Chapter 1 ~ The Train

"Ouch! Severus!" Muriel pushed her best friend hard. "You dropped it on my foot!" She took out her wand and pointed it at her trunk, levitating it into the compartment over their heads, wondering why he hadn't just done that in the first place. It was only a moment before she had her answer. Severus was blushing furiously.

"It would have been a lot more impressive if you'd just majicked it up there," she said in a maddeningly superior tone of voice. She heard him grumble. He hated it when she knew what he was thinking, which was all the time. His best friend had a rare gift that gave her the ability to hear the thoughts and emotions of those around her. At least, that's how her father explained it. Severus had long wondered if it was just him that she could read so well.

The compartment door flew open as the train started to move. "Is there room in here?" They looked up into the smiling face of James Potter, his hair wild around his head. For once, Muriel deferred to Severus' judgment and didn't answer.

Severus looked hard at the boy. "Potter, right?" Then, when the boy nodded, he said, "Yeah, okay, come on in." Muriel smiled. She knew that Severus' father had given him instructions as to who he could make friends with. Potter was on the list, being pure-blooded, as was the boy who followed him into the cabin.

"YOU!" Muriel hissed, standing abruptly. She wheeled on Potter. "Sev said you could stay, so you can, but this arrogant prat is NOT sharing our compartment." She pointed her wand at the quickly reddening face of Sirius Black. "I ought to turn you into a pumpkin right now!"

Sirius' eyes widened. She knew! He bolted back out the door, and managed three good bounds before someone had him around the ankles and he fell hard to the floor. "Oof!" Severus stuck his head out the compartment door to watch as Potter went to help Sirius. Muriel was already standing over him.

"Do you have any idea how embarrassing it is to have Lucius Malfoy perform a counter-charm for you when you can't even talk?"

Sirius rolled over fast. "It was an accident," he gasped. "I was trying to hit him, not you!"

"Was it also an accident that you left without telling anyone else the counter-curse?" For an eleven year old, Muriel Deesia was a frightening person. He groaned, but didn't get a chance to explain that when his mother said it was time to go, he didn't have a choice.

"You're lucky I didn't tell my father who'd done it, or your mum would've had you in irons all last year!" Sirius looked at her with wide eyes.

"You didn't tell?" he whispered. She lowered her wand. Potter, who'd been standing behind her, went to help Sirius up.

"No. I thought it would be more fun to pay you back myself. Watch your back this year, Black," she said quietly. She tucked her wand back into a pocket of her robes and walked back toward Severus, who was smirking in the cabin doorway. She winked at him.

"Her back is already covered, Black," Severus said harshly. Muriel turned to see that Sirius had finally gotten his wand out. Then she laughed and went into the compartment. Severus closed the door behind them.

"What was that all about?" James asked.

Sirius shrugged. "Long story." He'd only just met James on the platform, and wasn't sure if the other boy liked pranks as much as he did. The Potters didn't hang out with the same crowd as the Snapes, Blacks and Deesias. They headed down the aisle, looking for another compartment.

Muriel was still giggling quietly to herself as Severus sat down. "I can't believe it was Black. Why didn't you tell me before?" he asked sullenly. It wasn't like her to keep anything from him.

"I didn't know. It wasn't until he saw me that he thought about it and I heard him."

"Well, at least I know it isn't just my thoughts that you're stealing." Severus laughed. He hadn't been there for the Malfoy Halloween party last year, but Muriel had come home fuming because someone had turned her head into a pumpkin and run away. Lucius had fixed it for her so she didn't have to go back inside and show the adults. He understood how aggravating it was to be indebted to Lucius Malfoy for anything. The boy was insufferable. It didn't help that he was three years older than they were.

"Malfoy told me that we'd have to wrestle a mountain troll and win without magic to get into Slytherin," Muriel said quietly. "Do you think that's true?"

"Mother said something about a filthy old hat. She made me promise to wash my hair after the Sorting ceremony so I wouldn't get lice." Severus grimaced, then added, "I don't think that soft old fool, Dumbledore, would invite a troll into the school."

"Show me your list," Muriel said suddenly, holding out a hand. Severus produced it, scowling.

Avery Black Crabbe Deesia Goyle Lupin Malfoy Macnair Pettigrew Potter

"Good thing I'm on there, wouldn't you be in trouble!" Muriel frowned. "All these others are boys, though. I guess I'll just have to figure out who's safe on my own. Surely everyone in our house will be pure blooded anyway. I know if I were a mudblood, I wouldn't feel too safe sleeping in the Slytherin dormitories." They laughed again. Muriel wasn't too worried. Her mother had made sure that she was at all the important parties within her parents' circle of friends. She knew anyone who was worth knowing already.

They passed the train ride in silence. Muriel slept on one bench while Severus sat on the other, looking over his list. He knew why his father had listed only one girl.