It was a perfect day, sunny but pleasantly cool for the end of August. The grounds of Hogwarts were nearly silent; the next time they would be this quiet wouldn’t be until snow suffocated the grass and the trees gave up their leaves and slept. Only a few sounds punctuated the stillness, one of them being the insistently chirping sparrow that had claimed a thin branch in the tree under which Paige now relaxed. She laid on her stomach on a Slytherin-themed blanket – she owned a myriad of items sporting her House crest, from the blanket to t-shirts and a teacup that went mostly unused – and lazily flipped through the pages of Witch Weekly
, the battered copy of Jane Eyre
she’d originally intended to try out lying abandoned on the blanket next to her feet. Footsteps behind her caused her to glance up, but it was only Hagrid, who gave her a simple wave on his way out to feed the giant squid. Sighing, she sat up, stretching briefly and picking a piece of grass off the bottom of her jeans. The sun had begun to travel slowly toward the West, indicating that it was almost time to go inside and prepare to witness the Sorting.
She stood up, carefully folding the blanket and tucking it and her reading materials into her bag before putting it on. The cool of the floor startled her just slightly as her bare feet made the transition from the grass outside to the stone corridor within. The rocks beneath her grew cooler as she journeyed down the dimly-lit staircase to the dungeons, heading into the common room and up to where she slept. Deciding to keep the jeans, she traded her faded t-shirt for a black v-neck blouse and slipped on her Mary Janes, which were now somewhat scuffed. Just a few minutes of brushing her hair and a touch of eyeliner and she’d be ready to make an appearance downstairs. However, as she moved to the mirror, something in the reflection distracted her.
In her joy over having finally convinced Draco that he would be happier with her, it had never occurred to her that she would still have to sleep, eat and take classes right next to Pansy. Not only that, but with Pansy came Daphne, and Paige would have no such ally in female-only territory like this room or the girl’s lavatory.
She was suddenly very grateful that Millicent had taken the bed between her and the others.
She frowned. He chose me, fair and square. We’re happy together, and there’s nothing she can do about it. Besides, there are loads of good-looking Slytherin boys, aren’t there? She’s probably already found someone to replace him on the train ride over here.
She thought of the way Draco had looked at her right before they’d kissed out by the Pitch.
Fair and square.
She paused briefly to adjust her necklace and then she was gone.
“I still can’t believe you’re taking Muggle Studies.” Draco scoffed, putting an arm around Paige and pulling her close. “I don’t even see the point of having a class like that at Hogwarts.”
“Like it or not, we still have to interact with Muggles and Muggle-borns.” Paige replied. Truth be told, she had chosen the course because she had little interest in Ancient Runes or Arithmancy and wanted to avoid Divination, which Pansy and Daphne had spoken excitedly of all last spring. Besides, she had been raised by a magical parent, and she thought it might be interesting to see how things were run on the other side of London. She could never admit that to Draco, though.
“What else are you taking?” Blaise asked from behind them, where he was walking with Theo. Crabbe and Goyle brought up the rear, saddled as usual with Draco and Paige’s bags. They were all headed to Hogsmeade with the majority of the other third-years, including Pansy and Daphne, who had shoved past them rudely in order to get closer to the front of the pack. As predicted, the girls had carefully avoided Paige and Draco at dinner, stopping near them just long enough to flirt shamelessly with Blaise and Theo before heading up to bed early.
“Care of Magical Creatures.” Paige replied.
“Oh, good, that’s all of us as well.” Draco said approvingly. “Though I’ve heard they’ve let the gamekeeper take over. Can you believe it? He’s not even a proper teacher!”
The boys laughed on cue. As usual, Paige kept her feelings to herself.
“Anyway, I should have expected it. Who else would assign us that ridiculous book?”
“Have you figured out how to open it?” Theo asked.
Everyone shook their heads.
“I’m sure he’ll show us tomorrow.” Paige offered.
“There you go again, going all soft.” Draco kissed her on the cheek. “You’re too nice to be a Slytherin.”
Paige smiled, not sure whether to take it as a compliment or an insult. Rather than ponder it any further, she turned her attention to the windows of the shops they were now passing. Honeydukes’s new line of rock candy, which were fashioned to look like real gems, glittered in the sun below a brightly colored banner advertising them. A man in a purple hat stood outside of Zonko’s, demonstrating an item that looked like plain licorice but would actually cause your tongue to sprout hair for a group of excited students.
The group turned to go into the Three Broomsticks, but something else caught Paige’s eye. There, in the window of Gladrags Wizardwear, a mannequin wore a very unusual scarf. As she watched, the outfit on the mannequin changed several times, from a brown wool sweater to a silk red evening gown to a black lace blouse. The scarf changed with each alteration, switching fabric and color to match the outfit perfectly. One would never need to buy new accessories again.
“You like it?” Draco said from behind her.
Paige turned to look at her, pulling her eyes away from the window. “It’s nice.” She stepped forward toward him and the pub entrance.
“Well, do you want it or not?” He said, smiling and walking closer to her.
“What?” She said, confused. “Draco, that thing has to be about fifty galleons.”
“One hundred, actually. It’s designer.” He said lazily, pointing to the tag in the window. With a smooth motion, he caught the attention of the shopkeeper, who removed it from the mannequin and prepared to bag it for them.
Paige blinked at him. “Draco, this is—”
“Nothing.” He grinned at her. “You’re my
girlfriend now, Paige. Get used to it.”
Paige, who barely knew who the major fashion designers were, didn’t know how she possibly could.
The next day, the Slytherins and Gryffindors all trooped down the hill to Hagrid’s hut, where they would be introduced to Care of Magical Creatures. Paige was somewhat pleased to see the familiar faces of Harry and Hermione there, although their redheaded companion took one look at her holding Draco’s hand before his facial expression changed to one of disgust.
Reluctant to maintain eye contact with the boy, Paige looked instead at Blaise, who was engrossed in the copy of the Daily Prophet
that he’d received at breakfast.
“What are you reading?” She asked.
“Sirius Black’s escaped from Azkaban.” Blaise replied. “You know, the bloke who killed a whole bunch of Muggles back in the day.” He showed her the front page, which depicted a snarling, savage-looking man in prison stripes.
She frowned slightly. Hadn’t she heard that name somewhere before? Oh, right, Draco had some relatives with the surname Black. However, he hadn’t reacted much at all to the news. Must be a distant cousin or something.
However, the lesson that awaited them quickly distracted her from this thought.
Hagrid stood before a massive creature that appeared to have the head of an eagle and the body of a powerful stallion. It looked a bit like a centaur, except bigger and more frightening.
“Look now, everyone.” Hagrid beamed. “’This is a hippogriff. I’ve named ‘im Buckbeak.”
Paige couldn’t help but smile. Hagrid was clearly very proud of his selection for his first class.
“Now, yeh’ve got to be careful with ‘em.” Hagrid continued. “Hmm… Harry, c’mere for a second.”
Harry stepped forward reluctantly. Hagrid proceeded to use him to demonstrate the proper procedure for greeting a hippogriff. You had to bow before it, and then it had to return the bow. Once this ritual had been completed, you were free to feed and otherwise interact with the animal. Harry was even able to take a short flight around the grounds on Buckbeak, a feat that inspired quite a bit of jealousy in many of the other students, Paige among them.
Not to be outdone, Draco stepped up as soon as Harry had returned. “You're nothing to be afraid of, are you?” He said, ignoring the etiquette Hagrid had just familiarized them with and striding right up to Buckbeak. "You're about the ugliest thing I've seen, though..."
Well, obviously the hippogriff wasn’t about to let that happen. It reared up on its hind legs and scratched Draco, tearing a sizable hole in his robes. Draco laid on the ground perfectly still for a moment, as if in disbelief. Paige leapt up, concerned but hesitant to come too close to the hippogriff until it had calmed down. Hagrid charged forward as well, tethering the hippogriff a safe distance away, and Paige took her chance to come to Draco’s side, the others following behind her.
“Are you okay?” She asked, visually checking him for injuries. She didn’t see anything obvious.
Draco’s initial response was a groan. After a moment, he opened his eyes, meeting Paige’s green ones. He sat up just slightly, catching a glimpse of Hagrid as he approached to see the extent of the damage for himself. Draco frowned. “You can be sure my father will hear about this.” He said coldly.
Hagrid struggled to speak for a moment, and finally looked at Paige. “’Ospital wing?” He managed.
“Right.” Paige nodded, helping Draco to his feet. She was starting to get used to these trips.
Madam Pomfrey had quickly confirmed that Draco had suffered no more than a few cuts and bruises, but he remained livid, and he took the opportunity to languish in the hospital wing until his father returned an owl with news of the consequences for Hagrid and Buckbeak. Three days later, he remained resigned to his infirmary bed, and Paige had returned to her normal routine, allowing herself only a few minutes at the end of each day to go and check in on him.
She was now returning from dinner, having made her stop for the day, and the sound of Crabbe trailing along behind her with her things was beginning to bother her. Draco had split his minions up so that Goyle could stay in the hospital wing and replace his pumpkin juice when it got too warm. Crabbe, meanwhile, had been assigned to look after Paige in Draco’s absence.
She paused, turning to him. “Vincent, is it?” She asked, with a sigh.
Crabbe looked a bit startled. After all, Pansy had never paid him any attention. “Yes.”
“All right.” Paige suppressed a pitiful smile. “Look, Draco’s not here, and my bag’s not heavy. There’s no need for you to carry it for me. Don’t you have something you’d rather be doing?”
“Erm… no, not really.” He shrugged. Being Malfoy’s underling, he had little time for himself.
“Well, d’you mind finding something? Really, I’m fine.” She gently took the bag from him, putting it over one shoulder and turning to go down into the dungeons. Her father had asked her to put together an order for some ingredients, and he would be displeased if she turned up in class the next morning without it. She figured she may as well take advantage of the fact that Draco wasn’t around wanting to snog every time she had a spare moment.
She rounded the corner and made her way along the familiar path to her father’s office. The lights grew dimmer as she progressed further, a change that usually served to remind students that they were in for an unpleasant experience, but it didn’t bother her. In fact, after so many trips down this particular corridor, she barely noticed at all. Tonight, though, one of the torches along the wall was flickering insistently. As the light flared to a peak, Paige saw someone move at the end of the hallway.
He paused so quickly that she barely had time to tell whether he was male or female. His hair hung ragged about his face, and his dirty clothes hung off his body, accentuating the way his tattooed skin barely clung to his prominent bones. As he met her eyes, a chill ran down her back. He stared openly, almost as if he recognized her. She stepped back on instinct.
Then she blinked, and he was gone.
Paige paused for a moment, searching the darkness, but the figure was nowhere to be found. This left her unsatisfied, but she went on anyway, drawing her bag close to her as feeble protection. Around another corner, she passed the entrance to the common room, students pouring out of it.
“What’s going on?” She frowned.
“There’s been some kind of emergency.” A prefect answered. “We’ve got to go to the Great Hall.”
Paige fell in with the others as they all headed upstairs, settling themselves into the Great Hall with the other three Houses. The floor was covered with sleeping bags, and the students were all whispering to one another. One name dominated their conversations: Sirius Black.
She looked over at the Head Table, where Professor Dumbledore was deep in discussion with her father and the other Heads of House. After a moment, they concluded their conversation, standing up and proceeding down the center aisle of the Hall.
Paige stood up, knowing that she had to tell someone about what she’d seen.
As she made her way between the sleeping bags, Professor Burbage, her Muggle Studies teacher, stopped her suddenly. “Oh, Paige, dear, here’s the book I meant to give you the other day in class.” She pressed a small book of classic Greek mythology into Paige’s hand.
Paige smiled gratefully. She had really enjoyed the class so far, and the mythology section they were now covering was particularly interesting to her. She tucked the book under her arm and made her way over to where Dumbledore now stood.
“Now, Professor Flitwick, perhaps you ought to check the Grand Staircase with Mr. Filch.” Dumbledore directed. “And Minerva, I imagine the Gryffindor Common Room is worth a look-”
“Excuse me, sir.” Paige said timidly, approaching them.
They all paused, looking at her. “Yes, Miss Snape?” Professor Dumbledore said.
“I—erm, I think I saw him. Sirius Black.” She said. “Down in the dungeons. I was just down there, returning from dinner, and I saw an unkempt-looking man down the corridor near my father’s office. He vanished, though, and I don’t know where he’s gone.”
Her father whitened just slightly, clearly upset that she had come into close contact with the man.
“Right, thank you, dear.” Professor Dumbledore nodded. “Pomona, perhaps you could accompany Severus down into the dungeons. Check them quite thoroughly, please.”
The professors dispersed, and Paige now stood alone.
The voice came from behind her. “Did you really see him?” It was Hermione Granger.
“I think so. I mean, he looked like you’d expect a fugitive to look.” Paige replied. Her newfound knowledge of the man’s identity certainly explained the chill she’d gotten. “Did someone else see him, too? Is that why we’re all here?”
“He attacked the Fat Lady. You know, the portrait in front of our common room.” Harry added.
“Oh.” Paige said, a bit shocked. “That’s awful. Is she all right?”
“Yeah, they found her.” Harry replied. “She’s a bit shaken up, but she’s not hurt.”
“That’s good.” Paige looked at them, realizing that an uncomfortable silence had just fallen. “Listen, um… about Hagrid… I’m sorry. Draco’s really fine, he’s just playing it up a bit.” She tried to ignore the sour looks they gave her at the mention of Draco. “If they call me to testify, I’ll tell them so.”
“Malfoy wouldn’t really take him to court, would he?” Hermione asked, frowning.
“You don’t know Lucius Malfoy.” Paige replied, sighing.
“Well, thanks.” Hermione said. “Hopefully it won’t come to that.” She glanced at the book, still under Paige’s arm. “Oh, is that a book of mythology?”
“Yeah.” Paige said, a bit embarrassed. She had never considered herself the kind of girl who took on extra assignments outside of class. You know, a girl like Hermione.
“Isn’t it fascinating?” Hermione smiled. “You know, you ought to look up the story of Hades and Persephone.” She added after a moment.
“Oh, is it a good one?” Paige flipped the book open, checking the table of contents.
“Yes.” Hermione said shortly, a bit sheepish. “I—I think you’d like it, that’s all.”
“I’ll have to give it a try.” Paige closed the book. “Thanks.”
As she returned to the Slytherin side to secure a sleeping bag, she glanced back at the Gryffindor trio. The group was still watching her with curiosity, and she heard Harry whisper to Hermione about Paige’s presence in Muggle Studies with an air of incredulousness.
Next to them, the Weasley boy offered her the tiniest of smiles.
Sure enough, Lucius Malfoy was hell-bent on pressing charges against Hagrid, and the impending trial was all Draco could talk about once he finally checked out of the infirmary. Paige got tired of listening to it after about a week, so she told Draco and the others that she had some homework to do and took the opportunity to finally complete her father’s assignment.
Professor Snape was assembling several ingredients, some that were relatively familiar and some that she had never heard of before, for an unknown draught that he brewed in his spare time. As he was very busy with a flurry of detentions and the approaching midterms, he had passed on the job of taking the weekly inventory for this concoction to his daughter. She was to check to see how much of each ingredient they had in stock and then order whatever was left over from the Apothecary.
Two bat wings, shredded.
She leaned forward, carefully to keep the ladder steady, and brought the jar out from the back of the cupboard into the light. Only one remained. She noted that they needed to order another one, and then continued down the list. Five nautilus shells, ground into fine powder.
Two here, three on order. Rat tail, whole.
That one they had.
Hedgehog mushroom, large, diced.
She frowned. That one she didn’t recognize. Luckily, her father had attached a note next to it. By the lake, near the edge of the forest.
She suddenly wished she had undertaken this venture when it was still light out.
Sighing, she checked off the remainder of the items that could be found in the storeroom and gathered her things, heading outside near the forest. She would have to be quick about it, seeing as Mr. Filch was actively watching for students to sneak outside after dark, an act that had been banned after Sirius Black’s little visit to the castle. She crept around the side of the castle, finally making her way over to the lake. There, she searched for nearly half an hour before she finally came upon a perfect specimen. “Here you are.” She said triumphantly to no one.
As she reached down to pluck it, a growl sounded behind her.
She turned, finding herself facing a large black dog. Perhaps it was even a wolf. She stepped backwards slowly, not wanting to provoke any sort of attack. As she put more distance between her and the animal, she began to walk a bit faster, desperately to get back to the castle.
As she neared the edge of the clearing, her ankle caught on a raised tree root, causing her to tumble backwards. The back of her head cracked against the ground, and everything went black.
When Paige opened her eyes, she was staring up at a white ceiling. A glance to her left and right revealed that she was surrounded by beds and bedside tables. Various cabinets and shelves dotted the walls of the immaculate white room. The hospital wing
, she realized. Next to her, on her own table, she noted a pain potion of moderate strength and a slightly bloodied cloth.
“Ah, she’s awake.” Madam Pomfrey strolled in cheerfully, pouring a bit of the potion and offering it to her. Paige sat up, feeling the ache in her muscles awaken. She drank it quickly.
“What happened?” Paige asked, though she could sort of remember.
“Hagrid found you by the lake when he went out this morning to feed the squid. He said it looked like you’d been out there half the night.” Madam Pomfrey began checking around her neck and shoulders for something. “What were you doing out there so late, anyway?”
“Potions ingredients. Something for Dad.” Paige murmured, remembering the hedgehog mushroom. “Oh, I didn’t grab it. He’ll be upset.”
“Honestly, dear, he was more upset not to see you in class this morning. You had him and your friends worried sick.” Satisfied not to find whatever she had been searching for, Madam Pomfrey pulled the covers away to inspect Paige’s ankle, which looked quite swollen. “You’re lucky. Not a break, just a small fracture. Should heal within a few days. And no lasting head trauma, either.”
Paige, who was embarrassed by her circumstances as it was, was suddenly especially grateful for the wonder that was magical medicine. She wanted to get back to her life as quickly as possible.
“You’ll have to pay better attention to where you’re walking next time, hmm?” Madam Pomfrey added.
“Well, I didn’t just trip.” Paige admitted. “There was this dog thing—”
“What?” Madam Pomfrey paused, looking at her.
“A wolf from the forest or something. Just scared me a bit. I fell trying to get away from it.” Paige didn’t see the fuss. A wolf was hardly the most threatening creature living in the woods.
“Now there are wild animals roaming the grounds?” Paige recognized Draco’s arrogant drawl, watching him enter the room with Crabbe and Goyle in tow. “Father will have Dumbledore’s head if he catches wind of the fact that one of that giant’s little pets went after my girlfriend.” He sat down at Paige’s side, taking her hand. “How do you feel, love?”
“Fine, really.” Paige frowned slightly.
Madam Pomfrey looked at Draco disdainfully. “I’m sure Hagrid had nothing to do with it, Mr. Malfoy. In fact, if not for him, Paige might have ended up much worse.” She cleared away the materials on Paige’s table, heading back into her office. “Just call out if you need anything, dear.”
“Don’t worry, Paige. We’re taking it in shifts. The three of us will escort you to classes, and Blaise and Theo have agreed to look after you while I’m at Quidditch practice.” Draco said.
“Shifts?” Paige asked, confused. “Draco, I’m really fine. It was a random accident.”
“How am I supposed to concentrate on my studies without knowing for certain that you’re all right?” Draco smiled at her. “Besides, we haven’t got a choice. Your father insisted.”
Paige’s expression soured. “What?”
“Right after he found out where you were, he called me into his office and told me to make sure that someone kept an eye on you. You see, he understands the gravity of the wild animal situation…”
Paige sighed, realizing that she had been outdone and was now resigned to her fate.
A few days later, Paige was back on her feet, but she found herself very limited all the same. Draco kept to his word, and he and his crones accompanied her back and forth to each class, even taking up posts next to her in the common room as she studied. The situation forced her to be present for each and every one of his rants; as a result, she avoided contact with Harry and Hermione in an effort to keep him from finding new aspects of the trio to criticize aloud. She never went outdoors except to watch Draco and the others at Quidditch practice, and the boys even stood guard outside when she had to use the girl’s lavatory.
Her only escape came when her father asked for a meeting one night after dinner.
He closed the door as she entered his office, taking the seat in front of his desk. She wondered what exactly he wished to discuss. She had correctly guessed his sentiments about the missing mushroom, but he had seemingly put it behind them. Her grades were fine, and he appeared to approve of her relationship with Draco. The regular inventory in the office was complete.
“Paige, I have been considering this for some time, and I wasn’t certain as to when it would be appropriate, but I have come to the conclusion that now is as good a time as any.” He took out his wand, placing it on his desk and double-checking it for splinters.
“A good time for what?” Paige asked, confused.
“Dueling lessons.” He replied calmly, looking at her. “You need to be able to defend yourself, and I can think of no one better suited to teach you than me.” He extended a hand, clearly wishing to examine her wand as well. She handed it over obediently.
“Is this about the dog?” Paige sighed. “Dad, really, it was nothing—”
“You don’t know what it was.” He answered firmly, pausing and meeting her eyes. “There are all kinds of creatures out there, Paige. What if it wasn’t a common wolf? It could have been an animagus, which I’m sure you learned about in Transfiguration, yes?”
“It could even have been a werewolf.” He added after a pause.
Paige blinked, not yet having considered that possibility. She thought back to her awakening in the hospital wing. That’s what she must have been checking for. Bites.
She shivered slightly.
“Besides, that’s not my only concern.” He returned her wand, seemingly satisfied with it. “You came dangerously close to Sirius Black, a cold-blooded and reckless man, on the night in which he entered the castle. I once knew Black.” He met her eyes once more. “Trust me when I say that he would have no qualms about killing you.” He paused. “Or anyone else, of course.”
Paige looked down at her wand. “What are you going to teach me?” She asked.
“Everything.” His mood lightened just slightly now that she was willing to consider his prospect.
“Everything?” Paige looked confused.
“Yes. Offensive and defensive spells. I will give you a full arsenal to ensure that you are safe.”
She leaned back in her seat, recalling the curious expression on Sirius Black’s face.
“When do we begin?”
On the last day of term, the students of Hogwarts congregated in the Great Hall as usual to enjoy their final school breakfast and trade contact information for the summer. Blaise sat engrossed in the Daily Prophet as usual. Today, the front page displayed a copy of the wanted poster that had been hanging all over London for weeks, the one that called for Sirius Black’s arrest. The story that accompanied it told of how the Hogwarts faculty had captured Black on school grounds but found his cell broken open when they returned to hand him over to the Dementors. A smaller section near the bottom of the page gave details on Defense Against the Dark Arts professor Remus Lupin’s resignation. Beside him, Theo attempted to charm Daphne with a love poem, but she seemed distracted by the fact that Pansy was sending her angry glares that suggested they move as far away from the boys as possible. A few feet away, Draco chastised Crabbe on his abysmal Divination marks. The place next to Draco had been reserved with his jacket.
The girl for whom the place had been reserved was currently outside Remus Lupin’s office.
“Wait here.” She instructed Goyle softly, entering the classroom and making her way down the center aisle to the short staircase. She went up it, finding the door ajar, and knocked gently on the wooden door frame.
The ex-professor looked up, surprised to see her. “Yes, Paige?”
She walked timidly into the room, the small clack of her shoes on the hardwood floor a little too loud for her taste. “Professor, I was just wondering if you had a moment.”
“Of course.” Lupin studied her. Though his relationship with her father was strained, he had always enjoyed having Paige in his class. She seemed very bright and unusually sweet for a Slytherin, seemingly untainted by her father’s bitter and cynical nature or Draco Malfoy’s constant talk of pureblood supremacy.
“I heard about what happened.” She began, choosing her words carefully. “I was just wondering… I hope it doesn’t have anything to do with me. You know, with my accident.”
“Oh.” Lupin almost laughed. “No, no, my dear. That—erm, that wasn’t me.”
“I didn’t think so.” She exhaled, visibly relieved. “I just didn’t want to cause trouble.”
“That’s kind of you.” Lupin replied with a smile. “But don’t worry.”
“All right.” Paige tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear. “Well, good luck. I—I’ve really enjoyed having you as a professor.” She looked at him. “Loads better than Lockhart.”
Lupin laughed. “Yes, so I’ve heard. But I’m sure your next one will be even better.”
Paige smiled, offering a simple nod in response. “Goodbye, Professor Lupin.”
“Goodbye, Paige.” He watched as she turned down the stairs and left.
As Paige reached the bottom of the stairs, she noticed Harry enter the classroom. She offered him a small smile, and then turned to Goyle.
“Come on, let’s go see what’s left of breakfast.”
Author's Note: Care of Magical Creatures scene comes from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (the film). Some slight dialogue alterations have been made.