"She shows evidence of repeated exposure to the Cruciatis curse," Madam Pomfrey said. "Enough that I am surprised that she is still sane. I have seen aurors who were never the same again after similar levels of exposure."
"I'm not entirely sure she is sane," Snape muttered.
Madam Pomfrey ignored him. "There are signs of dark magic exposure that I haven't seen before. It is similar to what we see in people killed with the Killing Curse, except that of course it must be a less efficient variant since she is clearly alive."
"Is there any indication that she was abused otherwise, especially over the last few days?" Snape asked.
"None. She's a little dehydrated, and a little sun burned, which is surprising given our climate. Where did you find her?"
"Living in a hole in the ground in central London," Snape said. "I would have expected her to be covered in insect bites at the very least."
"I saw none," Pomfrey said. "And nothing wrong with her that a little nutrition and sleep in a good bed won't fix. Her mind, however...I can't imagine what that kind of torture would do to an impressionable young girl."
"Warped her," Snape said darkly.
I was lying on a hospital bed. I would have liked to say that there weren't insects here for me to use to eavesdrop with, but there were. Apparently magical healing didn't require the same level of cleanliness that muggle healing did.
They were using something to muffle their conversation. It was creating a strange sensation; half my bugs were outside the circle and could hear nothing, while the other half were inside, and they could hear just fine.
I felt a sense of relief.
Madam Pomfrey's inspection really hadn't been invasive. It had mostly involved her running a wand up and down over my body, like a piece of equipment from Star Trek. The fact that I wasn't actually a zombie was a relief; for all I'd known, it was possible that I could have started rotting sooner or later, and then what would I have done?
This meant that I was clear to move on to the next part of my plan, which involved doing as much research as I could over the next week.
I needed to find out what the limits to legilimency were, and what an occlumens was. I needed to get a general idea of what the capabilities of most of the wizards I was likely to meet were. I'd fortunately bought the first through seventh year books, claiming that I was buying for a rather large family.
Even when I hadn't thought I had magical power, I'd bought the books just in case; learning what spells the wizards were studying would be an indicator of which spells they were likely to use. I'd been wrong to dismiss the books as useless outright, and I'd bought them for fear of missing something and because they were cheap.
"Just from speaking to her, I don't see any signs of mental trauma, but it's likely that some will crop up over the next few days. Seeing your parents murdered in front of you has to be terrifying for a young girl. The fact that she was able to survive and even thrive is remarkable."
"Indeed," Snape said.
"She doesn't have any other friends or family that she can turn to?" Pomfrey asked.
Snape shook his head. "She gives me the impression that her parents have only moved here recently, and that she had no close family back in the States. Otherwise we'd been dealing with the MACUSA about taking her to be educated in Ilvermorny."
"I can't recall ever having an American at Hogwarts."
"That won't be the problem," Snape said. "I have a feeling that letting her attend here will be like setting a piranha on goldfish."
"You must be exaggerating! She's just a little girl!"
"She looks innocent," Snape said. "But don't be fooled."
"She'll be a Gryffindor for sure, as brave as she was. Wandering around London on her own, surviving for several days. Without their wands I'd imagine a lot of fifth years would do worse."
"Not all of the brave are in Gryffindor," Snape said stiffly. He gestured and the strange silencing field he was using disappeared.
Snape strode over to my bed.
"I will take you to your room," he said. "We will return to Diagon Alley tomorrow to complete your purchases."
"What if I don't have any more money?" I asked.
"There is a fund provided for those without means. However, I suspect that you are not the type to have spent all of your money, despite being a child."
I shrugged. "Maybe I don't want to spend my money on fancy pots and weird robes."
Antagonizing him wasn't the best idea, but he was so stuffy that I couldn't help myself. Besides, when was the next time I actually got to be a child? Once school started I was going to have to get serious and work on finding out who wanted us all dead.
Tom seemed like a prime candidate, but I couldn't ask him about it without revealing that I had been listening in. I suspected that was an ability not shared by most wizards, and would be best kept under my hat, at least as well as I could in a school filled with mind readers.
"You will do as directed," he said. He gritted his teeth.
I slipped out of bed, and back into my sneakers. I took a final look around, and we made our way out of the Hospital wing. It said something about the safety of this school that there were so many beds. The place looked like they were ready for a war, which suggested that having a school where one hundred percent of the students were armed might not be as safe as Snape and Dumbledore were trying to make it out to be.
The Hospital Wing was on the first floor, and we went through a long hall that led to stairs going up.
"Is there really a rule about having knives at school?" I asked.
I was interested in what he had to say. I'd turned the knife over in the interest of not causing problems, but I'd suspected he'd been lying the whole time.
He was silent for a moment, then admitted "No."
"You just didn't want me to stab you."
"You will learn far worse ways to hurt people than stabbing," he said. "But it would be preferable if you did not start with that."
"Will there likely be a lot of classmates that I will want to stab?"
His face turned dark. "Wizarding children are no better than muggle children; in some way they are worse, because they have more ways to express their natural tendencies."
"Tendencies to bully?"
He glanced at me and didn't say anything.
"I won't stand for that," I said. "I don't like bullies, whether they are students or teachers."
"It's likely that you won't have much of a choice. Older students have skills that make them much more dangerous than a muggle of equivalent age."
"There are ways to stop that..."
"Even the Wizarding world frowns on killing or maiming other children.," Snape said quickly.
"If teachers would do their jobs it wouldn't be necessary for more extreme measures to be taken," I said sweetly. "Besides, Madam Pomfrey said that she could completely regrow bones."
"Should I be concerned that this is the first thing you asked her?"
"I was just curious," I said. "What with all the moving staircases and all, I was a little worried about falling."
"Given that many of the children at this school will have parents who were sympathizers of the last Dark Lord, I would suggest that you try to blend in and not cause too many problems," Snape said. "The first response of many of the more privileged students would be to make complaints to their parents about the dangerous mudblood."
"Mudblood?" I asked.
"It's an offensive term for the muggleborn," Snape said. "Its use marks the user as someone who does not care for them."
"If they don't come after me, I won't come after them," I said. "I can tolerate words, but I won't let anyone bully me."
I'd made that mistake in my first life. Three girls had made my life hell for more than a year; they'd been the cause of my getting powers. In my world, powers came from having the worst day of your life.
Letting them get away with bullying hadn't worked. Ignoring it hadn't worked. They'd just escalated until they had put me in the hospital.
Our conversation drifted off as we walked up floor after floor. By the fourth floor my energy was flagging. By the sixth I felt like I was going to drop dead. Had this girl whose body I was wearing never done any exercise in her life?
He led me to the Gryffindor dormitories, which were at the top of a tower on the seventh floor. There was a common room with a roaring fire, reached by climbing a mahogany staircase decorated in crimson and gold. There was a lion over the mantle of the fireplace, and it seemed very cozy.
It was one of the tallest towers in the castle, and I wondered if all of the students had to climb this much just to get to bed. If they did, physical education might not be as important.
"Will I be allowed to spend time on the grounds?" I asked.
"Why?" Snape asked.
"I want to start running; I'm terribly out of shape and I need to get stronger."
"Wizards don't run," he said.
"They should," I said. "They'd live longer."
Whether he caught the double meaning in what I'd said or not, he seemed to simply ignore the questions.
"You will required to stay away from the edge of the forest and out of the lake. There are creatures in the lake and some of them are not... entirely tame."
If the people trying to kill me knew I was here, they'd be able to get me while I was out on the grounds. There were probably more protective spells than I knew about, but I couldn't depend on that. Yet trying to run around inside the castle, with its shifting stairs would be a recipe for disaster.
I'd need to stay close to the castle.
"It's probably best if you do not stray too far," Snape said.
It was possible that working on my strength and endurance might not be helpful at all. Yet I suspected that being able to dodge would be important no matter what magic was like, and without physical endurance, slowing down would happen sooner than later.
Were spells like heat seeking missiles, or was it like guns, where the person who aimed better and missed less often was the winner? I didn't know, and not knowing was likely to get me killed.
"The stairs leading up to the girl's dorms are enchanted so that should boys attempt to climb them, they will turn into a slide. Male prefects may bypass this in emergencies."
"Is it the same with the boy's stairs?"
Snape looked at me assessingly. It looked like he wanted to lie, but he knew that I'd test it out the moment he left, and so he simply shook his head.
"That'll be useful," I said.
He showed me the bathrooms. Shockingly, there were no showers, but only baths. That seemed dangerous to me; it would be relatively easy to drown someone and make it look like an accident. Although actually showers had the risk of slipping on soap and breaking necks, so it might be a wash.
With four beds to a room, it looked like I was going to have roommates. I hadn't slept in the same room with anyone, outside of wartime since Emma. The fact that I'd be sharing a room with three other eleven year olds wasn't promising.
"Any other child, and I'd ask if you needed someone to check in on you. It can be frightening for some of the younger ones to be home for the first time."
"So you don't think you need to check in on me?"
"I know I do," he said. "But not because you are afraid. Compared to the hole I found you in, this must seem like a castle."
"It is a castle."
I stared at him, giving him a flat, unamused look. One should not encourage bad jokes; I'd learned my lesson with Clockblocker.
"Lights out is at 10 P.M.," he said. "And you should not leave the dorms before 6 A.M. I am sure that you are planning to ignore these rules, but once the term starts, the halls will be patrolled."
"And they aren't now? So anyone could break in and attack me? So how is this place any safer than where I was?"
"The professor has taken steps so that you can't be tracked here."
I hadn't noticed him doing anything. Snape must have noticed my expression.
"As Headmaster, Professor Dumbledore has options that are not available to the rest of us. He can, for example lift the anti-apparition spells that cover the castle in the event of an emergency.
"So as long as nobody is in the castle who can call their buddies and let them know I'm here, I'll be fine."
"At least here you aren't in a hole," Snape said.
"I'll be the judge of that," I said.
He was silent for a moment. "It's unusual for an American to be selected for Hogwarts. It means that you first found your magic in Britain. Your parents were visiting?"
I shrugged, keeping my eyes down. "You know how it is. I don't really know a lot about why they came here; they didn't exactly explain it to me."
"I have a hard time believing you didn't eavesdrop," he said.
I looked at him sharply. Did he know I'd been listening in on his conversation with Dumbledore? Had I given myself away, or had he peeked in my mind like he'd promised not to.
"My father and mother were some of the best people I ever knew," I said. For once I could speak with sincerity. "She was a professor, and he worked as the head of hiring and spokesperson for a labor union."
I didn't want to get too specific, because if he investigated my background he'd find out that the people I was talking about didn't exist. Or even worse, they actually did, but were still four years away from having their first and only child.
I'd seen Earths before where there were copies of people I'd known. The idea that Mom and Dad were just an ocean away was painful, because they wouldn't really be my Mom or Dad. It would be a constant reminder of what I'd lost, what I'd never have again.
"Get some sleep," he said. "Breakfast is normally from 6:30 to 8:30 in the morning, but with just staff attending, it will not begin until eight. Lunch is at noon, and dinner normally ranges from six to eight. With only staff available it will be held at six."
Ah, food. The one thing that an eleven year old would be concerned about.
"Do you need something now?" he asked.
I shook my head. I'd eaten at Diagon Alley.
After he left, I chose a bed, and began pulling the things I'd need out. I loved my fanny pack; it would hold an entire wardrobe and all the books, and once I got a chest, I'd be able to fill it with other things.
The first year spell books were written in an easy to read fashion. Some of it was because it was written for eleven year olds, but I remembered having read harder books when I was that age. Of course, you always wanted to make your instruction manuals easier to read than you had to. The military did it because no one wanted to be struggling over wording while bombs were flying around.
The spells they were planning to teach first years were useful as weapons.
Making fire was always going to be a favorite. Levitating things was a good way to drop things on enemies. You could sever a neck with a spell meant to sever clothes. The ability to give someone a cold didn't seem that useful, but I was going to reserve judgment.
It would make torture easier for one thing. Hold their mouth closed and then use the spell to fill their nose and lungs with mucus. There would be a certain degree of panic involved.
The locking and unlocking spells would be useful back in the real world, but if every first year student knew how to do them, then locks were either entirely useless or protected by stronger magics.
There was a spell to make an emergency flare, which might be useful in coordinating troops or for... actual emergencies. There was a spell to turn your wand into a flashlight. A smokescreen spell looked really useful.
I tried a few spells and wasn't able to get anything to work, but it was possibly because I was tired.
This body didn't have the endurance I was used to, and it was frustrating. I needed to get it into shape, and going to bed at 9 P.M. didn't figure into any of my plans.
It happened though.
My sleep was disturbed though, by dreams of strange alien creatures with spindly arms and legs and oversized heads and eyes. They had bat-like ears and all night they cleaned and cleaned and cleaned.