[Author's Note:]
Since the whole book is based around the works of Ms. J.K. Rowling, if her lawyers wanted to do so they could swoop down and take this novel. Not, of course, that they would want to.
This is a parallel novel of the first book (i.e. the 1991-92 school year). This DOES NOT change the story told in the The Sorcerer's Stone; the two works are NOT mutually exclusive. In fact, great pains were taken to make sure that nothing in my book contradicts anything Rowling says. (Thanks to Steve van der Ark; his Lexicon helped a lot.) This book is just a description of what else was going on while Harry was having his great adventures.
One note on reviews. I'm not a review-fiend who demands voluminous gushing at every chapter (although I definitely won't turn it down. :-) I do ask, however, that you leave a review wherever you stop reading to let me know why. A simple "I hate OCs" or "This is boring" will do fine. Thanks for taking the time.

***

Chapter One: The Girl from Dorset

On a muggy evening in late July, a brown eagle owl swooped into the kitchen window of the Parson house near Cerne Abbas, Dorset, Britain. It glided over a colander full of artichoke hearts and deposited a thick envelope on the counter; then, with a satisfied hoot, it sailed back out the window and disappeared into the hot twilight sky.

Beth Parson wiped her hands on a dishtowel and ripped open the envelope. Out fell two pieces of parchment inscribed in thin green ink. The first one read:

Dear Miss Parson,

Please note that the new school year will begin on September the third. The Hogwarts
Express will leave from King's Cross Station, platform nine and three-quarters, at
eleven o'clock.
Third years are permitted to visit the village of Hogsmeade on certain weekends.
Please give the enclosed permission form to your parent or guardian to sign.
A list of books for next year is enclosed.

Yours sincerely,

Professor M. McGonagall

Deputy Headmistress

The book list was formidable.

Intermediate Transfiguration by Emeric Switch
Unfogging the Future by Cassandra Vablatsky
The Standard Book of Spells (Grade 3) by Miranda Goshawk
Billiwigs and Bundimuns: Controlling Magical Pests by Erasmus Tarantella
A History of Magic by Bathilda Bagshot
Beginning Arithmancy by Thaddeus Nease

The girl with the letters was tall with shaggy blonde hair, and wasn't surprised to be getting a letter by owl because she'd been doing it for years. In fact, she had gotten the same kind of letter for the last two summers, since enrolling at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

As Beth refolded the letters, a tall, balding man slowly shuffled into the room. His eyes glinted, but his face hung wrinkled and slack. He was certainly past middle age.

"We got an owl from Hogwarts, Dad," the girl told him, and laid them on the table as he pulled out a chair and sat wearily. "There's a permission slip for you to sign."

"That time of year already," Mr. Parson smiled. "Time does fly." He carefully uncreased the parchments with slow hands and stuck his nose close to the writing, squinting a little and scratching the bare fringe of hair around his scalp.

For you, at least, thought Beth. "I'm ready to get back. I only heard from Melissa two or three times, and Bruce never wrote me once."

"September third," Mr. Parson read from the paper. "We'll need to get you to London. Seems you've outgrown your robes this year." He beamed up at her. "You're more grown-up every day."

Beth flushed with dual pride and embarrassment. She couldn't think of anything to say about that, so instead she bustled at the counter, putting away the remnants of that night's dinner. "This would be so much easier if they let me do magic over the summer," she complained for the hundredth time that month.

"You'll do just fine living like the rest of us," her father scoffed. William Parson was a nonmagical person, referred to in the wizarding world as a Muggle. Even though he could not perform magic himself, his wife had been a witch, so he was very used to receiving owl post and watching the dirty dishes clean themselves.

"I guess so," said Beth. She hurried to put away the last of the dishes. "I'm going to go stargazing tonight -- if I can finish this report for Sinistra by the time school starts, I don't have to take Astronomy again."

"Then you'd better get on it, young lady," her father said severely. "You need all the classes you can get. There's only one chance, you know."

"I know."

Beth went back into her bedroom to gather up her telescope. It was dozens of years old -- both of her older brothers and her mother before them had studied Astronomy with it, in their times. Now it was just Beth and her father, and the telescope had laid untouched for ten years.

She set up the telescope in the front yard and surrounded it with all the necessary equipment: a star chart and quill pen, a stool to sit on, a mug of hot chocolate, and a thick cloak in case it got cold. The cloak was part of Beth's uniform from Hogwarts, and it bore the green insignia of a snake.

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry was divided into four "houses" where students lived and learned. There was Hufflepuff, full of hardworking students, Ravenclaw, which prized clever students, Gryffindor, which admired bravery above all, and Slytherin, where Beth and her friends Melissa Ollivander and Bruce Bletchley had been placed. The Slytherins were chosen as the most ambitious of all the students, and many had a reputation for being unscrupulous. When the evil wizard Lord Voldemort had risen to power, it was mostly power-hungry Slytherins who followed him -- and afterward, who suffered when he was defeated by a little baby named Harry Potter.

Beth peered through the telescope and focused it on the moon. Flipping through her star charts until she found a blank page inscribed with a circle, she began laboriously entering and identifying the craters of the moon. It was a beautiful sight, magnified and luminescent, and Beth found it hard to concentrate on her work. Instead, her thoughts kept going to her friends, whom she hadn't seen in weeks.

As predicted when she had been chosen to join the Slytherin house, Beth had made her best friends from her classmates -- and a good thing, since very few other students would even give a Slytherin the time of day. The stigma of having produced Lord Voldemort -- reputed to have killed or tortured scores of witches and wizards -- still hung over the Slytherin house, like a scarlet letter.

"We're not evil," Beth said to herself, as she had done a hundred times before. Her star chart lay forgotten across her lap as she gazed up at the dark sky. "We're ambitious. Like Melissa -- she's desperate to be Head Girl, but she wouldn't cheat for it, she just studies up and takes command when she can, and gets to know all of the teachers." She shifted her attention to Venus, shimmering larger than any star. "And Bruce. Bruce wants to be Keeper in a professional Quidditch team, he's probably been practicing all summer."

Beth remembered her research report and picked up her quill again. She put it back down. "And what about me? What do I want?"

She answered herself with a little deprecatory laugh. "To not take Astronomy. Buck up, Parson."

Turning her attention back to the stars, she was able to keep from saying what had gone through her head: She wanted her family back, but no amount of ambition could make it true.