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Soul in a Locket

Chapter Text

Fire.

Fire was everywhere. Climbing the walls, gnawing at the floors, spiraling through the air, taking the form of beasts and creatures. An eagle of flame was swooping down, flying from the burning house toward a tiny figure. Her mother dove forward, wrapping her arms around the child, just as the flames licked her shoulder. They disappeared with a loud crack, appearing in a very different place, many miles away. They were in front of a manor, gardens and hedges around them.

The child began to scream, and her mother bent to comfort her, while shaking with sobs herself.

Now, a slightly hunched figure was hurrying from the manor toward them.

"Elizabella! What happened? Where's Ernest?" The older woman demanded.

The other just sobbed.

"They… th-they came to our house, they tra-trapped us inside! Then, they used Fiendfyre and we… we couldn't get out. I got Bella and smashed a window to get out." Elizabella slumped down onto her knees. "But… but -but I couldn't find him! He was inside! I heard him, but I couldn't reach him! He's gone! Gone! It's been five years since the war was finished! Why now?" She was shrieking, pulling at her once beautiful hair. Suddenly something seemed to occur to her. She looked up, up at the moon. "No. No! No! He can't be dead! Ernest can survive anything!" She staggered to her feet, swaying slightly. "I've got to get him! We have to go!"

She spun as though trying to apparate, but the older woman grabbed her arm, stopping her. "Eliza. If it was really Fiendfyre, then there is nothing we can do." She pulled the younger woman to face her. "We need to accept that."

Elizabella was quiet for a moment, then she spoke, her voice trembling with rage. "How can you say that?! He's your son!" She yelled.

The older woman look as though she had been slapped. Tears welled in her eyes. "I know. But we have to be strong, if not, they have already won this battle. We have to be strong for the family, we have to be strong for the world, but most of all we have to be strong for Bella. She's barely five years old!"

The two women looked at each other, tears running down their cheeks. Eventually, Elizabella nodded. She stooped down and picked up her daughter. She stood and walked towards the manor, leaving the older woman.

The woman looked to the sky. She hoped with all her body, mind and soul that strength was enough.

It was not. Elizabella died two months later. She had been wounded in the fire, but it was really her heart that failed.

She died holding her mother-in-law and daughter's hands.

Chapter Text

Sabella Castalia Dagworth-Granger was an odd girl, even what with her being a witch. The muggles down in the village of Ambleside either thought of her as 'that kind little girl with the ocean in her eyes' or 'that strangely quiet girl from up the way'. One way or the other, Bella was different than the children she attended the Windermere School with, and normally, people just ignored it. She had lived with her Aunt Elena at Number One, Wansfell Holme since she was five, and rather enjoyed it. The house was an old, well worn stone mansion perched upon a hill above Lake Windermere, and was almost constantly buffeted by wind from down the lake. Bella loved being able to see the lake from her bedroom windows, the choppy black-blue water reflecting the greying clouds, the water almost singing her to sleep at night.

But now everything was changing, as Bella had turned eleven at the beginning of the year, and two weeks ago, she had received her Hogwarts letter. On that fateful day, Bella had been sat at the dining table, trying to eat her sausages and toast, when the polite tapping of an owl came from the porch. She grabbed her last sausage and padded out onto the porch in her socks to find a large barn owl sitting calmly with its leg outstretched on the porch railing. A creamy official envelope was tied there, with a red seal marking it, and as she looked at it, Bella found that she knew exactly what it was.

With shaking hands, Bella unfastened the envelope and turned it over to read:

Ms. S. Dagworth-Granger

1 Wansfell Holme

Ambleside

Cumbria

Bella let out a yelp. "It's here! Auntie! My letter's here!"

There was an almighty crash and a few rather rude words, and then Elena was thundering down the stairs and around the dining table to wrap Bella in a hug. Elena was rather short for a fully grown woman, but she still dwarfed Bella. "Oh, thank heavens! I was beginning to get worried we wouldn't have time to shop! You do need new clothes anyway, don't you, we've got to go as soon as possible - Oh! If only those damn goblins would let me take a moment off, oh well, can you wait a fortnight?"

Bella looked up at her Aunt and grinned. "Just barely!"

Elena frowned. "I am sorry we can't go sooner, it's just that Striok wants my papers on the new wards in next Wednesday, and I really can't take a break. If you want to go sooner we could always have Grandmother take you?"

Bella shook her head vigorously. "No, no, no thank you - can you imagine the robes she'd force me into? Nah, I'll stick with you."

Now laughing, her Aunt shrugged. "Whatever you want. You had better go finish your breakfast now, you can read your letter too!"

Following her Aunt back inside and to the table, Bella slowly opened the envelope as she sat down. She unfolded it and smoothed it out in front of her.

 

HOGWARTS SCHOOL

of WITCHCRAFT and WIZARDRY

Headmaster: Albus Dumbledore

(Order of Merlin, First Class, Grand Sorc., Chf. Warlock, Supreme Mugwump, International Confed. Of Wizards)

Dear Miss Dagworth-Granger,

We are pleased to inform you that you have a place at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Please find enclosed list of all necessary books and equipment.

Term begins on 1 September. We await your owl by no later than 31 July.

Yours sincerely,

Minerva McGonagall

Deputy Headmistress

A second paper was quickly pulled out of the envelope, which read:

 

HOGWARTS SCHOOL OF WITCHCRAFT AND WIZARDRY

Uniform -

First-year students will require:

Three sets of plain black robes (black)

One plain pointed hat (black)

One pair protective gloves (dragon hide or the like)

One winter or traveling cloak (black, silver fastenings)

Please note pupils' clothes should carry name tags.

Course Books-

All students should have a copy of each of the following:

The Standard Book of Spells (Grade 1)

by Miranda Goshawk

A History of Magic by Bathilda Bagshot

Magical Theory by Adalbert Waffling

A Beginners' Guide to Transfiguration by Emeric Switch

One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi by Phydila Spore

Magical Drafts and Potions by Arsenius Jigger

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander

The Dark Forces: A Guide to Self Protection by Quentin Trimble

Other Equipment-

1 wand

1 cauldron (pewter, standard size 2)

1 set glass or crystal phials

1 telescope

1 set brass scales

Students may also bring an owl OR a cat OR a toad

PARENTS ARE REMINDED THAT FIRST YEARS ARE NOT ALLOWED THEIR OWN BROOMSTICKS

And now, almost a fortnight later, Bella was sat on her bed, rereading the letter and adding her own items to the list so that they could get all their yearly shopping done in one go. She was hoping to get a pet, but she wasn't sure if she would find the right one, or really, if it would find her. Being part Selkie made her a Sea-Daughter, and having a pet that was not a toad was highly unlikely. Bella did not want a toad. But, apart from that little annoyance, she was rather excited.

The thing she was most looking forward to was her wand. Oh, she had tried out her father's wand when she was younger, and fooled around with Elena's in the past few years, but from what she had heard, the wand chooses the wizard, or witch in this case, and her magic would flow through her real wand like an extension of herself. Though she wasn't sure if she believed that, as Ethan, her best friend's older brother, had told her about wands, and he was hardly reliable at the best of times. But either way, she could ask Elena the next day, or maybe even Mr Ollivander, the wand-maker.

Bella unfurled herself from her cross-legged sitting position and made her way across the room to switch off the light. Hector, Elena's large grey cat paused from his nightly patrol outside of her bedroom and looked up at her with his large yellow-green eyes a mewed. "Do you need something?" She asked the imperious looking cat.

He looked at her, twitched his tail, and walked away. "Well, you don't have to be rude about it Hector."

Hector mewed again and jumped up to the window, and out onto the porch roof.

Bella shook her head. The cat was only polite to his owner, Elena, and brought her presents that he'd found in the woods behind the house. She sighed and closed her door most of the way, then got into bed. The lapping of the lake calmed her as it always did, but she felt a stronger than usual urge to roll out of bed, cross her room to the grey bureau in the corner and slip on her Cloak. Then, the little voice told her, she would go down to the lake and have her last proper swim for a very long time.

But really, what I need to do, is go to sleep. Bella thought. Tomorrow's a rather big day.

Chapter Text

Bella woke early that morning to the ringing of her golden many-handed clock sat upon her bedside table. The sun was hardly touching the tops of her windows, but the scant light was slipping into her room through the long white curtains covering them. Bella lived in a very nice room, and she was rather grateful for it. It wasn't to large, but it was far from cramped, and the two tall windows on the far wall gave it an airy feeling. It was painted pale blue and had a matching set of varnished oak desk and bureau. The desk was against the wall parallel to her bed while the bureau was pushed against the wall on the right side of the door. Her bed's frame was a lighter oak, but the headboard fit between the wall and the frame of the window, so there it sat, looking, in Bella's opinion, rather resolute. In almost every corner of the room, there were a few stacks of book, as Bella never bothered putting her reading back in the library or the study.

But today was not a day for pondering her room--she was off to Hogwarts! One of the most respected schools in all of Europe, and Bella was about to go shopping in preparation. She could hardly wait around thinking, not today, of all days.

Bella bounded out of bed and across the cool wood floor to her bureau and pulled out some muggle clothes as she assumed that they'd get to Diagon Alley through the Leaky Cauldron. A faded purple shirt, jeans and a pair of white trainers were quickly pulled on. She then yanked most of her long brown hair over one shoulder and carefully brushed it with a silver goblin-made comb that always sat atop her bureau.

Now ready, Bella bounced down the stairs and into the kitchen, where Aunt Elena was bustling around, making tea, and Poppy, their house-elf, was standing on a wooden stool, cooking a breakfast of bacon and eggs. The dishes were washing themselves, as they usually were, soapsuds flying and hot water pouring from the tap, and potatoes, which Bella assumed were for supper, were peeling themselves into the compost can.

"Good morning Mistress Bellie!" Poppy called, without looking up from her current task of flipping the bacon.

Bella grinned. "Morning Poppy!" She replied, not bothering to keep the excitement from her voice.

"Excited are we?" Said Aunt Elena.

"Of course!" Chirped Bella.

Bella sat down at the table and pulled the already made eggs toward her, shoveling some onto her plate. Poppy finished the bacon and the pan floated over, depositing two pieces onto Bella's plate as well.

Eating quickly, Bella waited until Aunt Elena was sat across from her, sipping tea, before asking her question. "Where are we going first?"

Aunt Elena looked up from her tea and frowned in thought. "Well, I always found it was easiest to get my robes first, I suppose. I got some money from Gringotts yesterday-" She turned and called out to Poppy, who was now cleaning the inside of their muggle fridge. "Poppy- could you get the money pouch from my dresser?"

The house elf nodded, her huge ears bouncing, placed the rag on the counter, closed the fridge and disappeared with a pop, appearing a moment later with a dark red pouch clinking with coins.

"Thanks Poppy!" Said Aunt Elena, taking the pouch and dropping it on the table. "Then we can go down the list - is that OK?"

Bella grinned, her smile stretching her face. "Of course! I can't wait!"

They ate hastily, as Aunt Elena hoped to get out before the midday shopping rush. After finishing their breakfasts, Bella hopped up and ran to get her list from the drawing room while Auntie went to get ready. They met in the entry hall, where Aunt Elena pulled Bella into a tight one-armed hug. "My little Seal, almost grown up!" She kissed Bella's forehead softly.

Bella laughed, nervously. "Don't worry Auntie, I've got a few years to go."

Aunt Elena nodded absently, seeming lost in thought as she reached for her purse.

They headed down the road to the bus stop, and sat on the little bench and waited. Both Elena and Bella were known populace of the village, so Aunt Elena insisted that whenever they went out, they took the local transport, since the villagers knew they didn't have a car. Generally, they waited at the bus stop, as it was a half mile away, but sometimes, they rode down the narrow road on bikes to the village and either took a bus, or, on occasion, the train, but that happened very rarely.

The wait for the bus depended on the day, week, your luck, and mainly Lester, the cheerful old bus driver who stopped the bus for long catch-ups and conversations. Normally, people didn't mind, but when you were in a hurry, it was rather frustrating. Luckily for Bella, Lester hadn't seen anyone conversation worthy, and they quickly boarded, handed him their fare, and claimed two seats in the middle of the bus. In front of them sat old Mrs. Rees, who immediately engaged Aunt Elena in conversation. "Elena! I haven't seen you in a month! How are your chrysanthemums?" Mrs. Rees had a soft, lilting Welsh accent and an obsession with flowers. Unfortunately, she wasn't very good at keeping them alive, so her front stoop was full of vases filled with flowers, which, to Bella, seemed a bit like a funeral.

Aunt Elena entertained her with a story of how Hector had torn apart part of the front garden but luckily not gotten to the chrysanthemums.

Bella, sitting next to the aisle looked around for someone she knew. Up front, Lester was talking to Mr. Roberts over his shoulder, while zooming down the one lane road, Mr and Mrs Wright seemed to be arguing about groceries, Walker Thompson, the librarian, was reading, and Ms. Clarke was trying to write on a notepad despite the constant bumps of the road. And, to Bella's delight, perched on the last seat of the bus, was Susan, her best friend's older sister, laughing with two other girls. Emily Merkel, Bella's best friend, had the biggest family that was possible. Nine siblings, including Emily, Emily's parents, and a grandmother, all living in a large, cream house right on the edge of town. And, Emily's grandmother was a witch. A real witch, like Aunt Elena and now Bella. So naturally, the entire Merkel family knew about magic, and Bella could tell them anything without breaking the Statute of Secrecy, from the latest broomstick she wanted, to borrowing Grandmother Sara's wand and trying things, she could always get away with it. Fortunately, most potions didn't need any magic from the maker, only magical ingredients, so, as each Merkel child turned eleven, they began learning to brew, and a month and a half ago now, Emily had turned eleven.

Susan, the most popular girl in year eleven at Windermere school, was better at potions than Elena and could have given a Hogwarts fifth year a run for their money. No one except for the Merkels and the Dagworth-Grangers knew this of course, but it was still worth quite a bit.

Bella waved at Susan. Noticing her, Susan beckoned her to the back of the bus. She couldn't help but grin and cautiously make her way down the aisle to the older girls. "Bella! Have you met Anna and Marlene?" Susan asked as she sat down.

Bella nodded.

"Where are you off to? We're going to the cinema to meet Vince and Matthew." Susan flashed her pretty smile.

"That sounds wonderful." Bella said earnestly. "I'm only going school shopping." She said, quietly.

The girl named Anna seemed to be remembering something. "That's right! You're going off to some fancy secondary school, a boarder?"

Bella felt herself go pink but nodded.

"Where are you going shopping? Town, or farther off?" Susan inquired.

Bella realized what she was asking: if they were going to the tiny magical square near Ingleton, or all the way to Diagon Alley.

"Further away I think. Apparently, I need to 'classic experience', but I don't really know what that means." Bella said, but knew that the real reason for going to London was Ollivander's.

Susan smiled again, eyes twinkling . "My Oma thought along the same lines. Do try to bring me a souvenir, will you?"

"And me!" Said Marlene.

Anna grinned teasingly. "You don't need to bring me anything, unless you want to of course!"

Bella turned pinker. "I'm not very good at that, it's my Auntie who'll know what to get."

Luckily, Bella was saved from further embarrassment when the bus stopped in the town center and Aunt Elena called for her.

Bella grabbed her Aunt's hand and followed her off the bus and into the tiny one-track train station, which was currently filled with the large, dark green steam train, and the entirety of the town that needed to get to work in the city.

But, instead of boarding the train, they slipped into a small nook, and under the cover of the steam filling the station, they apparated away, Bella clutching tightly onto Aunt Elena's arm.

They appeared in the alley beside the Leaky Cauldron that had a heavy Notice-Me-Not Charm on it, and Bella promptly sat down, rather harder than she had wanted to. On the few occasions that she had Side-Along apparated before, she had vomited, so Bella counted herself lucky this time.

"Do you need a moment?" Asked Aunt Elena kindly.

Bella shook her head, getting up as fast as she was capable of.

After a minute or two, they headed around the corner and into the Leaky Cauldron. It was just as she remembered. Warm, spacious, well worn, but still semi-sophisticated, the main pub was lined with a bar along one wall while high and low tables filled the rest of the room, not entirely used at the moment, as it was still early. Around the room, a group of Scottish witches sat around a table sipping tea and gossiping about their grandchildren, a young man with a short beard stirring his coffee wandlessly while reading a muggle book, and three pairs of couples, one of whom looked like vampires, but one always had to reserve judgement. And of course there was Tom, who nodded at them as they passed out into the yard, where Elena tapped the correct bricks, opening the gateway to Diagon Alley.

No matter how many times she visited, Bella was always overwhelmed by Diagon Alley. She could feel the magic flowing around her. Aunt Elena began to walk, and Bella followed. Shops and stands lined the street that the gateway opened onto, which was only partially filled with people. The nearest shop had many cauldrons stacked around the entrance, and above it, a sign said: Cauldrons - All Sizes - Copper, Brass, Pewter, Silver - Self-Stirring - Collapsible. A little further on, an Apothecary with many strange liquids and objects stood. Outside of it stood a plump woman who was shaking her head. "Dragon liver, seventeen Sickles an ounce, they're mad…"

In front of her, Aunt Elena made a sympathetic noise at the woman.

Soft hooting came from a shop called "Eeylops Owl Emporium - Tawny, Screech, Barn, Brown and Snowy"

Further along still, a shop was selling broomsticks. Several boys, no older than Bella had their noses pressed to the window. Bella heard one say, "Look! The new Nimbus Two Thousand - fastest ever! -"

She jerked to a stop and stared at the broom in the window. It was beautiful, with a polished oak handle, darker twigs furnishing the end and a golden plaque dubbing it 'Nimbus Two Thousand'. Bella stared at it longingly, she loved flying nearly as much as she loved swimming, but had a broom that was five years old now, called the Nimbus Nine Sixty and -

"I am not getting you a broom. You're not allowed one in first year anyway!" Said Aunt Elena, tugging on her sleeve.

They continued on (in Bella's case, grudgingly). There were the shops selling robes, shops selling telescopes and odd silver instruments Bella had yet to know what to do with, shops selling potion ingredients and plants, windows stacked with bat spleens and eel eyes, tottering piles of spell books that Bella almost made grabs for, rolls of parchment, potion bottles, and globes of the moon. But, eventually, they made it to Madame Malkin's Robe Shop, and entered to the tinkle of a bell. Madame Malkin herself was sat behind the counter, tracing lines with her wand to make a little silver needle follow and sew. Madame looked up when they came in, and immediately got up, putting her current sewing aside to bustle over to them.

"My first customers of the day!" She looked Bella over. "School robes I suppose? Anything else? We have a new style of dress robe coming in -"

Aunt Elena smiled. "Could we get Bella's school robes quickly then look at some casual robes?"

Madame Malkin smiled excitedly. "Oh, of course! Now, Miss, if you could step over here…"

Bella was led over to a large stool to stand on and robes were quickly fitted to her. When Madame Malkin was done, she turned to Aunt Elena for approval. "Are these OK?" She asked.

"Perfect!" Replied Aunt Elena. "Do you want to get a pair or two of casual robes?" She asked Bella.

Bella nodded.

"Perfect!" Trilled Madame Malkin. "What colour dear?"

Bella was then modeled in many different robes, until, they (really Aunt Elena), picked a dark blue robe that seemed to match everything. Bella didn't protest, why would she? It was going to be the perfect day, if she had any say in it.

Then, they found a pointed black hat that melted to her head, and a new winter cloak, this one with a silver fastener.

Thanking Madame Malkin, they walked down the road to the nearest apothecary, Jones' and Plugs, and got all her potions ingredients, then went next door to get her cauldron, as well as a trunk that expanded on the inside. Aunt Elena argued with the clerk for almost ten minutes about the best standard size of cauldron for first and second years at Hogwarts, before Bella finally tugged her out of the store with a standard size 2 cauldron.

Back in the sunlight of the now bustling Diagon Alley, they headed for Flourish and Blotts, resigned to the shopping rush that now crammed into every school supply providing corner of the shops. They managed to get in and out quickly, considering the crowd, and had all the required books stacked on the counter, as well as a new book for Aunt Elena and many books for Bella.

And then, finally, the thing Bella had looked forward to the most: a wand. She followed Aunt Elena down the street, to a narrow and slightly shabby shop with peeling gold letters over the door reading 'Ollivanders: Makers of Fine Wands since 382 B.C.'

A single wand lay on a faded purple cushion in the dusty window. A tinkling bell rang, somewhere deep in the shop as Aunt Elena pushed the door to let them in. The inside was just as small as Bella had first supposed, and was empty except for a counter and a spindly chair in the corner. Behind the counter, were seemingly thousands of neatly stacked narrow boxes piled up to the ceiling, which she supposed were all wands. Bella's neck tingled slightly, and she remembered vaguely what an old and secret magic wand making was.

"Good morning." Said a soft voice.

Aunt Elena stood sharply from where she had been sitting in the chair. An old man with wide, pale eyes that shimmered like moons now stood in front of them. Bella wondered if he knew how to Apparate silently.

"Mr. Ollivander!" Said Aunt Elena. "How are you?'

"I am very well. This is your niece then, is it, Elena?" Mr. Ollivander peered down at Bella questioningly.

"Yes."

Mr. Ollivander nodded, still looking at Bella, which unnerved her greatly. He stared at her a while longer before starting and saying, "Which is your wand arm?"

"Left," Said Bella shyly.

"Like your father then… hm, well, hold out your arm. That's it." He measured Bella from shoulder to finger, then wrist the elbow, shoulder to floor, knee to armpit, and around the head. As he measured, he said, "Every Ollivander wand is completely original, and no two wands are the same. As of the last hundred years, we had always used unicorn hairs, phoenix feathers, and the heartstrings of dragons, but as I said, no two are the same. Some of our older ones that have yet to be sold have more diverse cores, but they generally come from magical creatures, as magical plants don't channel magic as well."

Bella swatted at the tape measure, which was now attempting to measure her ear, and it snapped like a whip at her. As she tripped backwards, away from it, Mr. Ollivander said mildly, "That will do."

The tape measure crumpled sadly to the floor. Mr. Ollivander, Bella now saw, had taken out three boxes from the piles behind him. "Right then, Ms. Dagworth-Granger. Try this: oakwood with a unicorn hair, ten inches, bendy. Just give it a wave."

Bella took it nervously, not knowing what to expect, and waved as she imagined Aunt Elena would; smartly and sweepingly. Mr. Ollivander snatched it front her. "Mahogany and dragon heartstring, eight inches, swishy. Go on, try!"

She did. And again, and again, until the pile of tried wands was so high, she could no longer see over the counter. Not exactly sure what he was looking for, Bella did what he told her.

"Perhaps… an unusual core will suit you? Maybe…" Mr. Ollivander seemed to be talking more to himself than Bella, and she didn't want to interrupt, so she said nothing.

He opened a door she was sure hadn't been there before, and she caught a glimpse of a small room as full of wands as the whole front of the shop, before he slipped in and disappeared.

A long, silent moment passed before he reappeared with four boxes in his arms.

"Now. These are very rare, but you seem to have a much more uncommon magical core. So, try this. Ebony, mer-hair, twelve inches. Go on."

This wand was much long than the others she had tried, and the colour was a black-green. She picked it up carefully, but it too was snatched away.

"No… but it's closer…" Mr. Ollivander muttered, holding out the next wand. "Beech, mirror-otter heartstring, ten inches?"

She picked it up and swished it. She felt a little twinge of something and looked at Mr. Ollivander to see him frowning. "Well I suppose… you are Selkie, are you not?"

Bella blinked. No one had ever been told that except two Ministry officials, the Merkels, and her family. "Yes." She said quietly.

"Ah. How about this? Ocean Willow, selkie hair, eleven inches, supple… this ought to be…" He trailed off.

This was a very odd wand. It was long and smooth, except for runic carvings around the handle, and the wood was a natural blue-grey. Bella picked it up and to her surprise felt the same twinge of something shoot up her arm and fill her entire being. She raised it and then let it drop with a swoosh, and to her even greater surprise, an explosion of purple and silver sparks shot out.

She grinned, an amazing sensation of warmth filling up her core. Mr. Ollivander began to clap, and so did Aunt Elena.

"Well!" Exclaimed Aunt Elena. "That took quite a bit longer than when I got my wand!"

Mr. Ollivander smiled mystically, and rang up her wand for nine galleons.

They walked out of the shop, down the street to the Leaky Cauldron, Bella grinning wildly, her wand now tucked into her right pocket, with her shirt covering it. Aunt Elena smiled at her enthusiasm and said, "Do you want to go out for lunch? Apparently there's a really amazing Asian restaurant a few blocks away."

Bella nodded. She had never had anything except for english and traditional french food. "Anything would be amazing right now!"

And so, they made their way through the Leaky Cauldron and turned left, walking for two blocks, before finding the little Vietnamese shop Aunt Elena had heard of. They spent the rest of the afternoon in the shop, learning to use chopsticks, eating a heavenly creation called 'pho' and talking. Aunt Elena talked about her job, the goblins and the economy, and the latest of her dates, which had been a bit of a disaster, as her date had gone to the restroom and managed to get lost. Bella responded enthusiastically, and asked about classes, teachers, and houses at Hogwarts. She knew a lot about Hogwarts already, from stories of Elena and her friends like Tonks and Ella, to stories from recently by her cousin Liam, who was going into his third year as a Ravenclaw, but really, it couldn't hurt to know more. Afterwards, they wandered around muggle London, window shopping and commentating on signs and people around them. Bella convinced Aunt Elena to get two matching pairs of earrings in the shape of sea shells, so they could match even when she was away.

Eventually, when Bella's legs began to get tired, they walked back the alley next to the Leaky Cauldron and apparated back home to Poppy's dinner of steaming hot stew.

Chapter Text

Over the next few weeks, Bella read all of her new textbooks, as well as a few other books, and she tried as many simple charms as the Trace would allow. She played with the Merkels, especially Emily, and got many lectures from Oma Merkel about the basics of brewing. But, no matter how she spent the days, the last few weeks of summer flew by, and soon, she was packing her trunk by hand (because Aunt Elena said that it was 'character building'). And then, the day came: the first of September.

"Is Mistress Bellie being awake?" Called Poppy, from outside of her room.

"Yes!" Bella called. "I'm almost ready!"

She had make a few last minute additions to her packing; her mother's wedding ring, a picture of herself, her mother and father on a beach next to the sea, a picture of herself and Auntie, and a picture of her, Emily, and Peter, one of their other friends.

Her room felt rather empty, as she had taken most of the pictures and posters hung around her room, as well as a few of the trinkets lying on her desk and bureau. The bed was set, the curtains opened and her trunk was set down neatly by the door, with Bella beside it, surveying her room.

Bella was quite put together in her opinion. Her hair, which could never decide if it was wavy or straight, was pulled into pigtails. She had decided to wear her most causal robes, as they were Flooing directly into the station, and under her robes she wore a skirt and a Weird Sisters shirt. Bella hoped the hall mirror would approve, though she knew it never really did.

Wand slipped carefully into the left-hand pocket of her robes, Bella opened the door and dragged her trunk to the top of the stairway. Before heading downstairs, she looked into the huge ornamental mirror and asked, "How do I look?"

"Passable." The mirror grunted. "Any proper pureblood would judge rather harshly though." The golden woodwork that framed the mirror furrowed as the mirror scowled and 'humphed' loudly.

Bella snorted. Normally, she didn't care at all what the hall mirror thought, but today, she was hoping to make a good impression.

She was about to drag her trunk down the stairs when Poppy appeared, saving her the effort.

For the second time in a short while, Bella and Aunt Elena ate quickly. Auntie was dressed in her work robes, and was jabbering away excitedly about Hogwarts. Bella didn't speak. She couldn't seem to open her mouth except to eat.

To her own surprise, something she had been looking forward to her whole life now seemed huge, daunting, and entirely terrifying. Previously, Bella had been resigned, almost excited to be placed in Hufflepuff, but now, she thought about other possibilities. What if I don't get sorted? She thought. I'm not particularly anything; not smart, not brave, not cunning, and not really very loyal. What am I?

Bella drifted through the morning, and only barely managed to get all of her things to the the sitting room and set down next to the large ornamental fireplace. It was half past ten by the time everything was ready; Bella and Aunt Elena standing next to the fireplace with the luggage and trunk, Poppy attending, holding the blue and white China bowl full of bright green Floo powder.

Aunt Elena cast a fire while Poppy held out the bowl of powder towards them. "You ready, Belle?" Aunt Elena was looking at her, a slightly worried look on her face.

"Just a bit nervous…" Muttered Bella, still uncertain.

"Don't worry. You'll do well anywhere." Auntie said soothingly.

At Bella's continually worried look, she added, "And if things don't work out at Hogwarts, we can always send you to Beauxbatons! We all know how much you love French…"

Bella finally cracked a smile at this, allowing to feel slightly lightened by her Auntie's jests. It was a long-standing joke that, while Grandmother had been teaching Bella French for almost three years now, Bella hadn't been able to follow any part of French conjugation, and therefore relied solely on the memorization of handfuls of words and phases, sounding rather mental when she tried to speak.

"There's a smile from our little Seal!" Aunt Elena grinned. "Now. Grandmother is waiting for us at Grate 4, so we'll send your trunk through first, then you."

Bella nodded and stepped back so that Aunt Elena could throw a hand full of powder into the fire, and heave the large dark brown trunk into the fire after it. "Grate 4, Platform Nine and Three Quarters!"

The trunk disappeared with a huge fwoosh, and Bella stepped forward.

She muttered her thanks and farewells to Poppy, taking a hand full of powder and tossing it into the fireplace. She stepped into the now green flames and felt the strange warmth and tickling sensation.

"Goodbye Mistress Bellie!" Called Poppy.

Aunt Elena nodded, saying, "Speak clearly and carefully, Seal."

Bella nodded again and called, "Grate 4, Platform Nine and Three Quarters!"

Instantly, she was sucked up, or maybe down, she didn't know, spinning wildly past sitting and bed rooms, and only remembered to tuck in her arms after her elbow hit something rather hard. She squinted hard and saw bricks, smoke and many people's indistinct outlines through one, two, three fireplaces, and then she untucked herself, jumping forward so to land standing up. She stumbled, lights and steam blurring her vision, and a warm, wrinkled hand caught her arm.

"There you are Bella! I almost missed your trunk, I wasn't expecting it." There Bella's grandmother stood, slightly hunched, wearing deep purple robes and her usual hugely round glasses.

Bella highly doubted that Grandmother had almost missed the trunk, as she was the most agile eighty-one year old woman she knew of.

"Hello Grandmother." Bella smiled.

The woman pulled her into a tight hug. "I haven't seen you in almost a month, and now you're headed off to Scotland! Oh… How I'll miss you! And - oh!"

Grandmother pulled Bella out of the way just in time, as Aunt Elena spun into view and stepped out of the grate.

"Everything alright, Mum?" Said Elena.

"Of course, of course…" Murmured Grandmother reassuringly.

She flicked her wand, which was suddenly in her hand, and Bella's trunk was bobbing gently in the air. "Now, where do you want to sit? I was just talking to Augusta- ah! There she is."

Bella internally shuddered. Augusta Longbottom was a good friend of Grandmother's, but Bella couldn't help but be terrified of her. She plastered a smile on her face and followed timidly behind Grandmother to where Mrs. Longbottom was berating her grandson, Neville, a blond, chubby boy, about who knows what.

Bella was just about to be resigned to her fate when a golden haired body flew into her and was enveloping her in a tight hug. "BELLA! I haven't seen you in months!" Exclaimed the girl.

This was Lily. Lily Moon. She was taller and lankier than Bella by quite a bit, and also Bella's best friend apart from Emily. In reality, the last time they had seen each other was a fortnight before, but Lily preferred exaggeration to reality.

Bella squealed as well, as Lily's excitement was contagious. "Where's your mum and dad? Are they here?" Asked Bella.

Lily looked around as though she had only just remembered she had parents, then shrugged. "They're around somewhere…" She squinted around, then pointed through a large clump of people clustered around a boy with dreadlocks. She spun around and smiled even wider. "But that doesn't matter! The real question is: where do we want to sit?!"

Bella grinned and shrugged. "You lead!"

A minute later, they had collected their respective trunks and were dragging them down the platform towards the end of the train, giggling and talking the whole way. Lily, ever the gossip, was excitedly informing Bella of the latest, and greatest news. "Did you know that Harry Potter is going to be in the same year as us?"

Bella almost dropped her trunk. "You're joking!" She exclaimed. "I knew that he was our age, but - wow! We can meet the Boy-Who-Lived!"

Lily giggled. "I know! I bet you anything he'll be a Gryffindor, I bet he's so brave!"

Bella, who had been looking at Lily instead of what was in front of her, slammed into someone rather painfully. She looked up, and then farther up. A very tall boy with wavy brown hair and a pair of rectangular glasses was regaining his balance.

"You're so short, I didn't see you there." He had a slightly aloof air about him, and a very deep voice.

Bella mumbled her apology and started to edge around him. "You're a firstie aren't you?" He didn't wait for a reply, "Well, I hope that you learn to watch where you're going before you're sorted, or you won't get into a good house."

Bella gaped. How could someone manage to be so rude in only a few sentences?

"Don't stand there gaping like a frog! Move!" Snapped the boy.

She scowled and stepped past him, dragging her trunk out of his reach, as she had no doubt that he would kick it, or at least trip her up. She hurried over to Lily's side, who was also glaring at the boy's retreating back. "I hope that not all upper years are that horrible…" mumbled Lily.

Bella shrugged. "Me to. I bet he was just not in a good mood today?"

"How are you always so positive?" Lily yanked her trunk, seeming slightly annoyed. "Come on, let's find a compartment."

Bella followed the bright blue of Lily's dress, winding through the crowd. Bella wished that she had a few more pairs of eyes, as Platform Nine and Three-Quarters was almost as amazing as Diagon Alley. Students and parents pushed over loaded carts with cages and parcels balanced on top, owls hooted and swept from the high up rafters to open windows of the train, cats hissed and yowled from inside of carrying baskets, steam swirled around it all, confusing her eyes, and the bright red of the train itself seemed to seep into everything around it.

Lily halted up ahead, and pointed to an empty compartment right near the end of the train. They managed to yank their luggage to the open door of the compartment, and found themselves stuck - they couldn't lift their trunks high enough.

"Oh Merlin!" Exclaimed Lily. " How far away is your aunt? How long do you think it'll take for her to find us?"

"I dunno." Said Bella, squinting around through the crowd. "She said she'd find me and bring a few more of my things."

Lily hopped up the stairs into the compartment and once again pulled on her trunk. "Here! Push it up Belle! I think I've got it -"

Bella pushed, and Lily pulled the trunk, and the trunk thudded into the compartment. "Perfect!"

They managed to get Bella's trunk in the compartment and then completely gave up on getting either into the luggage rack, so they collapsed onto the seats on either side of the compartment.

Bella pulled off her robes, as she had on clothes under them and was feeling rather overheated, and kicked her feet up onto the space next to Lily.

Lily mirrored her, and they looked at each other for a moment before bursting out laughing.

Eventually, they stopped, clutching at their stomachs and wiping at their eyes.

Bella leaned her head back back and whispered, "We're going to Hogwarts, Lils. Hogwarts!"

"Hogwarts!" Agreed Lily.

Moments later, they both looked up as a familiar voice yelled, "Bella! Bella! Sabella Dagworth-Granger, where are you!"

Bella flushed slightly in embarrassment, then waved through the window at her aunt. "I'm here Auntie! We found a place to sit."

"Oh good. Did you manage your trunks? We forgot to put a Featherlight on them, didn't we…"

Lily smiled. "We got them in here, but now we can't get them into the luggage rack."

"Ah." Said Aunt Elena wisely.

She quickly made her way into their compartment, and levitated their trunks up into the rack.

"Now." Said Aunt Elena. "The train's about to leave, Grandmother is coming to say goodbye, and I just saw your parents, Lily. They're heading this way."

As she finished speaking, Lily's parents appeared, dragging her little brother, Charles. Lily went to say goodbye, and Bella turned to her Aunt.

"You'll be careful, won't you, Seal? I don't care what house you're in, just do your best, won't you?" Aunt Elena looked on the verge of tears. "I'm going to miss you, darling."

Bella wrapped her arms around her Aunt. "I'm gonna miss you too, Auntie."

Aunt Elena hugged her back, and Bella looked up at her face. "You'll write me every week?"

"Of course!"

"You promise?" Whispered Bella.

Aunt Elena crouched down so that they could see each other properly. "Yep. But you have to write me first to tell me about your sorting!"

Bella looked down. She didn't want to leave, now, when she could be with her Auntie, and her friends. "I'm really going to miss you. And the house, and my school, and Emily, and Peter, and the lake!"

"There's a lake at Hogwarts, you know."

Bella nodded.

"It's very big, and has lots of creatures living in it. Some people say there's a mermaid colony at the bottom. And, there's a huge squid, that comes out and basks in the sun! And you -" Aunt Elena poked her in the chest, "get to explore it!"

Bella grinned shakely. "I'm scared. But I can't wait, at the same time. Y'know?"

Auntie nodded. "And don't you worry yourself about the sorting. I, unlike the rest of the family, have not placed a bet on which house you'll be in, because I know that you can be anything you put your mind to."

"Who's betting on me?" Demanded Bella.

Aunt Elena laughed. "There's the Bella I know! Now, why don't you give your Grandmuma a hug and say goodbye?"

Bella turned to find Grandmother a little ways away.

She ran to hug her grandmother, and received a fierce hug, and a kiss on each cheek. "Be good Sabella. We'll miss you."

"I'll miss you too!" Said Bella.

There was a loud clanging, making Bella jump, and then the train let out a loud whistle. "It's about to leave!" Exclaimed Lily, who was suddenly behind her.

Bella turned back once again and called, "Goodbye!"

Lily grabbed her hand and pulled her to the open compartment door. They stumbled up the steps and hurriedly closed the door, just as the train jerked forward. Bella lent out the window, and Lily followed, both waving wildly.

Lily's parents were waving, her mother was crying, and her brother was jogging to keep up with the train.

Aunt Elena had her arm around Grandmother, who was wiping at her eyes with a handkerchief, while Auntie smiled and waved at Bella.

Moments later, the train left the station completely, and the platform ended. The train turned, and Bella could no longer see her Aunt or Grandmother. She slowly pulled her head back into the compartment and sat down.

Lily was already sat down and was looking out the window thoughtfully. This was usual for her, bursts of energy and then quiet moments, so Bella let her be.

After a minute, Lily looked back at her. "So, what hou -"

Before Lily could finish, the door of their compartment slammed open and two identical girls burst in.

"Lily! And Bella! I haven't seen you in years!" Exclaimed one, dressed in pink and white.

Both Bella and Lily jumped up in welcome. Lily exclaimed, "Hullo Parvati, Padma! How are you?"

"Fantastic!" They said together.

Both girls had very straight noses, large black eyes, tan skin, wide smiles and waist-length straight black hair. Both wore pastel blouses with white skirts, but Parvati wore pink while Padma wore purple.

A round of hugging ensued, and then the twins settled in quickly.

In the next few minutes, Parvati and Lily managed to go full gossip, informing Padma and Bella about the latest everything, including but not limited to: Maxwell Madison (the handsome British national Seeker) and his latest affair, Harry Potter, a potential new anti-acne potion, the Weird Sisters' guitarist's brother and his wife, the Minister's latest bumble (letting the goblins have a large influence on the interest rate, which Bella had conflicting opinions on, due to the fact that her Aunt had explained how it benefited the economy) and most importantly, Harry Potter again.

According to Lily, Harry Potter was almost six feet tall, and was already a professional Quidditch player. According to Parvati, Harry Potter was tall, but not abnormally tall, and looked exactly like his father, who was very handsome. Based off the conflicting ideas, no one seemed to know exactly what Harry Potter looked like, except having black hair and green eyes, as he hadn't been seen since he was one, and was apparently being raised by relatives. Bella, who had actually seen a picture of James Potter, became the object of interest for a few minutes.

She did her best to explain that James Potter had been on good terms with her mother, and that there was a picture of her own heavily pregnant mother with James Potter at a cloudy beach that Bella didn't know the name of.

She told them that he was quite attractive and only average height, a few inches taller than her mother, and that he had a very nice smile.

When Lily saw that Bella had no more information and was feeling slightly alarmed, she quickly said, "What house do you all suppose you'll be in?"

Bella immediately relaxed and smiled at Lily.

"Oooh!" Exclaimed Parvati. "I'd love to be in Gryffindor! I want to be brave and daring… do you think I'm brave or daring at all?" She didn't pause for a response. "I think I'm brave. Once, I went up to a muggle police officer and asked for direction, without mother or Padma." Parvati informed them. "And any how… Harry Potter will be Gryffindor!"

Padma hit her twin on the shoulder while Bella and Lily laughed. "I'd like to be in Gryffindor as well, but I don't think I'm brave enough. I'm kind enough, so Hufflepuff, perhaps, but I'd like to work in the Ministry of Magical India, so I suppose I have ambition and therefore could be Slytherin… but really, I'd love to be a Ravenclaw." She made sweeping hand motions. "The house of the eagle! Creativity, wit and learning, that's what's really important!"

Everyone laughed. "You are brave Padma! You could be in Gryffindor with Harry Potter!" Teased Bella.

Padma groaned. "Where do you want to go?"

Bella frowned. That had been in the back of her mind since she had woken up that morning. "I dunno. Hufflepuff would be nice, and I'd love to be in Ravenclaw… but I don't think I'm good enough for any house."

Padma patted her arm. "Of course not Bella! You're so kind and caring, you'll easily be a Hufflepuff."

Parvati nodded from across the aisle and said, "Or you could be a Ravenclaw, you're ever so creative and good at coming up with solutions!"

Bella smiled, and looked at Lily for her opinion.

Lily squinted at Bella, obviously thinking. "I don't know, to be honest Belle. You could be in any house! You're one of those people who once they really dedicate themselves to something, they can just become tangled up with it so much, it's odd. I think that's one of the reasons I'm friends with you."

Bella smiled softly, but the odd hollow feeling that had blossomed in her stomach in the morning remained.

Once again, the compartment was disturbed. "Padma! Parvati! Come out we need you!" A boy a year or two older than them who looked very similar to the twins was banging on the glass of the door.

Padma sighed, but Parvati jumped up. "It's a Patil thing, we've got to go!"

She grabbed her sister and flung open the door, to be dragged off by the boy whom Bella presumed was a cousin of theirs.

After a moment of silence, Lily said, "Well that was sudden."

And then they were both laughing again.

"Did - Did'ju see Padma's face?!" Spluttered Bella through her laughter.

They were still laughing a few minutes later when a smiling plump woman pushing a trolley appeared by the compartment door, which was still open. "Anything off the trolley, dears? It's taken me an awful long time to get all the way to the back of the train, and we won't be arriving for a while longer, it might be best to eat."

Lily looked at Bella. "All my pocket money is in my trunk, do have any?"

Bella nodded. She picked up her discarded robes and fished out a small purse with five galleons and a large handful of sickles, as well as her wand from the other pocket. "What do you want?" She asked Lily, while the trolley lady waited patiently.

Lily, looking for once, slightly uncertain, squinted at the list of sweets on the side of the trolley. "Could I have a Cauldron Cake? And - uh… four Chocolate Frogs, and a Liquorice Wand?"

The woman nodded. "That'll be four sickles and twenty-three knuts. Anything for you dear?" She said to Bella.

"Ah… how about a pack of Drooble's, two more Chocolate Frogs, and some Bertie Bott's? And a Pumpkin Pastie!"

Without Aunt Elena there, Bella didn't feel as bad getting so many sweets, so she handed over the total seven sickles and eleven knuts only slightly grudgingly.

Once she had tossed Lily her sweets and they were both munching happily on Cauldron Cakes and Pumpkin Pasties respectively, they turned to back to their interrupted conversation: Hogwarts Houses.

"What about you? Where do you suppose you'll end up?" Bella asked.

Lily was breaking off pieces of the cauldron-shaped chocolate outside to reveal the gooey ginger spice cake inside. "I don't know, honestly. Gryffindor would be amazing, but I don't think I'm very Gryffindor-y at all. I don't really want to be in Hufflepuff, because Charles would laugh at me, and my family is to half blooded to go to Slytherin, not that that's a defining part of Slytherin, but my family is rather half and muggleborn all the way back, so I think my best option is Ravenclaw."

Bella nodded. Her friend loved to read, and loved learning, even if sometimes that meant learning the latest news, and she was generally good at most things. "That fits, I suppose. I do hope we're in the same house." Bella frowned. "I don't think that it's possible for me to go anywhere apart from Hufflepuff -" Lily raised her eyebrows. "Not that I dislike that, it just, well…"

"Hufflepuff." Lily said, sounding slightly bored. "You know you can do better than that Bella. You'll probably be in Ravenclaw, and then we'll be together!"

Bella sighed. "To be honest, I want to be in Hufflepuff. It seems the easiest."

Lily crossed her arms, now finished with her Cauldron Cake. "Easiest isn't always best, you know."

They were quiet for a spell, staring out the window at the rolling hills and occasional lochs speeding past. They were halfway through there sweets and had just begun to wonder at what the classes would be like, when a girl already wearing her robes opened the compartment door. She bore a resemblance to someone Bella knew, but couldn't place, and had wildly curly hair, light brown skin, a button nose and rather large front teeth, apart from a rather aloof air about her. "Has either of you seen a toad? A boy named Neville's lost one, and I'm quite close to giving up on finding it." She did in fact have a rather bossy voice about her, and Bella couldn't help being slightly annoyed by her.

"Oh, Neville." Said Bella, as she remembered the plump boy's tendency to lose nearly everything he touched. "He'll find that toad eventually, or someone will find it for him."

"Are you friends with him then?" Said the girl with some envy.

Bella glanced at Lily, and they both smiled. "Ah… not exactly. Our grandmothers know each other."

The girl nodded primly, and put her hand on her hip. "You're first years too then? So am I. My name's Hermione. Hermione Granger."

Bella frowned. She hoped with all her might that she wasn't related to this bossy girl. "Really? Are you by any chance muggleborn?" She inquired hopefully.

"Yes I am! Mum and Dad were so very happy at the news! Are you?" Hermione clapped her hands, her voice slightly less annoying in excitement.

"No." Bella said, rather sharply, it wasn't as if there was anything wrong with being muggleborn, it was just… she wasn't. "I'm half-blooded. I was just wondering because I'm a Dagworth-Granger, and I thought we might be related. I'm Sabella Dagworth-Granger, by the way."

Lily smiled awkwardly. "I'm Lily Moon. Nice to meet you."

The girl looked strangely disappointed. "Well, it's nice to meet you too. You ought to change into your school robes. We'll be arriving soon."

She spun around and exited the compartment with a swish of her wild hair.

Lily stared at Bella with a face that clearly said 'what was that?', and Bella burst out laughing. "I suppose we ought to get dressed, then." Muttered Lily.

Lily climbed up onto the seat, and opened her trunk to extract her robes, and tossed them down before retrieving Bella's as well. They pulled down the shades of the windows to the corridor and window, and changed quickly.

It seemed they had changed just in time, as the now darkening landscape outside was slowing down. They sat for a while longer, still nervously discussing what Hogwarts would be like, as the train became progressively slower, until it came to a screeching halt that nearly unseated them both. Outside the window, lanterns lit a well worn station that was already beginning to fill with students who had known when to get off before the crowd.

A prim echoing voice, quite like the ones over the Underground, told them to leave their luggage in the compartment and to exit the train carefully. They battled their way down the corridor, Lily holding tightly to the back of Bella's robes, so as not to be separated. They finally managed to get off the train, and slip out of the crowd before hearing, "Firs' years! Firs' year over 'ere!" The booming voice came from a gigantic man standing on the far side of the platform.

They followed his swinging lantern and huge voice to a crowd of first years gathered round him.

"That's everyone? Come on, follow me. Mind yer step now."

Bella and Lily followed the group down a dark and narrow path, slipping and grabbing each other the whole way.

"Yeh'll get yer firs' sigh o' Hogwarts` in a sec." The huge man called over his shoulder. "Jus' round this bend here."

Bella gasped and there were many 'oooh's and 'ahhh's.

The narrow path had opened onto the edge of a great dark lake. Perched atop a high mountain on the other side stood a vast castle. Hogwarts was truly magnificent. Twisting spires, towers, ramparts and stairways, the castle seemed to be woven from itself. Lights twinkled from far away towers and high up windows, but a warm glow came from a large cathedral-like hall that extended from the castle. It seemed that was where the rest of the students where.

"No more'n four to a boat!" Called their guide.

Lily led the way to a sail-less boat sitting by the shore. They got in, and were followed by two other girls, one whose hair dark hair fell to her shoulders, and the other whose hair was even lighter than Lily's.

"Everyone in?" Shouted the man, who was filling an entire boat himself. "Right then - FORWARD!"

The little fleet of sail-less boats began to move all at once, disturbing the surface of the beautifully calm lake. Everyone was silent, staring up at the great castle. The mountain-perched castle stared at them as they approached, slipping under its shadow. "Heads down!" Shouted the man, startling Bella from her trance. She looked around then ducked before the low ceiling of the underground boathouse slammed into her. The roof eventually rose and the children looked around to gasp again. The ceiling was covered in stalactites and, from the looks of it, quartz, as it sparkled white and silvery. The little boats continued through the small cavern to dock as a group against a small rock pier.

As the everyone clambered out, Hagrid said loudly, "Oi, you there! Is this your toad?"

"Trevor!" Cried Neville, diving forward to catch his frog.

Then, the giant man led the way up a narrow stone passage, ending on a patch of grass in the shadow of the castle. They walked up a wide stone stairway to a pair of gargantuan oak doors. The children crowded up around Hagrid, who raised a huge, trash bin sized fist to knock once on the door.

Chapter Text

The doors swung inward almost instantaneously. In the doorway stood a severe-looking witch, tall, with emerald green robes and black hair pulled back into an immaculate bun.

"The firs' year Professor McGonagall." Said their huge guide.

"Thank you Hagrid. I will take them from here." She responded sharply.

She pulled the doors open wider, to reveal a great entrance hall that was a few times the size of Bella's home.

Professor McGonagall led them past another set of doors through which the sound of many voices issued. The group of nervous first years was led to a little antichamber of sorts, with a large stairway that the group filled, that lead to the main hall. McGonagall began what, Bella supposed, was her annual speech.

"Welcome to Hogwarts. The start-of-term banquet will begin shortly, but before you take your seats in the Great Hall, you will be sorted into your Houses. The Sorting is a very important ceremony because, while you are here, your house will be like your family within Hogwarts. You will have classes with the rest of your house, sleep in your house dormitory, and spend free time in your house common room.

"The four houses are called Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin. Each house has its own noble history and each has produced outstanding witches and wizards. While you are at Hogwarts, your triumphs will earn your house points, while any rule-breaking will lose house points. At the end of the year, the house with the most points is awarded the House Cup, a great honor. I hope each and everyone of you will be a credit to whichever house becomes yours.

"The Sorting Ceremony will take place in a few minutes in front of the rest of the school. I suggest you all smarten yourselves up as much as you can while you are waiting."

She glanced around at people that seemed to offend her rule of neatness.

"I shall return when we are ready for you." She added. "Please wait quietly."

Almost the moment that McGonagall had disappeared, a boy with white-blond hair, pale skin, and a straight nose at the top of the stairs stepped into the center of the entrance, facing a boy whose wild black hair was facing Bella.

"So." Said the white haired boy loudly. "What they say is true. Harry Potter has come to Hogwarts."

Bella and Lily both gasped. They turned to each other and Lily mouthed, "That's him! That's Harry Potter!"

Bella nodded furiously while shushing her friend, and they both turned back to see what would happen.

The white haired boy was talking again. He had a rather posh, arrogant voice that rang in the chamber. "This is Crabbe, and Goyle. And I'm Malfoy. Draco Malfoy."

There was a loud snort from beside Harry Potter, and the blond boy turned to a red haired boy. "Think my name's funny, do you?" He snapped. "No need to ask yours. Red hair, hand-me-down robes. You must be a Weasley."

Even from the back of the crowd, Bella could see the red haired boy's ears turn red, confirming the other boy's statement.

The blond boy, Malfoy, turned back to Harry Potter. "You'll soon find out that some wizard of families are better than others, Potter. You don't want to go making friends with the wrong sort." He glared at the Weasley boy.

"I can help you there." He stuck out his right hand to Harry Potter.

For the first time, the black haired boy spoke. "I think I can tell the wrong sort for myself, thanks."

Draco Malfoy flushed a rather ugly red. He snapped his hand back to his side and glared at Harry and his friend, before pushing his way past and shoving his way to the back of the crowd, a few feet from Bella, followed by the large boys called Crabbe and Goyle.

Bella and Lily both edged away from the fuming boys.

There was a rather long minute of awkward silence before several people screamed. Bella jumped, then gasped. So did the people around them. Of course she had heard about ghosts, but she hadn't really thought about it. But now, there were about twenty ghosts, streaming through the far wall. Pearly-white and transparent, the ghosts gave off a soft blue glow as they glided across the room, completely oblivious to the first years who were frozen in shock. They seemed to be arguing about someone, or something, called Peeves.

Suddenly a ghost wearing a ruff around his neck and a pair of rather ridiculous striped tights noticed them. "I say, what are you all doing here?"

None of the students answered.

"New students!" Exclaimed a fat, old, monk-like ghost. "About to be Sorted, I dare say! Hope to see you in Hufflepuff, my old house, you know."

A few people nodded, still unspeaking.

"Move along now." Said a sharp voice. "The Sorting's about to start." Professor McGonagall had returned.

Nodding absentmindedly, the ghosts proceed to float through the opposite wall.

"Form a line now." Commanded McGonagall.

Bella ended up at the back of the line, behind Lily, while Malfoy and his friends pushed their way to the front.

The Great Hall was just as magnificent and strange as the outside of Hogwarts. It was just as cathedral like as it had seemed from the outside as well. Candles, thousands of them, floated in the air, giving off a warm glow along with the torches along the walls. Soaring windows rose up from behind the teachers' table, some panes full of stained glass, or some, seemed to be full of sea glass, while still others were made of a blue mirror like glass. Four, long, dark oak tables ran down the Hall lengthwise. On the tables rested plates, bowls, goblets, and utensils made of an assortment of silver and gold. The hundreds of students at the tables perfected the image. Corresponding to each table sat older witches and wizards, tall, black hats on their heads and, embroidered on their black robes where the crest and colour of their House.

The students at the tables turned to look at the first years. Professor McGonagall led them up an aisle between the tables, toward the teachers. There, on a stool, sat a weathered and beaten hat. They gathered around the stool and the other students looked expectantly at the hat. After a moment, a seam in the hat burst open and strangely, began to sing;

"Oh, you may not think I'm pretty,

But don't judge on what you see,

I'll eat myself if you can find

A smarter hat than me.

You can keep your bowlers black,

Your top hats sleek and tall,

For I'm the Hogwarts Sorting Hat

And I can cap them all.

There's nothing in your head

The Sorting Hat can't see,

So try me on and I will tell you

Where you ought to be.

You might belong in Gryffindor,

Where dwell the brave in heart,

Their daring, nerve and chivalry

Set Gryffindors apart;

You might belong in Hufflepuff

Where they are just and loyal,

Those patient Hufflepuffs are true

And unafraid of toil;

Or yet in wise old Ravenclaw,

If you've a ready mind,

Where those of wit and learning,

Will always find their kind;

Or perhaps in Slytherin

You'll make your real friends,

Those cunning folk use any means

To achieve their ends.

So put me on! Don't be afraid!

And don't get in a flap!

You're safe in my hands (though I have none)

For I'm a Thinking Cap!"

The entire hall burst into applause as the hat finished its song. The hat bowed to each of the four tables then became still once more. Bella laughed. She hadn't really known what to expect to be sorted by, as no one had told her, and she had become slightly worried that it was a test of some sort. To her surprise, it was a hat.

Professor McGonagall began to call out names of the first years;

"Abbott, Hannah!"

A small, pink-faced girl with blonde pigtails stumbled forward to place the hat on her head. After a moment the hat bellowed -

"HUFFLEPUFF!"

The table on Bella's right cheered and Hannah went to sit there.

"Bones, Susan!"

"HUFFLEPUFF!" Called the hat again.

"Boot, Terry!" Became the first -

"RAVENCLAW!"

The second table from Bella's left clapped and cheered for Terry.

"Brocklehurst, Mandy" went to Ravenclaw as well, then "Brown, Lavender" became the first Gryffindor.

"Bulstrode, Millicent" was the first Slytherin.

"Dagworth-Granger, Sabella!" Called McGonagall

How had it happened that fast? It couldn't possibly be her turn already. Bella found that she was trembling.

Lily nudged her forward gently, and Bella began to weave through the crowd of other first years. She managed to walk up the steps to the raised teachers' area, and sit upon the stool. Bella saw the watching eyes of the hall for barely a second before Professor McGonagall placed the hat on her head and it slipped over her eyes.

'Hellooo!' Said a small, scratchy voice in her ear. 'Oooh, you're the most difficult so far… Empathy, that's a rare one, and such loyalty! You would go to the ends of the earth to keep a chosen few safe… and goodness me! Such potential! But what house?'

Bella bit her lip hard enough to feel salt wash over her tongue. 'Can you put me anywhere? I'm not very cunning, not very brave, not especially hardworking, and not smart either -'

The hat scoffed. 'On the contrary, dear. You have quite the potential to become cunning… so you could be a Slytherin, you are courageous… in the right circumstance, you have yet to find your passion, so you know nothing of hard work, and you are quite potentially astute.'

'But none of those things are now!' Thought Bella forcefully. 'It doesn't matter what I might be, it matters what I am!'

'With me, the only thing that matters is the future. I will sort you to the house that can make the best of you, and you, my dear have a bucket load of ambition. It's buried deep down, but burning at true bottom of your mind is a desire to change the world, for the better. I can see everything you know…'

'Bu -'

'You are rather argumentative when talking to a hat! The best place for you, dearie, is…' "SLYTHERIN!"

Bella's mouth fell open.

How?

The green-clad table was clapping and Bella slowly found her feet. She made her way down the steps slowly, barely aware of McGonagall calling, "Finch-Fletchley, Justin!"

"HUFFLEPUFF!"

And then, "Finnigan, Seamus!"

She managed to find her way to the Slytherin table and sit on the very end of the bench, closest to the teachers and focus her eyes on the sorting. Her mind ran wild as she watched the other children. How could she be a Slytherin? She wasn't cunning or smart, she wasn't witty or sharp, and she wasn't even fully human, for Merlin's sake! What Bella really wanted to do was jump into the lake, feel the cool water swirling past her and blocking out the noise, but -

"Granger, Hermione!"

Hermione ran up to the stool eagerly. The hat took a while with her as well, then yelled, "GRYFFINDOR!"

A few more names were called before,

"Longbottom, Neville!"

"GRYFFINDOR!"

A slight surprise, Bella had assumed Neville would go to Hufflepuff.

"MacDougal, Morag!"

Draco Malfoy swaggered up to the stool when he was called. The hat didn't touch his platinum blond head before it screamed, "SLYTHERIN!"

Then, "Moon, Lily!"

A minute, and then - "RAVENCLAW!"

Bella clapped loudly. Even if she wasn't where she was supposed to be, at least her friend was.

There weren't many people left now.

"Nott" and "Parkinson" both went to Slytherin then, "Patil, Padma" went to Ravenclaw while "Patil, Parvati" went to Gryffindor. And then "Perks, Sally-Anne"...and, "Potter, Harry!"

Harry Potter stepped forward to whispers and rustling from the students.

"Potter she said?"

"- the Harry Potter?"

Harry sat down and Professor McGonagall plopped the hat on his head. After a moment or two, the hat opened and yelled, "GRYFFINDOR!"

This was met by the loudest cheers yet, and a pair of red headed twins were yelling "We got Po-tter! We got Po-tter!"

Bella clapped absentmindedly, still dreaming of swimming away.

Few people had yet to be Sorted. "Thomas, Dean" went to Gryffindor, "Turpin, Lisa" to Ravenclaw, the "Weasley, Ron", Harry Potter's friend, went to Gryffindor to sit by the Boy-Who-Lived himself.

"Zabini, Blaise" joined the Slytherins and ended the Sorting.

The Headmaster, Albus Dumbledore, who Harry had only seen on a Chocolate Frog card, had gotten up. He smiled widely at all the students with his arms open wide, as though expecting a hug.

"Welcome!" He said. "Welcome to a new year at Hogwarts! Before we begin our banquet, I would like to say a few words. And here they are: Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak!

"Thank you!"

He sat back down in his tall, throne-like chair. Everyone clapped or cheered.

Bella turned inward, to face the table and turned toward the table. Her mouth fell open once again, this time in more pleasant surprise.

The tables were covered in every food imaginable, roast beef, roast chicken, pork chops and lamb chops, sausages, bacon and steak, boiled potatoes, roast potatos, mashed potatoes, chips, Yorkshire pudding, pasta, rice, peas, carrots, gravy, ketchup, and for some reason, known to no one, peppermint humbugs. There was also, to Bella's delight, a huge platter of beautifully cooked and arranged cod fish. She piled a large bit of fish onto her plate and began to eat.

The other first year Slytherins had filled the end of the table so that both next to and across from her sat people. Bella didn't dare talk, in fact, she didn't say anything until she was halfway through her fish.

"Is that all you're going to eat?" Said a voice from next to her.

Bella looked up, and found that it was the dark haired girl from the lake crossing.

"Oh- ah… I suppose. That's all I'm in the mood for, at the moment…" Bella said quietly.

"The Yorkshire pudding is quite good, if you'd like some." Said the girl. She had a turnt up nose, wide dark eyes, and straight brown hair. "I'm Daphne Greengrass, and this is Tracey Davies." She pointed to the girl on her other side, the one with light hair.

Bella smiled awkwardly. "I'm Sabella Dagworth-Granger, pleased to meet you."

"Nice to meet you to." Said Tracey, leaning on the table to see her.

"Tracey and I were just wondering at what the classes would be like." Daphne spoke while carefully spooning peas onto her plate. "We're supposed to have Transfiguration, Charms, Astronomy, Herbology, Defence Against the Dark Arts, and Potions, which I'm looking forward to."

Bella nodded. "I'm not sure what I'm looking forward to the most, but I tried a few charms and potions once I got my books."

Tracey said, 'So did we. I'm glad I'm a Slytherin because our head of house is Professor Snapeand he's rather nasty to anyone not in Slytherin."

"Oh… that's good then." Murmured Bella.

"Weren't expecting Slytherin, were you?" It was a boy across the table with sandy brown hair and light eyes.

Bella hesitated. "Well, no… I was hoping for Hufflepuff actually."

The boy snorted. "You can obviously do better than that then. I'm Theodore Nott, by the way."

"Sabella." She said automatically.

His words reminded her of what Lily had said, and she looked around, craning her neck to see Lily at the Ravenclaw table. Bella bobbed back and forth slightly until Lily noticed her, then waved.

Lily waved back and gave a thumbs up.

Bella grinned slightly. She looked back downtown find that the platters of food had been replaced.

Dessert consisted of blocks of ice-cream in every flavor you could think of (including basil), apple pies and tarts, treacle tarts, chocolat éclairs, jam doughnuts, trifle, strawberries, Jell-O, rice pudding, and chocolate cake.

Bella helped herself to apple pie and continued to look around. It seemed, that the Slytherin Prefects were evenly placed along the table, while the rest of where people were depended on age. Most first and second years sat near the head table, third years sat a little further down, and forth years and fifth years in the middle. At the end, farthest away from the teachers, the sixth and seventh years jeered and laughed and generally made a hubb-bubb.

Across from her, Draco Malfoy, Theodore Nott and a boy with dark skin and high cheekbones were discussing Quidditch, with another boy calling out thoughts from further down the table. Bella looked past Tracey to find a familiar face: Pansy Parkinson, a girl whom Bella had know for years through Aunt Elena. Pansy and another girl where whispering excitedly about something that caused them both to squeal every now and then. Tracey Davis and Daphne Greengrass had gone back to talking about their classes, while a large girl with mousy brown hair was still eating second helpings.

Bella was content to sit quietly.

When the rest of the desserts had disappeared as, which a few people seemed disappointed at, Professor Dumbledore stood once again. The hall fell quiet.

"Ahem - just a few more words now that we are all fed and watered. I have a few start of term announcements to tell you.

"First years should note the forest on the grounds is called the Forbidden Forest for obvious reasons. And a few of our older students would do well to remember that as well."

Dumbledore's eyes fell on the redheaded Gryffindor twins, who Bella concluded must be the pranksters of their year, or maybe of the school.

"I have also been asked by Mr. Filch, the caretaker, to remind you that no magic should be used between classes in the corridors.

"Quidditch trials will be held the second week of term. Anyone interested in playing for their house team should contact Madame Hooch and their house Quidditch Captain.

"And finally, I must tell you that this year, the third-floor corridor on the right hand side is out of bounds to anyone who does not wish to die a very painful death."

Bella gazed at the headmaster in awe and slight terror.

"And now, before we go to bed, let us sing the school song!" Dumbledore proclaimed, with a flick if his wand and a gold ribbon flew out of it, twisting itself to form words.

"Everyone pick their favorite tune," said Dumbledore, "and off we go!"

The entire hall began to bellow;

"Hogwarts, Hogwarts, Hoggy Warty Hogwarts,

Teach us something please,

Whether we be old and bald,

Or young with scabby knees,

Our heads could do with filling

With some interesting stuff,

For nos they're bare and full of air,

Dead flies and bits of fluff,

So teach us things worth knowing,

Bring back what we've forgot,

Just do your best, we'll do the rest,

And learn until our brains all rot!"

Everyone finished the song at separate times, so Dumbledore was left conducting the redhead twins in a funeral dirge.

Dumbledore wiped away a tear and said, "Ah, music. A magic beyond all we do here! And now, bedtime. Off you trot!"

The Slytherin first years were lead through the masses by two Prefects called Gemma Farley and Michael Roden. They walked out of the Great Hall and turned right, down a corridor, and round a bend. Behind a tapestry, a long, spiral staircase led downwards to the "Slytherin part of the dungeons" as Farley put it.

They walked passed large rooms and dungeons, down wide corridors and thin, until they came to a stretch of wall that seemed like a dead end. Farley turned to the first years. "This is the entrance to the Slytherin common room and dormitories. The password changes every week on Sunday. Be sure to check the notice board. Never tell anyone of another house where or how to enter the common room. Never betray Slytherin secrets." Farley turned back to the wall. "The password is currently 'Venibactum' and will be for the rest of the week."

When she said 'Venibactum', the huge stone bricks began to twist and move, quite like the entrance to Diagon Alley. The Prefects stepped into the passage that the wall had concealed. The first years followed, down a short, narrow passageway, eager to see their new common room.

The common room was decidedly less green than Bella had expected. It was quite large, and seemed to be hexagonal. On the left from the entrance, a large fire roared, casting golden flickering onto the black wood floors. Above the fireplace was a portrait of a tall, thin man, with black hair and a beard. Around the man's arm, a corn snake was coiled, its head bobbing from side to side slowly.

The floor was covered in places by large, soft Persian rugs. On either side of the fireplace, tall bookshelves reached up to the high ceiling. A few yards in front of the fireplace, the floor was deeper and ringed by a soft grey couch, giving enough room for about thirty people. A few poofs and foot-rests were scattered around it to offer more seats.

Rimming the room, about fifteen feet up was a loft like balcony full of armchairs and books with lanterns perched at intervals along it.

To the right from the entrance, a round fountain played, water spewing out of a column in the center. The middle of the fountain glowed, giving the area around it a blueish, watery glow.

Past the fountain, more bookshelves framed a doorway, on either side of which stood two beautiful billiard tables. Through the doorway, a plush, forest green carpet covered the floor, and the walls were made of glass in a large bubble over the room, which looked out onto -

"Is that the Lake?!" Asked Pansy.

"Yes." Replied Roden. "I'll show you around while we wait for Professor Snape. This -" He pointed at the lowered couches. "Is the disgustion pit. Most of the time, its just for the sixth and seventh years, except for when there is a house issue." He paused and pointed to the bubbling fountain. "That is the Fountain of Taste. If you have a goblet or a cup, you can get drinking water from there. Don't you dare put your hands in the water."

"Passed the fountain is the Sunroom. Or at least, that's what we call it. As Miss Parkinson so obviously pointed out, it is under the Lake. You lot can do your homework there or in the loft. Don't bother the mermaids if they come around." Roden gestured at the double doors.

The first years looked at each other, confused and slightly excited at the mention of mermaids.

Roden was now pointing to a stairway directly across from the entrance. "That is the Prefects' Hall and the seventh year dorms. Don't bother going up there unless you're a Prefect or in your seventh year. You'll get thrown out. Literally." He paused to glower at them.

"Those are the girls' dorms," He pointed to the doorway on the right side of the Sunroom. "And those are the boys'." He pointed to another doorway on the other side.

He glared at them again. "Don't go into a dorm the isn't yours. You will most likely end up in the infirmary."

The boys in front of Bella glanced at each other and smirked.

Farley looked at an old grandfather clock that seemed not only tell the time, but the month, the year, the moon cycle, and the tide of the Lake. She said, "Snape should be here at ten o'clock."

They only had a moment to take in the common room before the clock struck ten and Professor Snape billowed in through the corridor. Bella immediately thought of a rather large bat, swooping down the passage. The man cast his eyes around disapprovingly. He pulled out his wand and flicked it dramatically, causing a loud chiming to fill the room.

After a moment, there was a rumbling and the upper years began to stream down from their dorms. They filled in the common room, all facing Snape, who was standing at the top of the entrance steps.

"Welcome. Welcome back to others. As some of you already know, Slytherin is now your family for the rest of your Hogwarts career." Snape sneered at that. "If you have a quarrel with a fellow housemate, the argument stays within this room." Snape stopped and glared around at them.

"The other houses discriminate against us. Slytherin stands as one, outside this room, to face them.

"I have become accustomed to seeing the House Cup in my office. See that it stays that way. Do not lose unnecessary points.

"Another rule; do not disturb me unless someone is dying, injured or something is on fire.

"I presume one of the Prefects has already told the first years not to disturb the mermaids or Giant Squid. Any sea life really.

"Schedules will be distributed tomorrow at breakfast." Snape nodded curtly, then turned around and swept away.

The upper years immediately turned and went back to their dorms. The Prefect, Gemma Farley, called for the first year girls to follow her, while the boys followed Michael Roden the other way. They walked up a short flight of stone steps and stepped into a big room with two corridors branching out on a diagonal. There was a chandelier in the middle, and a handful of beautiful cream armchairs, as well as another lit fireplace.

Farley pointed to the right corridor and said, "Years one through three are down there, and four through six non-prefects are down the other one. Follow me."

She led the way down the corridor, which had tall windows that looked into the lake, and to the second door on the left. Into their new dorm they went.

It was nice looking, with a long, plush white rug that ran down the room. On the right and left sides, three four-poster beds with green hangings sat in a other girls found their belongings at the end of the beds, but Bella saw her trunk next to an alcove directly across from the door. She walked to her bed and sat down. She felt strangely calm, and it took her a moment to remember that she was technically under water. Bella looked behind her to see her bed nook. It was cozy, but slightly isolating, as the curtains were simply attached to the wall, and the bed was built into a large nook in the said wall. There was a little window that looked into the lake, and Bella almost cried with relief as she leaned against it. She absently wondered if the teachers knew about her mother, and if they had put her bed here because of that. The bedding was very warm, as the dungeons were quite cold, and there was a warm grey duvea, a blue-green quilt at the end of the bed, and a white throw in the corner.

Bella looked at the rest of the girls, most of whom were chattering while unpacking their things into the desks next to each bed, and decided to do the same. The rest of the beds had their owner's trunk at the foot, and a desk next to it. For Bella, her trunk was carefully placed next to the end of the nook, and her desk was too. She carefully climbed out, reluctant to leave the window, and began to unpack her things onto the desk. Her inkwell, her quills, her stationary, and her pictures. She decided to keep her jewelry box in her nook, on the shelf set in the wall at the end of the bed.

Of all her jewelry, there was one she would never take off; a round bronze locket, with intricate designs covering the surface like waves. Inside was her entity, her soul. Inside was her Cloak. It was folded again and again until it was the size of a sickle, and tucked into her mother's locket. Next to the locket, her mother's wedding ring hung, both of them inches from her heart.

Bella finished unpacking her things apart from clothes and found herself being called to by Pansy. Bella had never really liked Pansy, but she didn't dislike her either, and just hoped to never be on the opposite side from her in an argument.

"Sabella! Come over!" Called Pansy from where she was perched on her trunk in the middle of the room, and the other girls either sat on their beds or the rug around her.

Bella sat on the rug next to Tracey.

"I think we all ought to tell our names, and about ourselves, just to get to know each other." Suggested Daphne from beside Tracey.

The other girls agreed and Daphne began. "I'm Daphne Greengrass," She said properly. "I have a little sister named Astoria, and my older sister, Elenora, is a seventh year. And, um, my father works for the Ministry while my mother is a Charms Mistress."

She turned and looked at Tracey. "Hello! I'm Tracey Davies." Said the girl. "I'm a halfblood, my mum is a tutor, and my father works for the Ministry. I have a few cousins who go here."

Tracey nodded kindly at Bella, who spoke quietly in turn. "My name's Bella - Sabella Dagworth-Granger. I live with my Auntie, who works as a Warder at Gringotts."

"Is that it?" Said a girl with wavy black hair sitting on her bed.

Bella flushed. "I have a cousin named Liam, in his third year, and a little cousin called Fable."

The black haired girl told them that she was Rachel Avery, and that she lived with her mother and little brother.

Next went a girl with hundreds of little braids in her hair and warm brown skin, whose name was Vera Knighton. Her mother and father both worked for the Ministry and she was a only child.

Lastly, there was the large brown haired girl named Millicent Bulstrode.

The rest of the girls continued to talk while Bella tuned out. She was beginning to feel overwhelmed again, and her skin was itching, a sure sign that she needed to get out. "I think I'll take a bath before bed." She announced.

To her surprise, Tracey responded, telling her that the baths were at the end of the corridor, but there were also a few toilets nearby.

So, Bella gathered her pyjamas and walked down to corridor to a door that many people were coming and going through, and barely managed to dodge an older girl before entering. To her surprise, it was quite like how she had imagined a muggle boarding school. Girls brushing their teeth and chasing each other, brushing hair and yelling, all along a long room, on one side lined with sinks and towel racks, and on the other lined with doors that led to individual rooms.

Bella found an empty bathroom at the end of the room, slipped in and locked to door. It was a huge bath, as large as a bed, and just as deep. There were a great number of silver taps, which Bella fiddled with until she found one that had some sort of bath salt in it. She let it run until the tub was full, and stepped into the warm water.

The tension left her shoulders, and she lay down under the water immediately. Bella took a breath then slipped all the way under water to think.

How am I a Slytherin? She wondered again.

I need to talk to Auntie…. but what will Auntie think? Will she hate me now? I should talk to Lily first, then Emily… but it'll take a while for Em to respond…. oh Merlin! Why couldn't I just be in Hufflepuff?

Bella opened her eyes and looked at the sides of the bath, before looking back up at the surface of the water. She blew a bubble and watched it spiral up and pop at the surface.

Bella lay in the bath for almost a half hour before resolving to write to Aunt Elena, and asking one of the Prefects how to send it considering that she didn't have an owl.

Reluctantly, she left the bath and dried off with the towels hanging on the wall. The bath automatically drained itself while Bella pulled on her pyjamas and toweled off her hair.

There was much less people in the washroom and corridor, so Bella easily made her way to her dorm, and then to her desk. Quickly, she penned the letter she had rehearsed over and over in her head.

 

Dear Auntie,

You said to owl you about the sorting, and so: I am writing this from the Slytherin dorms. I'm surprised, and rather scared, and I don't know what to do. Can you ask Uncle James to owl me? I'd like to talk to him, and I can't remember their address.

The sorting hat told me that it sorts people based on what they can be, not what they are, which doesn't seem very smart. It said that I had the potential, and the way to it was through Slytherin.

I just want to be in Hufflepuff.

Please write back soon.

I expect a few people might be losing a galleon or two.

Sabella Dagworth-Granger

 

She rolled up the parchment and carefully sealed it, then walked back down the hall to find a Prefect, or just a kind looking upper year. Eventually she spotted the male prefect talking, or actually, arguing, with a girl at the bottom of the stairs to the boys' dorms.

"- no! That entirely unreasonable, Michael! You know that's not what I meant, and you're just making - what do you want?" The girl snapped at Bella, who was waiting awkwardly behind her.

"I- I just needed to talk to a prefect, I'm sorry…" Bella replied, but the girl was already stomping past her.

The boy called Michael leaned against the wall and said, with a recognizable London accent, "Oh, Merlin. She is a monstrosity. What do you want help with, Dagworth? I can't come up those stairs, so you had better come down."

It took Bella a moment to realize that he had addressed her as 'Dagworth'. She had never been called that before. "Um… I wanted to owl my aunt… but I don't have an owl, and I-"

"Ah. The way that other students send mail is by borrowing a school owl, but considering the Owlery is at the top of a tower, and as we're rather far down, we have a system." He gestured for her to follow him, and Bella hesitantly walked down the stairs and across the common room to the fireplace with him. "If you need to send mail, or mail comes in for someone at a late time, we use the mail slot." He pointed at a small slot, just like a muggle mail flap, next to the huge mantel piece. "Believe it or not, we're right under the Owlery, and this will send it right up."

Bella edged around him and slipped her letter in and heard a whoosh, and the letter was gone.

"Thank you." Said Bella quietly.

"No problems. I owe you one for getting me out of Delilah's clutches." He grinned. "You ought to be off to bed, Dagworth, it's almost ten."

Bella nodded timidly, then turned and headed back to her dorm.

"Oh, and Dagworth! Many happy returns to your uncle, from Michael and Olivia!" The prefect called.

Bella stopped, with her foot on the first step. How on earth had he known her uncle's birthday was the next day?

A bead of water slipping down her back from her hair, and she felt the familiar comfort of water, mixed with an odd chilling sensation slipping down her back. She bounded up the steps, eager to get to bed, and away from the older Slytherins, who all seemed to be looking at her.

Bella managed to get to her dorm mostly unnoticed, and slipped past Pansy, Vera and Rachel, who were talking and giggling excitedly by the door, and past Tracey and Daphne, who were whispering on Tracey's bed.

She sat on her bed and yanked her curtains closed. Her hands were trembling and eyes were watering; if only she were in Hufflepuff, or Ravenclaw with Lily, it would be her out there, giggling and talking. Eventually, Bella slipped under the covers and pressed her back against the window. She clutched at her locket, letting the warmth seep into her fingers. The bed still seemed huge and empty, even with the large blankets and pillows; even though the bed was amazing, Bella couldn't settle. Slowly, she drifted off, trapped in a place she didn't want to be.

Chapter Text

The next morning, Bella woke slowly, feeling as though she were being dragged from her sleep. For just a moment, she forgot where she was, but in barely a second she was aware of the differences. The dorm smelled of water and stone, the bed was much softer than her normal one, and she could feel the ebb and flow of the lake, against her back, calling to her.

Bella was a very light sleeper, so she supposed that one of the other girls had gotten up and disturbed her. Her body ached, and she didn't want to move, so she lay in the bed, staring at the warm green curtain. Eventually, when she heard more of the girls stirring, she sat up and slipped out. When she went to her trunk, she found a silver and green tie lying on top, and once she had put it on with the rest of her uniform, she found that the robe had a matching badge attached as well. As the other girls were still barely awake, Bella sat back on her bed, looking out into the lake while twirling her hair unskillfully into a bun. The lake was very different in light than dark. Now, instead of the strange, dark shapes shifting around in a alien world, the greenish water was full of light. Rays of sunlight shone from where Bella guessed was east, and tiny silver fish darted about, while seaweed danced around the edge of her window, and swayed in fields as far as one could see. The dungeons were obviously built on the bottom of the shallow part of the lake, as the ground dropped away and rocks loomed awkwardly in the far distance.

"You're awake too?" Bella started, and looked around to see Tracey standing in the doorway across the room with still wet hair.

Bella nodded.

"The lake's pretty wicked looking in the day, isn't it?" Said Tracey, indicating one of the other windows in between beds.

Bella nodded again. "Yeah. The fish look nice." And tasty. She thought.

Tracey was packing away her pyjamas and pulling on her robes over her uniform before she spoke again. "Do you want to go down to the common room now? You look about ready." At Bella's shrug, she continued, "Pansy won't get up until she's being pulled from her bed and Daph normally wakes up later, so they'll be a while."

"I'll come." She said.

Bella stood up and stretched, then packed all the required textbooks into a messenger bag and followed Tracey out of the dorm.

The corridor was almost empty, except for handfuls of older years with bleary eyes and messy hair, so Bella followed Tracey quietly down to the common room. The room seemed even bigger with the ceiling high windows letting in more light, and the loft making the place seem even taller. The fire was still burning in the huge grate, and the fountain still played in the middle of the room, but Bella could now see that the bookshelves held not only books, but bottles and ancient pots, paintings, sculptures and busts, and even farther up, many, many trophies.

Tracey caught her attention and pointed to couple of boys from their year, lounging around in armchairs by the door, obviously waiting to go to breakfast. "Do you want to sit by them? I know most of them, that's Theo, there's Blaise Zabini, and I think the other one is Draco Malfoy. I've never met him, but I've heard of him, of course, he's the heir of the most influential family ever!"

Bella felt a pool of dread swirling in her stomach. While she was from a pureblooded family on her father's side, she was still a halfblood, as her mother wasn't exactly human. When she was little, still living with her mother and father, she had played with pureblooded children, but she only partially remembered that, as the majority of her life had been spent in the company of muggles at her school, the Merkels, or Lily, who was a far cry from a tradition pureblood. Bella could interact with Pansy, Tracey and Daphne, as well as the other girls in her dorm, but boys? That was another thing entirely.

To her misfortune, Tracey had taken her silence as a 'yes', and begun to pull her over to the boys.

"Davis!" Exclaimed a dark skinned boy with close-cut hair and high cheekbones. "Haven't seen you in a while!" He had a nonchalant way of talking and a slight accent that Bella couldn't place.

"Hullo, Zabini, Theo." Said Tracey, nodding at a tall and thin boy as well.

Tracey turned to the third boy, who's pale features and white blond hair identified him as the boy who had so rudely confronted Harry Potter. "We haven't been introduced. I'm Tracey Davies."

Her tone was different when she spoke to this boy, and she looked slightly uncomfortable.

"Draco Malfoy." He drawled. "Pleasure."

Tracey smiled at him, then turned to Bella and raised her eyebrows, obviously waiting an introduction.

"I'm Bella - Sabella Dagworth-Granger, that is." She looked around the boys hesitantly. "Nice to meet you."

"Theodore Nott," Said the the tallest boy, who had floppy light brown hair and dark eyes. "Didn’t introduce myself fully last night. Nice to finally meet a Dagworth-Granger. Tris idolized you uncle while he was here."

Bella blinked in surprise. It was the second time that someone had mentioned her uncle in a rather short amount of time. She managed to nod, as politely as she could.

"Blaise Zabini. Pleasure to make your acquaintance." The black boy said.

He stepped forward and kissed her hand, making her flush.

Bella looked hesitantly at the pale boy, who said, "You must know who I am, I just said."

"Don't mind Draco, he's a prat, always has been." Said Blaise absently.

She let a smile tug at her lips for a second before noticing Draco's glare and quickly stopping.

"Anyway…" Said Tracey. "Can we sit here?"

"If you must." Said Draco pompously.

The slight tension slipped away slightly, and Tracey and Bella sat down in armchairs facing the boys. Unsurprisingly, the conversation turned to Quidditch, the safest subject for wizarding children until it came to a British regional level, so they talked about the latest World Cup, which had taken place over the summer. Scotland's bitter defeat was still a sore topic, and the small group angrily discussed the five day match, Canada's surprising number of fouls, and Harrison Hermes' (the Scottish keeper) amazing blunders.

Bella also learnt that Tracey's favorite team was the Holyhead Harpies, just like her. She discovered that Blaise Zabini was actually part Italian (leading to his odd accent), and that Theodore Nott lived with his mother and four sisters.

Slowly, the time inched by, and other students trickled into the common room, including three more boys who Bella was never introduced to, and the rest of her dormmates. It seemed to Bella that everyone knew each other, save Millicent Bulstrode, Vera Knighton, and one of the other boys. The entirety of her year was gathered together before they headed to breakfast, very much taking Professor Snape's word to heart and literally standing as one. The small group of first-years made their way up to the Great Hall, chattering quietly to each other in nervous excitement and sat, all on one end of the Slytherin table to eat.

Bella didn't have the stomach to eat anything at all, so she sat and nibbled on a piece of toast silently. The rest of the hall filled with other students, and eventually, the Heads of the Houses began to walk around, handing out schedules to their students. She didn't dare look Professor Snape in the eye when he handed her her schedule, but she thanked him as politely as she could, albeit rather quietly. It took Bella a moment to decipher her schedule, but she squinted and read:

Sabella Dagworth-Granger, Year One

~ MONDAY: Potions, History of Magic, -Break-, Charms, -Free/Lunch-, Double Transfiguration, Herbology, -Free/Dinner-.

~ TUESDAY: Charms, Transfiguration, -Break-, Defense Against the Dark Arts, -Free/Lunch-, Double Herbology, History of Magic, -Free/Dinner-.

~ WEDNESDAY: Double Potions, -Break-, Herbology, -Free/Lunch, History of Magic, Transfiguration, Charms, -Free/Dinner-, Astronomy.

~ THURSDAY: Defense Against the Dark Arts, Transfiguration, -Break-, History of Magic, -Free/Lunch- Double Charms, Potions, -Free/Dinner-.

~ FRIDAY: Potions, History of Magic, -Break-, Charms, -Free/Lunch-, Double Transfiguration, Herbology, -Free/Dinner-.

On Mondays and Fridays, the schedule was the same, and it seemed that she had almost all her classes everyday.

Her inspection of her schedule was cut off as a loud fluttering and clattering filled the air, and Bella very nearly fell out of her seat in surprise as hundreds upon hundreds of owls swooped through the rafters and upper windows, circling the tables until they saw their masters or recipients, and dropping letters and parcels into their laps.

A medium-sized brown-grey owl was soaring directly at her, and Bella recognised her as Sidra, Aunt Elena's owl. The owl made a miraculous turn directly over her head, dropping a letter from her talons and flying back towards the shutters, Bella watching her wistfully all along, until the letter hit her plate.

She grabbed it and began to open it, hope and agitation flittering about in her stomach, but she was still pulling out the letter with shaking hands when another owl, huge and black this time, swooped down and landed on her plate, to stick out its leg with another letter. Bella blinked stupidly and stared at the owl for a second. This was another owl, she knew, vaguely at least. The opposite of his terrifying demeanor, his name was 'Mr. Hoots', and he was very, very old. And, he belonged to to her Uncle James, the only surviving member of her family who was a Slytherin.

Bella managed to untie the letter from the owl's leg, and tear off a piece of toast for him. As Mr Hoots flew away, Bella looked at the letters, contemplating which to open first.

A voice made her look up. "Quite popular, aren't you?" It was an older boy, a little ways down the table.

Bella felt her face flame. "Not really…" she muttered.

"Sorry." He said, not sounding remotely interested. Then, he leant forward and said, "Open the more uplifting one first, that's how I always do it."

Bella stared at him a moment, then reached for the scroll huge with Aunt Elena's neat handwriting addressed to the school.

Dearest Bella,

Congratulations! Even if you can't see it now, you're just like your father at eleven years old. I know you're surprised to be Slytherin, but you shouldn't worry that anyone is angry; both Ernest and James were Slytherins, so we're no strangers to the idea of it.

Personally, I thought you would follow my footsteps into Hufflepuff, as that was what you wanted as well, but as you've followed my brothers' footsteps, I will tell you now: no matter what house you are in, you can be amazing.

I've owled James a copy of your letter, and believe that he'll be responding soon, if he hasn't already. He'll have good advice; the way he managed to navigate through Hogwarts was amazing. I don't know if anyone's told you, but he was a Prefect and Head Boy in his time. If anyone knows about Slytherin, it's him. Your father on the other hand, was more of the quiet one, drifting his way through Hogwarts, passing all his classes (just barely) while excelling at Potions, the only one out of the three of us to continue the family profession. It infuriated your mother to no end that he only payed attention to the thing he was good at. While I've gone off reminiscing, it's really James who can help, and all I can do is reassure you not to worry. Even if you don't get through Hogwarts like the rest of us, you'll still get through, and according to your house's character, you'll do amazing things if you want to.

Lots of love from your Auntie,

EODG

Aunt Elena's looping initials finished the letter, and Bella felt a small swell in her chest. Auntie wasn't angry at her, and honestly, she wasn't sure why she had ever thought that in the first place. She re-roled the parchment and slipped it into her robe pocket.

She turned her attention to the envelope with her uncle's small, scratchy handwriting.

Dear Ella-Bella,

Firstly, I'm very glad I get to write to someone on their first day of school, as Liam has decided that he's too old to receive mail from his parents on a regular basis. Secondly, congratulations! I can't say that I wasn't expecting you to be in Hufflepuff, but when I think on it, you remind me of my brother in demeanor as well as looks. In your letter you say that the Hat sorts based on what someone can be, rather than what they are, as well as the fact that this doesn't seem like an intelligent approach. In response, I can tell you that everyone I knew had me pinned as a Gryffindor, and I was honestly quite disappointed to be in Slytherin, but by the end of my Hogwarts career, I would have greatly regretted being a Gryffindor.

Now: there is a bit of a schedule to Slytherin's madness, and as you've already been there a night, I can assume that your head of house has explained the rules, very vaguely. Tonight, the seventh year Slytherin prefects, or head boy/girl will give you a bit more information. Rules, procedures, structures and expectations will be explained in more depth. Whoever is the one to explain these rules should be treated with the greatest respect you can muster; this is the leader of the Slytherin Council. The Council is the leading body of Slytherin, made up of the most influential, powerful, and potential filled students, normally from third year up. You already may have a bit of attention from them, being the daughter of a Slytherin who managed to maintain civil contact with even a few Death Eaters until a year or so before his death, as well as being my niece, myself having had the honor of being the head boy and leader of the Council.

My best advice is: get on the good side of the Council. Don't get involved with the obsessive, dark or bitter side, if anything, stay in the shade, closer to the light.

I graduated just as You-Know-Who was rising to power, so I hope that our house is not as divided as it once was.

Use your talents, no matter how trivial they seem.

Love and encouragement,

James Dagworth-Granger

Bella's first reaction to the letter was a pang of annoyance at her cousin, and she swiveled to glare at Liam's back two tables away. How could he ever deny his parents the option to write to him all the time?

Her second reaction was to relax, just slightly. Uncle James had a way of being completely honest while being comforting at the same time. It seemed to Bella that what she should do was simply not draw attention to herself, and if she did end up with attention, then to do something good, the only problem was that she didn't know what that something was.

"Sabella! We're going to class now, come on!" It was Tracey, tugging on her robe from behind.

"Oh!" Said Bella in suprise. "Yeah… You have potions too then?"

Tracey nodded. "Slytherin first years have all their classes together."

"All right…" Bella folded up the parchment and followed Tracey, Daphne, Vera and Pansy out of the hall.

0 0 0

The castle was just as weird and wonderful as it had first seemed. Twisting passageways, random doors, moving staircases, rickety balconies, and secret entrances or passages made up the castle, classrooms and closets randomly dispersed in the mayhem.

According to a knowing third year, there were a hundred and forty-two staircases on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. The rest of the time, others cropped up, and sometimes, the normal ones went missing.

The doors sometimes pretended, and other times, demanded a password no one knew. The paintings constantly went visiting one another, so they were hardly reliable, while the caretaker, Mr. Filch, never told you anything.

A few of the first years continuously forgot to check for the trick steps and had to be hauled out by their armpits.

Peeves, the poltergeist, displayed the reason that the ghosts had be arguing about him on the first day, by dropping Ink Pellets on the heads of students in the entrance hall, then zooming off, cackling wickedly.

The armor statues moved occasionally or muttered an insult from beneath their visor, while the floorboards and cobbles sometimes seemed to rearrange themselves into their own patterns.

The students themselves were almost as magical as the school. Fifth years ran down the corridors, hair black and singed from a particularly bad Potions lesson, while distressed forth years shot hexes at anyone who got in their way, as they were late to class.

The third years, who were starting more advanced Transfiguration, randomly cast spells, trying to turn shoehorns into lizards.

The seventh years seemed to be the worst, already worried for their N.E.W.T examinations, they constantly blustered around, Summoning quills to jot down this or that, or commanding second years to get them books, which bellowed when opened.

And then there were the classes, if you managed to get to them; Charms and Astronomy, Herbology, Potions, and more, all very different and strange unto themselves.

First, they had Potions in the dungeons with Professor Snape, who was just as intimidating as he had first seemed. He did seem to prefer them to the other houses, which was a blessing, as his classes were demanding enough without him glaring at you the whole time.

In their first class, which was shared with the Ravenclaws, Bella happily sat by Lily, and they exchanged secretive glances and whispers about what their respective houses were like. Professor Snape set them a series of complex notes about the purpose and history of potions, and told them that they would start brewing in their respective double classes. The homework, due on the double class, was to write a short explanation of who, how, why, and where potions came to be.

Then, Bella walked with Pansy and Vera to their next lesson: History of Magic, which turned out to be the most boring class she had ever attended. History had always been one of Bella's favorite subjects in primary school, but the teacher in this case was a ghost called Professor Binns, who had an impressively bland and dull voice, and after taking notes for the first half of the class, she fell asleep. Tracey poked her awake at the end of class, looking half asleep herself, and they found their other housemates outside. They had a break in between classes, and the first part of it Bella spent in an awkward silence, listening to the others talk about classes, people and other nonsensical things, until Lily spotted her and she made a polite excuse to run over to her friend.

"They can't be that bad!" Said Lily when they had sat down on a bench with Padma.

Bella sighed. "They're not, it's just… They're so, I dunno, posh."

Padma and Lily both giggled, and Bella let an apologetic smile slip onto her face. "Most of them seem decent, actually, I just feel sort of… Out of place."

Padma nodded understandingly. "Well, I know Pansy, Tracey, Draco, Blaise and Greg, and they are all a bit - ah, oh, I don't know, they are all rather posh!" Padma shrugged. "And that's me talking!"

The Patil twins were descended from a long line of India wizarding royalty, and had been raise in the nicest part of London.

"That's true." Said Lily absently. "To be honest, if you were raised by your grandmother, or your -" She broke off.

Bella finished for her. "Parents?"

"Yes, well, you'd have probably turned out like them." Lily looked at her closely. "Just be polite, and Slytherin-y I 'spose."

Bella nodded, trying to take her friends' words to heart. "What class do you have next, by the way? I've got Charms, I think."

Lily and Padma both looked slightly disappointed. "We've got Transfiguration." Said Lily. "Sorry…"

Bella shook her head hurriedly. She didn't want her friends to feel bad, just because of her sorting. "No, no, don't worry, I'll be fine! I think you're right, anyway, about how to act… Bye then."

Lily held her gaze for a moment, looking like she still pitied her.

"Really, Lils, don't worry. Bye Padma, see you!"

Bella retreated to her housemates, just as the bell rang to give a two-minute warning. They hurried to Charms class next, which was taught by the diminutive Professor Flitwick, who stood on a pile of books just to see over his desk. They took notes on the basics of Charms: wand movement, incantation, and purpose. Their homework was to read chapters one and two in The Standard Book of Spells and write down anything they thought relevant to the purpose of charms.

Afterwards, they had lunch, and then Transfiguration with the Gryffindors, and more importantly, Harry Potter, who Bella couldn't help glancing at every now and then.

He had skin that should have been a tan colour, but seemed slight ashy and pale, as though he didn't see the sun quite enough. His large round glasses covered his bright green eyes, and much to her surprise, his famous 'lightning bolt scar' wasn't a simple squiggly line, but a great series of thin jagged line splintering across the left side of his forehead, like a real bolt of lightning.

Professor McGonagall, on the other hand, was almost exactly as she had imagined her, strict and clever, she gave them a talking-to the moment they sat down.

"Transfiguration is some of the most complex and dangerous magic you will learn at Hogwarts," she said. "Anyone messing around in my class will leave and not come back. You have been warned."

Then, she changed her desk into a pig and back again, impressing even Draco Malfoy, who had maintained a slightly frustrating smirk through all their classes so far. Bella couldn't wait to get started, but quickly realized they wouldn't be changing furniture to animals any time soon. After making a lot of complex notes, they were given a match each, as well as an incantation, and ordered to turn it to a needle. By the end of the lesson, only the bushy haired girl, Hermione Granger, had managed to make a difference in the match. Professor McGonagall showed the class how it had gone all silver and pointy. Bella scowled at her match, which had only managed to become slightly bent, and wished she were able to turn it to a needle with her mind.

As Transfiguration had been double period, they made their way down to the greenhouse behind the school for their last class: Herbology. It was taught by a dumpy little witch names Professor Sprout, and in it, they learnt how to take care of all the odd plants and fungi that Bella recognized from Aunt Elena's secret garden, but had never been able to name. At the end of the lesson, Bella trooped back to the common room with dirt stuck under her fingernails. As they had until six o'clock for dinner, and it was only quarter past four when she got to the common room, she decided to take a bath to calm herself.

After a long, replenishing bath, Bella felt slightly better to face her housemates. She put her uniform back on and dried her hair, then wandered into the dorm room. Tracey and Daphne were sprawled out on the floor flipping through a copy of WitchWeekly, while Pansy and Vera were explaining something very animatedly to Millicent and Rachel, causing all of them to giggle a lot.

Bella worked up the courage to smile politely at Daphne and Tracey, then say "hello" to the other girls. Then, she made her way to her desk and sat down to write to Uncle James.

Bella must have written for a very long time, as Pansy's voice startled her just as she was signing the letter. "It's almost six! I told the boys that we'd all go up for dinner together! We've got to go!"

Bella was just as surprised when most of the other girls jumped up and headed for the door while she was still just putting her parchment away. The only other girl who took her time was Daphne, who stood up slowly and put away the magazine before hurrying after her friend, leaving Bella to follow.

In the common room, they met with the boys, who were acting considerably more familiarly with each other than before, and Bella even managed to catch the name of the boy whose name she hadn't know: Samuel Wilkes.

After a dinner (during which Bella managed to have an actual conversation with Pansy, as well as eat a full meal, consisting of salmon, potatoes and vegetables), they went back to the common room and seated themselves around one of the many furnaces in the Sunroom to begin their homework. That is, until there was a shout from the main common room. "Oi! Everyone! Com'ere!" It was Michael Roden, the Prefect.

Bella looked around and saw that even the older students were heeding this command, so she carefully placed her Standard Book of Spells, parchment and quill on the sleek grey armchair she had been sat upon, and followed.

Then, a familiar voice then added,"You lot - first years! Come up front."

Bella and Tracey glanced at each other and then made their way to the front of the crowd, who were all gathered facing the fireplace. And there, silhouetted by the fire was the tall boy from the platform, only now his hair was messier and his glasses were tucked into his breast pocket.

Something in Bella's stomach dropped after she realized that this was most likely the head boy, and more importantly, the head of the Slytherin Council. She'd probably already offended him, by bumping into him, and now she would be hated by the Slytherins.

"Alright!" He called, but he sounded somehow less aloof than on the platform. "As some of you might not know, I am the head boy this year, along with Helen Carter of Ravenclaw. My name is Elliot Sterling." He looked around, his dark eyes flashing, and gave a pointed look to someone behind Bella. "So, for this year, if something important happens, it'll be reported to me, got it? If you tell a prefect it'll get back to me eventually."

"We know, Sterling, get on with it!" Called a tall curvy girl at the far corner.

Elliot Sterling raised his eyebrows. "Thank you, Brandt, for the kind reminder."

Bella stifled a grin.

"Now, as dear old Livina says, I will 'get on with it'. You have already heard Professor Snape's rules, now you will hear mine:

First, don't get in trouble. I generally don't mind what you do with your time unless it involves permanent damage to a person or valuable object, but, if you get caught doing something, it's on you if we lose points.

"Second, we don't discuss politics unless you are sure the people you are discussing with share the same views and that you aren't overheard. If you've got a political debate with someone, do it formally, I don't like petty fights." His voice was simply cautionary, but at the same time, Bella could tell at once that 'petty fights' would not happen, or at least be very well concealed.

"Third, watch each other's backs. Not everyone in this school loves Slytherins, so, outside of the common room we stand as a united front. Quarrel if you must, but the argument never leaves the dungeons.

"Fourth, we aren't the house of ambition for no reason; if you have bad grades, it'll affect your future endeavors rather negatively. Therefore, you are expected to scrape at least an 'A' average in all your classes. If you aren't doing well, ask for help - being stubborn won't help you achieve in that aspect.

"And finally, not so much a rule, but I would like to point out that no matter blood status, if one is a Slytherin, they are an equal. If one is chosen to be in the Nobel house of Salazar Slytherin, they have the right to respect, until at least, they prove themselves unworthy.

"Now," he clapped his hands suddenly, making Bella jump slightly. "I'll sum up my rules: 1 - don't get caught, 2 - mind your audience, 3 - keep your friends close, 4 - do well, and 5 - you are worthy 'till proven otherwise.

"Got that? If you didn't, you might not deserve to be here, so think it over!"

Sterling waved his hand dismissively, then walked over to a group of armchairs with a few other seventh years, where they sat down as though nothing had happened.

Bella starred, then pivoted and followed suit, walking back to her armchair in the Sunroom and sitting down, trying her best to act like nothing had happened. She reopened her Standard Book of Spells and began absently scratching down first year charms and their purposes, really thinking about what the head boy had said. It was really a rather loose set of rules, but at the same time, it did rule out some options for the more extreme Slytherins, so Bella supposed that it was sensical.

The other first years were also discussing the head boy's statements in hushed voices.

"He's bloody amazing!" Whispered Blaise Zabini.

Most of the others nodded in agreement, murmuring other ideas about him.

"I think," Drawled Draco Malfoy. "That he's a bit like Dumbledore. A bit mad, but you do respect him, you know?"

Everyone at least smiled at that.

Tracey looked at Bella and surprised her by asking, "What d'you think of him Bella?"

Bella looked at the other first years nervously. "I dunno." She said quietly. "I mean, he's obviously in charge this year, so you kind of have to respect him. I 'spose I won't judge him till I see how he really acts, when he's not in front of his house, though."

All of them looked surprised at her opinion and Bella suddenly realized that that had probably been the most words they had heard her speak thus far.

Samuel Wilkes was nodding and Theodore was frowning slightly, while Daphne and Pansy actually looked almost impressed.

Bella flushed and quickly ducked her head in the pretense of working on her charms assignment.

The conversation eventually turned to classes, teachers, school work, and how Tracey understood nothing about the Transfiguration notes, something that Bella didn't understand either but wasn't entirely willing to ask for help on.

0 0 0

The next day, after Transfiguration ended, Professor McGonagall called for Bella to stay behind, causing her to wonder if she really was doing that badly in the class already. She had managed to make her match into the shape of the needle, it just wasn't silver yet. Her worry must have shown on her face, as when she stood before Professor McGonagall's desk, the woman began with, "Don't look so worried, Ms. Dagworth! As the Deputy Head, I must tell you that the Ministry has informed us of your Selkie heritage." She clasped her hands in front of her on the desk. "Because of this, the Headmaster has given you permission to visit the sea once a month, with either your grandmother or aunt. You will also be escorted to the lake by the groundskeeper, Hagrid, no more than once a week."

Bella felt a balloon swelling in her chest at the idea of exploring the lake, just like Auntie had said. She grinned at the Professor and nodded politely.

"Your family also informed us that you prefer to keep your blood identity quiet," Bella nodded again. "Because of this, I'm sorry to say that your lake visits will have to be at night. If you'd like to pick a night, you can study in the library until curfew, then Hagrid will take you down to the lake from there."

Bella thought for a moment, then settled on - "Thursday. If Mr. Hagrid doesn't mind."

"Oh, Hagrid won't mind." Said McGonagall. "He'll love any excuse to talk to that squid of his…"

Bella's eyes widened.

"Well! You have -" McGonagall pulled out a silver pocket watch. "About twelve minutes left of your break. Hurry along, Ms. Dagworth."

Bella did hurry, and managed to get all the way down to the common room to change her books before racing back up, and up and up to her Defense Against the Dark Arts class, where she slid into a seat between Lily and Padma, thoroughly out of breath.

The class itself turned out to be a bit of a joke. The classroom smelled strongly of garlic, which everyone said was to ward off a vampire he'd met in Romania and was afraid would come back to get him. The teacher, Professor Quirrell was a bit off as well, constantly stuttering and talking about the weather.

The next two days were fraught with waiting until she could visit the lake. Finally, dinner ended on Thursday and Bella hurried to the library, making excuses to Tracey, who was quickly becoming the closest thing Bella had to a friend in Slytherin, as well as Pansy, who liked to know where everyone was.

She sat in the library for close to three hours, finishing almost all her homework for the rest of the week. Just as she finished her diagram of a hopping mushroom, the clock struck ten, and Madam Pince herded everyone else out of the library. A few minutes later, the same man who had brought them across the lake entered and said, "'Ello Ma'm Pince! I'm 'ere to pick up -" he glanced at a piece of parchment. "Ms. Dagworth?"

The strict librarian simple pointed at Bella's table in response.

"Perfect!" He said. "Come on, now."

Bella gathered up her things and followed the giant man out. He told her to call him Hagrid, and she properly introduced herself. They made their way down the grounds, Hagrid telling her all about the creatures in the lake and how she shouldn't go to deep underwater, especially at night.

After a long walk, they reached the far side of the lake and Hagrid sat down on a huge boulder while Bella walked to the edge of the lake. She took off her shoes and socks then held her locket in her right hand and carefully took out her cloak.

As was folded into a tiny square, Bella used her fingernails to unfold it a few times before holding onto the edge and shaking it hard. The silver grey cloak billowed out in front of her and she swung it over her shoulders then fixed the bone-carved clasp together. Her hood hung around her neck and the long cloak swung about her body. She glanced back at Hagrid, who had been watching avidly, then strode into the water until it was above her waist, flipped the hood over her head, and dove head-first into the water.

The lake embraced her, and she could feel herself slipping into Seal form, her legs flowing together, arms shortening to flippers, and cloak tightening to her skin. Bella opened her eyes and let out a bubbly giggle.

Bella was suspended above a gorge from which seaweed climbed and fish swam, the moon's light shining down in a pearly pire, drifting apart the deeper it got. She gave another chuckle of happiness and dove after a particularly tasty looking fish.

Chapter Text

Bella couldn't believe that she had been at Hogwarts for almost two months when Lucy told her. It was the Monday before Samhain and Hallowe’en, and Bella was late to double Transfiguration. She had run to the library to find a book on biting bluebells, as she had forgotten her Herbology essay, due later that day.
She rushed to the classroom door and gasped with relief that her classmates were still waiting outside the door.
Tracey and Daphne were whispering furiously back and forth while Pansy was telling a story to Millicent, Vera, and the boys. Bella chose to stand with Rachel, who she had become closer with, as Tracey spent more time with Pansy.
“Are you done with the Herbology essay?” Whispered Bella.
Rachel nodded. “It's not very good though.”
“Can I borrow it? Please?” Bella looked at the other girl pleadingly. “I won't copy - I just need a bit of a reference!”
Rachel shrugged, pulling it out of her bag and handing it to her. “You better hand me it back at the end of class though!” She hissed.
“Don't worry, I -” Bella broke off as Professor McGonagall opened the door.
‘I will.’ She mouthed at Rachel, and slipped past the Professor, finding a seat in the back.

Transfiguration had quickly become the class Bella dreaded the most. She was terrible at it, rivaling even Neville, who was bad at everything except for Herbology, and she had yet to achieve a grade higher than an A.
And, to make it worse, she had to finish her essay during the two hour class, in which they would be attempting to turn tweezers to hair-pins.
Bella sighed and pulled the Magical Garden Plants: A Guide book onto her lap under the desk, and lay Rachel’s essay on one page.

There was a thump, and Bella looked up to see Daphne Greengrass sitting next to her, looking disgruntled.
Bella furrowed her brow. Daphne normally sat next to Tracey, and she only talked to Bella occasionally; usually they just exchanged glances when Pansy was being particularly annoying.
Looking around, Bella saw that Tracey was sitting next to a victorious looking Pansy, with her nose turned up, seeming disgruntled as well.
“Did you two -” Began Bella hesitantly. 1
“I'd rather not talk about it.” Said Daphne, sounding surprisingly shakey. “Are you working on Herbology?” She didn't wait. “I'll help.”
So, through the beginning of the lesson, Daphne whispered a summary of the uses of biting bluebells, and Bella scribbled her first two paragraphs under the guise of taking notes. She finished the next few paragraphs using the book while Daphne took down Transfiguration notes.
Bella finished the essay just as Professor McGonagall began to hand out tweezers, and hastily shoved the parchment and book into her bag, feeling guilty.

By the end of the lesson, Bella had only made the silver tweezers slightly brown, while Daphne had made hers resemble a hairpin with the colour of wood bark. It seemed that the rest of the class had managed to make a significant change in theirs as well. Bella glared at her tweezers, frustrated.
Just as she was leaving the classroom next to Daphne, Professor McGonagall called her back, and Bella could tell that this time, it was not about swimming in the lake.
The Professor looked over her rectangle glasses and said, “Miss Dagworth, to be completely blunt: you have yet to transfigure anything completely, even when given extra time. It is rather worrying.”
Bella hung her head.
“Perhaps you can tell me why?” She said sharply.
Bella stared at her feet, hoping for an escape route to reveal itself.
“Miss Dagworth, it would be beneficial if you could tell me the problem.”
She looked up far enough to see the Professors hands steepled together on the desk.
“I don't understand.” She whispered finally.
“Well that much I can see!” Exclaimed Professor McGonagall, and Bella flinched slightly. “What exactly don't you understand?” She said more quietly.
“I don't understand what we're ‘sposed to be doing.” Said Bella, chancing a glance up at the Professor. “In Charms, we add properties to something. In Potions we create abilities from objects, and in Defense, we’re supposed to be learning how to deflect or undo the effects of dark magic. But in Transfiguration…” She looked imploringly at McGonagall. “I don't know what we’re doing.”
McGonagall had a strange look on her face, and she leant forward. “I think it would be best if you take a few extra lessons.”
Bella deflated. “As in… Remedial lessons?”
McGonagall nodded. “I've also offered them to Mr. Longbottom, but his grandmother refused on his behalf.”
“Am I really that bad?”
McGonagall sighed. “It is not a level of skill, it is a level of potential. Potential that you most certainly have, yet need to work towards, perhaps more than others.”
Bella nodded mutely, suddenly remembering what Elliot Sterling had said at the beginning of the year: get help when you need it.
Professor McGonagall continued, “Professor Allsopp is willing to help you on Tuesdays, during afternoon free.” She nodded again, feeling miserable. “Miss Dagworth! This is good for you, don't look so bitter!” 2
Bella looked determinedly out the window.
“Well, I will write a pass to Professor Sprout, and will assume you will make your way to classroom 7B tomorrow after classes to see Professor Allsopp.” The professor handed Bella a slip of parchment and she made to leave.
“It would also be quite benifical for you to pay attention in class - you might understand more than you think. Though you might as well turn in that Herbology essay, you worked very hard on it today.” Called Professor McGonagall from her desk.

Bella ran.

0 0 0

The rest of Monday and Tuesday were miserable for Bella. Tracey was angry at her because she sat with Daphne, Draco was being especially obnoxious, and the remedial Transfiguration lesson seemed to speed the clock up towards it.
Much to her surprise, Daphne sat with her as she struggled through the Transfiguration theory homework and helped check her work. While Bella appreciated this, Lucy had warned her not to get on the bad sides of too many people, and Tracey certainly wasn’t talking to her anymore. So, during the breaks, Bella and Daphne sat with the other houses; mainly Lily and Padma, but also Parvati, Sue, Lisa, Hannah and Susan, Fay Dunbar, Oliver Rivers, Megan Jones, Roger Malone, and on rare occasion, Anthony Goldstein.
The next two days progressed, and Bella couldn’t help feel miserable about the dreaded lesson.

After a long, very boring History of Magic class, Daphne (who was the only one apart from Lily that Bella had told about the remedial lessons), walked with her to the end of the Transfiguration wing, and stood next to her as she knocked on the door.
The door was opened by an older Professor that Bella had seen at the teacher's table but never met. She wore silk-like lavender robes and her wild salt-and-pepper hair was pinned in an elaborate loop on the back of her head.
“Hello!” She said in a quiet voice. “You must be Sabella. Come in.”
Bella glanced at Daphne, who raised her eyebrows and shrugged.
Upon entering, Bella found that it was a very small classroom with only two windows, four desks and a teacher’s desk. She pulled out a chair and sat.
The Professor closed the door and (to Bella's great surprise) hopped up onto her desk to sit.
“I am Professor Mirren Allsopp. Minerva has explained your lack of a grasp on Transfiguration theory.” Bella nodded miserably. “She also spoke of your understanding of other subjects’ theory. Could you elaborate?”
Looking at her hands on the scuffed wood of her desk, Bella spoke monotonously. “In Potions, we brew magic together to create an effect, in Herbology, we take care of plants with magical properties, in Defense Against the Dark Arts, we’re supposed to learn how to repel or undo dark magic, and in Charms, we're just adding properties to something.”
Professor Allsopp, who had been nodding along to each explanation, said ‘Ah!’ and pointed at her when she got to Charms. “Charms is the closest branch of magic to Transfiguration, but. 3 Charms is much less complex, so that is where we start… You ought to be at Levitation Spells by now, aren't you?” Bella nodded. “So - in a Levitation Spell, you are adding the ability to fly to an object's list of properties, you understand that?”
“Yes…” Said Bella, fully putting that idea together.
“Now… Have you heard of a Vanishing Spell? They're more advanced.”
At her nod, Professor Allsopp continued. “That is also a charm. Much more complex, as instead of adding a property, you are taking away most of its existence; but it is still a charm.”
Bella, who had no idea where this train of reasoning was going, nodded again, wedging her hands under her legs and leaning forward a bit.
“As a general principle, a Charm adds or takes away a property of an object or a concept. Transfiguration, on the other hand, is neither giving or taking away properties, but instead, changing or rearranging the properties of an object or a concept.”
“Oh.” Said Bella, rather stupidly.
The woman smiled. “Does that clear things up a bit?”
Nodding slowly, Bella said, “I think so…”
Professor Allsopp hopped back off her desk with much more agility than she should have possessed. She went around her desk, opened a drawer, and pulled out…. A match.
Bella slumped onto the desk at once. Fantastic. She though.
“Oh, don't look like that Sabella! This time, I think you'll get it rather quickly.” Said the Professor.
Bella barely contained a snort, but managed to avoid it by giving a dry cough.
The match was set down in front of her, and she pulled out her wand -
Asharp voice cut her off. “Wait one moment.” Bella looked up. Professor Allsopp was looking at her sternly, and her hair was suddenly a very dark silver.
Bella gasped. “You're a Metamorphmagus?!” Professor Allsopp’s eyebrows (now matching her hair) shot up. “I'm surprised you can identify it. I can control it if you find it startling.”
Shaking her head rapidly, Bella replied, “No, no, that's wicked! My Auntie’s got a friend who can do it too, that's why I know.”
“Really.” Allsopp frowned. “There aren't many of us around. Is she a Black relative?”
Bella frowned as well. “I'm not sure. Her surname’s Tonks.”
The Professor's face lit up. “That'll be Andromeda’s girl! I haven't seen her since she graduated.”
A grin spread across Bella’s face before she remembered that she was supposed to be Transfiguring the match, and was halfway through the incantation before Professor Allsopp stopped her again.
“Put your wand down. First, I want you to remember what a needle looks like. Don't imagine it - know it.”
Bella screwed her eyes shut and focused on the last time she had seen a proper needle - when Poppy had been magically sending it to work on an old pair of Auntie's robes. She nodded when she could remember it almost perfectly.
“Now, you have the image of the needle.” Bella nodded. “Picture it here. On the desk. Make your mind understand that it can be here.”
When she thought she was ready, she opened her eyes very slowly, clenching her wand even though she had put it down. 4
“Image, indication, incantation.” Said Allsopp.
She shut her eyes again, remembered her needle, pointed her wand at the match and said, “Morphus!”
There was a strange tug in her fingers, quite like when she hadn't visited the lake in a while, and the match began to gleam like metal. Bella frowned and focused on the shape - pointy for Circe’s sake! - and spoke again. “Morphus.”
One end sharpened to a tip, and a dent began to form on the other end. She scrunched up her face and focused on the eye of the needle - making it an actual hole.
“Brilliant!” Exclaimed Professor Allsopp. “You can stop now…”
Bella stopped. “I did it?” She said in surprise. “I did it!”
“Yes you did.” The Professor said gently. “I think we ought to try the other Transfiguration assignments you've done so far.”
And so they did. It took Bella much longer to change a needle to a match, instead of the other way around, but she managed it, and then started on a paper weight to an ink pot.

Bella left her remedial lesson feeling surprisingly happy with herself, and didn't even bother going to the common room before heading to dinner. She sat next to Daphne, as Tracey was glaring at her and Rachel seemed preoccupied. They talked for all of dinner, and in her lighter mood, Bella found they had more in common than she had thought.

0 0 0

“What?!” Exclaimed Bella. “Sir, I need to go home for Samhain! I need to be with them!”
Professor Snape, who she had never spoken directly to, except to use his office fireplace to Floo home the second time she went, raised a dark eyebrow. She had clearly overstepped a line.
“Ms. Dagworth…” He drawled. “I am aware of your… background… and therefore your religious beliefs, but I highly doubt it is necessary for you to leave the school to attend a ritual.”
Bella, who could feel tears itching at her eyes, said more quietly, “Sir… you’re aware of my being a Selkie, and therefore that it is, ah… practically obligatory to attend my family ritual.”
Snape scowled, making Bella felt the need to run, and she took a step back from his dark wood desk. “If you did not notice, I said that there is no need to leave the school to attend such a ritual. I can tell you that the ritual that takes place here is just as worthy as one of the Seafolk.”
Bella, feeling extremely embarrassed and rather intimated, nodded. She didn't dare say anything else, for fear that she'd overstayed her welcome, if she was even welcome in the first place.
Then, less sharply, Snape said, “I do hope you're getting better with Transfiguration, your grades are beginning to be worrying.”
“I'm working at it…” Bella mumbled.
At his nod, she fled the office, back down the corridor, round four bends (right, left, left, right), down a flight of stairs and into the common room. Scanning the room, she found Lucy and her friends in their usual perch in the loft, sitting in a little grouping of armchairs. Remembering that it was not polite to sprint across a room, Bella rushed across the room and hurried up the loft stairs instead.
“I’m. An. Idiot.” She gasped.
Lucy looked up. “Do tell?”
She patted a pouf next to her chair, and Bella plopped down.
“I've infuriated Snape already!” Bella exclaimed.
She told Lucy (and Rose, Corrith, and Jocie) about how she went home once a month to visit family, how she had assumed that she would be allowed to go home for the second time this month to be part of her family's Samhain ritual, how she had almost yelled at Professor Snape when he told her she was only allowed to leave the school once a month, and about what Snape had said about a ritual at Hogwarts.
Lucy snorted. “By the gods! I thought you had a bit more sense than that!”
Hanging her head, Bella nodded. “So did I.”
Rose, who was still in fits at the idea of a little first year furious at Snape, choked out, “It - it gets w-worse, Bella!”
Bella straightened up in fear. “What?”
Jocie sighed. “There is a Samhain ritual dat takes place ‘ere, out on ‘ee edge o’ tha Forbidd’n Forest - we’re not really ‘sposed to be ou’ at night, but tha teachers allow it cause it'sa religious holiday, and somm’a them observe it, too. Tha problem is tha… Well - Snape’s tha Rite Leader.” For all her years in Cumbria, Bella only barely understood the older girl. She did understand enough that a ‘meep!’ of terror escaped her throat. “I'm going to die.” She whispered in horror.
Lucy and her friends all laughed. Jocie snorted and said, “Nah, I doubt it, ‘es not that bad, Snape. I’ll bet he'll give you a bit o’ shi -”
A hiss that sounded a bit like a goose stopped Jocie, and Lucy snapped, “She’s - a - firstie!”
Jocie pulled her long plait over her shoulder and rolled her eyes. “Fine, Luce. Snape’ll give ya a bit o’ trouble, but he's not going to kill ya.”
Bella was hardly comforted by this, and only after many other reassurances did she calm down enough to ask about the ritual properly.
As if turned out, it was a proper Samhain ritual, taking place around midnight on the edge of the Forbidden Forest by the lake, and from Corrith and Lucy’s accounts (they were the only other religious ones in the group) Snape called on the Light, Dark, and Grey powers, apart from the goddess of death, Bās, the god of the spirits, Taibhse, and the wind god, Gaoth. Bella, who's Seafolk family worshiped with the Grey magics, had only been to a Balanced ritual, not a neutral one, and couldn't help being curious what one was like.
The Sharrow family rarely turned away from the old Light Rituals, but Corrith’s family, the Elphicks, were like the Thorne-Seals (Bella’s mother’s family), sticking determinedly to Grey practices but dabbling in Light and Dark rituals all the while.
Lucy promised to take Bella to the ritual that night, and Corrith (the quietest of the group) promised to wake her if she fell asleep before then.
After that, Bella actually managed to finish most of her work, except for a DADA essay that she was avidly putting off, and only went to sleep that night with slight unease.

 

0 0 0

The first years woke on Hallowe'en morning to the glorious smell of pumpkin and spice wafting down from the kitchens a floor above them. Bella and Daphne arrived at breakfast just as the post flew in, and a strange looking package was dropped at the Gryffindor table.
“Is that a -” Bella began to Daphne.
Her question was answered before she could finish. “That’s a broom Potter's got!” Exclaimed a nearby Ravenclaw.
Bella's jaw dropped and Daphne gasped beside her.
Many people stood up in their seats to see what it was, and it took the two girls a while to actually sit down. Barely moments later, Harry and Ron Weasley left the hall excitedly, and Bella saw Draco and his goons hurrying to intercept them.
She sighed and glanced at Daphne, who looked resigned. “He's going to start losing us points soon if he keeps badgering Potter.” Daphne muttered.
With a nod and a snort, Bella began buttering her toast with a seasonal pumpkin butter.

Regretfully, they made their way to their first class with Rachel and Millie, which was unfortunately Defense Against the Dark Arts. The day dragged on, even though the teachers seemed to be in a particularly good mood for the holiday.
The only really exciting thing was their double Charms class with the Hufflepuffs, where they finally put the Levitation Charm to practice.
Daphne and Bella were sharing a feather, and they took turns swishing and flicking, and saying ‘Wingardium Leviosa!’.
For the first few tries, neither of them did anything to the feather, but on her fourth try, Daphne managed to levitate the feather up to eye level, at which Professor Flitwick squeakily congratulated her, and awarded three points to Slytherin for being the first in the class to do it. Bella managed it a while later, but got the feather to go up much higher, to which Daphne stuck her tongue out at.
After Charms (which was the last class) Bella and Daphne hurried out before they had to cross paths with Pansy and Tracey, and pleasantly ran into Lily, Sue Li, Lisa Turpin, and the Patil Twins instead, who informed them that Hermione Granger had been crying in a toilet since the Gryffindor/Ravenclaw Charms class early in the day. Apparently, a Hufflepuff called Sally Smith had tried to comfort her, but Hermione had yelled for her to go away.
Bella thought that this didn't sound much like the Hermione Granger she had met, and said so, dismissing it as a bit of ridiculous gossip. Lisa, Parvati and Lily rose to the challenge and began exchanging increasingly ridiculous (supposedly true) pieces of gossip as they headed to the library in a swarm.
None of them, even the Ravenclaws, managed to finished any homework in their excitement. The Hallowe'en Feast was legendary, and all of them were looking forward to it immensely, while Bella, Daphne, and Sue were all looking forward to the ritual, much later that night. Their group, like many others, were eventually herded from the library by an irate Madam Pince.

The feast was, in fact, just as good as the older students said, perhaps even better, thought Bella as she walked through the huge doors into the Hall.
A thousand live bats fluttered from the walls and ceiling, while a thousand more swooped over the tables in low black clouds, making the candles of the floating Jack o’ Lanterns stutter. The ghosts soared through the air, giving off their eerie glow, and next to the Slytherin table, a band of skeletons danced a jig. The feast appeared suddenly on the golden plates, as it had at the start-of-term banquet.

Bella and Daphne were giggling at an extremely bad joke Blaise had made about skeletons, when Professor Quirrell came sprinting into the Hall and up towards the Head Table, terror on his face. Everyone stared as he reached Professor Dumbledore and gasped (completely stammer-less), “Troll - in the dungeons - thought you ought to know.”
Then he sank on the floor in a dead faint.
There was an uproar. It took several purple firecrackers from the end of Dumbledore’s wand to bring silence.
“Prefects,” he rumbled, “lead your houses back to the dormitories immediately!”
Bella, who had whipped her wand out a few seconds before, looked around wildly for the nearest Prefect.
Daphne, looking terrified, her skin a pasty white, was clutching the sleeve of Bella's robes, her school hat crushed under her arm.
They, along with all the other first years, jumped a foot in the air when Michael Roden’s deep voice whispered in their ears, “Get to the right side chamber, two minutes - go!”
At this point, Bella was resigned to taking odd, obscure, or strange instructions from the older students of Slytherin, so she simple hurried over to the side chamber, pulling a still-terrified Daphne with her. They met with Roden and Farley, and were led on a labyrinthine course to the common room, supposedly to avoid the troll.
After many tense corner turns, they made it back to the common room alive, and found that the majority of the house was already there and accounted for.
Elliot Sterling jumped (rather impressively) onto a table and announced that the feast would be brought down to eat, which received a smattering of applause and whoops of gladness, he grinned and took a bow, then jumped off his table, almost flattening Angelina Barkova, the cards girl. Bella doubted it was an accident.

The food was brought in, and after filling their plates, Bella and Daphne dodged Pansy and her group, and dragged Rachel over to sit with them by Lucy and her friends.
They had a very enjoyable evening, considering that a troll was presumably loose in the castle; mainly wondering at how a troll got in, if it was a joke, and many other things. Bella, Daphne and Rachel told Lucy and her friends about the others in their year, all the gossip, family drama, and petty fights (excluding Daphne and Tracey's).
Bella was absently thinking again on how a troll could have gotten in, when Daphne told the older girls about their first flying class, specifically Draco Malfoy’s involvement.
“... and then, he goes and sabotages the race!” She finished.
Lucy, Rose and Corrith were scowling, and Jocie looked downright affronted. “‘E can't go actin’ like tha - he’ll get ‘imself an ‘is family in bad waters politically.”
Now paying attention again, Bella nodded. “That's what I thought!” She dropped her voice to a whisper, leaning forward and looking around a bit. “I mean, I can see that we’re not ‘sposed to get on his bad side - his family’s quite influential, but if he goes bad mouthing important people, he’s bound to get himself in trouble.”
Daphne was nodding too, and she said, “What my father always tells us is, as long as we don't ruin ourselves, we can't be ruined.” Lucy looked at her strangely, and she added. “I'm not saying we're invincible, but no one in my immediate family had done anything bad, and father will be head of our family once my grandmother dies. Malfoy, on the other hand - his father has more enemies than we have, and if he doesn't watch his mouth, well….”
The older girls were taking this much more seriously than any adult Bella had ever spoken to. Lucy nodded absently. “It's not just him, it's Parkinson and the others too. We're trying to fix our reputation, Slytherin, we have been the past few years, and if they're too set in their ways to see that… It's a problem. We ought to talk to Elliot.”
Daphne seemed even more surprised at how the girls were taking it. “They're just being a bit stupid, aren't they? It's not that bad - they're always like this, I’ve known most of them forever.”
Rachel nodded from beside her.
“That's the problem.” Supplied Rose. “We need to fix it - I agree with Luce.”
“I don't want them to be angry at us, though!” Exclaimed Rachel.
Lucy cast a furtive glance at the other first years, who were crowded by a window, pointing as a huge tentacle slipped passed. “Oh… Don't worry - we’ll figure it something out.”
Bella decided not to speak. She didn't want to make the other first years angry at her, but she wanted her adopter angry at her even less. On the other hand, Daphne was looking stubborn, and opened her mouth again, until Bella gave her a look that surprisingly kept her silent.
There was a moment of silence, till Rose exclaimed, “Have you seen that boy who exchanged here from that French school? He's real thick!”
Corrith groaned. “For Merlin's sake, Rose…”
“He's just got sorted, I think he's a Ravenclaw, our year.” Said Lucy absently. “You're going to make a move then, Rose?”
“Ohh… If only all those bleeding Raven’s weren't already all over him…”
Bella flushed and grinned; the French boy really was quite attractive. The murmurs of conversation were blurring into a fuzzy blur of sound, her eyes were very heavy, and the puffy sofa she was sharing with Daphne and Rachel was ever so comfortable…

“Wakey-wakey!” Someone said softly. “It's half-til-midnight - we’ve got to go!”
It was Corrith, her straight brown hair falling from underneath a proper wide brim witch’s hat.
Bella's legs couldn't seem to unfold from underneath her, and she barely managed to extract herself from the sofa.
“Oh no!” How could she have fallen asleep? She'd promised herself that she wouldn't! “Where's my robes, my cloak?”
“Here, Belle.” Lucy was holding Bella's things, already dressed traditionally herself.
As quick as she could, Bella pulled on her robes and wrapped her cloak around herself for warmth. Just as she realized that she didn't have a proper hat apart from her school one, Jocie handed her one; a black, huge brimmed, pointed hat with a slightly crooked top.
As they rushed through the halls, as quietly as it was possible to be, Corrith told her that Daphne had been dragged away to the ritual place by her older sister a few minutes before, and Daphne insisted that they hurry up so that she wasn't submit to that much torture.
They tiptoed past paintings and peered around corners, the way illuminated by the eerie blue-white light of Lucy's wand. Bella was informed that it didn't really matter if they were caught (unless it was by Filch), but it was much more fun to try not to get caught at all. So, they whispered and giggled, hearts beating fast as they slipped out the main doors and and around the greenhouses, down towards the Lake and the Forbidden Forest, where the great tall wall began.
Other small groups of students were headed in the same direction, a few teachers here and there, and sometimes, things that were not quite human, which Bella could only see from the corner of her eye. Samhain was a very strange time.
Bella could now see the flickering of a conjured fire, something that made her shudder a bit, and the shifting shadows of people gathered at a spot were the trees went all the way down to the water line. She could feel the magic here. It pressed against her just a bit heavier than the air and swirled inside of her lungs.
She looked around, suddenly feeling nervous, and saw that Lucy was holding a ratty old teddy bear, and Corrith held a beaded necklace. Bella somehow knew that they were belongings of deceased loved ones, and her hand crept to her neck and grasped the locket as they entered the trees.
In the middle of a clearing, a huge mirror with an ornamental frame lay flat on the ground, a bronze bowl of icey-white fire hovering above it a few inches. Many other people, all dressed in traditional black robes and hats, swarmed around the side of the mirror that was closer to Bella, and on the other, illuminated weirdly by the fire, was a platform on which stood one Severus Snape. She doubted he really needed this, as he towered over most everyone anyway, but she supposed that it was an old Landfolk tradition of some sort.
His usual black-green teaching robes had been traded with a set of even more menacing pure black ones that were embroidered with silver that danced in the shifting light.

Someone tapped Bella on the shoulder, and she jumped and spun.
It was Daphne, her face hidden by her hat, and hands covered in fingerless gloves.
“There you are!” Whispered the other girl. “It's going to start soon - we ought to find places.”
Bella nodded.
In most group rituals, the participants stood in a circle to perform whatever was necessary to call upon gods, spirits, powers, or magics. Here, Daphne found them a spot nearby her older sister, and next to Lucy and Corrith.

The people were quieting as the half-moon crept into the middle of the sky. The stars here were different than the stars where Bella's family lived, but, like everywhere, as the true Samhain time grew nearer, the stars seemed to stoop closer to the ground, and the sky felt even more expansive, almost suffocating. The blackness reined around, and the only thing that broke it was the pinprick stars, the miniscule windows of the castle, and the fire in front of them.
Very suddenly, there was silence.
And then, Snape spoke, his voice like a growl. “By the binding Powers of the god Gaoth, may we call to the magicks and find the potent to speak in the language of spirits!”
The white fire roared and jumped higher, small jets of flame leaping off it.
Bella clapped her hand to her side and jumped back, though not as far as she should have, and she suddenly realized that she couldn’t leave the circle.
The jets of flame split again and again, and one moved towards Professor Snape, slipping up to his head, and simply melting into him. Tongues of flame moved to each of the people in the circle, hovered above their heads for a second, then faded into their foreheads. None of the tongues of flame approached Bella, and a minute later she found out why: Snape began to speak, not in English, but in Fey. It was not the true Old Language, as it was spoken humanly, but it was as close as possible. “Thig a-mach spioradan, chin na feadhainn de do dh’beatha, thing a-mach!”
Bella knew perfectly well what was said. ~Come forth spirits, to the ones of your life, come forth!~
The magic swirled in the circle, and words left Bella's lips in response, united with the other voices, “Thig a-mach, O spiritoir, thing a-mach!”
Snape spoke again, and his black eyes were beginning to glow. “Cùm ám facal de na Maighstir de na an athlete bheatha, Taibhse, gu sign anns a’saoghal de na beò.”
Again, Bella internally respoke the words in the proper way: ~Carry the words of the Master of the next life, Taibhse, to us in the world of the living.~
And again, the words of response slipped out of her without instruction. “Toirt an sgoinneil facal et lèirsinn de na an athlete bheatha.”
~Bring the great word and foresight of the next world.~
A gust of wind swept from the lake, through the trees, and made the fire dance higher. Bella tried to step back, but found she no longer could.
Something seemed to whisper, ‘It won't hurt you’, but Bella could never shake her hatred of fire, and wouldn't now.
After a long pause, the glowing black figure that was Snape stepped forward, holding what appeared to be a scarf, and said (in English), “We give you our vessels for your visit.”
He draped the scarf delicately onto the mirror’s edge.
Someone to his right stepped forward and placed something on the mirror, then the next person, and the next. Daphne, on Bella's left, stepped forward and placed a pocket watch on the mirror, visibly trembling.
Bella's feet carried her forward as she unfastened her necklace, and carefully placed her mother's ring on the mirror, then re-clasped the chain, hugging her locket close to her.

Once every person in the circle had given a vessel for the spirits, they, as one, turned to Professor Snape and prayed the Calling. A swirl of many languages filled the air; French, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Chinese, and more magical languages, Greek and Latin, Old Arabic, Frankian, and Walish. Bella spoke with them, the silvery sound of Fey mixing with the others:
~O flame, that burns so bright, be a beacon on this night. Light the path for all the dead, that they may see now what's ahead. Let us see them one last time, before they are led to the next place to shine. Guide them until Bās may take their hands. And with your light, bring them peace, that we may rest and they sleep forever.~
It seemed for a moment, that the world had stopped, and perhaps it had; Bella wasn't sure.
Very suddenly, the fire was sucked inwards, past its carrier, and into the mirror itself. The mirror was glowing blue, as though about to crack from the heat, and the glass around the edges was beginning to crack, slow, small fissures forming from out to in. And then very suddenly, it happened.
A pale, whispered shape appeared on the other side of the glass, clearly a woman, and began to poke at the cacks with her barely-existent fingers. The cracks began to mend ever so slowly, melting back into each other, and finally, the woman stepped through.
Her form dissipated a little as she did, but the spirit seemed unperturbed. She stood (if you could call it standing) on the mirror, and bent to brush her fingers along the scarf at Snape’s feet.
The Professor was for the first time Bella had ever seen, flabbergasted. His expression was a mix of shock and something else, that Bella only vaguely remembered from a summer day, many years ago, when her father had looked at her mother.

There was another figure behind the glass, a man, older than the last spirit, who heaved himself through the mirror, and walked towards the gaping Professor to Snape’s right.
A little boy, a tall woman, a pudgy cat, a huge dog, and more, all slipped from the next realm to the real one.
Daphne was trembling worse than ever when an aristocratic old man stepped elegantly from the mirror. His face was well worn and open, he seemed to be wearing dress robes, and he also seemed to be especially see-through.
The man (who Bella guessed was Daphne's grandfather), glided to his pocket watch, picked it up, and turned to smile at Daphne.
Bella was barely paying attention. All she could do was stare at the curvy, smiley woman still in the mirror. Her straight hair was braided over her shoulder, and Bella knew that in real life, it would be shining silver-brown.
Very carefully, the woman knocked against the glass, and tentatively poked her way through the mirror, making the glass ripple strangely like water. She stood upon the glass, and began to walk towards Bella, picking up her ring on the way.
As the woman reached Bella, she slipped the ring onto her finger, and reached out, her hand close Bella's face.
“Mum?” The word escaped Bella's lips very slowly, and she was suddenly aware of the hot tears on her face.
The spirit (because Bella refused the hope that her mother was even partially there), now reached for the locket that was still hanging outside of her robes.
As the spirit’s finger brushed the locket, it suddenly grew warm, and when Bella looked down at it, she found it was glowing with white light.
Bella looked at her mother. “Mumma…”
The chortling bark of a seal answered: “I cannot stay for long.”
“Why did you have to die?” Bella stared at her mother longingly, a deep hurt in her bones.
Elizabella was crying suddenly as well. “Without a mate, a pure Selkie cannot live on land.”
Bella knew this, of course, but somehow it still seemed unimaginable. She sank to her knees, wishing that she could just hold onto her mother, just for a minute.
“Why - why couldn't you go back to the sea? Why couldn't you just live?” Her voice broke.
Elizabella sat cross-legged on the ground, “Because I love him. I love my Ernest.”
“What about me?!”
There was a long pause. “I am always with you. I would never truly leave you.”
Anger was suddenly filling Bella's chest. “You did leave me! It's - it's Auntie who taught me to fly, it's Grandmother who’s trying to teach me French, and Oma Merkel who taught me to brew! It's certainly not you who waved me off the platform or taught me to ride a bike!”
Her mother wore a pained look. “You know that's not how it works, poppet. If I had gone home, I wouldn't be able to leave again -”
Bella cut across her. “But you’d be there!”
Elizabella was sobbing now. “Darling, I have to go…”
Lunging forward, grasping for her mother, Bella cried, “NO! Not again! Mumma - don't leave again!”
The spirit was fading, the essence of it being drawn back towards the mirror. “I'm not leaving you Sabella. I couldn't…”
Bella crawled after her. “Give me your cloak, mum - you can stay here! Just give me it!”
The barely-there spirit shook its head. “It's not goodbye, darling.”
“Promise?” Whispered Bella.
“Of course.”
The wedding ring clattered back onto the glass of the mirror.

0 0 0

It could have been hours, or perhaps merely minutes that Bella lay on the ground. She thought, for just a moment, that she felt the warmth of a kind hand on her shoulder and the smell of the sea around her.
And then, someone was picking her up. But she didn't want to move, and tried to shrug away the hand on her arm.
“No.” She would not move. Not when her mother had been so close.
“Bella - come on, get up.” It was Lucy again. “That's never happened before, it wasn't normal, and no one really knows what happened.”
Bella wasn't even sure she was actually making any noise, but she spoke again. “No.”
Lucy grabbed her arm again. “Really, Bella. Whatever that was was hard for everyone. We've got to go back to the castle.”
The older girl heaved her up, and they both staggered. Bella finally looked around, and saw many others in tears, and quite a few people walking towards the castle with a glazed looked about them.

Lucy's face glimmered with rear tracks as well, but her voice was steady as she told Bella what was happening (to her knowledge). “Right, so having a fifth year adopter would help you out more, as we haven't covered ritual magics in arithmancy, and I’m in the less advanced class. But - I can tell this much: something happened tonight that messed with the normal patterns of a ritual. Maybe it was the position of the planets, the number of people involved, the favorably of the gods, the presence of a Fey… Whatever it was, it made the ritual much stronger. Usually, there's just a whisper of a spirit for each person, and a bit of foresight for the rest of the year, but this time - Bella? Are you alright?”
Bella had stopped dead.
“Circe, Herpo, and Morganna… It's because of me…” She whispered.
A horrible feeling of guilt was slipping up her back.
Lucy had turned again to face her. “What do you mean, Bella? You can't have -”
Her face turned white. “Are you… You can't be a -”
Was it possible that Bella's presence had actually changed things?
Bella looked towards the lake, black and cold in the dark distance.
The firm voice that was Lucy broke her from her thoughts. “Bella. Are you saying that - that you are a Fey?”
Slowly, she nodded her head.
She could feel Lucy staring at her.
“Right.” Said Lucy, sounding taken aback. “Are you a full Fey?”
Shaking head.
“Half?”
Nod.
“Your mother then?”
Bella nodded again, amazed at how quickly her adopter was figuring things out, still refusing to look awayfrom the lake, though.
“Can you tell me what type? Just nod or shake. Are you… A skinwalker?”
Shake.
“Pixie?”
Shake.
“Mer?”
Shake.
“A… Veela?”
Bella looked back at Lucy. “No!”
Lucy scowled. “What then?”
She glanced at the sky quickly before finally saying, “My mum was a Selkie, alright?”
“Ah.” Lucy said intelligently. “I can see why you keep it hushed up. No more Land Folk rituals for you, then.”
And then, she led the way back up to the castle, Bella following in stunned silence.

Chapter Text

As November swung around, the weather turned bitterly cold; something Bella liked and Daphne despised. The mountains surrounding the school became icy grey and the lake glinted like chilled steel. Every morning the ground was covered in frost, and one’s breath could be seen in the dungeons.
Hagrid could be seen from the upper floors’ classroom windows defrosting broomsticks on the Quidditch field, bundled up in a long moleskin overcoat, rabbit fur gloves and enormous beaver skin boots.

Apart from the sudden chill, the Quidditch season had also sprung onto them. On Saturday, the first match would take place between Gryffindor and Slytherin. There was also the news that Harry Potter would be playing Seeker for his house team, and it was all because of his miraculous dive for Neville's Remembrall during the first flying lesson.
In fact, it was after one of Bella's flying lessons that the Weasley twins dragged her into an empty classroom to talk, just days before the Quidditch match. She had been walking through the second level down from the main one, when Daphne had suddenly needed to use the toilet. Bella had been waiting outside when the twins had appeared seemingly from nowhere, grabbed her elbows, and pulled her over to a disused room.
“Shh!” Hissed the boy on her right.
“Wait - what? My… Friend is in the toilet! Where are we going?”
She was hushed again and pulled unceremoniously into the room.
The twin to her left (whom she was almost certain was Fred) grinned at her. “How are you? Slytherin still treating you well?”
She gaped at them. “You actually went to the bother of kidnapping me to ask how I was?!” Bella exclaimed.
Fred made an overly offended face. “Of course, Bellie-Wellie! We needed to check up on you again!”
“But why though?” Bella asked, feeling rather befuddled.
It was the second time they’d spoken to her of their own free will, the first time being in the library, and involved them all being thrown head-first from it.
George grinned in place of his brother. “Because we care, of course!”
She stared at them.
“Well -” began Fred.
“We have decided, as we haven't got our sister to look out for this year -”
“And as you haven't got any siblings -”
“We’ll look out for you!” Finished George.
“Oh.” Said Bella, with a strange mixture of gratitude and annoyance. “That’s very nice of you.”
Fred sighed with mocking relief. “I'm glad you approve - we've already owled mum with a request to adopt you…”
“Not you too!” Exclaimed Bella.
George's face of confusion was rather hilarious. “Do you regularly get adopted into random, large families?”
She grinned. “No - well, only recently…”
And so, she told them about becoming a member of the Slytherin Council. It was actually very satisfying to tell them, as the only other people she had told were her Uncle James, and Emily, both through owl. It was much better to have immediate responses to her story, instead of the customary day-wait for mail.
At the end, George was grinning from ear to ear, and Fred was cackling with laughter.
“So -” Fred chortled, “- you’re telling me, that you accidentally got yourself inducted into the Slytherin Mafia?”
Bella snorted ungainly. “It's not really a Mafia!”
“It's the ‘leading body’ of Slytherin - also known as the little league of organized wizarding crime!” George exclaimed. “If that's not a Mafia, I don't know what is!”
A grudging smile was spreading across Bella's face. “I ‘sposed it is… It doesn't really guarantee safety though - the other day this sixth year, I think his name's Lewis Kent, jinxed me ‘cause I accidentally knocked into him on the way out of the common room. Daphne had to run and get a Prefect ‘cause everything I touched, I got stuck to! And by the time the Prefect, Roberts I think, got to me, I was stuck to a candle bracket, the wall, the floor and -” Bella broke off, suddenly realising that neither of the boys were paying attention, and were instead looking downright scary.
They both had a very devious look on their face, and seemed to be silently communicating. Bella suddenly understood why.
“Oh… Don't do anything horrible to him just because of that! You can’t go and get him stuck in a chandelier or something - you'll get in so much trouble!”
Fred grinned wickedly. “We won't get him stuck in a chandelier, though that's a brilliant idea for another day…”
“Yeah -” said George, “what's that rule of yours? Don't get caught?”
Bella looked back and forth between them. “Really… Why do you care so much? You've got Ron -”
The twins burst out laughing. “He's just smart enough to realize when we're protecting him, and has therefore forbidden it.” Said Fred.
“Anyway…” Said George, suddenly turning semi-serious. “There’s actually two reasons we wanted to talk in the first place.”
“That's right…” Muttered his brother.
“See - it's Quidditch season, so first off, the rivalries are getting tense, ‘specialy between us and Slytherin…” George actually seemed somewhat regretful at this. “So, we wanted to warn you; don't get in between members of the Quidditch teams - don't get between Slytherins and us Gryffs as a general principle. You'll get caught in the spell-fire, literally.”
“You're joking.” Said Bella blandly.
George shook his head. “It's really bad, especially as you lot’ve got a seven year win streak that we're trying to break.”
His brother was nodding. “We might end up sending a few stink-bombs in, so be warned…”
“I live down there too!” Said Bella angrily.
They shrugged, devious faces on again.
“Secondly…” Added Fred. “We’re on the Quidditch Team, so - don't take this badly - we could use a few tip offs on Slytherin’s strategy…” He grinned hopefully.
“What?!” Snapped Bella. It was the first time she'd actually raised her voice properly in a while. “Are you just doing this so I'll sell my own house out?”
“Just when I think we'll get a family member who isn't so bloody loud…” Fred drawled, turning to his brother.
“Are you listening? I won't betray my house - I don't care if I don't fit in, I won't!” Bella continued, even louder.
“Yes - it's rather impressive how much noise can come from such a twee thing!” George was saying.
“Just because I’m gullible -”
“Only a little,” they said together.
“- and stupid,”
“Not at all!” Said Fred.
“ - and nice -”
“I've always valued that trait,” said George.
“- doesn't mean that you two get to know everything I know!” Finished Bella angrily.
“If only you had said that in the first place.” They said together.
She glared at them.
“It was only a question…” Muttered George.
“Yeah, well - you didn't phrase it as one!” Bella snapped.
“Ah!” Exclaimed Fred. “Feedback! Just what we needed - now we know: with Slytherin firsties, one must always phrase questions correctly!”
Bella had to scowl harder to keep from smiling.
Fred continued, “Next time I see that Draco Malfoy, I'll be sure to walk up to him and say clearly, ‘Are - you - constipated?’. I've always wondered that - what with the way he walks around, and his face -” He mimed Draco walking around stiffly with a screwed up smirk on his face, and Bella burst into giggles.
The twins both grinned, and Bella quickly forgave them.
She eventually went to dinner in an elevated mood - that is, until she saw Pansy's overbearing and scowling face.
“Where have you been?” Demanded Pansy once Bella had sat down next to Daphne.
Feeling strangely rebellious from her time with the twins, Bella responded quietly, “I was kidnapped.”
Daphne covered her mouth to hide a giggle, and Pansy leaned forward. “I didn’t catch that, Bella?”
Bella spoke again, loud enough for the rest of their end of the table to hear. “I was kidnapped.”
Pansy stared at her.
“I see you escaped.” Said Daphne politely.
Bella smothered a smile and nodded seriously.
The scowl on Pansy’s face was growing in proportion. “Really, Bella! Where did you go?”
Bella had been having a bit of fun, pretending that Pansy was one of the girls at her primary school who she had dearly wished to sass, but for some reason, this suddenly brought her back to the reality. This was an influential politician's daughter (Lucy's words), and Bella had to be careful.
So, instead of saying ‘I was kidnapped by a werewolf with a soft side’, she looked at the table and said, “I didn't feel well, really. I just went to the nurse. I was only joking about kidnapping…”
Daphne smiled next to her and said, “She was looking a bit peaky when she disappeared.”
Pansy nodded as though satisfied, which Bella couldn't help be confused at - couldn't she see the blatant lie?
Once the bossy girl had turned back to the other girls, Daphne collapsed to a fit of silent giggles, while the boys across the table (Theodore, Blaise, Samuel and Draco) stared at Bella with a mixture of bemused and humorous expressions.
When Daphne finally recovered, she whispered, “I didn't know you had that in you!”
Bella grinned shyly, feeling very daring.
“You do have to tell me what actually happened later though…” Daphne added in the same conspiratorial whisper.

And, much to Bella’s surprise, she found herself sat on her bed after dinner, back to the wall and curtains partially drawn, with Daphne cross-legged on her blanket, telling the story of her somewhat-friendship with the twins.

0 0 0

It seemed, on later reflection, that all the interesting things happened when it was cold.
The final days leading up to the Quidditch match were, in fact, filled with inter-house tension. It was firstly sparked when Lewis Kent found that every time he walked through a doorway, he went cross-eyed, then clucked and flapped like a chicken. By the twelfth time this happened, he was seething and the Slytherins had decided it was an attack that needed to be reciprocated.
This prank (no one doubted the culprits, they just had no proof, and Bella wasn't about to give them any), led to many others, increasing in intensity, until Bella always checked around corners, and Daphne jumped at any bang. In fact, as the walked cautiously through a small frozen courtyard the day before the match, Bella first thought that the squeak she heard was that of a prank victim.
“Did you hear that?” She yelped.
Daphne, who hadn't stopped walking, turned to face her. “No. What was it?”
Bella tilted her head, listening again. It had been very distinctive. “A kind of… squeak, I ‘spose - there it is again!”
It was certainly coming from the corner of the empty courtyard. Bella slowly stepped closer to the noise.
“Ee-ep!”
She walked closer, closer, closer -
A dying bird.
It lay awkwardly, it's wings splayed about behind it.
There was something strange about it though - it's wings were much to big for its body, and not a feather covered them. It's tail was very, very long, and absurdly thin, it's body was fuzzy -
“It's a mouse!” Bella gasped to herself.
She knelt down and looked at it more closely. Indeed, it was a mouse, a little brown mouse, with big, bat-like wings and a long tail with a kite-shaped tip.
~What are you?~ She whispered.
Feebly, it responded, “Ee-ep!”
Bella jumped a little. ~Oh Diagealach, your dying~
It's large, black eye slowly blinked open.
~I’ll help you, don't worry…~
Bella picked up the mouse-bat (or whatever it was) in her mittens and stood up slowly. She looked at it carefully. It certainly didn't look dangerous, especially in this state, and it was rather adorable. As she pet her thumb softly against the little creature, she felt it's tiny bones underneath it's skin, and was amazed she could feel its heartbeat.
She folded her right arm against her chest and gently lay the mouse in the crook of her arm, then pulled her cloak more closely around them both.
“What is it?” Called Daphne, sounding impatient.
“It's just a little mouse - it's still alive though, so I'm going to try and help it.” Bella didn't feel the need to say ‘winged mouse’, for some reason. “You can go on to dinner.”
Daphne looked a bit suspicious, and Bella was (guiltily) happy to see, a tad concerned. “You sure?”
Bella nodded.
“I'll save you a spot, then. Don't be long?”
“I won't - I'm just going to put it in a blanket, and give it a bit of water.”
Still looking slightly suspicious, Daphne nodded, pulled the collar of her outer cloak up, and headed for the hall.

Hurrying through the cold corridors of the dungeons a few minutes later, Bella began to wonder what exactly she was carrying with her to the common room.
Turning the corner to the entrance, Bella glanced around, then said the password: “Potestas!”
The heavy stone bricks twisted and turned, pulling back to form the entry to Slytherin common room. It seemed that most people were at dinner, as the common room was mostly empty apart from a few older students in the loft and a small group playing pool.
Bella hurried past them, up the short stairway, down the hall, and into her dorm. She pulled off her cloak gently, careful not to disturb the tiny creature, then carried it over to her bed. Once she had sat down with the mouse-thing, Bella suddenly realized that she had no idea what to do.
Bella whispered, ~Whatever shall I do with you? What happened to you, little beasty?~
The mouse, who's eyes and been closed and tail wrapped around itself, unfurled slightly.
~...Cold…~ It was so quiet and unintelligible that Bella barely heard it.
~Very cold…~
Bella gasped. It was speaking Fey - not very clearly, as it spoke what she thought might be a Woodland dialect, bust she understood!
~Oh me, oh my,~ She murmured. ~I’m glad you can speak, I just didn't expect - we’ll be wanting a blanket then? Yes, yes…~
Still whispering soft words in the Old Language, Bella stood, carried the tiny beast to her desk, and wrapped it gently in a clean washcloth presumably left by a house-elf. She found a nice wooden stationary box, and lay the mouse in it, tucking the edges of the fabric into it.
The creature was now curled up again, its kite-like tail-tip over its nose and wings tucked around it like another blanket.
~Just wait here, yes?~ Bella muttered, setting the box on the shelf in the wall of her nook.
She hurried to the washroom and took the cap off a Pimple-Remover Potion bottle, filled it with water, and hurried back, trying not to spill.
Once she had set it down in the box so it could drink, Bella suddenly felt rather bad about leaving the obviously hurt and frozen creature by itself.
~I’ve got to go now, but I'll be back in a little while, and I’ll bring you a bit of food.~ Doubting that the creature understood or even heard her, Bella closed the curtains to her nook and hurried from the room.
When she got to dinner, tired and breathless, she slipped into a seat by Daphne, who looked at her expectantly. Before she could say anything, though, Pansy asked where she had been (of course), and she had to say that she'd seen a dying mouse and tried to help it, something Pansy thought was completely unnecessary.
By then, Bella didn't care what Pansy thought, so she just shrugged politely.
“Why is it that you always leave me alone at dinner?” Said Daphne half-heartedly.
Bella looked down. “I'm sorry, really - it's not like I want to leave you with them two -” she nodded at Pansy and Tracey, who were talking just a bit too loud. “It's just that - that I really hate not helping little animals like that.”
Daphne shrugged. “Yeah, it's alright, really. How is it? The mouse?”
Bella noticed that the longer she had properly known Daphne, the more relaxed with her speech the posh girl was. Then again, it might have been herself that was speaking more posh, as spending any time in the common room resulted in a range of polite, political conversation most of the time, no matter one's accent.
“Well, I didn't say earlier, but it's not really a mouse, I don't think… See, it's… got wings.”
“Serious?!” Hissed Daphne. “I've heard of those - they're supposed to be really rare - are you actually joking?”
Bella shook her head. “Shh… Don't want them to hear!” She whispered.
“What did you do with it?” Asked Daphne, leaning in over her roast lamb.
“I wrapped it in a towel and gave it some water.” Replied Bella. “It was really cold, and I think it may have hurt it's wing, but I can't tell…”
A voice cut rudely into their conversation. “Has your owl been hurt?” Said Draco Malfoy. “You ought to take it to the nurse, that's what I'd do… Optimal care, you know?”
Bella stared at him, once again surprised at his rudeness. Daphne, on the other hand, smiled tightly and said, “Thanks Draco, I was going to say that we should take it to an expert.”
The boy smirked and turned back to Blaise, Crabbe and Goyle.
Daphne turned back to Bella and rolled her eyes (surprisingly unladylike). “He didn't used to be like that - well, not that bad…” she lowered her voice. “Always has been an arrogant prick, just a nice arrogant prick before school.”
Bella shrugged. “He's an aristocrat, it's just how he is. I bet he just thought he'd be really popular here, and now Potter’s come along and ruined that, so - well, he's a bit of a twat.”
The other girl nodded. “Anyway…” She said, returning to her normal tone, “If it's hurt, a suppose we had ought to bring it to the nurse…”

Bella and Daphne left dinner early with two bread rolls and a plan.
Firstly, they would get back to the mouse-thing and give it food, then they would find a way to put a warming charm on it without telling anybody they had a winged mouse. And then, they would hope it would live long enough for them to bring it to the nurse.
Unlike Bella, Daphne seemed to be keeping her hopes low by reminding them both of probable death or permanent injury for the poor animal.
Once they got back to the dorm, they hurried to Bella’s bed, sat down and drew the curtains firmly shut. Bella set the box gently on her knees, and they both peered inside.
It seemed as though the mouse had changed colour. Instead of the cold steely-brown fur and grey wings of before, it had warm brown fur and leather-like wings. Because of this, Bella could now see that it's right wing was out of place, tucked up against the mouse awkwardly.
“Ohh…” Gasped Daphne. “It's beautiful!”
“It didn't used to look like this, I think the warmth really helped it!” Bella said excitedly. “And it's drunk all the water - oh, hello…” She lowered her voice.
The mouse had opened its eyes, and was looking blearily up at them.
~Food?~ It said quietly.
“I've never heard a mouse make that sound before!” Daphne said. “It sounded like it was whispering - like a human!”
Bella made a noncommittal noise and pulled a bread roll from her pocket. “It's hungry.”
She broke off a tiny piece of bread and balanced it on her finger, next to the mouse.
Nervously, the mouse-bat reached out and took the bread, still lying down, and began to nibble.
“Ohh!” Daphne squealed again. “Here, we should make a few more pieces.”
They tore a few more small pieces and placed them by the mouse. Daphne ran to fill the bottle cap again, and Bella watched as it ate cautiously.
~What happened to you?~ She said quietly.
The mouse stopped eating and set down its current piece of bread. Bella suddenly noticed a spark of intelligence in its eyes that she hadn't noticed before.
~I flew…~ it whispered. ~nighttime, and hawk-owl attacked… it hurt my wing… so I fell, and landed, but it was very cold… so I could not fix my wing.~
Bella nodded. She was glad that it's speech seemed to grow in confidence as it spoke. ~Do you usually fix your own wings if they're hurt?~
~I have never hurt before.~ It said.
~Oh.~ Bella said. ~Might you be able to fix it yourself?~
The mouse sat up and pulled it's right wing open. It seemed as though the half of the wing past the second joint couldn't move on its own.
~I will try.~ It said, with a surprising note of courage in its small voice.
Suddenly concerned at what the mouse was about to do, Bella gently touched its wing. ~Do you know what is wrong in the first place?~
~Yes-no~ Bella took that as ‘maybe’. ~I am thinking that the flesh-stick is out of place.~
~Bone.~ Bella said automatically. ~It’s called a bone.~
If it was possible, the mouse shrugged. ~I move it back.~
~What if that makes it worse?~ She asked.
~I hope it will not.~
And with that, the mouse grabbed its own wing and pulled. There was a small ‘pop’ and the mouse squealed.
Bella gasped. ~Is it alright?~
Slowly, the mouse flexed its wing, out then in. ~Yes.~
She sighed with relief. ~Thank Maradia, that was-~
“Can it talk?!” Bella jumped at Daphne's voice. “I knew I heard it whisper something earlier - I don't know much about flying bats, but they're supposed to represent a union between earth and air, so I’m not that surprised -”
“No, Daph. Well, it does speak, but not English or anything.” Bella interrupted.
“How’s that possible? You don't speak anything else, do you?”
Bella hesitated. Now's as good a time as any, she thought. “Have you heard of the Old Language? The Fey-speak?”
Daphne looked at her closely. “Well, yes - I had a tutor who was a quarter pixie.”
Bella raised her eyebrows. “Well, I’ve, erm... got a bit in common with that tutor of yours.”
“Ah.” Said Daphne smartly. “Your saying…”
“I'm part Fey, yes. Selkie, to be specific.” Bella spoke quickly, hoping to to get it over with.
Daphne squinted at her. “Can you prove it?”
That was not the reaction Bella had expected, but she extended her hand. Daphne walked closer, and looked at her hand.
A common trait in part-Selkies was an extension of skin of skin between each finger, making one's hands slightly resemble flippers. Bella’s hands not only displayed this, but were starting to peel from a lack of water. She really needed a bath.
“How did I never notice?” Demanded Daphne.
Bella shrugged. “It's just my family and friends who know, so I suppose I should've told you already.”
Looking conflicted, Daphne sat down next to Bella, on the other side of the mouse-bat’s box.
When she stayed silent, Bella began to worry.
“I understand if you don't want to be friends with a half-breed.” she said miserably.
Daphne looked at her in surprise. “Why wouldn't we be friends? You're the only one this year who's been nice to me… genuinely. Pansy's worse than ever, it turns out Tracey was only friends with me because her father said it would be an ‘political advantage’, and all the others just follow Pansy mindlessly.” She looked down at her hands, then back up at Bella with a smile. “I mean, as long as you're not going to… bite me or something, I don't mind.”
“Really?” Bella asked.
She really hadn't thought a pureblooded, socialite girl could ever really be friends with her, not when she was quite literally half-human.
With a nod, Daphne said, “I probably won't tell my parents that my friend is part Selkie, but yes, you're my only friend right now. I wouldn't give that up!”
Bella grinned.
“Now!” Said Daphne, “Let’s see about this mouse.”

The said mouse was curled up and seemed to be waiting patiently.
After a glance at Daphne, Bella said, ~How are you feeling?~
The creature raised its head. ~Still hurt, but mended.~
Daphne waited with an expectant expression for a translation.
“It fixed it's wing itself, but I think the wing is still hurting. It speaks a different dialect - Woodland Fey, as opposed to Seafolk Fey - so I don't understand everything exactly.” Bella said.
They both jumped at a clatter from a little way away. It seemed that the others were coming back.
Thinking quickly, Bella jumped up, grabbed her latest Charms essay, then jumped back into the bed nook and shut the curtains.
At Daphne's questioning look, she whispered, “I want to keep the mouse-bat a secret. I doubt it wants bunches of humans looking at it.”
“Do you think it has a name?” Daphne asked, looking at the creature. “We could give it one.”
Bella looked at the mouse. ~What are you? Do you have a name?~
~I am~ it said a word that Bella thought might literally mean ‘air-wing-mouse’. ~and I am called Soh-har’en Son.~
She squinted at it, then translated for Daphne. “He says he's something that literally means ‘winged mouse’, basically. I think it's a he because it's calling itself something like ‘son of son’.”
The door opened, and they heard the voices of the other girls.
“Does it have a name?” Daphne whispered.
That was a struggle. “Well… Yes. I just don't think you can even say it in human- um, English. It sounds like ‘sore-ine’. No, more like ‘soruh-hin’ - oh, I don't know - it’s a beautiful name, but I can only say it in Fey.”
“Say it.” Prompted the other girl.
Bella shrugged.
~Soh-har’en Son~ she intoned.
Daphne tilted her head. “It does sound nice…” She whispered, “I just can't tell really what it is. It's like steam hissing, and water, and that muffled feeling you get from fog.”
“Is that what it really sounds like?” Asked Bella, bemused. “You can hear a feeling?”
“Yes…” Muttered Daphne. “That's the best way I can describe it. It’s a bit odd, no offense.”
Bella shrugged again. “We could call him Soren, if he doesn't mind.”
At Daphne's nod, she turned back to the mouse. ~I will compliment you on your name, but my friend cannot say it in her language. Would you mind being called ‘Soren’?~
The mouse tilted it's head, uncannily like Daphne and said, ~I would not be offended.~
Bella grinned. “He says he wouldn't be offended.”
“Soren, it is then!” Daphne replied.

They spent a long time talking and doing homework, and the mouse slowly fell back asleep in his towel. Eventually, Bella went to take a bath, and Daphne went with her to brush her teeth.

Bella was very grateful that there wasn't a Council meeting that night, as usually she sat with Lucy and fell asleep on one of the armchairs. Sometimes she woke up in her own bed, and sometimes, she woke in the same chair with only a blanket draped over her. It was in all, very exhausting, as there were meetings around two times a week, added to her Thursday night swims. It sometimes seemed a bit pointless, as most of the discussion went right over her head, but she had learnt a few things as well: Quidditch tactics, card games, etiquette, names, a few jinxed and spells, and the going-ons of the school.
That night, Bella fell lay in her nook, curled up on her left side, back to the window, like usual, but instead of the usual social exhaustion and swirling thoughts, she fell asleep with excitement for the Quidditch match of the next day.

0 0 0

By eleven o'clock Saturday, the whole school seemed to be out in the stands around the Quidditch pitch. Many students, including Daphne, Blaise, and Draco had binoculars. The seats may be raised high in the air, but it was still difficult to see what was going on sometimes. Bella had managed to get a small, bronze spyglass from home, that was enchanted to follow the action automatically.
Bella and Daphne had found seats away from the boys, who were beyond enthusic, and Bella was glad to be rid of them. Lucy had insisted that she be allowed to ‘decorate’ Bella, so Bella looked the picture of Slytherin pride: a green and silver scarf wrapped around her neck, green ribbons plaited cleverly into her French braids, and two green stripes on each cheek.
Daphne wore a green matching scarf and hat, and had a flag that she was waving wildly.
Across the pitch, the Gryffindors were just as spirited, a sea of red and gold with many posters and banners. One particularly large banner read ‘Potter for President!’ and had a large, colour-changing lion on it. It also looked to be made of a disused bedsheet.
Looking behind her, up the stands, Bella saw that the sixth years were holding a huge black flag with a snake and the words ‘Don't tread on me’ under it. She had no idea how they had managed to get a flag that large, especially an American muggle one. Lucy's answer would most likely be that they ‘acquired’ (stolen) it so she decided not to ask in the first place.
As the two teams walked out onto the field, the dull roar of the crowd grew deafening.
The teams arranged themselves into the starting circle, Slytherin in emerald robes and Gryffindor in scarlet. Madame Hooch, who seemed to be refereeing, was saying something to the players, then she blew her whistle, kicked open the Bludger and Snitch boxes, then threw the Quaffle up as hard as she could. Fifteen brooms rose up, high, high into the air.
“And the Quaffle is taken immediately by Angelina Johnson of Gryffindor - what an excellent Chaser that girl is, and rather attractive, too -”
“JORDAN!”
“Sorry Professor.”
A Gryffindor third year, Lee Jordan, was doing the commentary for the match, closely watched by Professor McGonagall.
“And she's really belting along up there, a neat pass to Alicia Spinnet, a good find of Oliver Wood's, last year only a reserve - back to Johnson and - no, the Slytherins have taken the Quaffle, Slytherin Captain Marcus Flint gains the Quaffle and off he goes - Flint flying like an eagle up there - he's going to sc - no, stopped by and excellent move by Gryffindor Keeper Wood -”
Bella, who had been screaming encouragement along with the rest of her house, moaned.
She cupped her hands around her mouth and yelled, “Come on!”
“- that's Chaser Katie Bell of Gryffindor there, nice dive around Flint, off up the field and - OUCH - that must have hurt, hit in the back of the head by a Bludger - Quaffle taken by the Slytherins - that's Adrian Pucey speeding off toward the goal posts, but he's blocked by a second Bludger - sent his way by Fred or George Weasley, can't tell which - nice play by the Gryffindor Beater, anyway, and Johnson back in possession of the Quaffle, a clear field ahead and off she goes - she's really flying - dodges a speeding Bludger - the goal posts are ahead - come on, now, Angelina - Keeper Bletchley dive - misses - GRYFFINDORS SCORE!”
Gryffindor cheers filled the biting air, while howls and moans came from the Slytherins. Bella's throat burned from her screaming and the bitter cold, but she howled along with the group of fifth years behind them.
The Quaffle flew through the leftmost hoop on Bella’s side, and one of the other Gryffindor Chasers caught it.
Fred - or George, Bella wasn’t entirely sure - flew past the Slytherin stands, waving his Beater’s bat wildly. In return, he received a large and very diverse amount of hand gestures from the crowd, but only had enough time to give a grin before batting a Bludger out of its course towards the Keeper.
The Slytherin Chasers had formed an arrow, a bit like geese, and were flying rapidly at the Gryffindor Chasers, who scattered and -
“Slytherin in possession!” Called Lee Jordan. “Chaser Puecy ducks two Bludgers, two Weasleys, and Chaser Bell, and speeds toward the - wait a moment - was that the Snitch?”
A murmur ran through the crowd and Adrian Pucey dropped the Quaffle, too busy looking over his shoulder at the flash of gold that had passed his left ear.
Both Seekers were suddenly in pursuit, diving at the streak of gold, neck and neck - hurtling toward the Snitch. The Chasers seemed to have forgotten what they were supposed to be doing as they hung in midair to watch.
Potter - just a scarlet streak now - was faster that Higgs, and was reaching the Snitch, putting on a burst of speed -
WHAM!
Bella let out her breathe in a gasp, not realizing she’d been holding her breathe at all.
A roar of rage echoed from the Gryffindors below - Marcus Flint had blocked Potter on purpose, and the Seeker’s broom had spun off course, Potter holding on for dear life.
“Foul!” screamed the Gryffindors.
Madam Hooch spoke angrily to Flint, who was shrugging, seeming unperturbed that a player had hit him at full speed in a practically vertical dive. Madam Hooch ordered a free shot at the goal posts for Gryffindor. But, in all the confusion, the Snitch had disappeared from sight again.
The commentator, Lee Jordan, was finding it difficult to not take sides, and Bella wondered why they didn’t just have a teacher commentate.
“So - After that obvious and disgusting bit of cheating -”
“Jordan!” growled Professor McGonagall.
“I mean, after that open and revolting foul -”
“Jordan, I’m warning you -”
“ All right, all right. Flint nearly kills the Gryffindor Seeker, which could happen to anyone, I’m sure, so a penalty to Gryffindor, taken by Spinnet, who puts it away, no trouble, and we continue play, Gryffindor in possession.”
Bella booed along with Daphne.
She was now trying to follow a complicated play by the Slytherin Chasers and Higgs, where the Chasers herded the Gryffindors towards their own goal posts, and then let Higgs dive-bomb them, thwarted only by one of Bludgers. Suddenly, her spyglass’s enchantment pulled it up to focus on Potter.
His broom was jumping and bucking, and he didn’t seem to be in any semblance of control. No one seemed to have noticed, as Lee was still commentating.
“Slytherin in possession - Flint with the Quaffle - passes Spinnet - passes Bell - hit hard in the face by a Bludger, hop it broke his nose - only joking Professor - Slytherins score - oh no…”
Bella cheered but kept her now un-spyglassed eyes on Potter, and poked Daphne to point it out when his broom began to jerk and twitch higher and higher up.
Suddenly, people were pointing to Harry Potter from all over the stands. His broom had started to roll over and over, with him only just managing to stay on. Then, the crowd gasped. His broom had given a wild jerk and Potter had swung off it. He was now dangling from it, holding on with only one hand.
“Do you think something actually happened when Flint knocked into him?” Daphne whispered.
Bella scowled. “I don't think so… I doubt Flint jinxed it or something - I think he knows he’d get kicked off for that - but I’ve no idea, really…”
Daphne suddenly gasped. “What if… someone is jinxing it, they’re just in the stands?!”
They both squinted around, until Daphne grabbed Bella’s arm. “Look there - in the Gryffindors - what do you ‘spose she’s doing?”
“Who? You mean Granger?” Bella tried to look even closer through her spyglass.
“Yeah… what’s she - I think she’s seen something!”.
They looked even closer to see the bushy-haired girl disappear for a minute, then reappear in a teachers’ box, rushing along one row, knocking over Professor Quirrell, then crouch down, and a moment later something was on -
“Fire!” Hissed Bella. “Did she just set a fire?!”
Daphne was speechless.
“She’s more Gryffindor-y than I thought,” muttered Bella. “Was she aiming at Sna- he's stopped! Look! Potter's broom isn't jinxed anymore!”
A dark look was spreading across Daphne's face. “She's smarter than I thought, though I couldn’t believe she was sitting with Potter and Weasley, and now…”
“Well…” Said Bella hesitantly, “That means she probably got the right person - if someone was jinxing the broom, that is.”
Daphne slammed her hand against the chair in front of them, earning a glare from the fourth year occupying it. “I hate not knowing!” She hissed. “And if anything, that proves that someone in that box was jinxing the broom!”
Bella nodded absently, now focused on the game again.
Harry Potter, now in control of his broom was speeding toward the ground as the crowd held it's breath. He clapped his hand to his mouth as though he was about to be sick - he hit the field on all fours - coughed - and something fell into his hand.
“I've got the Snitch!” he shouted, waving it above his head, and the game ended in complete confusion.
“He didn't catch it, he nearly swallowed it!” Flint was still howling twenty minutes later, but it made no difference - Potter hadn't broken any rules, and Lee Jordan was still happily shouting the results: Gryffindor had won by one hundred and seventy points to sixty.
Bella and Daphne were very bitter about this, but they were more scared of the screaming sixth and seventh years than either of them cared admit, so they made a run for it; under arms and around legs of the older students.
Once they made it back to the common room, they decided that they would not like to be in the midst of their furious housemates. They hurried to the dorm, picked up Soren’s box, and smuggled it out so they could check on him in peace.
The mouse made it clear that the pain was not going away even if the actual problem was fixed, so Daphne said they ought to go to the nurse. Bella countered that by pointing out a bruised boy who had apparently gotten into a fight over the result of the game. As they walked toward the entrance hall, they saw many others with minor injuries that the nurse would no doubt be busy with.
“What about Hagrid?” Said Bella suddenly.
“What about him?”
Shifting Soren’s box underneath her cloak, Bella responded,“He knows loads about creatures and beasties! I bet he could help, or at least tell what's wrong.”
At Daphne's shrug, Bella led the way down to Hagrid’s hut, past the greenhouses, and Potter, Granger, and the youngest Weasley, all of whom looked particularly excited.
Hagrid was in a bad mood when they knocked on his door, but after Bella opened Soren's box, the huge man welcomed them in excitedly.
“Where did’ja manage to find one ‘a these?” He asked as they entered. “They're rare, an’ ‘ave some fancy name I can’t remember - a while ago, they was all owned by them rich an’ powerful ta carry letters an’ such”
Bella answered the original question, as Daphne was staring with a mixture of fascination and disgust at a large barrel of what looked to be freshly harvested bat spleens. “He was just in the corner of a courtyard, practically frozen.”
“Ah, poor thing…” Muttered Hagrid, carefully picking up the mouse-bat. “‘Spect one ‘a them owls got ‘im - tha’s why they went out’a use a while back.”
Sitting down at the huge table, Bella nodded. “Yeah, he said it was a ‘hawk-owl’, I think.”
Hagrid glanced nervously at Daphne, who was still standing, looking a bit ill.
“Yeh can talk t’ it?” He whispered loudly.
Bella furrowed her brow. Hagrid never usually acted as though there was a secret to be kept.
“Yes.” She said, not bothering to keep her voice down. “He speaks a bit different than me, but we understand each other. We’re calling him Soren, because that's kind of what the translation sounds like in English.”
Hagrid nodded, looking thoughtful. “He's hurt then? How?”
Bella hesitated. “I think he dislocated a major bone in his wing,” (Hagrid winced) “but he fixed it himself, or at least put the bone back in place.”
“‘An it's still hurtin’ ‘im?”
She nodded.
“Righ’ then.” He lowered his gruff voice. “Now, mister, can yeh open yer wing?”
He gently pulled Soren's right wing open. The mouse shuddered visibly.
“Ah. Righ’ there - yeh got yerself two disloati’ns!”
Bella gasped, and Daphne snapped out of her trance.
“How much will it hurt him?” She asked.
Hagrid looked wary. “A fair bit…”
~What he’s about to do is going to hurt.~ Warned Bella.
The mouse rubbed his face with is left paw, effectively turning away from his wing. ~I would think so. ~
She glanced a Hagrid, who, for all his size, did it rather quickly. He pinched a spot that was slightly swollen, the mouse shrieked, and again, there was a distinctive pop as something shifted.
Soren slid from Hagrid's massive hand and shot across the table to hide behind his box. Bella, who was the closest, placed her hand on the table and slid it toward him until her fingers brushed his whiskers. He was shaking.
~Is it better now?~ She asked hopefully.
It took awhile for the mouse to respond. ~It folds rightly.~
Bella translated, and Hagrid grinned. “Sorry fer spookin’ ‘im. There's only some ways teh fix a dislocat’in.”
“Well, it's not me you should apologize to!” Bella said with a smile.
“Yer righ’ - sorry to yeh, little mister!” His smile broadened. “Now, yeh lot want some tea and cakes?”
“Erm…” Said Bella. “I'll pass on the cakes - last time I had one, I almost lost a tooth, and that was after a soak in the lake!”
Daphne giggled.
“Are yeh disrespectin’ my rock cakes?” Demanded Hagrid, beard twitching.
Bella grinned. “No…”
“Well at least yeh tell me ‘bout it… Yeh'll take tea though?” He shuffled over to the cupboards at Bella's nod.
Daphne finally sat down, still giggling a bit.
Once there was two steaming mugs of tea in front of them and Hagrid was seated across from them, he asked, “Now, yeh’ve introduced me teh yer mouse, but to yer friend! What's yer name missy?”
Like usual, Daphne drew herself up and said politely, “Daphne Greengrass, nice to meet you Mr. Hagrid.”
The huge man chuckled. “The posh sort then. Yeh don't need’a be formal with little ol’ me - drop the ‘Mr.’”
Bella smiled softly. That was the best part about Hagrid: he treated everyone the same, as long as they were friendly, at least.
“It's righ’ good you two ‘ave got each other. The rest o’ them Slytherins in yer year ain't the good sort o’ folk.” Hagrid said absently.
Suddenly aware that there might be conflicting political views in the room, Bella glanced at Daphne. She was frowning, but looked thoughtful.
“What do you mean by that?” She asked politely.
Hagrid frowned. “Ah, well, somm'a the thoughts o’ those kids ain't right in this ‘ere day an’ age.”
“Hagrid, I've been telling you,” sighed Bella, “that whatever happened to get Randolph Selwyn out of school was good, because Sterling is the most progressive headboy we've had in ages. The only reason the other first years are so horrid right now is that they haven't picked up on the messages yet.”
Daphne looked surprised. “And you have?”
Bella felt the blood rush to her head. “Not everything, but if the upper years keep it up, then yeah, I ‘spose I understand what's supposed to happen.”
“Oi!” Exclaimed Hagrid. “Watch yer mouse!”
Soren was perched on the rim of Hagrid's mug, wings extended for balance.
~Thank you, Giant-man, my wing is foldable again!~ He called up at the man.
Giggling, Bella translated. “He's saying ‘thank you’.”
“I'm righ’ honored an’ all, but if ‘e falls in ‘ere and scalds ‘imself, it's all fer nothin’!” Hagrid chortled.
Bella and Daphne laughed, and Bella stuck out her hand for the mouse to climb down on.
They spent the rest of an enjoyable afternoon chatting with Hagrid about Quidditch, teachers, and how Hagrid thought they should care for Soren.