As I sat down in the first empty seat I came to, I took a deep breath and slowly let it out with a small whistle. This was it. I was finally here, on the way to my first taste of independence. I knew it wasn't much, and it wasn't all that special, but even the name of my school sent a glimmer of joy down my spine and through my stomach. Tomorrow was my first day at my new boarding school: Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry.
I had never considered going to a school for magic before, especially one in England. Neither of my parents were particularly magical in any way. A Muggle-born (as many wizards and witches referred to me during my long hunt for school supplies) like myself was not uncommon at all, but I still felt out of place. I didn't feel like a witch at all! I sighed and stretched my arms out in front of me, trying to release the tension in my chest and the knot in my stomach. It didn't help, so I just slid over to a window seat to watch other people get on the train.
I was surprised at how normal all the others looked. I thought a school that taught magic would have had a more, well, motley bunch of students. But these students looked a lot like those of my old schools. Some were mean-looking, and some were nice-looking. Some were tiny, and others, huge. Most of the older ones were independent, while many of the younger ones waved tearful farewells to their parents. Maybe magic school was just like elementary school, just with magic. Maybe here, I could be normal. I doubted it.
"Hi," someone said happily, though she also seemed rather timid. I looked up at her and gave her a small, halfhearted smile. "Are all these seats taken, or is there room for me here?"
"Oh, go ahead and sit down," I replied tonelessly, gesturing at the seats around me. "I'm not saving these seats for anyone." She obliged excitedly.
"I'm Schizi," she sighed, smiling slightly. "I'm from Baltimore, Maryland. You know, in the US."
"I'm Shini," I replied, my voice tinged with sarcasm. "I'm from our nation's capital. We're practically neighbors already." Schizi didn't reply, and the small smile that had been steadily growing fell off her face completely. She began to play with her wavy, brown hair nervously.
"Maybe I hurt her with my sarcasm," I thought. "I really need to stop doing that."
"So," I said out loud, "what got you in here? Any superpowers I need to know about, you know, to keep me on my toes?"
"Well," Schizi started, before falling silent again.
"What?" I snickered. "I won't laugh at you. You didn't blow up a house, did you?"
"No, that's not it," she frowned, shaking her head violently. "It's much worse. I'm a werewolf."
"You know, somebody who goes and turns into a wolf, howling at the moon and ripping people to shreds? That's me."
I scoffed. "I know what werewolves are. I just didn't know they existed!"
"Well, now you know," she muttered. "I shouldn't have told you. Now you'll just avoid me, like all the others. Nobody wants to be friends with a werewolf."
"This is a magic school," I insisted, exasperated. "If you're a werewolf, I'll bet there are more here. I'm sure it won't stop you from being friends with anybody!"
"Well, why are you here?" Schizi interrupted suddenly, her deep, wide brown eyes very close to my blue ones. "Do YOU have any special powers that we should know about? Are you cursed, as I am? Have you suffered one lost friend after another, as I have when they found out about my 'condition'? I bet you have tons of friends back at home!"
"None," I whispered, my gaze steady against her own. "They're all afraid of me, you see. Every time I get close to someone, bad things begin to happen. First, they get all cold inside, just from the proximity." I paused for effect. "Next, their physical strength slowly ebbs, as if I drain it from their very souls. Then, their souls begin to shudder, though their bodies remain motionless, and the bonds between body and soul start to break away." I gave her a minute to let it all sink in. I knew that as I was telling her, she could feel my very words beginning to take effect. "So, does that answer your question?" I purposefully looked away in order to let her recover from the ordeal. Stupid soul-stealing eye contact.
The train began to move, but I ignored it. Almost instantly, the door to the train slid open, and a bright-eyed, freckled readhead walked in. "Hey, are there free seats in here?"
"Yeah, feel free to sit down. It's just the two of us." I replied, feeling generally blase. I hoped the two of them would be friends, because they definitely wouldn't want to be friends with me. Though I minded my solitude, it was assuaged by the opportunity to watch others have friends. Eventually I'd find someone who wasn't afraid of me, or who wasn't affected by my cold gaze. Eventually, I'd have a friend. Until then, I was content just to watch.
"This is Schizi, and I'm Shini," I offered, trying to be friendly. It was particularly difficult for me. "We're both from the United States."
"I'm Ginny Weasley," the readhead smiled shyly. She shook hands with Schizi and turned to me. "I'm just from England. I've never heard of any American students at Hogwarts before!" She offered her hand to me.
"I'm only here for the one trial year," I shrugged, considering her hand dubiously. I didn't know if I should shake it or not. "After that, the school will decide whether or not I can return. I think it's a special program for Americans." Gritting my teeth, I shook her hand abruptly and quickly returned it to my lap. Ginny's expression changed from geniality to shock as my icy touch registered in her brain, and then the shock on her face was forcefully eaten away. She was a pretty good actress.
Obviously, Ginny chose to sit next to Schizi. A person with tousled hair and a bewildered face was much less scary than one whose very gaze and touch were enough to steal one's soul, after all.
"I'm also just here for my first year," Schizi frowned. "Neither of my parents have any magical powers, and I'm only here 'cause I'm a werewolf."
"You're--you're a WHAT?" Ginny flinched so much that she fell off the seat, and her scream was so loud that I was sure everyone in the next car could hear it.
"What, is that bad?" I asked.
"Of course it's bad! Werewolves kill people! I mean, they're not all bad, but it's still bloody stupid to go around telling people that you are one!" She gulped. "Maybe in America, it's different, but around here, werewolves keep to themselves, live on the streets, and attack people every chance they get. Don't tell anybody else, okay?"
"That's really stupid," I spat. "People shouldn't hate others just because they have special...er..." -I fumbled for an appropriate word- "abilities. Something that makes you different doesn't necessarily make you bad."
"Well, I know that!" Ginny exclaimed. "But most people don't! Even if you are a werewolf, try your best to keep it quiet. Most people won't let you live it down. It's my first year here, and even I know that!"
"If they see who I really am, won't they realize that there's no reason to be afraid?" Schizi asked timidly. "The principal told me that he'd help me with my lycanthropy, so that it's not a problem for anybody. That's why I'm here, after all."
"You must mean the headmaster," I corrected, noting Ginny's puzzled look. "The school doesn't have a 'principal.'"
"Is the headmaster," Ginny confirmed.
I frowned. "Why does your lycanthropy need to be controlled, Schizi? Can't you just...NOT attack people?"
Schizi shook her head violently. "I completely lose control of myself when I transform. I never even remember what happens afterward!"
I nodded. "That stinks. I hate it when that happens!"
"What?" Ginny asked. "It's happened to you, too? Are you also a werewolf?"
"UNfortunately?" Ginny shrieked. "Being a werewolf is bad! Why is that so unfortunate?"
I gave a halfhearted smile and looked meaningfully in Schizi's direction. "If only I were a werewolf, my problems would be so much simpler. What I am is so much worse."
Ginny raised her eyebrows. "No, seriously," I continued. "You shook my hand. You must remember how cold my skin felt."
"It sent a chill right up my arm," she admitted. "It did scare me for a minute, but what's so bad about that?"
"And Schizi has already experienced it firsthand," I whispered. "She looked into my eyes. That's one thing you should never do."
"Why?" Ginny asked, immediately looking at my eyes. I felt her soul shudder and move toward me, and I quickly screwed my eyes shut to prevent any damage.
"That's why," I replied, my voice sounding dead and hollow. "I'm dangerous to those around me. I can't control any of my power, and that's why I'm here. I'm here because I scare people."
"I guess we're both sort of alike in that way," Schizi smiled timidly. "We're dangerous, and people are naturally afraid. Maybe we can try to be friends."
"Maybe," I agreed, "but it's going to take some work. It's going to take a lot of work, especially on my part." I paused for a few seconds. "What about you, Ginny? Will you be friends with us?"
"I can try," Ginny offered.
"That's probably as good as it'll get," I scoffed. "It's more than anyone else has done for me."
"And I'll do my best to avoid everyone when it comes to be my time of the month," Schizi offered, but she looked absolutely miserable. Ginny, however, thought it was the funniest thing she could have possibly said.
"Your time of the month?" she choked between huge bouts of laughter. "That's not the kind of thing you should discuss in public!"
Schizi realized the double meaning of what she had just said, and started to laugh herself. I managed a small smile. Though I didn't think what she said was all that funny, I did know that it was the first time in a number of years that people in the same room as I was could laugh, or even be a bit lively. I finally felt like I would be given a new life, a life I never knew I could have when I was home.