Professor McGonagall handed her a card with a smile. "How is your mother, Graínne?"
"Just fine, ma’am. She and Da both send their greetings. They’re looking forward to work."
"Indeed. We are very pleased that she and Rory have returned." She passed on down the table, giving out class schedules.
Hermione seemed to understand this exchange, but the others looked around questioningly.
"What did she mean?" asked Ron.
"My parents are working on assignment with the Ministry of Magic. They’re Aurors."
"That’s what I’d like to do," said Harry. "I didn’t get a good enough O.W.L in Transfiguration or Potions, though. I’m on probation for N.E.W.T.s. So my nose is to the grindstone. I can’t slip up at all."
"Funny, you struck me as an apt student," Graínne said, turning to her coffee.
"Surprise," he answered dryly.
"Why are the Mondays always so painful?" Ron demanded, looking at his schedule. "Look, Double Potions.... Astronomy, Charms, Magical Creatures, those aren’t so bad. Hey, Graínne, you have those classes? Great. What’s that ‘language block’ thing there?" He leaned to look over her shoulder.
"Oh, I’m studying some different languages. That’s when I’ll be meeting with tutors."
"Really?" Hermione looked up from the Daily Prophet. "Which ones?"
"Goblin, Hungarian, Russian, Giant, and Portuguese."
"Why d’you want to study all those languages?"
"Because it’s easier than Arithmancy," she said with a grin.
"Diplomatic corps?" Harry guessed.
She laughed. "I’m way too...candid for that work." She drained her cup and looked purposefully and calculatingly at the Slytherin table. Her expression was not friendly, and she frankly looked dangerous. "Who is that white-haired jerk? He keeps looking at me."
"Which one?" said Ginny, unable to keep the disgust from her voice. “I saw they picked up a demon twin last night in the Sorting.”
"Well, the one we know is Draco Malfoy. The other is a transfer. I didn’t catch his name last night. They look like near relatives, don’t they?" said Hermione thoughtfully.
"Most pure-bloods in Britain are related somehow," said Seamus, who was half-Muggle. "Say, Ron, does that mean you and Malfoy are somehow linked?"
Ron looked alarmed. "Blimey! I hope not!"
"Maybe by marriage," said Harry, thinking back to the tapestry of the House of Black. "You were related to Sirius by marriage and by blood, and he was related by marriage to Lucius Malfoy. Draco was his second cousin or something."
"I don’t mind being related to Sirius, even given what his mum was," Ron replied darkly, "but Malfoys? That’s too far. Daresay they wouldn’t admit being connected to the Weasleys, either. Mutual, I’d say. And that suits me fine."
"He looks bad," said Graínne thoughtfully. "Something about his eyes. Funny, isn’t it, how the evil inside spoils the outside looks. Good for the innocent, though, so they can see what’s coming."
Before Harry could respond to this extraordinary and insightful idea, someone tapped his arm.
"Harry," said Ernie MacMillan, bending down to speak softly. "Are we continuing D.A. meetings this year?"
Harry felt a pang, casting a quick glance at Ron and Hermione. Ron still had scars on his arms, and Hermione, he knew, still had to take a potion every day (just one, now, down from ten right after she’d been injured) as a result of their end of the year activities with Dumbledore’s Army. And that was where Sirius had been killed. "Surely that won’t be necessary," he began.
"Depends on the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, doesn’t it?" said Hermione matter-of-factly. "If it’s another git, we’ll have to carry on."
"Who is it?" Ron craned his neck to see the head table, which was only half full.
"According to our schedule, it’s someone named Professor Ferguson."
Graínne picked up her book bag. "Where the heck is the dungeon for this Potions class?"
"Oh, it isn’t that far from here. We have a couple minutes. Let me see your schedule, we’ll figure out who is going where, and can show you the way." Hermione reached for her card.
"Whatever you do, don’t ask a Slytherin, and don’t ask Peeves," Harry warned her blandly. "They’ll both send you the wrong way. And you could get hurt, with Peeves."
"Who is Peeves?"
"Poltergeist," said Ginny shortly. "He’s a pain to all, loyal to none. Although after what he did to Umbridge, I’m rather fond of him."
"Who is Umbridge?"
"That’s a long story," said Hermione. "I’ll tell you later. Suffice it to say, she was temporarily in charge of trying to destroy the school last year."
"Did a damn good job, too," said Harry quietly.
"In the end, she was removed, and then she was chased off the grounds by Peeves," Hermione went on. "She was an evil old toad."
"We call them something else, where I come from," said Graínne calmly.
"Well, she was that, too, but it isn’t a strong enough epithet. She just happened to look like a toad." Hermione picked up her book bag. “The worst of it was, she was so evil, and she wasn’t even the enemy.”
The Potions classroom was not too far from the Great Hall. Graínne had stopped in the girls’ bathroom, and therefore slipped into the classroom on her own, just as Professor Snape was coming to shut the door. He stared at her coolly.
"Nearly late, Miss Cameron."
The bell rang to start the class. "Yes sir, nearly." She smiled dazzlingly.
"Take a seat." No sign of a return smile, or that he even saw it, but it didn’t seem to dampen Graínne’s attitude at all.
She retreated toward the only seat left among the Gryffindors. No boy in the room had been immune to that smile who saw it, regardless of his House, but their reactions varied. A leg shot out into the aisle, just in front of her, but with cat-like reflexes, she kicked the ankle sharply with the pointed toe of her black cowboy boot, stomped the arch of the foot with her heel, and when Crabbe yelled in pain, she turned solicitously to him, accidentally smashing his shoulder with her heavy courier book bag. "Oh you poor thing! I didn’t see your little leg sticking out there into the aisle like that! Did I hurt you?" she asked in a sweet, worried, and totally falsely concerned voice.
The idea that this small girl could hurt meaty Crabbe and call him “little” caused laughter throughout the entire room, even the Slytherins. He shook his head, eyes watering, and Graínne continued to the chair in front of Harry, next to Dean and Seamus.
The potion was difficult. Snape paced around, making nasty comments wherever there was a Gryffindor having problems. His remarks were so cutting and snide that Graínne was arrested in her work several times to stare at him in disbelief. When he approached her cauldron at the most critical phase of the potion and spoke to her, she answered distractedly, without taking her eyes off her dropper. In the middle of her reply to him about the O.W.L grade she had earned the year before, she actually counted to seven, watching drops of pomegranate juice fall from the tip. She stirred the required number of times and set her timer for four minutes before finishing her reply.
"Pardon me, Professor. I received an outstanding in Potions." She looked him in the eye.
Snape stared back. "With whom did you study?"
"Professor Josephina Keller-Glass."
His eyebrows shot up. "Quite impressive. An outstanding from Professor Keller-Glass is an achievement worth mentioning. I wonder that she did not mention you to me."
"Oh, she probably wasn’t aware of my transfer. She retired at the end of last term, sir." She turned to her cutting board to chop her roots. It was as if she had dismissed him.
"Are you being rude, Miss Cameron?"
"Oh no, sir. Only if I want this potion to be just right, I have to get these roots chopped soon, so they are at the right stage to add at the right time." She didn’t look up.
Harry had to hand it to her: she did not lose her temper at his persistent questions, she gave him no reason to be rude to her, and she did not allow him to distract her into making a mistake. He wished dismally that he had the same self-control when it came to Snape.
Snape, irritated that he had not thrown all of the new Gryffindors (he had already panicked Ross and Welles), vented his spleen on Harry next moment. Resolutely, Harry said only the answers to the questions asked, and added sir without being prompted. He was determined to control his temper with Snape. Much as he hated Snape, he had decided to treat his as immature and therefore contemptible behavior. He noticed, though, how carefully Snape avoided reference to the past.
Directly after class, Snape called Graínne forward. "A moment of your time, Miss Cameron. You can wait outside, Finnegan."
She stood while the rest of the classes filed out. Harry went out like the rest, but he squatted shamelessly outside the closed door afterward and stuffed an Extendable Ear into place.
"I would have heard from Josephina if she had given an Outstanding," he began.
"But it was an O.W.L, Professor Snape. I am not aware that she even received the exam results. She was not on the examiners board for that school because she taught at that school, and I believe she was taking a cruise to celebrate her retirement when exam results came out, sir." Graínne’s voice was as calm and cool as ever. There was a short pause. Harry relayed the gist of the conversation in a whisper to the others waiting outside the door with him.
"Where did you study Occlumency?"
Harry sat down abruptly.
"At home. Sir."
"Have you something to hide, Cameron?"
"Nothing that would ostensibly be any of your business, sir."
"Do not trifle with me. I can make it very miserable for you here."
"Yes sir, I’m sure you can. And I have no intention of trifling with you, sir. But my private thoughts are no concern of yours, as I am sure you will agree. Sir."
"I doubt you have any real idea of what is and is not my concern, Cameron. Watch your step here. Hogwarts can be a very dangerous place."
"Yes sir, thank you for that threat...ening-sounding warning. Am I dismissed?"
"Get out of here."
Harry hastily yanked the Extendable Ear back and wadded it up, shoving it into his pocket as the door opened. Hermione had gone to the library for a moment before Astronomy, so there were only boys left waiting for her. "All right?" he asked quietly, turning his back on the door before Snape came out.
"All right," she answered with a suggestion of a sigh. "What’s next?"
"Astronomy, if we’re all still together," said Ron.
As that was an easy class, comparatively, Harry relaxed. Snape had been intent on embarrassing him or making him lose his temper in front of the class, but Harry had been in control today. Sinistra wasn’t out to get anyone. The Astronomy room was arranged in a circle, so that models of the solar systems could be seen by all. Harry and Ron dropped into chairs on the north side of the room, and Graínne slid in beside Lavender and Parvati on the east side. Dean and Seamus chose the west side of the room, and Harry suspected it was so they could watch the girls. Hermione slipped in at the last moment and sat beside Ron. Resolutely, Harry paid attention to Professor Sinistra, but once he glanced at Graínne, and found her looking his way.
Neville, who was sitting a row back from Harry, nudged him when the lesson was over. "The new girl was watching you. I think she’s pretty," he whispered.
"Yeah? I guess she is," said Harry casually, as if he had not noticed this before. However, his stomach gave a lurch. "I’m starving. Wotcher, Justin. Good holidays?"
"Very good, yeah," answered Justin Finch-Fletchley, shaking the hand Harry held out to him. "Started taking the Daily Prophet, just to keep up on the news, you know. My mum like to freaked out. She read the series on You-Know-Who like it was a novel she couldn’t wait to finish. She almost didn’t want me to come back, worried that it wasn’t safe." His eyes strayed to Graínne.
"Safest place in Britain," said Ron with a shrug. "Mind you, that isn’t saying much. Allow me, Graínne," he said, hastening forward to pick up the book that had fallen off her desk. "I wish it was lunch time. I could eat a hippogriff."
"Hello, you’re new," said Justin to Graínne, since no one offered to introduce her.
"Yes, I am. Graínne Cameron." Her hands were full so she didn’t offer one.
"Justin Finch-Fletchley, Hufflepuff. Welcome to Hogwarts."
"Thanks." She gave a little smile and went on with Parvati and Neville.
"Not much for talking, is she," Justin observed.
"Maybe she’s just shy. She’s been meeting a lot of people, last two days." Hermione handed a stack of brochures to Justin. "Information meeting on Wednesday about Dueling Club, hand these out, especially to fourths and under. As officers, it’s our job to promote."
The next class was Charms. Graínne had nice, precise wandwork, but her repertoire of Charms was curiously small. The speed with which she picked up a spell they had learned two years before was astonishing. "You see, class, when you have mastered the basics of motion and enunciation, it is more than half the work done," squeaked Flitwick as Graínne performed the new charm on the first try.
"You had that one before," Ron accused good-naturedly as the professor went on his way.
"I honestly did not," she laughed, which charmed Ron. "I haven’t had much practical work, though. Lots of theory."
The others glanced at each other darkly.
"What did I say?" She became very still, and her book pages stopped turning.
"Oh, that’s just what Umbridge said last year, tried to teach Defense Against the Dark Arts by teaching only theory--" said Hermione.
"And bass-ackward theory at that," Ron ejaculated. "All about non-violent alternatives, legal magical response, bilge like that. As if you’re going to be discussing what’s legal when a great dirty Death Eater is shooting Cruciatus at you."
"What?" asked Ron.
"Yes, that’s the book," said Hermione. "You know it?"
"I saw it. It passed around Thunder Hall, but we all thought it was just a joke."
"Well, it was, but it wasn’t meant to be," she answered ominously.
Lunch in the Hall was always noisy. Graínne came in after her classmates were already at table, sliding into a seat next to Hermione across from Harry. Her face was flushed, but she seemed calm otherwise. Raucous laughter from Slytherin drew his attention to Pansy Parkinson giving an impression of something, to the delight of the others.
"Are they bothering you?" Harry asked softly, and Graínne seemed to know he was speaking to her. "I mean other than by merely existing?"
Suddenly she chuckled. "Yeah, and yeah. I guess embarrassing moments wouldn’t be so embarrassing without hostile witnesses, would they?"
He nodded knowingly. "Try the shepherd’s pie. It’s good."
She flashed him a smile that jarred his stomach. She was pretty, but when she smiled, she was much better. "Thanks, Harry."
"Quidditch tryouts on Friday, Harry?" asked Ginny, sitting down with them.
"Right." He glanced at Graínne, wondering if she would try out. Wondering if she was really good at Occlumency. Wondering how he could find out if she had a boyfriend back in the States, and would Ginny be trustworthy enough to find out for him.
An owl landed on the table in front of Graínne halfway through the meal, a little white envelope in its beak. It soared away as soon as she took it.
"What’s up? Late mail?" Parvati asked absently.
"Not really. I’ve been summoned to the Headmaster. I haven’t done anything to get into trouble yet!" For the first time, Graínne Cameron looked something other than calm and collected. She looked flustered and anxious.
"Then you don’t need to worry. What do you mean, yet?" Ginny demanded, pretending to be stern. It made Graínne snort with laughter, but only briefly.
“Dumbledore’s all right, he won’t give you a hard time," Ron reassured her.
"Really? No anti-American views, or anything like that?" She looked at him, craving reassurance with her expression. Harry found it every bit as appealing as the smile.
"Not that we’ve ever heard, and we know him pretty well. Of course, we’ve never had to deal with Yanks. No offense." Ron was busy shoveling in food, and missed her look.
"None taken. Two o’clock at his office. Where is his office?"
"I have a free period then, I can show you," Harry offered.
"Thanks." She shot him a grateful look, and pushed her plate away.
"Eat up, now, there’s nothing to worry about," said Hermione bracingly. "I swear, unless you are a Death Eater in disguise, you have nothing to worry about."
Half-heartedly, Graínne pulled her plate toward her again, and managed to eat about half. She listened to the conversation around her without entering into it, answering questions directed at her as shortly as possible without being rude. After lunch, they headed out into the entry hall.
"You’d better report to your class, even if it’s only a half hour. I’ll meet you here at five minutes to two. Be prompt, it’s almost five minutes from here," Harry told her, thinking that this must be how a big brother would feel. He didn’t realize he wasn’t feeling remotely fraternal. "Wait, where is your class?"
"Room eleven," she said, pointing to the door.
She sighed. "I couldn’t get into Ancient Runes without some remediation. Here, five til."
"Right. Enjoy Firenz." He watched her go in, and headed for the library.
He was waiting for her when she came out, and smiled a greeting. "Got your note? It’s your excuse if you get stopped by Filch."
"What’s a Filch?" She slung her book bag onto her back.
"A caretaker. He patrols the halls with the mistaken conviction that one, it’s his job, and two, students are the bane of the school and ought to be eradicated."
She smiled. "I see. Why’s he still here?"
"Dunno. He can still do his job, I guess. Dumbledore is not large of getting rid of people." He slanted a look at her. "Will you try out for Quidditch?" he asked after a moment.
"Hm? Oh, if there’s an opening on the team, sure. But do I really have a right to sail in here from the US and take positions on the team from the natives?"
"Look, the school population isn’t so dense that we’re overrun with talent in this department. Unless the second-years are full of junior Quinns and Aidans, you won’t be taking anyone’s place from them, and their broom-riding grades from Professor Hooch weren’t promising. Last year we barely squeaked through. The Beaters both told me they would rather die than do that again, and they resigned at the end of last year. And Katie Bell is the only Chaser I have left, after Angelina and Alicia graduated. I need talent. If you’ve played on such reputable teams, then you owe it to your House to try out."
She laughed suddenly, despite being nervous about meeting the Headmaster. "My duty," she said with a grin. "Well, that would be one time when duty was joy. I’ll try out, but if there’s anyone local who deserves to play, even remotely, I’ll step back."
"If you’re good, no one is going to deny you the right to play. Least of all me. This is it. Did he give you a password?"
"No. There’s no bell?"
"Nope. Let’s try *Fizzing Whizbees.*"
"Should have known, that was last year’s. *Lemon drop. Cockroach cluster. Chocolate Frog.*"
The gargoyle leapt to life, and the wall split open. A voice called down, "Good afternoon, Miss Cameron. Harry, is that you? Come up a moment, won’t you?"
Together they stepped onto the moving stairway. Harry heard her mutter, "This is so cool!"
The oak door was open, and Dumbledore smiled benignly, holding out his hands to them in greeting. "I appreciate you showing her the way, Harry. I wonder if you would carry a message down to Professor Ferguson for me, if you are free?"
"Yes sir." He accepted the sealed scroll and waved to Graínne, and went out.
Dumbledore turned a mild gaze upon Graínne, and gestured to a chair facing his desk. "Please sit down, Miss Cameron. I normally do not need to attend to individual students, since I have an excellent staff to meet their needs and analyze their data. Harry, you are wasting time trying to eavesdrop." His voice and inflection never changed from what had preceded it, but there was a moment of silence and a distant rumble as the wall closed at the foot of the revolving stairs. A smile twinkled in Dumbledore’s eyes. "How have you found it so far, this transfer business?"
"Not as hard as I expected, sir. Most of the Gryffindors have accepted me into their House without blinking. I guess the Sorting Hat is like a letter of introduction. I expected to be an outsider for much longer, but they seemed to like me right off. I don’t really understand it."
"You are quite likeable. And you look like you belong here, good Scottish face and name. Well, I’m glad it has been easy. Harry has taken you into his circle?"
"Hermione Granger, really. But I’m beginning to see it’s all one, if one of them takes you up, all three do. They’re remarkable, the three of them. I’m sure you know that."
"I do indeed. I received your files last week, when the transfer was finalized, but to be quite honest, I haven’t bothered to look at them until today.” There was no sign of a file anywhere, though he referred to its contents as if it were before him on the desk. “It came to my attention that you are rather remarkable in Occlumency, and I have a need right now to teach Harry Potter that skill."
Graínne closed her mouth as an act of will. "What is it with Occlumency? Professor Snape tried to pick my mental pocket and accused me of keeping secrets. Why was he doing that to begin with? What gives him the right?" She was indignant, but polite and in control of her emotions.
"I asked him to let me know if any of the new students were spies for our enemy, Lord Voldemort. He was simply trying to ascertain that information, not knowing your background. Camerons, after all, are a dime a dozen up here, he had no idea you were connected to Morag and Rory. And actually, there’s no need to call that to his attention. He will know at the right time. Meanwhile, I have been given, along with your school file, a file from the Magic Regulatory Agency. I am quite interested in your very rare skills."
"What, the Discerner bit?" She laughed, her bad mood gone. "You’d be amazed, sir."
"Indeed I’m sure I would. I was speaking of how you have managed such complex magic as Apparating, Occlumency, Patronus, and Legilimency at your age. I understand Discerners are born, not made, but these others are high levels of magic that not every wizard is able to master. And yet, while your O.W.L was good in Charms, Professor Flitwick tells me that you are behind your year."
"Yes, your program seems to be more advanced than ours. I’m going to try very hard to catch up, though. I am hoping to finish both years here, rather than transfer back to Thunder Hall. I want to take a N.E.W.T. in Charms."
"You have not answered the question."
"No sir, sorry. I don’t really know, though. Mom and Dad taught us early how to shield our minds, because the Darkers would not have blinked at using us to get at them. We can all do it, to varying degrees. Once I mastered Occlumency, Legilimency seemed easy. And because I’m a Discerner, I went to work for the MRA two years ago. They taught me to Apparate because it was often important to get on the scene immediately. I don’t know why it’s not hard, it just isn’t."
He gazed at her a moment, and she did not shield her thoughts. There was no reason to be less than candid with Professor Dumbledore. "And the original question remains: will you teach Occlumency to Harry Potter? I have an urgent need for him to be able to shield his thoughts, and the sooner the better."
"Then I’ll have to teach him. Why doesn’t Professor Snape do it?"
"Oh. I thought I sensed something. And why don’t you do it, if I may ask, sir?"
"Because it will draw too much attention to myself, and that would be bad for Harry and for those who have set themselves against Lord Voldemort."
She didn’t pretend to understand, but she didn’t ask again. "I will do it, sir, but how do I approach the subject with him?"
"It should be private, of course. It may be difficult for him to trust you more than superficially. Harry has experienced very painful things over the last two years, not least of which were his initial lessons in Occlumency and his failure to master it. I rather suspect that he is withdrawing from intimacy, for fear of causing or feeling more pain. I believe I may trust you to win the right to be heard and to teach him, Graínne. I do not give my trust without just cause."
When she left the office, she tried to retrace her way back to the entry hall, and finally managed to find the library. Thinking to spend the last of the period here, where at least she might see a Gryffindor from whom she could ask directions, she went in and spotted Harry at a table, several books around him, tipped back in his chair as he read. For a moment she watched him.
Of all the boys she had seen over the last twenty-four hours, she liked his looks the best. He was handsome enough, darkly handsome, although sort of skinny, but of course it was more than looks. He was more mature in many ways than any of the others, even the seventh years. His green eyes, lighter than hers, almost emerald in color, flicked back and forth over the book’s page. An inch too much wrist at the end of his sleeve showed he’d had a growth spurt since being measured for robes, so this maturity wasn’t necessarily physical. It had been growing on her, this idea, and became full-blown as she watched him reading. She realized that here was one who could see thestrals. Pain and anguish and even a little guilt (whether appropriate or self-inflicted) had grown Harry more than his pituitary gland.
Cautiously, she crossed the library and walked up to the table. "Can I hang out here until the bell? I promise not to bother you," she said in a low voice that was softer than a whisper.
He startled, and then grinned. "I didn’t hear you. Sure, have a seat, you can’t possibly bother me. My mind’s not on this stuff anyway. What did Dumbledore want?"
"He wanted to discuss my files." She smiled disarmingly. "I have some talents he needs."
"Other than Quidditch and a penchant for languages?"
She grinned. "Neither was mentioned."
"Occlumency, perhaps?" He did not grin in return.
"Well, yeah. How’d you know?" She composed her face along somber lines. There would be no beating around the bush, then. Well, she preferred it that way herself.
"I listened at Snape’s door," he answered unblinkingly. "Does he reckon you can teach me where Snape failed?"
"He hopes so." She answered forthrightly, since he was asking so plainly.
There was a struggle in his face. "I’m not ready yet, Graínne."
"Okay. I only just got here, I don’t think I am either."
At that he looked up, and his eyes thanked her for it. "I know it’s important, and now I even know how important it is, but I just can’t face it yet."
"When you can, just tell me how it went with Snape. I would bet, after seeing the two of you just once together, that he abused his privilege. The way I was taught was not sink or swim, but very methodical and gradual."
He didn’t answer her, couldn’t speak. His failure to master Occlumency despite his differences with Snape had resulted in Sirius’ death, by his reckoning. The bell rang, saving him the necessity of answering. He gathered up his books and put them in his bag, and they both got to their feet and joined the throng in the hall. She could not possibly understand the extent to which his thoughts and Voldemort’s were connected. She could not understand how guilty he felt about failing. No one could understand.
Even as he thought it, they came to the place in the hall where Ginny Weasley had written messages while being possessed by Voldemort. And he remembered Ginny telling him it was stupid to assume that no one knew what it was like. Glancing at the girl beside him, he decided he’d take the lessons from her. If Dumbledore said it was okay, it was. And if he learned this method, he would be taken farther into the plans of the Order. Automatically he would become more trustworthy, and be better equipped to fight. He might just get another crack at Bellatrix Lestrange. And maybe, just maybe, this awful gulf that existed between him and Dumbledore, and indeed the rest of mankind, would be bridged.
Write a Review Graínne: Called to the Office Already?