By eleven that night, Morgan and Hermione had all but forgotten their fight. Considering the predominantly bookish nature of their friendship, it was only natural that—all moral issues aside—they would still be the only two left in the Gryffindor Common Room on a Wednesday night.
This was a particularly silent night. No giggling in secluded corners, no sheepish students sneaking across the common room to the boys’ dorm or to the portrait hole.
The fire crackled patiently, and Morgan and Hermione both meditatively turned pages while sinking deeper and deeper into the squishy armchairs.
Morgan snorted loudly.
“Hmm?” Hermione inquired distractedly, not even looking up from Hogwarts, A History.
“There is a protection act against the use of reptiles with particularly high grease levels!” Morgan announced, holding back a laugh. “I think I’ll write about that… Snape is bound to relate to it…”
“Morgan!” Hermione hissed, but she was smiling.
“Well it’s either that or critically assessing the Use of Muggle Newborns and Faeries Act of 1487-”
Morgan cut herself off midsentence and froze, ears strained.
A dull crash had come from somewhere above their heads.
Living in a magical castle, counter to popular expectations, did not make you immune to fears of the dark and of things that go bump in the night. In fact, it made you smart enough to know that if something did go bump in the night, it was very likely to be a troll, or a three-headed dog, or a ghost covered in blood.
The girls listened carefully for further signs of life—and, indeed, after several seconds they heard a louder crash, which was followed by a door slamming. Then came some muffled voices.
“-gently,” one was saying.
“Sorry mate,” the other one wheezed. “Don’t usually navigate the ceiling…”
“We should make a map for next time…” the first voice proposed.
The steps were clearly coming from the boys’ dormitory by this point, and Morgan twisted herself around in the armchair just in time to observe George enter the common room.
He was alone and clearly talking to himself.
And for some reason, he was holding his left arm stretched straight up towards the ceiling.
Morgan traced it with her eyes and found that George’s hand was holding onto a disembodied sweater, which was floating horizontally above his head, accompanied by a pair of checkered pajama pants and one orange sock. The air filled the clothing with a suspiciously human form.
The free arm of the sweater suddenly sprang into motion and pointed straight at Morgan.
“There she is!” it said.
Morgan’s jaw dropped.
“Is that? Is he?” she croaked, her throat contracting with suppressed laughter.
Her mind put two and two together and told her that yes, it was.
“He became degravitized and invisible?”
George’s face remained tired and somber. He was definitely much less amused by the situation.
“It’s been a real pain, keeping him from floating away. You would never find him if he did…” the twin complained, massaging his lower left arm. “So do you know how to fix it, or not?”
“What?” Morgan admitted, still giggling, “No way, I have no clue!”
“Wow, Morgan, thanks,” Fred grumbled from above.
George’s eyes ignited at his brother’s words, expelling the exhaustion from before.
An alarm went off in Morgan’s mind. She abruptly stopped laughing and tried to keep her insides from sinking. But her good mood was slipping through holes of insecurity with the speed and finality of water gushing through a sifter.
George was eyeing her with a rich mixture of disgust and unease, the way one would look at a particularly large, deformed and sticky spider that had made its way into the shower although the door had been closed.
“Hold on, Fred, we’ll fix this,” he assured his floating brother while sending Morgan one last tense frown.
Morgan had been sure that what she did had been just been a prank, that she was simply teaching two annoying bullies a lesson. But seeing George’s face, she realized that something had gone wrong and nobody was laughing.
With significant difficulty, George turned Fred around and pulled him towards the portrait hole like a very heavy balloon. Morgan remained glued to her armchair, confused and strangely uncomfortable in her own skin.
Morgan had heard it said before that your actions become you. What those people meant, of course, was that you will be judged for what you do. And, before you know it, you will be someone else.
At that moment, Morgan felt that her actions had been taken away from her and bent out of shape, given a completely different meaning. Although she had not meant it this way, Morgan was now undeniably that scary kid that no one wants to play with. The one who doesn’t know the difference between throwing rocks at a cat and setting it on fire.
Morgan was not yet ready to be the scary one. Back then, she just wanted to be liked.
“What happened?” Hermione tore Morgan back to reality.
“I gave them some very bad advice,” Morgan admitted dully, staring at the flames in the fireplace.
“Why would you do that?” Hermione pressed, growing harsher but still polite.
“I wanted to teach them a lesson.”
“That’s a very mean thing to do,” Hermione frowned. She seemed almost sorry to say it, and had Morgan been listening properly, she would have detected some kindness, maybe even sympathy.
But she wasn’t listening.
“Oh yeah?” Morgan snapped, twisting in her chair to face Hermione. “Well, at least I have someone who wants my advice!”
Hermione’s eyes widened. She opened her mouth to speak, but nothing came out. Of all the hurtful things to say, drawing attention to how no one liked Hermione was probably the lowest blow.
Morgan was not about to reflect on this, though, for she had been hit with a realization of a completely different sort. The twins had wanted her advice. They had trusted her knowledge, wished to share ideas with her. They had been seeking out her company for over a month—not to annoy her, like Morgan had thought, but because they thought she was worth their time. She was not going to lose that, not if she could help it.
Before Hermione could recover, Morgan was already climbing through the portrait hole.
* * *
After almost an hour of running up and down shifting staircases and encountering dead ends, Morgan finally stood in front of the heavy double doors of the Hospital Wing.
The thick, silent walls of the castle entrapped the darkness and Morgan along with it. She was disheveled and pale, wide pupils glinting with a focus akin only to that of a cuddly house cat imagining herself to be a tiger.
The doors slid open silently and let a sly breeze escape into the stale corridor as Morgan slipped through the crack. She shivered slightly and marched forward, past grey walls that stretched far up into an indiscernible darkness and connected rows upon rows of clinically white mattresses framed by metal bars. The floor was sliced by harsh moonlight and Morgan had to fight the urge to creep along the shadows like a criminal.
“…can’t do that!”
“Of course I can…” came another broken echo. “Zig-zag…then the Queen…tadaa, you’re dead.”
Morgan inched forward until she spotted two silhouettes sitting cross-legged on a bed, facing each other. The ruffled sheets and scattered items surrounding the twins made their corner seem like a world of its own. Morgan couldn’t place where all the color and warmth came from, but suddenly, the high-ceilinged Hospital Wing appeared smaller and brighter, and much less intimidating. Morgan felt her shoulders relax, as if she could finally rest assured that there were no eyes following her from the shadows. Nothing could be watching her now that she was the one watching, stalking closer and closer to her prey.
“Fred, the Queen can’t fly…” George continued to protest.
“She can,” Fred insisted. “You just levitate her, see? Then she lands on your tower and-“
A dull crash caused the twins to jerk away from each other, arms flying up to their faces protectively.
Still unseen, Morgan stifled a gasp.
“--then she explodes the entire blasted board!” Fred finished in awe, peeking at the remains of the Wizarding Chess set through the gap between his fingers.
George let out a snicker. “Brilliant!”
“Ladies and gentlemen, meet the Bloody Baroness!” Fred exclaimed, bouncing back into his previous position and holding up the tiny figurine.
“Shhh!” George hissed, grabbing his brother’s arm and pulling it back down. “I think I heard something…”
They both froze and began squinting at the shadows.
“Uhm…” Morgan volunteered, straightening out of her hunched position. “Hello.”
“Speaking of the Bloody Baroness…” George mumbled, crossing his arms and fixing Morgan with a defensive glare.
“The Russian saboteur is back!” Fred exclaimed, appearing to be free of the grudge his brother harbored.
“You don’t look sabotaged,” Morgan pointed out sulkily, crossing her arms. “Maybe next time I should try harder…”
Fred’s eyes widened. “Are you saying that we, two simple country boys…” He slapped a hand to his chest. “…have already earned the honor of a political assassination?”
Morgan rolled her eyes.
“George, my dearest,” he continued, kicking at his brother awkwardly to get his attention. “Today is the day! I think our dream has come true!”
George’s mouth twitched and then stretched into a reluctant grin.
“I can see the headlines now,” he chimed in, “Two Handsome-“
“--And Brilliant Young Scientists Accidentally Poisoned by A Love-Struck Girl in Alleged Spy Case.”
Morgan lowered her eyes. Slowly, her cheeks began to burn and she wished to slide back into a lifeless corner of the room and curl up into a ball.
Fred was laughing.
“Ow!” he roared, clapping his knee repeatedly.
Morgan whipped her head up, furious. The first tears began to sting the corners of her eyes.
“Fine!” she bellowed. “Then I’m not sorry! I hope you really do get poisoned! Or, even better, die in some stupid, uninteresting way!”
“Come now, it’s alright! You aren’t the first girl to go crazy in love for a Weasley,” Fred assured her.
Morgan wasn’t listening. Theodore Nott’s face swam before her eyes, his features distorted with outrage and disgust. The more she tried to push him away, the more solid his presence became. He just stood there and rejected her, over and over again.
Morgan was so confused; she wanted to scream. Nothing in the world was more painful for an eleven-year-old girl than being accused of harboring icky feelings for a boy.
A door slammed far away, causing instant silence. All three froze, Morgan still red-faced and covered in tears and Fred still sporting a wide grin.
Then came the unmistakable click-clack of sensible, one-inch nurse heels.
Without another word, George slid off the bed and disappeared underneath it within seconds, soundless as a mouse. Fred grabbed the shaking Morgan and pushed her after his brother before throwing himself onto the bed and frantically pulling at the covers. The metal frame creaked in protest.
As Morgan rubbed her cheek against her shoulder in an attempt to remove the dust she had collected on her way down, she thought she heard a loud snore.
The steps came closer and stopped right on eye-level with Morgan. She held her breath and stared at the black shoes peeking out from underneath a stiff, white rim of cloth.
She winced slightly as a full, high-pitched voice commanded: “Out. Now!”
Somewhere behind her, Morgan heard George shift uncomfortably.
“Both of you! Don’t make me call the Headmaster!”
Sheepishly, they crawled out from under the bed, first George, then Morgan.
“I’ve had enough of this sneaking around!” Madame Pomfrey scolded while rolling up her sleeves and proceeding to tuck in Fred’s suspiciously still body. “My patients need rest. This is not a circus… and I am not a clown to do the same work over and over again!”
George began backing away, and Morgan followed suit. Before turning her back and speeding out of the Hospital Wing, Morgan caught Fred pop open one eye and wink at his brother.
Once the double doors shut behind them, Morgan and George paused briefly and tried to catch their breath.
“What?” he panted.
“You have dust all over your front,” she informed him.
“And you have a spider in your hair,” George replied calmly.
Morgan jumped up immediately, her mouth agape in a silent shriek. She began waving her arms aimlessly and stomping in one place.
“Get it off, please, get it off!” she moaned, closing her eyes and feeling like she needed to run and stay absolutely still at the same time.
“Bugger, I guess I was wrong, there is no spider,” George said, after what seemed like hours of torture. “You’re afraid of spiders, though, good to know.”
Morgan stopped panicking immediately and lowered her arms. She locked eyes with him and let a sinking feeling slowly take over her, the same feeling she had experienced in the Gryffindor Common Room earlier that night. Right before her eyes, a situation she perceived as safe had swirled around in a high back chair and revealed itself as something hissing, with fangs.
Morgan did not understand what was happening, but she knew that she was not forgiven. The boy that stood before her could not possibly wish her well.
“Nah, I’m just kidding,” George laughed, breaking out a lopsided grin. “See you!”
Morgan watched him tip-toe off down the corridor and tug at a smaller side door that presumably led right back to the Hospital Wing.
It would take Morgan a long time to get George on her side. And even then, he would never trust her fully, although his suspicions would never be put into words. Somehow, George’s intuition picked up on a secret others would only discover much later. He was lucky, one might say, that he had met Morgan the way he did. If it wasn’t for a dormant jealousy and fear of losing his brother to a girl, George may have never directed a critical eye at Morgan. Maybe then he would have remained equally blind to the fact that there was something dark in Morgan, even then, something awkward, uncomfortable and insatiable.
The secret was that Morgan was a fluke. She was just a pretty mask behind which an alien face cowered. She would never be able to understand the most basic principles of human interaction, let alone friendship or love. But she could fake it, and she would do so with the greatest conviction. Not because she was the manipulative monster others would later accuse her of being, but because, up until her untimely death, she would never stop craving that feeling of normality.
As it often is, the world could not give her the one thing she craved the most, and cursed be the day when she figured it out. The wrath of a lonely, disappointed girl is a force of nature to be reckoned with. Unfortunately for all, that day was going to come, but for the moment, as she sped to the Gryffindor Common Room, Morgan still had hope.
So glad you made it this far! Do stay for some tea and cookies (and a review ;))