Why did I think this would be a good idea? My uncle had told me to stay close to camp once it got dark. But I wanted to see the river under the full moon’s light. I just knew it would be gorgeous.
I couldn’t think of a good excuse to leave the area. Our tent had a bathroom, our fire was magical so it didn’t need wood…I had to wait for everyone to be asleep.
When would I get another chance to see the moon reflected in one of the only unpolluted parts of the Thames?
I was such a fool.
Twigs breaking. Leaves snapping and crunching.
Heart beating. Pain.
Blurs of color.
Help! Shaking. Shaking.
My eyes snapped open and focused on the bright green ones of my best friend. She looked worried.
“Are you okay?” she asked, sitting back down across from me.
I glanced around. We were in a compartment on the Hogwarts Express, headed to school. I wasn’t sure when I had dozed off. It was still light outside, and the countryside raced by the window. There was probably still an hour or so before dark, and not long after that we would pull up to the station in Hogsmeade.
“I was just…having a nightmare,” I answered. I wasn’t lying; I really was having a nightmare.
Lily’s brow creased in concern. “What about?” She had never known me to succumb to nightmares before, how would I explain this one?
“Um…” I racked my brain, thinking quickly. “It involved my whole family. I suddenly lost them.” Lily knew that I didn’t get along with my parents; but she did know that I loved my Uncle Howard and his two girls more than anything. Outside of them, I had a grandmother that lived in New York City who ignored us over here on the isle, but that was it for family.
Lily, God bless her, gave me a sympathetic smile and patted me on the shoulder. “Don’t worry about that, it was only a dream.” She sat back and looked out the window, her smile widening. “Just think about the feast tonight! We’re about to start our sixth year!”
I smiled, but I couldn’t grin. That, too, left me feeling nauseous. Usually I would be jumping for joy right along with her, but not on this particular train ride. I couldn’t think past this night, it felt like once this night was over my life would just end, no matter how it turned out. I hated that feeling. It was such an irrational feeling, because I knew life would go on.
“C’mon, cheer up!” Lily smiled and picked up the magazine she had been reading earlier.
I forced a full blown grin onto my face and then turned my attention to my messenger bag. I dug out my current book, The Eden Express, and sat back against the seat. I would just read and hope it could take my mind off of things.
But perhaps reading a book with the subtitle A Memoir of Insanity wasn’t the best choice right now.
x x x
The Hogwarts Express chugged along down the tracks, and soon darkness fell. By the time Lily and I were changing into our robes my nerves were so frazzled I could barely function.
“Your robe is inside out, Lacelin,” she told me with a small chuckle.
I blinked at her and then looked down at the robe, noticing that the light black material of the interior was definitely on the outside. “Shoot,” I said and went to turn it around.
Lily closed her trunk and latched it, having put her bag inside with her magazine. “I’m so excited about the new year,” she said. She sat next to the trunk on the bench, not wanting to heave it back up on the racks above.
“What are you taking?” I asked, trying to get my mind off the castle growing ever closer.
“Ancient runes, definitely. That was such an interesting class.” But after that, I didn’t hear anything else.
When the train arrived in the station, I followed Lily out to the carriages pulled by…what, I couldn’t guess. I didn’t think they were magically drawn, but I just never had enough interest to look into it.
It was a short ride up to the castle, one that would seem much longer than normal for me. And when a few of Lily’s other friends showed up, I knew that it would be even longer than that.
Jennifer and Heather never seemed to like me very much, though I got along with Amy all right. Amy was a fellow Quidditch fan, so we at least had that to talk about. The other two girls weren’t just uninterested in Quidditch, they absolutely hated it. It was too dirty for them, I guess. That wasn’t the only reason we didn’t get along, we just rubbed each other the wrong way.
So I sat next to Lily in the carriage, across from Amy. While Jennifer, Heather, and Lily caught up about their summers, Amy and I sat in silence. I preferred it that way; I wasn’t really in the mood for talking.
But Amy broke our silence first. “So who did you root for in the World Cup this year?”
I swallowed and forced myself to be civil. I shouldn’t be rude just because I was nervous. “Ireland National. I really wish England had made it into the finals though.”
Amy nodded. “I rooted for them too. But the United States did better than I expected.”
“Did you go to the Cup?” I asked, temporarily forgetting my problems. I would have given a leg to go to the World Cup.
“No, my father tried to get tickets, but you know how difficult that can be. Plus, since it was in America it was a lot harder to find them here.”
I only nodded in response, and we lapsed back into silence.
We stayed that way until we pulled up to the castle and debarked the carriages. I followed behind Lily by a few steps as she continued her conversation with Jennifer and Heather. Amy had joined in now, talking about her vacation in Wales.
As we walked up the stairs to the Great Hall, we ran into Professor McGonagall going the opposite direction to meet the first years. When she noticed me, she stopped and beckoned for me to come over to her. I pulled myself out of the crowd and walked over, my heart thudding painfully against my chest.
“Miss Crill, Professor Dumbledore wants to speak with you after the feast.” She spoke under her breath so that the passing students wouldn’t overhear. Many were looking on in curious interest.
All I could do was nod; I was beginning to feel numb.
“After the feast, I’ll fetch you and we’ll go to his office together.” She must have noticed how I was feeling, because she laid her hand on my shoulder and gave me a youthful smile. “Don’t worry so much.” And then she was gone with a sweep of her robes.
I followed the last few students into the Great Hall and sat down next to Lily, feeling a little better.
“Where did you go? I turned around to ask you something and you were gone.”
“Professor McGonagall wanted to speak to me.”
Lily blinked, looking curious. “What about?”
I had thought she would ask me as I walked to the table, so I had a story already thought up. “She told me there’s been a scheduling conflict with my classes. She wants to get it straightened out tonight before classes start tomorrow.”
Lily relaxed slightly and smiled. “Well, I’m glad you’re getting it taken care of in time! But that just seems really late to have a meeting.” But she shrugged it off.
I turned to look over the table from me to see that I had sat across from one of my good friends, Jodie Foster. Her chin length brown hair was pushed back from her eyes with plain black clips, and her green eyes were bright with excitement over the new year.
I smiled, it was hard not to in Jodie’s presence. “Hi, Jodie. How was your summer?”
“It was great! I got t’go to th’ World Cup!” Jodie was the most tomboy girl I knew. She always wore Quidditch jerseys and pants that weren’t fitted to her form, which was slender and strong from playing sports all her life. Aside from Quidditch, she also used to play Quodpot. Jodie was originally from the U.S. and had moved to Manchester right before her fourth year at Hogwarts. She had lost a good bit of her Texan accent over the years, but every now and then you would hear it coming out. She also still rooted for their Quidditch team, the Sweetwater All-Stars.
“Did you really?” I asked, my face brightening. I was definitely jealous. “That’s amazing! How was it?”
She launched into a full account of the entire game, not that I minded. If I didn’t think I was physically weak, I probably would have tried out for the Gryffindor Quidditch team a long time ago. Jodie was the current Keeper, and she was damn good at it, in my opinion. Not only was she a good player, but she was able to put up with James Potter and Sirius Black’s antics; though no one could say they weren’t good players—in more than one game.
The feast went by as it normally would. Everyone talked until the first years were lead into the hall and sorted into their respective houses by the sorting hat, who had already sang his yearly song. (This one had been a bit bland, in my honest opinion.) Afterwards, everyone ate and then Dumbledore stood to say a few words, give his usual warnings about the Forbidden Forest, and then my nerves returned.
The feast was over, and now I was standing outside the Great Hall waiting for Professor McGonagall to emerge and take me to see the Headmaster.
She had told me not to worry, but she was only one of the teachers. It was all up to Headmaster Dumbledore whether I was allowed to stay at school or not.
And if they kicked me out of Hogwarts, where would I go? My own mother and father wouldn’t let me back in their house. They were already disappointed that I wasn’t accepted into Beauxbatons.
“Miss Crill, follow me please.” I turned to see McGonagall standing outside the double doors, waiting for me to notice her. I nodded and followed her through the corridors of the castle.
The walk was long, and we went into parts of the castle I wasn’t familiar with. There were mostly unused classrooms and offices, and I suspected that perhaps the teachers’ living quarters were nearby.
But when Professor McGonagall stopped, it wasn’t in front of a door. I looked up at her in confusion and she only smiled. We were standing in front of an ugly, large statue of a gargoyle. To my surprise, the professor looked at the gargoyle and said simply, “Cockroach Clusters.”
I watched as the statue turned and began to disappear into the floor. The further down it went, the more it revealed a winding staircase coming from the ceiling. After about a minute, it stopped moving and the staircase was open in front of us.
“Just go to the top of that staircase and knock on the door, Miss Crill,” McGonagall said with a reassuring smile. “I’ll be here to escort you back to Gryffindor Tower.”
I nodded and thanked her before I slowly began to climb the staircase. It was ominous. I had never known where Dumbledore’s office was, I had never even wondered. No one ever got sent to the “principal’s office” at Hogwarts.
I reached the top and came to a mahogany door that simply read “Albus Dumbledore” in gold lettering. I took a deep breath and knocked lightly.
“Come in,” said the Headmaster’s cheerful voice.
He was in a good mood. That was good news, right?
I opened the door and was immediately in awe.
The Headmaster’s office was beautiful. It was circular and in two storeys. The tables and desks sitting along the wall were filled with gadgets that whizzed, smoked, whistled, and some even danced. The stone walls were covered with portraits of all the previous headmasters and headmistresses of Hogwarts—all of whom were currently asleep against their frames (some snoring quite loudly).
Dumbledore’s large desk sat centered and against the back wall. Behind him two staircases led to the second floor that seemed to lead to his personal library. What did Dumbledore read in his leisure, I wondered?
“Please, have a seat.” He smiled and waved his wand at the floor in front of his desk. An armchair came from the corner of the room and settled on the spot that he indicated.
Slowly, I walked forward and sat in the plush armchair. It was very comfortable.
“Professor McGonagall tells me you have something you wish to discuss with me,” he said pleasantly.
I swallowed, and could tell by looking at my hands that my skin had gone a few shades paler. I had a light olive complexion, so when I went pale, it was very obvious.
I pushed a strand of black hair from my eyes and looked up at my Headmaster, but I couldn’t meet his eyes.
“Um, sir…I don’t exactly know how to say this…”
“In my experience, I’ve found that just telling the truth is usually a good method.” He smiled at me. Would he still be smiling in a moment?
Didn’t my mother write a letter? She had whisked me onto the train as fast as she could, hoping everything would just be peachy when I spilled the beans. This was hard. I guess there was no easy way to admit it, so I just spit it out: “Over the summer, I was bitten by a werewolf.” I paused to take a deep breath and release it. My heart was beating so hard I thought it was going to break right through my breast bone. “And I was turned.”
Dumbledore’s smile stay plastered to his face, and he didn’t say anything right away.
Was he mocking me? ‘Haha, nice try! Get out!’? I was appalled. What should I do? Should I say something?
He let me suffer for a few more moments before he finally spoke. “Miss Crill, your uncle wrote to me in earnest soon after the incident.” His smile was still friendly. “Many magical establishments turn their backs on Lycans, and I can assure you that Hogwarts is not one of them.”
I was stunned. I closed my mouth when I felt it hanging open. “S-So…I’m not expelled?”
“Of course not.” His smile waned a little. “That said, we do take precautions for the safety of the other students. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to extend such a kindness.”
“Have there been other werewolf students, sir?”
“We’ve had vampires, too.” Dumbledore smiled fully again. “But werewolves, I must admit, are new to us. Our first werewolf student began school here in your class.”
This was news to me. For the past five years I had been going to school with a werewolf? And I hadn’t known? Dumbledore really knew what he was doing then.
“I have, sir?” I didn’t expect him to tell me who, but I definitely was curious.
And I was surprised when he did tell me who. “Yes, Remus Lupin. Do you know him very well?” He paused for only a moment, not really intending on an answer. “He may be a friend worth having in the coming months. It’s very hard for new werewolves to acclimate, I understand. Have you changed yet?”
I shook my head. I hadn’t. My first full moon was quickly approaching. “September Eighteenth will be my first time, sir.” This wasn’t the first time that it struck me how similar changing into a werewolf was to puberty. “Will it hurt?” I nearly whispered.
Dumbledore frowned. “I’m afraid so.”
“Now, we have a lot to discuss on this matter,” he said, “but it’s getting late. I’ll meet with you again before September Eighteenth.” He stood up and I stood, too. We began to walk towards the door. He laid a reassuring hand on my shoulder and said, “Rest assured, Miss Crill, things will be all right. There are precautions and there’s no reason for anyone else to know.
“However,” he added, looking down at me. Was it just me, or was there a twinkle in his eye? “Close friends can do more for one’s spirit than anything else in this world. Good night, Miss Crill.”
I definitely had a lot to mull over for the night and for the next week, most likely.
I met Professor McGonagall at the foot of the stairs and as we walked away, I heard the grinding of stone as the gargoyle statue replaced the stairs. We walked back to Gryffindor Tower in silence. I learned the password for the Portrait of the Fat Lady, and then I parted ways with the professor.
Everyone was already in bed when I reached my dormitory. It was heartening to see my trunk already there, and a soft, warm bed awaiting me. I brushed my teeth, my hair, and changed into my pajamas before climbing under the sheets and falling almost instantly asleep.
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