opened her mouth to retaliate, but shut it when she noticed Breckenridge, Palmyitor, Maelioric, Clynalmoy, Gabaldon and Dyer all standing at the front of the lines with their wands out. They must have been doing Legilimency, Lottie realized. She made a note to avoid these teachers when she had a secret.
Distantly, she heard a professor hiss, “Legilimens!”
There was a collective wince from the first years who were being inspected. Lottie grimaced sympathetically; a lot of these first years have probably never experienced Legilimency before.
Lottie craned her neck to see the Clynalmoy line. The prefect she had seen the night before shifted her weight uncomfortably. Smirking, she turned back to the Palmyitor line. All of the students who had been checked were now shakily eating breakfast. Not surprising, since the teachers had just finishing going through the first years and Death Eaters hardly would target first years as spies.
Lottie’s stomach grumbled with hunger. She didn’t want to be the target of Legilimency, but she was hungry enough to comply.
The professors moved steadily down the line. Breckenridge was one person ahead of Lottie and just finishing up. As he turned to her, Lottie took a deep breath and attempted to clear her mind.
“Legilimens,” said Breckenridge, pointing his wand at her.
The familiar sensation of a forced flashback ensued. She pulled herself through the tiny corridor; knives chased her through the secret chamber; she examined a bottle in Palmyitor’s office… And suddenly it stopped. Her mind was blank. There was nothing left for Breckenridge to find.
Suddenly, the flashes of scenes started again. Only this time they weren’t her memories. She was tall and muscular, standing in front of Palmyitor’s desk. The actual scene was hard to make out; it was much more blurry than her own memories, but anxiousness ran through her like a hurricane. Lottie could hear whispering from across the desk. This had never happened before… There had never been traitors at the school before – no, they had never discovered traitors at the school before. Who knew how many students had betrayed the school.
The memories stopped. Everything was black again until Lottie was dragged back to the present by Breckenridge’s voice. “Impressive, Rowe,” he said with a chortle. He patted her heavily on her shoulder. “Go and shut up that stomach of yours.”
Lottie smiled sheepishly and sat down at the Palmyitor table, waiting for Andrea’s turn to be over. What had just happened? She had just been Breckenridge, she knew it, but how?
Andrea sat down next to her. “Well that was uneventful,” she said casually. “Why did they have to check me? Would they really think that the--”
“That the person who ratted out the traitors would turn out to be a traitor herself?”
Andrea glared at her. Lottie smirked. “That’d be interesting, wouldn’t it?” she continued. “How clever though. Nobody would suspect you.”
“What are you trying to say?” asked Andrea seriously.
“Oh you know what I mean! Oh.” Palmyitor shushed her on her way down the Maelioric line. Most of the teachers had finished checking the third years and were moving onto the fourth years.
They were getting to the upperclassmen. The real threat. They had to check the lowerclassmen, just to be sure, but the chances of a first year being a Death Eater were rather slim.
Finally, the first culprit was caught. A burly fourth year Maelioric was escorted (rather roughly) out of the hall. Lottie shivered. Andrea put her fork down and stopped eating.
“What?” Lottie teased. “Feeling guilty?”
“No,” Andrea said shakily. “N-not at all.”
Another fourth year, a Clynalmoy this time, was caught. Another followed. How many traitors could there be? And even if they were using Legilmency, what about the Palmyitors who knew Occlumency?
They were on the sixth years now. Lottie poured her milk into her cereal silently. How did Death Eaters find the students anyways? Wasn’t the school well protected?
Out of all of the Houses, Palmyitor was definitely taking the heaviest blow. It was the smallest to begin with, and now had lost two fourth years, a fifth year, four sixth years and seven seventh years.
Now the entire House had been checked. The Palmyitors settled at the much emptier table to watch the uncovering of all of the traitors. Lottie pitied the first years. They hadn’t even been at Alsemore a week and now had to watch something as traumatizing as this.
From the Maelioric table, Colm smirked at Lottie and Andrea. “Oh look at him,” Lottie snarled. “How can he be so smug during something like this? I’m surprised that he’s not a traitor.”
“Don’t say things like that,” Andrea hissed.
Finally, all (or Lottie hoped all) of the traitors were uncovered. The students sat in silence, waiting for a teacher to say something.
Palmyitor cleared her throat. “I’m sure that was just as unnerving for you as it was for us,” she said calmly. “And I’m sure that you all have heard some form of what’s going on.”
A rumble of nervous whispering erupted in the hall.
“Traitors were discovered in the school. Several, in fact. We never would have found out, were it not for one student.” Another burst of murmuring overtook the hall. Lottie felt Andrea shift uncomfortably in her seat. “The identity of that student will remain a secret, but know that if you happen to learn something like this, you must tell the school or be considered a traitor yourself.”
“Wow,” Lottie breathed. “A bit harsh, isn’t it?” Anxiety flooded her. What if they found out about the robes and the snakeskin?
“Classes will continue as normal today,” Palmyitor announced. The bell for classes rang. “It’s second period now.”
Lottie stood up and picked up her bag. Andrea didn’t move. “Andrea?” Lottie asked. “Are you coming?”
“What?” Andrea looked up. “Oh. Yeah. I’ll be right there.”
It was Andrea’s turn to have a quiet day. She didn’t speak a word, not even in Charms, her best subject.
Lottie sat in the common room alone that night. Andrea was nowhere to be found. All of the other Palmyitors (the few that were left after the purge) shared her melancholy.
Suddenly, Stanley stood up from and clapped his hands together. “Come on, guys!” he said almost desperately. “This isn’t that bad! We can pull through and--”
“Stan,” Langley grunted from the corner. “Do us all a favor and shut up.”
If Stanley was upset, he hid it very well. Blank faced, he collapsed back onto the couch and stared moodily at the fire for the rest of the night.
Suddenly fed up with being alone, Lottie turned to Julianne and Sophie who were both staring blankly at their Potions books. “Hi.”
“Hi,” they echoed dully.
“Have-have you seen Andrea?” Lottie asked, trying to sound casual.
Sophie shook her head. “I saw her in the common room earlier,” Julianne said, picking her head up from her book. “But she left right when a few more people came in.”
Lottie rested her head in her palm and tried to sit silently with her classmates, but only went two minutes before getting frustrated and leaving.
Downstairs in the dormitories, Lottie found Andrea’s bed empty. She must have been in the shower. A folded piece of parchment sat on her neatly-made bed. It was probably just homework, but then where were her books?
Lottie glanced around. Nobody was in the dorm. Nobody would know if she read it. What would be the harm? She picked up the parchment. It wasn’t homework, but a letter. Lottie wanted to put it down, but despite her best intentions, found her eyes glued to the page.
Dear Mum and Dad,
How have you been? School’s been okay. Second year is a lot more challenging than first year was.
I’m writing because I’m in a dilemma and I don’t know who I can tell. Lottie and I found some girls to be traitors. They were working for Death Eaters. We went to the head of our House immediately, of course. Today we had a school meeting, where they uncovered an unnerving amount of people to be traitors as well.
The caught traitors have been taken away. I don’t know where they went, but presumably they were killed because once somebody is exposed to the school, they can’t be let go.
I don’t know what to do now. I know what I did was right, but I have caused the death of several of my schoolmates. I might as well have killed them with my own hands.
I can’t talk to anyone about this problem. The teachers are cold and unfeeling and if I reveal myself to any students, I run the risk of being killed by traitors who were not caught.
The only person who knows what I’ve done is Lottie. I can’t even talk to her, though, because she told me not to tell anybody in the first place. I don’t know. Maybe she was right.
Please write back. I really don’t know what to do and I could use your advice. Send Helen my love.
Lottie folded the letter and put it back on her bed, now regretting her decision to read it. If Andrea couldn’t talk to Lottie, did she even consider them best friends like she did? Lottie changed silently into her pajamas. Whose fault was it? If Andrea hadn’t told, what would have happened?
Lottie fell into bed and closed her curtains. The door opened and somebody walked in, smelling strongly of soap.
“Andrea?” Lottie asked.
Now was her chance. All she had to do was apologize and everything would be okay again.
Andrea paused as though waiting for Lottie to continue. Lottie heard a sigh through the curtains of her four-poster. “Goodnight, Lottie.”
Alder with Unicorn, 14 1/2 inches, slightly springy
Re: Halfway to Infinity
Chapter Sixteen: Neville Longbottom
Alsemore was quiet with so many people missing. Many older students had lost some good friends, so the hallways, usually buzzing with their laughter, were unusually silent. The younger students were petrified of being turned over to Death Eaters, so spent their days keeping their heads down, avoiding anybody’s gaze. Lottie grew so restless that she and Andrea spent hours in Palmyitor’s office sorting out the Dark objects.
“Rowe, you need to concentrate if you’re going to try and open anything,” Palmyitor scolded.
Lottie sighed. This was almost as bad as Charms tutoring the previous year. “I don’t think this stuff is ever going to open,” she replied bitterly.
“Well it must,” said Andrea cheerfully, “because whoever used this stuff had to open it, right?”
“Exactly.” Palmyitor pulled her wand out. “If you don’t want to be involved, you’re welcome to leave.”
“No, it’s okay.”
“Fine.” Palmyitor demonstrated a wand movement. “This movement, plus the incantation, Veldario, is used to remove the dark properties of an enchanted object. It’s not very powerful and works best with smaller objects.” She pulled out two old silver coins. “These coins have been cursed. If anyone but me touches it, it will burn. So go ahead and try.”
Feeling rather self-conscious, Lottie copied Palmyitor’s wand movements and said, “Veldario!”
She peaked over at Andrea’s work. Her coin was glowing brightly and shuddered so violently that it clanged against the desk. Lottie’s gave a feeble twitch.
“Alright,” Palmyitor said, leaning against her desk. Lottie did not like her smirk. “Go ahead and try to pick it up.”
Andrea reached warily for her coin and picked it up. Nothing happened. Feeling a little more confident, Lottie reached for hers.
“OW!” She dropped the coin, sending it clattering to the floor. Her palm was a bright pink.
Palmyitor sighed. “You never were very good at Charms,” she lamented. “Woolbright, you try that spell on everything. Rowe, you check the artifacts she’s finished for any noticeable change.”
Lottie glared at Palmyitor and sat down, waiting for Andrea to finish the first item. Maybe it was more fun for Andrea, who got to use her wand finally, but Lottie found the hours wasted in Palmyitor’s office hardly better than sitting in the lonely corridors alone. She picked up the knife Andrea had just charmed and tried to open it.
“No difference,” she said, setting it to the side.
They continued that cycle with every knife until Andrea picked up the small snuffbox, flicked her wand and muttered, “Veldario!” As she reached to pick up the nearest bottle, Lottie noticed it shake ever so slightly. Lottie tried to open it. It still stuck. She held it to her ear and shook it to check its contents. Something inside rattled, just loudly enough for her to hear it.
Biting her lip, Lottie stared at the snuffbox. Was there any harm in keeping it for herself? She should probably just tell Palmyitor right away. But then what would she do? Lottie would probably never see the snuffbox again and get no credit for finding it. The corners of her lips twitching, she imagined Palmyitor’s reaction when she revealed the snuffbox’s secrets to her. Hiding her smile at the thought, she said, “No difference,” and palmed the box and sliding it up her sleeve.
None of the other objects were any different. Lottie’s eyes unfocused as she tried to sound at least remotely interested.
“Well, I suppose we’ll try a more powerful spell in a few days,” Palmyitor said with a furrowed brow. “Merry Christmas, you two.”
“You too!” Andrea said cheerfully.
“Mmhmm.” Lottie made sure that the snuffbox was securely up her sleeve.
Andrea and Lottie left the office. Lottie let the snuffbox slide to her hand and pocketed it quickly. “So where do you want to go?” she asked casually.
“I don’t know. Do you still have homework to do before the break is over?”
“Are you kidding me? I haven’t even started!”
“Let’s go to the library then.”
“Sounds good to me,” Lottie agreed and followed Andrea to the library. Once they settled in two stiff wooden chairs, Lottie pulled out her History book and started an essay on the difference between old-fashioned communal schools and modern boarding schools. Andrea busily scribbled notes in her Charms book.
After about ten minutes of silent working, Andrea put her quill down. “I’ve got to go to the bathroom,” she said. “I’ll be right back.”
“Okay.” Lottie watched her leave and waited a few moments. Once the door clicked shut, she stood up and dashed to the Defense Against the Dark Arts shelf.
She scanned the rows of books quickly, finally deciding on The Destruction of Dark Magic by Wilhelm Waldvogel. Tucking the dusty book under her arm, she darted from bookshelf to bookshelf until finally settling at her table and cracking the book open. She only had time to flip through a few pages and spot a particularly nasty illustration of an unfortunate man being killed by a charmed egg beater before Andrea wandered back into the library.
Panic rose to Lottie’s chest. She couldn’t let Andrea see her with this book out; there was no other explanation as to why she was doing extra research on Defense Against the Dark Arts, one of her least favorite classes. Andrea was only a table away. At a complete loss, Lottie picked up the heavy book, slipped it on her chair and sat on it before picking her quill back up and pretending to be engrossed in her essay.
Andrea flipped through her own History textbook and looked up at Lottie quizzically before asking, “Are you taller than usual?”
Lottie awoke with a start. The dorm was dark. She opened her four-poster to find everyone else sleeping peacefully. What time was it? One? Two? Lottie got out of bed, shivering as her toes skimmed the ice-cold, stone floor. Why not just go back to bed? She didn’t have any classes the next day, so did it really matter if she was tired?
She opened her duffle and dug to the bottom. The snuffbox was cold against her fingers and it rattled as she pulled it out of the bag. She tried to open it, but the dusty box didn’t budge. Quietly, she picked up the book on dark objects from the library and pulled a sweater on over her grey pajamas.
The common room was empty, save for Langley snoring on the sofa. Lottie crept past with her snuffbox and her book. The corridor outside was deserted as well. The torches that lined the hall were all extinguished. Only the moonlight from the scattered windows lit her path. She didn’t dare light her wand, in case of wandering prefects.
She headed up a narrow staircase to a deserted classroom that Stanley told her about on the fourth floor. The fourth floor was lit with torches. That must have meant that there were teachers and prefects patrolling. Lottie tip-toed towards an open door a little ways down the corridor.
“Are you sure you saw somebody in the staircase, Emma?” Lottie froze. She could hear footsteps coming up the stairs. The voice sounded like Professor Stainthorpe’s.
“Yes.” That was definitely Professor Gabaldon.
Lottie held her breath and ran to the door of the deserted classroom, trying in vain to keep her clunky footsteps light against the stone floor. She held her breath until the voices passed.
“She was definitely a girl and fairly small. Maybe a second or third year, I would guess,” said Gabaldon. “And the only dorm close to that staircase is the Palmyitor common room.”
Gabaldon was getting quieter. The pair must have turned a corner because Stainthorpe’s “Let’s check one floor up,” was barely audible.
Lottie released her breath and opened the library book. There must have been some spell in it that could help her open the locked snuffbox, especially now that it had lost most of its dark properties.
Lottie thumbed through the book and tried what must have been ten spells. Maybe the spells actually would have worked, but she was just so bad at Charms that it didn’t work for her.
“Open, stupid thing!” she shouted, shaking the snuffbox. “Okay, if this spell doesn’t work, I’m giving Andrea a try,” she said aloud as she opened the book to a random page.
The spell illustrated was “Abnochio.”
Lottie couldn’t exactly tell what the moving illustration of the cursed object was doing, but it looked somewhat similar to the spell Andrea had practiced earlier that day. The book’s explanation of the spell was also less than helpful.
In cases such as uncursing curséd objects, it often assists the witche or wizard in question to focus solely on the draining of magick properties from the object. The novices of magick who cannot yet refine the subtly of this art tend to, after performing the proper wriste movements, literally pull the Darke Magick from the object.
Rather puzzled by the difficultly deciphered book description, Lottie followed the wrist movement illustrated by the moving drawing on the page and yelled, “Abnochio!” For a moment nothing happened until she, realizing what the book had said about “novices of magick,” started to pull her wand away from the snuffbox.
Lottie gasped. It was as though an invisible string was holding her wand and the snuffbox together. She pulled hopelessly for a few moments before feeling something snap.
The snuffbox opened. Shocked at her own achievement, Lottie dropped her wand. She scrambled to pick it up, keeping eyes fixed on the box. It wasn’t magical anymore. What was she afraid of?
Lottie suddenly wished that Andrea was with her to pick up the box and inspect it herself. Lottie inched towards the box and prodded it with her wand. Nothing happened.
Tentatively, she picked up the box and peered inside. The culprit of the rattling fell into her fingers. It was a charm, or maybe a figurine. It depicted a great majestic bird, intricately carved to spread its wings with its head facing the ceiling as though nobility waiting to be dealt a deadly blow. Or maybe it was flying. Lottie turned the figurine so its face was staring at her. Now it looked like it was in flight, cutting through the air like a curse.
The figure was about half the height of Lottie’s palm. It had a dull silver shine that made the bird seem as though it were moving, eyes glinting with life when it caught the moonlight. It was icy to the touch and no matter how long Lottie held it in her palm, it remained cool.
Something else was in the snuffbox. Lottie tapped the bottom of the box, causing yellowed parchment to fall out and drift to the floor. She scrambled to pick it up and unfolded it. The fading ink was hardly readable on the darkening parchment. Lottie held it under the light from the window.
The location of the headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix is Number Twelve Grimmauld Place.
Lottie stared at the note. It seemed so important, but she didn’t know why. The Order of the Phoenix was the group dedicated to fighting the Dark Lord, she knew that. But then who was Neville Longbottom, and where was Grimmauld Place?
She carefully folded the note and slipped it into her pocket. She didn’t know what she planned to do when she got to the dorm, but she couldn’t stay here until morning and be caught by a teacher.
Keeping the bird figurine safely in her palm, Lottie crept back down the corridor. She didn’t meet any teachers or prefects on her way back, but did have a rather close call with a temperamental portrait.
The common room was empty this time; Langley must have woken up and gone back to his dormitory. Lottie inched down the stairs and down the hall to her dormitory, carefully avoiding the squeaky spots; she couldn’t afford to be caught out, not with what she was carrying.
Lottie pushed the door open slowly. Relieved to find everybody asleep, she continued to tiptoe past Andrea’s bed to hers.
“Honestly Lottie? Again?”
Lottie whipped out her wand and spun around. “Lumos!” The bird figurine clattered to the floor. “Oh, it’s just you,” she sighed, spotting Andrea, sitting up in her covers.
Andrea stepped out of her bed. “Just me? What are you doing here? I hope you aren’t making these late night ventures a habit.”
“No, no, don’t worry about it.” Lottie casually dropped her wand. “Oops!” She fell to her knees and picked it up, snatching the figurine along with it. “Come on, let’s just go to bed before Julianne and Sophie wake up.”
“You’re up to something,” Andrea said slyly.
“Andrea--no--let’s just go to bed. It’s not a big deal.” Lottie sat down on her bed. “Sophie and Julianne get so worked up when we wake them up late at night.”
“When you wake them up late at night,” Andrea corrected. “Well I’m not going to shut up until you tell me what you’re doing. As a matter of fact…” She made a face. “I’m just going to talk as emphatically as I possibly can until--”
“Okay!” Lottie stared restlessly at Julianne, who turned over in her sleep. “Okay, but not here, alright?” She pocketed the figurine and note from Neville Longbottom and snuck out of the dormitory. Andrea followed her down the corridor and into the deserted seventh years’ dorm.
“What are we doing here?” Andrea asked with a shiver. “Can’t we go to the common room? This place gives me the creeps.”
“Because we can’t be overheard,” Lottie answered, shutting the door behind her. “Nobody would dare come in here after what happened.”
“Except you,” Andrea pointed out.
“Well, yeah, but I’m--” Lottie sighed. “Yes, except me,” she said hurriedly. “But that’s not important!” She took a breath. Could she really trust Andrea? “Okay, this is a big secret,” Lottie said seriously. “It’s not like last time. You really can’t tell anyone. And if you do, we’ll both be in trouble.”
Andrea raised her eyebrows. “What did I do?”
“Well, nothing,” Lottie said cautiously. “But if you do tell someone, I’ll never talk to you again.”
“Oh yeah, I’m sure,” Andrea breathed with a wave of her hand.
“I’m serious, Andrea! I wouldn’t be happy either, but I’m serious. You really can’t tell anyone about this. I’ll never say a word to you again if you do! Okay?”
Andrea bit her lip for a moment and glanced around at the deserted dorm. “But what--”
Andrea stared at Lottie. She didn’t want to lose her best friend, but she couldn’t keep a secret that would prevent them from ending the war.
“Fine,” Andrea said solemnly. “I won’t tell anyone.”
“Swear on your life?”
“Yes!” Andrea sighed a stream of air slowly. “I swear,” she added at Lottie’s raised eyebrows.
“Okay.” Lottie glanced at the door and the windows. “So remember when we were checking the dark objects with Palmyitor?” Andrea nodded. “Well--I took this.” Lottie pulled out the empty snuffbox.
Gasping, Andrea snatched the box from Lottie’s hands. “You stole this? Lottie, you’re going to get expelled! We need to take this back to Palmyitor. What if it’s really important?”
“Well then we can deal with it. We know enough, don’t we? -- Don’t answer that.” She pulled out the bird figurine. “I managed to open it,” she added. “Funny that you couldn’t and I could, right?”
Andrea set her jaw. “Yes, how funny,” she growled through clenched teeth. “What spell did you use? I do hope it wasn’t illegal.”
“Oh give it up,” Lottie dismissed. “There are no rules in times like this.”
Andrea glowered up at her.
“But there’s more,” Lottie said. “Inside was this.” She showed Andrea the trinket.
Andrea seemed not to breathe as she pulled the bird from Lottie’s hands. “It’s a phoenix!” she exclaimed. “It’s a majestic sculpture, isn’t it? So detailed!”
“A phoenix?” Lottie repeated.
“It’s a bird… obviously. A magical bird that’s born from the ashes when it dies.”
“Oh! Like the Order of the Phoenix! I get it!”
Andrea rolled her eyes. “Yes, exactly,” she said. “I wonder if they’re connected.”
“They are,” Lottie said confidently. “This was in it too.” She showed Andrea the scrap of parchment.
“Oh wow… wow!” Andrea read the parchment several times. “How long have you been keeping this?”
“I just found it,” Lottie answered. “What do you think it means?”
“Well that’s a bit obvious, isn’t it? It means that the location of the Order of the Phoenix is at Grimmauld Place. Of course, I have no idea who Neville Longbottom is, but--”
“Who cares?” Lottie interrupted. “We just need to find Grimmauld Place and find the Order.”
“But do you really think that they’re still there?” Andrea asked skeptically. “I’d guess that this was made before the war ended. If the Order had been reformed, I’m sure the heads would know about it, right?”
“Maybe,” Lottie said. “But we’d find valuable stuff there anyways, even if it was abandoned.”
“But how would we find it?”
“I don’t know.”
Andrea sat down on one of the abandoned beds and put a fist to her chin. “Well, since you won’t let me tell anyone,” she said coldly, “what we need to do is find this Grimmauld Place and see if we can find any information that could help our side.”
“Okay,” Lottie agreed. “Then let’s go to the library tomorrow to see if we can find its location.”
Lottie and Andrea spent nearly all of their free time for months in the library, searching for information on the Order of the Phoenix. Unfortunately, no books had been published on the Order, since the Death Eaters chose what could be published and what couldn’t. So all of the information Lottie and Andrea found was in handwritten essays.
Day after day, Lottie struggled over the rushed and cramped handwriting on fading parchments as her boredom grew to an unbearable level. Even Andrea was hardly keeping up on her homework, because she spent all of her time searching. The afternoons in the stuffy library were absolutely intolerable. Sunlight shone through the narrow windows and sapped all of Lottie’s energy as she sluggishly searched for anything that might give her some sort of clue.
“I give up,” Lottie said after a particularly long dinner in early February, throwing a scroll of parchment to the floor. “This has taken months and we’re still not getting anywhere. I’m exhausted and--” She stopped. Andrea hadn’t said a world. Lottie wasn’t used to ranting without interruption. “Andrea?”
Andrea looked up, eyes wide. “I found it,” she whispered.
Andrea pulled off her glasses, rubbed them on her sweater and put them back on. “Here, see? Secret Keepers are a vital part of the Fidelius Charm. The Fidelius Charm is used to magically conceal people and places until the chosen Secret Keeper reveals the location.”
“So what?” Lottie asked. “We’re looking for Neville Longbottom, remember?”
“Don’t you get it?” Andrea asked, slapping her palm against the table anxiously. She lowered her voice. “The Order of the Phoenix was located at Number Twelve Grimmauld Place and Neville Longbottom was their Secret Keeper. Nobody can see Grimmauld Place except for people who were told the secret. And now that we found the note from him, assuming that it’s actually from him, we know the secret too.”
Alder with Unicorn, 14 1/2 inches, slightly springy
Re: Halfway to Infinity
Chapter Seventeen: Andrea’s Discovery
Another Valentine’s Day rapidly approached and the students of Alsemore were allowed to visit Odin Alley again to refill their supplies.
With careful planning, Lottie and Andrea managed to cut every line and gather their toiletries and school supplies as quickly as possible. Andrea, who was quite smaller than even most first years, slipped through breaks in the line and collected everything before anybody noticed that she was there. By the time they reached the room where they could choose one object for themselves, everybody else was still waiting in line for a new bar of soap.
It was eerily quiet in the room of miscellaneous items. Andrea and Lottie pushed right past the shelves of books, potion ingredients and chess sets and stopped in front of the Defense Against the Dark Arts materials. “I don’t know what any of this is,” Lottie said slowly.
“Well—er—that’s a Sneakoscope,” Andrea replied. “But that’s the only thing I can identify. How are we supposed to choose one?”
“Let’s just take evrything,” Lottie said, picking up the Sneakoscope.
“Lottie!’ Andrea grabbed it back. “We’re only allowed to have one thing per person, remember?”
“Well nobody’s here right now.” Lottie smiled at Andrea’s disapproving glare. “It’s going to an important cause isn’t it?”
Andrea picked up a small mirror. “I suppose,” she muttered.
“Here, come on.” Lottie started filling her bag with one of every object she could get a hold of. “Oh don’t tell me you’ve never done this before,” she said to Andrea, who was still holding the mirror.
Andrea didn’t glance over her shoulder as she slid the mirror into her pocket, but glared at Lottie instead. “I told myself I’d never do this again when I left,” she hissed under her breath. Lottie didn’t need to ask what she was talking about; she had told herself that she’d try to stop stealing when she left the camp also. That hadn’t worked out as well as she had wanted, but it was all in an effort to win the war, wasn’t it?
“Hurry up,” Lottie answered in response to Andrea’s glares. “Everybody will be showing up soon.”
Sure enough, seconds later, Palmyitor pushed the doors open and stood in the doorway. “Rowe? Woolbright?”
Lottie nearly panicked, but recovered quickly and dropped everything that she hadn’t managed to tuck away and spun around, smiling innocently. Andrea wasn’t doing as well, though, and froze with her back to Palmyitor.
“What are you doing here already?” Palmyitor asked with a raised eyebrow.
“We wanted to get here first,” Lottie lied coolly. “Last year we didn’t get very good choices because everybody else got here before us.” She was grateful that Palmyitor was staying in the doorframe. If she got any closer, she might have been able to detect Lottie’s lies through Legilimency. Or see the hidden Dark detectors up her sleeve. “So this year we-er-cut the lines a bit and got here early.”
Andrea turned around just enough so Palmyitor could see her nodding vigorously.
Smiling knowingly, Palmyitor said, “Alright. Well, remember, only one item per person.”
Lottie picked out a nice shield cloak and stuffed it in her bag. She turned to Andrea, whose hands were shaking, and stuffed another one into her hands. “No, see, this cloak is the same thing we wanted last year, but they were all taken,” she said slightly too loudly, checking to make sure that Palmyitor was listening out of the corner of her eye. “It might be a little too small, but hey none of those little first years’ jinxes could reach the top of our heads anyway, right?”
Andrea gave her a puzzled look, but didn’t protest. She folded her new cloak and slipped it into her bag and left through the other door with a glance back at Palmyitor.
“I really can’t stand lying,” she said through gritted teeth.
“I think you’re in the wrong House,” Lottie chuckled. “You’re going to be horrible at disguises.”
“Not that you’re very good at much else,” called a voice from behind them.
Lottie didn’t need to turn around to guess who it was. Nobody else she knew made remarks that stupid. “You know, Scrivener, there are other people in this school besides us,” she said, with her back still to him.
“Well, yes, but nobody else is wandering around this early with nothing to do, are they? What did you do wrong?”
“And what exactly are you doing?” Gritting her teeth, Lottie spun around and reached for her wand. “Just looking for trouble?”
“I just ran into you, if that’s what you were asking,” Colm answered swiftly. “I was wondering what you were doing out so early, considering that you’ve already gotten everything before most people are even halfway finished.” He paused. Lottie held out her wand so that Colm could see it. “So what have you been up to? Stealing?”
Lottie was about to open her mouth to retort, when Andrea spun around and shouted, “Shut up! Just shut up, will you? And leave us the hell alone!” Colm looked stunned for only a moment, but then pulled out his own wand.
Before he could even open his mouth to say an incantation, Andrea flicked her wand very matter-of-factly and muttered an incantation that Lottie didn’t recognize. Colm smirked at first when Andrea put her want down.
“See? Like I said, you’re not good at--” A chunk of dirty blonde hair fell from his head.
Immediately, Lottie doubled over with laughter. Andrea chuckled too and tucked her wand away.
Colm, rubbing his brand new bald spot glared at them. “You--you’re going to pay for this!” he shouted.
Lottie’s laughter brought her to her knees. She pounded her fist against the cobblestones. “Really?” she gasped. “You think we’re scared of you? You can’t charm your way out of a paper bag!”
Andrea smirked. “Let’s go,” she said, helping Lottie to her feet. “I don’t want to hear him start crying.”
Lottie snorted through her laughter and began walking. Distantly, behind her, she heard, “Petrificus Totalus!”
Andrea limbs obeyed and snapped together as though Colm was pulling invisible puppet strings. Promptly, she fell to the ground, completely unable to move.
“Andrea?” Lottie fell to her knees and tried to pull Andrea’s arms from her body. They were completely stuck. “What did he do?”
Andrea clearly couldn’t move her mouth. Lottie glared up at Colm, who was now completely bald.
“I cannot believe,” she began, starting towards him, “that you would ever do something so-”
“Rowe!” Lottie stopped in her tracks. It was Palmyitor, of course.
“Rowe, what do you think you’re--” Palmyitor raised an eyebrow at Colm’s lack of hair. “Scrivener?”
“Woolbright did it,” Colm said, pointing at Andrea who was still lying a good ten feet away. “She just insulted me and insulted me and then--” He paused for dramatic effect. “Then she did this.”
Lottie exploded in laughter and rubbed Colm’s bald head. “Hey, I don’t think it’s that bad. It’s a pretty good look for you.”
“Rowe, that is very much enough.” Palmyitor pulled Lottie away from Colm by the back of her robes.
“Well what about Andrea, huh?” Lottie snapped. “She’s still lying there. She can hardly blink!”
Palmyitor sighed heavily and flicked her wand. Immediately, Andrea scrambled to her feet, shouting, “He’s lying, Professor! He provoked me! It’s completely his fault! His hair will grow back in two seconds; he did more harm to me! I nearly hit my head!”
“Be that as it may,” Palmyitor began, rubbing her temples, “you attacked him when you could have found a teacher.”
Lottie’s jaw dropped. “You can’t actually be saying--”
Andrea seemed to shrink. “I’m sorry, Professor,” she sniffed.
“Naesa?” Professor Stainthorpe ran down the alley. “What’s going on?”
“Oh, just second years dueling. No big deal,” Palmyitor said sarcastically. “Woolbright, of all people! Woolbright! She has detention tonight.”
“Oh, Naesa, you were hoping to take tonight off,” Stainthorpe said with a sideways glance at Andrea.
“Well, for the good of the school…”
“Don’t worry about it Naesa. I can take care of the detention tonight.” Stainthorpe smiled genuinely. “You take your night off.”
“Thank you, Marianne.” Palmyitor rubbed her eyes. “I need a few hours of free time for my own mental health.” She spun around on her heel and strode down the alley.
Stainthorpe turned to the three second years. “Scrivener, I suggest you find a teacher to help you back to the hospital wing to see what Professor Waterman can do with your hair.”
Lottie had to bit the inside of her lip until her eyes watered to stop herself from laughing.
“Can’t you do anything?” Colm asked.
“I’m afraid I don’t know how to grow hair,” Stainthorpe said carefully. “At least not with Professor Waterman’s efficiency.”
Colm glared at the professor and headed down the alleyway.
“Don’t worry, Woolbright,” Stainthorpe said calmly. “I’ll see you tonight after dinner.”
Flatware clattered against Andrea’s plate. She rested her face in her palms and sighed heavily.
“Oh stop being so over dramatic,” Lottie said bitterly, dropping a healthy sized dollop of mashed potatoes onto Andrea’s plate. “Detention is just detention. You’ll be out of it in two hours at most and then you can get back to the common room.” Andrea opened her mouth to speak, but Lottie stopped her before she could. “And you’ll forget about it in a month or so. So just eat and forget about it.”
Andrea spooned the mashed potatoes back onto Lottie’s plate. “Sure, it’s no big deal for you, but Palmyitor was so angry at me! I hope she’ll forgive me…”
Lottie stared at the mashed potatoes that had been unceremoniously plopped in front of her. “Of course she will. Her job is to be angry at people.” She turned her plate upside down over Andrea’s and watched the potatoes fall, splattering Andrea with potato bits.
Through gritted teeth, Andrea said, “Well Colm Scrivener didn’t get a detention.”
Lottie laughed sheepishly and wiped some of the potato goop off of Andrea’s glasses. “She probably guessed that having to walk by all of the older students completely bald was punishment enough. I’d take detention over that any day.” Lottie scowled. “Shame she let him fix his hair, really. I think he looked rather good bald.”
Andrea broke her glare and smiled. “I’m going to go,” she said. “I need to go change out of these clothes.”
Lottie followed a silent Andrea through the bustling Great Hall and down the stairs to the Palmyitor common room. Light from the glimmering fireplace danced across the shadowed dungeon floor, bathing Lottie and Andrea’s feet in a shimmering glow. “You can wait down here,” Andrea said, finally breaking the mind numbing silence. “I’ll be right back.”
Lottie collapsed onto her favorite chair and rested her head against the patched arm. She felt bad for Andrea, but continued coming to the same conclusion; she was being extraordinarily overdramatic. Detention is never fun, but it’s not like she was being asked to sacrifice her life.
Andrea came upstairs in jeans rolled up several times at the bottom and a shirt that came down to her knees. “I don’t know what I might have to do,” she whispered. “I don’t want to get my uniform dirty.”
“…Okay,” Lottie said, at a complete loss for words.
“You don’t have to come with me if you don’t want to,” Andrea muttered, turning towards the exit. “I’ll be back later tonight.”
Lottie sighed heavily. “Okay. I’ll see you tonight.” Andrea was halfway out of the common room, when Lottie added, “Have fun,” with a sly smile.
The door in the clock slammed. Lottie rested her head in her hands. She should have just stayed in the Great Hall and finished her dinner.
The door creaked open and Stanley stepped into the firelight. “Feeling sick?” he asked.
“Andrea has detention,” Lottie explained. “She wanted to change clothes or something.”
“Ah, the first detention.” Stanley nodded knowingly. “A milestone, I’d say. Who gave it to her?”
“I’ve yet to meet a seventh year who hasn’t gotten at least one from her.”
Lottie rolled her eyes, muttering, “Over-controlling--”
“I’d watch what you say,” Stanley said quickly. “She knows everything that goes on in this castle.”
“Well Andrea’s just over-reacting. I mean, it’s just detention. She was acting like it was the end of the world.”
“That type of person always takes it a little too seriously.” Stanley paused as the door opened and Langley poked his head in. “Look, I’ve got to go. If Andrea’s upset when she gets back, tell her to talk to me.”
“Okay.” Lottie waved at his retreating back.
An hour and a half later, Lottie’s eyes were drooping when someone shouted, “I’m back!” Lottie’s head snapped up.
“Glad to see you enjoyed your detention,” Lottie grumbled, rubbing her eyes.
“Oh, it wasn’t bad at all!” Andrea sat down on the coffee table across from Lottie’s armchair. “We just worked on stuff for her class. I helped her grade the first years’ homework!”
“Yeah, well don’t get used to it. Most detentions aren’t like that.”
“Oh, I know,” Andrea said with a dismissive wave. “But I don’t plan on getting any more detention, anyway.”
“I wouldn’t be sure of that,” Lottie said. She lowered her voice and continued. “Palmyitor is always looking for an excuse to give detention.”
Andrea frowned and said, “Well I’ll just lay low around her.” She paused and, seeming to remember why she had been so excited in the first place, said, “Wait! But guess what!”
“I asked Stainthorpe what she knew about the Order of the Phoenix.”
Lottie turned away from the fire. “And?”
“She told me a lot. How they were trying to find the Dark Lord. Their headquarters was hidden magically by a—a Fidelius Charm.”
“We already knew that.”
“But now it just confirms it. So we know that nobody can see it unless if the person who’s been given the secret, the Secret Keeper, tells them! Longbottom must have written a bunch of these and handed them out so new Order members could see the location.”
“Wow.” Lottie tried to absorb all of that information at once. “So we found one of Longbottom’s original snuffboxes and now we can see Grimmauld Place, but nobody else can?”
“Not if we don’t show them the note.”
“Did she tell you anything else?”
“Yes!” Andrea scooted the coffee table closer. “The first Secret Keeper was Albus Dumbledore, but before he was murdered he switched it to someone else.”
“How did he know to switch?”
“Nobody really knows, I don’t think. People thing that maybe he was planning it with Severus Snape. He changed Secret Keepers so the Order could continue and grow even with him gone.”
“And the person he changed to was Neville Longbottom?”
By now the common room was empty.
“Probably not,” Andrea said. “Stainthorpe said that they switched a lot because the name of the Secret Keeper kept getting leaked.”
Andrea shrugged. “A spy?”
“So Neville Longbottom must have been the last Secret Keeper!” Andrea said triumphantly.
“Do you think he’s still at Grimmauld Place, then?”
“I doubt it. The Order was destroyed after the Dark Lord took over. I would guess he’s not alive anymore.”
“But Grimmauld Place is still there?”
“Well, if Longbottom didn’t tell any Death Eater, they’d never be able to destroy it. They’d never even be able to see it. But that’s not all Stainthorpe told me; apparently, the headquarters of the Order is in London.”
“Excellent! So we can go find it this summer!” Lottie paused and stared at Andrea for a moment. Everything was starting to fit together, but still one piece of the puzzle was missing. “But how would Stainthorpe know all of this?”
Alder with Unicorn, 14 1/2 inches, slightly springy
Re: Halfway to Infinity
Chapter Eighteen: Grimmauld Place
The end of the school year passed in a blur and before she knew it, Lottie was casting the last spell in her final exam.
“Good job, Rowe,” Stainthorpe said with a nod. “Have a nice summer.”
It felt as though a ball of tension was released in Lottie’s chest. “Thanks so much,” she said with a wave.
Andrea was waiting outside for her. “Are you ready?” she asked seriously.
“Yeah, my exam was fine, thanks,” Lottie muttered dryly.
Andrea stared at her disapprovingly,
“Ready for what?” Lottie sighed.
“We need to study up before we try to go to this Grimmauld Place,” Andrea said, thrusting a pile of dusty books into Lottie’s arms.
Lottie groaned loudly. “Are you kidding me? I just finished exams!”
“Well if you want to take your chances with nothing in the entire headquarters being dangerous, then I guess we don’t have to study. Or I could just tell Palmyitor about the note…”
“Fine!” Lottie shouted. “Okay, you win. Let’s go study. But how are we going to make it look normal that we’re studying right after we finished exams?”
Andrea looked as though she was going to throw her pile of books in Lottie’s face. “Okay, we won’t study tonight, but tomorrow we’ll find a place to start studying. Okay?”
Lottie grinned. “Sounds good to me!”
Weeks later, Lottie and Andrea were buried under books in an empty classroom. Lottie again was scheduled to have advanced Potions tutoring, and also Occlumency and Legilimency tutoring. Stainthorpe never approached her for remedial Charms classes, which was a big step up from the previous year. Andrea was taking Transfiguration and Charms and had already been recruited to be Seeker on a newly formed Quidditch team.
Having made sure that Lottie spent nearly every waking moment studying, Andrea was finally pleased with Lottie’s progress the day before they left for the camp. Neither of them was sure how to escape the group and get to Grimmauld Place. Andrea had found a spell from an ancient book that, she said, could direct her to any place as long as she had her wand.
Finally, the day arrived for the students to visit their families. Lottie didn’t fit in her old clothes anymore, so the teachers had to give her somebody else’s to wear. Andrea brought along her duffle and hid the soap and clean clothes with food. Stainthorpe trusted her enough to believe that there was only food in the bag with only one glance; luckily for them, Stainthorpe wasn’t a talented Legilimens and wasn’t able to tell that they were lying. Lottie hid the phoenix charm that she had found with Longbottom’s note in her pocket, figuring it would probably useful since it was somehow connected to the Order.
The day outside was clear and slightly too cold; the light didn’t shed onto the camps. Everything inside the fence was grey or brown and layered with dirt. Lottie and Andrea walked briskly past the parents huddled around the crying children, too focused on their goal to notice the misery around them. Once out of view of Stainthorpe, they broke into a run. “Where are we going to change?” Lottie panted.
Andrea stopped suddenly, pointing to a sewer entrance.
“No way,” Lottie said flatly. “I’m sorry, I’ve been down there before and I don’t ever want to go back. Do you know how many bodies are down there?”
“Well what else do you want to do? Change in the middle of the road?”
Lottie frowned and grabbed the bag from her. “Fine, let’s go, but can we please make this fast?” She stared down at the gutter with disgust and slipped down through the gutter – or tried to. After getting stuck halfway down, she had to get Andrea to help push her through until she could feel the rungs of a ladder beneath her.
Lottie gagged at the smell as they reached the bottom of the sewer. Andrea took the bag from her, pulled out her own clothes and threw the rest at Lottie. “Just change quickly,” she said. “Try to breathe through your mouth.”
Lottie tried to focus on changing, but out of the corner of her eye she noticed a body floating by, face down, in a stream of murky water. “How are we going to wash off this dirt?” she asked, determinedly not staring at the dead body. “If you say we’re going to use that water—” she pointed at the stream of water “—you’re sadly mistaken.”
“Of course not,” Andrea said as she pulled on her robe. “We’d catch the plague if we tried that. There are a few flasks of water in there. But try not to use all of it; I want to give some clean water to my family.”
“Right.” Lottie poured some water onto her hands and washed her face with the bar of soap. “Here.” She tossed the flask and the bar of soap to Andrea. As Andrea was washing her face, she asked, “How are we going to get the dirt back on when we’re going to school?”
“Oh, I’ve got some jars in there, don’t worry about it,” Andrea said, sarcasm dripping from every syllable. “Dirt comes from the ground, Lottie.”
Lottie laughed and rolled her eyes. Something down the corridor made a splashing noise. “EW!” Lottie backed up as close to the wall as she could. “What was that? Andrea, let’s get out of here.”
“Shut up!” Andrea whispered. “Do you want to get caught? Okay, do you have your wand?” Lottie nodded. “Right, me too. Okay. We have to go all the way down until – hold on.” Andrea waved her wand and hissed, “Discessio! Number Twelve Grimmauld Place.” Her wand tip lit up red.
“Great,” Lottie said sarcastically. “What does that mean?”
“It means we’re going in the wrong direction,” she said. “Hold on.” She turned in a slow circle until her wand finally turned green once she was facing the other direction. “Okay, we’re going that way.” She started to walk and stopped. “Light up your wand, will you?”
“Right.” Lottie pulled out her own wand. “Lumos.”
What she saw made her want to vomit. Not only did bodies litter the entire system, but various limbs were randomly strewn about as well. Something crunched under her foot; a human finger broke off the flesh of a rotting hand.
“Just don’t look at it,” Andrea said. “Look straight ahead.”
“How does all of this stuff get here?” Lottie asked, staring determinately at the tip of her wand.
“Well, the bodies have to go somewhere, don’t they? I bet the Death Eaters just shove everything down here every once and a while because they don’t know what else to do with them.
“How lovely,” Lottie remarked, carefully stepping over a decapitated body.
“Hold on, I think we’re getting close.” Andrea waved her wand around in a circle. It flashed bright green. “Okay, let’s go up the nearest ladder.”
Andrea went up first and waited for Lottie so she could help pull her out of the gutter. “Not quite like how it was when I was seven, eh? What were they thinking in making those so small anyway?” Lottie asked, rubbing her rib cage as she stood up.
“That they don’t want people to fall down it.”
The world outside was different. It was clean and the houses fairly looked well taken care of. Lottie turned around to inspect the entire neighborhood. It was completely deserted. Not even in the windows were there people bustling about doing their daily business.
“Where is everybody?” Lottie asked.
“I’m not sure,” Andrea said, scratching her head. “Maybe they’re – OH!” Her wand was flashing. “Hold on, I think we’re getting really close.” Lottie could feel the phoenix pendent starting to grow warmer in her pocket.
They broke into a run, Andrea holding her wand out in front of her, and Lottie clutching the pendant, which was now beginning to burn, in her pocket.
“Where are you going?” shouted a voice from the side.
Andrea gasped and dropped her wand. She fell to her knees to pick it up. A masked Death Eater grabbed the scruff of her robes. “Get up.”
Andrea scrambled to her feet. “I—I’m sorry, sir but—”
“You know the rules about being out,” the large Death Eater snarled. He pulled out his wand. “And you know the consequences.”
“Yes, sir, we’re sorry,” Lottie piped up. She kept her face blank and impassive. She was no great Occlumens, but she knew she could at least hide her emotions better than Andrea. “We meant to be home a long time ago, but we passed by the camps on the way and well… we couldn’t help ourselves.”
The Death Eater didn’t let go of Andrea’s robes. “And who are you?”
“We’re Greyback’s granddaughters!” Andrea said quickly. “Fenrir Greyback is our grandfather.”
The Death Eater waited a moment and then let go of Andrea’s robes. Lottie thought she could see his arm quiver. “Well run along home then,” he grunted. “And—er—don’t tell your mother about this. Go.”
Andrea leading the way, they turned a sharp corner and started running. “Thanks!” Lottie shouted behind her as they went.
Once they were out of earshot, they stopped running. “Who’s Greyback?” Lottie asked.
Andrea shrugged. “A Death Eater. And a werewolf too, I think. He died in the last battle.”
“Oh.” Lottie tried to make a mental note of that for the future. “Are we really off course now?”
“Not at all!” Andrea said gleefully. “I had my wand in my hand and I could see where it was pointing! You know, this is actually really thrilling!”
“I’d say,” Lottie growled. “Are we close?”
Andrea halted and stared straight ahead of her. “Very close,” she said through a grin.
A house – a manor – that had definitely not been there before was suddenly in front of them. Overgrown vines covered most of the front of the building; the lawn was completely yellow. “Welcome to Number Twelve Grimmauld Place!” Andrea said triumphantly.
Lottie went first. She ran up the aging stairs and pulled the door. It was unlocked. The phoenix charm was no longer pleasantly warm, but radiating so much heat that tears formed in the corners of Lottie’s eyes. “Damn it!”
“WHO DARES DISTURB MY HOUSE?”
Lottie jumped. “Who’s there?” she shouted, wand out.
“MUGGLES! IN MY HOUSE! INSULTING THE HONORABLE NAME OF BLACK!”
Andrea pointed towards a portrait behind moth-eaten curtains. “Look!”
An old woman in a portrait screeched, “FILTHY, DIRTY BLOOD IN MY HOUSE, DISTURBING MY PEACE!” The paint was dim and the canvas was dusty, but the woman’s eyes still looked so alive that Lottie actually believed that an actual person was being tortured on the other side of the wall.
“What do we do?” Andrea whispered.
“Well, it’s a portrait; I don’t think she can do anything.” Lottie looked around nervously. “It looks pretty deserted to me. Let’s go.”
Goosebumps crept up Lottie’s arms and neck as they crept through the house. “This is not at all what I had in mind,” she said, eyeing a wall of elf heads. “You would think a headquarters for an Anti-Dark Lord group would be a little less… evil looking.”
“Agreed.” Andrea stopped before a door. “Here, let’s go in here.” They entered a large drawing room.
After about thirty minutes of inspecting, they had a considerable amount of curious objects, including an old set of Defense Against the Dark Arts books with indistinguishable titles, bottles filled with mysterious liquids and a music box that they found Spellotaped to the bottom of a sofa; delicate curls of smoke started rising out of Lottie’s pocket.
“We should move on,” Andrea said quietly as to not wait the portrait that had finally shut up after fifteen minutes of screaming. “We don’t have much more time before we have to go back.”
They tiptoed back to the front entrance and up the stairs.
“Okay, let’s split up the upper rooms,” Lottie whispered.
They crept up the stairs and each went into their own separate rooms. The room Lottie ended up in was a bedroom. It was mostly empty, save for a large bed in the middle and a heap of what looked like brown rags. Lottie crept over to the bed and gasped at what she saw. The pile was not rags, but a tiny body of a frail looking creature with huge ears. Lottie gagged at the smell and turned around quickly, only scanning the room once before leaving the rotting carcass to its peace.
She trotted to the next bedroom. There were two empty beds along the wall and a portrait with no subject pinned up. To Lottie’s relief, there were no bodies in this room. She opened every drawer and cupboard that would open, only to find cobwebs. Finally, she dropped to her knees and checked under the beds. Light from the tiny window filtered through the dust and illuminated a tiny book beneath the closest bed. Lottie fell to her stomach and pulled the book out.
Her fingers brushed the leather book covering and immediately, the phoenix pendent in her pocket felt as though it was on fire. Tears in her eyes, she reached for the charm, to try and pull it out when—
“Find anything?” Andrea whispered from the doorway.
Lottie wrapped her hand around the journal, covering it completely and stared at Andrea as she climbed to her feet. The pendent still burned in her pocket, but she couldn’t pull it out without Andrea noticing. Why should she lie and not tell Andrea about the diary? Lying never got her anywhere last time and Andrea just found out soon enough anyway. The book was made of leather and had strings wrapped tightly around it, keeping it shut. What was inside? Probably something really important. “Nothing,” she said quickly. “I didn’t find anything, except for a few spiders.” She would tell Andrea after she inspected it a few times and then they would take it to Palmyitor, telling her that they found it somewhere hidden in the castle.
“I only found this.” Andrea held up a moth-eaten sweater with a large G on it. “Hardly of any value.”
“I wouldn’t worry. We still found a lot,” said Lottie casually. “Will it all fit in your bag?”
“I can try. And if worst comes to worst, I can just shrink our clothes.”
Once Andrea turned her back, Lottie slipped the diary back into her pocket. Everything else fit in Andrea’s bag, as it turned out, but packing lost them precious time. They were running late by the time they left the manor. The farther away from Grimmauld Place they got, the less the pendent burned. Lottie was extremely relieved to feel the chilly metal against the burn in her leg.
“We should,” Lottie panted, “see if one of the Death Eaters will—”
They stopped dead in their tracks. It was a Death Eater, but a woman this time.
“Help us back home,” Andrea said matter-of-factly. “We got lost.”
The woman paused for a moment before saying, “You know the rules about being out at this time.”
“Yes,” Lottie said, finally starting to wonder what time people were allowed out. “We were coming from a friend’s house and—”
The woman tsk-tsked from behind her mask. “I smell a rat,” she hissed. “Come with me.”
There was little either of them could do. Before they could ever reach for their wands, the woman had grabbed hold of their wrists and Disapperated.
Once the feeling of being pushed through a far-too-small space subsided, Lottie found herself in a cold room of stone. There were no windows. Lottie glanced over at Andrea, whose face was screwed up with concentration.
The woman led them to another room. This one had similar, stone, windowless walls, but was crowded with people. Unmasked Death Eaters sat and stood, laughed and conversed like normal people. Lottie found the sight extremely strange.
“Hey everybody,” the woman Death Eater croaked. “Look what I found wandering down the street.”
It didn’t take long for the Death Eaters to put their masks back on and return to their intimidating selves. The Death Eaters circled them. Andrea glanced at Lottie with hopeful eyes. Lottie couldn’t return any comfort.
“So who are you?” asked a low, male voice.
“We’re granddaughters of Fenrir Greyback,” Lottie said, praying that their supposed parents weren’t in the room. Judging by the lack of cries of disbelief, they weren’t. “We were leaving the manor of a friend when we ran into her.” Lottie jabbed her thumb in the direction of the woman who had caught them, but could not find her. She was lost in a sea of masks.
“And whose house were you at? Who would be stupid enough to let you out even when they knew it was against the Dark Lord’s Laws?”
Lottie stared at Andrea. Andrea opened her mouth, apparently out of Death Eater names.
“I recognize these girls,” a smooth voice said from the entrance of the door. He was old, probably in his eighties, with shoulder length grey-speckled black hair. “I’d recognize them anywhere. They’re students at the school.” The phoenix charm flared in Lottie’s pocket.
Lottie had little idea what he was talking about, but nodded anyway, trying to ignore the burning sensation on her leg.
“We were letting them visit their homes. I bet these two went to somebody else’s house. They’re always the trouble makers.”
“I’m not sure,” said the other Death Eater carefully. “You know the Dark Lord will have to hear about this.”
“Oh he will be told, be assured, White.” The stranger raised his eyebrows. “It is much easier, I know, to punish these girls under the school code rather than trying to take matters into your own hands. I doubt the Dark Lord would be pleased.”
The Death Eater – White – waited and finally said, “Right. Take them.”
The greasy haired man took both of them by the wrists. The man led them out of the room, and as they left, Lottie was sure she saw a flash of scarlet from the shadows. They went down two narrow, steep staircases and outside to where the deserted skyscrapers in the city almost completely blocked the sun.
Lottie wondered where they could be going and which side this man was really on. Was he taking them to see the Dark Lord? If he was, why didn’t he just leave them with the Death Eaters?
“You two should know better than to leave the camps like this,” snarled the man.
His overly long fingers dug into Lottie’s arm. “You’re hurting me,” she growled.
“That’s the least of the punishment you’ll get for this,” the man said. “I would enjoy this quiet while you can before Palmyitor gets a hold of you two.”
Lottie stared at him. He knew Palmyitor? “You—you’re taking us to Alsemore?”
“Of course I am. Don’t be daft.”
“Who are you?” asked Andrea bluntly.
“I wouldn’t worry about me,” said the man. “You’ll find out soon enough.”
They spent the rest of the walk in silence. Lottie was grateful to the man for saving them from the Death Eaters, but maybe Palmyitor’s punishment would be worse than the Dark Lord’s wrath.
Once they reached the camp, the man put on a Death Eater mask and let the girls into a house so they could change back into their Muggle clothes before letting them through the fence and marching them through the streets.
“Who’ve you got there?” asked a masked Death Eater in a thick cockney accent.
“A couple of brats tried to get over the fence,” the man said, digging his fingernails into their arms.
“Ooh, we should take ‘em to the ‘eadquarters them.” The stranger pointed his wand in Lottie’s face. It took a great deal of self-control to not reach for her own wand.
“It’s quite fine, Derrick,” the spy said calmly. “I can handle these two myself.”
The Death Eater made a grunt of disappointment and walked away.
“You two should be grateful that I didn’t just leave you there.” The man picked up his pace. Lottie almost had to run to keep up with him. The leather journal and the phoenix charm bounced in her pocket.
Finally, they reached the crumbling building where the students met every year. The man led them through the door and immediately they were greeted by Stainthorpe.
“There you are!” she shouted. “Where were you two?”
“We were,” Lottie began, but was immediately cut off by the spy.
“They were in the Death Eater headquarters,” he said. He took off his mask.
Stainthorpe froze. “Snape?” she whispered.
Lottie froze as well. Snape? The one who had murdered Dumbledore?
The corner of Snape’s mouth twitched. “Indeed, Miss—?”
“Stainthorpe,” she said quickly.
Snape smiled. “Of course,” he sneered.
Lottie had to bite her lip to stop herself from screaming. The heat from the pendent had grown so intense since the arrival of Snape that it was about three minutes away from burning a hole in her pants.
There was a loud crack from upstairs. Footsteps ran down the staircase and stopped in the doorway.
“So you found them!” Palmyitor said indignantly. “Where have you two been?” she demanded, emphasizing every word.
“They had taken it upon themselves to explore London and got themselves caught,” said Snape. “I found them at the London Headquarters.”
“Severus?” Palmyitor dropped her anger for a quick moment before quickly reassuming it. “Well thank goodness you found them.” She turned and stared at Lottie like some sort of bird of prey. “Rowe, what were you thinking? And Woolbright, I—”
“Please, Professor,” Andrea said quietly. “We—we had found information about the Order of the Phoenix.” Silence followed. “It—”
“Surely this is not a conversation to be having here,” interrupted Snape.
“Quite right, Severus,” Palmyitor said. “Meet me in my office.”
Snape grabbed Lottie and Andrea by the wrists and Disappearated.
Palmyitor’s office was hardly big enough to fit all three heads, Stainthorpe, Snape, Lottie and Andrea. The two girls shrank into the corner when they saw that both Maelioric and Clynalmoy had come too. Maelioric’s usually cheery demeanor was noticeably absent.
The adults turned to Andrea. “Continue,” Palmyitor said.
“We—Lottie had found a—a note from Neville Longbottom.” The adults exchanged significant glances. “It said ‘The location of the Order of the Phoenix is Number Twelve Grimmauld Place.’ We figured that Longbottom must have been the Secret Keeper. So we went to Grimmauld Place and checked it out. Everything we found is in my bag.”
Palmyitor swept over to Andrea and snatched her bag. “That was extremely foolish of you,” she hissed. “We have people trained to handle possibly dangerous objects. Why didn’t you tell us when you found the note?”
Andrea fell silent. Lottie knew it was her turn to say something, but she knew what the consequences would be if she told. Palmyitor seemed to sense her nervousness and rounded on her. “Rowe?”
“I—I found it in the snuffbox that I found last year.”
“That snuffbox has been in my office—”
“I took it.” Lottie stared at the ground, the back of her neck burning red. “And I opened it. I found that note.”
Palmyitor crossed her arms. “Anything else?” she said, clearly restraining herself from yelling.
“And a little phoenix charm.” She pulled out the charm which was now tinged with red and so hot that it turned her palm pink. “I didn’t want to tell anyone because I was afraid I would get in trouble that I had stolen it.”
“You feared right.” Lottie cowered under Palmyitor’s glare. “We will keep all of this for your safety,” Palmyitor growled. She plucked the phoenix charm from Lottie’s hand, and stared down as she noticed the burning metal as well. “And then you decided to run back alone and you got caught.” Palmyitor turned to Snape. “You should thank Mr. Snape for saving you.”
Lottie and Andrea muttered quiet thank-yous.
“Woolbright,” Palmyitor said sharply. “You will resign from the Quidditch team for this summer.”
Andrea nodded glumly.
“Outside of your class work, I don’t expect either of you to have any obligations this summer, as you’ll be scrubbing the castle from basement to tower without magic.”
Lottie sighed. Fair punishment, a lot better than she was expecting. She looked up. Snape frowned, making the wrinkles on his forehead even clearer.
“Meet me here tomorrow at six in the morning and you can start on the dungeons.”
Alder with Unicorn, 14 1/2 inches, slightly springy
Re: Halfway to Infinity
Chapter Nineteen: The Three Broomsticks
The girl knew she wasn’t supposed to be out at this hour, but the owl she had received from her grandmother seemed more than urgent and the Three Broomsticks wasn’t very far away.
A Dementor glided past her. The girl, holding her breath, shrank into the shadows and hid behind an overflowing trashcan. The Dementor stopped suddenly and turned to face her.
“I—I don’t have anything,” the girl said to the Dementor with a quivering voice. “I’m not a Muggle – I’m g-going to my grandmother’s. It’s right over there.” She pointed to the Three Broomsticks in the distance. She was still very young, but had dealt with Dementors before. This was the first time one had come so close.
A bony, scabbed hand immerged from the Dementor’s cloak and reached towards the girl. The air seemed to thin around her. A suffocating silence took the breath out of her lungs and blinded her to everything except the towering, hooded figure.
Her father writhed and twitched on the ground… her mother coughed into her hands, shaking the entire bed… her grandmother –
“STOP!” the girl pleaded.
The Dementor’s long, spindly fingers wrapped around her tiny wrist. “Stop! No! Let me go!” Her bare feet scraped along the cobblestones as the Dementor drew her towards it. The girl screamed, trying to pull away with all of the strength she could muster. Her tiny frame shook uncontrollably as the Dementor’s blind, scabbed face emerged from its hood.
A silver evanescent goat charged towards the Dementor, brandishing its large horns and catching it by the bottom of its cloak. Immediately the Dementor loosened its grasp on the girl’s wrist, dropped her to the ground and was gone.
The girl pushed herself up off the cobblestones and ran to the Patronus’ conjurer. She pushed her long, curly brown hair out of her face, wrapped her arms around his waist and hid behind him.
“It’s okay, Nora,” the old man said. In earlier years, his gravelly voice had hurt her ears, but after years of seeking refuge in the old man’s inn, his voice had become a source of comfort. “It won’t come back. Come on, let me take you to your grandmother’s.” The old man offered Nora his hand. She took it, and followed him to the Three Broomsticks.
“Nora?” a weak voice called once they entered the deserted bar.
“I’m coming!” Nora yelled up the stairs, letting go of the old man’s hand. She took a sharp left and ran up two flights of stairs to the apartment she shared with her grandmother.
The withering frame of her grandmother lay, tucked neatly into her bed. Nora ran to her bedside and placed a hand on her sweating palm. “Nana, are you okay?”
“Yes, Nora,” she said softly. “Yes, I’m fine.”
The old man, coming from the staircase, approached the bed as well. “Rosmerta?”
Rosmerta put a hand up. “I’m quite fine, Aberforth,” she said calmly, struggling to pronounce each word. “Time is finally taking its toll on me, I suppose.”
“No, Rosmerta,” he said. “It can’t be that. You are still young.”
“It’s okay, Nora,” Rosmerta said softly with a charming smile. “I’m going to be fine soon.”
“Nora, go downstairs,” Aberforth demanded.
Nora stood and tearfully turned to her grandmother.
“We need to speak in private,” Rosmerta said. “Don’t worry, Nora; it won’t be long.”
Nora spun around on her heel and ran down the stairs. She sat on the bottom step with her head buried in her hands. At the age of seven, she had lived through very little of the war, but suffered all of the consequences. Her father had been killed by a Death Eater when she was two years old and her mother had died of some unknown disease only two years earlier. Now she lived with her grandmother above her family’s old bar in the deserted village of Hogsmeade.
From the frosted windows of the Three Broomsticks, Nora could see the towers of the school looming over Hogsmeade. It used to be warm and welcoming, her grandmother always told her. It used to teach students how to be good witches and wizards, before the Dark Lord took it over.
Nora, now fed up with waiting, tiptoed up the stairs and waited in front of the door to the apartment. She had to strain to make out their hushed voices.
“Aberforth, she shouldn’t have to take on such responsibility.”
“I can keep her hidden, but until we know what it is, it’s too dangerous for me to keep it. The Dark Lord has been searching for me for years. He doesn’t even know that she exists.”
“And—” Rosmerta paused “—and I want—want her to be…”
“Nana?” Nora opened the door and ran in. Rosmerta didn’t respond. “Nana?”
Aberforth put a hand on her shoulder.
“No!” Nora shouted, running over to her grandmother’s bed. Her eyes were wide open, but blank and lifeless. The dullness of the candlelight reflected in them. Nora’s eyes welled up with tears. “Nana! Na—”
Aberforth stepped over to the bed and closed Rosmerta’s eyes before kneeling down to the girl. “Nora,” he said seriously. “Nora, look at me.” Nora forced herself away from her grandmother’s body and stared at Aberforth, unable to control the tears falling down her cheeks. “Your grandmother is gone,” he said. “And now you need to take her place.” He held up a large, gold locket with an ornate S engraved on it.
“This is your grandmother’s locket. You want to help defeat the Dark Lord, right?” Nora nodded. “Keep this safe and don’t let anybody see that you have it. I can keep you safe at the Hog’s Head until you’re eleven. I’m going to get in contact with an old friend to see if she can take you in after that.”
Nora bit her lip and nodded again. Aberforth held out the locket. She took it, put it around her neck and tucked it into her shirt. It was extremely cold.
“And don’t try to open the locket, either,” Aberforth continued. “It’s for your own good.”
Nora stared at him, her hands shaking. She wanted to go and stand by her grandmother’s bed and cry. She wanted to go back to the days when she had both parents living together, but she knew Aberforth wouldn’t let her. She wasn’t allowed to go back to the time when life was easy. She clutched her hand around the locket and backed away from Aberforth.
“Run to the Hog’s Head,” he said coarsely. “I need to deal with this.” He gestured to the body. Nora shuddered. For a moment, she wished he hadn’t saved her from the Dementor. If she didn’t have a soul, at least she wouldn’t have to deal with this pain.
Nora stood for a moment, hoping she wouldn’t cry in front of Aberforth. “Go,” he repeated.
She backed up and started running down the stairs. The locket pounded against her heart, causing cold chills to run through her entire body. Without looking back, she ran down the cold, unfriendly streets of Hogsmeade village.
Alder with Unicorn, 14 1/2 inches, slightly springy
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