Disclaimer: If you recognize it, it belongs to J.K. Rowling.

"Alas for human destiny! Man's happiest hours Are pictures drawn in shadow. Then ill fortune comes, And with two strokes the wet sponge wipes the drawing out. And grief itself's hardly more pitiable than joy." -From "The Agamemnon" by Aeschylus

Chapter 1: New Horizons, New Hopes

Fanny arrived at the black iron gates of Hogwarts late one November evening. The carriage that she had boarded in Hogsmede now stopped by a small stone gatehouse, orange and quavering in the light of the torches. Through the blurred wet glass, Fanny saw a figure emerge from the little building; it tapped on the door of the carriage before pulling it open. The shape resolved itself into the withered, wiry frame of a man in a guard's uniform bearing the Hogwarts crest. He leaned into the carriage and barked "Papers please." It was the end of a long and tiring journey, and Fanny spilled the contents of her travel bag on the floor of the carriage as she rifled through it. "I don't have all night you know," the guard said. She hastily searched the dark floor for her documents, and handed them to him, bent and damp. Her letter of transfer, and admission notice were in order, but the gateman was overzealous, and made her stand in the rain while he inspected her trunk.

A polite cough sounded and Fanny and the guard looked up to see the young and friendly face of a gigantic man staring down at them from over the eight foot gate. "I don't think the lass' got anythin' to hide Barty," he said, and he winked at Fanny.

The guard looked up at the young man with undisguised annoyance. "Just doing my job," he said.

"Looks like you're doin' more 'n that. Just suppose to check her papers, you are." The young man opened the gate and stepped through. He was so tall that Fanny had to bend her neck straight back to look him in the face. "I'll take 'er up from here," he said. The guard grumbled loudly, but returned Fanny's papers and waved her through. "We've been expectin' you Miss Bowley," the giant man told her as they shook hands. "Hagrid's my name. I'm the groundskeeper here at Hogwarts. 'S not far to the castle now, we can walk from here." Hagrid picked up Fanny's trunk and led the way. There wasn't much to see at first along the winding tree lined path, but after a few hundred yards, the trees thinned, and the castle came into view. One thousand points of light shone from windows and ramparts illuminating the twenty story structure, turrets and towers. Fanny stopped and her eyes grew round in awe. "Beautiful ain't it?" said Hagrid. "Best castle in Britain if you ask me. Certainly got the most personality!" Fanny nodded in agreement. The castle grew steadily on the horizon as they continued and five minutes later the pair stood in the great entrance hall. Headmaster Dippet, a tall stern looking man, was waiting for them.

"Thank you Hagrid, you may go now," he said in clipped, curt tones, as the gamekeeper lumbered inside and dropped Fanny's trunk in a corner.

"Yes, sir," Hagrid replied, and, turning to Fanny added "I'm in the hut by the forest if ya ever need anythin' Miss," before leaving.

The headmaster waited until the front door closed before he crossed the room to shake Fanny's hand. "Welcome to Hogwarts, Miss Bowley," he said. "I am Headmaster Dippet. I'm sure you are tired, so I shall leave you retire to your dormitory, but first we must establish your house, of course." He chortled a little, but stopped when he saw Fanny's stony expression. "Please follow me." He led her across the hall to an elaborate fireplace carved with four animal motifs, coiling and writhing around each other: snake, badger, eagle, and lion. The creatures seemed almost to be competing, each striving to subdue and overtake the others and from where Fanny stood the snake appeared to be winning. The headmaster cleared his throat, and said, rather pointedly, "Whenever you're ready Miss Bowley."

Glittering floo powder landed on the fire, and a green flame burst forth. Fanny stepped into the blaze at Dippet's heels, shouted "the Headmaster's office" as he had done, and shortly stumbled into the coldest, most severe room she had ever seen. The furniture looked as if it were hewn from stone, so angular, gray and hard it was; even the fire that ignited when floo-flame died shone with an icy white light. Fanny shivered and put her hands in her pockets.

Efficiency was tops in Dippet's books, and by the time she appeared, he had already set to business. A battered and torn hat rested quietly in his hands and he dropped it on Fanny's head without explanation the moment she was seated. A few long moments passed in silence. Looking around the room, she could see a shelf behind the desk, on which, judging by a clean circle in the dust, she figured the hat must normally rest. Suddenly a voice, that seemed almost to be inside her very head, roared "Ravenclaw!" Fanny almost jumped out of her skin from startled surprise.

"What.?" Fanny began. But Dippet was on the move again, and had promptly removed the hat from her head, restoring it to the clean spot on the shelf.

"Ravenclaw. That's curious," he said. "You're mother was Slytherin, if I remember correctly. Students often take their parents house you see."

"Was my father in Ravenclaw?" The words were out of her mouth before she could think, and she regretted them immediately. She didn't know much about her father and preferred to keep her ignorance to herself. The headmaster did not seem bothered by her lack of knowledge, however, and simply looked at her for a few moments before he replied.

"Your father did not attend Hogwarts. Didn't you know?" Fanny turned red. The headmaster continued. "Well, I think that is enough excitement for one evening. Time for bed." He ushered her onto her feet and through the fireplace to the Ravenclaw dormitories. A blonde freckly girl about Fanny's age sat by the fire reading a mossy green book that softly hummed "The Foggy Dew". At their sudden appearance, the girl stood, flushed, and awkwardly introduced herself as a seventh year named Linda. The Headmaster, apparently eager to be rid of Fanny, passed her off the young blonde girl before quickly exiting. Linda eyed her curiously and led her through a long hall to the room they would share for the year.

"It's very comfortable," she said, "I'm sure you'll be happy here." She waved one hand towards a double canopy bed that lay empty. A shiny new plaque that read "Fanny's Bed" was attached to the footboard, and her trunk rested nearby. Without unpacking, or even changing into night clothes, Fanny thanked Linda and collapsed on the bed into an exhausted sleep.

Nothing travels faster than the speed of gossip. By breakfast, the entire school knew Fanny's name and house. When she entered the great hall that morning and took a seat at the Ravenclaw table, every person in the room eyed her curiously. A few students even stood on their chair to get a better look, but sat down after only a few moments. If they were expecting someone outlandish, Fanny certainly disappointed. She looked ordinary enough: average height, average build, brown hair cropped straight at her chin, pretty, but not enough to stand out in a crowd. On closer inspection, one would notice that she seemed somehow old fashioned, and carried herself a little more stiffly than other young women her age. But, being early in the morning, the students did not scrutinize, and saw only an average seventeen year old girl. It was not her appearance that sparked curiosity though, but her sudden and unexpected arrival: one did not simply show up at Hogwarts mid-term expecting an education.

Only a few weeks ago, Fanny was settled in America with her mother, attending a small local school of magic. The school had few students, and only one clique, from which Fanny had been expelled in her second year. Nauseous after a night of reckless candy consumption, Fanny had accidentally given Anna Mason a handlebar moustache in charms class. Anna was humiliated and vengeful, and used her clout as the most popular girl in town to ensure that Fanny lost all her friends. But while life at school became increasingly unpleasant, Fanny was always happy at home. Her mother, in Fanny's young eyes, was the epitome of perfection. Gene Bowley, a pretty dark haired witch, was well liked among the community for her liveliness and open enthusiasm, and renowned among the potion world for her innovation and skill. In appearance, Fanny was the very picture of her mother thirty years earlier. In talent, she differed utterly; Fanny's strengths were in the wand magics; her potion skills were average at best.

Gene spent evenings working in her lab, always welcoming her daughter to watch and encouraging questions as she brewed complex and bizarre potions. Only in the morning and late afternoon, when her mother retired to the "safe room" to research and develop new poisons for the American Bureau of Magic, was Fanny alone. In these times, imagination and books became her friends.

Then, one day in late October, Gene died unexpectedly. It was near midnight when Fanny finally built up the courage to enter the "safe room" and see why her mother hadn't come out. She was lying on the floor face up. Dark patches, which Fanny only later realized were dried blood, circled her eyes, nose and mouth. A wizard from the Department of Magical Law Enforcement came through the fireplace at Fanny's hysterical summons, and introduced himself as Mr. Patches. The investigation lasted three days, during which time Mr. Patches partitioned off and examined every square foot of Gene's lab, crawling around the floor with foul-play detection devices from morning to night. He would emerge every few hours, shake his head, and ask Fanny questions about the night of the death. In the end, despite his efforts and apparent doubts, he found nothing odd, and concluded that Gene had accidentally poisoned herself with one of her own concoctions. Bureau agents explained it all to Fanny, but she registered very little of what they said. Even weeks later, a continent away, she was still blank, the shock kept hold.

She only had one relative left alive. Her grandmother had remained in England when her mother immigrated. Fanny wrote to her after the accident, and although the old lady was too ill to travel, she sent word that Fanny should return to England under her care and attend Hogwarts as her mother had done before her. The headmaster had already been informed of the situation, the transfer papers were on their way.

It turned out that Fanny's mother had been well prepared for her own death. The day of the funeral, Lawyers appeared, and the estate was settled quickly. With great difficulty, Fanny sorted through her mother's affects, donating impersonal items to a local shelter, storing family memento's, and packing only what she couldn't bear to part with in the single trunk she would take with her to England. The Hogwarts papers arrived early one morning, and by dinner time, Fanny was on her way to Logan International Airport to board a flight to London. Sitting on the plane, she remembered the time, twelve years ago, when her father had died. Her mother picked up suddenly and flew them to America to begin again. At the time, Fanny didn't understand planes. Her mother patiently explained that flying was distinct in their magical life; it would stand out in their memories, symbolizing a new start. Now Fanny was returning to England and she flew as a gesture to her mother and the old life she left behind.

Rain fell over the great hall on Fanny's first morning at Hogwarts, and, though it was quite warm in the room, students wore scarves and heavy sweaters at breakfast, hunching their shoulders against the drizzle that never fell from the grey and misty ceiling. The school was magnificent; it surpassed even Fanny's expectations. As a little girl she would often dream of the day she could attend her mother's alma mater. And although her mother had always refused to even consider letting her school here, for reasons she never fully explained, Fanny was glad to realize her childhood dream, even if she regretted the circumstances that brought her here. It didn't bother her that the students welcomed her frigidly and whispered about her as she ate. Her years of unpopularity at school did not make her meek, as it often did with children. Rather, it hardened her. She looked around the room, full of sleepy life and muted energy. She hoped to fit in here, but felt comfortable knowing she could detach herself from this hope if need be.

Her eyes scanned the sea of bodies and landed shortly on a pretty red haired girl about her own age at the Gryffindor table who smiled and waved at her. Fanny stared blankly back. The girl got up and crossed the room to where she sat. "Hi, do you remember me?" she asked. "My name is Lily Evans. Our mothers were friends I think. We used to play badminton in my back yard for hours."

Memory seeped slowly into Fanny's head. "Lily? Evans?" she said and looked searchingly at the girl's bright face. "I think I remember the game, what did you call it? Bat mitten? I remember Mrs. Evans. She'd do puzzles wouldn't she? In the living room, on a folding table. And my mother would have coffee with her. Sometimes she'd let me have some too. I'm sorry I don't place you, though."

"It's OK, what's it been? Over ten years." Lily smiled a big toothy shining smile, her eyes and nose crinkling. In an instant Fanny recognized her. She stood and smiled back.

"Wow, memory's a funny business," she said, "I wouldn't have known you except for your smile. I guess people never really change, do they?"

"I hope not," said Lily, with idealistic enthusiasm. Fanny must have looked confused, because she continued, "People are born good after all, aren't they? Bad people are just good ones who changed for the worse."

Fanny didn't agree with this sentiment at all. As far as she was concerned, everyone was born with flaws, and change alone could produce improvement and growth. Nevertheless, she found Lily's optimism refreshing and found herself smiling for the first time in weeks.

Lily hugged Fanny, and told her about her family. "Mum's well. Oh, she'll be so glad to hear about you! Father's OK too, he's still working for the department of Transport. And my sister, you remember, Petunia? She's at public school now. She's almost fifteen! I don't know where the time goes." Fanny noticed that she did not ask about her mother. Apparently the gossip covered more than just her name. Her old friend obviously knew enough to avoid the subject, and Fanny appreciated her tact and concern.

Lily took her hand and led her over to the Gryffindor table. Several young men stood as they approached and all shook hands politely with her as Lily introduced them. "Fanny, I'd like you to meet my boyfriend, James, and his friends, Sirius, Remus, and Peter. Fanny was an old playmate of mine when we were little," she added. "Too bad you're not in Gryffindor with us; we could have been roommates then and everything!" The group seemed happy to welcome Fanny into their fold and insisted that she finish breakfast with them. Lily especially fussed over her. Perhaps she was merely glad to see an old playmate, or perhaps she was excited at the prospect of a gaining a close female friend. Fanny understood how important it was for a young woman to have a confidante who understood all of the crazy changes of adolescence. She herself had always longed for a close girl friend. A group of boys alone could never cut it.

The dishes cleared, the bell rang, and the students began to mill out of the great hall. A loud bang sounded across the room, and all eyes turned on a seventh year Slytherin boy who had just turned bright green. Sirius and James erupted in laughter and pointed at him shouting "Slimy slippery Snape, green as a garden snake." Everyone but the Slytherins was laughing at this point, and angry red patches became apparent, even through the green, in the young man's cheeks.

Lily rolled her eyes and told Fanny, "they are always playing pranks on that boy, and they somehow always get away with it." When she saw the look on Fanny's face, she hastily added "don't worry, he's a bad seed, quite deserves it." Fanny didn't judge right away, she didn't really know any of them. But she did know what it was like to be on the receiving end, and she couldn't completely suppress a sickly feeling in her stomach and a trace of aversion towards the pranksters.