A lump of dirt-covered matter was plopped in front of each pair of students. Professor Sprout assured the class that these blobs—‘Monass,’ she called them—were very rare plants that only came out at dusk. It was an honor to be able to work with them, and one was to be gentle.
The class was then entrusted with the highly exciting task of cleaning the Monass, or more accurately, scrubbing layers of dirt form what appeared to be more dirt.
Morgan let Hermione make all the decisions and calmly picked away layer after layer of goop, only half-listening to the girl drone on about patches of magic and keepers of ancient memories and whatever else the book promised the things could be, if treated right. She wondered what these ancient mud piles could do if ground up into a potion. Would they need to be dried first? Or were they to be tossed in raw?
Then she wondered if they had a soul.
“Watch it!” a different voice broke through Morgan’s concentration. This one was harsh and unpleasant.
She looked up.
“You’re getting your filth onto my things,” Malfoy explained, enunciating the words with the deepest dissatisfaction. Holding a knife between his forefinger and thumb, he gesticulated squeamishly at the running splatters of dark liquid between his plate and Morgan’s. There was dirt on his sleeves and even a spot on his nose. The boy looked utterly out of his element.
“I’m sorry, but I don’t think anything could help that poor creature now,” Morgan retorted, eyeing the dissected carcass on the Malfoy’s platter. The Monass may have had the texture, smell and appearance of a goopy mud pile, but one learned to notice a slight tremor, something resembling the intake of short breaths, after a while of working with it. The object on Malfoy’s plate, on the other hand, sported a big gash through the middle and was as still as a rock, or, more accurately, an actual mud pile. If one looked carefully, a glimpse of color shimmered in the dark mass. Something purple. And it was oozing.
“Oh, it’s dead!” Professor Sprout wailed, shocking both students with her sudden appearance. She picked up Malfoy’s tray with trembling fingers. “You have destroyed it! The Monass are fragile, child! So fragile…They are from a simpler time…You cannot just…oh…” She gave up half-way through the speech and rushed away as quickly as she had appeared, her eyebrows pulled together and up with sadness and her hair flowing.
Unabashed, Malfoy threw down his knife and began to remove his drenched apron, all the while glaring at Morgan.
Morgan hated having classes with the Slytherins. For two hours, four times a week, she was trapped in the same room with Theodore, a boy who chose to ignore her to the extent of theatrics. Wherever Morgan was, he was never, ever looking that way, not even by accident. But it was worse when he was laughing, a sound that cut through all of Morgan’s layers, assuring her that such a laugh could only be about her. She caught herself feeling insecure and paranoid, convinced that every single move she made was somehow noted.
In a way, this was indeed the case. While Theodore made a point of not seeing Morgan at all, Draco Malfoy would not stop watching her. There was no game in Malfoy’s glances; he was unapologetic and direct, convinced that he had a right to keep an eye on Morgan, that she was some dangerous element, which needed to be identified and dealt with. Morgan saw his dilemma clearly and understood why he was confused; she was confused too.
Morgan was aware that she did not belong with the fuzzy-haired odd-ball as a friend, in a House that valued something as abstract as bravery over common-sense. She was like them, the sleek-haired, name-dropping, entitled ones, the ones who would rule the world because they were born and reared to do it. Malfoy hadn’t made a mistake of judgment when he approached Morgan on the Hogwarts Express—she was indeed of pure blood and old money. But something appeared to have gone wrong along the way. Against all expectations, she wasn’t with them, but on the other side instead, or maybe, even worse, entirely on the margins of history. Within a span of only several months at Hogwarts, she had become unimportant. In her darkest moments, Morgan’s elitist upbringing would get the better of her and she would sit still on her Gryffindor bed for hours, longing for a place at the Slytherin table, for something as silly as the right to wear green accessories…or just to not even be in Hogwarts at all.
Morgan had always liked power, that is not a secret. But nothing could have made her crave it as much as the time when it was taken from her entirely.
Six years later, as the thin, hallow-eyed 17-year-old Morgan would stand sobbing at the top of the Astronomy Tower and tremble with regret and self-hatred, she would still not be able to let go of the memory of this day.
“What did you do?” he would demand, grabbing her arm and boring into her skull with dark eyes. “When was this? TELL ME!”
Morgan would grin and stare at the half-completed tattoo of a skull on her upper arm, torn between disgust and pride, almost enjoying how it stung. At that point in time, the Dark Mark would be the most extreme way to act out. Later, Morgan would find something worse.
She would quickly learn to embrace the role of the outsider, but she would never forgive the world that tore away her chance at normality. When did she loose it? Maybe it happened when her parents made the decision to move to a different country. Or maybe the crucial moment was when Morgan was three years old and had to be rushed out of a tram full of Muggles because she was using magic. Who is to say? Maybe this seemingly ordinary trauma defined the very basis of Morgan’s psychological development. That fateful tram-ride could have engrained an incessant need to be like everybody else in the very fabric of her soul. Of course, this need went hand in hand with the inexplicable conviction that she was different, that there was something inside her that needed to be hidden.
And yet, it is possible that everything started much later, for example one autumn evening after a Herbology lesson, during Morgan’s first year at Hogwarts.
* * *
Class ended quietly and the students began to clear their trays and return their Monass to the large dirt-filled tank at the end of the greenhouse. With thoughts of dinner driving them, students dribbled out of the greenhouse at a lively tempo.
“Hey Mudblood, what are you still doing here?” Malfoy called after the two girls as they filed out towards the exit with the rest of the students.
Hermione froze in her tracks. Tired and caught in her own thoughts, Morgan stopped automatically as well.
“What do you mean?” Hermione retorted, her voice tense and her face expressionless like a mask.
“This is a place for witches and wizards,” Malfoy continued, grinning. “Not Muggles like you. Should I go to the Headmaster with you, help explain the mistake? Get you on the next train back to London?”
Snickering came from somewhere in the shadows behind Malfoy. It was getting dark and the greenhouse had emptied, Professor Sprout included. The lights had gone off automatically and the cool, blue light of dusk was becoming denser by the second. It entered through the opaque windows gently, lighting only the superficial layers of things and leaving the rest in the dark. This was a time when shadows became bigger and deeper, and faces became distorted and strange.
Hermione was silent, but from behind, Morgan could see the girl’s hands slowly curl into fists.
“Pfft, please,” Morgan inserted. “She is better at magic than you. Maybe you should be put back on a train to London instead?”
Malfoy raised his eye-brows and turned to Morgan, his face triumphant.
An sense of unease took over Morgan and she took an automatic step back towards the door. Figures stepped out of the dark insides of the greenhouse: Crabbe, Goyle and—Morgan’s insides curled—Theodore Nott.
This was the first time he had looked at her since the summer. But even now, he would not grant her the fulfillment of recognition. It was just a cold, detached look. The kind of look one would direct at a dying fly.
“Koshka, please, don’t embarrass yourself. You shouldn’t be here either; your place is in the kitchens,” Malfoy enunciated, raising his voice as if he were talking to a deaf person,.“DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME? KITCHENS. FOR FOREIGNERS. Like you.”
Morgan was completely taken aback. She had never been bullied in her short eleven years and hadn’t ever even thought it was possible. After all, it would take thorough searching to find dirt on a girl of Morgan’s standing. What she had never realized was that her standing itself could be put under question. It turned out that Malfoy was a very thorough, dedicated enemy and he had found a loophole.
Theodore was laughing. Honestly laughing, as if someone had told the quaintest joke at the dinner table on Christmas Eve.
“Are you even here legally?” Malfoy continued. “Go back to Russia! Don’t you have a two-hour queue for toilet paper to stand in or something? But actually…” he paused dramatically, “I’m a nice person, I won’t kick you out of the country. That would be so sad! Here’s a deal: The floors need cleaning in our dorm, so why don’t you get on that and I’ll feed you some soup later as a reward?”
Crabbe and Goyle were chuckling, reacting more to the fact of the ridicule than to its actual contents. But Theodore was all but folding over onto the floor from laughter.
Morgan was beginning to tremble, her mind racing from possible argument to argument, drowning in the flood of false premises coming her way.
“What are you talking about?” she yelled finally. “Russia is a very rich country, with strong allies and more famous, powerful witches and wizards than you can even count! And of course I’m here legally…”
“Oh yeah?” Malfoy pressed. “Then how come we came up with all the spells and Russia just copied us?”
“That is NOT true!” Morgan resisted, taking an angry step forward and drawing her wand. “We have spells no one here has even heard of, and England stole the Imperius Curse from us in the second century!”
“Morgan, let’s go,” Hermione said softly to her right, pulling at her elbow. “They aren’t worth getting in trouble…”
Morgan let herself be pulled out of the door. Once outside, she abruptly turned right, away from the castle, and headed in the direction of the forest. She marched forward, eyes seeing only the black strip ahead.
“Morgan!” Hermione was calling. “Where are you going?”
Morgan quickened her pace.
“Morgan!” Hermione panted behind her. “Wait!”
She caught up. “We have to go back.”
Morgan stopped short in her tracks and faced her friend.
“Why?” she huffed. “Why should I go back there with you? So we can be two pathetic losers together, sitting alone at the end of the table?”
Hermione’s eyes widened and she stumbled backwards.
“You are such a goody-goody, Hermione!” Morgan laughed, the sound erupting with a dull pain from her hoarse throat. “You keep on telling everyone what to do! Why do you do that? You think that will make people like you?”
“Well here’s a secret: nobody likes you. No one at all! Do you hear what they talk about behind your back? They say that you are a snitch—that you run to the professors for everything. And it’s so true! ‘Oh, oh, Professor McGonagall, I know the answer, pick me, pick me, pick me!’” Morgan jeered, screwing up her face with so much exaggeration that it felt like it would break. “‘I did the homework, my spell was the best, I went to bed at 9 like you told us to…’ Can’t you think for yourself? Huh?”
Hermione was silent and frozen. Her arm was stretched forward slightly, as if she were still trying to stop Morgan from running away, a blend between reaching out and blocking something off.
“What, are you gonna cry now too?” Morgan pressed, her face stretching into a smile.
Hermione’s chin began to tremble. Her eyes had flooded over, twinkling and glinting. Morgan took in the sight with glee.
She hardly heard Hermione scream a crackled “I hate you,” nor did she register her turning around and running off, leaves crunching beneath her stumbling feet. Morgan wasn’t even sure if Hermione had said anything at all. All she knew was that at some point the bushy haired girl was just a small figure speeding away on the horizon, a tiny speck against the towering presence of Hogwarts Castle. And she herself was alone in the dark, facing the wall of bright castle windows. The dark forest behind her maintained a silent yet dominant presence, and the great span of the castle grounds to both sides left Morgan feeling light-headed and, for some reason, elated and free.
And then suddenly, she was no longer alone. She could hear him, mumbling something. No, not mumbling, just far away.
Yes, there he was: Theodore Nott. He was right there, not in a classroom full of students, or in the bustling Great Hall, but just within her reach.
As if in a trance, Morgan stepped forward, trailing four oblivious figures as they began their slow walk to the castle, three ahead and one lagging behind disinterestedly. The three in front were joking about something, Malfoy’s high laugh ringing out between the two rough, flat gurgles accompanying it.
Morgan glued her eyes to Theodore’s back as he strode along calmly several meters behind his friends, hands in the wide pockets of his robes.
The group had almost reached the heavy double doors that would swallow them up, engulf them in the warmth and safety of the castle. But not yet.
Morgan quickened her pace, instinctively keeping low, although it would hardly help her remain unnoticed if any of the four boys thought to turn around.
Her heart skipped a beat as she saw the three silhouettes disappear into the bright crack of the doors.
“Stupefy!” she spat.
And quietly, as if he was never a person but was always just a bag of clothes, or a heavy pillow, Theodore’s body collapsed onto the ground. The door creaked shut, leaving behind only a sliver of light that hinted at the presence of people but ultimately assured that they would turn a blind eye.
Morgan released the breath she didn’t realize she had been holding and ran to Theodore’s fallen body. The dark-blond boy appeared to be sleeping, only a bit uncomfortably, with his left arm squished beneath his torso and his legs twisted around each other as if they were tied up.
Morgan’s head cleared up in an instant. This was happening.
She swiped several dark-brown locks from her brow and began to drag and push the heavy body away from the entrance. First, she tried pulling the legs and got him several feet along to the left before collapsing from exhaustion. Then, she got onto her knees and began pushing. This only made him flop over onto his stomach, black robes tangled around his thin body and the back of his usually well-kempt hair clumped with dirt.
With a sigh, Morgan stood up and kicked him onto his back again. She looked around. No one seemed to be coming and she had managed to transport him from the door a little bit at least. It would have to do.
A slow warmth, or maybe even fire, was growing inside Morgan. She dropped onto her knees beside him again and, with unsteady hands, dug out her make-up pouch from her bag.
Her fingers found the lipstick and, as if by magic, the trembling stopped. She opened the tube and brought her hand to Theodore’s face. Making it up as she went along, Morgan pushed the red pen onto the boy’s lips and began to trace them. The result was an obscene blotch of red on a pale, unconscious face. She stuck her fingers into the corners of his lips and pulled them up, stretching them into a squishy, formless smile, which slapped back into an expressionless grimace as soon as Morgan let go. She laughed.
But there was still too much Theodore in the face before her, and all she wanted was for him to disappear.
The purple eye-shadow came next. She applied it in large blotches around his half-open eyes. Then she grabbed the eye-liner and began to draw. Spirals, lines, flowers. Then some more red, as spots on his cheeks, as a triangle on his chin, as a line down his neck. She made sure to press as strongly as she could, feeling the permanent paint sink into the skin. If she hadn’t been so busy erasing the features she had learned to detest, she would have laughed at the idea of how long it would take anyone to get all the make-up out. Maybe they never would…
Morgan was feeling elated, creative; she didn’t even hear the steps coming up behind her.
“Oh, it’s Morgan!” Fred was saying. Then he stopped abruptly. “What the…”
“What are you doing to him?” George gasped as he took in the black, red and purple mess.
“What do you think?” Morgan grumbled, not even slightly shaken by the appearance of others and only able to focus on the next line she could draw on the fleshy canvas before her.
“Well, he looks quite lovely. Would that be permanent make-up?” Fred mused.
“Ehm, I think his eye-brow is starting to sizzle…” George added cautiously.
“There was talk of a troll in the castle,” Fred interjected. “Let’s go find him. He should be much more lively than this bloke.”
“The castle…” Morgan mumbled, her hand pausing. Images of McGonagall, her dormitory, the portrait of the Fat Lady, owls… people swam before her eyes. Morgan slumped back, the excitement draining out of her. Then she looked down and her insides contracted with panic.
The sight before her looked like the work of a lunatic. Theodore’s face was lumpy and swollen. It was running with make-up, the liquid dripping down his cheeks and into his hair, even his teeth were stained with purple and red. She couldn’t remember doing any of it. She could recall the sight of her hand holding the lipstick, but she could no longer connect that hand to herself.
Morgan scrambled to her feet.
“Right then, let’s find that troll,” Fred announced cheerfully, throwing a glance at George behind Morgan’s back.
“He doesn’t look so good,” George mumbled, his eyes still glued to the figure on the grass.
“Well, he probably deserves it,” Fred pointed out off-handedly while taking Morgan by the elbow and leading her to the double doors.
As soon as they were inside, McGonagall swooped over them and commanded in a shrill voice to immediately get into the Great Hall and to stay there until instructed otherwise. The Great Hall was burning up: the candles seemed lighter than usual, there was anxious mumbling—something about trolls and danger. Professors were positioned at all exits, preventing students from leaving while the Heads of House kept assuring impatient children that, yes, there was a rogue creature loose in the castle but, as always, they couldn’t say more. Everything would be taken care of soon and everyone should direct their efforts toward looking after each other. Was anyone missing?
“Hermione…” Morgan mumbled.
“What?” Fred asked, leaning in with one ear as the three were ushered to their table.
Morgan opened her mouth to repeat it, but something stopped her. She popped her mouth shut again and remained quiet, letting herself be pushed forward, the two twins at her side like bodyguards and the tall, anxious figure of McGonagall urging them on from behind. She felt like she wasn’t being protected but, instead, escorted to her execution, as if she were the troll everyone feared and she had finally been caught.
Well, here it is, another chapter! Morgan has been in first-year much too long for my taste, I planned to skip forward much earlier. But there are just so many important things that need to happenas early as possible.
I hope you are still enjoying the story! Any opinions? Is Morgan sort of psycholotic or do you understand why she acted the way she did?