Author's Note: Welcome to my first ever chaptered HP fic. Goodness, my palms are sweaty! This story takes place mostly during "Prisoner of Azkaban" but it will include some "Sorcerer's Stone" and Pre-Hogwarts flashbacks. Please take the time to review. I would absolutely love to hear from you. I hope you enjoy and thanks for stopping by to read!
Disclaimer: J.K. Rowling owns it all. I own nothing except for my OCs.
Chapter One-A Voodoo Vacation
August 23, 1993
Freddy ran up three flights of stairs to the apartment, her black satchel bouncing loudly on every step. A stitch clawed at her gut by the time she came to the third floor and she leaned against the moldy wall for a minute, panting.
"3 B," she mumbled to herself, "or was it 3 C? Bloody hell!" She reached into her pockets, uncomfortable in the Muggle jeans that showed the bulk of her hips. "Where'd I put it? Where'd I…?"
It had been rather stupid, she decided, to stop along by the French Quarter to window shop. She'd been running late as it was, having forgotten how to set the alarm clock in her Muggle hotel room. Oversleeping always made her feel sick and bloated and fat and now she stood in the hot hallway, sweating and swearing. Her nervous hands plunged into her pants' pockets.
Freddy could have torn the hair from her head and that truly would have been a task, considering the length of it. The unkempt plait swung straight down to her buttocks and as she jerked around, desperately searching for her directions, the braid snapped like a whip.
After a moment of frantic searching, Freddy paused to consider. Did she dare rush back to the hotel and try to send a message to Madam Paulina? It seemed a waste, having come so far to turn right back around and once more fight through the crowds of tourists visiting New Orleans.
Freddy dropped her satchel and kneaded her temples, hoping to ward off the inevitable stress headache. But someone down the hall was playing music rather loudly and the steely sound of a wash-board and button accordion made her cringe.
Last night she had enjoyed the lively Cajun music, but that was before she'd sampled a few local beers and downed shots with a male tourist who "totally dug" her accent.
Now Freddy felt nothing short of stupid.
She folded her legs and sat, tapping her fingers on her kneecaps and trying to remember just where she had written down Madam Paulina's apartment number. Freddy had promised to be back at Hogwarts by the end of August and she had lessons to plan, lessons that depended on her meeting with the renowned voodoo witch of Louisiana. If not, she'd have a horde of blank-faced third years and a dismayed headmaster to contend with and Freddy certainly didn't want to start the semester off on the wrong foot.
Last year had been bad enough.
A knot tightened in her chest, bringing her heart into her mouth for a beat or two.
Never mind that now, reason told her. A sensible woman wouldn't give the matter a second thought. And a smart woman wouldn't still be carrying around his picture in her wallet.
But, as always, Freddy couldn't help herself.
With a groan, she forced herself back onto her feet and rubbed her aching calves. The spirited music still drummed down the steamy hall and she glanced at the door. Unlike the drab walls around her, this door was painted pink with long stripes of blue running down the frame.
Freddy arched a curious brow. She'd never known Muggles to be so distinct, or creative, for that matter.
Ah, what for it, she thought, feeling more than a little reckless, unhinged by the careless attitude that governed the Big Easy's streets. Freddy approached the noisy apartment and knocked briskly. The music continued to throb, but the door jolted forward, snagged by a short chain.
An amber eye met hers and Freddy tried to smile.
"Hi." She even waved.
"Oh, cherie, why were you waiting out there in the hall?" Madam Paulina unhooked the chain and opened the door fully. "I heard you coming up the stairs."
"Sorry I'm late," Freddy gushed. "It was that Muggle bus. I couldn't get the hang of it."
"Of course." Madam Paulina nodded, her smooth, pointed jaw dipping down against her chest. "You'll come in and sit for awhile?"
"Certainly." Freddy bounced her satchel once on her shoulder and stepped into the apartment which was thankfully cooler than the hall.
She had expected the place to be exotic, judging from the articles she had studied on Madam Paulina and her noted talents. But her home was humble, similar to any English magical residence. There was a cream-colored carpet in the living room along with two overstuffed chairs and a picture of women dancing in grass skirts. The shelves were lined with jars, the contents rather mundane and familiar. Freddy had certainly seen stranger things in Snape's dungeon.
The adjoining room was likewise small, with a card table and four folding chairs furnishing the makeshift dining area. Two children were just finishing up a dinner of gumbo, biscuits and corn.
Freddy followed Madam Paulina into the living room and sat in one of the overstuffed chairs, her satchel now perched on her lap.
The renowned voodoo witch was regal looking herself, tall, slender, dressed in a purple robe with her hair swept up underneath a mauve scarf. A necklace of chunky turquoise beads banged against her collarbone.
"It's Professor Forbia Fotherby, isn't?" Madam Paulina asked with an elegant smile, waving a hand. The music, which had been blaring from a dusty radio, stopped.
"Uh, yeah. But you can call me Freddy, less of a tongue-twister." Freddy's nostrils dilated and she smelled the seductive scent of the gumbo. The biscuits were flaky and plump, perched in a green bowl.
Madam Paulina shooed her children from the table and fetched another plate. "Hungry?"
"Oh, I couldn't, really. Thanks anyway." Self-consciously, Freddy folded her hands over her flabby stomach. She'd gained a few pounds this year and was feeling uncomfortably overweight.
But Madam Paulina couldn't be swayed. She called her to the table and passed her a plate of seafood gumbo. Freddy felt her resistance slip and she tucked in.
"Your letter said you wanted to interview me?" Madam Paulina asked with a slight cough.
"Yes." Freddy swallowed a mouthful of shrimp and dabbed at her mouth with a paper napkin. "Well, it's not really an interview, but I'd like to learn more about your practice."
"Your students are interested?" Madam Paulina looked skeptical.
Freddy tore a biscuit in half and nibbled at the top. Over the years, she had learned just how furtive some wizards could be. They considered most of their spells unique, personal and weren't keen on divulging secrets. It took a while to get any of them to open up.
"I am," she said at last. "I spent a good month studying your work before I came. My students take my class to learn more about international magic. That's what we call it in fact, 'International Magic: It's Practicability and Practitioners'. From what I've learned, you are one of the foremost practitioners in North America. I think my students would like to know more about what you do."
"What I do?" Madam Paulina nodded again. "Oh, cherie, it's not what I do, really, it's how I do it."
Freddy detected a note of pride in the woman's voice. Quickly, she polished off the rest of the meal and refused a second helping. Picking up her satchel, she groped about for a quill pen, ink and parchment.
"Do you mind if I transcribe this?" she asked. "I like to write things down for my lecture notes."
"What sort of things?" Madam Paulina looked at her guardedly, the coffee-colored skin about her lips tightening as she coughed again. "What exactly do you intend to tell your students about me?"
"Good things, I assure you." Freddy sat back in her folding chair and crossed her legs. This would take some time. Most wizards and witches eventually gave way to a little flattery and Freddy had learned to stoke their egos.
Before joining Hogwarts' staff six years ago, she'd spent most of her youth rambling through Europe, the Americas and a small part of Africa. It had been a useless phase, or so her mother called it, another vile habit spawned by her slacker lifestyle. But despite her mother's disapproval, Freddy learned a fair bit about foreign magic and managed to scrape together a living when money ran low.
She still loved to travel and tolerated the teaching well enough. Yet without Madam Paulina's help, she would have little to offer her students this semester.
Freddy set down her quill. "I know this is all on short notice," she said, trying her best to sound sympathetic. "But I'd really like to know…well, anything you want to tell me. How does your magic differ from mine? Who were your teachers? What might I find in Louisiana that I wouldn't find in, say, Liverpool?"
Madam Paulina sat in silence for a minute and Freddy could hear her children rough-housing playfully in the other rooms. At long last, her hostess pulled a red handkerchief from out of her sleeve and laid it upon the table.
"This is what I use when I do my seeing," she said proudly, neck arched.
Freddy felt disappointment sink into her stomach, lying heavy like a cold, jagged stone. "Oh, divination." She tried to sound interested, but in her mind, all that seeress business was hogwash. "Can you tell me anything else? Have you adapted your spells and charms to suit your surroundings? How are Muggle relations in New Orleans?"
As anticipated, Madam Paulina slowly began to gave way. Unfolding her graceful body, she rose and snatched a few of the jars down from the living room shelves and let Freddy inspect them.
The ingredients were common, not at all out of the ordinary, but Freddy found Madam Paulina's application and technique completely unique.
"See, you have to harvest this from the swamp when the moon is only a quarter full." The voodoo witched overturned a yellow jar and dumped threads of moss onto the table. "Stewed with fresh pomegranate juice and spiced with currants and river-washed pebbles, ground to powder, of course. It makes an antidote to this."
Madam Paulina presented her with a suspiciously sweet smelling beaker. "My great-grandmother used to give this to sailors, made them fall in love with her and robbed them blind. They called her a pirate even though she'd never been to sea in her life!"
Freddy listened intently, rarely interrupting and taking notes. The steady scratch of her quill sometimes rose over Madam Paulina's voice, which after a while, had grown quite hoarse.
For that she took a cup of dried leeches from out of her kitchen cupboard, wrapped one in a bay leaf and chewed. This she spat onto her handkerchief along with a mouthful of red-tinged sputum.
Freddy recoiled, but was fascinated. "What's this for?" She spared a second to dip her quill pen into the inkwell.
"To read," Madam Paulina replied, her warm eyes widening.
The hairs on Freddy's neck stood on end and she tried to laugh, but managed to produce only a thin, moist noise. "Oh. In England we use tea leaves."
"So proper." Madam Paulina let her hands hover over the mess.
Freddy flicked the feather of her quill pen and felt nervous bile coat her throat. She hated this divination business, truly hated it.
Madam Paulina's body tensed, but then she fell back into her chair with a chuckle. "Did you buy anything in the French Quarter today, cherie?"
Freddy snorted and blushed a furious red. "No, I-"
"Because you've spent all your money already."
Freddy couldn't withhold a sigh. "That is true," she admitted at length.
Madam Paulina crumpled up her handkerchief and threw it unceremoniously into her sink.
Freddy decided she wouldn't stay much longer.
After professing her thanks and packing up her satchel, she promised to owl Madam Paulina and let her know how the students liked the lessons.
Madam Paulina escorted her out of the apartment with measured poise and when Freddy was on the other side of the door, the radio clicked on again.
An accordion chirped as a man crooned softly in Patois.
"Again, thanks," Freddy said, sweating already in the sweltering hall.
Madam Paulina touched her shoulder. "I hope you don't have him."
"Harry Potter." Madam Paulina reattached the chain to the door. "I hope you don't have him in your class this year. I know the very thought makes you sick. But I'm sure he didn't mean to hurt your Professor Quirrell, although you really should stop carrying his picture around. Good luck, cherie!"
The door slammed shut.