I knew it was going to be a horrible year the night everyone got to Hogwarts. Helen, Lily, and I were walking from the carriages to the Great Hall when Fabian Malfoy came up behind us, whistled in the patronizing way, and said, "Damn Mackenzie, I really missed seeing your ass over the summer." You understand why I whirled around and flew at him, I know you do. Well, in case you don't, I'll explain. First of all, Malfoy is the biggest jerk ever. Second of all, he knows I have an extremely short temper and loves to set me off. That whole scene was a rererererererererun; it had happened exactly seven times the year before. Third of all, because of those reasons, I really enjoy hitting him. He usually thinks it's funny, until I get a good punch in. He won't bother me for a couple weeks after that. My three older brothers taught me how to fight. I may be 5'2", but I'm dangerous. There are downsides to being a formidable fighter though... girls are kind of scared of me. I really only have two friends, Lily and Helen, who are also Gryffindor sixth years. There are two other Gryffindor girls in our year, Fawn and Gemma, but they don't like me, and they're rather prissy and annoying anyway. Helen is a tomboy who is obsessed with Quidditch, and Lily is quiet and smart and loves reading. And James Potter, but don't tell her I told you, and above all, DON'T tell James. Lily would kill me. You wouldn't think she'd kill anyone, but that girl is my best friend, and she might be quiet on the outside, but really, she is capable of just about anything. Except putting the moves on James, even though he is totally mad about her. I honestly do not understand her.

So anyway, I turn and run straight at Malfoy. I get up enough momentum to knock him flat to the ground, so I'm on top of him (if you get the wrong idea from that, please go stick your head in a toilet), and I get a nice punch in on his jaw, and I'm drawing back my elbow for more, when I feel hands on my shoulders. Damn. I sigh and get up, then turn around to see who it is. McGonagal. Double damn. You think she'd be easy, both as a teacher and a disciplinarian, because she's about twenty-five, and a woman. Professor Sprout is like that, and she's all "Oh, you're stressed out? Here, have an extension on the scroll, I want you all to get enough sleep. Sleep is so important!" McGonagal is completely the opposite. But still, I figure I might be able to appeal to her female side. "Professor, he was sexually harassing me. He whistled at me and made a comment about my butt," I say.

Professor McGonagal frowns, but it looks like she might be covering up a smile. "Ms. Mackenzie, you were attacking him."

"I was provoked!"

She looks upward, as if I am trying her patience. "If everyone reacted to being 'provoked' like you do, this school would be a mad house. Detention, after school tomorrow. Meet me in my classroom, and I will tell you what you will be doing then."

Talk about a great way to start the year.

A bit later, we're all in the Great Hall, watching the first years get sorted. Helen's little brother, Lester, gets sorted into Gryffindor, and sits down next to Helen. He's the last kid to be sorted, because his and Helen's last name is Yonkos. Helen gives him a hug and I give him a noogie. Lester's a pretty cool kid for an 11-year-old. This year Lily and I stayed at the Yonkos' house for the week before school started, and I eventually earned Lester's reluctant respect by teaching him to fly a broom.

Professor Dumbledore says a few words (jingle, blubber, humdrum and sloop), and then we sing the Hogwarts song. The Great Hall is as beautiful as ever, with the magically suspended candles flickering cozily, and the ceiling speckled with stars and a few clouds that are covering the moon. Food appears on the tables: turkey, stuffing, roast beef, rolls, gravy, peas, creamed carrots, pasties, ham, caramelized onions, the spread goes on and on. I go straight for the mashed potatoes. After putting a large mound of mashed potatoes on my plate, I make a pool and pour some gravy in. Then I take some turkey and stuffing for the side. I dig in, focused on eating until I notice that food has started flying around the Gryffindor table. I love food fights! I load some creamed onions onto the serving spoon and aim them at Lily, who is sitting across from me. I let them fly, but she ducks just in time, and they land on the back of a Ravenclaw at the next table over. The boy turns and charms a green bean casserole to lift out of its dish and come flying toward me. I move sideways, but the boy adjusts its course and it hits me in the chest, splattering all over me. I laugh and dump stuffing on Helen's head. Lester decides to avenge my attack on his sister and pours gravy all over my head. I whitewash him in the enormous bowl of mashed potatoes. All of a sudden, all of the food, including what is on us, disappears, and we are left with empty plates and empty bowls. There is a collective sigh, because food fights are always eventually stopped in this manner, after Professor Dumbledore, the headmaster, has decided they've gotten out of control. I think that he secretly enjoys them almost as much we do, though, from the sparkle I see in his eyes.

He doesn't reprimand us, so Lily, who is a Gryffindor Prefect this year, and James Potter, who is the Head Boy, organize the first years, and we all walk up to the Gryffindor tower. James says the password, "camel hump", and we all walk into the Common Room. A fire is going, and the hearth is warm and comfortable, like the armchairs and sofas, and the red and gold decor. I go up to the dormitories as usual. I am not very sociable, and I don't feel comfortable hanging out in the Common Room, especially when Gemma and Fawn are there. Since they started crushing on the seventh year (then sixth year) boys last year, we've had an unspoken agreement that I can be left alone in the dormitory, and they'll stay in the Common Room.

Lily and Helen go up the stairs to the girls' dorm too, and I plop down on the bed that I've had for five years. "Addie, why don't you ever hang out in the Common Room?" Lily asks.

"I don't like it. It's crowded... and stuffy. Besides, Fawn and Gemma are always down there."

"You've got to get over your fear of Gemma and Fawn," Lily says.

I bolt upright. "I am not afraid of them!"

"You don't even want to be in the same room as them," Helen says. "I know everything they've done to you will never go away, but you could just ignore them."

I frown, but don't say anything.

"If you're not afraid of them, prove it," Lily says. She walks out the door, and Helen gives me a pitying smile and follows. I drag my butt off the bed and plod after them. Lily knows I can't resist any sort of challenges or dares; she can be quite conniving when she wants to.

The Common Room is just as I predicted it would be. Crowded, a little too warm, and everyone being all jolly and gregarious. Not my scene. I feel a prickle of sweat under my arms, and am glad I put on my Sheer Magic deodorant this morning. I settle in a corner, and watch. Lily and Helen are sharing an enormous overstuffed velvet armchair, and I flash them and "I'm here, are you happy now?" grin. Lily rolls her eyes and Helen gives me a little wave. I gradually relax, and my gaze drifts over to where Fawn, Gemma, and some seventh year girls are flirting with the seventh year boys: James Potter, Sirius Black, Remus Lupin, and Peter Pettigrew. Except no one is really flirting with Peter.

Sirius is probably the most sought after boy in school, although it's definitely a close race between him and James; girls are crazy for his sense of humor and his wild escapades; the sort of the "bad boy" of the group. Oh, and I suppose they like his looks too, even I must admit he has a lovely smile. The thing about Sirius, though, is that he knows he's a looker, which makes him a bit of an arrogant prick.

James is the smart, intellectual type, and he's also the Captain of Quidditch team, and Head Boy this year. James is a bit of a prat too, and half the time, he does anything Sirius tells him to. He wears glasses, but he's the type that looks really good in glasses, if you know what I mean. (A/N: see J. Crew catalog)

Remus is the quiet, shy, humble one, the one that would write you love poems and be totally romantic. I don't go for the whole romance thing much; poems have to be explained to me. I'd rather have an adventure or ride a roller coaster all day and then make out. Remus, even though he is the nicest, isn't as popular with the girls as James and Sirius (I don't get it!), but he definitely has a few admirers.

Peter is the chubby one, the dull one, the tag along, the one that doesn't fit in, and nobody has a crush on him. Still, he's part of the group that all the underclassmen admire, so that makes him cool in most people's books.

Fawn is fawning over James. (No pun intended, because when anyone else besides myself makes a pun, I usually hate it. One pun that I've now forgotten has scarred me for life: every time someone says "Bear with me", I always think of "Bare with me" and end up snickering, which usually gets people annoyed with me.) I glance at Lily to see if she's noticed. I can't tell if it's the firelight on her cheeks, or if her cheeks are burning, but my guess is that it's the latter. When Lily gets mad, her cheeks go almost as red as her hair.

I wonder what will happen. Fawn knows that Lily is completely in love with James (she wouldn't be able to share a dormitory with her and not know), and this will piss Lily off, because Fawn seems to be making a show of it, probably for Lily's benefit, knowing that slag. Last year, Fawn and Gemma decided that they would be mates with Lily, so that she could help them with their homework. So Lily was being nice to them, sweet girl that she is, and helping them with their scrolls, and then Fawn said something like "Well, you aren't going to be friends with them [meaning Helen and me] anymore, are you?"

And Lily said," Of course I am, and you can totally forget about me doing your homework ever again," so then they decided to hate her. They start being so mean and catty to the poor girl, whispering about her in volume that she could just know that she was being talked about, but not hear what was being said, and giving her dirty looks all the time. Lily is the kind of girl who will ignore this all day, but then cry into her pillow all night.

After a few days of this, and much encouragement to Lily to just beat Fawn and Gemma up, I decided that I would do it for her. First though, I verbally whipped them in a way quite uncharacteristic to my usual style, because I would rather just get to the fighting as quickly as possible. Gemma felt bad after that, and didn't help Fawn out, when, after feeling no remorse, she spat in my face and called me a freak, and I started hitting her. It was a good fight; I won't go into the bloody details, but after that, Fawn decided that she and Gemma hated me, too.

My year was pretty hellish after that. I was able to pretend for a while that the whole whispering thing didn't bother me, winking or blowing kisses at them when they'd give me dirty looks, but then they started spreading rumors about me. First it was that I was pregnant, but then Fawn got more clever, because nobody had believed that one, and spread around the rumor that I'd killed my mother. Now this one doesn't sound very believable either, but my mother is dead, she died of breast cancer when I was ten, and most people know that I don't have a mother, because my dad has been in Witch Weekly's Top 20 List of Eligible Bachelors for the Older Set for three years running; he's pretty well known as a Quidditch commentator and retired Quidditch player. Fawn was spreading around the rumor that I had lost control of my temper, and my unrestrained magic had pushed her out of a third story window. I do lose control of my temper (a lot), but I just hit people. But I am violent, so I guess people believed it. Or at least believed it was more possible that me being pregnant... who would want to have sex with me?

The rumor changed the way people looked at me; they started looking scared when I looked at them, and it made me even more antisocial than I had been before. Lily and Helen were the only ones who stuck by me. It made my whole year awful, until I finally told my dad about it in a letter, and he wrote a letter to Witch Weekly, "in response to the rumors in the Wizarding World", saying that his wife had died of breast cancer, and coming from my dad, of course it was published. The fearful looks of the Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws changed to timid, apologetic smiles, and I smiled back at them, just glad that the rumor had gone away. The Slytherins were still mean to me, but that's just reassuringly usual, and of course, Fawn and Gemma were mean to me too, but nothing they could have done would have been worse than everyone believing I had killed my mother.

I see Lily look over at James and Fawn again. For someone who tries to deny that she likes James, she is really possessive of him. Fawn is now perched on James' lap, talking to him closely, in a way that makes it nearly impossible for him not to look down her extremely low cut robes. I look back at Lily, and see her face fall, and then without stopping to think, I make up my mind. I take a breath, not to think it over, although there is a small voice in the back of my head, saying, "Maybe you should count to ten," but to gather my confidence. I stride over purposefully and slap Fawn's face. I'm a bit embarrassed about fighting like a girl, because really, slapping -- can you get more sissified? I wasn't able to punch her, though, because she was sitting down, and wasn't at my level, and I wasn't going to say "Get up and fight me!": one, because it sounds totally lame; two, because I'm not one to use my words when I can hit someone instead; and three, because, to be honest, I wasn't in control, and I don't know what would have come out of my mouth if I had tried to talk. Probably "Gight up and fet me!" or some other garbled phrase.

The slap worked the way I had planned, and Fawn stood up and grabbed my hair, pulling it aggressively. I hate fighting with girls. Next thing you know, she'll be biting me, and tomorrow I'll have marks from her French-manicured claws up and down my face. Everyone in the Common Room forms a circle of about four meters in diameter around us, and that restrains either of us from running away. Not that I would ever run away from a fight. I kick her in the shins, and she lets go of my hair, but gets in a slap across my face. Okay, enough of this. I punch her in the face, aiming for her nose, hoping to break it, but she moves at the last millisecond and I hit her eye. Excellent, that will be nice and dark for a month. To even it up, I go for the other eye, but before I make contact, she steps back and pulls her wand out of her pocket. Oh great. I like hitting people, but to tell the truth, I really don't like dueling at all. It is so much more satisfying to get that fist against skin contact.

I reluctantly take my wand out of my pocket, and at that moment, "Expelliarmus!" is shouted by two male voices. We both fall backwards on our butts on the hard tiled floor, and skid for about a meter, forcing the Gryffindors in the circle around us to step back quickly. My butt is definitely going to be bruised tomorrow. I watch my wand fly over to Sirius Black, while Fawn's goes to James; the Gryffindors who are watching go back to what they were doing before the fight. I stand up solemnly and march over to where Sirius is sitting in a red and gold brocade armchair. I put out my hand expectantly, and his mouth turns up into a lopsided grin, and he gives me this look, as though he can't believe that I think he will give me my wand back after that.

"Oh come on," I protest. "I've had my two fights for the day. I promise I will not try anything else tonight."

He laughs openly at me and I glower at him. "I will give you back your wand in the morning," he says with an air of benevolence.

"Wonderful," I say, my voice soaked with sarcasm.

He says, softly now, "You aren't afraid that Fawn will turn you into a mouse while you're sleeping, and then bring you to the Great Hall tomorrow morning and feed you to her owl?"

"Is that what you're afraid of?" I ask in a belittling way. Sirius looks surprised, probably because everyone else in the school treats him with the veneration he has come to expect, being the demigod he is. I consider what he has said, and decide he's probably right. I sign defeatedly. "Thanks for your concern," I say sarcastically, turning and making my way up to the dormitories. It's probably best that I appear asleep when Fawn comes up, so I at least don't have to deal with her tonight.