Harry Potter belongs to J.K. Rowling and various international publishers. No copyright infringement is intended and no money is being made from this work of fanfiction.

Secrets of the Stars

Few climbed her tower except when absolutely necessary. Why should they? It was a long distance to traverse repeatedly. Student rumors that the top of the tower was perfect for meeting a significant other were never more than a legend. Classes were held almost every night, and on the other nights Professor Sinistra was always there.

Amorous students moved elsewhere. Professor Sinistra never did. That tower was a prison as surely as Azkaban was, and she was an inmate. The only inmate.

She never had any favorites among the students; she was never a popular professor. If put to the question, perhaps only a handful of her pupils even knew Sinistra had a first name. Being the Astronomy professor certainly wasn't a glamorous or remarkable post, especially when one's students were more often than not half asleep.

Sinistra knew much more about them than they did her. Or at least, she knew a great deal about the Muggleborns. Their names, where they lived, who their parents were, what sort of grades they made, and, if she could manage, how their family was dealing with the reality of a magical child, and what happened to them after school.

In her thirteen years as Astronomy professor, Sinistra had seen three kinds of first-year, Muggleborn students: eager, weary, and frightened. Within a few months of Sorting, however, they all became one: eager.

Most would remain this way until the day they died in the magical wizarding world. Sinistra had been that way once, believing that the wizarding world could and would fulfill her every dream. Her parents had been supportive, wanting nothing less for their daughter than to be able to exercise her talents to the greatest potential. If magic was one of her talents, so be it; under no circumstances would they stand for their daughter settling for anything. If she wanted to reach the stars, her parents would do everything possible to make sure she wasn't tethered to the ground.

So Sinistra had gone to Hogwarts. She proved to be one of the brightest students in her House, one of the best in the year, actually. Never extremely popular, she nonetheless had a great deal of acquaintances and a few very close friends. For all intents and purposes she had a happy childhood and adolescence.

Ever since she was little, Sinistra had loved to watch the stars. There was a certain mysteriousness about them, like the night sky held every imaginable and unimaginable secret and was willing to let one take a peek at the wonders of the universe if only one was patient enough. One of her favorite things to do was to make up her own constellations: the Crooked Tree, Angels Wings, the Giant's Bowl. Her father and mother would laugh when Sinistra told them about the new constellations she had 'discovered.'

She wanted to know everything about the stars. Imagine her surprise and delight at knowing that Hogwarts would allow her to study the twinkling, heavenly sparks. Surely, surely the wizarding world, which was filled with so much knowledge and wonder, would know the secrets of the stars.

But class by class, week by week, term by term, and year by year went by and Sinistra saw no sign of hidden knowledge amongst the witches and wizards of her time. Yes, she learned the names of the moons of Jupiter and how to calculate the movements of the planets and the stars and how to identify constellations, but there was nothing else. The textbooks she used were simply repeats of centuries-old editions by long dead witches and wizards.

For the wizarding community at large, the few who did care about their celestial neighbors were crackpots convinced that the skies could tell their futures. Sinistra could not believe that such majestic entities were there simply to foretell the mundane aspects of human life. No, there was something more to the stars and planets, but she couldn't discover what.

So Sinistra decided that perhaps the Muggle world she had left was the one in which to investigate the riddles of the universe. Her desire to know the clandestine workings of the universe inevitably led her to universities, something which the wizarding world lacked. She had made good marks and would undoubtedly be able to gain admittance, and the Muggle world was on the brink of discovering remarkable things about the universe. Sinistra could envision herself being there as the secrets of the stars were revealed.

But from the moment her Hogwarts letter had arrived, Sinistra had been trapped. That was something that no one ever explained the Muggleborns. How on earth could one rejoin the Muggle world once one had forsaken it? Sinistra saw how effectively and thoroughly her life had been ensnared in a course she couldn't change when she tried to get into a university.

It was only six words in a box on her application, but those six words would forever bar her from the stars. Name and address of secondary school. Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, England. If that didn't get her application shredded, nothing would.

Sinistra spent her first year out of Hogwarts searching for a university, any university that did not require school records. It was a year spent denying that her dreams had died unknowingly seven years before when her Hogwarts letter had first arrived.

According to Muggle records, Sinistra had simply stopped going to school when she was ten. She had only a ten-year-old's grasp of Muggle history, of practical math, of how the Muggle government worked, of science and technology, of economics. Sinistra had spent seven years immersed in magic and now it threatened to drown her. Hogwarts prepared its students to function as adults in the magical community, not the Muggle one. And, in effect, it prevented Sinistra and other Muggleborns from ever returning to the world of their birth.

That was the ugly, hidden truth of the Hogwarts letter. Few Muggleborns ever discovered it, but for the few who did, it was a nasty shock. Not everyone discovered the secret as Sinistra did. Most discovered it in the drifting away from parents, siblings, and friends. For those like Sinistra, whose dreams lay outside the wizarding world, it was particularly devastating.

Sinistra was kept from drowning by Headmaster Dumbledore. Somehow, he knew that this young, Muggleborn woman had a deep passion for the universe.

"Professor Estcel is retiring this year," he said. "I would like for you to take his position as Astronomy professor, if you are willing."

So Sinistra settled for the lackluster position. She began teaching her students about the movements of the planets and stars, never expanding her own knowledge of her forgotten dream. The students yawned and dutifully memorized the moons, sleepily grateful when she let them leave.

No student ever knew how much interest she had in the Muggleborns, how desperately she wished they would never find out what she had learned about the stars. Let them be content with the world they know now. Confinement could be born more easily if one never knew one was trapped.

Sinistra would linger for a long time after her classes left before going inside to plan lessons or grade essays. As Astronomy professor, her sleeping schedule had been thrown completely opposite of what everyone else's was. In good weather she would grade and plan by the celestial light.

She would always take time to gaze at the stars, no matter how much work she had to do. It was funny, really, how the stars never seemed to get any closer no matter how much one longed to touch them, like a key just out of reach.

And it was eerie, too, how they formed the unmistakable constellation of prison bars.

Author's Notes—

Many thanks to sophialark, my beta who puts up with endless procrastination and my starting over of many fics.

Comments, criticism, etc. are all welcome and wanted.