Disclaimer: All characters, situations, names, etc. from the Harry Potter-verse are the property of J.K. Rowling and WB. I make no money from this.
Summary: In which Amy receives a letter, and the hurricane hits Cornwall.
Author's Notes: I know Glastonbury isn't in Cornwall, my geography's not that bad – just bare with me till next chapter.
A Snake Out of Grass
I had known I was special. Ever since I can remember, Dad had told me I was destined for great things, that one day I would be able to do things the other kids at school could only dream of. But don't all fathers say things like that? I had assumed it was a ploy, or the usual placating of a parent to their misfit child. Something else that had always been the same: I had always been different. I looked the same as everyone else, a small girl, skinny with boring, mousey brown hair that hung limp no matter how often I washed it. Making friends had always been tough for me. Dad had moved me around quite a lot, so I never got in with most of the cliques that had already been formed at primary schools. It was made worse by the fact that Dad liked the rural areas, the places where kids had grown up together, with their parents all knowing each other. There it was almost impossible for a new girl – especially one with a talent for trouble (Dad's phrase, not mine).
"Just like your Mum," he'd say fondly, after a meeting with a teacher or headmistress, wondering how all the windows had shattered or why it had started raining in the classroom. "She could never hold her temper either."
One day, though, I found out the truth.
"Need to talk to you, love," Dad said. His face was grim, and it was unusual for him to bother me when I was doing homework (It was the school holidays, but I went to an art class all through the year, and I was busy doing sketches of my own hand.) He was holding a small cream coloured envelope with a school crest on the back. I know he'd been waiting to hear from a couple of local comps, and another in the next town he was planning to move us to. But I hadn't met with any of the teachers at these new schools – I couldn't be in trouble with them already, could I?
Sullenly I followed him into the kitchen of our small flat by the sea, and sat at the dining table without speaking.
"This is a letter from a school I didn't … well, I wasn't sure. I mean, obviously you've got the right talent, but without your Mum…"
He trailed off leaving me completely perplexed. I looked more closely at the letter and saw that the name on it was 'Amethyst Boyd'. "That's addressed to me, Dad. Why did you open it?"
He looked puzzled for a moment, then rubbed the sharp stubble on his chin looking slightly abashed. "So it is. I'm sorry, Amy. I just saw 'Hogwarts' and went on and opened it - I didn't even look at who it was addressed to." I looked expectant, but he still didn't give it to me. "Just give me a sec," he said. "I'll give it to you now, but first… Look, you know how funny things happen to you?" I nodded, not looking at him but staring avidly at the badger, serpent, lion and bird crest on the envelope. Something was beginning to ring in my memory, and I only half paid attention to Dad when he said, "Your mother, Amy. It all comes from her. She was, well, special. I think that's what you'd say. And she went to a special school, for people who could make things happen. For people who could do … magic."
The word hung in the air between us as my eyes bore into his. "That bird on there," I said finally, accusingly. "It's an eagle. Like the one on Mum's old school tie." A few years ago, after I had made the teacher's chalk write rude words on the blackboard, Dad had been so amused he'd loosened up and we'd sorted through some of Mum's old things, previously banished to never-opened cardboard boxes. Her old school uniform had been in one, and I'd filched the pretty blue silk tie with the silver eagle on it.
"Yes, it is. I never knew your Mum while she was at school, but she said that there had been houses – like school teams, I guess. Well, she'd been an eagle."
"So that letter's from her school?"
Dad nodded mutely. Magic. That had been his word. It was a ridiculous notion for a girl who hadn't believed in Santa or the tooth fairy, or even God, since her mother had died – but it was also logical. Strange things, wonderful things, happened all around me, followed me like a second skin. Now I had to admit that they came from within me.
"Can I read it please?" I asked softly. Dad smiled. I'm not sure what he'd been expecting. Dad had never seen my pyrotechnic side the way the teachers at school had, and I think he had expected me to start blowing things up. He should have known better, really, but he was always a cautious man.
I took the letter from his hand and took the crisp sheaf of thick paper from inside. Its contents were written free hand in purple ink:
'Dear Miss Boyd,
It is my pleasure to be able to offer you a place at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Please find enclosed a list of required items and booklist, ticket to the Hogwarts Express and a reply slip. Term begins September 1st. Please send your reply by no later than August 17th.
Professor Minerva McGonagall
I quickly picked up the discarded envelope and upended it on the table. Dad grinned at me as I pored over the booklist and other included bits of paper. Finally I came to the reply slip, and for the first time looked back up at him, unsure.
"Well?" he said, as though the decision was mine. "Are you going?"
I considered the train ticket, turning it over in my other hand. "It's a boarding school, isn't it? What about you?"
Dad only smiled again. "I'm sure I'd manage somehow. It's your education that's important, and you'd be back for holidays. What about you?"
This was a very valid question. We both knew I didn't like being around new people. Accepting would mean being surrounded by them, every day of my life. But on the other hand, I could use my strange ability – I could utilise it, even control it. This was too tempting to pass up.
I quickly grabbed a biro from the stack on the bookcase and scribbled my signature on the reply slip. With a soft pop it disappeared, and I knew that there would be no turning back.
A week later I was busting to do something about the two lists sitting in my room. They were both now worn around the edges where I had so often pulled them out to re-read them, just to convince myself that it would really happen. At the time we were living in a small Cornwall village. Dad had received a letter from the school the previous morning informing him that there would be a school associate in Glastonbury on the 18th August to assist children from a muggle background in purchasing their school items. I frowned at the word 'muggle', to which Dad quickly told me, "Non-magical. Your Mum used to let that one slip quite a bit."
The 18th had arrived, so we both made our way into Glastonbury. It was reeling from the aftershock of the festival, and there were so many odd people about it was difficult to spot anyone who might be magical. Glastonbury being what it is, there were always people walking about with long beards and pointed hats. Our guide turned out to be quite a surprise. We had gathered at the assigned spot, and met with two other families waiting for the same person. There were three children: two my age, and one a couple of years older, who was already at Hogwarts but needed to pick up a couple of extra things. The two my age, Jamie and Bethany, both looked nervous and excited as myself, and I smiled at them experimentally.
Before they could smile back, a tall handsome looking red haired man came up to us. He wore a bright green, heavy looking hide jacket (I would say leather, but it looked too scaly), and faded black jeans. His hair was tied back in a ponytail and his grin was easy. "Mr Boyd?" he asked my Dad in an undertone.
"Yes, that's me."
"Bill Weasley," he said, holding his hand out. "Just wanted to make sure I had the right group." He turned to the other two families. "And this will be the McKenzies and the Prentices." He shook hands with all the parents and beamed at the kids. I liked him immediately, and not just because he was gorgeous. There was just something pleasant and homely about him. "Right, well I won't keep you in this wind. We'll get right on down to business. If you'd like to follow me I'll take you to Profeshen Alley, that's where you'd usually go for supplies in this area."
We made our way through the post-festival throng, gathering our coats tight around us to heed off the unseasonal blusters, away from the high street and down a dingy looking alley behind the shops. Bill looked delighted when he lit upon a disused bus shelter. It was like a very small shed built from brown bricks, and graffiti in red letters proclaimed it 'Property of Da Master Biatch'. "This is the spot," Bill said, peering inside the doorway.
"But it's an old bus shelter. There's not even a route that comes down this way," said Bethany, pulling on her black pigtails.
Bill just beckoned her towards him and, hesitantly, she slid in front of him to look into the bus shelter. Her mouth dropped open, and she looked up at him as though to confirm what she had just seen. "Mum! Come and look at this!"
Not just Mrs. McKenzie, but all of us rushed forwards to look into the bus shelter, effectively squashing poor Bill into one of its corners. "Alright, alright! One at a time."
It was incredible, and try as I might I couldn't figure out how it worked. One minute you were stood on the street, all wind and blackened bricks. But when you stepped into the shelter, it was as though one wall had been knocked down. Instead of looking straight into that same street, though, it showed a completely different one. Still blowy and dark, but full of strange people and shops. "Profeshen Alley. Wander at your will," said Bill, grinning at all our expressions of amazement and delight.
The eldest boy, Harry, strode off immediately, and his brother ran to catch up with him. Bethany was a little more cautious, taking firm hold of her mother's hand before dragging her into this newly discovered world. The rest of us were more leisurely. Don't get me wrong, I was desperate to explore, but I also didn't want to wander too far from my Dad or Bill. After all, I wasn't completely sure I'd see the way back once I was in that new street, and I'd never been good with directions.
Once we were out of the bus shelter it was a short walk down a thin alley to the main street and, I was relieved to see, the way back was clearly sign posted. "Why don't you go on ahead, love. I'll know where you are."
He handed me the booklist and some money. Before I set off I heard Bill say, "You'll usually need galleons, but it's close enough to muggle life here that the tradesmen will accept either. Make sure you get her some wizard money for the train, though."
I clutched the booklist, though I knew the titles and authors by heart now. The bookshop would have to be first. I followed Bethany and her mother into Watkins' Wizard Texts and Writings. The shop seemed cramped and disused from the outside, with paint peeling from the sign and grime fogging up the window, but once I stepped inside I could see how massive it really was. It was like a tardis! There was a sweeping staircase leading to floors marked 'Advanced Potions, Arithmancy and Herbology'. Over the counter was a large banner reading:
'Back to School!
All Hogwarts Set Texts Half Price
This Week Only'
I followed the large arrow, which switched between red, green, blue and gold, pointing towards the children's texts. There was such a wide variety, and I looked longingly at titles such as 'An Organised Appendix of Curses Through the Ages' and 'Concoctions for All Occasions'. This was the kind of place I could get used to.
Knowing that money was never free – literally – I picked up my set texts and, promising myself that I would come back for my birthday, left with only one treat for myself. "Wizarding Politics – A Thousand Years in A Thousand Pages". Not your average eleven year old, I had always been interested by politics, and something told me that wizarding politics would be a lot more than fox hunting bans and drug legislature.
We got the rest of my equipment together, Dad and I, with Bill tagging along most of the way. He and Dad seemed to have hit it off, and I thought I heard Mum's name mentioned once or twice, but I was too busy and excited to pay much attention.
Our two hours were drawing to a close, and we all met in the entrance to the alleyway, weighed down with bags and boxes. Dad carried most of mine, but I hung on tight to my bag of books and the box containing my wand (Eleven inches, ewe with unicorn hair centre, good for transfiguration). We were just waiting for Harry, who had met with some of his school friends and was just saying goodbye to them, when the wind suddenly picked up. I wrapped my coat tight around myself and clutched the bag which, even with the heavy weight of the books inside it, was lifting up as though trying to escape.
The other children and I frowned at each other and shrugged. When you live on the coast gusty weather isn't unusual. Bill, however, had drawn his wand. I heard him mutter to Dad, "Hang on here a sec. If you need to, get the others back into Glastonbury."
He gave us a false reassuring smile and sidled back down Profeshen Alley.
"What's he doing, Dad?" I asked, stepping away from the group a little to get a better view through the crowd, who were all hanging on tightly to their hats and scarfs.
"I don't know, Amy. Just stay here, OK?"
"I only want to see what he's doing," I said, shifting a little further away to keep Bill in my sights.
Someone shouted further down the High Street, something that sounded like, "Attack! Get inside!"
A lot of the people around just kind of glanced in the direction of the voice, but then there was an almighty bang and everyone either fell to the ground or scrambled for the nearest shop doorway. Dad shouted, "Jesus! Amy, get back here!"
But I didn't hear him. My mouth was hanging open in shock. With the street now effectively cleared, what had caused Bill's alarm was now plain for everyone to see. The high winds were emanating from three black-cloaked, levitating figures with stark white masks where their faces should have been. Their black robes flicked and swished in the swirling wind that surrounded and lifted them, and before them, a lone, red-haired figure stood, wand raised up to them.
"Get back to your hovel, blood traitor," said the foremost figure in a hollow, female voice.
"Someone fire the bloody Aurors," Bill shouted behind him, and another strange figure stumped out of a shop to join him. One of his legs was replaced with a claw-footed, intricately carved wooden leg, while the rest of him was covered in a long, red cloak.
He too raised his wand, and yelled at the figures, "Bugger off back to your hole before the Aurors come. There's no point in making a scene here."
"What are you afraid of?" said another figure, this time a man. "We want to share this wonderful place, show the filth the real Glastonbury."
They turned as one to the row of shops on one side of the street, the side where the alley leading to the bus stop was. Raising their wands, they all yelled a spell together, and bright light shot from their wands, creating a reflux wind so powerful it knocked me to the ground.
Dad's hand lifted me by the scruff of my T-shirt. "We're leaving. Now."
The other two families had already fled to the safety of the alley, if not further and, having no choice, I preceded Dad back into the muggle world.
Things weren't much better there, though. The wind was as strong as ever, but with no obvious cause. I looked up the High Street that ran adjacent to Profeshen Alley and saw that a tree had been blown into a shop front, and everyone was similarly cowering in doorways. The clouds gathered over the spot where the levitating figures should be, and bright wandlight flickered in the sky like lightening. For a moment I thought I saw them, thought they had broken the barrier that must separate the worlds, but then the lightening stopped and everything was quiet. The wind began to die and rain fell in thick, heavy drops.
"What the hell was that?" I asked, not expecting an answer.
"Death Eaters," Dad whispered. He didn't seem to notice that he'd spoken until he saw me staring at him, a blatant question in my eye. "We're going home," was all he said, and I obediently followed him, determined to get answers later.