Mernom: Borgin and Burke's was the first shop Hazel looked in because it was the closest to the dead-end where she spent the night. Of course, from what I remember it is actually fairly close to the junction between Diagon and Knockturn anyway. Didn't really take long for Hagrid to get Harry from B&B's to Diagon proper, after all.

kgfinkel, Gremlin Jack: I can't just show Hazel sending a letter to McGonagall and then have them meet in the next chapter! Not only do the owls need time to travel to Scotland and back, there is also the narrative flow to consider. Hazel doesn't really comprehend the impact her status as GWL has in Wizarding Britain, so when she wrote the letter to McGonagall, she considered the matter over and had no reason to wait for a reply. I can convey both of those by putting a chapter between the first letter and the meeting while Hazel is off doing other things.

sappy3: There were only two shops on Knockturn that struck Hazel as being malicious in nature. There were a few other stores, but honestly deeper down Knockturn it was just houses or at least buildings without obvious signage. As for the lack of people, Hazel gets to ignore the occasional person or group of people when she is wrapped up in her ignore-me smoke. Ignores them narratively, that is.

Dadycoool: There are a couple of reasons (universally speaking) that our relevant Harry-analogues seem to be forced to go to Hogwarts. Part of it, the entirely OOC part, is that there is so much of the story that is tied up in Hogwarts that it feels kind of like a waste NOT to go there. Then there is the combined IC/OOC elements of wanting to see the culture clash between the new-for-the-story way and the original canon way of doing things. Finally the fully in-character reasons, that the characters in power WILL absolutely force the issue if pushed.

BUT! Long, long ago, I said I had three reasons for making Hazel mute. Now I can finally reveal the third and last reason, which is one of the same reasons I had her make a staff for herself: it is a hard block to keep this story from turning into yet another "Harry/femHarry in Hogwarts with a couple extra parlor tricks". She'll have to keep learning and exploring in new and unusual ways because I intentionally made it impossible for her to just pick up wizarding magic.

TekoloKuatli: A second familiar? But don't you remember that real wizards and witches only ever have one at a time? SURELY I wouldn't go about giving the baby druid yet more animal friends…

Chapter 29
First Contact

Hazel wriggled deeper into an overstuffed armchair in the corner of the Leaky Cauldron pub as she watched the clock. Watched the clock and munched happily on the breakfast she was sharing with Morgan, that was. She had only a few pound notes, but even though she had watched the wizards pay for things with silver and in one notable instance gold coins, the wrinkled and bald bartender had – after a brief explanation – been willing to take her normal money instead. Apparently the big white building she had noticed at the end of Diagon Alley was a bank run by goblins of all things, and part of their business was exchanging British money for wizard coins. Most shops would not accept British notes directly, but the bartender Tom had more experience with Moldus – Muggles, she needed to get that change of terminology straight in her head – than the average wizard and so was used to handling both kinds of currency.

It meant that for the first time in literally a year, she was eating food she had paid for instead of stealing or receiving by dint of being a guest in someone else's home. She would not be able to do that for more than one or two good meals based on how many notes she had left, but it was nice change of pace.

The clock above the mantle chimed nine o'clock, and the fire flared green. When it died down, a woman stepped out of the fireplace and stood straight. She was middle-aged or thereabouts, the first hints of crow's feet visible at the corners of her eyes yet somehow doing little to soften her stern features. Her hair was long and dark, similar in color to Hazel's own, but most of it was hidden under a tall, pointed witch's hat. Her robes were thick, dark green, and layered. The layering proved important when the woman removed the outermost robe and made it disappear from sight with an almost negligent flick of her wand.

A flick that was not accompanied with any spoken words. The sight made Hazel's eyes narrow thoughtfully. That was… interesting.

"Where would she be?" The witch thought as her eyes swept over the room. Hazel's gaze met her own, and those blue eyes blinked in surprise. "What in the world is she wearing? Miss Potter, I presume?" Hazel gave her a nod, and finally a small smile peeked through the woman's thin lips. "Good morning, and an early happy birthday. I am Minerva McGonagall, deputy headmistress and Transfiguration professor at Hogwarts. It is a pleasure to meet you."

A wave of her fingers was Hazel's response, part of her thoughts caught up in surprise. It was the thirtieth of July today, wasn't it? She honestly had not been keeping track.

"A quiet one, I see. That is a surprise. May I sit?" Professor McGonagall asked even as she pulled out the other chair sitting at the small table Hazel had commandeered for her plate of scones and cream. "The same for her appearance. I honestly expected her to look more like Lily. Her eyes do, and her hair looks too much like James's for a young lady, but the rest of her? Her face is thinner than either of theirs were at her age, and how did her features get so sharp at eleven years old? I hope they soften as she gets older, for her own sake. If I was not planning on seeing her here, I might not have recognized her at all.

"Your letter caught me by surprise, Miss Potter," she continued, unaware of the wounds her thoughts were tearing in Hazel's chest. That was… not what she expected to hear this morning. "It is extremely rare that young witches decline an acceptance letter, most of them coming from the most backwards of families who would rather homeschool them in the duties of a wife and mother rather than giving them a proper education. You might not realize this, but Hogwarts is the premier school of magic in Great Britain, and one of if not the greatest magical school in the world. We only take the most capable of young wizards and witches, and when they graduate our students are without fail the ones who rise to the highest positions in our society. There is no school in this country that could give you a future as bright as Hogwarts can."

The barrage of words, delivered almost as if by rote, washed over her leaving little time to take them in, let alone respond. Seeing her overwhelmed expression, Professor McGonagall's smile turned fixed and stiff. "Right, she is just a child. She would not care about the same things as the Muggle parents I've been visiting all summer. Not to mention, it is at Hogwarts that you will undoubtedly find the closest friends you will ever have. You will be surrounded by other children your own age, each with the same gift you have."

Part of Hazel wanted to huff and roll her eyes at that. Unless there were other druids in Hogwarts, that was something she doubted. The thought almost caused her to miss Professor McGonagall's next words. "It was her Muggle aunt and uncle we left her with, wasn't it? I think so. She had no doubt never met another witch or wizard until they brought her here."

Hazel's eyes fixated themselves on McGonagall's own, and her hands gripped her knees tightly. This woman had done what?

For years, years, she had been stuck with her aunt and uncle in a house where she was hated and feared and thought of as a burden they wanted nothing to do with. She had wondered that entire time why she was stuck with them instead of being taken in by her parents' friends. That confusion had only increased when she learned that both her parents were part of the wizards' world, a world that wanted nothing at all to do with the mundane population. And this woman had been the one to leave her with her aunt and uncle?!

Except not just her, not based on her thoughts. We left her; that was what she had thought.

The professor immediately noticed her renewed focus, but it was obvious that the woman had also mistaken the reason considering the smile she now gave Hazel was filled with renewed warmth. "I met my own best friends when I was a student. I grew up with no other magical friends, much like yourself, so being with other people who were just like me? It was wonderful, and those friendships have only continued and grown stronger even after we graduated. There is nothing else like it.

"Are you all right, Miss Potter?" McGonagall asked after almost a minute without a response.

Hazel took a deep breath and pushed her shock and her disbelief and her anger to the side for the moment. That was something she would need to unpack, but later, not now. Dealing with the Dursleys in anger had never gotten her anywhere. The same could be said for her interactions with humans in general, honestly. 'We still have a problem,' she finally wrote.

"That is an impressive trick, Miss Potter," McGonagall said, her voice for some unknowable reason holding what sounded almost like pride. On what grounds did she have any right to be proud of what Hazel had accomplished? "But I don't see what you mean. What problem are you talking about?"

Eschewing words for this, she decided she had a better demonstration. She lifted her head enough that she could clearly lay two fingers on the puckered scar than ran across her throat, then she pointed at her mouth before shaking her head. Confusion was rampant in McGonagall's expression and thoughts, so with her hand still shaking with repressed emotion she wrote her point as plainly and bluntly as she could. 'I'm mute.'

"Mute?!" McGonagall exclaimed only to immediately look around. No one was obviously reacting to her own yelp, but nonetheless she pulled out her wand again and waved it in a complicated motion while muttering under her breath. "There, that should ensure we have privacy. I probably should have done this before we started talking at all, but how was I to know this?! I apologize for my reaction, Miss Potter, but you have me at a disadvantage. I need to know, how long have you been unable to speak?"

'For as long as I can remember.'

The woman's lips thinned even more than had been before. "How is that possible? Surely someone would have noticed that. Did it happen after we gave her to her relatives? But she pointed at the scar You-Know-Who left, so is this still all caused by the curse? If so… I would need to ask Poppy, but wounds left by dark magic are supposed to be all but impossible to heal. I understand your concerns now. I don't know if we've ever taught a mute student, even."

Hazel just nodded before adding, 'Mr. Ollivander told me if I can't say the words, learning wizard magic will be impossible. There is no point in me going to a school where I can't learn anything.'

"Oh Merlin, I can already imagine Albus's reaction to that. Fudge's, too. The Prophet would have a field day, probably the only people who would enjoy it." Her expression froze. "No, not the only ones. It is going to get out that she is mute eventually, of that there is no doubt, and when it does? How many Death Eaters who bribed their way out of prison would choose to try their luck with a little girl who doesn't know any magic and can't even cry for help? She needs to be within Hogwarts's walls for her own safety if nothing else.

"I would not go so far as to say impossible," she finally said out loud. "Not theoretically, at least. Children learn spells with incantations first, as I am sure he told you, but they are not strictly speaking necessary. Any spell can be learned and cast without saying a single thing. In fact, in the last two years students have to learn to do just that. Few have the dedication to learn most of their spells nonverbally, but that is not the same as saying that they cannot do so. In fact, for all I know it might just be that most of them do not have the motivation to do so. This girl is a very different story.

"So impossible? No. It will certainly be more difficult, but if you are willing to put in the work, I am sure you can achieve it. I would expect nothing less from the daughter of James and Lily Potter."

'And all the books that say that spells can't be cast without magic words?' she asked. She already knew that those books were wrong, or at least only accurate when it came to wizard spells, but she could not help but wonder what the professor would say to this and if she had come to the same conclusion Hazel had. No matter how much the revelation from earlier still rankled.

"All the books? What has she been reading? I do not recall there being that much extra magical theory in Beginner's Transfiguration or the Standard Book of Spells, but I suppose if she has just been devouring her textbooks… There is no difference between an incantation that is spoken versus one that is thought," McGonagall said in a confident voice.

Leaning back in her chair, Hazel closed her eyes to think. McGonagall's thoughts held no lie. She had ulterior motives, of course, but they were not enough to cause the woman to speak falsely. She truly believed that Hazel's inability to speak would not be an unconquerable hurdle to learning wizard magic the way Mr. Ollivander assumed. Just as he was an expert in his field, did McGonagall know better about the teaching of magic than he did? Would she and her fellow professors be able to think of strategies that she could use to work around her limitations?

Knowing McGonagall's past actions was a strike against her, but… It was not as if she had any evidence that any of the other teachers were involved. All she knew for sure right this moment was that there was one member of staff she would find it extremely difficult or even impossible to trust fully. It was not necessarily a black mark against everyone, though, and how could she ask people to see her for herself if she was unwilling to give them the same courtesy in return?

Although the possibility that a dead man's followers would hold a grudge against her ten years later was something she would have to think about later because just why?

Not to mention, she had spent the last two days worried that she would only ever be half the sorceress her mother was. Did she not owe her mother's memory at least an attempt to add wizard magic to her repertoire? That she did not carry a wand – could not and would not, if Mr. Ollivander's statements about her staff were true – was sure to be a hurdle, but that was not something she was going to address with McGonagall now. Not while his shop was just down the street. She had experienced what teachers and other grown-ups could be like when they did not like the way she did things, how they would do whatever they thought was best without figuring out why she did what she did. She also knew that it therefore be far better for her to keep her wand issues a secret until it was a major inconvenience for any of them to try 'fixing' the problem.

Besides, she had already adapted wizard magic into a spell she was capable of; the fire-writing spell she was using to talk to McGonagall right now was the prime example of that. How many other spells could she develop with an example in front of her face and someone to ask questions of? Not only that, there was the other side of her heritage, the druidic heritage she had so far found no information about despite spending almost the entirety of the day before in the bookstore. If she could finally learn more about them and their way of working magic…

Her eyes opened, and fingers that had found her friend's breast feathers of their own accord rose to write what might just be the most important question of this entire conversation. 'Does your school have a good library?'

McGonagall gave her a smile that somehow seemed almost resigned. "I am going to lose her to Filius, aren't I? Our library is the largest in Britain. There is no subject you can think of that is not covered."

I will hold you to that. 'Very well. In that case, I would like to accept your offer to go to your school.' McGonagall's smile became more honest. 'How do I get there? And when?'

"The school term starts on September first. All students travel to the school from King's Cross Station here in London, specifically from Platform 9¾."

She blinked. 'Platform what?'

"Yes, you heard correctly. I am glad I thought to grab the ticket. Normally we don't have to worry about non-Muggleborns not knowing this, but she is an exception to many rules." McGonagall reached into her robes and pulled out a pale blue ticket that was absolutely covered in glittering gold ink. "This ticket serves no purpose on the train itself, but when you enter King's Cross the ink will start to glow. That glow will get brighter and brighter the closer you get to the entrance to the platform. It is hidden behind the illusion of a brick wall, and both the entrance and the ticket are charmed so that Muggles will not notice anything abnormal about them. When you get to the entrance, you just need to walk through the illusion, and you'll find yourself on the platform.

"Now, I do not have a copy of the list we mailed to you on me, but if you still have it, I can accompany you while we go shopping for your supplies. Thankfully I have no more Muggleborn meetings I need to worry about, and a couple of hours should not cut into my preparation time too much."

'That will not be necessary,' Hazel immediately wrote. She could already see two major issues with having the professor walk around with her. First and most obviously, she had no wizard money. Nobody needed to know that she would rely on theft to get her supplies, especially not someone who would be in a position of authority over her for seven years. The teachers at Little Whinging had made the consequences of authority figures knowing about even potential misdeeds exceedingly clear.

Second, McGonagall had placed her with the Dursleys and appeared to still believe that she lived with them. There was absolutely no reason to disabuse the witch of that notion. That part of her life was one she was more than willing to leave in the past where it belonged.

McGonagall did not look convinced, so she continued spinning a believable story. 'I have always preferred to go shopping on my own when I can. It lets me browse at my own pace. Besides, I am sure you have stuff that would be a better use of your time than follow me around from store to store.'

"She is not wrong. If you are sure…?" Hazel nodded several times. "Very well, then. If you find yourself unable to locate something or have any further questions later on, you know how to reach me by owl. Otherwise, it was a pleasure to make your acquaintance, and I look forward to seeing you in September."

Hazel kept a pleasant smile on her face and waved goodbye until McGonagall disappeared in the same flames that had produced her, and then the expression fell away as if it had never been. She flopped back into the armchair and glared at the remaining scones, her appetite forgotten. Well. I don't know what I was expecting, but that wasn't it.

Morgan chirped at her comfortingly.

She shrugged. It is what it is, I suppose. Now we need to worry about what we're going to do about school supplies. You know I don't like stealing any more than I have to.

Pulling out the list that had come bundled together with her acceptance letter, she stared at it for a couple of minutes before retrieving a pen from her satchel as well and started making changes. How's this look? she eventually asked, showing her work to him. I really only need one set of robes, not three, since I can clean them up just like I do the rest of my clothes. The hat can go, too. It sounds like it is just for appearance, so if they really want me to look like I'm wearing a hat I can just use my illusion spell the same way I did when I went to the Convocation. Surely a cloak doesn't need real silver of all things for fastenings, so I can take something cheaper and make it look right with illusions again if I have to. I should be able to find the telescope and scales and maybe some glass phials in one of those secondhand shops I saw either on Diagon or Knockturn. Plus we already know the wand is a wash.

Unfortunately, while it helps, it doesn't solve the problem, does it? Morgan sang her a confused song. I'm reducing what I need, but I still need some stuff. Plus there's this standard size 2 pewter cauldron and basic ingredient kit I need for the potions class, and I have no clue whether the ingredients I already have are part of this basic kit they want me to bring or how big size 2 even is. I'll need to ask questions of the shopkeeper, which means I need to buy them outright, which means I need to steal money.

She sighed. For some reason, stealing money always felt worse than stealing the actual items she needed. Was it because when she stole objects she could more easily convince herself that she was taking only what she needed and not a single bit more? Or because it was more direct, so it felt more like a decision that immediately impacted her life and survival? Regardless, that was not an option here, and that meant that regret and recriminations were only delaying the inevitable.

Morgan pecked gently at her cheek, and when she looked at him he fluttered down to the table where the list still lay. The reason for his concern was obvious, and this at least put a smile on her face. I saw the pet restriction, too, and you know what? They can deal with it. You're not an owl, but I don't care. McGonagall saw you, too, and she didn't say anything about it either. He did not appear fully convinced, so she had little choice but to pick him up and cuddle him. It was no hardship, either, of course. Don't worry, Morgan. I'm not replacing you with some smelly, haughty owl.

He tilted his head this way and that before finally chirping and fluffing himself up happily. She moved him back to his customary spot on his shoulder before looking over her half-eaten meal once again. The cream would not keep, but the scones themselves she could resume eating later. Shoving them into her satchel, she returned the now-empty plate and the remaining cream to Tom the bartender and wandered back out into Diagon Alley.

We need to pick the right target, she told Morgan. I don't want to steal from somebody who really needs the money. Better we take from somebody who already has a lot. They won't miss it as much. She leaned against a wall, wrapped securely in her ignore-me smoke, and settled in to wait. She had time, and eventually the perfect mark would come through. She just needed to be patient.

One hour passed. Then two. At almost the four-hour mark, interrupted only by a need to visit the lavatory, interest finally sparkled in her eyes. There was a small crowd forming at the entrance to the street, almost entirely women and mostly in their middling ages. In fact, they were almost mobbing whoever it was in the middle of the group. Pushing herself away from the wall, Hazel peered closer. It was a single man, obviously a celebrity of some kind and just as obviously not hurting for money. The bold purple robes and the hot pink inlays both contrasted horribly with his pale blond hair, but he did not seem to mind as he shot all the women a glittering smile.

He was just soaking up the attention, which suited her just fine. It meant she would have an easier time taking the bulging moneybag hanging from his belt in full view of everybody.

A spectral hand formed at his waist level, and Hazel shook her head as she directed her ghost hand to pull on the strings of the money purse. He really should take more precautions with his money, particularly if he was going to have it out in the open for everybody to see and try to take. The knot came loose, and her hand grabbed the bag and lowered it almost to the ground before weaving through the legs of the women still surrounding the wizard to bring it to her. The hand lifted the bag into her waiting satchel and vanished, and then she too made herself scarce.

Only once she was out of sight of the man did she pull it back out and examine it. The bag itself was an eye-searing yellow, and blue thread wove an extraordinarily complicated pattern on one side that only after a full minute of examination revealed itself to be a pair of monogrammed initials. Forget security. This G.L. person needs to have someone explain color coordination to him. But not me. I have the money I need, honestly way more than I need. We won't need to worry about stealing money again for a while, that's for sure.

But first, the apothecary! We have school supplies to buy.

Hazel crouched next to her heavy copper bowl, stirring carefully with a long wooden spoon. This was the same bowl the werewolves of Compiègne had given her as a going-away present, the kind they and she used to brew potions when needed as well as the occasional stew. She was not sure how the pewter cauldron she needed for school was supposed to be any better, but since she likely would not need the pot for a while, she had another use for it she could fulfill tonight.

Living in Little Whinging for so long had taught her the difficulties with being mute in a school setting, namely that it took her much longer to write out what she wanted to say in response to a question or to ask something of a teacher before they moved on to whatever else they were going to say. She needed a solution to that problem, and if her plan went, well, according to plan, she would have one. It would obviously do her no good if said teacher simply did not want to communicate with her, which had also been the case more often than not when she previously went to school, but she could not start Hogwarts with that kind of assumption in mind.

Yes, so far wizards had been little different in their attitudes and behaviors than normal humans, but she had to give them the benefit of the doubt. And if they did treat her no better than the staff and Little Whinging had, that was what the library was for.

Her fire-writing was a little faster than writing with a pen on paper, but she had not developed that spell with speed in mind. It was more a matter of convenience, taking writing materials out of the picture. Now that speed was something she was interested in, she had realized a flaw in her previous spell: she could only write as quickly and as legibly as her finger could move. It was a limit she was unsure how to overcome with her spell as it currently existed.

Instead, she was going to try something else. Elfriede had mentioned that some hags could use the Making to create objects with special abilities, and being a druid seemed to come with that talent by default. Her eyes landed on a fist-sized wooden sphere sitting on the floor of the empty and thoroughly abandoned hostel, the latest and – until tonight, at least – greatest example of said talent. Someone could at first glance would be forgiven for thinking it was nothing more than a simple and somewhat crudely carved shape, at least while it was off, but not now that ethereal red flames flickered around it and gave off a similar amount of light as the campfire she had used to harden and carve it in the first place. Portable light with no need to provide it fuel, shedding more light in a larger area than her electric torch, and being totally safe to hold in her bare hands as well? This had been a boon as soon as she made it during her trek to Greece.

And yet, she expected her current project to eclipse even that.

In the light of the campfire sphere, she tilted the bowl to check on the flour and water she was mixing into a paste. The Making relied on creating things with her own hands, and as such she had reluctantly had to lean harder into the arts and crafts she had never enjoyed or been good at while she was in primary school. Papier-mâché was something she remembered how to do, though, and after nicking a couple of things from a nearby rubbish bin on Komarsh Alley she was ready to try this experiment.

Because it was definitely going to be an experiment. It would be the second time she created an active artifact like the hags' Crafters did, and her last one was still based on something she had already seen, namely the quartz lamps she had helped Hedwig refill. This, though? It was something entirely new in that it was meant to improve and empower her fire-writing spell.

Judging the paste was at more or less the proper thickness, maybe just a little on the thin side, she picked up the bag at her side and shook it to loosen the sand-like ashes within. There was still the ever-so-slight touch of magic on these ashes that she had saved when she and Hedwig did the aforementioned refilling, and that was one of two outside bits of magic she wanted to go into her newest tool. She opened the bag and slowly poured the ashes in bit by bit, mixing to make sure they were both fully incorporated as well as that they did not make the paste too thick. When half of the ashes were gone and the glue was fully black, she nodded her head. That should be enough.

Now Hazel's eyes turned towards the pair of magical newspapers she had liberated from the rubbish and carefully cut into strips prior to mixing the paste. They were very obviously magical considering the people in the photographs and the text of the various advertisements contained throughout all moved of their own accord, which was actually exactly what she wanted. That element of change would hopefully make it easier to rewrite what the words of her fire-writing said into something else entirely if need be. Or if she just wanted to write out something particularly long.

As for why she needed two copies of the paper? It was the same reason she made so much glue. If the campfire sphere had taught her anything, it was that this was going to take time and likely several attempts. Steeling herself to start and almost certainly fail on the first such attempt, she picked up one of the strips of paper and dunked it into the pot of blackened paste.

Somehow, she had forgotten how complicated papier-mâché was in the years since she did it in school. It seemed like the paper strips were far more interested in twisting around and sticking to themselves, and trying to tug them apart again just made it that much more more likely that the pieces would tear. As the minutes ticked up into an hour and beyond Hazel all too soon surrounded herself with tiny piles of useless and unfixable newspaper scraps. The only benefit, legitimately the only single one, that she could see from all this waste was that it was taking her longer to add to her piles; she was getting a little better bit by bit at working with the paper from all the practice she was forcing upon herself.

That little bit of practice was not enough to push away the lingering and growing doubts swimming around in her mind, however. Maybe the vision in her head and the plan she had come up with to achieve it was just not feasible? In hindsight, what she planned to do was far more complicated than she thought it was going to be. Was there a different way to do this, one that would be easier to make? She wiped yet more goo off her hands onto a ratty tea towel before washing all that away into nothingness with her cleaning spell. A glance inside the pot showed she was almost out of glue, and she cast a worried glance at the remaining ash still in the bag.

She would finish off what she had, she decided. If she still had not finished it by the time she was out of glue, she would rethink her strategy. And practice, but with regular homemade glue this time. The thought to do that had crossed her mind before she started, honestly, but she had held off making things out of papier-mâché before starting on the real deal for two big reasons. First, thus far she had made her satchel, her knife, and her campfire sphere, and each time she had set out to make them she had managed it in the end without needing to stop and rethink it and start over from scratch. Her spells, yes; she had needed to go back to the drawing board a couple of times, with her star dart being the best example. But not with the Making. In some way, stepping backwards instead of pressing on felt almost like admitting defeat. That maybe she didn't have the talent with the Making that she wanted to have.

Second, one of the things Elfriede and Hedwig had told her during her stay with them was that the Making was an expression of will and purpose. In order to create magical items she had to want to make them, to hold them in her hands, and practicing until she could make a nonmagical copy in her sleep ran the risk of dulling that will. In fact, from the way they described the process it was not uncommon for dedicated Crafters to intentionally work with limited materials so as to put pressure on themselves to enhance their will. She had posed a hypothetical question to them about what would happen if hags had infinite resources at hand, and while they did not know for sure they suspected the power of the Making would actually be diminished because now there were no consequences to failing.

Perhaps her worry really was spurring her on, she considered as she continued working. The thin round shape she was working on was coming together more easily the less glue there was in the pot, almost as if it had decided to stop fighting her so much and start helping her instead. By the time she swiped a square of paper through the last dregs of glue, her vision, her goal, had finally come together.

Hazel carefully removed the thin black circle from around her left index finger and ever so delicately wrapped the last bit of newspaper around the rest of the ring she had put together. There. It was done.

Cleaning her hands one last time, she carried all the trash paper over to the fireplace, which she had previously filled with other bits of refuse. After dropping the wasted paper around the scrap wood and other newspapers that were too dirty or torn for her to use in her papier-mâché, she snapped her fingers and flicked the sparks that motion and her magic created to the various debris. A couple of more snaps and some gentle blowing later, and her little fire was burning merrily. She set the ring on the hearth to dry before returning for the pot. She then picked up her campfire sphere as well and gave it a small squeeze, which caused the ethereal flames to recede back into their wooden cage.

A plop onto the ground, and she stashed the orb into her satchel before starting to wipe out the remaining goop in the pot. It was, she had learned during her travels, actually easier to clean the pot out bit by bit and magically clean the towel than to try emptying an entire pot of gunk. Which might explain why the tenants on Knockturn Alley hadn't cleaned up their homes with magic, now that she thought about it.

Still, that was not what she should be focused on! Her ring was finished. If it worked like she wanted, which she could only hope was the case until it dried and she could test it out, she would be able to use her sparkler spell to write out entire sentences at once. Maybe she could change it after she wrote it, which would be nice, but having to rewrite things entirely would not be the worst thing that could happen. Whether or not she could change what was already written, it would still improve her ability to communicate to a degree she never would have imagined back when she was still living with her aunt and uncle.

And hopefully she could continue to find people who cared about what she said. That part, sadly, was still something very much up in the air.

As far as first impressions go, I have to say McGonagall KILLED it. Just not in the way she wanted to. Also as a general reminder before people decide to try jumping down my throat, the description of McGonagall in book 1 portrayed a woman much younger than the venerable Dame Maggie Smith.

Since I HIGHLY doubt I'll publish any more chapters until after the new year, an early Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone!

Silently Watches out.