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The Prophesies of Lara Guishar by KJ Cartmell

Format: Novel
Chapters: 4
Word Count: 10,378
Status: WIP

Rating: 15+
Warnings: Contains profanity, Scenes of a mild sexual nature, Sensitive topic/issue/theme, Spoilers

Genres: Romance, Young Adult
Characters: McGonagall, Sprout, Hagrid, OC
Pairings: OC/OC

First Published: 09/01/2017
Last Chapter: 09/25/2017
Last Updated: 09/25/2017

 Lara is a shy girl who would rather keep to herself. Yet, her prophetic visions are too compelling not to act upon. She tries to keep her powers a secret, but nothing at Hogwarts stays a secret forever. When all of Hogwarts knows she has insight into the future, Lara is forced to come out of her shell and put her powers on display. 

Chapter 1: An Extraordinary Girl
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Chapter One:
An Extraordinary Girl

Lara Guishar ran across a damp lawn. Her eyes were wide, her breath shallow. A desperate fear drove her. A cramp, a stabbing knife of pain, burned in her side.
She came to a crest of a hill and gazed down upon a broad, dark lake. At the shoreline, a girl lay face down in the water. Her black dress was soaked with lake water, her pale limbs eerily still. Orange hair fanned out from her head like a grotesque starburst.

Lara ran down the hill towards the body, yet she knew with an otherworldly conviction that it was already too late. Rhiannon MacDougal had drowned.

Lara sat up suddenly. She was panting, and her brow was damp with sweat. As she struggled to slow her breathing, she reached out and grasped her wand. She lit the tip and saw that she was in her own bedroom room. Dawn’s light glowed faintly through her window. She was wearing her favourite green print nightgown, and above her head was a flowery print canopy.

It was a dream, she thought. A prophetic dream. I must record it.

She set her wand, its tip still glowing, into her lap. Out of her narrow nightstand drawer she pulled the diary in which she kept records of all her prophetic dreams. With it were her quill and ink bottle. She dipped the quill into the inkwell and then quickly began to record the dream before it faded from her memory.

Lara Guishar wanted nothing less than to be a normal girl, one who did reasonably well in school, kept a few close friends, and helped her mother with the cooking. Several circumstances, however, conspired to keep her life from being anything but ordinary.

For one, she was named for a famous character in a Russian novel. Every so often, someone called attention to this fact, usually a friend of her father’s. Lara would then have to admit that she had never read Pasternak’s book, Dr. Zhivago, nor had she seen the movie. She had faced this question often enough that she had learned to say, “But, I hear that Julie Christie is very beautiful. It’s flattering to think someone would make the comparison between her and I.”

Second, perhaps more significantly, Lara was a witch who attended Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the happy, peaceful days following the fall of Lord Voldemort. Her favourite subject was Healing Arts. She picked up concepts quickly and seemed to have a knack for it.

But, most extraordinary of all, she was visited by vivid, frightening prophetic dreams. Twice, she had dreamed her own death. She had escaped being eaten by an acromantula only by coaxing another boy, Liam Wren, to save her. She had made Liam angry with her, and she had to ask for his forgiveness to be sure he would come and rescue her when the time came.

Before she had even met Liam Wren, she had dreamed that she would marry him. When she did finally meet Liam, he seemed quite taken with her. However, Lara didn’t feel herself immediately fall in love with him. She wondered if she could escape this fate and set herself on a new path. She chose to be cold and aloof towards him, to see if he would become interested in someone else instead.

But on her twelfth birthday, right before the end of term, he saved her from the giant spider, and now their families were increasing intertwined. She had since dreamed a different potential death for herself. If she were to escape this second doom, she was certain it would be Liam again who would save her life.

She tried as best that she could to keep her prophetic powers to herself. The last thing she wanted was to be fielding a lot of silly questions, like “Who will win the next World Cup?” or “Will the next Star Wars movie be any good?” Her powers gave her no insight into these trivial matters.

All her dreams seem to involve matters of great import, literally life and death. Yet, the future was not a firmly set thing. It was ethereal, and somewhat malleable. She had saved herself, after all, once before.

Can I save Rhiannon?

She stared down at the words she had written. The wet ink glistened in the wand light. If Rhiannon goes alone to the lake’s edge, she will trip on a stone, fall, hit her head on a rock that is just below the surface of the lake, and drown.

Which lake?
She wondered suddenly. She had assumed this was the lake near Hogwarts, but now she was unsure. Lara knew that Rhiannon’s father had died at the Battle of Hogwarts. Afterwards, Rhiannon, sister Shona and their mother Vivian had gone to live with Vivian’s mother, Mrs. Ashfeld. The Ashfelds have a large estate on the edge of town.

Do they have a water feature?

Lara and Rhiannon were only acquaintances. Both were shy girls, and Rhiannon was often cold and aloof to strangers. Lara thought of the friends they had in common. Morwena will know. I must see her today and ask if there’s a lake on the Ashfeld Estate.

That same day, Morwena Felwich awoke late. The night before, she had been unable to sleep. She tossed and turned while her mind schemed, planned and plotted. Now, it was late morning, and she had missed breakfast with her family. She quickly rose, brushed her hair, and went downstairs.

It had all started the previous evening. As her family were arriving to dinner at Cassiopeia's, an exclusive restaurant in Godric’s Hollow, their friends, the Kanes, were just leaving. Morwena’s father stopped to speak to Mr. Kane. Morwena found herself gazing up into the eyes of fourteen year old Cyrus Kane.

When Cyrus attended Hogwarts, he was a small, spoiled eleven year old. He got into fights with boys from other houses, and angrily pushed back on Morwena when she tried to keep him out of trouble.
Since then, Cyrus had spent two years at Durmstrang. Every so often, during school breaks, he and Morwena would cross paths. Every time, Cyrus had grown a little taller. He was still proud, but he had learned to be gentlemanly. He always greeted Morwena graciously.

Last night, he had grown taller yet, so that he was nearly six feet. His hair was long, and his cheeks had a healthy, ruddy glow. He was so handsome that Morwena’s knees buckled.

Cyrus took her hand, held it and gazed deeply into her eyes. “Wen, it’s great to see you.” While she stammered her reply, he draped an arm around her sister Freya and said, “You’re starting your second year, aren’t you?”

“Yes,” said Freya, solemnly. Morwena was grateful Cyrus giving her a moment to compose herself. Grateful, too, for the little bit of affection to assuage Freya’s jealous nature.

Finding her voice, Morwena asked, “How long are you in town?”

Cyrus smiled wistfully. “Alas, I’m leaving in the morning. Heading to Primorsk, this little town on the Baltic Sea, northwest of St. Petersburg. I’ve been accepted into the Sea Serpents. In Durmstrang culture, this is a big step up socially. My new mates have a boat. They want to give me some sailing lessons before the start of term. I told them I’ve never sailed, but they think, because I’m English, it’s in my blood. We’ll see,” he added deprecatingly.

Morwena gazed fervently up at him. “Do they talk to you in English?”

“God no. But, after two years at Durmstrang, my Russian’s getting pretty good. My German, too. I’ll get by.”

Their parents were wrapping up their conversation. “It’s too bad you’re leaving so soon,” said Morwena. “Have a good term!”

He patted her arm. “I shall. You, as well.” With a nod to Freya, he left with his parents.

For the rest of the night, Morwena had obsessed over Cyrus. She tried to recall anything anyone had ever told her about Cyrus’ time at Durmstrang. She even mulled over the bragging of Cyrus’ annoying cousin, Reginald Dennison, who was Freya’s age. Cy picked up a female servant at Durmstrang. She’s an English squib who was sent to Durmstrang during the war. Cy’s family has adopted her. But, Tabitha is quite a few years older than Cyrus, and, she’s a squib. Not really marriage material.

Morwena had long thought that Cyrus would be a good match for her. She had researched their lineage, and they were not closely related. (Most Pure Blood families are related to one another, if distantly.) He was annoying and rude as an eleven year old, but now . . . .

I could marry him, if he doesn’t have some other girl I don’t know about.

After dinner, she retired to her room. She lay on her bed and gazed into her crystal Witchter ball, which is a social media platform for wizards and witches. Durmstrang was an all-male school, but there was a sister school for witches nearby, called Snegurka. The two student bodies combined for several social functions throughout the year.

Cyrus had posted his promotion to the Sea Serpents on Witchter and received a hundred and eighteen messages of congratulations. Most were from boys. Morwena researched each girl on the list. Two were older cousins who had gone through Hogwarts already and were now married with children.

Seven girls from Snegurka had sent their congratulations. They were all Morwena’s age. Two Russians, three blond Swedes, one from Bavaria and another from Romania. They all seemed to be in the same clique. None seemed to have the upper hand over the others.

Still, seven of them. And, some of them are quite pretty.

It was enough to make her worry, ponder and scheme late into the night. Hence, she had overslept.

After a quiet breakfast alone, she decided that she must write Cyrus a letter. If I post her a note on Witchter, those other girls will see it, and they’ll do their best to thwart me. If I send something to him directly, they’ll be none the wiser.

She repaired to her room once more and sat at her desk while a grey slate rain fell on the lawn and trees of her estate. She wrote, “Dearest Cyrus,” but quickly wiped it out and started again. (Parchment and quill both being enchanted, they acted like a word processor.) “Dear Cyrus.” Better, she thought. Don’t tip your hand too much.

“It was so nice to see you last night. I’m sorry that you and I didn’t have longer to talk. I would love to hear more of your Durmstrang adventures.”

Here she paused, and gazed with trepidation upon what she had written. Am I coming on too strong? She closed her eyes and gathered her courage while outside, the summer rain turned into a fine mist.

“Perhaps, when you are back in town, we could . . . .” Am I asking him on a date? This seemed completely improper.

She erased the line. “If ever you are out of school, and we all are still at Hogwarts, you should swing by and see all of us. We’d be thrilled to see you.”

Her shoulders rose, as if someone were tickling her. Her courage was seeping away. Am I really going to send this to him?

At the door of her room there was a soft knock. Morwena cried out, “Just a moment!” She swept the letter into a stack of parchment and dropped it into the canvas bag she used for her books at school. She quickly checked her face in the mirror to make sure she was at least somewhat presentable before calling out, “Come in.”

Freya opened the door and announced solemnly, “Lara Guishar.” She stood aside, and there was Lara, in jeans and a green knit sweater. Her sandy blond hair was pulled back with a green headband.

“Oh Lara,” cried Morwena happily. “It’s so good to see you. Did you tromp all the way over here in the rain?”

Lara smiled. “My umbrella, coat and rain boots are all downstairs. Freya said it would be alright if I were in my stocking feet upstairs. She raised one foot to show off her white socks, stretching just to her ankles.

“I’ll go,” said Freya solemnly.

Morwena had a large room with a canopy bed, a desk with a wooden chair for homework, and another plush chair in the corner for reading. A full length mirror hung on one wall. Morwena stood and greeted Lara with both hands. “Please, have a seat,” said Morwena, offering the plush chair, with its pattern of pastel pink flowers.”

Lara sat down with her hands in her lap. She seemed nervous and shy. Morwena was bursting to tell her about Cyrus, yet, she didn’t want to tip her hand. After all, Lara was a relatively new friend. Mostly, they studied together.

“How is your summer going?” asked Morwena.

“Fine. The days seem long and slow, yet they’re slipping away from me faster than I realize. We’ll be back in school before I know it.”

“Yes. It is nice, having a little break. My family traveled to Italy for a few weeks. Lovely, but a little warm for my English blood.”

The plush chair seemed poised to swallow Lara up. She drew in a breath and straightened, so that she was perched right on the edge of the seat. Gazing right at Morwena, she asked, “How’s Rhiannon doing?”

Morwena gazed keenly back at Lara. This did not seem to her mind to be an idle question. “She’s doing as well as she can. Rhi . . . she never makes things easy for herself.”

Lara nodded. “I’ve always pitied her a little, when I wasn’t scared half to death of her.” Lara gave a nervous laugh. “She’s so tall and gruff. But, she must have a hard life, to be that way from such a young age.”

Morwena nodded. “She has had a hard life. And, she makes things harder for herself by being so . . . well, as you said, gruff.”

Rhiannon was often teased by the other girls. Her height made her awkward and clumsy. Morwena was instinctively protective of her. Yet, Morwena didn’t sense that Lara held any malicious intent towards Rhiannon. She decided to divulge a bit of gossip.

“You know, Rhi has been spending time this summer with Philip Harkenborough.”

“Oh! I didn’t know, honestly.”

“They hatched a plan while I was in Italy. When I got back, they had convinced Grandmother Ashfeld that Philip was courting Rhiannon!” The girls laughed lightly. “Mrs. Ashfeld approves of this of course. She’s quite pleased that Rhianon found herself a proper boy from a respected family. She has allowed the two of them to meet regularly all summer, so long as I, or Rhiannon’s sister, Shona, is around to chaperone.”

“They aren’t really courting, are they?” asked Lara.

“No, I don’t think so,” said Morwena, “but as to what they are up to, I have no idea. They are being quite secretive about it. I think they are researching something. Philip is doing the research and then sharing his findings with Rhiannon.

“As part of the ruse, they purchased matching sets of stationery. Philip’s is blue, and Rhiannon’s is pink. Can you imagine? She hates the color pink!”

“Philip is quite the historian,” said Lara. “Maybe they’re researching her father’s family.”

“Perhaps. But, they are also practising spells.”

“Spells?” Lara’s eyes were wide. “What sort of spells?”

Morwena shook her head. “They won’t tell me. It’s really not like her to be this secretive, at least, not with me. I think they’re afraid of Mrs. Ashfeld discovering their true intentions.”

“What’s the Ashfeld Estate like?”

Morwena sighed. “It was a grand estate once, but now it’s completely fallen into disrepair. Overgrown trees crowd the paths, the gate has rusted, the tennis court hasn’t been mown in ages. It’s really quite sad.”

“Do they have a water feature? Like, a fountain, or a pond or something?”

Morwena shook her head. “No. Just a tangled, overgrown garden.”

Lara suddenly relaxed, and sunk back into the chair. “It’s funny about her and Philip. I wonder what they’re up to?”

Morwena gazed keenly at Lara. It was typical of Slytherins to ask purposeful conversations, designed to flatter or curry favour with someone powerful, for instance. But, she knew that girls from the other houses just talked. They made conversation without any ulterior motive.

Yet, Lara the Hufflepuff appeared to need desperately to know about the features of the Ashfeld Estate. Did she really walk all this way in the rain to ask me if Rhiannon’s grandmother had a water feature on her property?

Morwena didn’t know what to make of it. She made a mental note to record this conversation in her diary later that night.

[And with that, we are off! What are Rhi and Philip up to? Will Rhi drown? Stay tuned!

It’s so good to be back writing for HPFF. All during the year that I was away, my audience read my stories. I count my reads every month, and I’m always encouraged when I see those counts rise. I was quite eager to come back and continue this series.

It’s been a busy year for me! The big news is that I have finally found a publisher for my novel, The Gospel of Thomas! It’s about a boy named Thomas dating Adeline, the daughter of an Evangelical church pastor. I wrote Gospel after Dragon Wand. I make references to it in the Author’s notes at the end of Dragon Wand and during the writing of Witches of Slytherin. It took longer to find a publisher than it did to write! I’m delighted to finally be able to share this story with my readers.

The manuscript is so long that my publisher and I have decided to split the story in two. Book One: Revelation is out now. Book Two: Rapturewill come later.

Warning: The Gospel of Thomas is intended for an older teen. There is strong language, vivid sexual scenes and some scenes that are flat out scary. The younger members of my audience should definitely wait to read it. Everyone else: Revelation is on sale now, in paperback and ebook, exclusively at Amazon.

As for the chapter you just read - HarryPotter.Wikia describes at length the mysteries and controversies surrounding Durmstrang. Where is it located? Is it an all-male school, or do girls attend Durmstrang also? Rowling stated in Pottermore that Durmstrang was in Sweden, but others feel that Krum’s descriptions from Goblet of Fire fit Norway better, or even Western Russia. The movie Goblet of Fire portrays Durmstrang as an all male school, but there is a reference in the book to an unnamed female Durmstrang student.

In Prophesies, I’m voting for Durmstrang to be in Western Russia, near Finland. I also think that it’s an all male school. Durmstrang girl, as Potter.Wikia calls her, must be from a sister school, which I invented a name for on the spot, as I wrote this chapter. (Snegurka, or Snegurochka, refers to a Russian fable about a girl made of snow.)

Details of Durmstrang hierarchy, the clans, etc., are all my own invention and should not be considered canon. However, I consider everything I do here at HPFF to be Open Source. If you would like to use these concepts in one of your stories, please do so. Just give me a nod in the author’s notes.

That’s enough rambling for now. Thank you very much for coming back and reading me! There is much, much more to come. I better get back to it! Fondly, Cartmell.]

Chapter 2: Raid on the Attic
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Chapter Two:
Raid on the Attic

That morning, while the rain fell, Rhiannon MacDougal lay on her bed and waited for everyone to leave the house. First to leave was Rhiannon's younger sister, Shona. Their mother, Meriam, took Shona to a friend’s house, but a few minutes later, Meriam was back. Rhiannon heard her talking to Grandmum downstairs. Meriam called up the stairs to Rhiannon that she was leaving again to go shopping.

Rhiannon called back down, “All right! Have a good time!” in her most cheerful voice, trying to keep out the bitterness and sarcasm that was so prevalent in her conversations with family these days. She didn’t want her mother to come back up the stairs and ask how Rhiannon was feeling. She didn’t want Meriam to delay her shopping trip. She wanted her mother to go.

Downstairs, there was the screech of the tea kettle. Rhiannon waited, tapping her feet impatiently on the footboard of her bed, waiting for the old woman to finish her tea and to leave. It was Grandmum’s day to play bridge with three other equally evil curmudgeon witches.

Finally, the Estate’s House Elf, Hattie, scampered up the stairs to the door of Rhiannon’s room. “Miss Rhiannon!” she called. “Miss Rhiannon! The Mistress has left. You wanted me to tell you.”

Rhiannon got up and opened the door. “Thank you, Hattie.” Rhiannon was polite to Hattie. She felt an affinity to the House Elf, for Grandmother Ashfeld treated the both of them with hatred, cruelty and disdain.

Rhiannon pulled her curly orange hair back and slipped a black scrunchie through it to keep it in place. The effect was comical - she now looked as if an orange explosion was erupting from the back of her skull. But, now was not the time to be fashion-conscious. She had a dangerous mission ahead of her, and she needed her hair out of the way.

She closed the door again and removed her skirt. She pulled a heavy knit sweater, dyed Slytherin green, from her dresser drawer. Tucked within it was a pair of pants Rhiannon had purchased while out shopping with Morwena earlier in the summer. She had smuggled the pants into the house by hiding it within the sweater, and they had stayed hidden until that moment.

I’ll need pants up there, too. I’ll be crawling around on my knees. Better to be in pants than one of these skirts.

There was a time in her life when Rhiannon wore pants or shorts every day. She climbed trees and played football with the boys in her neighborhood. All of that ended when Meriam moved herself and her two daughters back home to live with her mother.

Grandmother Ashfeld did not approve of girls climbing trees or wearing pants like a boy. She ordered that Rhiannon wear dresses and skirts, and grow her hair long like a “proper girl.” She pointed out Rhiannon’s every shortcoming and failure. Meriam gave most of her attention to the younger sister, Shona. Rhiannon bore her grandmother’s assaults without any protection.

Rhiannon was always taller and more awkward than her peers. Clothes never fit her right. Her feet were too big for pretty, dainty shoes. Her hair, which was manageable when kept short, became a tangled mess as she grew it longer.

The girls of Godric’s Hollow were not quick to accept Rhiannon in their midst. Rhiannon played rough. She was loud and temperamental. The girls were cold and cruel back to her.

If I hadn’t met Morwena, I might have thrown myself in the river.

Rhiannon pushed away these thoughts and slipped out of her room. Hattie was still standing there. “Miss Rhiannon!” she said, aghast. “You know how the Mistress feels about you wearing pants!”

“I need to wear them today,” said Rhiannon coolly.

“Well, you best have them off again before the Mistress gets home. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

Rhiannon ignored the elf, and strode to a corner of the upper landing that was out of sight of the main hall. There, hidden from view by a curtain, was a ladder, connected to a metal track. Rhiannon slid the ladder along the track until it locked into place, below the hatch which led to the attic.

Hattie was still lingering, looking around worriedly, as if her Mistress would be returning at any moment. “Where are you going, Miss?”

“I need to get something out of the attic.”

Hattie began to wring her hands. The attic was off limits to Rhiannon and Shona. “Shall I fetch it for you?”

“No. I want to get it myself.”

Hattie was now wringing her bat-like left ear. “But Miss, there are dangerous things in the attic. Forbidden things!”

“I know. I’ll be careful.” Rhiannon smiled at the elf, then she climbed up the ladder and pushed open the hatch.

The air was stale and dusty. Rain patted prettily on the tiles above her head. All around her were scattered boxes and trunks. Only the nearest were fully visible in the darkness.
Despite her upbeat manner towards Hattie, a deep unease was filling her. She could feel the Dark Magic as a cold, piercing force.

She clambered the rest of the way up the ladder and sat down in a narrow space, with her feet dangling in the air. The hatch lay under a peak in the roof, so in this one section there was room for her head. The roof narrowed sharply to her left and right. There was no path to crawl amongst the hidden treasures. The item she sought was, predictably, not readily at hand.

She raised her wand. (Below, Hattie, watching, gave a gasp of alarm and then covered first her mouth, then her eyes.) Rhiannon waved the wand and uttered a firm incantation, one that she and Philip had been practising. The spell illuminated any magical objects that were nearby.

The attic space was suddenly lit with a bright golden light, as everything in the attic had some magical property. Rhiannon squinted into the glare as she gazed around the room.

With some additional wand motions, she was able to modify the spell so that it illuminated only benevolent magical objects in the bright golden light. This lowered the brightness considerably. Other objects in the room began to glow dully purple. Some of these had an aura that was bright red.

Purple for Dark Magic artifacts, recalled Rhiannon. Red signifies magical traps.

The Ashfeld family had been turning out Dark Wizards for two and a half centuries. The attic was full of ancient evil treasures, protected by potent curses. A wrong move here could end her life, or leave her permanently disfigured.

Rhiannon wasn’t interested in any of the Dark Magic artifacts. She wanted something more personal, intimate.

It’s here somewhere. Mother said she kept most all of his stuff.

It belongs to me. Shona doesn’t even remember him. He died when she was two.

Rhiannon continued to gaze into the gloom. There were some gold glowing boxes near her. She stacked them one on top of the other, and inched deeper into the space. The wood roof was now pressing a little on her hair. A few meters away from where she knelt, against the wall of the house, some boxes were glowing brightly yellow gold.

Sticking out of one of the boxes was a slender wooden pole smoothly carved. Carved into the pole were some letters. In the golden light she could see their shape: the name MacDougal, and a number, 42.

This was what Rhiannon sought: A 1994 Firebolt, etched with her father’s name and number, from his days as Chaser for the Wimbourne Wasps.

Between her and her quarry was a large trunk with a domed lid. It was glowing deeply purple, indicating Dark Magic objects were contained within it. Around the lid was the red aura, indicating a trap. Rhiannon edged as close as she dared to the trunk. Whatever was inside was chilling her to the bone.

Philip had been studying magical traps and relaying instructions to Rhiannon via the blue parchment stationery Morwena had seen. Rhiannon and Philip had convinced Grandmother Ashfeld that they were now a romantic couple and would be sending love letters back and forth to each other. By this ruse, they were able to meet regularly. Philip had access to books that Grandmother would have never allowed Rhiannon to read, because they were improper subjects for a lady. He sent her copious notes each day on the blue parchment.

Whatever you do, don’t touch anything that glows purple. Assume it has some curse or trap embedded in it that will activate when you touch it. The traps will also be tuned to react to certain spells, like the Summoning Charm, Accio. Any use of Accio in the attic is likely to trigger one or more of the traps. Setting off a single trap in such a confined space could set off several others, so you must be very cautious not to touch anything that isn’t glowing golden yellow.

Philip pleaded with her repeatedly. You can’t use Accio. Don’t even say a word that starts with A. Don’t take chances.

But, there is a command for brooms alone that should be safe to use . . . .

There had been no way for them to test this hypothesis. Rhiannon would simply have to try, and see what happened.

She reached out her left hand and called out in a clear voice, “Up!”

Ten feet away, the wand shivered, then lay still against the wall.

“Up!” she cried again. Another shiver, then nothing.

Rhiannon scooted as close as she dared to the domed trunk. Its dark magic was probing her, like icy fingers, trying to divine her intentions. She pushed her thoughts away from it and focused on the broomstick.

Philip had worried that the broom might not immediately respond to her command, especially if there were some distance between Rhiannon and the broom. He wrote in one of his letters: Most magical objects want to be used. They want a master who will treasure them and use them with vigor and enthusiasm. So, don’t be afraid to speak to the broomstick. Tell it who you are and why you want it.

Pulling in a deep breath and straightening herself as best that she could in the cramped space, she called out, “Firebolt! I am the daughter of Kellan MacDougal. Come to me! It’s time to fly again! Up! UP!”

The broomstick lept from the wall and came at her with such blinding speed that the handle’s tip nearly hit her in the jaw. When she grasped it, the wood felt warm, like her wand did after a vigorous practise session. She eased it carefully over the trunk and pointed it down into the open hatch.

“Go down and wait for me,” she told it. She let go, and it floated downwards, stopping parallel to the floor about four feet in the air.

Rhiannon climbed backwards out of the hatch, easing her feet into the open space until, one by one, they found the ladder rungs. She made two steps down and closed the hatch behind her.

Hattie was still wringing her hands. Her large, bulging eyes flitted from Rhiannon to the broomstick and back again. “This is Mr. MacDougal’s broomstick,” said the elf. “The Mistress will not like that you have it.”

Rhiannon, her feet on the carpet once more, dragged the ladder back to its hiding place behind the curtain. “Well, I have it. And, I’m going to take it somewhere so she can’t come and confiscate it from me.”

She grabbed the broomstick and headed back to her room. The elf followed nervously behind her. “You’re not going out in those pants, are you, Miss? Mistress might find out, and she will be dreadfully angry.”

Rhiannon sighed. This was far too likely. She grabbed her skirt off the floor where she had left it. Instead of putting it back in her drawer, however, she grabbed her black satchel and roughly shoved the skirt into it. Then, she pulled a cloak from the closet and drew the hood over her head.

“Where are you going now, Miss?” asked Hattie.


“Will you be back for lunch?”

“No. I’ll be home for supper.”

“Where shall I say you’ve gone?”


“Very well, Miss. I’m so glad you made it out of the attic. I hope you don’t make a habit of going up there.”

Rhiannon shook her head. “I got what I came for.”

“And, you best not let the Mistress catch you wearing those slacks!”

“I won’t,” said Rhiannon, sternly.

Rhiannon was truthful when she said she planned no more raids on the attic. But, she didn’t tell the whole truth. She needed the broomstick far from her grandmother’s sphere of influence. If I’m going to keep it forever, I need to get it to Philip’s for safekeeping.

[Next up: A rendezvous between Rhiannon and Philip!]

Chapter 3: The Rendezvous
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Chapter Three:
The Rendzvous

All morning, while the rain fell, Philip Harkenborough sat in his upstairs room, gazing down at the street, worrying about Rhiannon. He had crafted the plan with her, but he could not help her execute it. Rhiannon had been adamant: If he had entered her house when her mother and grandmother were both gone, her grandmother would find out, and Rhiannon would be in deep trouble.

“But,” argued Philip, “if you touch one of those Dark Magic traps, you could die!”

She had only smirked at him. “I promise I won’t die, Hark.”

They planned to meet that morning at 10:30, rain or shine, at the edge of town, near a practice Quidditch field. At 10 am, the rain turned to a fine mist. Philip got ready to go. He wrapped a waterproof cloak around himself. He took with him his own broom and a bag with a Quaffle, a practice Snitch and two water bottles inside.

He said good-bye to his House Elf and left the house with his bag on his arm and his broom across his shoulder. He walked through the cobblestone streets of town, amongst the quaint houses, until he came to the field at the edge of town. He checked his watch, but it was only 10:15. He doubted very much that Rhiannon would be early. He set his bag down on a park bench, mounted his broom and flew slowly in a wide arc.

A voice called out, “Oi, Hark!” It wasn’t Rhiannon, however, but his old friend, Michael Bendrix. Michael was flying his own broom. He was taller than Philip, and his brown hair was looking unkempt and shaggy.

Philip called back,“Hullo, Mike!” Philip landed, and Michael dropped down on the grass beside him.

“Is that your new broom!” asked Michael, excitedly.

“Yes. I got it for my birthday.” Philip turned the handle, showing off the word Nimbus carved into the handle.

“Oh, very nice,” said Michael. “The Nimbus 550 isn’t as fast in a straight line as my Comet R, but it turns quicker. Fancy trying out for the House team this year?”

“Yes. I’ll try out for Seeker.”

Michael nodded sagely. “The 550 is a good Seeker’s broom, but it could use a little more horsepower.”

Philip took his friend’s digs in stride. “Fancy a race?” he asked, politely.

Michael’s eyes lit up. He loved the opportunity to show off the straight ahead speed of his Comet R. “Where to?”

Philip pointed off across the field to a lonely oak tree, standing on top of a knoll, about a half kilometer in the distance. “To the oak and back.”

Michael continued in his wise tone, in perfect mimicry of his older cousin, Archie Stollencroft. “You know you can’t keep up with me in a straight line, but you might catch me on the turn, and make this a close race.”

Philip nodded. He could barely contain his glee. This won’t be a close race, Mike, he mused. This isn’t a 550.

The two boys mounted their brooms. Michael conjured a Formula One style starting gate, with lights that dropped from red to yellow to green. When both riders had a green light, they started forward.

Philip’s broom started quicker, for the Comet Rs have what Liam Wren called “turbo lag.” Philip kept a steady pace and waited for Michael to shoot past him. Philip lowered himself slightly on his broom, but kept about fifteen meters behind his friend.

As they approached the tree, Michael broke into a wide arc. The Comet Rs turn with reluctance. Alright, thought Philip. Time to take the wrapper off this broom.

He pulled up on the handle and the broom came to a gut wrenching halt. With a sharp yang, he turned around so that he was facing the direction they had come. Michael was just coming out of his wide turn when Philip leaned down on his broom and whispered, “Go!”

The grass below him became a blur. The mist stung his face and eyes as he shot forward. Before he knew it, he was above the roofs of the houses, a hundred meters past the place where he meant to stop.

He eased to a stop and coasted back to the lawn where Michael was waiting for him, laughing. “What the hell is that thing?”

“It’s a Nimbus,” said Philip coyly.

“That’s not a 550.”

“No. It’s an 850 XF.”

Michael let out a loud laugh. “An 850 XF? That’s a pro broom! How’d you manage that? They cost a bloody fortune!”

Philip smiled. “We were in the shop, and the salesperson showed us the 550, and my dad said what you did, that the 550 didn’t have enough horsepower. ‘My boy’s gonna be Seeker, see?’ he says. So, the clerk started showing us some of the pro brooms, and before I knew it, we were walking out of there with this little beauty.”

“If you were a con man, Hark, you could win a few wagers, racing that thing, ‘fore word got around.”

Philip smiled. “That’s not my intention. I don’t want to call attention to myself by having the model number on the broom handle. I’ll let people know I’ve got a Nimbus. They’ll figure out soon enough it’s not a 550. They don’t need to know I’ve got the pro model.”

“I think you’ve gotten sly and subtle all of a sudden,” said Michael, adopting his sage tone once more. “It’s your Slytherin friends rubbing off on you.”

Philip laughed. “Actually, it was Morwena Felwich’s idea to tell Father to get me a broom for my birthday! She said to appeal to his ego by telling him I was going to try out as Seeker for the House team. Now, he thinks he’s gone and made me into the next Harry Potter.”

The boys laughed. Philip’s eyes drifted from Michael to the direction of the Ashfeld Estate. Sure enough, there was a black cloaked figure flying towards them. Philip broke into a wide grin and cried, “She did it!”

Michael turned his head to see what Philip was looking at. He quickly cottoned on. “Oh, I see,” he said teasingly. “This is a rendezvous!”

Rhiannon eased to a stop and dropped to the grass next to the boys. She gave Michael a cautious gaze and a curt nod.

“Hullo MacDougal,” said Michael. “Whatcha got there?” he asked, indicating her broom. She turned it towards him, but did not speak. Seeing the name carved into the handle, he said, “You got your name carved onto it already?”

Rhiannon still would not speak. Philip said, “That’s a 1994 Firebolt.”

“Oh! Your dad’s broom, then. Hence the 42. I see it now. Was that his number for the Wasps?”

“Yes,” she said softly.

Philip gestured towards his sack. “Mike, I’ve brought some balls. Rhiannon and I were going to fly around and play catch. You’re welcome to join us.”

“Oh, I don’t want to intrude on your date,” said Michael teasingly. “I’ll see you too around.” He flew off.

Rhiannon let out a sigh, though of relief or exasperation, Philip couldn’t tell. He reached out and touched her arm. “You did it! Well done.”

“Thanks.” She pulled down her hood and fiddled with her hair, drawing it back into the black band. “Everything worked just like you thought it would. It came right to me when I called for it.”

“I see you’re wearing your slacks.”

“Yes,” she said, blushing. “Don’t fancy flying in a skirt.” She pointed to Philip’s broom and asked, “How are you managing that thing?”

“First time I got it up to full speed, I blew past my target by a hundred meters.”

“We both need practise. Let’s fly around for a bit.” She mounted her broom and shot up into the sky. Philip followed her.

Rhiannon flew hard towards the lonely oak tree. Philip had wondered if the old Firebolt could still accelerate to 150 miles per hour in ten seconds. He had no way to measure its speed, but it seemed plenty fast enough. He stayed right on her tail, but her sudden swerve at the oak tree caught him by surprise. He shot wide of the tree, made a sharp turn and then hustled after her.

At their starting point, the place where they had left their bags, Rhiannon made another tight turn and shot off back towards the oak. Philip knew his 850 was capable of hairpin turns at gut wrenching speeds. He had seen plenty of professional Quidditch games, with Seekers and Chasers flying 850s at breakneck speeds.

Just because something is possible doesn’t make it wise, he reminded himself. He made another looping turn and continued chasing Rhiannon.

After another lap, she came to a stop and landed in the shade of the oak. Philip landed beside her. “You’re really flying well,” he told her.

She nodded. “I fly whenever I get a chance to, which is next to never. I could never stand the school brooms.” She gazed wistfully off into the distance. “Can’t wait to get on the pitch, with a Quaffle in my hand.”

“I’m looking forward to watching you play Quidditch. Maybe one of us will finally beat Gryffindor. They haven’t lost a match since before our first year.”

“Do you know why the Gryffindors fly so fast?” she asked.

Philip shrugged. “I suppose they all have good brooms.”

Rhiannon shook her head. “They mostly fly Comet Rs, like your friend Bendrix, or Cleansweep Silverstones. None of them have pro brooms like yours and mine. So, why do they fly so fast?”

“I don’t know,” said Philip.

Rhiannon gazed down at him with her blue eyes bright and fierce. “It’s their courage. They’re not afraid. That’s what gives them the edge.

“If you’re going to beat the Gryffindor seeker, if I’m going to outfly a Gryffindor keeper and score a goal, we can’t sit back and let the broom do the work. We’ve got to fly like they do, with the same nerve, the same bravado.”

Philip smiled. “You’ve given this a lot of thought.”


“So, you’re going to try out for the Silver Snakes as a Chaser?”

“Yes. I don’t want to be a reserve, either. I want to start. I want to set a school record. Most goals scored, farthest shot, something.” She added harshly, “I’m not gonna be the girl and collect assists, making the boys on the team look good with my perfect passes.

“I want some brat twenty years from now to be dusting my trophy during detention, and have to read that on such and such a day, Rhiannon MacDougal did this!

Philip smiled. “Well, if you’re going to be a record breaking Chaser for the Silver Serpents, we better practise your shot.”

Rhiannon flushed. There was a surge of emotion which she held back, biting down on her lower lip. Then, she said, “Yes. We’d better.”

Though Rhiannon and Philip didn’t know it at the time, a couple hundred miles away in Northern Ireland, two Gryffindor boys were pondering which trick from the Slytherin playbook they might steal. As it happened, they were thinking about Rhiannon and her sister, but, a month passed before Rhiannon and Philip were aware of the plot.

Nearby was the neighborhood Quidditch pitch. The hoops stood like barren, windblown trees all year long. In the winter, when the grass was covered in snow, people still came out and played Quidditch. Not just children, either. Teams of adults played as well.

There were no other teams flying at that moment. Philip tossed his Quaffle to Rhiannon and watched as she streaked towards the hoops. As she drew close, she slowed. She held the broom with her right hand and cradling the Quaffle under her left arm. (Like Philip’s friend, Liam, Rhiannon was left handed.)

She eased the ball out of the crook of her arm and let it roll down her forearm to her hand. With a swift rotation of her arm, she sent the ball hurling towards one of the hoops. Her aim was off, however, and the Quaffle clanged off the rim.

Philip retrieved it and tossed the ball back to her. “Go on!” he cried. “Try it again.”

She came around for another pass. This time, fifteen feet from the hoop, she reared her broom and fired off another shot. This time it went through.

Philip raced after the ball. Quaffles are enchanted. While they don’t fly of their own accord, like Bludgers and Snitches, they also don’t fall immediately to the ground. They float along in the air until a Chaser or Keeper sweeps them up. Philip gathered the ball in his arm and brought it back to Rhiannon.

“I’m rubbish at this, obviously,” she said. “Any Keeper could have blocked that shot.”

“You just need practise,” said Philip, earnestly.

“When the f- am I gonna get practise?” she snapped back, angrily.

Philip continued, undaunted, in his gentle tone. “At school. Even if it’s raining, I’ll go out to the pitch with you and chase after your shots. Come on. Have one more go, and then we’ll pack it in and get lunch.”

Rhiannon swooped around and took one last shot. She was still deliberate in her throwing motion, and Philip could see her worry that she wasn’t yet good enough to start for the Serpents.

[Philip's date with Rhiannon continues in the next chapter! Stay tuned!]

Chapter 4: The Honourary Badger
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Chapter Four:
The Honourary Badger

At lunch, they reviewed the recent pro Quidditch final between Wimbourne and Tutshill. Both Philip and Rhiannon had been routing for the Wasps, but the Tornadoes won. “Only because Tutshill’s owner spent a fortune on those two Spanish flyers,” said Rhiannon, bitterly.

Philip nodded. “Michael said the same thing.”

“And, the refs missed that foul! Did you see it? Barker for the Tornados clearly hit our Seeker, Whittingly, with his beater bat.” Rhiannon gestured angrily. “But, nothing! Not even after they showed it on the replay!”

“Yes, the referees do seem to miss the most obvious of fouls,” said Philip, politely.

“Of course, I had to go to Wennie’s to watch the match. There was no way I could watch it at home.” Philip had only just learned this meant Morwena Felwich. He had never heard anyone else call her Wennie. Rhiannon continued, “Grandmum would not approve of me hollering at the Omnivision like a drunken sailor.”

Philip laughed. “I’m sure you sounded nothing like a drunken sailor!”

Philip was amazed at how verbose Rhiannon was when she was with just one other person. When they first became potion partners the previous autumn, she would hardly speak to him at all. Only after a period of months, as Philip continued to display kindness and loyalty to her, did she slowly open up. Now, it seemed, he was learning new things about her every day, like her passion for Quidditch, and her dedication to her father’s former team, Wimbourne.

After lunch, Rhiannon went into the hall bathroom and changed back into her skirt. Philip heard her cursing loudly through the closed door. When she emerged, she wore her skirt, but her feet were bare.

“I forgot my shoes and stockings,” she said morosely. In her hands, she held her grey cotton socks and black athletic shoes. “I can’t wear these with my skirt! I’ll look ridiculous!”

“What would happen if you wore your slacks home?” asked Philip. “Would your grandmother scold you? Ground you?”

Rhiannon huffed, and dropped her shoes and socks onto the floor. “She’d probably just beat me. It’s quicker.”

Philip forced himself to be calm, but his eyes were wide, and he shuddered. “She has this enchanted staff,” continued Rhiannon, casually, as if she were discussing the weather. “She leans against the doorframe of my room and sends the thing after me like a rabid dog. The more I yell and scream, the longer it hits me.”

Philip looked down at her shoes and socks, so she wouldn’t see the pain and sorrow in his face. “Maybe we could get you a different pair of shoes,” he said softly.

“Where am I going to get shoes?” She asked, hostilely. She bent her knee and raised her left foot. “Nothing fits these feet.”

“That’s why we have magic!” he said brightly, finding his courage once more. “We can transfigure these shoes into black flats. When you get home, you can switch them back.”

“What about stockings?”

“Same solution. We’ll make some out of these athletic socks.”

Rhiannon gazed worriedly at him. “How good are you at Fig?”

“Well, it's not my best subject,” admitted Philip. “You know who's really good at this sort of thing is Stacy.” Rhiannon gazed worriedly at Philip. “Don’t be shy,” said Philip gently. “She’ll want to help us. Let me text her.”

He fished his Witchter ball out of his pocket and sent a text to Stacy. Are you home?

She replied right away. Gimme 10 min

Philip gave Rhiannon an encouraging smile. “She’s busy at the moment. Let’s try again in a few minutes.” Rhiannon crossed her arms tight against her chest. Her teeth bit down onto her lower lip. To distract her, Philip asked, “Isn’t Shona eleven now? Is she coming to Hogwarts?”

Rhiannon nodded. “She can’t wait. She’s been peppering me with questions ever since she got her owl. The Four Houses, sorting, classes, the Forbidden Forest. She wants to take Magical Creatures with Greenleaf, as a First Year, if possible.”

They laughed. They sat back down at the kitchen table to wait. Rhiannon began discussing some of their other friends. “Tess’ sister Aylie is desperate to come to Hogwarts, but she’s only ten. She’ll have to wait another year. I wouldn’t be surprised if she tried to stow away in Tess’ trunk.”

She smirked at Philip and said dryly, “Not that I care at all, but there are girls in my circle who are quite keen to know who Liam Wren’s next girlfriend will be.”

“No idea,” said Philip, laughing.

There was a soft knock at the front door. The House Elf answered it, and announced, “Master Philip! It’s Miss Stacy!”

Philip rushed to the entryway. Stacy gave him a quick hug and a peck on the cheek. “Hullo,” she said, cheerfully. Suddenly, she noticed Rhiannon sitting at the table. “Oh! Rhiannon. It’s so good to see you. How’s your summer?”

Rhiannon’s expression became opaque. “Fine.”

Stacy rushed to Rhiannon’s side and gave her a hug. Rhiannon, not expecting the sudden show of affection, instinctively tensed her shoulders and pulled back.

“We were wondering if you could help us,” said Philip. “Rhiannon is switching from slacks to a skirt, but she doesn’t have the right shoes or stockings.”

“Well, that’s easily fixed,” said Stacy. “What are we working with?”

Philip and Stacy went into the hallway, where Rhiannon’s socks still lay on the hardwood floor. Stacy knelt and poked the socks with her wand. “These won’t do. Philip, fetch me a clean pair of your dress socks, please. Beige, if you’ve got them. Navy, if you don’t.”

Philip ran up the stairs. Stacy looked to Rhiannon, who was still sitting at the table. “Come on,” motioned Stacy. “Let’s try on some shoes, shall we?”

Reluctantly, Rhiannon rose and came over to her. Stacy waved her wand over Rhiannon’s left shoe. The shoe took on the blurry, glowing, malleable form of their Transfiguration lessons. As Stacy bore down in concentration, the shoe’s laces and tongue disappeared. The eyelets became smooth black leather. The foot opening widened, and the profile became narrower. In a few moments, the athletic shoe had become a girl’s leather flat.

“Go ahead and try it on,” said Stacy. “It should be the same size.”

Rhiannon lifted her foot and set it into the shoe. Stacy helped her slip it the rest of the way on. “There you go!” said Stacy brightly. “That fits you pretty well, doesn’t it?”

Rhiannon nodded. Stacy set to work on the second shoe. Philip came down stairs again, with a pair of beige socks. Stacy paused her work to run her fingers across them. “Oh, these are lovely, Philip. They’ll be perfect!”

“Those look like nice socks,” said Rhiannon, worriedly. “I don’t want to wreck them.”

“I have plenty of socks,” said Philip, firmly. “I can give you a pair.” This made Rhiannon flush, and she bit down on her lower lip.

Soon, Stacy had transfigured the other shoe, and turned Philip’s socks into a pair of girl’s knee socks. “I even put a little flower on each one,” said Stacy. “Is that alright?”

Rhiannon nodded. When she touched the socks, she flinched. They're silk!”

“Only the best for you,” said Philip amiably.

Rhiannon sat with her back to Philip and pulled the up the socks. She gazed at her knees for moment before standing. “Thank you,” she said softly.

Stacy was now gazing critically at Rhiannon’s skirt. It was wool plaid, and it hung above her knee. “Is that a school skirt?” asked Stacy.

Rhiannon nodded. “It’s getting small. I need new ones for school. I just hate shopping for clothes.”

“This is more fun, isn’t it?” asked Stacy. “Making clothes with magic!” She stood and took Rhiannon’s hand. “Come,” she said. “Let’s see what we can do about that skirt.”

Stacy lead Rhiannon to a nearby room. “You seem to know your way around this house,” said Rhiannon, a hint of accusation in her voice.

Stacy answered, “Oh yes. I’ve even stayed here, in this room. At Christmas, sometimes, my house gets so full of relatives, I just come over here and move in. Mr. Harkenborough, he’s so busy with work around the Holidays, he doesn’t even know.”

The guest room had a queen sized bed with a flowery bedspread. At the foot of the bed was a crochet wool blanket. Lace curtains were drawn over the curtains, letting in a gauzy afternoon light. Stacy closed the door behind them, then went over to a mirror in a wooden frame, standing on the hardwood floor. “Let’s work over here, shall we?”

Rhiannon lingered by the doorway. “Do I have to take the skirt off?”

“Yes please.” Stacy turned towards the window. Rhiannon removed the skirt and wrapped herself in a blanket. She tossed the skirt over to Stacy, and Stacy began to work on it.

“Is this your hobby?” asked Rhiannon.

“Yes! Just a few weeks ago, I was fixing up Lara’s favourite nightgown. It’s green and flowery, and very pretty, but it had gotten tight, you know, in the chest, and short. I made it bigger and longer so she could keep wearing it.”

Rhiannon, the blanket wrapped around her legs like a towel, stood by the bed and watched the other girl work. She asked, in a cruel tone, “Are you still in love with Tess Covenshire?”

Stacy knew this about Slytherins, that they often asked aggressive questions in order to assert control over a situation. She laughed it off. “Can you blame me?”

Rhiannon pressed on. “She’s straight.”

Stacy sighed. “I know. That didn’t stop me from falling in love with her.” Turning her attention back to the skirt, she added, “Aren’t you in love with Pauline Langlet?”

Rhiannon flushed deeply at this, but she offered a soft, “Yes.”

“Pauline’s such a pretty girl,” continued Stacy. “Prettier by far than Vanessa Ables, if you ask me. Why the boys go gaga over Ables all the time, I’ll never understand.”

“She’s blonde,” said Rhiannon, meaning Ables.

“Is that all there is to it?”asked Stacy. “Maybe I should dye my hair.” She laughed at her own joke.

“Pauline . . . is straight, too,” said Rhiannon softly.

“Then, we’re in the same boat,” said Stacy, with a hint of reproach.I’m helping you. You should be nicer to me.

Stacy held her wand tip over the skirt and made looping motions with her hand, as if she were sewing. “What are you doing?” asked Rhiannon.

“I want to make it pretty!” said Stacy. “So, I’m making eyelets.”
Rhiannon’s brow furrowed. She maintained a cross, confused expression. Stacy flipped the skirt over and continued making little loops with her wand.

At last, Stacy was done. She set down her wand, and the skirt lost its glowing, liquid form and became solid again. Stacy held it up. “Here you go!”

The plaid wool had been transfigured into light, summerweight cotton; blue, the same shade as Rhiannon’s eyes. The skirt had two layers. The thin outer layer was covered in tiny eyelets, while the heavier inner layer was solid.

Rhiannon took the skirt from Stacy. Turning her back on the other girl, she dropped the blanket and stepped into the skirt. Like her old skirt, there was a zipper and a clasp. The zipper closed smoothly, but she struggled a bit with the clasp.

“Come and see it in the mirror,” said Stacy.”

Rhiannon stared coldly, critically, into the mirror. The waist was smooth and flat, save for a small blue decorative button. The hem now fell just below Rhiannon’s knees. She gave the skirt a little swish with her hand. She tried, in her offhand way, to say, “I almost look pretty in this,” but her voice cracked and her eyes suddenly welled with tears.

Stacy quickly stood and gently brushed her hand against Rhiannon’s arm. “Don’t cry,” she said. “You do look pretty.”
Rhiannon turned away from the mirror and rubbed her eyes roughly. “I don’t know . . .” she struggled to find the right words, “. . . how to repay you.”

“You don’t need to pay me anything,” said Stacy, tenderly. “You’re an Honourary Badger, now. We take care of each other.”

Rhiannon smiled weakly and rubbed her eyes once more. “I should go.”

She took a moment to collect herself, while Stacy sat on the edge of the bed and waited. They went out of the guest room together. Philip was waiting in the front room, reading an old, leather bound book. When he saw the girls, his face brightened, and he stood.

“Rhiannon! You look lovely. Stacy, that skirt is perfect.”

“It just came to me,” she said. “I knew just what I wanted to do.”

To Rhiannon, he asked, “What shall we do with your socks and slacks?”

“I don’t know,” she said morosely. “I can’t guarantee I’ll be able to get away again.”

Philip nodded. “I’ll wash them and keep them here, in case you can. If not, I’ll bring them with me to King’s Cross, September the first.”

Rhiannon touched his arm, then, on impulse, pulled him into a brief hug. “Keep my broom for me.”

“Yes,” he said firmly. “I’ll keep it with my own. We’ll ride them together, again, at school, for certain.”

Philip opened the door for her, but on the threshold, Rhiannon paused and reached one of her long, freckled arms back for Stacy. She pulled Stacy into a hug and said simply, “Hind, thank you.” Then, she was off, walking with long strides back to the Ashfeld Estate.

Philip watched her until she was out of sight, then he gently shut the door. Stacy said, “When she put on the blue skirt, she started to cry.”

Philip nodded. “She’s not used to people being kind to her.”

“She’s so gruff all the time! We wonder why you put up with her. And then, just now, I think I started to get it.”

“I don’t always know how to help her,” said Philip, “but I know she needs all the love we can give her.”

[That’s all for this batch! It may be a few weeks before I can post another chapter. Next up: we get a summertime update from our hero, Liam Wren! And, the Gryffindors execute a Secret Plan! Stay tuned!]